Jesus' Precious Little Lambs

A Charlotte Mason Christian Home School: Preschool – 3rd Grade :)

Christmas Gifts for Little Kids

What is Wrong with This Picture?

Someday I need to get on my soapbox and write a full post on the ludicrously segregated marketing of girl toys for girls and boy toys for boys. For now, I will start with a paragraph. Do you ever wonder why aren’t there more shared toys for girls and boys anymore like when we were kids?? Why do girls need a pink airplane when a white one would suffice? Well, toy companies found that they can make a better profit if brothers and sisters don’t share their toys. Marketing sends powerful messages, and according to the Toys r Us ads and toy aisles, girls only like variegating shades of pink and play solely with dolls, clothes, make-up, and princesses. In contrast, boys, surrounded by blue, are future scientists, architects, and construction workers. This never bothered me so much until I had my own little girl, went shopping for her at Toys r Us, and left empty handed racking my brain as why girls toys are so lame. Princess toys are not the problem, but the lack of alternatives is. It feels now days that “princess” is synonymous with “girl”. We now have a “princess culture” — the entire bubblegum wash of glitter, sparkles, rapid materialism, and cult-like following that Disney and Barbie have no intentions of slowing down. Don’t get me wrong, I will be buying Faith the prettiest doll pram, baby doll, and other “girl” toys, but I am also happy that she plays with trucks and trains……..And that Noah plays with our play kitchen, cares for a baby doll, and enjoys our dollhouse. Domestic imaginative play is equally important for future mommies as well daddies! Consider crossing over the gender stereotypes this Christmas, buy what your little girl is interested in even if its not in the pink aisle, and buy from private toy stores like Five Little Monkeys in Walnut Creek where gender neutral is more the norm still.

Less is More

Here is my other soapbox of the day–being a minimalist at times, I feel that less is more when it comes to toys. Having less toys can actually be better because it protects children from spoiled ways. I know most of us would agree that we don’t want our child crying in the toy store aisle for more toys, or having no comprehension of how much stuff he has compared to the rest of the kids in the world, or thinking that Christmas is only about getting new toys. We know too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Excessive amounts of toys can actually be a hindrance to a child’s development. Fewer toys allows children to love books, music, writing, coloring, and painting. Kids getting everything they want leads to the unhealthy belief that they can have everything they want. Kids who have less toys play outside in nature more. Kids with less toys often value what toys they have more, and thus learn to take better care of what they have. Too many toys prevents imaginative play; less toys forces kids to be more creative. Kids with less toys can develop longer attention spans by playing with the same toy for longer periods of time. Kids that have too many toys sometimes live in a constant fantasy world and they do not participate and learn from doing real things, real work, in real life. For all these reasons and more, I try my best to keep my kids from toy land mania, and have them focus on giving to others–especially during times of the year like right now when all thoughts are on me, me, me, and what I want for Christmas.

I haven’t really been able to think of anything that Noah, my 3 year old, needs for Christmas anyway because he is still so happy and engaged with all the toys he has. Then the other day, Noah declared the sweetest thing ………”Mommy, some boys are selfish and keep all the gifts to themselves. I already have a lot of toys, so I don’t need any Christmas presents this year. Maybe just two next year.” I hugged him tight for saying that, marveling since he has been daydreaming and talking about his Christmas presents for months now. Now what do I do? How do I encourage that good heart in him, perhaps even allowing his beneficent wish to come true, while still wanting to lavish on my boy who waits all year for the special traditions of Christmas morn? This is something I will have to ponder and get back to you on…….In the meantime, I want to help some of you who are still celebrating Christmas :), to wisely choose the gifts your buy for your kids this year this year!

Toys that Teach Make Great Gifts

I love open ended educational toys that are recommended for a wide age range. Toys that have multiple levels of use become more and more interesting to children as their thinking becomes more complex. I love how I get my money’s worth out of these long lived toys and how I don’t need to replace them as often. If the toy can challenge me, while still being accessible to my preschoolers, I know its a good non-expiring toy and my kids will be able to use it for a long time.  I find that usually these type of toys are educational (like blocks) rather than entertaining (like a light up Buz Light Year on rolling wheels).

Since math manipulatives were pretty non-existant in schools before the ’90s, I think parents often overlook these type of beneficial toys because we were raised only knowing pencil and paper math. When I tell Noah to pull out some “math” before school starts, he views it as time to play because he sees his math materials as toys. Preschoolers are not ready for pencil and paper math (even elementary student readiness is arguable), and so math work is simply playing or manipulating objects that once explored deeply enough, reveal the foundations of fractions, geometry, number sense, symmetry, etc. This type of hands on learning provides a more sure mathematical foundation for paper and pencil math later. And since kids see these “manipulatives” as toys, why not gift them as such at Christmas, thus making play time at your house this coming year more educational? I am including a list of our own favorite math toys here to help you get started.

I have also included our one can’t-do-without language toy. Having several math toys is beneficial, but I feel only one language toy is really necessary because most language learning for young children comes from listening, speaking, and being read to. Well written books are always a wise gift choice for our children, and so I will also provide you a hand selected book list of some of our family favorites that we own (some soon to be owned), with an emphasis on Christmas literature.

Our Favorite Toys:

 Rainbow Resource is a Christian Homeschool Supply Company that offers very competitive prices on educational toys. It is possible to shop somewhere besides Amazon! 🙂 And you can support a Christian business with your purchases!

Old Fashioned Blocks

Standard Unit blocks teach math because the dimensions of each block shape in a set of unit blocks is a multiple or a fraction of the size of the piece defined as the “unit”. The “unit” is a rectangular piece of maple measuring 5 1/2” in Length by 2 3/4” in width by 1 3/8” in height or thickness. The name of each basic rectangular block shape in a set is based on its size as compared to the length of the “unit”, e.g., the Unit Block is 5 1/2“ long while the Half Unit Block is 2 3/4” long, the Double Unit Block is 11” long and the Quad Unit Block is 22” long. The dimensions of all other block shapes, including the columns, the pillars, the triangles, the curves, etc., are proportional to the length, width and height dimensions of the “unit”. This is the source of the term, “Standard Unit Blocks”.

Unit Blocks are an essential for basic math concepts, imaginative play, organizational skills, physical development, sequential skills, social interaction, spatial relations, structural design and creativity!

Melissa and Doug’s Standard Unit Block set is a good quality starter set (FYI, I believe the price on amazon is much better at other times of year like last summer when I bought mine because I don’t remember paying $50!)

If you have the basic set already, you could order some additional blocks item by item since the Melissa and Doug set doesn’t include items like the 22″ Quad block or the Double Unit Pillar block for example.

This page in our math book, Developing Math Concepts in Pre-Kindergarten, showed me how time spent playing with blocks will develop the complexity of how kids play with them and thus making it a much more interesting toy. Noah mostly likes to do rows so I know he has a ways to go before he outgrows this toy. 🙂

Pattern Blocks

The art loving side of me is drawn to pattern blocks because they make math beautiful. Pattern blocks are geometic shapes that make wonderful mosaic deisgns. In the primary grades we can use them to sort, pattern, to explore transformations, symmetry and congruency as well as compose and decompose shapes.  Kids need to learn that patterns are not always in a straight line like ABABAB, but can expand out in every direction. In the upper grades we can use them to explore, add & subtract fractions as well as do angle work. You can use pattern blocks to teach number sense (counting, fractions, estimation), statistics (graphing) and probability, as well as geometry and algebra.

This Melissa and Doug pattern block set is a good starter set if you feel like you want some initial structure for using the pattern blocks, but eventually its great for kids to make their own patterns. Plus, you don’t need pattern boards because you can always find plenty of templates to print off online. So in that case, you could get way more blocks for the same price if you forego the pattern boards and just buy a big set of pattern blocks (you will probably need more pattern blocks than the set Melissa and Doug offers anyway in order to make complex patterns later).

And look what your preschooler can make (even without a template)!

Marble Run

A Marble run is fun and challenging to little and big minds alike as you design, build, and test your runs. This was definitely a favorite toy at the preschool where I used to teach!

Gears

The beginning principles of mechanics and physics of motion make gears an educational toy. We have had gears for a year now, and it is not collecting dust at our house!

Other examples of good math “toys” to buy would be unifix cubes, geoboards, and a large die.

Lauri Alphabet Puzzle

We use this puzzle almost everyday!! We don’t just use it as a puzzle, but as a word building tool too (I wrote a whole post on this puzzle. Kids who can work with larger words should buy a moveable alphabet instead–read about it here). You may feel that you don’t need another alphabet puzzle if you already have one, but I just think this Lauri version is the perfect one for many reasons! Its lowercase, its crepe rubber and the pieces stay put, the phonics mat behind serves as a reminder of each letter sound, and its very inexpensive. There is something about the feel of pushing the crepe rubber letters in and pulling them out that is so gratifying to the senses, even for me. LOVE it!!

Our Favorite Books:

Christianbook.com has free shipping through December 6th! Its a great alternative to Amazon because you are supporting a Christian company!

Charlotte Mason-esque Literature

Ambleside Online has a booklist of Charlotte Mason type literature for all ages, and the age 0-6 booklist is my priority for what my kids “need” this Christmas. Stories that have the noble, beautiful, inspiring kind of living ideas that CM espoused, including “the great human relationships, relationships of love and service, of authority and obedience, of reverence and pity and neighborly kindness; relationships to kin and friend and neighbor, to ’cause’ and country and kind, to the past and the present”. The text of the books we expose ages 0-6 to should be literary in order to prepare children for the challenging books they’ll be using throughout their education. And they should be well illustrated too! (Amblesideonline.org)

Christian Mother Goose

Its a strange feeling that the cast of characters in Christian Mother Goose has become part of our family because they are so loveable. The poems can be a bit eccentric, but we love it, and the concepts are so beautifully deep that it is definitely a book to grow with. Look up the “Big Book” to get all three volumes in one.

Click on this map that shows where all the characters live! You will see how the author put her heart and soul into this book.

God Gave Us Christmas

In the midst of all the Christmas preparations, curious Little Cub asks one day, “Who invented Christmas?” Mama’s answer only leads to more questions, like: “Is God more important than Santa?” So Mama decides to take Little Cub on an expedition to discover how God gave them Christmas. As their journey unfolds, the pair finds signs that God is at work all around them. Mama’s gentle guidance helps Little Cub discover that Jesus is the best present of all! I like this book for offering kids proper perspective on Santa’s role in Christmas.

The Christmas Angels

A sweet story from 1933 with dear vintage illustrations about 10 angels who quietly go about doing good on Christmas Eve. It inspires my little helpers at home.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

Jonathan Toomey is the best woodcarver in the valley, but he is always alone and never smiles. No one knows about the mementos of his lost wife and child that he keeps in an unopened drawer. But one early winter’s day, a widow and her young son approach him with a gentle request that leads to a joyful miracle. The moving, lyrical tale, gloriously illustrated by P.J. Lynch, has been widely hailed as a true Christmas classic.

One Wintry Night

One Wintry Night is much more than the nativity story, its the Christmas story told from creation to the ressurection. (Written for an elementary age audience)

Also, any of the books listed in my December Lesson Plans would be a great choice for Christmas books!

I Hope this Makes your Holiday Shopping a Little Easier! Happy Shopping Friends!

…….So what are your children’s favorite toys, and your personal Christmas wishlist for this year?

(I am asking for a guitar, and I hear music lessons are in the works too! Yeah!!! This is something I have always wanted.)

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Halloween Exposed

Is Halloween Harmless or Evil?

I went trick or treating as a kid, as most of us did, but that doesn’t mean Halloween is a good thing for our own children. I remember coming home with PILLOWCASES full of candy. I ate it all, and some of my sisters too when she wasn’t looking. Now, when would a parent in their right mind ever hand over that much sugar to their child on any other single day of the year without a twinge of guilt? Never. And yet this happens in almost every home, every year, all in the name of a “Happy Halloween”. Do we all lose our minds or something when Halloween comes around?? Well we do lose our health every winter, child and parent alike, and wonder why that it is………after helping our children to consume all the Halloween pounds of immune suppressing sugar. Just as we are entering “flu season” too. Churches throwing the Halloween alternative Harvest Festivals are no less guilty as they are some of the best at dealing out pounds of candy to families. For this health reason alone, I view Halloween as a sin against humanity. Yet, that is not all, there is more, much more to expose.

As an adult Christian, I started to realize that I was associating myself with all that Halloween represents by celebrating it. I think the Spirit Halloween store typifies what Halloween represents. When you walk in you feel like your skin is crawling, or like there is a cold breath going down the back of your neck. That is a sign that the spirit in that store is in opposition to the Spirit in you. There is a lot of truth to the name of that store: Spirit Halloween–Halloween is spirit driven, but not by the kind of spirits you want in your life, thats for sure. We know demonic spirits have quite a presence in this earth according to the Bible. How do you think they manifest themselves? People don’t realize or don’t want to admit that Halloween is one of satan’s methods of drawing humanity towards the demonic. Being able to discern the spritual climate of an environment is important, especially for the sake of protecting our susceptible children. After having baby Noah, so sweet and innocent and undefiled, I couldn’t imagine taking him into a store like Spirit Halloween–full of every form of darkness, witches, and demonic images. So I began to think, if I want nothing to do with that store, why would I want to have any part in Halloween which exults these very dark things and thereby brings satan glory. Calling check–I am here to glorify God, not satan.

During this time of year, movies and television about murder, the occult, witchcraft, demons, the devil, sorcery are promoted. And are we to think that this is just an innocent holiday where our children go door-to-door dressed up in a costume collecting candy? Are we to ignore all the ghosts, witches, goblins, gouls, and haunted houses as we go down the street? Or are we to separate ourselves out of the environment altogether? What does the Bible have to say about witches, those who call up “ghosts”, and cast spells?

“There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire [an ancient occult practice], or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination [detestable] to the LORD…”
Deuteronomy 18:9-12a

Does it sound like God would think the spirits behind Halloween are harmless, or rather an abomination, a horror, objects of disgust? Run my friends from anything that would take the glory of God from your children and your home!

The Origin of Halloween

from the book Spiritual Housecleaning

The origin of Halloween is the Celtic festival of Samhain, the lord of Death and evil spirits. Long before Christ (over 2,000 years ago), Druids in Britain, Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany and other Celtic countries observed the end of summer by making sacrifices to Samhain. The Celts considered November 1 as being the day of death because the leaves were falling. They believed that Muck Olla, their sun god, was losing strength and Samhain, lord of death, was overpowering him. Further, they believed that on October 31, Samhain assembled the spirits of all who had died during the previous year.

Druid priests would lead the people in diabolical worship ceremonies in which horses, cats, black sheep, oxen, human beings and other offerings were rounded up, stuffed into wicker cages and burned to death. This was done to appease Samhain and keep spirits from harming them, for it was believed at this time that all of the wandering spirits would get hungry. If you set out a treat for them, they would not trick or curse you. Hence we have the origin of trick or treat. Tom Sanuinet, former high priest of Wicca, had this to say about Halloween:

Trick or treat is a reenactment of the Druidic practices. The candy has replaced the human sacrifices of old, but it is still an appeasement of those deceptive evil spirits. The traditional response to those who do not treat is to have a trick played on them. Giving Halloween candy is symbolic of a sacrifice to false gods. You are participating in idolatry.

Invite the Glory of God Into Your Home

The average Christian is not aware that their house needs to be spiritually cleaned in order to experience the peaceful presence of God. The book Spiritual Housecleaning teaches you how to purify your home for God’s glory (the Origin of Halloween was excerpted from this book). Defilement can come in many forms: statues of foreign gods, magic charms, souvenirs of past sins. But whatever the form, God does not want us possessing defiled objects, for they dishonor the Holy Spirit and they invite the devil to wreak havoc with our lives. I highly recommend this book as it will really open your eyes to the realities of the spirit world.

Noah was having a lot of bad dreams when he was 2 years old and we could not figure out why. We have always sheltered him! After reading this book, it dawned on me that ALL of our movies were being stored in his room. While Dean and I had moved on to watching innocent wholesome things like Christian movies and Veggie Tales on Netflix, we had forgotten about the boxes of movies that a friend had once passed onto us being stored in Noah’s room ever since we had moved. This very wordly friend had given us every type of movie, and some even remained unwatched because the impure content violated our standards (which were pretty loose at the time). I felt so horrible that I hadn’t realized such a mistake. Noah has been free of bad dreams ever since we removed every one of those movies and prayed over his room. I also removed an ex-boyfriends jewelry from my own room and stopped having dreams about him. Dean also found some religious paraphernalia that seemed like a good idea for him to let go of, which I believe played a part in letting go of a religious spirit. I was so thankful that our house was cleaned out of these type of possessions and that the results were pretty dramatic. Spiritual Housecleaning will open your eyes and make room in your home for the glory of God to come in a greater way.

Firestation Fieltrip

Firefighters, Not Photographers

Afton and Tayler in the Firetruck

Smokey the Bear and Tayler, looking like a Disney Princess

Little Firefighter Practicing with the Hose

Amazing.

Leaf Print Art (Crayons, leaves, paper. Rub. Wa-lah!)

Button Struggles…….. (buttoning practice on a button snake)

Faith’s Birthday! Celebrated Faithy Style (standing up at the table)

Tayler Rubbing Gift Box Padding on her Nose (she LOVES fuzzy stuff)

“Mommy, do Snails Have Angels Too?”

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Backyard Naturalists

While I seem to be on the topic of making children into naturalists lately, I want to share a great little guide I found containing ideas for making your backyard a place for nature play. Simple things that don’t cost much money, but ideas that don’t always cross our commercially brainwashed minds. Too many of our suburbia yards are simply a block of grass and cement, too prisitine, too sterile for accomodating a true experience with nature. Growing up on a unkempt 3/4 acre property provided me all the best childhood memories of exploration, freedom, invention, and wild fun that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I am determined for my children to have equally life forming experiences with nature even if we do have a small yard.

Every spring, I start racking my brain–what outdoor toys do I need to go buy that would really engage our kids outdoors this year?? Do I need to splurge on a big expensive plastic play structure? Do you start thinking this direction too as soon as the weather warms up? The thing is, I hate buying stuff that just becomes stuff sitting around unloved like too many backyard play structures, gimmicky outdoor “fun” equipment, and cobwebbed ride-ons I have noticed. So I have vacillated to the point that we have accumulated very few outdoor toys. But admittedly what sways me even more is that I almost hate toys in general, and especially the commercialism directed towards our children.  I agree with what Teaching the Trivium says, “Give the child plenty of time to explore and play. Do not buy ‘toystore’ toys – they are expensive and are usually forgotten after the newness wears off. Invest in real things. Garage sales and auctions are an unending source for things like sewing machines, small tools for working in the garden, hammers, nails, and things for building, some wooden blocks, and dress-up clothes. Buy tools for exploring (a good microscope, telescope, binoculars, etc), not toys for adoring. When your children are young, spend your money on the tools of exploration, and motivate them to learn how to use the tools and enjoy using the tools.”

Thankfully this spring, I feel that my perspective has shifted just enough to really believe that we can have more meaningful fun without buying lots more outdoor toys. A few things have certainly helped grow my perspecitve–getting hens and chicks, planting and tending a vegetable garden, and letting the kids just play in the dirt. Noah proudly holding up a grub that he found in our raised garden bed while preparing the soil for planting, insisting on a night time frog hunt with flashlights to find our resident croaker (and finding slugs instead), excitedly bringing a snail inside to see if this time it would come out of its shell for us (it did)–these are the formative experiences with nature that mean so much to children. In past years, the excitement over seeing hummingbirds and collecting ladybugs are some of my favorite memories with Noah. Nature fun can be never ending. Our future naturey backyard plans include keeping fish in the fountain, feeding the birds and the squirrels, and planting butterfly plants to study their lifecycle. So the more my mind wraps around building a “nature” centered yard rather than a “stuff” centered yard, the more non-toy ideas come, and I know these nature ideas will provide the basis for incredible learning experiences. Lets ask ourselves, why would we want our children learning about creation from a lifeless science textbook inside the 4 walls of a classroom when they could learn about it through the rich impressions of real life experience? Nothing beats the world as your classroom!!

May your backyard grow more wild this spring too!

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4/17/12 Gardening

Did you plant a garden yet this spring? Are you thinking about planting one someday with your children? Take a look at my fave books about gardening and check them out from the library!

Our Favorite Annual Springtime Read

Mortimer’s First Garden is one of my favorite children’s picture books. We have read it to Noah the last two springs at sunflower planting time. The book tied in soooo perfectly with our themes of faith like a seed and gardening at Little Lambs as well.

Publishers Weekly Review:

Mortimer can’t imagine that seeds have any use beyond the immediate gratification of being eaten, but when he sees the human family in his house plant a garden, he decides to use his last sunflower seed to give it a whirl himself. Convinced that the miracle won’t happen, tempted to dig up the seed and eat it, Mortimer hears the voice of God: Wait. Suddenly, even though he was drenched with rain, Mortimer felt warm and protected. With hard work and prayer, Mortimer produces a miracle sunflower and a bumper crop of seeds, which in turn prompts the book’s final teachable moment: And please, God, says a fat and contented Mortimer, I wouldn’t mind a friend to help me eat these. This book celebrates the miracle of springtime.

Gardening with Imagination– Create a Whimsical Garden with Your Little Naturalist

If you would like some fun inspiration for gardening with your children, take a look at Sharon Lovejoy’s books. From sunflower houses to toad cottages to fairy mailboxes, her books are full of incredibly whimsical gardening activities that would fire up the imagination of any child. Her books are about gardening from the heart and creating lasting gardening memories with your little ones. Also, take a look at her book written for gardening grandmothers and making visits with grandchildren a treasured time. It could be a great gift for mother’s day this year. If you would love for your mom to pull your children more into the love of gardening, take a look at Lovejoy’s wonder inspiring ideas written for grandparents to share with their grandchildren. The ideas are quite magical and really made me look forward to becoming a grandma someday myself!!

Gardening Day at Little Lambs

Tilling the Soil

Planting Peppers

Planting Corn

Planting Carrots

Two Pumpkins Planting a Giant Pumpkin

Smiles All Around for A Job Well Done

Tayler’s Play-doh Garden

Noah Fishing

David Playing the Letter “g” Guessing Game

Little Gardener, Faith, Studies Seeds

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