Monday, 15 December 2014

What to Do When the Curriculum Starts to Take Over

Homeschooling is hard.  It can be completely overwhelming to balance all of the roles that a homeschooling mom (or dad) has to play; housework, teacher, parent, spouse. Its a lot.  Sometimes, the scale starts to tip in one direction and one thing starts to take over.  This has been the case for us lately.  Specifically, it has been the curriculum that has been taking over.

I've mentioned before that I might be a little obsessed with checking off items on my to do list.  I might have a bit of a problem.  If I leave a box unchecked...well, it makes me a little crazy. This has served me well in some areas of my life but, unfortunately, homeschooling is not one of them.

Lately I've started to see our curriculum as a to do list...compulsively checking off each box everyday...even if that means letting other things slide.  And that is just what has happened.  I started to notice it in the beginning of November.  We would run out of time and wouldn't get to the craft I had planned or our outside time would get cut short.  By the end of November, we were all feeling a little stir crazy and that to do list I had created had started to feel a little bit like a prison.

When I started homeschooling, I chose to do it because I wanted flexibility.  I wanted the ability to follow my children's interests and create an environment that fosters a true love of learning.  I saw that innate curiosity in my children and I wanted to do everything I could to nurture that and watch it grow.  But its hard to do all of that when you let the curriculum take over.

Curriculum certainly has its place but I don't think it needs to be number one in our homeschool.  There are so many powerful learning opportunities that happen naturally that will be missed when curriculum is all that we do.

It's all about finding a balance.

So what can you do when you find the scale tipping to heavily in favour of your curriculum?

Be flexible.

Curriculum does not have to be a to do list so don't look at it that way.  There are some things that will not suit your family and that's okay.  Take what works and leave what doesn't.  And there you go! You've just opened up some room in your day!

Forget your timelines. 

It alright if it takes you a little longer to finish this stuff.  The public school's calendar doesn't have to dictate your school's calendar.  You can go longer into the summer if you need to or do some stuff in the evenings.  If you're having a bad week and are seeking balance, take a few days off of spelling and spend that time doing something else.  

Make time for the other stuff. 

Spend some time in nature, read aloud together, get active, do something creative, do some fun experiments just because, research something your kids are interested in, go on a field trip... 

There are some things that are just as (and often more, in my opinion) important than sitting down to do lessons.  These are the things that encourage learning in a natural, unforced kind of way.  Make these things a priority and watch your kids as they do them, its kind of amazing what they take from it. You might be surprised at just how much they can learn all on their own.  

We're taking the month of December off.  Daddy is home and we are enjoying just being together again.  At first, I worried that taking a break from our formal lessons would be a problem but really, the learning hasn't stopped.  And we are really enjoying ourselves as we learn.  That's the kind of learning I want for my kids.

We'll go back to using our curriculum in January but in a less militant way.  I think we will all enjoy ourselves a whole lot more when I'm not letting the curriculum take over.

What about you?  Do you find it tough to balance it all? What do you do to keep things from taking over?


Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Wet Felted Wool Jingle Balls

I love having toys made of natural fibres for my children, especially my babies.  They are beautiful, durable and often safer alternatives to the regular plastic stuff.  But.  They're also pretty expensive.  Luckily, there are a lot of toys that you can make Wet Felted Wool Jingle Balls.  These are a great gift for babies.  They're soft and perfect for chewing on, they're visually appealing and the muted jingling sound is pretty soothing.  As an added bonus, they're super easy to make so you can involve your children in the process.  What better way to get kids excited about giving than to have them give a gift that they made themselves?

Wet Felted Wool Jingle Balls

Supplies Needed:

  • wool roving (in many colours if possible)
  • 2 large bowls or a double sink
  • dish soap
  • small bell
  • small towels (for each child's work space)
  • felting needle (optional)

Step 1:

Wrap wool roving around your bell.  Make sure to wrap it in different directions as this will make it easier for the fibres to grab on to one another (which is what felting is).  It should be quite large when you are done because as it felts, it will shrink down significantly.  Go for at least double the size you want your finished ball to be.

 Step 2:

Fill one bowl (or sink) with hot water and the other with cold. Set out towels (these will minimize the soapy water that inevitably makes its way out of the bowls and onto the table, floor, cat, small children, etc.) 

Step 3:

Put a little bit of dish soap on your wool roving.  This make it easier to handle without ruining its shape. 

Step 4: 

Dunk the ball in the hot water.  Bring it back out and start rubbing it in your hands.  You want to encourage it to take a round shape so treat it sort of like you would a snowball when you're rounding it out.  Start with lighter pressure until the outer layer of roving starts to felt.  Once that happens, you cam be a little rougher without worrying about the roving coming unwound.  

Step 5:

Dunk it in the cold water then continue working at it with your hands.  The drastic change in temperature will encourage them felting process.

Repeat steps 4 and 5 (adding more dish soap as needed) until the wool has shrunk down significantly and you have a hard, round ball.  

When this is done, I like to tie it into the toe of a pair of pantihose and throw it in the washing machine for one cycle.  This can felt it down further which is helpful when kids have been doing it.

Optional Step 6:

Use a felting needle to add embellishments to your jingle ball.  You could also sew ribbons to the bottom to make it a fun throwing toy.  I decided to needle felt pictures on ours.  This is something older children might enjoy trying as well.  Just make sure you supervise and warn them that those needles are SHARP (ask me how I know!).

Give it to your baby and watch them enjoy!

Monday, 8 December 2014

100 Bible Verses to Encourage Homeschoolers

It's easy to get lost in all the difficulties that we face as homeschoolers.  I'm not perfect.  I get angry.  I get tired.  I get lazy.  I definitely can't do this on my own.  Thankfully that's not how it's supposed to be anyway.  I can rely on God's strength and His Word to lead me on...even on the hardest days.

I've gathered together 100 Scripture Verses to Encourage Homeschoolers through all the major trials we face.  I hope you will find comfort in these words.

1. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29
2. Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Psalm 62:1
3. In peace I will lie down and sleep,  for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8
4. Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.  In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves. Psalm 127:1-2
5. Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel  just as he promised.  Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. Kings 8:56
6. I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. Jeremiah 31:25
7. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.  Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Hebrews 12:12-13
8. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29
9. You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.  Praise be to God! Psalm 68:35
10. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. Colossians 1:29

11. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

12. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
13. I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. Philemon 1:20
14. For who is God besides the Lord?  And who is the Rock except our God?  It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. Psalm 18:31-32
15. Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5
16. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Proverbs 3:24
17. The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14
18. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

19. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:26-27

20. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. 
Hebrews 4:16

21. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 
Philippians 4:13


22. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

23. I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8

24. You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

25. The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.  Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: "The LORD's right hand has done mighty things!  The LORD's right hand is lifted high; the LORD's right hand has done mighty things!" Psalm 118:14-16

26. I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word. Psalm 119:25

27. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my lifePsalm 119:50

28. It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. Psalm 119:71

29.  And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. Matthew 21:21

30.But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  James 1:6 

31. Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31 

32. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. James 1:5-8

33. Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.  Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." Matthew 11:4-6

34. Turn to me and have mercy on me, because I am lonely and hurting.
My troubles have grown larger; free me from my problems. Psalm 25:16-17

35. Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. John 14:1

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

37. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20

38. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. Hebrews 13:5

39. At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 2 Timothy 4:16-17

40. God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, Only the rebellious dwell in a parched land. Psalm 68:6a 

41.God is our refuge and strength,  an ever-present help in trouble.
 Psalm 46:1

42.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

43. You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. 
Psalm 119:114

44. The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

45. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

46. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

47. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,  though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Psalm 46:1-3

48. Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. Psalm 55:22

49. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

50. I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me. Psalm 120:1

51. Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. John 14:1

52. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

52.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,  and do not give the devil a foothold.  He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Ephesians 4:26-31

53. My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19-20

54. A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. Proverbs 29:11

55. A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

56. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. James 4:1-2

57. Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. Proverbs 16:32

58.Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 

59.  Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1

60. Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20 

61. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:15-16 

62. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 

63.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! Psalm 100:4

64. And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Isaiah 12:4-5 

65.  Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! Psalm 95:2

66. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. James 1:2-3

67.  Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. Ecclesiastes 9:7

68. The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing. Proverbs 10:28

69. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,  for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9

70. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

71. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. John 16:22

72. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5

73. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17

74. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

75. O Lord, I know the way of a man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. Jeremiah 10:23

76. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. Psalm 37:23

77. There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12

78. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. John 10:27

79.  A man’s steps are of the Lord. How then can a man understand his own way? Proverbs 20:24

80. Direct my steps by Your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me. Psalm 119:133

81. Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation. Psalm 25:4

82. Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go.” Isaiah 48:17

83. For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death. Psalm 48:14

84. The Lord will guide you continually. Isaiah 58:11

85. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Psalm 32:8

86. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21

87. Therefore be followers of God as dear children. Ephesians 5:1

88.  And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good. 2 Thessalonians 3:13

89. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Romans 12:11 

90 . Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

91. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

92. You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.  Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God! Psalm 119:114-115

93. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-6

94. for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:20

95. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

96. The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 

97.God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

98. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39

99.  But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 

100. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  1 Peter 5:6-7

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Day 5: Give Gifts that Don't Require Buying Anything

Gifts seem to be the theme that dominates all Christmas discussion.  I get it, it can be a big part of the whole experience, especially where kids are involved.  Maybe that's why gifts add so much stress to the season.  Trying to find the perfect  one, braving the overcrowded malls, trying to find the money to purchase all of these gifts.  It can be super stressful.

But what if it didn't have to be that way? 

In our family, gifts are not the most important part of Christmas but they certainly do play a part.  We love to give gifts to each other.  I love watching my kids excitement grow as they unwrap their presents.  I love watching my husband enjoy the gifts I've given him.  When my kids buy, wrap and give gifts all on their own? Heart melting.  And let's be honest here, I made no complaints when my parents gave me a Kitchen Aid mixer last Christmas. Gifts are fun.

Why not try making gifts this year?  Do you knit? Sew? Work with wood? Paint? Make jewellery?  Even if you aren't a real crafty person, there are so many simple things that you can make for your loved ones.  And a lot of these gifts can be made out of things you've already got at home!

For example: do you have old wool sweaters lying around?  Throw them in the washer to felt them down and you can make cozy wool pants for the baby in your life!

Or turn an old pillow case into a sweet little girl's nightgown.

You could  also make your own knitting needles to give away. 

Check out my Pinterest board for more homemade Christmas gift ideas. 

Follow Kalista // When We're at Home's board Homemade Christmas Gifts on Pinterest.

You can also check out this post for gift ideas that don't involved "stuff" at all!

Do you like giving homemade gifts? How about getting them?

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