2013-14 School Year–Week Twenty-Seven

This was a super busy week of school! We’re starting to wrap up our Lent activities…we’re almost finished with The Jesus Tree and Amon’s Adventure. We memorized the hymn “All Glory, Laud, and Honor,” this week, in preparation of Palm Sunday. I can’t believe next week is Holy Week!

Turkey and Bunny kept working on fractions in math, but we also added decimals, to the tenths and hundredths place. I think we were all glad to look at something that wasn’t a fraction! Ladybug has been working on adding three-digit numbers, as well as liquid measurements.

In history, we learned about the beginning of Christianity. This fit in nicely with the approach of Holy Week…in addition to our Story of the World reading, we also read Paul Maier’s books: The Very First Christmas, The Very First Easter, and The Very First Christians. We’ll be learning more about ancient Rome next week.

We finished our science curriculum, learning about space travel and the International Space Station. We also got out the telescope to look at the Opposition of Mars this week…it was beautiful! Next week, we’ll be starting our botany curriculum that I had planned for next year, and get as far as we can in it before the end of the school year.

We’ll also be finishing The Bronze Bow next week. It has also tied in nicely to the approach of Holy Week. This week’s chapters really gave us some good opportunities for discussion…it really is a fantastic book!

In Scottish history, we finished the sad tale of Mary Queen of Scots. I’m looking forward to reading about James VI/I next. We also built the Brave Lego set I had purchased to go along with our Scottish studies…the children really like it!

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We’ve also been learning a lot about the history of St. Louis. To celebrate the 250th birthday of the city, there is a public art project/scavenger hunt/history lesson spread out over the region. We’ve found almost 100 of the cakes so far, and we’ve learned a lot of things about this area that we didn’t already know!

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We also went on a field trip this week. The science part ended up being kind of a bust, which didn’t really matter, because we had learned all about the weather elements they were discussing. We had a fun time at the baseball game, though, even though our Cardinals lost.

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Hopefully, next week will be a little less chaotic. We’ll be taking the day off on Good Friday, at least, but we still have plenty of work to do before then!

Reformation Wrap-Up

Today marks the end of our month-long study of the Reformation. Here’s a review of all the things we learned and the fun we had!

We read lots of books, some out loud, and others as book basket selections. One of our favorites every year is the Luther biography by Paul Maier.

We made eight lapbooks, one as an overview of the people and events of the Reformation, and the other seven focusing on different Reformers.

We also learned about seven rulers (plus Pope Leo X), and completed a notebooking sheet for each.

Of course, everyone’s favorite part of our studies were the crafts. We designed our own coat-of-arms:

Made stained “glass” windows:

Illuminated letters and practiced being scribes:

Made a banner to hang in our school room:

And, of course, made Luther’s Seal:

We also listened to a lot of music, some by Luther, some by Bach, and some by other Lutheran hymn writers.

We were supposed to go on two field trips this month. The first one was a visit to the Saxon Lutheran Memorial Fall Festival in Frohna, MO, I had to cancel that on account of fog, which was disappointing because it’s one of our favorite events every year. Our other field trip, that actually worked out, was going to the Seminary in St. Louis to hear Ryan sing “Ein Feste Burg” with the American Kantorei as part of the Bach at the Sem series. That same day, we also got to attend a fun Reformation Celebration at our church.

We even enjoyed a German meal at home on Reformation Day! Jägerschnitzel with buttered noodles and sauerkraut for dinner (with Leinie’s Oktoberfest beer for those of drinking age!), and homemade apple strudel for dessert…delicious!

This was a fun way to spend the month of October, and I’m glad I finally came up with an in-depth unit for us to learn all about the Reformation!

The Jesus Tree–Day Forty-Seven

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Today’s readings were, of course, about the Resurrection. They were found in all four Gospels: Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; and John 20:1-18. To be honest, between the Easter Vigil last night and the Sunrise and Festival services this morning, we had heard most of these selections, so for the Jesus Tree, I just cut to the chase, and read from The Story Bible. I did this partly because we had just heard these readings, and partly to make time for two additional readings I wanted to get to today–the Emmaus Road passage found in Luke 24:13-35, which takes place on Easter evening, and The Very First Easter by Paul Maier, an excellent book which tells the whole Passion story, and concludes with the Ascension.

Only one more day of the Jesus Tree left, and only because I created an extra symbol to go with a reading for Easter Monday. I can’t believe how much we’re all going to miss this part of our day, but at least we can look forward to doing it again next year!

What We’re Reading–The Time of Easter

We have a lot of books for the Time of Easter, which begins with Ash Wednesday, (the start of Lent), and ends with the Day of Pentecost. The focus of most of these books is Easter itself, with the time leading up to Easter being secondary in most cases. I work really hard to make sure we don’t read any resurrection stories before Easter Sunday, which can be a bit of a challenge–sometimes, we can only read a part of book during Lent, and then have to wait until Easter Sunday, (and the days following), to finish it. I’m not nearly so fastidious during Advent, when we read Christmas stories all season long.

I’m also very careful to keep only religious Easter books around–nothing secular at all, so the list isn’t long compared to our Christmas collection. It actually makes me a little sad that there are so fewer options at Easter, when Easter is an even more important festival than Christmas. Again, at Christmas, I’m a bit more flexible in what we read, especially stories that showcase how Christmas is celebrated in other countries or at other times in history, although I do try to stay away from Santa stories wherever possible. You won’t find any “Easter Bunny” in our Easter readings, though–I really want to emphasize that which is sacred at this time of year!

All that being said, I thought I’d share the books that we do look forward to reading every year at Easter time, most of which are published by CPH!

  • Amon’s Adventure–Like its counterparts for the season of Advent, this book by Arnold Ytreeide is meant to be read throughout Lent. It is not divided into daily readings, however…that’s up to the reader to organize. I find that a bit irritating, because, unlike Advent, which can have a varying number of days, Lent always has the same number of days, and should have been easier to write into daily readings. Except for Ash Wednesday and Holy Week, I chose to forgo readings on Wednesdays and Sundays, and split a few of the longer chapters up over two days, in order to stretch out the readings to last through the whole season of Lent.
  • The Very First Easter–A fantastic book by Paul Maier, which tells the whole Easter story. This is a follow-up to another family favorite, The Very First Christmas, and like the Christmas story, Maier’s Easter tale is Biblical, well-written, and has beautiful illustrations.
  • The Very First Christians–Sometime between Easter and Pentecost, we read the follow-up to The Very First Easter, which focuses on Pentecost and the early church. Like all of Paul Maier’s other books, this one is also excellent.
  • The Real Story of the Exodus–A different series, but also by Paul Maier, this is a good book to read on Maundy Thursday, to make the connection between the first Passover and the Lord’s Supper.
  • That’s My Colt!–This is a story about a boy whose pet had a special purpose on Palm Sunday, and then continues to follow the story through all of Holy Week.
  • Easter ABCs–This is a new book for us this year. I got it mostly for Ladybug’s benefit, and as the title suggests, it goes through the alphabet letter by letter, and mentions some aspect of Easter for each.
  • The Easter Cave–This is a rhyming book, with each line building upon the last. It’s especially good for preschoolers, as they can help “read” the story through the repetition.
  • Things I See At Easter–The children are really too old for this book, but it’s good practice for Moose to read it, and the simple pictures are good for both him and Ladybug to look at and connect to this time of the church year.
  • The Time of Easter–We all still love the story of Smidge and Smudge, two mice living in a church, learning about the church year. As the title suggests, they learn all about Lent through Pentecost in this title.
  • The Story Bible–Through the course of our Jesus Tree readings, we’ll be reading the whole Holy Week/Easter story in this children’s Bible. I’m very impressed with this particular Bible, and if I didn’t already have it, I might have bought The Easter Story, which is taken directly from The Story Bible, and includes all of the parts of the Easter story.
  • Before and After Easter: Activities and Ideas – Lent to Pentecost–I know, I know…a book from Augsburg Fortress? But, I found that there are some good stories and activities in this book, even if I don’t use everything in it.
  • Celebrate Jesus! At Easter–This isn’t a read aloud book, or a children’s book…it’s more of a devotional. And while we don’t use it daily, it does have lots of good ideas, Bible verses, and hymns that can be implemented throughout the Easter season.
  • A Very Blessed Easter Activity Book–OK, technically this isn’t a book we’re reading, either. But it is a reproducible book with fun crafts, puzzles, and Easter pictures. The reproducible part means we’ll get a lot of use out of it, and it’s good for a variety of ages, so I can find something for everybody in it at this point.

Advent Resources

Advent is my very favorite time of year. Despite all the busyness, I also have a great sense of peace, possibly because we force ourselves to slow down every day, make sure our prayer time is intentional, and make sure we’re focusing on the real reason for the season. I love the anticipation, the preparation. Even though I love Christmas, and all the decorations and activities, (and take part in them during the season of Advent), I love Advent even more–the watching and the waiting.

The center of our Advent observances every year is the Advent Wreath. We light the appropriate candles each night at our family prayer time, and for some reason, that candlelight helps us focus more. I am always sad to put the wreath away every year, because it is such a special time, and one of the things I look forward to most as Advent approaches.

Another important part of our Advent ritual every year are the story books written by Arnold Ytreeide. Jotham’s Journey, Bartholomew’s Passage and Tabitha’s Travels are interwoven stories, and each is broken down into daily Advent readings. In addition to the daily stories, there is also a brief devotion written for each day. To be honest, I can take or leave the devotional parts (although I usually do read them, but occasionally with some censorship), but the stories are excellent. They are very real, and filled with action and emotion, and excellent cliff-hangers. Although I read them with *my* children, they really are meant for a slightly older audience–probably beginning around age 8 or 10, depending on the child. But there is really no upper limit for age of enjoyment–I look forward to our daily readings, and often find myself peeking ahead to see what will happen next!

This year, for the first time, we have a Jesse Tree. I remember doing this once or twice when I was a child, and I think it’s a cool idea. There are books and kits out there that you can buy, to complete your tree, but I simply cut a tree out of poster board, and printed the ornaments and readings from a website that was offering them for free. The children look forward to seeing what the ornament is for each day, and hearing the accompanying Bible verse, as well as an explanation for how that verse points to Christ. Even Moose and Ladybug participate in this–they can hang the ornaments, and they get great joy out of counting the ornaments every day!

Another thing we’re doing for the first time this year is an Advent Calendar. I had many of these growing up, particularly once I was in High School and selling them for German Club. Many Advent Calendars are secular (think of the cardboard, winter decorated ones filled with chocolate), and that doesn’t really bother me–I think that again, the important thing is the counting down, the anticipation of Christ’s coming. To be honest, ours is secular–a Lego Advent calendar. But that suits our family quite well, so it works.

Devotion books can also be helpful during Advent (as well as other times). One I like is Celebrate Jesus! At Christmas, which was published by CPH. As far as I know, it’s no longer in print, but I’m sure it can still be found. Every day includes a hymn, some Advent, but not all, as well as a Nativity building activity. What I really like about this book is that it goes all the way to Epiphany–it’s nice to have a resource that doesn’t end abruptly on Christmas Eve, when there is still the whole season of Christmas ahead of us!

The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel, (yes, from The Facts of Life), is another good resource. I don’t use all of the suggestions and activities in this book, but it’s a great place to go if you’re looking for a special idea to add to your Advent celebration. There are fun games and activities, teachable moments, science experiments, recipes, and stories explaining some of our Christmas traditions.

Getting Ready for Christmas is a fun activity book to use with young children as you count down the days until Christmas. Each activity also incorporates a Bible verse and a prayer, and the illustrations are very cute. The back cover even has a lift-the-flap Advent countdown built right into it! It’s perfect for little hands.

The Very First Christmas isn’t technically an Advent resource, but we often read this story toward the end of Advent, in preparation for Christmas. I love The Very First… series, and this book is no exception. It begins with a modern-day boy wanting to know a story about real people, not the typical myths you hear around Christmastime, and so his parents tell him the whole Christmas story.

There are so many wonderful way to prepare our hearts for Advent–every year I look forward to choosing what we’ll use, and how we’ll use this season to prepare!