Tag Archives: winter

Family Reading: Lions and Spiders and Bears, Oh My!

Ok, so this is a quickie post. Between the holidays, my computer breaking (fie on you, fan motor!) and being on call for my job (as a doula) I’ve had almost no time to work on the second part of my 20 Principals post as I’d wanted. But that’s coming soon! (Really!)

I thought I’d quickly share the books that my family has used as read alouds since last summer. We just began ‘formally’ schooling Alex in September, but we’ve been doing family read alouds… well, forever! However, we transferred to real chapter books which have a story that is carried between chapters in August or so- so I’ll count these.

1. Edgrr, The Bear Who Wanted to be Real, by Alexandra Kurland.

This was cute. The story tells of a toy shop group of bears who find themselves out on an adventure. The father-figure bear, Kenyon, tries to take an unruly bear, Edgrr, in hand. Edgrr has a harrowing experience in the woods when he attempts to be a real bear and he learns the value of being ‘home’.  My kiddos enjoyed this and it certainly qualifies as a living book in my eyes as the language is not at all dumbed down.

2. Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, by A.A. Milne.

A no-brainer. These books are whimsical, funny and gentle. My son laughed out loud several times and both of my children now have a special place in their hearts for the denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood. My advice is to read the first few stories to yourself first so you can get an idea of the pacing and sentance structure. It threw me for a loop for the first couple of stories, but once I understood the cadence of the language and syntax, it made for wonderful, lively reading. If you are anything like me, you WILL cry at the end of The House at Pooh Corner when Christopher Robin gets ready to leave for boarding school (sniff!!)

3. Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White.

Another excellent book. My son loved this and was able to remember details from the book much more clearly than we expected. Funny and sad all at once- wonderful coming-of-age, circle-of-life feel.

4. A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond.

This one I purchased at my local library’s ongoing book sale and then searched around Ambleside to see if it was recommended. I turned up nothing so decided I’d best just plunge ahead- and it was wonderful! Again, intelligent language and humorous adventures of an adorable, marmalade-loving bear from darkest Peru (who knew!). The way Paddington misinterprets everyday circumstances had me in stitches and I was totally delighted whenever Paddington gave someone a ‘hard stare’. Great book- can’t wait to read it again when Fae is older.

5. The Little Bear Treasury, by Else Minarik.

Lovely drawings, whimsical stories, but in all honesty it was a step down for us. By this summer, I expect that Alex will be able to read this book on his own, so it just felt too simplistic for our read alouds. The children both listened intently, but the chapters ended so quickly and with such little drama, I think they, too, wanted ‘more’. Ah well, a lesson for me- stick to books that are labeled for children aged 8 to 12 and we’ll have just the right level for my 5 and 2 year old for our read alouds (lol!).

6. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis.

Yes, dear Reader, I have initiated my children into the wonder that is Narnia. I sat in my bed with my children snuggled around me and read the first line: “Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy.” and immediately started crying and couldn’t continue reading for a few minutes (grin). You see, the Chronicles embody everything I hope to pass on to my children- imagination, intelligence, adventure, goodness, justice and a heart that longs after Aslan/Jesus (to me, Aslan is a fictional Jesus in Lion form). I deocrated my childrens’ nursery in the Chronicles complete with full-sized lamppost nightlight and pencil drawn/pastel colored reproductions of the pictures from the original books. I hung a banner with a picture of a castle and underneath I hand-stenciled ‘Cair Paravel’. A framed parchment map of Narnia set on one wall and a framed pencil drawing of Aslan’s face rests above a reminder that ‘he’s not a tame lion’… Sigh… So much of my soul resonates with the simplicty of Narnia and I’m now sharing this beautiful story with my children. If you haven’t read them, start with LWW- read them in the order they were published (not in Narnia-chronological order). You have to discover Narnia just as Lewis himself did!

So it’s been about four days that we’ve been reading LWW and both kids simply love it. My son has already been making comments (unsolicited!) about how the witch was tricking Edmund and how he wasn’t nice to his sister, Lucy. He’s listening and the ‘moral’ of this story is going to deeply impress him (thank you, Lord!!) He will hear the gospel message here- sin has us frozen, sin corrupts us, but JESUS is our hope and our salvation and He has a wonderful plan for us!

A note: we actually own this Easton Press copy of The Chronicles of Narnia. This is also the first time my kiddos are getting to read from one of our ‘fancy’ books. How nice to have a special set of books as we share this special story!

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Filed under Daily Life with Dear Charlotte, Masonian Educational Methods

Holiday Activities for the Coming Months

Well, here we are in the first half of November. This is the perfect time to begin discussing holiday traditions and how they influence a child’s education. I wanted to bring this up early  so you have a chance to plan ahead if you would like to use some of these ideas in your holiday celebrations or if you would like to research your own…

Holidays are very important to my family. We enjoy all the trappings of the winter holidays- red and green, ribbons and bows, trees, holly, candles, lights… These decorative changes in our home mark this time out as set apart- holy… We are a liturgical family- that means, for us, that we always look for ways to use symbols and cyclical traditions to reinforce Biblical/Spiritual truth. Here’s how we use the winter holidays to point our children toward Jesus…

Thanksgiving-  This year, it seemed good to Brian and me that we celebrate a whole season of gratitude. Having only one day of the year in which we purposefully give thanks to the Lord just seemed- well- weak to us. We wanted to find a way to point our children toward counting blessings and remembering to be thankful on a daily basis and to celebrate gratitude. Of course, we can give thanks every day (and we do), but using a season/holiday to focus on this aspect of our relationship to the Father will, we hope, show our children just how important gratitude is to us.

So this year, on November 1st (All Saints Day for those of you who follow traditional liturgical calendars), we created a ‘Thankful Tree’. It’s a very simple creation- a basic tree shape cut out of foam board and colored brown with crayons. Then we cut leaf shapes out of construction paper. Each night, at dinner we talk about what we are grateful for and we write this on a leaf. The leaf is then taped up (using painter’s tape) to the tree.

Our Thankful Tree on the first night...

To give us some direction, we decided to have a different focus each week. Week 1 was ‘People we are thankful for’.  Options in the category included family, friends, influential Christians from the past & present, Apostles, professions, etc. It was sweet to me when Fae answered our “Who are you grateful for?” question with, “God and People”.  Amen, baby…

Week 2 has been focused on ‘Bible verses/history we are thankful for’. I’ve been focusing on Romans, first being thankful for the book and then selecting specific verses to highlight for my children. Brian noted his thanks for the Sermon on the Mount. Alex has been thankful for the Bible history Noah’s Ark and Daniel in the Lions’ Den. Fae was thankful for “animals” in scripture, which I think is totally valid (grin).

Week 3 will have us thanking God for ‘Answered Prayers & Unexpected Blessings’ and week 4 will focus on ‘Dreams, Abilities, and Callings’.

Each evening our tree grows and it is really wonderful to have a visual testament of how our Jesus has been good to us.

Advent- After Thanksgiving, our Advent celebration begins. Several years ago, my sister-in-law gifted me with a pewter Advent wreath. This is a ‘Jesse Tree’ Advent wreath which recalls visually the historic lineage of Jesus showing how God worked so carefully to bring our Savior into the world. There is a different engraved picture for each night that represents various stories about Jesus’ ancestors. Advent is so special to me- to walk through the season remembering how God has acted in human history to save us– to save me- is just humbling, wondrous and joy-inspiring  all at once. I love, love, love Advent…

Each evening, Brian leads our family in lighting the Advent candle (one candle per week with a new candle added each Sunday), singing our Advent hymn- O, Come, O, Come Emmanuel and reciting our Advent verse “The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who live in a land of gloom, The light has come.” (Isaiah 9:2). We then have a reading from Scripture, a memory of how God moved throughout the history to bring Jesus for us. This generally takes about 10 minutes and as we blow out the candles, we remind the children how the smoke rising from them is like our prayers rising before our Father.

This is a picture of the exact same advent wreath we own.

This year, I want to begin a new tradition and actually create a ‘Jesse Tree’ to go with our wreath. As I mentioned above, our Advent wreath has many little pictures engraved on it, each of which represent a significant person/event in the historic lineage of Jesus. I want to help the children create actual ornaments to hang on a tree. This year, they’ll likely be paper, but as the children grow, I hope we can make more permanent ornaments. I imagine the children hanging the ornaments & discussing the meaning of the symbols.

So what do the holidays have to do with education? Well, in our family holidays are used as spiritual and scriptural lessons. We have tons of fun and enjoy many ‘non-religious’ activities like attending the annual Christmas tree lighting at our local Township park, watching Rudolph and Frosty and the Grinch, making peanut brittle and chocolates, working at local food pantry and caroling whenever we have the chance. However, the heart of our celebrations, the place where we rest during the holidays, is in our focus on Jesus’ coming.

There is no more important fact in our lives- no more important truth to be communicated to our children- but that Jesus, God become God-Man, took upon Himself our sins so we have hope of being with Him and the Father forever. We, therefore, have the joyous privilege of pledging our affections and our actions to serving Him all the days of our lives.

I am so excited for this upcoming season- and for the blog posts I’m working on! I have several on the burner and will be sure to let you know when they’re ready for tasting!

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Filed under Daily Life with Dear Charlotte, Holidays/Family Liturgy