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Monday, January 26, 2015

2014 Posts Worth Reading Again

2014 Homeschool Posts Worth Reading Again {The Unlikely Homeschool}

(I apologize in advance for the bit of narcissism coming at you in 5...4...3...2...)

I'm a homeschool blogger. I write about homeschool. 
Homeschool methods.
Homeschool madness.
All-things related to combining HOME and SCHOOL. 

And while I am quick to recognize the ministry behind my blog, I would be remiss if I did not also confess the selfish motives that sometimes propel my fingers on the keyboard.

Blogging is cathartic for me. Over the past few years, my blog has become an outlet...a place to purge all of my pent up musings about this counter-cultural life I've been gifted. Admittedly, I find it easier to sift through the daily journey when I can lay it all down in black-and-white. My days take on definitive shape and purpose when I can write them out in words. Words give me clarity. 

I guess since I'm in a confessing sort of mood, I'll also disclose that on some rare homeschool days...the ones that make me feel nearly numb...the days that make me stare longingly at the big yellow bus as it passes my window...

on THOSE days, I crack open this blog to be reminded of why this life I'm living...
this glorious HOME plus SCHOOL life 
is so very worth it. 

This past year, I've found myself coming back to a few posts...my favorites from 2014. I've re-read them a time or two and have reclaimed my love for ALL OF THIS. For home. For school.

2014 Posts I've Read Again

For more great posts worth re-reading, be sure to check out My Favorite Posts of 2014 from the lovely ladies of iHomeschool Network.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The GREAT Vocabulary Challenge {Learning Vocabulary Authentically}

The GREAT Vocabulary Challenge {Learning Vocabulary Authentically}

taciturn |ˈtasiˌtərn|

(of a person) reserved or uncommunicative in speech; saying little.

If you would've asked my children and me a few weeks ago what the word taciturn meant, we probably would've given you the "Can you please speak in English?!" look. We had no idea what it meant or how it was used in a sentence. But, thanks to our month-long GREAT VOCABULARY CHALLENGE, we can now use this and dozens and dozens of other new-to-us words in our written and oral expression. 

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

We extended our vocabulary and broadened our ability to weave words together. And we did it all authentically and naturally through The GREAT Vocabulary Challenge.

The GREAT Vocabulary Challenge {Learning Vocabulary Authentically}

Vocabulary Philosophy

Before I leap into the HOWs of The GREAT Vocabulary Challenge, I must first tackle the WHYs. 

I am a firm believer that vocabulary is taught best organically...in the context of everyday life and learning. Is it possible to get a child to robotically memorize a lengthy list of unfamiliar words and their definitions each week during a formal "vocabulary" time?

I've seen it done and due to the nature of the curriculum standards of traditional schools, I've done it.
I've also seen how those same set-to-memory lists of words are memorized for one week and forgotten the next. 

Because when children are given a hoard of completely disjointed, arbitrary words outside the context of their normal usage, they tend to only know what those words mean in theory. They don't really ever learn what those words mean TO THEM! 

Introducing an unfamiliar word in a real-world context (as in a book or in conversation) gives that word value. A child is more apt to "own" the word and actually use it himself, if it has a natural relevance in his life. 

Because my children heard the word taciturn being used to describe a tight-lipped, reserved character in a book I was reading, they were all able to create a very accurate mental picture of a taciturn individual.

While I find definite value in introducing vocabulary roots to my children with the help of curriculums such as English From the Roots Up, I have never forced them to memorize a random list of weekly vocabulary words. Learning a root gives you the tools to dissect unfamiliar words later on. Memorizing a word gives you nothing but ONE memorized word.

Vocabulary built through quality reading material is, in my opinion, much more authentic.

The GREAT Vocabulary Challenge {Learning Vocabulary Authentically}

The Challenge

Like all children, sometimes my kids get into the lazy habit of skipping over unfamiliar words in their reading. While they might be able to phonetically sound-out these difficult words, they do not always comprehend what they mean. To encourage a slower, more purposeful-look at the words on the page, I put forth a challenge to my kids. 

The Backstory

In November, my children knew we were scheduled to take a cross-country trip at the end of December. They also knew that I had already purchased and wrapped up a new travel game for the entire family.

But, since there was only one gift to open and five children who would naturally want to be THE ONE to open it, I decided to organize a month-long vocabulary challenge to determine WHO would be the lucky unveil-er. (I realize OPENING a gift that everyone was going to get to share doesn't seem like a huge "carrot" at the end of a month-long challenge. But, my kids were all over it...because I threw the word "challenge" into the title. What is it with boys and the word "challenge?")

By offering up a small incentive in the form of a "challenge", I was hoping that my children would not only be willing to seek out the meaning of unfamiliar words, but also begin to see HOW MUCH their vocabularies grew each day just by reading great books.

The GREAT Vocabulary Challenge {Learning Vocabulary Authentically}

The Rules

Color-coded slips

My oldest four children began the challenge shortly after Thanksgiving. I cut out colored slips of paper, assigned each child to a particular color (because life just goes so much better around here with color-coding), and placed all of these slips in a glass jar along with a stapler and a few pencils. I also appointed a color to myself...proving that vocabulary building is a life-long process. (Even momma learns new words through reading!) Since so much of our school-time reading is done together, I designated an additional color to represent all of us. 

Definition of an unfamiliar word

As my children came upon an unfamiliar word in their reading, during a church sermon, watching a Netflix show, or whenever, I encouraged them to find out what the word meant. Sometimes that required them to look it up in the dictionary. But, more often than not, it meant that they just simply asked me for a quick easy-to-understand definition. (I didn't get too hung up on saying "go look it up". The point of the challenge was to build vocabulary, not dictionary skills.)

Often, they each could formulate a rudimentary definition of the word by using simple context clues such as how it was used in the sentence, how it related to the illustration on the page, or how it fit into the main idea of the paragraph.  

Paper chain

When a child (or momma) had a firm grasp of the definition of a newly acquired word, he would write that word down on one of the slips of paper that was in his assigned color. Then, he would form that slip into a circle and staple it onto the growing chain of slips that was hanging in our dining room.

If we ALL learned a word together, one of us would write that word on an orange slip (the color designated for group words) and attach it to the chain.

Simple review

Every now and again, someone would pull down the chain and begin calling out the words written on the links. The "owner" of a particular word would quickly recall its simple definition by remembering how it was used in the context of everyday life.

And the winner is...

By the end of December, we had a very lengthy chain...a colorful exhibition of our growing vocabularies. We all counted our colored links. Orange links were counted by everyone since those were the words we all learned together. My middle son came out the victor and was awarded the privilege of unwrapping the group travel game for our upcoming trip. 

But, if truth be told, we were ALL the winners of this challenge and we all received a huge reward...
a cache of newfound words.

cache |kaSH|
a collection of items of the same type stored in a hidden or inaccessible place: an arms cache | a cache of gold coins.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Top 10 Favorite Pinterest Boards for Homeschool

Top 10 Favorite Pinterest Boards for Homeschool {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Just the other day, the kids and I dabbled in a little color mixing with a...might I say...super easy, "I actually have all the supplies on hand and don't have to go to the store" kind of science project. 

We followed the simple directions.
Crossed our fingers.
Waited the appropriate 24 hours. ("Waited" is a relative term here. "Stared anxiously at the three jars of ever-changing liquids and watched the clock like time-keeping Nazis" is a more accurate description. But, you get the idea.)

Then, we stood back in wonder when it actually worked!

In case you're wondering...
this brief little story...the one in which I get to wear the Super Homeschool Mom cape in front of my kids for a brief nano-second for having helped them with the oh-so-successful science project...was brought to you by PINTEREST!

Yep. Pinterest.
And more accurately, one of these ten fantastic boards.

If you're looking for your next big Super-Homeschool-Mom moment, might I be so bold as to suggest a few really great Pinterest boards worth following. 

Here they are in no particular order:

The Ultimate Homeschool Board by Jamerrill Stewart and friends

Homeschool FREEbies by In All You Do

Homeschool Curriculum Reviews by The Curriculum Choice and friends

Learning with Literature by Creekside Learning and friends

Writing Prompts by Write Shop

Notebooking for Homeschool by Jimmie Lanley

Nature Study by Barb at Handbook of Nature Study and friends

Art for Kids by Rebecca English

Hands-On Science by Julie Kirkwood and friends

KBN Activities for Toddlers by Kid Blogger Network

And since we're talkin' homeschooling ideas on Pinterest, don't forget to join me over there.

Looking for more Pintastic boards to follow? Be sure to check out all the ones from the lovely ladies of iHomeschool Network.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What We're Reading in January 2015

What We're Reading in January {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Our January started across the country with a trip to the Southwest. To escape -40 windchill, we left the day after Christmas and didn't get home until well after the year began. While one might think that a lot of reading would happen on a vacation, it didn't. We were way too busy most of the time. And although we logged over 3600 miles in a borrowed SUV together, some of the kids suffer from car sickness...'nough said!
Me, on the other hand...
I did lots of reading. Finished two books, as a matter of fact. Thanks for asking!

So, while some of our books for the month are different from those listed on last month's list, many of them are the same.
But hey, that's OK. 
How can you ever expect a kid to read when there's meteor craters to look into, mountains to climb, and wild west cowboys to meet?!

Now that we're home, we are back in the saddle again with our reading. (So sorry about the "back in the saddle" bit. I was in cowpoke territory for nearly two weeks. I can't be held accountable for this or any other western-ese that might happen to come out in the next few days. But, I digress...)

Here's what we're reading this month.

Read Aloud- Everybody

The Sign of the Beaver- At the recommendation of dozens of Blog readers, we began this book just before Christmas. We have only a few pages left to read and will be sad to say goodbye to Matt and his heroic adventures with his Native American friend, Attean.

Jamie-That's Me!

The Heritage of Lancaster County Trilogy- This is a HUUUUUGE departure from the non-fiction I normally read. But while on vacation, I came to the end of my "pack for the trip" book much sooner than I had expected. In desperation for something...ANYTHING...to read for the four day journey back home, I grabbed the first book in this series and plunged into the lives of a fictional Amish family. After book 1, I was sort of required by all the "book reading laws" to see the series through to the end. And so, I'm currently trudging my way through book 2. I'm probably gonna move onto something a bit meatier before reading book 3, though. We shall see... 

Sweetie Pea- 6th grade

A Girl's Guide to Understanding Boys- (Mom assigned book) This is the last in a series of four books that I have intentionally planned for my daughter during these very pivotal pre-teen years. While the title and cover seems to imply that this is just another tween-girl-has-a-crush-on-boys book, it is not...AT ALL. It is actually a very Biblical look at how a young lady is to act around the opposite sex and how she should expect to be treated in return.

Redwall- (Read-for-fun book)

Super Boy- 3rd Grade

Henry and Ribsy- (Mom assigned book) Although my son seems to really enjoy the misadventures of Henry and his dog, he gets quite discouraged about the length of the chapters. They are very good, but as with most Beverly Cleary fiction, they are very long.

Space- (Read for fun book) My science boy has always clamored for anything about outer space. The telescope he was gifted while visiting his great uncle (an amateur astronomer) on our vacation has certainly added fuel to that raging fire. This title is one in a WONDERFUL series of boy-type adventure books that my sons received for Christmas.

Blonde Warrior- 2nd Grade

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain- (Mom assigned book) I absolutely love this simple classic and have passed it down to each of my kids so far. It's such an innocent and captivating story about a little boy lost in the woods WITH BEARS...or so he thinks!

Spying- (Read for fun book) This is another in the boy-type adventure books that my boys received. This one details the secret life and work of spies. I'd tell you more, but it's top secret.

Greased Lightning- Kindergarten

Scholastic Phonics Ready Readers- This is a series of graduated phonics readers that come in multiple boxed sets. He's on the last book in set 2 of the series. 

So partner (Sorry...that's the last one. I hope.), we'll have our noses in books for the next few weeks, bundled up against the cold. Sadly, out of the many souvenirs I was able to stash away in our luggage for our trip back home, the southwestern sunshine was not one of them. 

Mosey on back real soon, now, 'ya hear?! (Clearly I need some kind of vacation debriefing. Is there a number I can call?)

Whatcha' reading this month?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Personal Goals for 2015 {A Look at His Chiseling}

Personal Goals for 2015 {A Look at His Chiseling} The Unlikely Homeschool

With the turning of a new year comes a chance to reflect on what was and look ahead to what will be. It's a chance to evaluate and make adjustments. I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions. A lofty plan is often unattainable and a precursor to failure. I have no desire to to start my year out with feelings of defeat. But, while I never make resolutions, I'm always resolute. I'm firm in my resolve to make slow-and-steady progress. To let go and let God do His work refining me…chiseling away at all my rough parts. 

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

Over the last few days, I have spent some time appraising my progress of my 2014 goals. And now with the start of a new year, I am resolved to let God perform NEW things in my life. He reminds me in Isaiah 43:19, 
"Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert." (ESV)

Although I am obviously open to whatever NEW He has for me this coming year, I hope to make forward motion in the following specific goals:

Personal Goals for 2015 {A Look at His Chiseling}

Help Launch Truth Guards

This month marks the launch of Truth Guards, my husband's father/son adventure club and discipleship ministry. As his God-given helper, I've spent many months helping him to plan, organize, and write materials. In the coming days, I hope to continue this effort and do all I can to support my husband as he follows God's call to encourage and equip fathers to train the next generation bold, Christ-followers.

Make Meals for Those in Transition

I used to bring meals to new mothers, sick friends, and needy neighbors quite often. I had gotten into the habit of making extra freezer meals for this particular purpose. But, somewhere between baby three and five, my meals-to-go have all gone and in their place excuses of "I'm too busy" have crept in to stay. Recently, however, the Builder and family suffered a disastrous property fire which displaced them to a hotel for weeks. They were in need of many things…hot meals being at the top of the list. In an effort to stream-line the meal deliveries, another mutual friend put together a Meal Train schedule for them. 

As a novice Meal Train participant, I was really reluctant to sign-up. But, wanting to help this much-loved co-op family in any way that I could, I signed-up for my first meal-to-go in quite a while. I made it. I delivered it. And I loved it. (Hopefully, they did to.) I had all but forgotten what it felt like to be the hands-and-feet of Christ in the very tangible, but small act of providing a meal for someone in need. Falling back on some of my tried-and-true meal-to-go methods, I was able to bless some dear friends and in return receive the blessing that comes when the members of the Body serve each other. 

My Plan:

I hope the success of this first meal will be a launching pad for many more meals to come. As I know that busyness will always be a threat to my ministry efforts, I've decided to form a helpful plan of attack. 
  • I will utilize Meal Train whenever possible as it is wonderfully efficient for both the meal giver and the meal receiver. 
  • I will do my best to always have consumable serving containers on hand so that I don't have to make a last minute run to the store. I've purchased a handful of aluminum one-time-use casserole pans and will begin to stock pile a small hoard of emptied and sterilized food containers. While heirloom, glass casserole dishes are pretty, they are not very practical for meals-to-go and require washing and returning.
  • For me, half the battle of preparing meals-to-go is deciding WHAT meal to make. So, I've decided to compile a list of three complete meals that I can whip together with ease. I hope to come up with a soup, a pasta dish, and a casserole or sorts that can be repeated often for any number of needs. Still thinking...
  • Lastly, I hope to make an extra loaf of bread every few weeks in order to have some readily available for giving.  Although giving an entire meal may not always be possible, a loaf of bread is certainly doable.

Personal Goals for 2015 {A Look at His Chiseling}


Living in a teeny-tiny cottage-style house necessitates living simple. Every available space is prime real estate and must be used with the utmost efficiency. Hanging onto stuff not only clutters my house, but also my life. So much time and energy is wasted cleaning, repairing, and finding space for STUFF. In fact, I find that when my home gets too full, I begin to feel like a cornered squirrel.  Caged-in. Stealing a phrase from my husband's advertising verbiage, I'd conclude that my personality demands "white space"…a little bit of emptiness on the boarders of the "page" in order to fully appreciate the rest.

My Plan:

For that reason, I am instituting a "one in, two out" rule for my year. If one new or new-to-me item comes into my home, I hope to get rid of two items that are currently just taking up space or collecting dust. I've sort of been practicing this concept since last spring when we put our house up for sale. For over a year, I've had a bag sitting in an out-of-the way spot. (With a tiny house, there are very few spots that are, in fact, out-of-the-way.) As I've come upon an item that I know I don't need or won't use, I've put the item in the donation bag. Once the bag has gotten full, I've driven it to a local church-run thrift shop dedicated to providing much-needed items for the marginalized and homeless of our area. I hope to continue this newly formed pattern through 2015 with a bit more intentionality. 

Personal Goals for 2015 {A Look at His Chiseling}

Finish Two Quilts

I'm almost embarrassed to add this goal to my list. I've been making the same two quilts since my middle son was born. He's now six-and-a-half. If truth be told, they've sat on the floor of my crafting studio for a year and a half (That is except for the five minutes it took me to take this picture for our "house for sale" montage...and if you're wondering, NO the boys' room is NEVER that clean. This photo was S.T.A.G.E.D!) with only the hand-stitch part of the binding left to be completed. SIX YEARS! For six years I've been plunking aways at these heaps of fabric. But this year? THIS is gonna be the year I make the final stitches on them! If not…if I end 2015 with nearly-finished quilts sitting on the floor collecting dust...I give you full permission to capture me and send me to some kind of quilt-making sweat shop until I can produce two fully-completed, bunk-bed sized quilts. They will get done…they WILL get done…THEY WILL GET DONE!!!! (They'd better get done.)

Go To Bed Earlier/Get Up Earlier

The close of 2014 found me in a not-so-great pattern of melding one day into the next…of going to bed around the same time that others were beginning to wake up. Well, OK, so that's a bit of an exaggeration. But, I was definitely not ever getting to bed until the AM hours of the day. 

Consequently, this caused my RISE to have very little SHINE. I was living in a constant state of "falling behind"…or at least feeling that way. In the coming months, I hope to find rest in these sweet words from Psalm 127:2

"It is in vain that you rise up early    and go late to rest,eating the bread of anxious toil;    for he gives to his beloved sleep." (ESV)

With the mounting duties of homeschooling, helping to run two on-line ministries, teaching a class at church, not to mention the everyday responsibilities of being wife and mother to the six most important people in my life, I've come to the realization that everyone…including me…needs a "clock out" time…a time to be done with the day even when everything in the day did not get done. I want to be able to wake up feeling not only refreshed, but also eager to tackle whatever awaits. I think my staying up past one every night has gotten me into a bad cycle of sluggishness that, in the end, has greatly effected my productivity level and has forced me to stay up even later. It was a slippery slope, that I hope I can rectify for my own health and the overall rhythm of my household. 

Personal Goals for 2015 {A Look at His Chiseling}

Return to Journaling

For three years, I kept a homemade sentence-a-day-journal. I wrote a month and day on each page and left space to write. On each day's page, I would write the current year in the margin and then jot down a one-sentence summary of the day. I did this for 365 days until I was back to the start of the year and could begin all over again by adding a new year in the margin and a fresh sentence. Over the course of three years, I was able to see how our lives transitioned and could keep our daily happenings into perspective. Things that seemed oh.so.important one year, were painted with glorious hindsight 365 days later. My entries would include things like "Started snowing today and it's the end of MAY!" or "The kids got to say the Pledge of Allegiance on the radio." None of my musings were earth shattering, but they were vignettes of my life worth remembering.

Unfortunately, a newly-crawling baby got to my journal one day and it was given a sad waste basket funeral moments later. There was no repairing it. 

Since then, I just have never had the gumption to begin another journal. Until now...

The Hubs took my not-so-subtle hit (I sent him a Facebook message saying something like "I want this journal for Christmas! Please buy it for me. Please, pretty please [insert batting eyelashes].), and bought me this Q & A a Day Journal. To be honest, I'd much rather just journal than answer a random question each day. But most of the time, the questions are rather intriguing. So, I've decided to try to squeeze both the answer AND one sentence about our day into the three or four lines allotted for each date.

I already have a morning routine of Bible reading (I'm currently in Matthew...good stuff!) and prayer journaling with A Mother's Prayers for Her Children as inspiration. So, I'll tack on a couple of extra minutes at the end of my quiet time for my Q & A Journal. 

A Final Word

As I sketch out my tentative goals for the year, I am reminded that all my days…all my successes, failures, and best laid plans...are in the hands of a loving God who has already written my story. If you, like me, have spent these first few days of 2015 in reflection, may I remind you that God is in the business of making broken things beautiful. No matter how many plan Bs you faced in 2014, God can make all things NEW this new year. He's on your side, if you're on His, and will keep fighting for you to the very last round. Trust in that. It's a resolution that can not fail!

Got any goals for 2015? I'd love to hear them!

Monday, December 29, 2014

My Book Reading Goals for 2015

My Book Reading Goals for 2015 {The Unlikely Homeschool}

A quick look at my Good Reads account proves that I've been a busy reader this year. Since launching into a year-long goal to get back into reading two years ago, I've enjoyed a jam-packed library bag and many late night hours of words...lots and lots of wonderful words. I've been changed by them. Molded, shaped, and reshaped.

This year, I hope to continue that steady path of change and dive into a few good titles. I've picked out a few that have caught my eye over the last few months. I will use this list as a loose goal, but will feel free to veer from my pre-scripted course whenever I get an itch to do so. In other words, I'm not married to the list. It's just here for inspiration and to provide a suggestion whenever I need one.

So, here's my list...ten books I hope to crack open in the next twelve month.

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

2015 Reading Goals

Waiting for Unicorns- This middle-grade fiction work is a bit out of my normal reading "box," but it was written by a lovely friend-in-real-life and brilliant writer. I have no doubt I'll enjoy it. Can't wait!

Reading in the Wild- Just weeks ago, I had the privilege of reading the prequel of this book. It affirmed so many long-held beliefs I've had about igniting a passion for reading in children. I can only imagine this one will do the same.

The Hole in Our Gospel- 2014 was a year of "religious" challenge for me. I was forced, on more than one occasion, to take a good hard look at church...or really, how we "play" church here in America. I have a feeling this book will continue the chiseling God has already started in my heart.

Resisting Gossip- As a woman who likes to talk...and talk...and talk...resisting gossip has always been a s.t.r.u.g.g.l.e for me. But since, according to Matthew 12:36 I will give an account one day for every careless word I have spoken, I'm hoping this book can give me some practical tools to help me bridle my tongue.

The Waiting- Last fall, I read the first few chapters of this touching memoir of one mother's life-long quest to find her biological daughter. I got side-tracked by another book and never ended up finishing it. I hope to revisit it in the coming year.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood- I've heard and read quite a bit of "stir" over this book. It's time I find out what all the fuss is about! If nothing else, I have a feeling it will cause me to really dive into the Scriptures to prove or disprove my own personal stance on a few issues.

The Four Seasons of Marriage- It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Chapman's Five Love Languages. But, I read that little gem way back in the newlywed phase. As the Hubs and I have transitioned into a new season of marriage, I'd like to revisit some of Chapman's sage advice and learn to embrace what's to come.

When You Rise Up: A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling- I'm just being perfectly honest here...the title of this book got me hook, line, and sinker.

Own Your Life: Living With Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love- Sally Clarkson's writing is often a calm sea in the raging waters of motherhood. I'm not entirely sure when and how I stumbled upon this title. But, I've always enjoyed Clarkson's gentle call to Biblical womanhood and assume this book will not disappoint.

A Light to My Path- I've never been a huge fan of adult fiction. Or perhaps more truthfully, I'm a fiction snob. If I am going to invest time in a fiction book, it has to be captivating from paragraph one. I've heard great things about this Lynn Austin trilogy and hope to carve out a few weeks for it.

Looking for more great titles?

Be sure to check out...
Personal Goals for 2014
Top 15 Books that Helped Shape Me in 2014
Top 10 Favorite Parenting Books

And what about you? What will you be reading?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Top 15 Books that Helped Shape Me in 2014

Top 15 Books that Helped Shape Me in 2014 {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Books change me. I'm never quite the same after reading good words...words that make me think...words that challenge my set-in-stone beliefs...words that help to encourage and equip me to keep doing this thing called temporary. I'm never an identical ME at the end of a good book. I'm always somehow altered...or at least I should be. Because words are like that. They help you stand firm to what you know to be true and remind you to bend with grace when you need to. 

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

This year, I have done much bending. God has used His Word and the words He inspired in others to teach me many things. Looking back on 2014, I am not the same ME in December that I was in January.  

I place the Bible in a league all its own. There are no other words more life-changing, more challenging to my temporary ME than the Truths I have found within its pages this year. Exodus, Romans, and 1st & 2nd Thessalonians have ruined me for anything but the Gospel and God's still small voice in my life.

Beyond that, one quick look at my monthly reading lists shows that my library card has gotten much use. I've read quite a few books this year. Fifteen of them have helped to shape me. I didn't always agree with every line I read. But that's all a part of the shaping process. That's when I get to examine what and why I believe the way I do and stand with resolve on the Truth I know to be true...making me stronger than I was before I turned the page.

And here they are in no particular order...

And you?
What books helped to shape you in 2014?

Friday, December 19, 2014

10 Christmas Party Games for Kids

Gather all the kiddos, warm up a pot of snowman soup (That's what we call hot chocolate 'round here.), and get ready for a night of family fun with a Christmas twist. I've gathered together ten of my favorite kid-friendly Christmas party games in hopes to add some Merry to your Christmas celebrating this year.

(If no instructions are included with a particular game, click on the title of the game to be redirected to the instructions.)


Right to Left Snowman Game

To ensure that everyone wins a prize in this game, give each player a ziplock containing one Christmas cookie. It's best if each bag contains a DIFFERENT kind of cookie. As the game progresses, the bags of cookies get passed from right to left all the way around the circle. Whichever cookie a player is holding in his hand by the end of the game, is the cookie he/she gets to eat.

Beyond White Elephant Exchange

Who Am I?

As a guest arrives to a family gathering or party, attach a name tag to his/her back. Each tag should depict a Christmas character. Throughout the duration of the party, he/she can ask other guests questions that lead to only YES or NO answers in order to discover WHO he/she is.

EXAMPLE: Am I a character from the Christmas story in Luke? Am I pregnant? Am I Mary? 

Character suggestions

  • Mary
  • Joseph
  • baby Jesus
  • shepherd
  • wiseman
  • Elizabeth
  • Zachariah
  • King Herod
  • Angel Gabriel
  • The Grinch
  • Ebenezer Scrooge
  • Tiny Tim
  • Frosty the snowman
  • a caroler
  • the innkeeper
  • piper piping
  • lord-a-leaping
  • maid-a-milking
  • lady dancing
  • drummer boy

Christmas Wrapping Paper Game

I Spy Ornament Game

Use the ornaments on your tree to play a Christmas version of the classic I Spy game. Take turns describing ornaments for others to guess. Whoever correctly identifies an ornament being described gets to describe the next ornament.

What's in the Stocking Game

The Oven Mitt Game

You will need:

  • a small prize
  • an assortment of different size boxes
  • an assortment of Christmas wrapping paper
  • two oven mitts
  • one dice

To prepare the game:

Wrap the small prize in Christmas paper. Place it inside a box that is slightly larger than the original prize. Wrap the box in a different kind of Christmas paper. Place THAT box inside a slightly larger box and wrap with Christmas paper. Continue placing each wrapped box inside a slightly larger box and wrapping it until you have one large wrapped box. 

To play:

Instruct players to sit in a circle on the floor. Place the large wrapped box and the oven mitts in the middle of the circle. Randomly select one number to be the TARGET NUMBER and announce it to the players. Hand the dice to one player. That player must begin by rolling the dice. If he rolls the target number, he can go to the center of the circle, put on both oven mitts, and begin unwrapping the box. If he does not roll the target number, he passes the dice to the player next to him. 

When someone rolls the target number and begins unwrapping the box with the oven mitts, the dice continues to be passed around the circle until someone else rolls the target number. That player then trades places with the player who is currently wearing the oven mitts in order to have a turn at unwrapping the box. This continues until all the boxes have been opened. The player who takes the last Christmas paper off to reveal the actual prize wins and gets to keep the prize.

Build-a-Snowman Dice Game

Christmas Charades

When playing charades with a wide variety of ages, I like to create two stacks of action cards...one stack of EASY cards for really young kids and one stack of MORE DIFFICULT cards for older kids. I color code these cards to make them quickly identifiable. For instance, RED cards might have the easier actions and GREEN cards might have the more difficult ones. I divide the players evenly into two teams so that each team contains both younger and older children. Although a child might only be able to preform the actions of a particular colored card, he/she can guess any of the actions preformed by his/her teammates...no matter the difficulty level. 

Easy charade suggestions

  • Mary holding baby Jesus
  • a donkey
  • an angel
  • catching a snowflake with your tongue
  • putting on mittens
  • building a snowman
  • making a snow angel
  • decorating the Christmas tree
  • chopping down the Christmas tree
  • shaking a present to hear the sound
  • eating Christmas dinner
  • skiing
  • ice skating

More difficult charade suggestions

  • no room in the inn
  • shepherds watching their flocks
  • shepherds worshipping at the manger
  • the angels making an announcement to the shepherds
  • wisemen following the star
  • wisemen giving gifts
  • wrapping a present
  • unwrapping a present
  • Christmas caroling
  • the Twelve Days of Christmas
  • shopping for gifts
  • drinking hot chocolate
  • shoveling snow
  • snowball fight
  • sledding
  • lighting an Advent candle
  • making a snow fort
  • eating a candy cane
  • hanging Christmas lights
  • mailing Christmas cards
  • Salvation Army bell ringer
  • making paper snowflakes
  • Jingle Bells
  • making gingerbread houses
  • reading the Christmas story from the Bible
  • baking cookies

Christmas Pictionary


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