Saturday, April 28, 2012

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Now that I stepped forward by creating a FB page for this blog, life has set me back a couple steps.  I woke up Thursday to a dead computer and learned yesterday that it cannot be resurrected.  So, until I can get a new computer, I will be taking a hiatus here.  Hopefully, it won't be long.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Our Homeschool Journey as Encapsulated in A Photo (a Button and a Facebook Page)

Just a quick note this morning to let folks know I have finally created a Facebook page for Training Happy Hearts.  Feel free to click on over and "like" it, as well as to let your friends and fellow homeschoolers (afterschoolers, parents, grandparents, etc.) know about it.

I have also finally created a button and button code grab box.  (Posted above, but, also, over there on the right sidebar for easy grabbing anytime.)  Let me tell you, it wasn't easy for this not-so-tech-savvy mama to do this, but I figured it out.

Training Happy Hearts
<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="Training Happy Hears" width="125" height="125" /></a>

The photo Mike and I chose for the button might seem like an odd one to some, but as we scanned through many photos from the past year, we found this one symbolic of our journey.

  • Marking the Way:  The rocks in the photo were stacked by my children like a cairn.  For those who aren't aware, cairns often mark hiking trails, much like this blog helps us (and we hope others) navigate the journey of training up children.

  • Sunshine and The Beach:  The photo was taken at a local beach as sun streamed down on us.  The beach is a place that truly feeds our family's soul.  Every time we relax at and explore local beaches, we recognize anew how richly blessed we are by all the marvels of God's great design.  and sunshine?  We love it.  Plus, the way the ray of sun in the photo is shining down and expanding in the reflection in the water reminds us of how God's divine love can shine through each of us.

    • Five on a Foundation:  The taller cairn in the photo has five rocks, just like we have five people in our family.  And, it rests on a large, solid foundation -- just as we balance and build our lives best when we rest in God.

      • Three, Free and Forever Learning and Growing:  The smaller cairn has three rocks, just as we have three children.  It was the result of spontaneous concrete math problems that the children decided to explore on the day the photo was taken.  It was a gorgeous November day.  we had decided to go for an impromptu beach hike to enjoy the temperate weather, get some exercise and do some nature study.  Once on the beach, the children began stacking rocks, then other 3-d nature art.  They observed wildlife,  chatted with some photographers who happened to drop by the beach and then began practicing math problems with stones. Exploration and learning flowed naturally and the afternoon unfolded with a glorious balance of play and learning.  Thus, the stack of three reminds me of freedom our choice to homeschool affords us to take advantage of gorgeous days and to learn often in natural environments.

        • Simplicity, Balance and Beauty:  although you'd never know it if you walked into our home, which remains a space-in-progress, a key vision our family shares for our physical, mental and spiritual spaces is one of simplicity, balance and beauty, all as a result of God's grace and pointing back towards God with gratitude.  This photo captures that vision for us.

          Training Happy HearsSo there you have it.  The symbolic story behind the button.  I will spare you the details of the frustrated-mama-trying-to-figure-out-how-to-create-the-thing story and leave it at that.  

          Please feel free to share our button wherever you wish and, if you know of any free tutorials on how to make a similar blog header banner, let me know.  After all the finagling I had to do between Microsoft Office Picture Manager, Publisher, Photobucket and Blogger -- not to mention trying to read the foreign language that HTML code is to me -- while trying to create our new button and grab code, I am game for trying an easier method for updating my blog header!  I also welcome design advice, because, as you might have noticed, it is not my gift.


          Saturday, April 21, 2012

          Paint Me A Poem -- Literacy, Music, Art, Faith and Sensory Diet in One

          La Samaritaine tableau
          Nursery rhymes, painting techniques and images of Bible stories.  What do these three things have in common?  Each are being explored by preschoolers and me throughout the Paint Me A Poem course I am teaching at our spring homeschooling co-op.

          Co-op began this past Monday, and, as always, experiencing it together is is a delight.  Faith, friends and fun wrapped up in a great morning of learning and sharing followed by lunch time with homeschool friends at a nearby playground.

          This term, I am teaching a Dinosaur Delight class as well as the Paint Me a Poem course which started well and aims to help preschoolers:

          • sharpen their language skills through examining the rhythm and rhyme of five classic nursery rhymes
          • experiment with instruments through mimicking the cadence of simple poems.
          • investigate art concepts related to color and movement through utilizing a variety of painting techniques and tools.
          • sharpen their observation skills through participating in group picture studies. 
          • become more familiar with characters and stories from the Bible through sharing prior knowledge and listening to new stories.
          Plus, of course, get a full dose of sensory activities!

          Today, I thought I would share the plan I created for the first day of the course as an example of how others might weave typical pre-k fare with faith formation.  It features:

          • Jack and Jill
          • Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well
          • Golf Ball Painting 

          To download the complete first Paint Me A Poem lesson plan to use with your children, just click here.

          Please feel free to use and adapt the plan to suit your own needs and to direct others to this post to get a copy for themselves.  

          Of course, if you do use the plan, I would be delighted if you would be sure to stop back here to leave a comment telling me how it went. 

          Thursday, April 19, 2012

          God's Perfect Timing: A Reflection on A Spring Afternoon

          "Mommy, look!" Luke exclaimed as he pointed to the treetop in front of us.  "The leaves are finally blooming."
          So it was that a quiet lull after a busy morning on Monday became an afternoon of nature exploration.

          As we sat on the front stoop enjoying some sorbet in the sunshine after a busy morning enjoying the first day of our spring co-op, Luke and Nina excitedly pointed out which trees in our yard had begun to bloom with leaves and which were still waiting for the right time.  

          Then, sorbet licked clean from bowls, their observations prompted us to inspect other plants in our yard to see how far along they were.  We noticed some, such as our crocuses, already gone by.  Others, like phlox, just about to bloom.  And, still more, such as daffodils, hyacinths and tulips, resplendent in the afternoon sun.

          The kids loved discovering the beauty of spring coming alive in our yard, while I treasured the simple moment that would pass all too quickly...

          And here I speak not only of the one or two days a year each spring when our trees begin bloom at the same time as our garden flowers in color, but also of the moment when my children are at the perfect age to get so excited about it. 
          I am so grateful for their development and for God's timing.  I must remember to allow enough quiet in our days to discover both more often.  
          I also must be patient.  Just like the tree in our yard which has yet to burst forth with spring green while its neighbors already are doing so, some of my children's developmental milestones have yet to be reached as soon as that of their peers.  There are days when I let this concern me.  Then there are days like Monday, when I recognize anew that God's timing is perfect and brings joy when we least expect it.

          Sunday, April 15, 2012

          Three Quick Sharings on the Call to Faith Formation in Young Children

          Happy Easter Season!
          This week has been busy.  Busy with good things, but things that have kept me away from blogging.

          Still, I wanted to honor the nudge I felt some months ago to begin this Sunday series by taking a few moments to keep it going again this week.  In doing so, I thought I would share three quick things:

          1.  “Family” Photos:  I wrote before about images in our homes.  Since Easter day, I have been thinking more about this and about how including images of the Holy family and the saints in our home, much the way we do beloved family members, can provide a wonderful way for young children to communicate with and about God.

          At 21 months old, our youngest is still without many understandable, spoken words.  However, one recent when his siblings and I were praying aloud, he went over to an image of the risen Jesus we placed on our Easter liturgical table and began pointing, smiling and babbling.  It seemed to be his way of joining in our prayer.  Since then, he sometimes points to the image, smiles at it, leads me over to it with him and even takes it into his hands as if he is conversing with it. 
          What a simple thing it was to place this child-friendly image in our home and what richness it is bringing.

          2.  Praying Together Anywhere, Anytime:  Sometimes, we get busy.  We fall out of rhythm and break routine.  We end up rushing out the door to get somewhere, feeling stressed, instead of blessed. 

          When I catch us doing this, I try to help the kids and I re-frame once we are all buckled into our van and underway.  I breathe and then lead us in a brief prayer of thanksgiving for the day before explaining what the rest of the day might look like.

          The other day when I did this, I explained to the kids that we might be a few minutes late to a movement class they were taking and that some of their friends would not be there because one of them was sick.  Then, I popped in a favorite audio book to keep the mood on an upswing.

          To my surprise and delight, when we got to our destination, as I tried to hurry the children out of their car seats, my four-year-old daughter requested we pause, “to say a prayer” for our friend.  “God, please help (our friend) feel better and keep her family better, too…” she led us.


          It is so wonderful when our children model after us.  Or, rather, even lead us, in pausing to pray!

          3.  Thank You:  Elisa at Tercets linked up last week with a secular-to-religious idea that I will bookmark for next Easter season!  As a faith-filled mother, teacher and writer, Elisa offers both practical activities and thoughtful reflections at her blog.  Click on over!

          Saturday, April 7, 2012

          Easter in Their Words

          As I write this, my little ones are entranced with our old Beginner's Bible: The Story of Easter videotape, which gently portrays the Easter story.

          Earlier tonight, after watching our traditional "Easter eve" video, Here Comes Peter Cottontail, I asked Luke to tell me the true story of Easter.  He replied, “Jesus died for us and he was put in a tomb and He rose again…”

          Then, as we waited for the Beginner's Bible: The Story of Easter  to cue up, I asked Luke and Nina to tell me more of the story.  This is what they shared:

          Nina:               Jesus had dinner with his friends. He broke the bread…
          Luke:               He ate the bread, too.
          Mommy:          Did He say anything?
          Luke:               Yep.  He told them to love each other.
          Mommy:          Did He tell them to remember Him?
          Luke:               Yep, forever.  That’s why He did it….
          Mommy:          What happened later?
          Nina:               He was praying…
          Luke:               …in the garden.
          Nina:               Some mean people comed and they crucified him…He saw His mom when he was holding the cross.
          Luke:               He was put in a tomb, then He went to Hell, then back to Earth…
          Nina:               …and then to Heaven.
          Luke:               We celebrate Him.
          Nina:               We just wait for the day… the day the Easter bunny celebrates it, because it’s so joyful.

          And, that is what we are doing tonight.  We are awaiting the joy of Easter.

          As a matter of fact, the video has just ended with Nina commenting, "I love Easter, because Jesus died. I know it's sad for other people... Not for me.  I know Jesus died for us...It's good."

          And, now, she is in front of me with her arms up outstretched singing, "Jesus Christ, He died for us, not because He wanted to, but because He loves us.  Jesus Christ laid down His life for us..." 

          Luke, on the other hand, is running out to check if the eggs are cool enough to dye.

          After spending some time on Holy Thursday chatting about the Last Supper, feet washing and how Jesus commissioned the apostles to go and share the Gospel on Friday, we honored Jesus through quiet time from 12-3 yesterday and attending our church’s Living Stations of the Cross.  Then, this morning Luke and Nina debated whether we should be happy or sad. 

          At first, they said that we should be sad because Jesus died and is in the tomb.  Then, they decided that we can be happy, because, unlike the people in Jesus’ time, we know He rose.  

          Nina cannot wait to shout it out with joy:  Alleluia!

          May everyone have a most blessed and joy-filled Easter season!

          I want to thank Rina from Healing Moments for sharing ideas on Guiding Our Children in the Faith in last week's link-up.

          Wednesday, April 4, 2012

          Five Before Breakfast

          Nina leading Jack in a morning stretch.
          Several months ago, I journaled the following words

          In the past five minutes my son has just quickly made his bed, run over to give me a hug and moved out to the kitchen to join his sister in saying, “We thank you for the sky above and for the ground below…” while stretching.  He then began another prayer.  And all this after going potty and being told that he and his sister could not try to make their own self-directed lapbook until they had finished their Morning Five.

          Now, much of this was done with utmost care, and none of it was done with complaint.  What’s gotten into my usual slow-and-begrudgingly-started boy?  Our new Five Before Breakfast.

          Since then, my son’s motivation and willingness to compete his Five Before Breakfast has flagged at times.  Yet, more often than not, we find ourselves living our new habit rather than ignoring it, which makes this mama happy.

          Just what is our Five Before Breakfast?

          Five Before Breakfast is a simple strategy for starting our days well:  It is five things that we have agreed we should do before the children sit down to eat their breakfasts. 

          Continuing to stretch.
          For the kids, our current five are:

          • Pray.
          • Go potty.
          • Share hugs and kisses.
          • Make beds.
          • Stretch and exercise.

           For Mommy, they transitioned to:

          • Pray.
          • Drink water.
          • Put away dishes.
          • Attend to Laundry.
          • Check emails.

           And are now tweaked to:

          • Water body and soul. (In other words, pray and drink water.)
          • Attend to laundry.
          • Put away dishes.
          • Get fit.
          • Check emails.

          Why these five?

          One word:  Ownership!

          Nina saying an additional morning prayer.
          I knew that Luke and Nina (and Jack by modeling after them) would “take” to our Five Before Breakfast if they “owned” the idea.

          So, one day, after a particularly trying morning, I asked Luke and Nina what actions and attitudes might have made it better.  I questioned if there were any things we might attend to before breakfast in order to help us all start the day with smiles, love, peace and health.  Perhaps pick a certain number of weeds?  (More on why I asked about the weeds in a later post.  It was a prompt I knew would engage them, and – bonus – it made them giggle.)

          Luke and Nina then brainstormed all of the things they thought they should do – which mirrored many of the things that were already on their Morning Lotto Charts, plus a few of their own ideas.  Some of the things they suggested were:

          • praying
          • reading devotionals
          • pulling six weeds from the yard
          • feeding the poor
          • giving Mommy hugs and kisses
          • doing chores
          • sharing hugs, kisses and love
          • stretching
          • jumping on the bed
          • reading two stories
          • having Morning Lotto
          • getting dressed

          I read the kids’ list back to them and asked them which things they thought they should do every morning, regardless of whether we were planning to stay at home or were busy and about to head out the door.   Which things could start all of our days well both on slow days and on hurried ones?

          I starred their responses and suggested that we try to narrow the list down to just five things.  This, of course, led Nina and Luke into a debate about which of the starred items should actually be part of the five.  (Isn’t it wonderful how an exercise as simple as making a list can help teach compromise and cooperation?)  I moderated and, once the children settled on just five activities, I wrote these down and named them Five Before Breakfast (FBB).  

          From there, even though it was well after breakfast, we pretended we’d just woken up and practiced our FBB.  Since the children felt competent and content with them, they were keepers!

          Well, keepers to a degree. 

          Over time, I pointed out to the children that mommies and kids sometimes have different responsibilities and needs.  So, we talked about what five things Mommy usually does (or should do) in the morning and these became my five.

          Thus, began our relatively consistent (although not always!) new wake up routine.

          What strategies are working for your mornings lately?  How do you build routines and habits into your life and that of your children?  I invite you to share with a comment.

          This post is being shared at We Are THAT Family's Works for Me Wednesday.

          Sunday, April 1, 2012

          Two Gentle Easter Reads for Very Young Children

          A young girl eagerly awaits a gift, only to be disappointed by it, casting it aside until Easter morning, when she comes to understand its beauty, as well the power of grace and forgiveness.

          Young children play in a field where “white blossoms with bright yellow throats seems to sing a song of welcome” as “we celebrate God’s greatest gift to the world – his son, Jesus Christ.” Then, the story of Jesus’ final days unfolds, from his entry into Jerusalem, through the Resurrection and his commission for his disciples to “Go and spread the Gospel to the world…”

          These are the storylines of two of my children and my favorite Easter read alouds. For, where some of the picture books in our Easter reading basket a bit too dramatic for my more sensitive young ones, A Child's Story of Easter and The Parable of the Lily are more gentle.

          My oldest son told me he likes  A Child's Story of Easter  because it does not show Jesus dying on the cross, “only carrying it up to the hill.”  My daughter likes it because it doesn’t show the soldiers hurting Jesus. I like it because it offers a full overview of the Easter story without the graphic detail that some picture books contain. (That said, I would feel remiss not to mention that very sensitive readers might still be disturbed by the illustration contained in the story of an angry Jesus with a whip driving the moneychangers from the temple as well as by the mention of the word “kill” in Jesus’ final days.) Indeed, the book includes:

          • Jesus teaching his followers
          • Jesus healing people
          • Jesus entering Jerusalem (Palm Sunday)
          • Jesus driving the money changers from the temple.
          • Judas deciding to betray Jesus.
          • Jesus washing feet and sharing a meal with his disciples (The Last Supper)
          • Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
          • Jesus being killed
          • Jesus being entombed
          • Jesus rising
          • the risen Jesus meeting his disciples

          In other words,  A Child's Story of Easter  not only offers children a sensitive, yet complete view of the Easter story, but it also does so with text and illustrations that tie nicely into Sunday Gospel readings. Perfect!

          The Parable of the Lily , on the other hand, does not directly speak about the Easter story. In fact, it does not ever mention Jesus directly except in Bible passages that are written in small font at the bottom of some pages. Rather, the book presents a memorable modern day parable about the true meaning of Easter. One that often has my daughter asking why “the little girl threw the bulb away” and commenting about how “everyone is happy again”, and one that, this morning, my son proclaimed that he liked because “they are happy because of God.”

          With heartwarming illustrations, a captivating story, connected Bible verses and a strong message, The Parable of the Lily  is a perfect, gentle introduction to the true meaning of Easter for young children.

          As we let Lent happen, prepare for Easter and continue to encourage daily faith formation in our children’s lives, we find  A Child's Story of Easter  and  The Parable of the Lily to be ideal resources. What are some for your favorite Easter reads for young ones?


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