Sunday, November 25, 2012

Preparing for Advent

One thing that has always remained constant in our homeschooling is one way of learning that my daughters learn best. I've found that girls are very visual tactile learners. They love to create an have something to look at. So in our homeschooling endeavors I try to be as creative as I can be because the one thing I've learned is that these simple activities stick.  The crafts we create are not meant to be busy work but something that has meaning and will help them to remember important facts.   I know that it works because I've had my 14 yr old daughter say " Mom, do you remember when we did (fill in the blank) when I was five?  That was so much fun and it helped me to remember ( fill in important fact)." Whether we create crafts, make lapbooks , or do notebooking, these are visual reminders for my daughters and I know there are many children out there that are just like this.  I use this method in my Religious Ed (CCD) class because I know, even if my words fall on deaf ears, the art they create will always be remembered.

With this said we are preparing for the first day of Advent ( Dec 2) and I can't wait to do this craft with my K/1st graders. Granted I have the toughest class. I say this because once a week , for an hour and a half I have to keep the attention of seven 5 and 6 yr olds for an hour and a half. Not an easy task since only one (Maggie) reads at a 2nd grade level, another one has a fantastic memory, and the others can neither read or write, and  I believe have never really heard a Bible story, and I have one child that can't even match pictures.  So I have a wide spectrum in my class that's for sure. Not to mention you have to pick your games carefully , and can't really get into a deeper level of thinking like you can with older children.  The worst thing in the world you can possibly have is a class of 5 and 6 yr old children that are bored for an hour and a half. That equals chaos in my book.

 So at the beginning of the year I created a predictable schedule for them ( something that does not work with older children by the way) with starting our day asking them how they are, if they did anything fun or exciting that week. Then we get down to business with singing (we usually end with something like Father Abraham to get the wigglies out) ,  sit down to listen to a Bible story, and then the Catechesis.  After they've spent time listening , answering simple questions, then its time to get down to the hands on stuff.  I always try to have some type of craft when I'm teaching ( if I'm not able to I always make sure there is some kind of coloring sheet, or extremely simple craft for a substitute teacher) to solidify what I've taught. I like to try and split up our crafts with one class a craft about a Bible story we've learned, and the next with a craft that goes along with the catechesis.

With all of that said there has been so many great craft projects out there being created by Catholic Religious Ed teachers, and Catholic families.  Pinterest is my addiction to finding what I need on any given subject, and sometimes I find myself relying to much on Pinterest and not on my creative juices that I once had. None-the-less I find my brain pretty scattered anyways these days , so much to think about and do right now that I actually am happy Pinterest exists at the moment.

This craft I created isn't exactly original by any sense of the matter, but it is easy, and simple and fits into the short time frame one has on a Sunday morning before Mass. So without further ado,,, here is our very first Advent project. The Advent Calendar.

 Our supplies :
Two different colored felt , obviously read or green for this activity, you could also use white or even pink or purple (advent colors) if you wish too.
Printable Advent Calendar
Here are two links you can use for your Advent Calendar :
The first link is a big chunky picture of Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus (great for children in Prek-1st grade)  The second link is the Manger scene you see in my photo ( definitely would work with children grades 2 and up)
colored yarn ( I chose white to offset the colors)
and wooden dowels ( found them really cheap at Walmart)
and a package of star stickers

 I made sure that the dowels were glued onto the felt, the pictures cut down to size to fit on the felt and I use tacky glue to glue on the back of the paper as this leaves the paper nice and flat without those glue bubbles that you normally see with regular glue.  I also used a craft stick to spread it evenly because tacky glue is thick. Once the children are done coloring their advent calendars, glue them on the felt with tacky glue , then I will have them tie on the string ( little ones may need help with this) onto the dowel. I found string that is already cut to 21 1/4 inch long to be the perfect length for this project.
 After doing all of that I took a paper clip and clipped on the sheet of star stickers ( make sure you have 25 stars at least on a sheet) onto the side of the calendar and they are ready to take home.

Easy to make and ready to hang when they get home. Since we'll be doing them on the first day of Advent the kids will be able to start with the very first sticker and they can finish the countdown at home with their families.

So there you go. A simple Advent calendar that is a little more dressed up. Originally I was going to have the kids just color the page , give them some stickers and send it home. After looking and looking at it I felt we could do just a little more to spiff it up a bit and make it more fun than just a coloring project. Granted, its not reusable but it will make for a wonderful keepsake. Actually now that I look at it some more I think I may cut out some small numbers and put 2012 on the side. See how scattered my brain is? Ha, ha.  Not to shabby for my first year teaching K and 1st graders ( last year I taught 2nd grade).

Do you have a fun and amazing Advent calendar you do with your family or RE (CCD) students?  If you do, post a link in my comments and share. The more ideas, the better!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Our Thanksgiving Table Runner

I thought we would post our fun craft that we did today in preparation for Thanksgiving. One thing I've not ever really done was make something that I could bring out year after year for Thanksgiving. So I was excited to see this craft on the website Catholic Icing. It was fun, very easy to make, and the end result was wonderful.

What do you need?

Fabric Runner
Clorox Bleach Pen ( and, yes, they do exist)
and the peel and stick laminate
stencil of a cross ( if your not good at drawing crosses like I am )

The first thing I did was go online and find a free printable cross that I liked and wanted on our fabric runner. Printed it out at a 3x5 size on our printer. Depending on the size of your fabric runner will depend on the size you want your cross to be. 

Traced the cross on the back of my peel and stick laminate. I traced it on the back so I could use my Exacto knife to cut 

Cut out the stencil with an Exacto knife and then pull out the middle so that you have an open cross pattern to use on your fabric runner. This helps to keep the bleach from the bleach pen from running. You want a stencil that will stick to the fabric so it doesn't run.

Next place your sticky stencil down on the runner where you would like to see it. 

For us the girls decided that they wanted  one on each end .So that was where we placed them. 

Next comes the bleach pens. The aforementioned bleach pen. Would you believe this is  a big city thing and not a you- live- 45 miles- away- from -the- city -and -in- a -rural- area thing? I had actually never heard of a bleach pen. I've heard of the Tide Stain  pens, but had never seen this before reading Catholic Icing's blog. Also would you believe neither has the total population of our town either? We even went to our laundry mat and asked the lady there that does the dry cleaning there, and she had never heard of a bleach pen either. My husband began to think I was telling him a tall tale about as equivalent to the story of the tooth fairy, but low and behold, I came home, my husband did a search online(because I told him to) ,  and it was like the little child who finds out that the tooth fairy does to exist. Ha, ha!  So off to the city we went to pick up the aforementioned bleach pen. 

Next I rubbed some of the bleach from the pen onto the stencil 

and then used a paint brush to evenly distribute the bleach so that it would get to all the places it needed to be because it wasn't getting there with the pen. The nice thing is that the peel and stick laminate does a great job keeping the bleach from spreading to the rest of the fabric. 

Next take some chalk and write on your runner what you would like it to say. Chalk I found really does do the trick. Especially when you need to move your words over a little more after you writ them the first time ( hence the double writing). After centering and writing what you want on the runner, you can now write over the chalk with your bleach pen. 
After writing with my bleach pen I let it sit for about 15 minutes, I found 15 minutes to be the right amount of time for the bleach , to well, bleach. Ha!    Then I ran it under some cold water in the sink to stop the bleaching process. Be super duper sure you don't let it touch anything even after you've run it under cold water because it WILL bleach everything else around it because you will next need to put it in the washing machine. This I learned the hard way. I thought I had washed it off enough that it would be alright and still managed to bleach a small spot. 

After throwing it in the washing machine ( be sure to fill your washing machine first with water to be sure that it doesn't bleach the rest of your runner and wash it alone) , and drying it. The last thing to do was iron it , and here is our end result. It really did turn out super neat, and we look forward to using it on our table for Thanksgiving, and I look forward to always having something to bring out each and every year. Something that we all worked on together and are very proud of.

From our family to yours, the Reed family hopes that everyone has a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Review and Giveaway on Home to 4 Kiddos

Just in time for Christmas, our friends at Home to 4 Kiddos are having a Giveaway.
The name of the book is Destination : Bethlehem  A Family Adventure.

Here is the excerpt of what the book is about from their blog :

"Destination: Bethlehem A Family Advent Adventure," by Sharon Altman and Christine Winkelman is a wonderful, engaging adventure that in its 24 chapters, can be read every night in December leading up to Christmas.

On the back cover the book reads, "Two boys, Isaac and Jediah, experience adventure while traveling through ancient Palestine.  As their journey unfolds, the boys find themselves at the heart of the Nativity Story and gradually realize God's greatest promise, the birth of the Messiah is at hand."

I found that each chapter was short enough to be read in around 10-15 minutes.  I look forward to reading these chapters with my children this Advent.  I change our entire homeschool focus during the Advent season.  It is so important to give them (and me!)  the proper focus leading up to Christmas and I know this book will be a part of our daily Advent activities.

There is also an optional activity of a little package that you could give to your children each day that represents something from that chapter.  I like that many of the items are things that we probably already have in the house.  I can't wait to see the look in their eyes as they try to guess what each little package may contain.  I know that will open the avenue for much discussion and learning.

There are pages entitled "Travel Guide to the Past" after each chapter that give some historical information about what is going on in the chapter and ties it all in magnificently with the Bible.  For example, after chapter 18, we are told that "Jediah's family traveled on the same treacherous pathway that Jesus later spoke about in the parable of the Good Samaritan."  The boys' journey even takes them through Gethsemane before reaching the hills of Bethlehem.

Part I of the book begins with "Isaac's Journey," a year before Christ's birth.  The last chapter has the boys in the Cave at Bethlehem on Christmas Eve.  Such a beautiful and heartwarming journey!

The authors have graciously given me an autographed copy to be won by one of my lucky readers!  I want to be sure that the giveaway will take place for you to have the book in time for the beginning of Advent, which is only a little more than a month away!  Wow!  :-)

So jump on over and enter their blog today at Home to 4 Kiddos  (click).