For those of you who need Christmas tags for your last minute presents, I am posting printable ones for you to download. I designed these with the help of one of my favorite apps: Typorama. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do this post earlier because I took a break from my blog and social media for a week. But I am back!
I finally pulled my Brother Sewing Machine out of its six-month old box. It was just sitting there, growing out-modeled.
The saying, “It’s hard to teach an old dogs new tricks” was the first thing I thought of as I scanned the manual and surveyed all the different machine parts (much more high-tech than the sewing machine I used when I was a teen).
“Elijah! Help! Can you help me set this up?” I called out to my techy-son who willingly assisted his confused looking mother. Basically, he read through the manual and explained, one step at a time, what I had to do. Right, that’s what you do with a manual! But, I hate manuals!
Eventually, my rusty brain kicked in and I figured out how to use the “J” presser foot and the basic stitch. And then I was hooked! I used to enjoy sewing a lot. I made all kinds of things (very simple stuff). But I also designed clothes from scratch a couple of times, making my own patterns. Nothing couture! I wish!
The great thing about sewing is how many simple but pretty creations you can make. And you don’t have to be super amazing at it, like my quilt-making Canadian friend, Andi. (Maybe as my skills evolve I will try this, too.) One thing is for sure…there’s something incredibly rewarding about sewing that appeals to my artsy personality.
For now, I am sticking to beginner level projects (no curve lines or button holes yet!) Here’s what I made last Saturday: a little baby carrier for Tiana’s dolls and matching, reversible skirts for the girls.
I bought my Brother Sewing Machine in the U.S. (it’s much cheaper to buy Brother sewing machines in the U.S.) and got a step-down transformer to convert my power supply to 110 volts. My friend, Andi, gave me some fabric for Christmas. I got all my other supplies at Carolinas (thread, scissors, snaps, etc.) But I plan to go fabric shopping soon so I can do more projects!
Our kids participated in the Biz Kidz event of TMA Homeschool last Saturday. It was such a well-planned event. I am not tooting my own horn here because I had nothing to do with the planning (even if Edric is the Managing Director of TMA Homeschool ). What I especially enjoyed about being at the event was seeing all the ideas and creations of the homeschool kids who were present. Plus, there was that homeschool community vibe that made the place feel like we were among family. This is one of the benefits of being a part of an accredited program like TMA which has over a thousand students enrolled in it. It’s like a huge family where collaboration and fellowship can happen among parents and kids.
Biz Kidz held its second year run and the kids were required to submit their business proposals before getting the approval to participate. Our kids did origami art like they did last year. This time they also added a published book based on a story they wrote. It was illustrated with origami figures.
Honestly, they didn’t really make money because the printing wasn’t cheap but the experience was worth it. The kids worked hard to sell their products. They put in the time and effort. By the end of the day they sold all their cupcakes with origami toppers, almost all their books (about 40 of the 50 we had printed) and they sold some of their origami cards, too. I was very proud of them for trying their best.
My applause extends to the other families and kids who were there. Everyone did a great job and some of the ideas were super creative. Events like these make me appreciate our homeschooling lifestyle. Our kids aren’t getting a typical education. I feel like they are getting so much more, especially when they get to be a part of an activity like this that requires them to apply practical life skills.
Our family gift to Edric for Father’s Day was a set of “Daddy Flashcards”. I asked the kids to give descriptive words or phrases about Edric as a dad, and they came up with sentences to support their descriptions. Then we laminated the cards to make them look more “official.” (I love my laminator!) Edan helped me with this part. And presto…
I was especially moved by Elijah’s letter.
Here’s a fun activity you can do with your kids this Christmas: Make “gingerbread” houses out of graham crackers and decorate them with candy. I used to do this as a kid.
Last night, during a gathering Edric and I had with our bible study group, the kids made their candy houses. My friend, Marilen, made the prototype above for the kids to copy. They had a blast putting their creativity to good use.
The key to making a house that stands is the royal icing. Mix 2 egg yokes with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Add powdered sugar in batches to test consistency while mixing. If the icing has peanut butter stickiness it’s ready to be used as the “glue” for the graham crackers and candies.
Check out wiki how for detailed instructions. This site was super helpful!
The recipe for the icing is so easy I had the kids make it. They got a good biceps workout because the hand mixer wasn’t working. But, a kitchen whisk worked just fine. Then they put the icing into a thick freezer ziploc bag and snipped off a tiny bit off one corner.
The graham cracker houses are easier to decorate when they sit for a little bit after connecting all the sides and the roof. Otherwise, it can get frustrating for the kids when it accidentally topples over while they are sticking on the candies.
Their creations (safe to eat just mind the sugar content)…
This morning, I taught the kids how to make Popsicle puppets. We used cut out pieces of colored paper, pasted on goodly eyes and drew smiles, made pipe cleaner curly ears, and stuck everything together with double sided tape and voila! The kids had a blast with their cousins making up stories and putting on a show for me. I was thoroughly entertained! It was definitely a fun way to teach communication and language skills.
I have often heard other moms talk about how difficult it is to get their sons interested in writing. Well, now I am one of them. My 9 year old, Elijah, is an incredibly intelligent boy but writing is his least favorite activity.
Last Friday was one of those days when he resisted an assignment I gave him. He was asked to write a short story using the vocabulary words he learned and he was visibly upset about it. Sigh. In my heart, I was wrestling with my own rising irritation. I watched him bury his face in his hands, yank at his nose a zillion times, and then stare at nothing. We sat like this for about twenty minutes and he wrote zero sentences.
One of the amazing things about homeschooling, however, is that it is a character education for me, too. So I prayed and committed not to lose my temper. And I didn’t, but he heard me say that I was frustrated. (Oops)
He started tearing and said, “I feel bad because you are mad at me.”
I replied, “I am not angry or mad.”
“But you said you were frustrated.”
“I did say that and I am sorry. I was frustrated, but our relationship is more important to me than your writing assignment.”
To reassure him, I gave him a big hug and held him for a while. Yet, the teacher mom in me knew that Elijah had to learn to write. I couldn’t let him remain negative towards this skill. It was an important ability that he needed to develop. And while I believe in allowing children to learn at their own pace, I also believe that they can be lovingly encouraged and challenged to do hard things.
It wasn’t just about doing a writing activity, it was about overcoming self-doubt and self-imposed limitations and negativity. I knew that Elijah could write and that I wasn’t asking him to do something beyond his capacity. But I was asking him to do something that wasn’t comfortable or easy for him. The question was, what strategy would work to motivate him?
God gave me an idea…
I continued our dialogue, “I need to ask you something. Do you think there is anything you can improve on? Do you think your heart is right?”
He shook his head to mean, “No.”
“What do you think is wrong?” He admitted that he didn’t like writing and didn’t want to do it.
“Do you think it’s okay that you have this attitude toward writing?”
He shook his head again. Another, “No.”
At this point in our conversation, I knew that he recognized his aversion to writing. He knew it was not good or right.
When I saw him soften up a little, I said, “Okay, I want you to repeat after me…”
I don’t like writing but I will try my best for Jesus. I asked me to say this several times until it became somewhat comical and he started to smile. There is my Elijah! I thought to myself. Breakthrough.
It was my opportunity to try again.
“How about we do this. Choose 10 of the vocabulary words to use in a story and you can write about a topic that you like. You can also use my computer to do it.”
“Can I choose my own font?” He asked.
Prior to this, his assignment was to write a story using about 20 words and he had to use them in the order they were dictated. This was stressful for him. But when I changed the mechanics of the assignment and gave him enough space to be creative, he was excited. I also said, “Afterwards, you can play the educational game about countries on my IPad.”
“Thank you, mom! This is more motivating.”
I left him to work on the computer and when I came back, he composed a wonderful piece. Mission accomplished!
Here is a copy of what he wrote: (Re-printed with permission from Elijah)
One day there was a commotion outside the house. There was a booth that allowed you to get free plane tickets that let you go on an expedition anywhere in the world! There was a long line when I looked out the window. There were about 150 people waiting to get tickets! A few days later we got tickets and we chose this place called Adventure Islands.
Once we got there, we first went into the subterranean cave. The next day we reached one of the precipices. We climbed up to the top, and I saw an eyrie below us and an ingenious invention flying above us. We also went to one of the mystery places. I was flummoxed by how the place looked. Soon we saw some menacing, dark rain clouds overhead. We settled in an uncanny place and it was a bit eerie for a while, but soon we fell asleep.
The next day it was time to go home. Three days later we got home. I looked out of the window and saw that the booth was gone. But soon we might go on another adventure…..
After I read what Elijah wrote, I immediately said, “This is fantastic, son. You are such a good writer!” He was quite happy with this encouragement. And I meant it. He was able to use difficult vocabulary in the right context. For a 9 year old who seemed mentally constipated an hour earlier, I was very pleased with his output.
This experience was a confirmation that academic goals are achievable even if I don’t follow the cookie-cutter approach to teaching. I customized my son’s learning experience. And customization is a key benefit of homeschooling.
The reality is that a teacher educating thirty kids will not be able to customize assignments for each of the children she teaches. Yet many times customization is exactly what a child needs to be engaged and motivated to learn. When children are engaged and motivated they do not need to be coerced or pleaded with to learn or try their best. In contrast, when they are uninspired, getting them to do their work feels like pulling teeth…teeth that won’t come out!
Therefore, my challenge as a homeschool mom is not getting my children to do their work but inspiring them to do their best and to love learning. It requires me to adjust (which is not always easy or comfortable or me) and it requires a whole lot of prayer for grace, wisdom, and patience, but the results are worth it!
We’ve got more writing assignments to deal with this coming week, but I am looking forward to how God will move in the heart of my son and help us get through these challenges.
Betty, a friend of mine, sent me the link for this video of Sir Ken Robinson on Ted Talks. He makes “an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.” Let it challenge your thinking on the education of your child.