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Twas the Evening of Christmas | Review and Giveaway

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I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Christmas is coming!

With Christmas comes all the feels and wants of making this the most wonderful time of the year, and in our home, there are three ways we make that happen: books, traditions, and beauty.

Christmas Is a Great Time for Books

When you think of Christmas books, what comes to mind? Go ahead… I’ll give you a second.

I have a list of books, which I will share with you next month, that come to mind for me. But now on that list are two books by author Glenys Nellist.

Last year, Mrs. Nellist wrote a beautiful book, Christmas Love Letters from God, which filled every one of my personal requirements of a good, solid Christmas book. It now has permanent residence in our Christmas book basket. This year, Glenys has outdone herself… again. She has taken a well- loved classic Christmas poem, and created a beautiful version of her own, charmingly retelling the biblical account of the Christmas story.

Twas the Evening of Christmas demonstrates Glenys’s ability for taking a story, setting it to rhythmic poetry, and letting the words paint a picture on their own. As I read the story to my children, the words flowed so easily, and I couldn’t wait to read the next page to see how she would retell each part of the story in the way only she could.

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Christmas Is a Great Time for Traditions

As each Christmas rolls around, I want my children to expect specific recurrences. I want there to be expectations in their hearts that I can fulfill. Reading certain books under the tree during the evenings in December is something I want my children look forward to. Twas the Evening of Christmas is one of those books that will continue to be read year after year, and one day will be read to the next generation as well.

Christmas is a visual treasure

When I think of Christmas, the first thing that comes to mind is what Christmas looks like. Twinkling lights, beautifully decorated trees, full evergreen garlands, large green wreathes, and wrapping paper in every color and print imaginable. The images of Christmas leave as much of an impression as the smells and sounds do.

One of my favorite aspects of Glenys’s books, outside of her skillful authorship, is the illustrators she chooses to tell the visual story. Whether you are looking at her books for toddlers and preschoolers, her Love Letters books, or her newest book, Twas the Evening of Christmas, her illustrators tell the story with artistic beauty.

Elena Selivanova has done an amazing job of illustrating Twas the Evening of Christmas. There is such a nostalgic look to her art, and it fits this book so perfectly. When I asked my children which illustrations they loved the most, each chose something different. Ian, 6, loved the illustrations of the Baby Jesus. Addie, 9, loved all of the illustrations depicting the animals.

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I want to send a huge thank you to Zondervan for sponsoring this giveaway so you can possibly win your very own copy of this visually beautiful, beautifully written book, Twas the Evening of Christmas. I hope you take the time to enter the giveaway below.

Note: This giveaway is open to residents of the USA only, who have a physical street address (no PO boxes).

Next week, Shawn Howell at Prayer Lights will be sharing her review. I look forward to tuning in to hear what she has to say!

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Teach Your Child to Read

Do you have a young child at home who you would like to give an advantage to by giving him a head start in reading before he heads off to Kindergarten? Do you have a struggling young reader who you would love to help over the summer so she can tackle the new school year in the fall with confidence? Are you homeschooling and teaching your child to read for the very first time?

Yeah, me, too!

I had never taught anyone how to read before. As a 4th and then 5th grade teacher at a private Christian school, my job was to teach reading comprehension, get my students thinking about the moral implications of the day’s reading selections, and develop critical thinking skills in my students while reading a passage.

My mother had taught me how to read by the time I was two and a half years old using SRA DISTAR by Siegfried Englemann, which my father’s cousin, a New York public school teacher, had given her because her school was throwing it out. I remember the spiral bound books and games my mother would play with me using the books.

Right before Addie turned one, I saw a commercial for the Your Baby Can Read series. I bought it, and faithfully sat with Addie every day to watch the videos, play the games, look through the books, and review with the flash cards. Within 6 months, she did learn to recognize what each card said, but she was unable to translate her knowledge outside of the cards, videos, and books. (The series is now called Your Baby Can Learn.)

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We began watching the LeapFrog: Letter Factory and in no time at all Addie began recognizing her letters and the sounds they made. By the time we began Kindergarten, she could read small words. The curriculum we were using at the time (Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools) had a reading program that required a lot of writing. She became frustrated, and reading became a dreaded subject for us both.

 

Mid year, I switched her over to A Handbook for Reading, Phonics Textbook (A Beka Book Reading Program) which gave her the phonics foundation she needed. The pages had colors and fun pictures and the words were grouped in easy to read sections. But she still had no confidence in picking up a book and reading it.

Frustrated with reading and having passed my self-imposed timeline for teaching my daughter how to read, I began asking my father if he remembered which reading program my mother had used with me. After a few phone calls and emails back and forth he remembered the initials SRA. I began researching and discovered that the program my mother used for me was still around, just under a different name- Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I ordered it and began working with Addie as soon as it came in.

The lessons are designed to be 20 minutes long- perfect for little ones who have short attention spans. Each lesson covers more than just reading. Children are taught to sound out words by “saying it slow” and then reading words by “saying it fast.” They also learn the concept of rhymes and how to make up rhyming words through daily oral exercises. They are also taught how to write the letters they are learning to sound out in each given lesson. Sound blends like “th” and “ch” are visually attached to teach children how the sound works.

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Lessons are taken in small steps. For example, the first two lessons only teach the sounds for “m” and “s”. The type for the sounds to be read is nice and large making reading less intimidating for children. (That had been Addie’s biggest issue. She would only read books that had large type in them because she was afraid of reading small type words.)

As the book progressed, I found myself splitting lessons in half. They could be a bit intense the further into the book you journeyed. I had to remind myself that the goal was for my daughter to be able to read with confidence and understanding- not finish the book in 100 days.

One particular thing I loved about the book was that as we reached the last quarter of the book, the type gradually became smaller as the stories became longer. Addie never noticed the size change.

The evidence that she could finally read above her grade level with confidence and speed came one evening as I was preparing to review her Awana verses with her. I opened up to what I thought was a new verse, and she responded, “Oh, I already know that verse.” She then began reciting it to me complete with reference. I asked how she had learned it, and her answer was, “I read it, Mom.”

Within a few months of completing Teach Your Child to Read, she picked up our copy of Now We Are Six and read it in two days. I wasn’t sure about her understanding of the book, but when she told me about the poems she was reading, I knew she understood.

We have used a combination of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons, and The Original McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer for Ian (the 5 year old entering Kindergarten this fall). I noticed that going to the same book day after day causes his interest to wane, so we change it up often to keep his enthusiasm up.

At this point in our reading journey, having enough books on hand is my biggest challenge.

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10 of Our Favorite Bible Books and Devotionals for Kids

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We live in a state of moral decline- a society where there is no absolute truth. A society that has blurred the lines between right and wrong. A world where we have shaved the corners off the truth so much in an effort to give the truth without hurt that it no longer resembles itself.

But, dear parents, we can change that.

And it starts in our homes with the children God has given us.

Experts recommend that we as parents read to our children for a minimum of 20 minutes each day.  What if we, as mommas (and dads), took even a portion of those 20 minutes and used them to read God’s Word to our children?

10 minutes each day for 6 days would mean that you could spend an entire hour reading God’s Word with your children in less than a week. Now if we assume that you could read to your children 10 minutes a day, 6 days a week, for 52 weeks (approximately 1 year), you will have spent 52 hours teaching God’s Word to those most precious to you.

Those readings can lead to amazing conversations between you and your child. Those conversations can lead to strong  foundations in faith being laid, personal convictions being shared, understanding the whys of their beliefs, and Biblical principles of behavior can be taught.

We cannot change the moral decline of our nation on our own, but God can use us as we start setting the next generation on the right track here at home.

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When Do I read to them?

We try to have a devotional time together (the kids and me) in the morning before we begin our day, but sometimes mornings are a rush to get out of the house. Brian has also wanted to be an active part in the spiritual training of our children, especially Ian, and mornings don’t work for him at all. So we have begun taking some time in the evenings- he reads to and teaches Ian, and I read to and teach Addie.

There is no right or wrong time to read God’s Word with your children. You only need to find a time that works within the four walls of your home with your people.

Where do I start?

Over the years I have come across so many wonderful children’s Bibles, devotionals, or Bible story books, which I have used with my own children. Although this list does not come close to covering all of the books we have used, these books featured in this list are some of my favorites.

The List

Both of my children began with the See with Me Bible: The Bible Told in Pictures by Dennis Jones. Each story is told through illustrations, not words. After reading through the See with Me Bible with them a couple of times, my children were able to retell the Bible stories on their own. This then became the Bible they used to start them in the practice of personal morning devotions.

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Currently, Life Lessons from the Princess and the Kiss by Jennie Bishop and Susan Henson is the devotional Addie and I are using in the evenings. We have already read the book together, and this devotional serves as a companion. The devotionals begin with salvation and move on to moral purity and purity in our relationships. An important lesson to teach early and repeat often.

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Although we have not begun this one with Ian yet, Life Lessons from the Squire and the Scroll by Jennie Bishop and Susan Henson is the male equivalent of The Princess and the Kiss. We have read the accompanying book to him multiple times, and we will continue to do so before the time comes to begin this Bible study with him. This study deals with keeping God’s Word front and center in the lives of our sons in order to keep them from temptation. 

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What would Jesus Do? by Helen Haidle is an oldie but a goodie. We have been working our way through it in the mornings for a couple of months now. Each very short chapter leaves off with a question or two of personal reflection and a verse. Sometimes the reference to the passage alluded to in the story is put at the very end of the chapter. When it is, we spend the time to look it up.

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Addie has been using Veggie Tales: 365 Bedtime Devos for Girls as her personal devotions in the mornings. This devotional in designed to take your daughter through an entire year. It is done very much in the style of Our Daily Bread with a verse, a small application, and a prayer. It is a great way to get little girls started on having their own quiet time. There is also a boy’s version of this devotional.

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The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones has to be one of my absolute favorite Bible books for children. From Genesis through the New Testament, the author shows how the story of redemption and salvation is found throughout each account, all pointing to Jesus. Beautiful written and beautifully illustrated, this storybook Bible is a must have for every child’s library.

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My Big Book of Bible Stories: Bible Stories! Favorite Bible Stories Kids Will Want to Read Again and Again!  by Phil A. Smouse is a rhyming Bible storybook. The cartoon-y illustrations are engaging for little eyes, and the rhymes are fun to read. Read here for a more in-depth review.

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 My First Hands-On Bible by Group Publishing and Tyndale is a series of excerpts teaching children the main Sunday-school Bible accounts using the New Living Translation. Sprinkled among the verses are little handprints. These handprints indicate a hands-on activity for the children to do which makes the account come alive and more memorable to little ones. None of the activities are labor intensive for Mom or Dad (one might be to count all of the stars in the illustration or march around the room). Both of my children have loved this Bible. I like that we are reading Scripture with fun activities mixed in.

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Around the time that Ian came along, Brian took over the evening Bible reading for Addie. He used the Little Girls Bible for Fathers and Daughters by Carolyn Larsen. The format is laid out beautifully and it allows for a father and daughter to connect over stories from his childhood. I remember Brian reading the topic ahead of time so he could think about which story he wanted to share. Each story from dad relates to the lesson taught in the day’s devotional. There are many others in this series- mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, and fathers and sons.

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If you have read any of my reviews on the Love Letters from God series, you know I am a big Glenys Nellist fan.  Each of her four “Love Letters” books takes children through a beautifully written retelling of a Bible story or Bible character. Each story comes with a beautifully written “letter from God” which is actually Scripture that has been paraphrased and put together in a letter form. Each page is beautifully illustrated and endearing.

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Teaching our children about the Lord is not as hard as it sounds. If you commit to ten minutes a day, 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year, for the next 10 years, you will have put 520 hours of Biblical truth into your children, and they can turn this world upside down! (Acts 17:6)

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Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girls Heart: Review and Giveaway

There has been a lot of talk in the news about women lately.

Women’s rights.

Women’s equality.

It can all get very confusing to our little girls- the ones who still see life through rose colored glasses… actually pink glasses… with glitter and sparkles.

Which is why Glenys Nellist’s latest book, Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart, is such an important book for our little girls to read.

love-letters-from-god-for-girlsBy choosing 14 different girls (women) in the Bible, Glenys has chosen to teach girls not only how valuable they are, but how strong God has created them. She not only highlights their contributions, but she reminds them of how much the God of the universe loves and treasures them. And she reminds them that although He has made them strong enough to tackle the tasks set before them, He has not abandoned them to go forward in their own strength to accomplish their mission.

As a mom bringing up a girl in today’s world, these are all messages I want my daughter to hear and carry in her heart. I want her to know that she is not only beautiful, but she has a God given strength to do whatever He asks of her. I want her to know that she has been given a life with a purpose, and she has a God who will walk beside her as she walks through her life.

Glenys’s book not only shares that with our daughters, but leads the way to so many wonderful conversations about purpose, value, worth, and courage. Good conversations. Important conversations.

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I asked my daughter to share some of her thoughts with me about Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart. Her answers touched me more than I expected them to. My interjections are italicized.

What do you like about the way the book looks?

I like the colors, the flowers with the girls’ names on them, and the butterflies. (Once again, Rachel Clowes did an amazing job with the illustrations!) It looks really girly. I really liked Esther’s dress. I like how the letters from God are not the same shape or color. They are different from each other. (Some are horizontal and some are vertical.)

What is your favorite part about the book?

The Letters, because God is talking to me in the letters. (Glenys uses verses paraphrased to share God’s heart from His Word with the girls.)

I like the stories also. Some stories I never heard before and some stories I have.

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If you could be like any of these girls, who would you want to be like?

That is a tough question. All of them! Miriam took care of her little brother. Rahab saved two spies of Israel. Esther stood up for the Jewish people. Mary had (gave birth to) the best King in the world. The servant girl who told Namaan about Elisha and how he could be saved from his leprosy. The widow who gave Jesus all that she had.

Why?

Because they all have special things (qualities), and God used them and their lives to teach a lesson.

Addie lit up when we reached the end of the book and there was a place for her to write her own letter back to God. I asked her what she would write in her letter.

Dear God, I love you. Thank you for the awesome girls in the Bible because they did great things. Please help me to be just like them. And help me to make better choices. Amen.

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Sometimes hearing the author share about the importance of their work helps us understand the heart of their writing a little bit more. In this video, Glenys shares a little bit of the background of Love Letter from God: Stories for a Girl’s Heart. (I absolutely could sit and listen to her all day!)

Because Glenys has such huge heart and a love for children, she and Zonderkidz are giving away a free book to one of our readers! We at Purposeful Moms are so excited to share this giveaway with you. We hope you will take this opportunity to enter below to win this beautiful book for a special little girl in your life and then share this giveaway with others you know who may have a little girl who could benefit from this book.

***Please note: Zondervan cannot ship to P.O. Boxes or internationally. All entrants must be U.S. residents with a physical address.***

Love Letter from God: Stories for a Girl’s Heart has definitely found it’s way into our hearts.

Update: Thank you to all who entered the giveaway! Congratulations to Elizabeth B!

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Why You Need to Attend a Secret Keeper Event

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The messages our little girls are receiving on a daily basis are so conflicting.

As mothers, we try to teach them to conduct themselves as little ladies, making sure that they conduct  themselves in God honoring ways and dress in ways that maintain their innocence. Yet when they turn on the latest kid show, style and modesty seem to clash in a battle for the innocence and purity of our girls.

But, sweet Mama, you are not alone!

Dannah Gresh was the mom of a tween. She not only saw what was going on in the popular culture, but she chose to do something about it. She began taking her daughter on dates  planned out with the express purpose of teaching principles of godliness, beauty, and modesty while spending a meaningful time together.

secret keeper girlAfter being encouraged by her husband to put these dates into a book for other mothers to do with their daughters, Secret Keeper Girl took off and became a touring program which invites mothers and daughters to come together for a night of high energy fun, laughter, and teaching moments.

Not only is the music used during the program high energy, but the words are powerful and easy to catch on to and remember. We purchased the Secret Keeper Girl soundtrack, and have been dancing and singing our way through our chores while having biblical truths weave their way into our hearts with each beat in the music.

We recently had the opportunity to not just attend a Secret Keeper Girl event, but to be in the actual program with several other moms and daughters from our church. My daughter and I are still talking about our time at SKG and how much we look forward to making this a yearly event.

The most impactful moment of the evening for me was when each mom was asked to pray over her daughter. I have always prayed for my children, but to have my daughter hear my heart, to have her hear me take her to the throne of God affected me more than I expected it to. I got as far as “Dear God,” when my voice cracked. I eventually got the rest of my prayer for her out, and she instantly snuggled into me and we pretty much sat snuggled up to each other throughout the rest of the evening.

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I was “modeling” the ugly sweater style of 90’s while “dancing” to the “Friends” theme song. Lots of laughs. Lots of fun!

Many times, after having such an incredible experience, there is a bit of a let down because the experience cannot continue. However, Dannah Gresh has written so many mother/daughter (and even father/daughter) activities, that the fun just keeps on going. From  mother/daughter devotionals to books on encouraging girls to recognize the true value God places on them, there are enough materials to keep a mom and her girl going for quite some time.

One of my favorite take aways from this event was the intentional use of date time with my daughter. I purchased the book, 8 Great Dates for Moms and Daughters: How to Talk About True Beauty, Cool Fashion, and…Modesty! by Dannah Gresh, and we are excited to start working our way through it. I am thankful for the opportunity to be the one to talk my daughter through modesty, beauty, and fashion, and that I have the opportunity to build her views on these topics from the foundation.

If you and your girl have an opportunity to go to a SKG event, let me encourage you to go. You will not regret it. For my girl, it was a beautiful evening reminding her that she is a princess- created and loved by the God of the Universe.

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Looking for Heroes

We all love a good story with a hero we can stand behind.

Our sons love heroes, too. That’s why my son has a fireman dress up suit and masks of Captain America, Ironman, and Spiderman.

Having a boy, I am always looking for real-life heroes to introduce him to- policemen, soldiers, first responders. I want him to see these men and women as the true heroes in our world. Yet, there are other heroes I want him to become familiar with. Those heroes are found in the pages of the Bible.

In our devotions he has “met” Moses, Samson, Elijah, and David. But there are so many more men and women in God’s Word that I want him to meet.

And I’m not the only parent who feels this way. Shannon Otwell is the father of a little boy named Nate. He also wanted to introduce his son to Bible heroes, so he wrote a book, The Treehouse Adventures of Nate-Nate & Maxie Dog: Gideon, making Nate and his dog Maxie characters in an imaginative story, taking them back in time to meet Gideon, one of Israel’s judges and a Bible hero.

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Nate-Nate and Maxie have a treehouse. Using their imagination, their treehouse becomes a pirate ship sailing them back in time. During their trip, they hear the amazing story of how God took Gideon’s 30,000 soldiers and sent home all but 300 of them. They participate in a reenactment of the breaking of the clay jars and blowing of the trumpets, and they get to meet Gideon.

This book is filled with bright, colorful, well-illustrated pages. Upon opening a page, one side contains a full page illustration and the other side contains the story. Each illustration perfectly represents the story being told. I loved that as we were reading the story and following along with the illustrations, one character would show up quite often. We enjoyed finding out that this particular character was Gideon.

The story is well told and attention grabbing. My son (5 years old) sat quietly, listening intently to the story and pointing out parts of the illustrations that matched what he was hearing. As a homeschooling mom, I like the fact that my son will have a book in his personal library that he will be able to read on his own in a couple of years that will help build his faith. (I think a 2nd grader would have no trouble reading this on their own.)

The Treehouse Adventures of Nate-Nate & Maxie Dog: Gideon is the first book in what the author hopes will become a well-loved series. I personally am looking forward to seeing which adventure will come next.

Publisher: HIS Publishing Group; ISBN: 978-0578187082; Age Range: 2-10 years old; Grade Level: Kindergarten- 4th grade. 

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what to do with kids Christmas break

Things to Do with Your Kids This Christmas Break

It will be here before you know it…

Christmas break!

And I just heard it…. the cheer of little ones embracing their upcoming freedom, and the gasp from moms who are looking for ways to fill their children’s time for the duration of the break.

If you are going away for some of the break, then half of your battle is already won, since leaving home is an adventure all its own and comes with its own entertainment for young ones. But if you are staying home during your break, then filling the hours of your days is a daunting challenge.

Because I homeschool my children, I am always looking for ways to keep my kids on their toes after our schoolwork is done with fun, meaningful activities that I can plan and prepare for the night before. They are not stress inducing activities or even complicated in their preparation, but my children feel as though they have been thought of and have even expressed their appreciation of these planned times.

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Each activity comes with a time limit so the activity is ended before boredom sets in and leaves anticipation for the activity to be repeated in the future.

We do not do all of these activities each day. This is just a list that I use to choose from when planning our day.

At Home:

  • Silent reading (30 minutes)- My son who recently turned 5 has been doing this for a while now and can sit for the duration of the time. He cannot read a full book at this point, but he is a pro at looking at pictures and even doing some picture search books.
  • Read aloud (30 minutes)- This does require Mom’s involvement, but that’s okay! Choose books that are related to the season you are in (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, etc.). Having a book basket helps with this. This would also be a great time to begin a classic or novel with them (we have read the Winnie the Pooh collection together).  You will be amazed at how their understanding and communication skills grow with this simple activity. During this time, I pull out the blocks and perler beads and my children quietly create while they listen.
  • Color/Draw (20-30 minutes)- Coloring and drawing is an important childhood skill that our kids need in order to develop fine motor skills among other things. [source]

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  • Play-doh (20-30 minutes)- Kids love play-doh, and moms can easily use this time for some therapy. Squishing play-doh is relaxing and has the ability to keep kids entertained without any effort on our part.
  • Bake cookies (30 minutes)- This one requires a little bit of work, but there is no hard and fast rule that you have to make your cookies from scratch (we don’t always). Kids love the process of mixing and seeing their work turn into something they can actually eat.
  • Play games (30-45 minutes)- This is a fun one! Grab all of those you have hidden away in a closet and play a few. Depending on ability, the games may even get a bit competitive. A few of our favorites are Shopkins Uno, Candyland, Dominoes, Go Fish, Sorry, Guess Who, and Connect Four.
  • Watch a show (30-120 minutes)- This activity is great when Mom just needs to sit with a cup of coffee in a quiet room for a bit. Pull out a video (your children’s ages and attention spans will dictate the length of your movie), put your feet up, and enjoy the quiet. If your children know that movie time only comes at a specific time of the day, they will appreciate that time even more.
  • Play outside (30-60 minutes)- This is the stuff of childhood and the maker of good naps for little ones. Fresh air, sunshine, and the ability to run unrestricted are all great for a child’s well-being and also is important for Mom. Pull out the bicycles, roller skates, scooters, hula hoops, and sidewalk chalk or let them enjoy your personal jungle gym. No matter what they do, it will be a win for everyone. Need more ideas? 15 Minutes Outside by Rebecca Cohen is a great book with 365 outdoor ideas.

what to do with kids Christmas break

  • Video games (30-60 minutes)- Kids enjoy video games and technology is the wave of the future, but that doesn’t mean our kids should have unlimited access to it. Schedule time for your kiddos to play some of their video games. By scheduling time for this activity, your kids won’t spend too much time in front of a screen, they won’t tire of their games too quickly, and video game time will become a very special time for them.
  • Free play (1-2 hours)- Free play is so important for children.  Not only does it give them the ability to decide for themselves what they want to play, but it gives them a chance to pull out the toys and stretch their imaginations. And with Christmas just around the corner, it will give them a chance to really play with their new toys.

Quick trips

Sometimes, you just need to leave the house, but you don’t want to spend a lot or be out all day. Here are a few ideas for taking quick trips that don’t involve shopping or stores. Don’t forget to schedule in travel time.

  • Library (1 hour)- Libraries are so much more than warehouses for books. They are now being upgraded with play areas, puzzles, learning games, and story time. Take advantage of these amenities that your library has to offer and spend an hour in a quiet but fun atmosphere.
  • Local park (30-60 minutes)- If you don’t have a swing set, your local park is guaranteed to have a great jungle gym (take proper safety precautions). From playground equipment and open areas for unhindered running to walking paths and  bike trails, your park has much to offer that a backyard can’t. Pack a lunch and make your adventure last a little longer.

what to do with kids Christmas break

  • Donut/ice cream run (30 minutes)- Have the kids been really good for you on a particular day? Why not treat them to a donut shop or Ice cream shop run? Encourage their good behavior with a small treat and a quick adventure outside of the house.
  • Visit a friend (1-2 hours for littles 3-4 hours for bigs)- I am a firm believer that visits with friends need to fall into a reasonable time frame, especially if you are spending time in their home with little ones. Your visit has time to end on a good note before little ones begin to get too antsy.
  • Bounce house or kids gym (1-2 hours)- Do you live in an area that has a bounce house or kids gym? Take advantage of these. Purchase a membership if it is something that can be used quite often by your family. This is a great way to fill a couple of hours of your day, give your kids ample space to exert plenty of energy, and give you a fun place to escape to on rainy days when a park visit wold not be possible.

What are some other ways you can inexpensively provide meaningful activities for your children during a school break? Feel free to share them with us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

the best christmas pageant ever

When You Get into a Christmas Rut

Have you thought about the Christmas Story?

I mean really thought about it.

When you have grown up going to church your whole life, hearing the Christmas account, and setting up your family’s Nativity scene, it can be so easy to glaze over the beauty, reality, and people involved in the account.

If you have found yourself in a Christmas rut and the Christmas account no longer moves your soul to awe, wonder or tears, I have found the story for you.

the best Christmas pageant ever

In The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, the most unlikely children help a church remember the beauty of the Christmas account.

The Herdman’s are possibly the worst children ever. Through a series of hilarious events, they become part of the church’s Christmas pageant. As these children are hearing the Christmas account for the first time, they ask questions. Good questions. Questions that make those of us who have known the account our whole lives actually think about the characters we have become so familiar with.

But it isn’t until the actual pageant that the true beauty of the story comes out. This story has a way of revealing the prideful, self-righteous attitudes in our own hearts and the beauty of a sincere heart hearing of Christ for the first time and coming to him with the only thing it has to offer. It reminds us that maybe, just maybe, the angel’s announcement of “Unto you a Child is born” was announced with joy and thrill.

the best Christmas pageant ever

I had a hard time reading the last two pages of the book as my voice cracked at the end of each sentence, and my son came to “console” me as I read the last line.

The tears were not from sadness… well maybe they were.

Maybe the tears came because I have gotten so comfortable with the Christmas account in Luke chapter 2 that I have forgotten to read it with the awe and wonder it deserves. Maybe they came because children have a way of seeing things more clearly than adults do, and the children in this story helped me see the Christmas account again for the first time.

This book took us two days to read through, but we could have easily finished it in one day. It’s a small book with seven chapters and is completely entertaining (if you are a Classical Conversations family, like we are, your children will have to read it in the Challenge years, so it’s a good story to get familiar with now). We laughed through chapters one through six, and then saw the beauty of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, Wise Men, and the angels in chapter seven.

After reading through the book, we watched the movie on Youtube (I’m a firm believer of reading the book first and then watching the movie). The movie follows the book very closely with very little creative license taken. (NOTE: In the movie one child says, “They talk about sexy things,” which isn’t true, in her efforts to get the Herdman children kicked out of the pageant because one of them got the part she wanted.)

The best Christmas pageant ever

This book is also available in a condensed version as a picture book for younger children and has the same effect in reminding us of the awe and wonder of the Christmas account.

If you find yourself getting into a rut, if you can’t see the wonder and awe of Jesus coming as a baby to the world because of all of the “grown up” stuff that gets in our way, then maybe you need to take a small break in the busyness of the season and look at Christmas from the perspective of a child.

when you get into a Christmas rut

must have Christmas book

Your Must-Have Christmas Book

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Every holiday has one iconic book that traditionally gets pulled out year after year. For our family at Christmas, this will become that book.

Christmas Love Letters From God by Glenys Nellist is the third in her “Love Letters” series. These beautifully written and illustrated books have one purpose- to remind children that God loves them and has a great purpose for their lives.

must have Christmas book

From the moment I looked through Christmas Love Letters from God, I was in love. The colors, the illustrations, the story-telling, the poetry, the “God’s promise” verse, and, of course, the letter all blended together to make a perfect Christmas experience on paper.

The Illustrations

Choosing where to begin was a hard decision. With each turn of the page, I always let my eyes settle on the illustrations. Rachel Clowes has followed the style of illustrations found in Love Letters from God and Little Letters from God and has done a brilliant job. From the main focus illustration to the little accents scattered around the page, the eyes of your little ones will always have someplace to look as you read the story aloud. The illustrations tell the story for little ones who cannot yet read.

Colors definitely set the tone of this book, yet instead of being harsh, the muted shades of red, green, and blue bring the feel of Christmas without harshness, and draw you in. I couldn’t help but grab a cup of coffee, sit in the living room with the fireplace on, and just look through each and every page, soaking in the illustrations and colors, before I even read the words.

must have Christmas book

The Story-Telling and Poetry

I have yet to meet or talk to author Glenys Nellist in person, but I imagine her having the gentlest, softest, most peaceful voice based on her style of writing. She chooses words that are quiet, effective, and beautiful. She tells the story concisely with enough words to keep the attention of little ones, but in a way where nothing is lost.

I love how Glenys began her book with the Prophet Isaiah. A surprising way to begin a Christmas book, yet a very appropriate way. Isaiah’s prophecy is featured in Handel’s Messiah, yet so many Christmas accounts overlook him. It makes for a great conversation starter in sharing how long God’s people had been waiting for their Messiah.

In the midst of the narrative story-telling, Glenys does what she does best. She takes a quick detour and tells part of the story through poetry. I am always amazed at how she is able to find the right words to tell the story with rhythm and rhyme.

must have Christmas book

God’s Perfect Promise

When you turn the page, you will find the story for the evening finishing up, and “God’s Perfect Promise”- a quick Bible verse promise that wraps up the part of the account just read printed on an illustrated tag. The verse is paraphrased so it is easy for little ones to understand and even memorize.

The Letter

Our favorite part is the “letter from God”, which is where the book gets its name. Each letter is a lift-the-flap attachment on the page. Paraphrasing Scripture and making it personally applicable, she begins each letter with “Dear ____________”. The rest of the letter is God’s promises personalized and related to the account just read. After reading the account of Jospeh, children are reminded in the letter that when God asks them to do something, He will also give them the grace to accomplish it.

A beautiful addition to this book which is different from the previous letter books is life-the-flap letter from the child to God. When my daughter saw it, she was so excited! After reading and hearing all of the letters from God to her, she was going to be able to write one to him!

Christmas Love Letters from God has already become my favorite Christmas book. I look forward to reading it with my children again and again over the next two months. Whether you choose to read a chapter each night or use it over the course of Advent (which could most definitely be a use for this book), it is a definite must for any home’s library.

must have Christmas book

thanksgiving resources

My 8 Favorite Thanksgiving Resources for Kids

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November 1 begins my two favorite months of the year. I love the fall, the feel in the air of anticipation, the warmth of the colors associated with the holidays, and the goodness of the food typically only made at this time of year.

thanksgiving resources

In our home, this is also when my favorite resources come out of storage, and we do a little more in the arts and crafts department. These are always fun because we can either tie in our history learning or we can just have some fun with paper, scissors, tape, glue, and anything else we can find. If you are looking for ideas for crafts and fun activities you can follow our Thanksgiving Pinterest board. 

My Favorite Thanksgiving Books

thanksgiving resources

Thanksgiving (A FamilyLife Book): A Time to Remember (Family Life Books) by Rainey, Barbara published by Crossway (2003)  

This is probably my favorite Thanksgiving book. Barbara Rainey has written it with the entire family in mind, and it can grow with your family throughout the years. She has written it to be read one of two ways- the larger print is to be read to preschoolers and younger elementary students, and the entire book to be read to mid elementary and above.

After reading a thorough history of the Pilgrims and their journey to America and understanding the importance of thankfulness, the back of the book has a place where thankfulness can be recorded by the family and revisited year after year. This year I will be writing all of the items on the leaves of our Thankful Tree into the back of the book and dating it. It will be fun in a few years to see what our family has been thankful for.

thanksgiving resources

Squanto, Friend Of The Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla

If there has ever been a story of God’s sovereignty, it’s the story of Squanto. Sometimes our circumstances seem unfair, yet God can use our past to bring us to the place where he can use us for his glory and the benefit of others. That is the lessons behind the story of Squanto. Although this is not a Christian based book, as a believer, I have used Romans 8:28 while reading this to my children. This is definitely another favorite of mine.

thanksgiving resources

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas may be a little long for little ones, but the illustrations are beautiful. One thing we do when a good book seems a little long is to break it up into several parts and read it over the course of several days. This book is definitely written from a Christian perspective and is a must for every family library. Squanto’s story is one that my children know well. I believe that they need to know that our stories are not all traveled on smooth paths, but that God can take even the rockiest of paths and use them to further His purposes and for His glory.

thanksgiving resources

The Mayflower Adventure (The American Adventure Series #1) by Colleen L. Reece

I have had this book since my teaching days, but I have never actually read it. However, this year, we will be reading it. I don’t have much to say about this one, but I am looking forward to reading it finally.

thanksgiving resources

Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims by Rush Limbaugh 

We purchased this two years ago and enjoyed the story very much. This story is told through time travel as Rush Revere time travels with two of his middle school students on the Mayflower and then to Plymouth, Massachusetts. I learned quite a bit of the history of Plymouth Colony through this story, and my daughter who was six at the time, enjoyed it. It is written more for middle schoolers is interesting enough that even young children with a solid vocabulary can understand it and get involved in the story.

My Favorite Thanksgiving Movies

thanksgiving resources

Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale

Have I mentioned how much I love the story of Squanto? After we read our books on the life of Squanto, we sit down for an evening of popcorn and a movie. I believe in having my children exposed to the book form of a story first so they can recognize the inconsistencies in the movie. Although this movie takes some creative license, it does a great job of telling the bigger story of Squanto’s life. It is a tradition that we watch this movie every November.

thanksgiving resources

Mouse on the mayflower I remember watching this movie when I was in elementary school. It was always one of my favorite movies to watch at Thanksgiving and now it is become a favorite for my littles. It can be purchased as a VHS recording, but we watch it on YouTube. It is a beautiful retelling of the Pilgrims voyage to America. And although it was secularly made, it is overtly Christian in the message. It isn’t officially Thanksgiving until we have seen this movie.

thanksgiving resourcesA Charlie Brown Thanksgiving: The Mayflower Voyagers Again, this was a childhood favorite of mine that I had to share with my children. Charles Schultz and his Peanuts gang do a wonderful job of retelling the voyage of the Pilgrims with humor and accuracy.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday with a rich story to tell our children. They need to hear of God’s faithfulness to his people. Our children need to understand that although hard times come, God can use them and their experiences to bless others.

Do you have any favorite Thanksgiving resources? Share them with us in the comments.

Thanksgiving resources