Nature Study

April 16th, 2014


Have you wondered how to incorporate nature study into your homeschool? A couple of weeks ago I was asked to be a panelist on this very topic, where several homeschool moms shared ideas for how to do nature study with children.

Why is nature study important for homeschooling?

Nature is science–plants, animals, rocks, weather phenomena, etc.–all of this is science. To be educated, you need to understand science. And to know it well, you need to see it and experience it first-hand in the great outdoors.

When can you start nature study?

Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers can enjoy nature. Here are some nature activities that small children can enjoy:

High school students and adults can also enjoy nature through nature journals, drawing and labeling intricate details of God’s creation. So all ages can enjoy nature study, especially because you can get fresh air and sunshine on your face while you relax and take it all in. You don’t have to rush when you are doing nature study.

What do you do back inside to follow up on nature studies?

Look inside an insect identification book for the insect you just sketched. Try to identify a tree by its leaves, or look up what kind of rock your son found.

I also like to take out drawing books, especially for younger children who might have trouble drawing straight from nature without seeing a pencil sketch. I describe more about how to do this in my workshop Using Journals to Teach Writing.

How directed should a nature study be? Is mom in charge or do you just let your kids cavort outside?

Most of our nature studies are open-ended, where the kids can decide what they want to write or draw. But if we are studying a specific topic in science, we might look for that topic. For example, if we are studying spiders, we would try to find spiders and spider webs to draw.

Tell us about nature study during the winter months when it’s too cold outside.

You can easily do a winter scavenger hunt, where you find different objects in nature, and snap pictures of them. You can also pay attention to what animals are doing this time of year, and you can study snow and weather. Here are a couple of winter nature activities for you to enjoy:

Also, if you want to set up nature collections during the other seasons, you can continue to study nature from your home. Here is a fabulous workshop that shows you how to bring the outdoors into your home:

Here is the panel of homeschool moms who share what they do for nature studies:

Moon Unit Study

April 14th, 2014

moon-unit-studyThis post contains affiliate links. I was compensated for my work in writing this post.

Join us as we do a moon unit study! We will explore the phases of the moon through hands-on activities. We are continuing our study of Earth and Space by Bright Ideas Press, and we have arrived at the outer space chapters. There is a super cool lunar observation chart in the book, which my kids filled out for 28 days as we looked up at the moon each night. (No, we didn’t howl like coyotes while doing so!)

When you study the moon, be sure to look through some binoculars at least, since you can see the craters of the moon in greater detail. You can also use a telescope to see even more details.

One hands-on activity from the book was to draw the phases of the moon on paper plates. We drew them with pencil, outlined over the pencil with black marker, and colored in the moons with black crayon. We also made an Earth on one of the paper plates. We stuck them all to the wall, and the kids were able to learn the phases of the moon by matching the plates with the labeled index cards.

We used Oreo cookies to do the phases of the moon according to the Bright Ideas Press chart from the book. You can see a simplified version here, where there are only eight phases. I decided to use black poster board and a silver Sharpie marker to make the chart. We opened the Oreo cookies and made moons out of each one, placing them into the chart.

Take a look at how we did these activities:


Psalm 1 Watercolor

April 11th, 2014


Psalm 1 Watercolor

My kids illustrated Psalm 1 by drawing a picture around the Psalm and painting the beautiful illustration with watercolor. Make sure you use special watercolor paper, because the colors don’t roll off the page but sink into the higher-quality watercolor paper. (I’ve bought watercolor paper at art supply stores, but you can also buy it at Walmart.)

We’ve begun a study of the book of Psalms, which is a worship hymnal for God’s people. Lots of the Psalms were written by David, and there is usually a description of when the Psalm was written at the beginning of the Psalm, before the Psalm starts. This way you can figure out if David (or other writers) wrote the Psalm when he was fleeing from Saul, or after his sin with Bathsheba. You can understand the heart behind the Psalm if you do some research into it before you start.


You can discuss the meaning of the Psalm itself. Do we delight in the law of the Lord? Do we spend time listening to the counsel of the wicked? How do we meditate on God’s law day and night?


The most beautiful image in this psalm is the one of the tree planted by streams of water, which is what my kids chose to illustrate. The tree yields fruit in season, and whatever we do, we prosper when we delight in God’s law.


We memorized the Psalm when the kids were little, back when I used to play an audio with me reading God’s Word. When you hear the same Psalm each day, pretty soon you have it memorized, and you have access to it day and night, for the rest of your life!

Since the Psalms are meant to be sung, here is a musical rendition of Psalm 1:

The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

April 9th, 2014


What are the pros and cons of homeschooling?

Today you will have an opportunity to watch a video panel where homeschooling parents bluntly tell you the truth about the pros and cons of homeschooling. You might be surprised by some of my responses, which are not the typical “right answers.” I am just speaking from my heart. I will write down the main points that I mentioned in the video, but you will want to watch the video to hear what the other panelists said.

Who should homeschool? What are good reasons to make that choice?

You should homeschool if you want control over what your children learn, and if you want to mold their character instead of having their character molded by their peers. I want my children to know and love God, and I want a relationship with them. If we share the best part of the day together (rather than the dregs of the day), we are more likely to truly know each other.

Who should not homeschool and why?

If God is leading you not to homeschool, you need to obey God. My sister sends her kids to a Christian school, after praying intensely about it. She knew it was the right thing for her children. My best friend sends her kids to public school. The neighborhood kids hang out at her house, and her kids are sharing their faith with the neighborhood kids. Normally kids who go to public school are pulled down in their character, but not these kids. Her kids have a strong faith because she teaches her kids the Word of God. In my mind, she homeschools her kids all the time when they are not at school. Homeschooling is really investing your life into your children instead of into a TV set or a hobby. God can use any schooling situation for His glory.

Is homeschooling expensive financially?

Back when I had no money at all, I would pray for the curriculum I needed, and God would provide it through used curriculum sales, yard sales, and resale shops. Or God would provide extra money out of the blue to help me purchase consumables. You can do a lot of homeschooling for free by getting books out of the library and using materials at home for experiments. A lot of great ideas are also found on the internet, including printables for all subjects. I have collected those links over time, and I have categorized them all inside my Unit Study Treasure Vault.

What about sacrifices of time, flexibility, and mom’s me-time?

You can trade off with a friend for baby-sitting, so that you can have some quiet time to yourself to re-charge and plan. You also need to rest. If you teach your kids to play independently at a young age, you can build time into your day where you can refresh yourself by taking a nap, reading, or blogging. Don’t hover over your children 24/7 or you will wear yourself out and have nothing left for your husband.

Are the benefits worth the cost? How?

Knowing your kids and having a real relationship with them is worth it. Your kids will know what you want them to know, because you will prioritize what is important to you. The relationships with my children make it all worth it.

Is there anything else a mom has to give up when she homeschools? Most people paint a rosy picture of homeschooling. What are the honest cons?

Friendships for your children are hard to get, and you have to be pro-active to get good friendships for them. We invite families over for dinner and enjoy families from my church or other homeschooling families. If you have a child who is lonely, you can actively seek out a friendship for that child and become friends with the mother of that child.

Fatigue for the mom is another issue. Because your kids are with you 24/7, you can easily burn out. You need to take breaks. Enjoy your husband and go on dates with him. Nurture your marriage. Cultivate female friendships, too, where you go out to coffee just to enjoy being with friends.

Does doubting your choice to homeschool mean you shouldn’t have done it?

Once a year when my kids go to Vacation Bible School every morning for a week, I go home to a blissfully quiet house where I feel like I’m on vacation. I think to myself, “Wow, this is nice.” But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t take homeschooling, with all the ups and downs that it brings, over any other form of schooling. I’ve been a teacher in public and private schools, and I can tell you that homeschooling for me is by far the best choice, and it’s totally worth it!

Here is the video panel, where you can hear how everyone else answered these questions:

Ridiculous Weather Report

April 7th, 2014

ridiculous-weather-reportThis post contains affiliate links. I was compensated for my work in writing this post.

Why not record a ridiculous weather report with your kids? We had a blast! We got this idea from one of the weather chapters from Earth and Space by Bright Ideas Press. We are having a ball doing all the hands-on activities in the book.

You can choose to do a weather forecast about tornadoes or hurricanes. You can then add other crazy weather phenomena. If you have young children, you can tie in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which has food raining from the sky. You can film your children dropping food onto a town made out of Legos. Slop a big pancake on top of a skyscraper. Have fun!


You will need a desk and a chair so that your children can look like official reporters. A suit and tie makes boys look super sharp, and girls can wear dresses or collared shirts with pants. A dark background is preferable, especially if you are going to act out the news on the side.


My son made a tornado warning on a long strip of paper taped together. He wrote his warning with black permanent marker. You need two people to run the paper along the bottom of the screen while you are filming. You have to hunch down so nobody sees you, and hold the paper tight by pulling on each end, while making it go across the screen.

As you can see, we also had a hurricane filmed by splashing a toy boat in a pot full of water. We stirred the pot with a wooden spoon, throwing in an ice cube to represent the iceberg.


Try to get your kids to enunciate clearly. I had one son that would slur his words together, and it was difficult to understand what he was saying, especially when he was trying to talk with a farmer accent.

You can also interview people as to which season they like best and why. This was one of the activities suggested in the book, and we decided to incorporate that into the weather report. You can do interviews of people who have survived earthquakes, tornadoes, etc. Also, any eyewitnesses can describe weather catastrophes. You can wildly exaggerate these until your kids are laughing hysterically!


You can also use mirrors and any other props for your weather report. We used a mirror and lots of matchbox cars to dramatize the weather report about freezing rain, where cars were slipping all over the place. It was ironic that pizza was ordered at the end of that clip, because the pizza delivery guy would still have to drive in those slippery conditions.


Here is the 4-minute video where we do a ridiculous weather report:



What I loved about this activity is that we were able to bring in clips from other Earth and Space videos. For example, we brought in the volcano eruption from Make Your Own Volcano and the earthquake scene with sand and Legos from Plate Tectonics and Earthquakes. We also brought back the sun character (with sunglasses and a yellow sun label) that has made appearances in several of the videos, starting with the first video in The Earth: Hands-on Activities post. Can you tell that we’re having fun with this book? Why not grab this Earth and Space by Bright Ideas Press for your science curriculum for next year? Your kids will love it!

Missionary Kids Have to Be Perfect

April 4th, 2014


Missionary Kids Have to Be Perfect

It’s stressful when your survival depends on the opinion of others.

Missionary kids have to be perfect. The same is true for preacher’s kids. Why is this the case? And what can we as the church do to keep MK’s and PK’s from abandoning the church altogether because of a suffocating pharisaical standard that is not applicable to anyone else in the church?

It’s because missionary kids and preacher’s kids are held up as an example to the world. The church is watching their every move. The problem is that the child is still growing up, making mistakes, and learning, hopefully drawing closer to God. All of us stumble in our relationship with the Lord, and people in ministry are no different.

A man who is a missionary is required by God to support his wife and children. He must therefore care about the opinions of others, because supporters who disagree with your actions yank their support. If outward alterations in conduct will prevent your family from physically suffering because you don’t have enough money for food and bills, you go ahead and perform to the standard required by the people supplying your income. It’s bad enough to be on a missionary’s salary without supporters yanking the small income you have. Many missions agencies force missionaries to return to the United States if their support levels dip. If God has called you to the mission field, you feel forced to perform a certain way outwardly so that you can continue to obey God’s call on your life.

So what are missionaries or preachers reduced to doing? They put several outward rules in place that are not real. For example, when I grew up as a missionary kid in Guatemala, some Hispanics believed that going to movies was a sin, so we never went to movies. If you compound rule upon rule upon rule, you end up with a needlessly restricted life that is the opposite of the freedom we have in Christ. If we pursue true holiness and love God and others, no other outward rules should be enforced. Only the moral laws of God should matter.

Missionary kids and preacher’s kids have been pinched and glared at more by their parents than ordinary children, because those parents are under tremendous pressure. Church members distort their faces in an ugly way if a child of a preacher or missionary runs through the church sanctuary. Never mind that they give grace to the ordinary child doing the same thing. Ministry kids must have 100% self-control at all times or be punished.

No wonder so many children in ministry rebel against all of it and do the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to do. They feel that maybe they would be able to breathe under freer circumstances. But then they go to the extreme and actually break God’s real moral laws and end up with permanent pain and sorrow. I saw many of my missionary kid friends turn away from God, take drugs, and get pregnant. All because we as the church put them in straight jackets since they were babies.

God has the same standard for all His people. Please stop putting families in ministry on pedestals, and give grace to them.

To keep up with these missionary kid posts, like my Missionary Kid Page.

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