DIY Giant Games for the Backyard

Looking for a fun summer diversion? How about one of these giant games for the backyard? Take your favorite board and computer games up a notch by creating jumbo versions you can play outside. And if you can figure out how to incorporate the hose and some water fun, all the better!

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Giant Bananagrams via Constantly Lovestruck

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Giant Matching Game via Studio DIY

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Cloth Picnic Games (Squares and Tic Tac Toe) at Say Yes

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Giant Candyland at Ashlee Marie

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You can purchase this Giant Chess Set for about $60 for some big-time backyard fun!

What backyard games do you play during the summer?

Stopping the “Summer Rust”: a Teacher’s Perspective by Stephanie Ingerman

Old School
photo source: Ryan via Flickr Creative Commons

Summer–we all love it and we all need a little time off. But your child can fall as many as four months behind in their learning during the short break of summer if we aren’t continuing to focus on learning. I affectionately call that the “summer rust.” So, how do you keep the rust from settling? There are plenty of great workbooks out there and even some great websites, but there are also some sneaky ways to add in some learning with things you are probably already doing.

Let’s focus on literacy first. If you read your child will be more likely to read. If your child is a hesitant or reluctant reader, read aloud to them or listen to audio books together, especially on those long road trips. When you are listening or reading be sure to ask your child questions about what they are reading or listening to such as, “What is happening in the story? Who are the main characters? What was your favorite part and why?” Encourage your kids to write about trips you have taken together in a journal or draw a picture and write a story to go along with it. Another idea we enjoy is to keep a correspondence journal where you write to your child and they write back to you.

Now for math! Have your children tell you what time it is on an analog clock. Allow the kids to help you cook, measuring the ingredients and noticing which amount is more. Identify, count, or sort coins after receiving change. Go on a shape hunt around your house or neighborhood. Lastly, play games! Games that involve numbers, dice, patterns, addition or problem solving will help your child keep those math skills sharp.

In addition to literacy and math I am hopeful you will explore with your children, take a hike, try something new, and genuinely enjoy one another’s company.

Stephanie Ingerman is an elementary-school teacher in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and a mom to two kids, ages 7 and 9. 

Bold Middle School Faith {Bible GIVEAWAY}

Bold Middle School Faith
photo credit: Lauren Macdonald via Flickr Creative Commons

Tweens feel like they are in a constant state of change. And they’re right. With all of the adjustments they go through physically, mentally, and emotionally, nearly every aspect of their lives is changing! If you know anything about middle school, you know it can be a pretty tumultuous time. Sometimes friends embarrass each other on purpose because they think it’s funny. Gossip and B.O. abound. Blending in is a survival tactic. First crushes develop. Things get plain awkward, scary, and upended at this age. Most who survived middle school would never willingly return.

Could you imagine if you knew then what you know now—about the Bible, God, faith, and prayer?

You may have heard about God’s unconditional love and His faithfulness back then, but the longer we walk with God, the stronger our faith becomes. Chances are, you’ve learned to depend on God much more as you’ve seen His faithfulness and consistency play out in your life. Most likely you’ve learned to extend grace to others more freely as you’ve experienced God’s mercy and unconditional love firsthand.

Imagine if your middle-schooler’s faith was resilient and flourishing at this young age!

What would happen if your middle schooler prayed more faithfully? worried less? trusted God more? navigated friendships and hurtful or humiliating situations with more grace, care, and understanding? What if your middle schooler had bold faith?

Each one of us is on our own journey. Our particular paths may look different, but as Christians we are all seeking to follow Jesus every day of our lives. We are continually gaining new perspective on life and faith and seeing more clearly our purpose here on earth. To walk with God is to be in a constant state of change, not unlike middle school. The minute we become stagnant in our relationship with God, our growth suffers.

How can we help tweens fully embrace their faith in God and live boldly?

The Bible is God’s love letter to us. Every word in it was written just for us. God speaks to us through the inspired words on the pages of Scripture, and the more time we devote to reading God’s Word—the Bible—the stronger our foundation will be.

One of the most significant influences in your child’s faith is you. What are they learning about God by observing your actions, your words, and your prayers? Do they see you reading your Bible? praying? depending on God in tough times? modeling bold faith?

Practical ways to encourage middle schoolers to be bold and courageous in their faith:

  • Model it for them!
  • Pray and ask God for wisdom and insight into how you can encourage and deepen your child’s faith.
  • Seize the big and small opportunities to encourage your child’s relationship with God each day.
  • Reflect on ways you can help them notice and discover God working in their lives.
  • Talk about what they have read in their Bible, then explore how God might be speaking to them each day through their Bible reading.
  • Discuss ways to apply the Bible to their own life in specific situations they are going through currently.
  • Talk about what God is doing in your life. Share ways that you personally are depending on God, or ways that your family is.

As we teach middle schoolers to always trust God—even when things get hard at school, with friends, or at home—they can develop a faith that withstands the trials. God loves them as much as we do—and way more! God speaks to them through his Word, and he speaks directly to their hearts.

Faith becomes real for kids when it connects with their world, and the New Living Translation is great for tweens because it is so easy for them to understand. The language isn’t archaic or difficult, which can cause barriers to understanding and application. Instead, they can glean more from reading their Bibles with confidence. When tweens read the Bible and understand what it says, God can work in their hearts!

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The Girls and Guys Slimline Bible covers were designed just for tweens! In fact, they were chosen by a focus group of tween students! The Bibles also include a dictionary/concordance to help tweens look up key words and find passages on subjects they are interested in, full-color maps, a matching ribbon marker, and a presentation page. The extra-special Girls Slimline Bible has a BOLD FAITH theme on the back cover and endsheets, and the cover is made of soft, bright neon material with a glittery silver lining around the edges! The Guys and Girls Slimline Bibles make great gifts for the tweens in your life! Be encouraged as you begin (or continue!) the exciting and joy-filled blessing of walking alongside your tween on their faith journey through middle school and beyond.

Want to win a copy of one of these Bibles for a tween in your life? Let us know in the comments whom you would give it to and whether you’d want the Girls or Guys version! We will choose a winner from the comments on November 15.

Giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the winners: Debbie, Angela Barnes, Ken Ohl, Marianne Sandling, and Charles-Linda Bradshaw.

Where to Find the Best Deals on School Supplies

If you’re anything like me, school supply shopping can get pretty frustrating … not to mention expensive! I can’t even imagine how it will be next year when I have two kids in public school. Whether you’re shopping for homeschool, public, private, or just looking for some art supplies, here are sites that will help you catch a great deal during this time of the year.

 

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Passion for Savings has deals sorted by store for the office supply stores, big box stores, and pharmacies. The author also has a price list to help you aim for the lowest prices possible!

While Southern Savers doesn’t have a back-to-school section, you can search by item, see store details, and also get coupon match-ups, which I find helpful! You can automatically make a shopping list with these match-ups as well.

We Are Teachers is giving a top-10 list of school supplies for teachers each week, but these also apply to parents. If you are a teacher, they share how to save more, too, with educator programs.

Don’t forget to consider stores you might not think of for school supplies: Dollar Tree or other dollar stores, Big Lots, Tuesday Morning, and even thrift stores. Also many stores also have apps now, allowing you to save extra percentages or check prices, like Target’s Cartwheel app.

Enjoy your school shopping!

5 Educational Websites for Summer Learning

Are you out of school yet? It feels funny to ask that, seeing that my daughter’s kindergarten year ended on May 18. But I know most schools get out later than that. I didn’t graduate until June 16 in Virginia, where we had the no-starting-until-after-Labor-Day rule.

I’m sure, like me, you don’t want your child’s reading level to go down during the summer, not do you want him or her to stop learning. But how do you make it fun? There are a million great ways (I highly recommend I Can Teach My Child if you have a toddler/preschooler/kindergartner). And one tool we use at home is our basic desktop computer.

While I certainly don’t want to fry my kid’s brain with screens all the time, she is allowed to use the computer a couple times a week for a half-hour or so. We are pretty insistent that she stay on educational sites, despite her new interest in finding URLs on brochures and wanting to visit the “Lego GIRLS” site. (Bleccch.)

Here are some of our favorite sites and some others I’ve seen highly recommended.

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ABCMouse.com (paid) – ABCMouse is an “interactive classroom” for kids ages 2 through 7. Our kids started using it about age 4, when they could control the mouse. It teaches basic reading and math skills as well as offering simple lessons on animals, space, and more. The learning path has 6 levels, going from pre-reader to kindergarten levels. My daughter is 6 1/2 and can read well, but she still enjoys the lessons, earning tickets, and playing around with the different features. It’s about $8/month, but you can try it out on a 30-day trial.

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ReadingEggs.com (paid) – Reading Eggs is a service we were gifted through my daughter’s school. Its curriculum is a little wider than ABC Mouse, spanning ages 3 to 14. Through Reading Eggs, kids can work on letter sounds, sight words, spelling, and a bunch more! Like ABC Mouse, there are levels that you move through and receive “golden eggs” as prizes, making it feel like a game. The cost is about $50 for 6 months or $59 for a year, with a 2-week free trial.

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PBSKids.org (free) – Since we don’t have cable, my kids are pretty familiar with the beloved PBS characters: Curious George, Cat in the Hat, Daniel Tiger, Sid the Science Kid, the Wild Kratts … need I go on? On the PBS Kids website, little ones can play games related to the series, as well as watch short videos or print out pictures to color or activities to do. My kids especially love the “pipe game” from Odd Squad, which helps with spacial reasoning.

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Discovery Kids (free) – Is your child obsessed with dinosaurs? Space? Sharks? Discovery Kids might be a good site to visit, then. There are games that vary from building a roller coaster to exploring volcanoes to virtual jigsaw puzzles. The “Puterbugs” system jumped out at me – a game focusing on teaching typing alongside reading, writing, and math.

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Superbook (free) – Looking for something to enhance spiritual learning? Based on the CBN series Superbook, this site has games, videos, a virtual Bible with daily “challenge” and character discovery, trivia, and more. Kids can even submit their prayer requests. For fun, I tried out the Bible Brain Busters game. Definitely suited for older kids (because you need to read and answer fast), some of the questions were funny and some tricky, but they will definitely learn something. Mom and Dad might enjoy quizzing each other, too.

Do you have any favorite websites for kids’ learning?

Start Crafting Now! Journey Off the Map VBS Preparation

Is your church participating in LifeWay’s Vacation Bible School for 2015, Journey Off the Map? If so, now is a great time to start crafting (with or without your kiddos’ help). These projects will be great for take-home items, decorating classrooms, and getting your own children enthusiastic about their upcoming Journey!

K-Cup Flowers from Moms Saving Money

Paper Bag Palm Trees from Lists I Live By are made with pool noodles!

This incredible sign from Mirrored Creations is made out of Styrofoam, not wood!

Beautiful Cupcake Flower Lights from Oh Happy Day

 Are you participating in Journey Off the Map this summer?

What a Teacher Wants to Tell You, the Parent by Ashley Terpstra

What a Teacher Wants to Tell You as a Parent
source: Duke University Archives via Flickr Creative Commons

  1. The reason we give homework is not to make your life harder as a parent. In order to transfer their knowledge, it is important that they practice independently what we are learning that week. We have a limited amount of time to practice during a given lesson. Ideally, homework is something we, the teachers, think that they can do on their own without help.
  2. School isn’t like it was when we were young anymore. Current educational research trends support children taking more charge in their learning. We don’t do math by teaching them algorithms (one certain method) anymore either. We KNOW that it is difficult to watch your children struggle with their learning, but it is helping them learn how to think rather than just digest and spit out information without really learning anything.
  3. The teacher is on your side! And your child’s side! You are your child’s first and most important teacher. You are the expert on your child, and we are the experts on teaching. It is so important to be on the same team. Adversarial parent-teacher relationships are only detrimental to your child, and no one wants that. Keep your child’s teacher informed. If your child had a bad morning, communicate that with the teacher! If we know what’s coming, we will be more ready to help your child jump that hurdle and move on with the day.
  4. When your child is in our class for the year, they become “our kids.” Being a teacher is like having 20 children that are the same age. It can be difficult sometimes to be a teacher. My whole life is encompassed by these children. If they have a bad day, I have a bad day. I may have high expectations of their behavior and their effort, but if someone messes with MY kids, I will take up for them every time. Here is my pinky swear–I honestly want your child to reach his highest potential, to grow to be a whole person, to learn empathy and compassion, and do her best.
  5. Teachers are real people. They are dealing with person struggles, heartaches, illnesses, and the plethora of everyday life events. They put this aside to teach and empower your children. Give them the benefit of a doubt. They are doing their absolute best for your child.

 

Ashley Terpstra is a first-grade teacher in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

 

The Desperate Diva Diaries: Christian Fiction for the Preteen Crowd

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There were the Dork Diaries. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid. And now Angie Spady offers a Christian alternative with a female protagonist: Catie Conrad, star of The Desperate Diva Diaries series.

When Catie asks her journalist father for a sketchbook, she should have known he’d come back with the wrong item. Instead he gives her a diary. Well, maybe she’ll use it.

Thus starts Faith, Friendship, and Fashion Disasters, the first book in the Desperate Diva series, which targets preteen girls ages 8-12. Catie is a typical sixth-grader: her life is full of drama, she loves fashion … and her dad wants to take her to an Indian reservation during her Spring break.

With all 4- and 5-star reviews on Amazon, Faith, Friendship, and Fashion Disasters is a book your daughters will devour. As one reviewer said, “Sometimes I’ll hear parents say, ‘I don’t care what they’re reading, I’m just glad they’re reading something!’ But not all reading material for tweens and middle schoolers is created equal.” Angie Spady gives us a clean, fun book, full of illustrations by Channing Everidge.

The second book in the series, How to Become the Most (un)Popular Girl in Middle School, will be released in May 2015.

I Love Valentine’s Day! by William Summey

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One of my favorite parts of Valentine’s Day is helping the boys pick out their Valentine cards for school. They are not that much different than the cards I picked out as a young boy, except for the characters on the front of the cards (although I think Scooby-Doo® has remained popular across all these years). And this year? My sons both picked out NASCAR® cards to give to their friends!

Although Valentine’s Day is about more than giving chocolate and flowers, these tokens of love still remind us of the source of unconditional love — God. Perhaps our greatest task in parenting is to show our children unconditional love on a regular basis. If you are like me, when I am tired, frustrated, or angry, I realize that I can only love my children unconditionally with God’s help. So as you open your cards and eat candy hearts, remember to give thanks to God for sending Jesus — His greatest gift of love!

What do you plan to do this year with your kids on Valentine’s Day? What are your Valentine’s Day traditions?

Originally published February 12, 2009. 

More Ways to Feel Guilty: Not Crying about Kindergarten

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My oldest child, our only daughter, Libbie, started kindergarten on Tuesday. Leading up to the day, I felt pretty emotional. I wrote about letting my baby bird fly from our nest and I wondered what it would be like having her away from home so much of the time. I knew on Tuesday I would be at the school most of the day, as I had to go to a parent orientation. Because of phasing-in procedures, she didn’t go back until Thursday. So that, I considered, was when I would probably let the tears pour.

At the parent orientation one of the counselors read a book obviously meant to turn on our tears, about letting your raindrop fall from the cloud, even if said raindrop was scared, etc. It was in rhyme, and as she read at least half of the parents crowding the school library were wiping tears from their eyes. And I sat there. Stoic. I don’t like it when books try to manipulate your emotions (see: why I have never read Nicholas Sparks).

Thursday I dropped Libbie off, letting her jump from the van and walk inside herself, ringlets bouncing as she left me in the dust. And still, it didn’t come. No fear, no tears. I took my sons to the grocery store and the doctor.

Should I feel guilty about this lack of emotion? Does it make me a bad mom?

I think if I were not completely sure Libbie was ready for kindergarten, it would be different. But she is a confident, extroverted nearly-6-year-old. She can read, and she loves to learn. She also loves to have every minute planned for her, which I cannot do at home. So we believe firmly that she is going to thrive in school.

But still, I wonder. Will it hit me someday soon that my little one has left my nest?

How about you? Did you cry when your child started school?