A Review of The Donkey in the Living Room Book and Nativity Set by Sarah Raymond Cunningham

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Finding resources to use with little ones that keep Christ central to our Christmas celebration is difficult. The new book by Sarah Raymond Cunningham titled The Donkey in the Living Room: A Tradition that Celebrates the True Meaning of Christmas will be a big help.

The illustrations make the book appropriate for the preschool and early elementary crowd, although I know my older ones will also listen in. For use during the nine days before Christmas through Christmas Day, each double-page spread represents one character in the Christmas story. The instructions suggest that you wrap up figurines from a crèche, opening each one at the beginning of your reading. You can easily use your family nativity set, or purchase the matching box stable and wooden figures that coordinate with the book. (Since our Nativity set is breakable, we chose the coordinating wooden set.)

The text is in sing-song rhyme and there are a few slang phrases (“As Mary’s belly was getting ready to pop . . .”), yet it is still meaningful, accurate, and engaging. Almost as important during this busy season, it has an appropriate amount of reading to do each day, not so much that you may be tempted to skip it, but not so little as to be trite.

I am convinced that my little ones will be enthralled with this new resource and I look forward to continuing the tradition of The Donkey in the Living Room in the years to come.

Bonus!
Coordinate The Donkey in the Living Room with a Christian Christmas reproducible activity guide such as Very, Merry Christmas by Anita Reith Stohs and choose one carol to sing together each day.

9 days before Christmas: Mary
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “The Angel Gabriel Visits Mary”
Sing “What Child is This?”

8 days before Christmas: The Donkey
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “The Road to Bethlehem”
Sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

7 days before Christmas: The Cow
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “No Room”
Sing “Away in the Manger”

6 days before Christmas: The Sheep
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “Christmas Bookmark”
Sing “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”

5 days before Christmas: The Shepherd
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “Go to Bethlehem” and “Glad to See Jesus”
Sing “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”

4 days before Christmas: The Angel
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “Joy to the World” (Make an angel); “The Angel’s Song”
Sing “Angels We Have Heard on High”

3 days before Christmas: The Camel
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book page
Sing “The First Noel”

2 days before Christmas: The Wise Men
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “Follow the Star” and “Gifts for the King”
Sing “We Three Kings”

1 day before Christmas: Joseph
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “Off to Egypt” and “Christmas Places”
Sing “Silent Night, Holy Night”

Christmas Day: Baby Jesus
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “Jesus is His Name” and “Christmas Stamp”
Sing “Joy to the World! The Lord is Come”

After Christmas Day: Simeon
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “Looking for Jesus,” “Simeon’s Song of Praise,” “Christmas Crossword Puzzle”

Beginning Organic Homeschool Mid-year

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The new Organic Homeschooling provides content for a full year. Because OH is seasonally appropriate, we break the curriculum into monthly sections. After all, it makes sense to study pumpkins in October and Pilgrims in November.

Many homeschoolers make curriculum selections in April and May and begin a homeschool year mid-Agugst. Because this is the most common pattern, we organized OH to make it easy to use it this way.

Now, this does not mean that if you do not begin mid-August that you cannot use OH. This year my brother and his family came home on furlough and spent the month of August with us. Do you think schoolwork was our priority?

Sometimes families begin one curriculum and realize that it is not a good fit. Must they continue to use it even when it is not best for the family?

Friends, even classroom teachers change and adapt their plans based on the needs of their classroom and they do not have anywhere near the freedom we enjoy as homeschoolers.

First, let me encourage all homeschooling moms. Curriculum is a tool, a servant. There is no ‘I-followed-the-curriculum-perfectly” award at the end of our year or journey. If you do not like my suggestions, use OH as it best serves your family.

My recommendation for families that begin OH in any month other than August is to begin at the beginning of the current month. For example, if you purchase OH on October 12, start with Week 7, the first week of October.

An exception to this is a family with all little children who would be fine skipping the chapter book for that month, in which case, jump in in the current week.

Are the earlier months wasted? No. Either put them at the end of the year or take off mid-June to mid-August and go back to the Week 1 and do them then. Your children will do fine jumping into the middle of the year-long books.

The one big encouragement I have is: DO NOT TRY TO ‘CATCH UP.’ OH is all about simplifying and reducing pressures. Although it may be entirely possible to double up on readings and assignments, it defeats the purpose for which you chose OH!

Looking for Organic Homeschooling? Look HERE

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http://highlandsministriesonline.org/product/books/organic-homeschooling-year-1-curriculum/ 

Look at sample here: http://www.organichomeschooling.com/YearlyCurriculum/SampleYr1.pdf

Organic Homeschooling is no longer a monthly subscription-based product, but a full-year curriculum. At first, we will offer Year 1 available for purchase. Three additional years will be coming soon as we complete them.

The new plan offers weekly lesson plans. It is available as a PDF digital download, as it has been in the past, or you may choose to purchase a hard copy printed in full color and bound in a three-ring binder.

Purchase it here: http://highlandsministriesonline.org/product/books/organic-homeschooling-year-1-curriculum/

We are partnering with Highlands Ministries to make the new curriculum available. Organic Homeschooling users will no longer order the monthly curriculum from the Organic Homeschooling website. You will purchase the full-year plan from Highlands Ministries.

Is Year 1 of the new Organic Homeschooling the same as the first year (2010-2011) of subscription-based curriculum? No. Although there is definitely overlap between the two, we have completely reworked the booklist and schedule.

Organic Homeschool is for use with all of your children from preschool to age 12. It includes:

  • Bible
  • Read Aloud Picture Books and Chapter Books (Literature, Geography, History, and Science)
  • Memorization
  • Natural Language Learning (Copying and Dictation)
  • Creation Science Reading and Activity Ideas
  • Music
  • Art
  • Crafts
  • Recommended Curriculum for Basic Skills*
  • Continuing Education for Parents
  • Additional Recommendations for: Family Worship, Additional Creation and Art Materials, Nature Study, Art, Preschool, Singing, Foreign Language Resources, Games, and Beyond the Organic Homeschooling Years.

*Basic Skill Scheduling Charts by Grade will also be available.

Purchase the new, full-year Organic Homeschooling curriculum here: http://highlandsministriesonline.org/product/books/organic-homeschooling-year-1-curriculum/

Let’s Discuss: The Artful Parent chapter 9

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One of our optional books for Mom’s reading this year is The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art & Creativity by Jean Van’t Hul. Read my review here. Over the next few months, let’s read and discuss this resource to see what we can learn from it and how we can apply it to our families.

(Yes, I know we’re going out of order!)

Look at Artful Activities: Chapter 9 “Quick and Easy Art” pages 149–166

Read Introduction (pages 149–150) and ““Using Recycled Materials for Art and Craft Projects” (pages 165–166)

Choose an activity to do with your child and report on how it went.

Artful Activity 8: Mondrian-Style Postcards (See note.)

Artful Activity 9: Bean Face Mosaics (Variations)

Artful Activity 10: Q-Tip Pointillism (Variations)

Artful Activity 11: How Big Can You Draw? How Small? How Curly? How Curly?

Artful Activity 12: Trace Shadow Shapes (Variations)

Artful Activity 13: Paper Fun: Fold, Cut, Decorate (11 variations)

 

The New Organic Homeschooling

The New Organic Homeschooling
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Year 1Announcing: Major changes coming to Organic Homeschooling!

Beginning in August, we will no longer be a monthly subscription-based product, but a full-year curriculum. At first, we will offer Year 1 available for purchase. Three additional years will be coming soon as we complete them.

The new plan offers weekly lesson plans. It is available as a PDF digital download, as it has been in the past, or you may choose to purchase a hard copy printed in full color and bound in a three-ring binder.

We are partnering with Highlands Ministries to make the new curriculum available. Organic Homeschooling users will no longer order the monthly curriculum from the Organic Homeschooling website. You will purchase the full-year plan from Highlands Ministries.

Is Year 1 of the new Organic Homeschooling the same as the first year (2010-2011) of subscription-based curriculum? No. Although there is definite overlap between the two, we have completely reworked the booklist and schedule.

Organic Homeschool is for use with all of your children from preschool to age 12. It includes:

  • Bible
  • Read Aloud Picture Books and Chapter Books (Literature, Geography, History, and Science)
  • Memorization
  • Natural Language Learning (Copying and Dictation)
  • Creation Science Reading and Activity Ideas
  • Music
  • Art
  • Crafts
  • Recommended Curriculum for Basic Skills*
  • Continuing Education for Parents
  • Additional Recommendations for: Family Worship, Additional Creation and Art Materials, Nature Study, Art, Preschool, Singing, Foreign Language Resources, Games, and Beyond the Organic Homeschooling Years.

*Basic Skill Scheduling Charts by Grade will also be available.

Look for more upcoming details soon.

 

Curriculum Suggestions by Grade Level*

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Preschool– appropriate for children to begin at age 3–6
Pre-reading: My ABC Bible Verses: Hiding God’s Word in Little Hearts by Susan Hunt
Christian Liberty Nature Reader K by Florence M. Lindstrom
Pre-writing: Fine Motor Fun by Sherrill B. Flora
Preschool Concepts: Use available preschool literature to teach foundational concepts such as colors, counting, opposites, size, directions, and days of the week. Among the many available, Eric Carle’s books, such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, are helpful.

Kindergarten – appropriate for children to begin at age 4–7
Pre-reading: All About Reading Pre-reading
Pre-writing: Fine Motor Fun by Sherrill B. Flora
Math: Math-U-See Primer*
And/or Math manipulatives, activities, and games:
Pattern blocks and activity cards
Buttons to classify, sort, and string
Math-U-See blocks
Card games: Go Fish, Old Maid, Uno, Playing cards
Board Games: Candyland, Chutes and Ladders
One hundred chart and activities
*Math-U-See’s Primer requires a child to be able to write his numbers. It can be skipped if you do not want to use it. Purchasing a curriculum can lead to pressuring a child to “complete pages” and displace many superior real-life activities in which a kindergartener should engage.

First Grade – appropriate for children to begin at age 5–8
Reading: All About Reading Levels 1–2
Penmanship: A Reason for Handwriting K
Use for the first half of the year to learn proper letter formation. The Teacher’s Manual includes many helpful ideas and is for the K to 6 program.
Spelling: All About Spelling Level 1 (beginning week 13)
Begin mid-year after AAR 1 is well underway
Math: Math-U-See Alpha

Second Grade – appropriate for children to begin at age 6–9
Reading: All About Reading Levels 3–4*
*Available by the end of 2014
Spelling: All About Spelling Levels 2–3
Math: Math-U-See Beta

Third Grade – appropriate for children to begin at age 7–10
Reading: All About Reading Level 5*
*When available
Spelling: All About Spelling Levels 4–5
Writing: Understanding Writing
Understanding Writing is a single resource that includes all levels, first through twelfth grade
Math: Math-U-See Gamma

Fourth Grade – appropriate for children to begin at age 8–11
Reading: Individualized reading list
Penmanship: A Reason for Writing T
Transition from manuscript to cursive
Spelling: All About Spelling Levels 6–7
Writing: Understanding Writing Level 4
Math: Math-U-See Delta

Fifth Grade – appropriate for children to begin at age 9–12
Reading: Individualized reading list
Language: God’s Gift of Language A
SWriting: Understanding Writing Level 5
Math: Math-U-See Epsilon

Sixth Grade – appropriate for children to begin at age 10–13
Reading: Individualized reading list
Language: God’s Gift of Language B
Writing: Understanding Writing Level 6
Math: Math-U-See Zeta

[This is the highest grade level for which Organic Homeschooling provides appropriate content]

Seventh Grade – appropriate for children to begin at age 11–14
Reading: Individualized reading list
Language: God’s Gift of Language C
Writing: Understanding Writing Level 7–8
Math: Math-U-See Zeta (complete or catch up) or Stewardship

Eighth Grade – appropriate for children to begin at age 12–15
Reading: Individualized reading list
Writing: Understanding Writing Level 7–8
Math: Math-U-See Zeta (complete or catch up) or Stewardship or Pre-algebra

Ninth Grade – appropriate for children to begin at age 13–16
Reading: Individualized reading list
Writing: Understanding Writing Level 9–12
Math: Math-U-See Pre-algebra or Algebra 1 (35 lessons)

Tenth Grade – appropriate for children to begin at age 14–17
Reading: Individualized reading list
Writing: Understanding Writing Level 9–12
Math: Math-U-See Algebra 1 or Geometry

*We use the term Grade Level very loosely. A grade-level designation is often assigned to a curriculum to denote a particular skill level, not an specific age. Often mainstream Christian curriculum publishers have already accelerated the content of the curriculum by a full grade level. (Ex. They place what was understood to be “first grade” reading concepts into the Kindergarten curriculum.) You will notice that we use A Beka’s God’s Gift of Language A, B, and C a grade level “behind” where you find them in their catalog.
Testing often drives curriculum decisions as we see in the area of mathematics. When I was in school, pre-algebra was taken by most students (other than math- and science-oriented students) in ninth grade. The practice of taking the (pre) SAT or ACT which include geometry concepts between the sophomore and junior years drove the decision to move pre-algebra back a year into eighth grade. Unfortunately, this has had disastrous results for many math-a-phobic students who are not ready at age fourteen for the analytical thinking needed in algebra.
Because many of our children have been “late bloomers,” children who experience learning delays particularly in reading and writing skills, we suggest a much broader range of ages for each grade level. We have seen that once these children master necessary skills, they usually accelerate in the deficient areas to “catch up” to a more average age/grade level. If that is not the case, we are content to allow them more years in which to complete their studies.

Let’s Discuss: The Artful Parent chapter 12

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One of our optional books for Mom’s reading this year is The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art & Creativity by Jean Van’t Hul. Read my review here. Over the next few months, let’s read and discuss this resource to see what we can learn from it and how we can apply it to our families.

(Yes, I know we’re going out of order!)

Look at Artful Activities: Chapter 12 “Quiet Activities for Downtime and Transition” pages 223–242

Read Introduction (pages 223–224) and “Playful Exploration of Art Ideas and Materials” (pages 240–242) )

Choose an activity to do with your child and report on how it went. Can you use any of these activities to transition into you scheduled lesson time each day?

Artful Activity 36: Hole Challenge Drawing

Artful Activity 37: Self-Portrait on the Mirror

Artful Activity 38: Design-Your-Own-Magnets

Artful Activity 39: Observational Drawing for Young Children

Artful Activity 40: Glue Drawings and Crayon Rubbings

Artful Activity 41: Continuous Line Drawing

Artful Activity 42: Collage Your Favorite Animal

Let’s Discuss: The Artful Parent chapter 14

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One of our optional books for Mom’s reading this year is The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art & Creativity by Jean Van’t Hul. Read my review here. Over the next few months, let’s read and discuss this resource to see what we can learn from it and how we can apply it to our families.

(Yes, I know we’re going out of order!)

Look at Artful Activities: Chapter 14 “Homemade Art Materials to Make and Enjoy” pages 269–294

Read Introduction (pages 269–271) and “The Natural Artist” (pages 294–295)

Choose an activity to do with your child and report on how it went:

Artful Activity 51: Making and Playing with Homemade Playdough

Artful Activity 52: No-Cook Playdough (Alternate)

Artful Activity 53: Puffy Paint: A Paint-Squeezing Experience

Artful Activity 54: Salt Dough Ornaments (in December)

Artful Activity 55: Teddy Bear Bread and Caterpillar Rolls (May-insects)

Artful Activity 56: Paintable Cookies with Edible Paint

Artful Activity 57: Air-Dry Clay

Artful Activity 58: Cloud Dough

Artful Activity 59: Homemade Finger Paints

Artful Activity 60: Dyed Pasta and Rice

Artful Activity 61: Recycled Crayon Shapes

Let’s Discuss: The Artful Parent chapter 7

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One of our optional books for Mom’s reading this year is The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art & Creativity by Jean Van’t Hul. Read my review here. Over the next few months, let’s read and discuss this resource to see what we can learn from it and how we can apply it to our families.

Read Preparing for Art: Chapter 7 “Storing, Displaying, and Sharing the Art” pages 115–127

Consider the following thoughts and questions:

In which way will you keep your child’s artwork. As a mom of ten, I do not keep many pieces but I do like to put a few examples in with each child’s completed schoolwork. Stock up on envelopes to share with friends and family. In what ways will you repurpose your child’s art?

Let’s Discuss: The Artful Parent chapter 6

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One of our optional books for Mom’s reading this year is The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art & Creativity by Jean Van’t Hul. Read my review here. Over the next few months, let’s read and discuss this resource to see what we can learn from it and how we can apply it to our families.

Read Preparing for Art: Chapter 6 “Sustaining Inspiration” pages 91–114

Consider the following thoughts and questions:

In what areas do you already make your everyday artful? In what ways would you like to improve? There are many practical ideas in this chapter, too many to apply all at once! Evaluate and begin incorporating ideas into each of the larger areas: cooking together, getting outside with your children every day, encouraging play and imagination, doing science experiments, incorporating storytelling, poetry, literature, and music, and going on artful adventures. (Sounds a bit like OH, doesn’t it?) Choose two or three practical ideas to implement into your day.