Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer Fun: An Ark and a Flood

Many people have expressed their desire intentionally study the Bible with their children this summer, so, I want to help you plan a time that engages the mind, spirit and body.

Often, it is assumed that studying the Bible must be solemn and boring.  But, time spent with God should actually be thought provoking and fun. For adults, that may mean reading and discussing with a group of peers.  But, for kids, Bible "study" takes on a different appearance.

This 7-day study of Noah's ark includes a short daily reading with questions and some water-play  to solidify the ideas.  Try it and let me know what you learn along the way!

Noah's Ark: 
Genesis 6:9 - 9:17

  1. READ:  Begin by selecting a version of the Bible that is easy for you and your child to understand.  Or, you may "look up" the passages on  We like the (New International Version (NIV) but there are other modern versions which are easy to understand.  Read the designated passages aloud to your children, helping the to understand any words which may be difficult. 
  2. RESPOND: Answer the questions that go with each passage.  It may be helpful to go back and read the passage in small sections as you look for answers.  Take your time and allow everyone to think before answering.
  3. RECREATE:  There is an activity (most of them involving water play) which goes with each days study.  You may like to do your reading and study for the day then follow it up with the activity.  Or, some may prefer to study one day and read the next.  My Bible study group is doing the daily studies at home and following up with a day of water play to solidify the story.  I set up stations around the yard for each day's water play.  I then walked the kids through each station and we re-told the story of Noah's Ark using each station as a reminder.

Day 1 - Genesis 6:9-22
Why was God angry at the people?  
How did He punish them? 
What have you done lately that God would not like?
Why did God choose Noah?
How has God shown His love for you? 

LISTENING:  Noah heard God speaking to him.  Using two cups and a string, can you set up a system to hear your friends talking to you from far away? Place a small hole in the bottom of each cup.  Cut a piece of string about 4 feet long.  Thread one end of the string through the hole in the bottom of one cup.  Pull the string up and tie a knot in the end of the string to prevent it from passing back through the hole.  Using the other cup, do the same at the other end of the string.  Once the strings are securely attached to the cups, you hold one cup and have a friend hold the other.  Pull the string tight between you.  While your friend speaks into one cup, you listen in the other.  Switch; you talk and they listen.  What do you hear?  Notice, if your string isn't tight and you don't pay attention, you can't hear what your friend is saying.  When we listen to God, we must listen carefully and maintain a good relationship if we are to hear as well as Noah.

Day 2 - 
Genesis 7:1-11
Can you remember...  how big was Noah's boat?
Who was on the boat with Noah?
How did God feel about the people's behavior?  
Sometimes, we can give God a sad heart.
Have you ever done anything that made God sad?  What was it?
Have you ever made anyone else feel sad?  How? 
What did you do after you hurt them?

THE ARK:  Using a piece of aluminum foil, make a boat.  You may fold it, bend it, twist it and use it however you would like to "build" your own ark.  Once you have finished, float your boat in a tub of water.  Try placing some small plastic animals in your boat.  How many will it hold before it sinks?  How many animals did Noah's ark hold?  How big do you think Noah's ark was?

Can you remember how long it rained?
How high was the water?
How long before the waters receded?  (For how long did the water flood the earth?)
What happened to the people that weren't in the boat and who were not doing as God taught them?
Do you love God?  Do you know that God loves you?
Name one time that you did as God taught you.

THE RAIN:  Set up a sprinkler for the children to run through.  Let them run and play in the "rain".  After playing for a while, see if they can spot the beginnings of a "flood".  How long would your sprinkler have to "rain" for it to cover your feet?  Your knees?  A table?  A tree?

How did Noah know that the water had gone down and there was land?
The dove is a bird of peace.  How do you think God felt about His people now?
When someone hurts us, how can we feel peace in our heart?
How can we help others feel peace in their heart when we have hurt them or done wrong?

THE FLOOD:  Blow up a small wading pool and lay it on a soft surface such as grass.  Place enough water in the pool to just cover the bottom - about 1/2 inch.  Cut one of the flower shaped swimming noodles into 2.5 inch slices so that they look like flowers.  Put the flowers and some fish-shaped water toys in the pool for a flood of fun.  To make things even more interesting, you may throw in some magnetic toy fish and see how many the children can catch with their toy fishing rod.  Do you think that Noah ate fish while on the ark?

What did God want the animals to do on the earth?
Why do we sin and do hurtful things?
What does God promise us even though He knows that we will make mistakes and break His heart? 
Why do you think God made us a promise saying, “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though[a] every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures"?
Food for thought:  What does it mean "As long as the earth endures..."?

THE LAND:  Prepare a bucket of water, a bag of sand, a bag of dirt and a bag of rock along with plastic saucers from the bottom of planters.  What do you think the land looked like when Noah saw it?  Allow the children to build their island in the saucers.  Supply them with some small, safe succulent plants and plastic animals so that they may make their island more authentic.  They may even want to put an ark on their island.  Let them pretend and imagine what it was like for Noah.

Day 6 - Genesis 9:1-7
What 3 things did God tell us about the animals?
What responsibility has God given us?
How can we use that responsibility today?
What does God mean, "I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too"?

THE ANIMALS:  Set up an area for water coloring.  Provide plain paper, paper printed with animals being cared for, or pictures of various animals in their habitat.  If you can find water color books that already have the colors on the paper, you can provide these pages along with brushes and clean water.  This method of water painting works well with children as young as one.  If you can not find the pre-printed pages with water color dots, provide some some printouts and plain paper along with a packet of water colors, a cup of clean water, and plenty of brushes.  Ask the kids to paint a picture of how we should treat animals.

What is a covenant?
What covenant did God make after the flood?
With whom did God make this covenant?
What was the sign of this covenant?

THE RAINBOW:  Make Cantaloupe Rainbows or Rainbow Jigglers for a cool snack.  If you prefer an easy to serve - easy to eat - version, you may layer the jello in a clear plastic cup instead of inside a cantaloupe.  While everyone is eating, talk about promises that have been made and promises that have been broken.  Talk about the consequences of breaking a promise and the way that we can repair the damage when we fail to keep our word. When you finish your snack, try to make your own rainbow using one of the "Make a Rainbow" methods  from

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer Fun: Wire Sculptures

For some of us, there is a budding artist in our homes who covers our windows, walls, and refrigerators with memories to last a lifetime.  For others, you may have to beg, bribe and otherwise force your angel to make anything that resembles an artistic creation.  And, for many of us, we are the hold up.  We are insecure about the results of our artistic endeavors and don't want any proof of our lack thereof.

Art is not meant to be perfect.  It is not something without flaws but rather whose flaws make it unique. Art is something to share; something to be appreciated, no matter how simple the result.  It is an expression; a way of showing on the outside what we feel on the inside.  Most of us express ourselves through words.  Some of us do it more skillfully than others but we all do it so that our ideas may be heard.  The same is true through art.  Some of us may be better at expressing ourselves with visual arts but that should not stop all of us from recording our inspirations.  We are not all perfect and imperfections are what make us, and our art, interesting.

This week, we visited the local museum and considered some artists who expressed themselves on canvas like Monet and others who expressed themselves through sculpture like Calder.  We looked at pottery, canvas, bronze and wire artworks, considering what things the artists used to convey their message.

Today, help your angel find his or her inner artist... and you find yours, too!

Pipe cleaners of varying sizes
small rocks, not sharp

  1. Introduce your angel to images of wire art.  Search Google for wire sculptures, mobiles, jewelry, kinetic art etc. to find examples.  Try works by Elizabeth Berrien, Alexander Calder, or Arthur Ganson.
  2. Give your angels a pipe cleaner and try coiling or bending pipe cleaners to form different shapes.  You can find suggestions on pages 3, 10, 11, and 14 of the paper titled "Alexander Calder-Inspired Wire Sculpture".
  3. Give your angel the remaining materials and ask them to create their own wire sculpture.
  4. Join your angel and do your best (no matter how beautiful) to create a wire expression of your own.

When your angel finishes, help them find a place to prominently display their work.  Show their work off to friends and family who visit.  Take a picture of their art and save it to show them later.  The pride that you show in their work is what is important to them.  Help them learn to love this method of expression, not for the result that it creates but for the benefit of the process itself.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Learning Station: The Activities

Benjamin Franklin said:
Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.

This summer, we are taking Ben's advice and doing both!  We are writing in multiple languages, drawing what we see,  going places to tell about, and discovering all that is life!

In my last post, I told you about our Summer Learning Station.  This station is the center of our summer fun and schedule.  We post the work that we've done, pictures of fun that's been had and maintain our schedule for the day.

In an effort to make plenty of activities available to my angels, I have placed a variety of worksheets and other activities in manila folders to keep little hands busy when the "I'm bored" alarm starts to sound.  So far, it has worked!  In fact, first thing in the morning, my angel is at the board working on something from a folder while mommy sneaks in an extra few minutes of sleep.  Yeah!

Here's how is works:

  1. Select topics that interest your child and which you would like them to work on this summer.  Be sure to mix up the topics, make them fun, and not to be overly academic.  We are working on the following topics: Language, Bible, Math, Craft, Music, Reading, Mystery
  2. Inside of each folder, place one activity that your child can complete independently.
  3. Hang the folders somewhere convenient.  The child should be able to reach them his/herself and sit nearby to work on the activity.  We used a clothesline with clothespins.
  4. Be sure that the child has easy access to the supplies needed to complete the activity.
  5. Let the child know what to do with the completed work.  We colored one side of our clothespins green to indicate an incomplete activity and the other side red to indicate a completed one. When the work in a folder is finished, it is placed back into the folder and hung on our clothesline with the red side of the clip facing out.
  6. Periodically, I go through the folders and check the completed work. That work is then replaced by another activity of the same topic and re-hung on the line with the green side of the clip facing out.  I try not to rush and replace the completed work to quickly.  I want to encourage my angels to try some of the topics that may not be their favorites.

Our Folder Topics
(and a few ideas)

"Those who know nothing of foreign languages, knows nothing of their own."
Jahann von Goethe

I placed a quote on the outside of the folders to inspire my angels.  Even those who can not read are curious to ask what it says.  For the really little ones, try drawing an inspiring picture on the outside of the envelope. Or better yet, have them draw one!

In the "Language" folder, I place activities such as:
  • handwriting practice sheets 
  • foreign language activities 
  • meaningful writing tasks like addressing postcards or writing letters
  • Alphabet games
  • Starting and Ending sound puzzles

"Art is both creation and recreation."
Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living, 1937

I have a very crafty angel and this is the folder that I use to push those creative limits.  I use this folder to inspire the great creator within all of us, and my angel, too!

In the "Craft" folder, I place activities such as:
  • cutting or folding practice
  • color by number or watercolor sheets
  • create-a-craft items (These are a random of collection of items that I place in the folder.  Angels are instructed to use all of the items to complete a task like make a card for Grandpa or build a house for your favorite stuffed animal.)
  • tracing activities

"Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and all else shall be added unto you."
Matthew 6:33

Math is not just the ability to recognize and manipulate numbers.  It is the ability to use logic and problem solving to complete a task.  Activities in this folder will work on both recognizing and manipulating numbers as well as logic and problem solving skills.

In the "Math" folder, I place activities such as:

"God gives us each a song."
American Indian Proverb

The benefits of learning music have been proven repeatedly through the years, yet, we still stifle the music that lies deep within each of us.  Help your children discover a love for sound and express themselves in song (whether it be a perfect one or not).

In the "Music" folder, I place activities such as:

  • Match the note values:  match the note on the left with another note of equal value on the right
  • Identify the instruments
  • Musical App time:  "MyClassicalApp", "Jellybean Tunes", "Seuss Band"
  • Turn on children's music and dance with scarves, instruments etc.
  • Make an instrument:  Place the items needed and picture or word instructions on how to make it themselves.  Better yet, take the time to make instruments with your children for this activity.  (see "Homemade Instruments" on; "9 Easy to Make Musical Instruments" by
  • Name that tune: Using one line of written music, name that tune.

"Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life."
Mortimer J. Adler

Reading unlocks the door to worlds unseen. Reading allows us to see inside the imagination of others.  Whether you love fiction, nonfiction or don't really love reading at all, help your children develop a love a reading that will empower their future.  Read with them this summer so that they will seek to read throughout the school year.

In the "Reading" folder, I place activities such as:

  • Complete comprehension activities for a book or book chapter read.
  • Place a book in the envelope and ask your angel to read it to you aloud.
  • Crossword puzzle.
  • Word or Letter search
  • Sight Word activities
  • Punctuation activities
  • Sentence Structure activities

"I've read the last page of the Bible.  It's going to turn out all right."
Billy Graham

A solid love of the Lord comes through a deeper understanding of who He is.  This folder is designed to help our little ones develop a relationship with the Lord and a desire to study the Lord's Word more.

In the "Bible" folder, I place activities such as:

  • Bible storybooks
  • Drawing activities to depict a story studied
  • Ask little ones to identify behaviors that are pleasing to the Lord
  • Activities to help recognize activities that are helpful to others

"Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand."
Neil Armstrong

This is a place for me to put activities that are just plain fun and interesting.

In the "Mystery" folder, I place activities such as:

  • Puzzles
  • 3D drawing pad with glasses
  • Treasure map leading your pirate to hidden booty (small treasures frozen in an large ice block with warm water and basters to help them remove the bounty)
  • Cooking activity
  • Movie
  • A chart to help identify them identify rocks from the yard

I hope that these activity ideas motivate you to try something new this summer, even if you do not make an activity board as we did.  The key to our desire for learning is a true understanding of how much we do not know.  And, in the words of Percy Bysshe Shelley, "The more we study the more we discover our ignorance."  

This summer study hard and discover your ignorance!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer Fun: Maps, Mail and Meaningful Writing

The hub of our summer activities is an area that I call the Summer Learning Station.  It has our daily schedule, packets of individual activities (more on that later), and a giant wall map.  The map is part of an ongoing project for the summer - our Postcard Project.

For over 20 years, I have kept the postcards that people sent me from around the world.  It started when I was a teenager and just couldn't bring myself to throw them away.  Then, I became a teacher and laminated the cards for use in my classroom.  Now, I am a mom and I have "owned" these cards to my angel.  It is a cherished collection now which is happily taken down, admired, and regularly added to.

However, this summer, I decided to step things up a notch.  We hung a large world map at the center of our Summer Learning Station and placed stars on the map to indicate the origin of each postcard.  Then, I sent out a message (more like a plea) for postcards from friends.  We asked anyone who was willing to send us a postcard this summer. And, for those who are interested, we will send one back.

People are excited and postcards are trickling in.  We mark old postcards with stars and place tacks on the map to indicate new ones.  Each card gets a response and then hangs on a clothesline above the map.  This project has become more fun than I imagined. We've toured the post office, written letters, addressed mail, mapped locations, counted responses and created lots of memorable, meaningful summer fun.

What kinds of meaningful writing activities are you doing this summer?  How are you incorporating a little geography into your days?  Share you summer fun ideas and help keep us all motivated as the fun heats up!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer Fun: Let's Plan

There are three parts to a successful summer plan:

  1. Wish List
  2. The Schedule
  3. Flexibility
Summer is here!  I am always amazed at how fast a school year passes. With projects, homework and after school fun, it should be now real surprise. But, at the end of each school year, I always find myself saying, "I can't believe the year is already over."  This year, I want to push aside the summer boredom and seek out some budget-friendly fun.  To get things started, we set a flexible schedule and designed an upcycled memo board to keep track of the fun.

1:  Wish List
Last week, I asked my angels what we want to do this summer.  I heard things like, "paint pottery,"  "have a water day," and "I don't know".  I wrote their answers down.  But, whatever their response when the question was first asked, the responses after that moment are the ones that you don't want to miss. Each time we passed something interesting or did something fun, I was told, "I want to do that this summer," and on to my list it went. Pay attention because when we ask kids a question, something amazing happens... they start thinking.   Throughout the summer, they will have ideas, and those ideas will go on the "Wish List".
Along with their ideas, I have a few ideas of my own.  I want to work on the vision of my angel's lazy eye, go to a museum, and pick up shells on a beach.  Write these down, too.  With all of these ideas, I have a nice list of things that the kids and I want to do this summer. Post this list somewhere so that as the days pass and you are wondering what to plan next, you can refer to these goals and wishes for ideas.  

2:  The Schedule
Some people like a schedule with times for each daily activity, but I have found those to lead to disappointment in our house.  Often, fun opportunities arise and they throw off a concrete schedule.  Or, perhaps, today we need to flip our schedule so that we do our chores last and our fun first.  This is what summer is about!

This year, I am taking a new approach.  Our schedule looks more like a daily list of to-do's.  We have identified 5 things that we want or need to accomplish each day.  Yes, I had a lot to say in this part of the process!  We need to do some studying and some chores. But we also want to have some adventures.  What ever your daily to-do's are, write them down.  Keep your list to 5 or less.  We don't want to feel discouraged when things aren't finished and we certainly need some time for summer laziness!

3:  Flexibility
Summers are a time to recuperate from a busy school year.  They are a time to be lazy,  to sit in the sun, to discover new things... a time to be a kid!  But, if our schedules are too full or we don't leave room for adjustment, the summer is none of those things.

Leave room in your schedule for change.  Be flexible and, while we don't want to the summer to be a meaningless time full of TV and video games, don't forget to leave time for a slow start or pajama day.  These are the times that the kids will cherish and you will remember.  Be flexible; be a little lazy and enjoy the change of pace that summer allows.

4:  The Product
Once my schedule and wish list were made, I needed to post them someplace that everyone could see it. 

 I found a wall near our "Summer Fun Station" (more on that in another post) and used a ribbon to hang an old frame with the glass still in tact. If you don't have an old picture frame to upcycle, you could use a piece of metal with two holes drilled in the top, a rectangle cut from white tub backing, a large tile with ribbon glued to the back or a couple of $1 white boards.  I originally hung my summer fun board with a removable hanger... BUT... after it came tumbling down (at 2am!), it has now been rehung with a nail.  Note to self:  buy some spackle before September!

With an overhead pen, I wrote our daily to-do's along the left side of the board.  I was sure to leave a large space to the right side of my list so that I could add each day's specific details.  

Each morning or evening, I will use a dry erase marker to write the details for the day's schedule.  I will include a time for activities that are time-specific but otherwise, I will write down just what is needed.  Kids like to know what is coming each day and this will allow them to have a say in when we do chores as well as when we have some scheduled fun.  As we complete a daily task, we will mark it off with the dry erase pen.

Under the daily schedule, I wrote our "Wish List".  Be sure to let kids remove their "wishes" once they've done them. Kids love accomplishment as much as we do and this will allow them to watch their list shrink as the summer moves on.

I am eager to hear how you make and post your Summer Fun plans. Come back next week as I detail a few of our on-going summer projects to encourage independent learning throughout the summer.  See you then!