Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Knotted Friendship Bracelets

The older girls' (ages 11 and 13) friend K (age 12) taught us a new technique for making friendship bracelets, while visiting here last week.  You can never have too many different types of friendship bracelets :)

K wasn't sure where the method originated from, she learned it from a friend, herself.  But, it's nice and easy, and the girls have really been having fun with it. To try for yourself, just start out with two pieces of multi-strand embroidery floss, about a foot long (or longer if you want to be on the safe side).

Tie them together at one end.

Have a friend hold the knotted end...

...while you begin to knot one piece of string around the other...

...by looping it around...

...over, and through...

...and pulling it tight into a knot.

Keep making knots until you have an inch, or so of knots of one color in a row, and then switch to tying the second string around the first...

...repeating, until you have a long enough pattern of knotted segments to tie around your friend's wrist.

You can make a chunkier version, or add more colors, by adding more strings.  We made a bracelet in primary colors...

...using two strings of each color...

...by tying the two yellow strings around the four (red and blue) for a while...

...then switching to tying the red around the others, and so on.

I think that is really the appeal of this method of bracelet making for the girls, the pattern is so adaptable, and easy to vary, it leaves a lot of room for individual creativity.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Roman Road to Salvation

Each year the material for the 5th and 6th grade Sunday school class I teach, circles around to a lesson on sharing one's testimony, usually using 1 Peter 3:15-16 as the memory verse for the week.

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.(NIV)

I love "testimony Sunday", as I have come to think of it, because it works for both the saved, and any unsaved children in the class.  It presents an easy opportunity to share the Gospel with the ones who don't already know it, and it allows the children who are saved already a chance to see how easy sharing their faith can be.

Our church uses the Southern Baptist, LifeWay curriculum, which teaches children the ABCs of becoming a Christian - Admit, and turn away from your sin, Believe that Jesus is God's son sent to pay the penalty for sin, and Confess, or tell others about your faith (click here to find the verses to go along with each letter).  My students suggested adding a "D" for "seek Discipleship" - pretty clever, if you ask me.

Of course, there's always the Wordless Book approach, which I've posted about in the past, as well.

But, my favorite tool for walking a Sunday school class of 5th and 6th graders through the salvation plan is the "Roman's Road to Salvation".  Basically it's just a collection of of verses from the book of Romans (3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9-10, 10:13, 10:17) , that lay out nicely the steps (or road) to salvation, with a catchy bit of wordplay in the title, referring to the road building efforts of the Roman Empire, to make it easy to remember where to find all the verses.

I like to print each verse out on a piece of construction paper cut to look like a stepping stone (like in the picture at the top of the post).  Then, I can lay the "stones" out on the floor, and invite each student in the class to walk the path as they review each step - admitting they are sinners, that the penalty for sin is death (meaning the second death, or lake of fire), that Jesus paid the death penalty for us with His death on the cross, that it is a gift and we can do nothing to earn it except to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and tell others about His gift for us, that all can come to Him no matter who they are, or where they are in life, and that once we've accepted His gift then we should begin studying His word and growing in Him.

The Teen Missions website adds a question, that each verse along the path might answer, and has all the questions and verses in a printable bookmark format, that is very handy.  I added their questions to our path this year...

...as road blocks along the way.  Then, I had two children walk the path together, one playing the part of "a saint" (meaning saved), the other the part of "a seeker".

As they approached the path, they met with the first road block - read by the "seeker".

Then, the "saint" turned their friend to the side, to the first stone, and read the verse in answer.

After each stone was a road block, that forced the pair to turn to the side, to the next stone, in order to follow the path, making for a narrow, and winding road to salvation.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 
Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)

It's great to be a Sunday School Teacher!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pass Around Fudge

We entertained a second round of company this last week - family friends from Oregon (from the same town and church as the youth group, that came the week before).  We had scores of fun, and their leaving yesterday morning was very bittersweet.  Bitter, because we were sad to see them go, they're very much like family, but sweet, because they left behind the two batches of "Girl Scout Fudge" they'd taught us how to make the night before.

Have you made it before before?  It's so much fun - not to mention yummy.

I haven't been able to track down the original recipe, which goes by a variety of names, to give credit to, but it is brilliant, and pretty well everywhere, so I feel okay sharing it here.  Basically, all you do is blob:

1 stick of butter
3 oz of cream cheese
2 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 cup of cocoa
and 1 teaspoon of vanilla...

...into a gallon size Ziploc-type baggie. Double bag it...

...and seal the bags, with as little air as possible.

Smoosh the ingredients in the bags, passing them from person to person (thus the name), until the dough is completely blended and soft.

Smooth it out flat (there are two batches in the picture below), and place the bags into the freezer, or if you are camping, and presumably a Girl Scout, place it into a cooler, on ice, to firm up.

We found we liked the texture best after it had spent a night in the freezer.

 Be warned, it's very good, but extremely rich.

Looking over the ingredients, it dawned on me, that basically it's just "frozen" or "set" frosting.  So, and since we already had an extra batch of the chocolate fudge on hand, I decided to see, by adding a cup of chunky peanut butter to the other ingredients, if we'd all like "chocolate peanut butter pass around fudge" as much as we like chocolate peanut butter frosting.

It turns out we do.

Next time I think I might be tempted to increase the peanut butter, and leave out the butter entirely.  Or, maybe we'll leave the recipe as it is, but add in walnuts and mini-marshmallow bits, for a Rocky Road kind of thing.  Or, maybe some candy pieces...

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Swimmer and the Shark - Child Crafted Games

D (age 9) decided to entertain himself today, by putting together a craft/game to play with his sisters.  He glued a piece of blue construction paper to a thin piece of cardboard...

...and cut out a stick figure swimmer from more paper, and a shark fin from cardboard...

...attaching a paper clip to the bottom of each...

...so they could be moved around from underneath the paper with fridge magnets.

The object of the game then, was for the player controlling the swimmer to avoid the shark without being driven off the side of the paper.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lost Sheep/Coin/Prodigal Son Sunday School Go-Along Activity

I tried out a verse activity with my 5th and 6th grade Sunday school class, that was nice and simple, but worked so well for bringing home the point of our lesson from Luke chapter 15 on the parables of the Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and The Lost Son, I thought I'd pass it along.

Our church uses Sunday school material from LifeWay publishing, and the verse to go along with the lesson for the week was Psalms 107:1.  The memorization activity suggestion was to print the verse on a large piece of paper, have the children read it, then cut one word out at a time, having the children repeat the verse through each time, filling in the "lost" words from memory.

I modified the activity a little by cutting all the words out ahead of time.  Then, after our lesson, when it was time to learn the verse, I pulled out the hole filled paper, with the mixed up pile of words for the children to fit back in place.

What I didn't tell them is that before class, I had taken one of the words, and taped it under one of the chairs.  They saw me come into class, and set out the material in a somewhat disorganized fashion (coming into church with six children on a Sunday morning, pretending to be rushed and disorganized didn't take much acting on my part).

When the children discovered they were missing a word to complete the verse, I mumbled to myself  - "I wonder where it went? I know I had them all, this morning."

The children started searching under the books on the table, under the table, and finally under the chairs, where they discovered the missing word.  I waited a second as they processed the scene, and thought about the tape holding the word to the chair, watching as the light went on in their minds..."This is just like our story today...hey! You hid that word on purpose!"

It's great to be a Sunday school teacher.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Picture Books for Strawberry Season

We read Barbara M. Joosse's Jam Day, the story of a young boy and his mother, returning to her family home for an annual day of strawberry picking, and jam making with extended family, to go along with our latest harvest of strawberries.  Strawberry season arrives late in Montana, giving us fresh, sweet, strawberries through most of July.

We enjoyed Jam Day.  It's simple, and slightly old fashioned, but a nice look at family traditions, and how even a small family of two, can become a large, happy, boisterous group when joined together with grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins.

I was a little disappointed there wasn't a recipe for strawberry jam at the back of the book, or for "Granpap's world famous biscuits", made by the boy and his grandfather to serve with their jam in the story.  If any story needs a go-along recipe, this is one.

Joan D'Amico offers a semi-child friendly recipe for strawberry freezer jam, with a simple explanation of pectin, and how it helps to transform fruit, and sugar into "delicious jams and jellies" in The Science Chef.

We opted for an even easier microwave recipe (click here for the recipe) again this year, skipping the pectin, and the stove top, and thanks to a lack of planning on my part...

...even the lemon juice, this year.  According to everything I've read about the amount of pectin in strawberries, and their need for either added pectin, or lemon juice to help release their own pectin (the structural heteropolysaccharide contained in the primary cell walls of terrestrial plants used as a gelling agent in jam - per Wikipedia) this should not have worked...

...but the jam turned out fine even without the lemon juice, proving once again, when it comes to science - even kitchen science - research should always be followed, and verified by experimentation.

Since we didn't have any of "Granpap's world famous biscuits" to serve with our jam, I whipped up a batch of strawberry muffins (using the Best ever Muffin recipe from Allrecipes.com with a teaspoon of vanilla and a cup of sliced strawberries added in).

Then it was off to the library to pick up a few picture books, this time with recipes, before strawberry season passes us by.  Now we're looking forward to some good reading, as well as a strawberry cake...

...and a couple of batches of strawberry shortcake.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Linked with What My Child is Reading at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tablecloth Play Mat - Simple Summer.

I found myself with ten children to entertain, yesterday - my youngest four, four visitors from Oregon (here along with their parents, the adult supervision, and leadership for the youth group combining with ours, this week), and two of A's friends (11 year olds) thrown in just for fun.

Luckily, I'd seen a great idea for a do-it-yourself play mat, over at All For the Boys, that combined nicely with the color-your-own tablecloth concept we've had fun with at birthday parties in the past, and was super easy to set up.

All I had to do was cover the table with a few pieces of butcher's paper, paper side up, tossed out a few toys - dinosaurs, soldiers, cars, penguins, and the like - whatever I could snatch with ease on a pass through of the children's rooms, with an assortment of washable markers, and crayons.

To get things going, I drew a quick, winding road around the toys.  The children took it from there...

...keeping them (especially the youngest few I was most worried about) busy, happy, and amazingly quite clear through lunch...

...and giving me time to slip out to prepare for the afternoon's entertainment.

It's great to be a homeschooler.