Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Mini Valentine’s Day Unit Study!

Monday, February 3rd, 2014
Valentine's Day Unit Study for homeschooled students

Here are 15 Valentine’s Day ideas, broken down by subject, to add some pizzazz to your homeschooling!

Valentine’s ideas for History and Geography

1.  Did you know the original St. Valentine was said to be a Christian martyr? Noting that there are a few different versions of the St. Valentine’s legend, have your middle/high schooler research and create a short oral report about St. Valentine’s life and death and present it to your family.

2. Have your dramatically-inclined student use the above research and create a short play based on St. Valentine’s life and perform it for another homeschooling family.
3. Task your students with researching Valentine’s Day during the Middle Ages and find out what Valentine’s Day had to do with birds.  :-)
4.  One of the most common symbols of Valentine’s Day is a Cupid. After defining  the word “symbol” for your youngest students, have your older ones research Cupid, draw a picture of one (in color, of course) and include a description of the origins of Cupid on the page.
5. Valentine’s Day is not just an American holiday! Have your student(s) locate other countries where Valentine’s Day is celebrated and do one or more of the following: Make a notebooking page for every country you find that celebrates Valentine’s Day.  List the Valentine’s Day traditions of that country and draw a map of each country.
6. Choose one or more interesting traditions and incorporate it into your family’s celebration.

7. Create a world map labeling the countries that celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Ideas for Language Arts

8. Create a word search including the following terms: Valentine’s Day, roses, pink, red, lace, cupid, card, St. Valentine, heart, doves, chocolate, etc.

9. What does the Bible say about love?  Instruct your students to find verses that describe the love that God has for His people, for the church and the love believers should have for one another.  Choose some of the verses as copy work and/or memorization.
10. Have your students define the word “love” in a paragraph.  Have them read about love in the Bible and the

n revise their paragraph as needed, including Bible verses as references.  Use this assignment as a lesson between love as a “feeling” and love as a “choice” and/or an “action.”

Valentine’s Ideas in Science

11. Use this week  as an opportunity for a quick scientific study of the heart. Write a short report about the function of the human heart.  Include a diagram of the heart, labeling the various parts. Using different colors, show the blood flow into and out of the heart.

12.  Make a poster  comparing and contrasting the human heart and the heart of an amphibian or reptile. If comparing and contrasting is a new concept you may want to use a Venn Diagram for help.

Valentine’s Ideas for Fun and Family Ministry

13. Gather your construction paper, wrapping paper scraps, ric rac, spare buttons, markers, glue and other craft supplies in the appropriate colors. Take an afternoon off school and construct hand-made Valentine’s cards for friends, family, elderly or shut in neighbors, children at a local hospital, etc.  Add a Bible verse about love to your cards and talk about what the verse means.

14.  Bake heart-shaped sugar cookies, frost with pink icing and glaze with pink sugar.  Include a homemade card and cookies and take to the neighbors, a nursing home or use to create a care package to a college student or two.
15. Start a new tradition!  Join with another family or two and assign many of the above ideas to different children.  Plan and execute a Valentine’s Party or dessert.  Have everyone share their reports and projects, exchange Valentines and then enjoy homemade Valentine’s treats!
And let’s not leave out any of the youngest members of your family — here is an adorable interactive book that will make your babies giggle with glee.  (Really!)
What ideas can you add or what mentioned here sparked your interest?  What do you do at your house to celebrate Valentine’s Day?


Heart image courtesy of Zoo-fari via Wikimedia Commons

Martin Luther King Day!

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Ihaveadreambymichelle kwajafa via StockXChng (428x640)




“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

–Martin Luther King, Jr.


 “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

–Martin Luther King, from a  Letter from a Birmingham Jail

April 16, 1963






Resources for Studying Martin Luther King

Are you hustling to try and pull something together for Martin Luther King Day?  Here are a few ideas for you:

  1. Fellow homeschooling mother and friend Erica Johns of Classical Composers Monthly has put together a webpage  with some cool Martin Luther King resources, including a short biography, web clips and links to other information.
  2. After watching the clip from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, have your younger students draw a picture of one of their “dreams” (i.e., how they would like the world to be).
  3.  Read and discuss the transcription of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
  4. Read just a section of the letter and have your children narrate afterward.
  5. Have your older children read the letter and discuss or write about one or more of the following:
  • Based on his letter, what can you tell about Martin Luther King’s education?
  • Based on his letter, what can you tell about his values?
  • Choose a line or two up or more, depending upon the age of your students,  for copywork.


Additional Assignment Possibilities

  1. Research and write about the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.
  2. Make a lapbook about Martin Luther King’s life.
  3. Divide the following terms, events and people among your students. Give them time to research  and have them each report briefly on  each event or person at the end of the day:
                        • the 1963 March on Washington
                        • the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
                        • the Selma Voter-Registration Drive
                        • the the Voting Rights Act of 1965
                        • the Birmingham Protests of 1963
                        • the Black Panthers
                        • Eugene “Bull” O’Connor
                        • Coretta Scott King
                        • Mahatma Gandhi.

 Processing What Was Learned

After your students read and learned more about Dr. Martin Luther King, ask them:

  • Why do you think we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday?
  • What did he do that was important?
  • What could you do to help bring peace to the world? (Starting with your home or neighborhood…)

 Books about the Civil Rights Movement


What will you be doing for Martin Luther King Day?

Photo courtesy Michelle Kwajafa via

Thanksgiving Activities for Kids!

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

How to Make Your Own Easter Egg Dyes!

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013


Easter project for children: create your own dyes for Easter eggs

Did you know that thousands of years ago the ancient Chinese were already dyeing fabric?

Or that the Maya in South America created red dye from ground insects?

Instead of buying those pre-packaged egg-dye kits this year, why not create your own natural dyes?

You have most of the ingredients in your refrigerator and pantry already. Experimenting with various vegetables and spices and turning out eggs that are one-of-a-kind is a great hands-on, multi-age project.

Here’s how:


Common Household Ingredients for Creating Natural Dyes


The items we used are pictured above. (We had to go to the store to get red cabbage to get a bluer-blue, so add that one.)  Here is a list of what we used this year and the color that each material yielded:

  • yellow onion skins: dark red
  • red onion skins: purplish-red
  • coffee: light to dark brown
  • tea: light tan/golden brown
  • spinach: light green
  • turmeric (spice): bright yellow
  • red cabbage: bright blue
  • raspberries: light pink

Gather items you can use to make dye, such as the ones above.  Try some other spices, grass, flower petals and other items you might have outside with one crucial caveat:

 Check and make sure that nothing is poisonous, please! 

You would not want to touch or have your children touch plant parts that are poisonous, and you certainly would not want to put anything poisonous in your cookware. If you do not have a thorough field guide to your local plant life, just stick to vegetables and spices.

You will need at least four small saucepans. (Smaller pans don’t require so much dye material.)

Depending upon how many eggs you would like to dye and how much material you have  -  I recommend at least 12-18 uncooked white eggs. It seems over the years that some eggs absorb dye better than others – I am not sure why that would be; does anyone know?

IMPORTANT NOTE: Authorities say eggs are not safe to eat if they have been out of the fridge more than two hours after cooking, so keep track of this unless you aren’t going to eat them.



  1. Chop (veggies/skins) or mash (berries) each item that needs it and put a cup or more in each saucepan with the egg(s).  The typical four burner stove allows four saucepans/dye colors to be done at one time.
  2. Measure about two cups of water  - or just enough to cover the egg(s) – add one tablespoon of white vinegar for each cup of water. Stir it.
  3. Boil the eggs for 20 minutes and turn the heat off or remove pan from burner.
  4. Check the color of the eggs.  Leave them in the water longer/add more dying material if you would like a deeper value.
  5. You can even leave the eggs in the water overnight if you refrigerate the pan with the water and the eggs. (Cool before putting in your fridge.)

Leaving three eggs  in red cabbage/water overnight (in the fridge) resulted in the gorgeous blue pictured below!


Other Method

Another method is to use the procedure above but without cooking the eggs until you have boiled the material for an hour and strained it.

Once the dyeing material has been boiled and removed by straining, use the water to boil the raw eggs  for 20 minutes.  This probably results in a more solid, uniform color, rather than the “textural” look of our eggs.

I have never tried this.

Perhaps I was too impatient to boil it for an hour….

While You are Waiting

While you are waiting for the eggs to cook/dye to take, you might read and talk about the history of dye creation. Here are a couple of links to get you* started:

General historical info about dye (Science)

Dying silk (Science/history)

The famous “Silk Road” trading route: (History/geography)

*Please do not let your kids loose on links without first taking a thorough look – I did not read every word on every page connected to these.

The Results

When you are done cooking the eggs and you are happy with the color, remove them from the dye water, gently pat dry and refrigerate. The egg carton they came in is a perfect place to keep them. When they have cooled, shine them up with a little vegetable oil to bring out the color.

 Here is a photo of our latest creations:

Our finished product! Naturally dyed Easter eggs!


What About You?

Have you ever dyed your eggs using natural dyes?  How did they turn out? Do you have any dyeing material that you particularly like?

I would love to hear about it!


Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing


Our Favorite Christmas Books

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

This is part of “The Adoration of the Shepherds” by Giorgione

Christmas is the perfect time to be reading living books. Even those of you who are not Charlotte Mason homeschoolers,  please take time during this holiday season to read special books with your children. This is a slightly updated  post, originally written by Beth Hempton, formerly of Epi Kardia. We highly recommend all of the books listed here, so if you are looking for superlative stories for nieces, nephews or your own children, look no further!  –Dana


Some of my most precious Christmas memories revolve around books. Every year, my Mom would unpack her Reader’s Digest collection of Christmas stories and place it on the coffee table. Every year, I would pick up the heavy, hardbound anthology and read it as if I had never read it before. I also had a well worn copy of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and I don’t think a movie version was ever made that rivaled my imagination, which swirled with a combination of frightening images and tender vignettes as Scrooge learned to love and be loved. However, the hands down favorite for me was my father retelling of O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. My father is not a great lover of literature, being much more concerned with science and facts, but for some reason O. Henry’s irony held Dad captive. To this day, it is my favorite O.Henry story and I will never forget how romantic the couple’s sacrificial love seemed to me as an adolescent girl.

Imaginatively illustrated, simply written children’s picture books can create cherished family memories as well as prized gifts. If you’re looking for some new story treasures for your family, consider some of these favorites. You can purchase them from Amazon by simply clicking the links in the titles.

  • Shoemaker Martin written by Leo Tolstoy, illustrated by Bernadette Watts - This picture book actually became one of my favorites after I had my own children, even though it was originally written in the 1800s. The author, Tolstoy, also wrote the most acclaimed novel ever published, War and Peace, and yet, later in life became a Christian and wrote this beloved short story. With the focus on Christ, it’s an ideal story for Christmas although it’s not generally known as a holiday book. Tolstoy’s main point, as presented in this picture book, that Jesus reveals Himself through us in every day life isn’t overly challenging for a young child to understand and yet, it’s an excellent stepping stone for a mature discussion of how the things we do, as believers, affect everyone around us. The illustrations in this particular version are detailed and captivating while the text, translated from Russian, maintains its simplistic story telling quality.
  •  The Gift of the Magi written by O. Henry – O. Henry is another one of those late 1800s story tellers, although he wrote mainly about American life. As I previously noted, this short story holds a special place in my childhood memories. We didn’t have the picture books, when I was a child, now available with their glorious original paintings. Both of the versions that I have read recently, one illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger and the other by P.J. Lynch, are very comparable in their presentations. P.J. Lynch, one of my absolute favorite illustrators (you will see the name several times in this blog alone) and his soft, but realistic paintings almost tell the story on their own. It’s no wonder that Lynch is a two time winner of the prestigious Kate Greenaway award. Yet, Zwerger’s tender illustrations in this particular book actually seem to give off the romantic gaslight qualities of the time period in which the story was written. You’ll have to make the decision or better yet, buy them both! :)
  • We Believe in Christmas written by Karen Kingsbury and illustrated by Daniel J. Brown - This modern picture is ideally suited for younger children. The text clearly expresses one family’s reasons for celebrating Christmas, rather than “the holiday season.” The vivid illustrations with bright colors and a realistic presentation make it easy for younger children to understand. Related Christmas activity: Make a book with your children revealing why your family believes in Christmas. Focus on what your family does each holiday season and how your traditions relate to your family’s belief in Christ and celebrating His birth. It could be as simple as pages stapled together where you write main ideas on each page and your children illustrate them. For a more sophisticated project, an older child could design the book on the computer.
  • The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by P.J. Lynch – Along a similar, but less dark, story line as A Christmas Carol, this is the tale of a reclusive, yet talented, wood cutter who comes to life after being asked to create a Christmas nativity for a mom and her young son. One of my favorite qualities of this story is the flowing language that the author uses including when she describes Toomey, “He went about mumbling and grumbling, muttering and sputtering, grumping and griping.” More creative phraseology occurs when Wojciechowski expresses, “He traveled until his tears stopped.” As usual, Lynch’s illustrations bring life and feeling to the sentimental story with vibrant details including a wood tone shading to match the main character’s gifted profession.
  • The Gift of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus’ Birth written by Dandi Mackall and illustrated by Deborah Chabrian – In this story, a depression era mother shares a family tradition with her son, Jack. The tradition involves baking cookies and giving them to others to share the story of Christ. When Jack receives an angel cookie as his only Christmas gift, he decides to give it to a stranger and share what he believes. Illustrations of warm watercolors appropriately accompany this simple, but essential story and the author even includes a Christmas cookie recipe. Related Christmas activity: Make Christmas cookies of angels and other Christian symbols to take to a homeless shelter, children’s hospital, orphanage or other institution where children can enjoy them while you and your family share this sweet book. You could also leave your copy of the book for the children to read repeatedly.
  • A Christmas Carol written by Charles Dickens and illustrated by P.J. Lynch – Yes, another book illustrated by Lynch!  I would recommend this book for older children due to the seriousness of some of the illustrations. Although the illustrations are darker in places than his other books, this particular story requires them at certain points to maintain the integrity of the original plot.
  • Christmas Day in the Morning written by Pearl S. Buck and illustrated by Mark Buehner – Pearl S. Buck is best known as the author of the classic novel, The Good Earth. This is the first time this story has been published in picture book version since its original conception in 1055 as a short story. Its realistic human qualities feature a teenage boy suddenly discovering how much his father loves him. With that realization, the son works to come up with a gift that his father will truly appreciate. A tie in with the nativity moves this story from a simple feel good plot to the real reason behind Christmas. With sincere expression and homey illustrations, this book is sure to become an inspiration for many children to honor their parents in practical and helpful ways.

I hope that my reviews of these favorites provide you with a tool for choosing some new Christmas books for your family and save you some shopping time this holiday season.

Happy reading and many blessings,