Archive for Family Traditions

What to Do with Summer Vacation, Part 7: Audiobooks

At our house, summer is prime audiobook time.  We love reading silently and aloud, but one of our favorite things to do is to just sit down, turn on an audiobook, and color or do puzzles.  We buy a lot of Dover historical coloring books for school, and when we sorted through our school bins at the end of the year, I pulled out all of the half-completed coloring books and put them in a stack (along with our beloved Prismacolors) for easy, breezy summer coloring sessions.  I’m a big believer in not forcing writing too early, and I’m a big fan of developing those writing muscles through coloring and drawing.  No pre-writing worksheets here–just quality colored pencils, lots of scratch paper and coloring books, and audiobooks!

Here are some of our current favorites.  (See here for my suggestions–and Anna’s–from a few years ago.)  Don’t forget to check your library’s overdrive or Hoopla Digital to stream many of these for free!

Swallows and Amazons is our family’s favorite series.  At this point, it’s up there with Narnia in how it is shaping our family culture.  Set in the Lake District in England in the 1930s, it follows the adventures of two groups of siblings whose parents have allowed them to mess around in sailboats during their summer holidays.  Further along in the 12 book series, we meet new characters, and they have other adventures (building an igloo over the winter holidays, mining for gold, saving birds along a river, accidentally going to sea), but the common thread is their delightful imagination.  I can’t tell you how much I love the parents in these books (some of my favorites in all of literature), too.

We read/listened to The Cricket in Times Square for a summer book club with friends last week, and this sweet story of talking animals who help a struggling newsstand hits all the same notes of our beloved Charlotte’s Web.  My ten year old finds it hilarious, and my four year old came home from book club and took my phone up to my room and proceeded to listen through the book one and a half more times in one sitting.  The girls want to listen to it every night.  I think we’re approaching obsession level.

Okay, this is the book cover for The Railway Children, which you should all own, but you don’t need to buy the audiobook–get it from free at loyalbooks, where it’s read for free (thanks to the librivox project) by Karen Savage.  I prefer the loyalbooks interface to librivox itself, but you can search for it both places.  This volunteer reader does justice to one of my all-time favorite children’s books.  When their father is unjustly imprisoned for a crime, three children in Edwardian England have to move with their mother to the countryside, where they make friends and have adventures in and around the nearby railway station.  Delightful sibling dynamics, fun side characters, and a wonderfully happy ending.

E. Nesbit was not a part of my childhood, but she’s quickly becoming one of our family’s favorite authors.  Five Children and It is more fantasy than The Railway Children, with a sand fairy who grants wishes to a family of children, one per day.  Of course the wishes never turn out as the children intend, and all sorts of crazy adventures follow!  Because there’s a good mix of brothers and sisters, this one captures the attention of my son and my daughters.  (Sarah Mackenzie of Read-Aloud Revival explains how to get this particular recording-and many other classics-for cheap from Audible.  Or find it for free at your library!)

My girls just love, love, love All-of-a-Kind Family (and its sequels), read by Suzanne Toren.  Following the adventures of a Jewish family of five girls in turn-of-the-century New York City, this series is both sweet, funny, engaging, and a great look into a different culture than ours.  I know for a fact that you can stream it on Hoopla.

All four of my kids adored The Wizard of Oz when we read it together this spring.  And they find Anne Hathaway’s audio version hilarious.  She does great voices and really brings the story to life.  I’m still searching for an equally engaging reader for the next few books in the series.

And I might have done this before, but I want to put in a big plug for KayRay Reads to You.  She is lady who loves to read aloud, and she has recorded sooo many great books (for free!) on librivox (public domain books) and her own website (newer books–note, she doesn’t always edit out the coughs and things, which we don’t mind since it makes them feel real to us).  You can subscribe to her podcast in itunes or just visit her site to download your favorites.  My son is perpetually listening through her Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy and has recently gotten into the Dark is Rising series, and my girls love Betsy-Tacy (and sequels) as much as I do, thanks to KayRay.  She has a great Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and…well, I’ll stop myself.  Go visit her site.  It’s a treasure trove of great children’s literature.

 

Does your family use audiobooks?  What are your favorites?

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Posted in Family Traditions, Home Life, Homeschooling, Reading | 1 Comment

Memorizing Scripture With Kids

One of our family’s biggest goals is having our children memorize lots and lots of scripture. We used to do single verses (and start with the excellent ABC Bible verses when our kids are preschoolers), but Anna told me several years ago that her family was having success learning bigger chunks together. Since Anna and I actually memorized some pretty great chunks together in college—Proverbs 31, Ephesians 1, Romans 8, a few Psalms—I figured we’d try it with T, too. After working through some Psalms, my husband decided we should tackle a Gospel. We memorize in the ESV, as we find it to be readable and accurate, and most of the churches we’ve been a part of have made the move to the ESV. Currently, my son and I are memorizing the gospel of Mark, just finishing up chapter 6. Since my oldest daughter joined us for formal school this year, she jumped in with us on the story of the healing of Jairus’ daughter in 5.

What we do is simply take a new verse every school day and repeat it until it is memorized. On Fridays, we cycle through and review the previous chapters we’ve learned. It’s simple, but a few of you have asked for more details. Here’s what we do.

I have written out each verse in our school planner, so after we’ve started our day with prayer, I read it out loud to the kids several times. If there are any new words they don’t understand (last week, it was “overhearing”), I stop and explain the meaning to them. Once they feel comfortable, they start saying pieces of it along with me. Then we break it up and say phrases back and forth to each other, taking turns. Then we do one word at a time, with me pointing to each of us when it’s our turn to say the next word. Once we feel pretty confident, we lock it in by saying it in different silly voices: cowboy, princess, pirate, lego micromanager, robot, British accent, lion, mouse, Valley girl, opera singer. On days when they have the sillies, I have them clap each syllable as we say it. Or we sing and dance each word. Or hop or skip or march each word. Often, if it’s a bit convoluted (“to Caperneum, and Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and around Tyre and Sidon”), we’ll use hand or finger motions to help keep the phrases straight.

Finally, we put it in context, backing up a couple verses in the chapter and adding our new verse to the end. If the verse breaks off mid-sentence (or if it’s so long that we needed to divide it up between two days), I’ll finish by reading what’s coming next.

All in all, it usually takes less than 10 minutes. Throughout the rest of the day, we’ll often to ESV verses set to music (Seeds Family Worship or Fighter Verse songs) or just to You’ve Got the Time (an audio version of the NT, read aloud with some sound effects in 30 minute podcast segments). We don’t formally work to memorize those verses, but it’s amazing how well they get hidden in our hearts, too.

Posted in Family Traditions, Home Life, Homeschooling | Leave a comment

Happy New Year!

Happy 2015, dear readers!  Anna and I will be back with regularly scheduled blogging next week, but in the meantime, I wanted to share with you a lovely idea from one of my dear childhood mentors who took me out for tea while I was back home.

What do you do with Christmas cards at the end of the season?  I let the kids do one last look through, replace the pictures of our best friends on the fridge, then trash everything else.  But my friend Martha suggests taking time as a family to go through and pray for every family represented.  I love this idea, particularly as Christmas cards in our stage of life are full of new baby and new job announcements!

Now back to unpacking after three weeks on the road…

Posted in Family Traditions | 2 Comments

Kids in Church

This week, we’re talking about church strategies for kids. As Emily mentioned on Monday, a lot of how you handle where your kids are while you worship depends on the church you’re in. Some church have all-family worship and no nursery, some have a limited nursery, and others will have full children’s church up through a certain age. We have been at churches with all three of these options, and that has taught us a lot about how we want our kids to worship with us.

At our church currently, there is a nursery available until your kids are five or six years old, at which point they are expected to stay in the service. We like this model a lot; it allows us to have our older kids in the service (and their friends in the service as well), but takes the pressure off of us for keeping track of the little ones during worship. We have a one-year-old and a three-year-old that both spend the entire service in the nursery. Our church is small, so they’ve grown to know the regular workers and really enjoy the time in the nursery. I’ve found that not having them allows me to concentrate on worship. Our five-year-old stays with us for the first half of the service. Right before the sermon, I slip out with her and take her to the nursery. She loves going down and seeing her siblings, and it’s helpful for the nursery workers to have her come in half-way through and break up the time for my littlest ones.

Our three oldest children stay with us the entire service. Our oldest, who’s eleven, can follow along in the bulletin, finding the hymns himself in the hymnal and reading along with the responsive readings. Our next two have a harder time doing this independently, so my husband and I keep and eye on them, making sure they’re participating. For the sermon, we have different expectations for each age group. Our oldest is expected to listen and take notes, and be able to tell us some of the main points at home. For our nine-year-old, we don’t ask that she take notes, but that she remember some of the points for us. And our seven-year-old is allowed to doodle on the bulletin. I find that even though she looks like she’s not paying attention, she can usually pick out a couple things to tell us after the service as well.

For us, church is always a bit of a hard parenting situation. We try to train our children both to love church, and that there are some very firm rules about behavior in and at church. This type of instruction is not without it’s grumpy looks and bad attitudes when we give a specific instruction they don’t like (“you may not run and yell in the sanctuary, even after church”). We’re always trying to walk the line between showing where the firm boundaries are, and helping them love being there. In many ways, it seems like a lot of other areas of parenting for me: we’re hopeful, that as we train and teach boundaries with rules that seem strict to some, our kids will learn to love and reverence the church and her people.

Posted in Family Traditions, Parenting | Leave a comment
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