Monday, November 21, 2016

About Santa....

Did you know that the modern Santa Clause has his origins in the life of a real man?  Did you know there really was a Saint Nicholas?  We don't "do" Santa in our home, but we do have fun with Saint Nicholas day...a fun tradition I celebrated as a child.  It's a great opportunity for studying a bit of church history, looking at how other countries celebrate Christmas, and talking about how we get some of our legends and stories.  Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6th.

The little red book is "The True Story of Saint Nicholas" and is one of our favorites.  I love all of the Children's books by Voice of the Martyrs including "The Story of St. Nicholas."  This one gives more of the details of his involvement in the early church, which we like.

I love that we can keep this such a simple celebration if we want.  We generally just put a candy cane, chocolate coins, a clementine (or cutie, halo...whatever they're called this season) and usually some Kinder Chocolate in their shoes.  I love hearing my kids list off the things they know will be stuffed in their shoes, it's so simple, but they are still so very excited.  Sometimes we surprise them with some extras too.

In recent years we started doing a big meal with our favorite German and Polish foods.  This is a fun way to celebrate our family's roots as well as those Eastern European countries that claim connections to Saint Nicholas.

We've found that doing Saint Nicholas Day helps our children that had (in the past) struggled with informing other children that "there is no Santa" to understand that there really had been one long ago.  We've also seen other families be able to ease their children out of believing in Santa without the harsh reality that mom and dad had been lying to them.  This reality can be so hard on children, and also cause them to question many truths that their parents have told them.  I love the balance that Saint Nicholas gives in this area and we're able to look at what a blessing it is to be able to give to others during this season too.  This is a season for celebrating the BEST GIFT EVER....Jesus Christ and HIS saving grace!  He gave us so much and we can celebrate by giving to others.

If you are interested in more books about Saint Nicholas here are some recommendations....Saint Nicholas; The Real Story of a Christmas Legend and The Baker's Dozen; A Saint Nicholas Tale are a couple favorites around here.  I'm looking at Nicholas of Myra and The Saint who would be Santa Clause as possible additions for this year (we've not read them yet though).

***I'm an Amazon Affiliate.  If you shop through my links I'll get a itty-bit of extra cash that I'll likely use to buy another book for my kids.  The books I've linked to are ones we either already own, or would like to have.***

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Teaching character and honesty

I was asked recently if we have any books that we use for teaching character and honesty.  Whew, that one is a tough one!  This is one of the most important jobs a parent has, to teach these things.  I think it is really one that must be lived out as we talk to our children about the choices we are making in life.  As we live our our faith.  Even as we model these things for our kids (and share our failures and the consequences as well) outside influences and their own sin natures come into play.  Our children will struggle and fail in some way or another; just as we have.  These are opportunities to grow and learn.  As parents we are responsible for our own obedience to God in teaching and training the children He has given us.  We are not responsible for their salvation, only the Holy Spirit can do that work.

Our first resource in teaching our children should always be the Bible.  Reading through the Bible as a family is HUGE.  I highly recommend reading through the Bible as a family chronologically.  We've been using this plan for about 7 years now.  For help on specific topics, walking through The Gospel, and character building I really like The Child Training Bible.  I use it in our circle time regularly to just go through the verses to remind us of what the Bible says about various topics, but also when dealing with specific issues privately with a child.

As parents we must consider what is going into their hearts and minds.  What are they watching, reading, and what games are they playing.  Who are they interacting with?  Who are their friends, teachers, etc?  All of these things contribute to the condition of their heart. If you feel that you must remove some of those influences I highly recommend finding something good to replace what you are taking away.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

But the things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.  Matthew 15:18

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things. Philippians 4:8

As for book recommendations....the best I can do is recommend some books that we've enjoyed that reenforce honesty and good/godly character.  Pilgrim's Progress is a great one; there are many versions including children's and updated easier to read ones.  We've loved so many Lamplighter Books all of them have reenforced some character trait that we desire to teach our children.  They can be rather expensive, but Amazon does have some at lower prices than if you but directly from Lamplighter.  Some great Lamplighters to start with would be Teddy's Button, Tom Gillies,  Basil (Or, Honesty and Industry), Little Sir Galahad, and The White Knights.  All of these books make great family reading books, but many of my kids have read them on their own as well.

If your child is not so excited about reading old time books and would like something more contemporary I highly recommend the many books by Chuck Black; there's The Kingdom Series, The Knights of Arrethtrae Series, and the Wars of the Realm Series (this series is for more mature children...they recommend 13+ years).

I also highly recommend reading biographies of those that have gone before us.  Heroes of the Christian faith, we love the YWAM ones.  Reading about how others have run the race and some of their struggles can be very encouraging.  The story of John Bunyan could be a very encouraging one to a child that is having a rough time, to know that a great man of God struggled greatly.

This is hardly a complete list, but hopefully it provides a good start.  Often we find great books by looking one up on Amazon and looking at the recommendations that follow (it doesn't always work out, but it's a great place to start looking for more).

*I'm an Amazon affiliate.  If you shop through some of these links I'll make an itty bit of a commission on the sale which I'll likely spend on more books. ;) 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Thanksgiving reading

We spend the month of November reading about the Pilgrims.  I love that we've just finished our Reformation reading which is a GREAT lead in to our Thanksgiving reading.  Understanding a bit about the Reformation and the circumstances that lead to the Pilgrims making that voyage to settle in America helps us to better grasp the great work God was doing.  As we understand their risks and hardships we are better able to be thankful for the freedoms we enjoy and the gifts God has given us.
I think it's been discontinued; but if you can find them the Fisher Price Little People Mayflower and Thanksgiving sets are great sets to have for this time of year.

We start with this basic board book.  Its a great overview for the little ones.

I love that The Landing of the Pilgrims gives a great amount of background and detail to better understand their motivations and what they went through to get to America.  I'm thinking it's about 6th grade level, but we use it as a read aloud.

 I absolutely love the book by Eric Metaxas Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving.  It tells how God took something evil and (through His providence) brought Squanto to the Pilgrims to help them survive.

We have several other books that are greatly enjoyed as well.  They range from educational to devotional and even just plane silly.  The educational ones are The Pilgrims' First Thanksgiving, A Light Kindled; The Story of Priscilla Mullins, and Three Young Pilgrims.  This book is new to us and I'm looking forward to going through it with the kids...Thanksgiving; A Time To Remember.  For myself I like to pull out Choosing Gratitude every year; I seem to need it. ;)  The Night Before Thanksgiving is just a fun one that sweetly captures the feeling of excitement as family gathers to celebrate.