29955-NXRKSTWhat is Advent?

Each year, we celebrate Advent. Advent refers to the “coming” or “arrival” of Jesus Christ and it’s a time when we prepare our hearts for the coming of Christmas and the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas. It varies from 22 to 28 days and ends with Christmas Eve. Many families continue their celebration by lighting the center or Christ candle on Christmas Day.

What does it mean to prepare our hearts for Christmas?

It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of buying gifts, decorating, and visiting with family and friends. None of these things are bad, but we don’t ever want to forget the reason we celebrate Christmas – Jesus’ birth. Advent reminds us to slow down and to spend time in worship and praise to God. Advent is a time of waiting, expectation, and longing. As we wait for Christmas, gather together with those around you to know and experience the presence of Christ.

Join our family as we prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ coming. For ideas on how your family can celebrate Advent, check out the Celebrate Advent pages here or connect with us on Facebook.

“Glory to God in the highest!”



Graphic designed by Freepik

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the puzzle piece perspective – when your child looks all pink

Barbara Newman and CLC Network encourage schools, churches, caregivers, and educators in working with students of all abilities. Whenever I encounter a child who struggles, I remember the “Puzzle Piece Perspective.” It’s a great reminder for when all you can see in your child are the things they struggle with or the things you struggle with seeing in them 🙂

puzzle pieceThe Puzzle Piece Perspective is the idea that God has knit us together with things that we are good at and enjoy (green), and our hot spots—the things that we struggle with (pink). Most of us (if not all) wish we were ALL green, but then we wouldn’t need each other! Each one of us have our greens and pinks, and because of this, each and every one of us have gifts to offer to our communities. Just as puzzle pieces are meant to fit together, each of us are made to come alongside one another and support each other as the Body of Christ.

God doesn’t make mistakes. He made you and he made your child just the way He intended! And it is often in our weaknesses that we see His strength.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14

 So, when we love people as they are, not only are we loving the person who God made, but we are bringing praise to Him!

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you,
in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7

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a new phase

Bethany Durys_Profile pictureAs our children grow, we talk about the different phases they go through. And, it always seems that as soon as we figure out one phase, they have moved onto a new one. Well, my children are now 20 & 21 and I find I am the one in a new phase. It’s not an “empty nest” since Taylor and Emily are still home, but they definitely don’t need me in the ways they once did. I work full-time writing children’s Bible curriculum, but I love to stay busy. So… after Emily graduated from high school, I went back to school and got my Masters in Education. Now that my degree is complete, my thoughts are turning back to We never stop learning, so maybe we have some things you and I can learn together. Let’s see what happens.

If you’re reading this post, join me on Facebook for recommendations of online articles, offers, and opportunities for those who are in education, and quick posts of encouragement and inspiration.


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Try, try, again! A lesson in better communication.

keep-calm-and-respect-each-other-squareHas your sweet little Suzy or your loving Joey ever walked into the room whining and yelling, “Mom! You have to help me find my shoes.” or “Mom! You didn’t wash my uniform!” or, hopefully, you’ve never heard this one. “Mom, I hate you!”? When this happens, do your children get a rise out of you? Have you ever yelled back or at least been tempted to yell back?
I know I have!

A few months ago, I made this suggestion to a friend and last week she told me it has made all the difference in her family, so I thought I would share it with you. Here’s your chance to teach Suzy and Joey how to communicate better. It’s a lesson in “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

When Suzy yells “at” you, she has a concern and for her it’s a big deal. She may not even realize how she sounds. So, instead of yelling back, try this. “Suzy, that’s not the way we talk to each other. Would you like to try that again?” With a little practice, Suzy will get it. When given a second chance, Suzy says, “Mom, will you help me find my shoes?” “Mom, my uniform is dirty. Can you help me?” or “Mom, I was angry when you told my friend I couldn’t go to her party. Why did you do that?” That last one may take a little longer 🙂

There will be times when little Suzy doesn’t want to try it again. Take the time to walk her through it. If she’s very upset, you might try suggesting she take a deep breath. I have, when needed, required my child to leave the room and re-enter. One time, my son had to leave a few times. BUT! It works and it’s lasting! I had very little trouble with disrespect when my children were teens and now young adults. And, what a relief to not have to deal with the temptation of yelling at my children or the yucky feeling I would get when I did yell.

There is no excuse for talking disrespectfully, but children need to be taught better communication.
Start today!

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Making Better Students

Craft Pic_04 April Week 2 without poemAh. If only there was a magic formula for making better students! I am convinced that teaching is one of the most challenging jobs on the planet. Every child is different, every group of children has a different dynamic, and every day holds new challenges and experiences. So, how do we make better students? Well, one way is to make us better teachers. There is always room for improvement, right? Right!

Here are some simple ways to encourage your students’ learning process. These are based on the TESA program which suggested fifteen ways we can better interact with our students.

1. Wait for an answer! How simple is that and yet some teachers struggle with those moments of silence. But, we need to allow students time to think over their answers and to respond. Do you ever get frustrated with your husband because he can’t tell you where he wants to go to dinner or which lawnmower you should purchaser? He may be a processor. Many of our children are processors and they need time to think through the question you have asked. The other key is to not call on the first raised hand. If you have more than one student, make sure several or all of your students know the answer before calling on a student.

2. With praise, give a reason. Don’t just say, “Good job!” or “Great work!” Tell your students what they did that was good. Think of this situation. Four-year-old Amy is coloring a picture of animals in a field. She spends time carefully coloring the trees and the flowers, but then she quickly colors all the animals brown so she can leave the table and go play with blocks. When you look at the picture and say, “Good job!” how is she to know if you like the trees or the animals? Instead, if you say, “Amy, I liked the way you carefully colored the trees and flowers. They look just like the ones at the farm we visited,” then Amy knows what she did that was good. When students know what the preferred behavior is, they are more likely to repeat it.1996 12 Christmas (5)

3. Equitable Distribution of Response Opportunity. These are big words for saying we should make sure everyone has an equal chance of being called on. It’s very easy in a classroom to just call on the children who raise their hands. However, when you do that, you are letting students know if they didn’t prepare for class or don’t feel like answering, then all they need to do is not raise their hand. Instead, we want students to be prepared and engaged in every lesson. A few suggestions: Old school – Have popsicle sticks with each student’s name on them. Each time you ask a question, pull a popsicle stick to choose which student answers. High tech – there are apps that will randomly choose names for you. “Stick Pick” is an app that picks random names for you.

These are some very simple ways of improving student interaction. There are so many more! If you’re interested in additional ways you can better interact with your students, check out this website or this pdf

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Teaching Reading Through Movement

Good day everyone!

If you’re reading this post, I would LOVE for you to post a comment, even if it’s just to say you were here. If you’re willing, let me know who you are, whether you are a parent, homeschooler, and/or teacher, and the age of the children you teach. Do you have any particular questions or areas where you are seeking ideas? Let me know 🙂

Today’s post will be a little shorter than usual. My daughter and I are planning to visit our homeschool group for their Thanksgiving party today.

Veterans-Day-imageFirst of all, a HUGE thank you and God bless to our veterans. They deserve our ever-lasting gratitude. Take some time out of your day today to talk about Veterans’ Day with your children/students. Check out my Memorial Day page for some activity ideas.

I recently had a fellow educator ask me for suggestions for adding movement in her preschool classroom. The aim is teaching reading through movement. Here are some of the suggestions I gave her. What else would you suggest? What activities have you done to help your children or students learn to read? Any favorite books or curriculum? Alphabet Soup

  • Spell out words with their bodies (kind of like the motions to the song YMCA).
  • Make a story fishing game – put several words that could be used to make a story on paper fish. Place a paper clip on each fish and then make fishing rods with magnets on the end. Allow a few children to “catch” a fish and then make a sentence or story out of the words that are caught. You can make it more complicated by placing nouns on one color fish, adjectives on another color, etc. Then, have children catch certain colors.
  • Write each letter for a word on a separate piece of paper. Give the papers to children to hold as the other children sound out the word. Depending on the age, you could mix up the letters and have the children get them in order.
  • When my kids were young, they loved rhyming words. Write two words that rhyme on a sheet of paper. Cut a jagged or wavy line between the two words. Make several sets, cutting a different jagged line on each paper. Give each child a word (making sure someone else has the rhyming word). On your signal, everyone has to find their partner (the child whose word rhymes with theirs). They should be able to confirm they have their match if the lines on their papers match. Play as long as you like 🙂
  • Alpha-Bits cereal used to be a winner. It’s hard to find sometimes. Cheeze-It has crackers with letters now. There are also alphabet pasta.
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Teaching is cool!

file0001694774604You might say teaching is in my blood; whether it’s history, science, the Bible, or soccer, I love teaching. When I was in 9th grade, I got my first teaching “gig” in children’s church. I can remember teaching eleven two-year-olds all by myself. Today, we would never even let an adult take on a two-year-old class without help! But, things were different thirty years ago. Since then, I have found somewhere to teach wherever I was and wherever life took me.

For the last fifteen years, I have had the ultimate teaching gig of teaching my own two children. And when you homeschool, you often are teaching more than just your own. I have taught classes in electricity, soccer, physics, world history, American history, government, finance, plants, animals, rocketry, music theater, drama, computers, and more – I came up with 41 different topics that I could remember.

So, now what? I thought about continuing to teach homeschool students, but my full-time job makes it difficult. Maybe I just need to take a break from teaching? Well… that lasted for two months and I got bored. I even started my Masters in Education to further what I know about teaching. But… I still missed actually teaching.

Craft Pic_03 Mar Week 4

So, for the last few weeks, I have been teaching four-year-olds in children’s church and I love it. I find myself telling my family stories of the children I meet each week. I wake up thinking about the lesson and wondering what I could have done better. In my mind, I run through mental photos of each of the children in the class and recite their names.

Not everyone loves teaching and that’s OK. But, I have also met some people who think they can’t do it. Maybe they think teaching requires formal education or maybe they are afraid they won’t do a good job. For those who do try and who are willing to ask for advice, they do a great job. Above all, teaching requires caring about people.

Find the age group that you enjoy most, whether it is preschool, elementary, middle school, high school, college and career, or adult, and consider teaching somewhere, wherever you are and wherever life has taken you. If you’re not ready to teach, then volunteer to help a teacher. Along the way, I have had some great helpers and they can make a difference between an OK class and a great class.

Teaching takes you outside yourself and requires you to pour yourself into the life of another person. It is awesome and amazing. Teaching is cool!

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High-Achievers: Helping Children to Excel

“Happier than a camel on hump day.” That’s how I’m feeling as I’m past the half-way point in my second of ten masters courses. The course is “Theories of Teaching and Learning” and it’s been a great course. One of the books we’ve read is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell asks “What makes high-achievers different?” A best seller and a fascinating book, he explores how the month or year you were born in, the events that happen in your life time, your culture, your opportunities, and your upbringing all have an effect on your success. For the purposes of this article, success is defined as excelling in your field, whatever field that may be: business, computers, sports, music, etc.outliers

One of the goals of the book is to understand that we can help children to excel; that a child’s success is not dependent on a high IQ or a natural talent or skill. In most cases, success is the result of lots and lots of hard work. In fact, researchers believe the magic number for true expertise is ten thousand hours. Ten thousand! To put that into perspective, a person spending twenty hours a week, fifty weeks a year learning to play the piano, would have to do so for ten years to reach 10,000 hours. And yet, that’s what researchers have found to be true when they study concert pianists, basketball players, dancers, writers, computer programmers, etc.

That amount of work takes an extraordinary amount of dedication and love for what you do. We may not all have that kind of focus; I know I don’t. However, books like Outliers encourage us to realize we have the power to change our life or the lives of our children. Just giving children the opportunity to explore their passions and to spend time learning about them can give them an advantage.

One of the first things Gladwell mentions is that children who are seen as talented or smart at a young age begin to receive extra attention and advantages which means they get continue to excel. For many children, they are seen as more talented or smarter than their peers only because they are a few months older. In the preschool years, children change and grow very quickly. A child who is 3 1/2 may be far above a child who is 3. So, delaying a child’s entrance into school for a year can take them from being a struggling student and even a struggling adult to one who is successful. Personally, I’ve met a few adults (men and women) who feel their early entrance to school was a mistake; they were always behind their peers. I’m not sure we take this into consideration as much as we should when enrolling children in school.

There’s so much more I could say. I’ll leave you with one thought. What is the one area where your learner struggles most? For many, it’s math. We wish every child was just naturally good at math, but that’s often not the case. That doesn’t mean they can’t be good at math. Gladwell would argue that with more time and more opportunities, any child can be good at math, or sports, or whatever their struggle is. That doesn’t mean you lock them in their room to do math for twenty hours a week for the next ten years. Learners learn best in a positive environment where they feel supported and encouraged. Learning needs to be meaningful. How do you make calculus meaningful? I have no idea! LOL. But, you can give your learner a strong start. Don’t give up on them when it gets tough. They CAN do it with help and time!


Gladwell, M. (2011). Outliers: the story of success. New York: Back Bay Books.

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Movement and Learning: Grow a Better Brain!

1999 Taylor and Emily in the park in Bradford, PA (5)-001

Did you know that movement may
grow a better brain? It can! Recent research has demonstrated that movement can strengthen learning,improve memory and the retrieval of those memories, and enhance motivation and morale (Jensen, 2005, p. 60).

Do you have a learner who is struggling? Or, maybe your learner is doing great, but you want to give him or her every advantage possible. “Have I got a deal for you!” No expensive tutor or curriculum necessary, just get your learner moving!

Here’s what the research is showing (Jensen, p. 60-68):

  • “Students who are engaged in daily physical education programs consistently show not just superior motor fitness but better academic performance and a better attitude toward school.”
  • “Exercise improves classroom behavior and academic performance.”
  • Playground activities such as swinging, rolling, and jumping cause “significant gains in attention and reading.”
  • “‘Loss’ in study time spent in P.E. did not translate into lower academic scores.”
  • Movement and learning are both processed in the same part of the brain, the cerebellum.
  • Children who do something physical every day are seen to have “positive changes in self-discipline, grades, and a sense of purpose in life.”
  • “Playing active games, will activate the brain across a wide variety of areas.”
  • “Moderate exercise enhances cognitive processing. It also increases the number of brain cells.”
  • “Exercise may grow a better brain!”

So, they jury is in. Get up and move and include movement in your daily class time learning, not just P.E., organized sports, and playground time. So, how do you include movement in history, math, science, or english? Well, I’m glad you asked! Here are a few ideas to… get you moving!!

  • Build historical buildings out of Legos or paper bags stuffed with newspaper.
  • Use pipe cleaners or licorice and marshmallows to build DNA.
  • Spell words using your body to make the letters.
  • Give math quizzes standing up. Send children to the other end of the room. With each question they answer correctly, they move one step closer to you. When they can reach you, they quiz is over.
  • Hide an object that is related to the lesson for children to find. When it’s found, have them guess how it relates to the lesson.
  • Take a brain break (which have also been shows to help grow a better brain) and get up and dance. Find songs related to your lesson. YouTube is a great place to find songs.
  • Add competitive games or relay races to your day.
  • Create a cheer related to your lesson.
  • Act out a history event.
  • Make a life-size Candy Land game using concepts from your lesson. For example, if you were studying the brain, you might have Cerebellum Castle, Thalamus Woods, and Amygdala Mountains. Well, you get the idea.
  • Toss a ball, asking learners to name one of the 50 states or a state with its capital each time they catch the ball.
  • Create a sand box dig and bury objects related to the lesson.
  • Take a nature walk. Collect items or take pictures of wildlife. Have learners sketch a favorite plant or animal. Afterward, identify the objects you found and the pictures you took. Create a nature notebook.

Have you got the idea? Now, step away from your computer. Candy Crush and Facebook can wait ;). Get your kids moving and grow a better brain!



Jensen, E. (2005). Teaching with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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Know Your Child’s Learning Style and Your Own!

2011_0528 Taylor's Scout Project (21)Are you a visual learner? Auditory? Tactile-kinesthetic? Did you know the curriculum you choose and your teaching style is often a reflection of your preferred learning style? If the children you teach are struggling with the curriculum you have chosen or don’t seem to be catching on to what you are teaching, they may have a different learning style.

Whether you are a teacher, a parent, and/or a homeschooler, knowing the preferred learning style of the children you teach AND YOUR OWN learning style will help you know how to best reach and teach your children. The three learning styles are VISUAL, AUDITORY, AND TACTILE-KINESTHETIC. Most people learn best through a combination of the three. The more senses you can involve in the learning process, the more you are likely to learn. It is also important to use all three; use it or lose it. However, knowing your children’s primary learning style will help them thrive and enjoy learning.

When my kids were younger, I used to hear from the other end of the house, “Mom, I don’t know how to answer this question. ‘If Chris has $5 and Cheryl has $10 and they want to buy ice cream for all their friends and ice cream cones are 32 cents and the sky is blue and they don’t know what the exchange rate is for yen, how many friends do they have?’

DSCF2088Well, at least that is what the problem sounded like to me. I am a VISUAL learner and asking me to process a question like that without seeing it is likely to cause my head to explode. Over and over they would do this, risking the fate of their poor mother! Then one day, I was talking about learning styles with Emily and we determined she was a visual learner. After we talked a little while about what that meant, I told her I was a visual learner too and that was why I needed them to show me their math when they needed help. The light went on! Woohoo! And my brain was saved (at least from the dangers of word problems).

Which brings up a good point. It is important not only for you to know everyone’s learning style, but talk with your children about learning styles as well. Knowing their preferred learning style can open a whole new world for them. For example, if often asked to sit still, this can be discouraging and they may feel they are bad students. If they understand they are tactile-kinesthetic, then you can help them develop strategies for times when they are supposed to be sitting.

So, what are the three learning styles?

Visual learners prefer to see to learn. They like to read, watch a demonstration or a movie, and learn with charts, graphs, and pictures. They may have difficulty taking notes from a lecture. They may appear to not be paying attention because looking straight at the person who is teaching is distracting to them.

Auditory learners prefer to hear to learn. They like to be read to, they prefer lectures or audio recordings over reading. They may need to recite lists out loud or have music on in the background. They may have difficulty taking tests.

Tactile-kinesthetic learners need to touch and move. Their best mode of learning is hands-on. They like to experiment, take things apart and (hopefully) put them back together. They often have difficulty sitting still in class.

Even with these brief descriptions, can you identify the children you know? Yourself? Use this quick inventory to determine the learning styles of you and the children you teach. There are only 24 questions so don’t put it off! Learning Style Inventory

There is SO much more to know about each type of learner. Here are several links related to testing for and understanding learning styles.
Awesome and fun video on learning styles starring Rain Man, Kung Fu Panda, and My Fair Lady.
Another fun video on learning styles, superheroes and villains included!
The 3 Basic Learning Styles: How Do You Learn Best?
Understanding Learning Styles
Helpful Tips for Studying
Homework Help
12 Ways to Teach Visual Learners

Want more ideas on how to help your learners?
Google the words: how to help visual learners
Google the words: how to help auditory learners
Google the words: how to help tactile-kinesthetic learners

Please feel free to post your learning style in the comments below. If you need or have suggestions for curriculum or teaching ideas for a particular learning style, post that as well!

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