the learning house

where everyone (especially me!) is learning . . .

A Privilege???

My husband and I have lived in Mongolia for more than 8 years now. Eight years . . . that’s a long time. Yet that’s how long it took me realize something very important about missions and about our calling to be here. For years I have heard my husband, George, when talking to folks about ‘what we do’ here, say, “It’s a privilege.” I would think to myself, “Well, that sure sounds nice and humble.” But I don’t think I ever really ‘got’ it. I mean, I don’t think that “privilege” is the word I would have used myself. Did I really feel like it was a privilege to leave friends, family, and all that is familiar, comfortable and convenient to go live in a foreign country where I would experience culture shock and basically have to learn to talk all over again? If I were honest, I’d have to say no. A different word was stuffed deep down in my heart where I wouldn’t actually say it out loud for fear of not sounding Godly and humble . . . sacrifice. (See everything I’m giving up for you, God? )

My attitude, perspective, and heart changed last week though. Why last week after 8 long years here? Because last week the rug was almost pulled out from under our feet. Last week, Immigration attempted to shut us down. Last week the threat of having our visas revoked and having to leave immediately was very real. We had a short-term team of 17 people here – all of their passports were confiscated. For the following 24 hrs our fate was up in the air as interrogations, accusations, interviews, and meetings took place. And prayer. Much prayer. Crying out to God to have mercy and allow us the privilege of us serving here longer. I wasn’t ready to start packing. I didn’t want to leave. There’s still so much to do! We aren’t finished yet! We just started building the medical clinic. Please let us finish this, God! It was in the midst of these cries that it dawned on me . . . being here really IS a privilege. Missions IS a privilege. Serving God, wherever you are, IS a privilege. Unfortunately it took almost having it taken away for me to realize it.

To make a long story short, prayer warriors rallied, intercession was made, and God answered prayer – our Governor and a Member of Parliament ended up backing us and our work (because of the positive impact our center has on the community, the relief work we do, and the medical clinic we’re building) and even threatened the Immigration official that there would be trouble for him if he didn’t back off.

Pheeeeeeewww. *Deep breath* *Sigh of relief* And a new perspective. A new attitude. Gratitude for the privilege it is to be here for one more day, week, month or year.

Construction is under way for the new medical clinic!

Construction is under way for the new medical clinic!

What are you taking for granted in your life? Pray for a new perspective and a heart of gratitude. :)

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To Infinity and Beyond!

I decided to finish off our year with a unit all about Outer Space. It was out of this world fun! I’ll say right upfront that I got most of my ideas for crafts, activities, from these two sites: Prekinders & Mrs. Karen’s Preschool Ideas. And this site has some really fun outer space songs that helped us learn the names of all the planets.

Verse of the Week:

Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you shining stars ~ Psalm 148:3

Day 1 – The Sun: We learned what it’s made of, how big it is, why we need it, why we have day & night, etc. Then we did this fun fiery sun craft.

fiery sun

fiery sun

Step 1: paint on a white circle

Step 1: paint on a white circle

Step 2: cover with saran wrap and squish the paint around

Step 2: cover with saran wrap and squish the paint around

Step 3: Place on black paper and add the rays

Step 3: Place on black paper and add the rays

This is our sun snack made with crackers, cheese, and pretzels:

sun snack

sun snack

Day 2 – Other Stars: We learned more about stars and constellations. Then we made our own constellations with star stickers and white chalk. Jorja especially loved this one.

connecting the 'dots' to make a constellation

connecting the ‘dots’ to make a constellation

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Day 3 – The Moon: We learned about the moon and space travel and watched some videos online of the space shuttle launch and astronauts on the moon! Then we made name rockets. We did a lot of countdowns this week!

Joseph's name rocket

Joseph’s name rocket

Days 4 & 5 – Planets: We watched more online videos about our Solar System and the planets. We made this orbiting planets craft (I got the idea & free printable from this site). The sun is attached with a brad/fastener so that you can turn the black part with the planets on it to make them ‘orbit’ around the sun!

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We had a really fun week learning about Outer Space. I hope that understanding more about our universe – the vastness, the intricacies, the mystery & wonder of it all – will inspire our children to worship the One who created it and set it all in motion. Praise Him, sun & moon; Praise Him, all you shining stars!

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I Like Bugs!

Round bugs. Shiny bugs. Fat bugs. Buggy bugs. I like bugs! . . . OK, let’s be honest – I don’t really like bugs. BUT my kiddos think they’re pretty neat and so that was our theme this week :) First, we got out the magnifying glass and went for another nature walk – this time looking for bugs to inspect . . .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(As you can see, Jorja was dressed for the occasion ;))

One of our favorite bug books this week was The Mixed-up Caterpillar by Annie Kubler. After reading it, we did this caterpillar-to-butterfly paint craft . . .

place blobs of paint in the center fold - this is the caterpillar . . .

place blobs of paint in the center fold – this is the caterpillar . . .

Then fold the paper over and scrape the paint outward from the center toward the edges of the paper (making wings).

open the paper and voila! a beautiful butterfly! Jorja's expression says it all.

Open the paper and voila! A beautiful butterfly! Jorja’s expression says it all.

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Here are some of the other buggy crafts we did . . . easy craft stick dragonflies . . .

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These yarn butterflies were also easy to make – you can see the full instructions on this site.

yarn butterfly craft

yarn butterfly craft

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And finally, we made bubble wrap bee hives and thumbprint bumblebees.

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Bug Math: I also incorporated the bug theme into our math lessons by using bug stamps to stamp the answers. I did three different sheets.

  1. Ladybugs on leaves.
  2. Dragonflies on frogs.
  3. Butterflies on flowers.

For Joseph, I just wrote a number on each flower/frog/leaf and he had to stamp the corresponding number of bugs. For Jorja, I wrote simple addition/subtraction problems. Here is what they look like.

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stamping butterflies on the flowers

stamping butterflies on the flowers

stamping dragonflies on frogs (feeding them!)

stamping dragonflies on frogs (feeding them!)

We finished off our bug week by watching the animated movie A Bug’s Life :)

Now, what to do for our last week??? Any good ideas for a theme for next week???

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Dr. Seuss Crafts & Activities

Our theme this week was Dr. Seuss! We read several Dr. Seuss books and did some activities based on a few of our favorites. The first one we did is this hand-print fish craft for One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.

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Next, after reading The Foot Book, we made Our Family Foot Book. I found this idea here and thought it was so cute that I copied it word for word. The kids loved having their feet painted and they thought it was fun that Mommy’s and Daddy’s feet are in the book too! Here are some sample pages so you can see how it turned out.

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Next we took a survey to see what everyone’s favorite Dr. Seuss book is, and then we graphed the results. (Check off ‘math’ for the week. Ha ha, we’re losing a little momentum due to warmer weather and the need for fun in the sun.)

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And finally, we did this simple hand-print Thing One & Thing Two craft.

Thing 1 & Thing 2

Thing 1 & Thing 2

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And now the kids are curled up on the bed watching Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax :)

So what’s your favorite Dr. Seuss book?

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Signs of Spring

This week’s theme was Signs of Spring. I don’t know why, but I need a theme and since we are all out of letters, this is what I came up with :)

So at the beginning of the week we went on a nature walk to look for signs of spring. Even though we pretty much visited our usual stomping grounds, call it a ‘nature walk’ and the kid get very excited! Some of our observations included green grass where there was none just a week ago, buds on tree branches, lots of ants, bees, butterflies, birds chirping, dandelions, and buttercups.

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When we got back home I asked the kids to draw a picture showing the various signs of spring that they had observed. (The scribbles in the top right corner are not a failed attempt at writing a name – they are music notes which represent the birds chirping.)

signs of spring that we saw on our nature walk

signs of spring that we saw on our nature walk

We also made these Spring is Here pictures with foam stickers.

spring is here!

spring is here!

We didn’t do very many crafts this week because I couldn’t resist taking the kids outside to play for hours and soak up some sun (and Vitamin D!) each afternoon. But even while we were playing outside, the teacher in me couldn’t resist creating some educational games using sidewalk chalk. For Jorja I made a sidewalk chalk math game. I drew a flower and wrote the numbers 1-10 in each petal. I would say a simple math equation (like 5+2 or 3+3) and she had to hop to the right answer.

sidewalk chalk math

sidewalk chalk math

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For Joseph I made a sidewalk chalk reading game. I drew a flower (in case you hadn’t guessed, that’s about the only thing I can draw!) and wrote “at” in the center, then put “at” words (mat, rat, hat, etc.) in the petals. He had to hop to whichever word I called out.

sidewalk chalk reading game

sidewalk chalk reading game

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Some Mongolian kids were watching us with fascination and I wondered if they thought we were weird or something, but when we were finished they started playing our game and practicing their English! I couldn’t resist taking a picture :)

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We had a really great week enjoying the warmth and beauty of Spring.

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Reflections

Although we’re not technically finished the school year, coming to the end of our Letter of the Week lessons has felt like a tremendous accomplishment and success! To celebrate, the kids and I took a week off and went to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, for a mini-vacation. The weather could not have been more perfect – it was the first really warm week that we have had this year. We had a fantastic time visiting with friends and playing outdoors at various playgrounds and parks.

Children's Park in Ulaanbaatar

Children’s Park in Ulaanbaatar

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at the top of the Ferris Wheel

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Coming to the end of the alphabet caused me to reflect a little on our year and all that we have accomplished. We did so much more than just learn the ABC’s!

For each letter of the alphabet we also memorized a Bible verse from Sing the Word from A-Z. This was a wonderful tool for helping our children hide God’s word in their hearts and it nearly always led to a lesson either about God’s character, love, and grace or how we should live in response to His love and sacrifice for us. It’s such a joy to hear my kids singing these songs!

And why stop at a verse for each letter of the week??? Why not add some geography, culture, religion and missiology too? We got all of this and more from the fascinating book, From Akebu to Zapotec: A Book of Bibleless Peoples. This study helped my children begin to learn some basic world geography, to understand how big our world is, to realize the diversity of the cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles that exist in our world, and most importantly to develop a heart for the lost and see a need for missions and sharing the Good News with people who have never before heard of Jesus Christ. (We also added an animal study to this by learning about an animal indigenous to each region.)

It’s neat to look back and see the progress that Jorja and Joseph have each made . . . since September, Joseph has learned each letter and it’s sound, learned to write his name, learned to count accurately and recognize the numbers up to 20, learned to hold a pencil/marker correctly and to color without scribbling. Jorja was already reading, but her writing and spelling have improved greatly and she took an interest in cursive writing (because it’s “fancy”) and is a natural at it. Her favorite ‘subjects’ in homeschool are Bible time and crafts. It’s fun to see her love of God’s Word and her eagerness to understand it all – she often asks thoughtful questions and earnestly seeks answers to all of life’s questions! It’s a good thing Daddy is getting that PhD – maybe he’ll be able to answer those tough questions ;)

I’ve also been reflecting on how blessed I am to be right here, right now. I sometimes wonder how different things might be if we lived somewhere else . . . would I be working part-time or full-time? would I have this much time with our kids? would I have made such an effort to teach them the Bible and memorize verses with them or just expected them to get ‘enough’ from Sunday School? I feel like some of the choices I’ve made seemed obvious because of our circumstances . . . I mean, if we didn’t teach our children about God, who else would? And homeschooling preschool & Kindergarten just seemed like the default – even though our kids attend Mongolian school for a few hours, they wouldn’t learn their ABC’s or reading (English) there, so again, it just seemed like a no-brainer. This would be my responsibility. But it hasn’t turned out to be a responsibility as much as an honor and privilege that I am not taking for granted one bit. Looking back on this year, more than anything, I am grateful.

Thank you for sharing our journey with us! No, this probably isn’t the end of my blog but I really don’t know where I’ll take it from here . . . Probably just more snip-its of our life and learning :)

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A-Z Review Week

We spent this week reviewing the alphabet to make sure Joseph knew each letter and the sound it makes . . . I was very impressed with how much he has learned and retained! Jorja, however, was a bit less thrilled about the idea of a review week. Why do we have to have a review week? Who ever heard of a review week anyway??? Where did you learn about that, Mom? LOL. I tried to convince her that it’s a real ‘thing’.

I got a lot of ideas and A-Z review printable games from Confessions of a Homeschooler. If you’re doing a review week, you should definitely check out this site.

For this game, you roll the dice and move that number of spaces – whatever space you land on, you say the name of the letter, the sound it makes, and something that starts with that letter.

A-Z review board game

A-Z review board game

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor the clip wheel, each clothes pin has a letter of the alphabet on it – you clip it to the picture whose name begins with that letter sound.

A-Z review clip wheel

A-Z review clip wheel

A-Z review magnet activity

A-Z review magnet activity

For this one, the spoons have the letters of the alphabet printed on them and you match up the spoons to the card with that picture that begins with that letter.

A-Z review alphabet spoons

A-Z review alphabet spoons

alphabet puzzle

alphabet puzzle

For art, throughout the week we made an ABC book. I found these little notebooks filled with colored paper at the store for about 25 cents each and decided they would be perfect for our ABC books. On each page I wrote the upper and lowercase letters, then Joseph copied them, then we did a picture of something that begins with that letter. For some of the letters we drew a picture, some we painted, for others we used stickers and stamps. The kids were both so proud of their books at the end of the week.

ABC book - coloring an orange for "O"

ABC book – coloring an orange for “O”

ABC book - rainbow & snowflakes

ABC book – rainbow & snowflakes

Throughout the week we also listened to our Sing the Word from A-Z  Bible memory verse CD quite a bit to review all the verses we’ve learned. I would just turn it on during a meal or while the kids were playing and it was fun to hear them singing along. I can’t believe we learned 26 verses this year – I’ve already ordered a new Bible verse CD for next year!

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Z is for Zoo

This week was all about zebras and zoo animals and perhaps the most famous short guy ever – Zacchaeus!

Here is Joseph putting foam zoo animal stickers on his Zz poster. (These very same animals were also “jungle” animals for Jj week if you remember!)

Z is for zoo

Z is for zoo

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I love this footprint zebra craft – simple and cute (the zebra’s head is made from the outline of the child’s foot).

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footprint zebra craft

footprint zebra craft

Here are zoo animals in cages made by stringing yarn through small slits at the top & bottom of the page.

zoo animals in cages

zoo animals in cages

And they enjoyed simply painting  zoo pictures with water colors. Flamingos are one of Jorja’s favorite zoo animals because they are pink!

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finished painting

finished painting

And here is my little monkey painting monkeys :) I think this is the first time he didn’t just paint a blob in the middle of the page until it got so wet that it made a hole in the paper. He’s getting so big!

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Here is Joseph concentrating hard on cutting zig zags . . .

zig zag cutting

zig zag cutting

Found some great Z books and Jorja especially loves learning lots about animals in these Zoo magazines.

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We enjoyed a lot of online Z activities this week:

  1. Zig Zag Zoom is a really fun song that even mentions Zacchaeus. Fair warning – this song may get stuck in your head and you may find yourself involuntarily humming it throughout the week :)
  2. I asked the kids if they could think of a number that starts with Z and Jorja immediately said “a zillion!” Well, that wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. This is a cute song about zero (from Starfall – you don’t have to be a member for this one).
  3. Starfall letter Z activity & song (my kids love this one too! It’s about zig zag people.)
  4. And we also watched this video of the Zacchaeus song (I needed a refresher of the lyrics).

We talked about Zacchaeus a lot this week. There are many lessons to be learned from the story of Zacchaeus but the most important thing that I wanted my kids to see was that meeting Jesus changes people. I reminded them also of how Saul was changed when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. A true encounter with Jesus is life-changing. One meal with Jesus and Zacchaeus was ready to give back 4 times what he had stolen and also give to the poor. I also wanted them to see the difference between how Jesus treated Zacchaeus and how everyone else treated him. Judgement, condemnation, gossip, talking behind his back, snearing, etc. didn’t change Zacchaeus one bit . . . love changed him.

Jorja is a deep thinker and has a habit of asking me tough questions . . . this week she asked me, “Mom, do you like everyone?” Well, I wasn’t going to lie and say, “Of course, Sweetie, Mommy likes everyone.” Because that’s just not true. So I was honest that there are people who might be hard to ‘like’ because they are different, or perhaps not very nice, etc. but that even if we don’t necessarily like someone, we should still show them love and kindness – the way Jesus accepted Zacchaeus even though he didn’t have any other friends. You never know when you might be instrumental in changing someone by showing them God’s love. Unfortunately, Christians have a track record for being more like the Pharisees than for being like Jesus.

Well, we’re finishing up the week with zoo animal crackers (so delighted that I found these Russian cookies for the kids) and watching Madagascar :)

zoo animal crackers

zoo animal crackers

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Y is for Yellow & Yarn

This week we focused on the color yellow and did a lot of crafts and activities with yarn. On Monday, while I did some online math exercises with Jorja, I had Joseph go on a yellow scavenger hunt. Here he is filling his basket with yellow things from all around the house . . .

yellow scavenger hunt

yellow scavenger hunt

We also made a yellow collage with random yellow things like ribbon, tissue paper, stickers, buttons and foam shapes . . .

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yellow collage

yellow collage

We glued yellow yarn on our “Yy” poster to make a yellow yarn Y . . .

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yellow yarn Y

yellow yarn Y

We also did yarn painting . . . Joseph loved making random designs on his paper by dragging the yarn around (you know he’s focused when the tongue is sticking out!), while Jorja found it frustrating that she couldn’t ‘draw’ a picture as with a paint brush.

yarn painting

yarn painting

yarn painting

yarn painting

Another neat thing we did was make yolk paint by adding food coloring to egg yolks. It dries with a nice glossy finish. The kids used it paint these pictures of geckos which we learned about in science. They found it fascinating that they can ‘drop’ their tail to escape a predator.

mixing the yolk paint

mixing the yolk paint

yolk painting

yolk painting

finished product

finished product

We made these cherry yogurt pops by blending cherry yogurt and cherry juice, then freezing – yummy!

yogurt pops

yogurt pops

Our verse this week was You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before men . . . ~ Matthew 5:14,16. Joseph kept asking me, Before me can do WHAT??? Lol. This is the same little monkey who swallowed a penny this week! When I asked him what he was doing with it in his mouth in the first place (I mean, he’s almost 4, c’mon!) he said because Jorja was chasing him and trying to get it. Well, just thankful that he’s OK. But now I have to inspect poop all weekend to make sure he passes it. And that is . . . YUCKY.

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X is for X-ray

I chose X-ray for this week’s theme and decided we’d learn all about skeletons! I found these great books that make it fun and easy for kids to learn what skeletons are and why we have them.

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The bottom one has lots of riddles in it that the kids couldn’t wait to ask Daddy the next day – like, What bow can you never untie? Your elbow! What helmet can you never take off? Your skull! What do babies have more of than adults? Bones! (Did you know babies have over 300 bones while adults have just 206?). All in all, this was a really fun and educational theme :)

We made these hand-print X-rays . . .

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And we made Q-tip skeletons . . .

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Then we made skeleton pictures with white chalk on black paper . . . I had to laugh because even after a whole week of learning about skeletons, Joseph drew the arms coming out of the head. Love it!

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We sang Do You Know the X-ray man? to the tune of Do you know the Muffin Man?

Here are some other random X-themed things we did. This is Joseph making some colorful X’s with popsicle sticks . . .

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They learned that X’s and O’s also mean Hugs & Kisses :) So we made these Glitter Hugs & Kisses to send to family far away. This was Jorja’s favorite – she couldn’t make enough of these!

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The kids also loved this next craft – probably because I called it Magic X Painting (I didn’t think “crayon resist painting” would have the same appeal, but that’s all it is!) So we wrote our X’s with white crayon on white paper, then painted over it with water color and voila – magic X’s! We’d never done crayon resist painting before, so the kids were quite amazed and pleased with the results.

Magic X Painting

Magic X Painting

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And what would X week be without a Xylophone? We made this xylophone out of glasses & colored water and the kids enjoyed making ‘music’ on it. Here is Joseph playing “Jingle Bells” which is currently his favorite song.

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Xylophone!

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Letter X turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected :)

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