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Back to School Teacher Favorites Survey

Know exactly what to get your child’s teacher with this easy to use, editable My Teacher’s Favorite Things Questionnaire!

Know exactly what to get your child's teacher with this easy to use Teacher Favorite Questionnaire. This FREE survey will help you know all about their favorite thing so you know just what to get them for teacher gifts. It especially comes in handy with Back to School, holidays, and Teacher Appreciation week. AND, it's editable, so you can customize it just for your child's teacher! #teacherappreciation #teachergifts #teacherfavorites

For the first time since becoming a parent, both of my kids will be going to school this year! Since I understand how much time, energy, effort, and money go into teaching, I was eager to bless these teachers who were now spending 6 hours of the day with my babies.

While I love all of the mugs that students have lovingly given me over the years, I was eager to get these wonderful teachers something they really wanted. And selfishly, I didn’t want to buy something that was just going to end up going to waste or sitting around never being used.

So, I created this Teacher Favorites Survey.

Know exactly what to get your child's teacher with this easy to use Teacher Favorite Questionnaire. This FREE survey will help you know all about their favorite thing so you know just what to get them for teacher gifts. It especially comes in handy with Back to School, holidays, and Teacher Appreciation week. AND, it's editable, so you can customize it just for your child's teacher! #teacherappreciation #teachergifts #teacherfavorites

It asks about their favorite drinks, foods, shops, and general preferences, so I’d know just what to get them if I happened to be running by Starbucks in the morning and wanted to grab one for my kids’ teachers as well.

I created a pre-filled template if you simply want to print and go (just be sure you write your child’s name at the beginning of the paragraph so the teacher knows where to return it.

I also created an editable version so that you can include local restaurants, shops, etc. The editable version also comes in handy if you have a male teacher and want to ask them about things that tend to be more popular with guys.

Know exactly what to get your child's teacher with this easy to use Teacher Favorite Questionnaire. This FREE survey will help you know all about their favorite thing so you know just what to get them for teacher gifts. It especially comes in handy with Back to School, holidays, and Teacher Appreciation week. AND, it's editable, so you can customize it just for your child's teacher! #teacherappreciation #teachergifts #teacherfavorites

My boys’ teachers were shocked and absolutely thrilled to receive this wish list. One of them even said she felt like it was Christmas!

I’m eager to use these to know exactly how to bless these amazing teachers, and I hope you grab a copy too!

Just click on the button below to access this freebie!

Back to School, Family, Parenting, Teaching

A Meaningful Easter Snack

 

My boys absolutely love Easter. And of course, one of the things that they look forward to each year is the infamous Easter Egg Hunt!

In the weeks leading up to Easter, we probably have at least 50 Easter egg hunts in various forms, just because my boys are completely captivated by “the hunt.” They ask Mommy and Daddy to hide eggs whenever they have a chance. They hide eggs for each other. And as the actual holiday approaches, we get to go to a few organized events (either with our co-op, church, or other family members) where the Easter Egg hunt is in full swing!

As much as I love a good Easter egg hunt (my parents have actually held one for the adults the past few years), I never want my boys to miss the true meaning of Easter – the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, when they were young, I started trying to brainstorm ways we could weave the two activities together. Now, of course, we’ve done the popular Resurrection Eggs – which are absolutely wonderful! However, one element was missing for my boys – FOOD! I mean, with all of that hunting, they definitely needed a snack, right?

So, we created this Resurrection Snack Mix that not only points to the true meaning of Easter but also gives them a little something to eat after using all of that energy to find the eggs!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Clean, plastic Easter eggs
  • Pretzel sticks
  • Fish crackers
  • Chocolate chips
  • Small marshmallows or Popcorn
  • Any small red candy (sometimes I’ll save red M&Ms from the Valentine’s assortment or pieces of licorice – see my note below)
  • Large bowl

Now, you can do this a number of ways. If you want to place the actual snack mix items in the Easter eggs, be sure that you wash them thoroughly before filling them with the food items.

Then, fill the Easter eggs with the various items listed above. Leave at least one empty egg. Then, hide the eggs for your kids to find. Be sure to give them instructions NOT to open any of the eggs yet. Once all of the eggs have been found, come back together. Then, open the eggs and dump the contents into the large bowl. As you open each egg, explain what it represents in the Easter story.

The other option is to fill the eggs with instructions about which items to dump into the mix. For example, 1 scoop of popcorn. 1 scoop of chocolate chips, etc. I tend to prefer this option simply because 1) it takes less time to prep and 2) much fewer snack ingredients end up on the floor. If you do use this option, I recommend a 1/2 cup scoop for the popcorn, 1/3 cup or 1/4 cup for the goldfish crackers, a small handful for the pretzels (just because it’s hard to get pretzel sticks to fit nicely in a cup, a tablespoon for the red candy, and a teaspoon for the chocolate chips. Even if you’re filling the eggs with instructions and not ingredients, be sure to still leave an empty egg! If you choose this option, be sure to grab the FREE download. All you’ll need to do is cut out the paper strips and add them to the eggs.

Again, as you add items to the mix, review what it represents in the Easter story. By the time you’ve finished opening all of the eggs, your kids will have been reminded of these truths several times. Here’s what each ingredient represents:

  • Pretzel sticks – remind us of the wooden cross, where Jesus died
  • Fish crackers – remind us that several of Jesus’s disciples were fishermen and he also taught his disciples to be “fishers of men.”
  • Chocolate chips – remind us of the dark sin that we were covered in
  • Popcorn – remind us of how the blood of Jesus makes us as white as snow –
  • Red Candy – reminds us of how Jesus suffered and bled for us
  • When you get to the empty egg, celebrate that it is empty because the tomb was empty – Jesus is ALIVE!!!

Then, you simply pass out the snack mix for your kiddos to enjoy!

When we did ours this year, I couldn’t decide on small red licorice pieces for the red candy or red M&Ms. I loved that the licorice looked more like “strips,” reminding us of how He bled and died for us, but I also loved how the red in the M&Ms covered the dark chocolate (which we used to represent sin) – so literally, His blood covered the sin. So, we ended up using both!

An added bonus to making this snack mix is that it will last for 3-5 days if you keep it sealed well in an airtight container. And this means you can continue to draw their attention back to the true meaning of Easter.

I hope you enjoy this fun snack mix! And if you’re interested in other Easter activities that focus on the true meaning of Easter, be sure to check out my Christian Easter Activities below.

If you give it a try, I’d love to hear how it goes. Leave me a comment below – I’d love to hear all about it! And don’t forget to grab your free download below!

Faith, Family, Holidays, Homeschool, Parenting, Preschool

The Homeschooling Gift I Never Expected

As I’ve shared before, homeschooling was never something I thought I would be doing. You can read more about that journey HERE, but in short, after lots of prayer, conversations, and advice from people we deeply respect, we finally came to the conclusion that this was something the Lord was calling us to do – at least for a season.

 

And while I never expected to be in this role, the more we thought and prayed about it, the more excited I became.

 

I knew there would be some incredible benefits to being home with my kids and homeschooling them as they approached school age.

 

I knew that I would be able to build a strong academic foundation while also being able to pour into my kids spiritually. I wanted to be able to weave Biblical truths into our teaching and I knew

that was not something that would be possible at a public school.

 

I loved the fact that I was going to know the nuances of my kids simply because I would have months and years to observe their behaviors. Having had my oldest in childcare until he was around 18 months, I loved the fact that now I was going to be the one who would pick up on little things that no one else might notice, simply because I was around them so much.

 

I looked forward to building strong relationships with my kiddos just because we would spend so much time together and do so many things together. The sheer quantity of time we would have together would be irreplaceable.

 

With two energy-filled boys, I was thankful that they were not going to be locked into an 8am-3pm class schedule at such young ages. They would have plenty of time to play, use their imaginations, run around outside, and not be subject to so many of the demands that are placed on our young children.

 

All of these things were things that I expected, or at least hoped, would come out of me leaving the classroom, staying home with my boys, and homeschooling. However, in the past few months, I have seen another incredible gift that has come out of this decision.

 

My boys are best friends.

 

And I’m not meaning the kind of “Well, we’re brothers so of course we’re friends.” No, I mean the kind of best friends that if they could choose anyone to do something with, both of my boys would choose each other.

 

Recently, we asked our boys individually (when the other one wasn’t around), “So, who would you say is your best friend?” Without hesitation, they both replied, “My brother.”

 

My oldest tends to be an early riser, and if he’s been awake for more than 10 minutes or so, he’s eagerly waiting for his brother to arise – sometimes going in and waking him up just because he “misses him so much” (his words, not mine).

 

When one of them gets hurt, the other one often cries too.

 

And just this past week, my boys were at AWANAS, and it was “Store Night.” My oldest picked out an item for himself and one just for his brother with his AWANA bucks. My younger son (who is in a younger class and doesn’t earn bucks just yet) got to pick one item from the store. When we picked them up, the gift my oldest had selected for his brother was the exact gift the younger son had picked out. He knew his brother so well that out of all the items in the store, he knew exactly which one his brother would want.

 

I’m not saying any of this to brag – believe me, they have their moments, and sometimes they really just need some space from one another.

 

But I share this because I truly believe that their closeness has come as a result of our choice to homeschool for this season.

 

This is our third year “officially” homeschooling our oldest and I started thinking. 3 years, approximately 180 school days every school year, at around 7 hours a day. That’s 3,780 hours that these boys have spent together that they otherwise would have been separate. And that’s a lot of time.

 

A lot of time to build a relationship. A lot of time to have shared memories. A lot of time to talk, laugh, and play together. Plenty of time to get on one another’s nerves, but also plenty of time to learn how to talk, forgive, and make-up.

 

I know that this isn’t a possibility for everyone, and I know that every kid is different, but the relationship that has developed between my boys is absolutely priceless. And one I pray that will only grow stronger over time.

 

We don’t know how long we will homeschool, but this unexpected gift is something I will always be grateful for!

Faith, Family, Homeschool, Parenting

12 Picture Books That Instill Biblical Truth

 

The Christmas season is upon us! This is truly one of my favorite times of the year, and some of the things that I especially enjoy are all of the wonderful children’s books that we pull out for this special season. Now, we have our fair share of fun, silly, and just generally amusing Christmas stories, but the ones that I adore, are the ones that share about the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. Whether these books are relating the nativity story or conveying a modern tale of someone sharing the love and story of Jesus, these books are gifts that so beautifully reinforce the truths I am trying to teach my children.

I love these books – and the number of these books grows each year; however, we really only pull these treasures out for the month or so between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the rest of the year they are barely touched. The problem with this is I want to be reading my children literature that supports Biblical truth throughout the year – not only during the Christmas season. So, I’ve compiled a list of 12 of our favorite picture books that instill Biblical values and truth – and can be read all throughout the year.

And if your kiddos are loving the Christmas books, why not gift them with a book that will support you in your teaching of Biblical values all throughout the year?

Below I have listed 12 of our favorites, with a few short notes about each one. The links below are affiliate links, but that is truly for your convenience! We simply love each of these books and I wanted to share them with you!


You Are Special by Max Lucado – This is one of the well-know Wemmicks series books. And if you haven’t heard of them, check them out – seriously, each of is excellent. In this book, we meet the Wemmicks, who become obsessed with stars (good marks) and dots (bad marks). The main character, Punchinello becomes entirely wrapped up in what others think of him, until he has a meeting with his Maker, and is reminded that he is special because he was His. This is a beautiful story with a powerful truth. The book is a little on the longer side for a picture book, but both of my boys have loved these books since they were young!


If Only I Had a Green Nose by Max Lucado – This is another in the Max Lucado Wemmick’s series. I really could list each one, but wanted to add some variety to my list 🙂 In this story we again meet Punchinello, who makes every attempt to fit in, only to find that as soon as he makes a change, the fad that is “in” has changed. He learns about the importance of being content with who he is and how his Maker crafted him, rather than looking for worth in the eyes of others.


Good Good Father by Chris Tomlin – Both of my boys love the song “Good Good Father,” by Chris Tomlin, so when this book came out we had to check it out! In the story we meet Tucker, a little bear who is seeking help from the King. He travels to see him, meeting several animals along the way, who each tell him one great thing about the King. As he gets closer to the castle, he has doubts about whether the King would want to see him. Yet the King appears offering sweet Tucker an abundance of love. This is a precious story about the great love of our God.


God Knows My Name by Debby Anderson – This is a delightful book that even the youngest readers will enjoy. On each page Mrs. Anderson conveys truth about all that God knows – from the number of hairs on your head to the number of stars in the sky. She talks about how God knows just what you’re feeling and how he cares for things in His creation. The pictures are colorful and inviting. It is evident that Mrs. Anderson was a kindergarten and first grade teacher, as young kids are drawn to her text. I also appreciate that she includes several scripture references to go along with her writing.

The Prayer That Makes God Smile by Stormie Omartian – This is a beautiful book that teaches children about prayer. It talks about different times that you can pray, things you can pray for, ways you can thank the Lord in your prayers, and the truth that God hears our prayers. She then talks about the best prayer of all – asking Jesus to come into your heart and be your Savior. Now, I have to warn you – if you’re reading this as a parent to your little one for the first time, be prepared to have tissues ready. I wept the first time I read this to my little guy, and still get teary eyed every time I read it. This book is rather lengthy for a picture book, but the pictures are adorable and the message of the book is powerful!


The Oak Inside the Acorn by Max Lucado – Yes, this is another Max Lucado book, but not a part of the Wemmicks series. He just has so many excellent children’s books! This book shares the powerful truth that God created each of us with a purpose. And while it may be tempting to look around at what others have or can do, we must cling to the truth that God has a purpose for each of us, as this oak tree learns.


The Blessings Jar by Colleen Coble – This is a great one for little ones – especially as a gift from a grandparent. In this board book, Punky Grace is having a rough day – and a case of the grumpies. Then, her grandmother takes her on an adventure, looking for all of the little things she has to be thankful for. Soon, her blessings jar is filled to the top, and her grumpies have gone away. This is an adorable picture book with a great message about being thankful!

God Loves Me More Than That by Dandi Daley Mackall – This is another great story for little ones, with an important reminder for every reader. The story works in sets of 4 lines, where the first three lines rhyme and the final line in the set reminds us that God’s love is bigger, higher, deeper, etc than anything! With its colorful, child-friendly illustrations, this is a delightful book that teaches about how much God truly loves each one of us!


The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers by Crystal Bowman  – This has been a favorite in our house! Over the past few years both of my boys have loved this little devotional, so much so that our copy is literally falling apart. Each day has a child-friendly devotion that centers around a topic preschoolers may face – having a rough day, making new friends, when you’re afraid, etc. The illustrations are simply adorable, and each devotion has a verse and a rhyming prayer to share with your child. This is a great way to start teaching your kids to spend time with the Lord each day.


It Will Be Okay by Lysa TerKeurst – In this story we meet Little Seed and Little Fox, both of whom are dealing with fears. A beautiful friendship is formed, and as changes begin to occur and fears creep in, they continually remind each other that the farmer is good and the farmer is kind. As someone who personally deals with fear and worry, this story was a lovely reminder of the good and kind Father we serve. And just as Little Seed and Little Fox learn to trust in the farmer – and that things will we okay – this story encourages each reader to trust in the Lord, even in new or even scary circumstances.

Jesus Calling Bible Storybook by Sarah Young – Penned by the same author as the Jesus Calling devotional for adults, the Jesus Calling Bible Storybook weaves kid-friendly versions of Bible stories with a Jesus Calling style devotion at the end. The short devotion written by Young is written as though God is speaking to the reader, but can easily be modified if you think it may be confusing to young listeners. The combination of stories, devotions, and colorful illustrations make this a delightful read for kids!

With You All the Way by Max Lucado – Now, this one seems to be a little harder to find, but both of my boys love it so much, I had to include it! It tells the story of three knights (probably why my boys love it) who are all on a quest to win the hand of the King’s daughter. However, they must travel through the forest of the Hope-nots in order to succeed, with only the King’s song to guide them. Which knight is successful – the strongest, the fastest, the smartest? It is the one who chooses the right companion for the journey knows the King’s song well enough to hear it above everything else. This is a wonderful story that illustrates the way the Lord is with us in all things, and it is by learning to listen to his voice that we can have victory. There’s one page that may be a little scary for the youngest readers, but such a gret story with great truth!

**BONUS**
Now, you’ve got the list of 12 awesome books, but there’s one more resource I want to share with you! I’m not an affiliate or anything, but my kiddos have enjoyed this so much, I simply had to share it with you! It’s the Clubhouse Jr. Magazine for Kids. It’s published by Focus on the Family and is such a fabulous resource. It contains stories, activities, coloring pages, snack ideas, and more for your kids! This magazine is created for kids ages 3-7, but there’s also another one for older kids called Clubhouse Magazine. We’ve only gotten the Jr. version but my boys love it! They definitely look forward to receiving it in the mail each month – and it’s a gift they receive all year long! I hope you’ll check it out!

I hope you’ve enjoyed these resources and are encouraged to check some of them out further. I’d also love to hear your thoughts. Comment below with your favorite from the list – or leave a comment and let me know other books that you love that teach Biblical truths – I’d love to check them out!

Faith, Family, Holidays, Literacy

My Absolute Favorite Post-Thanksgiving Tradition

 

 

No, it has nothing to do with shopping…..but everything to do with family!

 

You see, my parents had tremendous foresight.

 

Several years ago (far more than I care to admit), when my siblings and I were still living at home, but were quickly approaching the time when we’d begin to move out and start new chapters of our lives, they instituted a new yearly “celebration.”

 

My parents knew that as their kids got older, got married, and had kids of their own, it would become increasingly difficult to always have all of the holidays all together. Oh, we would most definitely try, but because they wanted to prioritize time together as a family, without adding extra stress or overwhelm to their kids and families, they started Soupus.

 

It was really quite simple – Soup + Us = Soupus.

 

And I cannot tell you how much everyone looks forward to this Every. Single. Year!

 

There’s so much I love about this family tradition, but I think the thing that I love the most is that I get to see so many people I care about. Of course, I get to see my parents, my brother and his family, and my sister and hers, but I get to see so much extended family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, friends from high school…..the list goes on.

 

And because it’s not a formal dinner, we can all get together without anyone having to stress about preparing and hosting an elaborate meal for 40+ people!!

 

So, now that I have you totally sold on this tradition, let me share some of the details.

 

We have always had this the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Everyone does their own smaller Thanksgiving (we’re usually at my husband’s parents) on Thursday, and then EVERYONE comes together on Saturday. People have had a chance to “recover” from all the food on Thursday, have gotten their Black Friday shopping in, and are eagerly awaiting Saturday.

 

In the morning, my dad organizes some kind of game or activity. We have done everything from baseball, to flag football, to ultimate frisbee, to whiffle ball, and this year, we’re trying pickle ball (it’s all the rage, haha). The games are pretty low key, but with my family there’s always a bit of a competitive spirit. And as more kids have been born and are now old enough to play (and perhaps some of us have gotten a little older), we usually have one kid oriented game and one more adult oriented game.

 

After an hour or two, everyone heads back home to shower and clean up.

 

Then, around 3pm, or so, everyone heads over to my parents. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. Some years we’ve had 35 or so people, and other years we’ve gotten closer to the 60 mark! My mom has the most tremendous gift of hospitality and welcomes people into her home with such generosity and grace. But it’s such a fun and unique tradition, that it seems like once you’ve come, you always want to come back! My in-laws, and all my siblings in-laws come (and sometimes even other members of their family). Old friends from high school or college (whom I rarely talk to during the year), will call just to make sure Soupus is still on!

 

Like I said, no one is responsible for making a huge formal dinner, but several families bring over crock pots full of soup, others bring bread, some bring appetizers, and we always have more than a couple of desserts.

 

We also have some sort of “cooking competition” – and if you watch Food Network, you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about. We designate some category or ingredient and whoever wants to brings a dish for the competition. Some of the ones we done in the past are: apple, pumpkin, cinnamon, maple, and pomegranate. Sometimes it’s more broad – appetizer, dessert.

 

Over the course of the afternoon, people can try any or all of the competition pieces, and then vote for their top 3. At the end of the day, my mom tallies all of the votes and has prizes for the top 3 (my mom is seriously THE cutest thing!!)

 

We usually eat around 5pm – and it’s always fun to try the different soups and see what everyone brings (my sister makes the most amazing Tomato Soup!)

 

And while everyone is “semi-gathered” someone (who knows ahead of time), shares a short devotion pointing us to Christmas and the TRUE reason we are celebrating. Sometimes it’s read from a book, other times just a few verses are shared, and still others just share what the Lord has put on their heart. It is a beautiful time to reflect and refocus as we enter the Christmas season.

 

Then, as the evening wraps up, my mom usually has some sort of craft for the kids and everyone begins to head home. And I assure you that as each goes their own way, they leave not only with full bellies, but with full hearts as well.

 

Soupus has become a beloved tradition for our family, and I’m thrilled to be able to share it with you today!

 

If you decide to give it a try, I’d love to hear how it goes – and how you tweaked it to work for your family!

 

Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving – and a Happy Soupus!

 

Faith, Family, Holidays