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Keeping a child academically motivated and on task

Tuesday, 04. November 2014 by Renee Ellison


Here is a peek into a discussion that involves all home school mothers, to one degree or another.  Thousands of mamas could ask the same!

A mom asked, “What do you do to keep your kiddos motivated during school time?  My son has a hard time focusing and staying on track periodically when I’m not sitting right next to him.  I try to make sure I can dedicate some time to sitting next to him reminding him to stay focused on his work but food needs to be made, dishes need done, laundry needs folded, etc.  Do you have any tips for me?”

Dear Mother,

In the beginning of all academic endeavor, children are far too new at the task to be left alone.  You must sit right with them, one child on your right and the other on your left, in the beginning stages.  The rule of thumb is that a parent doesn’t push the child away, the child will eventually push you away when they are ready to “go solo!”  That is how you will know when it is time.  The child will initiate it, and it will occur at different times for different skills.  The child will let you know when it is time to back off.  In the meantime you must stick right with them.

Think of Olympic trainers/coaches: they are “on it,” watching every stroke, even telling their “little charge” what to think during stress and competition.  These coaches wouldn’t think of letting their protégés figure it all out on their own.  It is too costly to let anything slide.

Academics don’t go on all day, but for two hours or so every morning you must be all theirs.  No phone calls, no errands, no appointments; this is sacred time to grow a child in “wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.”  Tutors of British royalty were right there with those children for several hours every day, raising up royalty.  Our children are no less regal or important, spiritually.  They are eternal people who go on forever.  There is absolutely nothing more important than investing in your child.  Focus.  (If you want to see what the odds really are all about, read The Power of a Focused Mother from our website.)

Now, you can do many things of your own while sitting next to your child while he is focused—but the second he veers off, your first priority is to gently and lovingly re-focus him.  A large part of your job is just tapping his paper with your pencil to re-focus him, when he strays or daydreams, but you will also have to answer questions and instruct).  Often you will be able to read your own book (have your own devotions, for instance), peel potatoes, write up menus, while sitting right next to him, if he is doing well for a few minutes, but you must keep your eye peeled and your heart riveted on the main agenda.

If your kitchen is a separate room, move a card table into your kitchen, during academic time, so that your children are right near you the whole time that they are doing academics, if you have to also meal prep during that same time.

A child never learns mental discipline by himself.  He learns to discipline his mind through many, many experiences of external discipline while he is sitting right next to his mother, his father, or a grandparent.  This helps him get “the hang of it.”  Even the Savior used the “with you” principle with His 12 disciples.  He kept them with Him, so they could observe and mimic everything.  Tossing a child into a corner with a workbook page (as teachers often do in the public schools) is academic abandonment.  Children don’t have an experience base that is strong enough for them to be able to cope with academic rigor.  They don’t know how to work on their own, or how to master new material.  They have never been down this road before; you have.  A tutor is a TUTOR, and so a parent who is tutoring must stay on task for as long as it takes.  If you do, the outcomes will be tremendous.  You will never regret it.  Sadly, there are many parents who later realize what kind of a ball they dropped too early—to their sorrow.

To get the housework done, have the children work with you, after they’ve tackled their academics or in the midst of it, to accomplish all the work that is needed to make the day run smoothly.  Teach them that work always comes before pleasure.  Think: is there something left undone?  We do that first!  Develop the work ethic in your children by requiring them to work, as long as there is still work to be done.  Abraham Lincoln built fences and he schooled; there was little to no entertainment in his childhood.  Responsibility and work build a man’s character, like nothing else.  Our culture is top heavy; we’re entertaining our children to death.  There is no life apart from work for any human being, at most any age, and to give the illusion otherwise is simply that—an illusion.  Idleness is the Devil’s playground.  Mothers by the scores with large families have learned this work principle, in spades.  They couldn’t survive without this teamwork.  They start with their two years olds, requiring them to carry their own diapers to deposit in the trash can.  So trained, a child will grow to think nothing of it.  Work will become a blessed habit, and the child will feel very good about himself, for good reason smile

Saddle in.

Thanksgiving: Finessing the impossible :)

Saturday, 01. November 2014 by Renee Ellison


I belonged to the faculty women’s club when we first moved to Durango when Todd was at the college.  One older wife and her husband owned a big mansion on 3rd Avenue (the gorgeous avenue parallel to Main with the big trees down the center).  She did a yearly elegant meal for the whole club in her home, using all the downstairs rooms, the drawing room, the parlor, etc.  One year she asked me to be the one to help her.  While I was assisting her, I was pumping her with questions about her whole hospitality expertise.  Hey, why not!

She revealed to me that she always makes Thanksgiving dinner ahead of time, now.  She had grown sons and daughters and their children coming from several states, and always felt like she slaved in the kitchen and missed time with them, personally.  (Her house was built a hundred years ago, and the kitchen was separate from the area where guests would congregate.)  So she switched to doing all of her preps ahead of time, and loved the results.  This gets rid of the turkey carcass, all the messy pans, etc. ahead of time—so that on that special day her final detail “load” is simple.  She serves the turkey all cut up (on an earlier day she had worn thin disposable surgical/plastic gloves to debone the turkey—no mess on her hands) in a big casserole dish with a bouillon cube dissolved in water poured over it to steam it at the last minute to make it moist, while reheating it in the oven with the cover on, along with everything else she was re-heating.  On serving day or party day she walks around calmly, with elegant tables already set (she sets the tables two days ahead of time and drapes a sheet over the tables to keep the dust off), looking gorgeous and exuding gracious remarks to everyone.  What a difference in her stress load.

Forward this tip to other mothers, if you’d like.  For more on this topic, see No Stress Holidays for Moms.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Two cautions for grandparents who want to grandparent with holiness

Tuesday, 28. October 2014 by Renee Ellison


Whenever we are loving other people’s children, there are two temptations that Satan often seems to hurl our way.  They are very subtle temptations, almost unperceivable to our own hearts, but, in fact, are seen by God and are felt by both the child and his parents.

The first temptation is crafted to entice us to love the child for our own sake, not the child’s sake.  The second is to pirate the child’s first love away from his own parents onto ourselves, because we somehow think that we love the child just a smidgeon better, with more skill, or acumen, than the parents do, given their youth and inexperience relative to ours.  This could be viewed as engaging in a kind of quiet ongoing emotional adultery.  It will be felt by the parents, even if it is never mentioned.

Let’s look at some examples of the manifestations of both temptations for grandparents.

The temptation of loving the child for our own sake, not the child’s sake

Because grandparents have a natural built-in fan club—a captive audience—with their own grandchildren, they can be tempted to share stories about themselves that are, in fact, not uplifting for the child.  A grandparent will often tell a story, with a twinkle in his eye, about something naughty that he did in his own childhood and got away with it.  These stories could be about some way that he tricked others, or how he cleverly didn’t tell the whole truth, or gained some advantage off a poor unsuspecting other child or adult relative or teacher, or did some wild adventure against his parent’s wishes that they never knew of, or duped someone, stole something little, won without fairness, or was worldly popular or the best one in the crowd, etc.  These stories, told with a hero’s confidence, give the child a double message.  They tear down the child’s desire to build his own character in holy directions, and they undermine what godly parents are trying to inculcate in their children.  But because the grandparent knows that he does not have to carry responsibility for how the child will ultimately turn out, he now feels free to “toy” with the child’s emotions, for his own ego-gain.  By telling these types of stories the grandparent walks away with a spring in his step, having gained more of “self” when the child says, “wow” or when the child’s eyes grow big, or when the child cheers.  But, sadly, the child walks away with a sanctioned desire to toy with mincing corruption in his own case.  His eyes dart in every corner to now make his own stories, so he can be like his grandparent someday, receiving the same adulation in the telling of his ill behavior.

So, what is the way out of this temptation?  When telling stories from our own lives, we should seek to always re-craft them to drive home some holy character trait. We can reinforce this message by saying things like: “That didn’t work out so well for me”, “I learned my lesson”, “My joys were only temporary”, “I was unkind”, “I wish I could do that over again and love the other person more than I loved myself”, etc.  We can drive home the idea that all ideas and actions have consequences, even if not felt immediately—they do have eventual fall-out.  Therefore we must strive to fashion all our interchanges with the child to grow a holy child, working with the parent in that endeavor, not against them, however small the foray into such talks may be.

Here’s another case: when holding a child, be mindful of when the child prefers to get down, do we keep the child past his own wishes simply because we are bigger and gaining satisfaction from the physical touch?  We can ask ourselves: do we hold the child for his sake, or for our own?  And further, do we playfully trick the child (having physical superiority over him) for our own laughter, or do we genuinely care about the child’s trust in us to do only good to him?  Do we dote on his cuteness for our sake, allowing the child self-indulgence for our own temporary pleasure, or do we keep a keen, holy, judicious eye upon the child for his own long-term ability to self-manage, self-deny and self-sacrifice?  Do we see ourselves hovering over the child for the formation of his own holy character, as God’s faithful steward over the child, even for just an afternoon, or do we view the child solely, for the moment, as our own possession?  A child is continually being formed, by the hour, in one direction or another.  Which prod are we?

Second case of examples:
The temptation of pirating the child’s emotions for our own.

The best way to ensure against falling into this temptation is to do endless good to the child while not drawing attention to ourselves.  Give him things for his sake; shower our gifts and attentions and focus upon him in a self-forgetting manner.  Keep the focus upon the child’s interests, ambitions, applause for his accomplishments, and aiding his goals while minimizing what it is that we just did for him.  Seek to draw no thought to ourselves.  Focus the child’s praise upon the Lord, not upon ourselves.  As the old hymn writer penned so well, “And may they forget the channel, seeing only Him.”  Be a benefactor/benefactress to the child in hidden ways as often as possible, making advantageous connections for him behind the scenes or giving money or widened opportunity for him without the child or parent’s knowing, as if it came from someone else.  Constantly wean the child off from us and onto the Lord in our speech with him.

The most important cultivation of our own holiness in this regard is to build up the child’s parents in front of the child in our own speech, whenever he is with us.  Remind him of how wonderful his parents are and all that they do for him.  Teach him to thank his parents; help him write the thank you notes; help him shape the grateful verbal phrases that he will use for when he walks back in the door of his parent’s home; teach him to be grateful for little things they do; help cultivate his awareness of his parents’ fatigue; and show him how to bless his parents with obedience and how to attack his work or project that he does with us with excellence, in order to show his parents later.  If we teach him to love his parents well, the self-serving temptation we often feel for the child will scamper away with its tail between its legs.  Let our lives be brimming with love for others—and their connectedness.  Let ours be the hidden life of self-sacrifice in regard to grandchildren and their parents, and then shall our sleep be “oh, so sweet” as we share in the secrets of his Christ-likeness—knowing what the effects of those secrets feel like in our own bosoms, in our own prayer closets.

For further reading on godly grandparenting, see How to Be Very Nearly Perfect Grandparents.

Tips for organizing your home

Tuesday, 21. October 2014 by Renee Ellison


Written to mom who feels organizationally challenged:

Now how can we get you on TOP of your circumstances instead of under them?  Sometimes hiring a very organized teenage girl can help you for a one-time boost.  Some people are just born more organized than others.  Is there some girl at church, perhaps? or in another homeschooling family? or some older lady whom you admire, whose family is already raised—to just come over for one day to plow through the worst of it, with you—developing some systems for you?

With or without such help, the greatest principle is to just start moving in that direction.  Pick up one thing and put it somewhere…then the next.  Action creates emotions.  The famous German philosopher Goethe said: “Only begin it and the mind grows heated; simple start it and soon the job is completed.”

Here is the principle: anything you do repetitively, you want to do optimally.

You need a wall of loads of pre-made cardboard boxes with removable lids.  White records boxes (one cubic foot each) work splendidly (obtainable from any office supply store).  Mark the end of each box what is in it.  You want to buy these, because they look tidy all stacked together and the lids are super easy for getting in and out of repeatedly.  Just the look of them will help you and the family stay neat.  Often we aren’t neat because we don’t have a place for everything; this eliminates that problem.  Use them all over the house if you have to.  They are cheaper than furniture, and much easier to organize than drawers, because smaller groups of things can be contained with like kinds.

For your kitchen, purchase a shoebox-size flat plastic container that you toss all dirty silverware in as you use it.  Use a flat container, because if you dump dirty silverware into a large bowl it can tend to tip over, and if you set them on a flat plate they often spill out all over the counter and they don’t get soaked to loosen the stuck particles.  Get this plastic shoebox that will from now on contain all your silverware neatly and will never topple over, no matter how much you toss in there.  Keep it permanently open on the back of your counter, near your sink.  This keeps the dirty silverware out of being stashed in between the plates, making them stack all catty-whompus on the counter, and lets you tightly stack everything in a much smaller space, if you don’t have time to do the dishes right then.  This keeps your counter stacked and clean- looking at all times.

Rinse everything as soon as you take it to the counter.  Rinse all pots and pans as soon as you dump the cooked food out onto dinner plates.  By rinsing immediately you keep your kitchen clean and lessen your future job of washing.  Keep a long-handled brush by the sink and swish it on every dish/plate/pot immediately. The long-handled brush allows you to pre-wash anything, even if you are in a pretty dress and running out the door, because your hands don’t have to get down in the water.  When you do wash the dishes, focus on speed.  I use three white dish drainers and have them sitting on the counter at all times, so that I can just fling the pots and pans into them.  I set the three on a large white towel and keep changing the towel every few days or once a week.  The speed becomes fun: “Okay—I’m going to be a bulldozer—ready, set, go—can I get it done in five minutes? three minutes?”  Work quickly and get it over with.  It helps to have two sinks, and a plastic tub inside each sink; one is for washing in hot soapy water; the other is for immersing and rinsing in clean hot water.  (For lots more tips, order our inexpensive, helpful practical DVD of Kitchen Efficiency Tips.)

Form a habit of swiping a paper towel around your bathroom floor or tub or sink when you are in there already—not as a separate formidable job that you dread.  Do it on the run.

I play a little psychological game with myself, convincing myself that I enjoy taking the trash outside to the big container because it forces me to take little mini-walks all throughout the day—helping me exercise and get sun!

Stop watching TV/media/movies/non-informational movies on the Web.  It is a super time waster, causing you to arouse your emotions over something you can do nothing about.  It is a consummate robber of energy, resolve, relationship, planning, doing, etc.  You’ll notice a difference in your capabilities immediately.  If you use media as a baby-sitter for your children, be terrified of this sure result: “The parent’s convenience becomes the child’s addiction.”  Instead, train your children to work from a very early age.  (We know a toddler whose job it is to deposit his own dirty diaper in the trash.)  Having to clean the house forces you to employ your children in doing something meaningful with you.  Always do it together.  More is caught than taught.

Also: if you just can’t get on top of your energy even without the enervation caused by the TV, check your thyroid levels (through a blood test).  Your thyroid may be under-firing, causing you to feel tired all the time.  A natural bovine thyroid supplement or a plant-based compound tailor made and prescribed by your health practitioner can make a world of difference, if your levels are low.  Also, get off all added sugar, and experiment with getting off wheat (many find that a fatiguing food).

Filed Under: Home management tips

Solidly and swiftly ground your children in apologetics

Sunday, 19. October 2014 by Renee Ellison


Godless worldviews of all sorts currently rage in our culture.  Our children are relentlessly bombarded and profoundly affected by the cultural assumptions and presuppositions of these worldviews.  Children in godly families desperately need biblical apologetics clarified to them in easy terms to navigate this jungle of philosophies.  Ideas matterAll ideas eventually have consequences.  Teach your children these easy and well-aimed logical arguments against the absurdities of our day and these devious lies will lose their power over them.

We now know that creation actually began with information (codes), not lifeless matter flung about.  Codes and language cannot exist without intelligent design.  We’re told in Genesis that God created by fiat (the spoken word…language…code)—which is exactly what scientific studies now verify.  The DNA molecule and the microscopic life contained in a single cell all reveal vast complex information systems.  For proof, read: Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design by Stephen C. Meyer.  It’s a 624-page science-based tome that silences evolutionists’ every attempt at rationalism.

For a good movie that reveals the causes and consequences of one’s beliefs regarding evolution, watch God’s Not Dead—the story of a college student who takes on a college philosophy professor.  It contains five intricate stories, tightly woven, suspenseful, convincing, and well rendered.  (Best if seen after young children go to bed because of immodest college gals and rock music at the end)  This movie will help your young people build their faith to stand alone for the truth.

Communism vs. capitalism:
Regardless of the theory of how superior communism is, as asserted by ivory tower professors in most every college in America, who claim that it is preferable to capitalism, look at the results of communism.  450 million individuals have been slaughtered by communist regimes during the past century.  Wherever communism has dominated, it has produced not only death, but enslavement and poverty.  People who find themselves living under such a system seek to flee it.  Why would you need to fence people in, as in the case of the Berlin Wall, if communism is such a superior system?  Superior for whom?  The Bible indicates that industry and hard work merit the rewards of profit and private property.  Fiscal rewards fuel the entrepreneurial spirit in a man.  Take fiscal incentive out of the heart of a people and you’ll have malaise overnight—i.e., the welfare state.  Every corporate endeavor taken over by any government fails as a fiscal enterprise—they all swim in debt.

A human being has 23 pairs of chromosomes.  22 are the same in both sexes; the 23rd set determines sexuality.  Nothing else on the planet that contains chromosomes switches to something else when its size changes. A small baby oak tree is still an oak tree; it wasn’t at first a tulip.  If a person asserts that the fetus switches from something else to a baby at some point, ask…
1) at what moment did it switch?  Let your adversary set the moment of life…they can pick ANY moment—once stated, then ask:
2) what was it five minutes before that?”
And then 3) what overwhelming chemical event caused that to happened ?  is it scientifically verifiable?

God is interested in infinite variety.  Consider the profusion of color in a hillside of flowers, and the profusion of language, as evidenced in the multitude of differing words contained in the Bible and in great literature.  The devil apparently prefers one color (black), and three or four cuss words that are used over and over and over again.  Profanity is not diverse—it is narrow.

The Lord defines boundaries.  Eventually the sea must stop and dry land appears; somewhere a man stops and a woman begins; biology has definition and limitations on purpose.  The devil is interested in only blurring boundaries,  wants sameness.  Unisex and its derivative philosophies are his inventions.  The Lord is interested in abundant procreation, whereas the devil pushes for singleness and isolation (i.e., have sex by yourself or in ways that produce no children).  If everyone were homosexual, the human race would die out. 

The essence of the hedonistic worldview is that pleasure and entertainment are all there is and all that are worth pursuing.  But: what happens when your child or best friend falls ill?  Where do you fit that in such a worldview?  A person’s worldview should strive to address all of life’s possible circumstances better than any other worldview.

Live for experiences.  Experiences and activities are the validating conditions of life and happiness for a person who follows this worldview.  So, what happens when a person becomes injured and can’t walk, is what they think not important?

Life is meaningless.  Live for nothing.  The perfect state is nothingness.  All things are equal.  Most of the big name nihilistic writers committed suicide.  It fits.  Might not be the best way to “live.”

God is in everything.  The problem with this worldview is that, one cannot be IN the table or the stars and be lord OVER the table or the stars at the same time.  It is a logical impossibility.  The very definition of a god is that that God is pre-eminent over something.  Eastern religions tout that you are that god—so, that must mean “you made yourself?”  Read Death of a Guru for a short treatise on the howling wasteland of eastern religious worldviews.

This is the belief that we live in cycles and are re-born over and over again; you move up or down based upon what you did in the previous life.  This is why cows and monkeys are worshiped in India: they might be someone’s mother!  Ask a person who believes this, what would an ant have to DO to come back as a lizard?  And when would the ant know that his works were sufficient?  Conversely, the holy scriptures teach that “It is appointed unto man ONCE to die, and after that the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Assert something strongly enough and you can become it.  You are your own god, and by merely thinking it, you can defy the material order.  Really?  Does an Olympic athlete also become the world’s best chess player?  Do we have even one case of it?  How hard would a dwarf have to think to become a pole vaulter?  Can a woman give birth to a donkey?  Or a donkey give birth to a butterfly?  Can a person grow three arms?  …or pilot a plane if they are a three year old?  Come on—this is embracing an absurdity.  Colleges have become the high church of humanism.

“He who dies with the most toys wins.”  Wins what?  We’ve found, to our emptiness, that unbridled shopping results only in “licking the earth.”

Look at the expression of it in the world.  Name the great inventions and discoveries that have been contributed to the betterment of all mankind out of this philosophy.  Take a jihadist or a member of Isis home to dinner.

So, what’s better as a worldview?
The book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible helps us with this answer, which is summed up beautifully in the first question in the Westminster Catechism:
Q:  What is the chief end [purpose] of man?
A:  To glorify God and enjoy him forever!

Track saints throughout history who have done this and you find they lived lives in all manner of circumstances with inexpressible joy.  Fulfillment leaves tracks in the sands of history.

Marriage resources

Wednesday, 08. October 2014 by Renee Ellison


New insights from good resources can help a struggling marriage survive or a good marriage become better.  There is no downside to receiving enlarging marital wisdom all throughout one’s marital life.

Marital dilemma, and the way out
A young struggling wife once declared: “The only way out of my bad marriage is divorce or death! And I don’t believe in divorce!”  Many women feel this way at one time or another (men, too, by the way).  They forget (or never knew) that there is another very hopeful “way out.”  It is called GETTING HELP—perhaps through obtaining good Biblical counseling, reading biblical-based marriage books, taking advantage of wise biblical YouTube teaching videos on marriage, and consulting with seasoned wise older believers.  These four avenues can give you staggeringly good and enlarged insights on your current circumstances.  Sometimes all it takes is one new thought, or one new way of looking at a situation, to achieve great resolve and peace in your heart concerning your marriage.  This help can also give you new strategies of coping well in your marriage and/or of ways to gain better conflict resolution with your spouse.

The old timers did not have such helps, but today there is a plethora of help to any eager seeker.  Resources can make even GOOD marriages BETTER, as we have said, so don’t shy away from such help for any reason, or during any season.  Sometimes one new thought for a husband can give HIM an “aha” moment, as well.

Consider these resources:

You-Tube videos:
Mark Gungor…his Tale of Two Brains.  All of his other YouTubes on marriage are excellent, as well…watch all of them!
Drs. Paul and Virginia Friesen’s YouTubes on marriage
Dr. Laura Slessenger…she majors on PRACTICAL marital help.  She is a relationship genius.

Wise Womanly Ways to Grow Your Marriage/ Renee Ellison
Lies Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets Them Free/ Nancy Leigh DeMoss
The Power of a Praying Wife/ Stormie Omartian
The True Woman/ Susan Hunt (help for the abused woman)
Treasures of Encouragement/ Sharon Betters (help for the abused woman)

For men: we recommend only one because it says it all: The Garden of Peace: A Marital Guide for Men Only/ Shalom Arush

Sometimes all a marriage needs is a third set of ears.  To talk in front of a wise third person can help iron out all sorts of problems as the counselor directs the long-range RESULTS of each spouse’s thinking back to the one who voiced them.  A good counselor can give wonderful fresh perspective and direction.  Only seek wise BIBLICAL counseling (not secular psychological counseling) from counselors who have shown results in keeping couples TOGETHER (not dissolving their union).  Ask for references of couples you can contact to see what kind of fruit/results came of their sessions with this counselor.

If you are in the Seattle, Washington area, Ed Park is an excellent marital counselor.  Many couples have gained outstanding benefit from his insights and help—and are currently far happier in their marriages.  Contact him at: Counseling.sanctuarySeattle.org /Ed Park 206-659-5413

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Bible art

Wednesday, 08. October 2014 by Renee Ellison


There are two delightful color experiences a child can have that are derived from and reinforce the great truths of the Bible.  They are:
    1. Color celebrations around seven magnificent colored displays in the Bible (taken one per day) and
    2. Creating a Wordless Gospel Booklet.

Color celebration
There are seven notable places in the Bible where a lavish display of color is described.  To a child’s delight, he finds that God spills splendor over His truths.  To blend a child’s passion for color AND Bible themes together decks those themes with glory for remarkable lifetime “remembering.”  By DRAWING the simple outlines of these forms for your child to fill in, you DRAW wonderful attention to God!

If you are not so keen on your own drawing ability, you can order these coloring pages from us for $5 (includes postage).  If you do sketch them out, yourself, use an entire page for each drawing, making them quite large.

Children may use paints, colored pencils, markers, or crayons to fill them in.  (For more on that, see our recent blog post on preschool painting and coloring tips.)

Each piece produces a masterpiece—even when the child has very little drawing skill.  All he is really doing is filling IN color stripes or color blocks, while his brain takes pictures subconsciously of the truths contained therein. 

These are the colorful seven:
+ A rainbow
+ Joseph’s coat
+ The tabernacle drapes
+ The High Priest’s breastplate
+ The foundation stones/layers of the New Jerusalem (see Revelation 21:8-21)
+ A crown
+ A gem

Lay them in front of your child, one per day, and watch how MUCH you can discuss WHILE the child fills them in!  You’ll have a captive audience. 

Wordless Gospel Booklet
You can also make a little book of full colored pages (with no text) to express the gospel stages in a person’s life.  When finished, these are adorable and the children love to feel them, repeatedly look at them, and carry them around in their hip pockets to show their relatives and friends. 

The ideal size is made using 3X5 cards.  Attach two together with a strip of electrician’s tape or masking tape between them, leaving a 1/8th inch space (so that it folds easily) and continue to add a card until you obtain four interior surfaces (two cards side by side), and the cover and back binding (of a single card, each). 

Once your skeleton booklet is constructed, cover each full page with only one color.  The child may paint the pages, or he may glue colored construction paper to them.  But the most spectacular rendering is to use sticky-backed colored vinyl.  The use of this materials makes the book flash and sparkle with VIVID color.  (Obtain it from a local sign shop by asking for scraps of sticky-backed colored vinyl from the owner’s trash can).  You only need 5 X 6 squares of each in these colors:
+ black
+ red
+ white
+ gold
+ primary bright green (emerald color).  Use this last color for both front and back covers by applying it all in one piece by turning the little booklet face down upon the table to expose both sides of the cover.

Teach the child to memorize and say this little poem AS he turns the pages to show his friends and relatives:

My sin is black as black can be.
It will spoil heaven, said He.

So He covered it up with His own blood red.
He took my place on a cross and bled.

He made me all so clean and white—
Like a star I’ll shine, forever bright.

And go to live where streets are gold—
I’ll be with him for days untold.

And now I grow all strong and green,
Believing in Him whom I’ve never seen.

I feed on his Word to learn what’s right,
and rest in His promises day and night.

A list of the BEST Bible resources for young children

Saturday, 04. October 2014 by Renee Ellison


Recommendations of the best Bible books for very young children

Before sharing my list with you, here some general comments about reading the Bible to very young children.

First:  You want to create a love of the Bible, not just knowledge of it.  To accomplish this, in the beginning, use the best illustrated children’s Bible versions that you can get your hands on.  Avoid scary or mean-looking versions or the other extreme of fantasy-type-Hollywood illustrations.  If you are deliberating between two versions, pick the one with the best pictures.  The pictures are educating the child’s right brain and hooking his emotions.  What those pictures portray is very important.

Second:  Do not be adverse to dividing the children’s Bible into four parts, and actually taking it apart at the spine and making it into four separate lighter book sections.  You would then take those loose pages to your local printer to have them spiral bind those four littler books with a little wire binding for each book.  This makes it easier to turn the pages, because they will now lay flat as you read them (the book doesn’t continue to flop shut) and enables you or the child to hold less weight in your/their lap.  It is worth it to do this to a book that you will use every day and perhaps over and over again with a number of different children.  If you buy the book used to begin with, the total cost of the book (including the added expense of the wire binding) is not much.

Third:  Consider finding and purchasing used children’s Bibles from thrift stores, second hand book stores, or Bookfinder.com or Abebooks.com online (the Amazon.com links below are just to help you start your search).  If and when you do so and the book is in your hands, try to smell older Bibles to be sure they do not have mold on them from having been in a person’s basement, for example, which makes reading them unpleasant.  Whenever you find a good children’s version, consider purchasing it so that you have plenty of Bibles to give away to children who come across your path.

Fourth:  Read the Bible to your child until he/she is able to read well by himself/herself—i.e. the child has been thoroughly trained in phonics (we offer you excellent resources for that).  Then he can begin to read easy versions and gradually work into more difficult versions over the course of his youth.  Teach him to underline verses in his Bible that strike him, personally.  Eventually he can write down one thought or one verse from his daily devotions in a little notebook that he keeps alongside his Bible.

Here, now, is a list of some different versions, with a note as to the best suggested use for each version.  The first one described below is especially useful if you only have a small amount of time with youngsters (for instance, you get to teach your pagan neighbor’s children and their parents don’t care what you teach them, or you get to spend a week with visiting unbelieving relatives’ children or grandchildren whose parents will let you read anything to them, or you have the opportunity to influence other children for a short duration), pour as much Bible into these children as you can in the time that you have spiritual influence over them.

    + The Children’s Discovery Bible: Discovering God’s Word for the First Time (authors: Charlene Hiebert and Drew Rose; Chariot Victor Publishing, 1996) Your goal is to try to familiarize the child with all of the Bible stories as speedily as possible.  To do that, you have to find the easiest and most concise version you can.  In addition, you want to rivet the children’s attention upon what you are reading.  To accomplish all of this optimally, use this version.  Each page is 2/3rds picture and 1/3rd text.  You can cover all the Bible material speedily by dividing the book into the number of days you have with the child, making sure that you keep up with reading each day’s section each day, to finish the book in good time.
    + My Bible Friends (5 volumes; author: Etta B. Degering) This is a five-volume series with extraordinarily good illustrations.  The pictures are bold, very colorful, winsome, and old-fashioned.  Children love this introduction to the Bible.  They will beg you for more stories from it.  Beginnings are so important.  You couldn’t do better to begin introducing your children to the Bible than with this series.  It lays the best foundation possible. 
    + The New Panorama Bible Study Course  (author: Alfred Thompson Eade, 1947; look for a used copy of this one) This is a pictorial representation of the entire Bible that you can walk a child (or an adult) through in about five minutes.  It gives a wonderful survey as rapidly as possible, that one never forgets.
    + The Catechism for Young Children with Cartoons (2 volumes; Vic Lockman) This is an easy way to cover the 100 basic questions about Christian doctrine that need to be a part of every child’s spiritual training.  In the Puritan times instructors and fathers trained first graders with the questions from the Westminster Catechism, in not such a winsome fashion as this. Nevertheless, children learned them and recited them.  These little books simplify the process and are a real gift to modern families with young children who want to raise them solidly in the Christian life.
    + The Picture Bible (Chariot Books) This book is excellent for an older elementary student or a junior high student, on up in age.
    + The Bible Story (10 volumes; author: Arthur S. Maxwell) I have heard of a family who read through this series again and again for a total of eight years.  This special series beautifully shapes any home’s spiritual life.  Illustrators from over 11 different denominations contributed excellent artwork for the series.  The stories are captivatingly summarized.
    + Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories (5 volumes; author: Arthur S. Maxwell) Arthur Maxwell is a master story teller.  These stories are true, and point out some character challenge and victory in a little story the child can identify with.  His stories are gripping and keep the child’s interest at high levels.  They serve to shape the child’s own character in a happy way.

For further Bible reading:
Following all of this good biblical exposure, the child is ready to read a real translation of the scriptures himself, and continue into more and more difficult versions for the remainder of his life.  For an accurate translation, in good English that is accessible to most modern readers, you may want to consider the New American Standard Version.

Preschool painting and coloring tips

Sunday, 21. September 2014 by Renee Ellison


Want less mess?  Want more results from your children’s or grandchildren’s experiences with color?  Here are a series of helpful tips for the best coloring solutions for young children.

Overview of choices for colored markers:
For little tykes…
For the little, little tykes I’d go with the Jumbo crayons put out by Crayola (8 to a box).  These are not to be mistaken for the Large ones; they are one step up from those.  They are super easy to handle, don’t break as easily as smaller crayons, last a long time, and deliver nice color.  Both the larger grip and the extra-vivid color of Jumbo crayons are far more satisfying than standard crayons.  Empty them out onto a washcloth and they won’t roll or make noise while the child uses them at church or wherever.

The only problem is they can’t be sharpened—they are too big for even the double holed pencil sharpeners.  To sharpen them, use a knife or razor blade.  Grab an old magazine, set it on a scrap of board, and razor-blade the tip into a wedge (like an axe head edge), catching the scraps on the magazine.  Forget trying to carve a point.  When the child needs a point, teach him or her to tip the crayon onto the end of the edge of the wedge and “presto” they have a point.

Store them in a mug or a jar.

When coloring, have the child first trace just inside the object’s lines fairly firmly with their crayons—making a dark colored line around the edge of the object—and then color the picture itself, lightly.  This produces a pleasing two-tone affair.  This technique also teaches the child to bend line to create shape—which is the beginning step of sketching.  Coloring the object inside, is then the child’s reward for the sketching.  Children may also trace the object while holding a coloring page up to a window first, and then color it in afterwards.  The point is to get the child sketching as young as possible.  This teaches keen observation of the real world.

For older toddlers…
If you use markers, it is managing the lids of marking pens that creates the mess.  They just require too much dexterity for the average little child.  Sooooooo—for those times when you want mess-less drawing time, or for car trips to town, when you don’t want ink all over the place—go with Crayola’s brand of watercolor pencils (or a small set of the more expensive Prisma’s colored pencils); both of these products lay down a thicker line than standard colored pencils.  Forget trying to use the watercolored pencils with water—instead, use them as is.  Normal colored pencils don’t give you a rich enough line or rich enough color.  Add pencil grips around all of these, if needed, as they are thin.

Neither crayons nor coloring pencils necessitate the parental oversight that colored marking pens require.  Less mess.  Less “oops.”  You’ll have no parental anxiety, and won’t have to watch the young artists as closely as when they’re using markers.

Coloring books:
When choosing coloring books, look for the simplest ones you can find; the ideal is one object, or person, per page.  I look for older half-used coloring books at thrift stores; I buy them inexpensively and then come home and photocopy only the best pictures from each coloring book.  I may only find five coloring book pages that I really like that make it into my master notebook.  The pictures have to be cleanly drawn and simple, and they must make me like them.  If an adult doesn’t like them, chances are a child won’t, either.  Look for and collect the best of the best.  You’ll use them through the years with all manner of children and perhaps with your own grandchildren down the road.

Re: Painting:
Purchase poster board paint—only $3 or $4 for 12 colors in a tray.  Screw the lids on tight and turn the whole tray upside down and shake paint into the lids.  Then turn the tray back uprightly and remove the lids and give only the lids to the child to paint from.  This keeps the rest of the bottles clean—no colors accidentally get mixed from an unwashed brush.  When the paint bottles are open now with no lids, I cover a piece of cardboard the size of the tray with plastic wrap—plop it on top of the tray’s bottles of paint, while the lids are off, to keep them from evaporating, and place a book on top of that for a tight seal.  When the children are done, I wash out the lids, throw away the plastic wrap, and affix the lids back onto their bottles.  I wrap a new piece of plastic wrap on the cardboard for next time and plop it all in a plastic storage box, all ready and clean for next time.

Set a wide-bottomed jar of water or cup of water on the table, and a piece of paper towel, for the child to use when cleaning his brush between colors.  A narrow-bottomed jar of water or cup of water will tip over too easily.  Make sure the bottom is at least as large as the top—if not larger.  Forget having the child attempt to paint real pictures with these paints.  They are always a disappointment and end up in the trash, because the child lacks the skill and ability to paint with that level of sophistication.  Instead, have him/her color stripes across a page, or balloons, or rainbows, or boxes; all such exercises are a color celebration.  The child enjoys the color for its own sake and the task of applying brush to paper—and that is enough.  Making a picture or a scene doesn’t matter at this age.  He will be progressively learning how to sketch through his coloring with crayons and colored pencils.

Circumcision: To do or not to do?

Sunday, 14. September 2014 by Renee Ellison


One of the first decisions facing parents who have just given birth to a boy is “Do we circumcise him or not?”  This is a complex issue that most of us haven’t studied too deeply before being faced with it, up close and central.  Once your baby has arrived you won’t have time to study it in depth.  Todd Ellison has done a marvelous job of creating a short article giving you the key issues, and it is obtainable for free, should you be interested in obtaining more objectivity to inform your decision in this regard.

It is important to make a decision as soon as possible after you know your baby is a boy, because vitamin K levels peak on his eighth day (the ideal day to do a circumcision, for health reasons) and it may take you some time to make a plan for obtaining the result that you decide is best.  Medical practices tend to circumcise too soon, only a day or so after birth, when vitamin K levels are inadequate for the natural blood-clotting that promotes rapid healing of the wound.  Parents who want it done would do well to schedule it for the eighth day.

Whatever you decide, time is of essence, and to not decide, means you have decided.  Deciding that the person himself should make that decision about his own body when he is of age to make that choice, means you have decided that it probably won’t happen—because circumcision at a later age is a much more challenging proposition.

Here are the issues.  Historically, circumcision has been done for both religious and health reasons.  The burden of the article (also available in an extended form in Kindle, regular e-book and print formats) on this subject is that whatever your reason for doing it, if you chose to have your son circumcised it is important for you to know that what is currently being done in the name of circumcision is far more radical than what was originally done originally, when just the tip (the small portion of the foreskin that is “fore”) was nipped.  The bottom line is that modern-day practitioners are cutting away far too much—a huge amount more than what is necessary to meet both spiritual and physical objectives of circumcision.  There are a half a dozen physical benefits of a male retaining the portion of his foreskin that is not extending beyond the tip.  It is important to apprise your doctor that you would prefer the less invasive route, if you conclude that that will meet the need just as well as the radical procedure.  But you’ll need some information to help form conviction about that issue.

For a full blown discussion about this topic, obtain a copy of the article on this little-known and even littler-discussed matter.  Your son may thank you some day.

Filed Under: Nutrition tips