We only know about him because he held the unique and dishonorable distinction of being a thief, and one who was caught at that. He died in disgrace, poverty and agony. He was tortured, crucified and died.
Thieves often come under cover of darkness, in confusion, or perhaps on social media; places where they can easily hide and are rarely called out. And thieves- they can be so compelling. They are often masters of disguise, presenting themselves as one thing all the while working underhandedly to steal and destroy. Thieves are con artists- they are the masters at bait and switch. I would venture that many unwitting, well meaning people have handed over that which further damns the thief to their ultimate demise. Thieves are, by definition jealous people who are not content with their lot in life and perhaps even work to destroy that which they claim they now want or was taken from them.
The well known thief on the cross probably worked under cover of night, or in secrecy, or in a crowd, but died in broad daylight, exposed and disgraced.
We’ve all done it. Shared that juicy tidbit, been outraged by accusations, shocked at what we’ve just heard. In fact, I would venture to say that a good thief- one has honed their craft- is subtle enough to tweak the facts just so, so that the we see a bit of truth in the claims, “Ah yes, I always knew he was demanding- I see how he’s a bully,” But few – if any of us- actually go to the person who is the true victim of thief’s crime to seek truth. Reacting to a claim takes little from us. Acting as a Chrsitian takes everything.
But let’s be honest, we are all thieves. Each one of us. We’ve all claimed what wasn’t ours, been jealous and petty, said a little – or big lie- to justify our own sin. Projected onto others so that we are not discovered. We’ve all taken something precious and destroyed it. We’ve all defiled the purity and holiness of the Living God; stolen from others and bankrupt them; stolen from ourselves and defiled what and who are called to do and be.
We are all thieves, hanging on the cross- disgraced, found out, naked and exposed.
Some of us proudly jut out our chins and die, sealing our fate. Others of us accept the free give of mercy and salvation and recognize that the man in the middle holds the power of life and death with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. His arms- stretched out on the cross- nailed there in humiliation – have the power of life and death, hell or resurrection.
We are all thieves. And we can all look to the Man in the middle. It’s not too late- whether we are successful in our thieving or exposed. Either way, the Living Christ is the truth holder and knows of our disgrace, death, corruption, jealousy, bitterness and hate.
The one hanging there is the middle- HE is the Living Christ. He offers the free gift of salvation to all who believe. He has raised the dead to life- each one of us- dead in our transgressions, if you only look to Him and believe! Alleluia!
Do you ever feel like you are constantly giving, Giving, GIVING love to your kids, and for the life of you they are not getting it?! Of course, it could be because they are having a bad day, struggling with a specific challenge, or just growing like a week. BUT another reason could be because you are not speaking your teen's love language.
One of the best things you can do for your ENTIRE FAMILY is learn all your love languages.
You would think that being around each other all the time would make it obvious what love language we each are. In fact, I assumed that. I thought that whatever way I gave and received love was how EVERYONE received love… spoiler alert: I was TOTALLY WRONG!
There are actually FIVE love languages:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Think you *know* the specific love language of each of your family members? Go ahead and guess. Write it down – maybe make a game and everyone guess what love language they are… then do yourself a favor and take the free quiz –you might be surprised!
Let’s go through the different love types and ideas on how you can show love to that type.
Words of Affirmation: An ENCOURAGING WORD does wonders for this person.
Write this person a note with words of encouragement or a Bible verse
Leave a voicemail full of affirmations -keep them sincere!
Send sweet texts
Give a shout out to them on social media
Leave a post it note on their desk or in the book they are reading with a fun note of encouragement
Acts of Service: DOING SOMETHING is super meaningful for this person.
Bake this person's favorite cookies
Laugh at their joke
Offer to bring them soup in bed when they are sick.
Wash and clear their car
Clean their room for them
Receiving Gifts: RECEIVING AND GIVING GIFTS brings joy to this person.
Consider starting a collection for this teen, like postcards or mugs from your travels
Bring a sweet treat home every time you visit this certain store
Start a charm bracelet that you add to on special occasions
Subscription boxes are like regular gifts that you receive in the mail; there are so many fun ones from food to grooming to interests
Gift cards from a favorite store
Quality Time: Giving this person YOUR FULL ATTENTION means everything
Take road trips together.
Tell them you have 30 minutes and you want to spend it with them. Then ask them what they want to do. The answer may surprise you.
Have a lull in the middle of the day? Play a board game.
Plan a regular coffee or breakfast date
Plan an experience that you do together when you have long week-end; canoeing, going to the zoo, reading a book out loud, etc.
Physical Touch: This person knows you love them by how much they can FEEL your love.
A good shoulder massage after a stressful day
A strong mama bear hug when the world feels against them.
A playful hip bump as you walk by
Put your arm around them when they are standing next to you
Hold hands when you are walking together, or even sitting next to each other
It is interesting to me how we homeschool moms often are quick to say, “Learn your teen’s learning style,” which I totally agree with. However, I would argue that just as important as learning your kiddos' love language!
Not only will your kiddo be able to learn well (by leaning into their learning style), but they will also be able to receive your love well (by sharing it in their language). And let’s face it – being around each other 24/7 and NOT showing the “right kind” of love to your family can cause unnecessary friction as much as teaching them with the wrong learning style.
For your tweens and teens, helping them learn their love language is similar to them learning their personality type and leadership style. They are all pieces to the puzzle that makes them who they are. And it's always a good thing to know more about yourself so that you can lean into your natural abilities as well as develop areas that don’t come naturally.
Take it further
As you celebrate throughout the year, offer gifts to each other that are particularly meaningful based on each other’s Love Languages.
For Birthday’s, create meaningful gifts for the Birthday Person, making sure you give a gift that expresses each of the 5 Love Languages.
While love languages might seem simplistic, it’s another tool in our toolbox of parenting and home education that can help inspire and motivate our family members. More importantly, it allows us to communicate our love and respect for each other in ways that celebrate the unique art in each other.
Check out our Orienteering Class. It covers learning styles, personality, interests, skills, and abilities and helps students hone in on vocational interests and training that will save both of you time and money. This is a class EVERY student should take!
It’s a new year and time to dream big and envision what’s ahead! Are you struggling with setting goals for the New Year? I love breaking out my new Bullet Journal and setting up the yearly and monthly calendar pages and thinking through hopes and dreams.
BUT, I break down a bit on the goal setting! For most years, I already have a rough schedule, with work related trips penciled in, along with house and business projects. Therefore, adding “goals” can feel daunting. I begin to feel like I’m already hemming myself in with stuff to get done and the year hasn't even started yet! Plus, if your year goes like mine often does, it’s important to leave flex room for the unexpected blessings and challenges which inevitably take place.
That being said, I also recognize the power of writing things down. So, I have this tension between not wanting to get too specific, but also wanting to live fully in the coming year. What’s a girl to do? If you, like me, have followed the 4 Present Rule, this should look familiar
The 4 Present Rule:
Something they Want
Something they Need
Something to Wear
Something to Read
It’s such a fun and simple way to organize gift giving!
Why not organize the New Year in a similar fashion? This new way of looking at the New Year will help you clarify where you'll be intentional about, providing clarity as you invest your time, money and resources!
Organize the New Year
Word of the YEAR! _________________________
Something I Want
Something I Need
Something I’ll Share
Where I’ll Succeed
This simple exercise can help us sort through what’s important and where we want to focus our time, money and energy. It can clarify our calling and vision, which is always helpful as both can be easy to lose sight of in the midst of daily responsibilities.
Planning using a “Word of the Year” can be so clarifying. What’s our focus? One year my word was “PRAY”. I purchased a 1 x 4 foot piece of art that says, “Pray Big” (I get that it’s two words, not one, but work with me here). I wrote down scripture verses about prayer, which I kept in my Bullet Journal, and kept a prayer jar. My word of the year offered focus, clarity and a constant adjustment as I headed True North.
Clarify & Simplify
We all have wants and desires.
Being clear about what I want allows less important wants to diminish, and allows me to brainstorm about how to get what we ultimately want. What do I need to sacrifice, invest in, double down on to really, truly attain what I want?
We all have needs.
Identifying my needs allows me to put time and energy into an area that I might have neglected or pushed off. As a result, I can identify those areas that are simply wants, not needs, and then re-categorize and focus our priorities.
We all have something to share.
We all have wisdom, strength and resources that will benefit others. Identifying where I’ll share keeps me from that easy path of good intentions and takes me down the road of generous giver.
We all have areas in which, if we allow ourselves to dream, we hope to succeed!
Identifying where I’ll succeed this year allows me to believe in my own success, plan and work for it, and ultimately benefit from it.
Write the Vision
Habakkuk 2:2 says, Write the vision, make it plain. The simple act of writing can bring our hopes and dreams to fruition! As you can see, writing down our hopes for the future is simple, but powerful! I challenge each of you to take some time as we head into the New Year to write down your big, God-sized Dreams!
Resources for a Successful New Year
Not sure what direction to head with homeschooling? Our Academic Advising is just what you are looking for! Our experienced Advisors save you time and money and take your student farther, faster! Homeschooling success is in YOUR future!
True North Homeschool Academy specializes in education. To us that includes equipping and encouraging parents as they learn with their children. We support families not just students.
Check out the free printables and links below and find out more about our True North Navigators. It's a membership group for parents with fellowship, mentoring, an online book club, and monthly learning sessions that focus on encouraging and equipping you to be the best Christian home educator you can!
Experience Based Gift Ideas for Tweens and Teens are not wrapped in paper but in love!
The holiday season is just around the corner! Gift-giving is an important part of our Holiday tradition, along with stringing miles of lights and decorating multiple trees, filling our large farmhouse with holiday cheer!
If you are in a rut with gift-giving or feel like it's materially oriented and has lost the joy of giving and gratitude, consider giving gifts that will contribute to experiences and that you can share together.
Hobbies & Shared Experiences
What hobbies, skills, or crafts grab your kids’ interest that you could encourage? Is there a local guild or artisan around who could mentor them? What about including YouTube links in a card as part of the present?
One son has been greatly interested in blacksmithing. I found some professional equipment for him used, along with a potential mentor, who is also now on the look-out for us for additional materials. The equipment isn’t new (some of it is antique) but it’s in great condition and good enough quality that he can get his feet wet without a huge financial investment. We were excited to find a former homeschooler, turned YouTuber, whose contact information will be part of the gift.
Books, Magazines & The Arts
Don’t forget magazines as a present that gives all year long.
Don’t limit your selections to “kids” magazines- we’ve had issues of Science News, National Geographic, Biblical Archeology Today, Artifax, and others laying around for years.
It has always amazed me how much information our kids glean, and what interests are piqued by reading books and magazines that are beyond their “ability” or from a different worldview than we hold. Reading and discussing articles together is a great way to have a conversation that can go far beyond the topic!
We’ll also be purchasing some Met Opera ticketsto enjoy together- did you know that you can experience the Met live as they stream live performances, probably to a city near you.
The website includes great information about the performances, performers and so much more! During the actual live stream, you’ll get to hear interviews with the directors, performers, and producers, see behind-the-scenes staging and production, and be invited into a unique world of music, dance, and theater!
Learn & Support Local Artists
Our area hosts a small film festival that shows indie films and documentaries, many of which are award winners. Because it’s local, we often get to meet people somehow related to the film and hear interesting tidbits about the film selection along with other unique details. Our local festival shows films bi-monthly at local theaters, the crowd is often interactive and friendly and the movies are thought-provoking and discussion-worthy!
Call your local movie theater and see if there’s a film festival in your town!! Our local festival is great about making sure we know which movies are not suitable for youth and children, but you can always check the listing ahead of time to ensure that they are wholesome. We are buying season tickets this year as a family gift and look forward to some great viewing!
Create your own film festival at home with these fun scratch-off posters. Commit to a regular monthly or bi-monthly viewing with your kids and sit down to some classics like The Princess Bride or Karate Kid. Invite some friends and family and make it a party!
The Great Outdoors & Togetherness
Hit the trails!
Most cities have lovely bike or walking trails. Our mid-sized city has tens of miles of biking trails. Give commitments to biking somewhere together on a regular basis. Make it even more fun by adding in some early morning pedals to get coffee or hot chocolate together- or commit to evening summer rides to a favorite restaurant or Shakespeare in the park!
Give your kids coupons with times and dates, committing to a weekly conversation and coffee date – just you and them – sans electronics.
Get creative this Holiday season and celebrate your interests and relationships!
I’d love to hear about your creative, relational, or experience related gifts so leave us a comment below. An educational gift keeps on giving. Try gifting your techy child a gift card for one of our computer science classes, or your music loving child an opportunity to take voice lessons and your art loving child art classes with professionals. Or offer these experiences as gift ideas for their grandparents! Check out gift cards here.
Lisa’s most memorable gifts were an engagement ring tied into a church Christmas ornament and a month-long backpacking trip to the High Uinta’s Wilderness areas – two grand adventures that changed her life. Along with gathering gifts (and gratefully receiving them) she owns, blogs, and teaches here at True North Homeschool Academy, which offers live online and self-paced classes, clubs, transcripts, testing, Special Needs resources, a vibrant active support community and more! Working at a job she loves and is passionate about, along with homeschooling, is one of her most favorite gifts of all! You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and hanging out in her Facebook group; True North Homeschool Tribe.
Hosting a Christmas Craft Party can be a fun way to celebrate the season with a small group of friends, build community and relationships and allow your kids a way to create fun crafts that are gift worthy.
Making it Happen
Set a Date and time. Early afternoon works well. Plan on 2-3 hours for crafting and visiting.
Decide on an age range and crowd; teens only, or grades 5 and up, Mother/Daughter etc. This will allow people to choose appropriate crafts.
Ask everyone you invite to each bring a craft with enough supplies for a specific number of kids, plus a few extras for mistakes and tagalongs. Also, ask them to bring clearly written instructions and an example of the craft. This will be helpful to the kids.
For parents who aren’t naturally “crafty”, you can direct them to some fun and simple craft sites or offer ideas for “Christmas Crafts”. You may want to ask a couple of parents to bring snacks, drinks etc. if you know they will not want to be in charge of a craft.
Send the invites and include an R.S.V.P. so you can plan to have enough supplies and treats.
The Day of the Crafting Party
You might want to provide holiday music, lights, and decorations – but remember, simple can be just as fun!
Provide festive snacks, a self-serve hot chocolate, tea and coffee bar, Let others know to bring treats, too, if you are open to that. An open snack/ drink buffet works well as parents/ kids move about crafting and visiting.
Set up various workstations – card tables and chairs, areas at the peninsula and dining room table, etc. so that as people arrive, they can set up their craft at a station. Additionally, they should set up printed instructions, as well as an example of the craft already made.
If their craft requires hot glue guns, the stove, microwave or other more difficult items, ask parents (or teens) to stay at the station to supervise.
Now the Fun begins!
Parents and kids move from workstation to workstation, creating crafts. It’s helpful for the hostess to have a place for crafts to sit or dry while people visit and move about. You could have a specific spot set aside with paper plates and kids names on them to gather their crafts between stations. Additionally, have large paper bags or boxes available for people to collect their crafts in or let people know to bring their own.
Be sure to take plenty of pictures that you share after the day of the party!
Crafts don’t have to be super complex to be a lot of fun and something the kids really enjoy.
Kids love making items that they can give to family as Christmas gifts, or hang on the tree.
Expect a mess but let people know how much mess you’ll put up with. Glitter might be a no-go at your house, and that’s o.k. as long as people know ahead of time.
Soup and beverage mixes
Shadow box ornaments
You could use this as an opportunity for your tweens and teens to gain some life skills by coordinating the party with you. This makes a great homeschool group or co-op party idea too.
You may decide to do it every year. It’s a great way to share the season with others and will provide many happy memories of crafting and visiting!
We love to celebrate Thanksgiving. At our house it means dedicated days to enjoy each other’s company, visiting, cooking and eating. While there are certain recipes that we always make and certain things we often do, we are always on the look-out for new ways to celebrate together! Traditions are important because they give us a sense of belonging and community. Holidays help us remember our values as well as personal and collected history. Here we've gathered 25 things to do to ensure that your Thanksgiving Holiday is a delightful day of gathering with friends and family!
25 Ideas for Celebrating Together
Breakfast: Set out a simple continental breakfast, a lovely quiche or pumpkin muffins, orange juice, and coffee to fuel the troops till the feasting begins.
Board Games: Are de rigor when we get some time together- especially when we get together to celebrate Thanksgiving and other holidays! Some of our favorites are; Bananagrams, Codenames, Trails and Rails, Eclipse, Risk, Agricola and, of course, Settlers of Catan!
Books: When our kids were younger, we’d set out a Thanksgiving Day basket full of books, including; Eating Plates, Sarah Morton’s Day, Samuel Eaton’s Day, On Plymouth Plantation, Tapenum’s Day, The Pilgrim’s First Thanksgiving, Squanto’s Journey and If you Sailed on the Mayflower – to name a few!
Charlie Brown Thanksgiving: You’re never too old for Charlie Brown and friends! You’ll get a brief overview of the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Snoopy then serves up a holiday feast which includes buttered toast, pretzel sticks, popcorn, jelly beans, and ice cream sundae.
Corn Kernels: Put five kernels of corn (candy corn, works too if you don't have access to real kernels!) by each place setting, in honor of the first Thanksgiving, and have everyone go around the table and name five blessings they experienced this year.
Create a Cornucopia: Create a cornucopia for your Thanksgiving centerpiece or buffet table. My mom used to have a simple cornucopia basket that we’d decorate each year with leaves, pinecones, and flowers! The meaning of cornucopia comes from the Latin words “cornu” meaning horn and “copia” meaning plenty. The cornucopia is a common harvest symbol associated with plenty. If you can’t find a basket one, bake an edible one out of bread! A quick internet search will help you find a plethora of ways to create a beautiful and edible centerpiece!
Cyber Monday: Along with other on-line companies, True North Homeschool Academy has some amazing specials coming up that you are not going to want to miss!
Food: We love good food, are all busy and have some dietary restrictions to work around. Sometimes our Thanksgiving table looks traditional and sometimes not so much! Each year we tweak, plan and prep for a few days before the big day so that there are plenty of left-overs to feed the masses over the weekend and we can spend more time visiting.
Give a Toast: Before the meal begins, raise your glasses and honor the occasion. Giving a toast lends a festive air and is a lovely way to celebrate Thanksgiving and all that you are thankful for!
Gratitude Garland: Have a basket of pre-cut, fall-colored construction paper chains and pens near-by so people can write down what they are thankful for. Start linking up and create your décor as you go- add to the chain over the holidays!
Hostess Gift: Take along some Tupperware if you find yourself a guest during the Thanksgiving weekend and help your hostess out with storing and sharing yummy left-overs! Leftovers are just a natural extension as we celebrate Thanksgiving, so we always make plenty so we will have enough to nosh on the rest of the weekend. Of course, a delicious side dish, flowers or homemade preserves would also be a lovely hostess gift.
Maker Space: Set up a simple craft table with a tried and true holiday craft like the Thanksgiving apple or Handprint turkeys. These crafts are simple and fun to create!
Place cards: Create beautiful place cards for the table so everyone knows where they belong. Write an encouraging note, scripture verse or a blessing on the back as a keepsake.
Ping-pong or Air -Hockey: These are fun diversions and a great way to get multiple ages and stages interacting together. Both beginners and your super talented people can visit while they play.
Pray Together: Join hands and pray – your prayer can be a simple one, a collective one, or a traditional one. You can find traditional prayers online, or pray through a Psalm together. You could even print these out for each place setting ahead of time.
Take a Hike: If the weather is nice enough, get outside after the traditional turkey and take a hike. Encourage the littles to find as many colors in nature as possible, or to identify various sounds. If you have enough of a group, play a round of flag football or ultimate Frisbee.
Tell Family Stories and Sing Songs: Every family has its share of fun, wild and wonderful stories! Tell about the time you had the canoe misadventure, or your latest vacation, or about when Grandma was little. Stories are a wonderful way to bond together and re-visit shared history. And don't forget the joy of the sing-along. When I was little, no visit to my Grandparents was complete without a trip to Aunt Dolly's house, where we would all gather around the piano and sing together. Church hymns are wonderful, but simple rounds and camp songs are delightful as well.
Thankful Tree: Create a thankful tree with branches, spray painted if you like, and “planted” in a decorative pot. Set out construction paper leaves and markers and have friends and family write down what they’re grateful for on a leaf, then attach to the branches.
Set the Table: Put a leaf in the table, pull out the tablecloth and set out your best dishes. Don't forget a centerpiece, napkins, and lovely place setting cards. Put on some soft background music and light candles, then gather together to talk, laugh and enjoy a beautiful meal together.
Show Gratitude: Set up a letter-writing station complete with beautiful stationery, colorful pens, and stamps for easy mailing to truly celebrate Thanksgiving by honoring those who have enriched your life in the past year! Give everyone time to write a letter of gratitude to a special friend who has blessed them this past year. A wonderful activity and sweet takeaway of the day.
Serve: Donate coats to kids in need, serve in a soup kitchen and donate to your favorite charity, such as Blessing Bethlehem!
Turkey’s Away:WKRP’s Turkey’s Away episode is still funny, after all these years! “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”
TV: Of course the Macy’s Day Parade is a Thanksgiving Day staple, along with afternoon football. If neither of those of your cup of tea, check out the National Dog Show!
Video Chat: Visit with Far-away Family and Friends! You can use Zoom free for 40 minutes at a go! Of course, it’s not the same, but when your married kids live half a country away, it is the next best thing!
More Celebration Ideas
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? We'd love to hear about what you do to make the holiday memorable!