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It’s a New Year: Let’s Do This!

It’s a New Year: Let’s Do This!

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!

Holiday Fun for Everyone!

Holiday Fun for Everyone!

Christmas is such an important faith-based holiday and we love it at our house. We decorate our 100  year old house, inside and out, with lights, trees and joyful holiday sounds and scents. Our family saves favorite movies and books for the season, storing them with Christmas decorations – and have a long-standing rule that no Christmas videos or music gets played in the house until after Thanksgiving. Because we all have our favorites, we look forward to sharing them together, once the Holiday Season begins! Below we’ve gathered Scripture, books, movies and more, to encourage, inspire and share the love and joy of this season of light! 

Scripture 

On Christmas Eve we read the Biblical account of Jesus’ birth, either before or after a Candlelight Church service

Advent 

Advent is such a sweet time of anticipation and sharing your love for the Lord and the anticipation that we share in His return! Advent is also a special time of gathering in the weeks before Christmas to share important scriptures and songs together, to light candles and to share our living faith with our family!

How are Christmas and Channakah related? For those of us who are curious about how the Old Testament continues to inform our faith, this is the perfect season to look at how Channakuh and Christmas are related, and how Channakuh might inform our faith. 

Books 

Y’all know that we are bibliophiles around here, and what better time to delve into some great books? We love to put some of our favorites in baskets around the house, and often find ourselves curled up on a couch with a cozy blanket, hot chocolate and a good read.. Now is definitely the time to start a family read-aloud, and depending on your schedule, you might want to read a book a week, as part of your Advent celebration. Below is a great list, compiled from our friends at our FaceBook Group True North Homeschool Tribe. 

Movies

I love a good movie, as much as I love a good book! Some of our family favorites. 

TNHA Blog Posts 

To get you in the Holiday Spirits, we have several blog posts from years past that will encourage and inspire you this Christmas season! 

MUSIC

We have music lovers in our house and they know the artists, titles and lyrics from music across the decades! 

  • The Messiah by Handel  if you don’t listen to anything else this holiday, find a rendition you love! 
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas– so much fun!
  • It’s Called Christmas by Go Fish
  • Silent Night other hymns are always appropriate! 

Crafts and Activities

  • Decorate Gingerbread houses- the pre-made kits make it so easy
  • Drive around and look at Christmas lights
  • Bake and cook together. We love using family recipes
  • Decide on a service or charity that your family will contribute to and think of ways to bless it with your time and creativity
  • Make Paper Snowflakes and decorate your windows 
  • Have a Holiday Open House and invite friends 
  • Make orange/ clove pomanders.
  • Go Christmas Caroling
  • Have a cookie exchange and share the cookies with your co-workers and neighbors

The Christmas Holiday is a beautiful one, as we remember the birth of our Savior. It can also be a tough one, as we remember and miss loved ones who have passed away, or deal with difficult family relationships. Determining how we’ll celebrate- perhaps simply, or maybe all out, can give this season a sense of purpose and joy. And serving others always reminds us that we have many blessings, despite hardships and trials, which we know we’ll face. 

Regardless of our circumstances, we can rest assured that the Living Christ came into the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. Alleluia! Come Lord Jesus! 


Lisa Nehring

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.

Experience Based Gift Ideas for Tweens and Teens!

Experience Based Gift Ideas for Tweens and Teens!

Experience Based Gift Ideas for Tweens and Teens!

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 tickets to 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.

Not sure what to chat about? Check out our free list of Tween/ Teen Winter Convo Starters.

Get creative this Holiday season and celebrate your interests and relationships!

Educational Gifts

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 Nehring

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.

Host a Christmas Craft Party

Host a Christmas Craft Party

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! 

Pro Tips 

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.

Popular Crafts

  • Ornaments
  • Pourable soap
  • Soup and beverage mixes
  • Gift tags
  • Peg dolls
  • Nature crafts
  • Shrink art
  • Shadow box ornaments
  • Chip Clips
  • Jewelry

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!

More Resources

Free Downloads

25 Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving!

25 Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving!

Celebrate Thanksgiving

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. Comedy:  We are always on the look-out for good comedy and love to share with others! One of our favorites is John Branyon’s 3 Little Pigs
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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!
  9. 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.
  10. 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!
  11. 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!
  12. 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.
  13. 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!
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. Serve: Donate coats to kids in need, serve in a soup kitchen and donate to your favorite charity, such as Blessing Bethlehem!
  23. 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!”
  24. 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!
  25. 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! 

If you would like more fun ideas for creating family traditions and celebrating the season, download our free Fall Bucket List Printable or our Fall Activity Ideas Printables to help you plan now!

Thanksgiving Amidst Battles

Thanksgiving Amidst Battles

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is hardly a time to think of battles. We were at Gettysburg recently. It was sobering. The wheat field, the hospital, the pillars from the states erected over acres of war-torn land. It was amazing and quieting. We attended a luncheon with our State Senator who mentioned that President Lincoln declared a day of National Thanksgiving after the battle at Gettysburg.

A Day of Thanksgiving after a horrible 3-day butcher-fest.

And the pilgrims- think what you may- lost 45 of the original 102 souls who landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts. They were people who were willing to suffer and die for the hope of freedom and the right to religious liberty. Those that survived celebrated with a feast: a day of thanksgiving after a year of profound suffering, death, and loss.

Battles and Loss

Maybe you feel like you’ve just come through a battle of sorts: a battle for your health, a battle for a child struggling with addiction, a battle for your soul or the soul of someone you love. What I know for sure and for certain is that this life is chock-full of battles, hardship, and disappointments. And holidays can be like pouring lemon juice on a paper cut!

But I also know that regardless of the battles you’ve fighting or just won or recently lost, there is much to be grateful for. We live in America. We are the fortunate 5% of the world’s population that lives in a place of relative freedom, choices, prosperity, and opportunity.

In spite of the battles being fought, lost and won, we have much to be grateful for.

An Attitude of Gratitude

My daughter and I went to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood when it came out. Mr. Rogers was beloved by many precisely because he continuously found thanksgiving amidst the battle. I certainly didn’t expect to cry throughout, but I wasn’t the only one as you could hear others in the theater muffling tears, sniffling and blowing their noses.

At the end of the movie, Mr. Rogers leans in to whisper to a dying man, a man whose life has been exemplified by loss, addiction, and desertion of the people he was charged to protect. He is asked later, what was it that he whispered. He has asked the man to pray for him because someone so close to death would be close to God. It is a beautiful re-frame. Instead of pitying the man, he sees that death brings clarity and refined purpose. This woeful sinner repented, asked forgiveness in a clear and profound manner and used his last days to redeem and bring healing. Mr. Rogers is grateful for this man’s life-all of it- the pain, suffering, redemption, and healing. He finds thanksgiving amidst the battle.

Holidays can be hard. My prayer for you is that you see all that you have to be thankful for and that despite the current or recently fought battle, you will feel God’s good presence and experience joy!

A Thanksgiving Day Prayer 

May it be your will, Lord, our God and the God of our ancestors, that You lead us toward peace, guide our footsteps toward peace, and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness and peace.

May You rescue us from the hand of every foe, ambush along the way, and from all manner of punishments that assemble to come to earth.

May You send blessing in our handiwork, and grant us grace, kindness and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us.

May You hear the sound of our humble request because You are God who hears prayer requests. Blessed are You, Lord, who hears prayer.