Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bible in Art ~ Primer Picture Study Series: Part One

Still Life with Bible by Vincent Van Gogh

This marks the first segment of my "Bible in Art Series of Studies" for children. These are meant to incorporate basic knowledge of the Scriptures along with a taste of art through picture study. Try one of these lessons a week (one painting a week) with your children and watch as they gently teach them a variety of information in just a few minutes or if you aren't a homeschooler, you can see if you can glean anything yourself! Who says we stop learning once we leave "school"?

Have your children study the painting above by Vincent Van Gogh and discuss the following:
  • Tell them the title and name of the artist of the painting.
  • Ask your children if the Bible looks well read? Does it look important to the painter? What colors do they notice are being used? Does this look like a happy or serious painting? What kind of mood does it put them in? Besides the Bible, what else do they notice in the picture?
  • Did you know that Bible is from the Greek word meaning book? The reason you see the word Holy in front of it is to show that it is a special book, a Holy Book.
  • Did you know that Scripture simply means writings and that the Bible is often referred to as Scripture?
  • Did you know that the word Gospel simply means good news?
  • Can your children name the writer's of the Gospels? Can the children find them in their Bible?
  • Quiz them orally on this information at the dinner table for the next few days.
Memorize the following Scripture and discuss what it means:

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet,
and a light unto my path." 
~ Psalm 119:105

The Church at Auvers by Vincent Van Gogh

Continue with the discussion using the information below:
  • This painting above, by the same artist, Vincent Van Gogh, is more typical of what his work looks like. 
  • Ask the children if they like the picture? How does it make them feel? Does it resemble their church?
  • What do they notice in the painting? What colors are being used? 
  • Show your students one of his most famous paintings called "Starry Night".
  • Discuss the style of his paintings with swirly strokes along with bright and bold colors. What else do they notice about it?
  • Van Gogh wrote of his painting: "My brush goes between my fingers as a bow on a violin." Can your children imagine that? Do they think that is a good description?
  • Regarding the painting above, it is a good time to discuss what Scripture says about church attendance. Share the following verse with your children and discuss the meaning:
    "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,
    as the manner of some is;
    but exhorting one another: and so much the more,
    as ye see the day approaching."
    ~ Hebrews 10:25

    The Prayer by Vincent Van Gogh

    Discuss some information about the artist with your students:
    • Vincent Van Gogh was born in the Netherlands. Do they know where to find that on the map or globe? 
    • Explain to them that no one appreciated his art work while he was alive and therefore he was very poor. He only sold one painting in his lifetime and he had painting over 1,700 works of art! After he died his paintings gained popularity and they now sell for millions today. Isn't that sad!
    • Van Gogh actually wanted to be a preacher like his father, however, it was not to last long as he ended up becoming a painter who wanted to paint in God's service for he wrote his object was " try to understand the real significance of what the great artists, the serious masters, tell us in their masterpieces, that leads to God; one man wrote or told it in a book; another in a picture."
    • He died a tragic death at the age of 37 which was basically due to bouts of mental illness that he suffered for much of his life. 

    "Everything that is really good and beautiful,
    of inward moral, spiritual and sublime beauty in human beings
    and in their works comes from God."
    ~ Vincent Van Gogh
    Recommended resource book of Van Gogh for your children is Van Gogh (Art for Children) by Ernest Raboff. There is some mature content in the life of Van Gogh (as with many painters!) and this author sticks with the wholesome part of his life for the sake of the young audience which I appreciate!

    Picture of Vincent Van Gogh's Bible

    The Excellency of the Bible ~ A Poem by Isaac Watts for Children

    Great God, with wonder and with praise 
    On all thy works I look: 
    But still thy wisdom, power, and grace 
    Shine brighter in thy Book. 

    The stars that in their courses roll 
    Have much instruction given; 
    But thy good Word informs my soul 
    How I may climb to heaven. 

    The fields provide me food, and show 
    The goodness of the Lord; 
    But fruits of life and glory grow 
    In thy most holy Word. 

    Here are my choicest treasures hid; 
    Here my best comfort lies; 
    Here my desires are satisfied; 
    And hence my joys arise. 

    Lord, make me understand thy law: 
    Show what my faults have been; 
    And from thy Gospel let me draw 
    Pardon for all my sin. 

    Here would I learn how Christ has died 
    To save my soul
    Not all the books on earth beside 
    Such heavenly wonders tell. 

    Then let me love my Bible more; 
    And take a fresh delight 
    By day to read these wonders o’er, 
    And meditate by night. 

    By~ Isaac Watts

    Final Review Activities
    • You can finish up this study by reading the poem by Isaac Watts to your dear students.
    • Review the information above through a few minutes of oral quizzes.
    • Have your children repeat their memory verse.
    • It might be fun to show a variety of paintings to the children and see if they can point out the ones that they think belong to Van Gogh based on his special style.
    • Bring out some paints and have your children do their own bold, bright, and swirly paintings.
    Still Life with Bible, 1885

    Part Two: Featuring Rembrandt is here.

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    Our Family Living Room

    Wall number one including the entrance.
    Welcome to the main room of the house in our Homestead Home Tour ~ Part Two. Everything happens here! (We actually have no choice *wink* as there is no other area.) It is our living room, family room, recreational game room, school room, study room, library, parlor, den, play room, you name it… So, I try and keep it as clutter free and peaceful as possible… (Before picture are here.)
    “A true home is one of the most sacred of places. It is a sanctuary into which men flee from the world’s perils and alarms. It is a resting-place to which at close of day the weary retire to gather new strength for the battle and toils of tomorrow. It is the place where love learns its lessons, where life is schooled into discipline and strength, where character is molded." 
    ~ J.R. Miller, Excerpt from The Family
    Wall Number Two

    "The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
    And all the sweet serenity of books."
    ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    "The young must have amusements. The only question is what shall be the character of the amusements? Shall they be pure, healthful, refining, elevating? Or shall they be degrading in their influence? The parents must answer these questions, and the best way to answer them is to provide in their own home such amusements as they deem proper. If the home is dull and cheerless, it must not be considered an indication of extraordinary depravity that the children and young people seek pleasure elsewhere. It is as natural as that bees hived in a stubble field should want to fly over the fence to gather honey from the clover field adjoining. If there is clover at home they will not care to fly abroad. Wise parents will provide amusements for their children, and they will provide them at home, and thus counteract the solicitations of worldly pleasure outside."
    ~ J.R. Miller, Excerpt from The Family

    Wall Number Three
    “My books are my tools. They also serve as my counsel, my consolation, and my comfort. They are my source of wisdom and the font of my education. They are my friends and my delights. They are my surety, when all else is awry, that I have set my confidence in the substantial things of truth and right.” 
    ~ Charles Spurgeon

    "No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books."
    ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    "Visit many good books, but live in the Bible."
    ~ Charles Spurgeon

    Wall Number Four ~ Partial View

    A Prayer for a Little Home

    God send us a little home,
    To come back to when we roam.

    Low walls and fluted tiles,
    Wide windows, a view for miles.

    Red firelight and deep chairs,
    Small white beds upstairs -

    Great talk in little nooks,
    Dim colors, rows of books.

    One picture on each wall,
    Not many things at all.

    God, send us a little ground,
    Tall trees standing round.

    Homely flowers in brown sod,
    Overhead, thy stars, O God.

    God bless thee, when winds blow,
    Our home, and all we know.

    By ~ Florence Bone

    Wall Number Four ~ Entire View

    "Through wisdom is an house builded;
    and by understanding it is established:
    And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled
    with all precious and pleasant riches."
    ~ Proverbs 24:3-4

    Good Lighting is a must for good reading and fellowshipping!

    "Few things we can do in this world are so well worth doing as the making of a beautiful and happy home. He who does this builds a sanctuary for God and opens a fountain of blessing for men.

    Far more than we know, do the strength and beauty of our lives depend upon the home in which we dwell. He who goes forth in the morning from a happy, loving, prayerful home, into the world’s strife, temptation, struggle, and duty, is strong--inspired for noble and victorious living. The children who are brought up in a true home go out trained and equipped for life’s battles and tasks, carrying in their hearts a secret of strength which will make them brave and loyal to God, and will keep them pure in the world’s severest temptations.”
     ~ J.R. Miller, Excerpt from The Family

    Ideas/Inspirations and/or the Obvious and Oddities!
    • We love books in our home! The large bookshelf is our version of an entertainment center and is a decoration in itself for a book lover like me with all the beautiful bindings lined up in rows…
    • Bookshelves can be found inexpensive on Craig's List and Salvation Army Stores. A coat of paint does wonders (my hubby made ours). They are an excellent place for baskets of toys, blocks, puzzles, and any other item of daily use. (If you have a shelf with unruly contents, then a spring rod with a curtain placed across is an excellent way to hide the clutter and bring order into the room. I have done that in one of our bedrooms.) Also, an old entertainment center (found at many second-hand stores) is also an excellent storage for books, toys and homeschool supplies. Just repaint it to match your home and you have a wonderful new organizational piece. I had painted one white and used it for years but I had to leave it behind on this last move (at some point you have to accept what will or will not fit in a smaller space).
    • Baskets are excellent helpers to small spaces. You can find them at garage sales or second hand stores if you can not splurge on new ones. If you would like them to look somewhat uniform, then spray paint them all the same color. Or, sew up some fabric liners of the same print to give it all a matching appearance. I place baskets on top of our bookshelves for extra storage of audio books, future crafts/projects, games, etc… This really helps to give us more storage space without looking overly cluttered.
    • We try and keep our toys down to a minimum. We like to have the basic and classic ones such as building blocks, legos, tinker toys, puzzles, board games, dishes and dolls. These timeless toys are gathered together and grouped into "like item" baskets. The simple selection helps to keep order. (These new toys they sell really freak me out to be honest!). And when they get the wiggles, it's time to play the old fashioned way, in the open air, building forts, climbing trees, swinging, etc...
    • Less is more in smaller spaces. I kept down the dust collectors to a minimum and displayed just what we use in our daily life. That is beauty to me! A globe is a glorious centerpiece because it is functional as well. Pillows and blankets are available and enticing you to cuddle up to a classic on the cozy couches. A few family heirlooms and pictures are tribute to our heritage.  Candles are ready to be useful on those stormy nights. In the spring and summer, a sweet bouquet makes a wonderful display as well. These arrangements are free when picked from your property.
    • What you don't see is a television... We only watch a movie as a treat on the weekends, so why give up the needed space to showcase something that doesn't dominate our lives? The computer works just as well to play a family oriented DVD.
    • The "coffee table" is really my old hope chest. It is a great storage piece that doubles as a "place to place our books"… I gave up trying to keep that clean but I do keep a tea cloth over it to prevent it from scratching since I will be passing this on to the next generation.
    • My little "china" closet keeps just what is needed for special occasions and holds some of my collection of depression glass. A garage sale here, a goodwill store there, and pretty soon the pile of goodies grew at a few coins each. If you would like some fancier dishes but can't afford china then I recommend these vintage ones as they are a delight to set out and use. So pretty but practical.
    • The printed curtain near the fireplace (see wall number four, partial view) is covering an undesirable door that we placed an air-conditioner unit through (that's right, no central air…). I used an old towel bar, painted it white, affixed it to the wall and tied a  curtain to it. The verdict is still out on that one…
    • One pretty painting can make all the difference. I purchased the poster for a bargain and found a frame to fit it. In the past, I have found great frames at the thrift stores. Painting the frame to match your house makes it yours. I have even spray painted the matting that the picture came with to match my room and it worked out great! (You can tell I love paint, it's the frugal decorators' best friend!) If you found a painting you like and a frame large enough but the picture won't fit perfectly due to a weird size, Michael's can cut some matting to fit the picture for a decent price. (I wouldn't recommend them doing everything since it really costs!)
    • Lastly, if your floors aren't palace grounds, you can find inexpensive carpets on Craig's List and place them on top of the existing flooring. I even placed one over carpet itself when I was desperate at a formal rental and it really made a huge difference. Sprinkle baking soda over the whole carpet first, sweep the soda all around, inside all the grooves, let sit a few hours and then vacuum up to freshen up your "used" purchase while removing any unwanted guests.
    Buy at
    Birds on a Wire - Home

    Home is Where There is One to Love Us

    Home's not merely four square walls,
    Though with pictures hung and gilded:
    Home is where affection calls,
    Filled with shrines the hearth hath builded!

    Home! go watch the faithful dove,
    Sailing 'neath the heaven above us;
    Home is where there's one to love!
    Home is where there's one to love us!

    Home's not merely roof and room,
    It needs something to endear it;
    Home is where the heart can bloom,
    Where there's some kind lip to cheer it!

    What is home with none to meet,
    None to welcome, none to greet us?
    Home is sweet, and only sweet,
    When there's one we love to meet us!

    ~ Charles Swain

    Saturday, January 21, 2012

    Easy Handmade Flour Tortillas ~ Printable Recipe

    If your budget is bringing beans to the menu, more and more, you may be interested in adding something extra special to the table to "recreate" the basic burrito. Handmade tortillas are really economical, have zero preservatives and taste like heaven! These beauties just require some elbow grease with your rolling pin. Enlisting in the help of a child to do the cooking of the tortilla while you do the rolling makes this project go quickly, almost as quickly as these tortillas will go at your dinner table...

     Mix together six cups of flour and two teaspoons of salt in a large bowl.

    Note: I have also substituted two of the white flour cups with whole wheat pastry flour with good results.

    Add 2/3 cup of oil (I use sunflower oil) to the above mixture (oops, picture shows wrong amount).

    Add two cups of warm water and mix until combined. The water looks cloudy since I used the same glass from above but the less dishes, the happier the cook, I say! At some point you will have to get your hands in there to finish combining the dough. Do not over-knead.

     Dough should resemble something like the above photo.

    Pinch off dough balls, approximately 1 3/4 inches in diameter and lay on a floured board.

     Cover them with a dish towel while you are rolling out each one so they stay warm and don't dry out.

     Now, press down the dough ball with your palm to try to flatten it into a pancake shape.

    Begin rolling the balls out on a well floured board. I am constantly adding flour so the dough won't stick and will roll out easier. At this point, I would flip over this piece, place a sprinkle of flour on the other side and roll out into a circle. Do not be dismayed at your first ones. You will probably make the shape of "Italy" on your first and then slowly work your way up to "Australia". Eventually they will become somewhat circular but it surely doesn't affect the taste, just what you can place inside. Squares are perfectly acceptable in my opinion. You can even play the "name that state" game with your children on your first six (yes, it takes a while to get it right.) This is the hardest part of the whole recipe. 

    You can see I accidentally stretched the dough as I rolled this specimen out but it doesn't hinder the taste.

    Place tortilla in un-greased and pre-heated, hot pan.

    When dough starts to bubble like the tortilla above, then it is time to flip.

    This side needs only a few seconds before you add to the pile. I keep my finished ones covered with a dish cloth as we go so they stay warm for dinner and they don't dry out.

    And here they are, ready to be devoured at your next meal.

    My original tortilla recipe required shortening which I was trying to avoid and so I found this one which uses oil. I really like how easy it is. The recipe I printed out below makes 24 since the original recipe of 12 wasn't enough around here. Oh and yes, you can freeze them for the future too! Just reheat them over the flame on your stove grate if you want to serve them hot.

    Simply download and print. Please let me know if you have any problems printing.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    Winter Inspired Activities

    Winter is a social season;
    Then we gather round the fire;
    Books and pictures then delight us;
    Fun and feasting mirth inspire.
    ~ Excerpt from "Seasons" by Sara Coleridge

    The wonderful part of winter is that it keeps you closer to your home and loved ones. Who wants to galavant and freeze? Cuddle up with your family and enjoy this season with these wholesome activities by welcoming winter...

    • Go ice skating.
    • Make some hot chocolate (while enjoying some of the activities listed below).
    • Listen to the inspirational audio drama "Buried in the Snow" by Lamplighter Theatre.
    • Make some cinnamon rolls with thick, creamed cheese frosting (yum!).
    • Do some puzzles together.
    • Read a winter themed chapter book aloud to your family each night such as:
    • Or, prepare some popcorn and watch the movie:
    • Visit the elderly that are shut in their homes and bring the warmth and cheer of the family with you. If you have children, create some encouraging cards to give as gifts.
    • Make some paper snowflakes and run some yarn or ribbon through the holes and make a snowflake garland for your fireplace mantle or any other place in the house to give some winter flavor to your home. 
    • Play some board games together.
    • Sing songs in rounds (this can be really fun).
    • Light your fireplace (if you have one) and snuggle together telling stories of life when you were growing up or share some stories about your ancestors.

    • Go on a family field trip to the snow and have fun sledding and/or making snowmen.

      • Read some winter inspired picture books together such as:

      Winter on the Farm (My First Little House Picture Book)

      Reuben and the Blizzard by Merle Good 
      The Quiet Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott (Geared toward girls) 

      • Read some winter inspired poems to your family:


      Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
      A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
      Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
      A blood-red orange, sets again.

      Before the stars have left the skies,
      At morning in the dark I rise;
      And shivering in my nakedness,
      By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

      Close by the jolly fire I sit
      To warm my frozen bones a bit;
      Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
      The colder countries round the door.

      When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
      Me in my comforter and cap;
      The cold wind burns my face, and blows
      Its frosty pepper up my nose.

      Black are my steps on silver sod;
      Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
      And tree and house, and hill and lake,
      Are frosted like a wedding cake.

      By ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

      Picture Books in Winter

      Summer fading, winter comes--
      Frosty mornings, tingling thumbs,
      Window robins, winter rooks,
      And the picture story-books.

      Water now is turned to stone
      Nurse and I can walk upon;
      Still we find the flowing brooks
      In the picture story-books.

      All the pretty things put by,
      Wait upon the children's eye,
      Sheep and shepherds, trees and crooks,
      In the picture story-books.

      We may see how all things are
      Seas and cities, near and far,
      And the flying fairies' looks,
      In the picture story-books.

      How am I to sing your praise,
      Happy chimney-corner days,
      Sitting safe in nursery nooks,
      Reading picture story-books?

      by Robert Louis Stevenson

      Winter Blanket

      The snow is like a blanket that
           God spreads across the land,
      Where wheat and oats and barley sleep,
           Awaiting God's command.

      It covers all the pasture fields,
           And hides the grasses brown:
      It gives the bare, gray willow tree
           A clinging, wooly gown.

      It wraps around a fencepost tall,
          And covers up its head,
      Then drifts along the meadow banks
           To tuck the creek in bed.

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