Summer Fun Family Resources

Getting kids through school and/or keeping littles ones engaged these past few quarantined-months has been quite the accomplishment! Our family is ready to take some deep breaths and just enjoy the beauty of summer without school deadlines, online tutorials, or daily checklists. But even though we are taking time away from flashcards and formal lessons, we don’t want to completely check-out, mentally or spiritually. There is nothing more important than reassuring your child of God’s love and forgiveness and his almighty hand in this world. These summer activities are a great way to keep you and your family centered on these vital truths throughout the next few months. Refresh and awaken your mind, body, and souls this summer, immersing yourselves in God's creation, digging into some great family devotional reads, and reflecting upon his unending grace in your family's life. 

Nursery Circle Time 

Nursery Ciricle (Birth-Age 6) is off for the summer. But be sure to check out our Summer-time Nursery Circle Songs or enjoy some of this past years previous lessons. 

Family-time Reads on Creation, Nature, and Science that Encourage Wonder

Creation Family Devotions

Creation Ministries International is a confederation of scientists (click here for a full listing) who exist to provide “credible answers that affirm the reliability of the Bible, in particular its Genesis history.” They publish the world’s most widely read creation family magazine (that is great to read with kids ages 12+) as well as a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Each issue also offers a kid's article (ages 8+) that invites kids to wonder at the marvels of God’s creation while also tackling many evolutionary topics like dating methods, dinosaur timelines, and much more! And these are all free online. In lieu of an evening bible story or family devotion this summer, why not mix one or two of these into your weekly devotion time. You could do a couple a week and work through most of them by the end of summer. You will be amazed at what you learn!
To Note: Repeatedly these articles challenge us to consider what is our final authority on truth. Everyone has an authority when it comes to how we evaluate information, be it our intellect, current opinion, or our peer group. Jesus tells us God’s Word is reliable and true. It should be our final authority, our road-map, our way of seeing this world. So when current trends-- be it scientific or moral or cultural-promote what is contrary to God’s Word, we choose God. Even though that decision does not always come easliy. Sometimes, the tone of these kids articles can come across as over-confident. Most find the right balance. Every now and then, you may come across one where you want to dig-in a little more with your family on this topic.   

Case for a Creator: For Kids

"My road to atheism was paved by science . . . but, ironically, so was my later journey to God," --Lee Strobel

Lee Strobel is a former investigative journalist who turned from religious skepticism to Christianity and has since become one of the world’s leading Christian apologists. His New York times bestseller, “Case for a Creator,” unpacks the scientific evidence for God and has since been updated and modified into a kid-friendly version. This is a fantastic summer read for the whole family! It is written for ages 9-12, but even older kids will benefit. For older teens, you can also move on to the adult version. Strobel and his team of writers encourage kids to think critically (i.e., use logic and follow evidence where it leads) while exposing the error in believing that you need to either choose between science or God. 
The apostle Paul writes that since “the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20). In this book, Strobel explores the natural knowledge of God with in-depth scientific topics and kid-friendly simplicity. You and your kids will explore the mind-boggling ways our earth is fine-tuned for life, the marvelous complexity of DNA, and the mysteries of how our world began (i.e., cosmology). And this is just Part 1!
Strobel and his team of writers don’t just teach you and your kid’s fantastic facts, they guide you in applying these key concepts to your life. In Part 2, the book offers the reader real-life scenarios where kids are challenged and/or are looking for opportunities to share their faith with friends. Rather than perfect models, they offer the reader a chance to think through how each child in the story handles the situation and consider how they might have responded. Strobel also offers talking points at the end of each scenario to help guide the conversation. 
In addition to the superb content and the excellent educational structure of this book, I also appreciate its tone. Strobel tackles this topic with understanding and grace. It is not about one-upping someone in an argument, but about loving your friends and family while not shrinking from your beliefs or the overwhelming fact of the appearance of design in all levels of the natural world. 
When reading this book with your children, be aware of two areas where Strobel's theology may not line up with what we believe and teach: First, Strobel recognizes that when it comes to faith, the facts can only get us so far. He writes, “faith begins where facts leave off.” And the Bible clearly teaches that faith comes from hearing the message of Christ’s redemptive work (Romans 10:17). Nevertheless, near the end of Part 1, Strobel invites readers to “ask God to speak to your heart. Ask him to come into your life” and then to “try doing something nice for another person.” Because the gospel message is never explicitly stated, his invitation to the reader seems to imply that we can make a decision for Christ based solely upon intellectual reasoning. This is a great opportunity to talk with your child about (1) where faith comes from (and how it's a gift given only through the gospel), (2) how apologetics like this book can remove barriers to faith, and (3) how our desire to do good naturally flows from what Christ has already done for us. Second, the Big Bang theory is also gently addressed. Strobel chooses his language carefullly, possilby in such a way to suggest that a Christian can both hold to the Big Bang theory and Genesis' six day creation. Note that most young-earth scientists would say you cannot hold to both, since the Big Bang theory was created to make sense of a universe expanding over billions of years, a presupposition biblical Christians do not hold. Be sure to emphasize with your kids that scientists who are biblical Christians have the freedom to explore what the earliest times in our universe may have been like, but that we never re-interpret the Bible to fit current scientific theories, such as the universe has beeen expanding over billions of years.  

Exploring God's World: With Maps

If your kids (Grades 3-8) like Summer Brain Quest or enjoy mapping, than they will enjoy this acitivity book. Published through Concorida Publishing House, this book offers 20 different activity maps that help kids gain a deeper understanding of the life and times of the Old and New Testament world while diving into geography and map-making. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of a Brain Quest (i.e., it has black and white pictures, and there are no sticker rewards or leveling up activity maps, etc.), but the content is solid and interesting. 

Daughter: Our Story Remembered

 Daughter: Our Story Remembered by Cindy Koch, is a coming of age book for all Tween girls, their mothers and all ages in between and after! It is a great read for any teen and burgeoning youth, but it really shines as a book that can be read or discussed together, one chapter at-a-time.  
In this book, Koch addresses the Big question when it comes to growing up: Who am I and who do I want to be? She argues that how we answer this question depends greatly upon what story we believe we are a part of. And so, she weaves us and in and out of the greatest story of human history--our Creation, Fall, and Redemption--turning it into an “ancient tale” that has been passed on to each and every one of us females. 
Koch’s writes with precision and theological depth. As a mother of five children who also holds a MA in exegetical theology from Concordia Seminary, she skillfully crafts her story with important theological markers that are still relatable to young women. She also manages the difficult task of adding theological insights that engage adult readers while still keeping it short and simple enough to interest younger readers. She inspires young women with the identity God has given them, but she also realistically describes its challenges and the struggles of life. If you are looking for a Christ-centered coming of age book for your daughter, this is it! 
The only thing that I wish Koch had also included in this book would be talking points at the end of each chapter. However, Koch also hosts the podcast, “Family Style Theology” and has an entire season where she walks through this book with a circle of young women, ranging from tween to adult. There, you will find all the nuanced questions and challenges that young women are facing with Koch modeling how to discuss and teach alongside your daughter. And, she even provides a study worksheet to go-along with each episode. Because the episodes also go chapter-by-chapter, this allows you to turn this into a special book you can read weekly with or at the same time as your daughter and than gather together over a special treat, to listen to the podcast and discuss. 

Soul Refreshing Activities for the Whole Family

Cultivating Wonder and Mindfulness: Nature Journaling

The benefits to nature journaling are numerous (i.e., teaches mindfulness, enhances observational skills, encourages active outdoor play, and more), all while enjoying the beauty of the Ontario summer-scape. Nature journaling can take many forms: sketching together, starting a nature collection of all the little trinkets you find, or even photography. There are lots of tutorials and samples online of beautiful nature journals. And for those kids who are a little older or who really enjoy drawing, these may be wonderful inspiration. "Keeping a Nature Journal" by Clare Leslie Walker is a stunning nature journal and "how to" guide, teaching the basics of drawing and nature journaling all-in-one. But keeping a nature journal does not need to be stunningly beautiful. In fact, it does not need to be either. Scientists and naturalists throughout history have kept nature journals, not for their artistic merit, but to record their observations. And for us newbies and young children, simplicity is the key. Even the most active children can enjoy nature journaling. The key is baby steps. I make sure to get my 4 and 8 year-old nice and tired with a long hike before pulling out our journals. And then, we only work on them for 5-10 minutes, depending upon the day. They also enjoy getting to pick out a nice snack for while we work. That's it. Short and sweet! Here are some additional examples of ideas for first starting out: taping items in a journal, using a template for younger, or for older children, or starting a family adventure book

Lasting Change in your Marriage and Family 

Many of us have been in hyper-drive for months now and have not had a chance to slow-down. It is my prayer that these summer months allow for at least a bit of respite and reflection. Besides just needing it, psychologically, such a dramatic change in our lifestyles and routines offers us opportunity to re-evaluate what’s most important to us. Is God at the heart of our family or have other priorities stolen that sacred spot? This is a chance, as a single parent or as a couple, to reflect upon this life-altering question. 
Changes in our lives normally do not come of themselves. They often require a type of crisis (i.e., a quarantine), moments of distress (e.g., “I just can’t take it anymore”) or a discovery of something new.  And of course, we know the only starter that can change our often stubborn hearts and consequently, our priorities, is the Lord and his message of mercy and grace. So, if there are aspects you know you want to change in your family’s life, this is the time to take stock, go to the Lord and receive his unending love and forgiveness, and then make a plan to re-center your family on Christ. Pastor Thompson is overflowing with spiritual, psychological, and practical resources on how to implement lasting change in your life. So if you don’t know where to begin, check-in with your Pastor, and he would be happy to support you.   
Below is an application activity to this idea. Does your family know what they stand for? What is most important in your family? Jot down a few notes and see if you can come up with a Family Mission Statement. You can see step-by-step examples of this via Psychology Today, Focus on the Family, and even “The Art of Manliness.” 
For the visual learners among you, you can also turn this into an art project, coming up with your own Family Crest. You can scroll down US Scouting site to “Decoration Ideas for Coats of Arms and Shields” to see the meaning of varied symbols and colors. Here is a simplified version from the Curriculum Corner if your youngest children want to get involved. Here is also some inspiration from watercolor artist, Jamie Hansen, who also provides this family crest inspiration guide

Summer Campfire Songs

As summer is the season of campfires, it is also a great time to learn a few songs together. Here are a few ideas to get you started, from great hymns, to silly songs and campfire numbers. How Great Thou Art: Based on a 19th century Swedish poem, written after the calm of a powerful thunderstorm. It was translated into numerous languages, including Russian. English missionaries to Poland later heard the Russian song and turned it into the English version we now have today.  Amazing Grace: John Newton wrote this famous Christian poem (1772) after his conversion to Christianity. Once a slave-trader, Newton later joined the fight for the abolition of slavery in Britain. It has since become a beacon of hope throughout the world, reminding us all that it is by grace that we have been saved and that through Christ, we stand united, as one family. These mnemonic songs will get stuck in your head, but they are silly and great ways to memorize the books of both the Old Testament and New TestamentAnd finally, this is a fun one kids were going to be learning for this year’s summer camping trip: "All God's Creatures Got a Place in the Choir."  It's a great one to sing on your own outdoor adventures.