And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)
I’ve written about the significance of Mark 12:28-31 in our homeschool before (here) and it’s amazing how this has impacted our learning! To help us stay focused on loving God with our Heart, Soul, Mind, Body, and Spirit, we rely on regular prayer and a couple of useful aids. One is in the student planner we recently started using and the other is the Jewel Jar we’ve used for the past several years.
My post Our Everyday Quest for Treasure introduced how the Jewel Jar has been a beautiful visual “tracker” of our activities in these primary years. It’s also provided a number of opportunities for my daughter to practice academic skills. Now, keep in mind that I never approach the counting and sorting of the jewels as a structured “lesson.” A full jar means some sort of reward for her efforts—an ice cream, a special lunch, a low-cost toy, or a trip to the discount theater—so my daughter is always happy to do it. But, since the whole point behind the jar is to keep us mindful of the balance (or imbalance) in our lives, she must sort and compare them in some way.
Over time, these ways have grown increasing more complex. It can take us a little while to fill up a jar (if we forget to do it one day, we don’t go back to put jewels in the next), so there always seems to be a new layer of learning that’s been acquired in the meantime. I, of course, am there helping (if she asks) and asking questions that lead to her make connections. We also keep a dry erase board or note paper handy on which to note the results.
A just balance and scales are theLord’s; all the weights in the bag are his work. (Proverbs 16:11)
Practical math is practiced most in these Jewel Jar activities, although writing can happen as well. However, it’s important to note that I don’t expect my daughter to group and regroup, write and calculate all in one sitting. This is not an opportunity for me to pile on academic challenges; it’s a time for her to take charge and use some of the skills she’s learned. Some of these have included:
- Writing numbers (on the dry erase board)
- Comparing numbers (less than, greater than)
- Arranging in groups of 10 and counting by 10’s
- Arranging in groups of 5 and counting by 5’s
- Arranging in pairs and counting by 2’s
- Arranged like a bar graph (shown in picture)
- Ordinals (shown in picture)
- Single and double-digit addition
- “How many more” subtraction
- Writing and spelling words (i.e. “25 blue” or “thirty-two mind”)
Of course, there’s no way to measure the value of the discussions we have during these times. They range from the academic to the spiritual with questions like “In what way did you love the Lord the most this time? What got the least attention?” and “Why do you think that is?” These questions can lead to deeper reflection and a brainstorming of ways to improve our walk. For example, the picture above shows what was put in the jar mostly over summer months and Heart turned out to have received the least attention. We talked about this and realized that we rely a lot on Bible studies and AWANA that happen during the school year. Therefore, work on a relationship with God fell off when summer hit. Needless to say, this gave us a lot to think about for next year: Do we need to find a devotional to work through? Should we just read the Bible daily? What other ways can we build up a relationship with God?
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. (Psalm 145:18-19)
In the end, I’m finding more and more that every moment of every day is something God can (and will) build upon. We don’t need to clutter these times with formal lessons of our own, turning exploration and discovery into a drill. Just a little something to be watchful for…