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Unique Value Project Idea: Presidential Active Lifestyle Award

1 July 2012

If you’re not familiar with the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award challenge, it is worth your time to check it out. Geared for citizens of all ages, this is a great way to encourage physical fitness by setting and meeting goals appropriate for your current level of fitness.

A fantastic idea for the Young Women Knowledge Value Project.

Also not a bad idea for mom and dad, or younger and older siblings, or leaders, or… well, you get the idea.

Because it’s what I do, here’s a handy list of how this award can help children and youth fulfill requirements in other programs:

Webelos Athlete Activity Badge.

Cub Scout Physical Fitness Belt Loop or Pin, not to mention the multiple athletics-oriented cub scout belt loops and pins.

Boy Scout Personal Fitness Merit Badge, not to mention the multiple athletics-oriented merit badges, Varsity pins, and Venturing awards.

Deacon Duty to God For the Strength of Youth Physical Strength.

Unique Service or Value Project Idea: HOPE Art Handmade Dresses Project

23 February 2012

As one of the many service arms of Project HOPE Art, the Handmade Dresses Project benefits poorly-clothed orphan girls living in Haiti. This super easy sewing project is a great idea for Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, or Good Works value projects, depending upon your focus. A young woman could work on this project on her own or organize a service night for a Mutual activity.

The first batch of dresses was delivered in January, but more trips are planned for April and July.

HOPE Art Facepainting Project

Feel like being uplifted? Take a few moments and peruse the Project HOPE Art website, blog, and photos. If you’re going to spend time on the Internet, this site is a worthy candidate. I stumbled across it just a few minutes ago and knew I had to share. Enjoy!

Review of Boy-Scout Friendly Homeschool Curriculum

21 February 2012

For all you homeschooling parents, or for parents wanting to enrich your child’s education, Homeschool Legacy offers once-a-week unit studies which (wouldn’t you know it?) knock off Boy Scout Merit Badge requirements along the way.

I’m all about efficiency, so I thought that was a great idea. Sharon Gibson of Homeschool Legacy very kindly sent me the unit of my choice to review (I choose “We the People: Getting to Know Your Constitution”). I’ve received no other compensation, coercive threats, bribes, or chocolate, and give you my honest opinion. Keep in mind, however, I am not a homeschooling parent.

I found the material well-organized and consistent. Each unit is divided by week. Each week has a list of library reading/video options which relate to that week’s subject matter along with an (often short) list of supplies needed for the week. The week’s study always includes “Daily Activities” (usually consisting of reading relevant material), and a weekly “Family Devotional” relating the week’s topic to Biblical themes.

These units were designed to be used just once a week, but sometimes the material/activities seemed an awful lot to cover in one day. That may just be my inexperience talking, though.

I liked the variety of the format from week to week. One week may have an art appreciation activity, another may have a drama activity, while another may have a “copy and cut” game like “Preamble Scramble.”

These units are designed to be user-friendly and prep free. A huge amount of planning and prep work has gone into these books. What you’ll find is a fully-designed series of lessons that even include instruction scripts and question prompts. Pretty cool.

I don’t think “no prep” means “go into it blind,” however. I would advise parents wanting to use these books to go over the instruction scripts ahead of time, before starting the unit. I would either delete or be prepared to explain items mentioned in the instruction (for example, there is passing mention made of things such as Cicero’s Principles of the Natural Law, and the Iroquois Confederacy). There may be certain things you want to cover in more depth, possibly before starting the unit.

You definitely want to pay attention to the “timeline” activities, as dates for events and/or people are not always provided. (This was the one oversight I saw, in terms of prep work being done for you.)

There are lots of cool extras sprinkled throughout the lessons, including “Stump Your Dad Trivia” and a link to see Howard Chandler Christy’s acclaimed painting, Signing of the Constitution. (Said link also provides a neat “scroll over” feature which names the signers shown in the painting, and gives more information about the signer if you click on his name.)

Being the art lover I am, I would flesh out her art appreciation activities a bit more, but I think her suggestions make for a great starting point. Flexibility in your own curriculum is one of the beauties of homeschooling. Given that, I think her units can be used however parents please, either as a framework for customizing their instruction, or as a “ready to go” unit parents can follow page by page and week by week.

I chose this particular unit to review because I wanted to see how she incorporated the requirements for the Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badge, one which I’ve seen “milled out” in a rather disappointing way. This is an Eagle-required badge for a reason. When properly done, I think young men earning this badge gain a deeper respect for their country and feel an increased measure of responsibility toward their own country. When improperly done, it is a mind-numbing experience beginning with mindlessly filling out a workbook and ending with receiving a merit badge that means nothing to the recipient.

If you want your young man to experience the former, the We the People unit study is not a bad way to go.

Here are the merit badges you can earn via her unit studies, as of this writing:

Birds of a Feather unit fulfills requirements for the Bird Study merit badge.

Forest for the Trees unit fulfills requirements for the Forestry merit badge.

Horsing Around unit fulfills requirements for the Horsemanship merit badge.

Weather on the Move unit fulfills most of the requirements for the Weather merit badge.

Knights and Nobles unit fulfills requirements for the Art merit badge. (Interesting! Makes me wish I’d checked it out!)

Native America unit fulfills requirements for the Indian Lore merit badge.

Early Settlers unit fulfills requirements for the Reading merit badge.

Revolutionary Ideas: the Story of the American Revolution unit fulfills most of the requirements for the American Heritage merit badge.

We the People: Getting to Know Your Constitution unit fulfills requirements for the Citizenship in the Nation merit badge.

Christmas Comes to America unit fulfills requirements for the Music merit badge.

Book Review: Tear Soup

6 November 2011

After my children’s father passed away a few months ago, a friend (who had lost her baby just weeks before) gave us this book. What a blessing it’s turned out to be, as this book has become part of the routine of my children’s grieving and healing.

In order not to compete with content for which I’ve been paid to write, you can read my full review of this book on the wonderful website Summit Series for Families.

I will share one thing I did not include in my other review. When I first introduced this book to my children it was individually, one-on-one, so they were able to read and discuss the book privately with me. I didn’t plan it this way, but this is what happened. I found it interesting that when I was done reading to each of my children for the first time, they each went back to look at the same page: the pots page.

It’s a very simple illustration at first glance. A line of pots, ranging in size order from tiny to huge, each marked with labels identifying different levels of grief. The smallest pot says “Not Fair.” Middle pots say “Big Disappointment” and “Profound Loss”, among other things. The largest declares, “More Than I Can Bear.”

My children like to point out which pot they needed that day. Too often they pick the largest, although the last week or two they point to middle-sized pots. But this ritual of picking the pot seems to help them.

Above the pots is a shelf with several books, each with a different word on the spine representing the different kinds of loss a person may be grieving: “Child Died,” “Suicide,” “Divorce,” “House Fire,” and “Flunked Geometry” are among the many options. My children like to point to the books which apply to them.

It’s a book which is helpful, comforting, and, in many ways, lovely. I encourage you to read more about it if you or someone you know is going through a loss.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank those who have been patient and supportive as our family has gone through this difficult time, including those who only know me via this blog. Your long awaited reviews and updates are forthcoming. Thank you for your understanding.

Unique Value Project Idea: Blog Mania!

27 June 2011

I came across the fabulous blog, Mutual Insanity, ran by a young woman who’s been chronicling her journey through the Young Women program for over two years now.  Isn’t that a great title for a blog? Along with her blog she has tabs for mutual ideas, handout ideas, Girls’ Camp and more.

What a great project idea!

In fact, I think the initial set up of a blog (which can be pretty time-consuming depending on what you do) could count for a project in Knowledge, while running the blog for awhile could be a separate project for Individual Worth.

Lest the boys should feel neglected, this would be a creative way to fulfill some requirements for the Communications Merit Badge, which is required for Eagle, not to mention the Computers Merit Badge.

Another option for the boys is to create a blog to fulfill the hobby section of the Arts and Hobbies Bronze Award in the Venturing Program.

Gee, all this talk about blogging makes me want to start a blog!

Oh wait. I did that already. Nevermind.

Unique Service Project Idea: Pennies for Peace

30 November 2010

My heart has a special place for Greg Mortenson and his work in Afghanistan and Pakistan. His amazing journey from mountaineer to international philanthropist is outlined in the famous, inspiring book Three Cups of Tea.

From the website:

In 1993 Mortenson was descending from his failed attempt to reach the peak of K2. Exhausted and disoriented, he wandered away from his group into the most desolate reaches of northern Pakistan. Alone, without food, water, or shelter he stumbled into an impoverished Pakistani village where he was nursed back to health.

While recovering he observed the village’s 84 children sitting outdoors, scratching their lessons in the dirt with sticks. The village was so poor that it could not afford the $1-a-day salary to hire a teacher. When he left the village, he promised that he would return to build them a school. From that rash, heartfelt promise grew one of the most incredible humanitarian campaigns of our time.

If you haven’t read it, you must. It’ll make you want to do something to help.

If your kids haven’t read one of the youth editions, encourage them or make it a family event and read it to them yourself. It’ll make them want to do something to help.

Too often we read about something like this, wish we could help, and then do nothing because we don’t know what to do.

As you may have guessed, I have a suggestion. ;)

The Pennies for Peace campaign is an excellent way for our youth to truly help some of God’s neediest children. It’s a way to raise awareness of the needs of others and encourage gratitude for the blessings we have here. It’s a way to empower kids to understand that they can make a difference in the lives of others. It’s something everyone can get in on, even those who only have pennies to give.

This idea is flexible and can be made to fit the kind of service project you’re looking for. Primary kids working on their Faith in God can run a small and simple campaign. Youth working on Personal Progress, Duty to God or Scouting awards can coordinate a campaign on a much larger scale.

The Pennies to Peace website has tips and everything you need to get started, from printable stickers to decorate your donation jars to letter templates for parents and Girls Education Fact Sheets. And it’s all free.

If your son or daughter decides to do this, please drop me a line and let me know how it went. :)

LDS and Scouting Service Project Requirements:

PLEASE NOTE: The Pennies for Peace program may NOT be used for the Eagle Scout award because fund-raising projects are not permitted for that award.

Faith in God – Serving Others requirement #7 and #10.

Personal Progress – Good Works Value requirement #7 or the Good Works Value Project which requires at least 10 hours of service and can additionally include involving other young women.

All three levels of the new Duty to God program (Deacon, Teacher, Priest) include requirements to plan and carry out service, both individually and with the quorum.

The Star and Life ranks of the Boy Scout program each require service projects totaling at least six hours of work. Again, please note you may NOT use fund-raising service projects for the Eagle Scout Award.

Venturing – Religious Life Bronze Award requirement #3.

A Pennies for Peace campaign could be used to fulfill the service to others requirement for the Venturing Gold Award.

My Guest Post

14 September 2010

You can read my guest post, as part of the Family Proclamation Celebration, here at Chocolate on My Cranium.

And by here, I mean HERE.

Just kidding.

I gotta say, I’ve felt a little guilty for not participating more in the celebration. But just a little. As a single mom most of my “free time” (ha ha) goes to my kids and the rest goes to recuperation. I’m sure they understand.

I’ve enjoyed following along via my reader, though. There are daily guest posts on two blogs (Chocolate on My Cranium and We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ) and it’s been interesting to see what the various participants have to say.

My favorite so far is That’s What Father’s Do, by Braden Bell. I love, love, loved hearing a male perspective on the family. Very refreshing. He made me think about the Stripling Warrior story in a whole new way too.

The world needs more fathers like that.

Check it out if you haven’t already. Check out mine too, if you’re so inclined.

I don’t talk about Stripling Warriors. I talk about cottage cheese.

Prepare to be inspired.

Treasure Hunting in the Blogosphere

3 September 2010

In the last seven months, I’ve learned there’s a difference between running a personal blog and running a blog and website like my America Jane project.

When all I had was a personal blog, all I read were personal blogs by people I personally knew. I didn’t know about the famous blogs out there (and probably still don’t, Pioneer Woman notwithstanding).

So as I’ve gone about doing my various America Jane things, I’ve stumbled upon a bit of treasure out there in the blogging world. Some of it applies to the theme of this blog. Some of it doesn’t.

For example, Geninne’s Art Blog is a delight. I thought I’d tire of the birds, but I haven’t at all. In fact, she’s recently moved and has been busy setting up her studio (with an enviable view) and I miss seeing her birds. There’s something so cheerful about her blog and her artwork. It’s been a lovely addition to my Google reader.

Then there’s Škorčica. I don’t remember how I found this blog, but I love it. I love seeing bits of another culture. I love that English is not the primary language of that blog (and greatly appreciate the translations). See, it makes me feel all cultured. I don’t get a lot of culture in these parts. It’s nice to feel part of the International community, even if my part in the relationship is “lurker”.

Once Upon A Tea Time… Design Stories is like a picture book for me. I don’t even read the text. I just drool over things like this cozy spot.

I must say, following these blogs makes me want a decent digital camera all the more. If I ever get around to plunking down $600 for a camera, the look of this blog will completely change. I didn’t realize how bad my camera was until I tried taking pictures for this blog. That’s why my posts are typically limited to one picture. Ah well.

Anyway, thanks to the Family Proclamation Celebration (which is off to a fabulous start, by the way) I’ve discovered even more blogs. I checked out the other guest bloggers and found some treasures:

Scribbit’s blog hails from the northerly corners of the world (read: Alaska) and holds golden nuggets such as this delicious-looking poppy seed chicken casserole. There are a few other things I’ve found on her blog that I plan on highlighting separately.

Hungry Panda gets about a billion points for her Bob and Fred snowmen. I’m a big Calvin and Hobbes fan. These snowmen rock the house.

The Modern Hive has this cute Baked in a Jar idea. Supposedly you can let these sit on a shelf for up to six months, but who could wait that long?

And, if you haven’t already, check out Cocoa’s FHE database. I love the spider web idea.

What treasure have you accidentally found in the blogosphere?

Family Proclamation Celebration!

28 August 2010

I’ve been asked to be one of several guest bloggers for the Family Proclamation Celebration, hosted by Jocelyn of We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ and Cocoa of Chocolate on My Cranium (gotta love that blog title!).

During the month of September, bloggers from all over will be writing about some aspect of the Family Proclamation.

Mine’s already written and I gotta tell ya, I don’t mention Scouts or Personal Progress once. Not ONCE!

Nope, I decided to leave my little pet hobby at the door.

Instead I talked about such life-changing things as cottage cheese and ketchup.


I’m not quite sure if that’s what they had in mind.

But anyway, if you’re interested in The Family Proclamation and giveaways and joining one big ol’ party, then September is the month for you. Join in the fun and enter to win prizes by commenting on posts, putting a cute Family Proclamation Celebration button on your blog to spread the word, announcing it on Facebook, joining in on link-up parties and more.

To make it official, I suggest you eat some party-type munchies while you do this. The more chocolate-y the better.

The party awaits. See you there!

Planning the Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project

14 August 2010

Freight Wagon used by the Clark Company, restored by Ryan Worthen as an Eagle Scout project in 2000. This wagon is the property of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers and finds its home on the grounds of the Old Mormon Fort Visitor's Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ah, the pinnacle of Scout achievement: the Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project.

A word that’s sometimes overlooked in that phrase is “leadership”. The Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project isn’t just about doing service (although that’s a great thing about it). This is a chance for a boy scout to learn what goes into planning a big project. To learn leadership.

Too often in the LDS Scouting community, boys are short-changed because parents and/or leaders don’t really know what’s expected. I don’t fault individuals for this. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Well, the Eagle Project Planning Guide will take you through everything you need to know. This get to the point one-page website outlines the essentials in a clear, organized manner without overwhelming you with too much information.

It’s really a great site.

Read it. Have your scout read it. Let me know what you think.

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