Memorize the Christmas Story–Begin Now

Despite all the books and blogs and plans to keep Christ in Christmas, it makes the most sense to me to get back to the original story and engrave that in our children’s hearts.

I was in fifth grade when I memorized the Christmas story, and I can still recite it today. My recitation ability is not a free pass into heaven (Jesus did that.), but it does keep the truth of Christmas close to my heart throughout the year and the years.

If you help your children learn the Christmas story, they will remember it almost word for word for the rest of their lives. It will be a reminder in their middle years and a comfort in their golden years, and chances are strong that they will teach it to your grandchildren.

Here’s where to find the Christmas story. Open your Bible…or your Bible app.

The birth story is in Luke 2.
The magi story is in Matthew 2.

Select which of the following sections of the story you want your family to memorize, or tackle them all:

Matthew 1:18-25; Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:1-20.

Here are a few tips to help memorize as easily as possible.

10 Tips for Memorizing the Christmas Story

  1. Break it down into sections or even verses.
  2. Start early to avoid stressing over Scripture.
  3. Set it to music. Here’s an example in English Standard Version.
  4. Make it part of your routine. Read it over before bed, in the morning, after lunch and before naps if you’re lucky enough to get one…I mean if your children still take one.
  5. Involve the youngest children with a verse or two, if that’s all they can handle. A great one for the littles is “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.”
  6. If it seems too overwhelming, give each child a few verses to memorize instead of the whole story, and switch it up next year.
  7. Have your kids copy the verses down by hand to engage more senses in the memorization process.
  8. Have family members read the verses into a recording device or find a recorded version and play it back several times a day, reciting along as they can.
  9. Set a weekly goal with a weekly recitation day.
  10. Set an ultimate goal of reciting on Christmas Eve or day or reciting for relatives, if that will motivate your child. If that will terrorize them, never mind.

Homeschool Helps:

We made this Scripture Memory Box for our memorization. Check it out on our family’s YouTube channel, (I know it’s confusing. I’m The Simple Homemaker, my husband is Stephen Bautista Music, our second daughter is The Art of Marissa Renee, and together we’re The Travel Bags. There is no quiz.)

Memorization, recitation, and copywork are all effective educational tools. Even spelling lists (which don’t exist in my family) can be swapped out in favor of the Christmas story. Focus those subjects on Luke 2 and Matthew 2 for the next few weeks of school leading up to Christmas.

It’s one of the greatest Christmas gifts you can give to your children.

How do you help your family memorize Scripture?

Manners Matter: Teaching Please, Thank You, and Excuse Me

Welcome to 10 Simple Manners to Teaching Your Children, Day 2!

Saying please, thank you, and excuse me is perhaps the easiest manner to teach, but similarly the easiest to gradually neglect over time. So how do we instill it and keep it there?

Let’s jump right in…please.

The best way.

The absolute best way to teach the basics of please, thank, and excuse me is to use them every day, even with a baby. It should be second nature to everyone in your family, but it has to start somewhere, and that’s usually with Mom.

Say it first.

From the time they’re little, say the words first. With a pleasant (not annoying) smile, you say, “Thank you for dinner, Mommy.” They repeat it if they’re old enough. You say, “May I please have a cookie?” They repeat and get a cookie. You say, “Excuse me, please” when someone is trying to squeeze into that infinitesimal space on the couch beside Mommy. They repeat it, and you scoot over.

I also do this with my babies, even though they can’t repeat it back to me. I also use signs for them, and will sign and say, “please,” and then give them their whatcha-ma-wannit.

Teach it.

Explain when and how to use the words, but then take it to the next step. Make it fun. Bump each other with your bums and say, “Oooo my, excuse me.” Put on fancy hats and say in elaborate accents, “Please, Dahhhhling,” and “Thank you, Sir.”

Discern between stubbornness and a need.

When my little guy is exhausted and is melting into a puddle of boyness and has morphed into a being well beyond reason (because that happens) and he cries, “I want you Mommy” with his arms up, I’m not going to demand a please. (I will usually still say, “Up please, Mommy” and pick him up, but I usually can tell when he has real needs to be met and when training will be counterproductive.)

When my little guy is rested, fed, and asking for a cookie and is stubbornly refusing his “please,” he’s not getting a cookie. (I know–big fat meanie.)

See the difference?

Correct gently and respectfully.

I’ve heard it a thousand times. Yes, rudeness is rude, but attacking it with rudeness is almost never effective. Here’s the scenario:

A child asks Grandma to read a book. Grandma says, “Please?” Nothing wrong with that. But when Grandma sounds affronted and offers a sarcastic, degrading pleeaaase instead of a gentle, pleasant reminder, the effect will be lost.

A child pushes through a crowd and an offended adult says, “Well, excuuuuuuse me!” That child is not  going to learn manners that way. Wouldn’t a simple, polite, “excuse me” with a hand on the shoulder be a kinder, more effective reminder?

Explain the importance.

If your children are old enough to understand (four and above), explain how people feel when you respect them with the words please, thank you, and excuse me. Simple.

Demonstrate the opposite.

Have a dinner or a family night where you remove manners. Instead of “Please pass the salt,” you say, “Hey! Salt over here.” Instead of “Thank you for making the popcorn,” try “It’s about time!” Instead of “Excuse me please,” it’s “Scoot, Kid, or I’ll sit on you.” It’s all in good clean fun, but if your family wouldn’t find this fun or would get carried away, take it down a notch and try the next approach.

A simpler demonstration can consist of asking which makes the child feel better and more respected: “Excuse me, please” or “Move over.”

These simple phrases are the basics of good manners, but, like common sense, darned socks, and homemade chocolate chip cookies, they seem to be growing increasingly more rare. Let’s turn it around.

How do you instill these basic manners in your kids?

This post is part of the Five Days of Homeschool Blog Hop from Homeschool Review Crew.

Teaching Manners: The Importance of Eye Contact

Welcome to lesson Number 1 in 10 Simple Manners to Teach Your Children. (This may contain affiliate links.)

In the “every child was perfect” generation (ha ha–just a little joke), children were taught to make respectful eye contact. Not the “I can do what I want” eye contact, also known as insolence. Not the “I’m looking but not listening” eye contact, which is called day dreaming. But legitimate eye contact.

This quality must be extremely rare in today’s youth, because when I talk to a young person (teen or child) who not only makes eye contact but holds it, I notice. Pay attention and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Now, eye contact is a tricky thing, because, of course, there is the autism spectrum, of which I will not even pretend to be an expert…not even for cookies. Then there are kids (like I was) who are simply painfully, agonizingly shy. There are also the kids who for some reason or another have no respect for authority and use a lack of eye contact to communicate that. These groups have more to overcome than the kids who simply don’t even realize eye contact is a thing, much less an important thing. I’m not tackling all those topics in a li’l ol’ blog post. Let’s just give some ideas here and you can see what works for your set of blessings.


It really matters!

Some people (adults included) are completely unaware of what eye contact says or does. I love this description I came across this morning in Come Rain or Come Shine {affiliate link} by Jan Karon, as Father Tim remembers his dog:

When he had the need to talk to someone who would actually listen, his dog had been his go-to. Had Barnabus dozed off? No. Had he gazed around the room as others sometimes did? Never. His dog had kept his gaze fixed steadily on his master, as if he were entranced by every word, even those unspoken.

Let’s learn from faithful old Barnabus.

Eye contact makes people feel that what they have to say is important. It makes them feel like you are listening, that you care, that they are worthy of your time. That’s a pretty big deal. It also makes people realize that you, eye-contact-holder, are (potentially) a good listener. (Actually listening helps, too.)

Once kids realize how important eye contact is, many of them will start working on it on their own. That’s my favorite.

What color?

When one of our children was three, she was agonizingly shy. She pretty much spent her socializing-with-adults time pretending nobody could see her, and since we are on the road full-time in a ministry life, that’s a tough place to be.

So we worked with her step by step. One of the steps we took was encouraging momentary eye contact (not holding it for long). We told her to see what color the eyes were of every person that said hello (or goodbye or how about a cookie) to her. That gave her about two or three seconds of eye contact with each person who spoke to her, which was significantly up from zero! Eventually we told her that some people have different colored eyes, which made her peek at both eyes. It didn’t help her listening skills, but she was three.


Show your child how it feels to have your eyes on something else when they’re trying to talk to you. Set up the situation by saying you’re going to try something and then asking a question and looking everywhere but at the child. Then discuss that feeling.

Most importantly of all, exemplify good eye contact when your kids talk. Kids say 5000 things just before breakfast, so this used to be really hard for me, you know, trying to feed my family and not burn the trailer down and making eye contact, until I realized that it was okay (and desirable) to say, “I’m sorry. I can’t listen to you just yet. Give me a minute and then I can pay attention better.” And then I can give them my complete attention when I say I will.

Also, put down the phone! ‘Kay? ‘Kay. Seriously. Just do it.


When my little ones (and sometimes other sized ones) are talking to me and their eyes are wandering around the room or they’re looking at the floor, I will say the phrase that I’m sure has become annoying but will stick in their heads (and probably their grandchildren’s heads), “My eyes are up here.” The reminder shifts their eyes to my face.

Sometimes I say, “My eyes are up here. Ask me again.” And on a really nice day, I will say, “My eyes are up here. Ask me again, please.”

Teach it.

When learning social skills, we set up role plays with our kids. “Hi, I am the appropriately named Mrs. Pastor’s Wife. How are you today?” And so the conversation would go as the child practiced eye contact and some other skills.


One of the most common forms of practice my kids have experienced is having to repeat a question, but with eye contact (see remind section) before I will answer. (Obviously not if a child is upset–training works best in calm situations.)

Practicing at home is ideal. You can ask the child a question he obviously knows the answer to, and tell him to practice good eye contact. Simple.

The best and most difficult practice is the real world. After observing my kids in the real world, I will mention, for example, that they need to hold eye contact longer, that their eyes wander when their mouths are moving, or that looking at a dude’s shoes is not the same as looking at his face.


Marathon practice.

I just watched a video of a father and son sitting face to face with rolled up magazines in their hands (I might opt for squirt guns or M&Ms). They had a two-minute timer set, and they were required to maintain eye contact the entire time as they asked and answered questions. If one of them broke eye contact, the other would swat him in the leg with the magazine. In my family, that would be funny, but in some families or with children with less secure backgrounds, the magazine swat is not a good idea. Adjust as you see fit.



Sometimes it’s hard to look someone directly in the eye. It’s okay (although perhaps distracting for some of the more acrobatic faces) to look at their eyebrows. Foreheads work. Make cheeks or mouths.

Advanced skills.

It’s sometimes creepy when you’re talking to someone and that person is staring intensely at your eyes without blinking or breaking contact for, like, five minutes. You kind of wonder if the mind is still there, because only zombies don’t blink. (Is this true? Do zombies blink?)

Teach your kids that it’s okay to look away while they’re thinking of an answer. It’s also perfectly normal to look up or sideways about every 10 seconds. Looking down, however, shows disinterest. I don’t know who writes these rules.

Your direct eye contact is one of the best compliments you can give another human being. You are subliminally telling them that you are listening, they matter, and that what they have to say is important.”

~Susan C. Young, The Art of Body Language: 8 Ways to Optimize Non-Verbal Communication for Positive Impact

Don’t be a zombie.

My last zombie pointer is not to ignore the world around you. I have one child who is a stickler for the rules. This child will not look away from the eyes if the building explodes and seagulls start pecking everyone’s knees and Darth Vader comes back to life. Practice natural. I know, oxymoron.

So…start small, explain the importance, practice, and don’t be a zombie. Easy, right? Ha.

What are your best pointers for improving eye contact in kids and teens?

This post is part of the Five Days of Homeschool Blog Hop from Homeschool Review Crew.

Ten Simple Manners to Teach Your Children

10 Manners to Teach Your Kids

There were eight pieces of fudge on the little plate at the end of the refreshment buffet on Sunday after the morning service at the church we visited. There were 110 people in attendance.

If I had made that fudge, I would have eaten all eight pieces myself rather than subject 102 people to fudgeless disappointment. I’m considerate that way. But that’s not the point. The point is that a girl of around 10 came up to the table and took four pieces. Four! Do the math.

Another time we were invited to a scanty church potluck where fried chicken was the main course, with a few meager sides to beef it up a tad. Having let an unrelated teen go ahead of him, my husband (the guest of honor) stood at the end of the line. When he and the teen arrived at the buffet table, there were two large pieces of chicken left in the bucket, and two people left in line. The teen took both pieces.

At that same church potluck, a late arrival showed up with a couple pizzas. No sooner had the pizzas been set down, then one of the leaders of the church said to his own kids (who had been near the front of the line and still had chicken on their plates), “Hurry and get some pizza before everyone else takes it!” What does that say to our kids? I’ll tell you what it says–me first

And try talking to most people with kids for more than 30 seconds without interruption after interruption. It’s exasperating! (Especially when it’s my kids!)

These are just a few of the many instances that set my children off on a tirade about manners, and how rare common courtesy is in their generation. It was the fudge incident that made one of my daughters demand that children everywhere learn manners…and she wasn’t planning to have any fudge.

Manners matter.

I don’t expect that my children place their knives at the proper angle to indicate they are finished eating and I don’t harp too terribly much about elbows on the table, even though they cause spills and bumps and limited room. (Okay, maybe I do harp about the elbows on the table.) I do, however, expect my family to master common courtesy, because that’s what manners are, respect and courtesy for the comfort of those around you.

Ten basic manners to instill in your children:

  1. Let others go first.
  2. Give up your seat.
  3. Chew with your mouth shut…and eat quietly.
  4. Don’t talk with food in your mouth.
  5. Say please, thank you, and excuse me.
  6. Take one…or none.
  7. Share.
  8. Make eye contact.
  9. Shake hands.
  10. Don’t interrupt.

These can all be summed up in the Biblical concept of putting others ahead of yourself. All of them!

Please don’t think my family has these manners mastered–everybody in life needs training or tweaking, because that’s part of the journey. But we’re always working on them. Train, tweak, train, tweak…see? Let’s work on them together! I’ll be addressing some of these manners this week right here and then once a month, and also focusing on them monthly with my own family in our real world.

Please subscribe to my weekly newsletter and follow on Facebook and Instagram to join in the fun.

Please take the time to make the world a better place beginning with your child…please!

Thank you!

What manners do you like to see in children?

This post is part of a week of blog hopping hosted by The Schoolhouse Review Crew: 5 Days of Homeschool Blog Hop.

A Few Easter “Necessities” for a Simple Celebration

Top Easter Posts from The Simple Homemaker--for real people in real life homes.

In case you’re wracking your brain trying to remember how on earth to boil eggs, what on earth to do with those eggs, and what in tarnation (wherever that is) to serve on Easter, I’ve got a few reminders from years past.

The Jelly Bean Gospel: You can buy this, but why not make it with your kids.

Jelly Bean Pinnable

How to Boil a Perfect Egg: This tutorial from our entertaining firstborn works every time.

Perfect Hardboiled Eggs (1)

This simple tip will, sadly, break the tradition of your children going to church with dye up to their wrists.

Use a Whisk To Remove Eggs from Boiling Water or Dye Pinnable

Creative Easter Egg Design: It ain’t Pin-worthy, but it is fun!

PicMonkey Collage (1)

How to Peel Hard-Boiled Eggs: Everyone has a method–this is ours.

Peeling Hard Boiled Eggs Pinnable

Deviled Eggs and Egg Chick Recipes: Too fun to eat–not!


Egg Chicks pinnable

Recipe for Egg Salad: Stick with the basics, or transform the humble egg into a work of culinary art!

Egg Salad Sands

How to Bake a Ham: Cheapest ham, best results.

Ham Pinnable

How to Keep Potatoes from Browning: A simple make-ahead tip.

How to Keep Potatoes From Browning


Easter Recipe Round-up: Just pick something from each category and you’re all set…except you still have to make it.


10 Ways to Use Up Easter Eggs: In case you have 9 dozen, like we do.

Use Up Easter Eggs

And if you still need an Easter basket idea, it’s not too late to get this Faith Builder’s Bible from Amazon (affiliate link):

Faith Builders Bible -- A Review by a Homeschool Mom and Her Son

And it’s never ever too late to give your children a sense of the Resurrection…even after Easter.

Sense of Resurrection Feature

Have a blessed Easter, don’t eat too much chocolate, and remember what the empty tomb really means–Jesus (God) lived and died for you, and then He came back to life. Why? So you could do the exact same thing. Don’t try to figure it out–we can’t love like that. Just appreciate it.


Jelly Bean Gospel – The Story of Easter Told With Jelly Beans

Easter is a fun time for families, but for my family, it is all about our faith, and our faith is all about Jesus.

At Easter it can be easy to get wrapped up in the Easter breakfast and the Easter basket and the Easter ham and the Easter eggs and the Easter buffet and the Easter chocolate and the Easter brunch and the Easter leftovers…and did I mention the food?

This nifty little jelly bean poem reminds the children of the reason we celebrate Easter. It’s essentially the entire Gospel in a nutshell…or in an eggshell.

Tell the truths of salvation with jelly beans--you'll definitely have their attention!

Here is what you need:

  • Jelly beans (Note to self: Don’t eat all the black ones this year, or it won’t work. As if I would do that…again.)
  • Plastic eggs, plastic snack bags, little cups, mini baskets, frosted cupcakes, chocolate baskets, gauze and ribbon—anything to contain your Jelly Bean Gospels.
  • A version of the Jelly Bean Gospel poem printed out.

Here is what you do:

Step 1 – Put one jelly bean of each color, along with the Jelly Bean Gospel poem, in the container. (If it’s a cupcake or chocolate basket, lay it under or beside the treat.)

That’s it! There is no step 2. I love simplicity!

I go through this process with my children instead of printing up the poem. They have to search out the words and meanings themselves. It’s meaningful, and we can call it school. Wink.

Here is my version of the Jelly Bean Gospel poem:

Black is for the sins I’ve done.

Red is for the blood of God’s Son.

Purple is for the death of The King

Green is for life when Christ rose again

White is for my sins forgiven

Yellow is for my home in heaven

Pink is for my joyful face

Orange you happy for God’s grace?!

I like to stop with yellow. The last two lines are a little hokey. I don’t like to turn an amazing message that has stood on its own two feet for all time into a hokey jelly bean groaner…and that last line is a groaner. Sorry.

Here is my Jelly Bean Gospel for readers with Bible access:

Black – Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23 (sin and death)

Red – Romans 5:9 (blood)

Purple – John 19:19 (King)

Green – Matthew 28:5-6 (life)

White – Isaiah 1:18 (forgiveness)

Yellow – John 14:2-4, Revelation 21:21 (heaven)

Pink – Romans 15:13 (joy)

Orange Ephesians 2:8-9 (grace)

You can exclude the keyword, and let them discover it themselves if you prefer, or substitute other Bible verses.

Adjust this poem however you see fit so you can save and eat all your favorite jelly beans. I first saw this concept years ago at our church, but there are 184,000 versions online (I make 184,001), so do a quick search for other options. I wrote my own, because some of the others didn’t make sense, and my kids would ask, “But WHY is orange for sins?” and “I don’t WANNA be tickled pink. I’m a boy. I wanna be tickled BLUE.” and “The fifth and sixth jelly beans don’t rhyme. That’s so lame.” I just didn’t want to go there, ya know?

Hey, if you have any questions about my faith, please ask me. I’m happy to share my faith…but I will not share my black jelly beans.

And now, a pressing question: what is your favorite color of jelly bean?

For more simple Easter ideas, visit my Easter Pinterest board entitled Simple Easter Ideas.


How to Keep Potatoes From Turning Brown

This post goes out to Facebook fan Jessica. Good luck and have fun with your first major Thanksgiving cooking!

How to Keep Potatoes From Browning

I love to prep as much of my major cooking ahead of time as possible, especially for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. (I’ve even fed the family breakfast before bed to get a jumpstart on the next day. Note to self: bad idea.) Sometimes my prep backfires, like when my pre-peeled potatoes turn brown.

How to Keep Potatoes From Browning

If I were to ask my husband about that phenomenon, he would draw on his pre-med training and say something all science-y, like the browning is caused when the polyphenol oxidase enzyme is released from the potato’s cells upon cutting. The enzyme immediately begins reacting with the oxygen in the air to turn the phenol compounds within the tuber brown in a process called oxidation.

Oxidation, shmoxishmation. I just call it ugly. They’re still perfectly edible, mind you, but they aren’t perfectly pretty. I like my taters to be pretty before I mash them into an unrecognizable pulp.

Here’s how you can get a jump start on your potatoes without the ugly.

How to Keep Potatoes from Turning Brown

How to Keep Potatoes From BrowningPeel and rinse the potatoes. (So far so simple.)


How to Keep Potatoes From Browning

Place them (whole, sliced, or diced) in a bowl, pot, bucket, trough, whatever, and cover them completely with water. Completely! Taters in, air out.


How to Keep Potatoes From BrowningStore the bowl in the refrigerator. (I cheat on this step if I don’t have room in the frig. Shhh.)


That’s it! Told ya it was simple. Simpler than that whole polyphenol oxidase thingie.

How to Keep Potatoes From Browning


I only do this overnight. Some people claim you can do this up to three days in advance as long as you replace the water and rinse the potatoes daily. Some people might be right about that. (See the comment section for other opinions.)

Others add a splash of lemon juice to keep potatoes from turning brown. This is a good practice for something that might be sitting in open air. Scientifically, however, the browning occurs when the potatoes come in contact with the oxygen in the air, which is an impossibility when the tubers are immersed in water whose oxygen is firmly bonded to hydrogen and won’t be oxidizing any taters. I save my lemons for lemon pie. Mmmm…pie.

I know you’re all itching to know why potatoes don’t turn brown after they’re cooked. Well, if I were to bother my pretty little head about such things, I would tell you that heat denatures the enzyme, rendering it inert, so it no longer reacts with the oxygen to transform the phenol compounds. (Heat kills enzymes.) But all that science just gives me a rash. Winking smile

Another alternative: crockpot mashed potatoes

How to Keep Potatoes From BrowningMy dear blog friend Stacy from Stacy Makes Cents has a recipe for crockpot garlic mashed potatoes in her e-cookbook, Crock On. Crocking your taters would entirely free you up from even having to think about them. It would almost be like having a personal chef make the potatoes for you, and all you had to do was eat them. Crockpots are neat like that.

Read my review about Crock On here, or, if you want the recipe for crockpot mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving and don’t want to bother with any ol’ reviews in case it talks about phenols and denaturing enzymes (which it doesn’t), buy it now for $5, or get it on Kindle. That’s how I’m making our mashed potatoes this year.

One more Thanksgiving tip:

Brine your turkey! It’s simple and makes all the difference for a juicy bird. Here’s how.

Jessica, I hope this tip for keeping potatoes from turning brown helps you out! Happy Thanksgiving! (Have a question? Submit it in the contact me section.)

What’s your best Thanksgiving dinner shortcut?

Truth in the Tinsel Advent Experience