#OAXACABORNREADS // The Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects and Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture


#OAXACABORNREADS // The Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects and Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture

#OAXACABORNREADS // The Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects and Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture

If you’re teaching your kids Mandarin Chinese and are looking for a hands-on way to supplement the lessons, or if you’re searching for summer kids’ craft projects which are also culturally and historically relevant, you’ll love this book. Now that Chinese school is out for the summer, we’re looking forward to creating shadow puppets, lanterns, traditional knots, banners, and even a floating dragon boat — all from the instructions and templates in the “Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts”!

Author Jennifer DeCristoforo has provided clear, illustrated, step-by-step instructions for each project; she also explains how the craft relates to Chinese culture. Throughout the book, “Did You Know?” sidebars entertain and inform, and photographs and art provide insight into traditional art forms.

Each craft is given a Level 1 through Level 4 designation to mark the difficulty. Level 1 crafts can be attempted by 3- to 6-year-olds, while a Level 4 activity is ideal for 12- to 15-year olds. Regardless of complexity, the directions remain simple and engaging, with  illustrations and icons to aid the crafter. Where intricate designs — or Chinese characters — are required to complete a project, the book’s appendix contains all the reproducible templates needed (this is a huge plus!)

And the book lends itself well to actual, practical use, because the practical spiral-binding means the book easily stays open and lies flat, and the hardcover and thick, glossy pages hold up against heavy wear.

This book really is a celebration. Jennifer DeCristoforo’s daughter was adopted from China in 2003, and “Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects and Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture” is a beautiful tribute to her heritage.

You can purchase the “Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts” on Amazon, or order directly from Jennifer, so more of the proceeds go to the author and not to Amazon. ;)

If you want to see even more book recommendations, follow my Instagram account, @oaxacaborn, and watch for the #oaxacabornreads hashtag. To receive an update in your inbox each time I publish a post, click here.

Happy summer of crafting!

#OAXACABORNREADS // The Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects and Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture

#OAXACABORNREADS // The Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects and Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture

#OAXACABORNREADS // The Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects and Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture

#OAXACABORNREADS // The Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects and Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture

#OAXACABORNREADS // The Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects and Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture

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#OAXACABORNREADS // The Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects and Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture

#OAXACABORNREADS // The Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects and Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture

WEB_20_Oaxacaborn_Lucky-Bamboo-Book-of-Crafts_Chinese-Crafts

#OAXACABORNREADS // The Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects and Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture

#OAXACABORNREADS // The Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects and Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture

#OAXACABORNREADS // The Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects and Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture

#OAXACABORNREADS // The Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects and Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture

#OAXACABORNREADS // The Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects and Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture

#OAXACABORNREADS // The Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects and Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture

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Disclosure of Material Relationship: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for publishing this post. All the photographs, opinions, and experiences shared here are in my own words and are my own honest evaluation. I was not required to write a positive review. Of course I only recommend products or services I use personally, and I will always disclose any sponsorships or exchanges in a disclaimer such as this one. Any Amazon links you encounter above are “affiliate links” provided in conjunction with my participation in Amazon.com’s Associates Program. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission. Amazon.com has not required me to place these links, nor do they have any control over which resources I choose to share.

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POETRY & WORDS / HOMESCHOOLING :: Why a Global Perspective is an Essential Part of a Christian Worldview


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I’ve always loved maps — the delicate wandering lines, the stars and circles hovering over city centers, the softly-worn paper folds creating ridges and peaks where the creases bisect latitude and longitude.

Maps, to me, are about more than just distance.

Maps hold stories, and remind me how connected we all are.

I’m thrilled to say you can read more of my thoughts on this over on the Sonlight Curriculum blog, where I recently had the chance to talk more about the human connections maps hold, and why I believe a global perspective is absolutely essential for not just homeschoolers, but for all Christians.

Head on over, and leave a comment, if you are so inclined!


Image Credits: Priscilla Barbosa Photography

Books, Books, Books: the Evolution of the Oaxacaborn Blog


Books, Books Books: The Evolution of the Oaxacaborn blog

When I started blogging publicly — over at Xanga, fourteen years ago! — I was in college, and blogged too many song lyrics and homework details. Then over the years, I moved back and forth across the country, working at sheet metal factory, a juvenile detention center, and an IT department, and wrote about all the ups and downs. When I became a mother, I even went through a phase where I predictably blogged about cloth diapers (I am so sorry). I’ve written about death, beauty, brokenness, joy — and interior design. And you’ve likely noticed that in the last few months, I’ve written a few longer pieces about homeschooling.

My blogging “methodology”, if you can call it that, hardly follows all the blogging advice. It’s always just followed the seasons of my life. But that’s the beautiful thing about life, too — it’s not stagnant.  It moves like a current. It flows, it goes through seasons, through changeable states of being. Way down at the bottom of this blog, in the footer, Anaïs Nin reminds me, “Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”

Books, Books Books: The Evolution of the Oaxacaborn blog

I kind of feel like things are coming full circle for me, and it all has to do with books. As a girl, I devoured books, and read everything I could get my hands on. Now, it’s only April, and Aveline’s already read 130 books since the beginning of the year. So, you’ll probably be seeing a lot more posts about literature and children’s books, and more posts about homeschooling. (Although, this is no surprise if you follow me on Instagram @oaxacaborn). I have so many good books to share with you all, but I’ve been holding back, thinking for some reason that this isn’t the right place for it, and worried about losing followers. Well, that’s kind of ridiculous. Because when it comes right down to, perhaps, like Margaret Atwood said, “Perhaps, I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow.”

I’m just thankful some of you keep following along as I scrawl in the snow.

Books, Books Books: The Evolution of the Oaxacaborn blog


To shop the books pictured in this post, click on the appropriate photo.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Any Amazon links you encounter above are “affiliate links” provided in conjunction with my participation in Amazon.com’s Associates Program. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission. Amazon.com has not required me to place these links, nor do they have any control over which resources I choose to share. Please be assured, only the Amazon links above are affiliate links. None of the other links in this post are affiliate programs. This post is not sponsored in any way. Of course I only recommend products or services I use personally, and I will always disclose any such links in a disclaimer such as this one.

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Choosing Curriculum: 15 Questions to Ask About Everything From Race to Rules


How to Choose Homeschool Curriculum and Evaluate Its Worldview: 15 Questions to Ask on Everything from Race to RulesA few weeks ago, I wrote about the harm of morality-based instruction, and how damaging it is to teach kids that goodness can be achieved just by emulating a list of desirable character traits.  While this perspective is something I consider when I’m evaluating curricula,  obviously not every subject or area of study is going to delve in to the philosophy of morality. So how do I evaluate a publisher’s or curriculum’s worldview? Here are the fifteen questions I ask when making a decision:

  1. Does this material assume all girls should grow up to be wives and raise children, or does it empower and inspire girls to follow whatever path God calls them to, recognizing that not all women marry, and some struggle with infertility? Does it highlight women and girls as independent actors? Does it tell stories of women beyond focusing on their roles in a family?
  2. Does the material promote compliance with a set of rules, or does it allow for freedom and grace?
  3. Does this material emphasize outward virtues and traits with the goal to get the child to imitate certain character values, or does it recognize that it’s only through a heart surrendered to Jesus that a person can only be truly transformed?
  4. Does the material oversimplify good and evil and present it as an easy-to-spot either-or choice; or does it teach analytical and critical thinking skills, discernment, and problem-solving?
  5. Does the material only present what to learn and/or believe, or does it also provide context and a “why” behind the belief?
  6. Does the material present history predominately from a Western perspective, or does it also present facts from a non-European point-of-view?
  7. Does the material perpetuate the idea of “otherness” by teaching about non-European cultures using stereotypical depictions, or does it allow for each culture to have its own strong, rich, identity?
  8. Does the material mainly contain books with white main characters, or does it offer books with nuanced, fully-developed, non-stereotypical heroes and heroines of diverse backgrounds?
  9. Does the material teach (implicitly or explicitly) that the “primary” actors in history or literature are white? Who does it teach my child to identify and sympathize with?
  10. Does the material attempt to “Christianize” certain historical events, or does it recognize that every event has more than one side?
  11. Have I truly evaluated the content and worldview of this material, or am I simply choosing this material because it’s popular in homeschooler subculture?
  12. Will this material allow my child to be challenged to the best of his/her God-given ability, or am I simply choosing this material because of its price point / ease-of-use / etc?
  13. Will this material equip my child to follow any number of career paths God might have in store for him/her, or am I choosing this material because I want my child to follow the path I have in mind?
  14. Is this material based on fear and reliance on man’s own goodness to combat what is perceived as evil, or does it promote courage and a reliance on Jesus?
  15. Is this material designed primarily to shelter and insulate my child, or is it designed to inform, equip, and empower?

To read more of my thoughts on choosing educational material, and why I think education as a Christian should not actually be about sheltering, head over to Sicily’s Heart & Home to read Amanda’s interview with me.

‘Beautiful Feet Books’ History Review, and the Harm of Morality-Based Instruction


'Beautiful Feet Books' Review, and the Harm of Morality-Based Instruction

A lot of different books cross my desk, especially as I work on creating an early elementary reading schedule for U.S. History. When I first started to look into Beautiful Feet’s “Early American History For Primary Grades literature guide for grades K-3, I was intrigued. Once I sat down and actually read through it, though, I knew I wouldn’t be using it or incorporating the lessons into my history schedule.

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time at all, you know I’m a Jesus-follower; and if you’re searching for reviews on Beautiful Feet curriculum, you likely know it’s purported to be a Christian curriculum.  I wouldn’t say it represents a Christian worldview, though — certainly not my worldview. But before I get into the implications of how the Beautiful Feet guide teaches morality, let’s address two of the books included in the primary literature list, “The Courage of Sarah Noble” and “The Matchlock Gun“.

In “The Courage of Sarah Noble“, Sarah’s courage is praised, but just what is it that Sarah is facing with such bravery? “Indians [who] will eat you.” Sarah is afraid of things in the dark, because they might be Indians. She freezes “still as a rabbit in danger” when Indian children approach. When she finally musters up the much-applauded courage to interact, she can’t be bothered with “the long, long names of the children, so she called the boy Small John and the girl Mary.” To learn more upsetting details, please do read this review of The Courage of Sarah Noble“. There are billions of books in the  world, and ones like this don’t belong anywhere near my bookshelf.

And then we have the “The Matchlock Gun“, which is so horrifyingly unthinkable in its description of Native American people, that I can hardly bring myself to type it here, but I want you to know what these books contain: “They hardly looked like men, the way they moved. They were trotting, stooped over, first one and then the other coming up, like dogs sifting up to the scent of food.” This is stomach-churningly appalling. And why is young Edward, the main character, so celebrated in this book? Why, because he fired the matchlock gun and “killed more [Indians] than the rest of us put together.”

No. This book has no place on my bookshelf. Additionally disheartening here is the fact that Beautiful Feet is not the only publisher to include these two books on their recommended reading lists. But let’s at least take a look at Beautiful Feet’s “Early American History For Primary Grades” study guide itself. The guide was updated and revised in 2014, so it’s more modern in appearance than previous editions. The 37-page softcover book now covers additional material such as the Westward Expansion,  and has full-color images and web links (although, I counted less than ten links in the course of over one hundred lessons). The content itself was less practical than I was hoping for — comprehension questions are given, but no answers are provided. Lesson prompts are vague, at times not much more than “Introduce Columbus” and “Discuss the value of conscience”.  And there’s a lot more written busywork than I expected in a literature-based curriculum designed for kindergarten through second grade; students are instructed to copy entire dictionary definitions into a notebook. I could be persuaded to overlook some impracticalities, if it were not for my deeper concerns about morality-first instruction.

'Beautiful Feet Books' Review, and the Harm of Morality-Based Instruction

Throughout the guide, the child is asked to interpret every historical figure by measuring the person against a list of character traits, and then make a determination of the person’s virtue. Nearly every one of the 106 lessons instructs the child to extrapolate the good character traits from a biographical segment of a person’s life, and then make an effort to apply these same character traits to his or her own life. This might seem innocent enough at the outset, but little mention is made of the heart itself, or of the transforming power of the gospel (which transforms from the inside out, not the outside in), or of what it means to actually follow Jesus. Perhaps this is because each lesson simply encourages the student to follow a list of moral character traits, not Jesus Christ himself. The hope, it seems, is that through emulating morality from the outside, one might become pure on the inside.

This isn’t a problem exclusive to Beautiful Feet guides alone; there is a tremendous amount of curricula and instructional material framed this way. But there are problems with this approach. When a child is repeatedly, lesson after lesson and year after year, asked to give examples of how a revered historical figure stacks up against a list of Christian virtues, several things are bound to happen. First, this approach ignores the basic fact that every single person who ever lived was inherently complex. So by reducing complex individuals  to one-dimensional figures, heroes inevitably become white-washed, because the focus is always placed on their abundant virtues. The child forms a worldview in which heroes have a lengthy list of abundant positive character traits, and “the bad guys” have very few positive traits. Life, of course, is not this binary. Going into life’s tricky situations believing you will easily be able to spot good vs. evil in either-or terms is not even safe! Teaching that people are good because they exhibit outward traits teaches nothing of the heart (although it does teach how to act “perfectly Christian” on the outside).

Another thing is bound to happen, too, when a child is asked to emulate the outward qualities of heroes who have almost exclusively positive character traits. When the child first encounters a sense of failure in his or her private life, the child is very likely to see even a minor struggle as a massive moral failure. After all, the child has never known any “good person of Christian virtue” to have struggles or moral failings — so the child concludes that he/she must not be good, either. When discernment between good and evil is determined by actions and accomplished by checklist, one too many moral failings on the checklist will automatically shift a person over into the “bad guy” category. And if “goodness and badness” are assessed based on a self-imposed list, what room is there for grace?

This curriculum guide also instructs children to memorize “The Conscience Poem”, several rhyming stanzas devised  by Rea Berg, who co-authored this guide with Joshua Berg. At first, I hoped this poem could easily be overlooked as an inconsequential side-note, but that’s not the case. “The Conscience Poem” is a central focus of the lessons, and is used in lessons 8 through 51 . The poem explains conscience as the inner “voice” or “light” by which a child “understand(s) God’s justice, truth, and love”, and ends with these lines, ”…and this is the confidence I will have / that God is pleased with me.”

No.

This is so damaging. First of all, one’s inner voice isn’t even a Biblical concept! God’s still small voice, yes. Ours? No. We simply cannot teach children that their own thoughts are the sole determination of God’s displeasure or pleasure. We can’t teach that their worth and value is determined by how they feel about themselves, or by how they imagine God might be thinking about them on any given day.  God already made that clear in John 3:16, “For God so loved...” Not that “For man was so wretched…” or “For man knew God was so angry…”, but “For God so loved…

We don’t need to keep self-assessing God’s love for us. We don’t need to keep wondering what God thinks of us. He already demonstrated that. His bloodshed and resurrection settled that question once and for all. When Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished.” He was the sacrifice, the Lamb of great price, and we do not need to struggle daily to apply virtues in order to guarantee God’s favor. That’s not the gospel! And it’s not what I want to teach my daughter.

It’s also worth noting that for all its talk of Christian virtue, the character traits in this guide aren’t even taken from Scripture. One would expect, at least, this character-driven type of of morality-based education to be centered around the fruits of the spirit found in Galatians 5 — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control — but this list is never mentioned in this guide. Instead, the ambiguous ideals of “industry”, “virtue”, and “moral sense” are emphasized, as is an excerpt from Tennyson’s Oenone which praises “self-respect, self-knowledge, and self-control”. (Of course, it would not change the spirit of the curriculum even if the list of virtues had been taken directly from the Bible; even the fruits of the spirit are not a way to achieve righteousness. )

Overall, the guide teaches that a person’s goodness is measured by moral tendencies or lack thereof, and teaches that a child’s value and God’s pleasure are measured and determined by how well the child thinks he/she has applied a list of moral virtues. Contrast this with the perspective Rich Mullins sang about in “Let Mercy Lead:

“Aidan, you’re young
but Aidan, you’re growing fast…
…and you’ll need something more
to guide your heart
as you grow into a man

Let mercy lead
Let love be the strength in your legs,
and in every footprint that you leave,
there’ll be a drop of grace.

If we can reach
beyond the wisdom of this age
into the foolishness of God,
that foolishness will save
those who believe…

…Aidan the day will come
you’ll run the race
that takes us way beyond
all our trials and all our failures,
and all the good we dream of.
But you can’t see yet where it is you’re heading,
but one day you’ll see
the face of love...”

It’s about mercy, always. It’s about grace, always. It’s about God’s endless love, always. Mercy, grace, and love can’t be quantified. They can’t be put on a checklist, and applied to life. Morality doesn’t set anyone free. Perfection doesn’t set anyone free. Good character doesn’t set anyone free. Only Jesus — the face of love — can do that.

When you’re presenting the world for the first time to five-, six-, or seven-year-olds (the Beautiful Feet guide is intended for grades K-3), you have a serious responsibility. This responsibility is not just to shelter their tender hearts from the violent darkness all around us, but to show them the world and equip them with courage and with faith. I want to teach my daughter that the most courageous people in history were not those with the highest stack of character traits, but those who believed God could overcome darkness. Morality does not overcome darkness. Virtue does not overcome darkness. Only God can do that. And we have to be careful not to oversimplify life to the point that we end up teaching false doctrine.

So perhaps, as my strong and sensitive daughter grows up in this big ol’ world, I’ll say to her as Frederick Buechner said best —

 “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

'Beautiful Feet Books' Review, and the Harm of Morality-Based Instruction