Christmas Gift Ideas for Middle Schoolers

gift17I’ve found a few interesting gift ideas for the middle school crowd that don’t involve electronics. They might actually encourage family time as well! So many families are not in a position to afford the many expensive new gadgets advertised. If you are looking for something a little different and easier on the budget, look no further. Here are just a few ideas that might get your kids playing again. Why encourage them to play? because playing is still learning, even for middle school kids.

Ivan’s Hinge



Ivan’s Hinge -A great compact puzzle that can go in a pocket or backpack. Encourages problem-solving in a creative, fun way for ages 8 and up.

PrismaColor Colored Pencils

PrismaColor colored pencils and Dover Coloring Books – These pencils and coloring books take coloring to a new level. Not the simple pictures you used to color with crayons. These drawings are detailed and beautiful.  And PrismaColor pencils are high quality and work well for this type of coloring. Coloring is for any age!

Dover Coloring Books

There are dozens of coloring books to choose ranging from geometric shape designs to nature and history. Something for everyone.  The Victorian House is my favorite.




Chronology Board Game





Chronology Board Game – This game covers 2000 years of history that players organize into timelines. Each game is a new learning experience. A great family game for two or more players that reinforces the timeline of history. For ages 14 and up, but younger kids can work on a team with an adult or older sibling.







Morphology – Think Pictionary with a twist. In this game, you use a combination of everyday items to create models of objects which team members must guess. Sometimes players are asked to create with one hand, or with their eyes closed adding a hilarious dimension to the game. For ages 13 and up.






The Science Chef



The Science Chef Travels Around the World  Fun food experiments and recipes for kids. Combines science, cooking, and cultural studies in one resource that brings fun and learning right into your kitchen. For ages 10 and up.



Do you have other suggestions that you could share? If so, leave a comment telling us about them.


Are You Too Busy?

Several years IMG_9588ago I began reading on a topic that I would call “life priorities.” I was raising a houseful of boys and there seemed to be an endless to-do list that plagued me no matter how hard I tried to check off the items. I also had another list, mostly in my head. That list consisted of activities that all started with the phrase, “someday I’d like to…” Those things were rarely checked off.  In fact, they were rarely even considered because the other list was more urgent.

Charles Hummel’s booklet, Tyranny of the Urgent,  helped me see how warped my priorities had become.  He talks about how we get caught up in what is urgent at the expense of what is important. The booklet was written in 1994 and now, nearly twenty years later, the urgent is even more intense than ever before. Now we are not only fighting the urgent but also the instant. I also read several other books that were helpful as well. One was Margin by Richard Swenson and another was First Things First by Stephen R Covey. All of these authors confirmed what I had been feeling. If I wasn’t intentional, life could get way out of hand.

Now remember, this was years ago, before Facebook, Twitter, smartphones or ipads. How did we manage? An even better question is, why is it that the addition of all our modern conveniences has made our lives more stressful instead of less?

I can’t help but ponder the irony that a century ago when just managing the tasks of everyday living took so much more time and energy, people seemed to have more time. Folks managed to get everything done and still have time for the people who were important to them. How is it that in our modern era when we have all the most time-saving conveniences imaginable, things that should make life easier, we have calendars jammed with all kinds of urgent activities and no time for anything?

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was bringing my first little boy home from the hospital. That little boy turned thirty this year. I am so thankful that I learned long ago to be intentional about choosing the important over the urgent or instant. My boys haven’t been involved in every activity available and I’ve said no to many opportunities over the years. I have no regrets, we have so many wonderful memories of just being a family. We try to take time for the little surprises in life that might go unnoticed if we are so focused on our to-do lists. We try to be intentional about how we spend our time.  Most evenings you will find us at home.

If you find yourself longing for a less stressful lifestyle perhaps it’s time to reassess your priorities. Each choice we make shows clearly what we perceive as important. Are you choosing God and family over everything else or do other things push their way into first place?