For the last three years, we've had the fun of participating in Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan's Purse. This is one of our church's big international service projects for the year: we're hoping to send 200 boxes full of toys, school supplies, hygiene products, and other fun stuff to kids all over the world for Christmas.
On November 1, the kids left church excited to finish shopping for our boxes. Since we do this project every year, we have been collecting items for our boxes all year. We found some great deals on Barbies and Lego after Christmas, picked up discount water bottles at the end of summer, and bought crayons at the back to school sales. So we went to the Dollar store to finish our shopping and picked up toothpaste, toothbrushes, hair ties, notebooks, candy and some other small toys.
We've picked up a few handy tricks over the years like filling the water bottles with candies to maximize your space (and keep the candies from tasting like the soap.)
We also like to buy a plastic shoebox and buy a scarf, bandana, or towel to "wrap" the present inside so that every part of the gift is fun and useful.
The only minor problem we ran into was that our boxes were too small to fit our Barbie boxes. But after a trip to the store we did find some boxes that would work. We really hope some kids will be blessed by these gifts. We paid our postage online and printed our labels, so we will be able to track our box and find out its end location.
Since our minds were on generosity and boxes of gifts for people in need, I decided to devote our school week to the book, Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming. This is the wonderful story set in Holland after World War II. The country has been ravaged by war and the Dutch people are without food and warm clothes. A little girl named Katje receives a box containing socks, chocolate, and soap from a girl in America. They begin writing to each other and the American girl, Rosie, begins collecting more and more things for the family from her neighbors and friends and more and more boxes arrive in Holland. At the end, the townspeople in America also receive a surprise package from Holland.
This is not a Five in a Row book, but I was able to find lots of online resources to enhance our week's learning including a free unit study on Homeschool Share, an episode of Reading Rainbow about the book, and the Read Aloud Revival Whole Family Book Club.
Since I am a member at Read Aloud Revival, we were also able to watch a wonderful video of an author interview with Candace Fleming. She talks about the true story that inspires the book. Fleming's mother really did send a box to a girl named Katje in Holland after the War. Katje's father wrote back to her, and they ended up sending more boxes and received tulips in return. Candace Fleming also answered kids' questions about her books and writing and ended the video by reading the book: Boxes for Katje.
We learned a bit about Holland for Social Studies, for science we melted some of our leftover trick or treat candy, and learned about what candies would be best to send in the mail using a science lesson from Mystery Science.
We watched a really great episode of Reading Rainbow that included several other stories about kids helping and connecting with kids all over the world.
For language arts, my oldest daughter had the idea to write letters to each other. Each child chose a room in the house and she drafted her little brother to be the postman and deliver the letters. I wrote letters also, and included a small box with a special treat in it (some chocolate, of course).
Today at church, a young woman, who is originally from Zimbabwe, shared her story of what it was like to actually receive a shoebox as a child and how special and exciting it was to get these gifts. It was so neat to see just how much this simple, service project can impact real kids around the world.
If you would like to participate and pack your own shoeboxes of gifts with your family, you can find all the information and drop-off locations here. National Collection week is this week November 14-21!