Last month we posted an interview with Sarah Park, who contributed activities & illustrations to the Telling God’s Story, Year One Activity Book. Today we’ll interview another of our contributors, veteran Peace Hill Press author Sara Buffington, who created numerous activities for this book as well. Sara, her husband, and their 3 children live in Florida.
Tell us a bit about your children, please. How many do you have? What ages are they, and can you tell us something unique about each one?
I have three children. Abby is six and loves art. Our computer paper, recyclables, my wrapping paper stash, trash we find outside (yes, yuck): nothing is safe from her creative plans. Levi is four and he is my comedian. He is his own best audience. His current favorites are nonsense knock-knock jokes where he tries to come up with the silliest word possible. My youngest is Emmett. He is just seven months and we can’t wait to see what he’ll be. Right now he is sweet and smiley, with long hair that I can’t bear to cut.
What sorts of challenges have you and your husband faced in teaching your children about God, answering tough questions about God/Jesus/matters of life and death, etc?
My kids ask all sorts of questions–good ones, too. I sometimes have trouble answering them in a way they can understand, and sometimes I don’t know the answers, either. Why do bad things happen (like the earthquake in Haiti)? Why do some people not believe in God? How can God be everywhere? When was God born? I got myself in some hot water when I mentioned Satan to my daughter (in answer to the “why bad things happen” question). I didn’t dwell on the guy or offer a scary description, but she had nightmares for weeks. It was awful.
What was your education (schooling, previous work experience, etc)? Did it provide you with anything in particular that you’ve been able to draw on, when working on Olive Branch Books materials?
I graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Upon graduation, I taught 8th grade at a Christian school. I then worked for Peace Hill Press for six years where I contributed to several The Story of the World Activity Books and coauthored, along with Jessie Wise, The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading and First Language Lessons Three and Four. I also answered lots of customer service emails at that time. I’ve taught Sunday School for the four- and five-year-olds at my church. Now I am homeschooling my own children. I would say that I have used all of that in my work for Olive Branch Books.
Can you tell us about some memory of your upbringing or childhood, related to religious education at home or church, or a family ritual, something that’s really stuck with you in your own faith journey?
My family always ate dinner together, and we prayed before the meal. My mother was raised Catholic, so we started with a prayer that she said growing up. “Bless us, O Lord, for these Thy gifts which we are about to receive through Thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen.” I chanted this prayer long before I knew what it meant, long before the individual words had meaning for me (you know, like some little ones think “LMNOP” is all one letter). But the prayer became a rhythm for me, one almost hard-wired in my brain. I love that. Now I am teaching my own children daily prayers.
What is one of the activities from the Telling God’s Story Year One Activity Book that you like the best, and why?
The great thing about working on this curriculum was that I knew I would be using it with my own children. I wrote activities that I thought my own son and daughter would enjoy. My daughter is in Kindergarten this year, so I am saving TGS 1 to start this fall. But when I got the books in the mail I couldn’t resist reading the lesson on turning the other cheek, since we had been talking about this concept at home (my kids share a room and the bickering can crescendo). After I read the lesson, we did the activity where you quiz the student on different scenarios where he can turn the other cheek. My kids loved this. They thought some of the answers were so funny, and it really helped them retain the concept.
What’s your workspace? Do you work at home, or at outside locations, or at an office, or all of the above? What tools/computers do you use?
I have three children and a laptop, so I go where the noise ISN’T. I used to go to Borders to work so I could get a mocha and write (ah…sanctuary). But now that I am a nursing mother I have to stay closer to home. Usually I work on my bed (I am there right now). It’s not the best ergonomically, but I love it.
Can you give us a preview of a project you’re working on for Year Two? Something that you’re especially excited about?
Well, I just started working on TGS 2 (I had to wait until my baby was sleeping more so I could actually put sentences together). I am particularly excited about a couple projects I have written. The first involves growing a sweet potato vine. My daughter and I are beta-testing it and we have had such fun checking its progress. The other project is an art history one about two paintings of The Good Samaritan. I have really loved researching religious art for this series. An image can be so, so rich. It says not a word but speak volumes, you know?
Thanks to Sara for sharing her time with us today. We hope Levi keeps working on those knock-knock jokes!
To find out more about our books, visit olivebranchbooks.net.