the third week in review

Here are a few photos of life around here, mixed in with some things I found encouraging.  I put a photo of our dam up here last week , but I think it’s even more spectacular now.  It is a frozen waterfall.   It’s completely silent…….so different from itself  in just a few months!

We have been hard at work around here this week.    Everybody is almost caught up after our week of illness and the lack of leadership which occurred when I got sick.    I think that by next Friday we will certainly be back on schedule, barring unforeseen circs.

We have so much to be thankful for as we have very nearly gotten ourselves caught up to where we had hoped to be in history.   It always feels like the most preposterously undeserved gift when we are actually doing what my schedule says we should be doing.  I think this is because  I always find that  the making of the homeschool schedule is such a joyous delight, but the keeping of the schedule very nearly defeats me.   Reading in Proverbs 16 earlier this week ,  I got that same good reminder I have found before

“The plans of the heart belong to a man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.  All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.  Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”

I think that that bit in the middle there about the ways of my heart being pure in my own eyes, but the Lord weighs my spirit could possibly be an indicator that my plans are not all righteous.  It brings it to mind that, unless I keep reminding myself to be careful, I tend to stack up the expectations I have for myself and my kids based upon what other people are doing and on pride.    It’s a common pit for us home-educating moms.  And once I have identified that pit which must be avoided, I have to also take care not to fall into the pit on the other side of the road.   That would be the pit of laziness and carelessness.

And that reminds me of a  really insightful post at Becky Pliego’s site which I found while rummaging around in the abundance of  wisdom on her blog.   This is a very helpful article for all of us with kids learning at home regarding the tendency we sometimes have to require less than the best from our kids.   And about the aroma in our homes we create through how we live and love and train and speak to our children.

I think that for me, the answer is still that I must get up and start my day with a good quiet time of more than an hour, get the chores started before the kids are awake, and pray over the plans of the day, asking God to help me to do those things that must be done and not be sidetracked by extraneous stuff.   I am a highly distractible woman, and it is essential that I pray for help in this area all through the day.

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Another really encouraging read is here, a free PDF of Leigh Bortins’ book Echo in Celebration:  A Call to Home-Centered Education. This link arrived in my mailbox from The Homeschooler’s Notebook , which sends out a neat and succinct little newsletter once a week, full of helpful links…something for just about everyone.

The PDF of Leigh Bortin’s book  is  relatively short   (OK, it’s short for a book, long for a download),
but it’s full of compelling arguments for Classical Home Education. She discussed the lifestyle of a home-educating family, and gives a clear picture of how vastly it differs from what we may have expected, or the life of our more traditionally educated friends and family.   It is such a radically different and beautiful life!   Our approach to all aspects of family life are unique and really precious to us as families. It’s comforting and inspiring to read her experiences of how her family arrived at their educational decisions, and what the results were for her own sons.

She gets right at the heart of the Classical model, and how to train your whole child and prepare them for a full life honouring God……not just to socialize them and get them ready for a job.

I have heard Leigh Bortins speak, and remember her as being warm and genuine, but also as a woman who commands respect, and would tend to lead people into good rigorous study.   This is an excellent read, and its FREE!

And here is a little taste of Leigh Bortins’ wisdom, this is a list which breaks down into quick points what our kids should be taught and when….I got this as a handout at her lecture, and then found that it is also included in the PDF on page 54-55.  For a family just starting out, this is a great little tool to help get your head organized around what should happen when.

Infant to 4 years of age 4 to 8 years of age

should be trained to obey their parents

 should memorize songs and stories

 should learn to be kind

Should be taught to clean a house

 should be taught to read phonetically

 should develop the  daily habit of studying math

9 to 12 years of age

should be trained to manage a household

should be trained to memorize lots of facts

 should be taught spelling and grammar rules of languages

 should be taught to write well-constructed sentences

 should be taught to write well-constructed paragraphs

13 to 14 years of age

should be trained in vocational skills

should be taught to write well-constructed paragraphs

 should be taught to write well-constructed essays

 should be taught to defend ideas

 should be taught public speaking

 should be taught  formal logic

 should be taught  research skills

15 to 18 years of age

 should be taught leadership

 should be taught to write comparative analysis of ideas

 should be taught to challenge ideas

Notice that there is no mention of history or science or subjects. Classical education is different from modern education. The classical model is skill-based, not merely subject-focused. Through the acquisition of grammar, the mental gymnastics of logical processes, and the art of communication, science students learn how to:

1. memorize, sort, and retrieve scientific facts

2. read science books (there is a specific way)

3. write about science (there are expected forms)

4. enter the Great Classical Conversations about the philosophies of science

5. manage technologies while studying creation

6. think about science, any science.

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We are also plugging away at memorizing the book of Philippians.  I got a bit bogged down again, having briefly been all caught up and feeling a bit smug maybe.  But as the volume of memorized material accumulates, so do the rich blessings, and I do find that memorizing and repeating these first 18 verses again and again does really refresh my mind, it helps me to reconsider how I am thinking about my brothers and sisters, how I view trials which seem to get in my way……I am to understand that all are given to me by the hand of God, all is for His glory, and my agenda is not the primary goal.  The goal is to bring glory to Christ, to abound in fruitfulness that points to its source in Him.

I’m memorizing using the schedule at This Link , and there is a very helpful method to help memorize using a moleskin notebook here.

I find that I memorize best by writing the passage over and over again, and by repeating it aloud to my kids as often as they will stop and allow me to.  They are remarkably patient with me, and will often try to out-do me, so it helps us all to commit it to memory better.

And here, from A Holy Experience, is a summary of Dr Andrew Davis’s Seven rules for Bible Memorization.   These are very good, and when it’s a whole book being memorized, I need all the help I can get!

Seven Ways of Highly Effective Bible Memorization*

1. Old before New

Always take the old paths. Begin each day by reviewing the memorized verses first before learning the next verse. The goal is retention not accumulation.

2. Rinse and Repeat

And again. The only way to retain learned verses is to review them again and again over an extended period of time. Everyday’s memorization rhythm: Rinse and repeat.

3. Location, Location, Location

Like the mantra in real estate is location, location, location, so it is for really remembering: memorize the location of each verse. Memorize each verse number and don’t skip it. This is paramount and makes it much easier to memorize long passages and not inadvertently skip verses when reciting whole chapters. Location!

4. Take a Mental Screen Shot

Use your mental point and shoot and take a brain “photograph” of the verse. Read each new verse several times, hiding one word at a time, burning each word into your mind like light onto film.

5. Preach it

To yourself. Speak your memory verses to yourself aloud. Preach it aloud to the soul that needs it the most — our own — and say each verse with emotion and feeling. Whispering it while driving, walking, working not only is an easy way of reviewing and memorizing, it’s fulfilling God’s call to meditate on His Word day and night. And saying each verse aloud is a way to work the words deep into our memory: His Words never return void.

6. Repeat it for 100

For 100 consecutive days repeat aloud your memory work — all the verses, or the chapter, or the whole book. This is painless and demands no extra time: do it first thing every morning while getting ready for the day — in the shower, getting dressed, making the bed etc. Repeat it for 100!

7. Sabbath Sanctuary to see the weeds

After your Repeat it for 100, take the last Sunday of every month and make a sabbath sanctuary to read through your memory work. This will help you to “see the weeds” — any mistakes that have crept into your recitation of longer projects/chapters/books. Soak in His Word on a Sabbath — pluck out some weeds. Commit your heart — and mind —- to Him again.

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Otherwise, we are enjoying the snow, and looking forward to spring. As the photos seem to indicate……And as for  the thermometer here below which reads -23C……this photo was taken because Helen-The-Ever-Cheerful walked past it and called out to us at breakfast “Oh, great, guys!  Look, it’s warming up!  We could all probably go down for a skate in a couple of hours.”

I took a photo of Maggie walking ahead of me to the dam today, and when I got it home, I realized I had almost the same shot from last summer.    These two pictures were taken at the same spot on the trail, under such different circumstances.

What a difference a little tilt of the earth can make!!!

New Oven!!!!!!

This is really huge!

Almost anyone who has come to my house for dinner has witnessed crazy erratic behaviour on the part of my oven.
Whenever the thermostat registered a respectable temperature, say 375 degrees, for more than 45 minutes, the oven would freak out.   The computer would shut all heating elements down, both in the oven and on the stove-top.  Lights would flash, and the oven would actually beep until pulled away from the wall and unplugged.   We replaced the computer panel in it twice, both times on warranty.  But being long-suffering and of hardy stock, we thought it wise to persevere with the  evil oven we knew rather than go out and spend a thousand bucks on a whole new kind of evil oven.

And we continued to invite stimulating throngs of people over, only to serve dinner 30 minutes to an hour late due to our malfunctioning oven.   Sometimes it would shut itself down with no guest present,  every single night for a week.  And then, just as I was poised to sell a dog or a family heirloom in order to pay for a new oven, it would settle down and cook dinner like it should.   And I would forget.

Then, after a month or more passed, Thanksgiving dinner (or any old festive occasion at which we had more than 12 extra diners) was always the signal for the oven to go berserk again….. just as the meal was almost (but not quite)  done….the entire range would shut itself off, beep out a distress signal, lights flashing like Las Vegas.    There were three or four dinner party events at which the oven refused to finish cooking dinner in the presence of guests I didn’t really know very well….and those evenings were just excruciatingly humbling for me.  I lived with that character building appliance for seven years.

But, NO MORE!!!!!    Jon said “Go buy an oven” last Saturday, and I could hardly get out of the house fast enough.  He did the research, and I got to do the fun part….picking it out.

My lovely shiny new oven arrived yesterday, and we are all quite infatuated.  It has not turned itself off even once.  It does ding out a melody and flash, but only to announce nice things.   If you would like to come over for a meal served on-time, it’s safe to do so now.

Here she is, cooking our dinner:

Happy Birthday to a Couple of Cool Chicks

Twice in my life, the sun has set on January 16 leaving me enormously pregnant with no sign of delivery…..and the same sun has risen the next morning,  finding me holding a  beautiful new daughter.   It happened once in 1996, and again in 2007.    I have talked about it here before…….(and if you click that link, you’ll see that snake photo Audrey wishes I would stop posting.)

So, tonight we will celebrate Maggie’s fourth birthday, and tomorrow we celebrate Audrey’s fifteenth.  They are such a joy to us all…..Happy Birthday girls!!!!!!

Poems as Prayers

My friend Paula has a really inspirational and creative blog.   I just read a lovely  post of hers where she shares her very great ideas about prayer journals being written in poetry form.   Check it out,  it might  be a really uplifting way of breathing fresh air into your prayer life.

I have long been a fan of the puritan prayers of The Valley of Vision.  Maybe we can all make our prayers more beautiful, too.

the second week in review

Here, again, is this wonderful passage from John Bunyan’s book  All Loves Excelling.

“The High God is yours;  the God that fills heaven and earth is yours;  the God whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain is yours, yea, the God whose works are wonderful, and whose ways are past finding out, is yours!  Consider therefore the greatness that is for you, that taketh part with you, and that will always come in for your help against them that contend with you.     It is my support, it is my relief, it is my comfort in all my tribulations,  and I would have it be yours, and so it will when we live in the lively faith thereof.”

This is an amazing concept.    It’s the most perfect antidote to discouragement.   It is so uplifting to consider that this great God is ours, and is our comfort.   Especially since our week here was not very inspirational or inspired.  But we were carried through and cared for through it all.  That is really marvellous!

This is how the outside world looked last time any of us were in it.     I love the look of the dam on our river  when it freezes.   I went for two very chilly three mile runs on Monday and Tuesday,  in temperatures which were something like -11C, and then, along with  my children, I fell ill.

It’s not surprising that our very satisfying start back to school last week…..complete with ball spike and victory dance by me…..was followed by a really mediocre week in which it has felt that we are marching through molasses.   This, thanks to a funky virus that is claiming us one by one and leaving us curled up under blankets and quilts on every sofa, chair, bed and even on the floor in front of the fireplace.
Not all of us have fallen, and the ones still on their feet have loved us and fed us, and kept things tidy and have kept morale up in something like a symphony of cheerful non-complaint.

Maggie has hardly shown any signs of illness, and has flitted from patient to patient wearing her Queen Elizabeth I dress.

Here she is , wearing her uniform, with a bit of war-paint fading from her cheeks, having just donated her mug of milk to good old Cinder.    Gross, but also sweet.    And it’s OK, she knows not to drink after the dog…..

She ministers to us by snuggling up close to her patient of choice, with the rustling crinolines and stiff collar standing tall.   Once she’s nestled in under the covers,  she  tells the most preposterous stories which include dragons, trips to Costco, a creature who creep into houses to steal ginger-ale, hairy spiders taking up residence in people’s noses, and squirrels in bathing suits.   And it’s really encouraging.   It reminds me that health is still close-by……so close I can almost touch it.   And then, later I find her sleeping, curled up like a pinto bean in front of the fireplace, exhausted by her efforts.

As I have said, we are neither inspired nor inspirational.   But we’re really thankful.   I am so very thankful for those blankets, chairs, beds and fireplace.  For Helen singing while she made breakfast for us all this morning.   For my sweet neighbour who just stopped by with a casserole.  For the good words of Philippians swirling around in my head, reminding me to remember my brothers with thankfulness and to look for how the grace of God is evident in their lives.    And for the blessing that comes to us as we remember to pray for one another.

We were all scheduled for the high entertainment of a debate session tonight, in which the three older kids had each taken a different stand on the topic of who should get the vote (as if it were the 1920’s).   One is arguing for an all white vote, another argues for black and white men voting, and another is taking the side of the women’s votes.    But two of my debaters are too dizzy to fight.

We had hoped to rocket  through the early 1920’s in history, and go straight for The Great Depression starting Monday.   Wonder if we can double up and cover all we missed next week and get back on schedule?    I’ll know in a week.

My older kids are doing two courses of Biology this year.  One is Apologia Biology, which seems to be a big favourite among home-schoolers.  The other course is a far more rigorous Biology with Microbiology which is being taught by their dad.   He usually brings them together for science class on Friday afternoon, and science class is always preceded by a day of jittery nervous energy, and three kids who have their heads buried in textbooks and computer screens in preparation.    I wonder if they will have class today……they don’t like to let Jon down, and it’s really beautiful to me to see them trying to rise to his expectations.

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I made a bit of progress on David’s sweater.   Here it is last week:

And here it is this week:

Here’s the original drawing, the plan for this sweater.   It’s silly, but I’m filling the drawing in with color as I get it knitted up.

He Needs to Lead

The other morning, my husband and I went out for a quiet breakfast together.   That was really delightful!

While we were out, I was trying to sort out some harsh words I had heard from  a Christian brother who was unfairly criticizing people who are not in his family, and who are in no way under his authority.
In trying to help me understand what might be happening, Jon shared  some ideas about what can result when women don’t respond appropriately to their husbands.
He was talking about what happens when habitual inappropriate responses from the wife prevent the husband from leading effectively in his home.

Jon’s idea is that a man is built with the capacity and desire to lead, and  the need to lead.   We all know this.
And this husband should be leading with love and kindness and gentleness, leading the ones who are dear to him.    But when that husband’s leadership, in the place where he is made to lead,  is impeded by the woman who should be following him with a smile on her face, he often responds by leading more harshly and sometimes in places where his leadership is not appropriate.

He may try to supervise the behaviour of  others, like siblings, co-workers,  neighbours,  in ways which are unwelcome and unkind.    He may even become overbearing.    He’s got the desire to exert authority appropriately, but when it’s thwarted he may force authority in another setting.    And if these other individuals….the ones who are on the receiving end of unwelcome, inappropriate leadership…….  are endeavouring to respond biblically, they might find that  harsh leadership to be something that stumbles them, until  they come to understand it rightly .

I find it’s helpful  to me to keep it in mind that when I am cheerfully submissive and working as a good team-mate alongside my husband, I am protecting our home, my husband, and also protecting other people.

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I don’t mean to say that if a man is exercising harsh and inappropriate authority, that it’s his wife’s fault.

He is accountable for his own behaviour.

But Jon’s perspective on how one person’s sin can trigger the sin  of another was interesting to me.

The question of how one individual  may respond biblically and rightly to habitual offences of another is also a good one to consider.

I wonder if anyone else has thoughts on this topic.

Memorizing Scripture in 2011

It’s not too late to begin a good scripture memory program for 2011.    Our family is memorizing Philippians using the  downloadable PDF  schedule at    timmybrister.com.     This program is very well organized and includes many good suggestions for how to keep yourself accountable as you memorize.   I would recommend the format heartily!    All of us in my family are (almost)  right on schedule.    Michael has got verses 1-7 down pat, I am just right behind him…..just having a bit of trouble keeping all those prepositions sorted.    And the rest are all making a valiant effort and all are able to recite verses 1-5 without a bump.

My friend Allyson sort of challenged me also to memorize the book of Colossians in a year, using the schedule at  A Holy Experience.    And since it’s only two verses a week, I thought I could manage that.   I know I will never regret it.   And it’s a small commitment, really.

It’s always such a blessing to have scripture in your head, easily brought to mind.   It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit uses that memorized word to speak to you in moments when it is perfect and right.     Memorizing scripture is like an invitation to the Spirit of God to speak to you and through you.   And that is really exciting!

So, like I said, it’s not too late to begin.