Monday, September 30, 2013

A morning of reading and playing

We learned about the early Sumerians today (circa 2300 B.C.)  As the kids listened, they built Lego ziggurats. The oldest eagerly searched for images of ziggurats so the kids had an idea of what to build.

... And I just sat and read for 1.5 hours this morning.  Hey, all I need is bon-bons and I'm a stereotypical stay-at-home mom.  ;-)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Four weeks under our belts

Well, September just flew by!  We've joined up with a few different groups and are settling into some fun activities.

One of the kids is spending a few hours a week with a First Lego League (FLL) Robotics team. They are analyzing problems, strategizing to find solutions, and working together to maximize the strengths of each team member to accomplish a common goal.  I was the parent helper this week for the team meeting and got to see this group of highly intelligent 8-12 year old kids working together.  I was so impressed.  The parent-coach gave direction here and there, mostly suggestions with occasional reminders of what the goals for that session were, and the kids went off and worked on their part of the project.  This is going to be such a great experience for my oldest.  He is still timid about inserting his thoughts and opinions into the group discussion, but with a smaller set of students, he's much more likely to learn and be encouraged along the way.  We would never have had this kind of opportunity in our previous school setting.

A few days ago the two oldest and I went to see The Merchant of Venice in Stratford.  To prepare the kids (and myself) for this play (which is written in 400 year-old English) we read the summary from Tales From Shakespeare (by Charles and Mary Lamb.)  This summary was written 200 years ago, so it was still difficult for the kids to understand.  As the three kids and I read through it together, I would stop and explain, line by line at times, what the story was about.  We got about half way through the summary and the youngest begged me to continue.  He was mesmerized by the story!  This is the same boy who whines when I ask him to read anything other than a comic strip. We read the rest of the summary and prepared ourselves for the play (which we knew we wouldn't totally understand.)  During the play I kept my eye on the kids...  They were squirmy and appeared bored at times.  On the way home I asked if they liked it at all.  "Yah!  I liked it."  Did you guys understand which part of the story was happening when?  "Yep, I just watched what they were doing and remember the story that you read to us."

What fun! 

The kids begged to join the Hot Cocoa Club at the library.  They each bring a mug and sit and listen as one of the library employees reads to them.  They're reading The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis.  My reluctant reader has been reading on in our copy here at home.  He wants to know what happens and just can't wait till next week to find out!

As for other reading, my 11 year-old read through Eragon by Christopher Paolini and is now reading Book Two in that series, Eldest.  My 9 year-old has finally started reading about Ramona Quimby and has fallen in love with her family.  My 7 year-old has a hard time putting down The Magician's Nephew.  He took it out while we were running around town to do some shopping yesterday.  I think the trick with that one is to get him started by reading the first chapter or two together - just enough to make him realize that there really might be an interesting story in there.

So, while we're doing lots of book learning, we're also having some hands-on learning along the way.  We have more time to read, more time to join different activities, and more time to learn new things.  (I didn't mention yet that the oldest wants to learn violin.  He's found a website to teach him techniques and notes, and then his father refines those at the end of the day.)

We're all still loving it, one month in to the process.  Remind me next time to tell you about music and drama, gym days, and the youngest's proposed trumpet lessons.

Yes, the trumpet should be interesting.  I'll catch you up on that another time.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hakuna Matata

Since taking more responsibility for my children's education, I've worried (on and off) about whether they'll get an adequate education.  I know that they will, but I still let this seed of doubt creep in.  This past week, I started taking stock of what they would be learning at school and what they have learned at home.  While the content isn't exactly the same, I'd say the quantity has increased.

I didn't really realize how much we were already doing until I had a conversation a couple nights ago with a high school teacher.  When she heard what we had chosen for our family she was supportive but curious. "So what subjects are they doing right now?" she asked.

I started listing the books I had purchased.  "French, Math, History, Science, English..."  And then I considered the other stuff we're involved in.  "Piano, Gym Days, Music/Drama...  Oh, and the oldest is doing a robotics Lego league, he's learning violin, and he's learning how to do real Bible study, with a topical index and concordance. And all three kids still have to read at least 30 minutes each day and get their chores done."

When I finally stopped listing the activities we're planning to be involved in, I saw how much they're really going to learn this year.  All that and we usually have time for a board game in the late afternoon.

This week, the oldest is taking a day off to go to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) with his cousin, and the older two will be joining some other students on a trip to Stratford to see The Merchant of Venice (which they'll be studying this year in Drama.)  How fun is that?

I'm having a blast so far.  We've got three weeks under our belt and we're getting into a rhythm.  Of course all that will change with the start of new programs to get involved in, but we'll take everything in stride.

So - No need to worry, Wanda.  As your hubby says, "Give your head a shake."  The kids are learning and having fun, and they're seeing things they wouldn't have had a chance to see otherwise. Just enjoy this ride as long as you're on it!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How Wanda Got Her Groove Back

Before this Fall I had so much spare time on my hands, it was embarrassing.  I puttered around the house, looking for dust to wipe and cookies to bake, running out to the library to find books to read, and popping onto my computer to catch up on Words With Friends more times than I could count.  I was bored and lazy. I did enjoy taking some extra time to read and research several interesting Bible topics, but that did not take up the majority of my time.  From 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, I was unfettered, a roaming soul in the abyss of "daytime."

I still manage to find time to do everything mentioned above, but the majority of my time is now spent with my kids: chatting, reading, helping, cutting, advising, prepping, photo-copying, cuddling, cooking, interpreting, and marking.  I mentioned to my hubby tonight that I cannot ever remember being this non-stop busy through the day.  I managed to find an hour to read this afternoon, between the end of school-time (our science experiment is sitting on the bookshelf, waiting to be followed up on in a week) and dinner time.  It was wonderful!  I read a couple pages and then fell asleep!

Tonight I sat down after dinner and sewed.  It had been too long since I had a chance to sew.  I didn't make a whole lot, just some "Magic Bags" to sell at a Mom to Mom Sale this weekend, but it felt good to get in there and make something.

I like being busy!  Who knew???  I guess good old Solomon was right.  It is good to find satisfaction from your work!  (That's at the end of Ecclesiastes 5.)  I feel useful.  I feel like I'm finally having the kind of impact I wanted to have on my children.

We have interesting discussions throughout the day.  We talk about life and living and things that matter for eternity.  Yes, we talk about Math and History and Science and English and French, too...  But regardles of the subject, we're talking!  All day long, there's constant conversation.  Sure, there are moments of quiet, but the conversation doesn't stop.  It just kinds of ebbs and flows.

I'm just starting out in this new way of doings things, and I realize that I have a lot to figure out, but I feel like I've finally found my groove. This just feels right!

Weighing scientific discoveries with faith

Grandpa had hundreds of books, many of them quite old.  A few years ago, I selected a few boxes of them to have in my library when Grandma was down-sizing.  One of the books was called Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif.

I had read the book as a teenager, though what compelled me to read it remains a mystery to this day.  I loved reading but hated Biology and Chemistry.  (Physics was all right, but that may be because I really liked my high school physics teacher...  And he let us get extra credit, so I ended the year with a 104%. But I digress...)  I think I must have been bored that summer, so I sifted through Grandpa's musty old books and picked that one up.  Now that I think about it, it was about the only book that had any modern colour on it. All the other books were brown or brownish green or brownish burgundy or brownish blue.  You get the idea.

So I read it a few times.  It has now been around 20 years since I last read it.  It sits on my bookshelf, but I have not read it again yet.

The kids and I have started a science study of Anatomy and Physiology.  Yesterday we talked about the Ancient Egyptians and Hebrews, and the fact that the Egyptians had some scientific theories, while the Hebrews simply followed the laws given to them by God.  I told the kids that we would learn, later in our studies, that Antonie van Leeuwenhoek discovered the physical presence of germs in the 1600s.  (Hey, he was one of the main scientists in the aforementioned book.  I just might like this science class that I'm teaching!)  We marveled at the fact that God was already teaching the Hebrews proper hand-washing and medical quarantining well before the presence of germs was ever considered.  Other cultures of that time considered illnesses to come from their angry gods, but the Hebrews, in their scientific ignorance, were already healthier as a result of the faithful following of the rules given to them by the one true God.

Imagine there was no God.  How could the Hebrews have known to wash their hands before and after so many different activities?  No one knew about germs until the 1600s...  Why would it make sense for some guy on a power trip to make up a set of rules 5000 years ago that made no sense to the people of that time and made them all look strange to other cultures?  How would they have known to quarantine someone with a rash until the rash cleared up?  How would they have known how to treat rashes and other skin diseases?  (See this handy flow chart so you can diagnose like a Hebrew doctor-priest:  This is the kind of stuff you just can't make up.

Image source

As the kids and I discussed this, we realized that it takes a lot more faith to believe that there is no God. When you start studying the human body, its design, and the way it works, it's really hard to believe that this all just randomly happened.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Good Cause (and some happy kids)

My kids are very excited for next weekend to get here.  I signed up to do a vendor fair.  I pay a certain amount to have a table and I can sell whatever I bring in.  I had originally planned to just sell Cinnamon Rolls, Chocolate Pecan Turtle Cookies, and cupcakes, but then my kids started thinking of other things to sell. Before I knew it, they were making little pendants to put on earrings.  I knew the quality of their work wasn't necessarily going to get them a place on the shelf at Tiffany's, so I suggested they put their talents to a good cause.

So, anyone interested in helping out Open Arms Mission (help for those needing food and clothes) or Elisha House (help for those in a crisis pregnancy situation), both Welland charities, please come show my kids how much you care!  We'll be selling these earrings and many more for $7 a pair.  All profits will go directly back to the two charities mentioned above.

So, September 21, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, please come find us at Great Lakes Christian High School (GLCHS, 4875 King St, Beamsville).  Admission is free, you'll make my kids happy, and you'll be supporting a few great causes (including GLCHS!)

These have not yet been made into earrings.  They will be!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Reflection

(Sorry for all the links.  You don't have to click on them all.  But they're there if you're bored.)

There's been a lot of talk lately about modesty and the way we present ourselves to others.  This kind of talk will generally cause a person to look at themselves and evaluate their appearance.  If you have not read any of the latest blogs/news items about modesty and lack thereof, I can point you to plenty of them:

Hall Family - FYI
Secret Keeper Girl
Let Miley be a lesson to you

My friend even chimed in to say, "Hey, let's hold guys responsible here, too!"

But there was another discussion that caught my eye.  I have a pretty good handle on modesty and presenting a proper body image.  Some might disagree with my choices, but I think I'm pretty good at making informed choices about apparel and appearance.

My problem is that I get my value, my sense of self-worth, from people.  I've written about it before.  Yet here I am, writing about it again?  Why?  Because it's a continuous struggle for me.

This world puts so much value in being beautiful.  Inside and out.  But really, ultimately, does beauty matter? Beauty is so subjective, even inner beauty.  One person may find a Harley enthusiast to have more inner beauty than a nun.  It's just so subjective.

marriage blog that I follow recently posted about letting your spouse's high opinion of you and complimentary words towards you be your mirror instead of letting the world or your own skewed self-esteem guide your thinking.  It was so lovely to read these words from a wife (a beautiful woman, inside and out) who has always doubted her beauty.  She has learned to let her husband be her mirror.  I am, truly, happy for her that she can find this in her husband.  She encouraged other wives reading the blog to look to their husbands for that same affirmation.

And that's where I felt that heavy knot in my chest.

My husband is a wonderful man.  He works hard every day at work and comes home frustrated when he sees others slacking off.  He opens up the Bible most nights after dinner and reads a chapter or two with the family.  He takes us all out to the big field behind our house and quarterbacks for our two, sorry two-man football teams.  He leads worship on Sundays and has the whole family singing around the piano between Sundays.  He plays with the kids, tucks them in, takes out the garbage, kisses my neck when I have my hands in the dishwater...  He really is Superman.  The one teeny tiny thing that I get hung up on?  He doesn't naturally compliment me.  Asking him to compliment me is like hammering a square peg into a round hole.  It just doesn't work.

All that to say that it's really not a good idea to use my husband as a mirror.  He shows his love to me by doing, not by saying.  But as much as he loves me, he is still an imperfect person, living in an imperfect world, with a very imperfect wife.  (When I put it that way, it's a wonder anyone manages to live with anyone else for any period of time!) My problem is not with my husband.  My problem is with myself.  I tend to put my value in how others see me.   Even the person who loves me most, who pledged his LIFE to me, will fail me, and I him.  I cannot look to him for fulfillment or value.

The day this photo was taken, my dad told me that I was beautiful.  Twice.  He doesn't often use that specific word to describe me, so it was a very touching thing to hear him say.  And later, it really hit me how nice it was to hear those words.  But my father is still an imperfect person and he will let me down.  He doesn't know my innermost thoughts and cannot tell me just what I need to hear, just when I need to hear it.

Superman and I, photo taken by my father the day he complimented me.  Twice..  

And that brings me back to where I always end up.  Sometimes it takes me a day, sometimes a couple weeks.  But I know, deep inside, where things that you really know are just stuck, that God treasures me.  I am His specially created daughter.  He gave me my unique gifts and talents.  My quirky personality sprung from a seed God planted.  And He put the desire in me to be loved and cherished.  He put it there to draw me back to Him, as He's the only one who can quench that thirst.

So when I feel this pull, I need to let it remind me that God is loving me and cherishing me, and whispering words of love to me.  I just need to go to Him to hear them.  No pounding to get them out.  No square peg and round hole.  Just a desire that was placed in me and a Father waiting to fill it.

Psalm 62:5-8

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
    he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Beware the Fractions

The boys wanted pancakes this morning, but the recipe I have is way too big for us four.  We wanted 10 pancakes, not 20.  So the youngest mixed while the oldest cut the measurements in half.  He had no idea that these are real life word problems, following the same format as his math book.

Q1.  Bubba is making pancakes and needs only half a recipe of pancake batter.  Convert the following measurements to half a recipe.

3 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
6 tbsp oil
2 tsp vanilla

Once you're done the math, combine the dry ingredients.  Add wet ingredients.  Add 1-2 tbsp more milk to thin out pancakes to desired consistency.  Fry in hot oil.

Great team-building exercise.  These two don't always collaborate well.

They poured some maple syrup on these and I gave them an A!  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Why learn?

I'm reading the first few pages of our History book and came across this idea.  I love the phrase and plan to expound on it through the year.  In the meantime, I think I will print one of these to put up around the house. Which do you like best?

Images are taken from my father's photo albums.  If you want to see more of his work, you can befriend him on Facebook and "Like" his page, Vern Hibbard Photography.

I like the idea that as we learn, we can see the hand of God in the big things and the little things.  The more we find out about the world around us, the more we see His design.  And as we gain knowledge and confidence in that knowledge, it helps us share with others.

Friday, September 6, 2013

I'm loving it!

Noteworthy items from our first week...

My youngest, who likes to be snuggled up and cozy, has proclaimed, at least three different times, that he wasn't allowed to have the hood of his sweatshirt up at school.  He is obviously ecstatic that he can do his math with the hood up now.

We have always valued family time.  Now the kids can get their home responsibilities (chores, piano practice, reading) done through the day and we can enjoy more family fun (hikes, bikes, board/card games, etc.) after supper with Dad.

I made a peach cobbler with my daughter yesterday.  It took twice as long as when I make it on my own, but she was involved in every step of the process.  Since we made it at 2:00 in the afternoon, I was able to take more time with her and explain the ins and outs of each step of the process (blanching peaches, baking powder vs baking soda, selecting a baking dish, how to measure properly.)

The oldest helped me pick out a bookshelf, which is where we now keep our school books.  Once we got the box of planks home, he volunteered to put it together.  With minimal supervision, he took that pile of planks and turned it into a useful piece of furniture.

Free binders - reused from Hubby's work

All three kids helped me figure out the best deal on a few items of produce yesterday.  Should we get the loose grapes that are $0.88/lb or the fancy box of 2.5 lb of grapes that costs $5.97?  Which head of lettuce is the best deal?  (We weighed the green lettuce and realized that it weighs more than the package of three romaine hearts, for half the price.)  And the blueberries...  Should I buy one pint for $1.50 or two pints for $3.97?

Instead of singing Oh Canada each morning, we're reading a chapter or two in the Bible.  As we finished reading about the seven letters to seven churches in Revelation this morning, I closed the Bible and said, "Okay kids, let's get moving.  We need to be out the door in 30 minutes."  The oldest, the quiet one, the one least likely to "make waves" said, "But we haven't prayed yet."

Real life.  Being comfortable in our environment.  Taking time to explore.  Having the freedom to speed up or slow down as needed.  Knowing what's important.   -   Four days in, I'm loving this.  And I think they are, too!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

2013/2014 School Kick Off

I've been trying to figure out what special thing to do to mark each new school year.  I'm hoping to get a video of the kids talking about the year ahead, but I've decided that a beach day when the weather is nice is a great way to kick off the new school year.  So, we had a class trip this afternoon, part gym class, part science.  A good time was had by all.  Happy 2013/2014 School Year everyone!

Eternity in our hearts

Warning: Homeschool update ahead.

We are on Day Two of homeschooling.  Yesterday we went to the Farmer's Market and impressed a few people with our basic math skills. (3 bars of fudge for $10?  Oh, that's $3.33 each.)  We also got to tell several people (including a mom from our old school) why our kids weren't sitting in classrooms for the day. Overall it was a great experience with really positive feedback from those within our community.

We were on vacation last week, getting home on Labour Day, so I hadn't been home to get lessons ready. So our first day of school was rather abbreviated. We started by picking up where our family left off in Genesis.  The kids devoured their math books, as I figured they would, then got back into piano practicing.  We also created outlines of our vacation, remembering as many details as we could so we could write it all down through the remainder of the week.  With two trips out to stores (field trip!  Math, home economics, social studies) and a trip to Dad's work, we didn't do much else.

This will be a favorite activity for the kids - math!

Fractions with Legos?  Yes please!

Today, we started as we mean to go on.  We decided to read something else from the Bible so we could still enjoy reading Genesis with Dad at the end of the day.  The youngest begged for Revelation as our book of choice since he's been enjoying the pictures of it from his Action Bible.  So we read Rev 1-2:11.

As we read that last verse, Rev 2:11, about the second death, the youngest said, "I'm kind of scared of this part."  It was a great launching point for our discussion.  I asked why he was scared and he explained that the second death was scary to think about.  We talked about how it's only scary for those who are not following Jesus, who haven't committed their lives to him as Christians.  I reiterated (for the gazillionth time) the story of God and man, from Genesis to Revelation, from the Fall to the Day of Judgment, and how God's plan has always been for us have a beautiful, sinless life where we can be God's friend.  I told them once more that we need to repent of our sins, ask God for forgiveness, and be baptized to show people we've decided to follow Jesus.

That caused a moment of silence as the kids thought and then one of the kids asked when I was baptized. I thought for a brief moment and realized that yesterday was a pretty big day for me.  I was baptized on September 3, 1989.  We did the math and realized that yesterday was my 24 year birthday of being a Christian.  That puts me at 2/3 of my life spent following Jesus.  We all had fun figuring out the math there.

All this to say that I'm really enjoying the chance to sit down and read the Bible as part of our time together. We do have these discussions when Dad is home as well, but I see more opportunities for them now as we make a concerted effort to learn together throughout the day.

I'm looking forward to seeing the fruits of homeschooling.  This is such an exciting experience to be starting!