Friday, December 30, 2011

Ten Lords-A Leaping

And OG didn't even know about the (then) upcoming December Blog Challenge when she called out to her siblings, "It's the Seasonal Ball and we have to be 'ten lords a-leaping'!"


Too bad I got to my uh-oh-it's-late-and -I-don't-have-a-blog-post-yet post on the SIXTH day of Christmas!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

We see Him come, and know Him ours...

Enjoying this beautiful music... pondering the deep realities clothed in His coming...


What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol, for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!

Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honor to this day,
That sees December turned to May.

Why does the chilling winter’s morn
Smile, like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like a meadow newly-shorn,
Thus, on the sudden? Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
‘Tis He is born, whose quickening birth
Gives life and luster, public mirth,
To heaven, and the under-earth.

We see him come, and know him ours,
Who, with his sunshine and his showers,
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.

The darling of the world is come,
And fit it is, we find a room
To welcome him. The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart.
Which we will give him; and bequeath
This holly, and this ivy wreath,
To do him honour, who’s our King,
And Lord of all this revelling.

What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
- Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

I have not known this song until yesterday, and I have deeply appreciated pondering it... studying it, like I would a poem. So many things strike me, but predominantly this, today, on the first pass: "We know Him come, and see Him ours, Who, with His sunshine and His showers, turns all the patient ground to flowers..."

Oh, the sweet truth that my sovereign Lord is come, and is mine! And that He promises to work all things in my life--both sunshine and showers--together for good! Oh, sweet joy. Quiet trust.

May I rest as willingly and well as that patient ground, confident of the coming flowers...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Radiant Beams from Thy Holy Face

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

These lyrics have been rolling around in my head all day, taunting and convicting me. Why, you might ask, since these words seem all glorious praise, not words of challenge and exhortation. Well, mostly because of some other words I read this morning, on iivo's thankfulness list. He was dead serious, not being the least bit smart aleck, and yet I was mortified. "Waking before the alarm to slumber in the light of Laurie's iPhone." Ugh! Right there among a list of such glorious things as
- God's word to draw my wandering mind, my fretting heart (Dan 4, 1 Pet 1, Ps 119)
- hope given by God's kingdom coming
- coffee
I do believe that he was thankful to awaken before the alarm, to enjoy a few stolen moments in dozy slumber before the demands of the day pushed him out of the warm bed and into the morning chill of our bedroom, of life. But to slumber "in the light of Laurie's iPhone"?! Not exactly "radiant beams from thy holy face"!

My friend Pam once made a resolution not to use her i-something (phone, pad, pod-touch?) in bed when her husband was there. I don't remember whether I read it on her blog or her Facebook page, but I remember the mild pang that hit me...the vague discomfort whispering from the edges of my mind, "That's right. You know that's right. You should do that, too!"

I didn't. And not because I didn't want to. Not even because I didn't try. I did. Twice. And yet my husband can write those awful words "in the light of Laurie's iPhone" because it still sometimes shines while he slumbers next to me.

Oh, how I long instead to be adorned with "radiant beams from Thy holy face"!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"...the dear Christ enters in..."

Earlier this month, just as Advent was beginning, Iivo and I went on an "Ulti-mate" couples' prayer retreat. Just the two of us (and our workbooks) headed to a private retreat spot and got busy. We got busy examining our lives individually and considering how we're doing as a family. And what did we realize as we "got busy"? Among other things, we realized that we are busy! We are busy as individuals, busy as a couple, busy as a family. Now don't get me wrong. Most of the things we are doing, we are doing with great deliberateness and purpose. And we have made a concerted effort as a family to build "margin" into our lives by eliminating some superfluous activities this year. And yet, Iivo and I both felt an acute awareness of the unavoidable frenzy of this season in our family's life.

One of the things we decided to implement upon our return was what we've dubbed "downtime."

down·time\ˈdau̇n-ˌtīm\
noun
1 : time during which production is stopped, especially during setup for an operation or when making repairs
2 : inactive time (as between periods of work)


This glorious time occurred daily at 5:15 for about a week. Iivo was going into work earlier--it is much more produtive for him to get there before many others arrive--and trying to get home earlier in order to join us. But that first week of nightly "downtime," he wasn't able to make it. Nevertheless, at 5:15, the kids and I gathered in the den. We dimmed the lights and lit a few candles and turned on Pandora Radio's "instrumental praise." And then we began the serious business of making ourselves slow down. "Production stopped." We savored "inactive time between periods of work."

How hard it was at first! "But I need to just..."

Iivo didn't join us, but he felt the benefits of "downtime" immediately. The home he came home to was more peaceful. We were kinder. Happier. Calmer. Even the dogs.

He never did make it to join us, before the week of holiday hit, and with it the stomach flu that swept through our home. "Downtime" was abandoned in a blur of sickness and travel and preparation and celebration.

Tonight, we pulled it back out again. Oh, welcome back, friend!

I particularly love the words to the final stanza of the great Christmas carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is giv'n
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heav'n.
No ear may hear His coming,
But, in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still
The dear Christ enters in.

Such a sweet, sweet thing is the reality of His presence with us! And what a very sweet time it has become to stop and marvel in it.

Breathe deeply of Him.

Rest.

Monday, December 26, 2011

O Christmas Tree!

One of the greatest spiritual lessons of this year's Christmas season came, for me, via our Christmas tree.

This year, we got our tree earlier than ever.  Usually we wait until a week or two after Thanksgiving, heading out together as a family on the weekend near iivo's birthday.  This year we adults were to be gone that weekend, so we headed out the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

I love the many holiday traditions that have developed over the years for our family, especially the silly ones that make sense to no one but to those of us who have lived through the years of making them.  The tradition of heading out to choose from the really great, just-$14.99 trees at Taylor's Do-It Center is one of them.  Many years ago we decided to replace the artificial tree with a real one, complete with the smell and look and feel of real pine, and the then-$9.99 bargain at Taylor's suited the small budget of our small family.  Over the years the family has grown, but the budget for the tree has not, so we've continued to shell out the less-than-twenty dollars, enjoying rather to spend a few extra bucks on a once-a-year lunch at Tijuana Flats, conveniently situated right across the road from Taylor's.  It costs our little brood of six a pretty penny to enjoy this fun, Mexican fare, so this is our once-a-year splurge of grilled burritos and queso and guacamole feasting.

This year the selection of trees was better than ever.  "Maybe earlier is better!" we thought.  We selected the largest, fullest, greenest tree we have ever gotten from the bargain rack at Taylor's!  We cut off the bottom again ourselves, at home, and placed it right into the water bucket.  We mixed the "preservation solution" as instructed, and the tree drank and drank.  For the first year ever, I think, we had a tree that was actually taking in the liquid we kept checking the level of.  Pitcherfuls of the stuff disappeared.

And then it happened.  The drinking tree, greener and fuller than any we've ever chosen, began to drop its needles.  Sure, this always happens, but not like this.  This tree, still lovely and green-looking, was shedding them fast.  If you brushed past it, you heard a shower of needles fall to the ground.   Bare patches began to appear on the branches.

Evergreens, we call them.  They don't drop their leaves.  They are never meant to stand skeletal and empty.  Yet this one, clad only in twinkling colored lights, was undressing quickly.  Hanging ornaments on it was out of the question... every time we even touched it, it would send down that rain of needles!  Winston would stand near it, tail wagging, and with each "thwap" we'd hear the familiar sound of falling pine.  It began to be a joke.  iivo reached inside and grabbed the trunk, giving it a good shake.  A sound filled the room, remarkably like the fake rain drops of "Spring Shower" on the white noise app.  It would have been really sad if it weren't so laughable... so laugh we did!  We accepted the bittersweet reality of The-Year-Without-Ornaments-On-The-Tree.

And I began to ponder these things in my heart.  I became vaguely uneasy about the spiritual lesson trying to push its way into my consciousness.  The quiet whisper of the Holy Spirit began to convict me.  "I am the vine.  You are the branches."  Snatches of memorized Words found their way into my mind.  "If you abide in Me, and My Words abide in you..."  What was that promise?  Snippets.  Warnings.  "If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers."  The words of John 15 weaved their way into my Christmas musings.

I also began to ponder the words Nat King Cole sang to me in German.  "O Tannenbaum," he crooned, and a bunch of other unfamiliar sounds.  I began to wonder what these guttural words meant.  As I studied the literal English transliteration of the original German words, the full import of the lesson began to make its way into my heart.

O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
How loyal are your leaves/needles!
You're green not only in the summertime,
No, also in winter when it snows.
O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
How loyal are your leaves/needles!

O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
You can please me very much!
How often has not at Christmastime
A tree like you given me such joy!
O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree,
You can please me very much!

O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
Your dress wants to teach me something:
Your hope and durability
Provide comfort and strength at any time.
O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree,
That's what your dress should teach me.



And it is true!  The boughs of the evergreen do stand strong and true and green through all seasons and all circumstance.  All seasons and all circumstance save one.  When cut off from the source of life, it begins to wither.  "You are the branches..."

And so this year we were given the gift of a dying evergreen, the parable of its dropping needles reminding us with each passing day what happens when we do not abide in Him.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Six Geese A-Laying

In the should-have-been-famous words of our dear friend David Harris, who sang them to us those many years ago:

These days are golden
No matter what they say
And you cannot hold them
For they soon will pass away


So, for at least this one more year, there are still six (silly) geese a-layin' around in our bed on Christmas morning!


It took us a few tries, what with our having to take it ourselves and our not being able to see the screen...










Happy Christmas morning!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

...far as the curse is found

This morning we received the sad news that Onu ("uncle") Toivo, beloved brother of iivo's mother, Tiiu, died sometime in the wee hours this morning.  His wife, Elve, found him in his room with his light on at about 5:15, his having already passed from this life.

This has made for a bittersweet morning here in North Carolina, complete with reminiscing and laughter through tears.  Toivo was a very attractive, active man, full of spunk and charm and strong opinions, always ready with a quick smile and a hearty laugh.  At least this is how I remember him.  He lived in New York, and I only met him a few times since I joined this wonderful family twenty years ago.  One particular time, while we visited at iivo's parents' house together, he and I got up early one morning and went for a long, vigorous walk around the New England streets of Groveland, MA.  I remember that he gave me quite a run for my money, even though I was thirty years his junior!  We walked and talked, up and down the hilly streets, discussing everything from water purification to child-rearing to a woman's aging gracefully.  I remember this charming man with such fondness.

"It was around 5 o'clock in the morning when my father died, too," Emi shared this morning.  "I was the one to call the ambulance.  I remember thinking that the sun should not be shining.  It was a beautiful, bright sunny morning.  I thought the birds should not be singing.  But they were.  I felt like I had to do something.  At times like this, I always feel like I must do something.  I remember that I started to clean the kitchen floor.  The police were still there, and I was cleaning the kitchen floor."

Oh, the joyful reality that one day there will be no more tears!  "For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Revelation 7:17).

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

I'm not cheating! I'm just getting a "practice day" head start or two on my friend Pam's December Blog Challenge.

I've been more than a bit absent from the blogosphere lately, and, though I could blame it on the intestinal flu our family has been passing around, it would be a lie.

I am sitting at my in-laws' house in NC...the delicious smells of pork roast and verivorst--Estonian Christmas sausage--wafting through the house...listening to the achingly beautiful strains of Pandora Radio's "instrumental holiday" station...

Life really is so unbelievably rich and wonderful, and I am so sinfully, defiantly ungrateful when I stew around in impatience... Indignance... grumpiness... ingratitude. May I remember every moment of every day those good "tidings of comfort and joy" that changed absolutely everything! What have I to grumble and fret about when the Lord of all has rescued and redeemed me and walks with me in sweet fellowship and the promise of unending faithfulness.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Stroke of Color

I have not yet had a chance to visit my sweet grandmother, MuMama, who had a stroke on Tuesday. The following sketch is imaginary, based on descriptions from my father and my daughter OG, who are there and have had a chance to visit with her these last days. We're not sure how she is, really, or how she will be, yet, and we certainly have no idea what the remainder of her time on this earth will look like. She is in her 90's. She is so precious to me.

I wrote this character sketch as a sample for the students in my Creative Writing class.

The old woman just lies there. Her head is turned in the direction of the window, so a careless observer might assume that she is looking out of it, at the trees and sky beyond, but I know better. I know that she is just staring at the air in the direction that is now most comfortable for her damaged body. Her head is resting funny—wrong, really—like the flopped-over face of a rag doll tossed thoughtlessly on the bed.

Dejected. Lonely. Confused. These are never words I would have thought could be used to describe my grandmother, who has always been vivacious and infectiously joyful. Happy. Laughing, usually. But not now. Now that the stroke has ravaged her body, her face hangs limply, eyes staring out from a face that contorts awkwardly if she tries to smile. Her once free-flowing speech, now slurred and difficult to understand, has almost entirely ceased. The words are difficult to find, like some long-lost memory of a name, so close on the edge of the mind, but never quite accessible.

Her face looks old. Before that morning—the fateful morning that both left her with us and took her from us—the lines and wrinkles were barely noticeable, swallowed up in her bright smile, closely enfolding the eyes twinkling from within the folds of that blanket of flesh. Now that same blanket of creased flesh surrounds those same eyes, but the sparkle in the eyes is gone. Blankly they stare, in the direction of some barely remembered dream that she can’t quite find again.

I know that if I speak to her, move into her field of vision and address her by her sweet, sweet name, she will rally. She will push through the fog and swim through the sludge to find me. Those eyes will brighten again, and the blanket of flesh will lift, beautifying the face that the stroke has tried to ravage. I will be reminded once more that Death has no sting.

“MuMama,” I barely whisper past the lump in my throat. I find my voice and try again. “MuMama! Hello!”

With great effort, she turns her head my way, and the light returns to the angelic face. I think that, really, it has never been so beautiful as it is in this moment…this moment of pure joy upon hearing my voice. With great force of will, I anchor my trembling chin and shore up the eyes that threaten to burst the dam, and I reach out for her fragile hand. She has been given another day of life, to live in praise and submission to the One who grants her every breath, and who has chosen, in the mystery of His sovereign wisdom, to have this day be lived like this. And He has chosen to let me be here to share it.

“Hey, Sugar!” Her familiar voice reaches my ears, and I smile.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Day I Knew...

Today is the day I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my decision to finally outsource my son's math instruction this year was a good one. This is the letter to his teacher--written totally "in Greek"--which I found cc'ed in my inbox today:

Mrs. M.,
When we find the inverse of a function and then prove that f(f-1(x)) = x and f-1(f(x)) = x, does that mean that f(x) = f-1(x)?
If we solve for f(x) = f-1(x), though, they don't cancel each other out. For instance:


f(x) = 6x

f-1(x) = x/6

If f(x) = f-1(x), then 6x = x/6, which is impossible, because then:

6x = x/6
x = x/36
1 = x/36x
1 = 1/36

OR

x/6 = 6x
x = 36x
1 = 36x/x
1 = 36

But, since f(f-1(x)) = x is true, f-1(f(x)) = x is true, and f(x) ≠ f-1(x) is true, does that mean that x ≠ x? I'm a little confused by this... Could you explain it for me?

Thanks,
PT

Hunh?! Thankfully, he is now asking somebody besides me!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fed Your Brain Today?

In this gloriously packed time of adjusting to a new homeschool schedule, I have run across this wonderful link to a great site.


Brain Food

I'm putting a permanent link in the sidebar so my kids can easily find it.  Thanks to Ann Voskamp and her wonderful blog for this list!  (This link will lead you to her blog post.  Scroll down past the photos to get to the list.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How Nanny Cooks the Turkey

And here's one small example of the millions of ways my sweet husband makes me laugh and smile every single day...

I asked him one year, very early in our marriage, to find out from my mother how she cooks a turkey.  He called her and jotted it down for me in a loose notebook lying around.  This is what I found lying on the counter when I got ready to prepare the bird:

Father's Day Fun!

My husband is one of the funniest people I know. Really. (Don't tell him, though, because it will only encourage him!) He is silly and goofy, too, in really fun ways, which make him the perfect counterbalance to my often over-serious self in our home. (I really did marry the best man in the world for me!)

Yesterday he was being some sort of silly--I think he was dancing around like fake break dancing or fake Irish dancing or something--and my youngest daughter, EL, asked me, "Mom, was Dad like this when you decided to marry him? Or do you like that?"

I burst out laughing and quickly declared, "Oh, I love Daddy, honey, and I love how he is!"

"I do, too," she then shyly confessed.

Here's to serious-when-they-need-to-be, super fun dads on Father's Day!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

“It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night.” - Martin Luther

I'm trying, Lord. Oh, I'm trying.

To refocus. To slow down. To reflect and ponder all the many, many blessings that are mine everyday. Ordinary miracles.

The drop in temperature at the eventide.

The happy chatter of birds high in the trees.

Breathing deeply of fresh summer air.

A leisurely bike ride to retrieve a little one from Grampa's house.

Guests who leave my table stuffed and happy.

The wonder in a young boy's eyes as he rolls out his first homemade bread dough.

New neighbors who call on the name of the Lord.

Finding raw milk cheese.

The surprise delight of peach nectar in my fridge.

Bedtime.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Be still and know...

I am so happy to have the beautiful change of pace of summer...

I love hearing the happy sounds of two daughters playing together... the lilting strains of my son's experimentation and fun at the piano...

Somehow along the way, even in the midst of homeschooling--having deliberately chosen a less hectic, frantic, schedule-driven existence with our children and their learning--we became hectic and frantic and schedule-driven.

Our participation in that dear, wonderful homeschool co-op drives some of it.

Don't get me wrong!  We love the special, godly teachers... colleagues and mentors and friends... inspiration, prayerful devotion, encouragement, support... special stuff indeed, for which we are deeply grateful...

And yet.

And yet.

I am allowing the Lord to gently convict me that I have become driven.  frantic.  crazy.

Our schedule has become over-stuffed.  As is always the case--if the Enemy of Our Souls gets his way with us--the important has become crowded out by the urgent.

Or, even more insidious, by the mundane.

How much time have I spent with the Lord, in His Word, in His glorious presence?  How much meditation?  How much focused, deliberate thanksgiving?  Intercession?

How much time have I allowed myself to just sit and bask in the glory of ordinary joys?  How much downtime do we have to just sit and enjoy each other?  To take a walk together?  To play a game?

I miss the pleasures of dirty fingernails as I work the garden... pink cheeks from an hour or two at the pool... sore legs from a long bike ride with my family... a moment "shared" with a friend as I read her latest blog post, or we dare to grab lunch together... being caught up on Words with Friends... curling up together for read-aloud... a hearty round of Bananagrams after dinner... quiet, whispered conversations snuggled into each others' sleepiness in the wee morning hours...

Life can be full of such simple, profound joys.  But only if...

We are listening to a video series by Andy Stanley on "margin"... finding--no, making--time in our busy schedules, for some excess time.  He assures us that it is in the margin that the important things happen.  It is when we do not allow our schedules to be so packed, so full, so driven, that we find ourselves with enough energy and time to experience those simple, profound joys.

I want to live there.

Oh, Father, help me to live there!

"Be still and know that I am God" Psalm 46:10.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Here all eyes gaze upon us."

I have been thinking a lot lately about social media... including Facebook and Twitter (and, yes, blogging!)... and I think we are becoming--for good or ill--a culture that handles its grievances publicly.  The language of gossip and slander have become acceptable fare for the public eye... and not just for young, sophomoric teens who don't know better and are busy trying to navigate the tricky waters of junior high school and who like to post mean things about their peers in the process.  But grown adults... twenty-somethings and beyond... are taking their issues, with great specificity, "to the wall."  And the more sensational the issue, the more comments it receives.  The more comments it receives, the more eyes view it.  And so the vicious cycle continues and escalates.

This is in sharp contrast to the admonition of the scriptures: "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone, " Matthew 18:15 (ESV).

I am reminded of the words of Benvolio in the Shakespearean play most of us studied in high school, and which I studied again in college:

"We talk here in the public haunt of men.
Either withdraw unto some private place,
And reason coldly of your grievances,
Or else depart; here all eyes gaze upon us."
Romeo and Juliet,
III. i. 50-53

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What's For Lunch?

When did we become a nation that would stand for a government that tells you what your children may and may not eat for lunch?

I guess it was about the same time we became a nation of people who put our children in government schools even though we know that those schools consider our fundamental parental rights to be null and void while our children are there.

(Fields v. Palmdale School District, 427 F.3d 1197, 2005)  Specifically, the case centered around a lawsuit brought by parents against the use of a student questionnaire that asked what they believed to be personal and probing questions.  Their case was rejected by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,which determined that a traditional fundamental parental right "does not extend beyond the threshold of the school door."

It always seems so far away, at some other school in some other school district, but a local friend of mine recently told me of her attempt to sit in on one of her daughter's classes at the local middle school.  She was told that she would have to apply for permission, wait a couple of weeks for it to be granted, and then only visit the classroom at the date and time that they approved.  How's that for being able to get a feel for what they're saying to your child everyday?!

Maybe it is time for a Parental Rights Amendment!

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Growing Strong in God's Family"

I'm finally getting around to posting this daily devotional we are doing together.  I have created this plan using a book series called Growing Strong in God's Family by the Navigators ministry.  It is Book 1 (of 3) in the New 2:7 Series.

When Iivo and I were young and newly married, we completed the original 2:7 Series over the course of two years while meeting weekly with a group of folks from our church.  It was life-transforming stuff, and we've always appreciated the solid foundation it gave us for our Christian walks.

This time around, I've broken up the studies--originally designed for use in a small group with weekly "homework assignments" by chapter--into 15-minute chunks for use as a daily devotional.  Our whole family is doing the studies, which are a bit challenging for the ten-year-old, but she's managing.  On Saturdays, we meet together as a family to discuss the previous week's material.

With permission* from the people at NavPress, I am reproducing the study plan I've extracted from the lessons here, in case anyone wants to join us in this adventure.  If you'd like a copy of this document to be emailed to you as a Word attachment, please send a request to ParksidePedagogy@gmail.com.

Daily Devotional Schedule
(15 minutes per day)


Each day you will:

1. Open with prayer. Ask the Lord to bless your time together in His Word.  Ask Him to teach you, to direct you, and to grow your relationship during this time.  Pray spontaneously, differently, each morning.


2. Complete the assigned reading and work for the day.


3. Close with prayer.  Pray about whatever meaningful thing you learned or studied that morning.  Commit your day to the Lord.


4. If time permits, practice your Scripture memory verses.  Review 1-2 old verses then spend some time working on the new verse you are currently memorizing.



Week 1, Day 1
1. Read over the chart above.
2. Open with prayer.
3. Read “The New 2:7 Series” (bottom p.7-top p.8).
4. Read “How to Mark Your Bible as You Read” (bottom p.8-top p.9).
5. Carefully read over the passage on p.9 from Isaiah 11:1-7. Note the sample ways it was marked, but also pay attention to the content.  This passage is about Jesus.
6. Respond.  In your journal, write something that struck you or that you learned.
7. Close with prayer.

Week 1, Day 2
1. Open with prayer.
2. Look over the chart on p.5, entitled “Completion Record.”  Briefly study the format of this chart, which you will be using as you complete Book 1.
3. Look again over the examples of how to mark your Bible as you read (pp.8-9).
4. Carefully read over the passage on p.9 from Luke 5:15-17.  Note the sample ways it was marked, but also pay attention to the content.
5. Skip over to p.10 and quickly read over the passage from 1 Thess. 1:1-7, noting both the content of the passage and how it was marked.  This passage is from the Amplified Bible, which offers extra explanations in parentheses within the text.  This extra parenthetical information is not part of the scriptures, but is just for clarification.
6. Respond.  In your journal, write something that struck you from one of the two passages you read today.
7. Close with prayer.

Week 1, Day 3
1. Open with prayer.
2. Look again over the examples of how to mark your Bible as you read (pp.8-9).
3. Read the instructions for the “Reading and Marking Exercise” (pp.10-11).
4. Taking your time—and really thinking about the passage as you read—read and mark the passage from Romans 12 (p.11).  Use some of the suggested ideas about how to mark your Bible.
5. Respond.  In your journal, write something that struck you or that you learned.
6. Close with prayer.

Week 1, Day 4
1. Open with prayer.
2. Read “Five Key Scripture Memory Passages” (p.11), “Choose a Translation,” and “Write the Verses on 3x5 Cards” (p.12).
3. Make your first scripture memory card (for “Assurance of Salvation” – I John 5:11-12) using the instructions on p.12.
4. Marking and/or highlighting as you go along, read the first part of the “Beginning with Christ Explanation” (pp. 12-13).  Stop at the bottom of the first column on p.13.
5. Respond.  In your journal, write something that struck you or that you learned.
6. Close with prayer.
7. Work on your Scripture memory, if time permits.

Week 1, Day 5

1. Open with prayer.
2. Whenever I read an article, I circle all scripture references, underline any important ideas, place a star in the margin of particularly striking or important sentences, etc.  As you read, you should do whatever will help you get the most from your reading and/or help you find key passages or concepts quickly when you look back again over the reading.
3. Go back over what you read yesterday in the “Beginning with Christ Explanation” if you need to mark it better than you did.
4. Continue reading and marking the article.  Stop at the end of Section 2 on p.14, entitled “Assurance of Answered Prayer.”
5. Respond.  Thank God for these truths regarding assurance of salvation and answered prayer.
6. Close with prayer.
7. Work on your Scripture memory, if time permits.


Each day you will:

1. Open with prayer. Ask the Lord to bless your time together in His Word.  Ask Him to teach you, to direct you, and to grow your relationship during this time.  Pray spontaneously, differently, each morning.


2. Complete the assigned reading and work for the day.


3. Close with prayer.  Pray about whatever meaningful thing you learned or studied that morning.  Commit your day to the Lord.


4. If time permits, practice your Scripture memory verses.  Review 1-2 old verses then spend some time working on the new verse you are currently memorizing.



Week 2, Day 1
1. Open with prayer.
2. Briefly skim over the sections from the “Beginning with Christ Explanation” which you read last week (assurance of salvation and answered prayer, p.14).
3. Go on to read and mark sections 2-5 on the other “assurances”—victory, forgiveness, and guidance (pp.14-15).
4. Respond.  Thank God for each of these truths regarding salvation, answered prayer, victory, forgiveness, and guidance.
5. Close with prayer.
6. Work on your Scripture memory, if time permits.

Week 2, Day 2
1. Open with prayer.
2. Read “Introduction to Bible Study” (pp.17-18).
3. Begin the “Beginning with Christ Bible Study” on p.18.  Use your NIV Study Bible for this study.  Complete questions 1-2 (p.18).
4. Respond.  In your journal, write something that struck you or that you learned.
5. Read “How to Memorize a Verse Effectively” (pp.15-16).  Spend some time working on your Scripture memory verse.
6. Close with prayer.

Week 2, Day 3
1. Open with prayer.
2. Continue with the “Beginning with Christ Bible Study.”  Complete questions 3-9 (p.19).
3. Respond.  In your journal, write something that struck you or that you learned.
4. Close with prayer.
5. Work on your Scripture memory, if time permits.

Week 2, Day 4

1. Open with prayer.
2. Continue with the “Beginning with Christ Bible Study.”  Complete questions 10-13 (pp.19-20).
3. Respond.  In your journal, write something that struck you or that you learned.
4. Close with prayer.
5. Work on your Scripture memory, if time permits.

Week 2, Day 5
1. Open with prayer.
2. Continue with the “Beginning with Christ Bible Study.”  Complete questions 14-17 (pp.20-21).
3. Respond.  Thank God for these promises and assurances in your life.  In your journal, write something that struck you or that you learned.
4. Close with prayer.
5. Work on your Scripture memory, if time permits.


Each day you will:

1. Open with prayer. Ask the Lord to bless your time together in His Word.  Ask Him to teach you, to direct you, and to grow your relationship during this time.  Pray spontaneously, differently, each morning.


2. Complete the assigned reading and work for the day.


3. Close with prayer.  Pray about whatever meaningful thing you learned or studied that morning.  Commit your day to the Lord.


4. If time permits, practice your Scripture memory verses.  Review 1-2 old verses then spend some time working on the new verse you are currently memorizing.



Week 3, Day 1
1. Open with prayer.
2. Read over the section “How to Review Memory Verses Together” (pp.22-23).  It is a good idea to practice with each other daily.  You will be reciting your memory verses aloud, word perfect, when we have our group gathering.
3. Make your second Scripture memory card (for “Assurance of Answered Prayer” – John 16:24) using the instructions on p.12.
4. Consider how you feel about the idea of prayer in general, and this verse in particular.  What do you think it means to “ask in His name”?
5. Do you believe that God hears you when you pray, and that He will always answer you?
6. Write down some of these thoughts in your journal.  Spend some time praying to God about the idea of prayer.  Ask Him to help you to understand prayer better and to learn to practice prayer more as you move through this study.
7. Work on your Scripture memory, if time permits.

Week 3, Day 2
1. Open with prayer.
2. Begin reading (and marking) the article “Tyranny of the Urgent,” stopping before the section entitled Wait for Instructions… (p.24).
3. Respond.  Think of some specific ways you sometimes let the “urgent” crowd out the “important” in your life.  In your journal, mention these to the Lord, asking Him to direct you and lead you to the “important” in life.
4. Close with prayer.
5. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.

Week 3, Day 3
1. Open with prayer.
2. Continue reading and marking the article “Tyranny of the Urgent,” stopping before the section entitled Evaluate… (p.26).
3. Respond.  In your journal, write something that struck you or that you learned.
4. Close with prayer.
5. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.

Week 3, Day 4
1. Open with prayer.
2. Finish reading and marking the article “Tyranny of the Urgent” (p.26).
3. Answer the questions at the bottom of p.27 (1-3).
4. Respond.  In your journal, write something that struck you or that you learned.
5. Close with prayer.
6. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.

Week 3, Day 5

1. Open with prayer.
2. Read the introduction to the “Christ the Center Bible study” (p.28). Take time to think about the question in the box on p.28.
3. Complete questions 1-2 (pp.28-29).
4. Respond.  Do you think that Christ holds the same place in your heart that He holds in the universe?
5. In your journal, write something that struck you or that you learned today.
6. Close with prayer.
7. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.


Each day you will:

1. Open with prayer. Ask the Lord to bless your time together in His Word.  Ask Him to teach you, to direct you, and to grow your relationship during this time.  Pray spontaneously, differently, each morning.


2. Complete the assigned reading and work for the day.


3. Close with prayer.  Pray about whatever meaningful thing you learned or studied that morning.  Commit your day to the Lord.


4. If time permits, practice your Scripture memory verses.  Review 1-2 old verses then spend some time working on the new verse you are currently memorizing.



Week 4, Day 1
1. Open with prayer.
2. Complete questions 3-4 in the “Christ the Center Bible Study” on pp.29-30.
3. Consider the statement in the box on p.30.  Define the three words present, prominent, and preeminent as used in this quotation.  (You may use a dictionary if you do not understand the meanings contextually.)
4. Spend some time considering which of the three types of Christian you think you currently are.  Which would you like to be?
5. Respond.  In your journal, write something that struck you or that you learned.
6. Close with prayer.
7. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.

Week 4, Day 2
1. Open with prayer.
2. Complete questions 5-7 in the “Acknowledge His Lordship Bible study” on pp.30-31.
3. Briefly look over the chart at the bottom of p.31.  You will spend more time with this chart tomorrow.  Today just look over it.
4. Respond.  In your journal, write something that struck you or that you learned.
5. Close with prayer.
6. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.

Week 4, Day 3
1. Open with prayer.
2. Vocation is defined as, “a particular occupation, business, or profession.”  What is your vocation right now in life?
3. Take the entire time today considering the chart on p.31.  In your book, jot down a few ideas about how you’re doing in terms of practicing the lordship of Christ in each particular area.  List specific ways in which you’re doing well and specific ways in which you’re doing poorly—at least three for each area.
4. Spend some time in prayer.  Talk with the Lord about the things He’s shown you today.
5. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.

Week 4, Day 4
1. Open with prayer.
2. Look over your notes from yesterday.  In light of those things you listed yesterday, thoughtfully answer questions 8a and 8b on p.32.
3. Read the paragraph that follows question 8 on p.32.
4. Respond.  In your journal, write down the things that struck you today.
5. Close by writing a prayer to the Lord in your journal.
6. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.

Week 4, Day 5
1. Open with prayer.
2. Continue the “Acknowledge His Lordship Bible study” by completing questions 9-11 (pp.32-33).
3. Read the “Summary” on p.33.  Do you believe that last statement?  Do you believe that following Christ’s ways leads to your welfare and joy?
4. In your journal, write a brief prayer to the Lord, committing to Him any areas of your life which you know are not currently fully subject to His control.
5. Close with prayer.
6. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.


Each day you will:

1. Open with prayer. Ask the Lord to bless your time together in His Word.  Ask Him to teach you, to direct you, and to grow your relationship during this time.  Pray spontaneously, differently, each morning.


2. Complete the assigned reading and work for the day.


3. Close with prayer.  Pray about whatever meaningful thing you learned or studied that morning.  Commit your day to the Lord.


4. If time permits, practice your Scripture memory verses.  Review 1-2 old verses then spend some time working on the new verse you are currently memorizing.



Week 5, Day 1
1. Open with prayer.
2. Read “Where to Read in Your Bible” (p.10).
3. Read and look over “How to Use Your Personal Reading Record” (pp.33-35).
4. Commit to reading one chapter (Old or New Testament) each evening as part of your bedtime routine.  Decide now which book you’ll begin with, using their suggestions on p.10.
5. Make a new memory verse card for 1 Corinthians 10:13, “Assurance of Victory,” and add it to your Scripture memory work.
6. Close with prayer.
7. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.

Week 5, Day 2
1. Open with prayer.
2. Read the quotation from Leith Samuel in the box on p.36.
3. How would you define “communion” as used in this paragraph?  Do you think you have enough time in your life for fellowship with God?  Why or why not?
4. Read and answer question 1 (a-d) on pp.36-37.
5. Respond.  In your journal, write something that struck you or that you learned.
6. Close with prayer.
7. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.

Week 5, Day 3
1. Open with prayer.
2. Consider the example of poor communication with God which is illustrated in question 2 (pp.37-38).  Do you ever find yourself handling your devotional or prayer time with God in this way?
3. Go on to read and study the illustration regarding effective communication with God (questions 3-4, pp.38-39).
4. Respond.  Consider whether you have ever practiced this kind of communication with God, with time for both listening and speaking.  Write any thoughts in your journal.
5. Spend some time interacting with God in prayer.
6. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.

Week 5, Day 4
1. Open with prayer.
2. Complete question #5 (p.39), looking up and reading each of the verses listed there.
3. You’ve seen that all three persons of the godhead are involved in prayer. Who do you usually think of praying to when you are praying? Remember that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all present when you pray.
4. Confess any things you’ve become aware of regarding your fellowship with God over the course of this week’s study.  Ask God to help you have good fellowship with Him.
5. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.

Week 5, Day 5
1. Open with prayer.
2. Begin reading about obedience on p.40.  Think about the question in the box.  Does having a heart for obedience mean having to be perfect?  Does it ever feel like it means this?  Do you ever feel like you can’t live up to others’ expectations?
3. Read “The Foundations of Obedience” and answer questions 1-2 (pp.40-41).
4. Respond.  Talk honestly with the Lord about what His desire is for your life, according to these verses.
5. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.


Each day you will:

1. Open with prayer. Ask the Lord to bless your time together in His Word.  Ask Him to teach you, to direct you, and to grow your relationship during this time.  Pray spontaneously, differently, each morning.


2. Complete the assigned reading and work for the day.


3. Close with prayer.  Pray about whatever meaningful thing you learned or studied that morning.  Commit your day to the Lord.


4. If time permits, practice your Scripture memory verses.  Review 1-2 old verses then spend some time working on the new verse you are currently memorizing.



Week 6, Day 1
1. Open with prayer.
2. Read “The Practice of Obedient Living” (p.41).
3. Answer question 3 (p.41).
4. Take some time to consider the difference between temptation and sin.
5. Respond.  In your journal, take some time to write out some sources of temptation in your life.  Ask God to help keep you from sinning in these areas.
6. Close with prayer.
7. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.

Week 6, Day 2
1. Open with prayer.
2. Reread “The Practice of Obedient Living” (p.41).
3. Answer question 4 (p.41).
4. Read the paragraph at the bottom of p.41.  Do you have any known but unconfessed sin in your life that may be hindering your fellowship with God?  Take time to confess it right now, and ask God to deliver you from its power.
5. Consider if you have any broken fellowship with other people as a result of your sin.  In your journal, write a plan to confess and restore relationship with each of those people God brings to mind.
6. Close with prayer.
7. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.

Week 6, Day 3
1. Open with prayer.
2. Study the illustration on p.42 regarding fellowship with God.  Consider both how it is maintained and how it is restored if broken.
3. Read Psalm 32.  Consider David’s words regarding confessed and unconfessed sin.
4. Answer question 5, rewriting Psalm 32:5 into your own words.
5. Respond. Ask God again to show you any areas of unconfessed sin in your life.
6. Spend some time interacting with God in prayer.
7. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.

Week 6, Day 4
1. Open with prayer.
2. Complete question #5 (p.39), looking up and reading each of the verses listed there.
3. You’ve seen that all three persons of the godhead are involved in prayer. Who do you usually think of praying to when you are praying? Remember that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all present when you pray.
4. Confess any things you’ve become aware of regarding your fellowship with God over the course of this week’s study.  Ask God to help you have good fellowship with Him.
5. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.

Week 6, Day 5
1. Open with prayer.
2. Begin reading about obedience on p.40.  Think about the question in the box.  Does having a heart for obedience mean having to be perfect?  Does it ever feel like it means this?  Do you ever feel like you can’t live up to others’ expectations?
3. Read “The Foundations of Obedience” and answer questions 1-2 (pp.40-41).
4. Respond.  Talk honestly with the Lord about what His desire is for your life, according to these verses.
5. Do your Scripture memory if time permits.


Each day you will:

1. Open with prayer. Ask the Lord to bless your time together in His Word.  Ask Him to teach you, to direct you, and to grow your relationship during this time.  Pray spontaneously, differently, each morning.


2. Complete the assigned reading and work for the day.


3. Close with prayer.  Pray about whatever meaningful thing you learned or studied that morning.  Commit your day to the Lord.


4. If time permits, practice your Scripture memory verses.  Review 1-2 old verses then spend some time working on the new verse you are currently memorizing.


The next weeks are forthcoming...

* Adapted from Growing Strong in God’s Family, Book 1 of the New 2:7 Series, © 1999 by The Navigators. Used by permission of The Navigators Church Discipleship Ministry, Colorado Springs, CO (www.navigators.org/cdm). All rights reserved.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Elementary Civics

Okay, so when life gets busy and heavy with "issues"--which it often does when one is raising teens!--one's ability to wax philosophical about things becomes limited.  But I simply must break into the spiritual, psychological, emotional stuff we've been enmeshed in to write briefly of my political outrage.

Not that anyone cares, mind you, but as an American citizen and as an educator, I am confused by the latest developments concerning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on the part of President Obama and his Administration.  If I correctly understand the situation--which I admit it is possible I don't--where is the outcry?  Why are civics and history teachers around the country not up in arms at what is happening?  Are students being told?  Are adults even aware?  Do people even care?

A very basic presentation of the "separation of powers" and the "three branches of government" that I teach my children in the young elementary years should suffice for anyone over the age of ten to understand that what President Obama is advocating is not constitutional.  He claims that he and his Attorney General have "concluded" that the DOMA is "unconstitutional"--and that they will therefore cease "to defend it."    Excuse me?  Did I miss something?!

At the risk of over-simplification, let me sum up the elementary civics lesson as I thought I understood it:
The U.S. Constitution gives the Judicial Branch the exclusive task and authority for ruling on the constitutionality of any given law.  (Not that they always do a good job of doing so, but the task is squarely--and solely--on their shoulders!)  The Constitution gives the Legislative Branch the exclusive task and authority for making such laws.  And it gives the Executive Branch the exclusive task and authority for executing such laws.

So, what's up with a President who is, by decree, assuming the power to overrule the other branches of government?!  The DOMA was the law of the land, passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Clinton.  Since when does the Executive Branch have the authority to "conclude" that it is unconstitutional?

Chuck Colson has some sobering thoughts on this issue:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Optical Illusion


I'm sure that I have not "confirmed that I have the license to use this picture." 
It came to me in an email.  I have no idea where it came from.

So here's my favorite disclaimer poem:
I'd love to give credit where credit is due
If only I knew
So please do not sue.

Anyway, I thought it was cool how this looks like it is moving...
Let me know if you know where this came from.

By the way, I think people who design these kinds of things must be amazing.
Happy Friday!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mongolian BBQ Fun

Welcome to Chinese Restaurant
please try your Nice Chinese Food With Chopsticks
the traditional typical of Chinese glorious history
and cultural

 

Thank!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Homeschool Kindergarten - A Blast from the Past!

The "clean sweep" has finally made it to our files!  It has been a long time coming, and we finally pulled out and dug through all the old files full of papers collected over the past couple of decades of marriage!!  Hooray!

I found this old letter--originally written on May 20, 1999, when my three oldest children were 5, 3, and 15 months respectively.  Talk about a blast from the past!  They are now almost 17, 15, 13, and there's an additional 10-year old sister in the mix!

The original letter was in response to a friend's query about how we were handling homeschool kindergarten without pre-fab curriculum.

What is chronicled here is so very different from how we ended up having to handle it the fourth time around! (EL had three older siblings who were in middle and high school as she came along--and we had begun serious lessons and co-op participation and the like--so her homeschool kindergarten was decidedly different from this!)

So, here it is, in my own words, so very many years and so very many seasons ago.  For whatever it is worth...

Dear Heather,
Please forgive the incongruity of this letter... these thoughts are only moderately organized in my mind, so they may come out disjointed and/or confusing.  Sorry!  Also, what I'm doing this year, curriculum-wise, is so bound up in what I've already done, that I feel like I'll just have to share that, and get to the actual materials at the end.  Take or leave whatever, whatever it's worth...

(Inserted thought, at the end of it all: I read over this note, once I finished it, to see if it made sense, and it all sounds remarkable and wonderful and organized.  I feel inadequate and intimidated next to my own description of myself!  So, know that these things don't always happen as smoothly and consistently as this straight description makes it seem!)

Thoughts about homeschooling, and feeling overwhelmed: Every day I wonder if I can do this thing, and if I'll mess up my kids, and if they'll learn what they need to, etc...  I have a teaching degree and I fear these things a ton, so know that those feelings are part of it, no matter how "qualified" or "unqualified" you may be in the world's eyes...

Thoughts about how I began "schooling" for little ones (and how it wasn't really "schooling" at first, at all): My goal, before I ever began any academic training, was to be relatively certain that the important character-training issues were well underway in my home.  Thus, our first years have focused on things like:

*Discipline (obedience, contradicting/backtalk, arguing, throwing fits, etc.): You need to be reasonably sure you can expect your child to respond to you in obedience IN LIFE before you expect him to respond obediently in a teaching setting.

* Bible training (stories, memory verses, crafts, application, etc.): My kids began memorizing "ABC verses" from the time they were two.  I have sort of fallen into the realization that, in addition to filling their minds with God's truth in His Word, this has led to many other wonderful "by-products."  It was great training in self-discipline--memorizing and practicing and retaining something requires great diligence and self-control.  Also, letter and phonics recognition that just sort of happened along the way... for example, as they memorized the verse that began with "A," I showed them a big and little A and taught them that "A says a" (as in the short vowel sound in cat)... same with all the letters.  By the end of the memory program, they recognized most all the letters and beginning phonics sounds (short vowels and hard consonants) and I hadn't had to sit down and teach them, per se.

* Sitting still and quiet in certain settings: I've also sort of "stumbled" into realizing the huge by-product blessing it has been to train them to be quiet and still when they need to be.  They remain with us in church and meetings, they can go to the ballet and the symphony and any place like that when someone wants to take them, and they are primed for sitting still and quiet for learning/schooling scenarios later.

* Praying together: We pray about anything, but I make a point to pray with them at times other than just meal time.  Also, we have a "quiet time" together in the mornings, where we read and discuss a short passage of Scripture together--currently, a part of a Psalm each day.  This will eventually turn into their own personal devotion time; I just want to train them early to work this into their days, so that they won't have as much struggle with it later as I do!  This time is separate from "Bible time," which is a fun family devotion time Daddy does in the evening, which involves a story and discussion and some singing.  It is also separate from "Bible cards," which is a time I go through some A Beka Bible Flash Cards with them each day.  I've borrowed these from a friend who owns all the sets, and they are wonderful.  We are working on slowly obtaining some of our own, as gift money and stuff comes in for the kids.  This is what we do in the afternoon just before "quiet play time" (for EV-5) and "rest time" (for PT-3), which may or may not include a nap.  They love these Bible cards.

* Household skills (chores, cooking, gardening, organizing, etc.);  This is just worked into our life routine, but it also seems to teach much self-discipline... EV(5) and PT(3) make their beds, dress themselves, help fold laundry and put it away, set the table, load and empty the dishwasher, help me make food and bake bread, etc.  We have taught (by example and by what we demand of them) that "everything has its place," and that you must put it back there when you're finished with it.  We've only allowed play with one thing at a time, after which you put that away before you get out another thing, etc.  There are a lot of baskets and boxes and such in our home, such that "all the Legos go here," and "all the sewing cards go here," etc.

* Safety skills (memorized name/address/phone, fire & water skills, go meet a fireman and policeman, etc.)

* Motor skills--large and small: This is accomplished for us by (LMS) playing outside, walks and/or bike rides, hopping, skipping, climbing, trampoline jumping, etc. (SMS) sewing cards, Barbie and paper dolls, Playmobil guys, colorforms, PlayDoh, holding a pencil properly when drawing, coloring in the lines, using scissors to cut on lines or around pictures, etc.

*Educational-minded games: Early on, this is things like colors, body parts, animals, shapes, etc.  Later it is things like puzzles, KingSize Uno, rock/paper/scissors, tic-tac-toe, letter bingo, "memory" games, CandyLand, magnets, etc.

* Reading aloud: This is huge, I think, as far as teaching a love of literature, exposure to English cadence and language rhythm, vocabulary expansion, etc.  We read "non-picture books" from very early on: daily, a page or two, of books like Beatrix Potter tales (Peter Rabbit, etc.), Pooh tales (the original ones), classic fairy tales, etc. Also, Richard Scarry-type books for vocabulary expansion and exposure to things I can't actually take them to see...

* Going places ("field trips"): kids' museum, zoo, beach, park, etc.

* Ministry and service: We try to keep our eyes and ears open to needs within the Body and meet them when we can.  I try to really involved the kids when this happens (making & taking a meal to someone, watching someone's children for them, cleaning someone's house for them, etc.)--especially is if disrupts our usual "school routine"--and explain as we go how we're serving the Lord and His church by doing this certain thing.

SO, all of that is what goes in to stuff before I ever begin teaching anything "academic," per se.  With EV(5), and now PT(3), what I've begun with, after all this is at least moderately established, is "reading instruction."  I feel pretty vulnerable and silly sharing this, because it is so casual and "unofficial" (in the curriculum sense), and it is stuff I've just created myself.  (This is nice because it is then FREE!)  I made flash cards first of all with all the capital and small letters and numerals 1-10.  (I'm sure to include a goofy-looking small A like is in most printed material, and I make the 4 look both ways they'll potentially see it, etc.)  We go through those daily (for however long their relative attention spans will handle, and building to more daily as they get more used to doing it) until I'm relatively sure they know the letters and basic phonetic sounds as described above.  This is a relatively short phase for me because of the Bible memory lessons they already had, but I'd stay at this stage as long as necessary until I was sure they had it.  If it was taking a long time and being really boring, I'd read a ton of ABC books together, too, to speed it along.  Put letter magnets on the fridge.  Play letter match puzzle games.  Anything to reinforce the letters (and, for me, the simple sound that goes with it).

Next I went to making flashcards with two-letter words that follow "pure simple phonics" rules (short vowel/hard consonant). [A says a, T says g, a-t, at] etc...

After that I went to three-letter words of the same phonetic make-up.  This step was a little slower with EV than with PT.  She spent a while saying, for example, "B-at" (a two-syllable thing involving a "B" sound followed by the word "at" but not getting how to blend it all together) or "B-ox" and the like.  Spending some time with opening blends will help if this is the case (ba-, be-, bi-, bo-, bu-, bl-, br-, etc.)  After they've mastered the three-letter words (with or without opening blends practice), I move onto four-letter pure phonics words and a few "sight words" (the, because, is, was, etc.).  Don't introduce too many sight words at once or they'll get confused.  Just one at a time until they have it.

After they've gotten the concept of all that, and can read all those flash cards fluently and quickly, they are more than ready to move on to "real books," and I've borrowed from a friend just the readers to the "Sing, Spell, Read, and Write" program.  This is a great phonics/reading program with a lot of "bells and whistles" (music, singing, rhymes, etc.) that costs a couple hundred bucks.  My friend bought just the readers for $18.  (And I borrow them, so far, which costs nothing, though I've been on the lookout for my own set!)  The readers progressively take you through each phonetic rule they should learn, so we just work through them from book one (which is all short A vowel words put into stories).  We also occasionally check out the "Bob" books from the library just because they're fun and something different for her to read.  At this point PT(3) is reading the flash cards (and asking to move on to the books!) and EV(5) is in book 9 of the readers.

I let them go through those "preschool skills" book you pick up at dollar stores and stuff, a lot.  They do things like mazes and dot-to-dots and tracing on the lines and that sort of thing.  Iivo's mother gives them lots of these, too, so we've utilized the fact that they are here, for "free," so to speak.

During this time, as far as "arithmetic" went, we did numeral recognition and quantity concepts with a number puzzle we have that pairs up 1-24 numbers with pieces that have that number of things pictured on them.  We also spent time counting and manipulating poker chips in "math-y" ways.  Nothing official, again...

I hung up a manuscript ABC border in my kids' bedrooms, and in the dining room (our "school room") and they've both just learned to make the letters by looking up and copying them.  I taught them first to write their names (that's all PT(3) can do, and a couple of other letters) and then EV(5) would just seems to practice writing letters as she drew and colored and played in that way.  I bought one of those rubber pencil-grip things that makes them hold their hand properly, from the teachers' store, and I make them use that when they draw.  I let them learn to make their letters on unlined paper, and this year EV and I will work for the first time on official "penmanship."  I bought an A Beka book called Writing with Phonics K4 for this purpose.  It reinforces the phonics instruction while teaching them proper spacing and alignment for writing letters on lined paper.  (You have to order the manuscript edition special, if you want them to learn to print, as A Beka is big on teaching cursive early and they have cursive editions as the standard.)  I also bought Writing with Phonics K5, which I will move on to whenever we finish the K4 book.  The only other official "curriculum-type thing" I bought for this coming year for EV were the A Beka books called Letters and Sounds K and Number Skills K Arithmetic.  I didn't (and wouldn't) buy any of the teacher's manuals unless you are just a big teacher's-manual-type person.  The books themselves are rather self-explanatory at this stage, and the money will be better spent later, on other curricula, in my opinion.  I plan to cover these "disposables" workbooks with contact paper to keep them looking fresh and new, as I think that keeps the kids careful and tidy with their books.  Of course, they write directly in the workbooks, and I think I'll save them as part of a "record" filed away for later.  I also save the best of their drawings and crafty things they create and put them in a file, "for posterity," and to document things should anyone ever want to see it.

As far as "science" and "social studies" go this year, I have a vague sense that I will try to incorporate these things in casual, fun, free ways.  I have a hands-on preschool science experiment book that we may plan to do one or two days a week.  I also have hung a map, and I think I'll read stories to the kids from various locations around the world, and then mark those locations on the map with a little circle representing the story somehow.  I plan to use the story as a springboard for studying the other culture somehow.  (For instance, the Madeleine books to study about France, the Peng books to study about China, etc.)

I myself have never attended a curriculum fair, nor do I plan to attend one this year.  (I did go to just the A Beka demonstration this year because I wanted to see the books hands-on and find out just what level I though EV was ready for--and you get free shipping if you order them there!  I thought I could handle one guy, in one room, full of only one curriculum! ;)  I find myself too overwhelmed in life by the whole homeschool concept, and I refuse to allow myself to freak out and get too stressed out over kindergarten!  From what I understand, curriculum fairs can be desperately overwhelming!  

We're just slowly plugging along with whatever we can do for pretty much close-to-free, and I'm not sweating how it "officially" lines up with someone's idea of kindergarten.  I have requested a copy of the SOLs ("Standards of Learning") from the local school board, just so I'll know what they think a kid should be learning at this stage, but I don't feel too hyper about trying to teach right to that.  As far as opinions I have about various curricula: these I've obtained by just "picking the brains" of several homeschool moms that I admire and respect.  I figure it is worth finding out, from a variety of people, what has worked and what hasn't, in their experience.  THAT is more valuable to me than trying to swim through 10,000 books at a huge fair where everyone is trying to convince me that their stuff is exactly what I need.  My personality can be overwhelmed by that, and I know that I could become "convinced" that I "needed" far more stuff than I actually do, or can afford--especially for kindergarten!!

There is a homeschool co-op at our church that I have found invaluable as far as providing several things I can't provide by myself at home: "official" accountability with other homeschool moms, structured social interactions for my kids with other kids, opportunities for a "literary magazine" of sorts and for "oral presentations," a chance to learn and say the pledge of allegiance, exposure for my kids to other teachers and teaching styles, and all those sorts of things that can't happen so well with only one or two kids at home (organized PE games, drama and acting stuff, etc.)  I'd recommend finding some such group in your area, if there is one...

So, there it is, the Laurie hodge podge of what I've done and hope to do with my little preschoolers by way of "schooling" them.  As, as you can tell, all of it is quite casual and unstructured.  (Our reading instruction, for example, often happens with all of us piled into our queen-sized bed!)  Each of these things doesn't happen each day, by any means, but at least one of these things happens each day.

I don't know if I've helped you at all, or it I've just confused you and made everything worse.  Whichever is the case, feel free to write at any time with any questions or comments, or to share any of your own experiences and suggestions.  My "schooling" is ever-evolving and ever-incorporating as I share with other moms.  In fact, for most of the ideas expressed here, I need to give credit to the many mothers I've "stolen" ideas from.  (Thanks to Karen McD., Elizabeth T., Kathy T., Cheri D.!)

Partners in this crazy adventure of motherhood and education,
Laurie


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Spring is coming!!



This is the sight that greeted me on the front walkway this morning on the way home from church!  The sunshine and surprisingly mild temperatures--together with the bright smile of this blossom--conspire to give me hope that spring is, in fact, just around the corner!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

An Evening of Song

Our family was blessed to attend the Virginia Opera performance of The Valkyrie on Saturday night, because two of my children were performing with their handbell choir before the show and during intermission.  Memorizing artists and pieces for "music appreciation" takes on a whole new meaning when you've seen the show from which the piece came!  (Hence, "Flight of the Valkyries" by Wagner will now forever live in the memory in a different way.)

Here is a little sampling of the delightful handbell music--captured poorly on my phone, but captured nonetheless.  My youngest EL is the feisty little one on the left end; my son PT is the very tall one on the far right of the screen in the second video.



Friday, February 11, 2011

The Heart of Love

I found this sitting on a chair in the study this morning.  Turns out it isn't for me.  Well, at least not officially.  The ten-year old has made it for her grandmother--originally for Valentine's Day--but "(she) doesn't want to fold it," so it is being saved as a gift for the next face-to-face visit.

But whether I was intended to be the original recipient or not, the Lord used it to bless me this morning.


"Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age," Matt. 28:20, KJV.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Snow Day!

I know I am truly an adult because snow days usually now bum me out. Yes, I remember the quiet hoping (before) and the elated joy (after) the announcement from the "powers that be" that school had officially been canceled. But when I have planned a day's activities for my students at the homeschool enrichment group, I am almost always disappointed not to meet and carry them out as scheduled.


Today, however, I confess that I was not bummed. This morning I was not the disappointed teacher cursing the white stuff under her breath. I was the recovering flu patient who was as thrilled as any student not to have to report to studies today. Another day of rest! An extra few days to play catch up!

Oh, thank you, ultimate Power of "powers that be," for this beautiful reminder of Your mercy. Your creativity. And Your amazing, amazing grace.

"Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:7).


 
 A few of my favorite spots, patiently awaiting spring...
 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dads Understand

This was my daughter OG's favorite Superbowl commercial.  I love it, too!

So, I guess here's a little more free advertising for VW...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tackling the Flu Naturally

I have not been sick in about five years.

Exactly to what I owe this blessing, I'm not sure, but I've enjoyed my long string of wellness very much!

For the past couple of days, however, I have been flat on my back in bed with a serious case of what I presume is the flu, which has been plaguing our community for the past month or so and which many of my friends, colleagues, and students have had.

I am so much better today that I feel compelled to share here what we did--there are three of us sick in our household right now--that has caused such a serious turn-around for us.

First, the progression of my sickness (if you're interested in knowing what it might look like early on so you don't miss it, like I did):

Two weekends ago I went to a movie night for our ASL club at a home with cats.  I am allergic to cats, but sometimes I can handle it, so we took separate cars and I decided to give it a go.  I stayed the entire time and paid the price for it for several days following with an irritated respiratory tract and difficult breathing.  However, it got better without my becoming terribly sick.  I assume that was simply the cat-ness.

This past weekend (Friday and Saturday), I again had difficulty breathing and a sore chest.  I assumed this was the result of some residual irritation of my respiratory tract from the cat-ness, made worse by some sanding I had been doing in the bathroom we're re-doing.  Looking back now, I assume that this was actually the start of this sickness.  Since I didn't recognize it as such, I did not do any of the usual "immune boosting" things we do when we feel like an illness might be coming on.

Sunday, I started with some other mild symptoms: fever of 100 or so, slight headache, coughing, irritated airway.  I did take it easy all day and took one dose of "immune stuff" (see below), but since I didn't feel all that bad and had few symptoms other than fever to indicate that I might be getting really sick, I failed miserably with the rules regarding staving off an illness naturally.  I stayed up late and watched the Superbowl.  I ate all the junky food we had planned to serve at the gathering we had canceled (chicken wings, Mexican dip, chips, soda).  I felt pretty bad by bedtime, so I took some Nyquil before bed and figured I'd "sleep it off."

Sunday night things took a serious turn for the worse.  I awoke with 102 degree fever; a deep, painful cough; a severe headache; aching in every joint and muscle in my body; a sore throat; a stuffy nose; dizziness; and eyes that hurt if I rubbed them.  I have not been so miserably sick in many, many years.  (I remember a stomach virus one particular Christmas during which I lay on the bathroom floor, unable to move, convinced I was going to die.  But not since then have I been that sick.)  It was a long, miserable day yesterday, and I felt absolutely awful.

I am rather shocked (and pleased) that today the fever is broken and I feel much, much better.  Since the friends who responded on Facebook told me to expect five days at least, and that I needed Tamiflu to get through it, I figured I'd share all the "wacky" natural things we did to knock this thing out fast.  Since I don't know which things helped and which didn't, and since I pulled out my entire knowledge of every natural remedy I'd ever heard of, I share here a pretty long list of "kooky" natural remedies.  Something worked!

Here's what we who were actually sick did: (For preventive measures, see below.)

* prayed  for healing
* stayed in bed all day resting/sleeping

* took "immune stuff" every hour or two all day (never on a totally empty stomach!):
- 1,000 mg vitamin C (I took 2,000 since I had a fever, and I never got diarrhea, the sign of too much)
- echinacea/goldenseal combination tablets
- garlic tablets
- acidophilus tablets
- zinc lozenges

* drank Vitamix shakes made with whatever whole fruits and vegetables we had:
- carrots & mixed greens
- strawberries, kiwis, pears, apples, cranberries, black currants
- homemade yogurt
- kombucha tea

* drank kefir and kefir d'uva
* drank hot tea (for me it was vanilla Sleepytime)

* ate chicken soup made with homemade chicken stock
* ate nothing else (especially no junk or sugar!)

* took a hot bath with Epsom salts and breathed deeply of the steam
* used the Neti pot
* covered our chests with Vicks Vapo-Rub

* gargled with Listerine mixture (half water, half blue Listerine)
* soaked inside of our ears with hydrogen peroxide

* took no drugs to lower the fever, since fever helps the immune system function better

I'm quite sure that many of you are totally wigged out by this list.  But I felt so absolutely terrible yesterday, and feel so much better today, that I felt compelled to share.  My friends who are trying Tamiflu and are still suffering after five days might just be miserable enough to try it!  I hope none of the rest of you need it, but I would highly recommend it if you find yourself coming down with it!

As for prevention, I'll let you know how it worked ultimately, but here's what the not-sick-yet members of our family are doing to try to stave it off:

* pray (for health, for wellness, for a strong immune system, for mercy)

* take "immune stuff" several times a day (never on an empty stomach!)
- 1,000 mg vitamin C
- garlic tablets
- acidophilus tablets
- zinc lozenges
- NOT echinachea/goldenseal, which your body develops a resistance to if taken too long

* eat only healthy food
* eat NO SUGAR, which suppresses the immune system significantly for several hours after consumption

* get plenty of sleep

I don't know if they'll successfully keep from getting it, but they are ahead of the game from me, who totally missed the symptoms when they were coming on.  I'll let you know!