Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Weds. with Words: The Duties of Parents

This past week I have been thinking more about parenting.  Mostly, thinking about how to parent my 2 yo now that I see some results with my 7 yo.  When I saw this post about The Duties of Parents by J.C. Ryle I decided to dust off my copy (actually it is lost somewhere so I just downloaded it for free and am re-reading it.)   Here are a few snippets:

And still for all this, the vast majority of children are manifestly not trained in the way they should go, for when they grow up to man's estate, they do not walk with God. 
Sometimes I easily forget that the good life is the one that walks with God - nothing less. I'm I aiming at that or a different definition.
Anger and harshness may frighten, but they will not persuade the child that you are right, and if he sees you out of temper, you will soon cease to have his respect. 
Fear puts an end to openness of manner, - fear leads to concealment - fear sows the seed of much hypocrisy , and leads to many a lie. 
And this is where we are currently struggling.  My temper and his!
It is just in the going forward that God will meet us.  The path of obedience is the way in which He gives the blessing.  We have only to do as the servants were commanded at the marriage feat in Cana, to fill the water-pots with water, and we may safely leave it to the Lord to turn that water into wine. 
To pet and pamper and indulge your child, as if this world was all he had to look to, and this life the only season for happiness - to do this is not true love, but cruelty. 
How often do I act like this is the world we are aiming for - that this is the only kingdom.  Yikes!

In speaking of Bible reading:
See that they read it regularly.  Train them to regard it as their soul's daily food - as a thing essential to their soul's daily health.  I know well you can not make this anything more than a form, but there is no telling the amount of sin which a mere form may indirectly restrain. 
Prayer is the simplest means that man can use in coming to God.  It is within the reach of all - the sick, the aged, the infirm, the paralytic, the blind, the poor, the unlearned - all can pray.  It avails you nothing to plead want of memory, and want of learning, and want of books, and want of scholarship in this matter.  So long as you have a tongue to tell your soul's state, you may and ought to pray. 
See to it too, if it can be so arranged, that your children go with you to church, and sit near you when they are there.  To go to church is one thing, but to behave well at church is quite another.  
But so long as hearts are what hearts are, it is vain to suppose, as a general rule, that children can ever be brought up without correction.  
Imitation is a far stronger principle with children than memory.  What they see has a much greater effect on their minds than what they are told. 
Remember the word that the conqueror Caesar always used to his soldiers in battle.  He did not say "Go forward," but "Come."  So it must be with you in training your children. 
Promises were the only lamp of hope which cheered the hearts of the patriarchs before the Bible was written.  Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, - all lived on a few promises, and prospered in their souls.  Promises are the cordials which in every age have supported and strengthened the believer.  
How often do I not trust in his promises and whine about my situation.
It is not God's way to give everything at once.  "Afterwards" is the time when He often chooses to work, both in the things of nature and in the things of grace.  "Afterwards" is the season when affliction bears the peaceable fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:11).  

Children have ever been the bow from which the sharpest arrows have pierced man's heart. 
It is a quick read, but meaty.  There are some parts I struggle with but it is a worthy read.  To read what others have been reading check out Wednesday with Words.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dtk - Chapter 1 finished

We are finishing up the first chapter of Desiring the Kingdom as we read along with Mystie's guidance.  I have enjoyed the conversation so far.

In today's post I am going to do two things.  First I'll discuss chapel and mass in schools I have been a part of in the past. Secondly, I'll discuss how the lesson of this chapter is highlighted in the life of Clarence Thomas.  Yes, my husband is listening to his memoir My Grandfather's Son.   Even the title ties into the point of this chapter.

Chapel versus Mass

First a thought that was convicting, "From most exposition of "the Christian worldview" you would never guess that Christians worship!"   And towards the end of the same paragraph he asserts that our worldview "fails to provide any account of or place for the centrality of Christian worship as integral to the task of Christian education."

This made me think of the difference between the chapel services that most Protestant Christian schools have and the Mass in Catholic schools.  Chapels are typically weekly meetings (mostly at the elementary level) where children listen to a sermonette or Bible story, then they sing a few songs and do some type of offering. The details may differ but that is the general pattern.  Meanwhile, in a Catholic school, students go to mass - sometimes even daily!  Mass is the same regardless of age - it is not watered down.  I was at a Catholic high school (not elementary) so it might be slightly different for younger students - but probably not.  The focus is on the sacrament and not the priest's short homily. If you have experience with this please comment.

Can you already see the difference in formation?  When you are part of the Catholic tradition, no matter where you go (I once went to mass celebrated on a cruise ship because my cousin was assisting with it) it is the same.  No matter your age, the practices are the same.  They truly shape you.  Meanwhile, the protestant tradition is much more splintered and diverse.  One church I recently attended didn't have an order of worship in the bulletin (not even praise, offering, sermon) because they "don't have a liturgy".  WHAT?  Anyway.  I do realize not all Protestant traditions are so free with their form, that is why I attend a more liturgical church.  There is a depth of history and a use of the scripture in the sacraments that is forming.

The nuns at the Catholic school I worked in were ADAMANT about the celebration of mass as central to the life of the school.  Teachers complained, students rolled their eyes but everyone went.  The nuns saw it as essential the formation and identity of the school, while most of the faculty and students probably thought it was the least valuable part of the school program (it was an academically rigorous school).  At the time, I probably sided more with the teachers and students, but after thinking about it and reading this chapter, the nuns were right.

Clarence Thomas and the social imaginary

I really don't know much about Clarence Thomas except for watching his confirmation hearings over one summer (in junior high - not really understanding what it all meant).  Before listening to his memoirs I wasn't too sure of his political leanings or background.  I am only at the point where he has gotten his first job, so we aren't near to his most well known chapter of life.  However, his life story (so far) is a great example of how your social imaginary - your core vision basically - shapes who you are.  Smith explains the concept this way:
The "social imaginary" is an affective, noncognitive understanding of the world.  It is described as an "imaginary" (rather than a theory) because it is fueled by the stuff of the imagination rather than the intellect: it is made up of, and embedded in, stories, narratives, myths and icons. These visions capture our hearts and imaginations by "lining" our imagination, as it were - providing us with frameworks of "meaning" by which we make sense of our world and our calling in it.  (bold is mine)

Just hearing his story - poor, abandoned, black boy born in 1948 growing up in the rural south, attending college in the late 1960's - you would think you could guess his political stance. If you assume he is a liberal in support of affirmative action and the war on poverty you would be completely wrong.  He was in college and law school during an era where social institutions were changing their telos.  As Smith discusses, cultural institutions "are human cultural products, they are pliable and malleable, they can be configured in different ways, depending on the ends to which they are oriented".  He lived in the midst of the re-orientation, even attending demonstrations and joining with more liberal groups for a time. However, in the end, he did not follow the expected trajectory and ended in a different place than most of his contemporaries.  Why?

Well, the title of the book My Grandfather's Son pretty much gives the answer.  He was abandoned by his parents and his grandparents raised him.  His Grandmother was one of the few practicing, black Catholics in the south.  He went to a Catholic high school (he was the best Latin student at his school) and pursued the priesthood - even attending a year of seminary (his grandfather threw him out when he left the seminary).  As a youth, his grandfather made him work out in the fields with him during the summer and constantly told him stories about how important it is to be independent and stand on your own two feet.  His grandfather refused to take public assistance saying that it robbed him of his manhood.  As Thomas pursued his education, turning down Harvard to attend Yale Law School, his grandfather still called him an educated fool and wouldn't attend his graduations.

Much of his college experience (besides studying and being an excellent student) was a clash between the left, black panther, black power movement and his grandfather's approach to life.  He was in the midst of a culture creating a totally new social imaginary.  Even though he wasn't a practicing Catholic through most of his college and law school career; it tethered him, nonetheless.  Basically he was living out what Smith is alluding to when he says "So how does one acquire such virtues, such dispositions of desire?  Through participation in concrete Christian practices like confession?"

In the memoirs, Thomas constantly discusses the pull of his Grandfather's example, his stories, his life well lived.  Those gave him his sense of meaning much more than the shifting tides of cultural change around him. He is not a saint.  My husband says the next section reveals that he was basically a high functioning alcoholic and is considering leaving his wife and young son.  He also was not a practicing Catholic at the time.  Despite his difficulties and flaw and regardless of your personal view of him, the first half of this memoir is a fascinating look at how a social imaginary rooted in faith, example and stories, can stand the test of cultural change.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cleaning has its advantages - Teaching Latin Part 2

Good news I found my Latin Centered Curriculum book and my print out of Teaching Latin in High School when I was cleaning.  YEAH!   There are a few other items I wanted to highlight from Teaching Latin.  He has a great listing of resources (all in public domain) that will help give you some background about Caesar's Gallic Wars and Cicero (if you plan to try to read them in high school).

Here are a few more quotes
A careful investigation into the mythological element in a number of the English poets has been made . . . and a numerical count of these references has given the following results:
Spenser 650
Byron 450
Shelley 325
Robert Browning 250
Tennyson 225
Pope 175
Mrs. Browning 175
Matthew Arnold 100
J.G. Saxe 100

He then talks about the difference between a student who looks up in the encyclopedia (or googles) Hera and one who has read the Iliad.  Their understanding of Hera will be completely different and will result in a different depth and connection to the text.  So, again, if you are struggling with why we study mythology - maybe this gives you a boost.

He includes a list of Latin classroom materials which also includes a list of public domain books.  He suggests the following maps: "Ancient Italy, Ancient Gaul, Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire".  May sound pretty basic but I hadn't thought too much about having them on hand.

In high school the typical progression of Latin is from a general introduction of all the forms, etc. and in the second year you begin reading Caesar's Gallic Wars (Henle does this I think).  Well, he has a different view on it:

Classes are often not ready for Caesar at the opening of the second year.  Few of the usual books prepare for Caesar, and it is doubtful the average pupil can get ready for Caesar in one school year of nine months, without neglecting some of his other studies.  Caesar is more difficult Latin than its place in the course of study would indicate. . .  It really ought to be given in the third year, for it is the rock on which unnumbered thousands of faithful pupils have gone to pieces utterly. 
For nine out of ten classes, it is best to begin with some simple Latin and review the forms and simple constructions of the first year.  This can be done by using the Gradatim, Fabulae Faciles, Via Latina, etc.  or one of the second year volumes specially prepared to take the place of a full year of Caesar.  They generally give about the second half of the year to Caesar. 
I include this to encourage you that if you feel your program is moving too fast - it might be!  There are many sources for other reading material that can help students get familiar with reading Latin.  So far, I enjoy reading adaptations of the Bible aloud because most of our students already know the story so they can focus on how it is written, not just trying to figure out what it is saying.  I think you probably need material they are familiar with and some stories that are completely new to them.  Compass Cinema, producers of Visual Latin, also provide some free Latin readers that might be useful.  One of them focuses on the history of the United States.

And I'll leave you with this quote he includes from a Mr. Williams of the Indianapolis News:
It makes a man more a man, the more he knows of what men aforetime have borne and done and thought.  The most practical man, in the final survey of human life, is the one who puts the emphasis on man and not on practical; who is never too absorbed in the cares and triumphs of life to ask himself soberly now and then: "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Weekly Resource - Peterson's Handwriting

I am a cursive first kind of girl.  I do realize that many people aren't even learning cursive anymore but learning cursive first has lots of benefits.  I like that the letters start and end in the same place - every time. Plus, you really can't confuse b and d when you write them in cursive.  My son's cursive is looking great. People are always surprised that he writes it.  Truly it isn't a big accomplishment - it is easier to learn than print if you start with it.  The problem is trying to switch kids midstream - that's what makes it difficult. Handwriting is important to us because my husband's handwriting is pretty much illegible.

I have started "writing" lessons with my 4 yo - at his request.  Although I own the cursive first book, I use Peterson's Handwriting techniques.  I do like cursive first's use of the clock face (loop around to 2 o' clock and then trace back) so I use that with my sons. Peterson has online workbooks (print and cursive) that show you the premise behind their program.  For both print and cursive the basic concept is to break down the letters into repetitive moves and then link them together to make letters.  The four basic moves in cursive are sharp top, loop top, round top and roll top.  I then teach a "bottom loop".  I also teach the r as a slightly pointed roll top - instead of a roof top- like they do it.   Really I just use their rhythm leader sheet (print and cursive) and teach it from there.

The writing is functional but not pretty.  I also don't believe in teaching kids through tracing pages - so we do other things to practice.  Montessori uses sandpaper letters and my older son used those when he was this age.  Right now we don't have any letters available (although you can make your own).  To start off I just wrote the form on our white board with a dry erase marker and named it - sharp top.  Then I had my son erase it using the pointer finger on his right hand while saying the form.   He is four so he is still working on small motor skills.  Soon I think we will move to the salt tray where he can make his own letters and erase easily. I am not in a hurry but he feels like he is learning something important and I feel like he is learning the correct form from the beginning.  Even my 7 yo wants to get in on the act and draw letter parts for him to erase.  The 2 yo thinks erasing is VERY fun.

At some point we will start typing but I want my sons to feel like they can write easily and legibly.  I am also pleased because all of the programs we use have copywork in cursive for the younger age group.  So he has had lots of practice.  A little bit at a time really does work!

Also, Lulu has a 14% off sale going on now.  If you are interested in Learning Language through Literature or Write Through History now might be a good time to get them.  I have also been reading a lot about TPR (total physical response) and TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) or CI (comprehensible input) as methods for second language acquisition.  Lulu also sells I Speak Latin by Andrew Campbell (Latin Centered Curriculum) which uses TPR methods to teach the language. There is usually a 20% off sale around May - if you can wait until then.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Tip Time - CC Cycle 2, Week 16

Here a few quick thoughts.

English Grammar

This week we are learning what a verb is.  I have always found using the verb finder sentence "Can I _______?" helpful to identifying verbs.  If you can, it's a verb.  You can also make a game of it.  Have kids pick out verbs they can do and the whole group does them.  You can also practice the difference by saying to your kids "can you run?", "can you marshmallow?", "can you blue?", etc.  This doesn't cover state of being or helping verbs but it gets at most verbs.


This one is super obvious - but still helpful.  Pull out some graph paper and then work on drawing different size rectangles and talk about the area being the space inside the rectangle.  Have them count the squares, multiply the length and width, and just play with it.  If you have tiles or some other similar size squares somewhere in your house you could also use painter's tape to mark out an area and then have them count and play that way.  My kids always love to play with tape.


If you are interested in showing your children how Latin verbs work there are two quick slide presentations that get the idea across very simply - for free.  Here is one about making present tense verbs (the past two weeks work).  Here is one that shows the present and then moves into the past - what we are memorizing this week.  There are many other videos but some of the humor is a little morbid - so just beware.

Short and sweet this week.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Weds. with Words - A Latin teacher on Science

Last week, I chatted with a homeschool dad who really felt that history was extra - you can always pick that up later. I was a little shocked by his attitude. In part, because history is fundamental to what we are teaching here. However, after reflection this is the logical end to an analytical approach to the world.  The conviction that science is the future and is knowable, while history is really all opinion and doesn't offer much toward our practical formation is pretty common.  I used to think this way too.  I have been corrected.

This overreaching of science is not a new issue. I love the argument offered in Teaching High School Latin (1916) by Josiah Game.  He begins by arguing that science has yet to show the utility that it promises to the students. He is not arguing against science in all of its forms, just the push, in his era, towards lab sciences at the expense of the classical curriculum.  His argument

In the very nature of the case, the sciences are a utility only to those who work along applied lines, and thus keep step with advances and changing theories of authorities.  As a test of this statement, let the man who studied physics or chemistry thirty years ago compare his old text with a recent text on the subject.  His old text is out of date, utterly absurd, and even dangerous. The science of thirty years ago, twenty years ago or even ten is a "dead science", and no language ever looked so dead as does a "dead science"

He then shares about a time when German universities decided to allow students with technical training into the universities along with those who had received a classical training.
After ten years of experimenting, the entire faculty of professors, natural and physical sciences included, declared that in spite of the start gained in scientific study by the graduates of technical schools, they were speedily overtaken by the graduates of the classical institutions, and left in the rear.  
He's not against science as a subject, he just makes the point that
No one can pretend to have an education who does not know something of science, but he must be prepared to unlearn it every few years, in the very nature of the case.    
He also argues that the way science has to be approached in high school does not leave room for critical thought (do you remember high school lab experiments where you just followed the steps and hoped for the best).  Plus, most students lack the math to understand science, especially physics.  In this book he is making the case that Latin teaches more logical thinking than science can and in a way that is more accessible to youth.

If you want to read about teaching Latin -  he has that in there too.  He talks about issues with teaching Latin in his day and thoughts about what should be covered during each year of Latin.  He did develop a full curriculum in First Latin: A Lesson a Day a Year.  The great part of this resource is the "optional" lesson at the end of each day's work.  Most of them involve memorizing something in Latin, history tidbits and similar other extensions of the learning.  It does move at a pretty fast clip if you are new to this material but it is not overwhelming.

It is interesting to read the arguments from 100 years ago against letting classical education slip away.  We are reaping the "benefits" of that loss.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

DtK - Section 2 - Overview to forming our loves

Desiring the Kingdom Book Club

We are pressing on in chapter 1 of Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith.   Read others comments over at Simply Convivial.


This section talks about how our love is always aimed at something.  It is intentional.  Honestly, this section made me think about teaching "critical thinking" skills.  I have spent a lot of time in, around and learning about teaching "gifted" children.  One of the primary things that they focus on is developing creative and critical thinking skills.  They teach kids phrases like S.C.A.M.P.E.R.  to help students to be more thoughtful.  Now that I look at it again, I see that in some ways it is teaching the tools of invention that Kern draws on in Lost Tools of Learning.  Anyhow.

James' point is that "we can never just "think"; I will necessarily be thinking of . . . something".  Honestly, this is where modern education comes to a screeching halt.  Since we don't really teach kids facts (rote memory is bad), nor do we read them full stories; they don't have much to think about.  Sure they can SCAMPER but what are they thinking about if they don't have any information beyond what they can find on their own. This is why critical thinking skills can only take you so far - you need something to think about.  If you have something memorized - all the better - you can think about it wherever you are.

The next part talks about the aim of our love - the telos.  Here he says
a vision of the good life captures our hearts and imagination not by providing a set of rules or ideas, but by painting a picture of what it looks like for us to flourish and live well.  This is why such pictures are communicated most powerfully in stories, legends, myths, plays, novels and films rather than dissertations, messages and monographs.  
Honestly, I think this is what I enjoyed most about Mr. Kern's talk last week.  He has a way of helping you hear the story of God's love for you, through things you have read before, in a new way.  He paints a picture of the relationship God desires with you - through his son - in a very concrete and inviting way.  His look at Luke 12:37 - where the master (Jesus) serves us is amazing.  His focus on God's desire to teach us through analogy - story - parable - is so in keeping with this idea of how we develop a vision of the good life.  How do I capture my child's imagination in a world that is constantly showing a totally different story - with pictures and videos and song and dance.

This is also why I can't stand the fact that we teach lots of modern writers to high school students.  Why do we need to increase student's vision of alienation and separation?  I could go on about this - maybe another day.


Here he asserts that "the virtuous person is someone who has an almost automatic disposition to do the right thing "without thinking about it".  He talks about how "it's made, not some kind of 'hard wiring'.   And this is where your anthropology makes a huge impact.  If you believe that people are basically good and born that way then why would you have to learn habits of goodness?  If you believe that men are evil then you would expect a constant need to train in habits of righteousness.  Honestly, I still struggle with this because I spent so long in the world of early childhood education where kids are good and we need to follow their impulses.

One of the things that wasn't very "Montessori" about the school that I worked with was that she was old school and believed in training kids to be good.  She constantly talked with them about self control and being in charge of themselves.  She had VERY HIGH standards and I struggled watching her because this old song of "let kids be kids" played in my head.  She was right and I was naive.

His baseball analogy to forming habits was helpful to me.  Most of my summer vacations were spent at baseball fields.  My brother was VERY disciplined and he practiced those grounders over and over.  We had a batting cage in our backyard.  My dad was more of a basketball player and he talked about "muscle memory".   Often, he focused on throwing free throw shots.  You just practice and practice so that when the moment comes your body is in the habit of doing it correctly.  At my small high school I was on the basketball team and I was called "swishy" - because I was pretty good at free throws.  Mostly, because I practiced a lot in our driveway while studying for tests. That was the ONLY part of basketball I was good at, by the way.  

I like the way he is laying out his definitions and look forward to more application.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Weekly Resource - Miquon Math

Last week my 4 yo was begging to start school.  So, I obliged and we are doing the orange book of Miquon Math.  It seems totally appropriate for my 4 yo to work in this book at his leisure.  Many of the activities are similar to Montessori work.  Miquon is known for its use of cuisinaire rods to help kids play with numbers and see what they are doing in math.  My son thinks its great fun and was surprised by how much he already knew.  I am not really teaching him much, just letting him enjoy playing with numbers.

My older son is in the blue book.   He is enjoying playing around with the multiplication tables and skip counting.  This goes will with the CC memorization of skip counting.  He is not interested in using the rods at all and I can tell that he sees what he is doing in his head.  We still do this in combination with Math Mammoth (on sale this month).  Miquon covers a lot of areas (here is the scope and sequence) but it doesn't have practice problems the way that you see in other programs.  My oldest feels like they are games to play and likes the challenge.  Some area he does need to practice more so that's why we use both programs.

Last week Mr. Kern talked about how some subjects must be learned in a certain order (like math) but sometimes kids don't do well with that order.  Instead they enjoy skipping around and challenging themselves, trying things different ways, etc.  He talked about how he is like this in Latin.  This was very freeing for me.  So last week I told my oldest that I felt that he could do most of the math in the books we are using and he can pick what he wants to do.  We have to complete all of the subject areas in the books but he can mix it up a bit if he wants to.  He was very excited.  I also told him that when he started a new concept he could try one problem and then he needed to show it to me to make sure he was on the right track.  This put more spark into his day.

I am also thinking about at least playing the National Number Knockout Game with him. They are gearing up for the first annual competition this year.  It is a good game to help kids use all of the basic functions of math and practice them quickly.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tip Time - CC Cycle 2 Week 15

Sorry this post is a little late.  We do actually have our meeting this Monday and I know that some of our members will not be in attendance.  Our city actually boasts one of the largest MLK marches in the nation.  In part because it will probably be 60 degrees tomorrow.  Anyway, here are some thoughts about week fifteen.


This part of the timeline is where we begin to add in some events that directly impact United States history. You might not remember the Seven Year's War very well though.  It was a conflict between Britain and France and was actually fought in the New World.  Native Americans were part of this fight.  In the end, France lost it's claim over Canada and was mostly ousted from the New World (they did still have Louisiana).  This is important because when the American revolution comes around a few decades later the French are still upset with the British about their losses and this is one reason why they come to American aid during the war.   French ships were there to assist the Americans at the battle of Yorktown to end the Revolutionary War.


These words about the type of sentence are a perfect opportunity to help connect some Latin with the English derivatives.  We are actually covering types of sentences in our Language Arts program right now.

Declarative - from the Latin declaro - which means explanatory, to make clear
Exclamatory - from the Latin clamo means to shout and ex means out - so here it means we are shouting out or exclaim
Interrogative - from the Latin - interogo - to inquire or question, inter means between and rogo means to ask - so we are asking between people  
Imperative - from the Latin - impero - to impose, order a thing,  you can also think of words like imperious or imperial - royal, in charge,

So, this is an easy way to connect Latin and English and help the children remember what they mean.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

32 Thoughts from Andrew Kern's Talk

Yesterday was a GREAT day!  My husband watched the kids while I went to the all day conference put on by Circe.  Andrew Kern was speaking about rest and assessment.  This isn't an attempt to outline the talk but rather to share some of the thoughts that hit me as I listened this time.  If you live around Houston it is NOT too late - he'll be there tomorrow.  

1.  He started in 1 Kings 8 - the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple. Here he focused on the fact that there was an expectation of failure - they were going to turn away and mess up.  Thus much of the prayer is a pleading for forgiveness and that they would return to confess his name.

2.  The model of the temple wasn't totally unique to the Jewish temple.  What was unique was the fact that no idol or other item was put on the mercy seat - there was no physical being set on the "throne".

3.  A quick Latin lesson - audest means that you were there, interest means that you were there among and participating with - yes, that's where we get our word interest from.

4.  Prior to the 1800's the idea behind emotions is that they needed to be trained, ordered and would help us to do what is right.  Today, we think of emotions as helping us to do what want.

5.  He asserted that "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." is the only basis for consistent rational thought.  If you don't start there you end up with just physicality and end in nihilism.  The other side is that everything is or can be a god, it is all illusion.

6.  Your creation myth or belief will impact your political structure.

7.  If God is a good teacher and we use Genesis 1 - 3 as a model - God took 6 days to prepare the classroom in which he would teach Adam.

8.  The temptation of the fruit in the garden of Eden was essential to teach Adam how to take appropriate possession of all he had been given.  If he can't say no to the temptation then that thing possesses him instead of the other way around.  We are called, in Christ, to possess all things (1 Cor. 3), which means being able to deny ourselves and separate from those things which makes us slave to them instead of Him.

9.  The hierarchy of peace is when we are not slaves to other things but put ourselves in full submission to Christ in God.

10.  Luke 12:32 - Do not fear, little flock, for its your father's pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Do we really believe this about God in relationship to us?   We must receive what he has given us.

11.  God's pattern for a day - do your job, assess it, rest.   At the end of the week just rest.

12.  He quoted this hymn which I had never heard before:

We who mystically represent the Cherubim,
and sing to the life-giving Trinity the thrice-holy hymn,
let us now lay aside all earthly care:
that we may receive the King of all,
who comes invisibly upborne by the Angelic Hosts. 
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
And talked about a people together as a body welcoming Christ in during their worship.

13.  Sabbath should be about turning away from our cares and letting the King enter into our lives and focusing on his cares.

14.  In some ways creation is about giving form to chaos, education is about filling forms with content.

15.  Luke 12 - he talked about this parable quite a bit.
If our master is celebrating his best day ever - his wedding day - we should be about getting the house ready for his return.  Keeping the lamps lit has to do with the Holy Spirit.  Shocking end to this tale - when the master returns from his wedding and sees that you have been faithfully waiting THE MASTER WILL HAVE YOU SIT DOWN AND SERVE YOU!  Remember, it's his wedding day. That's the kind of God we serve - that's the kind of love he has for us.

16.  Blessing is not about feeling good it's about being completely fulfilled.  Psalm 1 is great picture of being blessed.

17.  Forget about meditating as an activity that you do quietly, away from everyone else.  Sometimes; yes but, God was physically active while he was thinking we should hold and meditate on his law while we are doing our daily stuff.  (Made me think of David meditating as a shepherd).

18.  God is not a moralist.

19.  Kids need to be taught about their nature so that they can take dominion over it.

20.  The quality of life is determined by quality of questions. (and someone added - who you ask those questions with)

21.  Key verse on standards Phil. 4:8-9

22.  Good things can become temptations quickly.  We aren't tempted by bad things typically.  Instead, he aims at what we love and what we fear.  Temptations move us away from rest (abiding in him) and from keeping a watchful readiness (see parable above)

23,  Flattery is demonic.  If we are using manipulation to get what we want out of children we need to stop. We are very vulnerable to this because our first feeling is shame and we want someone to say that we are okay.  There is a difference between flattery and assessment and flattery and praise.

24.  In reference to the parable of the prodigal son (or two sons).  The older brother never comes home - the younger brother does.  Older brothers want things in black and white, clear, absolute truth (a phrase he hates), get invested in things, create customs to help maintain "order" which moves from blessing to preservation of self/ group.  Need to ask "Are our customs blessing us and others or just preserving the status quo?" 

25.  Fundamental questions in assessment - What can the student do?  What is the next step? 

26.  f you aren't sure about what next steps should be 50's textbooks are pretty good guides for the key principles of a subject.

27.  Form teaches more than content.  Here we talked about liturgies of the classroom (desk arrangement, going from class to class by a bell, having different teachers as "experts" in a subject area, etc.)

28. The hard work of most work is aligning our will with the task - the rest is easy.

29.  Grading should be A or I - acceptable or incomplete.  You either have mastered the standard/ skill or not - this is for memorization, skill - not truth.

30.  Compared abiding in Christ to a compass.  We are supposed to point due north but there are lots of other magnets around pulling us away. We need to repent and ask God to help remove those magnets so that we can point true North.

31.  Can't steward something if you can't name it appropriately.

32.  If we are going to restore health to a broken world we need to start with our own souls.

Honestly, this doesn't get into the time he spent on the tabernacle and the Garden of Eden and how that parallels the structure of our soul.  Afterwards we went out to dinner.  Then I visited one of my best friends. After that I stopped by my favorite Half Price books.  It did not disappoint - it had Winston Churchill's History of the English Speaking People.  All four books are in one hard bound volume - unabriged - for a GREAT deal and Greek stories in Latin.  Total winner of a LONG day!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Teaching Reading - A few quotes

I got lost in google books - again - looking at reading primers.  My middle child is about ready to take the leap into reading so I am thinking about what I should do this time.  My poor oldest child had about every method tried on him.  I am leaning towards Barefoot Ragamuffins Reading Lessons Through Literature which uses the Elson readers.  So, that's how it all started.

After looking through the Elson readers I can see why she chose them.  Some of them even have "teacher's guides" available.  Which are always interesting to read. In part, because at this time teaching reading meant not only teaching silent reading to help children grasp ideas but was like teaching speech because it was critical to know how to read aloud well.  Remember, this is prior to "talkies" so if you wanted entertainment typically you read aloud - which meant that elocution and expression in your reading was important.  You needed to be able to read with understanding and with feeling.  I am not sure that reading aloud for expression and feeling is done outside of drama classes today.

Here are a few quotes from the introduction to Elson Grammar School Reader Book 3 (January 1910):

To love good literature, to find pleasure in reading it and to gain power to choose it with discrimination are the supreme ends to be attained by the reading lesson.  for this reason, some selections should be read many times for the pleasure they give the children.  In music the teacher sometimes calls for expressions of preference among songs: "What song shall we sing, children?"  So in reading, "What selection shall we read?" is a good question for the teacher to ask frequently.  Thus children come to make familiar friends of some of the stories and poems, and find genuine enjoyment in reading these again and again. 
Quiller Couch says, " I believe that if, for one half hour a day, a teacher were to read good poetry aloud with his pupils, not fretting them with comments, not harrying them with too frequent questions, but doing his best by voice and manner to hold their attention, and encourage them to read in their turn, pausing only at some alien beauty or some unusual difficulty, above all giving the poetry time to sink in - I believe thoroughly he would find himself rewarded beyond all calculations.  For a child's mind is a wonderful worker if only we trust it. A child's imagination is as susceptible of improvement by exercise as his judgement or memory. Can we not so persuade our schoolmasters that our children may hear this music more clearly and more constantly than we?"  (italics in original)
The reading lesson should primarily be a thinking lesson, and every shade of thought should be carefully distinguished, no matter how long a time may be consumed.  The habit of hurrying over the page, which is so prevalent, is clearly an outgrowth of schoolroom methods. 
Lastly, it must be urged that we give more time to this work.  The imagination cannot be developed in a week or a month; and unless there is imagination there can be no sympathy.  Make the class follow attentively and get them to give back the picture, as far as possible, in minutest detail.  Do this again and again and improvement must follow. 
The best way to learn to love good literature it to study only good literature, and to study it again, again and again.  What is truly great art cannot be apprehended at a glance, but requires time for its fullest appreciation.  
I think that about sums it up. Apparently, Elson is best known for the Dick and Jane books.  I am not sure how he fell so far.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

DTK - Week 2 - Worldview - it ain't enough

Desiring the Kingdom Book Club

I truly appreciate that Mystie, our fearless book club leader, has broken up our readings into smaller chunks. I think it will help me to stay faithful to reading it and focus on the key issue in each section.

I enjoyed this part of the chapter because it articulates an issue that bothers me.  He starts by discussing the idea of  "I think therefore I am".  This is not a new point of departure in the discussion of the development of educational pedagogy.  He then takes on the current Christian trend of teaching about worldview.  He argues that Christian education uses a " 'believing' pedagogy [which] will simply be a tweaked version of the informative paradigm."  Basically, that we are substituting what we believe for what we know and while this is more essential to who we are - it is not enough - to truly shape our practice and life.  As he puts it "if I bump into a 'thinking thing' and a 'believing thing' on the street, I don't think I'd notice much difference."

I have worked in and with regular schools, charter schools, Christian schools, and Catholic schools (which are Christian but have a very strong tradition of their own).  I haven't been a regular classroom teacher, but most of my jobs have put me in conversation with teachers, administrators and board members.   I have watched them discuss pedagogy and approach.  I have to say that this is pretty much where I get caught and where the school's seem to get caught too.  We are aware that our Christian worldview is no longer the cultural norm and a response is required.  We have responded with "worldview" - educate Christians about what they should think and believe in response to the current state of matters.

I first learned about the term worldview in college when James Sire came to speak on our campus.  I'm getting old because it seems like it was a pretty new concept at the time.  That set the wheels in motion.  A few years later I went through Focus on the Family's attempt at making worldview education more widely available - the Truth Project.   It was eye opening, especially after my mostly secular education, how a Judeo Christian outlook really changes your view.  It challenged my thinking and helped me get a better grip on how the Gospel knows no bounds.  I know we frustrated our poor leaders because we ran from very conservative, been in the field missionaries to pretty liberal main line denominational types with lots of stops in between.  We were not all going to start "thinking or believing right" in accordance with this DVD series anytime soon.   Awareness and education are a step but they aren't the answer.

Both of these encounters, and my work in schools, helped me become more aware of my own faulty thinking and how it shaped my education.   My immediate response was an attempt to figure out what right believing and thinking would look like.  I am a researcher; I can find the right answer.  However, as I am challenged by parenthood, having the right answer often seems totally insufficient.  Even believing the right things, while better than being wrong, is not able to transform me and my kids the way that one would expect.  If thinking or believing is all there is - then we are in big trouble.  That's why I am excited to read more about what James is going to delve into, what he calls the "Augustinian anthropology that sees humans most fundamentally oriented and identified by love".

Honestly, that's why I can't get enough of the conversation around classical Christian education because it does aim at wisdom and virtue, truth, beauty and goodness.  It believes in and desires to rediscover the right ordering of loves.  My education had NOTHING to do with ordering my loves. Mostly it was a combination of "do your best morally" and "be as smart as you can be".  I did fairly well on both accounts but they leave you empty in the end.  I don't want my kids to simply have a fractured idea of self and education and a utilitarian understanding of life.  I truly want them to see God's order and honestly come to love what He loves.

I do understand the need for appropriate head knowledge and an understanding of worldview -but honestly that is not something that speaks to the formative years of my preschoolers and early elementary kids. There is fundamental shaping taking place but it has nothing to do with academic lectures, three point sermons or memorizing their catechism.  Those are all important; but, fundamentally something else is going on in them. So far I have caught the idea of reading good literature and I do think that is helping my sons to develop an imagination that includes concepts of good and evil.  I hope that this book is able to shed more light on what shaping our loves looks like practically.  I guess that puts a lot of pressure on the next section!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Weekly Resource - Living Memory by Andrew Campbell

Andrew Campbell is probably best known for his work Latin Centered Curriculum (LCC) or maybe his elementary school Latin program, I Speak Latin.  LCC is a great outline of a manageable but rigorous course of study for your students.  He does draw strongly on Memoria Press curriculum components- although the packages they now have available are much different than the outline and the format that he proposes.  He is more like Charlotte Mason in his approach to reading - read a few books deeply.  Honestly, I can't do a full review right now because I lost my copy somewhere in my house (or maybe I lent it out to someone).   The point of this is to highlight another resource he has - Living Memory.

If you have been to the education section of Barnes and Noble you have probably seen those book of lists for teachers - they have them for all different subjects and they are just a list of interesting things about a topic, or key areas to cover, etc.  Basically, Living Memory does this for classical education.  It covers the gamut - starting with Latin and Greek, moving into math, science, literature, religion, geography etc.   He begins by explaining why we should memorize and giving some different ideas for making it happen in your family.

It is a hefty work (over 400 pages) and covers

basic definitions and information

  • list of basic math facts, conversion charts, geometry - including a list of Euclid's definitions
  • a grammar catechism and often misspelled words
  • an overview of Latin declensions and conjugations, along with common sayings 
  • the Greek alphabet, declensions, pronouns and other grammar paradigms
  • States in the US (and capitals), countries and capitals of the world, (no map -  just a listing)
  • a detailed timeline history (great for reference, might be worth memorizing when you are learning about that time period)
  • chronological listing of rulers of Rome, England, France, Holy Roman Empire, etc. 
  • American presidents, with history timeline, major battles of wars, etc.
  • basic facts about astronomy, earth science, life science, etc. 
information to memorize or at least be familiar with
  • poetry - from Robert Louis Stevenson to Shakespeare to Emerson 
  • historic documents and speeches (throughout time with emphasis on US)
  • reference lists of gods, goddesses, key events in mythologies, 
  • proverbs, sayings, quotations in English literature
  • poem to memorize all books of scripture in order, scripture verses, hymns, but no full catechism
  • patriotic songs and folk tunes of the United States 
  • songs in Latin - especially of the church - with clear English translation 
  • Greek passages from the Bible, key works of literature - with clear English translation
This is a great resource for anyone who wants to do memory work with their children.  It truly covers an amazing amount of material in a simple format.  Much of the memory work covered in CC is in here - plus much more!   I haven't seen another resource that even attempts to make basic Greek approachable.  This resource is intended to last throughout a child's educational career and beyond.  If you are wondering what facts and works are worth memorizing you really can't go wrong starting here. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Tip Time CC Cycle 2 Week 14

So, I missed a few weeks.  I actually had a few fun things to mention about these areas too.  Here are some worth sharing.

I took a whole semester on the French Revolution and the most interesting thing, I thought, was that the Revolutionists tried to change the calendar - to a 10 day week.  They were really trying to change everything about how people lived their lives.  It didn't work very well but I thought it was a fascinating attempt.

If you are interested in learning more about Napoleon Bonaparte you might want to try The Life and Battles of Napoleon Bonaparte in words of one syllable by Mrs. Helen Pierson.  She actually has a whole series of books covering French, English and United States history in "words of one syllable".  It is not simplistic but the vocabulary is appropriate for elementary aged students.  They are free and worth looking into.


Since we are reviewing the Latin verb endings again you might want to take it to the next level this coming semester.  There are MANY free Latin books online.  I like putting Latin into simple sentences because my boys enjoy seeing that there is something more than just memorizing endings.  I think this will also make them feel more capable when we get to John 1 next year.  So, here is a great free book for at least the first conjugation, present tense.  At first, you'll see that there are just a bunch of Latin sentences, but if you flip to page 67 there is the key with the Latin written out and the English right below it.  I plan to have my oldest circle the endings on the verbs and try to figure out if it is singular or plural and whether it is first, second or third person.  From there, they can look at the key and see if they were right.  I do understand that some of CC is just memorizing for later, but a little bit of context (especially in present tense) can help kids see how this applies down the line.

From there it gets much more complex - but there are some Bible stories in Latin with English right underneath.  I like to read (even if I am killing the language) these aloud sometimes to help the boys get used to hearing the language.  I also think it will help when it comes to pronouns and the "little words" because those are easier to learn in context.

If you want to learn more about Latin verbs but really don't get the typical approach of charts to memorize - here is a very interesting (and short - 6 pages) introduction to verbs and verb tenses in Latin.  Start on page 5 and go from there.  This gets you beyond first conjugation but it is interesting reading and makes it easier for me (at least) to understand.  I was the one who started passing physics when we were allowed to write essays. I need words to explain things - not just charts!

English Grammar

If you are looking for a game to help teach adverbs you might want to check out this one.

So those are a few tips for this coming week and the past few weeks.  I will try to stay on top of it this semester!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wednesday With Words: Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

Over Christmas we read The Long Winter (oddly appropriate), A Bird's Christmas Carol (free on kindle) and Carry On, Mr. Bowditch.  I enjoyed Mr. Bowditch more than I expected.  My oldest also loved it.  He is more of a math guy so it was great to have an example of a mathematician that sailed by "ash breeze".   He was also struck by the tragedy in it.  I did tear up at one point and he kept asking me not to read so funny.  Boys are so understanding.

But there are hundreds - thousands -who don't believe in 'book sailing.'  You know, seafaring is a lot like of medicine.  On the one hand superstition and old wives' tales; on the other hand - the scientist, trying to solve the puzzles and find the answers.  And all through the ages men have believed the superstitions and doubted the scientist.  Natural, I suppose.  You believe what you grow up believing.  It's hard to change.  
After this they enter into a conversation about the new technology of innoculation and vaccines.  In science he says that it's three steps forward and two steps backwards.  Afterwards they move into how this applies to sailing.  I was struck by this because it seems the opposite is true today.  We have rooted out all mystery, folk tradition and wonder and now it's all about science.   We can't doubt "science".  When it comes to social sciences you can't just use anecdotal evidence or common sense, you need a study to prove your point.

Obviously science has brought us many wonders and there is a lot of good.  However, there is something to remembering mystery and wonder in our world.  There is order but we aren't meant to totally understand all of it much less control it all.  That's why I appreciate the nature study approach to science for younger kids. Instead of dissecting and analyzing from the get go, you begin by wondering, observing, appreciating and getting to know things.   I hope this year to get out more and wonder at the world - not because I am superstitious but because I believe there is an orderly God who speaks to us through his creation.  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Desiring the Kingdom: Introduction

Desiring the Kingdom Book Club

I am pleased to join with other mother's who are studying Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith this semester.  My librarian husband isn't keen on buying more books for our house, but I did convince him we should get this one - for Christmas.  He wasn't going to get it for the library - so we added it to our personal collection.

This book has been the talk of many Classical Christian educator circles so I am aware of the premise.  This might have stolen some of the thunder of the introduction (especially his discussion of the mall).  His focus is on college age students, but the concepts can apply to any age.  He is arguing that education is much more than just information, it is formation.  This formation comes through liturgies, practices or habits.  Often we use the term liturgy to talk about the form of our worship but he wants to expand this idea to help us think about cultural liturgies that shape us - the mall, sports events, etc.  He wants us to consider how these practices form us at a level even more basic than our thinking - a physical level.

Honestly, this is one reason I wanted to raise my children in a liturgical church.  My husband was bored by the repetition - but the calesthenics of sit, kneel, stand and using the same words every week has a way of forming us in ways we don't expect.  I really don't have words to explain why this is so important to me, so I hope that this book gives me some more ideas about how to better explain this to my friends who are a little freaked out by liturgical churches.  I also wanted to have communion regularly which is not possible in many non-liturgical churches.  At one point in a reformation class in (a secular) college we talked about the difference between a service ending with the message or sermon and one which ends with communion.  The professor contended that if you held the word central then you would end with it as the last thing to make an impact.  Ending with communion sends a very different message about what is central to worship.  It will be interesting to see if he discusses something similar later in the book.

In some ways I think he is going to be discussing similar ideas that are found in Poetic Knowledge.   When I read this quote

And that precognitive or prerational orientation to the world is shaped and primed by very material, embodied practices.  Thus such a pedagogy is much more attune to the formative role of ritual. 

It makes me think of some of the ideas encountered in Poetic Knowledge.  The approach is very different and we'll see how it shapes up - but it seems they are discussing some similar concepts.  They are focusing on not putting the mind at the center of our education - but forming or developing the whole human - body, mind and spirit.

I am interested to see what he has to say next.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Day 1

Today we started back full force.  I got up before the kids (only because they slept in a little though).  We started our morning circle time over breakfast.  This is what we are doing for morning time this year: 

We begin with our Watts Family Education plan which reminds us that we are walking with Jesus and living for him by expanding our imaginations, learning the basics and aiming at mastery.  Then we review one of a few phrases - this week's is "to live ably and generously" (which I think I found in a Wendell Berry book at some point).  Then we mention a virtue which comes from the four cardinal virtues and the Christian virtues discussed in After you Believe: Why Christian Character Matters.  

Then we go through our memory work.  I am making sure the middle one knows the Lord's Prayer before we get to it in Prima Latina and I decided to do the confession of sin from the Book of Common Prayer (Episcopal).  Last semester we worked on the Apostle's Creed. We also do one New Testament, one Old Testament  verse (alternating days) and a few proverbs and mottoes.  I stole one of Mystie's mottoes - business before pleasure - and it has already come in handy!  Last semester we did two parables but I decided to go with something different from the New Testament this year.  At some point I intend to add in the catechism questions - we were doing Big Truths for Little Kids so that covered it.  

After that, we read from the Bible.  I was going to start one of the shorter Epistles but the older one requested Romans - so Romans it is.  Typically we read Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs and then a book (like Leading Little Ones to God) - one for each day of the week.  We finished Joshua last semester so I guess we are into Judges now.  Today I tried to sing a hymn - I have a book called 12 best loved hymns. It was painful - but later I did find "Take My Life" on a CD we had.  Everyone is thankful.   

I decided to stop reading the Latin stories I was reading and switch to reading aloud the passages used in Visual Latin.  My kids were pretty excited that they could translate most of what was included in the first reading.  We will read the same thing each morning for a week so that they hear and really memorize parts of it.  The readings follow the Biblical narrative so they already know the stories.  It ramps up pretty quickly but I think they will enjoy it.  Typically I read it in Latin (my best guess) and then say the sentence in English.  

We also started back with CC today. It was good to see everyone again and I learned some new things about teaching drawing.  It truly is 101 - but it's new to me.  I think my older one had trouble re-entering the classroom setting but he figured it out.  Yes, my kids were the ones who showed up in layers but without coats.  Turns out the heat wasn't working properly so one of them was PRETTY cold most of the morning.  I am hoping that the Love and Logic approach works here - they say just let them get cold once and they will remember in the future.  

Once we got home from CC, I had my oldest finish up his individual work.  He read for 20 minutes (or at least looked like he was) - without complaining which is a big deal for him.  He copied the CC history sentence for copywork and then did his two pages of math and violin.  I decided that we are going to use the Memoria Press choices for 2nd grade readers this semester - he is excited about reading Mr. Popper's Penguins - but he's not ready for it yet.  Hillyer was opened up again and we read about Frederick the Great of Prussia and the 7 years war.  We ended the day by finishing our Christmas read aloud - Carry on, Mr. Bowditch.  My oldest LOVED it.  Afterwards we had pirates and storms as my kids played that they were on the sea.  There was a fight over who was captain and they used the world map to "round the horn".   

Overall, except for the middle one getting a little feverish, it was a great day back.  Now on to the rest of our crazy week - we have swim lessons (indoors)!   

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Good Life

Yesterday my neighbors were out selling girl scout cookies.  While husband was deciding, I chatted with the dad.  Their oldest daughter is in the midst of choosing colleges.  It took me back.  He mentioned some schools that I think he expected I wouldn't know - but I know most of them.  We also had a short conversation about the pressures associated with the elite private school she attends.  I could relate and remember.  Afterwards I reflected on our conversation more and realized that we had been talking about the good life.

You see, she is living in the midst of the "good life" according to the world I was raised in.  It was all about high achievement, career, making a difference on a large scale.  My parents always talked about service and having a family too - but the culture I was saturated in never discussed having a family.  We didn't talk about marriage, preparing for children, cooking dinner, sewing and fixing things, cleaning, daily things - none of it. The definition of the good life I was given applied to a very small population and most of my friends made it! However, now we feel confused and torn between two worlds.  Now I have a better idea of why.  We were not given a Godly vision of the good life - we were given a worldly vision.  Success, climb to the top, you can do anything a man can do, don't let any obstacle (including relationships or children) get in your way, follow your dreams.

The only problem is that this is NOT the Christian good life.

His good life talks about relationships, laying down your life, serving, making yourself less, loving the least of these.  Some are called and gifted to be the best in their field and they should pursue it.  But mostly, God works through family and friends. Regardless of how messed up they are - he believes in them.  His good life is mostly about living in community - not perfect but intentional and loving.  It's about trusting in His provision, grace and forgiveness - instead of striving and relying on our own power.  

So this year I am confronted with which vision of the good life I am going to live into and teach my children. More is caught than taught and my discontent has unintentionally given them the message that I am not living the "GOOD LIFE" with them.  That somewhere out there is a better, alternate version of my life.  But that is a LIE and it is stopping here.  I am through striving against a vision that was never His for me - I am going to receive what he has given me with thanksgiving and verve this year!

2014 is the year of the good life - being thankful for all that God has blessed me with and learning how to show my family and friends that we are living the good life together.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What happened to December?

So, Christmas vacation is coming to a close around here tomorrow - my husband returns to work.  It has been a great time and here are some highlights: 

- Spent the first full week off of coops meeting up with friends at different parks around the city - 5 parks in 5 mornings - it was GREAT fun. 
- helped herd 50+ prek and elementary kids to sing "Go Tell It On the Mountain" for the congregation and then left to go enjoy a Carols and Lessons service with my in laws.  Listening to the carols and Scripture readings in a 100 year old stone church and looking out the window at my three kids running around at the foot of the cross (that their now deceased Uncle helped make possible) is one of those memories I will "ponder" in my heart for a long time. 
- learned all about Public Enemies of the 1930's while riding to and from Fort Worth to see family (five hour drive ONE WAY to spend less than 24 hours - but worth it!)
- realized my fabric stash was out of control and decided to sew something. Which turned into sewing a whole ton of things and learning to make patterns.  Basically I turned my obsession with curriculum towards sewing over this break.  This will not turn into a craft blog though - this was an effort at organization and using what you have. (Except for the fabric I bought for the kid's quilts and mine!)
-  Enjoyed lots of time with grandparents - including the boys having a few sleep overs.
-  My husband sorted socks, helped clean the kitchen, cooked dinner a few times and played a TON with the kids - he is a great guy! 
-  My dad re-did our small bathroom and it looks FABULOUS!  It even has a fan now to help keep mold at bay - 60 year old houses don't always have everything you'd expect. 
-  My boys played Star Wars, Ninjago and built with legos to their heart's content (almost - I think that might be a bottomless pit for one of them) 
-  Surprise, we now own 3 hermit crabs - Come Thou Fountain (not fount, he's adamant), Firefighter Frank (because it's his little brother's favorite book) and the other is yet unnamed by my 4 yo.  
-  Enjoyed our last Christmas service in a high school auditorium.  My favorite part is always the ending when we light candles and sing - there is just something amazing about that kind of worship. 
-  Unfortunately, we all spent a bit of time under the weather - some more than others 
-  Enjoyed our annual New Year's sleepover in the Hill Country. Once again we were OVERWHELMED as we watched the whole city's skyline light up from the comfort of our friend's back porch.  It is truly amazing.  My husband had to stay home with the sick little one and he said it was like a war zone here - which is what my memories prior to this tradition were.  Much prefer seeing stars, fireworks and the low rumble to the smog and loud noises of our own home during this festive event. 

Of course, as the new year begins, you being to think about habits, plans, hopes, etc.  There are many things that I have learned this past year about myself and my family that I hope I can use to grow into this next year. This past year I felt like I was moving from one obsession to another - books, sewing, organization, Latin, etc.  All good things but all of them being used inappropriately.  So this year I am going to try to seek kingdom things first and let all others be added.  I know that when I get in these crazy moods it doesn't help my family and it doesn't reflect His priorities for me or us as a a family.  It is fine to be passionate, but I am truly giving myself to lesser loves. 

So, I am going to try to seek first this year.  That should probably start with putting together the missionary prayer calendar I have been intending to do all break.  We literally know enough people out in the field or preparing to go to fill a monthly calendar easily.  So, that's a first step - being more prayerful - especially about those he has already placed in our lives.    

I hope that you are able to reflect well on this December for you and yours.  I am glad that we all took a break to enjoy friends and family, traditions and new things.  I am not quite ready for school to start on Monday around here but I still have a few days to get there.  

Blessings to you all in the New Year!