Monday, 31 December 2007

New Years Resolutions

Since our Christmas present from Mum & Dad in Darwin hasn't arrived through the mail yet, Dad let me in on the big secret over the phone last night. It's a cheque to be spent on a new TV and DVD. Well, we don't need the DVD part because our radio/CD/MP3 player also plays DVDs, but Jeff just went out and ordered a 22-inch, Standard Definition Digital, LCD flat screen TV which was on a post-Christmas special.

This might mean some big changes in our house, because we haven't had a "real" TV for two years, since we moved to Perth and the movers smashed our old one. In a curiously related matter, I also haven't done ironing for about 2 years. None. For the last 18 months or so, we've had a TV card in the desktop computer, but we have to connect up the computer to the aerial via a cable from our room, so we don't just switch on the TV to see what's on. The kids have been watching DVDs on the computer, but I admit it's getting to be more and more of a squeeze in the study. (And I think we need to find some more wall space somewhere for another bookshelf, but I havbe no idea where that's gonna be.)

So I have only three New Year's Resolutions. Nothing fancy, nothing philosophical, nothing spiritual, nothing enlightened, just...

1) Try not to turn the TV on unless I really have nothing else to do. Unless...

2) If I think I have nothing to do, do some ironing while I watch TV. And, completely unrelated to TV...

3) Try and tone and moisturise my face every day. (Last year my NYR was to shave my legs at least once a week. Thanks to spending 12 whole months not pregnant, I managed it. Except in the dead of winter, anyway. Which was for about four months. Hmm, hopefully I'll do better with this one.)

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Overheard this morning

Abigail: (in a quiet, sombre voice) "This is my piglet. He died on the cross. This is my rabbit. He died on the cross."

Anna: (outraged) "No he didn't! Only Jesus died on the cross to wash away our sins."

Abigail: (oblivious) "This is my dolly. He died on the cross."

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Reflections on Jane Eyre

Along with my mother and many others, I watched the ABCs screening of the newest BBC production of Jane Eyre a few weeks ago. Mum agreed with me that the guy who played Mr Rochester was far too handsome - and too young - but watching the movie at least spurred me on to reading the book again, just to check for inconsistencies. I think I read it once in high school, but I can't say it made a big impression. This time through, however, I was quite unsettled by my reading.

So, I am sure you know the story by Charlotte Bronte, but if not, here's a refresher: Orphan girl Jane is rejected by her guardian aunt and sent to a harsh boarding school where she shares a brief friendship which ends in tragedy, but not before orphan girl is challenged to work hard at gaining an education. Later, now-educated orphan girl obtains a post as governess to a girl in the somewhat gothic household of the absentee Mr Rochester. Mr Rochester returns home from travels, falls in love with plucky and spirited governess and, after a series of convoluted relationship debacles, proposes marriage but at the altar is confronted with existence of a living wife, albeit a mad one. Mr Rochester attempts to woo Jane into an overseas affair, but she holds fast to her morals and runs the heck out of there over moor to a more welcoming household which it turns out houses her three poor cousins. Jane (and through her, the cousins) inherits an independence. On being confronted with her cousin's proposal of a loveless marriage and a lifetime of missionary activity together in India, Jane attempts to seek out Mr Rochester. Discovering him now widowed (but also crippled in a fire his wife started), Jane marries "her" Mr Rochester. Jane's rejected cousin sets off to India alone and dies there, eagerly awaiting his meeting with his Lord, Jesus.

According to much of the critical comment, Jane Eyre made a big splash primarily because it portrayed a woman determined to be in charge of her own destiny, particularly with regard to love. Yet it wasn't this which struck me most about the book (perhaps because I don't live in 1847, when it was first published.) In fact, it wasn't JE who captured my fascination at all, it was Mr Edward Rochester. This bloke was just so totally immoral! I just couldn't understand why JE thought he was such a good catch, or why she seemed so enamoured with him. I don't think I skipped any pages and missed out on a vital revelatory conversation, but honestly, at times I felt like shaking her and telling her to wake up to herself! During their first few conversations Mr R seems out to trick JE into revealing her naivete (and even plain stupidity) yet she finds him witty and intriguing. Rather than tell her he likes her, Mr R concocts an elaborate plot to make JE jealous, and fails miserably, because JE spends all her time wondering why Mr R would want a vain, pretentious girl like that, and thinking about getting abother job. Then, after his secret prior marriage is exposed, Mr R has the gall to continue to pursue JE, basically giving her the "poor me" excuse for his own immoral cupidity.

Anyway, JE ran away from Mr R - I give her credit for that - so I kept on reading. I vaguely remember feeling annoyance at the persistent wooing of JE's cousin, when I first read this novel, but this time through I was just confused. Did St John really love JE, and was just unable to show his romantic feelings? Or was he really as devoted to Christ as he seemed to be and intellectually thought that her accompanying him to India as a missionary necessitated their marriage? What was with this guy? I just couldn't figure him out. But it turns out I didn't have too, because in a neat little plot device Charlotte Bronte convinced JE it was time to find out what had happened to her beloved Mr R.

JE finds Mr R the victim of a fire, having lost one eye and his right hand when his wife razed Thornfield Hall (also killing herself). She also finds Mr R repentant. Yay! He recognises the hand of God's judgement in his maiming - in removing from him the instruments which led him into sin, just as Jesus provocatively suggests his followers do if they're tempted (Mark 9:43, 47). JE and Mr R are married, despite JE's somewhat morally questionable offer to be his companion and nurse without the cover of marriage and thus Mr R redeems himself. And henceforth he recovers some of his ability to see, enough to notice certain particulars in his first born son, and to recognise the mercy of God in granting him remission from judgement. And this, to me, was the scene that made reading this whole messy novel worthwhile. Mr R accepted God's wrath was just, and was thankful for His pardon. Something we could all learn from, I think.

On a side note: My copy of Jane Eyre is the Penguin Classics 1996 edition, and its introductory notes are singularly unhelpful, being noteable for what it doesn't say, rather than what it does. Some of the footnotes were irrelevant, others were uninteresting. Some delved too deep and others missed what I thought was the point. But I guess that is the art of editing and criticism.

The Penguin Classics 2006 edition has a much more comprehensive and interesting introduction, although a skim of its notes indicated they were substantially the same as the 1996 edition. If I had my money again, I'd buy this one.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Now that Christmas is over we could all do with a good laugh

So check out Cavalcade of Bad Nativities II.

I'm labelling this under arts, but I'm just not sure that it fits. Just trust me, and click on the link!

Found the lost gift!

They were outside in the garden somewhere... I guess he was out there frightening our 4 new garden gnomes (Christmas gift from MIL) or something.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

On the subject of presents

On Christmas Eve, Joshua asked which of the presents under our tree were from Santa. I told him none: that there were so many there already from family and friends that loved us that Santa knew he didn't need to add to our pile, but could spend his time delivering to kids who didn't have any presents, whose family and friends were too poor. On Christmas morning when my MIL objected, "What will they say when people ask them what Santa brought them?" I said to Jeff, "We can't give them presents from Santa just because other people expect it. That's no way to make any decision in life!" (And especially not a Christian's life.)

You might think I'm heartless, but we just don't "do" Santa here in this family. We talk about Santa when we encounter him in shops etc, but we don't get Santa photos, we don't write wish lists for Santa, we don't leave out milk and carrots for him & the reindeers. Instead, we talk about Jesus, the baby born to be king, the greatest gift ever for mankind, our gift from the only true God.

Of course, we still give gifts. Some of the hands down favourites this year have been the notebook and colour pencil set that I found for Anna;
the shiny cardboard box that some presents from my MIL came in, which has been given to Abigail for a treasure box (and in which I have since found her new pyjamas, which are, apparently, great treasures); the goofy glasses with fake nose and eyebrows that Joshua received from our next door neighbours (which completely freaked Anna out the first time he put them on) - I don't have a pic of this one yet because they are the "temporarily lost" present I mentioned in my last post. Oh, and the play-size wooden kitchen that Grandma and Grandad gave to the kids, which kept Jeff & I up for an extra hour or more with the cordless electric screwdriver on Christmas Eve.

Of all of these presents, with the exception of the kitchen (which Grandma bought at 30% off), none would have cost too much more than $10, and some of them much less (heck, one was wrapping, not even a present at all!) Sure, we all spent money on gifts, but it wasn't the money that made the difference. It was the though of what would appeal to each little person, what would be the gift that would most suit their personality and interests. Reminds me of that first Christmas gift, which God knew was the one thing which we most need (whether we know it or not) ... His Son, Jesus Christ, through whose atoning death on the cross we can have an everlasting relationship with the Alpha and Omega, the One True God, the Father.

And the count begins...

Number of days since Christmas: 2.
Number of gift toys broken already: 3.
(Number of broken toys that were fixable: also 3, fortunately.)
Number of gift toys lost: 1, hopefully temporarily.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

I hate it when sad things happen at Christmas

Today we had lunch with the B family, some very special friends who host the weekly couples Bible study that Jeff has been leading for over a year now. This family has become very precious to us, and it was delightful to spend time relaxing with our families together. Our kids played with their kids and our youngest sons (born 3 weeks apart, they are both named Samuel) shared a playpen. We chatted about Christmas, hospitality, toilet training and how Mrs B's pregnancy is going. Mrs B and I got the lunch ready, laughing together when one of us spilled a bowl of salad dressing all over her kitchen floor. Mr B watched over the BBQ while Jeff supervised the older kids' antics in the wading pool (it was 44.2 degrees here in Perth today, the hottest December day on record). L excitedly showed Joshua his Christmas toys (they too have birthdays only weeks apart) and the other kids milled around having fun together. We pulled crackers and put on our paper crowns and talked about how it is Jesus who is the real King, whose crown is everlasting.

But Mrs B couldn't eat much at lunch because she has to take her cancer medication tonight and she gets nauseous if she eats much before she takes it. In the midst of all our happiness celebrating the birth of Jesus, the son of God whom we both love and worship, I couldn't help my sadness. Because one of my best friends, a woman who just turned 30 and is three months pregnant, with three other children all too young to be at school, has just found out she has leukemia. I love her so much and she has been such an immense blessing to me and there is nothing I can do to stop this except pray for her.

So God, please hear me tonight. Keep my precious friend from feeling sick when she takes her medicine. Let her sleep be calm and peaceful. Help her to rest and give her strength for the days ahead. Shelter her under your wing; hold her in your loving arms. Let her know that you are with her as you have promised to be, always and forever. Amen.

Monday, 24 December 2007

aka Rescue Man

My 4yo son has developed an alter ego: Rescue Man. He comes to his sisters' rescue when they are experiencing an "emergency": stuck in the tree they are climbing, perhaps, or unable to get out of the hammock. He can breathe fire (apparently) so that he can keep those he is saving warm. He has also told me he can fly - and without the aid of pixie dust (as Wendy, Michael and John require in Peter Pan). I must admit, I don't have first hand evidence of either of these two amazing super hero qualities, but I'm willing to take him at his word. He also has special Rescue Man phrases, such as "Do not worry! Rescue Man is flying to the rescue!" (very inventive) and "We are safety people! We are charging to the rescue. Don't cry."

I'm so glad my son is growing up wanting to be a servant to others. Some days I just love my kids so much. It is a real privilege to be a mother, especially their mother.

Thursday, 20 December 2007


I am so satisfied. I have:
1. Finished all shopping required before Christmas and indeed before the day after Boxing Day.
2. Wrapped all Christmas presents and posted as required.
3. Written our annual letter, written our Christmas cards, made assorted photo accordion cards and sent to all and sundry.
4. Cleaned the house.
5. Packed ready to leave on the train tomorrow to visit my brother and his family in Kalgoorlie for the weekend.
I'll be back on Christmas Eve, all ready to enjoy celebrating the birth of my King.
Have a good Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Some more recent pictures

I took this photo of Abigail to send to Nanna with her Christmas card:Samuel received a set of flourescent bath ducks for his birthday and they've been a hit with all the kids who have been having their baths in the laundry sink lately because the dirty clothes basket is right there and they get bathed before they run through the house all wet and sandy. I highly recommend this as a most helpful trick-of-the-mothering-trade.
Actually, I love that photo so much I might use it on my sidebar.

Anna making one of those "photo faces":

Our last trip to the zoo

When I finally had access to the photos on Jeff's camera, I found these gems from one of our trips to the Zoo, which is one of our favourite places here in Perth. (I blogged about our visit here).

The meerkats, as always, provided some laughs: Er, yes, they are getting busy, so to speak, according to the zoo staff who were eagerly encouraging these two.

This next shot has to be one of my favourite photos from 2007. Firstly because it shows Samuel standing up quite soon after he first learnt and secondly because there is no way I could have got them to pose so much like that Sunbear if I had tried!The two Sunbears are my kids' favourite animals at the Perth Zoo. Every time we go, we have to see the Sunbears, no matter what else we might miss out on.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

My top ten stationery items

Curriculum is something much discussed on homeschool blogs and email groups but I thought I'd list my favourite stationery stuff, just because they've made my homeschooling life easier this year.

1. Bantex A4 3xD-ring Insert Binders - I like the folders that you can insert your own spine and front cover. I get my kids to put a self-portrait on the cover of their own folders, and colour code their spines. Folders for Circle Time are red, mine are purple, Joshua's are blue, Anna's are green, Abigail's are yellow, Samuel's will be orange. (I use the same colour system for a few other things as well.)

2. Marbig 3-hole Holepuncher - so I can put stuff in all these folders.

3. Avery Ring Reinforcements - these prevent the holepunched sheets from pulling loose from the folder rings. Other than Bible story colouring pages and narrations, which go in a separate folder, I just holepunch everything the kids do and stick it in a folder, so these are very handy.

4. Marbig Extra Wide Coloured Dividers - made of plastic, these are really useful when I do choose to put pages in sheet protectors as I do with blank proformas and lots of the rest of the stuff I've collected in my homeschool planning folder.

5. Marbig Document Holders (heavy Duty) - these are made of strong, clear plastic and have a slash opening for quick access to my home-made lined paper, pre-printed alphabet pages, etc. The packet says they hold 50 sheets of paper, and I've had not trouble with that so far, they can definitely hold a lot more than the standard sheet protectors.

6. Lyra Water Coloured Pencils - which my father-in-law bought for Joshua when he came to visit from Indonesia. I also really like Derwent Studio Pencils, but the kids aren't careful enough with pencils to justify the purchase price.

7. Faber Castell Junior Grip 2B Lead Pencils - which the kids use to trace their penmanship tasks over my H lead pencil exemplar. These are slightly thicker than a standard pencil, and they have a 3-sided barrel, so they make it easy for the kids to learn the correct pencil grip.

8. Marbig Pro Series Refillable Display Book with Frame - I use these for the kids' Bible work, because they are more like a real book for the kids to flick through on their own, and that's the whole point of getting them to make their own illustrated and narrated Bibles. One of the best thing about these is that unlike other display books, the way the spine sits on these prevents the folder from drooping down while they sit vertically on the shelf. You can get special dividers with all the many holes for refillable display books from Marbig as well.

9. Marbig Easy Zip Refills (for standard refillable display books) - these are so quick and easy to use and especially great for the kids' Bible folders as I can simply add a sheet protector with new work in wherever the story fits in the overall Bible narrative, without mucking around with those (admittedly useful) sliding spine things.

10. PROtec 80 (80 micron ) Clear Gloss Delayed Bond Adhesive Book Covering (15m roll) - which I use to cover the paperback books that we read regularly. For paperback books that are used everyday, I need to get some Lyfguards, but these will have to wait until 2008.

I buy most of this from the local Officeworks store (aside from bookstores, this is my favourite shop), but the book covering I order online from Raeco.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Abigail's first story

While walking home from the park just now, Abigail told me her first complete story. As you read it, remember she's only 2 years old.

"The lion coughed and roared. I wasn’t scared, I was brave. Pollyanna was scared. She screamed and screamed. I put a bandaid on Anna and she didn’t scream anymore."

Well, she mixed up the names a little, but it seems fairly obvious that she'll follow in her sister's footsteps in creating marvellous stories.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Family Worship in 1647

It's Sunday, so I've been thinking about the Christian life. One of my favourite sites for reformation source documents is It was here that I found the 1647 Edinburgh Directory for Family-Worship, an act (of the Church of Scotland, I presume) for "observing the Directions of the GENERAL ASSEMBLY for secret and private Worship, and mutual Edification; and censuring such as neglect Family-worship." It begins, "THE General Assembly, after mature deliberation, doth approve the following Rules and Directions for cherishing piety, and preventing division and schism..." Worthy goals? Then read on for 360-year-old instructions designed to edify you (build you up in your faith), assist you to cherish piety (help you to love godliness) and prevent division & schism (keep you within the true Christian faith)... or you could just skip the smaller text and read my modern-day paraphrase, which is in the standard-sized text.

I. And first, for secret worship, it is most necessary, that every one apart, and by themselves, be given to prayer and meditation, the unspeakable benefit whereof is best known to them who are most exercised therein; this being the mean whereby, in a special way, communion with God is entertained, and right preparation for all other duties obtained: and therefore it becometh not only pastors, within their several charges, to press persons of all sorts to perform this duty morning and evening, and at other occasions; but also it is incumbent to the head of every family to have a care, that both themselves, and all within their charge, be daily diligent herein.

Individually: Pray. Think deeply upon the Scriptures. This is the way to a vibrant relationship with God, a relationship that will equip one for every part of life. Do this in the morning, in the evening and at other times. Husbands/Fathers must take responsibility to ensure that the entire family is diligent in this private worship.

II. The ordinary duties comprehended under the exercise of piety which should be in families, when they are convened to that effect, are these: First, Prayer and praises performed with a special reference, as well to the publick condition of the kirk of God and this kingdom, as to the present case of the family, and every member thereof. Next, Reading of the scriptures, with catechising in a plain way, that the understandings of the simpler may be the better enabled to profit under the publick ordinances, and they made more capable to understand the scriptures when they are read; together with godly conferences tending to the edification of all the members in the most holy faith: as also, admonition and rebuke, upon just reasons, from those who have authority in the family.

Corporately, with the entire family present: Pray, keeping the family's own situation and condition in mind. Praise God. Read the Bible. Teach the basic doctrines of the Christian faith simply. Train all of the family in godly character and behaviour. Expose and correct any sin.

III. As the charge and office of interpreting the holy scriptures is a part of the ministerial calling, which none (however otherwise qualified) should take upon him in any place, but he that is duly called thereunto by God and his kirk; so in every family where there is any that can read, the holy scriptures should be read ordinarily to the family; and it is commendable, that thereafter they confer, and by way of conference make some good use of what hath been read and heard. As, for example, if any sin be reproved in the word read, use may be made thereof to make all the family circumspect and watchful against the same; or if any judgment be threatened, or mentioned to have been inflicted, in that portion of scripture which is read, use may be made to make all the family fear lest the same or a worse judgment befall them, unless they beware of the sin that procured it: and, finally, if any duty be required, or comfort held forth in a promise, use may be made to stir up themselves to employ Christ for strength to enable them for doing the commanded duty, and to apply the offered comfort. In all which the master of the family is to have the chief hand; and any member of the family may propone a question or doubt for resolution.

When the family reads the Bible together, anyone who can read should be allowed to do so, and after this, all family members should discuss what they have read and heard, with a view to understanding it better. Be on the lookout for sin in your own lives that you have read of in the histories of others. Learn from the judgement of others, so that you yourself will not suffer the same consequences. Be encouraged by the Bible's teachings on righteous behaviour for a godly life of service. Be comforted by the promises of God that you read of. The husband/father is to lead this, but any member of the family is to be allowed to ask a question.

IV. The head of the family is to take care that none of the family withdraw himself from any part of family-worship: and, seeing the ordinary performance of all the parts of family-worship belongeth properly to the head of the family, the minister is to stir up such as are lazy, and train up such as are weak, to a fitness to these exercises; it being always free to persons of quality to entertain one approved by the presbytery for performing family-exercise. And in other families, where the head of the family is unfit, that another, constantly residing in the family, approved by the minister and session, may be employed in that service...

The husband/father must take responsibility to ensure that the entire family is involved in family worship, and that it runs smoothly. The minister of the church should teach and exhort those who are unable or unwilling to meet this responsibility. Alternatively, if the husband/father is unfit for this responsibility (for example, if he is not a Christian,) then the minister of the church may delegate this duty to another person (such as the mother).

VIII. On the Lord's day, after every one of the family apart, and the whole family together, have sought the Lord (in whose hands the preparation of men's hearts are) to fit them for the publick worship, and to bless to them the publick ordinances, the master of the family ought to take care that all within his charge repair to the publick worship, that he and they may join with the rest of the congregation: and the publick worship being finished, after prayer, he should take an account what they have heard; and thereafter, to spend the rest of the time which they may spare in catechising, and in spiritual conferences upon the word of God: or else (going apart) they ought to apply themselves to reading, meditation, and secret prayer, that they may confirm and increase their communion with God: that so the profit which they found in the publick ordinances may be cherished and promoved, and they more edified unto eternal life.

Within the local congregation: On Sundays, the members of the family should worship individually and as a family before going to the meeting of the local church congregation, so that they are mentally and spiritually prepared. The husband/father is (again) to take responsibility for the family's attendance at and involvement in this church meeting. After the church meeting, the father should pray and then listen to the members of the family narrate the contents of the sermon or their Sunday School lesson. Any time on Sunday that is not otherwise scheduled should be spent in teaching the basic Christian doctrines and in discussing the Scriptures. Alternatively, family members may spend time individually reading the Bible, thinking upon its message and praying, in order to build upon what they have heard in the church meeting.

IX. So many as can conceive prayer, ought to make use of that gift of God; albeit those who are rude and weaker may begin at a set form of prayer, but so as they be not sluggish in stirring up in themselves (according to their daily necessities) the spirit of prayer, which is given to all the children of God in some measure: to which effect, they ought to be more fervent and frequent in secret prayer to God, for enabling of their hearts to conceive, and their tongues to express, convenient desires to God for their family.

Regarding prayer: Be determined and diligent in prayer. Young children and new Christians may learn to pray by reciting a standard prayer (such as the Lord's Prayer or a Table Grace), but it is expected that they will grow to enjoy and appreciate the many blessings of personal prayer for themselves and their family.

X. These exercises ought to be performed in great sincerity, without delay, laying aside all exercises of worldly business or hinderances, not withstanding the mockings of atheists and profane men; in respect of the great mercies of God...

And now, get on with it! Work hard at it! Don't be put off by other duties or difficulties. Ignore those who scoff at your desire for a godly family. As Paul said, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." [Romans 12:2]

Saturday, 15 December 2007

On the Farm

So here are a selection of the photos that took so long to find.

Enjoying the wide open spaces:Can you see Abigail's jump? And all those rainbow boots... the kids loved being free to be free!

Feeding the chooks:

Samuel's sisters take him for a ride:The many faces of Anna:Okay, so there aren't many faces, just two - recalcitrant or (pretending to be) reading. Some weeks, that's pretty much it.

Samuel at Gramps's birthday lunch:Joshua looking after Samuel: As you can see, the kids had a lovely time. Jeff helped Gramps with some much needed house repairs and I got to relax and benefit from Granny taking care of us all. Hooray!

15 steps to finding my photos

We've been down at the farm in Albany for the last week and I have finally completed the prolonged and technologically advanced (well, it seemed to be) process of transferring images from Jeff's digital camera to the desktop computer. These were the steps involved:

1. Locate the correct laptop, it's the newer one so I guessed it would be in the smaller bag. I guessed right.
2. Turn on laptop and log on. This involves rememberring which finger to use for the fingerprint scanning thingo in place of a simple password, that might be forgotten, as compared to the slightly less likely event of having a finger cut off. Then try several times before the computer recognises me.
3. Find the SLR digital camera and work out how to remove SD card.
4. Find the slot for an SD card in the laptop and insert.
5. Look for Windows Explorer. Give up. Use the Start Menu instead to find the SD card contents.
6. Locate a random 128MB memory stick. Find the USB port and insert. Actually there are two. How handy!
7. Attempt to copy images from SD card to memory stick.
8. When it becomes clear that memory stick doesn't have enough memory (how annoying!) frantically search for alternative memory stick, this one with 2GB storage space.
9. Insert into aforementioned handy second USB port.
10. Copy remainder of images from SD card to 2GB stick.
11. Remove SD card and all memory sticks and shut down laptop.
12. Put laptop away so there is room on the desk to use the desktop.
13. Insert both memory sticks into the two USB ports (two again! how fortuitous!) on the desktop computer.
14. Open Windows Explorer and transfer images from each of the memory sticks in turn to the picture folder on the dard drive.
15. It is now possible to use Adobe Photoshop to tweak the images to blog-worthiness.

So let's review: 15 steps, 5 hard to remember acronyms (4 of which rhyme, oddly) and 1 slack photographer. You can see why I prefer to use the other digital camera (which connects to the desktop via one cable) can't you?

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Being an Australian

Emily asked me to blog about being "native to Australia". I've never been anything else, which makes it kind-of hard to write about, but here goes...

I was born in Australia. So were my parents. So were their parents and their parents and ... you get the idea. About seven generations ago one of my ancestors came out to Australia from England; Cornwall, I think it was. But Australia is becoming a lot more "multicultural" these days. My sister-in-law is the daughter of immigrants from Italy. My brother-in-law married a lady from Singapore who he met at university here in Australia. The congregation of my church is probably two-thirds first or second generation immigrants on any given Sunday, with many people in particular from Singapore and South Africa. The Ministry of the Word candidate at our church came to us from Indonesia. When I was a private school teacher in Darwin, I worked mainly with Aboriginal students, and came to appreciate the cultural divide between us. This diversity is one aspect of life in Australia today.

I am a Christian. I was brought up within the Uniting Church and was amember for a while of a Baptist church. My theology is fairly conservative, reformed and evangelical (and I could add many other labels, but I won't bore you.) What I mean when I write those things probably differs from an American definition, however. By conservative, I don't mean legalistic, I just mean something more along the lines of orthodox (not to be confused with Orthodox, however.) Reformed is broadly equivalent to Protestant, with the added understanding that I trace the history of my doctrinal inheritance from the Calvinist reformers rather than simply the Church of England. And by evangelical... well, in America that seems to mean you believe in the need for a personal rather than inherited faith, as evidenced from being "born again" - am I right in this? Anyway, when I use this term I concur with the personal faith issue but I would also place emphasis in the need for both evangelisation of non-Christians and discipleship of Christians as the two central "good works" of the worldwide Christian Church; and in the centrality of the inerrant word of God, His Bible, in these two activites (and indeed all Christian life and theology.) In Australia, evangelical is pretty much the opposite of liberal, in terms of definitions - although I am sure not everyone would agree with me, particularly those who claim the title liberal.

In Australia our men play Australian Rules football (which is *nothing* like American football) and rugby, with soccer rising in popularity. Other popular sports are tennis, cricket and swimming (summer) and netball (womens' winter sport). I grew up orienteering and also have rogained for much of my adult life. Rogaining is a home-grown sport, having been invented by Australian bushwalkers who wanted "something more". Rogaining is sort-of an extreme sport version of orienteering, with regular 12- and 24-hour events where you plan a route through bush (in England that would be "natural countryside" - what do they call this in America?) The aim is to find checkpoints to obtain the most points possible in the given timeframe. This might not be the most well-known sport, but it is growing in popularity, here and internationally.

In Australia, we don't have as long a history of local manufacturing industry as in America and as a consequence many things cost a lot more here than they would there. And what is it with shopping coupons in America? We have nothing even remotely like that here. Sure, we have catalogue sales, but... well, suffice it to say that Gayle from Grace for Gayle posted on her new blog The Grocery Cart Challenge that she bought three loaves of bread for $2.67 a few days ago. This is about what I would pay for *one* loaf of bread. Except that we have a breadmaker, which I should obviously use more often in order to save money from our meagre budget...

Australia just had an election and elected the (left-wing) Labour party to replace the (more right-wing) Liberal party which had been in power federally for over a decade. I cannot comment on my opinion on this change as here in Australia, it is generally considered impolite to discuss politics aloud. With anyone other than your spouse, and if they disagree with you, you're better off not talking to them about it either. In Australia, everyone over 18 is legally required to vote, unless they somehow manage to get themselves removed from the electoral role, like my father-in-law who lives overseas.

In Australia, we can spell correctly. I'm sorry, but sox just doesn't cut the mustard. It's socks. And grey, not gray. And -ise, rather than ize. And... I could go on, but I don't want to alienate anyone too much.

This is what it means to be Australian. Some of it, anyway. I hope that helps you understand me better, Emily.

Doctrinal studies for 2008

I have just prepared my new schedule for 2008 and incuded daily Bible reading and prayer, alone and in Circle Time with the kids. One other thing I am hoping to add into my weekday routine is a short study on church doctrine. Recently while I was at a Christian bookstore, I found the book An Exposition on the Shorter Catechism, by Alexander Whyte, and I think this will be ideal.

There are 107 questions to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the first and most well known being "What is the chief end of man?" The answer is: "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever." This book contains each Q&A with a short commentary. I am not sure yet whether I shall simply read through the book, one question each weekday, or if I shall take my time, memorising each question and its related verses, and moving on to a new question only when I have accomplished this. Obviously the latter would be more profitable, however I am hoping to use the Shorter Catechism for Recitation, Memorisation and Copywork (Transcription) with my kids throughout their years in the Grammar Stage, so I might memorise along with them then. This would be the more realistic course.

I also hope to complete my last 3 units of the Certificate in Christian Studies in night classes at Theological College next year so I can graduate from that at the same time as Jeff graduates from his MDiv. The subjects I hope to be able to undertake are The Rise, Fall & Reform of the Church: Church History I; The Christian Life: Head, Heart & Hands; and .... aargh! I've just been over to the college website and they've changed the offerings for next year!! Well, those two subjects, anyway. That's my punishment for flippantly quoting James 4:14-15 to my friend R at church this morning: Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

Whatever I am able to study, I pray that my growing knowledge may bring glory to God and help me to enjoy Him forever.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Pray for safety in the Sudan

This morning I received an email, simply titled "Pray!" from a dear brother in Christ, David, who has recently travelled to the south of Sudan to encourage Christian ministers and those who are studying for this role, as well as to spread the wonderful news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Years ago, David left the Sudan as a refugee, and now he has returned for the second time because of the enormous burden that God has placed on him to share the gospel with people from his nation of birth.

I would like to share an edited excerpt from David's email, and ask that you would join in me to pray for David's safety and his continued evangelism in the Sudan and also in Uganda.

"Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ from the Sudan. I trust that all is well with you. I arrived in Uganda. Had a time of real blessing with some of our Native Missionaries here. All are Sudanese preparing for Ministry at various Bible Colleges. I visited some of the Pastors in the town of J and had real time of encouragement from God's word.

"I then went to a Sudanese refugee Camp in K to meet some of the local Pastors and Evangelists in that camp, it was very encouraging and uplifting to see the hunger for the word of God from the Pastors and Evangelists, the open ears they gave to hear the Gospel. I was deeply encouraged and many were blessed by our time together. We are supposed to screen the Jesus Movie but we need to get a generator and by God's grace do that by the end of this month.

"I am now in the Southern Sudanese town of Y. It was a really rough travel with the road in completely very bad shape, but we praise God that we have arrived safely although we faced a fearful challenge on the way. Some many testimonies to be shared about the travel, the mercies of God even before the authorities at the borders, but within the southern Sudan, I thought that was the end of our lives! We were entering the Sudan from Uganda, as we all know that this is a country emerging from several years of civil war. Before getting to the town of Y, a former rebel was standing on the road, and stopped our car with a gun in his hand, just got in the car and forced the driver to go! That was the most scariest time in my life, he was angry, clearly possessed! As I bowed my head in the van in prayers, I asked the Lord for three things, 1. To get this man out of the van, 2. We would drop off and wait for maybe a truck, 3. I praised God if my life could end on the way, the Lord answered me immediately, another soldier came and forced this man to get out! It was a scary scenario! But I praise God, I am well.

"Continue to pray for safety. Many people are still angry and filled with hatred and desire to shed blood! Pray that the hands of the enemy that holds many people captives here will be broken and lives set free."

Some of you who read my blog already know David, who studied at the same Theological College as Jeff does now. He is truly a man who desires with all his heart to see people know salvation through Jesus Christ. On his behalf, I urge you to pray for him and for the glory of our great and wonderful God.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Like my new sidebar pics?

Thanks so very much to the talented Andrea, Samuel's god-sister, who took the photos of Joshua, Anna and Abigail (which now appear on the RHS sidebar) earlier in 2007 for a school project. And just for posterity, here are the old images, which were taken in October and December 2006 by my sister-in-law Kim, who is also handy with a camera.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

My husband the carpenter

Jeff has just completed a beautiful magazine rack for his step-father's birthday present, using recycled Jarrah timber from someone's broken-down old verandah and a few pieces that Jeff shaped from logs taken from trees on their hobby farm.

And in the background of this last pic you can see our newly shaded sandpit. The posts for this are also made from recycled timber. It is really good for the kids to have another place out of the sun where they can play, and I am so thankful to have my husband in handyman mode now he's on holidays.

End of Year Homeschool Report - Joshua - 2007

This may be very boring for those who do not know Joshua personally. It is included here for the benefit of close relatives. Also, because a homeschooled child does not get a school report, I think it will be nice to have a written record of my assessment of my children's accomplishments in times to come!

Bible and Belief
Joshua is familiar with many of the well-known historical narratives. He can retell many Bible stories in his own words, such as Jesus calming the storm, and Jesus' parable of the houses built on the sand and rock. He uses his knowledge of other narratives in his play, for example asking Anna to pretend to be John and to baptise him in the bath [said practice which led to him getting an ear infection and has since been curtailed].
Joshua has memorised Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1-4 along with several other verses.
Joshua knows many of the words in the Lord's Prayer and recites what he knows along with our church congregation on Sundays. He has also memorised the core words of the minister during Holy Communion and has, on occasion, initiated play-acting of Holy Communion at meal times at home. Joshua prays readily in familiar circumstances (such as meal time grace) and also talks informally to God about personal matters both with his parents and when he is alone. He also encourages others to join in communal prayer times.

Joshua has continued to develop his wonderfully manly attitude of protection and caring for his younger siblings, although he can often be bossy also. At times Joshua is too easily upset by circumstances and struggles to regain self-control, but can usually do so adequately after taking time out alone in his room. He is generally obedient and polite, but does find it difficult and frustrating to leave a task he is involved in, especially if it is of a creative nature such as building with Duplo blocks or drawing and colouring his own pictures. This can be a source of conflict between Joshua and his siblings, so I need to be careful in my choice of timing for activities, so as to prevent him becoming be exasperated beyond bearing, in order to avoid unnecessary arguments.

At the beginning of this year, Joshua knew a few letters, really only those in his own name. Now, he can read many CVC words which use the Basic Code ("short") vowel sound. Often he needs to sound out the word from its letters, and he has recently begun to read some words without this step, or after only decoding some of the letters aloud. Joshua has also begun to read a few words which have blended consonant pairs and clusters (CCVC, CVCC etc) as well as those with consonant-vowel blends (VC, CV, CVC). He is familiar with the use of [s] for the /z/ sound, reading thus: "i...sss...iz" and the use of [e] for /ee/, reading thus: "w...e...wee". He can also recognise two consonant dipthongs: [sh] (which is in his name, and so was familiar early) and [th].
Joshua is sometimes unenthusiastic about a set reading task but usually surprises himself with his own ability and is gaining confidence. He enjoys reading words and numbers from signs and other non-page sources. His attention span for the still difficult task of decoding words from an unfamiliar source is limited to less than 15 minutes, which has improved greatly from the beginning of the year.
Joshua writes very neatly when tracing, shaping all letters correctly according to the example. He finds some letters which have slanted lines, such as w and z, to be difficult to form. Occasionally he writes the descender before the circle in the letters a, d and g, which needs continued enforced correction (ie, erasing and re-writing the letter). Joshua's free-writing (writing without an immediate visual example or lines) is clear and readable although his letters are not consistent in size. Joshua can write a short sentence of about 8-10 words in one sitting before his hand becomes tired and his concentration wanders. Unsurprisingly, he prefers a task of reading and writing a sentence over the same task with a list of unrelated words.
Joshua knows that a sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a full stop, and that a capital letter also marks the beginning of a proper name. He can discriminate between capitals and lower case letters and identify full stops.

Joshua listens enthusiastically to picture books (especially those with rythmic prose) and episodic/chapter books (such as The House at Pooh Corner and Tan A Wild Dog) when they are read aloud. He follows the central flow of action although he misses some plot subtleties. This has been demonstrated through his answers to comprehension questions and through his oral narrations, as well as such things as identifying previously unseen images as relating to a particular familiar story or rhyme.
He uses many words and phrases that he has heard from these books in his play and in everyday conversation, demonstrating a knowledge of their meaning (for example, "festival"). He asks questions about some of the vocabulary that is above his present level.

This year, our mathematics curriculum has been purely ad hoc, such as counting incidental objects and reading the numerals on letter boxes and freeway signs. A while ago I put a bit of effort into teaching Joshua to rote count into double-digit figures, and he can now do this with fair success, although he still stumbles over twenty. When my mother was visiting a fortnight ago, I showed her (and Joshua) the mathematics books we will be using next year, and as he attempted a few random tasks, we realised that Joshua can mentally calculate with a fair degree of competence simple addition and subtraction sums with the digits 1-5. He can also perform similar calculations with the digits 1-10 if he has fingers or some other manipulative to help him to visualise the problem. Wow! I was impressed with my little boy's ability.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Our hyper-linked 4yo Kindergarten Curriculum

***more hyperlinks added 6 Dec 2007***

We began 2007 with a program based around the letters of the alphabet. I introduced most of the letters with a Sesame Street colouring page, and a brainstorming session on words that started with or contained the most common phoneme for that letter. One thing I am already doing differently is that with Joshua I only showed him the capital letters, but with Anna I am introducing both the capital and lower case letters at the same time. I have now refined the colouring pages into my own alphabet penmanship pages, with the colouring picture at the top and lines for caps and lower case writing below, with manuscript, typewritten and cursive examples of the letter also included. We supplemented this with an ABC Sticker Book from Hinkler Books, which Joshua really enjoyed.

In the second half of this year, we have used Reading Reflex: The foolproof Phono-Graphix guide to teaching your child to read by Carmen and Geoffrey McGuinness as our primary resource. We worked through activites based on those explained in chapter 3, "Teaching the Basic Code". One major difference I made was to do "mapping" (that is, writing out of new words) as tracing on homemade lined paper, rather than on a small whiteboard as the book suggested, because Joshua was not already familiar with the formation of letters. We also added on extra reading and penmanship activities based on the very limited vocabulary, using three Penmanship Readers with colouring pictures which I made myself (using free online colouring pictures mostly from Karen's Whimsy and Clipart ETC).

In the first semester of 2007 we read a lot of picture books, which Joshua then narrated back for me. He also illustrated his own narrations, with great improvement in the recognisability of his drawings as a result. Our picture book read aloud list is below. Ttitles with an asterisk *, I hope to read aloud sometime next year, when Anna is doing 4yo K and Joshua is doing 5yo K - titles with a hash mark # are firm family favourites. I have hyperlinked the Australian titles and some that are less likely to be known:

A Hat for Minerva Louise - Janet Morgan Stoeke
*We’re Going on a Bear Hunt - Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury
Alexander’s Outing - Pamela Allen
#Shout, Daisy, Shout - Jane Simmons
*Angus Lost (and other Angus books) - Marjorie Flack
*Bears - Ruth Krauss
Harry the Dirty Dog - Gene Zion
#Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy (and others) - Lynley Todd
#Fancy That! - Pamela Allen
Miffy's Garden - Dick Bruna
*The Potato People - Pamela Allen
*Corduroy - Don Freeman
*Gregory’s Shadow - Don Freeman
#Handa’s Surprise - Eileen Browne
#Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak
Who Sank the Boat? - Pamela Allen
Mr Archimede’s Bath - Pamela Allen
#One Horse Waiting for Me - Patricia Mullins
#Goodnight Moon - Margaret Wise Brown
#The Gruffalo - Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler
The Gruffalo’s Child - Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler
#Simpkin - Quentin Blake
The Story of Ferdinand - Munro Leaf
*Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? - Bill Martin Jr
Each Peach Pear Plum - Janet & Allen Ahlberg
Madeline - Ludwig Bemelmans
*The Little Engine That Could - Watty Piper
*A Bear Called Paddington - Michael Bond
One Duck Stuck - Phyllis Root
One Woolly Wombat - Rod Tricia & Kerry Argent
*Pete the Sheep - Jackie French
*Diary of a Wombat - Jackie French
#Josephine Wants to Dance - Jackie French
*Cecily G and the 9 Monkeys - H A Rey
*Curious George - Margaret and H A Rey
*Flat Stanley - Jeff Brown
*Caps for Sale - Esphyr Slobodkina
Bedtime for Frances - Russell Hoban
*Bread and Jam for Frances - Russell Hoban
*Amelia Bedelia - Peggy Parish
*Floss - Kim Lewis
#He Came With the Couch - David Slonim
#An Anteater Named Arthur - Bernard Waber
#The Blue Balloon - Mick Inkpen
Possum Magic - Mem Fox
Where is the Green Sheep? - Mem Fox
#Blossom Possum: The Sky Is Falling Down-Under - Gina Newton
*A New Coat for Anna - Harriet Zeifert
*Story of Babar, the Little Elephant - Jean de Brunhoff
The Story About Ping - Marjorie Flack & Kurt Wiese
#Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel - Virginia Lee Burton
The Velveteen Rabbit - Margery Williams
#The Enormous Crocodile - Roald Dahl
#The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me - Roald Dahl
*Owls in the Family - Farley Mowat

Below is our list of episodic or chapter books, from our Kindergarten read aloud list. Of course, many of these we will read again over the years:

Thomas the Tank-Engine - Rev Wilbert Awdry
Adventures of the Wishing Chair - Enid Blyton
The Wishing Chair Again - Enid Blyton
The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit and Friends - Beatrix Potter
Winnie-The-Pooh - A A Milne
The House at Pooh Corner - A A Milne
The Enchanted Wood - Enid Blyton
The Magic Faraway Tree - Enid Blyton
Folk of the Faraway Tree - Enid Blyton
#Milly-Molly-Mandy - Joyce Lankester Brisley
Pollyanna - Eleanor H Porter
Tan a Wild Dog - Thomas C Hinkle
*Bambi - Felix Salten
*Pinocchio - Carlo Collodi
*Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
Peter Pan - J M Barrie
*Mary Poppins - P L Travers
*The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Frank L Baum
(some of) Andersen’s Fairy Tales - Hans Christian Andersen
(some of) Grimm’s Fairy Tales - J L C and W C Grimm
*The Complete Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault - Charles Perrault

Bible and Belief
I attend a Day class of Bible Study Fellowship and the children are all enrolled in their Childrens' Program. We also read Bible stories and discuss them, pray together and learn some memory verses as a family. One thing Joshua and I have both enjoyed is to record his narrations of Bible stories and allow him to colour a related picture. The picture and narration are then put into a plastic sleeve in a folder so he can make his own Bible. If Joshua makes a 2D craft at Sunday Club related to the story of that week, we sometimes stick that in with his narration instead of a drawing. Joshua quite likes flicking through his home-made Bible. I am planning to do this a lot more consistently next year, using colouring pages from Calvary Chapel, as well as reproducible colouring pictures from Gospel Light and HeartShaper.

Mathematics, Science and History/Geography etc
Purely from life experiences, although we do make an effort to introduce learning opportunities frequently.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Monday, 3 December 2007

Where Rudd's "Education Revolution" will take us

At last, after weeks of fretting over lack of information throughout the election campaign, I begin to see the substance of what Rudd promised with his promotional mantra of plans for an "educational revolution".

Last weekend, The Weekend Australian reported that "In a new super-ministry, Ms Gillard will be in charge of policy on childhood development, schools, universities, skills and training, workforce participation and employee rights." Thus the deputy prime minister has the portfolios of industrial relations (as would have been expected, given her previous role as shadow minister for industrial relations) and also education. Predictably, in this article, the main concern expressed over this was the enormous workload involved in combining these two important areas of oversight. Of course, everyone thinks their particular area deserves, or even requires, more concentrated focus within a smaller portfolio. I think these views somewhat short-sighted. Indeed, I think they miss the point completely.

This same article described Rudd's justification for his decision thusly: "Mr Rudd strongly supported Ms Gillard's appointment, saying Labor's plan was to bring preparation for work "under a single roof". He described Ms Gillard's super-ministry as a modern approach, combining the entire agenda of education, skills and training, participation at work and workplace relations." It appears that the crux of Rudd's so-called "education revolution" is to demote the myriad goals and aims of education to "preparation for work", that is, vocational training.

Gillard's comments (later reported in The Australian) supported the need to integrate some Australian history into a national curriculum, as Howard had done previously. She also maintained the popular, but in my opinion, limited, view of the supreme importance of the three Rs. Gillard "reiterated that Labor would focus very strongly on the basic skills of maths, reading and writing in the development of the curriculum." Surely education should be aimed at producing more than the most basic of all academic skills? (I am not sure that the Liberals ever aimed for anything too much above these basics, either, and that is perhaps why they seemed to be losing the educational war to the socialist left in the past decade of the infamous OBE.)

At this point, I would like to introduce a contrast. My next two quotes are taken from Dorothy Sayers' paper read at Oxford University in 1947, The Lost Tools of Learning. Sayers proposed a "progressive retrogression" to a classical model for education in the tools of the trivium, (Latin) grammar, formal logic and rhetoric. She said of her hypothetical students, "one cannot begin a good thing too early... We will therefore "catch 'em young," requiring only of our pupils that they shall be able to read, write and cipher [ie, perform basic arithmetical calculations]." Sayers' expected that, although her students would be young, they would already be competent in the basic skills. In Sayers' opinion, these skills were not the end point of a school education, they were, rather, the pre-requisites of this education!

If Sayers did not see these basic skills as the end point of education, what did she propose as an alternative? The concluding sentence of her paper tells us. "For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain." Some would argue that it is too early to criticise, but I fear that the first steps of Rudd's "education revolution", towards a model of education that limits itself to concentrating on the basics and preparing people for nothing other than a life of serfdom ("participation in work"), will eventually be revealed to have been in vain.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Weekly Report #11

With each new unit of the Basic Code, I have seperated the work out into two sections. In the first weeks, Joshua is taught to read and write new words, then in the later weeks he reviews these words while he completes his Penmanship Reader. Despite our illnesses over this last week, Joshua now has only one lesson to go in the first section of this third unit, [s]=/z/, introducing words such as is, his, as, has, was and, just for the heck of it, Israel. Next week, we will hopefully complete that lesson and then spend a few lessons copying our second Rule of Written English ("A capital letter marks the beginning of a sentence and the beginning of a name.") On Thursday next week, Jeff is taking Joshua and the girls to Granny's hobby farm in Albany for 8 days, so that will be the end of regular, daily lessons for this year. Occasionally over the Christmas season, I'll get Joshua to work on his third Penmanship Reader, so he doesn't forget what he has learnt. Then when the public school and Theological College students' year starts at the beginning of February, we'll be ready to tackle consonant and vowel digraphs.

We are still reading and enjoying Pollyanna by Eleanor H Porter. I am hopeful that we will complete it by the time the kids leave for Albany, because I don't want them to have to wait for the end and I also don't want to miss it myself!

Table Time
Jeff has been, rather masterfully, drawing the kids pictures "one step up from stick figures" (which is my forte) to colour this week. The kids have been making requests: Anna has asked for dolls, Abigail has requested houses, and Joshua has delighted in Jeff's invented dinosaurs, such as spotosaurus, spikemomosaurus, centipedosaurus and two-headed lionasaurus.Here we have a specimen of the little-known Girafmosaurus.