Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Water fight!

With our friends the B***** family, who came over for lunch and fun in the sun on Monday.

100 posts and other celebrations

My sister-in-law turned 30 the day after my neice turned one. Happy birthday!

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Weekly Report 2008:4

Jeff was away this week and it was really hot and I will freely admit that I let myself get caught up with non-homeschool stuff (like reading Nahum and Wuthering Heights). Despite this, we almost kept up with our Circle Time (Joshua did a careful water-colour for his latest memory verse, Mark 1:17-18):And we did manage a few Literacy lessons, so Anna has completed her introduction to the alphabet:I'm pretty happy that the Play School inspired activities I helped Joshua with more than made up for any delay in our academic progress.

We also socialised! On Tuesday afternoon I left the bigger kids playing with the T family for an hour while I went and visited Mrs T in hospital to meet the newest Miss T. Born after a quick labour on Sunday after church, she was just beautiful already, not at all scrunched!

On Thursday I left all four kids with the L family, to be babysat by the two older daughters. I read a newspaper (I am sooo bored with details of ex-Perth actor Heath Ledger's death) and went to the Koorong Cafe for a delicious slice of berry crumble, a mocha and time on my own to read my Bible without interruption! I worked out a plan to read through the stories of 1 and 2 Kings and the later OT historical books, interspersed with the prophets who wrote at each time. Then I went back to pick up the kids and chatted with Mrs L for an hour. This conversation was really encouraging to me particularly because Jeff is about to begin his third year at Theological College, and it helps me to see that others value our committment to the rigours of student life.

On Friday I cleaned the house - including doing five loads of laundry - before we collected Jeff from the airport. It was, and is, lovely to have my husband back. I just love being able to talk to him face-to-face instead of over a crackly phone connection. Even though I know he's starting back at college in a week, I'm very thankful to also know that he'll not be travelling anywhere without us anytime soon, because we missed him a lot.

The lowest common deonominator problem

Jeff came home yesterday after a trip back to Darwin. He was saddened to hear that some people who had been in our church congregation there have since left it over issues which stem from understanding and trusting the Bible and acting on what it teaches. I won't even touch on what the issue was, because that would be unjustifiable gossip. But the situation has led me to think about the issue of how easy it is to fall into sinful ways.

The way I see this problem, is that there is a tendency in groups of people to exhibit what I call the problem of the lowest common denominator. Others might call it the power of the mob mentality. This is what it looks like in everyday life:
I take my four pre-schoolers to the park and they join a game of chasey with some other kids there. When we come home, I notice they have learnt some colourful new language from their park playmates that has never been heard from their lips before.
... A new girl joins a circle of teenage girls. The new girl is self-confident, a bit brash and not particularly modest in her dress. Pretty soon the other girl's mothers notice their daughters are wearing more makeup and asking to shop for some more revealing clothing also.
... A new school year brings a new mix of classmates. Without his previous group of friends, who all had similar backgrounds, Jack falls in with a group of boys with a bad attitude towards study and teachers. It isn't long before Jack's parents get a letter from his teacher saying he's been wagging his classes.
... Ella heads off to university and her parents are very proud of her initial attempts to find some Christian friends to study the Bible with. But her attempts are unsuccessful and she begins to be sporadic in her church attendance. When she returns home for holidays Ella admits to her parents that she "doesn't want to be a Christian" any more, because she has become convinced by the arguments of her university peers and lecturers that God doesn't really exist.
... A new mum finds that, now she is staying at home with her baby, she can join the women's prayer group at her church which is during the daytime. She starts going to the group but discovers the women spend more time gossiping over the people and problems in the church than praying about them. She tries to lead by example but soon finds that she, too, is developing a critical, judgemental attitude to others.
... A congregation is without a minister for some time. When they are finally able to employ someone, the new minister lacks a deep knowledge of the Scriptures or the desire to teach others to search the Bible for answers to their questions. Gradually, although some of the older people in the congregation grumble about the need for a more Bible-based approach, the people notice that the sermons are based less on what God has said and more on what the world has to say. Sermons become, not a time to be built up in the knowledge of God and His will for them, but instead a time to be fired up with enthusiasm to live the perfect life through their own efforts. After a while the congregation don't even notice the absence of mentions of the Bible and the gospel anymore.

There are many more scenarios like these where people find themselves thinking, talking and behaving according to the lowest standards held by anyone in their group, rather than the highest standards. It happens to Christians and non-Christians alike, at all ages and, I am sure, in all nations and cultures. When I look at this problem, I can see that, just like the flu, sin is catching! Paul warned the Corinthians, "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.' " (1 Cor 15:33) and this is as true today as it was then. It isn't just our morality that is affected by the presence of bad character. We can easily be led astray by teachers of incorrect doctrine. The churches in Galatia began to fall into this trap, and it didn't take a long time, either. Paul wrote to them (Gal 1:6), "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel..."

Paul was conscious of the need for the church to appoint good teachers, and wrote in some detail to Timothy and Titus on this topic. Often, as I have suggested in my last illustration above, we can follow bad quasi-Christian teaching because we lack any familiarity with sound Biblical teaching and don't know any better. Many of us are not in a position where we choose people in leadership over our congregations, but there are other decisions we make along these same lines. As parents, we should prayerfully and intelligently consider the qualifications (not just academic) of our children's Sunday School teachers and regular teachers, as well as other adults whom we allow to have authority over our children, such as sports coaches. We also should take responsibility for care over which peers our children associate with, a situation in which homeschooling obviously has benefits.

Over and above this care, however, is the need for prayer. We must pray for ourselves, our partners in marriage, our children and our fellow Christians. There are a lot of Paul's prayers recorded in his letters and many of them would be great models for bringing a lowest common denominator problem to God. I particularly like Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians (recorded in 2 Thess 1:11-12): "With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfil every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." Let us be people of prayer, asking for God's power to overcome our tendency to follow others so quickly down the slippery slope of sin.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Watching and Doing Play School

I am totally converted to the idea of Joshua watching Play School. I was sceptical to say the least when Jeff said I should let him watch more TV (before this, the kids only had DVD time for half an hour or so, some days of the week). But ABC programs have no ads (during the shows) and Play School is on when the girls are having their naps and I am having Mummy Time, so I've been diligently turning on the TV for him at 3pm each afternoon. What a surprise!

According to the ABC Play School transmission schedule, this week the theme has been weather.

On Monday, the Play School team was experiencing A Windy Day. They showed Joshua how to make Hot Air Balloons.
This is Joshua's attempt (he was very generous in giving Samuel a ride):On Tuesday, the Play School team was enjoying A Snowy Day. They showed Joshua how to make Paper Snowflakes.
This is Joshua's attempt (the green snowflakes are his, the pink one on the right is mine): Today, the Play School team was having A Rainy Day. They showed Joshua how to make Speckly Paintings with saltshakers full of powdered paint and a water spray bottle. Having not yet found the very informative and helpful Grown Ups Program Notes on the web, I had no idea what he was talking about when Joshua tried to describe the method to me. Maybe we'll try it on the weekend if I can locate the required resources.
So Joshua got out his oldest textas and a sheet of scrap paper and made a very good facsimile of the Calendar Picture for today. Here is Joshua's effort (he even remembered what day of the week it was when he asked me to write Wednesday and Rain on the page):Tomorrow the kids are spending the day with Samuel's god-family. (Hooray! Hooray! Almost a whole day of Mummy Time! I need it heaps because Jeff is interstate this week and I am going mental.) So I have checked ahead and packed some black cardboard squares and sand from our sandpit (and I need to buy some glue paste on the way to their house) so he can make the Sand Pictures they'll be showing him as part of their Sunny Day. I've also packed a colouring picture of Humpty and Joshua's watercolour pencils.

Frankly, I am amazed at the wonders of Play School. I never thought watching television could be this active!

Monday, 21 January 2008

My Other Blog...

Has been given an award!

Nicole has awarded my other blog the Blogging with a Purpose Award.

Wow! This has kind-of freaked me out because I only started it three weeks ago, with my New Year's Resolutions. I am, however, really pleased that someone thinks my daily meditations on God's word, which I post at Following the Star, are worthwhile to at least one person other than me!

And just because that blog is absolutely sooo purposeful (yes, Nicole was right!), and I don't want to compromise that, I am responding here.

The guidelines that accompany this award:
1. Awarded parties must nominate five people who have not received the award.
2. The blogs that receive the award must serve some purpose.
3. In their post about the award they need to link back to the original entry.
4. Awarded parties must post the award banner on their site. The banner must remain linked to Eric Novak's site.

Here are my nominations:

Trivium Academy - this is the ultimate classical homeschooler's blog where Jessica blogs with the purpose of working through the curriculum choices involved in making her daughter and son's education the very best it can be. Jessica is frank and informative with her descriptions of material she has used, whether it be traditional textbook or living book curricula or software like Audacity that she has used to make Memory CDs for her daughters. Jessica has inspired me to be more intentional about my homeschooling efforts.

The Learning Never Stops - this blog just makes me laugh. And, judging purely from Emily's photo in her profile, I'm pretty sure that that is part of her bloggy purpose! Emily is honest about the things that happen in her homeschooling family, and I have been impressed with some of the theological insights her kids have come up with in the midst of everyday situations. But mostly, Emily just makes me laugh.

The Upward Call - this blog very clearly reflects the intent of its author, Kim, to reflect upon daily life in light of Christian understandings. I like the way Kim has determined to focus on God's presence in all of her life not just the major decisions, or church moments, or whatever. A recent quote: "He encouraged us to teach our kids to be discerning, and to examine things in light of whether or not they contradict our DOCTRINE. Don't you love it when you hear that word? It wouldn't want to be the ONLY word I ever heard, but hearing it used at all made me very happy." Anyone who writes things like that has caught my attention!

Okay, so I only got to three nominations. I really wanted to nominate a book-related blog, but many of those I like are at present hijacked with posts regarding those pervasive US pre-election elections. I'll keep thinking and reading, but for now these are the blogs whose purposes most bless me.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Weekly Report 2008:3

Just a funny photo to begin with:Samuel has discovered that there is something more interesting in the kids' bathroom than Abigail's potty: the wash basin. Finding him in the wash basin when things go suspiciously quiet makes a change from finding random items (socks, books, Abigail's pyjamas) floating in the toilet basin, anyway.

We've had Jeff's Dad staying with us this week.He's just finished a job in Jakarta (Indonesia) and he's visiting his family all over Australia before he begins another, off today for his next stop in Darwin. We tried to convince him to get one here in Perth near his grandkids, but we'll have to wait and see whether family wins out over the interest level of a possible job in India.

Although a fun trip to the indoor play centre Go Bananas won out over schoolwork on Friday, we caught up today, and I'm pleased that I have decided to feel free to skip a day during the working week if we need or want to. Saturdays at our house are no different with Jeff at home at the moment, so it makes no difference to the kids if they catch up then. Once the school term officially starts, we'll be doing BSF on Wednesdays and our homeschool days will drop down to four days a week rather than five to reflect that. So here's where we're at academically:

Joshua completed the first "lesson" from the Singapore Earlybird Mathematics 2A workbook, and began the second "lesson". There are 20 lessons per workbook, mostly with 4 pages per lesson and 2 workbooks, so we'll aim for one lesson each week, or one page each day. He could do a lot more, but I think the slow and steady approach will stop him from feeling overloaded, especially with the penmanship required on some pages. Since Joshua is already confident with his numerals 1-10, and is familiar up to about 18, he coped fine with the first lesson which deals only with 1-5. He was also interested enough in the tasks to draw some watercolour numbers on scrap paper during some free time later in the week. Already Joshua's 4s are a lot neater. We're using the colourful plastic bottletops I've been collecting for the last few months as counters, and Anna is joining in with the counting activities also. She's slower than him (as one would expect) but so far, she's been able to do every task he's been given.

Joshua listened in on a conversation I had with Jeff at the beginning of the week over possible penmanship tasks for his K5 year, and since then he's been begging for story sentences starring himself (as Jeff suggested I go with). He has only 6 sentences to go from his present Penmanship Reader, so he will be ready to start that sort of thing in a fortnight, when institutional schools start their year. A sample from this week's decoding and penmanship tasks:Anna has also been working on her penmanship. She'll be finished the alphabet next week so I might give her a week off before starting her with the same reading and penmanship program I developed for Joshua last year, based on Phono-Graphix. This is a sample of her best writing from this week:
Circle Time
The kids have all enjoyed singing "Shout to the Lord" with me in Circle Time this week, now they're a bit more familiar with it. I've decided to teach them 10 of Australia's top 25 worship songs as reported by CCLI this year, with one a month. Sometimes Samuel sits in his high chair with us for Circle Time, sometimes he's already having his nap, but Abigail is happy to join the other two at their schoolwork. On Monday we read about Jesus speaking to Philip and Nathanael, and she was most excited to include "circles" in her colouring:Joshua suggested tonight at dinner that I should teach Abigail to read at the same time I teach Anna. I told them all that Abigail needs to show that she can colour fairly neatly and draw recognisably before she'll be ready for that. Oh, and be able to pay a bit more attention to a read aloud story, although she's definitely been improving with that lately.

Literature and other things
We're still reading through The Complete Adventures of Thomas the Tank Engine and enjoying it thoroughly. Grandpa brought some DVDs of Thomas and Friends with him from Jakarta and the kids love them. The girls and I have begun re-reading The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook by Joyce Lankester Brisley the last two Friday nights, while Jeff has begun taking Joshua out for Karate lessons. It's nice to have a special girly time together.

I know it's not an academic area but I still want to record that Jeff suggested we let Joshua watch Play School at 3pm each day and so far, he's really getting into it, singing and dancing along. The others are napping then, but it's a convenient time for them to wake up if they hear the TV on, and if not, they don't miss it anyway.

Another highlight of our week included watching Samuel become a proficient walker. He's finally made the transition from crawling as his preferred mode of locomotion to walking pretty much everywhere, legs out, hands often in the air or carrying something. Like all the others at this stage, he's developed a sudden admiration for small play handbags (purses). Here he is about to enjoy the classically Australian summer delight of playing under the sprinkler:Samuel loved having his Grandpa visit and I must say I appreciated having someone else on cuddle duty:So that was our week. I hope yours went well also.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Why not have another?

Nicole from 168 Hours (another Christian Australian blogger) just posted about explaining her "theology of family" to a single, childless friend. An excerpt:

I think in this culture, in this generation, this is one way in which we will find ourselves looking more and more different from the society around us, with its individualism and its anxious pursuit of career and money. (Unless we just conform to our society's values and look no different!)

And I think we need to not only live differently in this respect, but also to be able to explain why we live differently - not reinforcing the prejudices of our culture by talking about our kids as if they were an imposition and an interruption that we are keen to minimise (so we can get back to the important things!), but explaining our lives in a way that reveals something about the God we believe in.

She really got me thinking, because most of our single friends are really kind and loving with our kids, listening to them (even when they are so excited they can hardly talk straight), joining in with some of their odd games, inviting us and them along to whatever social thingy is happening, and even (a few of them) offering to babysit. With our four kids all still under five, this is a big offer! And most of my married friends are currently pregnant, one with her fourth and two with their fifth. (Actually, R's baby is due today... praying for you R!) So I don't run into the "why on earth would you have kids?" questioning too often.

I admit, for a while after we were married and bought a house, we had plans to just pay another few years off our mortgage before we had kids. That was, until my sister-in-law Kim asked me how long we were going to wait, and we realised that our 3 years or 5 years or whatever off the mortgage was really just arbitrary. We knew we wanted kids, so we decided to start trying pretty much right then. Joshua was born 13 months later.

Actually, the decision that took much more effort was deciding to stop having more children. After Jeff & I had Joshua, we fell in love with him and asked eachother, "Why not have another?" So we had Anna 14 months later. And fell in love with her and asked eachother, "Why not have another?" So we had Abigail 13 months later. And fell in love with her and asked eachother, "Why not have another?" So we had Samuel 18 months later. And fell in love with him...

But in between Abigail and Samuel, we sold our house, moved states and Jeff started studying at Theological College, and we knew that only two years after Samuel was born, Jeff would be beginning a new job (God-willing) as a church minister. Now it is a big job being a homemaking, homeschooling mum to four kids. My job is going to get even bigger when I'm being a "suitable helper" to a minister, rather than just a theology student. Also, I pretty much sleep through most of my pregnancies, not through laziness but through sheer exhaustion. As in, I was sleeping 12 hours a day for the first and third trimesters with Samuel; if the three big kids were asleep, so was I. So it just seemed like it wouldn't be a wise, godly decision to have any more kids, if we were to be responsible in our present commitments before God. It took a long time (pretty much my entire pregnancy with Samuel), but we finally both agreed that we already knew the answer to the question, "Why not have another?". The answer was, "Because God is calling us to be more than just parents, and we need to be free to do what He wants, including parenting these kids well. And we wouldn't be able to do that if we spread ourselves thinner with another child.

So that's why we only have four.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Thumb sucking


This morning I had to lance Samuel's second pus-filled blister on his thumb. It is definitely time to stop this thumb-sucking business once and for all. But I have no idea how. Well, I do have one idea, but Jeff says rubbing raw chillis on Samuel's thumb needs to be a last resort. It was all so much easier with the other three who had dummies which I just threw out, but I can't exactly throw out a thumb, can I?

So I need some ideas. Anyone who has some experience, can you please leave a comment and let me know what you did to stop this habit? TIA!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Some homeschooling advice

A collection of quotes from A Survivor's Guide to Home Schooling by Luanne Shackelford and Susan White:

It is wise to plan ahead, but foolish to announce what you will do in the future (cf James 4:13-14).

As I look at my life, I see that there are some things that can only be done now, if they are to be done at all, and that there are other things that can wait until later. ... Many things can wait, but kids grow up. ... In order to lead a productive life we must learn to do our work before we play. How can we tell our kids that they must get their schoolwork done before they can play if we sit in a messy house so intent on our hobbies that we forget to fix dinner?

[A] good secular textbook is better than a lousy "Christian" textbook. Truth is truth, no matter who says it, and poor teaching in still poor, even when sprinkled with Bible verses. ... "If you think education is expensive, you should try ignorance." ... Buy only for your present needs. ... Buy foundational materials ('readin', 'ritin', and 'rithmetic) first. ... An item is only as valuable as the amount of use it receives.

It is very important for them to see that the external events of the history are the symptoms of spiritual and moral battles in the hearts of people living as nations. ... In the foundational areas of reading, writing, and math, we need to make sure that our kids are proficient.

After all, illiteracy is the primary cause of poverty, crime, delinquency, and disease, right? Well, no. Sin is the cause of most of that, but reading is important. ... No philosophy or method of man, no matter how wonderful, is perfect. Only the Word of God applies to every person in every situation. ... You must teach your child the multiplication tables! I know of no other way to accomplish this without rote memorisation.

Obedience involves doing the will of another whop has authority in your life. ... It is our job to make them obey us (parent control) until they learn to choose to obey us (self-control) and then learn to choose to obey the Lord (God control). ... Figure out the things that are important right now and work on those. ... It is important that [a] spanking be the consequence of the child's disobedience, not the fruit of the parents' wrath. ... [eg] RULE: OBEY YOUR MUM AND DAD. CONSEQUENCE: Loss of privilege or an added job. If defiance or rebellion is involved, swats will be given. ... If your children don't obey you, you will have a hard time teaching them. ... "Because I said so, and I'm the mother!" is a good reason for a child to do his reading assignment. ... Do not spank for picky little stuff, and don't reward for normal good behavior. ... [egs] Sloppy work must be redone. Incorrect problems must be reworked until correct. ... School doesn't have to be fun, it just has to be done! ... If this child needs external motivation, you are there to provide it. You are not a gailure if you can't make him love every minute of schoolwork, or love any of it for that matter. Your job is not to win a popularity contest, but rather to teach your kids what they need to know in order to be productive adults. If this home-taught child reaches age thirteen and he still can't read well, multiply or follow directions, you have blown it. The fact that the public schools have that kind of results often is no excuse. ... I think that often we homeschool moms make things too easy for our kids by answering too many questions. We need to make it worthwhile for the kids to think and work. ... We must be careful not to foster laziness and dependency. ... The methods you use to accomplish these tasks should be kind, reasonable, and firm. Basically, the techniques for getting children to do what they are not willing to do are the same, whether the issue is household chores or schoolwork.

Any time you set a goal that requires another individual's efforts, cooperation, participation, or enthusiasm, you are setting yourself up for problems. ... Our own obedience to God is an obtainable goal; our children's obedience is not. They are free moral agents and will stand or fall before God alone, just as we will. ... We have to do our very best, and then let God do the rest.

I hope these titbits are as helpful and encouraging to you as they are to me.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Weekly Report 2008:2

We started back into school this week, at least part of the way. I plan to add in a subject or two each week until we are fitting it all in about the time institutional schools are opening their doors to students. This will, I hope, make it a little easier on both me (as I tweak the daily schedule) and the kids (as they get used to holding pencils again because Teacher Mum said so, rather than because they chose to do it.) This week I added in Language Arts - well, at this level it's just basic reading skills and penmanship.

We've already been keeping steady with Circle Time almost every week day. We are back into memorising some verses that I have chosen from our daily Bible story. We recite our verses, read a new story and then have a prayer that includes an application from the story and the kids colour a picture related to the story. Jeff's been leading while he's not at college, but I will be doing it most days when he's back to the grind in a few weeks. This week we were hearing about the start of Jesus' ministry, so our memory verses were Luke 3:21-22 (Jesus' baptism) and, since that was learnt so quickly, we've already started learning Mark 1:17-18 (Jesus calls Simon and Andrew to follow him). The kids are amazing me at how fast they are learning these verses, especially since they often don't say anything aloud when I read them out, until, after a few days, they just join in with me suddenly and show that they know every single word.

As I did last year, this year I began with a single task for their first day: Joshua and Anna had to do a self portrait to go on the front of their school folders for the rest of the year. Below is Joshua's self portrait, of himself as Rescue Man. Notice the initials embalzoned on his chest, the army hat and (for me the most impressive) the yellow cape with green stars and a green wallaby - that's the Wallabies flag that Joshua drapes over himself.Just for a comparison to reality, here's a photo:Now here is Anna's self portrait. She's wearing her new favourite pink dress with red flowers. I think there's something odd about the hair but I didn't want to ask her why it was like that. I was afraid her self image has been scarred for life by the prolonged after effects of the two haircuts she got last year from people under the age of five (ie her big brother, the first time and herself, the second).On a more positive note, this picture comes with a caption: "I'm holding some round things in my hands that Samuel threw out of his playpen. I've picked them up to give back to him because I love him and he's my baby brother."

The rest of the week went well, if I could only ignore all the whinging and whining. Actually, after a little copy cat complaining on Tuesday, Anna settled right in to her alphabet penmanship lessons (tracing five upper and five lower case examples of one new letter each day). Joshua was not so easily persuaded that this was going to happen whether he wanted it to, or not. But he did all his work each day (read and trace one primarily-CVC Basic Code sentence), and sooner or later he's going to realise that he'll get more time to play afterward if he spends less time off in a bedroom listening to himself complain. Hopefully sooner, rather than later. Anyway, it must have gone okay because I've just agreed to have one of his friends over for Monday morning - and the friend will be joining us for Circle Time and Language Arts.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Anyone for a gimmick?

I have to preface this post by saying that this is not the college that Jeff attends.

Along with our most recently mailed Koorong catalogue, we received a postcard sized advert for Harvest Bible College. Here is the front of the postcard: If it wasn't for the words "Bible College" in the tiniest font below the icon, I would have assumed that "harvest" was possibly some sort of Fine Arts college. Why are all these people dancing or trampolining, or whatever it is that they are doing, instead of studying? Well, the gimmick gives the answer:
Yes, if you enrol at this college as a full-time student this year, you'll get an iPod for free. Hmmm... maybe there are reasons other than a call from God on one's life that might bring one to a Bible College. Never considered that!

PS, the web address included in this image is incorrect (it links to a presumably affiliated - or not - church). I've linked to the correct one found lower down on the back of the postcard; you'd think they'd at least get their own web address right.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Curriculum for Me

I was musing to Jeff the other day about what books I'd like to put on my birthday wish list and he suggested I needed to read some of what we have on our shelves already before I get any more. Last year we purchased the complete set of Great Books of the Western World (ed Mortimer J Adler) and so far I've read only five chapters of The Iliad and not much else. So now that Jeff's flung down the gauntlet, I've put some thought into what I actually want to read. I also considered works included in Louise Cowan and Os Guinness's Invitation to the Classics. So here's my classics* reading list for the next year, and the year after that, and... you get the picture!
One chapter a day from The Bible

19th Century Authors
(Aside: I read the complete works of Jane Austen in 2006, but I'm sure I'll read them again.)
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
Villette by Charlotte Bronte
The Life of Charlotte Bronte and Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
Great Expectations, David Copperfield and possibly others by Charles Dickens (I read Oliver Twist and The Pickwick Papers in 2007)
(Maybe) Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Philosophy of Education
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke
(Maybe) The Principles of Human Knowledge by George Berkeley
(Maybe) An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume

Ancient Authors
(I'd like to get back to) The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer
The Aeneid by Virgil
History of the Persian Wars by Herodotus
The Antiquities of the Jews and The Wars of the Jews by Flavius Josephus
The Didache
The Church History by Eusebius
The Confessions and On Christian Doctrine by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo

Medieval Authors
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The Canterbury Tales
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

Authors from the Age of Reformation and After
Utopia by Thomas More
The Babylonian Captivity of the Church by Martin Luther
Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
Hamlet, King Lear and The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Paradise Lost and (maybe) Paradise Regained by John Milton
The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

After learning a (very) little bit of XHTML, I've made this into a list for my sidebar which I can strikethrough as I progress through the list. Not sure how fast that'll be happening though!

* I will be reading other stuff! Sometimes my brain just needs a rest.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Agnes Grey vs Jane Eyre

It's shorter, simpler, sweeter... and I like it a whole lot better! I enjoyed reading Agnes Grey even more the second time around, even though the first time was only a year or two ago.

As an ex-school teacher, I got a kick out of Anne Bronte's comments in Agnes Grey about parenting and discipline, behaviour management for teachers, the relationship between authority and responsibility, etc. They make Agnes Grey a fascinating portrayal of the situation of a governess in the 1800s; and an intriguing comparison to the situation many teachers face in schools in the Western world today. I remember vividly the emotional exhaustion felt after a day, a week, a month of "teaching" classes of children who did not want to be taught. Agnes's struggle to teach anything to children over whom she is allowed not one shred of control is described realistically and, I felt, with honesty as to the personal frustrations of such situations:

"Patience, Firmness, and Perseverance were my only weapons; and these I resolved to use to the utmost. ... By these means I hoped, in time, both to benefit the children, and to gain the approbation of their parents; and, also, to convince my friends at home that I was not so wanting in skill and prudence as they supposed. I knew the difficulties I had to contend with were great; but I knew (at least I believed), unremitting patience and perseverance could overcome them; and night and morning I implored Divine assistance to this end. But either the children were so incorrigible, the parents so unreasonable, or myself so mistaken in my views, or so unable to carry them out, that my best intentions and most strenuous efforts seemed productive of no better result than sport to the children, dissatisfaction to their parents, and torment to myself." (Ch III)

Anne's portrayal of Agnes is far more sympathetic than Charlotte's Jane, and Agnes actually ends up with a man who is her moral and spiritual match, which is a delightful improvement. Agnes's employment and locations lack the gothic drama of Jane's, and are much more believeable (for me) because of it. Anne's subplot of Miss Rosalie Murray's marriage for money is wound up in a very satisfying way - despite the inherent sadness of just desserts. Charlotte also chose to include final details of the secondary character St John River's missionary activities in India, but with a somewhat more forced delivery, in my opinion.

Now I am looking forward to reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, to see what intrigues this sister has in store for me. Despite the popularity of movie (etc) portrayals of Wuthering Heights, I have no idea of the story, but I am looking forward to it if only because in the Introduction to Agnes Grey I read of Charlotte Bronte's critical response to it. I am also looking forward to Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which Charlotte apparently disapproved of most heartily.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Our little super heroes

For the last evening of Inters Camp, the campers had a "Special Night" (gotta love the original name.) All the campers dressed as a superhero. We got into the spirit as well, and I put together some outfits for the kids.

Joshua as Rescue Man: Anna as Pollyanna Whittier:
Abigail as a Fairy:
Samuel as Dribble Boy:
And here we all are, the Super J******s!
Jeff got home this afternoon, and I'm still not sure whether he would prefer to deal with 102 teenage campers or 4 very excited preschoolers. Hmmm... which would you prefer?

Sunday, 6 January 2008

I tried hard not to laugh

This morning in Sunday Club the teacher asked the children if they knew "What is the special name of the type of stories that Jesus told?" After some wrong answers from older children in the group, Joshua piped up with his answer:


Saturday, 5 January 2008

Weekly Report 2008:1

This has been our last week of Summer Holidays, because although the official school year doesn't start in Australia until February, I want to take advantage of Jeff's last few weeks at home to move smoothly (I hope!) into our homeschooling schedule. Through the holidays I've kept up our Read Alouds and we've been doing Circle Time (Bible Story, Family Prayer, Memory Verses and Singing) for the past month. The plan is to start back into reading and penmanship next week, add mathematics the week after that, stay steady for a week, then add in geography and science the week before Jeff goes back to Theological College for the last year of his MDiv.

Jeff's been away at Inters Camp, so we've spent lots of time enjoying new Christmas toys and just mooching around. I did a big shop before Jeff left for camp so I've only taken all four kids to the shops once, and that was to buy something Jeff needed at camp. Amazingly, I've kept up with daily Circle Time, and only missed two days of Thomas the Tank Engine stories.

We're reading one of the original Thomas books each night; each book has four short stories, and each book features a different engine. Today we read about how Toby the Tram Engine came to Sodor, which is a sweet tale of rescue from a fate worse than death (in train engine terms) - he was No Longer Useful on his home line, until the Fat Controller found a place for him, helping Thomas. Joshua really loves these train stories. I know a lot of young boys do - certainly most of Joshua's friends fall into this category. For me, I just love having my big boy crawl up into my lap for a cuddle together as we read.

Yesterday we picked up Anna's godfather D, who was in Perth (from Darwin - meanwhile his wife M and two daughters were dealing with a small cyclone last night) also to speak at a conference, coincidentally. We took D with us to Inters camp for a swim and chat with Jeff, sharing the communal dinner and then listening to Jeff speak before I took D back to the YWAM base and my weary children home.

Some photos of Anna and "Uncle D":
* Joshua and Samuel were a hit with the campers:
(There's that thumb and ear thing happening again.)

Abi enjoying D's mobile phone:
And the highlight of our visit was our beloved Daddy:* D makes Jeff look fascinating, doesn't he?It was wonderful to see D again after two years, to catch up on news of eachother's families, and to let Anna get to know her godfather a little bit more.

* I've worked out how to blur a selection of an image in Adobe Photoshop, so I've done that with the campers faces. Keeping anonymity but, I hope, not making the pics look too odd.

Friday, 4 January 2008

One for the Darwin awards

[Warning: Not my usual type of post, this may offend some readers.]

Only two days into 2008 Perth already has a contender for the Annual Darwin Awards:

Man, 20, breaks neck on tragic pool accident

A 20-year-old C-- man has died after breaking his neck in a horrific backyard accident last night. Police were called to the A-- Road house about 6:30pm after the man's parents came home to find him face-down in the family swimming pool. It is understood the man had climbed a backyard fence to dive into the pool when he slipped and hit his head on the edge of the pool in the fall. The force of the impact broke his neck.

From p7 of The West Australian Thursday, January 3, 2008

I know it was hot yesterday (we went for a swim, too) but this takes the cake for stupidity. Did this man never read Silly Billy stories as a kid?

Thursday, 3 January 2008

This feels odd

Today after two false starts (when I forgot the petrol voucher and also the map) I took the kids to visit their Daddy at the Baptist "Inters Camp" at which he is the speaker. This was a very odd feeling.

My husband is the speaker (they're even paying him!) at a camp for teenagers. Why does this feel wierd? Because I used to go to Christian youth camps, when I was a teenager. I used to think the speakers must be so wonderful, like, really, cool, ya know? And here is my husband doing the whole speaking thing! It is just totally freaking me out.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Granny popped in for a visit

And doesn't she love her littlest boy, who walked 18 steps across the lounge room while she was here (!! - his previous record was 5 steps at one time).

Here he is demonstrating his classic pose; left thumb in mouth, right hand on ear: He was happy to see her, especially when she fed him dinner:
He told her "Dank Doo" ("Thank You") for feeding him dinner:He showed her how well he can drink from a big kid cup:
And he kissed her on the lips with proper kisses:Aawww!