Thursday, 27 March 2008

My best advice Pt 2

For the first installment, see here.

2. Cooking:
~ Do not cook breakfast. Unless you are happy to get up at 5am, and probably even then, it is a waste of your time and energy. There are a lot of nutritious cereals out there that only require you pour the cereal and add milk. Until the kids can get their own breakfast and clean up any mess they make doing it, cereal is the only option they need. You can always add a little fruit or yoghurt to make each day's cereal that little bit different. (We do have "special breakfasts" at our house once a week or less often - pancakes or bacon & eggs - Jeff does the cooking and lets me sleep in until it's time to eat, but I have to wipe up the sticky or greasy faces!)

~ Unless you are reheating leftovers, do not cook lunch. Unless you really love cooking, and probably even then, it is a waste of your time and energy. Or maybe if you live some place that is very cold and you need to warm up your kids from the inside out. We have about three options for lunch if we're at home: sandwiches with cheese and peanut butter (my husband tells me this is a crazy combination but I grew up with it and think it is normal - you could always try vegemite instead); sandwiches with cheese and cold sliced meat and if I'm feeling really generous a slice or two of tomato or cucumber or a lettuce leaf or something; or baked beans with grated cheese (in the summer the kids eat these cold, in the winter I heat the beans and mix in frozen grated spinach). If we go in to Jeff at college for lunch, we sometimes buy something from a bakery (sushi is also a special favourite) or Jeff makes a tuna and salad sandwich for us from his lunch supplies.

~ Work out what evenings you need to have a very easy, quick meal (for us it's Tuesdays when Jeff is out leading a Bible study, Wednesdays when we go to our couple's Bible study straight after dinner and Fridays when Jeff takes Joshua to Karate). On these nights, don't attempt anything more difficult than reheating leftovers or baking frozen fish fingers/chicken nuggets in the oven and microwaving frozen vegetables. Take-away is an expensive but no-brain option, especially if your husband collects it on his way home from work.

~ Divide the other evenings into those when you would like to prepare something more special and know you will have the time (maybe only once or twice a week), and those evenings when you'd just like to get something nourishing and reasonably edible on the table. Draw up a list of meals that fit into these categories.

~ I have two meal lists, one for summer with lots of BBQ style meals and one for winter with more pasta dishes and soups. On my summer meal list I have things like "Lemon Pepper Lamb steaks with Peach, Baby Spinach, Pine Nut and Proscuitto salad" and "Portuguese Chicken Burgers" for the special dinners - they take 30min or less to get serves for six on the table, now that I've done them a few times, but taste great because of quick but delicious marinades. On my winter meal list I have things like the weekend staple "Lamb roast with garlic, rosemary and sea salt seasoning and roast vegetables" and "Beef Mince with (tinned) Tomato, Basil, Mushrooms and Eggplant over Spagetti" (although I have to admit I overdid that one last winter and am banned from cooking eggplant until September this year). If a meal gets good comments from my husband, I make sure I keep the recipe and it goes on my meal list.
~ Make up a one-week menu from this meal list. Then write a shopping list for these meals only. Buy fruit and milk all the other stuff you need as well, of course. For example, this is my menu for the last week, including the Easter weekend:
Maundy Thursday:
b'fast: weetbix and milk, water to drink.
lunch: cheese and sliced ham sandwich, fruit, water to drink.
dinner: lamb roast with microwaved corn on the cob, broccoli and turkish bread, water to drink - we were meant to have red grape juice but I forgot to put it on the shopping list.
Easter Friday:
b'fast: weetbix and milk, water to drink.
lunch: bakery leftovers courtesy of our church, fruit, water to drink.
afternoon tea: solid chocolate eggs (metaphorically full of sin).
dinner: sword fish steaks coated in flour and panfried, microwaved frozen vegetables (carrots, peas and corn), water to drink.
Easter Saturday:
b'fast: weetbix and milk, water to drink.
lunch: BBQ for Great-granny's 91st birthday to which I brought a hot potato salad (which I do for practically every BBQ we go to).

dinner: leftovers from lunch, water to drink.
Easter Sunday:
b'fast: pancakes with golden syrup, water to drink.
morning tea: hollow chocolate eggs (metaphorically an empty tomb).
lunch: bread rolls with salami, sliced cheese and salad leaves, juice, bakery treat.
afternoon tea: hollow chocolate eggs.
dinner: (with friends) BBQ lamb sausages and morroccan spiced lamb steaks (THANKS GRANNY FOR THE HOME RAISED THREE SHEEP AND HALF A COW IN OUR FREEZER!) with tossed garden salad and soft drink for the adults.
b'fast: weetbix and milk with a dollop of yoghurt, water to drink.
lunch: (I was really lazy) take away hamburgers and chips, water to drink.

dinner: Portuguese chicken burgers, water to drink.
b'fast: weetbix and milk with a few slices of canned peach, water to drink.
lunch: cheese and peanut butter sandwich, fruit, water to drink.

dinner: (with Jeff at college) toasted bread with cheese, salami and tomato, hot cross buns, water to drink.
b'fast: weetbix and milk, water to drink.
lunch: (at Kings Park with friends) cheese & bacon bread roll, fruit, bakery treat shared between four, water to drink.

dinner: take away pizza, water to drink.

~ Do a slightly different one-week menu each week for a month or so and see how it works out. Once you feel it is working well, consider shopping for a fortnight (or longer) at a time, or just writing out three or four weeks' menus with their shopping lists and photocopying them and then just rotating through them. When it comes time to shop, check to make sure there's nothing very unusual happening this week, and otherwise go with the pre-planned menu.

~ Start making up a list of things you need to buy regularly (every week or less often) such as milk, detergent and toothbrushes and check this list before you head off to shop for your meal list items. Also, when you run out of a spice or dry herb (eg chilli flakes or dill) or a pantry staple (eg spiralli pasta or honey), add it to next week's shopping list straight away, so you don't forget.

~ Keep the meal list and shopping lists as your tools, not your masters.

I'll post on cleaning ASAP - but be warned, I'm not the cleanest person I know!

Joshua never ceases to amaze me

This evening because Jeff had to study late at college, we went in to have dinner with him. When we got home, I hurried the kids off to bed but had to do a bit of doctoring on Anna's blistered heel. She was wincing and whining so Joshua came in to console her. He told her he'd tell her about Jesus.

So I sat on the bed, prolonging the medical necessities so I could listen to my 5yo boy catechise his almost 4yo sister.

Joshua: "Well. Ahumm. Let me tell you about Jesus. Jesus is God's Son and He's the boss and we should obey him. Did you know that Jesus died on the cross for your sins?"

Anna: "Yes, I know that Jesus died on the cross for my sins."

Joshua: "Well, did you know that we are Jesus' sheep and Jesus is our ... what is that word again, Mummy?"

Me: "Shepherd. Jesus loves us and cares for us like a shepherd loves and cares for his sheep."

Joshua: "Did you know that Jesus wants to be your shepherd and look after you?"

Anna: "Yes, I know that."

Joshua: "Now Anna. Ahumm. Do you want to love and obey Jesus and be a Christian?"

Anna: "Sometimes I love Jesus and sometimes I think 'I hate Jesus'." [Anna's very honest!]

Me: "That's what sin is, Anna, when we don't want to love or obey God."

Anna: (clasping hands) "Yes and I pray to God and say 'sorry for thinking I hate Jesus' and ask Him to forgive me."

Joshua: "So you're called a Christian now, Anna, like me. Mummy, can you wash my feet now, too?"

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

My best advice Pt 1

The kids and I just came home from a fantastic lunch and afternoon play at Synergy Parkland in Kings Park with a friend and her sons from BSF. The kids roamed over Lycopod Island and its fort and then we moved them on to the Aurthur Fairall playground where they ran up and down the Windy Walkway pretending to hunt crocodiles and rhinoceroses.

Meanwhile P and I chatted about life in Australia and how different it is from the life she was used to in South Africa, where she immigrated from 15 months ago. I've been married for about 7 and a half years, I have four kids all still under compulsory schooling age, and I have learnt a lot in this short time. My experience has been very different to my friend's, who before she immigrated here had two or three maids plus an au pair. So we shared adice, and I thought of some more one the way home but before I post it I have to admit, I haven't learnt everything! I still don't notice every single crayon that is left by the girls on the lounge room floor, right where Samuel's playpen goes, as the following shows (I took this five minutes ago):

So with that admission, here's my best advice:

Look at mothering and homemaking etc as a job. Spend time working out systems to make this job more efficient. This will almost certainly include asking for advice from more experienced wives and mothers, and reading advice from others in books and web sites. Consider this essential "professional development"! But don't stop at listening to and reading advice - get in there and start practicing what you have learnt.

This job has three core tasks, the 3 Cs: caring, cooking and cleaning.

1a. Caring for your husband:
~ The Bible says "the wife must respect her husband" (Ephesians 5:33) and wives should "love their husbands" (Titus 2:4); these two things are how a wife cares for her husband. Work out good ways to show your husband that you respect and love him. Men are all different, but all husbands need to be secure in the respect of their wives, knowing that they are held in high esteem by the woman who is closest to them. Obedient submission to one's own husband is a very clear way of demonstrating respect. So too is encouragement rather than disparagement, when speaking about your husband's ideas and actions with him or with other people; do not ever gossip about your husband! We show love through speech and service. A wife should tell her husband she loves him ("I love you", "I am proud of you for...", "I really appreciate that you...") and also show him (be eager to spend time with him, be hospitable to his friends, know his tastes and plan your dress and activities accordingly, be diligent in your wifely and household responsibilities, write him notes or give him gifts as you are able, hug and kiss him, make love willingly and well).

1b. Caring for your children:
~The Bible also tells women to "love their children" (Titus 2:4). Again, we show love through speech and service. A mother should tell her children she loves them openly and often. A mother should also show her children that she loves them with her actions. This means cuddling and kisses and spending time playing with them, and it also means discipling them carefully in the way of the LORD, bringing them up in the right way but not exasperating them by demanding too much or expecting too little (Ephesians 6:4). The best way of doing this (that I have found) is through a structured, planned routine. A mother needs to pay careful attention to each of her children to observe their interests, appreciate their abilities and identify their weaknesses and needs and then plan for their days and weeks accordingly. When will you spend time together? What will you do with them? What will they do on their own? What will you teach them skills and attitudes as well as knowledge? How will you bring them up to fear and love the LORD? How will you teach them? (and these are not just questions for homeschooling mums, they are for every mother who knows she will make an impact in her child's life and wants it to be a positive one.)

2. Cooking and 3. Cleaning: I'll post these ASAP, maybe tomorrow.

Weekly Reports 2008:10,11&12

All our other areas of kindy (literacy, literature, etc) are just going on as they were, so I thought I'd just write about what we've done in science and maths for the last few weeks.

After we studied dinosaurs, we spent some time with African animals (the desert and savannah animals, your classic staple at the zoo) and lately we've been reading up on animals of the seas. We read a few books from the library on animals from these categories, and Joshua has done some sort of oral narration for each. The one on African animals had a sentence or three on each of the animals he could remember:

Giraffes have really long necks and they reach up to the sky. They stretch their necks to eat the highest leaves.
Elephants just knock you over with their trunks. They swing their trunks at you and they hoon you up with their trunks. Elephants are humongous, like the grey one which is so tall it reaches up to a giraffe’s neck.
Lions can eat you up. Lions roar so everyone knows they are there in their territory. We read a story about a lion that was in a shop. The lion got kept in a cage. His owners brought him back to his country. There was another lion which he had to bow to, because he was showing him that he knew the other lion was the boss.
Leopards lie down up in trees. They have spots.
Fast Cheetahs are called “Duma” [in Swahili]. They pounce on something to catch it to eat it.
Zebras can leap very fast to safety from fast cheetahs. Zebras can have brown or black and white stripes.
Gazelles can leap. Gazelles look a bit like antelopes. They have horns with round circles on them.
Rhinoceroses have got horns on them which can be used to hurt people. They have thick hard skin.
Hippopotamuses can chomp you in one gulp! They are very strong and they live in muddy places with lots of water.
Meerkats live in hot dry sandy places called deserts.

I already posted Joshua's book on whales, and he was enthusiastic to do one on sharks also, I think he'll be finished that by the end of this week.

Some examples of fiction books we read aloud (yet again) during our study on African animals:
The Lion's Paw by Jane Werner Watson illus by Gustaf Tenggren
How the Zebra Got Its Stripes Tales From Around the World by Justine and Ron Fontes illus by Peter Grosshauser
Tawny Scrawny Lion by Kathryn Jackson illus by Gustaf Tenggren
all of these are Little Golden Books from our family shelves, just in case you didn't recognise the titles.

A sample list of non-fiction books from our study of Sea creatures:
Blue Whale by Rod Theodorou
Sea Anemones by Lola Schaefer (I've been saying "anenomes" all my life - now I know better)
I Love Sharks by Steve Parker illus John Butler
Little Penguin by Greg Pyers
Seagull by Stephen Savage illus Andre Boos

We thought about going to the zoo for a visit after we studied the African animals, but somehow it didn't happened. However, as a treat after this study, this Saturday we're going to visit the Aquarium of Western Australia, which is handily only a few suburbs away. Oh, and we also watched Finding Nemo on Monday (a public holiday). Now Joshua keeps asking me at odd times, "Mum, are fish really friends not food?"

We've taking a fortnight's break from Singapore Earlybird Maths 2A to do some maths manipulative play, using a new acquisition, Maths Mastermind Starter Level which I finally bought on a very special sale from my friend Mrs T who is a Total Learning sales person, for only $10 (normally around $35). It includes a variety of manipulatives (flat foam shapes, coloured and shaped beads, coloured cubes which connect on all six sides, a spinner, etc, with an activity book with 62 ideas for things to do with the materials which build the kids visual and spatial skills, as well as giving them practise with fine motor skills and other more specifically mathematical skills. This is giving us a great break from the activity and workbook task of Singapore Maths, which we'll be back into next week.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Our school photo

I finished ironing on the school logo transfers on Saturday night, so Granny could see them before she left to go back to the farm. Having washed their t-shirts, the kids and I had a lot of fun taking our homeschool school photo today. This first one was taken early on but Anna had her tongue poking out.

And this one wasn't even close!
We took some time out to fool around:
And at last we got a homeschool school photo that I am really pleased with.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Reflections on Gigi

This weekend I watched the movie Gigi, which is (as I found reading the credits) based on a novel by the French author Colette. I read a few books by Colette back in my wilder years and frankly I wouldn't recommend them to anyone - "disippated" is, I think, the best description. However, I wasn't planning on watching the movie with my kids, and I assumed the movie-making people would have toned down the sexual references quite a bit (as I am sure they did, although I have not read the novel and don't wish to, so I cannot compare fairly). It's rated G, and I would have given it at least a PG, if not an M, but then perhaps an entire plot revolving around sexual liasons between man and mistress with a central character who attempts to commit suicide is not enough to get that rating nowadays - or maybe the ratings people were fooled by the fact that Gigi is a musical from 1958. Yet the climax and ending of the movie provide some poignant lessons which ring true in light of today's lax sexual morality.

According to the blurb on the DVD case, "A home, a motorcar, servants, the latest fashions: the most eligible and most finicky bachelor in Paris offers them all to Gigi. But she, who's gone from girlish gawkishness to cultured glamour before our eyes, yearns for that wonderful something money can't buy." How has Gigi been transformed? Through the careful grooming in the wiles of a courtesan, taught to her by her great aunt, who was herself a "successful" serial mistress but is now a rich recluse, who has only her valuable jewels, gifts from erstwhile lovers, to comfort her in her age. In what context is Gigi offerred these materialistic delights? Gigi must agree to enter into a relationship with Gaston which, as Gigi states frankly, centres on her willingness to go to bed with him.

With the willing encouragement of Gigi's great aunt and grandmother, Gigi is offered to Gaston as his plaything (for the price of "gifts" of jewels) until he becomes annoyed, or bored, or interested by someone else, at which time she will be cast off. And yet Gaston has the gall to declare to Gigi that he wants her to be his mistress because he loves her. Gigi responds with complete outrage. If he loves her, she asks him, how can he desire her to enter this horrible, miserable life? Gigi's great aunt complains to her gradmother that she taught her too much of the negative and not enough of the benefits of life as a mistress - Gigi's grandmother (who lives in poverty) declares she doesn't know anything of the delights the great aunt speaks of.

Yet after thinking a while, Gigi calls for Gaston to announce, "I would rather be miserable with you than miserable without you." The new couple heads off for a night on the town, to culminate in... except it doesn't, because Gaston returns Gigi to her grandmother precipitately and in a fit of conscience (?) asks formally for Gigi's hand in marriage.

This movie shows exactly the situation many young women find themselves in today. Today, women are put into a position where, if they are to have any relationship with a semblance of romantic love, they must enter into a sexual relationship with no security. Often, these young women settle for the miserable, insecure life of a series of long term monogamous sexual relationships, some of which may offer the facsimile of marriage through sharing accommodation, a "defacto" marriage - one that looks from the outside like a real marriage (because the two people share a house and a bed) but on the inside has none of the loving, caring, giving and self-sacrifice of a good marriage. Defacto marriages today, like the arrangements between man and mistress portrayed in Gigi, are purely selfish contracts, entered into in order for each party to obtain the maximum they feel they can get. For the man, they offer freely available sexual relations; for the woman, a shadow of love through the regular presence of the man in her life. The saddest thing is that in a society where the secure bond of true marriage, sanctioned by the law, is denied to women, women will willingly enter a "defacto" marriage, just as Gigi chose, because this is the best they can get. It's a long way from "that wonderful something that money can't buy."

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Books by Elizabeth Gaskell

I finished reading North and South back in February and I completed Wives and Daughters last week. I thoroughly enjoyed both of these books, and I would heartily recommend them to others.

North and South is a discussion of employer-employee relations embedded in the story of a young woman (Margaret Hale) whose middle-class family suddenly moves to the industrial town of Milton, where her father finds a job as classics tutor to the local mill-owner Mr John Thornton. Margaret befriends a working family and her views on the situation of the working poor and their employers change as she finds herself witnessing both sides of a strike.

Initially, Margaret held some pretty low views of working class people. But then, she hadn't ever really encountered any. She was just repeating what she had heard others in her social sphere saying. It was only when Margaret came to know Bessy, and through Bessy, her father Nicholas, that Margaret realised that those who work in trade are people just like those who worked the fields in Hampshire. As a consequence, she developed fresh but passionate views on the ideal relationship between employee and employer, which she argued over with increasing heat with Mr Thornton. The discussions of employee-employer relations in this book are fascinating despite having been written 150 years ago. There is much in this book to inspire discussion of today's workplace relations.

The novel also portrays the vast communication gulf between different circles of society - in particular the misunderstandings generated at almost every meeting between the Hale family and that of Mr Thornton. What one deems genteel, the other deems coarse, what one deems requisite, the other deems frivolous. This lack of understanding between the well-bred poor and the newly-rich traders extends also to the employees where it is exemplified in the standoff over the strike. In essence, this book is thus a tale of three vantagepoints on truth. As Nicholas Higgins explains to Mr Hale,
"There's two opinions go to settling that point. But suppose it was truth double strong, it were no truth to me if I couldna take it in. I daresay there's truth in yon Latin book on your shelves, but it's all gibberish and not truth to me, unless I know the meaning o' the words. If yo', sir, or any other knowledgeable, patient man come to me, and says he'll larn me what the words mean, and not blow me up if I'm a bit stupid, or forget how one thing hangs on another - why, in time I may get to see the truth of it; or I may not. I'll not be bound to say I shall end in thinking the same as any man. And I'm not one who think truth can be shaped out in words, all neat and clean, as th' men at th' foundry cut out sheet-iron. Same bones won't go down wi' every one. It'll stick here i' this man's throat, and there i' t'other's. Let alone that, when down, it may be too strong for this one, too weak for that. Folk who sets up to doctor th' world wi' their truth, mun suit different for different minds; and be a bit tender in th' way of giving it too, or th' poor sick fools may spit it out i' their faces."
Now there's advice for all those who seek to expose others to the truth: whether church preachers or home educators or any other teacher at all.

There is a romance in this book, although it hardly fulfils todays criteria for such. Feminist critics would have us understand that Gaskell was making a pro-feminist point in allowing Margaret to agree to marry her suitor only after she was able to gain monetary power over him. I disagree. Gaskell was at pains to describe the anguish Margaret felt when she thought that this man believed her to be a liar, and it was this anguish which at first prevented the relationship flourishing. Lying might be seen as a small sin by today's feminist critics, yet in the context of a novel which examines the nature of truth and its communication, the telling of lies is the perfect sin upon which to build a tension which echoes the misunderstandings of the far more prosaic industrial realm.

Wives and Daughters is also a tale about truth, but this time Gaskell set her story in a rural village, where a long-widowed doctor marries again for the sake of his almost-adult daughter, Molly Gibson, a paragon of honesty. The new Mrs Gibson is a master of appearances, and her daughter Cynthia is also hiding secrets.

In Wives and Daughters Gaskell takes a closer look at the ways we attempt to deceive others, describing in detail the machinations and manipulations of Mrs Gibson, who was attempting to marry her daughter Cynthia to the most eligible bachelor available. Cynthia was exposed as supremely selfish; she blamed her self-described inability to love on the lack of care from her mother during her childhood but was unwilling to show care for anyone else before herself.

Molly, by contrast, continually strove for the good of others, even to her own detriment. She kept others's secrets better than they did and was unwilling to expose others to shame even when it was clear they had acted improperly. Yet it was Molly who became fodder for the town's gossip-mongers when she tried to help her stepsister Cynthia out of an unwise romantic entanglement.

Wives and Daughters has less intense dialogue than North and South, yet it is no less powerful. In turning to a gentler setting, Gaskell has been able to make a powerful argument for the value of truth, by way of a tale of the dangers and folly of deceit.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Celebrating Easter

Celebrating Easter in our house isn't all about chocolate, although there is a fair bit of that delicious brown stuff floating around at the moment. Celebrating Easter is all about the sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ. Last year I wrote a post about our family's preparations for celebrating Christmas. This post is a description of how we are presently celebrating Easter.

Circle Time Bible stories
Amazingly, we have kept up with our Circle Time studies from the gospels so well that we are up to the Easter story at Easter time, as I had planned.
Monday following Palm Sunday - People welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem
Tuesday - Jesus cleared the Temple
Wednesday - Jesus commended the poor woman for her "small but big" gift to the Temple
Maundy Thursday - Jesus shared the last supper with his disciples
Easter Friday - Jesus was killed on the cross
Easter Saturday - no story: we're waiting to see what happened next, just like the disciples!
Easter Sunday - Jesus is risen! Mary, Peter and John saw the empty tomb and Jesus spoke to Mary in the garden

The next stories we will cover include:
Jesus and the disciples on the road to Emmaus
Jesus appeared to all the disciples except Thomas
Thomas believed when he saw Jesus
Jesus cooked breakfast on the beach and talked to Peter
Jesus gave the Great Commission to the disciples
Jesus went back to heaven (the Ascension)
God sent the Holy Spirit (Pentecost)

This plan would take us to the Ascension story well before we celebrate it with our church community, but somewhere in there we'll also spend a week or two just reviewing our memory verses from the life and ministry of Jesus. After Ascension, we'll be reading through selections from the Acts of the Apostles for the next few months with a week on the Revelation to John.

Circle Time memory verses
Our memory verses for the Easter period are:
Isaiah 53:6
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way,
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Acts 2:32a
God has raised this Jesus to life...
Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:3-5
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.

This might seem like a huge list of scriptures to memorise, but we already know the first three failry well through listening to some of the Christian kids' CDs we have, so they are mostly being refreshed. (I made sure I included these verse-based songs in the kids' Easter CD.)

Church Services
Easter Friday - We attended a morning service at our church. The kids stayed in for as long as they could keep from squirming, and then they went out and watched a cartoon Easter story DVD. Our minister and ministry candidate spoke about the seven recorded sayings of Jesus on the cross.
Easter Sunday - We'll be attending the regular morning service at our church. The kids will be in for the early part and then will go out for Sunday school, as they do usually.
I have a Catholic friend who'll be spending time at some more contemplative services this weekend and I'd really like to do this also, but little children don't always lend themselves to quiet church services, which is why we didn't attend the Maunday Thursday service at our church. Maybe we'll follow their example next year and swap turns between Jeff and I as to who goes to what.

And to help us celebrate, we have Granny visiting with us this weekend as well. She arrived yesterday and will leave on Monday. Today we all went for a splendid BBQ lunch to celebrate Jeff's grandmother's 91st birthday.

Festival Food
Maundy Thursday - we enjoyed roast lamb with veg and Turkish bread (is, unleavened bread). We had planned to have red grape juice to accompany the meal but I forgot to put it on the shopping list, so Jeff and I sipped fortified wine and the kids had water while Jeff told the kids about the first passover and explained why Jesus and his disciples were eating lamb and bread and drinking wine at the Last Supper.
Easter Friday - The traditional dinner of fish. We had sword fish which led to a lot of discussion among the children.
Easter Saturday - We had a big lunch but ordinarily I'd like us to be observing a limited fast. The presence of so much chocolate in the house has a way of overcoming the best of intentions, however! We'd just be having vegetable soup and bread rolls for lunch, if it wasn't for all the leftovers we were given after lunch.
Easter Sunday - Extra Special Celebratory Breakfast of pancakes and hollow chocolate eggs. Then for dinner we're having friends over for a BBQ with lamb steaks and lamb sausages (notice a theme here?) and salad.

And that's it.
Have a great Easter celebrating the death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ!

[image from stock.xchange]

Friday, 21 March 2008

An Easter CD for my kids

I just burnt a CD of Easter songs for my kids, since Joshua was wandering around singing "Easter Friday" for ages this afternoon. Here's the list:

1. Isaiah 53:5 We all like sheep from Baa Baa Doo Baa Baa - The Memory Verses! by Colin Buchanan
2. The Day from The King, the snake and the promise by Emu Music
3. Jesus Died For All the Children from A very very very big God by Emu Music
4. There's A Way Back To God / I See The Love from A very very very big God by Emu Music
5. What Sort of King from Meet the King by Emu Music
6. He Saved Me from Meet the King by Emu Music
7. Easter Friday from J is for Jesus by Emu Music
8. God Has Raised Jesus To Life (Acts 2:32) from A very very very big God by Emu Music
9. He Overflows with Love from J is for Jesus by Emu Music
10. Stick With Jesus from A very very very big God by Emu Music
11. Tell Them from Meet the King by Emu Music
12. Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin... from Baa Baa Doo Baa Baa - The Memory Verses! by Colin Buchanan

Now if only I could get organised and downloaded Audacity, I could have recorded myself saying 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 and we could have had all our Easter memory verses on the CD.

Some links:
Emu Music ~ Colin Buchanan

PS, because we own our own copies of these CDs, I am able to legally make a copy for use so long as I don't play both at the same time. Just so you know I'm being an honest lawabiding citizen :)

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Equip Academy Logo ready to go

Here's the final version to be printed onto green t-shirts as soon I can find the iron-on transfer printer paper. I am now a lot more proficient with Adobe Photoshop Elements.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Joshua's Whale Book

Killer whales have white spots behind their eyes and at the bottom of the tail and the face. The rest of their body is black. They have fins so they can swim and the funniest thing is they are smaller than other whales. They are smaller than a bus, especially they are not as long as the blue whale. The killer whale’s song sounds like high noises like whistles. Killer whales are also called Orcas.
The Humpback whale is a different whale. I think when it dives it has a hump on its back because it bends over. When it sings, its back is straight. It goes “ooooh”, called a Haunting song. They are about as big as a bus. It has very big flippers and they get crusty things growing on their skin. Humpback whales are a very strange animal; it is hard to describe them with the Blue whale because they are both blue.
The Blue whale opens its mouth wide when it gulps up sea water and krill. It pushes the water through its baleen plates and the krill stays on its plates to eat. They are humongous, longer than a bus. They are the biggest whale. Killer whales can kill little Blue whale calves. The Blue whales have to swim fast to get away or they could dive deep underwater. “Rumble, rumble” goes the Blue whale’s song, like a rumbly tummy. Some people hunt and eat Blue whales. One whale can feed lots and lots of people.The Sperm whale’s song sounds like this: “rat-a-tat-tat” and “click, click, click”. There is a book about a Sperm whale called Moby Dick. Another Sperm whale got caught around her mouth on some yellow fishing string and it broke her jaw and she died and her body floated to shore. That’s very sad. Sperm whales look different because of their mouths. The bottom jaw is very thin.
Joshua did all of this in one afternoon! I drew the basic shapes of the whales for him, but he then traced the shape and did the colouring and captions. It all started with a non-fiction book on Blue whales from the library which I read to the kids last week. Joshua decided to copy a picture of a Blue whale and he asked for help. Pretty soon we were looking for whale websites to find photos and whale song recordings, looking at the cover of my copy of Moby Dick, comparing one of his toy whales to each of the web photos to identify it (a Sperm whale, it turns out), and I was showing him how to write the names, drawing whale outlines for him and typing up his description of each of the whales... and then he tells me he thinks he'll write a book about pandas tomorrow and he might just start a bookstore to sell all his wonderful animal books to his friends. Such energy and enthusiasm!

Websites we liked included:
~ National Geographic pages on Killer whales, Humpback whales, Blue whales and Sperm whales. Each of these has a hyperlink to a recording of the whale's song. The Sperm whale song is bizarre and Orca song really freaked Joshua out until I turned the volume down. But they are all fascinating.
~ Cetacean Society International photo gallery index. For the image and story of the whale that got caught in "fishing string", see this page.
~ Songs of the whale.

Ecclesiastes 8:11 and public school education

This is a slightly edited version of a letter I wrote in the online comments section of the Sunday Times.

I was very pleased on Sunday to read (almost) the first good idea to come from Mr McGowan, of making the expulsion process quicker and easier "Bad pupils to be kicked out of public school". In sage advice from Ecclesiastes 8:11, "When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong." This is why in the past, the immediate penalty of caning was effective. While some people suggest we reinstate its use, this is no longer an acceptable punishment in Australian society which has largely forgotten that the proverb, "No pain, no gain" applies to matters other than physical exercise.

Immediate removal of the disruptive student from the classroom, short and long term suspensions, and permanent (or at minimum until the next school year) expulsion provide punishments which stop the problem from reoccurring in that class and school. On their own, they do not provide a complete solution, however. Disruptive, violent and abusive students must be taught appropriate behaviours, and parents must be held ultimately accountable for their child's behaviour. Unfortunately, many parents lack the skills to do so and often gave up the effort long ago when they saw their methods were not working. I would argue that this problem is due in large because the vast majority of parenting how-to manuals today present a method of parenting based on the idea that if you make your child the centre of your world, making every effort to keep them happy by giving them "positive" experiences and rewarding "positive" behaviours with "positive" reinforcement, they will never have to display "negative" behaviours and will grow up into perfect little angels. This is a load of codswallop!

When a child is expelled, often the solution cannot be to enrol them in McGowan's first option of Distance Learning, because the parents will be no more able to obtain dilligent educational effort from this child than the teachers. Part of the solution is training for the parents in setting and sustaining boundaries of acceptable behaviour for their child and the concurrent use of immediate consequences. While the parents are obtaining this training, their child must be enrolled in the "student-behaviour centres" or "special private schools" which McGowan mentioned, with teachers who have already received training in the aforementioned skills.

The student does not need to learn to express their anger at deep emotional wounds, as the counsellor "concerned for kids of Claremont" suggested (see comment 25 here). They need to learn how to act in accordance with Australian society's standards for appropriate behaviour. This includes the idea that those who want something ask politely and, if they are not given it, work to obtain it for themselves. Learning to whinge is not a lesson any disruptive student needs to learn from a counsellor. They already have it down to an art form, as the comment from "At my wits end of Perth" illustrates (see comment 34&39 here).

I'm an ex-teacher with experience in both public and private schools, where I did, unfortunately, experience physical assault from a student. I am now enjoying educating my own children at home. They are being taught both academics and the sometimes more rigorous lessons of self-discipline. I made every effort with my own children to start on the right track from the very beginning, but for parents and children who are a long way down the wrong track, streamling expulsion will provide a much needed "time out" from schooling to develop better ways of dealing with others, ways that will make possible the opportunity for a successful return to (academic) education in the future.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Homeschool logo prototype

Joshua said he wanted a star, I wanted an oval. Joshua wanted orange, I wanted red. Here's what Jeff made with Adobe Photoshop based on my oh-so-lame first attempt.Feedback anyone?

I'm also working on a motto for our homeschool to go at the bottom of the logo. I might just go with "Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom", but I am also considering something that will elucidate our school name, such as "Equipping our children for every good work in Christ Jesus", but that's a bit wordy. (Our two key verses are Ephesians 2:10 and 2 Timothy 3:14-17 esp v17. I've blogged about our homeschool goal here.) Any ideas?

Using the Bible in homeschooling

This post might wander a bit. I want to write about the Bible translation we choose for family and homeschooling use in light of spelling and punctuation and other purely practical matters.

Our family uses the NIV for general family and homeschooling purposes. At this young age, I also draw upon our collection of children's Story Bibles. There are lots of English translations available and an increasing number of paraphrases, and many of them have a place on our overburdened shelves in the study, but I don't use them regularly. I also have access to a Greek New Testament and a few Greek-English Lexicons, and my husband now has two years of NT Greek study under his belt, which of course does not make him either proficient or an expert, but it does help if I have a question for my own personal study.

Another well-loved translation is the KJV. If you are interested in the debate over the KJV vs the more recent English translations, I recommend The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism by DA Carson. It is clear, concise, lucid and frank. CS Lewis also wrote a great essay addressing some of the issues (initially as an intro to JB Phillips' translation of the NT epistles) titled "Modern translations fo the Bible" which is reprinted in God in the Dock. I don't want to get into that debate in this post. I just want to write about the practical considerations in using any English translation of the Bible in a classically Christian homeschooling situation.

The neo-classical model of education specifies that in the grammar years, the student should concentrate on developing a broad knowledge of truth in a variety of academic subjects, as well as aquiring the fundamental literacy skills in the teaching language, ie English. Particular tools of classical education which assist this endeavour include those designed to aid memory, such as recitation and narration, and those designed to aid literacy, such as tracework, copywork and dictation.

A worthy goal of grammar-stage Christian education is the knowledge of the words of Scripture. How can one say that one "knows" Scripture? It must be memorised. Scripture that is ingrained in one's memory provides a means through which the Holy Spirit may speak in later life. It also allows one to readily draw upon familiar Biblical passages which may then be used to support or refute any given proposed doctrine in a polemical or apologetic debate (or conversation). The use of narration, where the student re-tells in their own words the content of a reading, is useful in establishing firmly in the student's own mind what they have heard and can recall from a Bible reading. Regular, repeated recitation, on the other hand, is a tool for establishing the exact words of Scripture into long-term memory, from which they can be drawn upon as necessity or desire demands.

> It is useful to choose one Bible translation from which to do all general reading. The same translation should be used when identifying material to be memorised through recitation. This means that when passages familiar through reading are memorised, their context is recognised and understood. On the other hand, passages familiar through reading are often already half-memorised when they are undertaken to be memorised through recitation (especially if your family listens to audio recordings of the Bible text occasionally, such as on longer car trips).

The words of Scripture, beautiful for the truth they present, are often used by classical Christian educators. Scripture verses may be the basis for tasks designed to improve literacy from the basics of penmanship, to the fine points of grammar. Verses may be chosen for such varied practical reasons as to reinforce memorisation of the verse or in order to provide examples of spelling and grammatical rules. The chosen verse may be written out by the student, either in imitation of a written model (tracework or copywork) or transcribed from dictation. In each of these cases (unless the dictation is taken cloze, without pre-reading) the original Bible text must provide a good model of that which we desire to teach. This is where I have already run into problems, because I am an Australian and I want my children to learn Standard Australian English (SAE) spelling and punctuation, but we read from the NIV which uses American spelling and punctuation.

Consider the two verses which my children memorised in the weeks before and after Christmas: Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counsel[l]or, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
and Luke 2:11
"Today in the town of David a Savio[u]r has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."
Both of these include spelling "errors", from the viewpoint of SAE rules. So what do you do when you encounter spelling or grammar "errors" in the only Book which Christian doctrine teaches is "inerrant"? Obviously, there isn't really a problem from an adult's perspective, but I don't want my children to get confoozled, and begin to question whether the Bible really is trustworthy, if it can't even get simple words spelt correctly!

(As an aside, the Bible Society in Australia released a NIV with Anglicised spellings late last year. When the range of these increased, I'll probably purchase one of them for my kids rather than a NIV with American spelling. But until then...)

I am coming to see that this should be viewed as an opportunity to teach more about the Bible, rather than as a problem with the Bible.

> I would explain simply to the child that this translation of the Bible was completed by translators in another country (or a long time ago, if studying from the KJV). Some of the spellings of words are different in Australia to those in America (and have changed from those used in the past). A simple comparison of Australian and American dictionaries will show this to be the case. A source that will give comparative evidence for the KJV "ye olde English spelling" is the front page of Robinson Crusoe, which is often reprinted in facsimile in paperback copies. It includes the word "pyrates" and several old-style letter Ss, rendered more like a modern f. For a grammar-stage child, I would leave the explanation at that.

> Provide a handwritten or typed exemplar of the Bible passage from which to copy which uses the preferred spelling, after showing the original verse in the Bible, so that the child learns the preferred spelling.

> For the logic-stage child, add some discussion about the fact that God's word, recorded in the Bible, is reliable because God has chosen to preserve it for His people. Spelling differences do not change God's message for us in His word! This might be a good opportunity to also explain about footnotes, and show your student how the Bible translators have footnoted alternative texts where textual variants exist. You might even use this situation as an opportunity to compare different English translations and observe how they present the same message in slightly different words for any given verse. I have heard Psalm 1:1 is often used as for comparisons between translations.

> With a rhetoric-stage student, you could use this opportunity to talk about the difference between a translation and a paraphrase and the appropriate uses of each. If your child has studied Hebrew or Koine Greek, you might ask them to translate for themselves from certain verses and then compare their translation to the NIV or KJV or NASB or other translations/paraphrases. Ask them how and why do these translations differ? (Forewarned is forearmed: Jeff, who is presently translating and exegeting passages from Romans at Theological College for his Masters, tells me he thinks Paul is a very difficult writer to translate, compared to Matthew and John - but perhaps that is mostly because Paul's ideas are so complex.) Even if they haven't studied NT Greek, I find that looking up the word using Strong's concordance or a Greek Bible to find the original word, then looking that up (which one can do with a very minimal knowledge of the Greek alphabet) in a Greek-English Lexicon can be a very informative experience. Lexicons list alternative definitions with the uses of that word in the Bible and occasionally in other contemporary sources.

> You could also ask them to paraphrase selected passages for a variety different audiences, a great task for engaging their growing rhetoric skills. How would they paraphrase a certain parable for a child, another teenager or their grandparents? How would they paraphrase a certain psalm for a Aboriginal from the desert country, a salt-water Aboriginal or an Asian ESL speaker? This sort of task requires that the student empathise with their intended audience, and it would be a great accompaniment to apologetic and polemic debates as part of a senior Christian Studies course.

Thursday, 13 March 2008


Just a moment ago I had a lady ring up to survey me (from some investment organisation). One of the questions was the following:

Which is your greatest financial concern right now?
(1) To pay less tax?
(2) To pay off my mortgage?
(3) To have more money to build assets for the future?

I thought a while, and then I gave her my answer, which I'm pretty sure surprised her. Which would you have chosen?

I said "None of the above. I would rather have more money available to help some of the people in need that I know of in my community."

What are your priorities?

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Overheard this morning

This morning while I was preparing breakfast, the kids were playing on the couch.

Joshua: "Is everyone in the car? Seatbelts on! Brmm, brmm."
Anna: (excited) "Oooh! Joshua, I heard a crash on the side of the car."
Joshua: (in a firm voice) "No you didn't."
Anna: (determined) "Yes I did. I'll just take a look."
Slight pause.
Anna: (cheerful) "Oooh! Josh, there's a crocodile by the side of the car!"
Joshua: (resolute) "I'll just drive fast then. Brmm, brmm."

We don't usually keep crocodiles in our lounge room. Sometimes they just come for a visit.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Joshua has his own computer!

Homemade, to be sure, but it was a lot of fun to put together and he's pleased as punch!He spent ages making the letter stickers for his keyboard, and it was a fantastic review of capital letters and the alphabet, not that Joshua ever realised he was "doing school".If you'd like to make one yourself, here are some basic instructions:

1 sheet of A4 paper
sticky tape
1 large cardboard box
about 30 circle-shaped stickers
2 egg cartons
string or alternatives
small kitchen plastic measuring cup

1. To make the screen, sticky tape the sheet of paper to the large box.
2. To make the keyboard, first write the letters of the alphabet (in capitals) onto circle stickers. Stick one letter circle onto each of the egg cups on the bottom of the egg cartons. (Joshua did his in alphabetical order, but this isn't necessary, I chose to have him do this to reinforce his knowledge of alphabetical order.) Stick the last two letters onto the flap of one of the egg cartons, which will also represent the space bar key.
3. Use string to attach the two egg cartons together to form a keyboard as pictured. Also attach the egg carton keyboard with string to the screen. Use more string to attach the measuring cup to the other side of the screen.
4. Stick on extra circle stickers as necessary for an ON button and mouse button(s).
5. Draw on the screen to show what you are doing on the computer. (Joshua wanted to play "rocket ship computer games" straight away.)

A good mother...

Always makes sure her babies are bedded down well before she goes to sleep herself:

Sunday, 9 March 2008

My approach to early literacy teaching

I wrote most of this in response to a question on a classical homeschooling email list I subscribe to, and some of my friends have asked me how I approach teaching reading and writing. Here's my summary.

Before I begin to teach reading or writing, I need to know that my child is interested in reading (so I read aloud to them) and also capable of recognising basic shapes. If a child cannot recognise and name shapes, they will not be able to recognise and read letters or words. I began to teach Joshua to read when he started saying things like, "Mummy, can we go to the hamburger store with the big M?" and "Mummy, look, the sign on that hamburger store has a J for Joshua, it must be my shop!" I taught him M and J first not so he could recognise hamburger stores, but because they start Mum and Joshua. But obviously big signs on hamburger stores provide easily spotted opportunities to reinforce what he learnt.

Initially, I teach the alphabet with each letter's most common sound. I taught both my kids to write their letters at the same time. I know many people think writing is too much for little boys, but my son is quite artistically inclined (he loves to colour and draw) and he has not had too many problems with the work load so far. (It does help to give him a writing task when there is something fun about to happen so that he has incentive to work quickly and well, rather than dither and whinge or do messy work that has to be re-done.) When we're learning about the alphabet, I teach them the capitals and lower case versions and they write five of each, after I have shown them how to form the letters correctly. I then watch like a hawk to see that they do write them correctly, keeping in mind the Charlotte Mason values of good habits and excellence.

I use Reading Reflex (aka Phono-Graphix) as my guide to teaching skills and have recently started supplementing with the Bob Books to give them more reading practice, which has greatly improved my son's reading speed andconfidence. To give you some idea of where we're at, he has just finished reading through the first (blue box) set of 12 books, taking a month to do so.

Once they can read simple CVC words, I get them to write one sentence a day, which they read to me before they copy it. In K4 they do this as tracework so that they are writing over the top of my example, and this has helped to overcome some early letter reversals in my son's freewriting. Now he's doing K5, I have him do some of his penmanship as copywork (from my example written in the line above), or write two sentences of tracework. He copies simple sentences which are based on his experiences and our read-aloud literature, such as "Duck saved Oliver from scrap." (That one's based on one of the original Rev W Audry stories of Thomas and the Tank Engine.) For the past fortnight, because he's just had his 5th bday, he's been tracing two-sentence thank you letters which he dictated himself. My almost 4yo daughter, by contrast, has writing tasks such as "Ss Ss Ss Mm Mm Mm Sam sat on the mat."

My approach to literature has helped my children to develop an interest (for my daughter it is a fascination) in books. I have gradually put together a list of kids "classics" that I want to read to the kids while they are still small enough to fight over who gets to sit in my lap! We read a small selection of picture books several times over a few weeks before moving on to others. For example, we have out from the library at the moment Angus and the Ducks, The Story of Babar, and The Complete Adventures of Curious George. We also read through episodic or chapter books, a little at a time, together. At the moment we are six chapters into Pinocchio, having just finished The Complete Adventures of Thomas theTank Engine.

Every now and again, I get them to dictate a story narration, which I frantically type. I then print this out and get them to illustrate it. When I began to do this with my son, he could not really draw anything recongnisable. Now, his illustrations are quite realistic with many features rendered carefully. I definitely think this has helped him to develop good penmanship skills, however, it would probably not be a suitable task for a child who is averse to drawing or colouring. The narrations have helped him to become aware of the sequencing of events in each story. They also helped him to remember more and more from each story. My daughter on the other hand, who is very aural and is often to be found wandering around the house "reading" a made-up story aloud from any novel she has taken off the shelf, has just completed her first formal story narration (of Angus and the Ducks) and it was 233 words long, and in some places she even mimicked my expression. Even though these tasks are not "phonics" in nature, they have been fantastic for developing a love of and appreciation for books, as well as having beneficial effects on my children's vocabulary (and mine) and imagination.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Teaching manners

Recently, Anna (3yr11mo) was the recipient of a kind remark about how pretty she looked in her dress, with her hair in ponytails. Immediately, she looked up to the lady and replied in a cheerful voice, "Thank you for the lovely compliment." The lady turned to me with the biggest smile and gave me a spontaneous hug!

Some days, it quite amazes me how polite and mannerly my children can be. Yet when they are, I know that it is the end result of lots of hard work. It takes concentrated effort to teach children to use manners, because frankly, they are born heathens. This effort is worthwhile, because manners give a child a simple method of demonstrating respect and honour to the people around them, which is one aspect of loving their neighbour.

I begin with please and thank you. Samuel, (1yr3mo), can say less than a dozen words, but says "thank you" on 99% of the occasions when he is given finger food. He also says "thank you" when he is given his cup, is taken out of the play pen or is given a toy. He cannot presently say "please", however he does politely tap my arm and say "mmmoh", which is the beginnings of "more, please", when he wants to be fed faster. I am not writing this to brag, although I am very pleased with Samuel's current vocabulary. These words are in his vocabulary because I have repeated them over and over to him, in the appropriate situations. Little children learn their first words because they hear them many, many times. If parents are to teach their children manners from the very first, they need to be modelling these manners themselves, and in the early stages, expressing polite language on behalf of the child. At first it might seem awkward to be saying "thank you" to yourself, however the child will generally copy the words in their most frequent context first, so use the words when and how you want them used by your child. Once a child has the verbal skills to compose a short sentence, teach them not merely to say the simple, "more, please", but to be specific in their polite requests, for example, "Please, may I have an apple?" Anna's well-received "Thank you for the lovely compliment" is an example of how to be specific when acknowledging another person's words or efforts. "You're welcome" is a polite response to another person's thanks.

Abigail (2yr10mo) is presently mastering the use of the apologetic, sorry. I teach my children explicitly how to apologise, and I do not let them stop with a simple, "I'm sorry." I teach them to apologise for the specific offense (this requires that they know what exactly they have done wrong), for example, "I'm sorry that I ran over you with my bike." I teach them to ask for forgivenness, and again, I expect them to specify the character trait which they should have shown, for example, "Will you (please) forgive me for not being careful?" I also let them know that at times, they will have to wait until the other person has calmed down somewhat before they can reasonably expect to offer an apology. Sometimes the other person is too mad to hear the apology, and are unable to respond with forgiveness. However, this is not allowed to go on long in my family - I don't want my children learning to hold grudges, I want them to learn to forgive others as they would have God forgive them. Children also need to understand that sometimes restitution is necessary. This means that the child must do something other than say sorry and ask forgivenness to make the apology complete. I ask the child, "What can you do to make this right?" It might just take a hug or it might take sitting down and building the tumbled-down block tower back together again, but there is usually some action that a child can do to remediate their painful or annoying action and thus help to restore the relationship.

I have recently taught Joshua (5yr) to interrupt politely, using excuse me, and it has worked wonders for my ability to complete my thoughts and sentences! I told Joshua that it is respectful for him to touch me on my leg or arm (as circumstances permit) and to say quietly, "Excuse me, Mummy," then wait for my reply. We practiced this several times that first day, so that I knew he understood what to do and say. I explained to him that sometimes I need to finish what I am thinking, saying or doing before I can speak to him, so this is a way that he can let me finish an important task in order that he may have my full attention. Of course, I have to follow that up by actually giving him my full attention when I reply with "Yes, Joshua, I'm listening." In my opinion, manners used correctly by my children demand that I be polite in return. Acknowledging Joshua's polite interruptions quickly and positively has also had the advantage of rewarding Joshua for his good manners, and he now knows that while I may ignore him if he blunders in at me with a rushed "Mummy, look at this!" or "Mummy, I need you to...", I am far more likely to listen carefully and respond favourably if he first gains my attention with a respectful, "Excuse me."

Please, thank you, sorry and excuse me are the big four when it comes to manners in my culture. It is not sufficient to stop there, however. Each family should think about what methods they use to express respect, and work on training their children to use them. Teaching modesty and the corresponding need to respect others' need for privacy is the next rung up the manners ladder for our family. At the moment we are working on the concept of giving Mummy privacy when she's on the toilet. I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Anna's narration of Angus and the Ducks

Anna's narration of Angus and the Ducks by Marjorie Flack:

Angus was very curious. He started off wondering what he could see under the sofa and woofing up things and who was that in the mirror? And he was curious about the cat and the lead to someone else.

On the other side of the hedge he heard some quacking. It sometimes sounded like this: “Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack,” but usually it sounded like “Quackety, quackety, quack.”

He went inside and outside because the door was opened, and under the hedge. He tried to go around it but it was much too long. He tried going over it, but it was much too high. So he went under it.

And found on the other side, two white fluffy ducks, quacking and quacking. They marched, one-foot-up and one-foot-down.
He went, “WOOF, WOOF, WOOOF!” Away went the ducks.

Each duck dipped its beak into the long cool water and had a long cool drink. Angus watched the ducks dip their beaks into the cool water.

Angus went, “WOOF!” Away went the ducks.

Angus went up to the cool clear water. He drank and had a long drink.

The ducks talked for a while and went “HISS, HISS, HISS! HISS, HISS, HISS!” One duck nipped his tail and one flapped its wings. And under the hedge he went.

He ran back inside under the sofa. For exactly three minutes he was not curious any more.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

I am a terrible housekeeper

For the past week or so I have been complaining to Jeff that we seem to be getting little buggy flying insects coming into our laundry. I've been noticing them there when I put anything in the rubbish, and I thought they were attracted to the bin. So I was making sure I put the rubbish out every day and I even washed the bin and its lid. But the little bugs were still coming in, I thought through the laundry door that the kids often leave open when they head outside.

Then for the last few days these little bugs have been migrating to our bed! I've been finding them out our quilt cover for three days now, and at first I didn't realise that they were the same bugs and I thought they must have hatched from our quilt or ceiling fan or something. So I changed the bedsheets, took off the quilt, and they were there again the next day. What on earth were they and where on earth were these little buggy things coming from???

I've been remarking to Jeff about these bugs a bit lately, but last night I must have actually caught him while he was paying attention, because he said he thought they were probably coming from our pantry (which, while it is right next to the archway through to our laundry, had never struck me as a possible source). He'd thought that for a while, but kept forgetting to let me know. And it turns out Jeff was right. The horrible little buggy things were weevils that hatch out from flour etc. They were feasting on a long forgotten bag of parrot seed, right up in the top of the pantry. I would just like to say that I think my mother must have been an excellent housekeeper, because otherwise I surely would have recognised them as weevils straight off, right?

So I spent about three hours yesterday evening removing everything from the pantry, getting Jeff to clean the icky shelves, cleaning and throwing out and organising things again. (Three cheers for Jeff who went out and picked up take-away pizza for us all so I could get on with the cleaning.) And we still have bugs! Jeff reckons that it'll take a few days for them to all leave or die or whatever and then we should be right again. There is one good thing to come out of this though: my Tupperware containers are finally neat and clean and organised on top of my fridge!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Weekly Reports 2008:8&9

The kids have begun the lessons on comparative size in Singapore Earlybird Mathematics 2a (Anna joins Joshua in some of them, doing the preparation activities but not the writing). After Joshua took two weeks on lesson 5, Joshua and Anna whizzed through lesson 6 and the first page of lesson 8 in one day. They really liked using words such as big, small, tall, short, middle-sized, just right to describe the size of objects and people. It has been a break from numerals and I think Joshua in particular will enjoy the measurement lessons coming up.
This morning at church Anna picked up the hymn book and quietly :) read the numbers for the verses of several hymns, pointing at each numeral with her finger as she did so. None of the hymns had more than 5 verses, but it was great to see how keen she is to practice her new skill of recognising numerals.

Joshua has been tracing thank you letters for his birthday presents all this week and will be completing them next week. Some examples:Joshua dictated each of these letters for me last weekend and I transcribed them onto our writing paper so he could trace one or two letters each day. (His own name was the only word he wrote without an exemplar.) When we read L's letter he insisted that I include "very" in the second sentence. It was amazing how little Joshua complained about his penmanship tasks this week, even though some of his letters were quite long, because it was his own words he was writing and there was a clear and important purpose. On the other hand, it probably also helped that I gave him his penmanship tasks immediately before Play School and he knew he would miss some TV time if he dilly-dallied and complained. 2:45pm is definitely a much better time-slot for penmanship than immediately after Circle Time.

Thanks to a kind loan from my good friend Mrs B***, Joshua and Anna have been practicing their reading with the Bob Books (which Joshua always explains are "not Bob the Builder, just Bob" books). Joshua has now read the first 9 books in the red box and Anna has just read book 5 in thie same set. It might seem from this that Anna is close in ability to Joshua but there is a noticeable difference in their blending abilities. Joshua is getting more and more confident with blending and is beginning to read familiar words without sounding them out. Unfamiliar words, especially the names, still give him difficulty because he is trying to blend the sounds to form a word which is already known to him. Anna is very much still at the sound it out then say the sounds slowly and blend them together with Mummy's help stage. I have noticed that she doesn't pronounce the correctly, she says "vee" or "veh", and we've been doing a lot of practice on tongue placement for this word. (We've made up a sing-song chant: "I love the Lord, I love the Lord Jesus, I love the Lord Jesus Christ.") She seems to read that and this correctly, so I am not sure why she struggles with the.

We've read through The Complete Adventures of Curious George in the last fortnight just before Anna's naptime each day and Joshua and Anna have thoroughly enjoyed it. Tonight at bedtime, Anna explained to me that when she was hanging from the washing line this afternoon she was just "pretending to be a monkey, a curious monkey like Curious George, with an imaginary tail." Again, I have only myself to blame for my children's misdemeanors, it seems. I'm not giving up the books, though. Never gonna give up the books!

Why great-grandparents are great

Great-grandparents are wonderful because they knew your parents while they were kids, and they remember things about your parents that make you laugh and laugh and laugh. Here's a memory Jeff's grandmother emailed me about Jeff's father, Graham:

I remember how Graham used to try so hard to keep up with John - 2 years his senior - in everything he did and generally succeded and did things much earlier than John did. He was more experimental and I still remember the day he lit a fire and put in all his plastic toys (plastic was quite new then) and watched them burn. His first bike was used to see how hard he could hit a lamp post and it ended up out of reach for some time.

Isn't that just a classic?

Saturday, 1 March 2008

And just so you don't think...

... everything in this family is so wonderfully holy and perfect and cutesy all the time, here's what Anna asked me this morning when we were lying on Abigail's bed having a chat:

"Mummy, why do you have grass growing there?"

In case you can't guess, she was looking at my armpit. *sigh!*

Mixed up memory verses

We teach our kids memory verses as part of Circle Time. At the moment, we're reading stories from the gospel accounts of Jesus' ministry. Last night as I lay down with the girls at bedtime, we recited those we've learnt so far this year. It's actually quite a list! We haven't quite done a new one each week, but some are longer than just one verse. Our most recent one comes from the story of Jesus calming the storm on the sea of Galilee. Here's Abigail's recitation, based on Mark 4:39-41 - see if you can spot the "paraphrase":

"He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, 'Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?' They were terrorfrightened and asked eachother, 'Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!' "

Amazingly, Abigail knows this three verse passage pretty much word for word, although I'll freely admit she does stumble on pronunciation. In case you didn't pick it up, "terrorfrightened" was Abigail's paraphrase of "terrified". One thing I really appreciate about choosing passages to memories based on stories we've read is that I have more confidence that even Abigail, who is only 2, understands the verses because she first heard them from their context.