Saturday, 31 May 2008

Weekly Report 2008:22

The astute among you will notice that I have missed my weekly report for week 21. I might get back to it, but I doubt it. And because I have spent most of the last week visiting the doctor with the kids, I'm going to report a little differently this week. I've decided to report some snippets from our conversations during the week. None of them were inspired by schoolwork - except for read alouds, we haven't done any academic stuff this week. So this is a blow-by-blow account of a week of unschooling:

Anna: "When we do tall measuring, I'm as long as Joshua."

On Monday we went to Koorong, then to the doctor (for Samuel, Abigail and Joshua), then the pharmacy, then the radiologist (chest x-ray for Samuel), then to McDs for lunch, back to the radiologist to pick up the x-ray, and finally to the doctor again with the x-ray so that he could let me know Samuel almost had pneumonia but not quite and could I come back on Wed or Thur for another check-up once he'd had his antibiotics.

Doctor: "Oooh, he does have a lot of green snot, doesn't he?" (talking about Joshua).

Joshua: "Will we meet Saul in heaven? I think we will because he obeyed Jesus."

On Tuesday we recovered from Monday.

Joshua (to Abigail): "Why don't you put your dress-ups on? I like to see you looking pretty and being happy and having fun."
Abigail: "No. I'm sick."

On Wednesday morning we missed BSF because Samuel was too sick for child care and I realised we needed to take Abigail back to the doctor for another check up, because she was coughing more and more and had started complaining of itchiness. Fortunately the receptionist was happy to double book her in with Samuel's appointment on Thursday.

On Wednesday afternoon, after three days of antibiotics, I saw Samuel smile again.

Joshua (to Anna): "I've discovered that Mummy is my boss. And I have another boss. God is my boss. And Daddy."
Anna: "And Jesus."
Joshua: "Yes, and Jesus. So I have four bosses. Anna, who are your bosses?"

On Thursday I took Samuel and Abigail to the doctor. The doctor said Samuel was obviously on the road to recovery but Abigail had a very bad case of tonsilitis. It was a secondary infection because she also had roseola infantum, a rash which shows up a few weeks after a viral infection. So then we went back to the pharmacy.

Joshua (handing out the play bread and little cups from the cooking set): "Now we are having communion. Dear Lord, you know our hearts. Thank you for Jesus. Amen."
Mum (silently): "Wow, he's sure right with that one God. Thanks for my wonderful son Joshua who knows and loves your Son Jesus so well..."

On Friday I took Anna to the doctor because I thought she could have her 4yo immunisations but it was too close to her getting the first of two flu immunisations a fortnight ago. You know, I felt annoyed at the inconvenience of this unnecessary trip while I was going home in the car, but looking back, I am totally grateful to the mercies of the Lord that one of my children has not been sick enough to need antibiotics this week. Anna has been taking "healthy medicine" (10mL of orange juice in a medicine cup) each evening this week because she was getting jealous of all the other kids' doses, but she has no idea how blessed she is.

Samuel: "Hello!" (to Granny, who came to visit us this evening, having brought home made chicken soup all the way from Albany, five hours drive away. Sometimes, I just have to thank God for my MIL, she really knows how to love us!)

Joshua (calling from the toilet): "Mummy, Mummy! Something mysterious has happened. My wee went all over the floor."

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Scaffolding learning in the language arts

Following on from my description of the main features of Vygotsky’s educational theories, I will now relate a curriculum cycle (that is, a progression of learning activities) designed to be consistent with these theories. This cycle is described in Exploring How Texts Work by Derewianka (1990) and is taken from the first chapter, “A functional approach to language”, specifically pp 6-9.

This particular curriculum cycle demonstrates how a teacher could scaffold a student’s learning of writing skills – anything from the basics of sentence construction to the use of the features of sophisticated literary genres for a specified communication purpose. Again, my thoughts are in square brackets.

1. Preparation
~ assess the student’s strengths and weaknesses
~ determine whether basic understanding is present and/or deeper understanding of specific aspects

[Remember that according to Vygotsky, successful teaching occurs within the student’s Zone of Proximal Development and so it is important to know exactly what the student can and cannot yet do. There is no point teaching paragraph construction before simple sentence construction has been learnt, for example. Learning activities, in contrast to those activities aimed at mastering a skill, should be a challenge to the student’s present abilities.]

2. Modelling
~ student is immersed in the knowledge/skill through exposure to exemplar material
~ teacher either tells (explicitly explains) or uses Socratic questioning to reveal the details which are to be learnt

[Copywork and previewed dictation provide ample opportunities for this sort of modelling to occur. As the student examines the text that they are to replicate, the teacher should point out particular features that the student has not yet learnt.

Start with the basics: punctuation such as capital letters for beginning sentences and proper names; full stops for ending sentences; and the use of quotation marks and question marks. Point them out to the student; tell the student what they are called; explain what they are used for and how they help the reader to correctly understand the text; remind the student to include them in their written copy. Alternatively, the teacher could ask questions designed to reveal the importance of the literary feature.

It will probably help if the teacher uses the same words for the rule when referring to it later, in order to assist the student to develop effective self-talk. For example, my 5 and 4 year olds have been taught that, “A full stop marks the end of a sentence.” I recite this for them every time they copy a full stop in their copywork, later they repeat it on their own when copying sentences, later still they will internalise this rule and either mentally repeat the phrase to remind themselves independently, or move into the realm of mastery where including a full stop at the end of a sentence is done automatically.

Once basic punctuation has been mastered in this way, the student can be taught the main parts of a sentence, and then the main features of a paragraph and a simple text such as a recount or narrative. Later a student would be expected to tackle arguments and explanations, once their ZPD expands far enough.]

3. Joint construction
~ the teacher should ask questions to clarify, make suggestions, etc
~ the teacher may scribe text on behalf of the student so they can concentrate on meaning

[Oral narration provides the perfect opportunity for this sort of joint construction of written texts. The teacher can ask questions and make suggestions as they scribe the text in the student’s words.

The focus should be on areas that are within the ZPD and which have been addressed in the previous modelling of the text. In other words, if the student needs to be focussing on correct framing of complete sentences, this is what should be addressed in the teacher’s comments. The teacher should not overwhelm the student with “constructive criticism” that is beyond the child’s ability to deal with – outside of their ZPD. For example, they should not bring up use of appropriate adjectives and adverbs until the student is independently able to correctly choose and use verbs and nouns, for example.

Again, one can see that there will be a progression in narration from oral, guided narration which is completely scribed by the teacher; to oral narration with minimal prompts from the teacher which the student may copy in part or whole from the teacher’s scribed notes; to oral narration without teacher prompts which is recorded and then written by the student as dictated by the recording.

Likewise, there will be a development in the length and sophistication of the text in the student’s narrations. Young students will be narrating in a few, short and simple sentences. Their narrations will become longer and then the sentences of which the narration is made up will become longer and more complex. Later, the student will move into a ZPD where they will learn to whittle away at their previous complexities and choose to make language choices for their eloquence and power.]

4. Independent construction
~ the student writes drafts, referring to models
~ the student may also consult with the teacher for feedback with regard to editing
~ the student progresses to producing published works (obviously the level of publishing is reliant on the purpose and intended audience of the text)

[This step of development is seen when the student completes written narrations on their own. Initially, they will be narrating recounts, but a wise teacher who is keeping a close eye on the student's expanding ZPD will gradually introduce the student to different genres, with appropriate modelling and joint construction, so that their narrations are able to take the form of instructions, informative texts, explanations and arguments, along with other literary forms such as those of poetry.]

The Little Black Princess

This week for our Literature read alouds we have been reading the Australian children's classic, The Little Black Princess by Mrs Aeneas Gunn. Also known as Jeannie Taylor, the author wrote the book after the year she spent with her husband on a remote cattle station in the Northern Territory in 1902. Mrs Aeneas Gunn is also famous for her novel for adults, We of the Never-Never.

From the Publisher's preface: "It must have been a frightening experience for the thirty-year old bride to leave the city and travel the vast distance to the Roper River where she found herself living on a property so large that the front gate was forty-five miles from the house and so remote that the mail was delivered only eight times each year.
But Mrs Gunn appears to have accepted this difficult way of life and to have taken a great interest in the Aborigines with whom she came in contact. ... Compared to those around her, Mrs Gunn appears to have had a great love for the Aborigines and a respect for their way of life."

There are 13 chapters in this book, plus a chapter-length collection of letters from Mrs Gunn, excerpted for the anecdotes they contained relating to Bett-Bett, the little black princess of the title, an orphaned Aboriginal girl fostered by Mrs Gunn who later became the matriarch of the Bonson clan. According to my dad, a descendent of Bett-Bett, Matthew Bonson, is currently a member of the Northern Territory parliament.

Here is one incident from chapter 10, with a few of my added vocabulary explanations in square brackets, for those who are unfamiliar with Australianisms and Aboriginal pidgin English:
Bett-Bett and I very often went down to the billabong [a landlocked section of a river] for an early morning bogey [swim], and she and the lubras [Aboriginal women and older girls] were always greatly amused at my bathing-gown. They called it "that one bogey dress", and said it was "silly fellow".

My swimming also amused them. They saw something very comical and unnatural in my movements, and I often caught them imitating me. They seemed to expect me to sink every moment, and never went very far from me in case of accidents.

One morning, we swam right across the billabong to the "nuzzer side", as Bett-Bett called it; and, there, I noticed a man's tracks on the bank, and asked whose they were; for, of course, I did not recognise them. To my surprise, the lubras burst into shrieks of laughter.

"Him Maluka!" they shouted in delight! "Him track belonga Maluka; him bin bogey last night."

Then, Bett-Bett screamed to the lubras on the opposite bank, "Missus no more savey [recognise/know/understand] track belonga boss."

It was the best joke they had ever heard - a woman who did not know her own husband's tracks! I felt very small indeed, and as soon as possible, went back to the house and breakfast.

We have only a few more chapters to go, and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book with the kids so far. There is a lot of discussion in it about Aboriginal Dreaming stories of the Roper River people, which has neccessitated some explaining with the kids, and my rusty pidgin English accent is getting a work out. I am enjoying the way Mrs Gunn has carefully related the knowledge, conversation and activities of the people she spent her days with. Mrs Gunn certainly had an eye and ear for detail and a keen interest in the way of life of the local Aboriginal people. Her book gives a fascinating insight into the turn of the century lives of the traditionally nomadic Aboriginal people who were faced with the changes brought by the new culture of white station life. I think if Charlotte Mason were to read it, she would definitely classify The Little Black Princess as a "living book".

This book is a great way to come face-to-face with Australian history.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Vygotsky: Scaffolding learning

I've been reading How Children Learn at Home by Alan Thomas and Harriet Pattison this week. It's the book that the lovely librarian gave me. Chapter 3 reviews some prominent educational theories before explaining how none of these really explain how children learn in unschooling - or informal learning - situations.

When I was a teacher, I did a professional development course on TESL, and the educational theories of Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) were drawn upon a lot, although I don't recal his name ever being mentioned. I have used a lot of what I learnt in that PD course in my home teaching in many academic areas. So I decided to dig out one of my text books from my Graduate Diploma of Education, and another (far slimmer) volume from the professional development course, and read up on Vygotsky. For your edification (with my comments and reflections in square brackets):

From Educational Psychology: Constructing Learning McInerney & McInerney (1994) pp 99, 101-104:

The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is defined as the area that lies between existing knowledge or skill and the potential level of development of that knowledge or skill. Learning is thought to only occur within this zone. [If something is easy, it has already been learnt, however, it may be being mastered. If something is too difficult, it cannot be learnt, even through a leap of insight.]

In order to allow the student to learn effectively, teachers should:
1. Establish a level of difficulty in each task which is challenging but not impossible for the student.
2. Provide assistance to the student to perform the task. This is called scaffolded instruction. The teacher gives guidance and assistance, collaborating with the student as they practice the task. There should be a clear sense of the intended outcome of the student's performance. Less help is given as the child improves in ability and learns to achieve the task on their own.
3. Evaluate the child's ability to determine if they can independently achieve the task.

Learning should be holistic. If tasks are broken into skills and subskills which are too small, meaningfulness will be lost [presumably with a resultant loss of motivation and/or success].

[For example, in learning to read, it is better to practise reading words and sentences as part of longer, meaningful texts, rather than repetitively reviewing either unrelated lists of words or a series of flash cards. So use Readers as soon as this is practicable in phonics-led instruction. Obviously, given that the English writing system relates graphemes to phonemes, this needs to be taught initially - including digraphs (such as th and ck), but there is no value in practicing reading stand-alone syllables (la, ba, fa) or focussing too heavily on blends (str, cl) where they do not add meaning (compare with ing, ed).]

Teachers are seen as mediating learning. Teachers and students interact in social contexts, with the teacher providing explicit explanation in the language of learning so that students can be aware of and in greater control of their learning.

[For example, in teaching writing, talk about the shapes of letters and the direction of the pen stroke and explain clearly the order used in writing each letter, rather than merely showing them the letter and expecting them to work it out themselves without this instruction.

Explain vocabulary words as they arise in context, for example through reading aloud texts which are above the child's independent reading level. Explain grammatical concepts and discuss correct punctuation in context, for example judiciously selected passages for copywork and dictation.

Talk to the kids. When they ask questions, follow them up as far as they are interested. Provide opportunities for them to discuss ideas which they have had explained once, so that they may understand more fully. For example, encourage them in play activities based on what they have heard or read about - acting out a skit of Paul's experiences on the road to Damascus & in Damascus with Ananias, and building a whaling boat & several different whales out of blocks are both examples from our educational activities this year.]

Learning activities should be structured, with increasing challenges. [Doing learned tasks independently will allow the student to master that particular skill but they need to be continually exposed to new situations and knowledge in order to remain in their ZPD and continue to learn.]

[For example, in mathematics, once the student can complete one-digit addition independently, the teacher should move them on to two-digit addition and one-digit subtraction etc. This allows the student to practice the learned skill which they rely on in learning the new skills but expands their challenge.]

Good teaching creates learning processes which lead to development. This contrasts with the Piagetian theory which says that cognitive development is requisite for learning.

There is an emphasis on language as a major means by which cognitive development (ie, the increasing ability to think) occurs. Language remains important throughout life for higher mental processes such as planning, evaluating, remembering and reasoning.

Private speech or self-talk is seen as a sign that the learner is in the process of internalising the ability/knowledge. As they talk aloud they are not speaking to others about what they are doing, rather they are talking themself through the activity as they have been taught, in the place of the teacher's assistance.

[In the light of this, the use of Charlotte Mason's technique for using relatively sophisticated "living books" as models for the student's narration may not give the student enough assistance and explanation within their ZPD - the texts chosen to read from might be too far above the child's ZPD and thus care needs to be taken in choosing texts which are not only "living" (truthful, fascinating, eloquent) but also understandable and at a level which is able to be imitated by the student. Providing a list of "important words to listen/look for as you read" before a text is presented might help bring a text into the child's ZPD.]

Deautomatisation of performance - aka becoming "rusty" - leads to the need for the use of private speech again until mastery is achieved once more.

Vygotsky's theories resonate well with me, although I cannot say I completely accept the holistic approach to teaching. However, scaffolding is a techniques which I have used to good effect, and I will explain this further in another post.

image source:

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Arguments against abortion is an anti-abortion website with a very comprehensive point-by-point argument which systematically refutes the reasoning of pro-abortionists. They also have some great t-shirts for sale:

(The site has some very confronting photos, as well, but there are warnings before you click to enter the pages with these images.)

image from

And I just bought a new Bible

It's my first new Bible since before my kids were born, so it took a lot of thinking about what features I wanted. Almost as much thought as Jeff put into the computer purchase, which is so bizarre, that I live in a country where Bibles come with "features".

I wanted an NIV. With a concordance, and I thought I wanted verse references but the first one I bought distracted me with all the extra superscript reference marks in the middle of the verses. So I returned it and swapped it for a second choice. I wanted large print but not a big clunker because I carry it around a lot. I took my second choice back because it was just too thick and heavy to fit in my bag. So now I have my third choice and I think I’m going to stick with it happily for the next five or ten years. Not least because I cannot face the 45min drive across the city again.

While I was there, I bought a NIV for Joshua as well. It has Anglicised text. (Hooray! Australian spelling for Saviour!) Also large print so it is easier for him to read. It has a concordance and lots of helpful things like maps. Inside the front cover, there's a picture of a bookshelf with the books of the Bible on it in order, seperated out into their classifications (eg history, minor prophets). Actually, I was tempted to get one the same for me as well. In the end it came down to not wanting to pick up the wrong Bible all the time, because as this is a new release from the Bible Society, it doesn't come in too many colours yet.

Joshua's Bible will be his reward for reading through all the Bob Books (when he finishes the last set). At this stage, he'll only be reading it with Jeff, not carrying it to church or anything. I bought this one to last - well, that's the plan.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Jeff just bought an iMac on ebay

And now we both have to learn to use it. I had a Mac when we got married but all our computers since then have not been, so it's been a long time and there have been lots of changes.

He managed to get it for less than the student price he'd pay for it in store (it's brand new, was still sealed in the box), then opened up the box and found that the two upgrades he would have wanted to spend more money on - wireless keyboard & mouse and 2GB extra memory - were actually included in this particular one. So he saved even more than he had thought. Yippee!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Abigail is now officially 3

Abigail asked months ago if our neighbours could come to her birthday party. Miss M was duly extended an invitation and Abigail had a great but tiring night.

PS This is my 200th post. I find it interesting that my 100th post was also about a birthday party. How odd. Because I didn't know that I was writing a whole lot of birthday posts. Sorry if they're boring you all.

Attention! Homeschoolers in Perth

From the HBLN email list:

HBLN Trade Fair - Saturday 5 July 08


hosted by HBLN Inc WA

When: Saturday, 5 July 2008
Time: 10-1pm
Where: Osborne Park Community Centre
11 Royal Street, Osborne Park


An opportunity to buy books, books and more books!
Home Education Books - Learning Curriculum - Living Books - you name it!


PLEASE NOTE: There will be NO Eftpos available

Home Education Seminars:
1. Getting Started
2. Moderator Reporting
Both sessions are gold coin donation.

See you there?

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Librarians are lovely

I took Joshua and Anna to the library this afternoon to return our rainforest books and borrow some on Australia. I chose some on various Australian animals as well as some classic Australian literature for kids. Then I went to the kids section to read aloud to Joshua and Anna the three picture books they had each picked out for themselves. After that, just like any other customer of the library, we headed up to the front counter to borrow our books.

And that's when a lovely librarian approached me and said, "Aren't you homeschooling your children? I was just about to put this brand new book up on the shelves when I saw you and thought you might be interested in it. Would you like to borrow it?"

How is that for customer service? This librarian recognised me - a woman who only comes in once or twice a month - and remembered what topic I might be interested in reading. I was very impressed. Meanwhile, I'm also going to write a Thank You card. Good service needs to be rewarded.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Poetry Study

This afternoon I was looking for something different to tide the kids over with for Read Alouds, until Abigail receives her birthday present, which will probably be our next longer book to read together. I thought I might use the next few days to read some poetry with the children.

The Lion Children's Treasury of Classic Verse, compiled by David Self, is a wonderful collection of some of the shorter poems by great poets, from John Barbour, Lady Julian of Norwich and Sir Walter Raleigh to Robert Louis Stevenson and Wilfred Owen. It is organised by topic with a thematic flow from "And God Made the World" to "The Voyage of Life".

From the poems we read today (we began at the beginning of the book), I especially enjoyed The Owl, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892).

The Owl

When cats run home and light is come,
And dew is cold upon the ground,
And the far-off stream is dumb,
And the whirring sail goes round,
And the whirring sail goes round;
Alone and warming his five wits,
The white owl in the belfry sits.

When merry milkmaids click the latch,
And rarely[1] smells the new-mown hay,
And the cock hath sung beneath the thatch
Twice or thrice his roundelay,[2]
Twice or thrice his roundelay;
Alone and warming his five wits,
The white owl in the belfry sits.

[1] rarely: remarkably well
[2] roundelay: song

I have printed out this poem. I think I might just have Joshua read it next week and see if we cannot memorise it. He might even use it for copywork. Hmm, maybe a week of poetry might be a good idea, now that we've finished Wind in the Willows.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

LA Times reviews Singpore Math

A news article extolling the praises of the clever Mathematics program (Singapore Mathematics), of which I use the prequel (Earlybird Mathematics 2) for Kindergarten, may be read here.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Weekly Reports 2008:19&20

It has been a while since I last did a homeschool weekly report since I got busy writing my talk on mothering. So, before I have to do a report on three weeks, here goes:

Circle Time
We kept up with our readings through Acts, covering three stories each week. We covered such stories from the earliest Christians as the choosing of seven men specifically for ministry to the church through service (ch6) and the story of Stephen, who was one of these seven men yet was stoned to death for his ministry of speech (ch7). We read the story of Philip's evangelism of the Ethiopian (ch8), and also read through the story of Saul's conversion and what happened to him in Damascus (ch9, over three days).
The first of our memory verses from these stories is Acts 8:30-31&35 (and Anna seems to have a good handle on v34 from listening to the Bible on CD in the car). This morning, while we were reviewing all our memory verses from Acts, Joshua asked me "Why does the Bible say Jesus was 'led like a sheep to the slaughter'?" I told him it was because Jesus did not try to stop himself from being killed on the cross, even though He is God, and could have if He had wanted to. It was all part of God's plan for Jesus to die on our behalf. I might bring that up at the dinner table for Jeff to address as well. Joshua managed not only to quote the passage correctly, but also to bring up his question while we were reviewing the surrounding verses - that is, in context. (He quoted v32, which itself quotes Isaiah 53:7, neither of which is a verse we have deliberately memorised.) Hmmm. Sometimes my kids astound me. There is no way I would have asked a question like this when I was five.
Song-wise, we seem to have stalled with In Christ Alone at the third verse, although the first two were learnt okay. I might take a break with another song and get back to that one later.

Joshua has worked through most of the fourth set of Bob Books readers. He had finished Stunt Duck (a Ladybird Phonics reader) and when he read the first book from the new set of Bob Books, Ten Men, he said afterwards, "That was a fantastic book, Mum!" I think he really liked the uncluttered and single colour pages of the Bob Books. As we progressed through this set, however, the books were taking him longer to read, sometimes 20-30min, which is a big ask of such a little boy. I am glad I have the reward of watching Play School to encourage him.
Anna has worked through the first three short stories from Reading Reflex, Fat Cat Sat, Bug on Jug, and Ben Bun. She is really very good at blending and often blends the last part of the word first: "C-A-T, AT, CAT", which intrigues me.

Jeff continues to enjoy Wind in the Willows with us so we are only reading it in the evenings, when he is at home and we are not all too tired to appreicate it. Only a few chapters a week at this pace, but the kids have managed to keep some understanding between reading.
This has given me the opportunity to read a few more great picture books to the kids, especially to Abigail. I read two picture books to her most afternoons when she has her nap. With Samuel in a big bed now, I'll soon be reading him picture books before nap time also, but for now I am concentrating on getting him to go down for his nap without wandering from the bed, and this is best done with the least distractions.
Friday Girls' Night with Milly Molly Mandy continues to be a hit.

We worked through Earlybird Mathematics 2A lesson 12 and the beginning of lesson 13, revisiting the sequence of digits 1-10 forwards and backwards and then introducing the words for each of the first ten numbers. Anna is loving maths lessons at the moment; she complains if I call Joshua and not her to a lesson I think will be boring for her because it's mostly writing (which only Joshua does). She doesn't seem to mind that he gets to write the numbers, if she can just help him work out which ones to write.
They are both counting 1-40 smoothly now and also 10-0.

Science and Geography
We have finished our study of rainforest creatures - at last - it dragged on because I wasn't very enthusiastic, I'm afraid. Anyway, we read about Jungle birds and added in some readings on animal offspring and mini beasts. Both Joshua and Anna did a short narration on rainforest creatures.

As I look over the last fortnight's notes on my checklist, I can see that we went out quite a bit (not least to the doctor's for immunisations against the flu - we have another two trips booked for more needles over the coming month but at least I have had my only one. Poor Anna and Sam will have three each.) We also had quite a few visitors over for dinner, which is lovely, but I can see upon reflection why I've not been full of energy and enthusiasm for homeschooling lately. And we all have heavy colds at the moment. Ugh!

Church History
This night course continues to be a highlight of my week, although getting the kids fed and in bed ready for the babysitter to take over at 6:45pm so I can get to college and hand the car over to Jeff so he can get to church is a big task! It has been fascinating to hear of the rise of prominence of the idea of a "pope" in Roman Catholicism, as well as the iconoclastic controversy of the Eastern Orthodox church, and the beginnings of Islam and how that almost destroyed the Eastern church. I have appreciated learning how the major doctrines of the church, such as the doctrine of the Trinity (1 substance, 3 persons) and of the nature of Jesus (1 person, 2 substances), were hammered out at the ecumenical councils of Nicea, Constantinople etc. I am appreciating learning why famous people, such as Constantinople and Pope Gregory VII are so important to His-story.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Abigail's birthday party

Abigail turns 3 this weekend. This morning we had a party to take advantage of Auntie Carla and 2 cousins being in the Big Smoke.

Here's Abigail with her cake. Thanks to Jeff for making green pikelets with chocolate spread and Chocolate Mud Cake and to Mrs T for icing it and adding the pink sprinkles. Here's Abigail blowing out her candles. Thanks to Jeff for lighting the candles.
Kissing cousins!
Abigail with her two bestest friends: E and Cousin Lisa. And here are all the guests. Thanks to Auntie Carla for doing a little dance and making them all sit still and smile for the camera AT THE SAME TIME!
How clever is she?

Yes, a big thank you to everyone who made this party the success it was. I am not a good party mum, I'm afraid. Just not good on the details.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Building Boys and Growing Girls postscript

My talk to the GEMS group went very well. If you haven't already, you can read it in four installments here, here, here and then here.

A lot of the questions people asked were about how to teach older children (ones who can read with relative fluency) to study the Bible for themselves. I have some ideas, but first, here's our latest memory verse from Acts 8:30-31 & 35:

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked.
"How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. ...
Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

We read this story last Monday in Circle Time, and Joshua and Anna already have the passage memorised. Even though I knew it was important when I decided to include it as one of our memory verses, it has only been this past weekend that it hit home to me. On Friday, I did my talk, and then we went to the Perth Children's Convention all day on Saturday. The speaker was Tony Willis, who is the assistant to the Bishop of Woollongong, and has trained workers for youth and children's ministry. A lot of the convention sessions revisited things I had considered when writing my talk. Other things were new. But from both of these events I was reminded that our children will not understand the truth about Jesus Christ if we do not explain it to them.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Movie meme

Nicole tagged me with this meme and, since my brain is now completely drained and I'm kinda excited because I've never been tagged before, I am going with the flow.

But before I do, I have to thank my friends the T family. Without their babysitting swaps with our family, I'd never see another movie in my life!

1. One movie that made you laugh
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, with Steve Martin and Michael Caine. And cringe, of course. But mostly laugh.

2. One movie that made you cry
Charlotte's Web. We watched it at school one time in the "withdrawl room" (Did you have those in the school you went to?) The lights were off when it was being shown and I was a mess when it ended. When they turned on the lights and made us all get up to go back to class I remember thinking, "why can't you just leave the lights off for a minute to let us all pull ourselves together first?"
And that NZ movie Once Were Warriors. It's the only movie I've been to other than The Passion of the Christ where people were actually bringing boxes of tissues with them to the cinemas. Except me. I had no idea what I was in for, I just went because a friend wanted to see it. And I really needed those tissues.

3. One movie you loved when you were a child
I only saw three movies when I was a kid: The Muppet Movie (I still remember the "fork in the road" scene), Superman (one of them, anyway, I only have very vague memories), and Footrot Flats. Oh yeah, maybe four, I think I saw ET. I don't remember loving any of them. When I was 7, my family moved to a small country town (probably 5+ hours driving to the nearest cinema) and we didn't have a video player until I was in my teens.

4. One movie you’ve seen more than once
Grease. I used to watch it every school holidays when my best friend (whose video and video player it was) came home from boarding school. I watched it again a few years back and couldn't believe how much talk about s*x there was in that movie!

5. One movie you loved, but were embarrassed to admit it
Kiss or Kill. Well, Jeff's embarassed that I like it. It's a homespun Australian movie, and much of it was shot in the country town where I spend my later childhood and adolescence. Actually, it's a car chase movie, and my best friend's parents 4WD was one of the cars they used - if you ever see it, their car is the one which gets its back window shot out. And another schoolmate's parents own one of the roadhouses they stop at, and - you get the picture. It's got some great lines "Actually, I'm Jewish." and I love recognising places I saw so often when I grew up.

6. One movie you hated
Fargo. Although, I have to admit I've only seen the first 10min or so. Jeff tell's me it gets better but those first 10 minutes just made me so angry!

7. One movie that scared you
Jesus Camp. It awed me that these people have so much motivation but that they are so misdirected in the way they are teaching these kids to relate to God - it just made me feel frustrated, and determined to do better by my kids.

8. One movie that bored you
Ummm - I don't watch boring movies. When would I find the time to waste like that?
Actually, there was one. Sunday Too Far Away. It's an old Australian movie starring Jack Thompson which was apparently shot in part at (what was then) my uncle and aunt's sheep station, and apparently my aunt walks by in the background of one of the shots. It's about the sheep shearer's strike of 1956. I didn't manage to notice my aunt the first time I watched it and I am never putting myself through that again, even if my Dad swears she's in it. (Please don't tell Dad this, Mum!) In case you're wondering, Dad gave me the DVD. Now it sits forlornly at the very bottom of our DVD pile.

9. One movie that made you happy
It has to be the one and only Princess Bride. Ever since I saw it for the first time when I was at Uni. "A fairy tale like no other, of fencing, fighting, torture, poison, true love, hate, revenge, giants, hunters, bad men, good men, beautifulest ladies, snakes, spiders, beasts, chases, escapes, lies, truths, passion and miracles." Who could ask for more on a rainy afternoon?

10. One movie that made you miserable
Rosencrantz and Guildernstern are dead. It was a play (by Tom Stoppard) before it was a movie but I've never read the play script. This is another movie I first saw while I was at Uni, and I love it. Especially the tennis court scene: "Objection! Rhetorical!" Right up until the end. Which is the whole point of the movie, I guess, that someone has to die for no reason - have you read Othello?

11. One movie you weren’t brave enough to see
The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Jeff has it on DVD. He considers it an interesting consideration of the problems of getting atheists to believe that there is a spiritual dimension to reality. I just think it's too scary to even be in the same house when he's watching it.

12. One movie character you’ve fallen in love with
Lalita in Bride and Prejudice. I know, I know, she's a girl. I don't mean that kind of love. But she's just so witty. And she sticks to her principles like superglue. I wish I was like that! And besides, she's a product (well, a sort of step-product) of the mind of Jane Austen. Who could wish for a better heroine?

13. The last movie you saw
Fool's Gold. And before that, it was National Treasure II. I like action movies. Especially the way my husband will go to them with me and hold my hand and not complain too much when I give my own running commentary. It's so beautiful!
Okay, I admit, I cheated on that one. Those are the last movies I saw at the cinemas. The last movies I saw are The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and Pollyanna. With the kids, in case you're wondering.

14. The next movie you hope to see
I'm not sure. But we've got another date night this Friday so maybe I'd better get thinking. Something where Jeff will hold my hand...

I tag Andrea and Jean, if you've got nothing else burning inside you waiting to be blogged about. And Mrs Edwards, if you do stuff like this.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Building Boys and Growing Girls pt4

If you have not read pt1, pt2 and pt3 of this series, please read them first.


: What every child needs, regardless of their gender - a relationship with God!
It is vitally important for children, regardless of their gender, to have an opportunity to develop a relationship with God. The best place for them to learn first about God is from their parents, especially their father but also their mother.

Romans 3:22 teaches us, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Faith is the gift of God (Eph 2:8) so pray that your children may receive this gift from Him. However Romans 10:8b-10,14 explains, “the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. … How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

Circle Time
Children learn about God from hearing the Word - hearing Bible stories told and explained.

Remember, the father is the head of the family. A mother must not usurp his position of spiritual leadership. However, it is good for a mother to read the Bible to and with her children, to help them to know and learn the holy Scriptures, as Lois and Eunice taught Timothy (2 Tim 1:5).

In our family, with my toddlers I read a Bible story before their afternoon nap. Several days a week I (the mother) read a Bible story to the children, while they listen and colour a related picture. I also practice memory verses with them, chosen from the stories we have read, to reinforce the core truths about who God is and how He works. We also pray together and slowly learn to sing some of the songs our congregation sings on Sundays. This is part of our homeschool day and we call it Circle Time.

On the days which Jeff can stay later in the mornings, he leads Circle Time, although I still prepare the materials (eg story Bible, colouring pictures & pencil cases, memory verse card holder) for him to use, to make it easier for him. On the days he leaves early, I make sure that the kids talk to Jeff later about the stories they have heard, and tell him what they remember and show their pictures. In this conversation, he encourages them and adds any applications or doctrinal truths which he thinks are important from the story.

The important thing is to teach them what the Bible says happened and how that fits into (or points towards) God’s rescue plan through Jesus. It is best to read through the Bible stories chronologically, so that kids (and adults) can learn where each part of the story fits.

Impressing the gospel on the hearts of children
Often, our best discussions come when we sit at home and when we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up (see Deuteronomy 6:7); that is, when we are living our daily life. The kids might be out in the yard, and singing a snippet from a song they've heard at church when they suddenly stop to ask me, "Mummy, what does 'cornerstone' mean?" Or we might be driving home from church, listening to the Bible on CD, when someone pipes up, "Daddy, why did they think the Gentile Christians should be circumcised?" These are opportunities for parents to expand their child's understanding of the basic truths of the faith. Make sure their questions do not go unanswered!

One thing I have learnt is that, if I cannot give an adequate explanation, it is much better to say "I'm not sure. Let's remember to ask Dad when he gets home." (And then write down the question so we do remember to ask him.) If my husband is there, I bite my tongue. It is better for them to hear a partial answer from Dad (which is probably just as much as they are ready for) than to hear Mum butt in to Dad's answer with her fuller, more complete answer.

A few words on Bibles
I recommend using a Bible story book when the children are very young, with the intention of moving them on to a real Bible (translated, not paraphrased) as soon as possible. In our family, we read to toddlers from The Beginners Bible by Karyn Henley, which has around 100 stories. This is quite comprehensive compared to many Bible story books. We use The Children’s Bible by Anne de Graaf and The Golden Bible (sometimes called The Golden Children's Bible) with the older kids. Joshua received The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones from his godparents which he loves; it is very helpful in pointing out the way each part of the Bible points to Jesus as our Saviour. Anna received Bible Stories for Growing Kids by Francine Rivers and Shannon Rivers Coibion from her Uncle; it has devotional pointers after each story, and I like the way it follows one person through all their stories, which complements our mainly chronological readings.

As soon as our children can read with relative confidence and fluency, we will be giving them their own Bible. We have chosen the NIV as our family version, and they will all be getting the same version. This means that when we sit and read together, we can follow along easily in our own Bibles. We use the NIV wording for our memory verses. It gives consistency to the language that they are hearing as the same words are read over and over through the years, aiding their recall without them memorising deliberately.

Just the other day I heard Joshua and Anna singing (on the dining table, but that's another story), "After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go.' " They were singing it! They had their own tune worked out and everything. Acts 1:10-11 is not one of our memory verses - they have learnt it word-for-word from hearing Acts from the Bible on CD in the car several times a week. Because it is a narrative, they were able to learn it easily. When we began to learn Jesus words to Saul (on the road to Damascus) this past week, they already knew the first bit (Acts 9:4), " 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' ", from the same source.

In choosing the version, consider what your church congregation uses for its readings (the pew Bible). The NIV and similar Bibles are great translations. The KJV is old fashioned in its wording (and hence difficult to understand) but poetic which can aid memorisation. The Good News and The Message are not good choices for a Bible they will study from as they are paraphrases rather than literal translations, although this may make them good substitutes for story Bible when the kids are younger.

In choosing a Bible edition, I would ideally look for the inclusion of verse cross references, and a small concordance (as an appendix). Both of these will help children as they learn to study the Scriptures. I would not recommend an annotated Study Bible, as they make it too easy not to think, as well as being large and heavy and therefore inconvenient to carry around.

Any relationship works best when it goes both ways. Children meet God through His Son Jesus Christ whom they learn about from Bible stories. It is important that they spend time talking with God and consciously sharing their lives with Him also. They do this through prayer.

Mothers, and fathers, should pray with their children. Kids can be taught to pray at set times and situations (such as saying thanks before meals and also more individual prayers before bedtime). Mothers also have many opportunities to pray with their children as situations arise: a grazed knee, a letter ariving from far off friends or family, a child who is feeling sick, a beautiful flower that has opened in the garden. Praise God (admire His nature and character with joy); thank God (appreciate His work and provision gratefully); ask God (appeal to Him with specific requests for the good things which are desired).

When a mother observes a stubbornness of heart over a certain issue (of obedience - to the mother's instruction or God's holy expectations), it is wise for her to direct her child not just to take Time Out to consider what they are doing wrong or not doing right. The mother should also guide (or, for an older child, direct) the child to talk to God about it. Children need to learn how to say sorry to God (apologise) for their sinful action/inaction. This can help them to understand the nature of their sin and their need for a Saviour.

Two last quotes, the first from Lisa Whelchel, in her book Creative Correction “Remember, it’s God who ultimately does the molding. He uses our hands, but He touches their hearts.” As Paul put it (1 Corinthians 3:6,9), "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. ... For we are God's fellow workers..."

Thursday, 15 May 2008

An encouraging post by Jean

Jean at in all honesty has written a post called the tale of two mornings. It's worth a read.

Building Boys and Growing Girls pt3

If you have not read pt1 and pt2 of this series, please read them first.


: God builds boys and grows girls through the circumstances of their lives
This principle is an extension of the way God works in the lives of all believers. Even in the early years when a child is not yet a believer, God is still Sovereign and He will act in their lives according to His purposes (for His glory).

James wrote (1:3-4), "you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish it's work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." He also taught that the opportunities in our lives come according to the Lord's will (James 4:13-15). Peter wrote (1 Peter 1:6-7), " for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so thjat your faith ... may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed." In the same letter Peter taught that God's people are being built up to be a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:4-5,9).

It is in the knowledge that God does not leave people to be purely controlled by their chemistry and biology, but uses the circumstances of their lives to build and grow them up into the people He wants them to be, that we can understand the reasoning behind the instruction (Ephesians 6:4) to bring up children "in the training and instruction of the Lord." This echoes the Proverbial command (Proverbs 22:6) to "Train a child in the way he should go". Parents have the God-given responsibility to bring their child up in the ways of the Lord, which include saving knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ (more on that in Friday's post) but also in the way in which their lives should go according to God's purposes for them in line with the gender He has given them.

: Mothering to build boys and grow girls
Support and encourage Boy Time
At the outset, I have to make it clear that it is not the mother who is the most influential parent in this process for boys; it is the father. According to Dr Joseph Nicolosi (quoted by Dr James Dobson in Bringing Up Boys), "Mothers make boys. Fathers make men." While unconditional love from mothers is important in the earliest years, as a boy grows he needs to align himself with his father, not his mother. This is especially true from around 18 months to 3 years (while the boy's understanding of what a man is is being formed) and again in the adolescent years (while the boy is undergoing the physical maturation into the body of the man he will be).

So the most important thing a mother can do to build her son is to encourage and assist him to spend time with his Dad, doing "boy stuff". Boy Time is a time for the son to receive his father's affection, attention and approval. My husband says this is about the boy spending time observing his father live life as a man - a Christian man. How does Dad treat women other than Mum? How does Dad speak to other kids? What does he talk about to other men and in what way? What does he do? How does he do it? It is an opportunity for boys to see their father's daily life, in order that they might learn to value it and aspire to be a man like their father.

My husband suggested a wife ask her husband, "When is a good time (today/this week/this month) for me to make sure things are taken care of so our son is free to be with you? Is there any way I could help you so that you can be free to be with him?" If he says he wants to spend a certain time with his sons, she should sort out the family schedule so that this can happen. A mother should (hopefully) not need to encourage her husband to spend time with his son/s, but she should be as helpful as she can to make it possible. She does not need to suggest what they do or where they go; that's the father's job. But she can facilitate and support Boy Time so that it is able to happen regularly.

A mother can also support Boy Time through the way she talks to her son/s. She should be positive and encouraging, with regards to both the activity and the male nature of their father. She might say, "I'm glad you are going to Karate lessons with Dad. It's great for you to learn to be strong and to control your strength." She might add, "Wasn't it great that Dad made up your very own bed time story last night when you were getting your cuddles? I was so happy to hear you praying together." (This sounds corny, but so long as she is sincere, her words will encourage rather than flatter.) She might ask, "Did you have fun on your trip to the hardware store with Dad? I'm pleased that he is teaching you all about tools and other men's things." She should recognise and appreciate the building manhood of her son.

Now some people would object to my use of the phrases "boy stuff" and "men's things". I'm not trying to say a woman should never learn how to change a tyre or mow a lawn. These are both things that my Dad taught me, which have come in handy especially since I married a man with a longstanding back injury. Rather, in recent conversations with my husband, he has explained to me that it is important - and good - for some activities and objects to be labelled (at least for a time when the child's understanding of masculinity and femininity is being formed) as male or female. Not everything needs to be unisex, especially if our aim is to build boys to the glory of God.

A very important thing is that Dads read Bible stories to their children, especially their boys. An awful lot of Christian men leave the Bible reading to their wives. This is very unfortunate, because it gives the kids the impression that Christianity is only for girls. It can be difficult for men, espcially if they struggle to understand the Bible for themselves, which is not uncommon (according to my husband).

Kids can often ask odd questions which can be difficult to answer, because children are looking at the Bible stories with a clear set of eyes, they do not have a contextual understanding yet nor even basic theological and doctrinal knowledge. It is okay for adults to tell their kids "I'll answer that one tomorrow night," as long as they do. It is important to stick to narratives with young children. It's a good idea to get a children's Bible story book or a standard Bible which has comments that help find the focus of the story. Mothers need to be very careful that they do not pre-empt their husband's Bible reading with their own efforts. They can, however, make it as easy for their husband as possible. Have the story Bible ready there at the table with the breakfast bowls or dinner plates, for starters. Having a set routine will greatly assist regularity.

Respecting and honouring husbands
In supporting and encouraging Boy Time, the wife is also respecting and honouring her husband, as she is called to do in the Bible. Talk about two birds and one stone!

At times a mother will need to apologise to her husband and her children for words she has said or things she has done which have been disrespectful to her husband. I had to do this just last night when I let my frustration out in innappropriate ways. Be honest and humble! If a wife has acted badly towards her husband in front of her children, she will need to apologise to them as well as to him, because she needs to show them she knows what she did was wrong and she is taking responsibility for making it right. It is not enough for her to apologise just to her husband, because she has also hurt her children through this action.

On a positive note, a mother should take time to praise her husband in her children's hearing, as well as out of it. She should thank him publicly for the way he "husbands" her and the entire family, managing the family's resources, providing for their needs, protecting them and giving them pastoral, priestly direction.

Requiring appropriate obedience and respect
Mothers should be careful that in their encouragement of boy stuff and Boy Time, they do not go overboard. Mothers should be clear in their conversations with their children: boys are not the boss of girls, nor are (even) all men the boss of all women. Neither of these is correct biblically. Rather, a mother should teach her children (through both word and deed) that wives are to respect and submit to their own husbands; that a husband is the head of his own wife; and that God is the boss of both men and women.

Another thing to be clear on: boys are not the boss of their mother. Boys will often stretch their manly wings by usurping the mother's authority (or attempting to). They need to learn that the only man who has been given authority over their mother is their mother's husband (and, when she was younger, her father). All children need to be taught to obey their parents and respect other adults. Some things to consider: training all children in First Time Obedience and Respectful Manners.

Modelling Biblical womanhood to daughters in Girl Time
What mothers do will be more influential than what they say to their daughters. Mothers should let their daughters spend time with them doing womanly things. This is Girl Time: letting them sit nearby and pretend to nurse their dolls while she feeds the baby; cuddling them and holding them when they are sad or upset and also just because she loves them; encouraging them to stand nearby and talk or help while she prepares dinner (maybe putting them in a highchair so they can see from a safe distance if they are young and squirmy); asking them to wash the plastic crockery in the sink after she has washed the china and glassware; giving them a little broom to sweep ahead of Mummy as she cleans the floor; taking them along when she goes to visit and serve a sick friend or to talk and pray with an older lady from church.

Playing together can offer a chance for womanhood modelling as well, if the mother talks as they play about womanly things. I don't mean a constant barrage of lectures on womanhood, I mean a gentle ebb and flow of conversation which at times includes matters such as marriage, mothering, love of others, being a servant, and being a daughter of the King.

A mother needs to demonstrate respectful submission to her husband before her daughters, so that they may learn from her example. I know this can be difficult. But if a mother desires that her daughters may have an easier time than she in submitting to God, the mother should do what she can to teach her daughters to submit to the men in their lives whom God has appointed to authority over them. If girls cannot submit to their proximate authority in the world (their father), it will be very hard for them to submit to their ultimate authority: God.

I must add a warning here. If you have a daughter, any time that you are both awake and she is anywhere within sight, sound or thought of you is Girl Time. A daughter's heart is always learning from her mother. This is a scary thought - but far less awesome than the reality of God's coming final judgement of all people. Consider the close presence of your daughter and her watchfulness as a spur to remind you that God is with you, desiring your obedience in all things. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body."

A mother must make sure that her own life is on the right track as regards to God's will for her as a woman before she can adequately grow her daughter. She may need to repent of certain attitudes, words or actions. Then, she must take responsibility for being the gardener whose efforts grow her daughter into a godly woman. 'Water' her and give her 'fertiliser', remove 'weeds' from around her, provide a 'trellis' or 'stake' so she can grow bigger and more mature. How will you do these things in the life of your daughter?

This is not an exclusive list of things which can be done by mothers to build their sons and grow their daughters. Rather, it is a list to work with and start from.


Coming up next:
What every child needs, regardless of their gender - a relationship with God!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Building Boys and Growing Girls pt2

If you have not read pt1 of this series, please read it first.


: God created girls to grow into women
Girls are talkative and friendly. They love to spend time with people; they love to play with toys that are based on relationships - doll babies, tea sets, doll houses with little families to inhabit them, farm houses with a farmer to feed and care for the animals; they appreciate stories with interaction rather than action; they enjoy cuddles and kisses more (more of them, to a greater age) than their male siblings; they are cautious and like stability and security; they are good at communicating and being understood as well as just heard; they are caring, compassionate and cautious. Girls want to be considered beautiful, listened to, involved in good relationships and loved by their family and friends.

As with boys, the girly nature is influenced by God-designed chemistry and biology. Girls have higher levels of the hormone serotonin flowing in their brains, pacifying and soothing their emotions and facilitating good judgement, decreasing aggressiveness and temper, equipping them to be submissive, to be good, thoughtful students and to make less mistakes. The amygdala, a region of the brain which precipitates the release of adrenaline, is smaller in girls, making them less responsive to danger and aggressive moods.

These characteristics will help to grow them into women who will love their family by (as a wife) submitting to their husband and by being caring, compassionate and diligent in managing their homes. They may serve the greater body of Christ in some of these ways also, perhaps through a job or volunteer work, or in a vocation.

: God's (broad) purposes for women
Girls need to be grown into women who will be a wife who willingly and respectfully submits to her own husband.
This is the specific expression of generalised submission to each other within the greater body of Christ which is required of wives to their husbands. Ephesians 5:22&24 says, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. ... Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." 1 Peter 3:1a&5 says, "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands... For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands." (Read the whole passage for a more detailed discussion - Sarah, who is specifically mentioned as our example, didn't exactly have an easy task in the situations in which she freely chose to submit to Abraham's will.) It is not a very 'politically correct' purpose for women to submit, but given that both Peter and Paul, the pillars of the early church, agreed on this point and taught it directly, as mothers we must be willing to help our daughters grow in this direction.

(1 Timothy 5:9 also notes that a widow is only to be considered worthy for help from the church if, as the first listed consideration, she has been "faithful to her husband". 1 Timothy 3:11 speaks of the wives of those considered forservice to the church: they "are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.")

Girls need to be grown into women who will care for their families.
Titus 2:3-5 speaks of the qualities of an older woman who can teach younger women, and what should be her godly 'curriculum': the first two items are "to love their husbands and children". 1 Timothy 5:16 says, "If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened..." (cf also 1Tim5:4).

Girls need to be grown into women who will act with compassion to others.
1 Timothy 5:10 lists the qualities of a worthy widow that she "is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hopsitality, washing the feet of the saints [ie meek and humble service], helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds." Galatians 6:2 (written to all Christians, not solely women) instructs, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." That is, "Love thy neighbour"! Check out the letter of 1 John, especially 3:11-24. Thus we can see that the compassionate action of women extends from their immediate nuclear family, to the extended family, and out to the entire family of God.

Girls need to be grown into women who will be diligent managers of their homes.
Titus 2:3-5 (previously mentioned) says young women are to be trained to be "busy at home". Contrast this with 1 Timothy 5:13, which considers the bad habits of some women: "not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to." Paul's solution is explained in the following verse: "So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no oppportynity for slander." For the OT ideal of wifely diligence, check out Proverbs 31:10-31.


Coming up next:
God builds boys and grows girls through the circumstances of their lives and Mothering to build boys and grow girls.

And lastly:
What every child needs, regardless of their gender - a relationship with God!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Building Boys and Growing Girls pt1

This series is the text of a talk for my GEMS meeting. It is written from a Christian world view: this is a warning, not an apology!


: God created boys biologically and chemically different to girls
Boys grow up to have bigger pectorals and girls grow up to have bigger mammary glands, but the biological differences don't stop there. Girls have higher levels of serotonin and boys have much higher levels of testosterone, but the chemical differences don't stop there either. Differences in chemistry and anatomy between boys and girls have flow on effects to the way the children behave, the choices they make and the relationships they have. The differences between boys and girls are not merely a result of social forces, and these differences have a purpose: God's purpose for their lives as adults.

: God created boys to be built into men
Boys are noisy and wiggly; they enjoy playing active, often destructive games; they also enjoy building things and making objects; they like to fight, argue and boast; they take risks; they are good at spatial skills and logical thinking. Boys want to be big, strong, brave and powerful.
This boyish nature is, to a large extent, a result of the biological and chemical nature of boys' bodies.

The hormone testosterone is higher in boys (with spikes prenatally and during puberty), inclining them to higher-risk behaviour choices and equipping them with a drive to succeed. The corpus collosum, a bundle of nerves which join the two halves of the brain, is smaller and less efficient in boys, giving them comparatively less facility with language and hence their communication is more tightly focussed on facts and less on emotions.

These are tendencies which will build them into men who will serve their family as a leader, provider, protector and spiritual director; they will serve the greater body of Christ in some of these ways also, through their career or vocation.

: God's (broad) purposes for men
Boys need to be built into men who will be the husband (manager) of their family.
A husband is not just the name for the male in a marriage relationship: to be a husband means to be one who manages and uses resources thriftily (synonyms of the verb include budget, conserve, economise); the name "husband" has roots in a description of a farmer who tilled his soil and raised food, rendered "husbandman" in the KJV. "Husbandry" refers to farming especially when regarded as a science, skill or art; it also refers to management of responsibilities and resources (synonyms include cultivation, land management, careful management, frugality, thrift, good housekeeping).

Ephesians 5:23 says, "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour." 1 Timothy 3:4 (describing those men suitable for service to the church) says, "He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect." Verse 12 from the same chapter says, "A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and manage his children and his household well."

Boys need to be built into men who will be the provider for their family.
1 Timothy 5:8 says, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

Boys need to be built into men who will be the protector of their family.
Ephesians 5:25&28 says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her... In this same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself."

Boys need to be built into men who will be the pastor of their family.
Ephesians 6:4 says, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children - instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Titus 1:6, another text which considers men who would be suitable for church leadership, lists a prerequisite of being "...a man whose children believe...". There are a number of OT texts which support this also.


Coming up next:
God created girls to grow into women and God's (broad) purposes for women.

After that:
God builds boys and grows girls through the circumstances of their lives and Mothering to build boys and grow girls.

And lastly:
What every child needs, regardless of their gender - a relationship with God!

Monday, 12 May 2008

My Baby is in a Big Bed

Yesterday, I went to get Samuel after his nap and found him half way over the rail of his cot, suspended mid-way with a long drop to get out. I decided right then it was time for Samuel to move into a Big Bed. This was an emotional decision not so much because now I have no more babies in cots (actually, the mummy hormones are pretty much in control over that one). This is emotional because Jeff made the cot himself for our firstborn, Joshua, five years ago. The cot was one of Jeff's first large carpentry projects for our family. Each of our four children has slept in "the cot that Jeff made" (to paraphrase a nursery rhyme).It's true, there have been problems for a while, such as the need for shoelaces to hold one side on for the last two-and-a-half years, since we moved to Perth and the cot didn't fair so well in the moving.There's also the row of teeth marks where the paint has been eaten away, which first began appearing when it was Abigail's cot, but grew at an astounding rate when Samuel taught himself to stand up.And in the last month or so two of the side slats have fallen out and we had to turn the gappy side to the wall to prevent escapes - accidental or otherwise.So this morning, Jeff pulled apart the cot and I made up the new bed. For the forseeable future, Samuel will be sleeping on the trundle that we bought when Jeff had two single beds built to order for our eldest two last year. At the moment, it's right down by the floor (at the height of the castors), so Samuel can climb into it easily - and hopefully won't be too upset when he inevitably falls out. When he's a little bigger we can pull out the fold up legs and it will become a sturdy bed at the usual height.

Only right now, having his nap, Samuel looks so small in that BIG bed.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Dear Stay-at-home Mum,

I want to encourage and commend you for making the difficult choice to stay at home full-time for the sakes of your husband and children. Often this can be a thankless job, one which goes unrecognised and undervalued in our society. Yet I have seen in my time as a homemaker that I am making a worthwhile and significant mark in the lives of my children. I am sure that this will be true for you as well, as you have more time to be with your children, more time to talk with your husband and more energy to serve your family in love.

Being a full-time homemaker is challenging, frustrating and hard work. But it is also a high calling. Loving your husband and children will keep you busy at home (see Titus 2:4-5). When each day seems to demand more of you, be encouraged that you are not just working for your husband and your children. You are working for the glory of God; who made you, who chose you as his own and who planned ahead for you to serve Him and them in this place (Ephesians 2:8-10).

May God bless you in your home!

With love,

Monday, 5 May 2008

God's will and guidance

Jeff and I were talking tonight about the way that God guides us. Not His means, but His direction.

Let's try a quick quiz.

When you think of God's will for the circumstances of your life, which of the following metaphors seems to give the right picture?
A) God's will is like a tightrope that is easy to fall off - and very hard to get back on to.
B) God's will is like the one path which leads to the exit through a complex maze with numerous dead ends.
C) God's will is like the bull's eye point in the centre of an archery target to which you aim your life.
D) God's will is like a journey between two cities where there are lots of alternative routes, many of which interconnect, but some of which will be harder or more dangerous to travel on than others.

This question was not about God's will for the salvation of His chosen people. "Salvation is found in no one else [other than Jesus Christ], for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved," as Peter told the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:12). Again, this time in the words of Paul to Timothy (1 Tim 2:5-6): "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men - the testimony given in its proper time." There is only one means possible to be saved. The quiz question is about God's direction for the other parts of our lives.

(In case you're wondering, I think the most theologically correct metaphor is actually D - but I could be wrong.)

This question asks about the idea of 'fate', or God bringing about 'destiny'. Consider the following situation in light of God’s will: Jeff and I met each other and (after much argument and an Alpha course in Christianity) he stopped being a nominal Christian and became a living Christian - and I stopped being a pagan and gave in to God. Today, eight years after we met, some people might look at us and say, "It was fate that you two should be married, no one else could stand you," (or something far more polite but meaning the same thing). Yet it wasn't fate. And I don't think it was God's will either.

Theology can be difficult some times. I know that God is omniscient (all-knowing). And I also know that He is sovereign (in control of all things). But when Jeff met me, I wasn't a Christian, so it was not in God's will for us to marry. Yet we did. And since that choice was made, it is in God's will for us to be married. This is a conundrum which is only explained by God's eternal nature.

Occasionally, when Jeff teaches young adults, the subject of suitable partners for dating/courtship/marriage comes up. Actually, it’s not occasionally, it’s frequently. It used to make me feel pretty grumpy when Jeff said, “If I went back in time, I wouldn’t marry Sharon again.” (What wife wouldn’t feel grumpy at that?) But he doesn’t mean that I’m a bad wife to him now, or he’d like a divorce, or he’d prefer someone else. What he’s saying is, he knows that he made a wrong choice in marrying me because I wasn’t a Christian at the time. The first six months of our marriage were agony for him as it dawned on him that he would never see me – the woman he loved – after we died, because I was heading for an entirely different eternal future to him. The bald fact was: I was going to end up in hell. Jeff hated knowing that. It was only by God’s immense compassion for Jeff and His infinite grace to me that I became a Christian on All Saints’ Day, 2001. If Jeff went back in time, he wouldn’t marry me because it was the wrong thing to do, marrying a non-Christian. It was outside God’s will. And Jeff paid a penalty for it, for those six-or-so months. The repercussions of Jeff’s choice might have been even more difficult to deal with than they were. What if I had not been given faith in God? That is what would keep Jeff from marrying me again, if he were given the chance.

On the other hand, God didn’t have one perfect woman in mind for Jeff to marry. If we think that God has only one true path for our lives, mapped out in advance for us (like the only solution to a complex maze), we are kidding ourselves. God’s rules for Christians looking for a marriage partner are pretty simple: they should be a Christian (1 Corinthians 7:39b, cf 2 Corinthians 6:14), they should be of the opposite sex (1 Corinthians 7:2) and they should not be already married (Mark 7:11-12, 1 Corinthians 7:2 & 39a). That leaves a pretty wide field of potential Mr or Mrs Rights, from which God says a Christian is "free to marry any one" (1 Corinthians 7:39).

Now consider another area of life: choice of career. Jeff has recently begun a ‘Period of Discernment’ with our present denomination, one of the early steps to becoming an ordained minister. This is something he has been moving towards since the day we first walked into DBC together; the night we walked into that Alpha group; the day we heard a man ask for volunteer help at YFC; the night we offered to host the Bible Study we’d been going to; the day he was asked to start a Bible Study at the Uni nearby; the time that his boss agreed he could work 4 day weeks so he could be at the Uni one day a week; the day he was asked if he’d preach his first sermon at our church; the nights that he wrestled with the concept of predestination in Ephesians; the week that he went to his first AFES staff conference; the day of that conversation which first suggested his studying at Theological College; the morning that our minister preached on giving up all you have for the sake of the gospel (and I told Jeff on the drive home God could ask for anything else but our house – you guessed it, God asked for our house); the week he was sent to NUC for “mission week”; the times that he was encouraged by another student to come back to NUC to work part-time while he studied; the day the minister at NUC decided to mentor Jeff; the church history lectures with a pastor who Jeff really liked learning from; the morning when one of the other members of our congregation asked him, “So when are you going to commit to one denomination or the other?”; the morning when he was accepted as a member at our present church; the night when the elders agreed to recommend him as a candidate for ministry…

There have been so many little steps along the way. And yet, I am not sure that God has one single direction in mind for Jeff yet. At the moment, as Jeff nears the end of his Masters in Divinity, we have two options. Jeff has been tentatively offered a job working as the second pastor in the denomination which he grew up in, the denomination where both he and I first became Christians. Jeff also has the possibility of taking a more circuitous 'route', requiring further study (ouch!) and part-time work, continuing to work towards ordination in the denomination of which we both are presently members.

We know that God desires Jeff to serve Him (that’s a no-brainer, it applies to every Christian). We can appreciate God’s gifts to Jeff, especially in teaching and preaching, and see that Jeff would greatly enjoy bringing glory to God through the ministry of the word (as it’s called in Acts 6:4). This is possible in both of these job opportunities. Both of these, as far as we can see right now, are in the will of God. They're acceptable route choices for the journey of Christian life, to continue with the metaphor. But where will Jeff be able to work to the greatest glory of God? That’s the question we’re mulling over at the moment. Please pray for us.