Thursday, 28 August 2008

Falling in Love... with God

This is the last part of an assignment for my Trinity@Night class, Head, Heart and Hands: The Christian Life. For the first installment, read here. The second installment is here. The third installment is here.

The topic is: You have been invited to give a talk where you are sure the audience will include Christians who believe what you believe but also people from a wide variety of denominations as well as some non-Christians. The topic that has been assigned to you is this: The Impact of the Gospel on the Daily Life of a Wife and Mother.

Christianity is not merely a life of obedience to rules made by an awesome King. Our hearts are also involved.

The gospel says Christians have been given that which we could never earn: forgiveness from sin and entrance into eternal life. The thought of this gracious gift makes us thankful. It fills us with joy and hope. It inspires us to praise our generous God. This is the third implication of the gospel, that we will love God.

This third element of the Christian Life is, as Amy said, “difficult to articulate because it is mysterious”. Loving God is something God requires of us (Deuteronomy 6:5), yet something that He himself prompts within us. (Jeremiah 24:7, Ezekiel 11:19-20 and other similar OT passages give promises of the complete experience of this “new heart” which is only partially experienced by present-day Christians eg Paul's experience recounted in Romans 7:22-23.) Our inner life of devotion to God is expressed outwardly (Romans 12:1) in ways that both define our love and extend it. The thoughts of our hearts dwell upon God and His gospel and we articulate our love for God in the words of our prayers and songs. (For many Christians today, prayer and singing are perhaps the most familiar modes of expressing love for God.)

We praise God for who He is and thus see His attributes more clearly (eg the doxology of Romans 11:33-36). We thank God for what He has done and realise the magnitude of His provision (eg the well-known Psalm 23 and less personal Psalm 147). We confess our sin and ask God’s forgiveness and our sense of our sinfulness – and His forgiveness - grows (eg Psalm 51). We request God’s help, admitting our reliance and depending upon Him more each day (eg Psalms 3, 13 and 143). In doing all these things, we find that our regard and love for God grows, even as it is given expression.

Loving God feeds back to the other two elements of our Christian Life. Loving God causes us to want to know God better and obey God more. In this fact all three elements of the Christian Life, lived in response to the gospel of salvation through the person and work of Jesus Christ, come together.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Obedience training for Christians

This is the third part of an assignment for my Trinity@Night class, Head, Heart and Hands: The Christian Life. For the first installment, read here. The second installment is here.

The topic is: You have been invited to give a talk where you are sure the audience will include Christians who believe what you believe but also people from a wide variety of denominations as well as some non-Christians. The topic that has been assigned to you is this: The Impact of the Gospel on the Daily Life of a Wife and Mother.

If we stopped at getting to know God, Christianity would be merely an intellectual exercise. However, what we find out about God in the Bible changes the way we behave in our daily lives.

As I mentioned before, Jesus died to become our Saviour. He also rose to life and ascended to heaven as our King, our Lord. Encouraged by the Holy Spirit within, Christians desire to live in ways that please God (Ephesians 5:8-10) and bring Him the glory and fame He deserves because He is our King.

The Bible tells us, "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its sinful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24). Christians have several words for this, such as sanctification. Another slightly shorter and more familiar word is obedience. The Bible tells us there are two elements of obedience to God which should be evident in every Christian's daily life.

The first element is one of personal conduct, or character. A Christian's character standards are determined by the character of God. I was "created to be like God" so I strive to grow in godliness, as an imitator of God (Ephesians 5:1). As I mentioned before, I learn about the character of God every time I read the Bible. The character of God has been most fully revealed in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. The Old Testament laws and New Testament letters also teach us what "true righteousness and holiness" looks like. A short, non-exhaustive list includes character traits such as self-control, self-discipline and diligence; honesty and humility; patience, endurance and perseverance; compassion, kindness and gentleness (eg Galatians 5:16-26, Ephesians 4:1-5:20, Colossians 3:1-17).

The second element is one of interpersonal conduct, or relationships. As a Christian, my attitudes and actions towards others need to be based upon Jesus' statement that the second most important commandment (after loving God) is to "love your neighbour as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-40). Loving actions toward others put them first, not myself. Loving others means forgiving faults and misdeeds; helping and serving; seeking unity among Christians; and, importantly, telling others about the gospel.

If these descriptions of Christian conduct don't sound like yours, do not despair! We have a gracious God, abounding in mercy towards sinners. Confess your sin to Him and He will make you clean (1 John 1:9). Then move Godward in your daily life, making each decision, each action, one of obedience to Him.

[A little over 380 words, I'm obviously getting more consise as I go on. Any suggestions for other vitally important Christian character traits, or examples of loving actions? Any other comments? I'm not sure I've emphasised enough that this way of life is pursued out of obedience to God, in response to the gospel. Any suggestions on that?
The next, and last, part of this assignment will address "loving God". I've had quite a few conversations with Jeff on that one, but it still feels a bit like my nemesis (a bit nemesitic???), so feel free to leave suggestions in the comments for this post.]

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Getting to know God

This is the second part of an assignment for my Trinity@Night class, Head, Heart and Hands: The Christian Life. For the first installment, read here.

The topic is: You have been invited to give a talk where you are sure the audience will include Christians who believe what you believe but also people from a wide variety of denominations as well as some non-Christians. The topic that has been assigned to you is this: The Impact of the Gospel on the Daily Life of a Wife and Mother.

One way of examining the implications of the gospel is to consider what we do with our head, our hands and our heart.

As Christians who have a relationship with God, we need to get to know God better. Think back to when you were first dating your husband, or on your honeymoon. How did you get to know your husband? You had conversations and listened to what he had to say. The same principle works with God, except we don't listen to His spoken words; rather, we read His written Word, the Bible.

The Bible is full of stories, sermons and psalms that help us understand who God is and what He is like. The first implication of the gospel, therefore, is that we will open our Bibles regularly, hopefully daily. As we read, we ask, "What does this bit of the Bible teach me about God?"

For those of you who find Bible reading and study difficult, I have a few practical suggestions.

1. Don't expect to read the Bible like a novel or a text book. It's not! The Bible is a collection of books. Some of them tell of historical events or give advice to God's people. Others are anthologies of poetry or prophecy. Some bits of the Bible can be read easily, others need to be taken slower to make the reading worthwhile. If you're looking for help to understand how the books all fit together, come along to next month's talk, The Bible Overview.

2. Choose one book to read, and read right through it, a bit each day. If you're just beginning to read the Bible on your own, you could start with Luke, which tells about the life of Jesus. Then try Acts, which tells what happened next. After that, you could tackle one of Paul's letters to Christians, such as Philippians or Colossians.

3. Don't think just because you've read that bit of the Bible once, you shouldn't read it again. You wouldn't have one conversation about your children with your husband and never discuss them with him again! Even if you've read through the Bible many times, God will still use His Word to teach you more about Himself.

4. Don't think you can only read the Bible on your own. I learn things about my husband when he talks to other people in front of me. In the same way, you can read the Bible together with others, or listen to other people talk about what they've learnt from the Bible. We have many Bible study groups at this church, and you are welcome to join one. Each Sunday, our church minster gives a talk examining and explaining a chapter or two from the Bible. Just don't let these become your only way of getting to know God. There's no substitute for intimate conversation!

[Righty-ho then, that's another 483 words and I'm only half way through. Without the practical hints, though, it's only 148 so I might just have to squash those four points into twenty words each and I'd be right on target. For further instalments of my assignment/talk, please check back at my blog over the next few days.
You will have noticed I am trying to include mention in my talk of outside resources. I highly recommend The Bible Overview, as a three session course, a single talk or even just as a workbook. I learnt for the first time how the whole Bible fits together when this was presented to all the new students and their wives when Jeff first began Theological College. Jeff loves to use it with teenage Sunday Schoolers, so you can see its utility for diverse groups!]

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

What is the gospel anyway?

This is the first part of an assignment for my Trinity@Night class, Head, Heart and Hands: The Christian Life.

The topic is: You have been invited to give a talk where you are sure the audience will include Christians who believe what you believe but also people from a wide variety of denominations as well as some non-Christians. The topic that has been assigned to you is this: The Impact of the Gospel on the Daily Life of a Wife and Mother.

So here goes.

Before I can talk about the impact of the gospel in our everyday lives, I want to make sure you know what the gospel is. You may have attended church your whole life without having it explained clearly. Or, you might never have set foot in a church building and heard that word before today. So let's start at the beginning... the very beginning.

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." That's the first sentence in the Bible (Genesis 1:1). It is one of the fundamental, foundational beliefs of a Christian. God made everything that we experience with our senses and He also made those things which cannot be perceived directly but which never-the-less exist. Because God created everything that exists, He is in charge. As I tell my kids, God's The Boss.

The Greek word "gospel" means good news, but the next part of the gospel isn't good at all. Soon after God had created the heavens and the earth, things went pear-shaped. The first people God made disobeyed His direct instructions (Genesis 3). They decided that they knew better than The Boss, and they'd rather do things their way. This is what Christians call "sin": rebelling against God. Sadly, since that first sin, every person who ever lived has chosen to do the same thing: to be their own boss rather than letting God be The Boss. And, as every young child knows, when you disobey, you get punished. The Bible says that the punishment for sin is death, eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23). That might seem pretty harsh; but consider, we have not just disobeyed our parents, our husband, or our employer, but our Creator: the most important Boss of all.

Now for the good part of the gospel. God had a plan to take the punishment for my sin and yours, so that we would not have to be separated from Him forever. God made us, and He wants to have a relationship with us. So His only Son Jesus died for us, taking the punishment in our place. This is how God had mercy on us: just as a merciful mother might choose to bear the unpleasant consequences of her child's misdemeanour herself, God has taken the negative consequences that we deserved for our sin. This is how God extended grace to us: just as the mother extended mercy freely, God gave up His Son freely for us, so that "all who believe might not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). And just as a child cannot ever repay their mother for what has been done on their behalf, there is nothing we can do to repay God for what His Son Jesus Christ has done for us.

The gospel story doesn't stop there. Jesus didn't just die to become our "Saviour", saving us from the consequences of our rebellion against God. No. The Bible tells us that "God has raised this Jesus to life" (Acts 2:32) and that He now sits on a throne in heaven (Ephesians 1:20), as the "King" of every Christian's life. The Bible says that if we hold firmly to the truth about what Jesus Christ has done for us through His death and resurrection, we will be saved (1 Corinthians 15:1-5).

That's the gospel in a nutshell. If you've heard something today you want or need to hear more about, I'd invite you to talk to the person who you came with or one of the organisers of this event, or to consider joining one of our upcoming courses, Introducing God and Two Ways to Live. These courses will explain what I have just said in more detail and give you an opportunity to ask questions and have them answered in a more private setting than here.

Of course, Jesus being King over a kingdom which includes you and I means that we will live our everyday lives differently to those lived by others around us. This is what I'm going to talk about now...

[Okay, that's 667 words, over twice as much as I had allocated. Obviously I'm going to have to cut back somewhere! For further instalments of my assignment/talk, please check back at my blog over the following few days. If you are interested in the course I mentioned called "Two Ways to Live", you can read more about it here.]

Sunday, 17 August 2008

I've gotta write an essay

This week, I'm going to be writing an essay (1000 words) on "The Implications of the Gospel for the Life of a Christian Woman, Wife and Mother" for my Trinity@Night class on The Christian Life: Head, Heart and Hands. I ran through my initial thoughts with my friend Mrs T on Friday and she seemed to think it sounded okay, although I'd have trouble sticking to the word limit. If you've read this blog for any length of time you'd know word limits are a perennial problem for me. Blog posts are meant to be succinct and pithy. Not mine. Oh well.

So that's why over the next week I'll be posting the draft of my essay in installments of - hopefully - around 250 words. The essay (if all goes to my current plan) will address:
1. What is the gospel anyway?
2. Getting to know God: reading His Word and praying back to Him.
3. Developing love and fear for God: ... this one is going to be the hardest for me.
4. Obeying God: doing what He wants me to do.

If you're interested in the topic, I hope you enjoy my brevity on the matter. If you're not interested, forewarned is forearmed, so feel free to avoid this blog for a week!

Be encouraged. Take my hand.

This morning, as I was brushing Abigail's hair for church, she began to complain of the pain. As she did so, Anna, who was sitting next to her at the table, reached for Abigail's hand and began to encourage her.

"Don't be upset," Anna exhorted. "Be brave. Take courage, like Jesus when He walked on the water. Don't be afraid. I will hold your hand."

I looked down. There, between the two sisters, their hands lay entwined the entire time I carefully brushed and combed Abigail's long and tangled hair.

Do you remember what Matthew said Jesus did when Peter began to sink beneath the waves?Matthew 14:31 tells us, "Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him." Jesus did not wait to offer help and assistance. Instead, He acted immediately. Jesus did not simply give Peter instructions on how to swim, as he evidently lacked the faith to walk upon the water. Instead, Jesus reached out his hand to Peter, and caught him up.

Who do you see needing your help today? To whom can you offer not only words of encouragement, but a hand up as well?

Obama on abortion

Barack Obama at Saddleback Church:
"I am pro-choice. I believe in Roe versus Wade. And, and I come to that conclusion not because I'm pro-abortion; but because, ultimately, I don't think women make these decisions casually. I think they, they wrestle with these things in profound ways."

I find this comment fascinating and distressing. Not because American politics holds any interest to me (I find American presidential campaigns baffling as well as boring), rather because I love my children now and I loved them from the moment I knew they were growing inside me. The baby whom we lost to miscarriage between my pregnancies with Joshua and Anna was loved and prayed for and is still mourned. I think back with sadness and shame to the occasion I took the morning after pill to avoid an "inconvenient" pregnancy when a condom broke, and pray that I might be forgiven for cutting short any life that had already been conceived within me that day. I am forever grateful to my Father in Heaven who has forgiven my sin, Whose Son took my punishment when He died on the cross for me. I know He loves my children - all of them, born and unborn - much more than I could ever imagine.

Obama's comment forces me to ask: Isn't the single characteristic which makes murder different to manslaughter - and so much more monstrous - the forethought that precedes the action? So why, then, does Obama think that a deliberate prior decision to take a life somehow makes the action of taking that life acceptable? I do not understand this. Taking a life is taking a life, whether one "wrestles" with the moral implications or not. The choice of abortion must be condemned for what it is: a deliberate, wilful act of murder.

The Bible on Murder
Exodus 20:13 (the sixth commandment) says, "You shall not commit murder." Consider what God said to Cain after he murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4:10-11): "The LORD said, 'What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse...' " What curse will be put on those among us who allow these murders to continue? And think upon how God warned Noah after the flood (Genesis 9:5-6): " 'And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.' " What accounting will be made of our involvement in this continued genocide? Even the tiniest baby is made in the image of God. This image-bearing status cannot be removed by any decision of the mother, casual or otherwise. It was and is the gift of God. May His name be glorified in all the earth!

Friday, 15 August 2008

About to begin homeschooling in Perth?

Home Based Learning Network WA Inc.
presents an information evening on

Home Education : Getting Started in WA

Wednesday 24th September 2008
7:30pm 9:30pm
Leisurelife Centre
Cnr Glouster & Kent Sts, East Vic Park

Queries / RSVP: Jane 0412 072 498

Interested parties are invited to join Home Educating parents for an
informal information night to discuss geting started with home
education. Topics include how to start, legalities, moderator
reporting and socialization.

If you have friends or family who would like to discussing getting
into Home Education, or if you're thinking about it and would like to
get some help in sorting some issues out, join us for a chat and
learn about this exciting educational option for you and your

Brought to you by:
The Home Based Learning Network of WA
Contact: Jane Hamilton ejhamilton@optusnet /0412 072 498
Or visit our website : au

Monday, 11 August 2008

LOTEs for littlies

I aspire to the goal of having my children learn several languages other than English. In a perfect world, I'd love them to learn New Testament (aka Koine) Greek, Latin, Italian (their Aunt comes from a family of Italian immigrants) and Mandarin Chinese (another of their Aunts is an ethnic Chinese immigrant from Singapore). However, this isn't a perfect world!

Adrienne from Theological Kids teaches her primary-aged duaghter NT Greek and Latin as well. She has inspired me to start early with my kids, but perhaps not quite as early as she recommended.

Here are some curriculum options for teaching Greek to primary-aged children:
Elementary Greek: Koine for Beginners by Christine Gatchell. This is what Adrienne uses with her daughter. According to the publisher (Open Texture), it is suitable from grade two or three up, or as a self-teaching program for teens and adults (ie, me).
Classical Academic Press (who also publish The Art of Argument,) are about to release Greek for Children, which they say is suitable from grade three up. They have already released Greek Alphabet Code Cracker which is described as an introduction to the Greek alphabet "for all ages" although the way it is presented may be more of interest to older kids. The Classical Academic Press site also mentions Song School Greek but I can't find a link for that, so it might be still to come.
Trivium Pursuit also produces a copybook for the Greek alphabet with a pronunciation guide, called A Greek Hupogrammon. This goes with their A Greek Alphabetarion, which is advertised as "A Primer for Teaching How to Read, Write & Pronounce Ancient & Biblical Greek".

Learning Latin:
Classical Academic Press also publish Latin for Children, which at the moment is my preferred text for teaching Latin to the kids. This program starts at third grade, and they have recently produced Song School Latin for K-3.
Other programs for teaching Latin include Memoria Press's Prima Latina (to begin with in K-3) and Latina Christiana (for later years).
I recently purchased Henle Latin to teach myself Latin. I'd really like to learn at least a year's worth of Latin while we are in Perth because I know I have access to people who already know it. At least two of Jeff's lecturers know Latin (it's only a small college).

Jeff relayed an anecdote to me yesterday of his lecturer correcting a student's Latin using Greek, to be sure that they kept up with the Greek that they had earlier studied under him. He he he!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Visitors at the door

It being a Saturday morning, we just had some visitors. They had come to tell us about their religious beliefs. So, as I usually do, I told them, "We are Christians". Seeing my kids playing in the background, they said they'd like to talk about the importance of teaching your kids what you believe. I told them we take teaching our kids from the Bible pretty seriously in our house. And then, since Joshua was coming forward to tell all about his latest block project, I decided to let him talk to them. "Tell them what you know about Jesus, Joshua" I prompted.

"Well," he began, "some bad people wanted to kill Jesus, but that was all part of God's plan to rescue us from our sin. So they killed him on a cross," (arms outstretched) "and he died and they buried him. But then... he rose again! And I know a song about Easter: Friday morning, Jesus had died, all his friends were sad and they cried," (then Anna joined in) "Easter morning, what a surprise, Jesus has risen, hooray! He's alive!"

I was pretty proud of - and thankful to God for - Joshua and Anna's ability to share the gospel with these visitors. Who have you shared the good news of Jesus with lately? Have you taught your children to tell others about Jesus?

Weekly Report 2008:29

With the sudden appearance of high temperatures and lethargic little ones, our third week of semester was disrupted somewhat. Despite doctor's visits, (yes, yet another of my kiddos is back on antibiotics, this time it's the big gun penicillin), I managed to keep almost on track by picking the most important/best of Thursday and Friday's planned activities and focussing on those.

Circle Time
Jeff was very busy preparing for his first in a series of interviews with our church's denomination for consideration as a candidate for Ministry of the Word, so I led most of our Circle Times this week. We read the stories of Abraham & Lot choosing land, of God's promise to Abraham (descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky) and then the fulfilment of God's promise in the birth of Isaac. On Friday, we read of God's request that Abraham sacrifice his promised son, Abraham's faithful obedience and God's last minute provision of an alternative sacrifice. It was wonderful to spend a week talking about God's promises, and how even though we often have no idea how He could possibly carry them out, or we feel God's promised gifts are under threat, God is still faithful, trustworthy and true. In the words of the Colin Buchanan song (from Isaiah 46:9-10), "God says, 'I am God and there is no other. I am God and there is none like me. I say: My plan will stand, and I will do all that I please.' " How true this is!

We finished Dangerous Journey this week and will be using a quotation from that for tracework/copywork/dictation and narration for Joshua next week. I just have to pick the quotation! I have loved reading through this with the children, despite the times when I had to hide the pictures because they were too scary. At the moment many of the people met on Christian's and Christiana's dangerous journeys are a bit of a mystery to the kids, but the events such as the unintended visit to Doubting Castle were clear enough metaphors for them to take in, with the help of Mum & Dad's ongoing commentary. I can see re-reading this book over the years will continue to yield fresh insight and encouragement for the Christian Life as we and they grow and go through some of the events portrayed allegorically by Bunyan.
Anna has a burning desire to narrate the story of the three little pigs to me, so she will do that for her narration next week. This week she narrated Tim to the Rescue much better than Joshua' who hadn't the patience that particular day.

Joshua has finished re-reading all the Bob Books in the second (orange) set. He is a much stronger and more confident reader for the practise. Anna is now three books in to the same set, and of course she is reading them slower but, from my memory, she seems a lot more fluent than Joshua was when he first read the set. She has begun picking up picture books and trying to read the words on her own. Last night she announced, "Shhh! I am trying to read the newspaper!" and we realised she was reading the headlines over Jeff's shoulder. This is a step of independence in reading which Joshua has yet to attempt. Jeff considers it another reflection upon her insistence on "reading" from picture books when she was little. I just think she's obviously going to grow up like me... head perennially stuck in some book or other!
Writing lessons went well this week although, due to Abigail and later Samuel's sickness, we only managed three days out of the planned four.

We finished Lesson 19 from Earlybird Mathematics 2A, convering quarters. The kids have a pretty good grip on this now and even Abigail has learnt a bit from listening in on some of our discussions. We didn't get to begin Lesson 20 as planned, but will still hopefully finish the book next week.

Science and Geography
Our study of Polar bears was enjoyed by all this week. As well as the websites I already mentioned, we checked out some pictures my cousin sent me from their trip to see a polar bear at Sea World, in QLD. The kids loved hearing the polar bear roar (from the National Geographic website). We also watched a TV show "The Tipping Point" about the retreat of the Arctic ice cap. In the middle of all the shots of floating sea ice, we saw about one minute of footage of a polar bear with its prey, a seal. The kids liked that, and they also liked hearing about one particular arctic bird which has no nest but lays one egg on a small shelf many metres up sea cliffs, then stands over it to warm it for three weeks. The hatchling is three months old before it takes its first flight down from the cliffs. What a precarious life cycle! As you can probably guess, we've been looking at the Arctic Circle for Geography this week.

The kids made elephant pictures, drawing around their hands and then painting them. We also made cardboard cut out people and dressed them in colourful cut out paper clothes, and this was Joshua's favourite. Wednesday's efforts with the water colour paints were a hit as well.

And in the evenings
Joshua loved Anchor Boys again this week. He told me excitedly yesterday, "Mum, today's Friday! That means tomorrow's Saturday and then there's only one more day before Anchor Boys Day!" Yes, we have one excited boy in our family.
I enjoyed my second week of T@N classes. I am glad I am studying two such different subjects, one exegetical (1&2 Samuel) and the other more practical (Head, Heart & Hands), because two exegetical subjects would have been overwhelming.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

"I love you, but..."

Anna (to Abi, sick on the couch): "I really love you Abi. I mean, not as much as I love God. But I do love you very much!"

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

An Art Lesson

I just overheard Joshua say : "Oohhh... different colours and white make a lighter colour!"

Maybe he should have learnt this from real life instead of Play School. Frankly, I never realised he didn't know it already.

Now he's saying, "Black and white makes grey."

Hmm. He seems to be learning fine. Maybe he can go on having no-mess art lessons from the TV.

(PS, he did painting for his Craft Time after playschool and had a great time mixing colours. I'm sure he learnt heaps then as well.)

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Ever googled yourself?

Okay, it's a beautiful sunny day for the second day in a row and the kids have had some great fun playing outside. So while I was hanging out the washing, I thought, "I wonder if I could find myself if I googled my name?" I'm not exactly famous. So what info about me is there? How many people share my name?

My first name and (maiden) surname: about 975,000 hits. Obviously, not all about me. Apparently some woman who works pretty high up in Chanel shares a name with me though...

My first name and (married) surname: about 485,000 hits. Funny, I would have guessed my married surname was much more common than my maiden name. The other search must have been influenced by all those webpages about the lady from Chanel.

My first name and both my surnames: about 730,000 hits. And you know what? There's information about me - the real me - coming in at number four on the list. How bizarre! It was race results from when I was 10 - and, humiliatingly, was the only W10 competitor to DNF in a certain orienteering badge event in SA; the inclusion of my married name was just random, that of another unrelated competitor.

My first name, middle name and (maiden) surname: about 319,000 hits. And once again, the real me is there at number four. A public document with my full name listed along with that of others who received merit certificates for Year 12 subjects in my graduating year (a merit certificate is awarded for full marks - I got one for Mathematics 1s).

My first name, middle name and (married) surname: about 3,330,000 hits. None in the first ten were for me. To be frank, I couldn't be bothered checking out the next three million...

So, to summarise:
When I was a kid, I wasn't so good at sports but was a whiz at maths. Now I'm an adult, I'm a nobody, google-wise. Who new?

Monday, 4 August 2008

Manners and Mischief

Jeff took Anna and Joshua to the library the other day and they came home with some unusual selections. The kids and I have loved the following two books, although they are very different:

Big Black Bear by Wong Herbert Yee. This books tells, in rhyme, the story of Little Girl and the Big Black Bear with absolutely appalling manners who knocks upon her door: "Come in please. Wipe your paws on the mat." "I'm a BIG BLACK BEAR - I don't have to do that!" If you've ever wondered how to introduce the necessity of manners in polite society with your pre-schooler, this is the book for you. The illustrations are simple yet full of expression and action. The text is rythmical and perfect for reading aloud. The first time I read it, in the car on the way home from church, Abigail begged to be given the book to look at more closely and Joshua begged me to read it all over again. Anna was very courteous in sharing her library book... and Jeff had a rather broad smile on his face.
* image from

Another picture book which had Jeff and I in stitches was Tom by Tomie dePaola. When I read the first few pages to myself, I thought, "ho hum, nothing very interesting here" but the story got funnier and funnier until it had become absolutely hilarious. I do not shout and snort with laughter very often, but this book engendered both! Apparently based upon the author's childhood memories, this book recounts anecdotes from Tommy's weekend visits to his grandfather, Tom, after whom he was named. At first they merely disturb Nana with their loud laughter, but later in the book Tommy gets up to some real mischief when he pulls a very inventive prank on some of the girls at school, and is sent to the principal's office. This book is not for the faint-hearted nor those who do not want their kids to know yet exactly what a butcher does with chickens: "Tom would take his cleaver and WHOP - off came a head. WHOP - WHOP - off came the feet." It does give quite some detail of Tommy's hilariously mischievous prank, (which many in today's society would describe as bullying but which bears very little resemblance to the physically and emotionally traumatic events of some present-day schools), which might put this book off limits in some families. However, Tommy is punished appropriately for his actions, and he does look at least somewhat repentant when he relates the events to Tom. I wouldn't want to let my kids loose with a pair of chicken feet after reading this book to them, but I had no qualms about handing it to Jeff with a gleeful, "you've got to read this!"
* image from

Sunday, 3 August 2008

A tour of our bookshelves

While on holidays, Jeff knocked together another bookshelf for his study. Since we've been married, he has made five bookshelves from scratch, put together four bookshelves from Ikea and we've been given three bookshelves by friends. Admittedly, we did sell Jeff's first two bookshelves to the people who bought our house in Darwin, but we sold an awful lot of books then as well. I had one bookshelf when we got married. Jeff didn't have any. This is what we have now (and please excuse the mess - if I waited until all these rooms were tidy before taking photos, I'd never do this post).

In the study (this first picture is our newest, quickie bookshelf):In the lounge:In the dining room, also affectionately known as the library:(Yes, that one's my favourite: it holds my Penguin Classics and our Great Books of the Western World set, as well as providing a surface above Samuel's reach for me to organise homeschool materials. Not to mention it is the pinnacle of Jeff's bookmaking efforts - it took him six months to build, in between lectures.)In case you weren't counting, that was eleven bookshelves in all. At the moment, we have two free shelves for books (at the bottom of that last bookshelf). Amazingly, we have no books in boxes, awaiting a home. However, a number of our bookshelves have books on the top and there are quite a few shelves which are double-packed, which isn't exactly optimal.

Where on earth has this obsession with bookshelves come from? From a love of books! Combined with the possibilities of possessing an entire house, rather than just a bedroom in a share-house, in which to store those books. We don't need to cull nearly as often or as extensively as we did when we were living at home with our parents or, for Jeff, when he was in army accommodation. And so, I fear, we have become a little undisciplined in our accumulation of books.

A chord was struck in my heart when I read this quote from Anna Quindlen recently:
"I would be the most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves."

Yes, windows are nice in their place, but blank walls where a bookshelf would fit... I could always do with more of those!

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Polar Bears

A few links I will be checking out with the kids this coming week as we read and learn about Poar Bears:

Saskatchewan school teacher Josie Giannetta's webpage on Arctic animals: (The image in this post is from her page.)

Josie Giannetta's webpage on Polar Bears:

National Geographic information on the Polar Bear:

National Geographic colouring page for the Polar Bear:

Hinterland Who's Who webpage on the Polar Bear:

And because I didn't find it in time for last week's general introduction to the Polar regions, we'll enjoy these:

Author of Pole to Pole Pamela Freeman's pictures of Antarctica:

I have had a lot of trouble finding maps of the arctic circle which are suitable to use with my kids. I can find coloured maps, but nothing in black and white.

Weekly Report 2008:28

Our second week of second semester went smoothly with less whinging than last week, so I'm quite pleased. The one thing which is causing problems is actually one of my scheduling decisions planned to remove problems! I have planned for Abigail to watch Play School (with Samuel in the lounge room as well) while I do the reading and writing lessons with Joshua and Anna in the dining room. The big kids never used to watch morning Play School before (it's only a relatively recent addition to our screen time in the afternoons) and the littlies are often asleep during the afternoon showing. Despite this, there is great angst being experienced, particularly by Joshua, over the fact that Abigail gets to watch morning Play School and he doesn't. Like, lots and lots and lots of distress. I'm not sure what to do with this problem. I am considering the idea of giving Abigail playtime in the lounge with a CD on, preferrably a homemade CD of songs, poetry and memory verses we are learning together, rather than the TV to watch. Then I can tell her that's her "Preschool Time" and the others might not be as jealous. I think if I put a music CD on I would still get much of the same jealousy as I am seeing with TV, but perhaps a spoken word CD would not cause the same envy. I think I will persist with the present situation for one more week and see if the big kids can learn to suppress their jealousy.

Circle Time
We finished the story of Noah, heard about the doings at Babel, and read two stories about Abraham. We'll actually be doing six stories on Abraham rather than four because there is, as is natural, some overlap with his story and that of his son, Isaac. We have begun singing Consider Christ by Bryson Smith & Philip Percival (1996) from the album You Alone together at Circle Time and at other times, such as when we take our walks together, and the kids have already learnt the first verse and chorus. We have this on CD, which I realised after I searched online for the words for a good 15min on Monday morning (one thing I was not organised in advance for). It has some complicated words for little ones, so we've been having some great vocabulary-stretching and theology-building conversations whenever we sing it. We have successfully memorised Genesis 1:27 and have moved on to Genesis 12:1-3 which will take us longer to memorise, although it has a poetic structure also so perhaps won't take as long as if it was all in prose style.

As I posted here, we've added poetry to our morning Read Aloud time, and all but Samuel are already joining in with various segments of "Ducks' Ditty". They have loved my reading from Sister Madge's Book of Nuns (I know most of the poems in it by heart).
We've read a few longer picture books from our bookshelf this week also: The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams and Tim to the Rescue by Edward Ardrizzone. Only two chapters from Dangerous Journey, but that's pretty heavy-going for the kids and I think the pace of one chapter every few days is probably about right. The do ask lots of questions, and there are times when I have to hide the pictures, but the chapters (so far) have all ended positively. Chapter 6, Vanity Fair, inlcuded the death of Christian's partner on his pilgrimage, Faithful, but there was warnings before it happened (so I could prepare them ahead of time) and it was immediately followed by a description of a chariot coming to take Faithful straight to the Celestial City, so that Faithful reached it before Christian. I loved this description of the consummation of the joyous hope for eternal life that every Christian holds.

We are now doing two of these each week, a literature or Bible one on Tuesday and a Science one on Friday. The Bible narrations went well, but the Science narrations on the Polar regions (just basically the terminology) was less than successful. I will need to come up with a concise sentence for each of the poles for them to memorise over the next two weeks as we read together about Polar Bears, Arctic Foxes and other polar animals.

Literacy - Reading
Anna has completed reading through the first set of Bob Books! I am so proud of her. She seems to have moved ahead with the skill of blending faster than Joshua; she caught on to it faster initially as well. She has a faster recognition of individual graphemes and the phonemes they represent than he had even a few months ago (although she is still slower than his present rate, of course). She is already self-correcting herself when she reads "the": "t... h... the" (sometimes she doesn't even read the "h" aloud), and Joshua took ages to get this with the extra repetition of flash cards. I think it has helped immensely that she has such a wonderful grasp of the flow of language in story forms. While she was climbing a tree at the shops car park this morning I overheard her telling herself a story, and it is this sort of storytelling which has paved the way for her to grasp decoding so quickly, I think. Although she was very put out that "cat" was not rendered "lion" in "The Vet", which she read today.
Joshua has greatly improved in his ability to read aloud from a book without adult prompts this week as well. He is definitely benefiting from going back to the second set of Bob Books and re-reading them at the dining table (less seating-related distractions) while holding the book and pointing to letters/words himself (improved independence). Jeff was quite impressed with his speed and fluency when Joshua read to him this morning, while I was listening to Anna read. I know it has been said by many homeschooling mothers, but I am relieved to see the hurdle of learning to read is looking doable at last.

Literacy - Writing
Anna did her writing this week from a penmanship workbook, because Joshua was working on the same passage for the whole week and it would have been too much for her to tackle. It was almost too much for Joshua to tackle, but in the end he produced some amazing work which impressed both Jeff and I.

The kids have loved our discovery of basic fractions this week, lesson 19 in the book. Lots of eating fruit cut into halves and then quarters. I must say Salada crackers are very handy when it comes to teaching about fractions. It took a few days, but both Joshua and Anna have a pretty good grasp of halves and quarters and the concept of equal parts of the whole. We'll continue with fractions next week as it's a long "lesson" in the book, five pages, and we only did Earlybird Mathematics three days this week, with Friday being dedicated to Maths Mastermind. I think stretching it over two weeks will also help to solidify it in their memories.
The kids like having something different for Maths lessons on Friday. Today Jeff did it with the kids while I napped. Anna was very excited to tell me later she had "made a teddy bear with round circles and long rectangles and triangles and red bits and blue bits but no yellow pieces and...". Jeff was impressed with her recall and so was I.
Anna and Joshua also enjoyed playing with the Colour Patterns game Joshua received from a friend as a present ages ago. Once they had completed a few patterns, Anna discovered a 100 chart on the back of her pattern card. She proceeded to count her way from 1 to 100 and then I sent her to Jeff and she did it again for him. Joshua wasn't to be left behind and did the same. Without any prompting from me! Wonderful.

Science and Geography
Pole to Pole, by Pamela Freeman, with amazing pictures by Phillip Blythe, was an enjoyable introduction to the polar regions and the variety of creatures that inhabit them.
We also read about Animal Babies in Polar Lands. This book was written with a question on one spread, with the answer on the following opening. An example: "I have flippers instead of legs. They help me to swim very quickly in the cold water. Who is my mummy? ... My mummy is a harp seal and I am her pup. My fur is soft and white, but my mummy's fur is sleek and brown." Complete with cute photos, this simple book grabbed the kids' interest. They were busy with Duplo on the floor when I started reading it aloud and before I had read the second question they were both standing by the arms of my recliner, peering over my hands at the pages.
Our homemade atlas pages went well. Before now we have used the world globe only in our schoolwork, with flat maps being used for day-to-day activities (such as, "Let's look at this street directory to find the way to XYZ.") I explained to them the difference between the two and how the top and bottom of the globe are stretched visually when they are shown on a flat map. The study of Antarctica was a good place to start with this, I think.

We did a lot of painting this week, making our own sponge stamps and doing some bubble painting (courtesy of Play School on the Web ideas. Joshua has started saying "when are we doing craft? I love craft!", which of course pleases me. We also worked on a calendar - well, Jeff kept the kids happy drawing weather and celebration illustrations while I finally got around to writing out labels to be stuck on with velcro dots. It is now hanging up in the dining room from a bulldog clip, and we'll try to remember to change the day, month and relevant activity labels each morning as necessary. One thing I am pleased with is that they know the order of the days of the week well and are familiar with the names of the months. We'll be working more on their order next week in Class Time.

And in the evenings
I took Joshua to his first Anchor Boys on Monday and he thoroughly enjoyed it. It helps that one of his best friends has been going for six months and the other started on Monday night as well. I am really pleased that he will have this structured activity, which is strongly Christian in content, as one of his "co-curricula" activities, especially as he will be too old to come to the BSF Day class children's program next year. Jeff doesn't go to an Evening Men's class at the moment - he has quite enough on his plate already - but I do hope to move into an evening class if possible as the children get a little older. However, next year I am hoping Jeff will be able to spend Wednesday mornings with Joshua while I take the girls and Samuel with me to classes.
I've just started two - yes, two - six-week night courses through Jeff's Theol College. If I pass them both, I'll be able to graduate from the Certificate of Christian Studies at the same time he graduates from his Masters of Divinity. On Tuesdays I am studying 1 & 2 Samuel: God's Eternal King and on Thursdays I am studying The Christian Life: Head, Heart and Hands. I am planning to complete the essay for the Thursday subject early so I can work on the (probably harder) one on 1 & 2 Samuel in the later weeks. I am sure I will be able to get an extension if I ask for it, but I'd rather get it done on time because procrastination will not help in the long run. So I will be a little busy for the next few weeks... I am very glad we've got the homeschooling running relatively smoothly now before this started.

Jeff should be healthy enough to go back to college to study next week, Lord willing. It has been helpful (and lovely) but somehow odd to have him at home so much.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Tracework, Copywork, Dictation

I wouldn't have imagined even a month ago that my five-year-old would be writing from dictation. But this week, I've done an experiment using the same passage for Joshua's writing tasks on Monday, Thursday and Friday, and a related task on Tuesday. We memorised this verse in Circle Time last week, so Joshua was familiar with reading it in his own Bible and reciting it aloud before he ever had to write it. This is how he went.

Monday - tracework: Genesis 1:27.Tuesday - narration "Adam and Eve".Thursday - copywork: Genesis 1:27.Friday - dictation: Genesis 1:27a.I was absolutely blown away by how well Joshua went, and how quickly and ably he completed his dictation task today. At first he was shocked by being confronted by a blank page with no exemplar to copy, but when I reassured him he knew what he was going to write already, he calmed down enough to recite Genesis 1:27 all the way through with me. Then I told him the good news, that he didn't have to write the whole verse as on previous days, just the first bit. He brightened up at that and got started. With encouragement, but needing surprisingly little help, he was able to complete the task. He spelt every word correctly and only needed help on "created" (the d at the end) and "image" ("Is it J like in my name, Mummy?") Wow. A big thank you to Ruth Beechick!