Friday, 31 October 2008

The fun one can have...

With towers of blocks:

The things one can make...

With a little imagination:

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Girl facts

Granny: "You know, Anna, I only had boys when my kiddies were little so I'm not sure how to play girl games. Will you teach me?"

Anna: "Sure, Granny. Now the first thing you need to know is girls like pink."And that's all you need to know, according to Anna.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Sleeping Beauty

I woke up early and found this Little Sleeping Beauty (Abigail) in the lounge room one morning this week.

Monday, 27 October 2008

A Call to Spiritual Reformation ch2

As I mentioned, I have decided to post weekly comments on the book by Don Carson, "A Call to Spiritual Reformation", which I am reading slowly but steadily at the moment. You might like to join me in reading it, or simply learn from my comments.
Chapter Two: The Framework of Prayer

This chapter is based upon an examination of 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12.

Carson identifies two "donimant features" of the shape of Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians: thankfulness to God for evidences of His grace and confidence in Christ's return at the Day of Judgement.

With regards to Paul's thankfulness for signs of God's grace, Carson first considers the preoccupation of many Christians with material blessings (providence) rather than spiritual blessings (grace). "By and large, our thanksgiving seems to be tied rather tightly to our material well-being and comfort... If a large percentage of our thanksgiving is for material prosperity, it is because we value material prosperity proportionately." Does reading this strike a cord with you? It did with me, and caused me to re-evaluate how I pray with my children in particular. While I think it is wise to thank God in our prayers with our children, and not just ask Him for the perennial list of blessings for relatives and friends, I can see it is even wiser to focus our gratitude on the things which God values, those which will last eternally.

Carson then contrasts Paul's three priorities:
1. "Paul gives thanks that his readers' faith is growing." (v3a) Paul has observed the Thessalonians' increasing trust in God, and is thankful to God for this growth in spiritual maturity. Are you eager to grow in your faith? Are you thankful to God for the work of His Holy Spirit within you, drawing you closer to Him? I am thankful for God's work in my heart recently, showing me where I wasn't trusting Him, and giving me another opportunity to trust and place my life in His hands. I was able to attend a Trinity@Night course last term, which included deep discussion of God's sovereignty. I am thankful to God for his provision of doctrinal teaching which at the time seemed to be merely a matter of words, but which has come alive to me and given me great confidence and reassurance in the past month and especially the past week.

2. "Paul gives thanks that their love is increasing." (v3b) Paul is struck by the increasing love between all of the Thessalonians, and because this is obviously the work of God, Paul gives thanks to Him. Carson makes the point that because this growing love extends to the whole church there, it is identifiable as a specific outworking of God's grace. Does your experience of God's love spur you on to love others? Are you thankful to God for the changes He has wrought in your heart since you became a Christian?

3. "Paul gives thanks that they are persevering under trial." (v4) Paul thanks God for the example that the Thessalonians provide and for the encouragement and incentive to other Christians, that they too might endure through the trials and temptations which are inevitable in the Christian Life, and even more prevalent in the apostolic times. Paul's "boasting" is seen by Carson as public praise and thanksgiving to God. Do you revel in the grace which God has granted you to persevere with difficult tasks and endure difficult circumstances? Over the last few weeks I have been conscious of the peace of God, enabling me to deal with surprising and frustrating situations without losing my cool or breaking down in tears. I am thankful that he has given me an understanding of His will which has enabled me to trust Him and move forward confidently, even without knowing exactly where we are going as a family.

Carson then turns to Paul's confidence in the prospect of ultimate vindication for the Thessalonians. This vindication will be brought about by Christ's return to judge all people.

Carson contrasts two results of Christ's inevitable return:
1. "For believers, there will be vindication." (vv6-7,10) Carson points out that the sense of expectancy which is evident in Paul's words to the Thessalonians is sadly lacking in western evangelical circles, and I agree. Having recently studied Matthew 24&25 in my BSF class, I was left with a heart divided between eagerness for Christ's return and hesitation at the thought of all those I know and love (including, perhaps, my younger children) who are not Christians. Yet even with this study, I wish I was more moved with joy at the thought of Jesus' return. I was talking about it this morning with my son, though, and I can see his enthusiasm. I am thankful to god for the witness of his eager faith! What is it that makes you look forward to Christ's return?

2. "For others, there will be retribution." (vv8-9) Carson explains: "His holiness demands retribution; his love sends his own Son to absorb that retribution on behalf of others. The cross simultaneously stands as the irrefutable evidence that God demands retribution, and cries out that it is the measure of God's love. ... But what if men and women reject that sacrifice? ... If we refuse to acknowledge that we deserve retribution, refuse to accept the forgiveness available because, out of God's indescribable love, Jesus suffered retribution in order to reconcile sinners like us to God, then we must face that retribution ourselves."Do you understand that God's love is only of value if also seen in terms of His justice?

As Carson points out in summary, "In our pragmatic, materialistic society, where each of us seeks comfort and 'fulfillment' and respect, it is hard to follow a despised, crucified Messiah - unless we fix our eyes on the end." We must pray with eternity in mind.
Next week: Worthy Petitions - 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

[Cover image from koorong.]

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Job hunt

Jeff and I had a date night on Friday and spent about two hours just talking about different options for his future employment. There are many many options (I listed them all out to my mum in an email and there were almost a dozen) but none of them stand out as feeling "right". And Jeff is unsure which option to follow up as well - or any or all of them!

He's rung up one church so far (but most likely was a few days too late) and sent an email to another one. Two close friends from church have suggested churches they know of which they think might be looking for pastors. One friend even asked us if we'd consider starting a church plant.

Jeff says he'll be "content" with any congregation which is evangelical, so we're considering such diverse denominations as Baptist, Churches of Christ, Anglican, Westminster Presbyterian, Methodist and even Brethren. I think Jeff would feel a lot easier in his spirit if he could find a good match with a Baptist church, though.

Jeff's not sure exactly how he should go about the job hunt because he doesn't know how any of the choices he's presently considering would help him towards his very-long-term goal of being able to lecture (possibly in Church History) at a theological college. Short and medium term, all he wants to do is pastor a congregation faithfully in the word of God, but he also wants to consider a denomination which will allow, or even encourage, him in future study to enable him to reach this goal.

This afternoon Jeff also mentioned that we will almost certainly have to move house as well. I knew this already, I guess, but hearing him say it aloud wasn't nice. One of the things I was looking forward to if he had been able to continue with the UC was that we would have been able to stay in this house for another few years, near all the friends I have made in the past three years while Jeff has studied. I am trying to remember just how nervous I was about my inability to make friends here in Perth before we came here - and how bountifully and generously God has met my needs in this area since we did. But it's still hard, especially because it has come upon us so suddenly.

Jeff was also looking forward to a holiday at home after all his time studying, but I don't think a period of unemployment will have quite the same restful effect.

At the moment I am just praying for a greater ability to trust the LORD in all things. Also asking for wisdom and peace for Jeff as he researches and pursues job leads at the same time as he completes his major project and studies for his exam. For the kids, that we will be able to show them how to trust God in this unsure time as well. And for a bright new vision for the future as we seek a church home where we will be excited to disciple people to live lives worthy of the calling of the LORD our God.

Weekly Reports 2008:38 & 39

[edit: I just added some pictures of Joshua and Anna's phonics work and Jeff and Abigail's Circle Time efforts.]Another fortnightly report. I was a bit too overwhelmed last week to think about reporting but I have managed to keep on with the schooling fairly well. The one thing we have let go this week as Circle Time - we only got around to it once, so we're now four days behind! We'll have to either skip some, which I would rather not, or add in some Saturdays. Which might not be such a bad thing as we've already been wondering whether to start doing Circle Time on Saturdays next year, anyway.

Circle Time
We are presently in the middle of Judges. Jeff started with the story of Ehud: in case you can't remember that one, it's the story of Israel's delivery by God through the stealthy actions of the disabled Ehud (his right arm was withered, hence his description in some translations as being left-handed) who stuck a sword into the unsuspecting - and very fat - king, and witnessed the king's fat closing over the sword as he let go. Quite gruesome. Not surprisingly, we couldn't find any colouring pictures to go with this story, so Jeff drew one for each of the children. This is what Abigail's looked like:

We're not doing copywork at the moment because the phonics workbooks have a bit of writing in them and they are going so well. I am really pleased with this purchase! Both Joshua and Anna are incorporating their knowledge of multiple-letter graphemes into their reading and as a consequence are becoming much more confident. In the past fortnight we've covered the vowel digraphs ai, ow (two sounds), ou (sound ow), oy, oi, ch and au (sound aw). They have also done two pages of review where they have to choose the correct digraph from a list on the right to complete the word on the left (pictures down the middle). Joshua took to the task very quickly and Anna took longer and needed a bit more help but was able to get everything correct. This is Joshua's effort:And Anna's:Anna's reading this fortnight was from the second and third Ladybird Phonics books. She did very well with them, much better than Joshua did the first time round, but perhaps that was helped by her having read four sets of Bob Books already, not just the two Josh had read. She didn't seem so distracted by the colour pictures, which Joshua found very distracting. Joshua read the seventh book of the last set of Bob Books but balked at reading the last one: "I've looked at the pictures and it looks too boring." I think that was mostly because he saw there was a girl not a boy in it! Anyway, I set him to reading Are you my mother? by PD Eastman (from the Beginner Books) and he's half way through that, reading very fluently and enjoying it as well. I think he might just move on to the Beginner Books now.
We also spent an afternoon with Joshua and Anna taking turns to read starfall books online. Both Joshua and Anna read through the first ten stories from "Zac the Rat" to "Dune Buggy". I think the five stories on "silent e at the end of the word" really helped them to grasp this split-grapheme idea.

We have been reading The Phoenix and the Carpet by Edith Nesbit and enjoying it, with only a few chapters to go. We've also been enjoying some picture books which the kids selected from the library. They had surprisingly good taste at this last visit! In particular we enjoyed How the Camel got its Hump by Rudyard Kipling and Wombat goes Walkabout by Michael Morpurgo illus Christian Birmingham. It tells the story of a wombat who fails to inspire awe in any of his bush acquaintances until a fire sweeps through through and Wombat's own special skills save the day. The kids liked it so much they immediately asked for me to read it again. We also read a collection of the Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelman, because we're studying Europe at the moment in Science/Geography.

We finished lesson 5 and reached half way through lesson 7. These lessons are all on subtraction, which the kids are understanding easily because they spent so much time getting a handle on addition. I have been a bit slack about doing the concrete tasks at the beginning of the lessons but the kids are getting it without them so I'm not feeling too guilty.

Science and Geography
As I mentioned, we've been studying the animals of Europe. We've enjoyed reading about bears. Did you know Brown bears are called "Grizzly" bears in America, but they're the same species: Ursus arctos horriblis? Isn't that a funny name? I am enjoying choosing memorable scientific names for the kids to memorise! (The funniest they've learnt so far is Ornithorhynchus paradoxus, and they just picked that up from listening to Dot and the Kangaroo read aloud.) It's also handy that the brown bear species name is the same as that of polar bears, so the kids can see that similar animals share scientific names.
We also read about mountain goats, bees, paper wasps and butterflies. I was a bit short on mammals - I was hoping to find books on deer at the library but no such luck. The kids have looked through the book I borrowed on horses but I haven't read it to them as it has too much text.
We have talked about England and France and their respective capitals. Reading Madeline was a big help. So was the fact that Joshua's godparents live in London, and we went there on holidays several years ago, so we have a "hook" to hang these ideas on. Next week we will finish up our studies of Europe with some concentrated map work.

That's it for this fortnight. We got through to the end which feels like quite an achievement. I'm still feeling a bit shell-shocked at the moment over the result of Jeff's interviews. One wonderful thing has been I was already in the habit of rolling out of bed very early in the morning (I was winding the alarm back to be prepared for daylight saving time, which began today) straight onto my knees to pray. I've spent a lot of time in the past week praying for my husband!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

How Mother Goose came to tell her rhymes

Our children have delighted in reading Mother Goose's Nursery Rhymes and How She Came to Tell Them by Alison Green illus Axel Scheffler this week. (For those who do not keep track of illustrators, Axel Scheffler illustrated The Gruffalo, and my kids and I love his pictures.)

The rhymes are mostly the same-old same-old, but in between are one page vignettes of Mother Goose and her three goslings, Boo, Lucy and Small. These two are our favourites, to whet your appetite:

"Was Humpty Dumpty an egg, Mummy?" asked Boo.
"Yes, he was," said Mother Goose. "But he wasn't a very sensible egg."
"Why?" asked Boo.
"Because he sat on a wall," said Mother Goose. "That's not a safe place for an egg."
"What is a safe place for an egg?" asked Boo.
"In a nest," said Mother Goose. "When you were eggs, I kept you all safe in a nest until you hatched."
"If Humpty Dumpty had hatched, would he have been a goose?" asked Boo.
"I don't think so," said Mother Goose. "He wasn't that sort of egg."
"What sort of egg was he?" asked Boo."
"The sort that wears clothes and sits on a wall," said Mother Goose.
"That's a silly sort of egg," said Boo.
"Yes," said Mother Goose. "It is."

And to accompany "Lavender's Blue", there is this story:

"When I'm king," said Boo, "I'll set you all to work. I'll sit on the riverbank, and you'll have to fetch weed for me to eat, and bring it on a silver platter."
"You'll get very fat," said Mother Goose, "if you don't run around and swim."
"And you won't be able to jump in puddles," said Lucy.
"Kings aren't allowed to jump in puddles," said Small.
"Are kings allowed to play games?" asked Boo.
"Only chess," said Lucy. "And crosswords."
"And they have to be in a bad mood all day long, and make up rules for everyone," said Small.
"When are you going to be king?" asked Lucy.
"Oh, not for ages," said Boo. "I'll let you know."

Anyone who has ever attempted to answer a pre-schooler's incessant questions, or overheard a child's ever-so definite assertions about the way the world works, will enjoy this picture book almost as much as the children who sit on their lap while they read it aloud.

[Cover image from dymocks.]

Friday, 24 October 2008

Another milestone

This morning before Jeff headed off to college he moved the change table out of the boys' room. At the moment it's on our landing but it's going for good. Abigail still wears nappies to bed and Sam is in nappies all the time but I hardly ever change them on the change table as our single beds are high enough to make matters easy.

So after the drawers got moved around, we had a bit more room for the boys. But I wanted them to have even more. So I decided that I'd try out an idea: I collapsed Joshua's bed, which is a trundle, and shoved it under Sam's bed.When we bought the trundle along with Joshua and Anna's new beds last year, we hadn't planned to use it as a regular bed, but Sam learnt to climb out of his cot at quite an early age, so he had to go into a big bed. For a while he was in the trundle just flat on the floor and now he's in the proper bed and Joshua's on the trundle. Anyway, the purpose of all this was to make more room to play... but this is what I found under Joshua's bed:Joshua was quite amenable to tidying it all away somewhere so Sam didn't play with his toys when he woke from his afternoon nap. However, now we have to find a place for all of this stuff! The change table had two solid shelves which Joshua kept stuff on, and there was this whole storage area under his bed. But if he is going to have this space to play in each day, we're going to need to find another storage place. Or just throw it all away, which isn't exactly fair. Not all of it is junk!

It is strange to think that for the first time my kids' rooms are being organised so that they can play in them, rather than so that their baby needs can be cared for. Another milestone, I guess!

(And, also on the topic of play, Making Home has some great advice about toy sets.)

A list

Prue, from my life as the good twin, blogged recently about some of the things she does as a mother. It's an awesome list!

Being a mother is a very very big job, and I'm glad I got to do it!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

An Icebreaker in the lounge room

Joshua and Anna off to explore the Arctic:"Blue Whale, Blue Whale, I'm calling from the Icebreaker. Would you like some krill?"

Learning to Sew

Ever since Joshua saw that we'd been given a kiddy sewing kit (second hand from a family at church whose girls are now quite grown up), he's been asking to "learn to sew". Actually he did have a "sewing kit" complete with plastic needle and plastic mesh mat a while back but the needle somehow got lost and that was the end of that.

This morning Jeff checked out the new kit and, seeing that it only had one plastic needle, pulled out his G*rber blade and cut up a few pen lids and made two more quite competent needles. So replete with a needle each (Sam used the crochet hook that came with the set), the kids each set to sewing with wool and some hand-made sewing shapes. These were cardboard shapes Jeff had cut out and hole punched for them. My husband is clever and handy in ways I appreciate very much. This is the final result:Can you guess who made each of these specimens? (Sam's somehow become incorporated into the work of another child as two cardboard shapes were sewn together.)

You might think that the neatest was Josh (well, he is the eldest, after all) and so on down the ages... scroll down to see whether you were right!

Anna did the pink one. She worked out how to sew a straight line all by herself and then I showed her how to retrace her steps and fill in the gaps. Abigail did a quite creditable attempt. Joshua... well, Jeff's comment was that Joshua wasn't interested in being neat and orderly, just creative!

I find this photo revealing for other reasons as well. You'll notice Joshua is smiling handsomely: he's finally learnt how to smile in a relaxed manner for photos. Abigail is still using a forced photo face. Anna, well, she wouldn't put down her book for anything, not even a chance to be photographed. She is following in my footsteps with her obsession for books, I fear. Even reads books in the dark in bed at night, just like me as a child.

And just in case you're wondering, Sam doesn't have some weird rash all over his face. He went a little wild with an ink stamp that the girls got in a take-home party bag on the weekend. He's actually covered with little red fairies or winged horses or something. Quite smudged, by this time. And the thumb sucking is still happening. One day we'll sort that out. Part of me (the lazy part) is hoping my mum will take care of it when Grandma and Grandad visit for Christmas.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

It is well

At BSF today we sung the hymn, "It is Well with My Soul" by Horatio Spafford (words) & Philip Bliss (music).

It ministered to my heart even as I sang the words:

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
What ever my lot, Though has taught me to say,
"It is well, it is well with my soul."

It is well (it is well)
with my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, tho' trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin - O, the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part, but in whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And, Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
"Even so" - it is well with my soul.

Later, during the lecture, Felicity quoted: "The only thing we contribute to God's plan for salvation is our own sin - which He has nailed to the cross of Christ." I needed to put some things in perspective: this comment did the trick!

Not only that, but I was able to attend the first half of the seminar on Personal Quiet Time (ie, individual time studying the Bible and praying). I've been to it before (possibly a few times) but this seminar was still a help to me.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Future directions???

I have written before on this blog about several very hard decisions Jeff has made during his time at Trinity moving towards future employment. If you haven't read either of these posts (first here and then there) feel free to back track to understand what I'm going to say here. Or you might not want to bother with the background, that's fine by me. Anyway, what I have to say here might come out in a quite rambling, incoherent manner (even more so than my usual posts) so I apologise ahead of time.

Jeff spent all day on Saturday in a series of panel interviews with the Uniting Church. These interviews were designed to determine his suitability to become a "Candidate for Ministry of the Word" within this denomination.

For those who don't know us in the flesh, so to speak, I'll explain that Jeff has been employed for over two years part-time for our congregation, within this denomination, as a "Ministry Intern", which was our congregation's way of saying Jeff was in training to be a church minister (without yet doing so within the official system). Jeff has been closely mentored by our minister, Steve, throughout this time. For most of the past year Jeff has also been mentored by another ordained minister who is a member of our congregation (who is a chaplain at a denominational school). His "work" in the church over this time has also been closely watched by three other ordained ministers (some retired, some working for our congregation) who are members of our congregation. Every single one of these ministers has gone on record as saying that they think Jeff is an ideal candidate to be the minister of a church, given his gifts, abilities and most importantly strong faith, which they have seen in action. Most of these ministers, as well as many, many members of our congregation, have been very encouraging and supportive of Jeff's hope to become a minister of this denomination.

There have been those who know us well who did not think it was a "good" idea for Jeff to pursue ministry within this denomination. Jeff did not grow up within this denomination. Here in WA, as in many places, the Uniting Church is quite liberal in many areas of teaching and leadership. Yet our congregation, (the largest in WA in this denomination) is determinedly evangelical. In Darwin, Jeff was supported in his university ministry by two evangelically-minded Uniting congregations as well. On the other hand, the hierarchy of the UC here is vehemently liberal, and we have been concerned at whether Jeff would be able to work as a faithful Bible teacher in this atmosphere. We also considered the difficulty of raising strongly Christian kids within a liberal denomination. We did go into this process with our eyes open about the challenges - but we knew that there were many faithful people in this denomination who are waiting earnestly for someone to preach to them again from the Word of God. We also hoped that, if Jeff was able to open doors to this denomination for one evangelical, other evangelicals might be able to follow in his footsteps.

Yesterday Jeff was told he would not be accepted as a "Candidate for Ministry" within the Uniting Church.

The panel could have given Jeff a qualified acceptance; they could have told him not yet, but to try again later. Of course, they also could have accepted him without conditions. Instead, with six "no"s and one abstention, they chose to reject his application for candidacy completely.

So you can probably understand when I write that I am very unsure about what the future holds for our family right now.

Two things I am sure of: God has spoken - and He does not make mistakes!

I am sad, and disappointed, especially for Jeff. I am confused, because so much of what I thought might happen next year will not come to pass (and quite a good bit thankful there as well, because I wasn't looking forward to more years of study for Jeff). I am also full of joy at the thought that the road ahead just got a lot smoother, in many ways. We will no longer have to battle against vehement, outspoken liberalism, because we will look for ministry directions within some other denomination which holds confidently to the Scriptures. (But which one?) I am heaving sighs of relief at the thought that we will not be struggling to raise our children in a denomination which does not uphold the Bible. I am thankful for all the things we have learnt during our time within this denomination, especially the opportunity for Jeff to be mentored by two ministers who have taught him many things which he would not have been able to learn in our previous denomination (things he really needed to learn).

Yet what was our presumed future path, although seen dimly as through the haze of distance, is now completely closed to us. And in its place all we see is a wide open plain with many possible paths, none of which we know anything about.

I am thinking about Proverbs 3:5-6, Romans 8:28-30,and of course James 4:13-17. It is God who has planned good works for us, as it says in Ephesians 2:10, not we who plan works for Him. I am thankful that my gracious, sovereign God is in control of every moment of our lives.

Today, I look forward with an eager heart to the future plans God has for our lives, and particularly for Jeff in his ministry to the people of God, whomever God may choose for us to serve. Please pray for us.

Applying Scripture from its original context

Practical Theology for Women has an interesting post on Accurately Using Scripture.

Thanks to Nicole for pointing it out on her blog.

So here's my pet hate:

I always hate to see Isaiah 28:10 quoted out of context. In the KJV, which is the one people always quote with this for some reason, it reads, "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:"

It is used widely in Christian education circles and especially by homeschoolers to support the idea that we must teach a little bit at a time and build up larger ideas from smaller parts. I have seen it used to commend the Saxon Maths program quite often, for example.

Consider the context of the verse:
Isaiah 28:13 "But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken."

And the passage in the NIV is even clearer:
"10 For it is:
Do and do, do and do,
rule on rule, rule on rule;
a little here, a little there."

11 Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues
God will speak to this people,

12 to whom he said,
"This is the resting place, let the weary rest";
and, "This is the place of repose"—
but they would not listen.

13 So then, the word of the LORD to them will become:
Do and do, do and do,
rule on rule, rule on rule;
a little here, a little there—
so that they will go and fall backward,
be injured and snared and captured."

What this verse is actually saying is that because the people had been spoon-fed their religion, it had become a snare to them! According to the Trinity@Night course I did last year on Isaiah, in the Hebrew, the repetitive words also are vocalised with something remeniscent of our present day "yada yada yada". Some of this comes through in the NIV translation.

Considering this, "a little here, a little there" is not something Christian educators should ever want to follow as an educational models, I think!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Quotes from the NCB Science advice paper

These quotes have been selected from the National Curriculum Board's Initial Advice Paper on Science (PDF, 62kB). I am not nearly so impressed with this Science advice paper as I was with the History paper. I'm quite disappointed, actually. I think I might have to write a submission in response to this one.

"... a science curriculum could be well based on three key elements:
1. Science as a way of knowing through inquiry...
2. Science as a human endeavour...
3. Scientific knowledge"
[So far, so good, except why didn't they put point (3) first? As I read further I realised it was because they thought this was the least important part of any science curriculum.]

"Australia is a scientifically and technologically advanced nation. It is imperative that its future citizens have an understanding of science so that personal and societal decisions can be made on the basis of evidence and reason."

"The purpose of school science is to develop science competencies by which students can:
• understand more about science and its processes
• recognise its place in our culture and society
• use it in their daily lives.
It could be argued that developing these science competencies is a basic need for effective citizenship. ... school science not only prepares students for citizenship, but provides a solid platform for more specific science pathways."

"By the end of the compulsory years of science study it is expected that students would be able to demonstrate the following attributes of scientifically knowledgeable people:
• they are interested in and understand the natural world around them
• they engage in discussions of and about science
• they are sceptical and questioning of the claims made by others
• they can identify and investigate questions and draw evidence-based conclusions
• they can make informed decisions about the environment and their own health and well being.
Essentially the focus is on what one could describe as ‘science for life’."

"Science education should acknowledge the interaction between science and social values in the many debates about the applications of science."

"There is a consistent criticism that many of the problems and issues in science education arise from the structure of science curricula which tend to be knowledge-heavy and alienating to a significant number of students. ... The challenge is to identify the science concepts that are important and can be realistically understood by students in the learning time available."

"... scientific knowledge is rapidly increasing... add[ing] to the pressure on the science curriculum. There is a reluctance to replace the old with the new. Rather, there is a tendency to simply add the new science ideas to the traditional ones. ... Obviously such a situation is not sustainable."

"This paper argues that developing science competencies is important, understanding the big ideas of science is important, exposure to a range of science experiences relevant to everyday life is important and understanding of the major concepts from the different sciences is important. It is also acknowledged that there is a core body of knowledge and understanding that is fundamental to the understanding of major ideas."

"... it is possible to provide flexibility and choice about the content of local science curriculum. ... In managing this choice, there is a need to be conscious of the potential danger of repetition of knowledge through a student’s school life and ensure repetition is minimised and that a balanced science curriculum is provided for every student."
[I am assuming (and hoping) by this the authors are referring to repetition of the same task or localised issue to the level of boredom, rather than repetition of the same concept to the level of mastery.]

"Instead of simply emphasising what has been described as ‘canonical science concepts’, there is a need to provide a meaningful context to which students can relate ... students will be better placed to understand the concepts if they can be applied to everyday experiences." [Hmm...]

"To increase the relevance of science to students there is a strong case to include more contemporary (and possibly controversial) issues in the science curriculum." [Well, not necessarily. We could just increase the amount of exploration and play-based science activities we do with students in the primary grades, and make experiments more relevant to everyday life in the secondary grades.]

"The school science curriculum should provide opportunities to explore these complex issues to enable students to understand that the application of science and technology to the real world is often concerned with risk and debate." [Not at the primary level they shouldn't, IMO. Kids of this age are not able to grasp the idea of bias and how it affects the interpretation of statistical evidence, nor can they fully understand the idea that there may be no "right" answer.]

"When a curriculum document is prepared there is an expectation that what is written will be what is taught and what is assessed. Unfortunately, there is sometimes a considerable gap between intended curriculum, the taught curriculum and the assessed curriculum; what can be assessed often determines what is taught."

"It is unfortunate that the summative end-of-topic tests seem to dominate as the main tool of assessment. ... To improve the quality of science learning there is a need to introduce more diagnostic and formative assessment practices. These assessment tools help teachers to understand what students know and do not know and hence plan relevant learning experiences that will be beneficial."
[I do not agree with this at all. The introduction of new "diagnostic assessment tools" will not make the plight of a teacher easier of more effective in any way. Rather, it will do the reverse. A science test can be easily designed to determine if a student "knows or does not know" any given fact, and tests can also be designed to determine if a student understands that same concept and its application. Especially if one takes into account the common use by teachers of summative experiments (that is, experiments done to test the student's knowledge and skill), assessment in schools is done with efficiency and effectiveness at present.]

"...formative assessment is more useful in promoting learning." [For those who are not familiar with the term, formative assessment is assessment done purely to give feedback to the teacher and student about their progress, not to give a final assessment of their achievement at the end of a course/topic. In other words, they are saying the teacher should be aware of how well each of the students is dealing with the material at hand, so they can direct students to further study or interaction with the material as required to achieve mastery and seeing them pass or fail the final test should come as no surprise. Well, whoop-de-doo! In my experience, differentiating between "formative assessment" and "watching and listening to the students as they work" only results in more paper work for the teacher and less time for them to interact with the students in a one-to-one fashion - as is evidenced by the next quote. "Detailed diagnostic information" never (in my experience) means "listen to their explanation of a concept, and talk to them about how they are right and wrong in their understanding. Rather, it means paperwork and more paperwork.]

"Assessment should enable the provision of detailed diagnostic information to students. It should show what they know, understand and can demonstrate. It should also show what they need to do to improve."

"[E]arly science experiences should relate to self awareness and the natural world. During the primary years, the science curriculum should develop the skills of investigation, using experiences which provide opportunities to practice language literacy and numeracy. In secondary school, some differentiation of the sub-disciplines of science may be appropriate, but as local and community issues are interdisciplinary, an integrated science may be the best approach. Senior secondary science curricula should be differentiated, to provide for students who wish to pursue career-related science specializations, as well those who prefer a more general, integrated science for citizenship."

"During the primary years ... A broad range of topics is suitable including weather, sound, light, plants, animals, the night sky, materials, soil, water and movement. Within these topics the science ideas of order, change, patterns and systems should be developed."

"In the early years of primary school, students will tend to use a trial and error approach to their science investigations."
[How does one perform "trial and error" investigations upon the weather? Does one try to make it rain and find out one cannot? Does one try to guess if it is raining and find that this is a meaningless exercise? Perhaps a better model would be to use a "look, listen, feel, do and learn approach" and actually make a child's experience an important factor in their developing knowledge: Thus one looks at many different types of clouds and watches lightning, listens to thunder and the pounding of rain on a hot iron roof, feels the rain in their hair and on their hands, feels the heat of the sunlight on their bare arms and notices the way the heat dries the sprinkling of water applied thereto, uses a watering can to make "rain" over a soil and grass "habitat" in a plastic box, reads Robert Louis Stevenson's poems "Rain" and "When the sun comes after rain", waters plants in their garden and eventually gets to smell the flowers or eat the vegetables, and in all these things comes to a greater understanding of rain and sunshine and what weather really is.]

"[During the Junior Secondary years] it is important to exercise restraint and to avoid overcrowding the curriculum and providing space for the development of students’ science competencies alongside their knowledge and understanding of science content. Topics could include states of matter, substances and reactions, energy forms, forces and motion, the human body, diversity of life, ecosystems, the changing earth and our place in space. The big science ideas of energy, sustainability, equilibrium and interdependence..."

"[During the Senior Secondary years] There should be at least three common courses across the country: physics, chemistry and biology. There could also be one broader-based course..."

And just for the record, I disagree with pretty much everything in this appendix:

Friday, 17 October 2008

Quotes from the NCB History advice paper

These quotes have been selected from the National Curriculum Board's Initial Advice Paper on History (PDF, 71kB). I highly recommend reading the paper in full, it is surprisingly and pleasantly understandable!

"By teaching history systematically and sequentially across the years of schooling we will enrich educational outcomes."

"The starting-point of this paper is that the restriction of the national curriculum to Australian history is inappropriate. If only to equip students to operate in the world in which they will live,
they need to understand world history. That history should have a broad and comprehensive foundation from which its implications for Australia can be grasped. ... Australian history will retain an important place in a national curriculum."

"We fail them also if we do not foster the skills of historical thinking that equip them, by the end of their studies, to take
an active part in the debates over the legacy of the past, to understand and make use of new sources of information, to sift the wheat from the chaff, to find truth and meaning in history and contribute to democratic discussion of national issues."

"One reason for teaching history is to ... develop a critical perspective on received versions of the past, and learn how to compare conflicting accounts so that the conflicts and ambiguities are appreciated."

"Introducing students to historical thinking involves teaching methods of historical inquiry. Students need both to know history and practise it. Factual knowledge is essential to historical thinking."

"In broad terms, students should be introduced to world history from the time of the earliest human communities... Students should have an appreciation of the major civilizations of Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Australia. They should understand Australian history within a comparative framework..."

"No-one possesses an exhaustive historical knowledge, but
an historical education should furnish both the capacity to acquire new knowledge and a continuing desire to do so."

The explanation of the "Benchmarks of Historical Thinking" on page 8 is clear and helpful.

"... substantive knowledge incorporates knowledge of events, historical actors and other information; procedural knowledge refers to the concepts and vocabulary that are used to make sense of the substance of the past. ... both forms of knowledge are mutually dependent."

[A successful model] combine[s] a historical survey with studies in depth. ... [This] calls for careful curriculum design. The curriculum needs to incorporate overview, bridging and depth components. Overview components will use an expansive chronology and assist students to understand broad patterns of historical change. Bridging components will provide a context for closer studies in depth. Depth studies will provide students with the opportunity to bring the skills of historical thinking to bear on well-defined events of particular significance."

"The curriculum should provide for a sequence of learning, building on and consolidating earlier studies, but avoid excessive repetition..."

The primary school curriculum should introduce students to the traditions, stories, myths and legends that connect them with the values, beliefs and the socio-cultural elements of past societies. It should also lead to an appreciation of the legacy of that past on present society."

"In the lower primary school years the curriculum should enable students to make connections between their direct experiences and those that result from their exposure to artefacts, images, simple primary sources and oral histories that relate to their own past and those of significant others. ... The middle and upper primary school curriculum for Australian history should introduce students to key topics for inquiry in history that will be pursued in greater depth and breadth in the junior secondary years."

"It would make use of local and community history, with strong links to national, regional and global perspectives. Students would use local and community history, as well as stories about well-known and ‘ordinary’ people, as they acquire an initial understanding of some key events..."

"It is proposed tentatively that the history curriculum should follow a sequence:
(1) History from the time of the earliest human communities to the end of the Ancient period (c. 60,000BC — c. 500AD)
(2) History from the end of Ancient period to the beginning of the Modern period (c.500 — 1750)
(3) Modern history (c. 1750 — present)
(4) Australian history (c.1901 — present)"

"The first unit will explore the ways of life and global migrations of the earliest communities..."

"The second unit ... will highlight the consolidation of complex urban states and associated social, political, economic and religious activities in Europe, for the settler society of Australia derived many of its core institutions and values from Western Europe and its expansion into the rest of the world from the sixteenth century had decisive consequences."

"The third unit ... deals with the industrial revolution and industrialisation, the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, the French and American Revolutions, the principles of human rights and democracy, the rise of the nation-state and associated ideas of national identity, the era of mass warfare and the ideological conflicts it engendered, and the emergence of supra-national organisations."

"The fourth unit on Australian history ... will include Federation, World War I, the Depression, World War II, immigration, women’s rights, the Vietnam War, Indigenous rights and contemporary political history."

The curriculum will make particular use of narrative, applying the skills of historical thinking to the depth studies, and working to a comparative overview by the completion of each unit."

"It is proposed that there should be units in Years 11 and 12 in Ancient and Modern History, and Australian History... [with optional] extension studies in history at Year 12 which allow students to explore traditions of historical research and writing, including debates among historians, and engage in the production of an extended research project."

"From Edward Gibbon to Geoffrey Blainey, writers of history provide models of literary distinction that engage students and enhance their appreciation of prose. Students should be exposed to secondary sources that exemplify these qualities..."

"Historical understanding ... can be enhanced by drawing on a wide range of artistic works..."

The approach set out in this paper is premised on schools making a substantial commitment to teaching history. This will require making space in the timetable for a sustained and sequential program. At present there is little guidance for the allocation of time to history. It should occupy at least ten percent of teaching time in the primary school years, and in years 7 to 10 it should occupy an average of 100 classes a year, and a total of 400 classes."

National Curriculum Board advice papers

Over the last week or so the National Curriculum Board has released four "initial advice papers on the curriculum proposed for English, mathematics, the sciences and history." I have been reading a lot of comment in newspapers on what is being called "draft curriculum" in the media. So I decided to find the primary documents. If you're interested as well, you can download them from links on this page.

According to the NCB site the public can comment on these advice papers through email to: or by mail to: National Curriculum Board Feedback, PO Box 177, Carlton South, Victoria 3053. Feedback on the initial advice papers needs to be in by November 5, and they expect to make their final recommendations in Term 1 next year.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Mother Love

The following is a quote from Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell. it is one of the most beautiful, truest expressions of Mother Love that I have ever been blessed to read.

It was her own, her darling, her individual baby, already, though not an hour old, separate and sole in her heart, strangely filling up its measure with love and peace, and even hope. For here was a new, pure, beautiful, innocent life, which she fondly imagined, in that early passion of maternal love, she could guard from every touch of corrupting sin by ever watchful and most tender care. And her mother had thought the same, most probably; and thousands of others think the same, and pray to God to purify and cleanse their souls, that they may be fit guardians for their little children. Oh, how Ruth prayed, even while she was yet too weak to speak; and how she felt the beauty and significance of the words, 'Our Father!' ...

'Ah, my darling!' said Ruth, falling back weak and weary. 'If God will but spare you to me, never mother did more than I will. I have done you a grievous wrong - but, if I may but live, I will spend my life in serving you!'

'And in serving God!' said Miss Benson, with tears in her eyes. 'You must not make him into an idol, or God will, perhaps, punish you through him.'

A pang of affright shot through Ruth's heart at these words; had she already sinned and made her child into an idol, and was there punishment already in store for her through him? But then the internal voice whispered that God was 'Our Father', and that He knew our frame, and knew how natural was the first outburst of a mother's love; so, although she treasured up the warning, she ceased to affright herself for what had already gushed forth.

[Cover image from Penguin.]

Monday, 13 October 2008

A Call to Spiritual Reformation ch1

As I mentioned, I have decided to post weekly comments on the book by Don Carson, "A Call to Spiritual Reformation", which I am reading slowly but steadily at the moment. You might like to join me in reading it, or simply learn from my comments.
Chapter One: Lessons from the School of Prayer

Before tackling the direct lessons from Scripture which Carson has learnt through his life, he presents the best lessons on prayer he has learnt from mature Christians.

1. "Much praying is not done because we do not plan to pray."
Carson's argues that we often forget to pray, or don't get around to prayer, simply because we have not set aside time specifically to pray. He suggests we should plan to pray often, even if only briefly. In response to this lesson, I have been setting my alarm clock that bit earlier so that not only do I have time for Bible study, I also have time for prayer. For the past few weeks I have been rolling out of bed straight onto my knees by the side of the bed. That way, I don't fall back to sleep while I lie to myself that I'm going to talk to God lying down in bed... but I don't have to turn on lights or make noise and possibly wake up little kiddilets, either. At the moment I am getting up at 6am which gives me an hour to pray and do my Bible Study before I need to be getting the kids dressed for breakfast. I do need to start winding my alarm back even earlier, though, because Daylight Savings Time will be starting on the 26th and I need to be prepared for the time to jump forward an hour. I know this whole getting up early to pray thing is a lot easier in the summer than winter. Any suggestions for planning a good prayer time for the winter?

2. "Adopt practical ways to impede mental drift."
Carson suggests the purely pragmatic means of saying your prayers aloud (or at least moving your lips to the words you pray) and journalling (writing your prayers down). He also suggests praying through biblical passages, particularly prayers, but really any Bible passage you are reading can also provide a stimulus for prayer. Reflective prayer which is based upon a reading is a great help, in my experience, to deepening one's relationship with God. God speaks to us today through His word, and it is only appropriate that we should respond to His words with our own. However, I haven't prayed consistently through selected Scripture passages in some time (except Psalms 51 and 139 which I read some Saturday evenings, preparing my heart for Sunday) and this is something which I am hoping this book will help me with. (See this article from Tim Chester on our (physical) posture when praying.)

3. "At various times of your life, develop, if possible, a prayer-partner relationship."
Carson is very clear that this person should be of the same sex as yourself unless it is your spouse (if you're unmarried, the situation is different, but even then I would be cautious choosing someone of the opposite sex unless they're your parent). Carson suggests the benefits of this partnership can be twofold: you learn from the prayers of your prayer partner and they hold you accountable for praying. I would like to pray more with my husband, and I know committing to a particular day/time would help us in this. I've talked about it a little bit with Jeff, but so far we haven't found a suitable time. One family discipline at a time, I guess: at the moment we're focusing really hard on family Bible study in our Circle Time.

4. "Choose models - but choose them well."
Carson explains we learn how to pray when we hear other people praying. I learnt to pray when I was a part of a prayer group for a BSF class in Darwin, where I used to live. The discipline of praying for an extended period with other women for a specific situation taught me much which I could then apply to all of my prayer. One of the most precious things I have experienced as a mother is listening in to my children's evening prayers. As parents model prayer to their children, so they will learn. My mother taught me the Lord's Prayer when I was only just old enough to read the words, and I learnt Table Grace from many meals in my parents' home over the years. However, the prayers of parents with their children should not end with the formal, repeated prayers of liturgy and special occasions - although these are a great place to start. I have taught our eldest three children the Lord's Prayer so they can pray with our congregation on Sundays, but Jeff and I also pray with them in the evenings in a less formal manner. I can see that I could be doing this more consistently and with greater forethought, however.

5. "Develop a system for your prayer lists."
Carson describes a few ways of keeping track of what you want to pray about. Whatever system you choose to use, it is useless unless you do actually use it. For example, we just got a list of items to pray for for Jeff's theological college. Unless I place that list where I can grab it up in the morning, I'll never pray for the things on that list. So it's right there under the alarm clock on my bedside table. I would like to start keeping a record of both the things I have prayed for and the things I need to pray for. At the moment, for example, I pray for my husband and children in the mornings, but I don't necessarily give a lot of thought to what I need to be praying about except at the actual time of my prayer. I can see that it would definitely improve my prayer life if I was more intentional in this area. I think I'll probably start with some kind of basic "To Pray" list, perhaps one for each kid and another for Jeff. And another for myself!

6. "Mingle praise, confession, and intercession; but when you intercede, try to tie as many requests as possible to Scripture."
While I was praying with the BSF ladies I learnt to begin with praise, then to follow with thanks and lastly to end with requests... confession was not part of this style of prayer because it was corporate. I do find it difficult to stick just to one genre of prayer at a time, though, and I think Carson's suggestion to include all at some time or times during the prayer is sensible and realistic. Confession naturally leads to thanks, and thanks often leads to praise; supplication often returns one to thanksgiving and vice versa; praise of God often turns one to either confession or supplication. This is the way a normal conversation twists and turns, and so it is sensible for us to expect our conversations with God to follow a similar pattern. After all, prayer is a conversation.

7. "If you are in any form of spiritual leadership, work at your public prayers."
Carson warns that because people largely learn to pray from the examples of others, if those who pray publicly don't put some forethought into their prayers, people will learn to pray badly or not learn to pray at all. Of course, public prayers are primarily for the ears of God, but there is a secondary audience as well (otherwise they would be private, not public), and the audience should ideally be following along with the prayer as it is spoken aloud. The secondary audience of the congregation or Sunday School class or Bible Study small group needs to be taken into account when planning the choice of words and topic (although of course led by the Spirit in this as in all leadership activities).

One final quote, which I think sums up my experience of prayer for much of my life: "... many of us in our praying are like nasty little boys who ring front door bells and run away before anyone answers. Pray until you pray." This is sage advice: the more we pray, the more naturally we pray and the less forced, formal and formulaic our prayer becomes.

There was a lot in this chapter. You might want to take some time to think about how some of this can be applied to your own prayer life. Feel free to leave a comment to let me know if any of this has helped or confused you!
Next week: The Framework of Prayer - 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12

[Cover image from koorong.]

Weekly Report 2008:37

Last week we kept up with all our academics, despite only having our lessons in the afternoon. That is, except for Friday, when we went to the Colin Buchanan concert in the morning and all (even Joshua) had naps in the afternoon. When we eventually got inside the house: would you believe I forgot to take house keys again?!

On Thursday we went in to have a BBQ lunch with Jeff at college. He'd organised it for the entire student and staff body, something he does once a term or so. it was lovely to get out and chat to friends I've made at college and he also watched the kids while I ducked down the street for a coffee on my own so that was positively delightful! On Saturday we went to a BBQ in Mandurah with his pastoral care group from college and after lunch walked down to the beach together. The kids all stripped down to their knickers and went in for a swim. Due to a small reef creating a lagoon, there was minimal swell and the kids thought they were very clever, being able to go out as deep as their belly buttons or even chests without being pushed over by waves. No photos, sorry!

The kids both did four pages in their new Phonics workbooks, covering the multiple letter graphemes "th", "sh", "ee" and "ay".
Joshua finished reading book 6 from the Ladybird Phonics reader set. This week he'll be moving on with more Beginner Books. Anna finished the fourth box of Bob Books readers and will now move on to the Ladybird Phonics ones.
They did reasonably well with their tracework/copywork/dictation: we did three days on the Days of the Week and then they wrote out "Whole Duty of Children" which they have just memorised. Here is Joshua's effort:
We finished up with Five Children and It and were only one day late returning it to the library, and were able to find the second book in the series (by Edith Nesbit), called The Phoenix and the Carpet at the library so borrrowed it and are already up to chapter 5. While I was there I ordered the third book and have just received an email saying it's ready to collect. The kids have really enjoyed it and also enjoy me telling modified adventures with their names in it as bedtime stories.

The kids finished Lesson 3 and began lesson 4.

The kids loved hearing Swallow Journey by Vivian French, illus Karin Littlewood, which tells the story of one family of swallows from their nesting in England through their journey south into Africa across the Sahara desert to their winter home. I try to look for story books with non-fiction content whenever I'm at the library. I think it's easier for the kids to keep listening as they want to find out what happens to a particular swallow, (or caribou, or...) rather than just listening to bare facts about what the life cycle of an average swallow is like.

That's all for this week. I hope yours went well.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Shameless brag

Some of you might remember four posts I wrote back in August which were eventually edited and submitted as an assignment for a course I was doing at Trinity@Night. The topic was "The Impact of the Gospel on the Daily Life of a Wife and Mother". If you're interested, you can read the posts in order here, here, here and here.

Anyway, since some of my regular commenters gave me so much wonderful feedback, I thought I'd let you know that I received the marked assignment back last week and I got a Distinction (the highest mark possible)! My lecturer commented, "Really good work, I think. You communicate well and your ideas are FULL of the gospel!" So thanks for all your feedback, especially to you Amy and Andrea.

Not only that, but today I got my assignment for the other subject I was doing at the same time, on the topic "How does God's covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7 fit in with 'the story of the Bible'?" Another Disctinction! And not only that, but the lecturer had this comment for me: "Crystal clear, biblical, well-researched answer to the essay question. Have you thought of doing something more challenging at TTC? Say Grad Dip units? Look into it!" This was a wonderful commendation to receive for my efforts.

So I am very proud to announce that I will be graduating from the Certificate in Christian Studies at the same graduation ceremony as my husband receives his Masters of Divinity (well, he still has to pass this last semester's subjects, but I'm not too worried about him.) Hooray for us!

Treasure hunting

This past week Jeff has been sending Joshua and Anna on treasure hunts. Each morning they are given a piece of old note paper with a sentence written on it. They have to be able to read the sentence to find the "treasure", which so far has been two or three small chocolate treats. The instructions are things such as "Look in the blue tub on the kitchen bench", and "Look in Daddy's bottom drawer". It's a literacy exercise, pure and simple, and Jeff has the kids very eager to read their sentence so they can find their treasure each morning.

This morning, Anna told me "I have treasure in heaven."

I replied, "That's right. God is storing up treasure in heaven for you in reward for doing His will."

"I wonder what it is" Anna continued. And then, in a deeply serious whisper, "I hope it's M&Ms."

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

SugarFish on home vs away schooling

Ruth from SugarFish has written this great article reflecting upon her family's reasons for choosing away-schooling over homeschooling at this time in their lives.

Ruth's kids went to the school which Joshua will be attending next year, when their family lived in Perth. Now they're all in Albany, and after a stint of homeschooling, they have their kids in a small, local Christian school at the moment.

Monday, 6 October 2008

A Call to Spiritual Reformation

I have been reading this book, by Don Carson, for a few weeks now. I am deliberately taking it very slow (only a chapter a week, and re-reading bits) because I want to let everything sink in and be able to apply what I am learning, rather than just thinking "that sounds like a nice idea" and then immediately forgetting it.

This book examines Paul's prayers, recorded in his letters, to see what we can learn about how we should pray and what we should pray about. I know that prayer is a most basic means of communicating with God, and as a Christian I am in a relationship with God. So why would I not want to improve my "prayer life"? Experience has taught me that I have much to learn in this area if I want to be able to talk to God as clearly and comfortably, diligently and delightedly as I desire. So I thought this book would be a great help to me.

Perhaps you might like to get a copy as well and try reading through it with me? I will try to post a comment each Monday, but it might be every second Monday. It would be great if you would respond in the comments, even if you haven't read the book.
Introduction: The Urgent need of the Church

Carson argues persuasively that the most urgent need of the church of the western world (and particularly so in the US, where Carson lives) is to know God better. He considers other issues confronting the church, such as purity in sexual and reproductive matters; integrity and generosity with finances; evangelism and church planting; disciplined, biblical thinking informed by more/better expository preaching; vital corporate worship and political action. However, Carson argues that each of these challenges would fall into place (or at least be dealt with better) if we just addressed the underlying issue: that Christians often do not know their God personally and profoundly. Carson concludes, "The one thing we most need in Western Christendom is a deeper knowledge of God. We need to know God better. ... In the biblical view of things, a deeper knowledge of God brings with it massive improvement in the other areas mentioned... and much more."

Part of the answer to this problem - a shallow knowledge of God - is found through prayer. Carson declares, "One of the foundational steps in knowing God, and one of the basic demonstrations that we do know God, is found in prayer - spiritual, persistent, biblically minded prayer." So Carson has written this book to examine the foundations of prayer, by examining the prayers of Paul, as he wrote them in his letters to the early churches and their pastors. It is his hope that we may therefore be able to learn from a master.

I'm looking forward to sharing more from this book with you. For comment: What connection do you see between prayer and the knowledge of God?

Next week: Lessons from the School of Prayer

[Cover image from koorong.]

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Weekly Report 2008:36

As I mentioned on Saturday, last week all our academics were done in the afternoons, while Abigail and Samuel were napping. I've also begun doing phonics and reading with Anna first, then while she does her penmanship, I help Joshua with his phonics and reading lessons. Then Anna has a little bit of free play while Joshua finishes up his penmanship. This has minimised some of the whining and fighting for my attention. They still do maths together, but they both love it so there are few complaints over maths lessons anyway.(See what I mean? Who else has kids who build numbers with their Lego, or stand up at the breakfast table and show me how they can make a 4 with their legs?)

It is officially school holidays here in Western Australia, but since we took a week off to visit Albany earlier in the term (and most of another week to recover), our family isn't on holidays. Having no academics (other than Circle Time and literature read alouds, which we do year round) in the morning meant we were still able to enjoy participating in some fun activities out and about with friends.

On Monday
I took the kids to the fenced playground at Bunnings so they could play while I enjoyed a coffee at the internal cafe. We also bought 90 cents' worth of 6mm dowel, but that wasn't the point.

On Wednesday
The girls went to the B family to celebrate I's fifth birthday. After I dropped them off, I took the Boys to the David Buttfield Centre for an Anchor Boys event. As part of their devotions on serving God, the Anchor Boys had learnt two songs to sing for the residents during their Wednesday church service. Since Jeff's grandmother lives in this home, we went for a special visit to her as well. Joshua did a private performance of his two songs for her (she was not able to make it to the service), Samuel covered her in little boy kisses and I was able to talk to her about our anniversary and Jeff's latest sermon. I left before she got tired and she had a smile on her face, so I was very pleased I had been able to take the boys. Visiting with all four kids can be too overwhelming for her.

On Thursday
Jeff and I (secretly) went off to take a tour of the private school we are thinking we'll send Joshua to next year. At this stage we haven't told Joshua that we're definitely sending him, and the others know nothing about it, so we organised to leave Joshua with the (other) B family to play with their boys, and then drop the girls with the T family to play with their girls. We took Samuel with us, but then, to mis-quote slightly, "toddlers tell no tales". The kids loved their time with friends and I appreciated being able to take a 20min coffee break after dropping Jeff off for the train, in order to get my head straight before I collected all the kids.

On Friday
Having completely forgotten to send Sam to childcare on Wednesday, I had organised to swap his day to Friday. So on Friday morning we all walked Sam to childcare and I had a lovely chat to another mother as she walked most of the way home with us.
Jeff dropped the rest of us at a nearby shopping centre and then we were in for a treat. At Jeff's suggestion - well, insistence, I was completely against it to begin with - at $10 a pop, I paid $30 for the most expensive four minutes of Joshua, Anna and Abigail's lives to date. They have something a bit like a cross between a jumping castle and a bungy crane at the shops at the moment, and the kids each had a go. They were delighted!
My purse quite a bit lighter, I took the kids somewhere free: the library! While I browsed for books on the animals of Europe with limited success, they listened in on nursery rhyme and story time. What perfect timing we had.
We then scurried back to the shops just in time for the 11am show, a singing, dancing extravaganza of Mr Men and Little Misses, with Mr Happy, Mr Greedy, Little Miss Chatterbox and Little Miss Neat. Afterwards, Anna told me solemnly that "there are real people inside the Mr Men: I think they must have a zip at the back!"
So next we caught the bus home. Unfortunately, it was only once we were on the bus that I realised I had no keys to get into the house. So we went home anyway, dropped Josh over the fence to open the garage door, and took a pram with us to the local shops to buy lunch (Abi's legs were getting tired). Then we caught another bus back to the first shopping centre (where the train station happens to be) and took a train to Trinity to get the house keys, and thankfully, the car, from Jeff.
We still managed to get our literacy and maths lessons done that afternoon, so I am very proud of myself. We did have to order pizza for dinner though, my energy didn't make it that far through the day!

On Saturday
Last week Joshua sold lemons to earn some money and his next plan was to grow and sell carrots. Since that takes more than one week to pull off, this week Jeff told him he could earn two cents for every snail he collected from our back yard. I thought two cents was a bit stiff, but Joshua still managed to earn $1.80!! (For the mathematically challenged, there are now 90 snails suffering from the effects of salt poisoning on our backyard barbecue.)
In the afternoon Abigail announced, "I have to go to L's house. We have to be friends together!" So we tidied up the house a little and then walked three doors down to play with the S family, and another neighbour from across the street, R, who was already visiting. It was a great chance to chat with Mr S and kept the kids from being frantic for another hour or so.

But what about academics?

Circle Time
Jeff did some great storytelling about Moses taking the Israelite people into the desert and what happened there. When I do the stories, I tend to read straight from the Bible with only a few word simplifications, but Jeff does it as a storyteller, not just a reader. The kids are now quite familiar with How Deep the Father's Love for Us and were thrilled to be able to sing it along with the congregation last Sunday. We're learning Exodus 3:10-12a & 14-15a at the moment, one verse at a time:
12 "So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh
to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."
11 But Moses said, "Who am I,
that I should go to Pharaoh
and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"
12 And God said, "I will be with you." ...
14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM.
This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
'I AM has sent me to you.' "
15 God also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites,
'The LORD, the God of your fathers -
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob -
has sent me to you.'
This is my name forever, ... by which I am to be remembered..."

Joshua finally finished the sixth book in the fifth set of Bob Books and to give him a break, we moved back to the Ladybird Phonics readers. He read the first two stories from the fifth book without too much problem, which was quite a relief after the struggles of the last few weeks. Anna continued to storm through a book a day from the fourth set of Bob Books. Next week, when I envisage she will finish the box, I'll have to give her some Ladybird Phonics books to read as well or Joshua might get a tad outraged that she has caught up to him already.
This week we did our penmanship (tracework for Anna, mostly copywork for Joshua) in the dotted thirds lined books I purchased from Wooldridges. We have also added in some work from a phonics workbook, Multiple Phonograms from the LEM Phonics program (you can see a sample here). I like that it is an Australian product, and it is providing the direct instruction on multiple letter graphemes that Joshua in particular needs and Anna is definitely ready for at the moment. I have been doing it with Anna at the dining room table while Joshua plays quietly in the lounge room and three times now Joshua has called out "I know a word with that sound" and has come up with a word that not only has the sound (all this week it has been "er"), but also the spelling we're studying that day. On Wednesday, he thought of Ursus maritimus, on Thursday it was earth and on Friday he came up with worthy. I am not sure whether this synchronisation was just random luck or if he has some level of recognition above what I have been giving him credit for. Anyway, when it comes time for him to do the task he has been doing quite well. He can recognise the graphemes in the word lists faster than Anna, yet she can remember what sound each grapheme represents faster than him. Strange, but that encapsulates their individual struggles with reading any word at the moment.

We didn't finish Adventures of the Wishing Chair but began on Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit because it has to be back to the library very soon. I have been reading ahead myself (I wanted to be sure it was suitable) and am loving it. You can tell it's a good kids' book when even adults love it. So far we're three chapters in.

We did a page a day with Maths, except on Wednesday, so we've now finished lesson 2 and begun lesson 3. The kids have already both grasped the idea that sums can be written vertically as well as horizontally. The book's way of presenting this, using pegs stuck to a strip of card, and showing it first horizontally and then vertically, makes great concrete sense. I wouldn't have come up with it on my own but it made the transition to vertical sums clear and simple.Science
We did a notebook page on Orangutans and I heard the kids playing at being "Pongo pygmaeuses" yesterday, so something must have stuck. That was all for Science this week, but I collected a few books on Swallows and other European animals from the library so we'll turn there next week.

Arts and Craft
Joshua wanted me to draw him some dinosaurs on Monday. I told him he could do a better job than me so he went off to prove me right. When he had copied several pictures from a book we have, he decided to build one in 3D from our Lego blocks. Some days, this boy just amazes me with what he can do!Class Time
I haven't mentioned our class time for a while but this week we have successfully memorised our home address and the colours of the rainbow in order. Just handy things to know.

That's it for this week. When I write it all down I realise our week was absolutely packed to the rafters!