Saturday, 28 February 2009

A Women's Bible Study?

I spent most of Thursday chatting with another woman from my church, and one of the things we talked about is the lack of a women's Bible Study at BCC. It would be great to have one!

So I have been talking a bit to Jeff about the possibility of me starting and leading a Bible Study for women, on a week day during school hours, beginning just after Easter. Jeff might run a parallel children's program for 2-5 year olds, telling them the same Bible story the women are studying with a kid-level insight or application and prayer, and also keeping them busy with other appropriate activities while their mothers are at the study. It looks like I might get an opportunity very soon to put the Lamp up on it's stand so it will shine for all to see! Mark 4:21-23. I certainly hope so.

I am very excited about the idea of this, especially since I graduated along with Jeff last Monday night, receiving my Certificate in Christian Studies. I was even awarded it "with Distinction"!

[Image from a 17th Century woodcut, "Lamp on a Stand and the Growing Seed" by Johann Christoph Weigel, found through Biblical Art on the WWW.]

Friday, 27 February 2009

Orthodoxy in March

In March (only two days away now), Amy and I will be reading Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton together. Well, as together as you get when you live across the world from each other!

Orthodoxy is a bit similar to CS Lewis's Surprised by Love, which I read last year, in that it is an autobiography of the author's journey to faith in Jesus Christ. However, although CS Lewis said he was influenced by GK Chesterton's writing, they had very different experiences and thinking leading up to becoming Christians.

If you are interested, feel free to pick up a copy at your local Christian book store (or even ask a friend with a decent theological bookshelf, they just might have it already; my husband did). And join Amy & I at her blog Veritas at Home for a conversation about what we are reading.

[Image source]

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

I just found a great database

If you are looking for images of Biblical Art, artistic works that are based on Biblical texts, then I have just found the answer!

Biblical Art on the WWW @ is searchable by subject, passage, artist or word. (I've put the link in my Quick Links section on the LHS bar.) Each picture has a thumbnail which links to a page with some basic info about the artist and source, and has a link to a bigger image of the art work.

A lot of the art is black and white only, for example woodcuts from the reformation era, so it may well be a great resource for finding pictures for Bible story colouring pages. It is the only place I could find to help me illustrate Jesus' "Lamp on a Stand" parable. There are also many colour images of some amazing paintings.

Happy browsing!

[Image from Biblical art on the WWW.]

Monday, 23 February 2009

And now he's getting engaged!

I picked up Joshua from school this afternoon and asked him who he had played with at lunch time. He told me he'd played with his friend LB and "that funny girl". I asked him what her name was and he revealed it was L***.

"The one who plays with fairies?" I inquired.

"Yes, she keeps fairies in her pocket!" he told me excitedly.

"And did you have fun?"

"Yes. Do you know Mum, L*** told me that when she grows up she wants to marry me?"

He didn't tell me whether he wants to marry her or not. And I didn't have the guts to ask.

[Image from]

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Sorry no weekly report this week as our internet connection is problematic.


But the week did go well.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

And now he's making breakfast!

This morning I woke up to the rattle of cutlery. A slightly scary sound when you have a house full of pre-schoolers. So I rose from bed rather promptly and took myself off to the kitchen to see exactly which pieces of cutlery were doing the rattling.

I found Joshua washing the dishes (!!) He had apparently just finished eating the breakfast of Weetb*x, milk and honey that he had made for himself. Sam was sitting happily at the dining table eating cereal from his own bowl, which Joshua had prepared for him as well.

Joshua told me that since neither of his parents was awake when he got up, he thought he might as well get on with breakfast himself. "I have been watching Daddy very carefully so I knew how to do it." He also mentioned that he thought cooking toast would be easier so he had decided on cereal because of the challenge. Personally, I'm glad of his choice. Spilt milk is a lot easier to clean up than toaster burns. And he had already cleaned up the milk he spilt, by the way.

I sat down at the table feeling almost completely redundant. Not much more I'm needed for really.

[Image from]

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Joshua has His First Wobbly Tooth!

He is very, very, very excited. To him, it means he is really and truly becoming a bigger boy, because now he has begun Grade 1, turned 6 and developed a wobbly tooth. What more evidence could a boy ask for?

And he is doing great now with his homework reading program. He has begun bringing home the readers from the 1970s/1980s Endeavour Reading Programme, an Australian series of readers published by Jacaranda Press. They are generally phonetically based, with the inclusion of some sight words, but not an overwhelming number. They are just what Joshua needed at this stage of his reading to improve his fluency while he continues to work on his decoding skills.

An excerpt from Digger p22:
Pam put a box on the mat.
Digger is on that mat, too.
Woof! Woof! What is in the box?
Sniff, sniff. Is it a bone?
Sniff, sniff. What is it?

Monday, 16 February 2009

Thanks For All the Love

Birthdays can be times of reflection. Or not. One of the things that brought me gladness this birthday was the amazing collection of cards I received from people who not only know me, but also love me. Thanks everyone!My birthday musing didn't stop there, however.

I read through Isaiah 35 earlier this evening. I used to think my name very plain and uninteresting when I was a girl growing up. I used to wish I was named Heidi, or something equally exotic. Now I'm glad my parents named me Sharon, because my name is a reminder that I was created to bring glory to the LORD, and also to display the splendour of my God to others.

I would dearly love to walk so closely in "the Way of Holiness", redeemed and ransomed, overtaken with everlasting joy and gladness, as it says in this chapter, and thus have my life bear public evidence of the love and faithfulness of the One True God to others. May the LORD make it so!

I've been memorising Ephesians 1 for the past few weeks. I'll see how I go writing it from memory, and as you read it, watch for all the times Paul writes of God receiving praise because of what He has done.

Ephesians 1:1-14:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgivenness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment - to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of his glory.

I am really enjoying learning this passage of Scripture. (I went back and edited the punctuation, I haven't quite memorised that yet, but from the whole fourteen verses, other than the last two which I am still learning, I only missed one phrase, now edited back in). And you can see why I was so excited to read Isaiah 35 today, when I just happened to chance upon it as I opened my Bible.

Thanks God, for the message of love you sent me today. I love you too! May your name be praised in all the world, and may your glory know no bounds. Amen.

My Husband, the Junk Merchant

Er... Let's try that another way.

My Husband, the Expert Recycler

Yes, that sounds better.

A while back, Jeff bought a few second hand security screen doors, to attach together to make a security screen wall around his carpentry tools while we went on holiday. We now have a secure workshop shed (with three-phase power, and it's bigger than the master bedroom in the house, which might tell you something). But in the old house the tools were all just kept in the open-backed double garage. The security wall wasn't left up while we were at home, so eventually the security screens got used for other things.

First, several of them were cobbled together to make a cage for our second set of guinea pigs.It was meant to keep them safe and secure, but failed miserably. After the last of the guinea pigs was taken, the cage remained by the fence for a while, with the kids using it whenever they wanted to play "zoo". But soon Jeff found another use for the security screens.

We had two lovely vegie patches at our last house. Unfortunately, pretty much nothing survived transplanting to the new house. But for a while we had several climbing vegetables growing well, needing something to climb up. So the security screens were put to use once again, this time as trellises.
So now, with nothing growing well enough in the sandy soil to need a trellis, Jeff has found yet another use for the security screens.Jeff borrowed some bolt cutters from one of the men from church, and cut one security screen in thirds. Then he rested the pieces on some small planks that stick out of our side fence, set out a selection of flower pots (they'll get potting mix and something to grow in them soon) and hey presto! Pretty soon we'll have a lovely view from our kitchen window over the sink. Well, except for the barb wire, that is. We don't live in a concentration camp, really. Which is probably why Jeff feels free to take bolt cutters to the security screens...

I wonder what he'll use them for next?

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Weekly Reports 2009: Term 1 Week 2

Family Bible Time
We went through the second half of Mark 1 this week. Actually, we didn't get to do FBT on Friday because we spent the time watching Joshua open his birthday presents, but we are getting into a morning routine which ensures there is enough time for FBT before Joshua has to be driven to school.
We broke the stories up into quite small verse sections (21-28, 29-31, 32-34, 35-39 and we'll do 40-45 on Monday) and there were some really interesting insights. The kids' liked hearing how Jesus had driven out an evil spirit from a man, and knowing that Jesus could protect them from evil as well. They also were interested to hear of an entire township who had gathered at Jesus' door to have him heal their sick; and to be reassured that Jesus has time for each and every one of us today as well, just as he had for each of those people.

On Monday we read aloud from our Bible in Pictures the stories of creation, the fall, Cain & Abel and the flood. We talked about how the Bible tells the history of what God and His people did before Noah's flood. We also talked about how people can dig up fossils, many of which were formed by the waters and mud of the flood,to find out about animals and plants which lived before the flood. But I made the point that the flood changed things and the earth after the flood is not the same as it was before the flood, so we cannot expect to find Eden, or know where Nod was. Anna narrated these Bible histories and copied the words in bold above.
On Tuesday I read aloud SOTW1 chapter 1, which tells of the early nomads settling in the fertile crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates river. Anna coloured the map (from the Activity Guide) and read and traced a few sentences summarising the content of the chapter. We also looked at a whole heap of ancient rock art online, and then entered into an interesting email conversation with Grandad over rock art that he and Grandma have seen on their travels through the Top End.
I think each week I will give Anna trace or copy work based on my summary of the chapter, and she will do a narration not from SOTW but from the literature selections which we will read to accompany it.

mainly music
This week was our last before BSF starts back up for the new year. In our last Wednesday before BSF I took the girls and Sam to a session of mainly music at our church. This is a music-oriented playgroup, using music suitable for toddlers and kindergarteners with a Christian element to some of the lyrics. I had a good time - Jeff came out of his office and joined with us as well - and the kids enjoyed it a lot. Anna took a while to warm up to the idea (as per normal, a facet of her shyness), but she was joining in well by the end. Abigail looked at it all as an excuse to dance around madly with no regard to the directions of the leader, but some to the rhythms. And Samuel loved the idea and was able to join in with some of the stuff with either Jeff's or my help, and even alone for some of the songs. They all loved the delicious morning tea and indoor play session at the end. Normally the kids would all go outside to the courtyard, but I think Wednesday was the hottest day of the week at about 43C (109F) so that wasn't really an option. It was a nice opportunity to talk to some of the other parents there as well.

Science this week was cooking cupcakes with Daddy for Joshua's birthday celebrations at school. They did it while I was out, and I think it went well... our share of the cupcakes were tasty, anyway.

I was busy on Friday morning cleaning the house so that I didn't have to do any housework on my birthday, so while I swept and washed the floor the girls listened to a Beethoven CD. I talked to them a little about what the first song made them think of (Dragons on the prowl and fairies dancing) and then left them to enjoy listening to it. The CD player is in the Play Room; it's an old one that was being thrown out at church when Jeff said "I'll have that if no-one minds." I wasn't expecting it to work well, or possibly at all, but after a little fiddle with the buttons the music came out wonderfully. The only problem is that later on, Samuel took out the CD to put in a Thomas DVD he had taken out of its box after taking the box off down from the shelf... and I don't know where he put the Beethoven CD (which my Dad lent to me) and so I'm annoyed at Sam and annoyed at myself for not realising just what he was referring to when he told me "CD in... Thomas in" later that day.

I have made up a set of flash card for Anna with the "multiple phonograms" she learnt from the LEM Phonics workbook 2 last year with the phonogram on the front and a selection of words on the back featuring that phonogram. The words go from simple to complex, and I have tried to give a few for each different phoneme (sound) for that particular grapheme (letter combination). So ch has "cheek", "church" and also "chicken" (harder to read as she has to differentiate between ch and ck), as well as "school" and "Christ". I also want to make a ps card, which isn't included in the multiple phonogram book, nor their "successive seventeen" workbook. I guess this letter combination is too rare for them to bother, but it comes up in Psalms and also in several of our read alouds from last year (the Psammead of Nesbit's Five Children and It as well as a similar sand witch called Psamathos Psamathides in Tolkein's Roverandom), so the kids have already heard me talk about it a fair bit.
Each day Anna reads the phonogram on the front of at least five cards (we added five new ones each day) and then picks one or two words to read on the back. One unexpected bonus is that giving Anna the choice of which word to read has led to her often choosing the longer and more complicated words to read, just because she can. "Worthy" on the th card is a favourite.
Anna has also been re-reading the Bob Books from the third set this week, one each day. After the Dr Seuss books, she's appreciating an easier task, and I am appreciating the opportunity for her to review and consolidate what she knows, rather than always be stretching and challenging, and thus frustrating, her. She is half way through the set, having finished Ten Apples Up On Top on Monday. That was a laborious task, but I am very proud of my little girl for getting through it. I am sure it will be a lot easier for her to read in only a month or so's time.

We began Primary Mathematics 1A this week. Each day, except Wednesday, we go through the main book activity together and then she does the workbook exercises herself, with less help from me. I am aiming to have her do the workbook exercises on her own, just asking me for help when she has already had a go, but we're not there yet. Not just because it's a challenge to her to do the work on her own: it is also difficult for me to sit back and let her try it all for herself, and correct her at the end rather than in the middle, the instant she makes the mistake. However, I know she needs to learn to check and find her own mistakes, so I'm not actually doing her any favours by butting in too much. I need to work on my own attitude here!
This week was looking at numbers 0-10 and we enjoyed playing a little game where I called out a number and Anna had to hold up that many fingers as quickly as she could. Then I held up fingers and she had to tell me the number as quickly as she could. She wasn't competing against anyone other than herself, and that is what I think made the game really work for her (in terms of improving her quick recognition of a certain number of objects and the 5-5 sub-set of 10). She wasn't competing against Joshua, so she could have fun going at her own pace. When we did it at the table one evening over dinner, she was quite incensed when Joshua beat her occasionally. But on the other hand, Abigail enjoyed that opportunity to join in with a big kid number game as well, so I guess there's always someone to benefit from another's misfortune in this family.

Literature time is bed-time read alouds, and everyone is enjoying them in this house. I often think Jeff prefers when I read to the kids in the lounge room rather than their bedrooms and he can listen in without being overt about it.
On Wednesday we finished Stuart Little by EB White. I have to admit, I wasn't expecting the novel to end quite so abruptly, but Anna and Abi were content to imagine what might happen next rather than have it spelt out for them in detail.
We also read Dumbo, from the Disney movie, the library book Joshua chose at school this week. The kids looked at the book a fair bit before I read it to them, and Abigail warned me, "you will get scared when you see Dumbo falling from up high, but don't worry..." It's lovely to see how she is so concerned that others might feel bad in the same ways she often does, and that she does things to comfort them (in this case, me).
We enjoyed some of the picture books Joshua was given for his birthday, and a selection of Pamela Allen books Jeff purchased on a whim on Monday. We also read one story from Boxen, the collection of stories of Animal-Land and the kingdom of Boxen, written by CS Lewis and his brother WH Lewis from the time they were 8 and 11 respectively. This was my book-present for Joshua. I couldn't let a birthday go by without giving him at least one book. Not me!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Another Happy Birthday...

For Me!

33 today.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Joshua turns six

Joshua turned six today, and I had to face the fact that in ten years' time he'll be trying out for his driver's licence. But right now, all he wants to drive is a train engine like Thomas:National Geographic had an amazing sale on recently, so we gave Joshua some "thinking" games that he thinks are really interesting, such as this arctic camouflage game where he has to place the tiles so the polar bears, fish and whale are safe in their correct environment (water or ice) without being near the hunters.
Not everyone was quite so impressed with the present opening, however.

Joshua made a creditable effort at reading each of his cards, and I was impressed that he always wanted to find out who the present was from before he opened it.
And Anna thought reading the cards was something she could be involved with, so she cheered up. Anna wants so desperately to be the eldest child.

Joshua took cupcakes to school to share with his class, as is apparently the tradition. (Thanks to Mrs B for giving me advance warning!) The girls cooked them with Jeff on Thursday ("Science" lesson) while I was dropping Joshua off at school, then I iced them and Joshua and I decorated them with M&Ms and sprinkles. As far as I can tell they were a success.

After school we walked a hundred metres up the street to the local oval and set up Joshua's new cricket set to have a go. He was tired from school and got grumpy quickly with frustration, but he did manage to hit the ball twice or thrice. He is very excited to have his own cricket set, having watched cricket on the TV intermittently over the summer, and seen people playing cricket on the oval quite often when we walk past.

Dinner was take away Thai. We had salt and pepper squid, which was one of my favourites, so it was a little bit special for me as well. And carrot and walnut cake for dessert, which I somehow managed to cook this afternoon after sweeping and washing the floor throughout the house and cleaning bathroom, toilet and kitchen in the morning. I didn't want to do any housework on Saturday. Those who know me well can probably work out why...

Joshua had a wonderful birthday. Thank you to all the family and friends who made it so.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

A surprise for my eyes

I went to the optometrist today to get my eyes dilated. Not really a pleasant experience, but apparently since I am very short-sighted I am at risk of having my eyeballs suddenly explode, so I need to get them dilated and checked every few years. A small price to pay.

While the optometrist was waiting for the eye drops to work, I had a browse through the colour blindness test book. For the first time in years (I vaguely remember this happening once when I was at uni) I could read both the normal vision and the colour blind portions of the test. So, for each plate I could see two numbers, the one I should see if I'm not colour blind, but also I could work out what number I should see if I was colour blind. Kind of like looking at this optical illusion and seeing both the old woman and the young woman at the same time.

So, for example, in this image:I can see both the normal vision number (57) and the colour blind number (35).

In this image:I can see both the normal vision number (29) and the colour blind number (70).


[Optical illusion from sharp brains. Dotty number images from Color Vision Testing.]

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Expanding vocabularies

Joshua: "Mummy, can I count at the same pace as you say numbers? Let's try. One [pause] two [pause] threeee [pause] four ..."

Anna: "And she picked up the cup and drank the poison and she vanished and she wasn't there any more!"

Cuteness personified

His "necklace" is a Duplo fuel hose.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Nomads and rock art

This week in History we have read from SOTW1 chapter 1 about the earliest people (after the flood) and how nomads settled as farmers in the Fertile Crescent between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers.

We also read briefly of how, if they stayed in caves to shelter, nomads often painted pictures of animals they hunted, and other things. Then we went online and looked at a host of rock art images from Europe (Lascaux, France), Africa (Namibia, courtesy of our friend Rina's blog) and, of course, Australia.

Here are some of the sites we liked:

European cave art
The Cave of Lascaux official website
Some of the images in the Virtual Tour (accessed through the "Discover" option) are quite small, and I can't seem to open them larger in a separate window, unfortunately, but the captions give helpful descriptions.
Other French cave/rock art from the Chauvet Cave,
courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Click on a thumbnail (at left) to see the art in a pop up window. The horse heads are particularly spectacular. This page includes a "themed article" on the artwork. Lower down on the left are links to other Met pages with articles and images of "prehistoric art".

African rock art, paintings and engravings
Rina's pictures from her recent holiday in Namibia
Having spent a year at the same theol college as Jeff went to, Rina is now in the middle of 2 years working in Malawi doing community development work. The pictures she takes are amazing - but she doesn't exactly have a cushy life, as you'll see if you read elsewhere on her blog.

Australian Aboriginal rock art
Oz Outback - images from the north of Australia
Just click on the smaller images to see them larger, and you can also send a picture as an email postcard, as we do sometimes to keep grandparents up-to date with what we are learning.
The Met's Ubirr collection and the Met's X-Ray style rock art collection
These have images of rock art from Arnhem land in the Northern Territory - I am sure my Dad has better photos than some of these, but since his photos are all on his walls back in Darwin and not here in Perth, we had to make do. I also sent the girls off to find examples of Aboriginal art in our house (we have quite a collection, none of it on rock, of course).

Monday, 9 February 2009

Please pray...

This time of the week, I'm usually posting something about prayer. Today I just want to ask people to take a moment to pray about the disaster that is happening across the nation from where I live, in Victoria (south-east Australia).

Summer in Australia has brought freak weather for as long as I can remember; often torrential downpours with devastating winds that cause flash floods, sometimes raging heat that brings horrifying bushfires. I still remember the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983, when, just seven years old, I stood in my Adelaide hills back yard and watched the sky glow an eerie red with flames over the horizon in the next valley, while I urged my father to get all the dead leaves from our gutters, as I listened to the radio instructions. Later I remember being told that a girl in my older brother's class had her house burnt down. This week, Victoria is suffering another nightmare of uncontrollable and unpredictable bushfires, at least three times as bad as the Ash Wednesday fires.

It has been very hot in the past week, with temperatures in the eastern states soaring to the high forties (48C = 118F). As of tonight, there are still 31 bushfires out of control in scrub (that is, wild countryside) across Victoria. Since Saturday, many of the fires have changed direction with the shifting winds and several have hit not just outlying farms and the farmers' homes but entire townships, which have been ravaged by the flames. So far, there have been at least 135 people confirmed dead and many, many more are missing. Hundreds of people have lost their homes and others have no idea what will be left to return to after the fires eventually burn out.

So now, I would like you to stop reading, and pray. Please pray for safety for the people whose homes are endangered, and for wisdom for them to know whether to stay and when to leave. Please pray for firefighters who are working tirelessly across the state to bring the fires under control, and for those in the weather bureau who are monitoring temperature and wind conditions, that they shall be able to give the best advice in the necessary time. Above all, please pray that as people come face-to-face with their lack of control over all they hold dear, that they may turn to the one true God, who is Sovereign over all, who has provided the only sure hope by which anyone may face death with eager expectancy, rather than fear.

[Bushfire image from the ABC's online bushfire reporting. Praying hands image from sxc.]

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Weekly Reports 2009: Term 1 Week 1

My first weekly report for the 2009 academic year!

With Joshua heading off to away-school, I am able to give Anna more attention and Abigail is able to join in with some of our activities. Once she starts skipping her afternoon naps (after she turns four in May) she will join us for her first literacy lessons in the afternoons, but for now she is joining Anna for Science and Arts, and possibly for some History, which are all morning lessons. Everyone, even little Sammy, sits down together at the dinner table for Family Bible Time.

Family Bible Time
Jeff is taking us through Mark this term, and this week he read stories from the first half of chapter 1. That seems like hardly any of the book (fitting 16 chapters into 10 weeks might get difficult at a pace of two weeks per chapter) but Mark packed a lot in to the first chapter of his gospel. We may cover later chapters in a few days. As soon as the kids are sitting down with their crayons and colouring pictures out, Jeff asks a few questions about the stories he has read so far. Then Jeff reads the new story, explaining any difficult or new words and concepts as he goes. He usually re-reads the passage at least once, often because the children ask him to. Then he talks a bit about something we can learn from the passage and prays with the passage in mind. Some days we also sang a song or recited a memory verse.
Joshua is joining us for Family Bible Time, because even though he is off at away-school, it is really important that he hears from the Bible each day, and that his father is teaching and discipling him, not just his school teacher. So we have had to be on our toes in the mornings to get all the practicalities covered (lunch made and packed, breakfast eaten, uniform on, etc) in order to sit down to Bible Time as a whole family. At first, Joshua objected, but when he heard on Wednesday that Jesus used words from the Bible to rebuke and admonish the devil, and then we talked about how Jesus' parents would have helped him to know what the Bible said, he could see that it was very important for a young boy who wants to "keep his way pure" (as Ps119 puts it) to join in with Family Bible Time!

This week I introduced Anna to the study of history. We read the picture book Nothing by Mick Inkpen, which tells about a stuffed toy who has been left in the attic so long he has forgotten who and what he is, and the different stimuli that help him to remember that he is Little Toby, a stripey stuffed toy cat. We talked about people's need to be reminded of the things they have forgotten. Anna did an oral narration (2 sentences) of Nothing and then traced her narration in the first page of her brand new history book.
In our second history lesson Anna had a look through her photo album from when she was a baby, before I read aloud SotW1 Introduction, and Anna read the 3-sentence summary of the chapter that I had pre-written into her History notebook and then traced the last sentence, giving a simple definition of "History". Her writing was amazingly neat, compared to Joshua's at this time last year.

Play date
On Wednesday, Joshua's first full day of away-school, we had a play date with the B family, whose eldest son L is in the same grade as Joshua. Mrs B brought their younger children around to our house after we had each dropped off our boys, and the kids had a lovely play together while I kept my mind off the fact that Joshua was missing.

Thursday was Science day. This year, we are doing one activity each week from 50 Science Things to Make and Do, a little book from Usborne. I'm not planning anything wonderful and this week we just had fun making little bowl ovens with alfoil and clear kitchen wrap to "cook" marshmallows in the heat from the sun. They were all melted and gooey inside after 15min so a great success with the girls (and it made Joshua jealous). Then we talked a little about how the heat from the sun can "cook" us too - that this is what happens when we get sunburnt, so we need to be careful to cover up when we are out in the sun. I'm looking forward to a very relaxed play-based approach to Science this year.
Also, on Saturday Jeff took us all for a nature walk through a nearby urban Bushland Conservation Area, and the kids had a great time collecting gum nuts and examining sticks and leaves. We also began to teach them to come back when we whistled: a trick from Jeff's childhood which is handy in the bush because whistling often carries further than calling. When we came back Joshua wanted to examine the gum nuts with his magnifying glass, and Anna had a good look as well. Jeff even sawed open a gum nut to show him the transverse sectional view, and drew a few pictures for Joshua to colour, so he hasn't escaped Equip Academy totally!

Fridays are now our Arts day, using The Usborne Art Treasury for picture study and instructions for art/craft activities based on the art work we examine. Having spent an evening at Officeworks buying acrylic paints, paint brushes and thick paper for painting on, I had all the materials - and the book provided the know-how. We looked at Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night and then I asked the girls to close their eyes and tell me what they had seen in the picture. They had noticed all the main elements, so we took a few moments to talk about a few details, like the taller building among the other houses, did the spire mean it was a church? and other such things.
After our picture study we had a go at painting a basic landscape using acrylic paints mixed with PVA (woodworking) glue on thick paper. We did the foreground and sun first using green, yellow and orange, because I didn't read the instructions properly (we were meant to do the sky first), and we will finish the sky and trees next week. We used plastic forks and the end of our paintbrushes to add a 3D stroke effect for grass and sunlight circles to the paint as well. I sat between the girls and showed them what to do on my paper first, then they both had a go. They loved it.

Anna read some of a letter from her grandparents, she read work from her History lessons, and she also read a bit further in Ten Apples Up On Top by Theodore Geisel (Dr Seuss), which she began reading in January. I am trying to get her to read for 15min every day at the moment.
Anna's writing was from her history lessons on two days and the other two days she did copywork (3 lines) or tracework (6 lines) in her new penmanship notebook. Her first effort at copywork ever was brilliantly done. She missed 2 letters, wrote one p backwards, lost the tail on a g and forgot all about the gaps between words, but otherwise she copied perfectly. And this was done without help because I was picking up Joshua from school and Jeff was showing an electrician the problem with the bore out in the garden. I was very impressed when I got home!
Anna finished the last 9 pages of Earlybird Mathematics 2B this week, ready to begin Primary Mathematics 1A next week. She had a great deal of fun working out the coins to use to pay for certain good using our Australian play money. This was a very difficult concept, but she did well with help, and she now has a lot better idea about how money is used, even if she's not quite ready to be sent off to the store alone.

Our days ended with me reading a chapter or three each night from Stuart Little, by EB White. We read Charlotte's Web last year, but this is closer to the kids level and they are enjoying it even more. When I told them that we were reading a story by the same author who wrote "the story we read last year about the pig", Joshua remembered his name was Wilbur, so I was quite impressed that something had made an impression that lasted. Anyway, they are enjoying the adventures of the little mouse-boy, and I am as well.

[Starry Night image from the van Gogh Gallery.]

Friday, 6 February 2009

Samuel is learning to count

This morning, as I was wiping over his high chair, I heard Samuel's quavering voice from the play room:

"One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eight, Four..."

I was amazed. Samuel is not quite 2 1/4 and he can already count to thirteen without a mistake! I knew he could count to ten and was learning the next few, but I didn't know he could get them all on his own.

Sam picked up "one, two, three" listening to me with the older children, and then we made it a game: he would count to three before jumping off the coffee table into my lap, a game he loves. I just kept adding numbers to the sequence until he could count all the way to ten before jumping. And now he can count to thirteen and has some idea of the rest of the teens. What a clever boy.

And now, for something completely different... Look up!
Look up, I say!Now you can see it!(Photos from Australia Day, 26 Jan 2009; on the oval 50m from our house, with Joshua's new kite.)

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Perspectives on his First Day at (Away) School

At the beginning of Joshua's first day in grade 1, he was confident and pleased to be going out to school.Sitting at his desk waiting for me to leave, he was still pleased and eager.At the end of Joshua's first day of school, he was equally pleased and eager to see me come to take him home!
In Joshua's words:

"It went weller than I thought it would... We didn't even have to do any reading or writing... I did lots of colouring. And listening... School went great, Mum... [At lunchtime] I didn't play with L [a friend in another class], I played with N [the boy he sits next to]. We didn't play, we just told jokes and stuff. I didn't get to play. I spent most of the lunch time walking around, trying to find the adult to ask if I could put my lunchbox away in my bag. I just got back to the gate and the bell went... Mrs C is very kind... I like school. What you do is mostly not learning, it's mostly crafts and fun. Today was my best day ever!"

In my words:

It has been hard to give up my dream of homeschooling Joshua. Dropping him off at school wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. But picking him up was terrible. I didn't cry, but I got really grumpy by the time he'd finished telling me about his day. And I went and bought and ate a Sn*ckers bar, which is probably evidence that if I couldn't have my way with one thing, I darn well was going to with another.

Aah, self-pity is a terrible thing. I'm so disappointed in myself that I couldn't enjoy this day as much as Joshua was, for his sake if not mine.

At least I didn't cry.

(And Anna and I did have a great day of homeschool.)

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Kids' Singing in the Congregation #5

At the end of March next year I will be co-presenting a workshop at the CCOWA Perth Children's Ministry Convention. The topic for the 2009 conference is "Music with Meaning" and my workshop is titled "Integrating children's music and church music".

This is the last Tuneful Tuesday. I am posting my workshop draft in dribs and drabs in "Tuneful Tuesdays" and whoever wants to comment and help me improve the draft before it becomes the final version will be welcome and appreciated for their efforts. (See here for previous Tuneful Tuesday posts.)
II. Making congregational music understandable and meaningful

2. Children from different backgrounds will come to church with vastly different levels of biblical and theological understanding.

A) Children of Christian families may have been brought up by parents who diligently work to discipline them in the Christian faith. They may have been taught knowledge of biblical stories and also had Christian words explained so that they may already understand many of the lyrics. On the other hand, children of Christian families may also have been brought up with little or no deliberate discipling.

> Try not to use too many Christian words in any one sentence. If a child does not understand more than one part of the explanation, they won't understand the whole explanation either. The meaning of some words can be worked out from the context, but the more unknown words there are, the harder this is.

> Don't be afraid to re-explain a word that was explained a few weeks ago. Words such as sin might need to be explained many times with different words before they are grasped well by children, even if they are in common use in family conversation.

B) Children from non-Christian and unchurched families will often have little familiarity with Biblical events and perhaps no understanding whatsoever of theological terms. Have you ever heard the word “manger” used other than in a re-telling of the Christmas story or in the song, Away in a Manger?

> Try not to use Christian words other than God and Jesus in any explanation, except for the word you are explaining. This is very, very hard! So make sure you plan exactly what you will say before hand, and do not try to add to the explanation on the day. You will probably just confuse the issue.

Think about the first verse of the well-known song, Give Thanks (with a grateful heart) by Tony Williams.
First, introduce this song to the person next to you in the way you would if you knew most of the children in your congregation had been actively discipled in the Christian faith, such as an Easter Friday service. Remember not to use any words longer than three syllables.
Now, introduce the same song to the person next to you in the way you would at a service where there will probably be many unchurched families with children who have little or no biblical knowledge, such as an Easter Sunday service. Remember not to use any words that are only ever used by Christians, and especially not those you would only use at church.

Monday, 2 February 2009

First Day as "the Pastor's Wife"

Yesterday was Jeff's first official day on the job with our new church. We weren't doing anything during the service, other than the whole family stand up and nod in a friendly manner when we were briefly introduced. Thanks to moving here to the suburb a month ago, we have been able to attend services a few times already and have even been to a few social events (Australia Day fireworks sitting with the church group and a pizza dinner with the elders and a few families with young kids), so it wasn't all too daunting.

In some ways, it was a bit of an easy day for Jeff as he didn't have to preach or anything. But we invited a couple home to a lunch of hamburgers after the service and a great opportunity for fellowship. They didn't manage to leave until around 4:30pm!

After they left, we sat for another two hours talking about things at church before we realised what time it was (7pm!) and Jeff hastily ducked out for some take away while I washed the kiddies and got them into their pyjamas ready for dinner then bed. It was a long day, but a goodie.

Thanks for your prayers.