Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rules for Re-Solving

Some of the best times to begin with a clean slate:

*New Year's
*End of school year
*Beginning of school year
*On your birthday
*In the morning
*In the evening as you prepare for the next day

Whenever you realize that the day (or the week, or your life) has gone south, you are allowed to declare that you are starting over from that moment.  Just make sure you resolve with a hefty dose of prayer.  If you had been doing that in the first place, you probably wouldn't have gotten into such a mess.

I have a friend who, when her kids talk sassy and she has to get onto them and then they are sorrowful for forgetting themselves, says, "Okay.  Let's have a do-over."  It doesn't erase the sin, nor the earthly consequences, but it does lessen the discouragement.  

Jesus did that too.  "Neither do I condemn thee.  Go, and sin no more."

It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning:  great is thy faithfulness.  (Lamentations)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cast Down But Not Destroyed

I worried this week.  The Bible says that we are to let our requests be made known to God (with thanksgiving) and "the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord."  (Philippians 4)  But instead of praying and trusting God, I became stoic.  I tried to endure through my own strength.

This results in worry.  Stoicism is not effective at either bringing peace or glorifying God.

Annie Dillard said, "Something is everywhere and always amiss."  That seems an accurate description of our life right now.  In the last week, our van broke down and needed significant repair, the additional vehicle my parents had lent us mysteriously stopped running, the WP got sick with a bad cold or flu and threatened to need the doctor (no health insurance since he lost his job).... and other things I won't list...  We are definitely cast down, despite his new job starting next week.  There are so many details to handle regarding that change, let alone other things that have cropped up.

Thankfully, despair is not something I engage in as a general rule.  I have seen the Lord's action in my life enough times to know He is going to take care of us.  But I do get tired of dealing with one thing after another.

In Hebrews 4, Paul instructs us to fear lest we come short of the promise of entering into His rest.  Some do not enter because of unbelief.  That would be me in the last week.  

"There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.  For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.  Let us therefore labor to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."  (Hebrews 4:9-11)

God sees our hearts.  He can look inside me and know that I have not rested in Him this week.  Unbelief makes it hard for me to patiently work and wait, resting in the Lord rather than enduring through my own strength, in the face of continued hardship.  What am I not believing?  I know He will ultimately take care of us!

But maybe I lack faith to trust Him for the rescue of the moment when strength fails and I am tempted to cry in frustration.  He is sovereign over our moments as well as our entire lives.

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

And Paul said in 2 Corinthians:

"Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."  

This time is not forever.  That is hard to believe in the midst of struggle, but the difficulty doesn't make it less true.  These scriptures comfort me and point me toward my Saviour.  I pray the words of this old hymn:

"Now in Thy praise, eternal King, be all my thoughts employed
While of this precious truth I sing, cast down but not destroyed."

Lord, let me not be stoic.  Help me to depend not on my own determination, but to rest faithfully in my Saviour.  He overcame the biggest struggle I ever had or will have, and can handle the smaller ones too.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Exam Week: Fishergirls on the Shore of Tynemouth

Mariel wrote the following answer to the question, "Describe your favorite picture from this term's picture study."  She refers to this picture by Winslow Homer. She wrote her answer in the style of a newspaper article, and took imaginative liberties with unknown details. (I'm not sure what I think about that.)  If you will, imagine yourself as a citizen of Tynemouth:

In this wonderfully proportioned painting, local artist Winslow Homer has captured, in a sepia tone, the authenticity.  Homer, a 48-year-old American, has painted over ten paintings of the locals here in Tynemouth.  This one portrays our mayor's two lovely daughters.  As you know, Elisabyth (on left) is pregnant with her first child, but still loves to help her sister Magdolyn, with the knitting.  "it was a great pleasure and honour to be able to paint these two ladies," says Homer.  "They are the epitome of happiness.  I have given them prominent positions in other paintings."  We love Homer's paintings and hope that he will find the best picturesque places in our little Tynemouth.

Exam Week: Analysis and Synthesis

Here is another exam narration from Little La.  The book is Madam How and Lady Why by Charles Kingsley.  La gets a bit cute with her answer on this one, and had a hard time spelling "analysis", but I'm glad she understands the difference between analysis and synthesis and has begun to see the importance of each.  I corrected spelling for reading ease (emphasis hers):

Analysis and Synthesis were brothers and the grandchildren of Madam How.  Analysis took apart and analyzed.  Synthesis put them back together again.

One day, Synthesis captured Analysis because he wanted all the power.  He starved Analysis in the dungeon and forced him to tell him how things worked.

Madam How was not pleased.  Not ONE bit.

But after months Analysis escaped.  He analyzed, but no one could do Synthesis' job.  So, analysis and Synthesis made up and were nice.

Madam How LOVED this.  Many bits.

Exam Week: The Berry Pickers

(I removed the image because, although it appears to be public domain, I am not absolutely sure.)

Little La's narration of the above painting by Winslow Homer.  The question is, "Describe your favorite picture from this term's picture study:

There are four girls and three boys and they all have hats and a little silver bucket to collect blueberries.  It looks about 1 o'clock in the afternoon.  They are by the seashore and about to have a picnic.  I do not know what this picture is called.  One of the girls is leaning on a big rock.  There are big mountains and a village across the seashore.  There are a lot of flowers, too.

Exam Week: John Bunyan's Holy War

Last week the children took AO/CM exams for Term 1.  I am posting some of their answers this week.

This answer was written by Little La (formerly known as Cornflower).  The book is The Holy War by John Bunyan.  (It is recommended in Year 8, but the girls and I are reading it aloud together.  Little La is in Year 5.)  The exam question is, "Tell how Diabolus took over the kingdom of Mansoul."

Diabolus and his minions set up camp at Eargate, right outside of Mansoul.  Each day a new bad guy would go and tell a speech to the town of Mansoul.  Now, Mansoul was ruled by King Shaddai.  Diabolus was taking over, or, really, succeeding.  When Diabolus stepped up to talk to Mansoul, his speech was very convincing.

"My friends in Mansoul!" he started, "You are such kind, wonderful people!  So true to your King!  But, have you considered why he's not making you kings?  Greed!  Greed!  If you let us in, and help us defeat your King, make me King, I'll let you rule with me!"

Mansoul started cheering.  They were corrupted and let Diabolus in.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Great News!

Last Thursday marked one full month of unemployment for the Warrior Poet.  Friday, he received a written job offer from a very good company in his field.  Yesterday, he accepted the offer.  God is good!

This job is at least equivalent to the position he held at his last company.  The reimbursement for expenses is better, which is huge for us.  He was spending a lot on unreimbursed expenses at the old job.

The WP will start his new job on November 28th.  He will have been unemployed only six weeks.  Currently, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 57% of unemployed Americans are without work for 15 weeks or more.  (The current average is 39 weeks, which seems high to me.  But that's what the table says.)  What a blessing from God that his span of unemployment will be so short!

Over the last six weeks, the Lord provided for us in unexpected ways.  We prepared ourselves for deprivation, but instead we found abundance.  

The kids would probably tell you that we have eaten a lot of beans, and they would be right.  Good thing we all like beans!  But our fridge/freezer is full of vegetables and meat, and our cabinets full of canned goods.  Our other reserves have also been maintained.  I sat at the kitchen table and did arithmetic trying to figure out how it happened.  It did happen, and it works out mathematically.  But I still regard it with wonder!

Ten days ago, I asked for prayer on four fronts , and many responded, both in the comments and privately.  Here are the results of your prayers:

  1. Continued good health:  none of us has had to visit the doctor during this time
  2. Sustained driveability for our van:  it is still running fine.  The emergency brake light keeps coming on when the brake is not engaged, but we have dealt with that problem before, and it is not a big deal.  We will get it fixed next time we have to take the van in for something serious.  (Our van is completely paid off.  We are nursing it along until we get clear of our remaining debt.)
  3. Level heads:  we would still appreciate prayer for this as we make big decisions.
  4. And the biggie-- the Warrior Poet has found fitting employment!

Thank you so much for your prayers, friends.  My favorite blessing is the sense of peace and contentment the Lord gave us.  

As we appreciate His provision for our physical needs, we also see spiritual deficits in ourselves.  Our new prayer is that the Lord will abundantly provide for our spiritual needs as well as material needs, and help us to be faithful.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

LTW Journal 11/10: Defining the Ring

(Part of an ongoing series detailing our Lost Tools of Writing adventures.  Previous posts here.)  

On to Lesson 4 Invention!

(Reminder of our practice essay issue:  whether Boromir should have tried to take the Ring from Frodo.)

We defined the Ring today.  It is a magic object, like:

1.  Merlin's wand
2.  H.G. Wells' time machine
3.  Frodo's light
4.  the nickel in Half Magic
5.  the metal horse from Arabian Nights
6.  the golden tablet of Ra from "Night at the Museum"
7.  the cake in Alice
8.  Lucy's cordial in Narnia

These are all objects that can be used to do something extraordinary.  The Ring is unlike these other objects in that it is immoral.  (The others are either moral or amoral.)

It has the following characteristics:

1.  it is round
2.  it has Elvish writing on it
3.  it is jewelry
4.  it is gold
5.  it was created by Sauron
6.  it is from Mordor
7.  it is evil
8.  it is hypnotic
9.  it is pretty
10.  it makes people invisible
11.  it corrupts its owners
12.  it is magic

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Learning About Integers

Here are some ideas for teaching positives and negatives.  This year we are using MEP Math, which is available online for free.  Some of these ideas are from MEP and some we thought of while working through the concept:

1.  Cutaway views of cities or buildings teach the idea of above and below ground.
2.  Talk about "so much cash on hand" and "so much debt" and then find the balance.
3.  How far above sea level is a mountain?  How far below sea level is a portion of the ocean floor?
4.  The physics of sound:  high pitches are positive while low pitches are negative (Little La thought of this one).
5.  BC/BCE and AD/CE on the timeline.
6.  Summer and winter temperatures.

(Discovering the "why" of integers captures the student's imagination, and then he is ready to learn the "how".  I always needed lots of this sort of discovery before a mathematical process would stick in my head.)

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Explaining Our Current Situation

As our household economy has expanded by almost a third in the last several years, income has fortunately outstripped consumption.  The same factors that have allowed our income to grow have contributed to ballooning future optimism, promising to spur economic and spiritual progress.

(You have to read the above paragraph in your best intellectual-Scarecrow-with-Brains voice in order to get it.)

On October 10th, the Warrior Poet's boss told him the company that has employed him for the past fourteen years no longer requires his services.  WP has been unemployed for almost a month.  (I did not mention it earlier because I did not know if he wanted it mentioned online.  But he said it was okay.)

I keep bumping up against the fact that I am not anxious, which can only be the result of God's grace.  I am high-strung and tend to overthink things, which usually makes me worry.  I may be panicking next week or the week after, but right now I feel only gratitude for His providence in this trial.

One of the voices currently in my head is that of an old friend saying, "The barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail."  Back in the 90s, our friend repeatedly brought up that scripture from the book of 1 Kings as his family went through a similar crisis.

So far, this has also been our experience.

We appreciate any prayers you feel led to offer up.  Specifically we need:

*continued health for us and the kids
*sustained driveability for our old van
*level heads as we make big decisions
*fitting employment for the Warrior Poet

Thank you, friends.

New Blog and New Name for Cornflower

The child previously known as Cornflower has started her own blog and now wishes to be called Little La.  :)  Her new blog is called One Little Dream.  Go visit!

Friday, November 04, 2011

LTW 11/4

(Part of an ongoing series detailing our Lost Tools of Writing adventures.  Previous posts here.)  

I like Post-its.  I use them to remind myself of things I need to do, or ideas I need to internalize, or people I need to contact.  They are especially useful when beginning new habits.  A Post-it stating "Make your bed!" or something similar jogs me out of my default routine and challenges me to develop a better one.

The format of the LTW basic persuasive essay is like a series of Post-its.  When I wrote my own essay, I began to see the point of repeating the thesis in every paragraph. I had discovered so many interesting things during the research process that I kept abandoning my purpose and writing about something else.  Restating (and restating and restating) the thesis forced me to notice when my proofs and supports did not follow.

I was tempted to relax the requirement for my kids before I went through the essay-writing process myself.  Now I think I will let the requirement stand.  It is necessary in order to building better writing habits.

Here is my essay so you can see what I mean.


If you build a better mousetrap, will the regulators beat a path to your door?  John D. Rockefeller and his business partners experienced this very thing.

The Supreme Court should not have ordered the dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust for three reasons.  The oil market regulated Standard Oil, the U.S. Government misunderstood the situation, and the Sherman Act contained vague terms.

The first reason the Supreme Court should not have ordered the dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust is that the oil market regulated Standard Oil.  In 1882, more than 250 oil companies competed for business. Standard Oil gained market share and became wildly successful due to superior products and technology.  But by 1911, after forming the Trust, Standard Oil’s market share had fallen from 90% to 65%: it was in the process of losing its monopoly.

The second reason the Supreme Court should not have ordered the dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust is that the U.S. Government misunderstood the situation.  Rockefeller and his partners formed the first ever holding company.  The government criminalized a business practice it did not understand.  After decades of observation and analysis, today’s antitrust experts believe that vertical integration usually does not damage competition. 

The third reason the Supreme Court should not have ordered the dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust is that the Sherman Act contained vague terminology.  Congress did not define key terms like “exclusionary practice” and “restraint of trade”.  Congress meant for the Act to regulate business owners rather than workers, but President Grover Cleveland  invoked it against the American Railway Union to end the Pullman Strike of 1894.  The Supreme Court decision more narrowly defined the terms of the legislation, but it also introduced another vague term:  “rule of reason”.

The U.S. Supreme Court should not have ordered the dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust.  The oil market regulated Standard Oil, the U.S. Government misunderstood the situation, and the Sherman Act contained vague terms.

Why Are We Doing This?

As my children get older, I am well aware that they have free will and that, despite all the training and loving we give them, at the end of the day all we can do is pray that the Lord will guide their feet. If that were not the case-- if we could follow a checklist and turn out children that love the Lord and seek virtue-- following Christ would not be a walk of faith.

Elizabeth Foss has written an amazingly honest post about teenagers and young adults and Christian homeschooling that I think all young Christian homeschooling parents (as well as seasoned homeschooling parents, and Christian parents that do not homeschool, and all other parents) should read. As we read, we should ask ourselves: "Why are we doing this, after all?" For 'this', plug in whatever you or I work hard to ensure our children receive. Then ask, "Why *should* we do this?"

She puts it so well:
Saint Peter walked with Jesus. Jesus was his teacher in the faith. Jesus was the Master Teacher. And still, Peter was a liar, a denier, a weak-willed wimp-- right up until the time that Jesus died. He was taught by God Himself, surely the best teacher of all, and he didn't get it at first...I think, dear ladies, that some of us will be called to wait in faith for the Second Act (or our own version of Acts 2). 
We need to encourage one another to walk this walk of faith, but we need to be very careful that we don't rally around a certain prideful arrogance. Sometimes, in our zeal to hold each other accountable to a Christian life of virtue, we step dangerously close to pridefully suggesting that if we just do prescribed things all the right way, we will turn out brilliant, holy children. And we forget that it is not mothers and fathers who make Christians of children; it is God Himself, in His own time, according to His own plan.
Wow.  Christ himself had a wayward son.  And the Lord wasn't even a sinner!

I vouch for the list she gives of things that might happen despite our best efforts as parents.  I too have either known personally or read about children who got the best upbringing their parents could offer and still egregiously sinned.  Because, just like their parents, they are sinners in need of a Saviour.

I love our lifestyle.  I believe the CM-method of Christian home education is loaded with benefits for my children, and I am so happy we walk this path.  I have high hopes for my kids, too.  But it is not a magic pill.

If anyone tells you it is-- if their description begins to sound like an informercial ("It slices, it dices, it even makes fries!")-- do not believe them.  Raising children is a human affair, and no matter what you do, the law of sin and death still applies (see Romans 7).

It is NOT all in our hands.  Not only is God involved, but so are the kids.  It may take them some time to do the right thing.  Wait on them, and especially wait on the Lord.

Read the comments in Elizabeth's post.  Her readers have contributed many encouraging words!  

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind

Tomorrow we are reading the scene that contains this beautiful yet sad poem.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Handicrafts: Yarn, Hot Glue and Fabric Markers

Aravis made this costume out of yarn, hot glue and fabric markers. It took her 7 months to complete!  Do you recognize her Cats character?  (Hint:  she is wearing pearls instead of a collar.)

For the past month, she has helped her sisters make costumes as well. She says they did most of the work. She mainly gave advice.  Cornflower's costume is a Cats-inspired Cheshire Cat.  Mariel's is what Rogue from X-men might have looked like had she been a Cat.

What will they do next? I am not sure. I showed them this post, hoping to inspire them. I would love for all of us to make house gowns! Utility, comfort and beauty!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Playing House

This weekend we got to visit in the home of a young couple from our church.  It was delightful.  I relished all the little loving touches I saw in their home. I kept thinking of the phrase "playing house" as I wandered through their little cottage.

I do not mean to imply that it is merely playing.  I'm sure my sister in Christ is keeping house in earnest.  She is an artistic and creative person as well as dutiful, and this comes out in her home decor.  I think play is a lovely thing to invoke when doing your duty, and something every true artist employs.

I felt inspired by her home.  It reminded me of a quote in Bird by Bird:

You can either set brick as a laborer or as an artist. You can make the work a chore, or you can have a good time. You can do it the way you used to clear the dinner dishes when you were thirteen, or you can do it as a Japanese person would perform a tea ceremony, with a level of concentration and care in which you can lose yourself, and so in which you can find yourself.

After almost twenty years of keeping house, I admit I am tired of it. I have lost the art of dabbling, puttering and playing as I go about my chores! It is possible (dare I say necessary?) to combine beauty and duty. As I said in this post:
I'd like to choose 'artist' in every job of my life. But I have to remind myself and consciously choose it every day, sometimes every hour, praying to the Lord for grace.
Lord, I ask that you remind me of my first years of keeping house, and help me keep that fresh perspective as I go about serving my family. Amen.