Mum To Mom

Musings of an Aussie Mother Living in the USA

Author: Tania (page 2 of 4)

We Have Chicks!

Recently we had the wonderful opportunity to hatch some chicken eggs.

A friend of a friend (who we know as the “Chicken Whisperer”) had a compact incubator that they graciously offered to us to borrow. It can hold up to seven eggs, and the “Chicken Whisperer” gave us the eggs to incubate. The time and temperature had already been set for 21 days and 99.5°F, so we were good to go.

We took them home, put the eggs in the incubator, plugged it in, and then watched and waited.

Eggs Incubating

Sadly, there was an altercation involving a vacuum and some clumsy legs that resulted in our first lot of eggs getting smashed a week into the process. Yeah … that was messy.

We were all so devastated.

But the “Chicken Whisperer” graciously gave us another lot of eggs so we could have another go. Needless to say, these were kept in a more secure location in the laundry. We tracked the process in the kids’ science notebooks.

We candled the eggs at 2 weeks to see which eggs were developing. These aren’t the best photos, but you can make out the red veins across the bottom of the egg in the first pic. the dark section above the veins and air pocket is the embryo.


You can see the air pocket at the bottom of these eggs.

We had two eggs where nothing happened. We removed them at this stage. There were two others that developed the air sack but looked a lot gooey-er inside than the others. The “Chicken Whisperer” told us that the embryo could be hiding in the center of the egg, so we left them in the incubator to see what would happen.

A couple of days before hatching, my youngest daughter and I heard chirping from inside one of the eggs. Excitement!!!

At 7.40pm on Tuesday, we were sitting in the lounge room listening to Daddy read a story when we heard a loud chirp. Jumping up, we immediately headed to the laundry to see what was happening. Sure enough, there were two little beaks poking out of cracks in the shell of the eggs.

The First Crack

We waited expectantly. For 40 minutes the chicks were noisily working at the crack but they made little progress. We realized that this could take awhile. As it was a school night, we sent the girls to bed promising them that we would wake them up when the chicks were going to hatch.

At 11pm, the shell of one of the eggs cracked around the middle. Bursting into the girls rooms, turning lights on, shaking them awake, I yelled, “It’s time! It’s happening! Get up, quick!!!!!!!!”

In a state of panic the girls emerged from their beds, trying to make sense of the excitement.

We got to the laundry and watched this.

Flash Hatching

Flash Hatching

Absolutely amazing.

We watched for a little while, but the second chick was taking her time so we all went to bed and found her out and about the next morning.

Aren’t they cute? The golden chick is an Orpington. My eldest daughter named her Perriwinkle. The black one (we think) is a Silky. The younger two girls named her Flash. The girls were fascinated by the hair on Flash’s feet. They were also amazed that when they blink, their eyelids close from the bottom up. The girls thought this was very cool.

In a month or so, when the chicks have grown and their feathers have come in, we will give the chickens back to the “Chicken Whisperer.”

Perriwinkle

Perriwinkle

Flash

Flash

The Secret to Downloading Free Audiobooks

We read aloud a lot in our home because we use living books for school. So when it comes to reading aloud just for fun, I don’t always have the time or the energy. It’s my ideal that the children have one story, that’s not a school book, read aloud to them every day. It’s a lovely idea, inspired by one of my favorite podcasts, the Read-Aloud Revival. But realistically, this never happens. With homeschooling, co-op prep, extra curricula activities, a toddler, and a home to run, I am lucky to manage 2-3 days some weeks. I can only be stretched so far. But a few months ago I discovered a way to attain my lofty read-aloud goals for my children, easily and without burden, by borrowing digital audiobooks from our local library. This in no way replaces snuggling on the couch with the kiddos and reading aloud to them myself. But when I’m strapped for time, I’m thankful for the option. They still get to hear wonderful stories and I get to breathe *wink*.

Borrowing Digital Books from the Library

My county library uses Hoopla to lend digital books. Other libraries use Overdrive. I will talk about what I know about both, but I have less experience with Overdrive since my library doesn’t use it. These are services used in both Australian and American libraries. So my Aussie friends can check out the service as well. My Overdrive example is with a library from Australia. Just remember, like any library, use discernment. This is not an endorsement of every audiobook.

You will need your library card number and pin to borrow from these services. If you have your library card number but not your pin, you can go to your library’s page, click on “My account” at the top of the page, then click “Forgot password/PIN code?” You will be asked to enter your library card number and your pin will be emailed to you.

Volusia County Library Page

Requesting Library Pin

Hoopla

I discovered Hoopla scrolling down through my library page.

Hoopla on the Library Website

Alternatively, you can go straight to the Hoopla webpage.

Hoopla

You can browse the digital library there, but in order to borrow, you need to log in first by clicking the “Log In” button at the top right of the page. If you are new to Hoopla, you can then sign up by clicking the blue “Sign Up Now” button.

Hoopla Log in

You will then select your library.

Hoopla Sign Up

Now that you are logged in, you can browse audiobooks, digital books, and movies to your heart’s content. There are categories you can browse to discover the items that you are most interested in. If there is a particular title that you wish to borrow, you can search for it in the search box.

Searching with Hoopla

It will then bring up all titles related to your search inquiry. Because I only want audiobooks, I make sure to select “Audiobooks” underneath “FILTER.”

Mary Poppins in the Park is the book I want to borrow. So I simply click on the title.

Mary Poppins on Hoopla

Then click “Borrow.”

Borrowing using Hoopla

Did I mention that there is a Hoopla app for tablets and smartphones? Because I am borrowing on my iPad, and I have already downloaded the app, it automatically wants me to open the audiobook through the app.

Opening audiobook in Hoopla app

After clicking “Open in App,” the Hoopla app is automatically opened ready for me to play my newly borrowed audiobook, Mary Poppins in the Park. Click play and enjoy! This will stream the audiobook over the internet.

Play Audiobook of Mary Poppins in the Park

If you want to listen to the audiobook without an internet connection, you can download the audiobook to your device to listen to it whenever you want. The title will automatically leave your device after the 21 day borrowing period. No more overdue fees! To download the audiobook you simply click on the cloud icon at the top right of the page. An orange progress bar will track across the screen to let you know when it is downloaded. This is wonderful for those long road trips.

Downloading audiobooks to your device

You can find all your borrowed items in the “MY TITLES” section.

Hoopla Search

Overdrive

I will attempt to explain how to borrow audiobooks using Overdrive, but as I said, I have no experience borrowing using this service since I don’t have an account with a library that uses it. From what I can see, the principles are essentially the same, but the interface (how it looks) is slightly different. Hopefully this will be enough explanation to get you going.

The first step is to go to the Overdrive webpage or download the app and sign up. I found the iPad app the easiest. The browser experience may look slightly different.

Overdrive Sign Up

Once signed up, follow the prompts to swipe right.

Overdrive 1

Click “Add a Library.”

Selecting Libraries in Overdrive

Type in a city name, postal/zip code, or library name. I searched for a library near Rowville, Australia—a familiar city to me.

Find Library in Overdrive

Overdrive found Rowville library. Click on the library name.

Rowville Library Overdrive

Rowville library is part of the Eastern Regional Libraries system. Click on it.

Eastern Regional Libraries

Now I have selected my library that is connected with Overdrive, I am free to browse or search for titles in the search box at the top right of the screen. I tried to search for Mary Poppins, but sadly, this library system didn’t have Mary Poppins available as an audiobook download.

Overdrive 2

So I decided to select “View more…” under the Audiobook Fiction section in the black navigation bar to browse what was available. The headphones icon over a title tells you that it is an audiobook.

Overdrive

I scrolled down through the various categories until I came to one that interested me (Literature) and clicked “View more…”

Browsing Overdrive

To narrow down my search, I selected “Subject” from the left side bar.

Overdrive Literature Audiobooks

Then I selected my subject of choice, “Classic Literature.”

Classical Literature Audiobook

I scrolled down until I found a title that I wanted to download, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and clicked “Borrow.”

Alice in Wonderland Audiobook Overdrive

Just a note about children’s literature. There can be many versions of the classics. My encouragement is to read the unadapted and unabridged version. Our children deserve the respect of giving them rich, quality literature, that hasn’t been dumbed down

This is as far as I can take you since I don’t have an account with a library that uses Overdrive. I think that you will be able to take it from there though.

Borrowing with Overdrive

I connect my iPad via bluetooth to a portable bluetooth speaker for a better listening experience. My children then prop the iPad and speaker up on their dresser, snuggle into bed, and enjoy the story.

Mary Poppins in the Park Audiobook

I’d love to hear your audiobook experiences.

Nature Study Notebooking

What’s the Point?

There is no part of a child’s education more important than that he should lay, by his own observation, a wide basis of facts towards scientific knowledge in the future. He must live hours daily in the open air, and, as far as possible, in the country; must look and touch and listen; must be quick to note, consciously, every peculiarity of habit or structure, in beast, bird, or insect; the manner of growth and fructification of every plant. He must be accustomed to ask why––Why does the wind blow? Why does the river flow? Why is a leaf-bud sticky? And do not hurry to answer his questions for him; let him think his difficulties out so far as his small experience will carry him. Above all, when you come to the rescue, let it not be in the ‘cut and dried’ formula of some miserable little text-book; let him have all the insight available and you will find that on many scientific questions the child may be brought at once to the level of modern thought.

Charlotte Mason, Home Education, pg. 264-265

As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature-diary is a source of delight to a child. Every day’s walk gives him something to enter: three squirrels in a larch tree, a jay flying across such a field, a caterpillar climbing up a nettle, a snail eating a cabbage leaf, a spider dropping suddenly to the ground, where he found ground ivy, how it was growing and what plants were growing with it, how bindweed or ivy manages to climb.

Innumerable matters to record occur to the intelligent child. While he is quite young (five or six), he should begin to illustrate his notes freely with brush drawings; he should have a little help at first in mixing colours, in the way of principles, not directions. He should not be told to use now this and now that, but, ‘we get purple by mixing so and so,’ and then he should be left to himself to get the right tint. As for drawing, instruction has no doubt its time and place; but his nature diary should be left to his own initiative. A child of six will produce a dandelion, poppy, daisy, iris, with its leaves, impelled by the desire to represent what he sees, with surprising vigour and correctness.

Charlotte Mason, Home Education, pg. 54-55

New and Improved

One of my goals for this new school year was to improve how we did nature study. We had always used regular composition books to draw our object of interest in with pencils or markers. But the ruled lines intersecting all their drawings was not cultivating the delight in notebooking that I had envisaged for my children. So this year I bit the bullet and bought my children quality water color paints and Moleskine notebooks.

Paints

Moleskine Watercolor Notebooks

I was apprehensive about giving the children what I consider to be expensive materials. So I impressed upon them how special these materials were and how these nature notebooks could be something that they treasured. They were to be looked after and respected. A few weeks in and I have been pleasantly surprised at the care with which the children have used these new materials.

They have made two entries in these notebooks so far. There have been a few tears and frustrations because they couldn’t get a tint exactly right, or they couldn’t get the shape exactly right, or they had used too much paint in creating the desired tint thereby “wasting” their precious paint. While these issues were traumatic for my children at the time (you can see some evidence of their frustration in their paintings) I was pleased that they cared enough to be bothered by these issues.

We took our first nature walks of the school year at a friend’s property. We were there to do some school work together (they homeschool too) and to play. These friends have a chicken coop and a number of chickens. My children had such a wonderful time holding and playing with these chickens that they decided they wanted to paint them in their nature books.

G-Age-6

G-Age-6

E-Age-7

E-Age-7

A-Age-9

A-Age-9

None of our family are naturally artistic, so I’m quite pleased with how their paintings turned out.

After another play date, the two older ones drew a different variety of chicken.

E-Age-7

E-Age-7

Age-Age-9

A-Age-9

Nature notebooking had always been a struggle for us, no one (including me) took delight in the activity. Although we have a long way to go, now that we have more appropriate materials, we are enjoying it a great deal more, and it is quickly becoming a favorite time of school.

Bits and Pieces: Summer 2015

This summer we:

Played in the dirt.

Played in the dirt.

And in the mud.

Playing with mud

Enjoyed a week at VBS and sent A-Age-9 to Music Camp for the first time.

Sent A-Age-9 to Music Camp for the first time

I bought new books for the new school year (my favourite part of planning).

Bought new books for the new school year (love this part of school planning).

I'm teaching, "Story of the World: Ancient Times" to grades K-1 at our homeschool co-op this year. It will be my first time teaching a class, Eek!

I’m teaching, “Story of the World: Ancient Times” to grades K-1 at our homeschool co-op this year. It will be my first time teaching a class. Eek!

And pulled out old school books for new students.

And pulled out old school books for new students.

New school books required new bookshelves to fit them on.

/

BEFORE

AFTER"

AFTER

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

I had wanted to upgrade our bookshelves to the 5×5 Kallax since moving into our house over 2 years ago. It makes such a difference and worth the wait.

We had loads of swimming lessons. Once they were done, we took a short vacation to St. Petersburg where we:

Used our new swimming skills.

Swimming by the bay

And said hello to Winter and Hope at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Winter and Hope

Hope

Hope

There were playdates with fort making, ice-creams, zoo visits, and splash pads. Now we are ready to go and are looking forward to starting a new school year—well, I am at least.

How did you spend your summer?

2014-2015 Reflections (Part 2)

In my last post I mentioned how I have spent time reflecting on our school year. I discussed our successes, and overall, we did have a great year. However, there were a couple of areas that did not go as well as I’d hoped, and others that need a bit of improving.

Math: A Slave to the Worksheet

The biggest challenge for me this year was Kindergarten (Prep). My wonderfully creative and clever 5-year-old simply wasn’t ready for school. Letters wouldn’t stick, simple math concepts like writing numerals (0-20) wouldn’t stick. If I hadn’t keenly felt the social pressure to begin formal school at age 5, I wouldn’t have for this child. As I mentioned last post, I use Charlotte Mason’s method to teach reading. I am so glad that I did. Though it was painfully slow for me, learning to read was a fun, interactive game for her. And about half way through the year something clicked for this child. Letters that she would forget from one week to the next, began to stick. The pace picked up tremendously. I hadn’t done anything different. It was time. She had simply needed time.

This is how it could have been for math. Instead, enslaved to the worksheet, math became a painful learning experience for my dear daughter, and for me. We have used Math-U-See from the beginning, and, for the most part, I like it. So I began my new Kindergartener (Prep) with the Primer book, and did what I’ve always done. Sit down and watch the lessons on the DVD together, sometimes going over a few more examples of the concept taught with her myself, then have her open her workbook and do a couple of pages out of it (or whatever she could get done in 10-15 minutes). Job done. Easy, right? Umm. Not so much. I was so focussed on getting the worksheets done that I failed to see that she wasn’t understanding the concepts the worksheets were designed to reinforce. Correct answers were written but weren’t understood. As the year continued and she was presented with more new math concepts, frustration from both this student and me mounted. How many times did I have to go over the same thing? Why wasn’t she getting this? She was still needing my constant help to arrive at the correct answer. When I left her to do a question on her own, she said she didn’t know how. She began to believe she couldn’t do it. With one month to go of our school year she still didn’t know what “20” was. She could count to twenty but didn’t understand its value nor how to write it. Hadn’t we been writing numerals all year? Didn’t we learn place value in our first term? It dawned on me that in my fixation with completing worksheets, we had been plowing through the lessons without any regard to whether my student actually understood the problems she was completing. I realized that instead of allowing her time to interact with the concept and understand it for herself, I had pushed her helped her too much, essentially telling her the answers, hoping she’d pick it up as we went along. The whole year had gone by, but had meaningful learning actually taken place? Some. A little. Not as much as was possible. And not without a lot of pain and heartache. I had failed her. With three weeks to go I tossed the student workbook in favor of hands on math games that taught the concepts she so clearly didn’t understand. And you know what? The tears and the tantrums disappeared and she learned more in that three weeks than she had all year. She will still use the student workbook next year, but only as a guide, and to reinforce concepts that I will teach through play and games.

Spanish

Spanish will probably always be in the “need to improve” list. Primarily because I have never learned this language before so I am not confident about teaching it to my kids. I had read that the best way to learn a language is to hear it all the time and just start speaking it, but I still wasn’t sure how to put that into practice. The result was trying to do a little bit of everything to make sure that I had it all covered.

We did:

Doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that isn’t necessarily bad, but I felt that there was a lack of continuity to what we were learning. Chopping and changing often resulted in a lack of review. It also resulted in us not being able to finish the Petra Lingua course before our subscription ran out. I think it would have been better to have done the entire year with the Petra Lingua course to build up the children’s vocabulary. YouTube songs, duo lingo, and Salsa Spanish would still have worked great as a compliment to the course. We will continue with those activities next year.

Nature Study Notebooks

I mentioned last post that nature study went well this year. This is because we were consistent in doing it. But our nature study notebooks need some love and attention to become what Charlotte Mason had envisaged. It wasn’t until I read Laurie Bestvater’s book, “The Living Page” that I saw the vision for these notebooks. I saw the deficiencies in our half-hearted notebooking efforts, but saw what they could be, and how important and treasured they could become to my children. It is my goal to make the following adjustments to improve our nature study notebooking this year:

  • Replace cheap lined notebooks with quality watercolor Moleskine notebooks
  • Use quality watercolor paints and art supplies instead of cheap markers and pencils
  • Be more intentional in looking up facts about our discoveries and include them in our notebooks
  • Be intentional in looking out for and including poetry that relates to what we are painting
  • Cultivate and nurture a love and a care for our nature notebooking practice
  • Cultivate and nurture a love and a care for God’s creation as we make notes of our discoveries.

So that’s 2014-2015. Please pray for me as we embark on a new school year in a couple of weeks (this year will include Shakespeare, Plutarch, and even some Latin!).

2014-2015 Evaluations and Reflections

After finishing the school year a couple of weeks ago, I spent the better part of a week preparing portfolios for evaluation. This year took longer than normal. At the last minute I decided to reorganize all of the girls’ work. I also had two terms of exams for two students to type out. I know I could have typed them up earlier in the year, and I intended to. But not being naturally organized, I never got around to it. In spite of my disorganization, I got them done. Want to see?

Portfolios

Language Arts

Geography

Tabs

Free Reading

Narration

It took 3 hours to type up all the books my 3rd grader read this year. The girl is a machine. I read pretty slowly so this is shocking to me. I know Charlotte Mason advocates reading slowly, giving your mind time to digest the living ideas, but I cannot slow my daughter down. I am not overly concerned about this with her free reading because she can narrate everything she’s read without a worry, even quoting paragraphs, so I know she’s giving attention to what she is reading and understands it.

While typing up exams and preparing portfolios, I’ve had time to reflect on the year that’s gone by—the things that went well, the areas that need improving, and the areas that went well but could use a little tweaking to work better. Considering what went well, here are what I think were our greatest successes.

Our Schedule

The most successful area of our homeschool this year was our schedule. I know that sounds kind of boring, but if our schedule didn’t work so well, many of the wonderful areas that we studied (like art, composers, poetry, nature study, and Spanish) would have been left out, to our detriment. Charlotte Mason believed in providing a liberal education, that is, a wide and generous feast of living ideas for children to devour that would feed their souls. This is why including areas of study that many might not deem necessary is so important to me.

This year I introduced a third student to our school day. Her schedule and demand was pretty light as she was only in Kindergarten (Prep), but it still had an impact on the dynamic of our day. Last year, when I had only two students our day had a general outline with no specifics. I knew in my head what we had to get done and each day we somehow figured it out. Needless to say, many areas that I’ve already mentioned were left out on many occasions, and when we did do them they were in a haphazard, stressed kind of way. That is not what Charlotte Mason envisaged at all.

Thanks to Brandy’s average day planning post last year at Afterthoughts and Jen’s 2013 planning series over at Snowfall Academy, I realized I needed a better plan. I was able to use ideas from both their schedules to come up with one that was much more thorough than I had before and one that suited our family.

Daily Schedule

Schedule

Weekly Schedule

Weekly ScheduleAO1 and AO3 refer to the Ambleside Online’s weekly scheduled readings for years 1 and 3.

It worked beautifully for us. There were three areas that were particularly successful.

Circle Time

I have posted a little about this before, but just to quickly explain again: Circle Time is basically all the areas of study that we do together. Last year I attempted Circle Time but found that with Bible reading, prayer, poetry, memorizations, artist or composer study, and Spanish, it was going WAY too long, and my children, especially the 5-year-old, could not sit in one place for that long, and so I often left things out. I saw on Jen’s daily schedule that she had Bible, prayer, and memorization first thing and then had another Circle Time during snack. This seems so obvious now but I had never thought of it before seeing her plan. Following Jen’s example I split Circle Time in half, beginning the day with Bible, prayer, memorization and adding poetry in as well. At either snack or lunch time, depending on how the day was going, we did Spanish and alternated composer and artist study. This has worked really well for me, and morning Circle Time has become my favorite part of the day.

Kindergarten

The second area that was successful for us was teaching the youngest student first. This year I had two students that were learning to read. One had not mastered all her letters, while the other had finished 3 and 4 letter word families and was moving on to learning to read actual books (You can find the method I use to teach reading over at Joyful Shepherdess). Only a year apart in age, both students needed me for all of their schooling, yet were at different stages of learning, so couldn’t be combined. I was nervous about this. So my plan was to begin with the youngest, whose attention, presumably, would wane the quickest. This worked well most of the time. Though some days the 1st grader had the shorter attention span, and so I began with her. Other days I mixed it up, beginning with K phonics for 15 minutes, then giving her a break, taught 1st grade reading for 15 minutes, then returned to the youngest to finish her formal school time with math, then switched again to 1st grade math, and continued with Year 1 readings. So even though I had the Kindergartener scheduled, and followed this schedule most of the time, I allowed my days to be fluid enough within the schedule structure to ensure that I could meet my individual children’s needs on any particular day. The first of Charlotte Mason’s 20 principles is “Children are born persons.” I think part of respecting our children as real, individual persons in their own right, made in the image of God, is being tuned in to what they need to learn best that day. This means that sometimes shifting the order of the schedule is necessary because it is what is best for them. I am not always successful at this, but when I am, our school day is better.

Nature Study

The third area of success in our homeschool was Nature Study. It was actually on the schedule this year, so we actually did it! This is a big success for me because I’m naturally a homebody. This is an area of study that definitely need’s more improvements, particularly with our notebooks. Yet I still consider it a success since we managed to go for a nature walk somewhere every week and draw or paint what we observed.

So that is our school year in a nutshell. There is definitely areas that I need to improve or tweak, but I will save that for another post.

How was your school year? What are some successes you had? I’d love to hear from you.

Real Conversations with Dad

Car

“‘Real’ talks with Father were always such delightful things.”

—Lucy Maud Montgomery, Emily of New Moon.

We were in the car, driving to who knows where? It didn’t matter. I was with my dad. I looked forward to our drives together. It was our time alone—just him and me, without the distractions of the computer or TV or everyday life. I had his attention all to myself. I looked forward to these drives. It was when we talked. And I loved our talks. I loved asking him questions. Questions about his life, about politics, about God, about world events and news stories, about what I was learning at school—anything, it didn’t matter. I simply wanted to know what he thought. I don’t remember how often we had these drives. I don’t remember where we went on these trips. But I do know that these conversations had a formative effect on my life. They were instrumental in molding my values and shaping my thoughts. Although I am sure there were other times when we talked, it’s these drives that I remember. And as I thank God for my father this (American) Father’s Day, these times in the car with my dad, having “real” conversations in which he imparted his knowledge, his wisdom, and most importantly, himself, are what come to mind as most precious to me.

It is in light of this that my heart is overwhelmed to see the same love and excitement in my girls’ eyes when they go on a drive with their daddy. It usually isn’t to go anywhere exciting: Home Depot, the lawn care place, the gym, or to get a haircut. Yet, they get so excited that they get to go with Dad on his Saturday errands. This is because, as my 9-year-old daughter explains:

“I love driving with Papa. I like our conversations.”

The minute they get into the car she asks, “Can you talk to me about something, Papa?”

In the same way that I felt with my father, what my daughters and their dad talk about isn’t important to them. What is important is the time spent with their dad as he gives them his attention and love. Just being present with them as he freely gives his time and himself to them. He never talks down to them, but always respecting them as persons made in the image of God, he answers their questions thoughtfully, thoroughly, while being mindful of their personalities and sensitivities.

I know that these conversations my daughters have with their dad will have a lasting impact on them as they continue to grow up. They will help shape and mold their hearts and minds, just as the conversations with my father did for me.

As I further reflect on these conversations, and their role in forming children’s minds, I cannot help but see the connection with our Heavenly Father. How much more should conversations with our Heavenly Father mold and shape our hearts to be more like Him? As we read His Word, He speaks to us. In a sense, He is sharing Himself, His thoughts, His will, and His values with us.

On this Father’s Day, may fathers delight in having “real” talks with their children, and may we all treasure “real” talks with our Heavenly Father as all the more delightful.

The Healthy Eaters Guide to Lindt Truffles

Lindt LINDOR Truffles

Before moving to America three years ago, I thought I ate well. I thought I ate clean. Weet-Bix for breakfast, salads or salad sandwiches for lunch. Lots of fruit. Dinner was variations of meat and three veg, cooked from scratch. There were no prepackaged sauces or meat products in my home. Well done, me. Thank you for your congratulations. Disappointingly, not long after arriving in America I discovered that I was not as healthy as I first thought. Apparently there was this “crazy” fad in America: organic food. Food grown without pesticides. I was resistant. I was overwhelmed. My solution? A mixed bag of Lindt chocolate truffles. The whole bag eaten in 10 minutes. Very satisfying. For about 2 minutes. Until I felt sick. Then fat. Then guilty.

After a year or so my new friends made me feel guilty helped me to realize that it really wasn’t very healthy to ingest poisons designed to kill bugs. So I joined an organic co-op. Yay, me. Thank you again for your congratulations. I had now arrived at the pinnacle of healthy eating. I was organic (most of the time). Then I came across this article. It told me that I was not as healthy as I thought. We were consuming too much added sugar in our snack food and sugar is bad. I was overwhelmed. My solution? A mixed bag of Lindt truffles. The whole bag eaten in 10 minutes. Very satisfying. For about 2 minutes. Until I felt sick. Then fat. Then guilty. My solution?

Another bag of Lindt truffles.

Once I recovered from my sugar coma, I set to work eliminating added sugar from our diet. This proved difficult. Apparently sugar is in everything. And if there isn’t sugar, there is corn syrup. I read in this article that corn syrup is worse than sugar. I felt worse. I was overwhelmed. My solution? A mixed bag of Lindt truffles. The whole bag eaten in 10 minutes. Very satisfying. For about 2 minutes. Until I felt sick. Then fat. Then guilty. My solution?

Another bag of Lindt truffles.

I refused to be discouraged. This would not defeat me. The first step was to eliminate the worst of the two evils: corn syrup. I began to read the back of labels. I was informed. But removing corn syrup drastically reduced snack options. We were healthier though, and I was in control. There was no need to resort to Lindt truffles.

And yet, we weren’t totally clean. There was still unwanted sugar in our snack food. We eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, but children have to have crackers with their snack, right? It came to me. I would create my own crackers. I would bake lavash bread. It would be deliciously crunchy. It would be great for dipping in hummus. It had good grains. It had flax, oat bran, and whole wheat. It was healthy. And then I read this article. It told me soy is bad. What do I find in the lavash bread’s ingredient list? Soy protein, soy flour, and soy oil. Oh, and it’s a carbohydrate. And apparently they’re bad too. I am overwhelmed.

There is only one solution.

How Martin Luther Helped Us to Pray

For the past year and a half, every school morning, we begin our day with what I call “circle time.” My four kids and I gather together on the couch, or around the table outside, to read Scripture, memorize Scripture, pray, and to read and memorize poetry. It hasn’t always been easy establishing this routine, especially with a baby and a five-year-old incessant wriggler whose maximum attention span is five minutes. Nevertheless, it has become my favorite time of the day. I hope over time it becomes my children’s as well. It is wonderful to begin the day together focussing on our Lord; emphasizing truth, goodness, and beauty. It really helps set the tone for the rest of our day, most of the time.

When we began to incorporate a regular circle time in our day the children each took a turn at praying. Their prayers would be something like this:

“Dear God, thank you for the day. Please help us at school and please help such and such to get better. Amen.”

There is nothing wrong with this prayer in itself. The Bible says we should come to Jesus like a child. God hears our simple, heartfelt, and fervent prayers. The concern I had was that I felt as if the children were praying on autopilot. The same prayers would be prayed each day, the exact same words said by rote, and I didn’t feel that they actually thought about what they were saying. I didn’t feel that they really understood that they were praying to God, the creator of the universe. As I thought about it more I realized something: that was how I prayed as well. I was praying in a haphazard, unthoughtful way. They were following my example.

The Barber Who Wanted to PrayOne day, as I sorted out the kids’ bookshelf for the hundredth time, I rediscovered the children’s book The Barber Who Wanted to Pray by R. C. Sproul. We had read and enjoyed this beautifully illustrated book several times before, but hadn’t pulled it out for quite some time. It is about a father, Mr. McFarland who, during family devotions, is asked by his young daughter how to “pray in a way that will make Jesus happy and will make me feel more comfortable.” Mr. McFarland tells her a 500-year-old story about a barber and his famous customer, the outlaw, Martin Luther. He tells her how Luther came to write a letter to the barber, explaining to him how to pray using the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Ten Commandments.

Thanking the Lord for putting this book in my path right when I needed it, I decided to read this story to the kids as part of our circle time. After spending a week or two reading it over a few times and having them tell me the story in their own words, I explained that we would do as Martin Luther taught the barber, and memorize the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Ten Commandments as part of our memory work during circle time. I wish I could tell you that the girls jumped for joy at this pronouncement. They did not. In fact, I’m pretty sure I heard groans. It sounded like a lot of work to them so, of course, they didn’t want to do it. But anything worth doing requires effort. We have been memorizing these verses and creed, five minutes a day, for the past year and a half. The oldest has memorized all of them and the younger two have memorized the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed and are at various stages in memorizing the Ten Commandments. Amazingly, I too have memorized them incidentally since I have been helping the children learn them.

As we have memorized each verse or sentence, I have encouraged the children to pray through them as was taught in the story.

“Think about the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’ When you think about these words, allow your mind and your heart to give careful attention to what these words say, and let them move you to deeper prayer.”

Martin Luther goes on to give several examples in the story of praying in this way. I too tried (and continue) to model how to pray in this way. Each day I picked one line from whatever the children were in the process of memorizing, often focussing on the same verse for the entire week or more, sometimes even a whole month. Then I encouraged the kids to pray something about that. For example, when considering the line in the Apostles’ Creed, “Maker of heaven and Earth,” I would talk about how they could praise God for His wonderful creation. Thanking Him for the birds that chirp in our trees. For the sun and the moon and the stars. To thank Him for creating this world that we are living in and for providing plants to eat that bear seeds after their own kind. I would ask them to think about how powerful God must be to create such a perfect home for us. I then told them to include in their prayer at least one thing about God’s creation that they were thankful for and to thank Him for it.

As we have continued this practice of praying through these verses and creed I have seen my children grow in how they approach God and how they pray to Him. They still pray with their simple language, but they have begun to include whole verses from memory in their prayers and to apply them to specific circumstances for which they are praying. Not only has this book helped me to teach the children to pray biblically and to seek Him and His Word, it has also radically changed and enriched my own private prayer life as I too learn to “pray in a way that will make Jesus happy and will make me feel more comfortable.” While this book was written for children, it’s story will impact anyone who wants to grow in prayer and their Christian walk with God. If you’re interested, Luther’s original letter is also freely available online.

On Our Night Stand (Summer 2015)

He ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust;
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was dust.
He danced along the dingy days,
And this bequest of wings
Was but a book. What liberty
A loosened spirit brings!

—Emily Dickinson, A Book

I was a voracious reader when I was a kid. Once I left school though, I stopped reading for the most part. There were certain Christian living books that I read from time to time, but not a lot and not consistently. Since becoming a part of the homeschooling community online, I have enjoyed seeing what other mums are reading when they post updates on their blogs. This has inspired me to read again and to read more widely. These mums introduced me to the classics and encouraged me to cultivate an atmosphere of reading in our home. So, I made it my goal to read a chapter of something each day.

In the hope that it might encourage you, here are the books on our nightstand this summer.

What Mum Is Reading

Mum's Books

Mum’s Books

Devotional

Fellowship with God by Martin Lloyd Jones

These are Jones’ sermons from 1 John, to compliment my own personal reading of 1 John

Historical

Selected Letters of Jane Austen

I find the everyday life of Jane Austen’s world fascinating. I’m a big Austen fan. I read one or two letters a week just for fun.

Special Interest

Grammar Book For You And I (Oops Me) By C. Edward Good

Can I tell you my deep dark secret? My knowledge of grammar is appalling. It’s shameful, I know. I’m hoping this book will help me with this oversight.

Education

The Living Page by Laurie Bestvater

Loving this book about the power of Charlotte Mason notebooking. It has inspired me to keep my own commonplace book and encouraged me to be more intentional with our nature study notebooking.

School Education by Charlotte Mason (Online)

Gaining a more thorough understanding of the philosophy of education that I love, and how it works out practically as my eldest moves into 4th grade next year.

Novel

Emily of New Moon by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Kindle)

I started reading this to see if it would be appropriate to read aloud to my 5,7, and 8 year olds and found that I’d fallen in love with it for myself. I’m only in chapter 3 and it’s wonderful so far.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, narrated by Stephen Fry (Audible)

Funny science fiction. What’s not to love. And Stephen Fry is brilliant to listen to. Hubby and I are enjoying this one together.

Read-Alouds with the Children

The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton

These were my very favorite when I was a kid. I’m glad to be able to share them with my children.

Read-Alouds

Read-Alouds

Family Devotions

Grandpa’s Box by Starr Meade

Dad is reading this to us. Retelling the biblical story of redemption.

What the Kids Are Reading

Beginner Reader

Our 7-year-old has just started with the Little Bear books. They are so sweet.

Beginner Reader

Beginner Reader

Library Finds

I let the kids pick their own books but they have to bring them to me to approve. There were a hundred Halloween selections for some reason. I picked the nicest looking ones.

Library Books

Library Books

Our 8-year-old is a huge Marguerite Henry fan.

Library Books

Library Books

8-Year-Old’s Bookshelf

My eldest daughter reads so fast and so much that I cannot keep up with her. Because of this she rereads the books on her shelves over and over and over again.

8-Year-Old's Bookshelf

8-Year-Old’s Bookshelf

8-Year-Old's Bookshelf

8-Year-Old’s Bookshelf

Did I mention my daughter loves horse books?

I’d love to know what’s on your nightstand.

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