Mum To Mom

Musings of an Aussie Mother Living in the USA

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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.

The Simple Effectiveness of Artist Study

The six-year-old child should begin both to express himself and to appreciate, and his appreciation should be well in advance of his power to express what he sees or imagines. Therefore it is a lamentable thing when the appreciation of children is exercised only upon the coloured lithographs of their picture-books or of the ‘Christmas number.’

…the minds of children and of their elders alike accommodate themselves to what is put in their way; and if children appreciate the vulgar and sentimental in art, it is because that is the manner of art to which they become habituated.

…We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture.

Charlotte Mason, Home Education, pg.307-309

Charlotte Mason reminds us that we cannot measure how our children will be influenced when they spend time really looking at works of art. Therefore, it is my endeavor to “put in [my children’s] way” artists whose works instill a sense of beauty and capture moments in time—works that enrich us.

What Does Artist Study Look like in Our Family?

In our homeschool, we follow Ambleside Online’s Artist Schedule. Each term (12 weeks) we consider one artist and six or seven representations of their work. This usually means looking at one piece every two weeks. For example, this term we are studying the Impressionist Edgar Degas. So far we have looked at the following paintings:

The Belleli Family

The Belleli Family

The Cotton Exchange, New Orleans

The Cotton Exchange, New Orleans

The Dance Class

The Dance Class

Once or twice a week, often while the kids eat lunch or snacks, I pull up the schedule on my iPad and click the link to the painting for that week. Together, we spend five or so minutes looking at it. There might be a brief discussion, often led by the children, about who is portrayed in the painting, what they are doing, where they are, the style of painting, and any other details that stand out to us. I then take the painting away and ask one of the children to narrate it, that is, to tell me about the painting from memory. And that’s it.

It seems so simple (and it is!) but you will be surprised at how much impact spending the time really looking and appreciating an artist’s work actually has on a young heart. The learning isn’t always tangible, but I promise you it is happening.

From the Mouth of an 8-Year-Old

Here is what my 8-year-old said about ‘The Dance Class’ a few days after looking at it:

“The dance rehearsal, I really like it. One of the reasons is because its got the mirror and the stairway with the window and the people on the stairway. When I first saw it I thought it was an actual door but then we realized that it was actually a window and that it was people that we could see. I like how he’s got all the details and how you can actually see the man’s handkerchief in his pocket and how he actually did the detail of it just being stuffed in there, not it being completely hidden. I really like it. And I like when you zoom in you can actually see the detail of the dancers feet how they’re slim and dancy, and the way that he’s got the shoe, the one where the ending is flat so that they could stand on their toes. It’s really cool.”

There’s an App for That

Organized mums will have visited Staples, printed the term’s pictures in color, added information about each piece, and presented them in a folder before the term begins. But organization is not my strong suit, so this never happens for me. This term, I discovered the Art Authority app for my iPad. It has thousands of artists, a library of their works, and links to additional information about each. Everything I need is in one app. No more Googling for me! That makes it well worth the $10 in my opinion. The children also enjoy using it to scroll through other artists’ work’s that we have studied in previous years, reacquainting themselves with old friends.

In addition to looking at Degas’ works we have been reading Mike Venezia’s book Edgar Degas from his series “Getting To Know The World’s Greatest Artists.” I read a few pages from the book during our Artist Study time and ask one child to narrate what we have read. The children always look forward to his humorous comic strip pages.

More Than an Add-On

When I first introduced Artist Study in our homeschool, I viewed it as a nice little add-on that we would get to “if we had time,” but if not, “it didn’t really matter.” After three years, we have come to treasure it and I see how much it has enriched my children’s lives as they learn to express their appreciation for the beautiful.

Treasured Memories

Mother & Daughter

Photo credit: Sjoerd Lammers

I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but one year, while still in primary school (elementary school), I went to stay with my grandparents for a couple of days. I loved staying at their house. Pa spent almost all day in his garage listening to his AM radio, reading the paper, and tinkering with his woodworking stuff.  Nan pottered around in the house and her garden. This particular year I had a special project I wanted to do for my mum’s birthday and I needed Nan and Pa’s help while I stayed with them. I wanted to make my mum a jewelry box decorated with the shells that I had collected from the beach. Pa helped me make the box. He showed me how to glue and nail the sides, and how to apply the stain once the box was assembled. Nan then helped me line the inside of the box with beautiful red velvet, and we then glued the shells around the outside. It looked fantastic. Mum loved it. She still has it all these years later and still speaks of how precious it is to her.

A couple of months ago, my mum came to visit us from Australia for the first time. It had been three years since I had seen her face to face. That is a long time between hugs.

Having such a lengthy absence from family is difficult. There is a sense of separation from our day to day lives. As helpful as Facebook and technology are in keeping loved ones involved and up to date with what is happening, they can’t perfectly replace actually being there in each other’s lives. The benefit of a lengthy absence, however, is that when you are together, you are more intentional about your time. So during this 6-week visit, we made the most of it.  We went to Disney World, a life long dream of my mother’s. We went to Kennedy Space Center, visited parks and springs, went to our favorite restaurants, and introduced her to our favorite people. She met her newest grandson for the first time and helped us celebrate his first birthday. She was here for Easter lunch, and I was able to spoil her for her birthday. These were very special moments—moments I will treasure.

Amazing as these outings and activities were, they are not the highlight of her visit for me. It was the time spent at home with her that I will treasure most. Mum spent many, many hours with my children. She taught them to make scones, she read them stories, and they baked hot cross buns for Easter. She made dolls with the girls out of wool. She taught my oldest to design and sew cushion covers on a sewing machine. She wrote songs on the piano with my musically inclined middle daughter. She baked cupcakes with and read stories to my youngest girl, and had lots and lots of cuddles and outside adventures with my toddler son.

Mum spent time enriching my children’s lives with the skills and knowledge that her grandmother had passed on to her. These are the moments I treasure in my heart, just as my mum cherishes that jewelry box I made with my grandmother all those years ago.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mum. Missing you already and I look forward our next visit together.

What are your treasured memories of your mum?

The Wonder of a Child

It’s been awhile since I’ve written here—a really long while. I got a bit lazy, and honestly, I didn’t really feel that I had much to add to the homeschooling/Charlotte Mason conversation that wasn’t already being said by others, and said much better than I could. I came to the conclusion that I really am terrible at writing. It is just so hard for me to get my thoughts out of my head and into anything resembling coherency. I lost the motivation to put effort and time into writing. So I stopped. But my passion for homeschooling and Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education didn’t. In fact, it has only grown. One day I’ll write the blog post (maybe) about why we do Charlotte Mason that I’ve been meaning to write for the past three years, but for the moment you will just have to bear with this morning’s random musing.

I’ve had a baby since I was last here. A boy! Our first boy. He is such a joy and I can’t even begin to describe how much we all love having him in our family. He is 14 months old. Where has the time gone? It was actually my baby boy that inspired me to write today’s post. This morning, as I sat in my favorite spot in the house, drank a cup of coffee, read several homeschooling blogs, and occasionally looked out the window at the gorgeous trees in our yard, my beautiful son toddled up to me.

My Favorite Spot in the House

He stretched out his arms for me to pick him up. I obliged, and he snuggled into my lap as we looked out the window. He pointed to the trees and (presumably) to the sunrise whose golden rays reflected off the leaves. He exclaimed, “Woah!” This was followed by a procession of “oohs” and “ahhs” as he took in the beauty displayed through the window and marveled at it.

Sunrise Through the Trees

Children have a wonderful sense of wonder, don’t they? This is our biggest advantage as home educators. Charlotte Mason says that. Somewhere. Pretty much. Children are naturally curious. And they get excited about stuff.

“Wow, look Mummy, the flowers are blooming.”

“Look Mummy, the squirrels are chasing one another. They have such fluffy tails.”

“Look, Mum! Mr. Cardinal is in our tree. And there’s Mrs. Cardinal! They always visit together.”

And on it goes—endless observations of the world around them. We jaded adults can easily overlook this glorious sense of wonder. Our wonder has been dimmed by the drudgery of life. But what if it hadn’t? What if this wonder at God’s creation had been nurtured in our childhood? What observations and beauty would we see now that we so quickly overlook or dismiss as trivial? It is such a gift for our children to nurture this sense of wonder that already comes so naturally to them—to always be on the look out, to put them in the way of beauty, and to draw their attention to marvel at God’s goodness to us in providing this moment to share. May our children always look at God’s creation with wonder. And may we rediscover this wonder and praise God.

A Tale Of Two Honey Possums – A Grand Conversation

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Our read aloud for today was A Tale of Two Honey Possums by Felicity Bradshaw and beautifully illustrated by Patricia Negus. Bradshaw is a biologist from Western Australia who has studied honey possums for over 20 years. It is a sweet story about Benji and Noola, brother and sister honey possums born to Mother Possum, and their first year of life.

I am no expert on living books but I love this story. It is a wonderful book that can easily be used as a natural science book for young children. It contains great detail of the honey possum, their physical attributes, what they eat, where they live, how it’s young are raised, and what the dangers are for them. It also contains a great deal of information about other animals who share there habitat amongst the Banksia in the Australian bush. But it is not a boring textbook. I would put it in the same rank as The Burgess Animal Book and The Burgess Bird Book. In fact I think it’s a little better. The story is engaging and captivated my children’s imagination. Especially when the honey possums endured a bush fire and their home was completely burnt. The development of the fire in the story sparked a long conversation with my children about bush fires. For most Victorians (people who live in Victoria, Australia, where I was from) the topic of bush fires is really close to home, as a few years ago Victoria suffered one of the worst bush fires in our history. There were around 300 fatalities and entire towns were burnt to the ground. Bush fires are a very big threat every summer in rural Victoria and fire safety ads flood TV and radio to help ensure people are prepared in the event of a fire.

When I first brought this book out to read to the children my hopes were that they would learn some wonderful, interesting facts about Australian animals and our beautiful flora. Instead, unexpectedly, this simple story about the adventures of two honey possums sparked, as Charlotte Mason would call it, a “grand conversation” about bush fires, what they’re like, how they start, and what we should do. This then led to practicing what to do in the event of a house fire, having lots of fun crawling around the house, testing to see if doors were hot, and eventually making our way out of the house to the letter box. I’m not sure if there is much danger from fires here in Florida, but our impromptu lesson on fire safety sparked by our little book of A Tale of Two Honey Possums, I count as one of our best examples of stories having a meaningful impact on our children. I feel confident that this will be a treasured book in our children’s library and I look forward to the next grand conversation when we read it again. Perhaps it will be a discussion about endangered Australian marsupials? Here’s hoping…

This book is available from the artist Patricia Negus and at Abebooks

What stories have sparked a “grand conversation” in your home?

My Favorite Educational iPad Apps for Kids

I use my iPad a lot for school. It’s easily transportable upstairs to the school room and many of our school books are on it or are accessible through the Internet. Not to mention the Internet itself being easily accessible to provide extra supplements to our lessons where appropriate, and in the spur of the moment, as is often the case with me.

Overtime I have collected a few apps for the children to use in their free time. I do not let them use it whenever they want, but have limited their time on it to an hour or two on Fridays (my cleaning day), and occasionally at other times I will allow them to use it to listen to a specific story, or to use a particular educational app.

So out of my small collection of apps for the kids, I have a few favorites that I would like to share with you.

The Tales of Peter Rabbit, Bejamin Bunny, and Squirrel Nutkin
The following three apps are my absolute favorites. They are the timeless stories from Beatrice Potter. We have downloaded many children’s book apps, and one of my criticism’s of them are that the developers have made the app so busy with all it’s interactivity that it becomes a distraction from the story. Not so with these Pop Out apps. The interactivity is that of the traditional paper pop out book, with tags to pull and push and make Peter Rabbit move through his adventures. In addition, the falling leaves can be collected on a couple of pages which the kids enjoy, and I do not believe provides a distraction from their listening to the story. The story is read by a lovely female voice which can be switched off if your child wants to read it themselves. The illustrations are the beautiful illustrations we’ve always known and love.

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Pop Out! The Tale Of Peter Rabbit

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Pop Out! The Tale Of Benjamin Bunny

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Pop Out! The Tale Of Squirrel Nutkin


The Night Before Christmas
My next favourite is made by the same developers and contains much of the same interactivity as the Beatrice Potter apps. It is Denslow’s The Night Before Christmas.

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The Velveteen Rabbit
The last of the book apps is “The Velveteen Rabbit” read by Meryl Streep. This is app is simply a video of this beautiful book being read, with some panning of the original illustrations, like they do on Playschool. This app is unfortunately not available in the U.S. App Store, so I can’t link to it, but it is in the Australian store. So all you Aussies enjoy it. Glad we got it while we were still in Australia!

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Starfall ABC’s
Starfall ABC’s is my favourite phonics app for preschool (kinder) and Kindergarton (prep). It is simple but does the best job in reinforcing the letter and its sound, giving many examples of objects beginning with that letter, and providing a variety of games for the child to play that continues reinforcing the letters.

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Reading Eggs Spelling Games Grade 1
A first grade spelling app that we like is Reading Eggs Spelling Games Grade 1. This Australian app provides a variety of games to reinforce spelling. My first grader, who is a very good reader, finds this app very challenging, so it definitely could be appropriate of older grades also.

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YouTube
Goes without saying. I don’t let the children use this on their own, but it is used to aid in their lessons.

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Plant Nanny (iPhone)
I have a daughter that does not drink much water. If I don’t force her to drink a cup of water in front of me, she would not have a drink all day. This has been exasperating to me, and I have not known how to get her to consistently drink more water. That is until I found Plant Nanny for the iPhone. In this app the user inputs age and weight, and the app calculates how much water the user should drink a day. They then get to choose a plant to care for, to give a glass of water each time the user drinks a glass. If you don’t give the plant water (by drinking a glass yourself), then the plant will die. After a few days the plant can then be planted in a garden and the user can choose another plant. This app has proved extremely successful in getting my 6 year old to drink water. She loves the app and is now much more responsible in drinking her quota of water for the day. So if you have children that you struggle to get to drink enough, I highly recommend this iPhone app.

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Apps Gone Free
Finally, this last app is not for the kids, but has been very useful to me. Apps Gone Free tells you the apps that are available for free that particular day. I have got a lot of my apps for free through this app.

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So there you have it. These are ten of my favorite educational iPad apps for the kids. I hope it’s been helpful.

Have you got any apps that have made it to your favorites list? If you do I’d love to hear about them.

Year 1: highlights from term 1

Even though we are almost at the end of term 2, I thought it might be nice to share with you some highlights from term 1.

Handicraft

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Science
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Reading

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Art

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Building and painting our French house

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Narration highlights taken from end of term exam

Q: Tell me about your favorite Aesop’s Fable

A: The wolf and the kid. A kid thought she was an adult and so when the mum called he kept in chewing grass and when he went he saw the wolf that he didn’t want so he asked him to play his flute and then all the dogs came and saved him from the wolf. And, do not let anything turn you from your purpose.

Q: What is one of your favorite pieces from our composer study this term? (We studied Debussy)

A: Suite Bergamasque Prelude. I like that its smooth and sounds nice. It’s sounds like your playing a mixture slowly into a ball.

Q: What instruments were used?

A: I think it’s a piano.

Q: Tell me about St Alban

A: St Alban was not a Christian and he lived in a little home and Romans came to kill Christians. And one Christian came to him and the soldiers didn’t know that they were there until one day and St Alban put his coat over the Christian and the Christians coat over him and he got tied up and brought to the priest and he threw off his coat and he was like brought to the… And he was asked some questions, which I can’t remember the questions and he was brought to a mountain and he found some water and he drank some and the soldier threw away his sword because he knew he hadn’t done anything wrong. Isn’t that right? And the priest cut off Albans head as well as the soldiers and then they buried him on that mountain and called him St Alban and put a church on that same spot. Made a church that was his and after a few years it broke and they made another one. That stayed there for a while and it’s still there today.

Well that’s it. Just a few highlights from term 1, our first term homeschooling here in Florida. What have been some highlights for you?

Reflections on a Year Abroad

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Not long ago we hit the first anniversary of our move from Australia to the U.S. I can’t believe it has been a year already. Time has flown by and yet so much has happened in one year it’s hard to keep it all straight. So what do I think and how do I feel after a year of living in Florida? Well, the short answer is I still can’t believe we are here.

I still marvel at how perfectly God prepared us for our move to the U.S. Moving half way across the world to a place we’ve never been, to live and work with people we’ve never met has the potential to provide an array of challenges. And yet God was preparing us, even before it was an idea in somebody’s mind (which is a blog post all on its own), so that the challenges we faced were not as difficult as they might have been.

The biggest challenge was, obviously, moving away from family. In the year that we’ve been here there has been a baby born, a wedding, birthdays without all the family there, and tragic events. In all these circumstances I have not been able to be involved with and offer my support in the way that I’d like. I haven’t got to hold my first nephew or be there to give he and his sister their birthday presents from their adoring Aunty. I haven’t been able to give a hug when family was sad. This has been hard.

And yet God has reduced the impact of those separations by supplying technologies that allow us to communicate face to face with our loved ones. I have cried with, face to face, those that are sad and going through a tough time. I have seen and heard my nephew coo and ga and cry and make all those cute little noises that babies make. I was able to attend a wedding via FaceTime (albeit a little groggy at 3am in the morning). I have seen the new chooks wondering around Grandpa’s back yard. We have still been able to share in those everyday moments. Obviously it’s not the same as physically being there, but it has reduced the sting of separation a great deal.

As well as still being able to be involved in our families lives, God has also brought people into our lives who love us and invite us to share in their lives. These friendships that we have developed since being here are such a blessing. Wonderful godly people who generously give of themselves to meet our needs. Whether it be with a meal, an ear to listen, babysitting the kids so we can have a date night, advice and explanation when we are unsure about something, and just generally supporting us.

I have found Americans, on the whole, to be extremely polite. It has taken me some time to get used to being called “Ma’am.” They always hold the door open for you, always say “you’re welcome” and service people in stores and restaurants always do their best to help you and serve you with a smile (except maybe at Walmart ;)). “Sir” and “Ma’am” are slowly making their way into my vocabulary although using them still does not come naturally to me and knowing the appropriate time to use them I have also found challenging. I will have to teach this etiquette to my children but not really sure how to yet. I might need some lessons!

This past year was an election year in the States. This, although not in a big way, probably presented me with the greatest culture shock that I have experienced since being here. I greatly admire the conviction that many displayed as they fervently discussed the issues, wearing their political heart on their sleeve as it were. Yet I am more of a “keep my opinions to myself” and the typical Aussie “She’ll be right mate” kind of person. This election seemed to be extremely emotive, which I found to be a little overwhelming at times. Something I’m sure I’ll get used to as I continue to acclimate (a new word I had never heard before coming to America) to life here.

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I am constantly amazed by how beautiful it is here. Sure, there are areas, like anywhere, that are not so nice, but on the whole it is very lovely. There are so many springs and national parks, and trees, trees, and more trees! It seems to me that developers have taken a lot of pains to create neighborhoods that are pretty, pleasant, and peaceful. Tree conservations are everywhere and so are the birds. Bright red cardinals, majestic hawks and cute little wrens. We have just moved and our new house backs onto a tree conservation. It is very pretty and a wonderful place to provide a Charlotte Mason education. After a year I still marvel at how God provides for our every need and often our wants, including a house with a tree conservation, something that was a huge desire of mine to aid in our nature studies.

We had the opportunity to see more of this beautiful country when we went on a road trip in the middle of last year. We went to Memphis, St Louis, Lafayette, Washington DC and Charlston. Each place was unique, and as we drove through 17 states we were thrilled to see so much of the farming countryside, the spectacular mountains as we drove to DC, and the amazing architecture of DC. I can’t wait to go back. Later in the year we explored further south, to Miami and The Everglades. This country offers so much to see I can’t wait for the next road trip. Oh, and there’s Disney. Need I say more?

So how do I feel about the first year in this country? Extremely blessed. It is a wonderful part of the world and a wonderful people. A year ago we had no idea what was in store for us or if we would even like it here. But I am pleased to say that God has abundantly met our needs and our affection for this country grows the longer we spend in it. So come visit sometime.

Holidays and Blessings

Well after only a few posts I regret to say I have become negligent in keeping up the writing on the blog. Being disciplined is not one if my strong suits. But with the new year comes a new goal, to be more consistent with writing. We’ll see how it goes.

This hiatus of mine was partly to blame on the business of the holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving.

This was our first Thanksgiving ever, here in America (Thanksgiving is not an Australian holiday). Can I just say what a fantastic, God honouring holiday Thanksgiving is. To think that an entire nation sets aside one day to share a meal with family and loved ones, and to take stock of the things in their life that they are thankful for. How easy it is to go on with the hum drum of day to day life and never take a minute to stop and consider the great many blessings that we have been granted in our life. But here is a day called “Thanksgiving” to do just that. Brilliant!

We were privileged to be invited to share this meal with a work colleague and his family and friends. Before the meal began each person in turn shared the things they were thankful for: Family, Pets, Health, Successes at school, Children that loved Jesus, Gods continued guidance and direction through the year – just to name a few.

Wow! A day set aside to share with and encourage one another with the things we are thankful for. It makes you realise how much there is to be thankful for.

I have, since that day, continued to reflect on Gods goodness in our lives. How he has brought us here to a new country and has enabled us to love it immediately. He has given us a family in the wonderful church we attend and in dear husbands work community. I am so thankful that the people who we fellowship and work with were prepared to love us before we’d even arrived to their shores. I am thankful that all our physical needs were immediately met as soon as we arrived. We have been given so much and deserve so little.

My prayer is that I would continue to reflect on Gods blessings not only on “Thanksgiving,” but everyday.

What are you thankful for?

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