November 18, 2017

Getting Inspired

Sketching & Watercolor

My kids are all in this wonderful drawing phase. Coloring is still a passion of theirs, but they all get inspired to draw, sketch, and paint if given some ideas here and there. Over the last couple of years I have found treasures on YouTube--wonderful art tutorial videos to follow, using minimal supplies. Normally I'm not overly keen on arts and crafts projects. They're up there with science experiments.... messy, sticky, tedious..... chaotic when many little ones are involved....Normally I hide science experiment equipment and chuckle identifying with my dear friend who explains to me that she even hides the books for science experiments, lest her girls get any ideas! :)  haha

However, coloring, cutting, and scotch tape have always been acceptable activities to me. We have an unlimited supply of computer paper, the kids have free access to the internet and can print off coloring pages to their hearts' content. A great read aloud activity.

Last week we found ourselves outside sketching plants and filling them in with watercolors. The results were so much fun. I found some inexpensive frames to hold their artwork, and my son proudly showcased his in his room on his Lego table.

As well, my older daughter helped her younger sister get started on a simple cross stitch pattern. Adorable! I love seeing older siblings teach a younger. My heart melts.



Links

Some tutorials that we've made use of over the years:

Shayda Campbell (fellow Canadian in P.E.I) - specializes in hand-lettering, watercolor, and illustrating  
Hodgepodge - Great chalk pastel tutorials that are simple and have fun results
Art Projects for Kids - really nice how-to-draw printables, and some nice age-appropriate projects

November 10, 2017

By Faith....

In a couple of weeks I will lead a bit of a homeschool workshop for Malagasy families in the city. This is a new thing for me, and I'm nervous. Feeling extremely intimidated, humbled, and under-qualified.

Often I feel kind of blind going through this mommy/homeschool life. I'm taking each step by faith, literally, not sure what tomorrow will hold, or if what we're doing now will make an impact later. I don't have much credibility to be speaking about homeschooling. I, myself, haven't been doing this that long either!

It's like planting seeds, however. We plant seeds in the soil, cover them up, and leave them there. Patiently watering them, making sure they stay moist. Weeds, competing for any nutrients, we pluck out as best we can. Even though nothing looks like it's happening for a really long time, we have faith that the seeds will sprout, a plant will come up, and eventually we'll be able to behold beautiful flowers or sink our teeth into a juicy piece of fruit.

I would never call myself a gardener... but I suppose, I do know that it takes patience, watchfulness, and dedication to see a plant grow in my garden. In the same way, I would never call myself an expert on homeschooling or parenting. Far from it. But I do know it takes patience, watchfulness, and dedication (and more) to see our babies grow and mature.

Despite all of this "blindness" and uncertainty I feel in myself and in my abilities, I have the confidence God's Word gives me.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. But in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. (Prov. 3:6) 
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. (Phil. 4:6) 
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)
And without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) 
Your statues are my delight; they are my counselors. (Psalm 119:24)
God wants me to be dependant on Him. And in these moments of feeling intimidated, under-qualified, and like there must be a better person for this.... I'm reminded God wants me to get my strength from Him, only.


This image came across my Facebook newsfeed this week, and it really spoke to me. This is truly one of the reasons I'm keeping my children close to me in these early years of their lives. I feel there's so much noise in the world. There are so many messages to sift through, to weigh and wonder where it all fits in the priorities of life. Homeschooling gives our family many more chances for our children to witness our values. Our family culture doesn't have to compete that hard yet. We are laying some "normals" down for the children: things our family does. And I pray that it is a beautiful melding of the truth of God's Word, the unique personalities He's given each of us, and our individual interests and abilities. Once again, by faith.

On My Side Table



From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was a great little read. I finished it in 2 days because it was so enjoyable. :) A wonderful tale of a young on a journey of self discovery---wanting to return to real life changed, different.

I am reading Trusting God in between other books on the go, and I'm finding it so encouraging. This book is full of Scripture revealing God's goodness, and the truth that man cannot fathom God's ways. We cannot understand Him; but we can trust Him to be perfectly just, perfectly righteous, and to be working all things out for His glory. And also amazing is the fact that He wants us to be involved in this "working out." As I'm highlighting sections I want to take note of or remember, I could easily highlight the whole book!

I am still reading through A Momentary Marriage by John Piper. As I'm going along, many sections could be highlighted! A biblical perspective on marriage and singleness.

Just another fun book. For our read aloud, I gave the kids the choice between two books: Om-Kas-Toe and Mister Max The Book of Lost Things.

They chose Om-Kas-Toe. Actually, I'm happy they did, because it goes along with our history studies better than the alternative. But I still wanted to read this one for my own enjoyment. Why haven't I read Cynthia Voigt before? So fun!

November 3, 2017

Life

Today the children and I went grocery shopping together. They were eager to spend some allowance money, and I try and get my weekly shopping done once during the week. Sadly, the credit card machine was broken, so we had to leave our cart full of groceries there, but I'm thankful that it isn't because our credit card is maxed out or anything like that. I know we will be able to purchase what we need tomorrow or the next day, it just means an unplanned trip. Humanly speaking it was frustrating to be sure! But I can say Thank You Lord. He provides for our needs, and I can drive to the store just as easily another day as I did today. I will pray the machine works next time. :) I don't normally pray for the machine... but when this happens, I am reminded to pray for it each subsequent time I shop. And then things work as per normal, and I begin to take it for granted, and then I stop praying about it. I will praise the Lord for this experience as a gentle reminder to me of Philippians 4.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again--rejoice! [...] Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 
--Philippians 4:4a, 6-7 NLT
Sadly, I didn't have this Scripture close enough to my heart in the moment. I kept calm in the store, but my afternoon kind of spiralled down into thinking critically about things and people around me, some harsh words, and frustrating thoughts. Oh, I keep doing what I don't want to do and don't do what I know I want to do.

Of course this is a small crisis in the grand scheme of life. Perhaps it should not even be mentioned. But I find, it's these small seemingly insignificant problems that tend to bring out heart issues. The nitty-gritty of the daily grind reveal much! Giant problems in life aren't necessary to reveal the sin that remains inside of me. This smaller thing came on the heals of a bigger one a couple of weeks ago, where I was driving in town with my window down and my cell phone was snatched out of my car. Gone. New cell phone recently purchased in Canada... stolen. Maybe a story for another time. But I'm thinking God wants my attention in the big and the little. In the tough and even the not-so-tough. I forget so quickly that I must be praying on all occasions. My dialogue with the Lord mustn't cease. I must not try and "go at it alone," on my own strength.

School

At the beginning of the school year, I created this timetable for myself: My responsibilities listed on the left, and the kids' on the right. I've discovered that my brain can feel pretty overwhelmed with all of the "To-Do's" if I leave it all up there in my head. But if I can write lists, schedules, or a calendar, prioritizing tasks can happen. And I can see that there is time to get the essentials covered. The non-essentials are labelled as such, and we can re-evaluate later on.

This timetable helps keep me on track with the kids who tend to doddle on certain subjects, thus keeping me busy longer than I can really spend on school work. There are tasks where the kids need me, and then there's more independent work they can do. During the first part of the day, we work on all of the subjects they need my direct involvement on. If the kids are taking longer than a reasonable amount of time on a task, I have no problem asking them to put it aside while I work on an assignment with them where they need me. Work they aren't able to complete during the first half of the day is saved for after lunch during the homework time slot. This is really only necessary if there's been an excessive amount of procrastination, or if we've had an unforeseen interruption in our morning, or if we've agreed to change that day's schedule around a bit.

Having our day written out like this isn't the law, but it does help serve me as a framework to help me know there's an end to our workday. The really important things aren't going to be forgotten. And there's room for play and leisure.

In My Garden


October 27, 2017

Spring Break

At the beginning of our school year, I like to plan out when we hope to take some week-long breaks. This gives both and kids and me something to look forward to when the daily grind is feeling very... daily-grindish :o) .  Somehow knowing that we have break time coming up helps motivate everyone to work a little harder for a little longer.

In the past it seems to work well for us to work 6 to 7 weeks, and then take a week of holiday time. I called this first break "Spring Break" just because we are having spring-like weather toward the end of October in Madagascar. We will return to school on Monday and look forward to an extended break at Christmas time, which also happens to be summer! I have also appreciated taking much of December off each year, to make room for swimming at the pool more often and just getting my brain re-energized to finish out the rest of the school year. Once January hits I find June is right around the corner. And every other year, that means a trip to Canada which is a huge distraction away from school.

This week of holiday we've done a lot of nothing... and I have thoroughly enjoyed myself! I've brought some plants indoors, spent many hours reading, working on Bible study, and exercising. I even revived a 3-year old cross-stitch project I'm working on. We bought another wooden shelf for the school room, so Rob and I worked together sanding and staining it. It was so exciting to re-organize school upstairs and to clean up a bit.

Next week we begin a new social studies focus. During our first weeks of school we learned general geography of Canada, the provinces, capitol cities, its government, and freedoms citizens enjoy there. Our next term, beginning Monday, will be more focused on Canada's Natives and we will use resources from Donna Ward at Northwoods Press that I picked up while we were in Canada. The kids will each make a project book to highlight different people groups around the country.

On My Side Table



October 21, 2017

Combat Fear / Catechism / Reading Journals

Lots of fear flying around the city and the country of Madagascar. With cases of bubonic and pneumonic plague popping up around us, schools are shut for now, and people are living carrying a burden of the unknown. What's going to happen? What will we do if we start to get sick? Much of the fear is fuelled by lack of knowledge about the disease itself, but a large part of the fear is also due to their lack of resources to deal with it if and when it strikes their family. So many are living on the edge of resources, with no extra to spend on anything that comes up unexpectedly. We are praying that even though this is a scary time for many, it will be an opportunity for the gospel to reach more people, and the hope of something better to penetrate the lives of those needing this message.

Life

This past week we had to make a trip to the dentist. My youngest child has a permanent tooth growing in behind his baby teeth on the bottom row. No wiggly teeth in site yet. So it needed pulling. He was super brave. I was a bit sad for him that his first lost tooth had to be forced out by the dentist, but it was a positive experience and I think will set him up well to be courageous in the coming years in the dentist chair if need be.

Online Finds

While I was in Canada, my mom came across this fantastic app called New City Catechism. It's a tool by Timothy Keller that teaches solid Bible doctrine in a question and answer format with supporting verses and commentaries by contemporaries like John Piper, Kevin DeYoung, and well-known historical figures like Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther....

Years ago, I had wanted to do a catechism-type practice with my children, as an add-on to their regular Scripture memory work. But I had yet to find something I really liked.

This app has meshed two great things together
  1. Foundational doctrines of our faith laid out in 52 questions and answers
  2. Easy-to-learn songs for children to aid in memorization
We have been using this program as part of our daily devotional times, learning one new question each week. The songs are simple and catchy, and I hear the kids humming them during play. We have already needed to recall truths we've learned to combat questions about life and God that have arisen over the past several weeks in our discussions throughout the day.

In My Garden


Agapanthus are starting to bloom. These bulbs are amazing.

On My Side Table

The kids and I have all started reading journals this week. We'll see who it works for, and who it doesn't. Basically the idea of a reading journal is to keep track of the books we read, to save passages of books that we want to remember, and perhaps record a thought or two of our impressions of the books we read.

The day the journals were purchased, all 4 of the kids were busily copying sections of books they were currently reading. It was so cute. I hope we can keep their passions alive! Because I am also keeping one, I hope the act of modelling this kind of record-keeping is also somewhat inspiring for them. We'll see.  ;)

October 13, 2017

Life

We are certainly finding our routines as we have already been back in Madagascar for over a month. In some ways, I feel we never left. Canada feels a bit like a dream away. Did we really go there? At times I really feel like I'm living a double life. When we are in Canada we are a different family.... without our own home, in other peoples' lives always, shopping for 2 years in a 3-month period, packing loads of visiting into a short time, the months are broken up into weeks, which are broken up into days, every moment being used to its fullest.... Rob is not at the hangar working, we are talking about what we are doing at many churches, in many settings.... it's strange on so many levels. In Madagascar, the rhythms of normal life flow more easily. The days blur into weeks, which eventually move into months. I find blocks of time a challenge to keep track of because the seasons are not as defined as they are in Canada. When I look at photos of the kids, we are always in shorts and tanks.... the sun is always shining, no matter if it's March or December or September. It's actually amazing how seasons in Canada can be used as memory-anchors. Here, in the tropics I try and use different things.... what's growing in my garden, if we're swimming regularly or not..... there seems to be less cues to use as memory anchors.

In any case, life has found its rhythm once more. The kids are comfortably settled, knowing what to expect from day to day as we cruise ahead in our school work. The days aren't without challenges, to be sure. I wouldn't want anybody to be misled into thinking we are living a care-free life, where everyone behaves themselves, and all lessons go according to plan. Haha. Not by a long shot.

Some of my friends in Canada are studying Matthew and Exodus with Jen Wilkin, so I decided to join along with Exodus. The last study I did was Sermon on the Mount before we left on Furlough, and I have been really missing formal study. It's also more motivating and encouraging to work on a study alongside others. This way we can discuss things together, or work through questions together. I love that.


In My Kitchen

Baking has been a longtime passion of mine. I love trying new recipes and repeating great classics. This week I saw this amazing Battenberg Cake on YouTube and I just had to try it. I found myself making marzipan out of cashew nuts, since I have an abundance tucked away in my freezer.
Not bad for a first effort. I can't believe how this turned out! In 30 degree heat no less. This one will definitely be made again, with a few tweaks and changes. I had hoped the chocolate would be darker, so perhaps instead of cocoa powder, I will try and use something darker... yum. It is a very small cake, but not lacking in richness.

In My Garden


In an effort to decrease our garbage pickup each week, we have built a compost heap, and a paper/garden waste burnables pile.

I love these climbing roses that are taking over on my chainlink fence in the yard. They provide a lot of privacy, and they're so beautiful too.

New amaryllis on our deck.

October 6, 2017

The Time When I Cried While Reading Aloud

The children and I are enjoying a highly comical, light-read together-- Adventures in Waffles. Following two young children's adventures outside on the sheep farm and down by the ocean in Denmark has been delightful. Trille, the young boy in the book, is enamoured by his neighbor friend Lena, and regards her as his best friend. But he doesn't have full confidence that she shares the same sentiment toward him. Aw.

In my opinion, I know a book is extra special when it moves me to choke up with tears as I read aloud. Some of these other "special" books have been Charlotte's Web, and Old Yeller. Now, Adventures in Waffles will be added to this list. The kids weren't moved to tears... but were definitely solemn and shared feelings of sadness as the story took a surprising turn, and I nearly turned to my eldest to continue the chapter on my behalf.

This is where some authentic conversations can be had, memories are made, and love for good stories is created. I'm so thankful for these snippets of time. They are far and few between, but they do come along.