Wednesday, June 19, 2013

We just finished another marvelous book and I'd like to recommend it!  

Nothing Else Matters, by one of our all-time favorite authors, Patricia St. John.

The following is from the back of the book, "A powerful and moving story based on real events in the bitter conflict in Lebanon, Lamia and her family are caught up in the fighting, with tragic consequences.  Lamia struggles with the hatred that threatens to destroy her, until she grasps that forgiveness and love are the most important things.  Nothing else matters."

Here are a couple of quotes I recorded in my commonplace book:  

"After he died, I think it was like being in hell...Guilt is a terrible thing Lamia.  You wake in the night and the stars are no longer beautiful.  You walk on the hills and the first flowers are no longer lovely.  All the colour goes out of life.  It is like a great burden....your heart is always heavy, until you feel that it will crush you."

"'He said there was only one really important question when we have to face death--where is my sin?  Am I carrying it myself, as a heavy burden that will separate me from God forever... or have I laid it on Christ on the cross?  If so, then death is the gate of life.'"

"'yes, I know...and yet, he never told us that our feelings are what matter.  I think he measures our love only by our obedience.  It's not how much do I feel, but how far will I obey?'"

...."The idea that loving went along with suffering was somehow resolving itself into a trinity; love, obedience, pain--but productive life-giving pain that sprang into deeper loving, the winter before the spring...."

"She could not explain; only the veil between life and death seemed very thin and death no longer the final tragedy. 'Today...with me.' Here or there, they would come home." ...

"But she could not sleep for a very long time, for the implications of her new discovery if they were true, were almost more than she could take in.  For if death was just a step into the presence of God, then her dead were not very far away; they at home in the love of Christ, and Christ, shedding his love abroad in the heart that received him--then they were all closer together than she had dared to imagine, united in that all-enveloping love."  

You can get a copy here for as little as $4 including shipping.  Or borrow it from Pastor Bob and Doris.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I Can't remember where I read the recommendation for Iris Noble's books, (Thank you to whoever recommended them) but I want to pass on how wonderful they are!!  We're just finishing The Honor of Balboa, which is the story of the first white man to see the Pacific ocean.  He claimed it for Spain in the name of King Ferdinand.  Though this is a biography it is easy to read and alive with wonderful details of his life and explorations in Central America. The book is not too long - just ten chapters and the children would often ask for a second chapter after I had read one.  I am saddened by the greed of the Spaniards and their terrible mistreatment of the Indians that lived there.  In contrast Balboa stood out for his policies of working together with the Indians in most cases, respecting them and learning from them. 
 Mary read Empress of All Russia: Catherine the Great and enjoyed it.  I'm looking forward to finding more titles by Iris Noble. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Drawing and Painting - a learnable skill

Drawing and painting are like riding a bike or swimming - they can be scary and uncomfortable at first, but with practice most anyone can master these skills.  I often hear people say, "I can't draw", "I'm just not artistic", or "I can hardly draw a stick man".  But I believe that these are skills that can be learned with practice.  Like riding a bike and swimming they are easier learned younger.  I wonder if this isn't because when we're younger we're used to trying and failing and trying again.  As we get older we tend to take less risks and stay with the comfortable and familiar.  There are many ways that drawing and painting can fit into our curriculum.  We can draw our own pictures for our Century Book, copy great works of art by artists we are studying or use pictures as narration.  Of course our nature notebooks are a wonderful place to practice drawing skills.  Drawing is a perfect example of "practice makes perfect".   I include drawing at least once a week with our nature notebooks.  One of our daughters likes to bring her sketch journal to story time and draw while I read aloud.  She is getting very good.  We take books out from the library on drawing and they try different ideas they learn from the books.  

I enjoyed art classes in public high school but I wasn't particularly skilled.  I started painting as a hobby after I had several children.  One of my first paintings was a copy of a Duck Stamp painting I found in a magazine originally done by someone else.  My copy still hangs on the wall at my parents' house.  I think their affirmation and encouragement were a big reason I kept on painting.  Five or six years ago a friend's daughter took a watercolor class through community ed. then took the time to share some of what she had learned with my daughters and me.  I was hooked.  I got my Dad interested, too and we started painting together about once a week. The children would often gather around the table with us and paint, too. I took books from the library and read a couple a year and tried the projects and ideas I read about. Dad died of cancer over a year ago and I miss him terribly - but I have all those memories of painting together and pictures we each painted on my walls.  

One thing I've noticed is that drawing has forced me to slow down and look more carefully - to really see.  I often find myself looking at something in nature and asking myself what shape it is or what color it really is - what color is the shadow part?  These observations skills are wonderful for children.  If you and your children feel uncomfortable drawing and painting I want to encourage you to try and try again.  I believe drawing is a learnable skill, one that is well worth the effort and time spent.

We've been playing lots of math games lately.  I recently ordered Family Math and have been enjoying some of the simple ideas in it.  Today we're going to be working Tangram puzzles.  I found a good printable one at the following link:  Tangram puzzle I'm printing ours on cardstock. If you look up Google Images - Tangram patterns or use this link: Tangram patterns there are lots of patterns to choose from for things to put together with your tangram shapes.

We've also been working on our multiplication with two different games.  One is a dice game - we shake two, multiply them then take that number of MathUSee rods.  They can only have one rod besides tens or hundreds so they have to add and trade in.  The second game uses a set of 12 dot dominoes.  As they place the matching domino they have to multiply the two sides (six dot dominoes would also work).

At the end of the school day I have also been letting them play 15 minutes of math games online.  We've been using games.

One Small Candle by Thomas J. Fleming

We just finished One Small Candle by Thomas J. Fleming as a read aloud.  It is the story of the Pilgrims' first year in America.  Well written with lots of wonderful details and insights.  I highly recommend this book.  I plan to look for other titles by Thomas Fleming. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cold winter afternoons and evenings in the upper Midwest have our girls knitting and crocheting while they listen to books online via  This is a great site with lots of wonderful classic books read by volunteers.  You can look for books either by title or by author.