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Field Trips, Harvesting, Rats, and Books (Weeks 2-4)

Myrtle crown, worked in gold, of one of Philip of Macedon's wives

Myrtle crown, worked in gold, of one of Philip of Macedon’s wives

Decades ago, our homeschooling revolved around field trips, read alouds, rabbit trails, and everyday life. These past three weeks the girls and I have been enjoying a repeat of those days.

Field trip #1:

We visited the Battle of Chrysler Farm location and memorial, scene of one of the major Canadian defenses in the War of 1812. Just as at Fort Henry, cannons were at the ready to repel forces from the US.

While we were in the area anyhow, we visited the Iroquois Locks of the Saint Lawrence Seaway and watched an enormous ship on its way to the ocean.

Field trip #2:

Upper Canada Village , again. We have enjoyed this historical village so many times, and it always has something for everyone. This year the horses fell in love with Miss 13 and nickered happily when she came back. The pigs grunted blissfully when she scratched their ears, but the calves, who were being weaned, only bellowed for their mommies. Miss 15 couldn’t get enough of the different artisans: the woodworker, the cheesemaker (real Canadian cheddar, colored with annatto and cultured at 102 degrees F), the tin smith, and the black smiths.

Field trips #3 and 4:

The exhibit on Ancient Greece at Canada’s Museum of History.  We learned about everything from the development of metal-working to vases, statues, death masks, and Alexander the Great. It was incredible! On the first visit we ran out of time and energy, but with our library’s museum pass we were able to visit the next day as well. We were not allowed to take pictures in the museum, so I took one of the myrtle crown in the guidebook.

Family trip:

As if that weren’t enough, we also had a 1000 km whirlwind family trip, complete with hotel stay and eating out, to the lovely wedding of a dear young couple. And I managed to squeeze in a visit with my sister and her family too.

Rabbit Trails:

Making herbal/medicinal teas. One of the beekeepers who has hives near our place is very knowledgeable about such things, and her enthusiasm is contagious.

Studying the waveforms of music. You know how you sometimes get the waveforms of music on your computer screen when you play music? Well, Miss 13 has been fascinated with them for over a year. Recently she discovered Music and Mathematics, a book that I had gotten for Miss 17 who is studying mathematics, and she is painstakingly learning new concepts that are way beyond her.

To accompany our study of ancient Egypt, we watched the PBS documentary The Silver Pharaoh, about a little-known pharaoh who lived around the time of David and Solomon. The documentary, about an unprecedented archeological find at the very beginning of World War 2, was fascinating and well-done, but I need to verify some of the Biblical references.

And we watched Maiden Trip, some of which was in Dutch, about Laura Dekker, the youngest person to sail solo around the world. It’s not full of amazing cinematography (most of the videos were taken by Laura herself) but it is authentic, moving, and inspiring in many ways. Caution: Language warning.

Formal School Work:

Math, Duolingo, health, logic, writing, reading, science, art, music, history, civics. Judo.


Although the weather has been uncommonly pleasant the frosts did finally come and we have been harvesting. I am so thankful that the weather is as behind as we are this year! We’ve been making applesauce, freezing tomatoes, drying lovage, and freezing basil in olive oil, and we plan to freeze our pepper crop today.

Since our province has outlawed the effective rat poisons, we have been having trouble with rats. One crawled into our dryer vent and chewed through it, with two results. For a few blissful days I was not allowed to do any laundry! Afterwards it was a real treat to be able to wash our clothing again, so that aspect of it was a double blessing. The other thing was that we now had a rat in the house, which remained hidden until it got thirsty and fell into the toilet. So we slammed the lid shut and put some heavy phone books on top, just in case. We had learned that it never pays to underestimate a rat, and who knows if it could perhaps flip the toilet lid open and escape? But we had solved that problem. However, when we opened the lid a few hours later, the rat was gone! It must have gone swimming through the pipes! So now I often peer nervously into the toilets.


While slowly reading and rereading through Douglas Wilson’s book on Ecclesiastes, Joy at the End of the Tether, I remembered his joyful playing with words. So I picked up WordSmithy, reading some choice quotes to my husband while we were on our family trip, and also read his Writers to Read.

After our fish fossil find we surrounded ourselves with fossil books from the library and one of them, The First Fossil Hunters, discusses the fossils the ancients found and wrote about. Our family came across an example of this while studying Herodotus, a Greek historian of the 5th century BC, and it’s fascinating.

I also went through How to Raise an Adult and Seven Woman (reviews coming up), and am still reading King Alfred’s English, How to Really Love Your Child, Joy at the End of the Tether, Tales of Ancient Egypt, and 1 Chronicles. And, to help me stay in bed when I need to rest, I started Leota by Francine Rivers.

Miss 15 read the Tightwad Gazette trilogy and is now enjoying Don Aslett’s zany humor. Miss 13 read some Enid Blyton stories, Usborne’s The Greeks, and bits and pieces of Music and Mathematics.

Reading with the family:

Journey through the Night, The Secret of Willow Castle, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Acts.

Recommended Links:

Information overload can be a problem in our homeschools as well as in the business world. One solution is to remember that we all need to feed our minds as well as use them. Another is the technique of interleaving, ‘practicing or learning different skills in quick succession’, which apparently makes huge differences in math learning.

If you want to see more carefully curated links, follow me on Google Plus.

This post is linked to Kris’s Weekly Wrap Up and Finishing Strong.

Nurturing a Love of Learning

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People sometimes ask, “How do you instill a love of learning in your child?”

I think that’s the wrong question.  Children are naturally curious and eager to learn, and God has instilled this in them; we don’t need to.  Instead, the question should be, “How do we nurture this love of learning?” And, if for some reason it has left them, we need to ask, “How can we help them recover their love of learning?”

Here are some of the things that have kept our children learning almost constantly for more than two decades. Do note, however, that this love of learning has nothing to do with textbooks, in most instances.  In fact, my children agree that less formal schoolwork is one of the most important ingredients in encouraging a love of learning.  On the other hand, they have also gained a lot of new interests from their rigorous formal studies.

So here’s how we have tried to nurture the love of learning throughout the years. Of course, we do not always achieve all of these goals, but when we do the learning is amazing.

  • Limits on screen time.
  • Lots of classical music.
  • Enough free time for curiosity and boredom, although sometimes formal learning gets in the way of this.
  • Lots of good books and very few low quality ones.
  • Very little formal schoolwork at an early age.
  • Encouragement to stretch beyond their comfort zones, especially when they are older.
  • Ample scope for initiatives, mistakes, and messes.
  • Responsibility and freedom, within reason.
  • Lots of physical activity.
  • Lots of time in nature.
  • Many kid-directed free time activities, and few mommy-directed ones.
  • Freedom to explore their own interests with suitable mentors.
  • The example of parents who are constantly learning new things.
  • Adequate sleep, nutritious food, exercise.
  • Meaningful chores.
  • Field trips, documentaries.
  • Conversation and time with a variety of interesting adults.
  • Volunteer work and paid work.

In fact, I would sum up the whole idea of nurturing a love of learning in your children with a quotation from Charlotte Mason.

“We spread an abundant … feast … and each small guest assimilates what he can.”

And then, as one of my children pointed out years ago, “Learning is the reward.”

This is based on a blog post I wrote 5 years ago; very little has changed in how we try to nurture a love of learning.

LifeTOUR in Ottawa

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Last Saturday night in Ottawa, LifeTOUR presented a compelling case for protecting preborn children. Despite an exhausting traveling schedule and very little sleep, the three speakers were able to engage the audience, and at least one person who arrived pro-choice became pro-life when she realized what ‘choice’ actually involved.

First Andre Schutten of ARPA Canada presented the legal history of abortion in Canada, reminding us that the preborn are complete, unique, living human beings. He also pointed out how important it is to accept that they are legally persons. History shows that when a class of human beings is denied the legal rights of personhood, dreadful things can happen, the most chilling examples being that of blacks in the Southern US and Jews in Nazi Germany.

Next Maaike Rosendal of the Canadian Center for Bioethical Reform discussed the effectiveness of using graphic photography of abortion victims. These images are unsettling, as was her detailed description of certain forms of abortion. But Maaike did not apologize for exposing these horrors, pointing out that, ‘It isn’t tragic when women see these pictures; it is tragic when they do not see them soon enough.’ Sharing her experiences while displaying these photos throughout North America, she spoke about the effectiveness of engaging the culture by telling truth in love. It is all, she said, about eliminating suffering without killing sufferers.

Finally Mike Schouten of We Need A Law presented the three aspects of the current Canadian abortion situation that the majority of Canadians feel very strongly about:

  • Late and full-term abortions, which are currently allowed in Canada.
  • Sex selection abortions, which are currently allowed in Canada.
  • Legal protection for unborn victims of crime, which currently does not exist in Canada.

He also discussed what the average individual can do to make a difference.

Is the LifeTOUR presentation effective? Yes, when facts are presented with compassion, people change. This has been shown over and over. So, if at all possible, attend a LifeTour meeting when it arrives in a community near you. Advertise the meeting. Take along some pro-choice friends. Learn the facts so you will be able to share them.

For resources to help you talk about these issues, write letters to the editor, or otherwise catalyze change, see the LifeTour website.

Please pray for the LifeTOUR team, that they may remember that ‘the Lord is near’ and experience what that means. For them, and for us all, this was explained beautifully in a sermon on Philippians 4:4-7.

Note: If you have had an abortion and regret it, or if you face a difficult pregnancy and are considering an abortion, please visit one of the many pregnancy distress centers for compassionate and practical support. To find these centers, Google ‘pregnancy distress’ and the name of a nearby city. Help is available, and there are people who care.

Life Tour

Some of my other articles on this topic:

Disclosure:  I do not work for any of the organizations mentioned, am not compensated for this blog post, and have expressed my own opinions.

Review: Death in Florence by Paul Strathern

Death in Florence

Over 500 years ago in Florence lived two men who exemplified the struggle between ‘progressive materialism and the rule of spirituality,’ Lorenzo de Medici and Savonarola. Of course, in some aspects this struggle has been an intrinsic part of the human condition since Cain and Abel, but in Death in Florence Paul Strathern focuses on the beginning of the modern age.

Florence, a republic in which citizens nominally had a say in the government, was actually carefully managed by Lorenzo de Medici. This brilliant, cultured, and highly ambitious ruler believed that the de Medici fortunes were so closely linked to those of Florence that what was good for one was good for the other. Although this may have been correct, it led to behavior that began to drive a wedge between Florence and the de Medici family.

Savonarola, on the other hand, expressed his concern for the city of Florence in powerful sermons denouncing the sin that flourished everywhere. After Lorenzo’s death Savonarola’s sermons became more passionate and he became personally involved in city politics. This eventually backfired just as Lorenzo’s efforts did.

Now, here’s the interesting point of Death in Florence: Strathern maintains that these two men made a pact at Lorenzo’s death bed despite their radically different outlooks on life. He believes that Lorenzo asked Savonarola to back the succession of his son Piero and that Savonarola agreed in order to increase his own power over the city.

Strathern makes a good case for this and shows how, amidst the extreme corruption of Pope Alexander VI, economic and other disasters in Florence (such as plague, weather), political scheming and betrayal in Italy and beyond, and the controversy about Florentine morality, the effects of the pact played out in revolting earnest.

Savonarola struggled to preserve Florence both politically and spiritually and gained a huge following. The weakened Medici family and others sought political power. The pope as well as secular rulers wanted to gain control over Florence. Many of those involved in the various governments of Florence tried to balance the opposing forces to preserve their city but their efforts were in vain.  In all these aspects, Florence was also a clear indication of what the world was about to become.

Despite painstaking research into the affairs of Florence, the de Medici, and Savonarola, Strathern is hampered by understanding neither the religious spirit of the age nor the relationships possible between intellectual activity and faith.  Although Strathern respects and defends both Lorenzo and Savonarola, his whole book is written with the arrogance of one who imagines himself to be further evolved. Full of judgement, snobbish opinions, and—at least in matters I know well—errors in fact and understanding, Death in Florence assumes these times were about struggle between an evolutionist ‘progressive materialism’ and religion, as though Savonarola were a representative example of religion.

Be that as it may, Death in Florence is a complex and important book, mostly well-written (although in one section I almost lost interest and indications were that the author and editor had as well, at least in the advanced reading copy), and it will certainly be of interest to many. However, I would not recommend it for youth, both because of its complexity and its unstated assumptions. Older teens and adults will find it enlightening on two levels: a deeper understanding of the beginnings of the modern world, and a peek into the thought processes of one who consistently applies his faith in materialist evolution.

In terms of homeschooling, this is a good book for parents to read while teaching about Renaissance times in history, art, politics, or church history. For example, 12 of the 14 representatives of the Renaissance in Famous Men of the Renaissance and Reformation appear in Death in Florence.

If that one substandard section mentioned above has been improved in the final version of the book, I would not be surprised if Death in Florence were to be nominated for some major prize due to its vitally important subject matter, painstaking research, lively writing, and politically correct point of view.

This is yet another book in the in the 2015 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook

For more homeschool encouragement, visit Trivium Tuesdays, Finishing Strong.  

Disclosure: An advance reading copy was provided by Pegasus Books.

Our Outer Nature Wastes Away

view from the Upper Canada Village signal tower

We all know that we are on a journey to decrepitude and death, but at times it hits home very hard.

The other day one of my dearest people told me it’s official; her mind is going. She couldn’t even remember the words for it, Alzheimer’s, dementia. Yes, sometimes thinking about the future makes her cry, she said. But then she reminded me simply of her comfort, that God is with her through it all.

The next day, still overwhelmed, I read this quotation from Joni Eareckson Tada,

“Did you lose your health? Your eyesight? Your hearing? Have you lost a loved one? Do the memories still give you pain?

Stop for a moment and let those memories point you to the future. Do not pine for what once was, but long for the future.

As a Christian you have everything to look forward to, and every day it comes closer. The next time you long despairingly for the past, stop and count the years. Maybe you are already closer to the future than you think.”

Yes, this is true and it might encourage her.

But it made me cry, this thought that she may be nearer to the future than we think.

There are so many other dear people who suffer, too. Probably you know some of them, or even many. Perhaps you are one of them yourself. In fact, unless Jesus returns soon we will all become part of that enormous crowd that has suffered and died.

Yet, together with the apostle Paul we can all say these words, for our loved ones and ourselves:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16—and it’s worth reading the rest of the passage as well.)

May God be with all those who are ill, all those who are dying, all those who mourn. May he keep them, and each of us, close to him.


If you are struggling, perhaps A Prayer for a Loved One in Distress may encourage you.

Note: The Joni quotation from the Dutch blog Kostbaar has undergone two translations, so it is probably not exactly what Joni originally said.

For more encouragement, visit Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 TuesdayR&R Wednesdays.

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