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6 Tips for a Successful School Year

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Dressed up with flowers for a new year.

Here we are, at the beginning of another school year.  We have sharpened our pencils, worked out our plans, and dreamt our dreams.  We are as prepared as possible to meet our goals but, as usual, God may have different plans.

Here are 6 tips that will make the year a success no matter what happens to our plans:

Regularly read the Bible and pray.  In our family we read a short portion of the Bible after every meal and we also pray before and after meals.  There are many other ways of making devotions work for your family, but the most important thing is to make this your top priority, both personally and as a family.

Take good care of your bodies.  Make sure you and your children eat well, are active, rest enough, and spend time outside.  These are not optional for a successful school year because they contribute to learning, memory, and creativity as well as to health.

When it is time to work, work diligently.  Have your books, pencils, and other supplies available so your family does not waste time looking for things instead of learning.  If you’re a person who plans, have your plans up to date; if you prefer to go with the flow, ensure you are full of zest for whatever learning will come up.

Adjust your homeschool plans and goals if they are not working.  Sometimes life happens, or we have made foolish plans.  On the other hand, just because you’re going through a rough patch may not mean you need to change plans or curriculum.  It takes wisdom to know when to change and when not to.

Simplify your home chores and teach your children how to do them.  This will make your home more pleasant and your meals more nutritious.  It will also prepare your children for adult responsibilities. Learning basic living skills has great benefits throughout life.

Be grateful to God for whatever he sends you, love each other, and smile.  Yes, sometimes God sends hard things, but they are for our good.  Yes, sometimes we get frustrated with each other, but that’s an opportunity to learn to forgive, accept forgiveness, and restore our relationships.  Yes, sometimes it is hard to smile, but it means a lot to the people around us if we moms go through our days joyfully.

If we remember these 6 simple ideas and work on them every day, our year will be successful in the ways that matter most.  May God bless our families in the upcoming school year.

Review: John Owen by Simonetta Carr

John Owen teaching his catechism to a family of parishioners

John Owen teaching his catechism to a family of parishioners

The English civil war was a complicated time of tragic events and fascinating historical figures.  One of the most peaceful and appealing of these historical figures was John Owen, a brilliant Puritan theologian who was respected by both kings and commoners.  He was beloved because of his godliness, kindness, and great wisdom.

In this book Simonetta Carr tells the story of John Owen’s life and times in simple terms and with beautiful illustrations.  As a student, John was brilliant, athletic, musical, and too full of life to sleep more than four hours a night.  He graduated during the Civil War, uncertain of his salvation but convinced that the Parliament was right.  Once convinced of his salvation, John Owen became a dedicated and enthusiastic pastor, even writing catechisms for his parishioners who were confused by all the recent religious changes.   Throughout his eventful life, John continued to serve God and his people in many exciting ways.

Besides the delightful biography and illustrations, John Owen contains a timeline, a modern version of Owen’s Lesser Catechism, and a list of interesting facts about his times.  With this beautiful book both children and adults can enjoy learning about the great and godly man who was John Owen.

John Owen would be a valuable part of any study of great Christians, the English Civil War, or the Puritans. I highly recommend it.

For more information, a preview,  and a free study guide, visit the Christian Biographies for Young Readers website.

Other books about this time include:

The Governor of England, a fictionalized biography of Oliver Cromwell  (link is to my review).

Salt in His Blood, a fictionalized biography of Michael de Ruyter, a great Dutch admiral (link is to my review).

Children of the New Forest, the earliest and one of the most interesting English historical novels for children (link is to free ebook at Project Gutenberg).  I’ve read it aloud to my children 3 times.

This review is linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Raising HomemakersFinishing Strong , and Trivium Tuesdays.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Simonetta Carr for the purpose of this review.

Pickled Beans, Large and Small Batches

We serve these pickled beans at almost every special occasion or company meal.

We serve these pickled beans at almost every special occasion or company meal.

Large Batch Pickled Beans:

Use about 5 gallons of freshly picked green beans to make about 14 quarts pickled beans.

Carefully wash and trim beans.

Into each hot, clean quart jar put:

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 head dill weed
  • 1 t crushed chili peppers

Fill with carefully cleaned and trimmed beans, allowing 1 inch of headroom

Prepare brine, bring to a boil, and add to the jars immediately (do not boil for long):

  • 17 c water
  • 17 c vinegar
  • 1 ¾ c pickling salt

Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Allow a few weeks before flavors to develop.

Tip: If you run out of brine, which may happen depending on how you pack the beans, mix up some new brine using the small batch recipe below.

Note:  This recipe assumes that you know and follow all proper canning procedures.  For more information see a good resource about canning, such as Putting Food By, or a canning site such as Bernardin.

Small Batch Pickled Beans:

Use about 2 gallons of freshly picked green beans to make about 6 quarts pickled beans.

Carefully wash and trim beans.

Into each hot, clean quart jar put:

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 head dill weed
  • 1 t crushed chili peppers

Fill with carefully cleaned and trimmed beans, allowing 1 inch of headroom

Prepare brine, bring to a boil, and add to the jars immediately (do not boil for long):

  • 7 ¾ c water
  • 7 ¾ c vinegar
  • 14 T (or ¾ c + 2 T) pickling salt

Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Allow a few weeks for flavors to develop.

Note:  This recipe assumes that you know and follow all proper canning procedures.  For more information see a good resource about canning, such as Putting Food By, or a canning site such as Bernardin.

Based on Putting Food By (p303) and other recipes.

Review: The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico

The Snow Goose by Paul GallicoRejected by society because of his hunchback and crippled arm, artist and bird lover Philip Rhayader buys an abandoned lighthouse and a large portion of the desolate marshes of Essex surrounding it.  Here he cares for birds, paints, and sails, all through the 1930’s.  One day a little girl, Fritha, braves her fear of this strange man to bring him an injured Canada goose.

In the summer, the goose flies away and Fritha stays away, too.  When the goose comes back, Philip leaves a message for her with the village postmistress and Fritha returns as well.  Years come and years go, and whenever the goose is there, Fritha comes to visit, but whenever it leaves, the girl stays away.

And then Philip goes to the war-torn beaches of Dunkirk in his little sailboat….

Published in 1940, The Snow Goose became very popular and inspired both films and music.  This edition containing Angela Barrett’s haunting illustrations is a poignant war story that readers of all ages will remember.  For children, teens, and adults.

Thanks to Carol for drawing my attention to this book with her lovely review on Journey and Destination.  Another great review is available on The Children’s War.

This is yet another book in the in the 2014 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Raising HomemakersFinishing Strong , and Trivium Tuesdays as well as the Carnival of Homeschooling and the Charlotte Mason Carnival.

Disclosure: We borrowed this book from the library and I am not compensated for this review in any way.

Bats in the Bedroom and Gender Roles

Roses from my husband

Roses from my husband

Frustrated, I listened to the scrabbling noises in the corner of our bedroom.  Yet another mouse!  So much for sleep.

My husband, too, was giving up.  When he sat up and swung his legs out of the bed I needlessly told him to watch out for his feet, because there was a mouse.

He sighed and said, “I know,” and at that moment I saw what it really was, a bat fluttering in the dark.

“A bat!” I squealed as I dove under the sheet.

So my dear husband got up, turned on the light, and went after the bat with a towel.

I lay there under the sheets, thinking about the series of rabies shots that Miss 11 had almost completed and hoping that my husband would not have to go through it, too.

Meanwhile, he caught that bat with the towel, and after that I ventured out to get him gloves and whatever else he needed to safely get it out of the house.

Then my dear husband went back to sleep.

I stayed up and pondered gender roles, a topic we were going to discuss that night at Bible study.  Often in study groups, gender roles are discussed in a one-dimensional way, focusing only on headship and submission, even if they are dealt with in a broad and Biblical way as in our study guide, The Meaning of Marriage.

But there is so much more to it all.  We had just experienced instinctive gender roles based on the concepts of fear and protection.

Other times gender roles revolve around strength, or love, or children, or jokes, or tasks, or gifts—like the roses from my husband in the picture above.

And I realized that gender roles are as individual as the couples involved and yet as broad as the world God made.  Some are ordained and can be discussed in study groups.  Others are private and individual and are discovered only through years of marriage…or when a bat flies into the bedroom at night.

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