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Wrap Up for Weeks 2-5

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It’s hard to believe that we’ve already been doing schoolwork for 5 weeks…as well as reading, playing games, volunteering, harvesting the garden, and dejunking the house.

In our homeschool

Miss 16 is busy with her math (Singapore New Elementary Math 4B), physics (Apologia), and an online AP English Language and Composition course. Taking online courses is new for our family and is working out very well; Miss 16 is learning a lot about both writing and life. She also volunteers at a small school one morning a week, a unique opportunity to both contribute and learn.

Miss 14 has been concentrating mainly on math, but is also moving along in other subjects. After studying French is Fun in grades 7 and 8, the first BJUP French text is a wonderful review. I find that languages require a lot of review, both the formal textbook kind and the informal kind that comes from reading other material.  We have a simple book about French geography and history, and both my teens are able to understand most of it as we go through it slowly and individually, paragraph by paragraph.

Miss 12 is very busy trying to manage all the learning involved in grade 7. We have not yet hit our stride, but she’s progressing well in everything except Apologia’s General Science.  The first chapter, a historical overview about what science is, has been difficult for each of my children, but the rest of the book is much more manageable.  We own the first edition; perhaps the revised edition has a more user-friendly first chapter.  In any case, today, before she is allowed to play computer games (a weekend treat) we’ll spend some time on the questions of the first chapter.

I have been working with the girls, as I wrote in Older Students Need Attention, Too, and have not spent much time on Miss 16’s high school records which she soon will be sending to universities. Before I really focus on the records, though, I want to help her with a bit of SAT prep.  We’ve found that the SAT is a good confirmation of ‘mommy marks’.

In our gardens and yard

Most of our tomatoes are going bad before they ripen, so we are not making any salsa this year. I’m so thankful we have a lot left from last year!  The squash and melon harvest was great, but the leeks all shrivelled up and only a few carrots germinated.  The orchard did not produce much either.  However, we have a lot of cabbage and beets, some turnips, much chard and kale, and even some lettuce.  Although we had a bumper crop of cucumbers, we ended up wasting them rather than giving the excess away.  I hate it when that happens.

In our gluten free kitchen

We’re eating as much garden produce as possible. My theory is that whatever we eat does not need to be preserved or to fit into our freezers. This is the time of year when I feel the best, probably because of the huge number of vegetables.  I love them so much in fact that after a meal I’ll gladly finish up the salad, the squash, the beets….   We’ve also enjoyed breads, cakes, cookies, pies, and more.

Some of my favorite things were

  • Hanging out with my family.
  • Beautiful fall colors.
  • Watching the kids play games.
  • Our new huge, comfy couch.

Questions/thoughts I have…   What do you do when the puppy trains the kids?  Our puppy has taken to tapping on the window if he wants someone to come to the door…and they go, each time!

Fitness… I manage to average around 10,000 steps a day, but have let the other exercises go.  Life is still getting in the way. I also need more and more sleep, often over 10 hours a day.  That is frustrating, but I know better than to fight it.  On the positive side, my headaches have almost disappeared and I’ve maintained my tiny weight loss.

Some of the things I’ve been working on

  • Homeschooling, obviously.
  • Harvesting the garden.
  • Reading.
  • Dejunking the house. We have never been this successful before: 15 huge bags/boxes in the last few weeks! That resulted partly from the demise of our indoor oil tank (the technician said he inspires a lot of cleaning) and partly from the need to rearrange everything because of our new couch.

I’m reading… Hebrews.  I finished The Vine-Ripened Life, The Meaning of Marriage, Honey For a Teen’s Heart (very worthwhile), and What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days.  I’m still reading The Perfect Score Project, The Stories We Tell, and On Christian Doctrine.  On the back burner are Pascal’s Pensees, A Man Called Intrepid, and 52 Weeks of Family French.

Reading aloud…We read Luke at mealtimes and have almost finished Captains Courageous.  I love that book, but it does have some gruesome bits that I always skip when I read it to myself; I had forgotten about them when I chose to read this.

When my husband is home for meals, we read Isaiah.

I’m grateful for ….  Two functioning vehicles and lower gas prices.

Quote or link to share…. Ever since I first read How Should We Then Live? I’ve wanted to watch Francis Schaeffer’s video series about his book.  Here’s a link to each episode.  I’m not pleased that the blog author used my entire review without my permission, but I forgive him because he’s put up the video links.

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

Movie Review: The Vatican Museums 3D

Michelangelo’s Pieta. Photo by Stanislav Traykov from Wikimedia Commons.

Over the years the Vatican has become home to much of the world’s greatest art. Popes from 1506 to the present collected mankind’s expressions of creativity, hired painters and sculptors, and tried to chronicle man’s search for meaning.

From Julius II’s purchase of Laoccoon and his Sons (1506) to Paul VI’s Collection of Modern Religious Art (begun in 1973), the movie Vatican Museums 3D takes the viewer through the Vatican’s celebrated museums.  However, it is not a standard picture by picture or sculpture by sculpture documentary.  Instead it includes dramatization and symbolism and itself aims to be a work of art.  In that it succeeds, except where the head of the Vatican museums shares his valuable insights.

Although I have studied Michelangelo’s Pieta more than once and have also spent hours learning about Greek masterpieces from picture and slides, the 3D views of such sculptures was new and breathtaking. I couldn’t quite touch Mary’s serene face and, though touching the body of Jesus would be sacrilegious,* it did seem possible.

The 3D view worked beautifully for the sculptures, the architecture, and the dramatization, but it was a bit disconcerting to see Dali’s and Van Gogh’s paintings in 3D. Even the Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel was somehow presented in 3D form.  I found it upsetting that in the Creation of Adam all except God’s index finger* is in 3D.  Why would they forget the most important part of the picture?

However, Miss 16 did not notice that at all. She told me that Vatican Museums 3D was much better than the documentary she had expected.

I, too, had expected a simple documentary. Instead I was treated to a profound and respectful immersion in various artists’ exploration of both humanity and the gospel.

I highly recommend this movie to all art lovers, to students of church history, and to those who love to explore the interplay between Christianity, humanity, and creativity*.  Do watch the stunning preview More information is also available.

This movie has its second and final Canadian showing on October 19 as part of the Front Row Center Cineplex program which has a solid serious of art documentaries planned for this fall. It also shows in Australia.  Unfortunately, it currently does not seem to be available to US and British audiences.

Note:  This one hour documentary, rated G, does contain some nudity as almost all art collections do, but it is not really an issue.

*The Pieta was so stunning in 3D that for the first time in my study of art I emotionally associated a work of art with God.  This is, of course, what the second commandment is all about, and I plan to write about it soon.  Representing God the Father falls into the same category.

This post is linked to Finishing Strong, Trivium Tuesdays.

Disclosure: I received free tickets from Graf-Martin and Cineplex theatres for the purpose of this review.

Older Students Need Attention, Too

Homeschool seasons change, too

Homeschool seasons change, too

Our homeschools go through seasons. Sometimes we can predict them, but once in a while we are surprised.  My surprise this year is that I need to spend more time on homeschooling than I did last year, even though the girls are (obviously) older.

You see, this year each of the girls is being stretched. Grade 7 is a giant step beyond grade 6; the first year of high school also brings many changes; and the last year of high school is a huge deal.

That means I really need to stay on top of everyone’s studies, reminding the girls to focus even when things seem difficult. Some years this is easy, but when the work load and study intensity increase as they did this year, everyone needs help adjusting.  Therefore I have been assisting the girls in practical matters such as scheduling, breaking difficult subjects into small daily projects, tackling each subject each day, and staying on task.

Also, I’m doing much more hands-on work than before, going through essays, discussing grammar, helping with biology memorization, doing three French lessons a day, talking through math problems, adjusting curriculum, and so on.  That is on the good days.  On the disorganized days we just muddle along with hopes that the next day will be better.  Sigh!

I had not anticipated these changes in our homeschool, but am thankful we made them early in the year. And that brings me to an important point:

Just as the paths of space ships are constantly adjusted to keep them on course, our homeschools need constant attention and frequent corrections to keep them on track. I did not always realize that.  In fact, at times the autopilot method seemed to work quite well, and it often does in a pinch.  It would not have worked for us this year, though.

I’ve heard homeschoolers say children need less and less educational attention as they get older. In the past I accepted that point of view but it is, in some senses, a silly one. Every student needs attention and as much quality input into their education as possible. After all, why did the rich hire knowledgeable tutors for their children?  It was, of course, to give them the best possible individualized, often classical, education.

With the excellent curricula available today we moms can fake being knowledgeable to some extent, but we still need to equip ourselves well.  And there is no substitute for constant evaluation of what we’re doing.  Although we will never match a top quality tutor, the onus is on us to do the best we can, always trusting that God will use our efforts to his glory.

Of course, ‘the best we can’ depends hugely on little ones, health issues, time constraints, and so much more. This is not a call to beat ourselves up about what is not possible in our lives, but it is an encouragement to pay attention to our homeschooling and how it is working out, to tweak as necessary, and to equip ourselves as much as we can.

So here’s my suggestion to all of us this fall:

Let us keep our eyes open, watch our teens, and think about the education and training we want to give them. You might be as surprised as I was at what needs to be changed.  But don’t despair. The good thing is that we still have all year to adjust what we’re doing to meet our children’s needs and goals more successfully.

May God bless us all as we continue to learn what homeschooling each of our unique children really means, each year, month, week, morning, and minute.

This post is linked to Finishing Strong , Trivium Tuesdays, Works for Me Wednesday, Raising Homemakers.

Review: What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days by Holly Gerth

what your heart needs for the hard days

We all have hard days. Some people have only a few of them, at least for the present.  Some face an unrelenting succession of difficult times.  And some have sadness woven so deeply into their souls that it seems joy will never return (and if that’s you, please do seek professional help as well as meditate on this little book).

The Psalms speak to us in our sadness, whatever it is. In What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days Holly Gerth goes through the Psalms in 52 tiny chapters, reminding us that God cares for us, never leaves us, and calls us his own.  She also reminds us that God is speaking to us today, that he protects us and that his ways are best for us.

We Christians do, in our minds, already know these things. But sometimes our hearts do not understand them, and that is what the Psalms often address and what Holly distills for us.

She works through several Psalms at a time while focusing on one text per devotion. Each of the short, practical chapters ends with the beginning of a prayer, space to write out a personalized ending, and space to record “What My Heart is Hearing from You.”

Since the Psalms are multifaceted, these devotionals can be wise inspiration whatever our circumstances. We need to remember that God is in charge; it is better to live one day in God’s will than spend a thousand years in a mansion without him; we must hold onto the truth that the enemy has been defeated and trust God to free us from his lies; God often uses hard times to prepare us for future service; God brings us from anxiety to joy.

Of course, What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days is not at all a balanced perspective on the Psalms; instead it highlights their comfort.  And, especially in hard times, we may need this help to remember how God lovingly cares for us.

Holly Gerth has had her share of hard days and on top of that she struggles with depression. This book is, however, not full of complaints, though she does mention issues in her life that have been resolved.  Instead, having lived through the hard days, she is able to reach out to those who are currently experiencing them.

Not only the content of this book is soothing; its slightly padded cover and cheerful polka dots also add a touch of comfort. What’s more, What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days is small enough to fit inside a purse and take along wherever you are going.  I spent many waiting hours with this little book on my lap and the Bible open on my cell phone, being nourished by Holly speaking Scripture into my life.

This is yet another book in the in the 2014 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Works for Me Wednesdays, Booknificent Thursdays, Coffee for Your Heart, and Raising Homemakers.

Disclosure: This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and is available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

One Flag for Each Canadian Baby Aborted Every Year

Parliament Buildings and Missing Baby Flags

In every crowd cheering at a hockey game, listening to a concert, or running a marathon, people are missing. Our country is full of empty spaces, and so are our lives.   In fact, in all of Canada, over three million people are missing, nameless, and forgotten.

These people have never laughed or cried or seen the sun shine. They have never smiled or lost a tooth or learned to ride a bike.  They have never voted, never bought their first car, never fallen in love.

Why? Because they were not allowed to live.  They were inconvenient to someone—their mother, or those influencing her.  They were considered disposable, and were therefore disposed of, these helpless little ones, destroyed at one person’s whim for another person’s monetary gain.

They are gone, irrevocably.

Some of the 100, 000 flags, representing 100,000 babies.

Some of the 100,000 flags, representing 100,000 babies.

Today 100,000 flags, pink and blue, flutter on Parliament Hill to commemorate boys and girls who were never born. That’s a huge number, 100,000.  Who can imagine it?

But it takes the abortion industry only one year to snuff out 100,000 Canadian lives.

This morning while the flags were being planted, someone said, “I always knew that 100,000 was a big number. I didn’t know it was THIS big.” But, yes, each time the volunteers thought they were finished, there were more flags, and more, and still even more….

To think that each one of these 100,000 flags represents one baby, each year, is overwhelming.

Flags representing Canadian babies aborted each year

Mike Schouten of We Need a Law wants to make Canadians aware of the sheer magnitude of the tragedy of abortion. He wants our government to realize that we need a law to protect innocent Canadians.  They are not a liability, but our most precious resource.

And our society, riddled with empty spaces where there should be people, is suffering.

Just think, each of those 100,000 vibrant flags represents a unique person, now dead, who could have been your friend, your neighbor, your doctor, or, perhaps, your relative.

There is no greater waste imaginable.

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