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Want your family to be healthier?

Want your family to be healthier?

Me, too.

We have all heard that many of the health conditions many of us deal with are modern-day issues, from the increase in cancer and heart disease to the explosion of autoimmune diseases and mental illness.

Undoubtedly these conditions are partly related to things we have no control over, but it seems that many of them can be improved by something we control 100%, what we eat.

And, according to the doctor who has gotten me from barely being able to walk or lift my fork to being able to function adequately, it’s not only what we eat but also how we prepare what we eat.

For example, this doctor wants me to eat traditionally fermented food every day, food like homemade sauerkraut or kimchi or ginger ale.  And I’ve done it occasionally, but I’m always slightly uncomfortable with how I prepare them, wondering if it is really safe.  Especially since my kefir-making adventure went wrong and gave me alcoholic milk to drink every morning….

So I have not been doing it faithfully.

As you may know if you read my blog regularly, I am again struggling with health issues and so is my family, so I have decided to focus on trying these ideas again.

And that turned me to Wardee’s Traditional Cooking School.  I’ve known about Wardee and her GNOWFLGINS (God’s Natural Organic Whole Foods Grown Locally IN Season) project for years and was even featured on her Simple Lives Thursday link up, a huge thrill and encouragement when I was a beginning blogger.  (In case you’re interested, the featured articles were “Goldfinch Nest in a Purple Loosestrife Plant” and “Medieval Cookery.”)

So I tried Wardee’s free mini-course, liked what I learned, and am now going to spend a whole year learning all sorts of traditional cooking methods.  The thought of being able to go for nature walks again, of being able to sing more than one stanza of a Psalm at a time, and of increasing my family’s health is so exciting!

What’s more, my teens will also take some of the courses with me for part of their foods and nutrition high school credit.  Not only that, but understanding traditional cooking methods is a hands-on connection to history that most of us do not have any understanding of and that is certainly also valuable as a homeschool history project.

I am going to be sharing our adventure with you as we learn, reviewing different individual Traditional Cooking School courses every once in a while so you can see what they are about and whether or not they might be something for you and your family.  (If you don’t want to miss any of these posts, feel free to follow me.)

Heads Up:  If you are even slightly interested, I suggest you look around Traditional Cooking School right away, since costs for both the cooking school membership and for the individual courses will go up on April 1.  Wardee has a blog full of information, a huge recipe data base, and over a hundred podcasts.  If these appeal to you and you want to dig deeper, you can read Wardee’s story and sign up for the free introductory mini-course at the bottom right of the page.

Disclosure:  When I looked around for an independent review of Wardee’s Traditional Cooking School to help me decide if it would work for my family, I could find none.  What does a reviewer like me do in such a circumstance?  Offer to prepare a review, of course.  So I have a one year membership in the Traditional Cooking School in order to review some of its courses.  As always, I am not compensated for this, nor have I promised to give positive reviews.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I am just a newbie, or connect with me on GoodReads where I, eventually, share what I read.  When I get around to it I will figure out how to set up a proper ‘follow me by email’ button as well; if you want me to hurry up with that, feel free to encourage me in the comments.

This post is linked to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

First Day of Spring

Although just a few days ago the snow was still blowing into drifts on our road, spring is officially here!

The trees know that and are sending up sweet sap which some of my friends toilsomely turn into maple syrup.

We know, too, and are almost ready to order our seeds for the summer, dreaming of delicious vegetables, beautiful flowers, and a world that is green instead of white.

Itching to get started, we have already planted some purple kohlrabi sprouts inside for our salads and wraps.

Soon the outside world, too, will be full of sprouting miracles.  But first we need to wait.

We wait, and it seems that nothing is happening.  These short videos of germination show that, behind the scenes, much is going on even when it seems nothing is.  That could be a metaphor for life, as the first chapters of Job show.

But even more happens before a seed visibly germinates.

I recall a graduate course I took decades ago in which we studied what happens at a molecular level at the very beginning of an organism’s life.  The things that go on are nothing short of amazing and the course was one revelation after another.

To my surprise, this was the most religious course I ever took at university.  Every awe-inspiring sequence of molecular events and every incredible miracle was ascribed, reverently, to Evolution.  Every question about mechanisms of cell differentiation was met with the simple statement, “Evolution does that.”

We Bible believers know Who it really is who designed and now upholds all these unimaginably intricate events, and research is unearthing more and more facts that would point an unbiased observer to Him. 

In fact, scientists at the forefront of research in various fields realize that the idea of evolution has serious shortcomings and struggle hard to fit newly discovered facts into their theory.  However, often laypeople and students are just patted on the head and told that, of course, evolution works.  I suspect that evolution popularizers may not even be aware of the research challenges to the ideas they present with such missionary zeal. (See Total Truth for scientific references about lies presented in many textbooks and No Christian Silence on Science for scientific advances that just don’t fit the evolutionary paradigm.)

Be that as it may, after the snow melts, when billions and trillions of seeds sprout around us this spring, think of the miracles going on under the soil. Realize that the wonders happening at a molecular level are even more amazing than the ones you can see on the videos. And then give the glory to God rather than to a faltering, beleaguered theory.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I am just a newbie, or connect with me on GoodReads where I, eventually, share what I read. 

Review: Windows Programming and Game Programming by CompuScholar

Why should you and your kids care about computer science?  As the Sonlight website points out, there are many jobs in the field.  Furthermore, as one of our daughters discovered to her dismay, not knowing about programming can make it difficult to find work even in other fields.  (The next year she managed to fit programming into her university course schedule.)

A careful look at interests and aptitudes, such as with Vicki Tillman’s Career Exploration, will help your children determine whether or not computer science would be valuable for them.  However, for those in grades 6-8, the ones who would be taking this particular course, there is nothing like some hands-on exposure.

If you want to learn more about this excellent homeschool computer course, read my complete review “Windows Programming and Game Programming by CompuScholar” at the Curriculum Choice.

Looking for a Classical Christian One-Year College?

Are you looking for a classical Christian one-year college? An excellent one that includes community and is not too expensive?

Let me tell you about Augustine College, a top-notch, intentionally-tiny college in the heart of Ottawa, Canada.  With its close-knit community and commitment to rigorous, Christ-centered study, Augustine College has been a formative influence in the lives of many young people from around the world.

Its goal is for students and faculty, in community, “to grow in wisdom and in virtue by exploring the riches of Western culture….We study the wisdom of the past so that, having been built up as bearers of the Divine Image, we may truly glorify God and further his Kingdom in all that we say, think, and do.”

Thus Augustine College also equips its students to impact our culture from a foundation of historical understanding, excellence, and Truth, no matter how they end up serving God in this life.

If this sounds interesting, you might want to attend the upcoming Student for a Day open house, March 24, 2018.  Augustine students range from homeschoolers in their mid-teens to university graduates looking for a year of Christian education in preparation for med school; anyone who is willing to work hard can find a place here.

Several years ago I wrote about attending Student for a Day with one of my teens.  While none of my children so far have ended up attending Augustine College, I have fallen in love with it and its mission, and that’s why I am sharing those memories with you today.

Yesterday Miss 15 and I were students for a day at Augustine College in Ottawa, Canada, a Christian college that reminds me of both classical and Charlotte Mason education.

Our visit was inspiring as well as mind-expanding.  In fact, I’d love to take a year ‘off’ to study at Augustine if yesterday’s lectures were representative.

First we, students and visitors, had three hours (!!) of Art in Western Culture taught by Dr. Tingley.  He spoke about Romanticism in Art, tying in history, theology, philosophy, literature, and music.  He showed slides and discussed their meaning.  He didn’t spare the students; the content was heavy, and though the artwork contained violence and eroticism he used them to show God’s truth and expose man’s lies. Rather than merely describing the Romantic movement, he carefully analyzed it, its sources, its results, and its representatives.

At end of this intense talk, Dr. Tingley discussed ‘On the Sailing Boat’ by Caspar David Friedrich. Do you see the man and woman, holding hands, gazing at the horizon?  They are together but focusing on something beyond themselves, the hazy spires on the distant shore. To his audience of young adults, Tingley explained, step by step, how Friedrich painted an image of marriage itself instead of merely a married couple.  There is something to learn here, he pointed out:  Marriage is being bound to someone by a shared, independently accepted destiny, so that the two of you eagerly focus on the future, symbolized by the church spires, rather than merely on each other.

Recently I reviewed Schaeffer’s Art and the Bible, but it wasn’t until this lecture that I really understood how Schaeffer’s ideas can be applied to movements and to individual works of art.  That is probably why those three hours whizzed by so quickly!

Later, students told me that the concepts they learned in Dr. Tingley’s class echoed what they were learning in other classes, and that there were so many overlapping ideas across their various subjects.  The students’ comments reminded me of our time with Ambleside Online, when we learned from authors passionate about their subjects and when connections among the various books and topics developed naturally.

In the afternoon we had two hours with Dr. John Patrick, physician, apologist, lecturer, lover of Truth, and teacher of the Science, Medicine, and Faith class.  This lecture, like the morning’s, began with prayer. Then Dr. Patrick, seated comfortably on a table, began to discuss…The Sermon on the Mount!  He explained to the visitors that past students had told him this was the most important part of his course, so now he goes through the Sermon on the Mount each year.

Then he continued with the history of science where, rather than emphasizing memorization, he focusses on the key ideas that did and didn’t work and the major players.  Yesterday’s topic was the history of chemistry, so he told stories about early chemists, their activities, and the theories of the day. He read aloud excerpts from Mendeleyev’s Dream by Strathern (this may be our next lunch time read aloud).  There was a wonderful excursion into Polanyi’s idea that we know more than we can verbalize and how that relates to conversion. Somehow that morphed into a discussion of how to become a good teacher: by loving the subject and the students rather than by learning rules.

The final few minutes of his lecture were as unexpected as the first ones:  Dr. Patrick taught the students to defend Judeo-Christian ideas, and to recognize and deconstruct foolish arguments.  There is a list of topics he cycles through, repeating them until the students thoroughly understand them. This time it was tolerance, but at other times he discusses ideas such as the myth of neutrality or the sanctity of life.

I rather suspect that Dr. Patrick’s course should really be called critical thinking, for that seems to be his passion:  to teach the students how to think critically, to prepare them for attacks on Christianity and Christian values, and to show them key ideas and players in the history of science from a Christian point of view.

In both lectures the students were given a huge amount of subject material but they were also taught about life.  While both professors were passionate about their subject, they seemed equally passionate about preparing the students to live as Christians in their future education, in their interaction with others, and in their future marriages.

This is the kind of education I try to provide, in a small way, for my teens at home. However, at a post-secondary level, nothing can compare with the expertise of gifted teachers passionate about their subject and their faith.

Is this the kind of education your family is interested in?  Then you should check out Augustine College.  You can visit in person during Student for a Day or make arrangements that suit your family better.

Why Augustine College? Explore seven reasons that form a profound manifesto for Christian education. Remember also that this small interdenominational liberal arts college has provided an affordable, Christian classical education for many years.  Furthermore, credits are transferable and the one year at Augustine often translates to more than a year at larger institutions.

You will also want to explore the Augustine College website, check out “What We Study” and look at the Augustine College Youtube channel.

Whether or not Student for a Day or Augustine College will work for you, for now just keep teaching your kids at home, doing your best to pass on wisdom as well as knowledge.

May God bless all Christian education, whether at home, at day-schools, or at post-secondary institutions.

Rereading this article, I realize it sounds like an advertisement.  Hence the disclosure:  I am in no way compensated for writing this post.

(Image from Augustine College Student for a Day poster.)

January and February: Life, High School, Books, and More

What a winter it’s been—snow, ice, two big thaws, and now almost spring, but with a veil of fresh snow. Weather is such a changing thing.  One day I watched fluffy clouds race through a ‘peaceful’ blue sky and was astonished at how turbulent they were.  In the space of time it took each cloud to cross my window-view, it had completely changed shape and had often been torn apart into wisps that formed into other clouds.  Truly, there is so much going on that we are usually not even aware of.

That is good to remember when things are rough.  I had been slowly regaining strength and then, foolishly, forgot to be disciplined about my limits, not once but several times.  So I have been back on the couch, resting.  We have a good couch, close to the fire, with a beautiful view of outside and with lovely flowers all around, so there is much to be thankful for but I also find it helpful to remember that “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.”

On the positive side, Miss 15 is finally officially concussion-free.  To top that off, her pain issues seem to approaching a treatable diagnosis.  Other family members are also feeling better and I dream of the day when we will no longer need any specialists, like the ‘good old days’ when we would only see our family doctor every year or two.  Health is such a blessing, and seeing it come back is such a joy!

We have been playing Wordament in the evenings, a group of us in the living room near the fire, all busy finding words on our phones, discussing them and our scores, and then trying again.  We have also started enjoying Scrabble, but lately that takes more energy than I can spare.

High School at Home

My usual weekly goal for homeschooling these past two months has been to do every day’s work every day, even if there are obstacles.  It’s such an obvious goal but sometimes one just needs to be reminded of it, and the reminders help.

Miss 17 was considering BJUP’s American Lit course, which we were going to tweak to add a Canadian component.  But when she discovered that it said the US had won the War of 1812, that was the end of that book.  We looked at BJUP British Lit but rather than using its Beowulf study (only excerpts, not the complete work) we switched to Omnibus and the powerful Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf.  We both love reading that version of the poem and are really enjoying studying it.  Most likely we will put together a British Lit course based on Omnibus, using the BJUP text only for a poetry unit.

After all sorts of setbacks, from illness to concussions and more, both our girls needed a solid and organized approach to math with the opportunity to regain lost time.  So we switched to Saxon Math (from a mixture of Singapore’s New Elementary Math, Key To Algebra, and Key to Geometry) and it’s going well.  The spiral approach effectively rebuilds confidence, the teaching is pedagogically sound, and the text is fuss-free.  The only trouble is that one girl is focussing so heavily on math that the other one rarely has access to the text.  So for her we are working on problem-solving using past issues of CEMC math competition papers, and a necessary review of arithmetic.  The second textbook should arrive soon.

As for grammar, the Rod and Staff series was not a good fit for Miss 15, and we finally acknowledged that last summer.  This year she’s been using Jensen’s Grammar and it seems to be working for her.  I don’t like it, but she does and that’s what counts.   The spiral approach is helping her, the short lessons are a benefit, and learning is happening.

Miss 17 is studying both Dutch and French and is doing well.  We do mostly oral work in Dutch and a mixture of oral and written work in French.  Although it has been difficult to work consistently on both of these every day, which is important for language learning, we are learning to juggle it despite a busy part time job.

Following Charlotte Mason’s idea of short lessons and a smorgasboard of learning, I have always preferred studying a bit of every subject every day throughout the year.  However, now it seems to work better for my girls to focus on just one major subject at a time, and add only three or four other ones to their schedule.

As you have read, there have been a lot of changes in how we homeschool.  Normally I prefer not to change curricula, especially in skill-based subjects like math, but so far it seems we have made the right switches.  In the past it worked for our family to simply choose the best curriculum and method and just get to work, but now the SCRUM approach, being flexible and being more focused on goals than methods, seems more effective.  (For more information, I recommend SCRUM:  The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland especially pages 204-211 where the ideas are applied to education.)

Writing and Reading

In some sense, needing to rest so much for several months has allowed me to read and think more than usual.  Here are some results of that:

“The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages:  What research and the Bible say about the best marriages,” a descriptive analysis of Shaunti Feldhahn’s book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, published in Reformed Perspective.

Worksheets Based on The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, available free right here on Tea Time with Annie Kate.

A review and outline of No Christian Silence on Science by Margaret Helder, published on The Curriculum Choice blog.

Reformed Perspective also republished a book review as “How does a Christian live in the midst of suffering? A book summary of Kelly Kapic’s Embodied Hope.” There are many important insights in the book including, “Being is pain is not a safe place to be alone. Lonely pain opens up temptations to despair, to dwelling on already-forgiven sins, and to questioning God’s care.”  So, if people you know are in pain, reach out to them.  Most likely you will best be able to reach out in little ways because they may not have energy for more; if you want guidance on how to help, read Embodied Hope as well as Side by Side and Being There (links are to my reviews).

I’ve also enjoyed reading or rereading:

Where We Belong by Lynn Austin, a thoughtful novel of adventure in the late 19th century.

The Code of Hammurabi, the first known set of laws, giving us a peek into Abraham’s world as well as a renewed appreciation for the fairness of God’s Old Testament laws.  This was for homeschool and we used Omnibus 1 as a guide.

Free of Me by Sharon Hodde Miller, an analysis of the me-culture and our sinful self-centeredness.

The Happiness Project by Gretchin Rubin, because I am part of a Happiness Project group.  This is basically about looking at what needs changing in our lives and exploring how to make that work, one monthly focus at a time.

No Christian Silence on Science by Margaret Helder, reread for the third time in order to review it.

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages by Shaunti Feldhahn, reread twice for the writing I was doing.

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.  The author correctly states that “the volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably.”  Therefore “we need a different strategy for overcoming failure, one that build on experience and takes advantage of the knowledge people have but somehow also makes up for our inevitable human inadequacies….and there is such a strategy.  It is a checklist.”  I plan to write about this in the future.

Trading Secrets by Melody Carlson.  Sometimes one needs a sunny, funny, wholesome book like this to lift one out of the doldrums.

Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup, a thoughtful look at why we stuff our homes, minds, and souls so full, what we can do about it, and what we don’t need to do.  This book is, in many ways, a reflection of the Psalms that proclaim God’s praise for how he has saved, but it is also very practical in everyday terms.  I will review it eventually.

2018 Goals

Knowing God.  I’ve managed the Bible reading and the prayer devotional, but have not been able to get outside every day, especially lately.  Even so, just thinking about it has helped me keep my eyes open to what God is doing in creation.

Regaining health. Hah!  But I’ve started reading a few books that may be helpful, will be meeting a new specialist in a few months, and am starting to deal with high heavy metal and low essential mineral levels.  Since this month’s Happiness Project focus is health, I’ll have accountability to turn a few helpful practices into habits.

Loving my Family.  Well, I love them and appreciate them more than ever, but most attempts at doing special things together has, so far, failed due to busyness and various health issues.  But special outings are not what love is all about; prayer and everyday caring is.

Catching up.  Some writing projects are caught up, but anything that requires physical effort is more behind than ever, including neatening my working space.  Sigh.  Some other things also, like speaking and lecturing, I have had to let go.  Crossing them off my list was one way of getting them out of the way, I suppose, although it was hard. But I can only do what is possible and should not fret when my goals are obviously not in God’s plans right now.

So, those were some highlights of our past few months.  Sometimes I feel like this is all just too much information, but other times I suspect that my friends are just like me, enjoying and learning from a peek into someone else’s life.

I hope that 2018 has started well for you and that you are able to realize, with me, that we have a lot to be thankful despite the negatives that we sometimes tend to focus on.

May God be gracious to us and bless us

and make his face to shine upon us,

that your way may be known on earth,

your saving power among all nations.

Psalm 67:1,2

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I am just a newbie, or connect with me on GoodReads where I, eventually, share what I read. 

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