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Butterflies at the Canadian Museum of Nature

We when walked into the butterfly exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Nature we were immediately surrounded by enormous blue butterflies.  They and others fluttered busily around and between us, fragile miracles heedless of danger.   Brilliantly colored, they were everywhere, feeding on fruit, resting on greenery or windowsills, terrifying babies with their enormous size and incessant movement.

We even got to see the individual quirks of a few of the butterflies.  One loved Miss 18’s shirt and sat on it for half the time we were there.  One foolishly kept getting tangled in the fur trim on Miss 16’s parka. The big blue ones were always flying together and interacting with each other,  and when one of them sat tiredly on the ground, the other ones flew up to it numerous times and gently bumped it, seemingly asking it to join them in their joyous dance.

We also saw new butterflies leaving their chrysalises.

An adjustable microscope showed us the details of the different butterfly wings.  These are of the transparent butterflies, visible on the photo with the red feeder; it seems the little black ‘hairs’ go in one direction on one wing and in the other direction on the other.  (In much of this picture the wings were folded on top of each other.)

In the past butterflies were called ‘summer birds’ and two decades ago one of my children called them ‘flying flowers’.  Those names together call to mind Matthew 6: 25-34, where Jesus reminds his disciples that the God who cares for the birds and who dresses the flowers certainly will provide them with food and clothing.  He concludes, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Seeing the incredible butterflies fluttering all around, we not only delight in God’s amazing imagination, but we are also comforted.  The God who created and cares for these delicate creatures also loves us and cares for us.  And that is enough to expand our hearts with gratitude.

Although the rest of this wonderful museum is permeated with evolutionary concepts, the butterflies are left to speak mostly for themselves.

If you live in the Ottawa area, I highly recommend the Butterflies in Flight exhibition which is open until April 22, 2019.  If you can attend twice and also want to see the live Survival of the Slowest exhibition, featuring a sloth and other interesting creatures, it makes financial sense to buy a year’s membership for your family.

As with all my nature photos, these are copyrighted.  Please ask permission if you wish to use them.


If you enjoyed this nature devotional, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up, or connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read. 

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

Review: Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them by Simonetta Carr


Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them by Simonetta Carr

Simonetta Carr, beloved author of the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series, was confused and apprehensive when her eighteen year old son Jonathan asked her, out of the blue,  “Mom, is this a game?”  She answered him nervously.  A bit later he still seemed perplexed and told her, “I don’t understand this extension.”

Thus began her journey as the mother of a child with schizophrenia.

In the first part of Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them: Schizophrenia Through a Mother’s Eyes, Simonetta Carr tells the story of Jonathan’s illness.  The rest of the book gives her reflections in the years since her son’s death, with input from psychiatrists, pastors, parents, and individuals with schizophrenia.

“With this book, I am hoping to encourage other parents and relatives of people suffering from schizophrenia and possibly from other mental illnesses—regardless of their religious convictions—as they keep reading, finding resources, and seeking help.”  Because Simonetta’s faith permeates what she writes, Broken Pieces is a religious book nonetheless, and thus occupies an important niche in a world of secular books about schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them begins with a detailed and moving account, appropriately titled “Through the Unknown,” of the years that Jonathan suffered from schizophrenia.  He had always been a bright and sensitive lad, godly beyond his years and full of humor, but now he changed before his family’s eyes, becoming confused, fearful, and unpredictable.  The family went from one crisis to another, seeking help, seeking safety, trying to understand what to do, trying to cope.

Sadly Simonetta points out that this is not a ‘how to’ book but more of a ‘how not to’ book, reflecting the bewilderment and snap decisions that accompany any family’s care for the severely mentally ill. There is no expected path, every day one must navigate the unknown, and when one looks back so many decisions seem wrong.  Caregiving choices must be made in the present, however, often without adequate information, and in emphasizing this fact Simonetta links arms with all those who love someone with serious mental illness.

Although Jonathan’s story, told from his mother’s viewpoint, is a heartbreaking story of pain, confusion, and lament, there is also comfort.  Simonetta tells of navigating her relationship with her changing son.  She talks about learning to trust that God is at work.  She prays in anguish and despair, learns to find comfort in God’s sovereignty, and exults when she finds Jonathan’s poem on a day of sad memories:

“Oh, how I love blessed Jesus/the one who died to save us/…/ He picks up my broken pieces….”

In “Part 2:  Love and Courage:  Support for Helpers”, Simonetta outlines many of the things she wished she had known earlier, from the importance of finding a good doctor to navigating the medical system and the various resource organizations.  She discusses how families are of supreme importance to healing, the toll that mental illness can take on them, and what they can do.  She also writes about the importance of work for the ill person, what the church can do, and how to keep things in perspective.  She carefully explores Christian ideas about mental health, drawing wise conclusions.  Finally she lists ways we can all advocate for the mentally ill in our families, churches, and communities.

With input from people with schizophrenia as well as relatives, patients, pastors, and professionals, Broken Pieces covers a wide spectrum of outcomes.  Some of the people with schizophrenia have recovered and are very successful in ordinary terms, some are coping, and some have died.  In all cases, they and their families have suffered enormously, and this book aims to provide encouragement and clarity to make this difficult road just a wee bit more manageable.

Unlike many books about mental illness, Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them explores the spiritual struggles of parents.  Simonetta points the reader back to God, just as Jonathan’s illness pointed her back to him.  “I have realized I cannot put my trust in others, nor in my own attempts. Over and over, God has been grabbing my chin and turning my eyes toward him.”

The answer is not to eliminate thoughts or to resort to a stoic unattachment. It’s to put things into perspective. It’s to keep my mind on Christ, “the author and finisher of our faith,” and on his bigger plan. The balance, it seems, lies in accepting what God has placed in my path while doing at the same time what I know I should do to make things easier for my son and my family. It’s not easy, because emotions are strong.

And in this way Simonetta Carr, an ordinary mom with a gift for words, brings us all into disintegrating world of schizophrenia.  With stories, practical tips, and heartfelt faith, she helps us find comfort in God’s sovereignty.  I highly recommend this book to all who know someone with schizophrenia—family, church members, pastors, friends, neighbors, and professionals.

Trigger warning and comfort:  Jonathan’s illness is described in haunting and memorable detail and may discourage some.  However, it may help to remember that, although some people with schizophrenia die, 20-25% recover completely (no symptoms, return to previous levels of functioning) and another 20% are able to manage their symptoms and live full and productive lives.   What’s more, Simonetta always points us to something even better than this, that we can trust that God always arranges things in the best possible way for those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

More information about Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them: Schizophrenia Through a Mother’s Eyes is available on Simonetta Carr’s website.

If you enjoyed this review, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up, or connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read. 

Disclosure: I received an electronic review copy from P&R publishing and am giving my own honest opinions.

This may be linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook  as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

Learning by Puzzling

Learning by Puzzling

Learning by Puzzling

Puzzles are fun and they are also an excellent way to learn visual information.  Searching for just the right piece, whether by color, pattern, or shape, makes one actually see the picture. The process of holding that information in one’s mind while searching through dozens or hundreds of similar puzzle pieces develops concentration.  Puzzling itself is a good way to refresh a tired mind and to add some novelty to the learning week.  It’s suitable for all ages, from toddlers struggling to work a wooden piece into its spot to teens whizzing through complex, double-sided puzzles or intricate maps.  Finally, puzzling together provides a peaceful way of connecting with others .

As an aside, in our frantic, internet-driven world, puzzling helps us give our kids (and ourselves) the gifts of slowing down and being attentive, both of which are vital for learning.

We have several map puzzles.  Any map up to 500 pieces can be done relatively quickly and it’s one of the best ways to really look at a map and see what is where, besides actually drawing it.  These puzzles were done in just a few hours and provided excellent learning of various aspects of geography, some historical.  The better one knows the geography, the faster one can go.

One birthday I received this amazing periodic table.  Although it has 1000 pieces, it can be done in a day by one person, as we found out when Miss 18 used it to study the periodic table.

Of course, nature puzzles can be full of intricate details, and some of them are labelled with names for a different level of learning.  They are an excellent way to slow down enough to look carefully at what God has made.  In our busy world many of us are unable, mentally, to stop and watch real life nature for any length of time, and puzzling helps develop that skill.

Very rarely (because they are so difficult and take up so much time) do we do 3D puzzles, but they can be an amazing learning experience.  After doing this one a few times, we all know a lot more about older towns, and I am keen to visit this island.

And, yes, one can study art by puzzling, too.  We really enjoyed piecing together this painting by Breughel (on the left) a few weeks ago, but the other one is too large to do often.  As a bonus, these two also teach us about history.

Of course, the many other kinds of puzzles are fun and have many benefits, but these are the kinds we use to reinforce learning.

We don’t puzzle as often as I’d like which is probably a good thing.  After all, puzzling can take enormous amounts of time.  The intermittent and unpredictable joys of finding ‘just one more piece’ make it so easy to forget important things like mealtimes, bedtimes, and important duties.  On the other hand, as an occasional winter homeschooling treat it is hard to beat puzzling, both for learning and for refreshment.

If puzzling is not yet part of your family’s homeschool, get a relatively easy puzzle related to something you are learning and try it when everyone needs a change of pace.  You will be amazed by what you learn about the subject, each other, and yourself.  Happy puzzling!

You can browse our other homeschooling tips here.

If you enjoyed this, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I show up once in a while and am still a newbie, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

This article may be linked to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

Review: How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff


Everywhere we go, we are presented with statistics about things to buy, things to do, the economy, politics, health issues, polls, wages, and more. But sometimes these statistics contradict each other, and what then?

This famous little book by Darrell Huff is a humorous explanation of the ways truth is misrepresented with statistics…..

All high school students who absorb the lessons in How to Lie with Statistics will be better equipped to think logically and critically about whatever statistical ‘truths’ they confront.  One of the most important lessons to pass on in our homeschools is to know when we are being lied to.  This little book helps teach the statistical aspects of that lesson and does so in a humorous and memorable way…. To read my entire review, please visit The Curriculum Choice.

Note:  This is the kind of book that we use for the science and math reading component of our high school.  You can see reviews of a few examples of such science and math books here.

If you enjoyed this review, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up, or connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read. 

Disclosure: We have borrowed this book from the library several times over the past decade.

This may be linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook  as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

Old-Fashioned Winter

The last few years our winters have been rather tame with little snow and no dramatic temperatures, but this week was different:

  • Sunday, church was cancelled because of snow on the roads.
  • Monday, nearby school buses were cancelled because of extreme cold.
  • Wednesday, school buses were cancelled because of snow on the roads.
  • Thursday, school buses were cancelled because of anticipated freezing rain.

As homeschoolers we are not really affected by school buses, but there’s still a happy enchantment to being officially snowed in.  We sit and watch the snow fall.  Then, quieted, our eyes see more.

A black squirrel ventures down a tree trunk and into the fluffy snow.  He tries to bound over it but gives up and burrows instead, his tail breaking his tunnel’s roof behind him.

We watch the rare traffic, mostly snowplows and snowmobiles.  Then we see the coyote hunters as well, out to make the world safe for their upcoming calves and lambs.  (We often hear coyotes howl and only the strongest of us dare walk at night, always taking a strong stick just in case.)

As we stand by the fireplace warming ourselves, we look into the whites and greys of the snowstorm and see breathtaking splashes of red: a woodpecker backing down the birdfeeder tree and the brilliant plump belly of a cardinal flying by.

The girls take a break from shovelling the driveway to make a path for the old dog who does not like steps.  The young dog makes his own break in the snow piles as he runs along the fence racing snowplows, snowmobiles, and coyote hunters.

Our whole life this week was determined by the weather.  Although some things go on as usual, the illusion that we can just follow our own plans is, once again, gone.  When God drops a few feet of snow onto our world, like sifted flour on a big bread-baking day, and then tops it with ice, we are stopped in our tracks.  We are, most obviously, not in control, and that is a good thing.

Yes, we make plans, and we should.  However, God may have a different agenda for us, and it is our role to respond trustingly, always trying to determine what his revealed will is for that moment and not clinging desperately to our own plans or fretting about his secret will.  And isn’t it a comfort when we are occasionally told very directly—in this case by God’s messenger, the weather—what we can and cannot do, when responsibility is lifted off our burdened shoulders and we can just thankfully let go of our busy plans and rest in his schedule?

This week I encourage you to find comfort in God’s scheduling.  Not sure he can manage your life as well as you can? Just go outside and see all the amazing things he created and cares for, and remember he created you and cares for you, too.  He cares so much he sent Jesus for you; after that supreme sacrifice, won’t he give you everything else as well?

Related Links:

Romans 8:32-39

Review:  Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung, about plans, decisions, work, and trusting God.

Snowed In Homeschool, which shares several homeschooling moms’ approaches to this aspect of homeschooling.


If you enjoyed this nature devotional, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up, or connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read. 

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