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Looking for Health: Balance

Very early one recent morning I took a little walk.  A fox bounded laboriously through the tall meadow grasses and I could hear the swish of each jump.  So did our dogs.  A fuzzy black and white caterpillar twisted its way through the lawn, and up above I heard the dry woosh of wings as a small skein of geese circled indecisively.

Other mornings I step into fog or watch the sunrise glint off a spider web that resonates in the breeze a vibrating drum in a physics textbook.

I have been able to go for such little walks for a few weeks now.  Before that, walking and standing took an enormous amount of physical and mental effort because I had balance issues.

Balance issues can be related to inner ear or even brain problems, but then they are often accompanied by dizziness and vertigo.  Since I’ve been taking regular, long-term supplements of vitamin B12 (see below) the dizziness and vertigo have almost completely disappeared, but I’ve still needed to hold onto things or people to stand for any length of time. I’ve regularly used shopping carts as walkers, even considering getting a real walker or cane for myself, and my family and friends have often steadied me as I walked short distances, although at times I was able to walk well myself.

But now I can regularly go walking, by myself, over uneven ground, in a straight line, completely effortlessly, and all it took was a person trained in neurokinetic therapy to discover and correct muscle imbalances that had developed over the years.  First she worked on the back and forth swaying that made standing a difficult task requiring conscious and sustained effort.  That correction exaggerated the side to side wandering that made it so difficult for me to walk in a straight line even while concentrating, but she fixed that as well, in just 10 (painful) minutes!

So now I can walk a straight line while thinking about other things and can stand effortlessly when chatting with my friends.  I also have more energy for everyday life now that the ‘simple’ tasks of standing and walking no longer take up so much of it.

How did these muscle imbalances develop?  Perhaps they began when I was seriously dizzy a lot of the time, or when I was too weak to walk much, or because I have been driving a lot (one of the imbalanced muscles is in my leg).  Who knows?

All I know is that God created bodies in an amazingly complex way.  Of the many things that can go wrong, some are easy to fix, and I am very grateful to have discovered this.

To do if you have balance issues: 

Obviously, see your doctor for a thorough check up.

If you are both unsteady and dizzy and suspect B12 deficiency (and the likelihood of this increases as one ages or if one has absorption issues such as celiac disease), it’s worth your while to ask your doctor to test your B12 level.  If your B12 level is low, then take B12 as a sublingual (dissolves under the tongue) tablet, being sure to buy the more effective methylcobalamin form.  (Not all doctors will tell you these details.)  If your B12 level is very low, you should ask for an injection or a series of injections.

If you are unsteady as you walk but not really dizzy, it might be worth your while to see a person who knows neurokinetic therapy.  These therapists are often chiropractors, massage therapists, etc. who have learned this relatively new technique.

If, however, you are unsteady due to a concussion, try to find a doctor who specializes in post-concussion syndrome who will likely refer you to an array of other specialists, depending on the nature of the damage.

If you stumble because the ground seems uneven although it isn’t (the disorienting feeling of the ground not being where it should be), this is worth mentioning to a physical therapist as well.

Miranda Esmonde-White mentions balance in her practical books Forever Painless and Aging Backwards, and Norman Doidge shares cutting edge research for extreme balance issues in The Brain’s Way of Healing.

If you are in eastern Ontario, I can pass on the name of the neurokinetic therapist who ‘rebalanced’ me as well as the name of a pediatric concussion specialist.

Disclaimer:  I am not a medical doctor of any kind and am just sharing what I learn as I try to regain my own health, things that might be worth looking into for anyone else for whom standing and walking are difficult due to balance issues.  I am sharing this information because it is not easy to find, and many doctors do not seem to know about it.  Yet these suggestions are safe, simple ways, supported by medical research, to get your life back.

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 occasionally show up, or connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read. 

This article 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.

Table of Genders of French Nouns from French Three Years

One of the tricky things about learning French is learning the gender of the nouns.  This is important because several words in a sentence can depend on a noun’s gender, and if you get that wrong, much of the sentence is wrong.

Traditionally, you just learn which nouns are masculine and feminine as you learn the vocabulary.  This works well in ideal cases.

If you are learning a lot of vocabulary, though, it can be easy to default to the tactic of a relative of ours who arbitrarily assigned one gender to all the nouns he wasn’t sure of.  This way, he explained to us, he would be right, on average, about 50% of the time which isn’t too bad.

However, there are some generalizations about which nouns are masculine and which are feminine.  These are not commonly known (I do not recall ever learning them myself) and our relative did not seem to know about them, but they are oh-so-helpful.

So, for any serious student of French, here’s a table of genders of French nouns from the excellent text French Three Years by Blume and Stein.  Memorize this and you will get the genders right a whole lot more than 50% of the time.

masculine feminine
-acle le spectacle -ade l’orangeade
-age* le village -ale la capitale
-al le journal -ance la connaissance
-eau* le bureau -ence la compétence
-et le cabinet -ette la raquette
-ier le cahier -ie la biologie
-isme le cyclisme -ique la république
-ment l’établissement -oire la victoire
-sion la télévision
-tion la nation
-ure la coiffure

*Note these exceptions:  la page, la plage; l’eau, la pneau. (p 235)

As for the rest of the French Three Years, it covers essentially all French grammar in an organized and clear way with many exercises to help students practice each topic.  The 600 page book is divided into four parts:

  • Verbal Structures
  • Noun Structures, Pronoun Structures, Prepositions
  • Adjective/Adverb and Related Structures
  • Civilization

The final part, about French civilization, covers geography, history, agriculture, industry, commerce, daily life, literature, fine arts, music, and sciences.  It, too, has review exercises.

The book finishes with a comprehensive test and several useful appendices, but there are no chapter quizzes.  For chapter quizzes I have just assigned various exercise questions from the chapter in the past, but this time around I’m formally testing key grammar concepts as well.

Note that French Three Years contains no formal oral or conversation component at all, but that is easy to add in by doing some exercises orally or by reading Part Four of the book out loud and discussing it. Of course, at this level it is also easy to find another book or resource for oral work.

The book is can be written in, but one can also use it as a textbook and do the exercises on paper.

There is a small, very helpful answer key that makes the course possible to teach even for someone whose French has gotten a bit rusty.  That being said, to teach French Three Years effectively you will need to know French to an advanced intermediate level.

French Three Years is best taken after earlier French courses covering all the tenses and other basic grammar as well as a significant amount of vocabulary.  For example, French 2 from Bob Jones University Press and French is Fun 2 by Stein and Wald each provide a solid preparation for this book.

In conclusion, if you are looking for an organized, comprehensive review and consolidation of French grammar and vocabulary, French Three Years is an excellent choice.

Related Reviews:  

I am grateful to my favorite university students who asked me to help them learn French using this textbook and thus encouraged me to relearn it as well.

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 bought this book years ago and am not compensated for this review.

This article 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.

Harvesting and Homeschooling

Today I plan to freeze tomatoes, pick raspberries, and dry lemon balm—in the car of all places(!), something I learned from Traditional Cooking’s Dehydrating course.  We also need to clean up windfall apples in our little apple orchard and, on top of that, there is schoolwork to do.

This is a problem, because it is just too much for one day.

Harvesting is important, homeschooling is important, and a day has only 24 hours.  As I said, this is a problem, a big one that I addressed recently at the Curriculum Choice:

We have gardened seriously for about fifteen years, and serious gardening leads to serious harvesting, something that usually happens during the first weeks of the traditional school year.

Each year this bothers me.  I hate to interrupt the beginning of formal learning just to make sauerkraut or salsa, or to dry herbs, or to freeze produce

So each year I remind myself that harvesting is a learning activity, too.  Our children need to know how to gather food, ideally for themselves and their future families, but also for a knowledge of where food comes from and how people in history lived.  As a culture we are distancing ourselves from the very basics of life—like food production, useful physical activity, and an awareness of nature— and as homeschoolers we can address that by participating in the harvest, whether from our own gardens, from local orchards, from farmers’ markets, or from seasonal produce in the grocery store.  

Over the years I’ve learned that the harvesting is itself the curriculum.  It involves learning, skills, and even creativity, such as when my daughter discovered a better way to pit plums for jam and sauce.  Of course, we start the year’s math, science, Bible, and literature as well, but by changing my mindset and acknowledging the educational value of this hands-on work, I can be at peace in the midst of the flurry.

So, school is not closed for the harvest.  The harvest is part of school.

With both girls nearing the end of high school, there is a lot of schoolwork to be done.  This year I try to minimize their harvest involvement to just enough for learning, but that is not always possible.  So they pick and peel and dry and slice. What’s more, they watch me try to juggle it all gratefully and calmly, accepting that there is enough time to do what God has given me to do, asking for his help, and thanking him for his bountiful goodness.

And perhaps these lessons are more important than things in books.

For more ideas about homeschooling in harvest season, including field trip ideas and resources, check out “The Harvest Homeschool” at the Curriculum Choice.

If you enjoyed article, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I 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 article may be linked to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

Notes on Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie

With a houseful of children to both care for and teach, most homeschoolers feel their lives are anything but restful.  Most of us, like Sarah Mackenzie, wake up with our minds racing, doing four things at once just to make it through the day’s tasks.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  In fact, it shouldn’t be.

In Teaching from Rest:  A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace, Sarah Mackenzie reminds Christian homeschoolers of what we already know and shows us how to make it our own in a practical way.  The core message of this book is easy to write down but much more difficult to implement:

“…we ought to enter into God’s rest and then serve Him wholeheartedly—not out of anxiety, but out of love and trust.”

Or, in other words,

“As homeschooling moms, we are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful.  If we choose the good portion it will not be taken from us.”

In the first of three sections, “Whose ‘Well-Done’ are You Working For?’” we are reminded that rest is not ease, and that ‘teaching from rest’ takes diligence, attention, and a lot of hard work.   What is restful about it, though, is that we turn to God for wisdom to do the right things in the right way at the right time, focusing on being faithful rather than aiming for ‘success’.

In fact, success in God’s eyes may well be quite different from what we think it is; we are called to simply be faithful and trust God for the results.  We are called to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, in front of and with our kids, when we rise up and when we walk along the way.  We cannot make these dear little plants grow and bear fruit, but God can, and he uses our cultivating, thinning, and watering to do so.  We just need to be faithful in these mundane tasks.

When we are overwhelmed by the enormity of the task and the endless daily-ness of each little duty, we need to remember this:

“We are weary because we forget about grace.  We act as though God’s showing up is the miracle.  But guess what?  God’s showing up is the given.  Grace is a fact.”

So we need to begin everything with prayer, everything, including our day, our year, our decade, and our math lesson.

In the second section, “Curriculum is Not Something You Buy,” we learn practical things:  five ways to simplify the curriculum, a few tips for living this out, five ways to simplify the schedule.  Because we have so much to do, we want to work efficiently.  However, relationships just aren’t efficient “so how do we break the habits of productivity and efficiency…?”  If we are clear on our goals, know how to use our days to support those goals, and pray about all these things, then we will be able to simplify until there is rest in our homes without sacrificing peace in our consciences.

The final section of the book admonishes us to “Be Who You Are!”  Rather than trying to live up to the homeschooler next door, we need to learn the practical truths about how we operate best and then, playing to our strengths and learning to improve our weaknesses, we can be contented mothers who create an atmosphere where our children can thrive.  For, if we want to cultivate peace in our children and our homes, we need to cultivate it in ourselves as well.

We also need to remember who our children are and how they learn.  They are not projects, but little bearers of God’s image.   We are not the be-all and end-all of their education but often, as Charlotte Mason said, we just need to get out of the way and put them in direct contact with great ideas.

And finally, because parents, especially teaching parents, will be imitated, we need to ensure that we are worth imitating, educationally as well as morally.  We need to be serving God by “cultivating intellectual growth, nurturing creativity, diving into good books, learning new skills, working refreshment into a busy routine,” not in a frantic, checklist way but as an offering to him.

The book uses an analogy with the miracle at Cana—Christ asked that the pitchers be filled with water before he turned it into wine.  He can make wine out of nothing, of course, but he wants us to work on filling our own pitchers with water, and he will turn it into wine.  I’m not certain of the analogy, just as I am uncertain about a few Catholic elements in the book, but I do know it makes good educational sense for us mothers to learn and reflect so that, as we grow in loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, we are more able to teach our children well, from rest, by both example and curriculum.

As Sarah Mackenzie reminds us about our homeschooling efforts,

God doesn’t need you.  But He wants to work through you.

We need to show up in trust, leaning not on our own understanding and strength, and get our marching orders for the day.  We need to relieve ourselves of the burden we feel to do this work perfectly, to not mess up.  We should confidently go into our day, thinking to ourselves, “Well, I’m going to make some mistakes today.  Thank God for grace, His presence, and His promise to work through me!” and give it our all anyway.  We know that God will use our mistakes just as thoroughly as He uses our successes, and so we rest in that.

Amen to that.

Sarah Mackenzie is right.  So let us learn to focus more on God and less on ourselves; more on our children and less on success; more on what is true, honorable, just, pure, and lovely and less on curriculum.  Let us find our peace in God and fill our homes with true rest—not ease or laziness but the absence of fretting and anxiety.

I have been homeschooling over two decades and, by grace, have learned many of these lessons already, though often through tears and often by mistakenly doing the opposite until God forcibly turned me around.  With this book, you will be able to learn the lessons earlier on, glorifying God and benefiting your children with peace in your home and heart.

One point needs to be made.  Sarah Mackenzie wrote Teaching from Rest when her six children were young.  Her advice to focus lots of undivided attention on the children is invaluable when they are young, but teens may feel smothered by too much of this.  Hanging out while doing something together can help them as they begin to spread their own wings.  Having interests of our own, as recommended in this book, can help us be able to give them the space to grow up.

I highly recommend this book for all Christian mothers and teachers, especially homeschoolers.  If you read it and take it to heart, you will be able to teach from rest.  Not always, of course, but more and more, as you grow closer to God and learn to love him with all of your being.

May God bless us all and give us peace in him.  Amen.

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 bought this book and encourage you to do so as well.

This article 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.

Holiday Photos

I am so thankful for the holidays we were able to have!  We spent much time with loved ones, much time in nature, and dozens of hours driving.  God kept us safe on the roads despite a dangerous tire problem and malfunctioning brake lights—and those were fixed relatively quickly.  Even though our homecoming was filled with the usual bustle of laundry, lawn care, and garden catch-up, we are rejuvenated, full of happy memories and fresh perspectives.

Chutes Falls

We drove north of Lake Superior through the wilds of the Canadian shield where forests, water, and landforms show the incredible vastness of our country and the greatness of our God.

Old Woman Bay on Lake Superior

Beautiful Lake Superior was our companion for hundreds  of miles, in glimpses and vistas and all sorts of moods.

Kakabeka Falls is one of our favorite places to stop.  The thundering waterfall can be heard throughout the campground and is amazing to see.  Unfortunately, I am currently unable to upload that photo to my blog, but I will do so as soon as possible.  In the meantime, you  can see it here.

As we drove further west towards Manitoba, the sky became hazy and dirty-looking due to forest fires in BC.  On the worst day, the sky was an eerie  yellow and the sun, high overhead, was pink.  In the days before modern communication such a sky could have caused terror.

I watched a hibiscus flower open.  While the plant was still, the emerging flower shook because of the speed with which it opened.  I cannot image the incredible activity at the cellular level, the complex, coordinated frenzy of growth that leads to observable motion.  Truly, God is very great!

Family, adventures, mishaps, and all this exposure to creation–it was a good holiday, and we are thankful for it.

I hope that you, too, were able to spend time with loved ones and time being awed by the majesty of the Creator.  And if not, I pray that God will give you rest and rejuvenation in some other way.

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