Wednesday, November 18, 2009

World Hunger. Thinking about it...

Okay - you're going to think I am really lazy today. Here is another friend's post. Weird, I was just incredibly burdened with this topic over the last day or so and then read her blog. Great points.

A friend's post: Truth

I have a friend who posted on his blog today. I have been feeling like I need to write, but sort of 'out of words'. His words I think are perfect so head on over to his blog and check it out...
Hope that's okay with you Matt. Something tells me it is...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Living God for a Living Education

I feel that I struggle to clarify my spiritual ideas and thoughts on paper or in word. The author of this book that I am reading - A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola - sings to the same tune as me and I find myself nodding emphatically and getting out my orange highlighter frequently. This chapter at the beginning of her book is just so in line with my heart, and it is so encouraging to read. CM had a real love for her Saviour - in her books she calls him names like: our King, the Chief amongst ten thousand, and the altogether lovely. What an intimate relationship she had with Jesus Christ and it comes through time and time again.
Here is a quote that I must copy from CM herself - remember written a whole 130 years ago or so:
"To bring the human race, family by family, child by child, out of the savage and inhuman desolation where He is not, into the light and warmth and comfort of the presence of God, is no doubt, the chief thing we have to do in the world. And this individual work with each child, being the most momentous work in the world, is put into the hands of the wisest, most loving, disciplined and divinely instructed of human beings. Be ye perfect as your Father is perfect, is the perfection of parenthood, perhaps to be attained in its fullness only through parenthood. There are a few mistaken parents, ignorant parents, a few indifferent parents, even one in a thousand, callous parents; but the good that is done upon the earth is done, under God, by parents, whether directly or indirectly...the highest duty imposed upon him, it is also the most delicate; and he will have infinite humility, gentleness, love, and sound judgment, if he would present his child to God and the thought of God to the soul of his child"

Now I know that lots of you reading this won't agree with everything said here - but hey - I guess that is why this is my blog and not yours ;). Let me highlight a few things that jump out at me. My chief job to do in this world is to bring my children in to the presence of God - present my child to God and the thought of God to the soul of my children. I spoke in my last blog about thinking. It's Deuteronomy 6 when just after the 10 commandments are given - God says to the people to 'write the laws on their hearts - impress them on their children, talk about them when you walk, lie down, get up'. I am not talking about some legalistic religion here - I am talking about talking about Him - thinking about Him - for me to be breathing Him in and then breathing Him out on my children. This is my highest duty, and also my most delicate - let's face it, I'm not a delicate person, but yet this job of parenting and of introducing the 'thought of God' to my children, is to be handled delicately - purposefully and wisely. What a calling. But by the Grace of God I go...

What a Child Should Have...

Charlotte Mason said that each day a child should have:
  • something or someone to love
  • something to do
  • something to think about

If I can achieve these three things for all five of my children than I am doing something right. I like breaking it down to three things, like a checklist. We all like checklists don't we? This parenting gig is challenging but oh so rewarding.

Something to love - Everybody needs something to love, whether it be a dog, a guinnea pig, parents, siblings. "There are opportunities for love in every home. There are also many ways to provide services (labors of love) to others if you look for them."

Something to do - By this she meant of course - something worthwhile to do! Have we lost our creativity? Are we so busy figuring out what show is on next, or website to hook our kids into that we have forgotten how many other things there are to do? Things of great value. Now, these are never easy are they? When our child says they are bored - as children will quite often - it becomes our responsibility to either (a) entertain them or (b) put the tv on. Wait a second what happened to option (c) teach them to entertain themselves? We are raising a generation of children that expect to be entertained - carted from one activity to another, amused with one game, playmate or another. Option (c) is the hardest option - at first - but then come the rewards. Teach them to sew, and you have a child making her own outfits for her dolls within a month or two; take them out on Nature Studies and then watch them take the initiative on their own to take their sketchbook out and draw a picture of that beautiful leaf they found on the lawn. I did find by the end of the summer, the kids were getting more squirrely - bickering, bored, what have you, and I have had friends ask me how I homeschool because this is their only experience with their children at home. But as soon as we started back to school - focused attention (giving them lots of things to think about) - the "something to do" has gone back to smooth and easy again. Too much idleness makes for ...something...not good...what was that saying my mother used to say?

I suppose that really finding something to do, depends on the last point being followed...

Something to Think About - Here is another quote from Karen Andreola that I just must copy "Children who are not given something to think about grow up at best with two ideas: to work hard and to amuse themselves when they are working...amusement is not an adequate substitute for something to think about...When children are guided to seek after something to think about during their home life, they will continue this habit throughout their lives." Okay- that's what I want for my babies - yup. No questions asked. Think about it (no pun intended) - how many of us were 'really' encouraged to think - and of course given great things from which to stem our thoughts when we were young? Living books? I am responsible for giving my children the best that this world has to offer - not money wise of course - but content wise. I want my children to find "joy and refreshment" in what they read - digging in to the text and pulling out what they can in their own words (narration!).

There - did I give you something to think about?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Scheduling Part 2

Well, here I am over one month later, and I am sure some are wondering (as am I some days) how successful my scheduling has been. Well, the fact that I have not blogged once during the last month is likely a good example of how it has gone - not perfect! This is where I begin to tweek some more. There are days, when everything goes as planned and there is much accomplished in a given day. I would say that the schedule is much more effective for the children than for me. I will try to explain why, and I am sure many of you moms will certainly understand. The children have been great at staying on schedule - up until about 2:30 in the afternoon, anyway. My son especially (who is 7) loves to watch the clock, set the timer and carry on whether mommy is present or not - which is tremendous! His sister, who is almost 10, seems strangely more dependent on me to give reminders and a little nudge here and there. Is this a gender thing? Or is it a birth order thing? Or a characteristic of themselves? Not really sure but it is interesting to note. I am doing short lessons (remember!) so the morning can go by at a farely good clip hopping quickly from subject to subject. That is working very well - they are generally working diligently during their 15-30 minute time period and I very rarely see them doddle. I really love that! Nothing erks me more than a doddling student...not that it is all about is really about helping them to develop good work habits! :)
Now, about me - how are my work habits you might be asking? Well, generally I usually have a really good start to it. I am consistently starting my day at 6 am or soon thereafter, do my stuff, get them going with breakfast, start in with some extra chores or baking, and then by 9 am the schedule is no longer followed. Whether that is due to my work habits or just my life with five ALIVE children under 10, I will leave that for you to decide. I feel very much that I am needing to change my portion of the schedule greatly. I mean, I have things like - on Mondays: ironing or mending at 10 AM!! Come on - I think I have done that once - there is very rarely a day that I am not changing a baby's bum or helping a child through their language arts lesson - or - what really I don't know!!??? The mornings just fly by! I am not sure what I was thinking scheduling my life like that - I just want to avoid having things like that (ironing - it sits in our room till it has to get washed again from the dust!) to do in the evening or leaving them till I can't even think about it anymore! So - though it does need some serious revisions I would say generally it is helping us to maintain a more productive and routine life. There are so many days though where the whole thing halts - a phone call, a shift to work, a field trip - and I am learning to accept those days too. I think maybe that is what makes it so hard to get back in to it after days like that. If only I could have a month with no interruptions - THEN we would be right on track by the end of that - habits would be instilled!!
Oh - speaking of habits - the last thing I will mention this post! I woke about 3 weeks ago with a great idea that has worked really well for our family. Although I am a die hard Charlotte Mason gal - and her being very, I would say "not" for Behavioral Modification, I still have a lot of that kind of training under my belt and I can't help but use it with my kids - SO combining those two seeds of thought, I decided that we would begin (drum roll please...) the 5 DAY CHALLENGE!! I made a chart with 5 days at the top and 3 bedrooms in the columns at the sides. Then I said to the kids - "Okay - at 8 am every morning for 5 days straight we are going to inspect one another's bedrooms - including mommy and daddy's and if everything is cleaned off the floor - and I mean every little thing that does not belong then they PASS and they get a check mark! If at the end of the five days we ALL have check marks then we will get ice cream!" (which at our house is really special). The reason why ALL of us have to have straight Passes was to make it more cooperative and less competitive - this was a family Challenge!! So at 8 am, for five days straight we did just that - now the first day was the hardest, but by the end of the week we had done it! Now for some of you this probably doesn't seem like a big deal (I know - some of you have houses where there is very little on the floor for longer than 30 minutes)but to me, with all these little toys and little girls that play all day every day- it has been HUGE - I now can walk down my hallway and see tidy bedrooms - every day (they already were making their beds by then for their morning routines - so that is a bonus). So - once we had that first taste of ice cream - we did the 10 DAY CHALLENGE - with success!! And now we are on to our 15 day challenge. After this I plan to reintroduce the 5 Day challenge again but this time - the floors AND the dressers have to be clean and tidy!! My 9 year old said to me the other day - "it is so nice to walk in to my room in the dark and not have to worry about stepping on something" - yep, I agree!! One little step at a time - pain free and delighted!
God bless - and hey - have a great Thanksgiving - I am SO thankful!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Scheduling my Life

I read this book this summer. "Managers of their Homes". I became convinced that it is a good idea to have a schedule for my family. I have seen too many hours wasted away in our home - having good intentions to complete projects and get certain subjects done doesn't seem to make much difference. So - I have become a scheduler! Here is a picture of my colourful work in progress - this is the step before the "master list" that I will done before this day is through. (the yellow is Bill, orange me, red Rowe, blue Alex, yellow Elisa and pink Mia - no I didn't schedule baby Bekah!!)

We have been implementing portions of it over the last month or so. The first stage - what I will call Phase One was a scary one for me. I needed to begin waking up at 6 am and going to bed by 10 pm. I have been struggling with this one for years - always pregnant or nursing a newborn, it seems like, this has been an impossibility! Well now I do not have that excuse (I guess that's a good thing...{sigh}) so now I can start to get myself where I want to be! Let me tell you - getting up at 6 am at the beginning was not easy. I have been rising, up until this point, at 7 am or later - depending when the kids woke up. The children are always hungry at this time of day, and of course I felt like I was hopping out of bed and running a marathon right from the outset. Now, oh what a reward! I wake to silence. (and it certainly has gotten easier!) I have a shower, or start laundry, maybe tidy a few things up and by 6:30 I am ready to have my time sitting with God and His Word withOUT falling asleep again (that was a big tip in this book - work on something first to get yourself awake - I had never thought of that before). My 5 year old usually wakes up before 7 but I have taught her to STAY in her room till 7 and by then breakfast (almost always a pot of oatmeal) is ready to be eaten. At this point I drag the big ones out of bed, they come to the table dressed, faces washed, beds made and ready to eat. We all finish breakfast by 7:30, Rowe and Allie (9 and 7) do their morning routines (including cleaning the kitchen table and bathroom) and an 'extra' chore such as wash a window or clean the microwave (can you tell I'm loving this?) and by 8 we are all ready to start the day. (and that's only the first 2 hours!)

Now - a word about overscheduling cause I am thinking you might be thinking what my husband feels - I don't want my whole life scheduled! And I agree that I don't want to be a slave to my schedule - feeling pressured to perform right on the mark and not vary from that. But so far something amazing is happening through this schedule, and that's why I decided to include it in my blog. Somehow I actually feel MORE calm about our days, I feel MORE free then ever before - I am not constantly feeling like I am getting nothing accomplished, because I know I will either get to it later, or I know it will happen in some shape or form. Bill has reminded me that recently we heard a man, Joe Boot (check him out at explain that if we did not have the Law of Gravity we would not have the FREEDOM to move around in it. That might be in the right direction of how I am thinking with this schedule thing. Not until I begin to live as one "under" the law or the schedule do I have the freedom to truly experience life as it is meant to be lived.

I have not scheduled a lot of Bill's time - his choice - and mine too really - I know he wouldn't live by it right now. His schedule for work is so all over the place that it would be difficult anyway, but I have his mornings a bit scheduled in that a different day of each week he will spend 30 min-1 hour with a different child doing something one on one together (Baseball, biking, a project, reading etc.) and he will be teaching history to the kids. I am hoping this is successful. I think we all need a bit of structure -there have been just too many weeks that go by and we say - what have we really accomplished? He also has a chore list - very easy and minor (ie. Mondays - garbage) but just to keep him and I accountable for the work that gets done around the house. My chore list is quite a bit more involved but that's because I am more on board with this and this IS my workplace now. I have done this mainly to alleviate doing ALL my house cleaning on Saturdays - making for a miserable weekend. The kids and I have divided the work up throughout the week and it leaves very little to be done on Saturday - I will let you know how that goes too :)

I know I homeschool and I know that lots of people looking at this don't homeschool, but I think you might want to consider scheduling the time that you are home, making you and your family more productive with the time that we do have home with our spouses and/or children.

Something to think about.

Oh, by the way - I didn't schedule Saturdays - my blogging is an "extra" right now that I just happened to make time for today since there is so much free time! So far so good...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Charlotte Mason - the "gentle art of learning"

I have alluded to Charlotte Mason but I have not yet really described her the way that she should be. It could be difficult in one or two sentences to summarize her and the influence that she had on the school systems in the late 18oo's early 1900's.
I have been drawn to CM's way of thinking since a friend gave me the book "A Charlotte Mason Companion" by Karen Andreola, four years ago, to peruse and read at my leisure. I quickly learned that, "Charlotte saw children as thinking, feeling human beins, as spirits to be kindled and not as vessels to be filled...She believed all children were entitled to a liberal education based upon good literature and the arts." This was radical for these times where - upper class children only were given any education and even that was very regimented and "boxed in". CM wrote a book and then more books explaining "how parents could- and should- provide their children with a broad, stimulating, even exciting education, far removed from the common diet of so many elementary schools of the day." Her literature was received gratefully and she quickly became a leading authority on early education.
There is a book called "For the Children's Sake" by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay which I have not read, and do intend to (when I am done re-reading my brand new copy of "A CM Companion") - Karen Andreola was first inspired by her book and then had CM's original books republished back in the 80's.
Here are the main points of a CM Education that I will expand on in further posts: Living Books, Narration, No Homework, Short Lessons, Free Afternoons, Few Lectures, Ideas and Culture, and Habit.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Community Supported Agriculture - what did you say?

Mmmmmmmmmm ....Fooooood. I have the privilege of being part of CSA - that is a Community Supported Agriculture. I pay a chunk a few times during farming season (April-Oct) to a local organic/heirloom farmer. It helps her out by supporting her financially to get through the year, and it helps me out cause I get a basket "full" (depending on the yield) every week. This is the basket that we received today. Notice the second picture where my 3 year old Mia can't keep her hands out of it. Tuesdays are exciting days in our family! Today I recieved some heritage cucumbers (yes one of them is an odd orangey colour but tastes amazing), lots of tomatoes (notice the variety! You won't find that kind of variety in a grocery store), some peppers - sweet and hot, swiss chard, onions, beans(they look different now but when they are cooked they turn green -true story) and even - yes - POTATOES - I was very very excited about that one - I know we are getting close to the height of our growing season when I see those included in the basket. I love supporting someone local, love that my food is fresh and highly nutritious and I really want to support someone that grows varieties of vegetables that our ancestors grew but we haven't seen for years in the grocery store because the skin is too thin (like with tomatoes) or the size isn't big enough, or "Monsanto" isn't creating it - or whatever the reason. Do you know that this farmer alone deals with over 400 VARIETIES of tomatoes alone? Where are all these varieties disappearing to? By the way if you live in the Toronto area and go to a good restaraunt with "heirloom" tomatoes - they are likely from my farmer friend - she has a blog too- check out if you are interested in more info.
In the meantime, enjoy the local fruits and veggies that are in your area - find a farmer that cares about the soil, spends some time and effort putting back into this earth that God has entrusted to us, rather than pulling and demanding from it the way we have traditionally done as a nation. It isn't easy in some areas but it is becoming more common, so keep a look out, and if you can - support a farmer. Join a CSA - or start a garden for yourself :) You never know - you might just grow something really yummy. Our family bit the bullet last season and tore up half our front lawn so that we could grow some veggies (our back yard is totally shaded) - and yeah, the neighbors wonder about us no doubt - but we are growing some veggies (more to come on that later) and we are doing our part. Go do your part. Whatever that might be :)

Friday, July 24, 2009

The cupboards are done done done!!!

My Cupboards are DONE!! After many trips back and forth to and from the hardware store(s) and quite a bit of figuring and painting - we are finally done! I am so grateful that my husband - once I was done doing the painting which he detests - pitched in and gave me a hand! I really can't believe it's my house. What do you think? I would love your feedback - now to choose the colour for the walls - I am thinking of staying with the yellow but going a little more "dijon" coloured - the tile behind the sink have yellow and beige in them so I am sticking with that kind of idea, though when I see how very white this looks in the pictures I wonder if I need something bolder!! I think it is hilarious the way that even when I am cleaning up my house for a photo shoot there are still lots of little things left in and around the counters - can you see that? I am amazed at how some people really know how to keep their home tidy. My house never looks like this! A dream I have some day is to wake up every morning for a week to it looking this tidy - maybe it will be sooner rather than later - more on that to come...

I love this shot - I am actually able to see all this from here. Just two weeks ago there was a big ugly brown cupboard in my way - and I really don't miss the cupboard space.

So right here is where I do plan to put either one or two shelves with baskets on it just to hide some items and use that very empty space. My sister says I need new curtains too - more work. sigh. we shall see :)
The ladies are coming tonight - I am bound to get more inspired about another homeschooling topic so stay tuned...It has been another whirlwind week. My middle girl was gone at my brother's and my little nephew came - maybe I will post some pics of that soon - we had a really good time but busy too - I worked 16 hours this week too - how did I fit that in? (yawn)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Homeschooling and Why

No, I am not going to explain why I am homeschooling - not tonight anyway. (did you check the clock? - okay it's wrong - it's actually 11:28 pm) But I will say that I am once again very excited about educating my children at home! I just had a few ladies in and we watched a video about Charlotte Mason - relearned some fundamentals about "The Gentle Art of Learning" - Charlotte lived over one hundred years ago and was a big influence in changing the way they were doing school at that time (in England) - before her time they were very much about the drudgery of school - math drills, grammar lessons, memorization - and she would say that none of these things are wrong in their own rites but she would introduce things like math manipulatives, reading "living books", narration, nature study - helping the child to really gain a love for learning by having the opportunity to connect with some of the "Great Minds" - the greatest Mind being God (the Bible) and then from there writers like Robert Louis Stevenson or Charlotte Bronte, inventors like Bell and Einstein. Nothing grieves me more than the tendency for any child over grade 1 or 2 telling me that their favourite subject in school is Gym or Recess - WHAT??? What happened to that love for learning that they had in Kindergarten??
That is just one reason why I homeschool.

Monday, July 13, 2009

My new cupboards

This is the big excitement in my life right now. My sister came for a week last week and said - hey - let's paint your cupboards so - that is what we did - I am exhausted still from this ordeal but am excited to see the results. Here is one picture of the process - look at those ugly cupboards - she hates this picture but I love the action in it. :) You go girl! We started Tuesday night and were not done until Friday evening. The cupboards still need to be put back on and now I have the dilemma of trying to decide on which hinge and which handles. but in the meantime Bill and I removed that large cupbard you see on the right that hangs over my counter space. For 6 1/2 years I have had to crouch down to see people sitting at my dining room table - or wack my head on the cupboard while I try to bake bread or roll out pizza dough (every Friday night!!) - NO more!!! YIPPEE!

Just LOOK - I can see through my kitchen!! In this picture I am actually standing beside my sink - this is way too cool - I will post pictures of the redone kitchen soon - just want it to be a little more done before I post it on my NEW BLOG!! Too funny...I heard a blurb on CBC the other day about the proper rules and etiquette with Blogs and I am pretty sure I am breaking every rule right now...don't worry - I'll get better :) (That's my big 9 year old peeking around the corner on the left - waiting for me to read Little Men to her before bed - nice book...

Wow - did I just set up a blog?

Okay - I am not sure what I am doing but here I am and I am blogging?? My dishes are piled high in my sink, I desperately need to find hinges and knobs for my cupboards but here I am starting a blog?? What is wrong with me - where is my sense of priorities and responsibilities? Okay - well here I am anway...this all started when I wrote a blurb on my facebook page and a couple of friends (Khantavy-oh so beautiful and pregnant - and Ruth - oh so beautiful and Pakistani) said "Sarah - YOU should have a blog - it would be REALLY great!!" Really? Who is going to read it? Who cares about little ole me - struggling to raise 5 very crazy and lively children in this oh so messed up world? Well, here I am anyway. Day one of blogging (I was actually just trying to start a Google Account so that I could leave a comment on a friend's blog (Matt Cook and I just ended up here - true story) I am going to start this day by ending here - before I babble the life out of my first blogpost. I will go, put my kids to bed and wash my dishes. I may be back!!!