Friday 29 October 2010

Training up our children

Training up our children is a new blog which was the brainchild of my friend, Henrietta.
The aim of the blog is to be useful to Reformed Christians thinking about home education, how it actually works, what a typical day might be and so on.
I'm one of the co-authors but am hoping to learn being, very much, the new girl on the block.
Henrietta has home educated all her twelve children. She currently teaches eleven. Her eldest is now working.
The other authors are Sharon who is a single mother home educating her two children in Texas and Anne who home educates her four children on a Scottish Island.
We are all Bible believing Christians who educate outside the school system but the methods we use are different and tailored to our own families.
Do pop over and look at the new blog. Hopefully it will be interesting and useful not only if you are considering home education but also if you already home educate or have children in school. It may also be of value if you don't have children but want to know what home teaching looks like.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Autumn in Rye

Rye is one of my favourite places. The four younger children and I spent a day there, this week.
We love to wander and wonder at the quaintness, the history, talk about some of the books we have read which feature Rye and taste some of the delicacies.

We had hoped to walk up the church tower but it was closed as the weather was damp making the steps slippery. I can believe it-some of the cobbles were slidey. We did see the famous clock and found that there was a Geneva Bible in the church.

We love the eclectic mixture of architecture,

the cobbles,

the fudge shop,
and the autumn colours.
So good to have a day out of London and to relax together.
Thank you, children, for the photos and for being such good company.


Over the last few weeks, I have realised that frequently I cannot write out the Bible from memory. This, often, isn't because I can't remember the words but because I am unable to manage the punctuation. I don't for one minute think the punctuation is inspired but I suspect, no, know, that the people who punctuated the Authorised Version, which I use, were far better grammarians than me.
My punctuation is a bit wobbly. There is probably the odd semi-colon on this blog but I doubt that I have managed a colon. In fact, I only know one use for colons; they can go at the start of a list. It is fairly obvious that they are used for other purposes in the AV.
Anyway, having become interested in this subject, out of the blue, there was an article on marking in the AV which includes punctuation, in this edition of the Trinitarian Bible Society Quarterly Record. The Quarterly Record link is found on the left hand side of the home page and the relevant article is Called "Aspects of the Authorised Version, Part 2: Marking the text." It also covers the other interesting but uninspired features of capital letters and italics in the English translation. It is worth a read.

Monday 25 October 2010

God counts His people's sorrows.

This is the theme of an Isaac Watts hymn that I hadn't noticed before; despite that fact that it is in our church hymnbook. Anyway, it was mentioned in the service yesterday morning. The version below is actually the one that I found in CH Spurgeon's "Our own hymnbook". I don't know how close it is to Watts' original.
This is a real hymn of encouragement.
The hymn is loosely based around Psalm 56.

God counts the sorrows of His saints,
Their groans affect His ears;
Thou hast a book for my complaints,
A bottle for my tears.

When to Thy throne I raise my cry,
The wicked fear and flee;
So swift is prayer to reach the sky;
So near is God to me.

In Thee, most holy, just and true,
I have reposed my trust;
Nor will I fear what man can do,
The offspring of the dust.

Thy solemn vows are on me, Lord;
Thou shalt receive my praise;
I'll sing, "How faithful is Thy word;
How righteous all Thy ways!"

Thou hast secured my soul from death;
Oh set Thy prisoner free!
That heart and hand, and life and breath,
May be employed for Thee.

Friday 22 October 2010

Becoming a professional wife and mother

At the end of January, I plan to hang up my professional tools and become "just" a wife and mother-a housewife. This is a fairly considerable change after 21 years in the workplace-admitted 17 of them part time and the last year or so very part time.

I'm not leaving because I don't like my job-I do. I worked for years to have this type of job and more than that, it is useful and I like to think, helps others.

It isn't because my post is immoral or wrong in some way. There are ethical issues as in most professional posts but not such that I couldn't, with a clear conscience do the job.

So why? Because I'm leaving the good to do the best-the job that God has designed for me at present. I'm becoming a professional wife and mother.

Those verses in Titus 2 about the younger women that they should be taught to "Love their husbands, their children" have become more meaningful to me. Not that I hadn't loved my husband and children before-of course, I have but that they need a practical expression of that with me around to run the house, to take control of the home education rather than leaving set work on a couple of afternoons, to ensure that my husband has the freedom to work in peace without worrying about the doorbell or sorting out grammar questions or what Mum really wanted on the timeline. Perhaps, more they need someone around who will be able to listen, to pray with them, to look after them when unwell. Someone who is able to just be there.

In thinking about this over a long time, it has struck me that a good wife and mother has many characteristics of a good professional although without the dispassionate interest. A wife and mother is, and should be, emotionally involved.

The professional works way beyond set hours-this has been a major issue for me trying to balance my job and home. There is extra reading, going back to sort things out, writing proposals and business plans and going to conferences. Similarly, what wife and mother has set hours?

A professional will be trying to improve the service. A home maker tries to improve the home to produce a better and more welcoming atmosphere.

A true professional wants to pass on their skills and teach others. What is God's command to parents? "These words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children".

This analogy becomes limiting. God's role for parents is so much greater. We are training children not only about earthly things-how to read and write, blow their noses and tie up their shoe laces-important though these are but we are given the task, if we are Christian parents, of teaching them spiritual things and given the responsiblity of praying for those children.

Pray for me-this is a major change and one which most of you will have accomplished without any ado, years ago.

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Present wraps

We are in birthday season. During October, we have three birthdays at exactly weekly intervals.
I may be mean but it never seems a sensible use of resources to spend loads of money on wrapping paper so we tend to recycle reasonable pieces of paper and present bags are tended with special care!
I do splash out on wrapping paper in the after Christmas sales. Usually, I buy generic type paper that can be used for various occasions. In my opinion, gold wrapping paper can be used for Christmas, birthdays and babies!
My friend Carol has gone a stage further and uses cloth to wrap presents. I have been the recipient of a present wrapped in cloth that I was able to use to make an apron. Carol has blogged about cloth wraps A year or so ago, I made a half hearted attempt by making some cloth bags for presents but ran out of time and gave up! I'm not sure what the younger children would think-they like tearing paper but for older family members this may well be a less wasteful idea than wrapping paper. Has anyone else tried this?

Friday 15 October 2010

False economies

I guess we've all made false economies. Here in the interest of honesty and, maybe, stopping someone else making a silly mistake are some of mine.

-Value washing powder-blocked the pipe draining the washing machine. Dh and I spent some time with old wire coat hangers and finally, rather nasty and expensive chemicals undoing the damage. I don't buy anything better than own brands but haven't had the same problem since. Lidl's washing powder seems fine as do the other own brands.
 I haven't tried making my own washing powder-I've tried soap nuts and some sort of plastic ball that was meant to substitute for washing powder but haven't been impressed.

-Cheap baking trays-spill hot food onto hands. I was given some heavy duty Prestige tins which are great and don't buckle.

-Second hand strollers. I've never seen a second hand stroller for less than I could buy a new one and anyway, most second hand strollers look as though a wheel could drop off anytime. My stroller, that has been through just two children, has wheels which may leave it at anytime. Not an issue, as Mr Exuberance likes to try to climb out and walk so the need for wheeled transport is unlikely to last long.

-A certain store's value teabags. I'm definitely not talking about Sainsburys whose value teabags are Fairtrade, 30p for 80 and don't require 2-3 teabags for every one standard teabag!

-Cheap jam-home made costs no more and tastes so much better. This is even more true for marmalade.

Anyone else have thoughts on false economies?

Thursday 14 October 2010

Pesto stuffed vegetables

We had two ingredients that demanded a recipe:
a large marrow that a friend had given us
and end of summer basil which needed to be used before the kitchen window sill gets too cold at night.
Marrow needs a strongly flavoured stuffing so I decided to try something new, of my own devising. Marrow stuffed with minced (ground) beef mixed with pesto.
 This worked really well. Even those who weren't keen on the marrow part enjoyed the minced beef with pesto.
Ingredients for pesto
clove of garlic-chopped
3 handfuls of basil leaves
glug of olive oil-sorry I'm not a very precise cook
pinenuts-I used 100g
Parmesan-grated or cut into thin slices to taste
Using a pestle and mortar or a blender pound or blend the pinenuts and garlic. Add the olive oil and basil and parmesan.
Ingredients for the marrow and minced beef
500g minced beef
marrow sliced into approx 3cm sliced (just over 1 inch) with seeds removed
tin of plum tomatoes or 1lb fresh
clove of garlic
large onion-chopped
olive oil
Blanch the marrow for 5 minutes. Drain and place on baking tray.
Soften onion in olive oil, add minced beef and garlic and brown.
Add tomatoes and herbs and simmer for 15 minutes. Take off heat.
Mix pesto with minced beef mixture. Stir well.
Add mixture to centre of marrow slices.
Cook at 180 degrees centigrade (350F) for 45 minutes.
I served this with new potatoes, salad and sweet corn.

Go over to Meredith's blog for more recipe ideas.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Reformation Day

We hope to celebrate Reformation Day, this year, on 31st October. Why 31st October? Luther is said to have pinned his theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on 31st October 1517.

Whilst 31st October 1517 was probably not the real date of the start of the Reformation, it is celebrated as Reformation Day in parts of Europe and also in the US. As far as I am aware, few people celebrate it here in the UK.
Why do we bother? Not because we think that there is any reason that we have to celebrate this day but to teach our children about the spiritual aspects of the Reformation and major figures in it. As a side wind, it is also a useful distraction from other ungodly celebrations on that day which can prove quite frightening to little children.
This is the third year we will have celebrated. The first year, we thought about Martin Luther, read a little about his life, sang "A safe stronghold our God is still" and made ginger bread as it has vaguely German connotations. Last year, we thought about John Calvin and this year, we plan to remember William Tyndale.

In preparation for this, we have started a children's story about a fictional boy who accompanies Tyndale on his travels. It is always difficult to suggest ages for books but I would guess it is suitable for aged 8 plus, possibly a bit younger if read aloud.

I am planning to read a very short section of the Latin Bible to illustrate how difficult it was for the general population to understand services and part of Tyndale's translation.
In addition, we will probably eat something with a vaguely Tudor theme possibly these "excellent small cakes".
I would be delighted if anyone has any other ideas about this and to know whether anyone celebrates Reformation Day and if so, what you do.

Friday 8 October 2010

Blessings in a busy week

This week hasn't been quiet, in fact, I can't remember what a quiet week looks or feels like so probably wouldn't recognise one. This week isn't over yet and there is still plenty to do. In these busy weeks, there are plenty of joys and blessings.
This week, we made Olympus Mons. The picture doesn't do the explosion justice.
The book we were using, "Exploring Creation with Astronomy", suggested adding washing up liquid to the explosive mixture which did add a certain extra excitement to the usual bicarbonate of soda and vinegar mixture.

I don't want to leave out my bus ride on the front seat, at the top-childish, I know, but fun.

The Exuberant one is becoming more articulate. I love this stage although I was a bit thrown when he decided to count eggs on the kitchen floor; to my amazement some survived.

Dh had his birthday this week. The night before, we were given some beetroot by someone who didn't know that dh's favourite soup is borscht, Russian beetroot soup. I didn't take a picture-the deep purple soup with a splodge of natural yogurt should have been recorded. Dd- the eldest, iced the cake-I was very grateful.

Added to this, I found another Newton hymn which I hadn't really appreciated before. This one is more well known and I'm fairly certain that I had seen it previously. Just in case anyone wonders, I do read hymns by authors other than Newton.

When any turn from Zion's way,
(Alas! what numbers do!)
Methinks I hear my Saviour say,
"Wilt thou forsake me too?"

Ah Lord! with such a heart as mine,
Unless thou hold me fast;
I feel I must, I shall decline,
And prove like them at last.

Yet thou alone hast pow'r, I know,
To save a wretch like me;
To whom, or whither, could I go,
If I should turn from thee?

Beyond a doubt I rest assur'd
Thou art the Christ of God;
Who hast eternal life secur'd
By promise and by blood.

The help of men and angels join'd,
Could never reach my case;
Nor can I hope relief to find,
But in thy boundless grace.

No voice but thine can give me rest,
And bid my fears depart;
No love but thine can make me bless'd
And satisfy my heart.

What anguish has that question stirr'd
If I will also go?
Yet, Lord, relying on thy word,
I humbly answer, No!

Monday 4 October 2010

Why we home educate

We haven't always home educated. Our older three went to nursery aged either two or three and have then been to academic private schools. As time has gone on, we have become convicted of the need to "Provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nuture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6 v4) and that we should "train up a child in the way he should go" (Proverbs 22v6) and of the admonition on Deut 6v6-7 "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou riset up.".

We had also been increasingly convicted of our compromises in having the children in school. We were, perhaps, not interventional enough and Christians we love and respect have the courage and ability to challenge over more issues. We felt compromised by attempts at "worship" in school-nativity plays, "hymns" sung which certainly weren't reformed, the children being asked to colour pictures that were irreverent and depicted the Lord even when a travesty of Christianity was taught, other religions being taught as more than equal to Christianity, the Lord's name being taken in vain by children all the time and there being no rebuke for this. I haven't arrived at evolution and the non-teaching of creation as a credible alternative, atheistic geography and population teaching, sex education from an amoral perspective etc etc.
We had spoken to staff about issues such as witches in books, about the issue of irreverent pictures, about amoral sex education and about trips/orchestra on the Lord's Day. Our older children have missed several trips due to them being over the Lord's Day.

Almost eighteen months ago now, we withdrew our second son from school and made plans to home educate him and the younger two. We didn't have a Christian school alternative. We made the decision to leave the older two in school due to the fact that they were closer to the end of their education and major exams.
The last eighteen months haven't been easy. It isn't easy taking a child out of school, buying curriculum for a child several years into school, researching ways of teaching and explaining. It hasn't been easy starting home education with a baby and toddler. It hasn't been easy facing opposition to our decision. God hasn't promised us an easy ride.

We have been blessed with encouragements; the many people who pray for us often older people with little personal experience of home education, the home educators and Christian teachers both in the state sector and in Christian schools who have spent time and effort talking us through curricula and methods of teaching subjects from phonics to art to Latin nouns.

We know that home educating is not a guarantee that our children will be converted, anymore than not home educating is a guarantee that they won't. God is sovereign. We can only cry to Him for mercy on our children. We realise that we can teach our children at home but still teach them from a worldy and not Christian world view. Our job is to be faithful and to follow His Word as closely as we can.