Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An Intense Season of Nature Study

I'm gearing up for a lot of outdoor study time this spring. This is something I've wanted to do for a long time but somehow it always gets pushed to the back burner and never happens. I have had the Moon Journal book for years and have never made the time to use it. I know this is the kind of thing I will one day regret never taking the time to do, instead always giving in to pressure to keep up with other areas. I plan to actually be a participant in this study, not just direct it. It's always tempting to just send the kids out to do their thing and enjoy the peace and quiet, but I am determined not to let myself do that this time.

Here are some of the resources I'm lining up to use:

Moon Journals:Writing, Art and Inquiry Through Focused Nature Study - this will take a month of dedicated time observing the moon each evening and journaling about it and then giving time each day for art and writing "invitations". I am thinking April will be the best time for us to attempt this.

Kamana Naturalist Training Program - Level One
(This resource thanks to Dewey's Treehouse who linked to another blogger who had discovered this- it looks great and maybe it's just the help I've been needing)

Actually READ our Nature Friend magazines this season

Full scale garden this year - aiming at providing most of our vegetables for the year. If we are not too busy with other journaling, I'd like each child to start a Garden Journal with observations and instructions. This would be a great help to them in the future when they were growing their own gardens. I tried this once before but it fizzled out - maybe this time will go better since on average the kids are so much older? A great resource I have for this is Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery.

Read inspirational nature fiction like Hatchet, Tracker, Education of Little Tree and maybe Incident at Hawk's Hill and the sequels to My Side of the Mountain

Nature Poetry (any suggestions for resources would be appreciated)

I want to incorporate lots of Scriptures about nature along the way and emphasize a Christian worldview of ecology, especially to prepare them for the onslaught of secularism they will encounter in this field. An excellent resource for this is Timothy Keyes' Eve Anderson Nature Study lecture at last summer's Charlotte Mason conference. This is jammed pack with scriptures that detail God's view of nature. I plan to go through this tape slowly and make a transcript to share gradually with my children.

I also plan to read history on a more occasional basis throughout the nice weather months or maybe even put it on hold, focusing more on nature until it's too hot to enjoy a lot of time outdoors.

Well, anyway, that's the plan. We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Tina, Come Get Your Food!

The above title was the name of one of the workshops that the girls went to at the L'Abri conference. I'm still trying to get Candace to sit still long enough at the computer to blog about it, but since she's about to leave for a month to L'Abri, I'm doubting she is going to get to it.

The lecture was about the importance of eating together and inviting others into your home to share a meal. Apparently she gave examples from her own experiences of having people to dinner, even if it was nothing more than bean burritos. The joy and benefits of fellowship that come from connecting with others is worth a little bit of trouble and the sacrificing of pride when you know that you possibly have less than the people you are inviting over to your house.

Yesterday we had a family from church to dinner and I remembered how much fun it is to do that. They blessed us by driving an hour to come to our house. And with all of the help I have around here, it was not a burden at all to prepare for. Everyone pitched in with cleaning and cooking tasks. Candace made dessert, her famous chocolate chip cookies, Priscilla made a beautiful salad, Hope peeled the potatoes, Kezzi took charge of making sure the basement was in order, the boys worked outside to pick up the grounds and get firewood ready for the bonfire. They all helped with a lot of miscellaneous stuff too.

There was a lot of joy in the preparations. Nothing fancy, just some roasted meats and vegetables with some bread from the bread maker and cookies with ice cream for dessert.

Having people for dinner seems to be a lost art in our society. I guess since most people don't eat together as a family, it's even more ridiculous to suppose that they would invite guests for a home-cooked meal. It's something I think we need to recapture. It's amazing how a week slips by and then another and another. I'm determined to stop long enough to re-incorporate this tradition into our lives. It really is a lot of fun.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Out of One, Many

Well, the Shadybrook Acres crew is spreading their wings and expanding. What started out as one blog, is turning out to be four different blogs with another in the making. Even Luke, who is only twelve, and never writes a lick without being told to, is wanting his own blog when his typing improves. Don't ask me why they are more motivated to post if it is on their own blog. They say the feel it's ok to write something that may be trivial on their own blog but the family blog is a different story. I like that they feel responsibility to keep up their own blog so they'll write more.

So check out the side bar if you want more Shadybrook reading.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

L'Abri Conference

Well, I'm going to attempt to blog about our experience at the L'Abri conference in Minnesota this past weekend but I know I can't fully express how much I was filled and inspired through it. I didn't really know what to expect from this conference before we left. All I knew was that we were going to fly out there, stay in this really nice hotel, and try not to freeze to death in negative degrees weather. :) Turned out we didn't even have to go outside - every place we had to go was connected by skyways - and the conference turned out to be a lot more than I expected. I filled a notebook with notes, but I guess that would be a little too much to put in a blog :) so these were some of my favorite workshops.
Of course, my absolute favorites were about art and the artist. There were two workshops on this subject taught by John Hodges, a conductor in Memphis, TN and I can honestly say they have changed how I look at what I do as an artist. The first was titled, "Creation, Creativity, and the Work of the Artist". It started out with the first Creation and explored in depth how we are created to be like our Creator in our artistic tendencies. He created for the love of it and was "overflowing with creativity". Likewise, when we create art only to make money or only for selfish gain, it is looked down upon. In a sense, God's art and our own art, since we were created in His image, should be the work of an amateur in that we create out of the sheer joy of creating. He also talked about the importance of beauty in art and that the purpose of art is for the contemplation of beauty. In our culture today, beauty is compromised for "truth" and when a painting is beautiful it is looked down upon as something false or fantasy. But in reality, beauty and truth are one and the same. God created beauty in this world to be a flashing, momentary glimpse of His overwhelming glory and when we see something deeply beautiful, we ache in our hearts and are affected by it. It shows us that we are missing something and gives us a longing to be completely filled with the fullness of God. C.S. Lewis described it like this then said, "that pain I would rather have more than anything in the world". The purpose of art is provide that glimpse into the glory of God. Not to use it as a tool, but rather that the creation of art itself provides that glimpse.
The next art workshop, a sort of sequel to the first, was titled "The Power of Art to Open Our Eyes". The most vivid example of this was an explanation by a tour guide of a cathedral window. While John Hodges was in France, he went to the Chartres Cathedral, which is, like many cathedrals, shaped like a cross with the top pointing to the east. On the west side, the end of the cross, three doors form the opening with a structure of Jesus on a throne of judgement overhead so that when you enter the church, you are entering at the foot of the cross under the judgement seat of Christ. But another example of the power of art in that same Cathedral is a window with the story of the Good Samaritan painted in progression. The story starts at the bottom of the window showing the man travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho, being robbed, the priest and Levite passing by, the Samaritan stopping to bind his wounds then bringing him to the inn and promising to finish paying for his needs when he returns. But, oddly enough, the story stops in the middle of the window and seems to be finished. Where it leaves off, the story of Adam and Eve begins, showing the fall into sin and then at the very top is a picture of Christ. Well, you'd think that the artist just ran out of room and so decided to tell another story on the same window but there is a better explanation. Instead of thinking about the Samaritan story in light of the question, "who is my neighbor?" think of the entire context of that story in Luke where the first question is instead, "what must I do to be saved?" Jesus answered both questions when he told this story. The man travelled from Jerusalem, a city on high ground, to Jericho, a city very low and so travelled downhill. The man is every man travelling downhill in our fallen world where we fell among robbers and were beaten. We lay there and a priest, representing the sacrifice, could not save us. Neither could the Levite, representing the Law order, save us. Only a man despised by others would stop and bind our wounds and take us to an inn, the church, to recover. All this could just be a far stretch, but when the Samaritan left he said he would be coming again to pay off whatever else was needed. John Hodges and many others in the room had tears in their eyes telling and hearing this story. It was truly an example of how powerful art can be to teach us and to affect us.
A few other favorites were titled "Living As An Image Bearer", and "Biblical Worlview In A World Adrift" both by Jeff Dryden and also a session by John Hodges explaining and translating Brahms' "A German Requiem".
Again, this doesn't relate half of the inspiration I was filled with. So much of what was said either brought tears to my eyes or got me so excited I felt I would burst. All the sessions and workshops were recorded and I ordered quite a few to listen to again. If anyone is interested you can get them here. http://www.soundword.com/0rolco.html the General Sessions were a little longer than the workshops.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Great Sermons to Listen to

My family and I have been so blessed to listen to these sermons on Sex, Singleness, Marriage & Divorce. Part 3 should be available soon. While these are admittedly PG-13, we have let all of our children listen. It's great to hear the church speak out on these issues. Often she sits awkwardly by, allowing the majority of the sexual messages to come to our society through warped and corrupted sources. We have been pleasantly surprised to hear the truth preached unabashedly. We believe this is an issue where the church can not afford not to speak out. Please go and listen. You will be blessed!

Monday, February 19, 2007

What Is A Family - Notes and Quotes from ch.3

"The family should be the place where each new human being can have an early atmosphere conducive to the development of constructive creativity."

I was thinking about this quote this week when I was working on an article for a local homeschooling newsletter on organization of books and homeschooling materials. Organization really does play a big part in that atmosphere. If books and materials are kept within easy reach, they are more likely to be used and to be put away again so as not to leave the home overwhelmed with disorder and chaos.

"A clean and orderly house is a joy to everyone, yet there is a need to be sensitive to the greater importance of freedom to paint, mix clay, scatter pieces of cloth in cutting out a dress or a sail....The priorities mustn't get mixed up."

Balancing these two issues should be a concern for all homeschoolers. I remember a friend of mine who was always commenting about how inferior she felt to me because her house was not as neat as mine. I was often reminding her that I admired the atmosphere in her home where all kinds of fun and creative activities were going on. I was striving to let go of my neat obsession and gain the kind of home she had. I have had to make a conscious decision between trying to have a home that looks like a page out of magazine or a place where learning and "living" is encouraged. I just can not be happy in chaos but I think I've learned to handle temporary messes and know that they will be cleaned up. Having a place for everything has greatly helped.

Another issue raised in this chapter is encouraging/discouraging creativity with our reactions.

"Parent, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and sisters and brothers can squash, stamp out, ridicule, and demolish the first attempts at creativity, and continue this demolition long enough to cripple spontaneous outbursts of creation. These things can take place carelessly, and we might be astonished at what we have unconsciously spoiled."

"A mutual trust is built up in carefully listening to even the wildest and most impossible-sounding projects. If the response is always, 'Oh, that's impossible,' then the communication doesn't continue. A person, even a five year old, gets discouraged in setting forth anidea if it is immediately ruled out, and if the ideas continue, they will be taken to somebody else outside the family!"

Boy, this really hit home. Remember my husband's nick name, Mr. Potts? Well, he's named that after the father in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. You know, the one with all of the crazy inventions throughout his house. Well, that's who I'm married to. The safest response has always seemed to me to be first - NO WAY then take it into consideration second. My husband is exactly the opposite. He is always the encourager first. He really does practice this next quote.

"Discussion, constructive criticism, presentation of some thoughts on what has been done, cannot be given to anyone at the wrong moment. The right moment comes later."

Once I got my brother-in-law to test him. He purposely suggested to Mr. Potts the stupidest idea he could think of for some invention or solution to some problem just to see how far he would go to find something encouraging to say first. Apparently it was something so outlandish that it did cause Mr. Potts to stumble a bit but he still managed to not outright laugh or tell him how stupid it was.

And a final quote:

"What society needs more than anything else is a glimpse through a window into the family life of people who are becoming creative in amazingly diverse ways and who haven't time to be bored."

Lord, help us all to foster that spirit in our homes.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Girls Are Back

We picked up Candace and Priscilla from the airport tonight and they are brimming over with things to talk about. They went to a L'Abri conference in Minnesota all by themselves. It was Candace's first time flying and it was the first time for both of them to travel independently. It was really fun sending them off on their own. They stayed at the hotel where the conference was so they didn't have to travel around town, which made me feel a lot better. After spending two full days listening to lectures they have a lot to share and they plan to spend some time blogging about it all over the next week...so stay tuned for more.

[Update: Candace had me add this picture that she took with her cell phone.]

I can not put into words all of the amazing and exciting things happening in our lives right now. Last night Priscilla and I were up (late again) talking about just seeing an occasional glimpse of some of the threads going into the tapestry of our lives and how utterly and completely overwhelming it is on our brains at times. So many threads right now, things we are reading, things we are hearing at church, new people in our lives, new activities even so many movies lately, all seem to have the trace of our Father's hand directing, guiding and preparing us. The world we are in seems so much bigger. As a family we are in environments where we have the opportunity to give so much but at the same time receive so much too. It's incredible to be a part of the Body of Christ, a functioning body (and I'm not just talking about our local church) where so many parts are operating and supplying. We are ever encouraged to trust in our Heavenly Father and to believe that He is the best one to order our lives. We have but to look to Him and rest in His care.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Eye-opening Modesty Information

We discovered this survey on modesty from Life in a Shoe. We barely had time today to skim over some of it before the girls rushed off to dance class but we read enough to know that we will be coming back for more.

Even the few general comments that we read were so encouraging to the girls. I know they have wondered if it really makes any difference what they do when the culture all around them is so much worse. To know that there are guys out there who do care about modesty and that they appreciate girls' efforts in this area meant a lot to them. They would like to know where those guys are because they don't think they know very many of them. I suggested to them that maybe there are a lot of guys who feel this way but since it's not a comfortable topic for them to discuss, maybe they just don't hear about it. We decided this survey was a wonderful way to avoid the awkwardness but still get the information across. There are things here in this survey that I'm sure many, many girls are unaware of. And where better to hear it from than straight from the horses mouth.

I've already been talking to my sons and nephews about ways they can inspire young girls to value themselves and expect boys to value them. My oldest son is already beginning to have girls flirt with him. I don't want the girls to just get brushed aside and assume he doesn't think they are good enough for him. I would like a way for him to encourage them to save it all for their own husbands with tactful remarks. I want him to make them think that maybe there is a better way and not just assume he is a snob. I'm not sure exactly how he can do this yet. But we'll be working on it and hopefully getting some ideas from the many honest young men who have responded to this survey.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A New Day Dawning

We officially joined our new church today. Everyone is very excited and loving it thoroughly. We thank God that our older children were raised in a fairly protective environment through their formative years. They have grown strong in many ways, passed through some difficult trials and I think are now ready to be in some positions of ministry. We are blessed to find a church where we feel so excited to serve the Lord and His people. Most of the girls are helping with the children's ministries already, Mr. Potts is learning the sound board, and Candace is planning to eventually minister to the middle school-aged kids. I am hoping to find a way to encourage young mothers.

We really didn't expect to find a place where we would agree with and love so much, especially a place so large it has four weekly services for you to choose from. You are encouraged to attend one of them and then spend the rest of your week with your family with one other time a week to meet with your smaller group, which gives you a chance to bond with and grow intimate with a smaller crowd. We come away each Sunday so excited. Even our 10 year old says he's going wherever our teaching pastor goes because he really enjoys hearing him speak. We love the plurality of elders, the casual but culture-impacting atmosphere, the feel of the body being a team, the great hard-hitting-no-compromise but truth-spoken-in-love and easy to follow messages. We love that there is no pressure to join or jump in but instead a we are here for you when you are ready attitude. It's awesome to find a church where they don't just talk about reaching the unchurched/unsaved but where you see the evidence of new believers all around you and many of these new believers are not just seat warmers, they are already actively participating. The leadership understands that people's spiritual lives are a process and are actually prepared to meet people where they are. They make you feel like they care, not that they are supposed to care because it's their job or that they are really trying to care, but that they honestly do care.

I'm sure I could go on and on. Yes, I know we are in the "honeymoon stage" with this new church. We know nowhere and no one is perfect and that relationships require a lot of work, forgiveness and understanding so we are prepared for that. We are all human and we all fall short, which we know all too well. But this is what I wanted to bear children for, for work in His Kingdom. And this is the place where God has given us to have as a home base to work from. And we are so thankful.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Rant and Rave

Hop on over to Melissa Wiley's blog and you'll find out that the publisher of her Little House Martha and Charlotte books are going to be republished in abridged versions. And then read this great post at Dewey's Treehouse.

As if that is not bad enough, the publishers are planning on republishing Laura Ingalls Wilder's books with photo covers minus the illustrations by Garth Williams. I visited amazon in order to place my order for the rest of the old series in hardcovers so my collection will be complete. I can't have my future grandchildren reading Little House from the new books with the devoid-of-talent covers and NO illustrations. I only wish I had enough money to order seven sets, one for each of my children. Better yet, I'd like to buy out the publishing company and stop them from such nonsense.

Here is the comparison. This one has a lovely cover, one that you can look at and appreciate the talent that went into it's creation. Maybe I'm partial since I have a house full of artists and a children's book illustrator. I can see this cover inspiring budding artists to try their own hand at a scene like this. But please, Little House without Garth Williams or at least some talented illustrator? What is the world coming to?

When I saw this new cover, I wanted to throw my shoe at it. It's sad to think that the Little House books need to be made over in order to appeal to modern children. It's sad to think they might prefer Goosebumps or The Babysitters Club.

Isn't there some rule that you can't be grown up without reading these? Well, probably not. We are too busy making really stupid laws like the ones Granny talks about here and here. Maybe if we would not rob our children of good traditions and the love of beauty and dumb them down at the same time, they would grow up to actually care about their children's education and not have to be forced to go through the motions of looking like they care or face being prosecuted by the law. Maybe they would really want to have a hand in the raising of their own children. Maybe they would actually READ them good books and show them beautiful pictures and have them listen to beautiful music. And maybe spending that time building those relationships and teaching them about the Beauty that their Maker intended them to experience would prevent them from settling for trash and needing mandatory vaccinations against sexually transmitted diseases.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I Will Listen

This is a beautiful song by Twila Paris that relates to me in so many ways right now. I was listening to the CD (titled "Where I Stand") in my room the other day and when this song came on, I was filled with peace from the Lord and I felt as if she could have written this song just for me. Sometimes, it's so hard to choose the narrow road of listening to God's voice above everything else, but I know that His reward comes at the end. I am learning to trust Him to take care of all my dreams and striving to want His dreams for me more than anything else.

This song is so much better to actually hear but these are the lyrics. (There are many other songs on this CD that have been an encouragment to me.)

I Will Listen

Hard as it seems
Standing in dreams
Where is the dreamer now
Wonder if I
Wanted to try
Would I remember how

I don't know the way to go from here
But I know I have made my choice
And this is where I stand
Until He moves me on
And I will listen to His voice

This is the faith
Patience to wait
When there is nothing clear
Nothing to see
Still we believe
Jesus is very near

I can not imagine what will come
But I've already made my choice
And this is where I stand
Until He moves me on
And I will listen to His voice

Could it be that He is only waiting there to see
If I will learn to love the dreams
that He has dreamed for me

Can't imagine what the future holds
But I've already made my choice
And this is where I stand
Until He moves me on
And I will listen to His voice

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Southern Kids Enjoying the Snow

Early this morning we received what I consider to be a pathetic amount of snow. But then, I grew up in Michigan. My kids, however, rarely get to play in it unless we drive about an hour and a half to the mountains. So this was a treat today, to wake up and see snow in their own yard. All of our sleds are over the hill at Mr. Potts' shop so, being the creative children they are, they improvised and sled down the hill in the canoe.