Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I'm continuing on my Wendell Berry stint with Andy Catlett: Early Travels and a book of essays called Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community. I have nine or so books from two different libraries. I'm really having trouble with reading library books. I am going to have to make a choice: either buy my own books so I can mark in them freely or make liberal use of a commonplace book. I'm torn because I really like the idea of copying all the quotes I like and having them conveniently in one place, but I like the ease and speed of underlining and notes in the margin.

Another library book I'm reading is Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers. Tim's Mom mentioned this on her blog starting here with this post. I just got it last night and already I've been struggling with the miles of underlining I want to do! While Ford was getting ready for bed last night I was reading excerpts out loud to him because this book was full of things that he always says. So far, I can't see that this book was written from a Christian perspective. I think that makes it more interesting because it looks at the historical shift that has taken place in the last fifty years and its consequences. I'm just starting with this so you may hear more from me on it later.

Isn't it funny that your reading material can affect what you notice? Ford and I want away last weekend for our anniversary. One morning we were traveling around looking for arts & crafts stores in the mountains when I saw a group of guys standing around a tractor. It looked like they were working on a fence. Formerly, this scene would not have received a second thought. But this time I noticed the age range of the men and there were young and old working together. I noticed their smiles. It made me think of my readings from Wendell Berry, how the agrarian lifestyle kept the community working together. Suddenly a scruffy group of farmers looked beautiful to me. Instead of everyone segregated into their own activities, they were all working together, probably talking and joking. I could imagine they enjoyed a sense of belonging to something greater than a small peer group.

Add my readings in Hold On To Your Kids and I can not help but mourn the current state of our society. Even our churches. Recently our church moved all of our highschool kids across the street to a college building for their own church service. Up until this point the kids eighth grade and under were in their own programs but the highschoolers had no other alternative to the Sunday morning meetings. This change really grieved our family. Thankfully, children are not forbidden from being in the service so our children are not affected. But that still doesn't quell our grief over the system as a whole.

I'm sure I will have a lot more quotes and comments in the future but Annalise has set up the Settlers of Catan game so I must go now. To be continued....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

School Takes A Bit of a New Direction

In an attempt to help my boys, especially Luke, enjoy learning I have been looking towards a more hands-on approach. I'm not giving up on books, but looking to supplement with more things to DO. I still read to them and require reading but Luke is really good with his hands and I want to capture some of that before his school days are over. I am looking for ways to fulfill his high school credits without heavily relying on lots of reading.

I can't remember where I found this series recommended for high school but I am looking at these for Luke's biology credit. We have all of these titles: Prairies, Fields and Meadows, Woods and Forests, Rivers and Streams, Lakes, Ponds and Temporary Pools, and Wetlands. It amazes me that we have all five of these habitats on our 26 acres! There is lots of real field work in these little books. There is also quite a bit of equipment to put together, which will require some gathering on my part, but if it is something he enjoys and learns from then it will be worth it.

Timberdoodle is a great supplier of hands-on types of things. This past week we pulled out our
Some Body game and started playing with it.

Recently I purchased My Senses kit & Genetics & DNA kit and we just got them in the mail yesterday. I'm really looking forward to having fun together with these.
The My Senses kit includes fifty experiments including making a stink bomb, a model of the mouth and tongue, a simple telephone, a hearing aid, a telescope and also experiments that test taste buds, confuse your sense of touch, see how sound vibrates and much more. Along with reading some books on the human body, I am hoping to make notebook pages with illustrations and photos of our projects.
With the genetics kit:
"Your child will isolate the tomato DNA in a test tube, discover dominant and recessive genes, learn how chromosomes are combined, and much more. The kit assumes some basic understanding of reproduction. The children will build a model to see the double-stranded helical structure of DNA and investigate DNA evidence to identify suspects and solve a crime. They will even breed bacteria to experiment with genetic engineering."
Doesn't that sound like fun?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

All the People to Love

I would say we probably have a pretty unique situation in our lives as far as church and community goes. It's been almost two and a half years since we left the very small church fellowship that we had been a part of here in our own community for about eleven years. And wow, are things different for us now.

We go to a church about an hour away that is fairly good sized. Not like the mega churches I've only heard about, but around 1,000 people, I think. We hear great teaching and worship which are both led by some very gifted people. We ALL love going to church. When we told our kids we were going to help for a while with a church plant, Abel protested. "You mean I'm not going to get to hear Chad's teaching on Genesis????" I was pretty impressed that my twelve year old cared to hear what the pastor was teaching. And I do not just credit that to the maturity of my son. I give the majority of the credit to our pastor for doing such a great job of making the Scriptures easy to understand while not dumbing it down or stripping them of any depth either.

Besides trying to continue to invite people from our church to our home for dinner and fellowship, I am involved in a small women's Bible study group that meets on Wednesday night. And let me tell you, I LOVE these women. They have become very dear to me. As if that wasn't enough, as I've written before, I became involved in MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) as a mentor this year. And now I LOVE those women too! It's been such a precious honor to spend time with the MOPS ladies. So besides these groups we have many others that we love. I feel like I have grown so much by learning to love such a diverse group of believers!

Our church service ends at around 12:30, from which we rush on to a home fellowship group about 15 minutes back towards home. We've been doing this for almost a year now. I guess you could say this is our "small group" even though they are completely separate from our main church. This is a group of people with whom we share many of the same ideals and convictions. They meet at 12:30 eat and fellowship until another member family arrives at around 3:00 (the husband has to work until that time). During this fellowship time you can usually take your pick of activities. When the weather permits there is usually a game of volleyball going on and sometimes ultimate frisbee. If it's cold there may be games being played by the young people. My favorite part is the spirited discussions that are taking place spontaneously around the house.

When the last family arrives the home church the families are gathered up for a meeting in the living room of the host house, which changes between two different houses from week to week. The worship at is accompanied by a guitar and everyone calls out numbers of the songs they want to sing from the songbooks. Prayer requests are made known and prayed over by all. Several of the men take turns teaching. And the teaching is almost always full of discussion. It is so wonderful to see the kids and young people participate. Many of them sing with gusto, boldly pray and enter in the discussions. After the meeting there is more hang out time and the food is all pulled out again. My kids, well, actually all of us, feel this is a place they comfortably hang out and be themselves. We don't have to be on guard and the kids don't have to be ready to deal with a bunch of junk that is so rampant with other youth groups. It's a place to refuel.

Lastly I will mention our local community, which includes many close and dear family members. It's wonderful when the biggest complaint you have is that you don't see each other enough, even when you just live next door!

When you open your eyes to all of the people to love, you can't help but realize It's a Wonderful Life!

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Bird for the Bird List

I didn't take this picture but I saw this bird today for the first time. Quite a few of them actually. It's not often that I get a chance to see a bird I have never seen before so I was quite excited! And I even had my binoculars thanks to a couple of young men who ran back to the car to get them for me. From the Handbook of Nature Study blog and the book Discover Nature in Winter, I found the idea of looking for colors on a winter nature walk. Well this cedar waxwing sure included quite a few colors!

On Monday afternoons we meet with several other families for nature study and other activities. We meet here at our house or the park or in the gym of a local church. This week we met at the home of one of the families. After playing games and eating crackers and hummus that our hostess graciously served us, we headed out for our nature walk.

So many people shy away from winter time nature study but it's my favorite time to do it. Without all of the green growth of the trees and bushes in the way, it's so much easier to see things. Plus I just get so overloaded in the spring and summer with all there is to see.

I'm really thankful tonight for such a nice afternoon! Thanks especially to our hostess!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Ok, I may actually have a favorite author after all of these years. I don't even remember where I purchased this but it had a little round $3 sticker on the front. I finished this book last night and could not hardly even read a few pages without my pen in hand. I underlined, starred and otherwise marked many passages. And I want to read it again. This is a sign that I really like a book. And this essay confirms that it is not madness for all of you doubters out there.

I'm excited to find that he has written many other books (fiction, essays and poetry) and that the library has many of them but I'm wondering how I could handle reading them without marking them? I have a few of them on hold already at the library as a test for myself. But I may find that I will be forced into purchasing them for myself. If I like them as much as I liked Hannah Coulter, I will try to show restraint and only get a couple at a time. Unless, of course, I score big at the used book store. In which case, I can't make any promises. At least it has the potential of giving my family sure fire ideas for gifts for me over the next couple of years.

I read this little gem of a book over the holidays. I was already doing quite a bit of thinking about giving so this book really put me over the edge with excitement. I have a fresh joy over giving money but also other things. It has set me to pondering where my treasure is... where do I want my treasure stored....and consequently where will my heart be.
Most of my giving has been to my immediate family over the years, and I am glad of it. I have also given some to the homeschool community. But now as my family grows up I find myself with more time on my hands so I am considering how to spend it. I am still needed here at home very much but I do have some time for small opportunites to bless others and I am praying God will open my eyes to the work He would have me do.

The Latest Game Obsession

A few years ago it was Scrabble. Then Nertz. Now this is the new rave around here. We have the habit of playing a game to death until eventually we won't be able to stand it. Even Candace and Michael are in on it since they've been staying with us. We just recently learned how to play Settlers of Catan so maybe that will be next up. We'll see.