January 29, 2010

The Half-Way Point

We're roughly half way through the school year! It's been a while since I've written about homeschooling; the last post was my list of book reviews in November. It's January. I had hopes of doing a serious review of the first several months over Christmas, but never got to it. (When a husband is in the last few months of thesis writing, he's not exactly available to take the kids for afternoons at a time so his wife can reflect and plan. But those days are not too far away now!)

the student

You may wonder about our method of homeschooling. It's not exactly unschooling, because we do specific things each day that constitute school work, usually in the morning. But we are also not following a specific curriculum. I guess that makes us relaxed or eclectic. I plant to read more about Whole Hearted education. For now, my primary guides are the books Home Learning Year by Year by Rebecca Rupp and The Three Rs by Ruth Beechick. Putting their suggestions and guidelines together with resources you can get from simple workbooks and library books, it is relatively easy to walk through a Kindergarten year. Seriously, I spend probably two hours a week in prep. I LOVE the library and am so thankful for the many authors who have created such educational picture books! Using the interlibrary loan program and Amazon, you can come up with lists of great books on specific topics, request them, add an activity or two, and you've got a simple unit.

the beginning reader

A typical week of our lessons looks like this. I'm not sure if you'll be able to access it; it's s Google document. Let me know if you can't. If you can, you'll notice that it isn't much. "School" typically takes about an hour, maybe a little more if we're working on some project. Frequently we will listen to the month's hymn in the car while traveling from place to place or sing together right before bedtime. We read the chapter book most often before afternoon rest time, when Brian's already down and E and I can snuggle on the big bed. For reading, we're currently taking our time working through Dr. Seuss early reader books, 3-5 pages a day depending upon the amount of text. For writing, we've been focusing mostly on copying sentences I have written, helping E to practice uniform letter size, learn spacing, and some punctuation. We began math concepts using the Math Counts series by Henry Pluckrose (requested from the library), focusing on one topic per week. And this workbook has been helpful in continuing math work; I will purchase more from Spectrum in the future.

the artists

Some of the topics we've explored (in varying levels of detail) so far this year include: trees, the United States, Washington D.C., water, birds, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving, the continents, the Earth's composition & rocks, Martin Luther King Jr., and now we're taking about winter weather. I've used library books, websites, field trips, games, crafts, and other activities to create mini units around each theme. Without all of the print and electronic resources available, I'm not sure how I'd teach!

the loves of my life
(well, 2/3 of them)

Okay, so basically this post has become my year-so-far review. Thanks for giving me the platform. I'm assuming, of course, that you want to know what I do. If you don't, I hope you have not felt obligated to read this far! You may have noticed that I've offered little personal reflection and have discussed my feelings about the homeschooling experience. For now, I will publish this and leave those thoughts for my next post!

January 27, 2010

At the Gym!

We went to the Boston Gymnastics Academy's open gym today with the toddler playgroup from church. Elizabeth and I had not been in a couple of years and Brian had never gone. As expected the kids had a great time! Brian was in his element, having a large room to run around in. Elizabeth had a lovely time with the other little girls; their time ended with each of them having guns (plastic cones) to fight off the big bad wolf. Unfortunately, I didn't get any of those adventures on video.

Our Children's Ministries director will be leaving next week for a new job in sunny CA. She has been putting together these toddler trips for the last couple of years, in addition to caring for our kids so well by organizing class teachers, nursery workers, VBS, etc. We will miss you, Lydia! Thank you!


I decided - very spur of the moment so I didn't have a camera - to get Brian's hair cut after running some errands yesterday. This was not his first haircut, but it was his first in a salon. And only the finest for my boy: Supercuts! The haircut went pretty well, thanks to the dum-dum and the big mirror, but most thanks go to the dum-dum ... which was quite hair covered by the end. Ew.



January 25, 2010

Playing Cards

Elizabeth got a set of playing cards for Christmas. I thought they were some special game because they say "SNAP" on the tops. But it's just a regular set of cards...except that the directions tell you to play memory with them. And, oh yes, a few of the animals are slightly misnamed. Here, in order from least to greatest:

If you can't sleep,
count yourself some goats!

And all along they've been telling me they're giraffes!

The prize-winner!

January 22, 2010

Brian, 'r you tired?*

Ironically, since we started putting Brian to bed earlier, and he's sleeping one more hour per night, he's having a more difficult time making it to his 11am nap. Sometimes he grabs his blanket and has a little impromptu rest, even in the middle of play. Clearly, he's been needing more sleep!

*This title would be best said in a Pittsburgh accent. If you don't know the accent, please come visit us when we move there. It is to Pittsburgh was the Boston accent is to Boston: so comfortingly local. Start watching this at about 1:18 to get a little taste; they swear a little at the end, so don't watch with your kids ... like I did. Oops!

January 20, 2010

Elizabeth and I read this book again today. It's a sweet little story where a class of kids is learning about Dr. King and then their teacher has them draw pictures of what their dreams are.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Ready-to-Read. Level 1)

After reading, I asked Elizabeth if she wanted to draw a picture of her dream. Here it is:

A couple of things that made me chuckle (though not to Elizabeth's face!):
  1. You see the purple person? He's sad; he only has one balloon. The red person has two balloons; he is happy. In Elizabeth's world, the definition of sadness is having only one balloon, and happiness, having two.
  2. There are very specific details Elizabeth always puts on people that she draws. It began with always adding bellybuttons to tummies. Then she started including thick, rectangular necks. Now, it's nostrils. Those are some noses, eh? If you have kids, do they have curious little details they always include on people or other creatures they draw?
I conclude with today's advice: If you're feeling sad, go get two balloons. You'll likely be feeling better in no time!

Ice Skating!

MIT has a skating rink that's open off and on throughout the week during the winter. I got some money for Christmas and purchased ice skates for Elizabeth and myself. Since we already belong to the athletic center, skating is "free" (seeing as now we don't have to pay for rental skates.) Today we went for the third time; we're going once a week.

I don't know how long it takes to learn how to skate, but I think that E's doing a great job getting a hang of the balance and building up her confidence. When she gets nervous she giggles in a really silly way that gets on my nerves, so I'm not always the most patient teacher ... but I do love spending time with Elizabeth, watching her grow up and seeing how willing she is to try new things. After our first skating session, she came home and told her dad that she already knew everything about skating! Where does she get such confidence?!

(sorry this video is sideways)

You get a little taste of the silliness at the end of this one.

January 19, 2010

A Boy and His Daddy

This is Brian's favorite book these days.
He even asked Colin to read it again last night,
by turning back to the first page when they'd reached the end!

Can you believe that little fellow
will one day be a big man like his daddy?
(He's sucking on the Camelbak tube while Colin fills it.)

January 17, 2010


This post is a little wandering; brace yourself for a journey through
the many thoughts that have been swirling around in my head!

With the approaching Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, I requested some picture books from the library about Dr. King to read with Elizabeth and looked up activity ideas online. One suggestion was to make a paper chain using skin colored papers or the standard "red and yellow, black and white." Using an idea from Christmas, a wreath made from green paper hand prints, we made a wreath of different colored hands and I hung these verses from Revelation 7:9-10 in the middle:

After this I looked and there before me was
a great multitude that no one could count,
from every nation, tribe, people, and
language, standing before the throne
and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing
white robes and were holding palm brances
in their hands. And they cried out
in a loud voice:
"Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb."

Another suggestion was to visit an alternate house of worship: if you're Methodist, attend a Baptist church or if you don't go to worship on Sundays, try a church. I thought this was a fascinating idea, there's a large African Methodist Episcopal church around the corner from ours I'd be interested in attending sometime. Unfortunately, this week I was helping out in a kid's class, so we couldn't miss being with our congregation. But I've got the idea in the back of my head for the future.

Yesterday as I was preparing to go to church, I was thinking about the idea of worshiping with other believers of different nations, tribes, peoples, and languages, reflecting on Revelation 7:9-10 and thinking about what Dr. King fought for during his short days walking the earth. And I was thinking about how we're often drawn to local congregations that have an order of worship and style of music that's comfortable for us, often influenced by what we grew up with. I don't think there's anything wrong with this, as long as you're not accusing the brother's and sisters up the street of being "wrong" if they do or don't use an organ, a band, or only sing a capella.* The reality is that none of it approaches the perfection that will be achieved in the worship of our Great God when we're all standing before His throne with all of the believers, from all of time, from all over the world!

This set me to wondering what it will be like, when we're before the throne of God. What will the tune be? Will we all be worshiping in the style that comes naturally to us and they'll create the most beautiful harmony, bringing great glory to God? Or will we all be worshiping in Spirit and in Truth in a blissful way we never even knew possible this side of heaven - more beautiful, more glorious, exactly as God would be and should be worshiped by His redeemed people?!

We don't know.

But we do know we will worship!

We will no longer be distracted by the things of this world, by the sin that so easily entangles, by the fears and doubts that prevent us from loving the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and loving our neighbor as ourself.


For the time being, we will continue to look to the Scriptures and the guidance of the Spirit to instruct our hearts and minds and guide our worship. We will repent of our sin and believe the Good News - Jesus died once for all, that we may be brought near to God. And, thinking about Dr. King and loving our neighbor, we can get to know believers of other nations, tribes, peoples, languages, ... and even denominations, and learn more about the depth, breadth, width, and height of God's love. We'll be spending eternity together, right? Might as well start getting to know each other now!

Even apart from Martin Luther King Day, the Spirit's been impressing upon me lately that Christians are bound together by Christ, no matter where they're from, what church they attend, what work they do, how smart they are, or what kind of car they drive. We are connected on a deep level and we need each other. It's worth saying a few embarrassing things and having our minds stretched a little, to get to know more of the heart of God and be bound together with fellow believers, with cords that cannot be broken. Without Christ, there's no other hope for this kind of connection. He is the great Reconciler, the great Healer, the Prince of Peace.

Dr. King and those who bravely would not accept the evil status quo amaze me! So much progress was made in such a short time. Today I'm thankful for God's work in and through Dr. King. But as we look at the state of inequality & injustice that is still prevalent in our nation, one can feel angry or hopeless or both. Thankfully, our God promises to make all things new (Isaiah 65:17 & Revelation 21.) Resting on this hope, we can move forward to bring a little more peace, a little more justice, a little more equality, as we, His people, focus on loving God and our neighbor, and we keep praying, "Come, Lord Jesus."

*I'm thinking here more about how we're divided my matters of preference, and not usually defending standards of worship clearly established in the Bible.

January 16, 2010

Old Friends (con't)

We had one more opportunity to spend time with the Calhouns yesterday. We rode the train into Boston,

strolled through the Downtown Crossing shopping and Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market areas, and enjoyed the view at the Waterfront. The Calhouns left town before all of the Big Dig construction was completed, so they got to see how beautiful it is now that the highway doesn't divide town from the waterfront. It is a great improvement, barring discussion about the cost and troubles involved! The weather was also absolutely beautiful for being out.

looking at the duck

the duck

enjoying the view

the view

the harbor seals outside the aquarium

We wrapped up our time with lunch at Quincy market, which we dubbed "the longest food court in the world."

Thanks for spending time with us, Calhoun family! We look forward to being together again soon.

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

About 4 years ago, our dear friends, the Calhoun family, left Massachusetts for bigger and better things in Virgina. We knew them from Westgate and we attended the same church. Since then, they've had two little boys and we had Brian. When they moved, their first boy was a month from arrival, their girls were 2.5 & 4.5 years old, and Elizabeth was 1.5.

Ruby and Elizabeth, December 2005
Ruby, Elizabeth, and Anna Grace

They came back to visit that summer:
July 2006

And then we got to be with them yesterday! The girls have all grown and changed a lot and had a wonderful time being big girls together (now 5.5, 6.5, and 8.5 years old): talking over breakfast, cutting paper snowflakes, running around the playground, playing a card game with zero parental help, and walking around Boston. It was a treat for Mary Kathryn and me to see our girls get on so well and have time to catch up. Our boys have never met, so that's on the agenda for next time. We certainly look forward to future visits; VA is not too far from PA!

January 2010

I just got a call; we'll be meeting up with them again this morning. Great! Perhaps more photos to come....

January 15, 2010

A Sleep Experiement

Breaking News!

As years of research by many doctors have confirmed:
  1. sleep begets more sleep in babies and toddlers, and
  2. adults feel better when they're getting enough sleep.
More on point #1:
Many of my readers, or at least my FBFs (Facebook Friends), know, Brian is an early riser. I've adjusted my schedule so that I get up and have at least a half an hour by myself before he wakes up. I like this; I like being alone in the morning, in the quiet, and (this time of year) in the dark. For me, it's the best way to get started.

We moved Brian to one nap a day a while back, and he started sleeping better at night. But I didn't heed the advice of Dr. Weissbluth and put him to bed an hour earlier at night. So he was still going to bed at 7 and getting up by 5:30. After a conversation with a friend at church (thanks, Kelly W.!), I decided to start putting Brian down at 6. Since Sunday he's been going to bed at 6 and getting up at the same time, sometimes a little later! And he's ready to nap before 11, taking at least a 3 hour nap in the middle of the day. Hurray!

The next step will be gradually moving his nap to noon. We'll start working on that next week, pushing naptime back 15 min or so every few days. I love the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child but had not looked at it in recent months. So glad Kelly and I "talked sleep" on Sunday and I got my nose back in that book! You might benefit from it to if you are expecting a baby or have kids.

More on point #2:
My new year started off with a migraine that I believe was caused by lack of sleep. Colin and I stayed up NYE watching episodes of White Collar - great show, by the way - and though I knew at 10:45 that I should really not stay up, I did anyway. Well, it took me a full week to feel back to normal and I had headaches most of those days. The weather must have had something to do with it, because many of my friends had off and on headaches throughout that week too. Yuck!

The lesson learned, though, is that I CANNOT stay up late. You just can't if you're getting up early. (I know, I'm a genius for having come to this conclusion; I'll publish a paper or write a book soon!) So this week I've been experimenting too, by trying to get to bed at 9; which means I've been in bed most nights by 9:30...at the very latest, 10. And what a difference it has made!! Yes, I would like to watch shows I enjoy in real time. Yes, I would like to keep my husband company as he works toward that PhD in the evenings. Yes, I would like to feel like less of a dork, getting ready for bed at 9! But the benefits far outweigh the consequences for foolishly staying awake. And I can record shows, be better able to serve my husband and kids during the day, and I'm becoming more dorky as I get older anyway, so why not add this!

To conclude, here is my unsolicited advice - that you don't have to read if you hate people giving advice without being asked for it!
  1. If your kid gets up too early, put them to bed earlier at night, especially if you're transitioning from one nap to two. It may cramp your style for a while, but the pros outweigh the cons. And they may still get up at the same time, but you know they're getting better rest! (And for a great overall sleep guidance, check out Weissbluth's book.)
  2. If YOU are tired all the time, bump your bedtime up an hour too. Get that beauty rest! Your family will benefit enormously and you might be better equipped to tackle the things that you feel like you should do in the evening, during the day!
Kudos to anyone who read this whole post. Give yourself a gold star!!

January 13, 2010

Bjarney's Back!

Our friends from Iceland have been away for a month of visiting with family and friends. Last night they returned and we got together this afternoon. What a fun reunion!

Now we await Martina's return from Chile at the end of the month. Is Elizabeth not growing up with the coolest group of friends and neighbors?! Westgate, how we will miss you when we go. (sniff)

January 12, 2010

Brian Likes...

the snow,

dancing & spinning in circles,

wearing his rain boots,

his sister,

watching TV,

playing peek-a-boo,

running & his blanket,

and chocolate cake!

Winter Indoor Entertainment

Brian needs to burn off energy every day. But in the winter, it's not always practical to play outside. So we recently rearranged the furniture to allow for a nice long running space from livingroom into the kitchen. We've taken advantage of it a lot since; and here are some videos of a couple of yesterday's activities.

Playing ball in the house!

Brian got these blocks from Santa;
I just discovered a wonderful use for them!

E leaves Brian in the dust.

He always paused right before plowing through.

January 11, 2010

So Much To Study, So Little Time!

Last summer I launched into a personal study of the book of Joshua; the posts can be found here and here. And, as God would have it, in the fall I was given the delightful privilege of leading this year's Tuesday morning women's Bible study. We have been marching our way through Joshua, learning about God's faithfulness, judgement, mercy, holiness, and promise fulfillment. It has been good, very good. We are now nearing the end of or time in the book and, as I have studied very little other than Joshua for the last 7 months, I have been looking to move on.

In these early days of the new year, I read through the book of John, a few chapters a day, preparing for another wave of study. I plan to follow the same pattern as I did with Joshua: read the whole book once, read through chapter by chapter using the New Bible Commentary (published by IVP), then read through it again with a more in-depth commentary by James Montgomery Boice. (Little did I know last June that I was preparing to lead a group of wonderful women through the book! God is gracious, isn't He?)

A few days ago, I was wondering how long it would take me to do the same with all of the books of the Bible. I calculated that if I spent 3 months in each book, I would be (almost) 47 when I finished! Now, I know that some books in the Bible are quite short, so perhaps the time is a bit overestimated. But it doesn't make 16.5 years seem any less overwhelming! The goal, however, is to get to know the Word by reading, meditating, and taking advantage of the study of scholars with more knowledge than I'll ever have. Making time to do it would be invaluable, even if it is L-O-N-G! And truly, I'd like to spend whatever days God gives me getting to know Him, before I'm standing (what?! I mean, falling on my face!) before Him giving an account.

In addition to starting up with John, our pastor recently brought to our attention Ad Fontes (which means "to the sources"), a full year of daily readings in Calvin's Institutes. A group from church will meet weekly (at a pub, over a pint - and I'm not kidding!) to discuss the week's readings. I just read today's reading. I have not read anything from The Institutes since the one and only seminary course I've ever taken (Systematic Theology I) that I took the summer before Elizabeth was conceived. Have you ever read any of Calvin's Institutes? I remember been AMAZED at how accessible they are & how invigorating to one's faith! And it was brought back to my attention today, as I checked out Ad Fontes. I hope I can stick with them. The readings are short and just started today; let me know if you decide to read, too. And if you're free on Fridays at 4pm and live near Cambridge, MA, there will be folks gathering for discussion with our pastor, Rick Downs,at The Field on Prospect St.

Oh, so much to read, so little time! Fortunately, the Christian's hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness, so if I fall behind or never make it through another thorough study of a book of the Bible, I need not fear. But for the time, I'm thankful to God for His Word, the desire He's given me to study it, and wise saints who have gone before us and left their words behind to guide us through the Scriptures. In the craziness of life with kids, family, and other obligations & commitments, I sure feel the need to have my feet grounded on a solid rock. How about you? God's Word offers that sure place to stand, loving arms in which to rest, and hope and peace for our weary souls. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

January 9, 2010

Brian's Funniest Videos (BFV)

Brian teaches himself about balance and the inner ear.
I didn't even have to write a lesson plan!

This is a video and can't be viewed on Facebook.
Check out http://pressingonwithgreathope.blogspot.com

January 8, 2010

What I'm Looking Forward to Doing

Yesterday, I got this in the mail:
A very large package of PRINTS!

I'm not much of a scrapbooker and my kids' baby books are a sorry sight, what with all the gaps in the information. I would like to be better about these things, but have never gotten into a good habit of keeping on top of it. That said, I want to have some physical representations of our lives for them to flip through without the aid of an electronic device. Someone gave us this little album years ago, so I thought through many of the changes that have happened in our lives this year and started to upload pictures to Costco.com (btw, they'll mail you your prints for FREE if you're willing to wait a week for them!)

My hope is that, starting with 2009, I can make a small album like this (around 80 photos) each year, as a record of God's faithfulness to us throughout the year. I'm thinking something like the way the Israelites often built altars of remembrance. I can do one album a year, right?

Baby steps.

Hope your new year is off to a good start! I'm looking forward to all of the memories that will be created with family and friends (like you!) between now and the start of 2,000-&-11 or 20-11, however you're choosing to say it!

January 7, 2010

Some (well maybe a lot) of My Favorites

These have been some very photo-heavy posts; too many pictures are taken during the holiday season in this wonderfully digital age!

Brian has been wearing may of his new clothes:
Any caption suggestions for this one?!

Elizabeth and I got to attend Disney on Ice
with Jenny and Frankie;
oh the anticipation!

The vacation snowfalls were perfect for playing!

I love this little guy in his snowpants.

And I think this is a classic, because when I was growing up, video games were more of a "boy" thing. I knew girls that played, and played well, but the boys were the gamers. How times have changed!

Credits: The really good photos were taken by Colin with the superior camera. Can you guess which ones? Hint: there are 3.