Monday, February 4, 2013

The longer we educate our children at home, the more comfortable I become evaluating what is working and not working in this big goal we have - to educate our children. Each September begins with new goals, plans, and books. Each January and February brings reflection, redefining of goals, and making changes accordingly.

I can have the most amazing plans and my children can have many goals and ideas but some don't work, some don't work as well as they should, some work as expected, and others exceed our wildest imaginings.

For those of you wanting to know, here is an example of what I mean:

Elnora has been interested in insects since she was a very young tot. We bought her a guide book to North American bus when she could read a little.

Best science resource purchased
 At first she perused the glossy photographs and would compare any bugs she found with the photo in the book. Then as her reading skills improved, she began reading all the information in the book. As a result we have a well-thumbed guide book and a daughter who has us and others coming to her with different bugs needing to be identified. This book was not part of any school curriculum but met an educational desire of one of our children. As you can imagine, this is one resource Mr. Beaver and I have no regrets buying! This guide book has exceeded our wildest imaginings for our daughter's science.

Since Elnora is also interested in the rainforest, and in animal classification, she thought learning Latin would be very helpful. So we purchased the Latin Road to English Grammar for her to try this year. Big mistake for all these reasons:

- It requires significant parental involvement. I am trying to teach two boys to read and I have a toddler. One of my boys has lots of medical appointments. Sorry, my name is not Supermom so early on in the school year, I told poor Elnora if she wanted to do this Latin, she would need to see how much she could manage on her own. Ahem! There's a reason this program requires significant parental involvement so it has been reclining on the shelf for a while.

- This Latin requires more than a cursory knowledge of Grammar which is something we have not pursued too strenuously yet.

- The program focuses on classical Latin but my daughter wants to know Latin as a language to classify bugs.

Needless to say, this whole program has come under my "January magnifying glass". The end result is that Latin will remain on the shelf until further notice. Elnora is much more interested in learning Portuguese as the Amazon is in Brazil and they speak Portuguese in Brazil. If she wants to go to the rainforest there to study bugs, she needs Portuguese more than Latin. I mean, you gotta be able to communicate with the locals, no?!

On that note, any cheap resources out there to study Portuguese?

Do any of you home school moms out there pull out your big lens at this time of the year?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Five Reasons To Teach Your Children the Psalms

Our children learn one stanza per week of a psalm from the Book of Psalms for Worship.

I don't know who benefits more from this memorization - the children or me.

Here are five reasons why I teach these psalms to my kids:

1) God commands parents to teach "these words" to our children as we sit together, walk together (Deuteronomy 6). The Psalmist also "hid God's Word in his heart" (Psalm 119).

2) Memorizing songs is especially easy since the words often rhyme and since they can be sung and not just recited.

3) Knowing God's Word by heart will cause His Word to come to us in times of need even when we have no Bible handy. I have met old people who remember nothing anymore and don't even recognize their loved ones but when psalms they learned as children are sung to them, they begin singing too!

4) Our children are able to sing along in church and also pay better attention when we read the Psalms they know after dinner. I am thankful for this version of the psalms since it is so close to Scripture that the children can recognize when that particular psalm is read to them.

5) Many times my two-year-old has sung these Psalms as she plays near me. Unknown to her, I am being blessed by the words she sings. The other children also break into song many times and many times they just "happen" to sing the very verse of a Psalm I need to hear right then.

A Year

Exactly one year ago I wrote my last post. I guess now is as good a time as any to begin writing again!

This past year has definitely not been a slow year of getting nothing done. The house is a little more organized than it was last year. The children have learned a little more and grown a little more.

I keep learning about myself, about others, and about the God I serve. One thing has especially been more and more impressed upon me. God is trustworthy, faithful and a very kind, loving Father.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Mother's Legacy

I know I have been silent for a while. When life altering events happen, I need to process them privately before interacting with anyone.

In December of 2011 my mother passed away. She had been struggling with polymyositis, a disease I'd never even heard of until she was diagnosed. It is an incurable autoimmune disease that, according to the doctors, should have been able to be kept under control with medication. The medication did not help my mother. She became progressively weaker, then contracted a listeria infection, and suffered a few strokes.

The last time I saw her alive, Mr. Beaver, our four children, and I had gone to visit her in the hospital. We sang "Rock of Ages" together. My mother was unable to speak much but was able to mouth the words of most of the verses. By the fourth and last verse, she was fast asleep again.

A few days later we got the phone call. She had exchanged this life for the next peacefully, in her sleep.

When these life altering events happen, I am always reminded of what Paul writes in Philippians,

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." 

We can have everything in this world, but we must leave it all behind when we die. We leave our stuff, our house, our spouse, our children. We must leave everything and everyone. We not only must leave everything and everyone behind, we can't take anything along even if we wanted to.

However, we don't leave Christ behind. What a merciful God we serve, Who has made a way for us to be free from our sin and united to Him for all eternity.

We didn't know we would not see her alive again that Saturday evening. Without us knowing it, "Rock of Ages" was an appropriate farewell song to sing. I would like to include the lyrics we sang that last evening:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and pow'r.

Not the labours of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law's demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress,
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Saviour, or I die!

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
Lyrics by Augustus M. Toplady

This is one of the many hymns my mother would sing as she went about her household chores. Over the next few weeks, in memory of her, I plan on sharing more of her favourite hymns. I am grateful for this legacy my mother has left for me. It is much more valuable to me than any "stuff" she could have given me.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Five tips for...

....communicating with those who suffer from hearing loss.

In light of my last post on changing the world, I talked about hearing loss. I want to share five tips with you on communicating with those who can't hear as well as most:

1) When you speak, let them see your mouth. People compensate for hearing loss by using their eyes to "hear" you. They read your lips.

2) When they say "Pardon", don't shout. Usually they can't hear you because you are not speaking clearly. Pronounce your consonants clearly. Don't say "I wentodebeachthismrnin". Say "I wenT to the beaCH thiS morNiNG." Don't say, "Sure-all lave some coffee". Say, "Sure, I'LL haVe some coffee." Pay special attention to the last letters of each word as those are the consonants we tend to drop the most.

3) If you have enunciated your consonants carefully, and they still don't understand you, you may have spoken to fast. Slow down and enunciate.

4) Our ears are more amazing than we realize. We are able to tune out background noises in favour of the conversations we're having. Hearing aids can't do that. If you are drumming your fingers on the table as you speak, the person will hear your fingers drumming just as loudly as you are speaking because hearing aids amplify ALL sounds. Asides to others as a person with hearing loss attempts to carry on a conversation in the same room will cause the one with hearing loss to not understand any conversation--again because hearing aids amplify all sounds.

5) If someone suffering from hearing loss does not laugh after you've told a joke, it usually doesn't mean they have no sense of humour. They just missed the punch line because they didn't hear all you said in the first place.

Give yourself a special challenge of seeing just how much less often someone who can't hear well needs to say "Pardon" to you! Knowing you are understood will give you confidence in forging relationships with most older folks and will thus give you a whole knew world of friendships to gain, wisdom to accumulate, and jokes to share!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Changing the World!

My mother managed a household of eleven children with a calmness and efficiency that not many people seem to be able to emulate. Coupled with that, she was gifted with lots of godly wisdom and patience. Since I am the tenth child, I was born when my mother was in her forties. Many kids in my classes at school had grandparents the same age or a little older than my mother. As I accompanied my mom on some of her errands or visits she made with people, I was able to observe other people's reaction to her. As I got older I began to notice that people would respond to my mom in what I thought was a very odd manner.

It would begin with a normal conversation. Then the person would look puzzled at my mother, then uncomfortable, and then finally ignore her or begin to talk down to her. For a long time I was puzzled by this but then began to realize, "Mom can't hear what was just said. She is responding but not to what was said but what she thought was said." You see, when my mom was in her early fifties, she began to suffer hearing loss. Her hearing degenerated until she needed hearing aids. Gradually, my Mom would begin telling people she could not hear but that made barely any difference. They would talk LOUDER but not more clearly. I am sorry to say, there were a number of people that were not able to see beyond the loss of hearing into the wise, godly woman my mother is.

As human beings, we do not like people or are uncomfortable with people who are different. It really does not matter what the difference is:

-hearing loss
-a physical disability
-a mental disability
-a different race
-a different first language
-a different upbringing
-a different way of viewing the world

And this is just a small list of the differences we often barely tolerate in others. We strive for uniformity while yet convinced that the way we are and what we do is the best.

When Jesus tells us to love others as we love ourselves, does He mean that we only befriend people once they have become enough "like us"? (whatever that is) I would venture to say that this is precisely the area where the Gospel should make such a radical difference.

Of all people, Christians should be showing the world what it means to 'love one another'. We need to love each other as Christ has loved us.

Christ came down from heaven to earth. Think about it for a moment:

He left His Father's house, where He was the beloved Son, and came into the world despised and        rejected by men. The very people He came for, rejected Him, and when they began to believe in Him never fully appreciated what He did for them. Those of you who confess His Name: are you perfectly appreciative of what Christ has done for you? Do you fully realize what He gave up to come to this earth and be a man? Are you 100% thankful, all the time of what He gave up for you?

This Christ, this Christianity, knocked the worldviews in vogue during those days flat. This small thing, begun in a stable in a little dusty, nondescript town, grew into a big world-changing behemoth. I wonder if it was because of the equalizing effect of the gospel. The early church consisted of wealthy Romans, Jews from the upper echelons of religious society, despised tax collectors, slaves, beggars, the 'mob'.

James emphasized the need for absolutely no favouritism to be shown to the rich and famous in Christian assemblies. Poor, despised Jewish fishermen became the leaders of the Christian church. What if they had said, "Hey wait a minute, un-unh not good elder material here, lousy fisherman, uses bad grammar and did you see his manners? (or actually lack thereof?) Jesus hand-picked these leaders and we know He makes no mistakes. He molded them and taught them and that is what made them good leaders. They were taught of God.

Jesus had time for the poor, the weak, the despised, the rich, the infamous. He had time for them all.

What would the world around you be like if you began to live this way? How about challenging yourself to begin to really love a 'different' person today?

How about taking the time to build a relationship with your immigrant neighbour?

How about beginning a friendship with someone other than your usual group you hang out with?

You may be surprised. That person who didn't respond "right" in that social setting may not in fact, be  a weirdo but may have a very good reason for responding a little differently.

That other person who doesn't seem too impressed with your clean windows and "perfect" children may have other things on their mind.

That immigrant may actually be a lot smarter than you ever will be. He or she may know five languages, have seen much more of the world than you have, and may have about 100% more life experience than you do.

That mentally challenged individual may know way more about the Father love God has for His children than you could ever comprehend in your lifetime.

That person in the wheelchair is probably not as slow or stupid as you may think and may be perfectly aware of how crookedly her legs are resting on the foot rest but not be able to do a thing about it. She usually likes talking about other things than how she is doing physically.

Being popular in a certain social set gives one no 'brownie points' with God. Taking up your cross daily is what is required of you. Making disciples of the nations, not of just one group of people, is the command given to the church. You are commanded to serve Christ. You are commanded to love your neighbour as you love yourself.

Impossible? Yes, of course! Can it be done? Yes, of course!

I can do ALL things through Christ Who strengthens me.

Let's set out to change the world, God's way!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Teaching Long Division

Growing up, math was not my favourite subject and in our family, like mother, like daughter. Elnora will write stories, compose poems, make up new languages and new alphabet symbols, draw pictures to her heart's content, learn her science, love her history but when math time rolls around, somehow, she just is not quite so enthusiastic.

I have caught her using math regularly in her day to day life and often remind her of the fact when she wonders why she has to do math. For us, Math-U-See has worked very well. While Elnora still does not really like math, she understands it quite well. For this, I do not credit my fine teaching skills but must give credit where credit is due so let's have a round of applause for:


For those of you who have a child like Elnora, I would like to share a strategy I used besides Math-U-See to help her master long division. As Steve Demme, the developer of our math program says, place value is an extremely important concept for children to master if you want them to understand math. Elnora had a tough time with a typical long division problem written this way:
5 | 345   She could not figure out where to begin to write her answer and how to keep everything in order even though she uses graph paper to work out her problems.

Remembering Steve Demme's sage advice, I colour coded the problems like this:
5 | 345

This helped her to see the hundreds, tens, and ones. I then coloured each column and told her to do the problem. When she finished it looked like this:

5 | 345

I don't know my keyboard well enough to create all the lines but you get the general idea. Elnora only needed to do about 6 problems this way before she caught on.

Do any of you have ideas for teaching certain math concepts? Happy teaching!