"Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education." ~ Charlotte Mason

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Are you a Keeper? (of notebooks)

This past week I read through the first chapter in Laurie Bestvater's book, The Living Page:  Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason.  The first chapter is entitled:  The Art of the Keeper.  Throughout the chapter she continues to bring in to sharp focus how truly important Keeping a Notebook, commonplace and otherwise is important.  As she wrote I found myself feeling revived by her words, a breath of fresh air in an otherwise commotion filled world.  She speaks about how her Grandma gently introduced her to the art of being a keeper.  How much my spirit resounded with this!  My own Grandma constantly wrote, she had journals but she also had paper, lots of it: everywhere and no matter where she was she wrote. Whether it was a random piece of paper from an envelope to precious writing paper to a journal, she was seldom without a pen in hand.  We often heard her say: "I can not think without my pen, where did I put it?", as she searched out that beloved tool of hers.  For with it, she wrote encouraging notes, prayer requests, thoughts about the Lord, her English courses she was taking and the list goes on and on.   She continued in this vein right up until her death.  My Aunt found tons of paper and journals all with precious words written down.  Perhaps it is from her that I also adopted this for myself.  As I read through Laurie's chapter I recalled how I had always kept some sort of commonplace book.  A little diary with a lock when I was younger, to beautiful planners as I grew into highschool and college.  I would not only write dates and events but little notes in the margin.  I continued this way on and off throughout my adulthood with prayer journals, study journals and the like.  I guess I never thought of it as being so significant but as I read through the chapter I realised just how amazing this skill is, and how much more I would like to be 'a keeper'.

I thought about last winter when my father passed me a commonplace journal my Great Aunt kept.  It contained all sorts of tid bits from the weather of the day, to activities to people and places.  There weren't long entries but rarely a day was missed and I found myself wrapped up in it, unable to put it down.  Through its pages I learned how to white wash a cellar, how they dusted and when they cleaned and canned and even saw glimpses of my Grandma I was never able to meet as she died long before I was born.  I will often ask for it while at my parents to have 'just another peek'.

I thought about how my other Great Aunt kept a commonplace notebook for recipes, flowers, little thoughts and such and how I had the pleasure of reading through that in my early teens.  She kept it on her counter and through it unravelled the mystery of time honoured recipes, flower gardens and the like.

I thought about my Aunt who keeps a notebook that she has guests write in when they come to visit.  She has pages of the written word from brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, nieces and nephews.  It is  truly incredible and a gift to read through when you need a lift to your day.

And I thought:  I want to be more of a keeper, be more like all these women who have gone before me, treasuring the skill of the written word, keeping it elevated in a society that is racing toward the paperless, what with all its devices.  I want to continue this gift to my children and those who come after me.  It reminds me to pick up my pen more, to sit in the silence of a single moment to write, to enjoy and connect pen with paper.

I have a few notebooks already: a prayer/Bible journal, a thanksgiving journal, a crochet project journal, a nature notebook and a commonplace journal.  They are all different and some are beautiful, other plain but it is in the pages where ideas, thoughts and prayers come to life, giving the gift of thought and reason, of pleasure and the simple life, all wrapped up together.  What a precious time to have, an earnest skill to attend to:  these notebooks.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Connecting with History

This isn't a long blog entry but I have been meaning to share this for while.  Our curriculum is full of rich, engaging literature.  It draws my children in and allows them to connect with events, particularly those historical in nature.  They think deeply about it, examine the events and converse intelligently over them.  I wanted to share a couple of times where I saw this active.  

My husband went to Boston on a business trip.  While he was there he realized how historical that particular port city was. He was face timing with the kids one night and began speaking about the Boston Common, historical churches and the USS Constitution.  The kids were so excited and proclaimed him as being so fortunate to see these places.  My husband was surprised that they knew exactly what he was referring too and my kids were beyond excited that he was able to see all these places.  It was truly amazing to watch it all unfold.  Made me realise that how we do things here makes a fundamental impact on them.

The second example came one day when we were reading a loud the book: A Circle of Silver.  The book was about a young English boy who came to Canada as it was being formed.  During the book reading a General received a letter about King George'a death.  My son immediately perked up and said: "Let's see, while this was going on in Canada, this ...........was going on in the United States." (He cited a few events).  Then he said to me: "The King who died must have been King George the Second."  He was indeed, correct.  As we chatted I was amazed at how much he recalled and how adept he was at fitting the information together, not only time wise but also how these events both in Canada and the United States related to one another.  We had not spoken about it in that manner before.  My son led the discussion and I joined in, asked questions and listening to his thoughts on these events.  

I truly love moments like this.  Teaching at home is not always easy, it can be tiring as a homeschooler seeks to impart their children with the idea that education is a life (as Charlotte Mason says).  It's not about spitting out facts, it's so much more then that.  And when these moments happen, you see it clearly, they are loving to learn.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Advent Season: The Jesse Tree

      The Advent Season is upon us!  We're doing something a little different this season.  I have traditionally done advent readings each December but this year I really wanted us to press in, to savour the waiting, the joy and hope that Christmas holds, and to put that emphasis squarely on the Saviour's birth.

      I purchased a copy of Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift and we will be using that as a guide to our advent season this year.  It's a gorgeous book. I am very pleased with it.  The daily readings for advent are full of meaningful reflection and draw the readers attention back to focus on the anticipation of a Saviour, and the fullfillment of that promise.

     Along with these readings we will be building a Jesse Tree.  A Jesse Tree essentially depicts the lineage of Christ, with Jesse at the bottom and then working its way up to the Christ.  Our tree has a broad trunk and at the base are the verses found in Isaiah 11:1-2 & 10.

"Out of the stump of David's family will grow a shoot
yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the 
In that day the heir to David's throne
will be a banner of salvation to all the world.
The nations will rally to him,
and the land where he lives will be a glorious 
Following our advent readings each day we will add an ornament depicting the lineage of Christ.  There are also some activities we will be doing in tandem with the readings and ornaments.  I will post our adventure with this as we go along.

I can already see how beneficial this was to them.  They discussed all sorts of things as we worked, including the colours we added and what they depict, how the lineage of Christ was formed and to my great delight the lives of the people who were apart of that lineage.  My daughter made the point that these were ordinary people like you and me, who struggled with sin but God loved them and gave them grace.  I was literally astounded that she spoke these words on her own.  I was even more amazed by the discussion between her and her siblings on this point.  I just melted into the background and listened quietly.  I love when children engage in conversation completely unsolicited by an adult.  That was truly the highlight of my day.

Below are the pictures of the kids creating their Jesse Tree!  

I drew out the form of the tree on some heavy card board and then we added all the colour with acrylic paints.

They worked so hard and the it looked so pretty!

The finished product hung up on the wall in our dining room.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Poetry: Haiku Style

      We have been diving into a unit on poetry for the last few weeks.  Poetry is not really their favourite genre but we've been having fun anyway!   I've started out the day with some simple readings from various sources: The Real Mother Goose, Poems and Prayers for the Very Young, Favorite Poems Old and New and Painless Poetry.  We've talked about different styles of poetry, and they have been making up their own poems.  The limericks, especially, have mesmerized them!

      This morning the kids were reading some Haiku (a simple form of Japanese Poetry, three lines; 1st line - 5 syllables, 2nd line - 7 and 3rd line 5 again). A Haiku poem usually talks about some aspect of nature, containing a clue about the change of nature and may also contain a surprise ending.  The assignment was to create a Haiku of their own.  I read out the assignment to them and then went to answer an email.  I chuckled at a part of the mail and the kids asked me what was funny.  I told them there was a squirrel in a friends backyard yelling loudly about something and she wondered if someone had taken its stash of food. The kids thought that was funny and decided it was Haiku worthy.  So they set about to make up their own Haiku about the squirrel in her backyard.  I really thought that was fantastic and great timing!  :) It ended up being Heather's Language Arts and copy work combined for the morning. She copied her Haiku in to her common place notebook. I joined in the fun and made one of my own.  I put it into my poetry notebook.   I wrote back to my friend giving her Heather's Haiku, she copied it into her commonplace notebook as well, much to Heather's delight!  I just thought this whole thing was so cool, and completely spur of the moment - non-teacher directed!!!  LOVE those moments, when the child takes the initiative and leads the learning.

Heather's Haiku:

Oh Poor Squirrel

Oh Squirrel, oh poor squirrel;
Oh who stole your nuts today?
Now you yell for them!

The Sassy Squirrel

Stash of winter nuts!
Who has stolen all of them?
Bring them back at once!

Our common place notebook entries:

      They enjoyed all the limericks we read today.  This one had them in stitches:

There was a young lady of Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger,
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside,
And a smile on the face of the tiger.

      They practised it over and over again, using the inflection of their voices to communicate the spirit of the limerick.  The best part was that they were so engaged with the readings that it became fun and they were naturally enjoying poetry the way it was meant to be enjoyed.  It was a great morning!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

On the Heels of a Charlotte Mason Conference

I spent Friday evening and all day Saturday at a Charlotte Mason Conference.  The company was fantastic, the food incredible and the information truly invaluable.  The hard work by all those involved was most evident and I am so grateful for such an amazing community!

There was much information.  A lot of it, I had never head before!  This has set my thoughts in motion as I know for the next few days I will be sifting through it all, allowing it to ruminate and bear some seed.  A conference can be both rejuvenating and overwhelming, it can be confirming and distressing all at the same time!  I have been to enough conferences now, that I am familiar with these feelings.  As I drove home I could feel the angst rising, as a flurry of information makes its way back in forth in my thoughts.  Then I remember back to my holiday, sitting on the beach, gazing out at the lake, and the bargain I made with myself returns to me (Surrendering to the Year Ahead).  I remember to take deep breaths, to reside in the calm that soothes my soul. I am the master of these feelings, I can choose to embrace where I am as well as the promise new ideas have to offer.

So my thoughts arrive at the conclusion - I will prayerfully consider what to do from here.  Will I alter something a little?  Fine tune it?  Add one (and I mean ONLY one) new idea this year?  And what about next year? Perhaps try something a little different for one child?  These are the questions before me but here is the thing:  I am at peace with the questions. I have chosen to be. :)  And I look forward with great anticipation with how we will continue to weave together a true and earnest love of lifetime learning - for all of us.

So tonight, I sit and listen to jazz mingled with the sounds of my children having fun.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Nature's Treasures

We are Charlotte Mason Educators.  To say this, is an honour, a blessing. For with it opens a whole world of fresh approaches and earnest learning.  Out of it grows a love and affection for good literature, nature, attention to detail and habit formation. 

This year, we have turned our attention to the Charlotte Mason habit of nature notebooking.  We've done notebooking before but not in the way we have pursued it this year.  This year, we've  recorded weather patterns, stages of the moon, cloud formation, details of plants and animals, and even poetry into our books. The kids are starting to develop an affinity for it, that I am certain, in time, will blossom into something more meaningful for them.  What surprised me was how much much I am enjoying it.  So this post is mainly about my experience with nature notebooks. 

I started out with the idea of leading by example.  I decided I would come alongside my children and enjoy the experience with them.  What I discovered both surprised and delighted me!   I am not an amazing artist. But that doesn't matter because the world of recording nature has opened up a sweet relief from stress and a return to the appreciation of this spectacular world in which we live.  I found, just as Charlotte Mason describes, that my attention to detail has become attuned to the world in which I live.  I am starting to see, rather then merely look.  As I sketch that flower or that bird I am amazed by the rich detail of each.  The markings, the individual simplicity that makes it so complex and utterly breath taking.  The colours of nature have come alive, so vibrant and fresh!   Not only am I seeing but my other senses have joined my sight.  What I am hearing and smelling bring more pleasure to the bigger picture.  

As I sat in the quiet of the morning today I heard the gentle lap of the waves on the sand, took in the smell of the water mixed with the foliage, appreciated the blue/grey of the sky, the deep blue of the lake, heard the crows, the call of chickadee, the squawk of the gulls, the buzzing of the cicada and the chatter of the chipmunk.  I felt I was living in that moment, enjoying creation the original artist made for me to take in.  I believe nature notebooking has increased my ability to better see the world outside of my 'formal' notebooking hours.  Not only to see it but be apart of it, to join in the excitement of what is around me.  If it's doing that for me, I believe very strongly, it will be so for my children too.

I sat on the back deck this morning drinking my coffee, enjoying the sounds, sights and smells of a fresh new day.  Off in the distance I heard the soft peck of what I believed to be a wood pecker.   It was such a soft tapping that I was second guessing myself.  I sighted a bird on a tree branch who seemed to be tapping away with all its might.  I called out quietly to my eldest to fetch our camera.  She did so and I was able to get a closer look.  I couldn't get a good picture so I availed myself of the camera to my husbands capable hands. He took a trek through the brush to get a better picture and was able to get some wonderful photos of her.  All of us went inside to have a better look at the photo and look up the details of this particular woodpecker.  It was a Downy Woodpecker known for its soft tapping rather then the large jack hammer pounding of other wood peckers.  Upon further investigation my son proclaimed it a female for the lack of red patch on its head.  I am amazed he knew that.  This led to some conversation about wood peckers in general and in particular the differences between the markings of female/male birds and other creatures.  This whole exchange made me think about how an appreciation for nature and attention to detail including all the senses, made for such enjoyable conversation and connection to nature as well as with each other.  In that moment I knew we had it!  What we were doing just what Charlotte Mason has encouraged in her writings.  This is exactly what I want for our family; a love of learning and entering into this vast world of ours to observe the complex and to understand that we need to take the time to be apart of it. So simple, so enlightening, so amazing.

I've included my art work for The Downy Woodpecker.  Anyone can do it from the very young to the old.  As a parent, and an educator I am so pleased I am taking the time to keep a nature journal.  It has enriched my life in so many ways.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Surrendering to the Year Ahead

Here I sit on holiday and I was struck with how difficult it was for me to relax this time around.  I am accustomed to this place, my old haunt, the place where I feel relaxed as soon as my foot hits that first patch of sand out the van door.  But this coming school year is weighing on me; I have felt it stretching out before me as the summer has waned.

As I add one more child to a more formal schedule; I have had to determine what I can do, what my children can do and what we can handle as a family: with our time, with our costs, with our resources and with our energy. I have done this, successfully, I might add. I know what we're doing and why we're doing it, yet the anticipation of starting it has my stomach in knots.  

Let me preface this with saying: I love this journey we are on of home education.  It has been full of joy, full of learning and full of challenges.  It's an ever evolving process of discovery.  I jokingly expressed to a friend the other day: "By the last child, I'll have this down!"    Amidst the jest there is a grain of truth but mostly there is US, all of us, learning what works and what doesn't - for each child, for our family for: ALL of us.  The challenges of learning styles, addressing those individual struggles of character building, the son who has eye tracking issues, the business of that 6 year old (who seriously makes me wonder if she has ADHD), keeping up with the 12 year old who is speeding ahead to high school quicker then I can plan, getting them off to piano, violin, teaching French, running book club, getting off to swimming, youth group, girls club, Bible Study, speech workshops, recitals: well, there is much to do!  In amongst these things I have adopted a style of education that is rich, rewarding and full.  Charlotte Mason's philosophies have opened the world of learning for us.  And even though I have done a number of her suggestions since the beginning we are still adding to our repertoire of CM approaches and fine tuning what we have been doing.  I am truly pleased with how we are doing things.  So what is it that has me feeling the angst?  
These last few days I have had long walks, sat on the beach gazing off into the lake.  I have taken it all in and quieted myself.  It occurred to me this morning that it's surrender I am missing.  Surrender to this year and all its activities, challenges, and to what it holds.  So I wrote down how I will surrender.  And when I feel the angst rising I will go over my list to make sure I am surrendering.

#1.  I will find strength in my personal relationship with Jesus.

#2.  I will NOT feel guilty about what we can not do.

#3.  I will take time to breath; to go for that run, read that book, crochet that item, go for that tea, sit in the quiet of the morning with that steaming hot cup of coffee, tweet that update, load that beautiful picture.

#4.  I will accept help - the encouraging word from a friend, that offer of help....

#5.   I will find joy in the moment, thanksgiving in the praise.

#6.  I will accept when I've failed, ask for forgiveness and forgive myself.

#7.  I will remind myself of this list when I feel like I am loosing my surrender.  

Self - remember. 😃

Monday, March 11, 2013

Book Sharing Monday: Meet the Group of Seven

As part of our look at Canada this year we are 'meeting' The Group of Seven! A group of artists who banded together with the express purpose of bringing the landscape of Canada to life through their paintings. Their art work is incredible and I love the way they represent Canada's seasons, territory and beautiful lakes and rivers.  The kids are having a harder time with the way the art is done.  They enjoy art that is more like a picture, with smooth lines.  The Group of Seven uses choppier, larger brush strokes.  We'll see how they like it by the end of our study though! :)  Sometimes, it just takes more exposure to art like this to have them appreciate it.  But we all have what we like best about art, which is the beauty about having so many different artists in our world!

This book is part of what I am using to go through the Group of Seven with the kids.  It has background on the artists themselves, how The Group of Seven formed along with pictures of their paintings. Visually, it's a  a wonderful book and helps round out what we are studying in respect to Canadian art. We have been picking the art pieces to view as we go through each province!  I am also using The Group of Seven ArtPak by Cyndi Regeling.  It is also a wonderful resource.  

The Cover

I love those little maple leaves, brings out the Canadian touch to the book.

The information is just enough to help the kids understand the reasons The Group of Seven  painted Canada's beautiful landscape!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Club Monday: The Silver Chair

The highlight of this week was our book club!  We absolutely love our book club; so I will share this as my weekly wrap up. :)

February's Pick for Book Club:  The Silver Chair

C.S. Lewis' The Silver Chair was an excellent book!  The Silver Chair is the sixth book in the Narnia Series and as usual Lewis did not disappoint.  What an incredibly talented author.  His books are full of Biblical imagery that engage the readers attention from start to finish.  We used the book ROAR to help guide us through the chapter readings in The Silver Chair.   There were new and old characters in this book but it still held all the magic and mystery of Narnia, the old age battle between good and evil.  I was constantly amazed by how much of the Bible the kids drew from the chapter readings.


We had a fantastic book club for this book!  The kids dug really deep and had some incredible insights to share about this book.  I usually begin by asking questions like:  "Who was your favorite character/least favorite character and why?"  "Tell me about your favorite parts of the book etc.".  I used the ROAR book this time to ask 'meatier' questions and stimulate further discussion.  We chatted a lot about how sin can look so good at times and the further we walk from the Lord's words the easier it is to accept the sin.  I was so pleased at how much the kids shared and how they were able to apply this to their relationships with the Lord.  


After our book discussion we enjoyed some home made snack and hot chocolate and then started in our activity.  The kids made Diaroma's of one of their favorite scenes from the book.  See here for images of Diaroma's.  They are almost like a shadow box with a 3D scene in them.  We bought sturdy cardboard boxes from the dollar store for $1 each - great for this activity!  One of the Mom's made some plain play dough so the kids could form their characters from.  They also used construction paper, paint and glue to create their scenes.  The kids really took their time and did fantastic jobs.  I have posted lots of pictures!  I wanted to share them because they worked so hard!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Silly Yak Bake Talk: Home Made Broth and Soups!

We had a wonderful Gluten Free meal tonight called Curry Chicken and I wanted to share the recipe! First, I want to talk about the ingredients that went into the meal, one being the home made chicken broth, the other a home made cream of chicken soup made from the chicken broth.  Whether you are GF or not home made chicken broth is an excellent thing to make!  Secondly, I will give the recipe for the GF meal.  This meal takes some planning but once you become accustomed to making broth and home made soups this habit will be hard to break!  And you won't want to because Home made stock and soups are so delicious and hold many health benefits!

Home Made Chicken Broth
Chicken broth not only tastes good but is highly nutritious! Making broth is one of those lost arts. (see THIS article for more information).  I make chicken broth at least once a week.  I try very hard not to waste any food in our home, so when I made a whole chicken for dinner I utilize as much of it as I can.  For one of our weekly meals I put a small chicken in the crock pot in the morning . I stuff the chicken with onions, celery and throw a carrot in for flavour.  I put it on high from about 8am-12pm then turn it on low until dinner.  Once our meal is done, the chicken in picked off the bone and saved. The bones and the giblets are added to the crock pot along with the left over drippings from the chicken I cooked for dinner, and any other steamed veggies I had for that meal.  Sometimes I add more onion and a bay leaf.  I fill the crock pot up with cool water and put some vinegar in it (maybe about 2 tbsp).  I allow this to soak for an hour.  The vinegar will break down the chicken bones so that the nutrition contained in the bones makes its way to the broth. I then put the crock pot on high until I go to bed.  Before I go to bed I set the crock pot to low until morning. I strain the broth with a mesh strainer into a glass bowl and throw out the bones and anything else that is not apart of the broth.  This gives me a nice savory, rich broth, which also has no added sodium (salt)!  I wait for the broth to cool and place it either into the fridge for soup that week or the freezer for future use.  FYI: The more congealed your chicken broth the more nutrition packed it is!  The congealing indicates that the process has drawn the nutrition out of the bones. 

Gluten Free Cream of Chicken Soup 
This is my own recipe, feel free to use and pass on!

6 cups of chicken stock
1 cup of 1%, 2% milk or heavy cream
1 tsp onion powder
2 cloves of garlic
2 cups of chicken cut up (I used the chicken I had left over from the above meal)
3 tbsp of arrowroot flour or corn starch dissolved in a 1/4 cup or so of water
1/2 to 1 cup of cheddar cheese (if so desired)

1.  Place the chicken stock, milk, chicken pieces, onion powder & garlic into a stock pot and heat until boiling.
2. Pour arrowroot and water into the stock mixture, stir until thickened to desired consistency.  If you need to add more arrowroot mixture go ahead and make more!
3.  Add in cheese if you like!

** You can add anything to the stock mixture, like celery, onion or mushrooms.
** You can serve this soup as a nice lunch or add to a dinner time dish!
** You can also freeze this soup in 2 cup glass containers for future use/

Curry Chicken

4 chicken breasts cut up into cube like peices 
2 cups Cream of Chicken Soup
1 cup mayo
1 clove garlic; minced
2 Tbsp of lemon juice, fresh or in the bottle
2 tbsp of curry (more or less depending on taste)

1. Cook chicken in coconut oil (or olive oil) on a stove top pan (I use a stainless steel frying pan). Drain excess water
2. Mix together cream of chicken soup, mayo, garlic, lemon juice and curry.
3.  Pour mixture in with chicken and allow to simmer for a half hour or so.  
4.  Serve with a side dish of mini potato, quinoa or rice, and of course some steamed or raw veggies!

Curry Chicken! YUM :)

Left over Cream of Chicken Soup, I froze for future use!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: Board Game Afternoon!

For the past couple of weeks we've been battling the flu in our house.  It took us out, and although we schooled on and off for the past week and half; this is the first full week we have been back to the complete swing of things. :)   We're just finishing up British Columbia in Geography this week, using the WOW Canada Book.  They have been creating post cards about BC, which I will post once the kids are finished  doing them.  

We finished up the section on The Fur Traders in Canada.  It took longer then I would have liked because we had been sick.  They worked on their history timelines and we read out loud from the Discovering Canada Series: Fur Traders, doing some of the activities in the book as well.  

Book Club Book: The Silver Chair
We finished off our read a loud for book club.  As always I am completely amazed by CS Lewis' works.  The Biblical imagery in his books is incredible and the kids have been able to identify it quickly.  Not only can they identify it, but they grasp it and talk about it frequently.   We used the companion book: ROAR to help guide us through our chapter readings.

Board Games
We ended our week with a board game afternoon with another home school family.  We spent the afternoon playing board games and eating lots of snacks! lol  It was a great time and I would like to do that more often.   We shared a meal together afterward as well!  It was a wonderful way to end the week. :)

We are linked up with Hammock Tracks and Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers this week!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: Book Club Book!

This week has been difficult because we have all been so sick.  The flu struck hard and has been taking a while to leave. :(  Seat work was scarce due to illness.  I ended up reading a lot (in between coughing fits).  We were able to finish up The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis, which is this months pick for book club. We've had great fun with this book.  I am constantly amazed by what a brilliant author Lewis was.  The imagery he uses to draw out deep spiritual truths is incredible.  I love that he values children enough to write this way.  Children pick up on these themes far more then we give them credit for.

The kids love the Narnia Series, and I have read a loud most of them together with the eldest two.  The last couple novels, I had them listen to an audio version of the books.  Heather has listened to the The Silver Chair on audio but I am having her sit in on the readings anyway.  She bucked me at first saying she had previously read it but true to form, she is absorbed in the readings as I do them (I knew that would happen! hehe).  I also wanted to add in ROAR by Heather Kopp with David Kopp.  This book came recommended to my by a friend and after having a look through it at her home I knew I wanted to add it to our library resources.  You can get them new or used on amazon. We paid around $10 for ours. 

 This is a beautiful companion book to the C.S. Lewis novels.  It has five different sections, including some biographical information on Lewis, thoughts and reflects for each of the Narnia books from The Magician's Nephew to The Last Battle broken down in chapter by chapter format, final review or 'exam' for the books, a section devoted to explaining why Narnia is an allegory, the use of magic etc and lastly, Roar Fact Files. I have been reading through parts of the book this past weekend.  The more I read it the more I love it!  In terms of our read a loud time; we'll be reading the chapter from The Silver Chair first, ending it with the companion chapter from Roar.  The chapter from Roar gives a synopsis from its Narnian chapter along with definitions of words from the chapter, 'grown up' thoughts, a verse containing wisdom related to the chapter and some stimulating questions to chat about.  I don't usually do read a louds in this format as the kids have obtained excellent narration skills but this book is worth it!  I wanted to draw more out of C.S. Lewis' works.  They are jammed packed with illustration, imagery and critical thinking skills, beautifully written and incredibly thought provoking.  I may have them do some journaling with this one too.  I haven't completely thought that through as yet.

This is also an eye catching book, its lay out and illustrations are pleasing to the eye.  I really am impressed all the way around.  I am also hoping that I get some inspiration from the book for an activity to do at book club. :)

We are linked up with Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers Weekly Wrap Up & HammockTracks: It's a Wrap!  I hope you have all had a great week. :)

Breathing Life into the Lost Arts

When I was a young girl I enjoyed doing all the gentle home arts like baking, knitting, crocheting, sewing, and cross stitch.  My Mom taught me how to crochet and two elderly neighbours taught me to knit and cross stitch.  It pleased me to learn a new skill and then create something beautiful and unique with that skill. The more I progressed in my new found art the more I realized that I could make gifts for others.  I loved picking something out that would suit the receiver, the colours, the pattern - I would spend the time to get just the 'right' thing. :)

As the years passed I have picked up and put down these skills at will.  As the mother of babies and small children I lost touch with these gentle arts but as my children have become older I have carved out more time to once again embrace these time honoured arts.  I feel like we have a responsibility to breath life into these 'lost arts'.  In a world that is fast paced, full of gadgets, and the ability to easily buy items these skills can become lost; if not for some intentional care to preserve them.   I asked my mother to give me a refresher in crochet and before I knew it, I was well on my way to creating some pretty items from hats to shawls to blankets/afghans.  It's evolved into more then just a skill for me.  I often use the time to pray for the recipient of the gift.  Whether it is a prayer shawl or baby blanket, the stitches that make the item up have been sown with prayer.  

I have taught my daughter to crochet, knit and sew as well.  There is something so satisfying about working with your hands and while we work we connect as girls, as mom and daughter.  That time becomes precious and I have watched my little girl create her own patterns and make things to give to family and friends.  I taught one of her friends to crochet and she has taken off with her own creations as well.  It's amazing to watch them soar with this skill.  And they, in turn, crochet together and chat together while working on their projects.  I, myself, have some friends who also crochet and sew.  It is so nice to get together and chat while we work and explore patterns.  We share beautiful patterns, chat about the things we can make, encourage one another with compliments and the time it takes to show a new stitch or talk about a yarn. And while we are doing all this we are passing down the lost arts, beautiful arts that time honours.

Below are a couple of shawls I made over the past couple weeks.  I finished off a beautiful popcorn stitch afghan last month.  You can view it here.  



This is a beautiful plate warmer my daughter made for me.

For this post we are linked up with HammockTracks: It's a Wrap

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Sharing Monday: ROAR by Heather Kopp with David Kopp

For this months book club we have been reading:  The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis.  The kids love the Narnia Series, and I have read a loud most of them together with the eldest two.  The last couple novels, I had them listen to an audio version of the books.  Heather has listened to the The Silver Chair on audio but I am having her sit in on the readings anyway.  She bucked me at first saying she had previously read it but true to form, she is absorbed in the readings as I do them (I knew that would happen! hehe).  I also wanted to add in ROAR by Heather Kopp with David Kopp.  This book came recommended to my by a friend and after having a look through it at her home I knew I wanted to add it to our library resources.  You can get them new or used on amazon. We paid around $10 for ours. 

 This is a beautiful companion book to the C.S. Lewis novels.  It has five different sections, including some biographical information on Lewis, thoughts and reflects for each of the Narnia books from The Magician's Nephew to The Last Battle broken down in chapter by chapter format, final review or 'exam' for the books, a section devoted to explaining why Narnia is an allegory, the use of magic etc and lastly, Roar Fact Files. I have been reading through parts of the book this past weekend.  The more I read it the more I love it!  In terms of our read a loud time; we'll be reading the chapter from The Silver Chair first, ending it with the companion chapter from Roar.  The chapter from Roar gives a synopsis from its Narnian chapter along with definitions of words from the chapter, 'grown up' thoughts, a verse containing wisdom related to the chapter and some stimulating questions to chat about.  I don't usually do read a louds in this format as the kids have obtained excellent narration skills but this book is worth it!  I wanted to draw more out of C.S. Lewis' works.  They are jammed packed with illustration, imagery and critical thinking skills, beautifully written and incredibly thought provoking.  I may have them do some journaling with this one too.  I haven't completely thought that through as yet.

This is also an eye catching book, its lay out and illustrations are pleasing to the eye.  I really am impressed all the way around.  I am also hoping that I get some inspiration from the book for an activity to do at book club. :)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: Newspaper Field Trip

For most of the week we have been sick.  I was highly suspicious on Monday that my youngest was getting ill because she was crying and highly emotional.  I kept thinking: "hmmmm, looks like she may get sick soon."  And that's exactly what happened.  We were able to school until Wednesday and then it hit us all hard.  So the rest of the week we read a loud and rested.   I'll share a few things we did at the first of the week though.

This week we started in on our 'prayer map'. We have the map of Canada up to refer to during our history and geography time but I decided we would use it as a cue to pray for our Country in the mornings as well.  We are using the book The Power of a Praying Nation by Stormie Omartian to help guide us through some prayer time.  We began reading through it together earlier this week, praying for our Country in general terms.  We'll get more specific as the school year progresses. 
Our map and book.

The highlight of our week was Wednesday's field trip to the local newspaper.  One of the homeschool Moms in our community gives freely of her own time to organize field trips for us.  She is incredible and we are thankful to her for organizing these events for us! 

It was just Heather and I as I couldn't bring Graham because he was so sick.  He was really disappointed and asked me to take lots of pictures. He had been very keen to see how the newspaper goes out!  I was able to take lots of pictures and even some videos for him.  When we got home he curled up on the couch; looked through the pictures and watched the videos. :)

The field trip was amazing.  We got to see the printing press (five stories tall), how the paper is produced, where they store the newsprint, and how it gets to the press.  The guide told us how/when the building was built, what country the printing press came from and all sorts of other interesting things.  The tour guide was amazing.  The press was not running as they go to press late at night - after midnight.  They had one room where they put the flyers together and that was fascinating.

Heather looks through a magnifying glass at how the ink looks after it is  'dropped' on to the  newsprint.

This is the sound proof room that a worker watched the press from.  He uses the computer to make sure everything is running smoothly.  It is made entirely of glass so he can see the press easily.  Right beside this area is a door that gives him quick access to the press so he can take care of any problems as they arise.

The press is five stories tall!  Those big circular objects below are how the newsprint arrives .  They each weigh a ton.  

And of course, Valentine's Day was on Thursday.  We were all feeling rough that day but decided to at least make our cupcakes anyway! :)  We put out their chocolate and a little gift for them at their place on the table the night before.  That way when they get up they can see their gift awaiting them.  My one little guy didn't get up till 11 though. 

So hopefully be the end of the weekend we will all be feeling right as rain again.  As it stand now we are all still pretty sick. :(  Hope you all had a great week! 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentines Cup Cakes

     We are all feeling sick with coughs, but we decided that we would at least do our cupcakes today, even if we can't have all the other treats with it! I bought some tin foil cup cake heart molds and we made these up with a yummy mix from the XO Baking Co.: Cupcake Mix (they sell yummy, wholesome Gluten free goodies). 

Fresh out of the oven and their foil wraps! 

I made some cake decorating icing; two colours, a white and pink.  We took out our decorating tools and went to town on the little hearts.  I love moments like these!  They are so much fun and it's great to spend a special afternoon.  We took a break from school to celebrate this afternoon. :)

G working on his!

Heather adding some flare with her hearts! 

The finished product. :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Sharing Monday: The Power of a Praying Nation

I got this book to help guide us through some prayer time for our Country during our first fruits in the morning. Stormie Omartian has written many books on the power of prayer, including: The Power of a Praying Wife, The Power of a Praying Woman, The Power of a Praying Parent and The Power of a Praying Husband.  The Power of a Praying Nation isn't as long as the others but it is just as thought provoking and powerfully written. I think it is very important to teach the value of prayer, so I have intentionally made it a fundamental part of each day, beginning it and ending it with prayer. 

 I'll likely read parts of the actual chapter for the kids and I in the morning and then follow it up with the prayer at the end of the chapters.  We'll cycle through it for the remainder of the year. We will probably need to modify parts as it is written from an American perspective.

The book!

The idea came to me when I was thinking about how to utilize the Canadian Political Map I placed on our table top under some heavy gauge plastic.  We have been using it during our history and geography lessons.  I had a World Map on the table top when we were doing an introduction to World History.  For that map we had collected missionary cards and placed them under the plastic with the map.  We then marked off on the World Map where they were serving and prayed for the missionaries.  For this one we will pray for our Country, our leaders, law enforcement, our schools and so forth.   We got our book today so we'll be starting in on that come morning devotions! :)
The book and map!  This is where we spend our time in the morning.  Great visual reminder!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Crocheted Blackberry Salad Striped Afghan

I have done a number of crochet projects over the past couple years.  The majority of them have been prayer shawls and baby blankets.  I haven't made anything for myself so I decided to make an afghan for cuddling on the couch with.  I had made a couple of baby blankets with a beautiful pattern a friend sent me called: Blackberry Salad Striped Baby Blanket so I decided I wanted to make an afghan with this pattern.  I was happy to find that she also had a link to a Blackberry Salad Striped Afghan she had posted; saved me trying to figure out dimensions.  What I love about this pattern is that I used all the left over yarn that went into all the projects I had made over the past couple years.  Not only did I use up left over yarn, I made an afghan of memories, so to speak.  Crocheting is more then a mere pass time for me.  The projects I work on for people are specific to them and I often use the time to pray for them while I work away.  

I love the way this blanket turned out!  I used yarn randomly. It doesn't really follow any particular pattern. 

View of the afghan spread out.

 A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a couple of moms while waiting for my kids at Nature Class.  One of them shared that she was writing down the story of how each significant Christmas ornament came to hang on their tree.  I happened to be working on this blanket at the time and we talked about how if we don't share the stories of how things came to be the story is lost!  One of my friends suggested that I keep a common place notebook about my crochet projects as I had shared why this project was significant to me.  I thought that was a wonderful idea!  So I bought a common place notebook and decided to go back over the projects I had done and write them down.  I enjoy writing so this idea had great appeal to me. 

This was a bigger project so I was happy to have it done but it was worth every stitch! :)

My 'memory' afghan and common place notebook.
Afghan all folded up! 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Book Club: The Bronze Bow

The high light of our week was most certainly book club!  I wanted to share about it.  The kids and I are having a fantastic time with it! :)

The Bronze Bow

We have read a lot of wonderful books so far for our book club but this one, by far, was my favorite and some of the kids felt the same way. :)

The Bronze Bow is historical fiction at its best!  No wonder it has high reviews and has won the Newbery Medal.  This author has successfully woven together a story that touches the heart of any reader; young and old.  The Bronze Bow is set in Israel in the time of Jesus, when the Romans occupied the land but allowed the Jews  freedom to practice their religion.  It is about the plight of young man, Daniel, who is bound and determined to avenge his father and Uncle's death by the hands of the Romans.  Long have they awaited the promise of the Messiah, the one who would rescue them from Roman Rule.  Daniel has put his faith in a man named, Rosh, who lives on the mountain promising to lead a revolt against the Romans.  Daniel is so consumed with revenge that he is willing to follow Rosh wherever he goes, even if it means stealing from his kinsmen to do so.  The book has some incredible characters, including friends he meets along the way and of course he watched Jesus' ministry unfold and must make a choice to embrace forgiveness or to live and die by the sword. 

Incredible book!  I cried like a baby the last chapter.  We laughed a lot because I couldn't keep it together in some parts to read. lol

Book Club 

Book Club was amazing today.  The kids were so eager to share and participate.  I always open with a mini geography lesson and time period chat.  I use the globe and atlas maps (Usborne World Atlas & Scholastic Canada World Atlas) to show them where in the world this story took place.  I passed the globe around showing them where we live, which ocean is between us and Israel and where the country is). We spent some time talking about political maps verses relief maps.  After we are done setting the stage of where, we talk about when in history the events occurred.  After I feel like we have set the stage for this we move on to talking about the characters and plot.  We also read a little bit from the book  Window on the World about the people and history of Israel. 

We talked about who were their favorite and least favorite characters and why, what parts of the book impacted them the most, what the theme of the book was, and any lessons or morals the book holds for us to take into our own lives. I am truly blown away by their observations and the depth of their thinking with some of their comments.  We get the occasional sillies but for the most part the kids dig deep and are ready to share with each other.  It shows me that they are developing keen critical thinking skills.

Once we are finished up with our chat (takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour), we do a pre-arranged activity.  I had been wanting to do some map work with them with the last book but it didn't work out so I seized the opportunity to do it with this read a loud.  I got the idea from a web site listing activities to do for The Bronze Bow and added some of my own ideas in there. We drew and painted a relief map of Israel!  I showed them a relief map of Israel, explaining some geography and how to read a relief map, with valley's, mountains, fertile ground and the like.  The kids had art canvas' and acrylic paints in green, blue, brown and yellow to work with to create their own maps.  They free hand drew a copy of a map I handed out to each of them along with their paints and canvas'.  I was very pleased with the response from this activity.  The kids took their time and did some amazing work.  So proud of all of them for working hard on their maps! I find it  interesting what the kids draw and paint and how they use their artistic skills in various ways.

We finished off book club with some traditional Jewish honey cake (see recipe: here) and black olives that would likely have been used over in that country.  I made the cake Gluten free as we have issues with wheat/gluten in our home. It was very good and the kids enjoyed it, asking for another piece.  :)

It was a great afternoon.  Yet another good club!  This month's pick is The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis.  I will be posting about this book and book club next month! :)

Here are the pics:

Filling in the final touches of her map.
Taking a little break to eat some traditional Jewish honey cakes.
After forming out the details for their maps, they began painting them.
Working away! :)
Two littles (not involved in book club), enjoy the honey cake! 
Some of the maps they did!  Good job kiddos!

We are linked up with Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers & HammockTracks this week!