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23 January 2013

Singing Praises

My family is reading Ether chapter 6 for our family scripture study right now. They've built the barges, which were the "length of a tree." Even supposing that the trees were the huge sort of trees, that's still not all that big for an ocean crossing. They're dark inside, except for 2 small lights at either end. They're full of people, animals, and bees. We read about conditions in the boats tonight. The scriptures are a little light on the detail, but I got to thinking about what they do say, and what that might look like, to the families experiencing it. It's all pure conjecture, but this is what I thought about tonight.

Being tight "like a dish," there's no draining water that comes in if they open the hatch too soon; deal with the sloshing at least until the next time we come to the surface. Oh, and that bucket of last night's pee? Gonna have to hold on to that. Sorry about the smell. Put it with the dung from the animals. Don't bother the bees.

But that's not all. That's a "furious wind" that's making "mountain waves." Waves that crash on the boat and bury it in the deep until they want for air. You know, hypoxia. Fun stuff that. Headaches, nausea, vomiting. Maybe a seizure if things get really bad. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that they didn't die of it, but the scriptures don't say. Maybe some of them did, particularly the very old or very young. And then you'd add a smelly body of a loved one and grieving to the list of things going on in those boats, until you came to the surface again and could put it overboard. It says they cried unto the Lord when they needed to come up. I imagine they did! And he brought them up... into the teeth of the storm driving them.

But that's not all. They built eight barges and got in them. Pushed them into the sea and trusted they'd get there. Wherever there was. I imagined talking to Hero about it, rocking around, seasick, in the bottom of the barge, about day 3:

"How long till we get there?"
"I don't know."
"How far?"
"I don't know."
"Will Aunt Kate and Baby T be there when we get there?"
"I think so. The Lord will take care of them."
"Can I talk to them?"
"No. They're on another boat."
"When can I see them again?"
"I don't know. Getting there takes as long as it takes."
"What if they don't land in the same place as us?"

Turns out, the promised land was quite some distance away: took 344 days to get there. Seems reasonable to me to presume that for about 343 of those, they had no idea how many more days were going to pass before they got out of those boats. And it's not like they had good weather; the winds, which caused "great and terrible tempests" never stopped. For a year. And then there's that word in verse 4, when they're talking about what they ate: subsist.

Sounds like fun, right? Yeah. Hero didn't think so either when we talked about it tonight. I asked him what he thought the people felt about it, and he guessed they didn't like it. He predicted some complaining. So I read him what the scriptures say in verse six:

And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.

I knew the story; I saw it coming. Hero was very surprised. Praises? But that's hard! Praises?? Even at night? All day long? Without ceasing?

By this point, my voice is shaking and I'm just fine with it when he says he's tired and falls asleep on me. But I'm not thinking about the Jaredites any more. I'm thinking about my Baby Girl.

I took this picture of her today.

Last Saturday I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Yesterday, I came home from the hospital without her. We left our daughter behind at the NICU. In pain. Stuck full of tubes and wires, some of which go deep into her body. Even when I visit, I can't hold her. My boys can't visit; it's flu season, and they're not allowing children in. We don't know how long she'll be there; it takes as long as it takes. It's hard.

Oh my goodness, this is hard.

The Lord's tender mercies are so apparent, even in the difficulties. Especially in the difficulties.

I need to be more careful to "sing praises." To say thank you to Him. And once I started thinking that way, I started seeing even more to be grateful for.

It makes it easier to bear, and that's huge.

17 January 2013

Planning for a Mosaic

I want to do a mosaic project of some sort with our current section of Story of the World, covering the Byzantine Empire. Apparently the Hagia Sophia had some pretty awesome mosaics. Here's a video from some tourists about their visit to the church. There's ome weirdness at the start, but then some awesome pictures of what the present-day structure looks like.

So, I want to do a mosaic project, only I don't like the plaster of paris project that the Activity Guide suggests. I've never worked with the stuff, and it looks like a huge mess. With the house on the market and a baby on the way soon, I just don't want to mess with it. But I would like to do... something. Hurray for the internet! Here are some ideas under consideration:

A simple mosaic project. With examples. And it points out to emphasize the need for contrast between the picture and the background. Glad they mentioned that.

Mosaic flowers. Kind of out of season, but still pretty. Might be able to do something like this with snowmen or trees or something a bit more like January. We haven't had snow long enough for me to be sick of it yet.

08 January 2013

Drilling Addition Facts

We're drilling addition facts. So I'm looking for addition games that Hero can play while he's building speed and accuracy. Soooo much more fun than worksheets! Here are some that we've tried:

Plupon Addition Game: add 3 numbers to make a 10
Cone Crazy Flavor Flury: add 2 numbers from fact families you choose.

We've also been known to play Go to the Dump to practice facts.

How do you drill facts at your house?

03 January 2013

Weekly Wrap-up: After the Holidays

We welcomed the new year with something of a yawn: two members of the family went to the doctor on New Year's Eve, and the only reason anyone at all was up at midnight is the Daddy and I usually tuck the boys in between 10 and 11 and then head to dreamland ourselves shortly after midnight. Happily, everyone but the Daddy is feeling much better; hopefully we can get the Daddy back to full strength quickly because although the baby is due at the very beginning of February, the doctor today said she thought we were more likely looking at a January birthday! I'm feeling big as a barn, and every bit as awkward as that implies, and sooner is OK with me... after my regular doctor comes back from his holiday on Monday.

Probably the biggest excitement this week was taking the tree down. This happened a bit precipitously, after Dragon tried to hide in it and the base gave way. However, no boys were injured (though the tree did die- the base was destroyed), and I didn't freak out on anyone, so I felt like we handled it pretty well. Even the ornaments survived: only one plain ball ornament broke, and I'm pretty sure that it broke as a result of rough handling, not the tree falling.

As far as actual educational stuff this week, we're still taking it a little easy, what with the whole family getting over the nasty grunge that we've had. But I got some studying done for myself. My sister and her husband found this amazing course which they gave us for Christmas, and I'm having a blast listening to it and doing the reading it suggests. The booklet for the class is in the middle, and the other two are some of the recommended reading. It's not light, and it's not easy; this kind of reading is work, no doubt about that. But I've already learned a ton and I haven't even finished off the first lesson yet! The Federalist Papers were already on my list of books for the year, but this is actually making it easier to do that, because it's breaking it down into bite-size chunks for me, and also the instructor points out things that I would otherwise very likely have missed. Both of those are awesome. This is my third attempt at the Federalist; maybe with a bit of a guide, this time I'll make it all the way through. It may take me all year to finish the course, but I'm loving working on it!

As for the boys, we took it pretty easy on them for school this week. Hero was one of the sickies that started the week at the doctor's office, but we did do a little. We finished off our read-aloud, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which the boys both loved. Hero practiced his reading a little, and we learned just a little bit about medieval life.

We also read "You Wouldn't Want to Live in a Medieval Castle" and watched a couple of videos to clarify things that they mentioned. The little girl that worked in the castle was working with a distaff, so we had to find out what that is.

And then the castle was attacked by Prince John who use 5 trebuchets during the seige. Off to YouTube again! We found this really cool clip, and when it was done Hero asked me an awesome question: "Can we build one in our backyard?" Sadly, no, we can't. But maybe we can look for a little model kit. It's not the same, but it's still pretty cool.

02 January 2013

A Place to Start

In the aftermath of the tragedy in Connecticut, I have fielded a couple questions about homeschooling from people who are questioning the safety of the nation's schools. It's a daunting thing to look at how to organize an entire education, but many people do it, and once you begin work on it you break the task down into more manageable sections it's not so bad. Here are some thoughts and resources that I've found helpful in homeschooling our kids.

Homeschooling is a Lifestyle

My day does not look the same as my friends' days. In the process of researching how to homeschool for myself, I'd read this, and it made sense that it would be true, but I didn't really appreciate how true it is until my son's friends went to school, and he didn't. I wouldn't change a thing; I love doing school with my son. I love being there for the "Ahah!" and the sparkle as he figures out how to read. I love exploring ancient China with him, and then going to see the Terra Cotta Warriors when we find them in a museum. I love the learning, and sharing new discoveries. That being said, there are definitely sacrifices. Being a homeschool mom takes a lot of time. I had more hobbies before kids and before homeschool. Some of them fell by the wayside, some (like this blog) have been adapted to homeschooling. I am not a gifted housekeeper; my house would probably be cleaner if my kids were gone the bulk of the day.

I think the work and the sacrifice are worth it. I teach my children.  Because I teach my children I can fold our faith into the education naturally and seamlessly. They used to call Theology the "queen of sciences" and I think that fits. We can start history with Creation, place the Old and New Testament stories on the timeline where they belong, discuss the impact of our beliefs on science, and it's OK. That's important to me. If a concept in math is hard, I can remind my children (even right in the middle of the lesson) that they can pray for assistance in learning it.

Just as important as our faith, I can make sure that school doesn't interfere with our family life. I hear my friends, whose kids are gone to public school all day, talk about how they spend their evenings doing homework with their kids, and it sounds to me like even after school is "over" it's still dictating how the evening goes. I don't want that for my family. I want my kids to have time to play. Play is important! Additionally, with my husband's work schedule, if my kids were in public school they would basically only see their Daddy on weekends. That's not OK for our family.

Maybe those things don't seem important in a "how to homeschool" conversation, but I think that it's likely that the significant sacrifices necessary to make this thing happen, were they a surprise, could derail the process.

Homeschooling Philosophies

When I was first thinking about homeschooling, I read everything I could get my hands on. I discovered that there are some broad categories of philosophies that govern people's homeschools. I looked at unschooling (not impressed), learned that you can actually bring public school home with you through virtual schools, and ultimately settled on a Classical Education for our kids, based on the ideas of Susan Wise Bauer's book The Well-Trained Mind, and Charlotte Mason's ideas of education, particularly the Ambleside Online curriculum, which is amazing -- and free. The advantage to looking at philosophies of homeschooling is that if you can find one that (mostly) matches what you think is important then there are likely going to be guides, message boards, and other resources to help you.

My Favorite Books About Homeschooling

The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
Laying Down the Rails: A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook by Sonia Shafer

My Favorite Online Resources and Blogs

The Well-Trained Mind Forums
Ambleside Online - a free online curriculum. Take your time. Use tutorials. It's amazing.
Simply Charlotte Mason - I've used a number of their resources.
Project Guttenberg - online reprints of out of print, public domain materials.
The 1000 Good Books List - just what it sounds like. Great for finding read-alouds at all levels.

Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers - I am particularly fond of her "Weekly Wrap-up" meme. There's usually 50+ posts about what real families did that week, and it generally includes all ages and stages.
Handbook of Nature Study - lovely ideas and link-ups for doing Nature Study.
The Accidental Homeschooler - a very pleasant mix of humor and thoughtful commentary.
La Scoula d'Argento - Lots of pictures of fun projects, and her younger boys are about the same age as Hero, and we use some of the same curriculum, so there's often ideas I can swipe.

There's lots more really good resources out there, but these are some of my top picks. Have a look around and good luck on your journey!


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