Like Father. Like Son

One of the most beautiful parts of welcoming a new baby into the family is watching her big siblings melt as they hold her. My heart melts as I watch them.

I knew the girls would love holding little Ella. They adore her. Rose already has a knack for calming her cries. It’s precious.

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But I’ve been blown away with Will’s tenderness toward her, especially since he wanted another brother so badly. Despite his initial disappointment, she’s stolen a sweet spot in his heart. He will happily sit and just gaze into her eyes as she stares up at him. She even gave him a toothless baby grin. I’m not certain it was entirely involuntary.

Watching him with her fills my heart with gratitude. Not just for melt-my-heart-moments in the midst of the squabbles and diaper changes, but for their daddy who models such tenderness for them.

I missed posting sweet sentimental pictures on Father’s Day. I didn’t even write him a card. But every day he makes me grateful that he’s the father of my children.

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I’m grateful that he comes home after a long day at work and still has patience to calm a crying baby or flip big siblings upside-down to walk on the ceilings.

I’m grateful for the hours and hours he’s spent reading to us: from Scriptures, from children’s classics like Winnie-the-Poohand from crazy long series like Lord of the Rings. 

I’m grateful for the amazing things he builds for them.

I’m grateful that he models the type of man I want my daughters to marry and the type of man I want my sons to become.

I’m so grateful we get to experience this parenting adventure together.

(On a completely unrelated note: we didn’t learn the trick to successful bottle-training, for times we want a night out without needing to nurse a baby, until our fifth child. It’s so simple. Introduce the bottle between three and four weeks. Success! Woo-hoo! Thanks, Amber!) 

Elanor Jaël

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Introducing our sweet long-awaited Ella <3 

I don’t know how moms who go past their due date survive. The oldest two were born at 38 weeks, the next two at 37 weeks and we (as well as our midwives and nurses) fully expected little Ella to arrive by 37 weeks too. But the days ticked by and she seemed perfectly content to stay put.

Then contractions started, grandparents picked up the big kids, and the contractions stopped. Then started again. And stopped.

Prodromal labor. It’s bewildering, exhausting, and enough to make you question anything you thought you knew about having a baby. Funny thing is though, at least for me, that after a pregnancy that seemed to bounce from morning sickness to aching veins to insomnia to shooting joint pain (with near constant brain fog and exhaustion), whenever the contractions stopped I felt amazing and slept more soundly than I can remember for ages.

So after a couple days of whining and wishing that SHE WOULD JUST COME ALREADY, I tried to just enjoy it. Which was pretty easy because the kids were having a blast with grandparents and Josh was able to work from home for several days. Then the kids came home (because I was missing them like crazy and who knew how long it might be!) and we soaked in the last few days before adding a new baby to the family.

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An *almost* family picture (It was nearly 11:00 p.m. when the kids came to see their new sister and Ned was sound asleep. <3 )

After a week of starts and stops, active labor finally started. Due to complications in the past, we consulted with specialists, ran numerous blood tests, and had multiple precautions in place for her birth. (Plus I took enough medications and supplements throughout the pregnancy to make me feel like I ought to be turning ninety!)

God was gracious and answered the many prayers for a smooth and uncomplicated delivery. We had an amazing birth team and Josh could write a book on how to be a perfect labor coach. Ella greeted the world with gusto and bright-eyed curiosity. We couldn’t be more blessed.

DSC04060Adoring big sisters 

The days since she arrived have been so sweet. With all four of the other kids, we either had complications or a ten-hour-trip home days after delivery. Plus, Josh either had to plunge straight back into law school classes, take the bar exam, or frantically prepare for a jury trial. This time we drove eight minutes home and Joshua got to take paternity leave. (A modern politically-correct trend I absolutely love!)
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She is such a sweet, alert baby and has already brought so much joy to our family. The older kids can hardly get enough of holding her. One of them suggested the solution was to have quintuplets. I think we’ll just work on taking turns.

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We’ve been so ridiculously spoiled with food and help from family and friends so that we can soak in these first fleeting days with her. It’s amazing how much change a new baby brings, and yet how quickly life without their presence is unimaginable. So grateful for our Elanor Jaël.

When There are Tears in Homeschool

I love being a homeschool mom. I have dreamt of teaching my own children since I was a child myself. I would love to tell you this means our homeschool days are always happy.

They aren’t.

Much as I love our simple homeschool days, they are far from perfect. My kids are not angels, and they certainly don’t have an angel for a teacher. Some days we battle bad moods all morning. Other days, everything is running at least an hour late and everyone suffers the tension it causes. Sometimes the material just seems way too difficult. Every once in a while, someone ends up in tears.

Learning should be fun, but a few tears don’t necessarily make the whole homeschool adventure a horrible failure. In any good pursuit, there are likely to be a few tears spilt along the way. What I want to do as a homeschool mom is understand the reason behind the tears so that I can seek wisdom to help us overcome them.

My oldest is in third grade. As my children grow and face harder concepts than trying to distinguish between an adjective and adverb, I’m sure we’ll face new challenges. But at this young stage, the tears seem to fall for one of three reasons: exhaustion, concepts that are too hard, and unclear expectations.

Dealing with tears in homeschool (without throwing in the towel!)

Tears in homeschool

When the tears fall because of exhaustion

Have you ever started a Monday morning with high hopes of a productive day only to have one child after another break down in tears over the most trivial things? And then you remember that they stayed up way too late all weekend because of family activities? And that at their ages they probably need a nap even more urgently than they need to finish their math lesson?

Though I don’t like the idea of postponing school because we are worn out from playing too hard, some days plowing through is an all-around terrible idea. One of the beauties of homeschooling is getting to be flexible. For us, it mean keeping a good pace most days so we can slack off a little without falling behind when naps are urgently required.

When the tears fall because expectations aren’t clear enough

I have pretty clear expectations of how our school day should go. The trouble is, I’m not always great at making my expectations clear to the kiddos.

Ever since we formally started school, we begin our day by reciting the Apostles Creed and singing a song together. It only takes about two and a half minutes, and I thought it would be such a great way to start our day on a happy note. But my goodness the wiggles and whines! Usually at least one person was heart-broken about being pulled away from the Legos to start school. Not even five minutes into our day, we were off to a bad start already!

Then I realized it wasn’t really my children’s fault. The blame rested squarely with me, because I hadn’t made the expectations clear. Once I clearly laid out expectations (and added an incentive), everyone was happier! It’s amazing the difference clear expectations and a chocolate chip make.

When the tears fall because the subject is too hard

Children’s minds are simply amazing. Just because they are young, doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of learning a lot. We are part of a vibrant weekly classical academy that constantly challenges and inspires the kids. They have explored hands-on science, learned dozens of poems by heart, and are blossoming little bookworms.

Sometimes though, one of them bangs up against a concept or problem that seems impossible to them. Try as they might, they just cannot figure it out. Their eyes glaze over as a little tear drips down their face. Or, they loudly wail, “I CANNOT do this! It’s WAY TOO HARD!”

My mind is really torn when it comes to things that are “too hard.” On the one hand, I want my children to love school. Charlotte Mason had a lot of wisdom when she encouraged homeschool parents, “If your child gets bored or overwhelmed with a subject, move on to something else as quickly as possible. Come back to it when they are ready.” (paraphrased)

On the other hand, Tiger Mom makes an excellent point, “nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences.” Usually we learn to love something once we are good at it.

I had a firsthand experience with this a few months ago. Rose was supposed to write a very simple “article” from an outline. When I told her it was time to write, she sat at the table with her basic outline in front of her, twirling her pencil in her hand. “Mama, I just can’t do this!” she said, frustration heavy in her voice.

I was really torn. Part of me wondered if she was right. Maybe I was expecting too much. But I also didn’t want to encourage her to quit, so I said she needed to write the first two sentences and that I could giver her some prompts if she needed them.

A few tears trickled down her face as she put pencil to paper. Once the first sentence was finished her mood brightened a little and she set to work on the second.

Then I got busy tending to the other children. An hour or so later, she came up to me with her face beaming. “Mama, guess what! I can do it. Want me to read my story to you?”

It wasn’t Shakespeare, but in my totally biased opinion, it was pretty good. Plus, facing the challenge and working past it boosted her confidence and proved that sometimes even hard things can be conquered sentence by sentence.

So, Charlotte Mason or Tiger Mom? I think it depends on the circumstances. Sometimes when something is “too hard” it’s best to back away for the moment and approach it again later. Other times, by breaking the impossible into bite-sized pieces the impossible not only becomes possible, but an excellent character-building experience.

Dealing with tears in home school (without throwing in the towel!)

When there are tears in homeschool

There are few things that have shown me my need of wisdom more than the every day act of teaching my children. Much as I love the privilege of getting to teach them, in the nitty-gritty reality of daily life, some days we do have tears.

Though sometimes they make me want to throw in the towel, I’ve realized that occasional tears don’t make me a bad homeschool mom, they make me a human in pursuit of a worthwhile goal: joyful, diligent students.

Sometimes the answer to the tears is as simple as an early nap, sometimes the answer demands clearer expectations, and sometimes the answer is a more delicate balance of Tiger Mom and child-led schooling.

Summer Highlights

Just as the full force of summer’s activities started, we lost internet for two weeks and then my laptop screen displayed a shimmering mass of pixels whenever I tried to use it. I took these as my excuse to spend the last few months making memories with the kids and focusing on areas of the home that desperately needed attention. It’s been a lovely break. Without a laptop I didn’t completely abandon all my goals, but they did change character over the summer.

Playing pian

All three of the older kids have begged us to get a piano for months (or years!) Will told us that *all* he wanted for his birthday was “a piano and toads.” Their birthdays are all sandwiched in the summer months and just before the first birthday of the season, my younger brother moved back home… and had a piano to sell. Talk about perfect timing!

Rose and Will couldn’t wait to start lessons, but as all moms of budding musicians know, the first few weeks feel painfully slow while they learn proper posture, fingering, and position. The gorgeous sonatas they’re itching to play seem infinitely far off. I know that laying a good foundation will be totally worth it in the long run. I’m just really glad that we started lessons before school began again, so we could really focus on mastering these (sometimes not so fun) essentials.

Catching skinks

He didn’t get toads, but was thrilled when he caught two adorable little skinks. 

Another goal for the summer was to get the three oldest swimming. Will and Meg have practically no fear around water. Since they can’t swim, their lack of fear is terrifying to me. We enrolled the kids in a month of swim lessons the past two years, so they had a good start, but still needed lots of practice before they could pass a swim test… or at least not drown the moment they plunged into the deep end without their life jackets on. So, we spent many hours at the pool practicing blowing bubbles, floating, gliding, and swimming with family or my friend Peggy. It feels kind of lame saying that one of my goals for the summer was spending many of hours at the pool, but it was.

SwimmingYay for swim time! 

I had hoped to get Ned comfortable floating too, but changed my goal to getting him to not scream when I lay him on his back in the water. After many failed attempts, he actually had a hint of a smile the other day when he was practicing floating. Even though he’s a long way off from floating without support, I am counting that smile as a win. 🙂

Ned climbingNed would much rather climb rocks or splash by the edge of water than swim. 

Last, but not least, after the long-sleeping desire to learn Mandarin was re-awakened this spring, I’ve been plodding my way though Pimsleur’s Mandarin course and making use of this awesome free app. Though I’ve barely scratched the surface of this beautiful language, I have found Mandarin grammar patterns slipping into my everyday English. 🙂

SunsetWatching the sun set over the Pacific! 

The highlight of the summer was getting to spend a couple days in California with Josh. He had to travel to L.A. for work. Every time he has to travel, we think how fun it would be if I could join him, but the timing never worked. Until this time. It was my first time to see the Pacific Ocean and, using Air BnB’s awesome services, we got to stay right by the ocean.

That’s my summer in a very brief nutshell. We started our fourth year of homeschooling a few weeks ago, but had to spend a couple weeks before that easing into early  earlier mornings. Let’s just say that finishing breakfast by eight is an improvement! 🙂

On Thursdays I get to teach history and English arts at the kids’ weekly academy. We’ll be studying medieval to early modern history, so castles and swords fights have dominated my lesson planning. Plus, after a three year break from tutoring high-school students, I’m so excited to get to teach a writing and literature class to two of my not-so-little sisters and a few of their friends.

It’s going to be a very full and fun school season, but now that I have a working laptop (and have survived the hectic first few weeks of school) I’m excited to get back into blogging.

The Generosity of a Child

Fresh strawberries

Bright juicy strawberries peep through luscious green leaves, fulfilling my long-held dream to grow my own strawberries.

Our very first “harvest” day, we picked one ripe strawberry that we cut into tiny sections. The next day we each had half a strawberry. By the fourth day, there were enough berries for each of us to enjoy our own. After a week, we filled a small bowl full each day. Two weeks have passed now, and each morning there are enough ripe strawberries to fill another small bowl. Most of the time, the berries last less than five minutes as the kids divvy them up to enjoy.

Every few days, I’ll gather a few to freeze for shakes. As I was rinsing fresh strawberries, the verse from Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees came to mind. The Pharisees were so scrupulous about obeying tithing laws that they even brought tithes of their herbs!

Jesus rebuked them saying, ““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matt. 23:23)

So, tithing herbs was good, but needed to be accompanied by justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

A bowl of fresh strawberries

Times have changed. Though tithing still seems to be clearly commanded, I’m fairly certain Jesus didn’t mean we should put mint (or fresh strawberries) in the offering plate at church.

As I snipped off the green tops of the strawberries, the thought came that maybe we could share some at Sunday’s potluck. Immediately, I started talking myself out of it. After all, I already had food planned to bring and no one there would care whether I brought my own strawberries or food I’d purchased. They probably wouldn’t even notice. Wasn’t I just being too concerned about the letter of the law? Besides, I really wanted to save enough strawberries to make jelly.

I thought that was the end of the matter.

Picking fresh strawberries

Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church, Rose burst inside. “Mama! Look at all the strawberries I found this morning! Can we PLEASE take some to church to share for lunch?”

And once again, God used my little girl to teach me a lesson. Whether or not modern Christians are bound by ancient Jewish tithing law is beside the point. Jesus wants to work in us a heart of generosity. Sometimes that even means sharing our little bowl of fresh strawberries.

(Much to my surprise, two friends asked if the strawberries were from our garden and commented on my generosity. I had to laugh, tell them my story, and pray that God works in me the open-handed generosity of a child.)

Giving from abundance is easy. It's when Jesus calls us to give Him our first fruits, our "love overtures," that giving spills over from grateful hearts.

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The strawberries are in full-production mode now. We’re filling large bowls each morning and I’ve already made homemade jam. Sharing the berries suddenly got much easier, because they’re plentiful. Which had me thinking again of how God asked for the first ripe fruits. The produce that isn’t yet overwhelming. The produce where each bite is still treasured, and it’s a bit harder to let go because you don’t know whether more will actually grow. As Ann Voskamp so beautifully put it:

We’re not giving what we’re called to give, unless that giving affects how we live — affects what we put on our plate and where we make our home and hang our hat and what kind of threads we’ve got to have on our back. Surplus Giving is the leftover you can afford to give; Sacrificial Giving is the love gift that changes how you live — because the love of Christ has changed you. God doesn’t want your leftovers. God wants your love overtures, your first-overs, because He is your first love.” (from this post)

Abstract Art Drawing for Kids

Sometimes I wish I was a more crafty mom. I wish I enjoyed making a ginormous mess while we created fun memories together. Truth of the matter is though, the simpler an art project is, the better. At this stage in motherhood, I don’t need help with extra messes. Messes multiply fast enough without my help
Practice patterns with this fun and simple abstract art project! This simple abstract art drawing has entertained Rose and Will for hours since their Nonnie taught them how to do it last fall. (Thanks Nonnie!) They have made it over and over again using varying colors and shapes.

The best part? All you need is paper, something to trace, and three crayons.

Abstract Art Drawing for Kids

Abstract Art First trace three vertical and two horizontal lines, using a ruler or book.
Circles on abstract art Then, using a cup or other round object, trace circles onto the page.

Coloring abstract art patternsPick three colors to use for the drawing. Starting in a corner, color in the first section. Color the next section a different color. Continue filling in the sections, alternating colors so that two touching sections aren’t the same color.

Abstract-Art-kidsOnce you’ve followed the basic pattern a few times, branch out. Make extra lines, trace squares or triangles instead of circles, or try adding a color.

Entertain your child for hours with this fun and simple abstract art project.

Because there are so many options for colors and patterns, Rose and Will regularly pull out paper and crayons to make more abstract art drawings. It is simple enough that with just a bit of help tracing, they can finish independently… though it’s a fun project to do together. So pull out some paper and crayons and have fun making this simple abstract art drawings with your kids!

A Surprisingly Obvious Marriage “Secret”

As I sat at our candlelit table thinking about the love and work and tears and laughter that go into marriage, my mind drifted back to the very best piece of marriage advice I read last year.

It was something so simple that it seemed ridiculous I had to even be told it. But I did.

Sometimes I just need to be reminded of the most obvious truths. Sometimes a simple truth can make a profound difference.  "Always assume the best" is one of those truths.

A surprisingly obvious “secret” to a blissful marriage

“Always assume the best of your spouse.”

Of course, right?  That’s what I thought when I read it in Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages“Assuming the best” seems way too obvious to be dubbed a surprising secret. But the more I thought about it in real life, the more I began to see how much I struggled with it.

Most husbands and wives in healthy relationships don’t purposefully hurt or offend each other. But just like in any close relationship, it’s easy for miscommunications and hurt feelings crop up anyway.

Joshua loves me faithfully. He demonstrates it in a thousand ways. Still, sometimes it is easy to assume the worst.

It’s already 7:00 and Joshua still isn’t home yet. I thought he was supposed to be home early today. It is Friday night after all. He could at least have let me know! Clearly he’s just putting other things before the kids and me. 

Just like I want him to assume the best of me when a ten minute errand turns into an hour or when I drop off every single wearable suit at the dry cleaners and forget to pick them up before he has to fly out of town for business (true story– oh my!), I should think the best of him too:

Poor guy! Something must have come up at the last minute. He’s probably extra stressed and eager to be home. 

Instead of bundling up hurt feelings, when I choose to assume the best, my attitude toward him is one of love. The kind of love that “believes all things and hopes all things.” If the reason for the misunderstanding isn’t abundantly clear, I can ask about it without tears or anger magnifying the problem.

Guys and girls think differently. Process things differently. Communicate differently. This can cause all sorts of miscommunication. Or it can be a beautiful way to demonstrate God’s love by assuming the best. The beautiful thing is that 99% of the time, when I assume the best, my assumption is actually right.

Always assume the best of your spouse

I still make plenty of bad assumptions, but whenever I follow this advice and choose to assume the best, I am much happier, my marriage is much happier, and our home is much happier.

(As the author stressed, this advice is only for healthy relationships, where both husband and wife treat each other with love and honor. Marriages with abuse or unfaithfulness need strong outside help to protect the innocent.)

photo credit

Beauty in Weakness

After months of slacking off on exercise, I was determined to start this week out right. To get up early and exercise, shower, and read before the kids got up. At six o’clock Monday morning I was up, but was glued to the bathroom, sick with a stomach bug.

I was going to homeschool with enthusiasm, because I want to finish the school year strong. We didn’t crack open a single book. Instead the kids played with each other and entertained Edmund while I laid and watched.

Beauty-in-weakness

I was actually looking forward to cleaning after the weekend, because the twenty minute cleaning challenge has been so invigorating. Instead we munched on crackers and the carpet gathered a thick layer of crumbs. But not just crumbs, oh no! In their sweet efforts to entertain Ned, the kids turned the house upside down. Toys and cars and books and Tupperware littered every square inch of the living room and spilled over into the kitchen and school room.

I was going to catch up on the ironing for Joshua, but instead he stayed home late to care for me, brought home dinner after work, and conquered the messes the day created with a tenderness that must have rubbed off on the kids.

There was so much I had planned for my Monday, and not a single bit of it got done. But I have rarely felt as blessed as I did laying there on the couch. I want to teach my children to serve others cheerfully, I just don’t want to be the one they are serving. I’m Mom, after all. I’m the one who is supposed to care for them. But the tender enthusiasm they poured into serving me made my heart melt.

They brought me crackers and water and blankets, entertained Ned, and played quietly together. At lunchtime, Rose set up a picnic on the kitchen floor, spread butter on bread, and read a Fancy Nancy story aloud while the kids ate.

Once I’d laid Ned down for a nap, Rose said with a smile, “You go take a nap too. I’ll read a story to Meg and tuck her in.” I gratefully crept up the stairs, and sank under the covers. When I finally woke up, the three oldest exclaimed, “Don’t come downstairs until we say you can. We have a surprise for you.”

Part of me really hoped the surprise was that they cleaned up all of their own accord and the floor was visible again. But even though I love a tidy home, I pushed the thought aside because I knew that whatever the surprise was, it was a heartfelt token of their love for me.

Minutes ticked by as snippets of their frantic preparation drifted up the stairs. Finally, the surprise was ready. They led me down the stairs with my eyes closed. When I opened my eyes, three glowing faces stared up at me.

A superman cape was taped across the kitchen entry. Inside, they’d set up an assembly. Rose read a short speech (the main point of which was “we love you and hope you feel better soon!”) and then they pulled out presents: Will had made a paper picture puzzle. Meg drew a rainbow. Rose had a sweet note. And they all had hugs and kisses.

By the time I inched up the stairs to bed at night, my heart was overcome with blessing and my mind was mulling over the day. So often I think that in order to have a happy home, I need to be strong and busy all day. Monday I was neither strong nor busy. But when sickness laid me out, the children responded to my weakness with a tenderness and love that astounded and challenged me.

I tend to think that the house needs to be (mostly) tidy in order for there to be any hope of a peaceful home. I’m not sure such a messy home has ever greeted Josh after work, but despite the mess, we were at peace. Sometimes love (especially the love of four little kids) is messy. But love creates peace in the midst of a mess.

Thankfully, the stomach bug was short-lived and by Tuesday I was able to take the stairs two at a time again instead of creeping up them like a snail. (Which was a good thing since I wasn’t the last to get sick!) But I don’t want to forget to imitate the tenderness of my children, learn to see the love beyond the mess, and remember that even though we should aspire to diligence, sometimes the love of Jesus shines most clearly through our weakness.

February at Our Home

February flew by in a frozen hurry.

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Highlights from February

The beginning of the month was unusually warm, and we biked/walked to the park, took a delightful family trip to a local cave (which I forgot to photograph) and spent hours just enjoying the beautiful weather.

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Then it snowed and snowed and snowed. It was Ned’s first good snow since he was an infant and he loved it… until the snow seeped into his gloves.

The highlight of the snow for me was getting to sled down my parents’ awesome hill. Even Meg loved flying down the hill by herself. She flopped down on the sled and hollered, “Watch out! Meg’s coming!” (The other day she told me she is so tired of being 3 1/2 and cannot wait to be four. Kids just grow up way too fast!)

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If he can’t be outside, Ned’s next favorite place is on the kitchen counter “helping” me. At first I was nervous about having a wiggly 18-month-old perched on the counter, but he loves it so much that he will sit angelically still for half-an-hour if I just let him sit, watch, and participate.

Joshua’s work has been insanely crazy lately, and I’ve really struggled being cheerful with the long hours. Despite the intense schedule, we had a lovely at home date night Valentine’s Eve. We put the kids to bed early and Joshua made the most delicious dinner for me with perfect steak and succulent baby potatoes and brussel sprouts. The weekends when Josh doesn’t have to work are so lovely that I finally understand what it means to “live for the weekend.” I want to embrace each day, but so love having my wonderful husband home!

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Sparklers in the snow to celebrate Chinese New Year

Another highlight of the month was celebrating Chinese New Year. My brother and sis-in-law hosted Chinese friends for a few weeks and invited us to join them for a celebration. Getting to spend time with these wonderful new friends, listen to them speak their beautiful language, and hear their amazing story reawakened my dreams of learning Chinese and hopefully visiting China someday.

The kids are learning Latin at their weekly academy, but it’s not like you can’t learn two languages in grade school! (Children in the Faroe Islands, where my dad is from, learn Danish and English in grade school–in addition to native Faroese.)

What I read in February

The Best Yes!

I picked up The Best Yes! thinking I would skim through it and get the highlights, but from the first chapter I was hooked. It was SO good! If you struggle with feeling overwhelmed by all there is to do, I think you’ll love this book too. It’s full of hilarious stories, personal tidbits, and Biblical wisdom.

In My Father’s House

When your Omma, Mom-in-law, and one of your best friends all recommend a book, you know you’re in for a treat! In My Father’s House is Corrie ten Boom’s personal accounts of her life before The Hiding Place… and it was a treat. Although I didn’t like it as much as The Hiding Place (which is in my top five favorites of all time) it was an inspiring and beautiful challenge to live life for Jesus.

Little Women

I didn’t really read this one, but I did listen to it. Librivox has an amazing dramatized version {for free!} and it kept me company through many hours of cleaning this month. I’d never read Little Women before and loved it so much more than the movie (which was lovely!) The characters and story are so beautiful.

… and a few favorite posts

Are You Lonely, Mama? — Joshua’s been working lots of long hours and this post really resonated with me. Judging from how many times it’s been shared on Facebook, I’d say I’m not alone.

My Plan for Adrenal Fatigue Recovery — I don’t think I have adrenal fatigue (at least I hope not!) but after really struggling with fatigue the past few weeks, Erin’s ideas were really helpful. Although I’m still not as energetic as I would like, avoiding screen time at night, being faithful with my supplements, and drinking bitter yarrow tea have all helped me feel better.

That’s February at our home in a nutshell. What was February like for you? 

[Full disclosure: links to some products are my referral links.]

Teaching Poetry to Children

In our technology-driven age, teaching poetry to children may seem as unimportant as teaching them morse code. I believe it is just as important as ever.

Rose, Will, and the other students in their weekly classical academy can recite dozens of poems. Some are as short as four lines. Others over twenty.

Why spend time memorizing poetry? Partly because children’s minds are incredible. The amount of information they soak up puts us adults to shame. As a classical homeschooler, one of my goals in this early (grammar) stage is to fill their minds. Not just with facts and information, but with the good, the true, and the beautiful.**  Good poems help me do that.

Poetry touches the mind, emotions, and spirit in ways that prose often can’t. It also expands vocabulary and improves syntax, while burning beautiful word images, hilarious stories, and inspiring examples into the soul.

I knew I wanted poetry to be a fundamental part of our homeschool days, so last summer I spent weeks cozied up with poetry collections and started compiling my favorite poems for children. Some are sacred, some are silly, and some are simply beautiful.

One of my goals this year is to finish compiling them into a robust poetry program for grammar-stage students. At my friend Brooke’s request, here is a sneak peak.

Christina Rossetti’s The Caterpillar is rich with color and imagery, but simple enough for children to connect with and enjoy.

Teach your children the good, the true, and the beautiful by filling their minds with excellent poems.

The Caterpillar by Christina Rossetti

Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry;
Take your walk
To the shady leaf, or stalk.

May no toad spy you,
May the little birds pass by you;
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly.

Teaching poetry to children

(Many thanks to our friends AK and Keiah for their example and encouragement in teaching poetry.)

Although poetry is an important part of our homeschool days, we only work on in for a short time each day. Just by devoting fifteen or so minutes to poetry daily, you can give your children the gift of a treasury of fun and beautiful poetry for the rest of their lives. Here’s how I teach poetry to my children (and the sweet students at school.)

Read the poem aloud

Usually I make the students close their eyes while I read, so that they can focus on simply enjoying the poem. Read it slowly, and let them soak in the beauty of the poem. (Or its humor, depending on the poem!)

Talk about the poem

Explain any words they may not understand and ask questions to help them understand the poem, like “Why is the caterpillar in a hurry?” “Is the caterpillar in danger?” “Why does it have to die?”

Have them repeat the poem after you

Read the poem again, but this time have them repeat each line after you.

Have them illustrate the poem

Poetry paints pictures with words. Once you’ve read the poem and discussed it, have them draw or paint an illustration. (This is optional, but the kids love it!)

Keep reading, listening to, and repeating the poem

Every day, read the poem aloud and have them repeat it after you until they are able to recite it fluently on their own. (I’m working on audio recordings, games, and other teaching tools as part of the poetry collection.)

Recite the poem

Once they have mastered the poem, have them recite it at home, for grandparents, and/or in front of friends. Although they might be a bit nervous at first, getting used to speaking clearly and confidently in front of others will help them a lot down the road!

Review, review, review!

Learning a poem is great, but unless you review it, you’re almost certain to forget it. After they learn a poem, review it daily for several weeks, then at least once a week. (I’m working on tools to make review fun and easy too.)

Poetry is not only fun, it's a wonderful way to teach beautiful writing, vocabulary and syntax, while inspiring our children's souls.

Make poetry part of your children’s education

Poetry engages the mind and soul, expands vocabulary, increases memory, and is just plain fun! Make poetry part of your child’s education.

P.S. If you’d like me to let you know when the compilation is ready, sign up for my [almost] weekly highlights.

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** In the classical model of education, the early (grammar) stage focuses on memorizing core facts and concepts of history, science, language, etc. As the child matures to the logic stage, they begin to compare, analyze, and “argue”. Then, in the the rhetoric stage, they learn to take what they have learned and present it in a beautiful and compelling way. Memorizing poetry in the grammar stage sets them up to excel later on. 

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