Thursday, August 17, 2006

Studying Astronomy? Get out the Lite Brite!

God gave me another fantastic idea yesterday morning!  While I was trying to convince myself to get out of bed, I was thinking about our upcoming yard sale.  I'm trying to get through all of our storage spaces, closets, and shelves to purge what we don't use.  As I was laying in bed, I thought about getting upstairs to the book room and going through the games.  We love games, but there are a few that we don't play anymore.  My mind rested on our Lite Brite.  Friends of ours gave this to the boys several years ago.  Although we haven't played with it in over a year, I truly didn't want to get rid of it.  And that's when I got this brilliant idea...use the Lite Brite for our astronomy studies.


For those of you that aren't familiar with it, a Lite Brite is a toy that you plug into the wall.  A small bulb shines behind a black panel that has many holes in it.  You place a sheet of paper (usually black) over the holes and then you press colored pages through which the light shines to make an illuminated picture.  Here is a link to a picture of a newer version of this toy:


Now, on to my idea:  we could recreate constellations on our Lite Brite!  A few nights ago, we got home after dark and took a few minutes to look at the stars.  While looking we each picked out our own constellation.  We each saw a picture in the sky that was original.  Yesterday we got out the Light Bright, put a piece of black construction paper into the machine and pressed the pegs in the shape of our constellations.  It was beautiful to see our constellations brightly lit on this little contraption sitting on the kitchen table.


After each of us made our constellation on our own sheet of paper, we took the paper, with the holes pressed into it, and drew our constellation around the holes.  This way the casual viewer could see the image we see when viewing our constellation.  We labelled our pictures and placed them into our slowly growing astronomy notebooks.


As we study actual constellations, I have visions of re-creating them on the Lite Brite, adding many pages to our notebooks.  This is a great hands on way to solidify what the boys are learning!  I'm so grateful God gave me this idea.


So what are you waiting for?  Go get out your Lite Brite and make a constellation!


And don't forget to use the gadgets on your ride.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Oh No! My Boys Hate Math!

I love math.  I always have. I was the kid in Algebra I who finished all her homework and then spent the rest of the class helping out the other students.  I elected to take calculus my senior year.  I was the only girl in a class of five boys.  I majored in Math in college.  Have I mentioned that I LOVE math!


When you ask my boys what their least favorite subject is, they always answer, "Math!"  I don't get it!  Math is awesome!  You can always count on math.  1 + 1 is ALWAYS 2.  It's not like English.  You write a poem and maybe the teacher likes it, or maybe it's not her style.  There is nothing subjective about math.  You're either right or wrong.  The teacher can't have an opinion about whether or not your answer is right.  There is no gray area in Math.


So, why?  Why do the progeny of a clearly math-gened woman tell the world that they hate math?  I discovered why last Friday.  While I was running errands and my husband stayed home with the boys, I listened to some old teaching tapes given me by my sister-in-law.  On the tapes, the speaker advocated having a high level of intensity while teaching our children.  He said that it was most important to be our children's biggest cheerleader while they were learning something new.  According to these tapes, I need to focus on what the boys get right and not on the incorrect problems.  I need to make each subject seem exciting, just by my reaction to it.  If I do these things, the boys will respond accordingly.


Both boys are very good at math.  They are both working one year above grade level.  They pick up new concepts quickly and can do basic algebra problems in their heads.  But they hate math.  As I reflect on math lessons in the past, I know why they hate math.  If they aren't focusing, I'm snapping at them to "get it done."  If they don't pay attention and add instead of subtract on a page, I tell them that they've just earned an F.


I haven't been passing along my love of Math, I've just been legalistic about plowing through the work and getting onto the next subject.


As I type this, I wonder, what other subjects and areas of life am I also pushing the boys to "get through" instead of taking the time to enjoy and savor?  Do I live a joyous life as a wife and mother to pass to them the desire to keep their wives at home?  Do I get excited about our bible studies and show them a desire to be in the Word of God regularly?


Have you ever heard the saying "Attitude is everything"?  I see the truth in that saying today as the Lord teaches me yet another lesson through my time with our children.  I'm just glad I was listening.  I wonder how many lessons I've missed because I was too busy to hear God's words?


I hope you are listening on your roller coaster ride.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Which end of the pickle are you?

Today, I made pickles.  I love to can.  I try to do dill pickles, applesauce, tomatoes and a few sweet pickles each year.  It is a very gratifying activity for me, since I feel as though I am storing up summer's bounty to use during those cold winter months.  When I was a young girl, I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.  I always fantasized that I was living in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere, living off the land, cooking and sewing.  Scarily enough, that is still my daydream!  Although now, I dream of a small log cabin beside a lake in the middle of nowhere with a laptop and CNN.  Isn't it funny how your dreams change?


I am definitely digressing from what I wanted to share with you tonight!  As I was preparing the cucumbers to be packed in jars and covered in brine I started to think about how the cucumbers grow.  You see, when I prepare cucumbers for pickling, I cut off the bloom end of the cucumber.  It's easy to determine which end is the bloom end.  Cucumbers are darker on the end that was closest to the vine.  The end on which the bloom grew is lighter green in color.


As I was cutting these cucumbers today, I thought about my life.  What end of the cucumber do I want to be?  You see the end nearest to the vine is dark green.  This is the end that was fed and nourished by the life given it from the vine.  The end of the cucumber that was closest to the bloom did not get the same nourishment, so it's skin is lighter in color.  I want my life to be full of the nourishment that only Jesus can give.  If lives have color, I want the color of my life to be rich.  The only way to have that rich life, or abundant living, is by staying close to the vine.


John 15:1  I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.


John 15:4  Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.


If I stay close to Jesus, through prayer, through regular time reading the bible, through bringing every thought into captivity (II Cor 10:5).  My life can have a rich, vibrant color.  I can be the vine end of the cucumber, and not the bloom end.


So what happens to the end of the cucumber where there was once a beautiful orange flower?  Well, when I make pickels, that end gets removed and thrown into the compost bucket.  The flower has shriveled and left a brown blemish on the end of the cucumber.  I know people who have lives like the bloom on the cucumber.  They are bright and beautiful for a time, and then the flower fades.   A scar is left on their lives where the bloom used to be.  Where once they lived a life of color, like the color on the flower of the cucumber plant, they are now left with a dull green.  The bloom end of the cucumber is not a deep green, but a dull, light green.


I have a friend who is struggling with the result of some bad life choices.  She lived the rich color like the bloom on the cucumber for a period.  Now, she is left with the dull light green as her bloom has shriveled and fallen off of the plant.  I spoke with her this week and she told me that she used to think God humbled you by humiliating you.  She has now learned that God teaches you humility by showing you grace and forgiveness.  Her decisions hurt others in her family.  Now, she is experiencing the grace and forgiveness of God, her family, friends, and her church.  It is a very humbling thing to accept someone else's unconditional love and forgiveness when you know you were wrong.  But this is how God gets us back to that vibrant green life!  Our lives move toward the Vine and away from the bloom.


Ok, maybe the cucumber analogy has run its course.  But my afternoon spent trimming and packing cucumbers taught me life lessons that I needed to share with you tonight.


Live your life near the vine.  And live for the deep rich green color, it doesn't come in a quick burst of color in the form of a blooming flower.  It comes from staying close to the Vine, who is Jesus, and by drinking in all the nourishment only He can give.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Character lessons for your pre-teen/teenage girl: Grace Livingston Hill!

When my oldest son was nursing, I used to go into the church library to nurse during the Sunday morning service.  It was during one of those times that I stumbled onto Grace Livingston Hill.  The church library had four or five of her books and I began to read through them while nursing.  I immediately fell in love.


Grace Livingston Hill's books can be formulaic.  Of the two main characters, one is a man, one a woman; one is rich, the other poor; one knows Jesus as his or her savior, the other is still searching.  From the formula I've just described, you can see the outcome of the romance.


But even with the formula, I have found each of her books to be inspiring and uplifting.  And I realized recently that these books could be great for your young girls in the pre-teen or teenager age range.  Each of Mrs. Hill's books deal with different character issues, and many levels of overcoming.


In my blog, "I Don't Teach Bible Anymore" I mentioned one of her books, but did not name it.  The book is The Prodigal Girl.  This book includes an illustration where the father solicits the local pastor to school his children.  As his main text, the pastor is planning to use the bible.  The Prodigal Girl would be great for a daughter who struggles with rebellion.


With over 100 books to her credit, Grace Livingston Hill's novels cover a wide range of character issues.  I have not read all of her books, but here are some that deal with specific themes:


Matched Pearls:  making a sincere commitment to Christ.


Patricia:  dealing with a difficult person in a Christ-like fashion.


Re-Creations and A Daily Rate:  making the best with what you have.  These books would help a girl struggling with materialism.


The Enchanted Barn: standing by your family regardless of your circumstance.


Job's Neice:  Patience in trials.


Written in the early 1900's, these books are written in a beautiful language.  The girls' dresses and accessories are described in such lovely detail. Scenery and setting are vividly described.  Give Grace Livingston Hill a try!  I get lost in her books every time I pick one up.  I consider it a treasure to find one in a used bookstore, especially in an original hard-back!  Not only will you and your daughter find novels by Grace Livingston Hill to be fun to read, but they will also challenge you in many character areas!

Friday, August 4, 2006

Book Review: Teddy's Button by Lamplighter

I was convicted...yet again. 


Last week, I was able to purchase a tremendous package of e-books from the Erskines who have  I love their radio shows and they offered a packaged through one of the e-groups of which I'm a part at a wonderful price!  I was really excited.  It's going to take me the entire year to pour through these wonderful materials.


One thing I received was an audio by Cindy Rushton on learning using great literature.  I listened to her audio while downloading the rest of the e-books I'd purchased.  The audio was awesome, as are all of those I've heard by Mrs. Rushton.   It really convicted me, however, about how much we are reading.  I realized that in the past year, we have foregone reading together so that we can complete the book work and the worksheets.  I have to tell you, that's NOT me!  This Summer, God has really shown me how I've let our little homeschool drift away from what I see as a true lifestyle of learning.  We haven't been reading together as much.  We haven't been spending time doing those hands-on projects that solidify learning.  That's what I want for our homeschool!  I don't want lots of worksheets and papers and texts!


So after listening to Cindy Rushton's moving seminar, I went in search of a good book and a sofa!  Two years ago I had purchased Teddy's Button from Lamplighter.  I always admired their books and asked them at a curriculum fair for a book suggestion.  The people at the Lamplighter book table recommended Teddy's Button as a good book to start with boys.


We read this book in five days.  The boys were begging for "just one more chapter."  When we were eatting they were chanting, "Teddy's Button", asking me to read.  At one supper table, Daddy was crying as I read.  This book was fantastic!


My boys are nine and eight, and they were entralled by every reading of Teddy's Button.  I highly recommend it as your family's next read!


Even if you don't want to read the book we recommend, read something!  Don't be like me and wait a year and a half before picking up something that your children will love and just reading to them for the pure joy of a book!  I got into a rut where I thought everything I read had to relate to the subject being studied, or be for "school."  But I was missing out on all of those wonderful times of cuddling on the couch, or seeing those wide-eyed faces filled with wonder at what was coming next in the book.  I don't ever want to miss those again!  From this point forward, we will always have a "book going."  How about you? 


Let me know what you're reading that has really "lit up" your children.  I need to develop my book list even further!


So, make sure you're reading on your roller coaster.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

One Beauty of Home Education...Knowing You

This week, we have been discussing our vacation plans for NEXT summer.  We spent a lovely week on North Carolina's Ocean Isle Beach this summer.  What do we want to do next year?  We thought if we plan now, we could save a little money each month toward that vacation.


So, we narrowed it down to two trips and gave the boys a choice.  They could choose between Northern Minnesota, or Disney World.  Guess which one they chose?  I'll bet your guess was wrong!  They chose Northern Minnesota.


You see,  Daddy is from Northern Minnesota.  On a very regular basis, he regales our boys with stories of fishing and catching hundreds of fish!  His stories include making ramps on boat docks and riding off those ramps on their bikes RIGHT into the water.  Todd tells them of swimming out to ice chunks in the Spring when the ice was breaking up on the lake-water, and of listening to the loons and the lapping of the water on the shore as he drifted off to sleep on summer nights.  These adventures are very real to two little boys.  They have visions in their mind of just what life in Minnesota was like.


When we offered them the option of going to Daddy's childhood hometown and spending a week in a resort cabin on a lake, they jumped at the chance.  Do you know why?  Because they know us and want to know us better.  Do you know why?  Because they are with us a lot.  We are their peer group and they want to experience what we've experienced.


We live 45 minutes from my hometown.  My parents still live there today.  We spend LOTS of time with my family.  They boys have seen the school I attended.  They've played at the park in which I played as a child.  Last night, Walker T. said, "We've seen all of Mommy's stuff.  I'm ready to see what Daddy did!"


And so, next year the Lydell family will not be going to Disney World.  We will be seeking the adventures that Daddy sought as a child.  We will be reliving the stories that are our boys favorites, from Daddy's childhood.  Our children have chosen us, yet again, and I give the credit to our homeschool lifestyle.  Because we homeschool, we are the boys' primary influence.  They want to know us better.  I am so grateful for that!  I am so grateful for homeschooling.


On my birthday in the Spring, my sister and my mom and I always go out to lunch.  Of course, the boys come with us.  My sister commented this year on how cute it was that the boys were so excited for my birthday.  Again, this is the fruit of home education.  Because the boys are with me each day and I am their primary influence, they share my excitement.  So, they were excited for my birthday.


Homeschooling has many fruits.  But today I am thankful for the fruit of knowing.  Because we homeschool, our children KNOW us.  Our relationship is stronger because we don't compete with any other adult for their affection, time or respect.  They know us and want to know us even better.


And so it's Minnesota or bust!  They will come home with their own images, and their own stories.  And they will know Daddy even better.