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The Benefits of Reading Biographies

My big girl and I have been having a read-aloud together for a while now. She’s a very competent reader in he down right- she doesn’t need me to read to her, in fact she kept me right with the Elvish whilst I read aloud Lord of the Rings! But she still enjoys being read to, and it is a special time for us to spend together. About a year ago I started to concentrate on reading Christian biographies as her read aloud. These are not the children’s versions of biographies, but the kind I would read. This practise has been of benefit to us both. We are both partaking of the pearls that the patriarchs of the faith have gleamed. From Corrie Ten Boom we were inspired by her faith under great trial, and we’ve been inspired by those who lived by faith for their every need: living lives of prayer. I found last year the biographies we read inspiring for myself. They helped me remain focused despite the struggles we were facing. They helped me stay faithful in prayer, when I felt like giving up. Seeing how God acted through the faithfulness of his servants encouraged me to trust in the God who never changes. Reading biographies of those who have gone before: men and women with the same failings as us all, and yet doing extraordinary things for God creates a treasury of testimony to draw upon. The Bible teaches us to “keep the testimonies” of God: “Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee.” Deuteronomy 6:17 Deuteronomy 6 also impresses upon us the importance of passing the testimonies of God onto our children. By reading biographies of the men and women of God who have gone before us we pass on the testimonies of what God has done in their lives. The Hebrew word for testimony comes from the root word meaning to “do again”. This is why testimony is so important. They teach us that the God who was faithful in the Bible, who did extraordinary things for His people thousands of years ago, has been doing extraordinary things throughout his dealings with men, and therefore will do extraordinary things with us too. Share this:PrintFacebookTwitterEmailLike this:Like...

Keeping Your Vision

I lay in bed almost paralysed by fear and hopelessness. The grey morning light of a winter’s morning in Scotland beginning to illuminate the room. I could hear the boys in the other room, playing and chatting away. A pretty normal morning. Except for the crippling fear, the exhaustion making me want to hide from yet another day. This was how the days met me in my early pregnancy with John: the combination of grief after Lucy’s death and the fear that John too would be born with ARC was almost unbearable; and I had to still get up everyday and raise my four children, educate them, keep the house, and cope with the issues that accompany first trimester pregnancy. These were hard days. I knew if I did not find a way to cope all of us would suffer. I’ve noticed that a lot of hard things can happen in a child’s life but if mummy has it together they can cope with it. But even with little problems, if mummy is losing it then everyone is all at sea. In the charismatic church we can major a lot with “God’s plan for your life”, when we talk about God’s Plan we are thinking big, purpose of life stuff. But in this season I learnt the value of focusing on today. What was God’s Plan for today? God had given me four wonderful healthy children- they were his plan for me today. Keeping my vision in the small things of life, the day to day and mundane things helped pull me through. It’s easy to drown in a sea of grief, to allow despair and hopelessness to win. But it’s vital to find the hope for each day. “Where there is no vision, the people perish:” Proverbs 29:18 For me it was important to maintain my vision for the here and know. I focused on homeschooling with renewed intentionality, I read books that affirmed my role as a mother, and I spent time with people who would encourage me. I found great comfort and encouragement reading Sally Clarkson’s books. I shut out the “voices” that would make me feel pressure to be what I was not, and could not be. And now that John has died I again recognise that need to recalibrate and renew my vision for today. I think part of the nature of grief must rob us of our vision. Share this:PrintFacebookTwitterEmailLike this:Like...

Longterm Vision for Creating a Learning Culture

It’s that twilight zone of a week, the weird non-week between Christmas and New Year. A busy December has left me tired, I don’t want to do much to be very honest. The weather has been truly rotten this festive season, so we have spent much of it in doors. The year we enforced a no video game/ console games ban for Christmas presents and it has worked, so they have not spent this week playing new electronic games. Every morning the boys like to check if it’s still holiday time, if they still don’t have to do any work. And they are delighted to learn they are still off! I’ve not been super-mummy making a lot of fun activities happen, to be honest I’ve tried to do as little as possible. But something wonderful has been happening. Jude’s miniature digital piano he was given at Christmas has become a focal point of learning. The three oldest children all spending time each day trying to learn the piano, and not just plonking on keys in an annoying fashion, actually working at mastering little songs. Noah has picked up a chapter book- and this boy who has lacked so much confidence with his reading and the ability to read independently; he is going off alone and is reading, then telling me excitedly what his little tale of rabbits is all about. My only organised activity was the creating of thank you notes, this led Noah to look at Youtube videos on how to draw, which has led to all the boys spending hours (literally) drawing, and trying to do it well, to master something. As well as this the boys have been putting on dance performances to entertain us. And Jude has been creating wonderful things in lego. I’m amazed at how much “learning” has happened this week… and the boys are none the wiser :). What this has taught me is: by limiting gaming, by creating an atmosphere where learning is natural children will by themselves choose this path themselves. This does require longterm vision. It means working with them so they acquire the tools to go further themselves. Although Noah has found reading a struggle we have focused on making good quality books a central part of our home, so reading is part of the family culture, so as he himself gains the skills to read independently he will choose it as a natural past time. But if we furnish children with easy boredom fixes- copious gaming devices, endless television, DVDs a plenty then they will choose the...

Some Ideas for Christmas and Advent Traditions.

Christmas is a natural time of year for family traditions. Creating family traditions has been shown to strengthen family bonds and increase a child’s sense of security. How often are our memories of our own childhood centred around the traditions we had as a child? I saw a lovely idea of creating a 12-Days-of-Christmas-Bucket-List, I like this as it creates a framework to work from, but is not too overwhelming. So I have created my own, which reflects our family. Christmas baking: I love making Christmas cake, but I also love Christmas breads. I try to do at least one, usually stollen or Jesus Bread (although I’m totally rubbish at moulding breads into decorative shapes). Read Christmas books. We use the Ann Voskamp Christmas devotional, “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift”. Another favourite is “The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale by Aaron Shepard, last year this was a particular favourite with Jude. This year we are going to read “I Saw Three Ships” by Elizabeth Goudge. Gingerbread Men: following on from the Baker’s Dozen, we’ll make gingerbread men. Make ornaments for the Christmas tree. This year we are going to make home-made clay ornaments. Go carol singing: I love singing Christmas carols… enough said! When I asked Jude what he likes about Christmas he said “present [of course], singing Christmas songs, and the candles [see point 7]” Play Christmas music in the house. As well as going carol singing we play Christmas songs in the house :), instantly puts you in the festive spirit. Make an advent crown. This this simply a row of four candles on a plate, not so much a crown if the truth be told! We light one each on the advent Sundays as part of our family devotional time. Christmas crafts. This is one of those times of the year when I pluck up the courage to let out the glitter (hoover at the ready!)! I loved Christmas crafts as a child. This year I hope to make a Christmas wreath from things we have collected from the forest. We also make our own Christmas cards. Parties! With Beka’s birthday 3 days before Christmas it brings added fun to this time of year. I also like to have friends round, to share food and enjoy each other’s company. Wintry walks, we don’t always have a lot of snow at Christmas time here, but when we do it is extra special to go for a snowy walk. We live in hope for a white Christmas this year, Thomas currently thinks it is mandatory for Christmas to...

Dealing with Tension: Sometimes All That’s Needed is a Hug...

We were having one of those mornings, you know the ones: where everything takes twice as long, where your clock seems to have entered into some weird quantum physical universe where time goes faster, and where no one is listening- this was a morning Noah took 40 minutes to get dressed, 30 of which were spent prancing around in his birthday suit (what is it with boys and being naked!). By the time we had started work we were all a bit frazzled. By the time Noah was reading to me he (and I) were rather grumpy. Reading didn’t go well, and I found myself getting-at-him for the umpteenth time that morning. I saw his shoulders drop and and head drop. I took a deep breath and held him close. I overcame my annoyance,and my own bad attitude to see that this little boy needed a bit of love more than “discipline”. We hugged for a couple of minutes. I felt the tension slip away from his shoulders, and he melted into me. When we resumed reading, all our problems were “fixed”. As I held him close I thought of the days I have, where I feel overwhelmed and like I want the world to stop, the days I want a hug. If I, a 34 year old adult, have days like this, of course my 8 year old boy will have them too. So often the tensions of getting-everything-done can be fixed with taking a few minutes out and having a hug. Working out of a place of love and feeling emotionally secure is good for everyone. In our homeschool I have learnt that when we start from the place of relationship we all have a better day, and better learning happens too. Share this:PrintFacebookTwitterEmailLike this:Like...

Introducing Shakespeare to Children

The work of Shakespeare can seem a daunting prospect. And yet to give children a route into enjoying and understanding his work is precious. Few can argue Shakespeare’s importance to the English language, to be able to read his work and enjoy it, and not look upon Shakespeare as a punishment to be endured as part of one’s education, is a gift indeed. There are a number of resources I have used to help my children access Shakespeare. My ten year old enjoys and can follow the stories of Shakespeare’s plays, and I am beginning to see my eight year old grasp his work, although he still finds the names a bit difficult: The website Shakespeare Week has wonderful ideas to learn about the work, life and times of Shakespeare. We have enjoyed doing a few of these activities, and through them learning not only about Shakepeare but also about Tudor England. I am a big fan of Diane Stanley’s biographies for children. Her biography of Shakespeare is well written, with beautiful illustrations. My eight year old really enjoyed this book. I learnt a thing or two as well! There are some high quality retellings of Shakespeare’s work: “Beautiful Tales of Shakespeare” by E. Nesbit and “The Tales of Shakespeare” by Charles and Mary Lamb are both excellent. Although I prefer the Charles and Mary Lamb retellings. Both cover not only his comedies, but also some of the tragedies and histories. They also retell a few of Shakespeare’s lesser know plays like “Cymbeline” and “A Winter’s Tale”. A dear friend of mine would read one of the stories of Shakespeare to her children a few times over the course of a week. This is to be recommended, as one of the barriers I find children have is the names of the characters; also many of the plots are quite complicated. She would then have her children retell the story in various creative ways: a little play, a cartoon strip, they even had Sylvanian Families doing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. The idea hear is the make children familiar with the plots, the names, and the characters. That way when they come to tackle Shakespeare for real the have a head start. Share this:PrintFacebookTwitterEmailLike this:Like...
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