Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Knowing God

A few Sundays ago, we started a new Equipping Seminar at our church. That's a fancy name for a more in-depth study of things pertaining to the Christian life. We've had two so far and this is the third. The first one was about how to study the bible. It was so awesome - stuff I'd never heard before. The last one was on the doctrine of the bible. It just went through how we got the bible, it's inspiration, transmission, etc. And this one we've just started is on the doctrine of God, basically covering the attributes of God.

Our pastor asked, "Why Study God?" Here are a few quotes that answer that question that I wanted to share. I found them encouraging and challenging.

"Knowing God is the purpose for why were created and the greatest ambition in our lives"

"What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the 'eternal life' that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. 'This is eternal lie: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent' (John17:3). What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight and contentment, than anything else? Knowledge of God. 'The is what the Lord says, 'Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me' (Jer. 9:23-24). What, of all the states God ever sees man in, give Him more pleasure? Knowledge of himself. 'I desired...the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings,' says God (Hosea 6:6)...Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life's problems fall into place of their own accord...What makes life worth while is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold or allegiance; and this the Christian has, in a way that no other man has. For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be that to know God.?" J.I. Packer Knowing God

"It is not a cheerful thought that millions of us live in a land of Bibles, who belong to churches and labor to promote Christian religion, may yet pass our whole life on this earth without once having thought or tried to think seriously about the being of God. Few of us have let our hearts gaze in wonder at the I AM, the self-existent self back of which no creature can think. Such thoughts are too painful for us. We prefer to think where it will do more good - about how to build a better mousetrap, for instance, or how to make two blades of grass grow where one grew before. For this we are now paying a too heavy price in the secularization of our religion and the decay of our inner lives. The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him - and of her. A.W. Tozer

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Curriculum Project - Preschool Philosophy

This is part of a series I want to continue over the next months - my curriculum project. I've been working on it for quite a while. How did this begin? Well, first, I love children, education, teaching children and teaching about education and developing curriculum! Also, I've been interested in homeschooling for quite a while so I started researching as much as I could. And,  a few different people asked me to give them ideas for what to do if they did want to homeschool their children. I don't think anyone who asked actually decided to homeschool their kids or to take my approach but I've had a blast anyway. Sometimes it consumes me, sometimes it sits on the back burner. I would love to hear your comments! 

So here goes! This first one is a long one! Hang in there! Hopefully the rest won't be that long.

Disclaimer: I know that many parents who read this have chosen not to homeschool their kids or have decided on a different avenue to do so. Please know that I deeply respect your decision and am in no way trying to say you made bad choice! We all have our reasons and convictions for doing what we do and we need to respect one another in those. This is just an avenue for me to share my thoughts and heart, not to judge, and  to help anyone along who might be considering "homeschooling" their preschooler or trying a different approach.

I have put together a home "course" for preschoolers and kindergartners based on Charlotte Mason’s early childhood educational philosophy, my own thoughts and observations as a mom and as a former elementary school teacher with further educational background in childhood and family development and as one passionately interested in the education and general well-being of all children. I have not read all of Charlotte Mason’s work so I am going by what I have gleaned from other books and summaries about her ideas. I also have an interest in and some knowledge of classical education which greatly influences the direction of my philosophy and curriculum but, in my opinion, classical education is not suitable for very young children as it seems to be too much, too early. I do however apply many aspects of the classical education model (the trivium - grammar stage, logic stage, rhetoric stage) to my curriculum when children enter 3rd or 4th grade. I also believe that Charlotte Mason's approach is very applicable and compatible with classical education and is a kind of classical model in itself though some things do differ. At first glance, many may assume that Charlotte Mason's approach is not rigorous enough and is perhaps watered-down but from my research that does not appear to be the case at all.  So without further ado, let me introduce you to this inspiring lady and her philosophy that gives the framework for my early childhood "curriculum." 

Charlotte Mason was an educator who lived in England in the late 1800's. She had a huge influence on British education for many years. She trained teachers and started her own school for teacher training. Her course of education, starting in elementary school, included many and varied subjects for all ages including all the basics plus art and music appreciation, handicrafts and foreign language as well as others. She highly stressed the use of "living" books - whole books and primary sources instead of textbooks and workbooks. High quality, whole picture and chapter books as well as nonfiction books add much more depth of knowledge than what she called the "twaddle" of textbooks that give stories in summaries or portions and information in tidbits without much intrinsic worth, beauty or literary value.

Using living books tends to eliminate the need for comprehension questions and other time-consuming aspects of modern language arts programs. Instead children are more likely to tell back to you what they've learned because of the interest and love of knowledge and imagination these books have generated.  Charlotte called this narration, the art of retelling a story orally or in written form and believed it "is the best way to acquire knowledge [and comprehension] from books. Narration also provides opportunities for a child to form an opinion or make a judgment, no matter how crude." It also gives the student practice in oral and written communication. "The child learns to call on the vocabulary and descriptive power of good writers as he 'tells' his own version of the passage or chapter." 

Mason also enforced the need for short lessons in order to train and focus attention, increase listening skills and discourage drifting thoughts. These lessons gradually increase in length as the child grows. This method also promotes self-education and a love of learning, thereby eliminating the need to give lectures and to continually lead lessons. She also stressed the need for children to be outside and to have free afternoons starting around 1:00 so children were not given homework until around 13 years of age. 
As for younger children (before age 6), she felt they needed to not be in school, but rather outside as much as possible exploring the natural world, being read to, and learning the discipline of habits that would form a foundation for later, more focused learning and responsibility. Why not school for preschoolers? Children learn the bulk of everything by free-playing and observing and discovering. By going to school early, much of that time for discovery and free-play which so greatly enhances the imagination and intellect is lost. A mother's chief responsibilities for the first six years is to secure for her children "Quiet growing time--and free growing time--the freedom of real play (not lessons that look like play) and of ordering one's own life. page 194

So my idea of preschool is very simple - basically to just read to your little ones a lot, teach them good habits and let them explore and learn from their world. Go on nature walks and talk about what you see, collect things along the way, make a nature notebook. Go to the library to pick out new books and to listen to story time, go to the zoo, to botanical gardens, visit museums of interest,  plant a garden, play with friends, enjoy many lazy afternoons outside, learn about and meet missionaries, listen to books on tape, do somersaults, catch butterflies and fireflies and caterpillars, lay in the grass and watch the leaves blowing in the wind and the clouds changing shape, listen to classical music, bluegrass and jazz, watch the Olympics, go to a concert, draw pictures, make crafts, play board games, make up stories and songs, say tongue twisters, teach finger plays, cook together, serve in the community, have teatime, memorize scripture, pray with them, sing nursery rhymes and hymns, read fairy tales and poems and bible stories, count everything. Most of all, take the time to train their habits and their heart, let them play outside as much as possible (CM recommended 4-6 hours a day!), turn off the tv and read to them. 

To further explain that last sentence - after spending much more time on the internet perusing what others post on blogs and pinterest for preschool (including myself!) and after much thought and prayer and experimentation and observation of my own children and others, I've also come to some more conclusions about homeschool preschool. First, my foremost responsibility as a mother is spiritual education. I see these early years of utmost importance in pouring the Word of God and major ideas about God in the their little souls and to train their hearts, not just their behavior.  Learning letters and numbers is good and I want to teach those things but I have plenty of time for that. I wanted to start as early as possible on the spiritual aspect and not let the other trump it. That is what I want to put the majority of my time and effort into - praying through, reading about and discovering how to do this. So lately I've let that become more of my focus.

And as Mason emphasizes, I want to concentrate on building habits into their lives - habits like obedience, responsibility, truthfulness, concentration, a job well done, etc. As I wrote above, these are the foundation for much learning and are real world skills. And much of them stem from the heart. These take lots of time and constant repetition and much patience (I need lots of help in this department!). I see the importance of focusing more on these things in the early years than on academics.

All of that being said, there are tons of ideas on pinterest and the internet for teaching preschoolers at home. You could spend months looking at all the resources and still not see it all! There are lap books and lap trays and do-a-dots and busy bags and work boxes, printables of all sorts, workbooks,  etc, etc, etc ad nauseum! At first I was really sucked into these because they looked like a lot of fun, albeit a lot of work to initially put together and potentially expensive. However, as time has passed, I am beginning to question the true value of these. Don't get me wrong. I do implement some of these from time to time just to add variety into our routine. However, much of these activities teach things that can be learned through the natural discovery and general growing process and veer away from Mason's philosophy that I so love. Take  learning colors and shapes and even letters for example. I didn't sit down with Wes to teach colors or shapes. Just in the process of reading, playing and his very curious mind he learned these things very early. To do a worksheet or a lap tray seems like unnecessary busy work for him and me! Sure he still gets a couple of colors mixed up but he's not quite 4 yet. He's got a lot of time to get that down and I'm not worried a bit. Those are just two examples. I see something that looks really fun online and am gung-ho to do it with Wes but then as I start to really analyze it, I see that most of what is being taught is something that can be learned in a more natural way. However, I do appreciate the ladies that have put so much creative thought and energy into creating these activities! They do spur on my thinking and creativity as well. 

Although this philosophy may seem haphazard and instructed, I have put a kind of relaxed, practical structure to it. What can I say? I'm a teacher! I can't help myself! I look forward to sharing that with you later. I also plan on posting ways to do nature study with children and will explain what that is (I"m just learning myself), a list of parent reading resources and have already posted age-appropriate book lists, although as time has passed, I see the need to revise these. 

Finally, just for your information. one aspect of Mason's philosophy that I do not heartily agree with is that I've heard it described as child-centered. I do not really believe in the child being the center of anything. I do agree with her ideas about children being individuals with their own gifts and abilities who should be greatly appreciated as humans, thoroughly loved as individuals and encouraged in their interests and pursuits. But to completely give children free reign over their lives as seems to be what much educational philosophy teaches these days promotes, is, I believe, detrimental to the child as an individual, to their families and to society as a whole in which these children are raised. However, I don't think this was Charlotte Mason's intent in her philosophy. I believe it was her desire in her era to bring children out of the "children should be seen and not heard" realm of childhood and parenting philosophy and as such called it a more child-centered education. I think would not have approved of our current child-centered educational and parenting philosophy. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Remembering Jesus

I have been reading through Revelation the last few weeks and the other day came across a great passage that I thought would be fitting for Christmas Eve. No, it is not the usual Christmas Eve passage but I think it is helpful in remembering just who Jesus, that tiny baby in a manger, really was.

"Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems (crowns), and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords." Rev. 19:11-16 (ESV)

So this Christmas, keep in mind that Jesus, the seemingly helpless babe, was and is The Word of God and that He was and is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the mighty conqueror. He is from the beginning and will be for all eternity. His power is unending. Doesn't this make Christmas mean all that much more - this gives the reality of Jesus in all of his power and splendor, a reminder of his divine nature, God himself and yet, "[He] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Phil 2:6-8)This is why he came - for us. This great warrior, this King of Kings, humbled himself and became a servant for us, suffering the humiliation and death that we deserved, taking it upon himself so that we wouldn't have to, so that we can walk with him and be with God for eternity. Praise God! But it was not for us alone. Ultimately it was his worship and for God's glory. "Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil 2:9-11)

Merry Christmas! 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Lots of Pictures!

Here is a post of pictures capturing all the fun we've had the last several months or so. Enjoy!

The ZOO! We went to the zoo this summer with Wesley's birth mom and half sister, Annie. We really loved the bird house and the birds really loved us. They were hopping all over the stroller and on us!

David hanging out in the stroller with Annie

The ARBORETUM - We went of a stroll and a hike through one of our favorite summer spots in Kansas - it's a beautiful place. It has a pond with lots of turtles, a huge, gorgeous perennial garden and  lots of hiking trails that skirt around hug trees and a creek. The park even has an outdoor miniature train set up that the boys love to watch. It has a life size caboose that Wes loves to climb.

The BEACH!! As part of a long journey to the deep south to visit my family, we spent several days at the beach in Florida with my sister and brother-in-love. 

David was petrified of the ocean at first but he soon warmed up to it. Here he's hanging out with Mamma, still getting more used to the water. 

David lounging with Aunt Elizabeth in his beloved sleep sack. 

David loved the sand and before he learned the true joy of playing in the water, he spent most of his time playing in the sand and walking the shore. 

Playing with Uncle Joey.

Hanging out with Papa.

Our first attempt at the beach resulted in a thundering downpour! 

GEORGIA! Another part of the trip down south was of course to stay with my parents in Georgia. It was a wonderfully relaxing vacation - once we actually made it there. We swam, did lots of swimming, the boys had lots of time outside and playing with Mamma's old Fisher Price toys.

David playing ball in my parent's backyard.

Watching a little tv with Grandma B. 

Wes is getting quite good of all types of sports. 

David found the patio furniture quite tasty!

Enjoying some yogurt on the deck. 

HALLOWEEN! This year, as usual for the last couple of years, we went to our church's neighborhood fall festival.

Wes has the same costume from last year. When it came time to buy one for him, he insisted on wearing the cow again. It still fit him so, why not? David, in keeping with the farm theme is a horse. 

Carving pumpkins. 
THANKSGIVING! We spent Thanksgiving with Eric's family in Arkansas.

Reading books with Grandma.

Wes monkeying around with Uncle Nathan and Aunt April

Hanging out with Grandpa in his big chair. 

Nabbing Grandpa's chair before he gets to it! 

Taking a lunch break at Firehouse subs in the middle of a LONG day of shopping. 


Contagious smile

Enjoying another bowl of yogurt.

David loves to stack things, anything he can find! These are my spice jars. Yes, some of my spices are stored in old baby food jars. I had to find a solution for fitting them in the small drawer I keep them in. 

Don't you just want to squeeze those cheeks!

And these cheeks, too? 

Eric rode in a 35 mile bike ride with a couple of friends from work - the Tour de BBQ. So, Kansas City has over 100 BBQ joints from what we've heard. On this tour, which benefitted cancer research, the cyclist enjoyed BBQ from seven different establishments at stops along the way. What a tough ride! ;)

We refurbished our basement, trying to give it a facelift without finishing it completely. It is a nice little play place for the boys to exert lots of energy (Wes especially) during the bitter winters and rainy days, and even has a nice little area for grown ups and reading. 

Well, we found out that we are going to have a girl and after a week or two of trying to hold back, I gave in and bought some clothes. I've since bought another little shirt and a 3 piece outfit - all on sale. :) I had a hard enough time with the boys clothes. This is going to take much prayer and self-control! 

After each nap/quiet time every day, I never know what I'm going to find in Wesley's room. Most of the time though, he's come up with something creative with his cars, trains or blocks. Here he had his cars and trains in school. :)

This summer Eric and his dad built a play house/swing set for the boys. Wes has learned how to swing for himself and both boys love to climb up the ladder and go down the super fast slide. 

Wes loves to build different train track configurations. He's gotten quite good at doing them himself. 

David is often found with his nose in a book, right side up or not. 

Let's go outside!!!

After almost a year of hardly noticing the rocking horse, David finally wanted to ride it! 

Getting ready to venture out on the first 20 degree day. 

On one of our trips to Arkansas, Wes was surprised with a "new" bike! It is a little big but he LOVES it!
Happy boy in the tree house. 

Santa or Not?

Among Christian circles there is great opinion about whether to include Santa Claus in the celebration of Christmas. Eric and I have been pondering how to handle this with our own children. Do we say Santa is a myth with no redeeming qualities or do we include him in some way in the season? On the one hand Santa seems to embody the consumeristic hunger that secular Christmas has become. On the other hand, it might be possible to further explain the spirit of giving at Christmas. Hank Hanegraaf wrote, "far from being a dangerous fairy tale, Santa Clause in reality is an Anglicized form of the Dutch name Sinter Klaus, which in turn is a reference to Saint Nicholas, a Christian bishop from the fourth century. According to tradition, Saint Nick not only lavished gifts on needy children, but also valiantly supported the doctrine of the Trinity at the Council of Nicea in AD 325." The Heart of Christmas: A Devotional for the Season by Hank Hanegraaf. 

So, the real Santa Claus, not the embodiment of heresy and materialism, affirmed Christian beliefs about the divine nature of our Savior as expressed in the idea of the Trinity and was very generous. Hanegraaf concluded this devotional segment about Santa Claus and the Trinity, "In Sum, then, Christians may look back on the tradition of Saint Nick...as a legendary hero of the faith. Of course the notion that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole in a toy factory, that he sees children at all times and knows whether they've been bad or good, and that he travels in a sled pulled by flying reindeer, is clearly myth and should therefore be treated as such. This December 25 as you celebrate the coming of Christ with a Christmas tree surrounded by presents, may the story of selflessness on the part of Saint Nick remind you of the Savior who gave the greatest gift of all. Thus rather than supplant the Savior with Santa, we can use Saint Nick as a reminder to generously support God-ordained ministries so that the message of salvation can reach those who have not yet received salvation by God's grace alone, through faith alone - and on account of Christ alone. " And I add, giving generously to those in need around us and abroad.

So does all of this look like for our family? Our focus is Christ, his birth, the gift of salvation he offers to us, the Word became flesh. We've been reading several verses every day about the birth of Christ from the gospels and the prophecy of his coming from Isaiah and Malachi. We have a book called, J for Jesus by Crystal Bowman that expresses the legend of the candy cane but tells frankly the purpose of Christ's coming and death. We have another book that we are going to read to the boys a couple of days before Christmas and the day of called, My Christmas Gift also by Crystal Bowman that expresses the real gift of Christmas and not to miss it among the gift giving and receiving of Christmas Day. We have several books portraying the birth of Jesus that we've been reading. On Christmas Day we are going to give Wes a sticker book that once again explains the whole purpose of Christmas.

As far as Santa goes, we've read stories about him and explaining that there was a real Santa Claus who gave gifts to poor people and followed Jesus but we don't emphasize the flying reindeer and other myths associated with the jolly old man. We thought that we'd have the stockings be from Santa in the tradition of how Saint Nick would do it, but not focus on him actually coming down the chimney or watching over them to know if they've been naughty or nice.

Another thing we've incorporated this year into the festivities is a Jesse Tree. I had hoped to do it last year but couldn't get all the sewing done for it in time! A fellow worker in Lebanon introduced this idea to me years ago. Mine looks far different from hers but the concept is still the same. You start  on December 1, each day read until Christmas a  major story of the Bible that points to Christ's coming (creation, fall, flood, Abraham, Isaac, the 10 commandments, Ruth, Esther, Jonah, Daniel and the lion, Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, the shepherds, etc) and then pick the ornament that goes along with the story and hang it on the tree. I don't think Wes would have appreciated it last year. This has been a lot of fun this year!

On Christmas Day, we plan to open a gift or two, or their stockings and then have a breakfast together with a breakfast cake for Jesus, sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, read the Christmas story again (we probably will have read it the night before as well for the Jesse Tree) from the Jesus Storybook Bible and sing some Christmas carols.  Then we can finish opening gifts.

We may rethink all of this next year, but for now, this is our plan. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Our Christmas Letter

So, our printer has been giving us fits lately! It ran out of ink and also kept having paper jams and unknown errors. We put in new ink but it printed very fuzzy! We couldn't figure out how to fix this or buy a new printer before we needed to send out our Christmas letters so we just decided to put the letter on my blog. Hope you don't mind. I guess this is more environmentally friendly. :) Enjoy!

Ps. It is my plan to post a bunch of pictures from the last several months and to start posting blogs more regularly after the new year.

Beautiful Blessings of 2013
God has blessed us so much this year. One of the biggest blessings this year has been the surprise news of another little one joining our family, biologically! And... it’s a girl! She’s due April 4, 2014.
Our boys bring us great delight. Wesley Joseph has such contagious laughter, a wild imagination and an inquisitive nature, is extra-extroverted, has boundless energy and an iron will. He loves to make all kinds of noise, talk, have people over, plan parties, create new train track configurations, and do anything that requires running, jumping, hiding, climbing, throwing, swinging and pedaling. Lately, we’ve had wonderful conversations about Jesus, the gospel, God, sin, and the Bible. What a blessing!
David Elliot’s personality has blossomed. He’s a laid-back, quiet, stubborn thinker - a little shy, but terribly cuddly and sweet. He loves his blankies and thumb, music, puzzles, books, trains, cars, animals, stacking blocks, hiding things, lining things up in perfect rows including his peas and noodles, and stuffing small things into other small things. He mostly does his own thing but also enjoys people and still smiles with a sparkle in his eyes. 
Last year, God gave Melanie a desire to gather women from church for fellowship together and mutual encouragement. This has resulted in a few small gatherings for prayer and book discussions (In the Land of Blue Burqas and Battling Unbelief) which she plans to continue. Lately she’s really been especially burdened for young moms and is praying for direction in that area. Along with this, God has rekindled in her a passion for children’s development and education and has been reading many books, blogs and articles on these topics. She also still enjoys doing crafty things and preparing whole, unprocessed food and recipes.
Eric has continued to work as a mechanical engineer at Black & Veatch, and achieved his first promotion!  Along with this 8-5 job he continued to serve as a pastor/elder at Cross Fellowship Church.  It has been greatly challenging and rewarding for him to serve in this role; both from the standpoint of developing an organization together with others that previously didn’t exist, and most greatly in knitting our lives together with our brothers and sisters at CFC.  In his free time (does that exist any more?) he worked on projects around the house, designed and built the boy’s playground (with a lot of help from his dad!), fixed a few things on his new truck (1997 F150 4x4 manual transmission...yea baby!), and squeezed in a few good books and movies.
We enrolled Wesley in a 3 year old class in a homeschool co-op that meets once a week and Melanie teaches part of this class. This co-op gives Wes more social interaction that he loves; Melanie gets a creative outlet for teaching.  Though it makes for an exhausting day, it has been a huge blessing to her because of the parenting wisdom she’s gleaned from all the more experienced moms she regularly gets to interact with there. 
This year has not brought much outward turmoil or struggle, other than being more busy than we can handle sometimes, but we’ve faced some definite inward challenges that have pushed us beyond ourselves. With the challenges that parenting brings and the responsibilities of work and church planting combined, we are often confronted with our own sin. Time and again we’ve been reminded of God’s beautiful grace that sent Jesus to take away the guilt and punishment of our sin and of His assurance that He loves us and doesn’t want us to stay like we are. We’ve also been reminded through other people’s suffering of how big God is, how unjust is the sin in our world that causes pain and suffering, how precious life and family and friends are, how much we waste on worthless things and bad attitudes, and how beautiful and strong is the body of Christ far and near. All these things that come to our lives are for a reason, pleasant or unpleasant, to draw us to the Lord, to push us to rely less on ourselves and make us more like Him. Through these truths God has taught us greater joy and satisfaction in Him alone, to be worshipful throughout the day, to seek out how He’s working knowing that each day is purposeful for Him and His glory. This is so, even in what seems the mundane things of life. All of these things are a great blessing indeed! 

2013 Highlights
Winter - Eric traveled to the middle of the Indian Ocean for work and also had lots of time for snorkeling, a 5k run, golfing and eating fresh fish while Melanie and her sister shoveled out loads of snow as two huge snow storms passed through Kansas in four days. We gave a facelift to our unfinished basement to give the boys a space to run around in during the long, frigid winter months. What a blessing!!!!!!
Spring - Eric passed his Professional Engineering exam!!! Hurray!  Melanie was delightfully involved with a few others in choosing a new children’s curriculum for our church. We both thoroughly enjoyed doing premarital counseling with another couple and learned a lot about ourselves and each other in the process! What Did You Expect is the best marriage book ever! 
Summer (VERY BUSY!)
  • We were again involved in another huge neighborhood garage sale with our church. 
  • Our church hosted a backyard Bible club for the first time. Great fun! 
  • After several weeks of physical therapy to push him along and correct a very awkward gate, David learned to walk! 
  • Melanie’s parents visited. We learned that to give Wes a regular size hot fudge Sunday is not a good idea. 
  • On Mel’s big 4-0 birthday, we found out we are going to have another baby!
- Melanie visited a dear friend in Oklahoma
  • We trekked across America to GA and Florida to visit family and friends and have a little vacation at the beach. Wesley enjoyed body surfing and David just mostly wanted to walk up and down the beach - once he learned to walk, he didn’t want to stop!  
  • The boys enjoyed many days going for walks, riding tricycles and playing on their new swing set.
  • Went family camping in the backyard for the first time!  Wes and Eric roasted marshmallows over the Coleman!
Fall - Eric joined a men’s bible study through work.  Melanie and the boys started teaching/attending the homeschool co-op. Wesley learned to ride a bike (with training wheels). Melanie discovered and devoured the parenting book Don’t Make Me Count to Three that has been a huge help in biblically training our boys to love, be kind, share, obey and be respectful. We are so thankful to have found this very practical jewel!

Prayer Points - 
  • Big picture direction for the short and long term future
  • Better time management skills and a oneness in prioritization
  • A safe and easier pregnancy, i.e, no bed rest!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Favorite Parenting Book

Finally, I thought I would write another blog entry. I have so many ideas for writing floating the back of my head but alas, I am not the best at executing them. This one I have wanted to write about for a very long time. I am just not good at writing about why I like a book. But I will give it a shot.

I have read countless parenting books - probably 20, or more. Yes, really, that many! I will list some of the other ones I like at the end of this post. However, my all time favorite parenting book, the one I go back to more than any other to glean from its time-tested wisdom, spiritual motivation and general encouragement is...

The Shaping of a Christian Family by Elisabeth Elliot

As I may have mentioned before in a previous blog, there is a distinct reason why gave David the middle name Elliot. The life of Jim Elliot, the martyr missionary to the Auca Indians in Ecuador and his wife before his death, Elisabeth have had more influence on my spiritual life as a whole than any other even more than John Piper and David Platt!  I have read more of her books than any other author. Her words are encouraging, challenging, exhorting, frank and yet true, obedient and helpful. So, I was so excited to learn that she had written a book about Christian parenting! I found out about this book and read it probably in 2008, 2 years before I became a parent and have since given away numerous copies, loaned mine out often and had to by new ones for myself. The current copy I have has tons of underlining, stars and about 20 dog-eared pages.

So why do I like the book over all other parenting books? Well, this is an autobiography of Elisabeth's childhood as well as the childhood of her mother and father. I love learning from biographies and autobiographies. So I think she wrote the book as a means to show a model for others what a Christian family looks like. You see a mother and father who were devoted to Lord and lived it out and you see parents and children who were not perfect but whose home was one of peace, laughter, tenderness, encouragement and love, just what I want for my family. She covers all kinds of topics and gives examples of how those things were lived out in her family - everything from family devotions, mealtime behavior, common courtesies, discipline, the role of husband and wife, mother and father, work and play, the Sabbath, schedules and routines, good habits, the training of infants and young children, preparing for new babies, leisure/vacation time, etc, etc, etc at a time when there was no tv, her mother had no dishwasher or washing machine, no tupperware, squeezies (the greatest modern invention getting children to eat their vegetables!), etc. Furthermore, it is full of beautiful, quotable gems that Elisabeth Elliot is so good at writing. And, because it is all written in the context of her family (her and 5 siblings) it makes it so much easier to comprehend how to implement her ideas into my family. It is rich with spiritual encouragement and old-fashioned parenting wisdom that our country has all but forgotten.

I have read this book so many times I've lost count. I just picked it up again over the weekend after not reading it for a while. I just can't get enough of it! Read it for yourself and find out.

So here are some other good parenting books that I like too although they don't quite measure up to The Shaping of a Christian Family. Most are probably ones that you might not have heard of. I always like to go off the beaten path! :) The first three are recommended by Elisabeth Elliot in the back of her book.  That is how I came across those.

Hints on Child Training - Henry Clay Trumbull (Elisabeth's grandfather, first published 1891)

My First 300 Babies - Gladys West Hendrick

The Mother at Home - John S.C. Abbott (Free on the Kindle, first published 1833)

Shepherding a Child's Heart - Ted Tripp

For the Family's Sake - Susan Schaeffer Macauley (daughter of Francis Schaeffer)

The Mission of Motherhood - Sally Clarkson

Parenting By the Book - John Rosemond

All of the above are Christian in nature and subject however, I have two that I love that are secular and about the... French parenting methods! They are fun to read and revealing about our American culture of consumerism, instant gratification and over-indulgence.

French Kids Eat Everything - Karen Le Billon

French Twist: An American Mom's Experiment in Parisian Parenting - Catherine Crawford (this one is hilarious but is occasionally crass).

The next parenting book waiting in the quay is Duties of Parents by J.C. Ryle quoted often by Elliot, and another oldie. :)