Category: Education

It’s a start

When we moved into this house 7 years ago there was no landscaping to speak of and the attic and basement were full of random objects left behind.  The previous owners had lived out of state and rented it out as a group home.  One of the left behind objects was a partial set of the original wooden shutters.  Old fashioned with a coat of white paint over a coat of red and hinges so they could fold out over the window, these shutters were too precious to throw away so I left them there in the attic.  I had no use for them–they had been replaced with decorative aluminum shutters and I was not going to try to put them back.  Still I hoped I would find a use for them someday so I left them in the attic.

Over the years since that time we have gradually landscaped our front and side yard.  I am no gardener and my husband is not an outdoorsman.  However my dad has donated plenty of old rocks for us to build a flower garden of sorts around the front porch and at one point we edged the side of the house that counts–the one you can actually see from the road, with rocks and tried to plant perennials.  Some of them lived some of them didn’t.  They make for a pitiful display once summer comes though in early spring and fall our daylilies and azaleas try to make a showing.  Still we have large sections where there is nothing but weeds and a little periwinkle.

Today it all came together.  For the last few weeks I have had the urge for a garden in the back of my mind.  I usually do at this time of year but with our fill and clay for top soil our attempts at gardens have been poor indeed.  This year felt different somehow.  I mentioned it to my husband and he practically giggled at my silliness. Still the urge continued.  Then I started seeing hints at how to go about it.  One site talked about making seed starters out of toilet paper tubes, another talked about starting seeds in the basement with a grow light, another talked about raised gardens.  Click.  It all came together.


Yesterday I mentioned the raised gardens to my husband and he said as long as they were in the bare spots on the side of the house and not where they would block his mowing.   I had been planning onusing some old wooden crates from the basement to buiild but held back because the wood was very splintered and made me nervous (I get hair splinters when I cut hair so wood splinters are a big deal.)  Now that I had the go ahead I was thinking about those shutters and realized that they were the perfect size and shape which meant no cutting.  They were also designed to be outside so we didn’t have to do anything to prepare them.  All we needed to do was move the hinges from the top to the side and we would have our boxes.  Better yet I called my dad who is our family gardener and he said they would be perfect–seldom does he approve my halfway plans so this is a big deal. 🙂 Not only that but he offered topsoil to get them started.  So, other than the seeds and time this project is free (which is good since my husband is leery of my “gardening” projects–he knows how much I “love” being outside in hot weather weeding and whatnot.:) )  The lure of homegrown vegetables is just too much for me and the kids just want the chance to play in the dirt and eat all the vegetables while playing outside.  It will be a great homeschool project, don’t you think?

Ubuntu (circa 2008) vs. Linux Red Hat (circa 2001)

So here I am once again working on a Linux box. When I have spent a little more time using it and get over all the initial ooing and ahing I will give you a run down of Ubuntu vs. Windows XP service pack 2.  So far everything is so incredibly wonderful and super great as in “Oooo–look how fast my mail gets sent!”  and “Ahhh–I just opened 30 tabs in Firefox and my system didn’t barf” and I want to have time to find some flaws so I can give you a real comparison.

It has been 7 years since I first installed Red Hat Linux on my new OS free computer.  That computer ran Red Hat Linux for a year until we could finally afford XP so I could run all my kids’ games. (I should note here that that old computer is once again running Linux–that is the poor old machine that I put Edubuntu on for the kids. Talk about ironic.) Six years ago I quit using Linux in disgust.  Mind you I loved the OS–LOVED IT.  It didn’t crash and when something worked it really worked.  The problem was the lack of standard user information and of quality GUI interface (the stuff was designed by geeks with no artist in sight–it was pretty crappy).  Back then everything was installed via the terminal (similar to installing from DOS) and the only people using it were supergeeks who couldn’t possibly explain things in terms that a stay-at-home mom who could fix Windows machines and code in HTML could comprehend.  I spent hours hanging out on Slashdot and internet forums trying to glean information that actually was helpful and not too dumbed down or too over my head.  Fear of the Blue Screen of Death kept me hacking away trying to figure it all out.

Nowadays things are different in Linux-land.  Ubuntu is an easy to use OS with plenty of auto-installing programs in the database plus a huge wall of forums full of all sorts of useful information and simple walk-thrus.   Instead of spending my time searching the internet for the .roms I need for the specific install and trying to decipher cryptic terminal codes I do a quick Google search for the walk-thru I need, copy and paste the details and wa-la it works.

It also helps that most open source projects are available both on Linux and Windows.  Despite my install of Windows XP I never went back to Microsoft for most of my programs.  Outlook Express and Internt Explorer were never used–even when it meant that Flash and Shockwave didn’t quite work (they do now).  Thunderbird, Opera, Firefox, Winamp, OpenOffice, as well as many wonderful programs found at graced my computer.  When I did buy something  (like Paintshop Pro) it was never Microsoft and seldom the big expensive companies.  Not only was it a way of encouraging the little guy but it also was a way for me to test out programs that others may need so I knew what to recommend when I was helping others with their computers. Since my husband is a programmer we are very anti-piracy.  Instead of recommending that somebody go out and buy an expensive memory hog software from Microsoft or Adobe I would encourage them to try Opensource or small company software that took less space, cost less money, and was less likely to let viruses and malware run rampant in their computer (which is usually why they called me in the first place.)

Back then I could not recommend Linux (or at least that flavor of Linux though at the time it was the most user friendly) to my mom, mother-in-law or anyone else who didn’t have a higher than standard comprehension of computers.  It took all my background and ability to research to make it do what I wanted to do.  With Ubuntu I feel I can finally recommend Linux to most users.  Nowadays you can find software for practically anything you need your computer for–and you can auto-install and it just works.  The plethora of educational resources available on it are an added plus.

Wordless Wednesday: What is it?

My husband’s cousins brought this back from Tanzania and showed it to us on Monday. I forgot to take pictures so I emailed her and asked for a picture–it just came in my email! It took all of us some time and a few clues to figure out what it is.

What do you think it is? If you homeschool have the kids guess as well. I will give the answer tomorrow.


Practical Tools to Help Stop Complaining in its Tracks

I have had several requests both in comments and emails for practical ways to apply a complaining fast (which I talked about in this post.) Our family is not yours and I would say the best thing to do is pray about it and ask God for wisdom before you start. The following are what work for us.
My kids and I are all visual learners–poor hubby is the only audio in the household. 🙂 This makes visual tools helpful and even necessary when trying to teach them–especially when trying to weed out something as deeply rooted as complaining. I have several reminders that I sketch out when the complaining starts. (I guess that I should also mention that avoiding tv is a great way to start–discontent is spread by tv commercials big time. We don’t have tv so it isn’t as much trouble though magazines are a discontent trigger around here.)

1. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

This applies as much to complaints as it does to antiques. You have likely heard it applied before –“Eat your vegetables, there are little children in your favorite country here who would love what you have.” As cliche as it is it is very true. You don’t have to point it out in the same manner that your parents did but pointing out that their best friend lives where there is NO SNOW is a very good way to remind the child who suddenly got snow when they wanted spring that they are blessed.

Finding a blessing in each complaint is an excellent way to go about this and puts the burden on the complainer instead of on the one trying to teach non-complaining (and there is no point in trying to teach it to your kids if you are a complainer–the whole plank in the eye thing applies here.) I have my kids draw their complaints and find five ways that their complaints could be considered blessings. (In fact, think about it, often the things you hate worst about another person are the things that you love most about them.)

2. Diagram your attitude.

In general, complaining stems from a selfish attitude. (Poor me/it’s all about me.) Yesterday we had a little lesson about this that helped my oldest visualize it and see why we are to focus on loving others instead of loving ourselves. In that case I used Rachel and all that she had complained about that day but for her sake I will use Alexander as an example. As you know from the story not only does Alexander have a terrible, no good, very bad day, but he also complains about it to everyone.


Now some of the things that happened to him were his fault and some of them weren’t but all of them made him grumpy because of his focus. Instead of thinking about others and how they were feeling he was focused on himself and how each thing made him feel.


What happens when you are focused on yourself and how things make you feel is that you start to collapse in on yourself. You stop thinking about others and how they are feeling and think more and more about yourself. It is the very reason complaining leads to depression. The more you coplain the more you self-focus, the more you self-focus the more you have to complain about .

What happens if you turn around each of these complaints and make the best of each?


Sure these things seem goody-two-shoes but this IS the way we are called to respond as Christians. And look what happens when those attitudes change:


We grow outward! Instead of collapsing in on our selves there is plenty of room to expand out towards others. You can always think more about others–there is only so much room for you to focus on your self. The cool thing is that when I was doing this illustration with Rachel I didn’t notice the collapsing/expanding part–she noticed it and it hit home.3. Count your blessings.

This one is kind of obvious. Sure, you may have something that seems like a curse but what about your blessings? Complainers tend to focus on the bad stuff and often need to make plenty of “thankful lists” before they break the habit. This is how God did it for me. Every time I started to complain I would battle it with a praise. After a while the complaining habit broke and it was replaced with a habit of praise. With my kids I have them write or draw it–and once they get started it is hard to stop.

4. Dying to self.

John 12:23-25

This illustration goes even further as we applied it to our life in Christ. We are called to die to ourselves and Christ uses a seed as an example. So, I used a seed to demonstrate this same concept.

Now, I grew up on a large space of land and we had lots of oak trees. That means we had TONS of acorns. A few of the acorns made it into the ground each year but more of them were stored up to be eaten or rot. Some acorns that were left behind would start to put forth shoots and grow roots, others would just stay acorns. My brother and I used to play all kinds of things with acorns and, in the spring, more often than not would find rotten ones full of worms.

The other ones, the ones that put forth shoots soon were no longer acorns. They didn’t rot at all instead they grew into tiny trees, and the ones that really persevered would grow into huge oak trees.

So for an acorn to stay an acorn meant it would eventually rot and get worms but the one that gave up being an acorn became a mighty oak tree. An acorns such a small, little thing but it is full of an amazing potential if it is willing to give up being an acorn. The same applies to us.

When we are caught up in ourselves and complaining all the time we are like a acorn trying to stay an acorn. When we stop looking at ourselves and think about others we can grow.

Benefits of Homechurch

You’re never late–even when it is daylight savings time and everyone wakes up way past when any church starts.

In other words today church will be later–probably evening. 🙂  Actually it often is since that is when my husband prefers having it.

Squirmy kids only interrupt a few people and the leader can stop church and deal with any disciplinary issues.

When fellowshipping and worshiping in a smaller group–in our case, immediate family (Matthew:18: 19-20) it is a simple thing to deal with a noisy kid and there is no embarrassment  on the parent’s part because the children like to sit front and center where they can see everything  so the parent has to lead the small crowd all the way back to the back of the sanctuary to remove the kid.  This also includes bathroom breaks which are always more frequently needed when children are sitting in church.

The lesson can be taught in a way the the children “get it” and can be discussed at the moment instead of trying to remember all the questions later.

When we “went to church” the kids went with us and were expected to pay attention–well at least the older two, Issac spent the time rolling his cars under the pews.  This meant that they would often have questions whichthey whisper during the sermon.  Later, on the way home, we would ransack our brains trying to remember what their questions were.  Now the kids ask immediately and the “sermon” is more a discussion of a reading as it takes place than a lecture.  Not only does this benefit the children but it also benefits the adults involved–one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it to someone else.

The children are actively involved in the lesson.

My girls adore reading verses that have struck them during the week aloud after the main Bible reading.  They also love to share what God has been doing in their lives throughout the week.  Issac is not quite as interested in what is going on–last week he spent the entire time determined to read quietly from my Bible.  He read two paragraphs of the chapter we were reading–Mark 7.

We can focus on a verse or section as long as we need to.

God has been speaking to us through Mark 7 for two weeks now.  Shamus and I are also reading through Romans together on the side and God has lined up our readings brilliantly and is teaching us much.  Our church time is also much shorter than traditional church.  We don’t need to spend an hour on a subject unless the conversation goes on that long.  Often the main conversation is short and then extends into later conversations throughout the week.

The kids are with us and no one is  pointing out that there are all kinds of “Children’s Ministries”.

Some time ago the Lord started convicting us that our children needed to be learning beside us instead of in a separate classroom.  Some children benefit from “children’s church” and all that entails but not my kids and God made it very clear.  When we went to the more crowded services, kids in tow, many well meaning adults would gently let us know that the church had a wonderful “children’s program”.  When we began attending the smaller, earlier service the mostly elderly adults loved to pull us aside and bless us for bringing our little ones so they too could be fed.   I agreed with them and was delighted to know others felt that way.  I know that “Children’s ministries” are necessary for some but don’t tell me that you have a family friendly church and then separate my family at every possibly moment.  Child friendly?  Yes, family friendly?  No.  Family friendly to me means beneficial to the family as a family unit.  There are no scriptures that I can think of that refer to children being taught separately from their parents but there are several that refer to women and children being present while the teaching was going on– Ezra 10 is one of my favorite examples but when Jesus taught the women and children also gathered to listen (for example see Matthew 14:13-18.)

We are living out  Proverbs 22: 5-7 and Deuteronomy 4:8-10.

Homechurching and homeschooling give us ample opportunity to focus on what each child specifically needs to learn.  It also allows us to live what we teach and teach what we live.  Our goal is not to train our children in the way WE THINK they should go but in the way God designed them to go.  We are giving them the tools they need and making sure we teach them His truths at every step of the way.  We are also able to remove separate the traditions of men from the truth of scripture so they can stay focused on Him.  The Lord has reminding us of this over the last few weeks as we study Mark 7 and Romans 1-5.

As I said before–homechurch isn’t for everyone and God has definitely called us specifically to homechurch for this time.  It has been a real blessing and the above listed are just a few of the ways.

The Car Game

“All right. All three of you are spelunking. You each have some granola bars, some water, 20 ft. of rope and a flashlight. You are about 10 ft. into the cave and you hear a human shout ahead. You cannot tell which of the four caves ahead of you it is in. What do you do? ”

To any geek this sounds like a typical D&D campaign, or at least part of one. It isn’t–it is our car game. Instead of dice deciding–since the game master mom is driving I try to consider their solutions and decide whether it is possible that it might work. At each decision there is a chance that something will go wrong or “rocks fall everybody dies” but in general this is a much simpler (and much less deadly) version of the geeky game and one that fosters story telling and problem solving.

The kids enjoy coming up with possible solutions and have many opportunities to try again and test different theories. In this case it took about 20 minutes (half the drive home from Grandma’s) to come up with a solution to the problem. They managed to find and save the fellow spelunker who had fallen into a hole about 70 ft into the cave.

On the same car ride they managed to rescue a kite from a tree and find a way to get home should our car stop five miles from town (they were able to figure out where the car was stuck based on the direction and and chose the person who was closest to come and get them.)

The game is very similar to the role playing people tend to do with younger children but geared towards building their communication and problem solving skills ( most of the “rocks fall everybody dies” endings occur when the person planning isn’t clear about their solution and leaves out vital details like holding breath or turning on flashlights.)

I got to thinking about it (and playing it) today after talking to the kids about the passing of D&D game designer Gary Gargax while wandering around Borders Books today.

The Importance of Play

I ran into this news story over here and it surprised me that it was even a story.

Watch any child who is free of schedules, strict socially structured and planned activities, and the freedom to use the materials on hand and you will find that child playing. Any parent who has watched and listened quietly as their little one plays can tell you that that child is imitating and working out what is in the world around him. What parent hasn’t been surprised to find their 2 year old more interested in the wrapping paper than the brightly colored toys it hid? What parent hasn’t noticed a baby’s joy at a set of keys or a spoon?

The only reason older kids don’t play happily with what is on hand is that they have been told they need the latest toy or that cool kids don’t play that anymore. They have been trained to need entertainment, to demand it, and have been taught to be bored without it.

We don’t need to teach children to be creative–we need to keep from killing their creativity by smothering them with talking or overly specific toys and too many scheduled activities.

Yes, I am ranting.

I want my children to grow up happy and fully intact. That means I let them loose with how-to books and the supplies on hand. Rachel has a list of things she wants me to buy at the craft store and I tell her that she can buy it if she saves but otherwise she has to make due with what we have. She has made old fashioned can stilts, a fishing pole with a hook made from a jewelry find earring hook and paper fish, a riding horse from an old broomstick and a sock. She made a card board and clothespin ring toss, and a plethora of clothespin dolls. No, they aren’t high quality but she and her siblings love them because she made them herself. In fact, she is amazed at how wonderful these old fashioned toys are compared to the junk she used to buy all the time at the thrift shop.

Sure my kids play games and watch movies, and other than an occasional “that’s enough, go find something else to do” or a request that chores be done first they are free to play as long as they like. They get sick of it pretty quick when they have that much freedom. Boredom is not tolerated and pretty soon they are engrossed in something else.

Now that they are older they love to plan out games and spend much longer organizing the activity and preparing for play than actually playing. They, at 6, 8, and 10, still spend plenty of time really playing. The girls have a doll house and their cabbage patch kids, Issac has his marbles, race tracks, trains, Legos and Construx–they all play with all of it so when it comes down to it they are only divided by rooms . Every time I enter the girls room I see the dollhouse rearranged–their Only Hearts Club Kids stand in some new fashion–it always makes me want to take a picture as there is so much thought put into the setup. In my son’s room , well it is a mess. They love building things and use all sorts of random objects to build elaborate structures. One day it is Lego vehicles, then next it is Construx, the next it is race tracks. (And, as you can see from the photos, my son likes to play with our rock collection.)

They don’t own any toys that all go perfectly together. They wouldn’t keep them that way if they did. Marvel Super Heroes and Villains often make their way into the doll house alongside my vintage Strawberry Shortcake dolls. The ceramic tea-set my in-laws got the girls are as often used with miss-matched plastic kitchen things and foods and Cabbage Patch Kids as they are used for real dress up tea parties elaborately set up by the kids. Wooden blocks and train tracks are often used with matchbox cars and the old fashioned Little People from my Sesame Street set. And that is just inside–you wouldn’t believe the mish-mash of toys that litter our yard in the summer months. (And you know those boots we went to find–those were so my ten year old could go play in the giant mud puddle that fills the valley out back every spring.)

Yes, it gets messy. Sure it isn’t as nice and neat as those little craft kits and running them to t-ball and every other thing under the sun that kids under 12 can be involved in. Yet somehow it is right and it works and the kids are learning and enjoying and growing in ways that they wouldn’t if they were on a schedule and played one kit at a time.


Dragging three grumpy and stir crazy kids through the cold rain to several stores in search of boots–not fun.

We found a pair finally at Target–they cost more than I planned but I have been promised that this child who wants everything will not ask for anything else for months to make up for the $20 spent.:) We’ll see. I( could go on about all the learning that occurred today but my brain hurts.
I am tired and grumpy and instead of complaining about everything I am going off to curl up with a good book (I got a package of 4 in the mail from yesterday so have some reading to do) and sip some hot tea or coffee–I haven’t decided yet. The kids are off to test out Rachel’s black polka dot rain boots and get muddy and soaked. They will be in in an hour or so requiring clean clothes and a hot bath. After that they will curl up and watch Gorgeous for the third time today (once in English and once in Cantonese with English subtitles–which I prefer–you get a much better sense of the story that way and yes I prefer watching anime with subtitles than in English.) I am not just an anime fan but also a closet kung fu fan–I actually have a portrait of Bruce Lee over my desk with all my paintings. It was a gift from my brother in law. The kids have been enjoying seeing Jackie Chan at work–yes the movie has some other aspects that are less than suitable morally but which we have decided are okay in this instance and it is a great introduction to Chinese culture. We have had plenty of great discussions about various behaviors and aspects of the movie. Good stuff but I am too tired to make a whole post of it so it shall wait.

The Deadliest Disease

We have a nasty disease that runs in our family.

It is  very, very dangerous and very contagious.

It can be life threatening if not beat and it takes special measures, a strong constitution, and lots of grace to beat it.

It has killed the most healthy of adults, destroyed even the sweetest childhoods, and destroyed many marriages.

It opens the door to many other diseases including cancer, depression, heart attacks, and general poor health.

It has killed my grandmother, my grandfather, my other grandfather, my great grandmother, it helped to ruin my parents’ marriage, it has destroyed most of my dad’s relationships with family members.  On my mother’s side it has done plenty of damage, taking out most of my grandmother’s sisters, destroying their relationships with one another, and leading to the majority of those still alive being on anti-depressants.

My husband and I were alarmed to see the symptoms in our children and are taking steps to stop it in its tracks.

Yesterday we took drastic measures, declaring a 24 hour fast which will likely extend beyond the first 24 hours if we see it continuing.Read More