Friday, October 30, 2009

Down the Missouri

History.... American history. Who'd a thunk it could be so interesting?? I'm having having a ball with this stuff (and I think my boys are even enjoying it!), so so much more than I did eons ago when I was in grammar school!

So, as I mentioned the other week, the boys and I started this year's study with the birth of our nation. We reviewed the Declaration of Independence (1776) and our desperate need for it, the flimsy Articles of Confederation, the leadership of bold & daring men during the Constitutional Convention and the timeless document they produced. We then took a look at our first president, the rise of political parties, and the enormous growth and change that ensued. Together we read extensively about those early years and the men who shaped this great nation, and-- as a quick aside-- I've gotta tell ya... I can't seem to find a single soul today (in our political realm, I mean) who even closely resembles-- in character or integrity-- those early pioneers. Washington, Adams, Jefferson-- three extraordinary men with brilliant, disciplined minds. Flawed, yes. But courageous patriots nonetheless... who fought for what they believed in (not for what was politically expedient) with every fiber of their being. Me thinks we could use a few more like them today!

Anyhoo... after covering the first 15 years (or so) of our nation's history, and after learning a bit about Jefferson's early years (including his rise to the presidency), we tackled two huge topics which are most certainly credited to our third president-- the Louisiana Purchase (the most significant land purchase of all time) and the Lewis & Clark Expedition. To learn more about both, we read tons of books, we colored maps, we traced travel routes, we discussed motives and consequences, we checked out websites, we watched a movie... and as a result, we now know a lot more than we did when we started (including me!). In fact, most every day I am absolutely amazed... just how much I learn alongside my kids. It's really quite remarkable!

Well. At my request, the boys tackled a construction project with their dad to reinforce and supplement their studies. I stumbled across some basic directions for building a keelboat out of balsa wood-- a near representation of the 55-foot flatboat Lewis & Clark used on their adventure down the Missouri River. The guys measured and cut, they glued and re-glued, they taped and they tied, and when it was all said and done, they had a nice little keelboat-of-a-trophy to display on their bookshelf. Not bad for a few hours work!

And in case anyone's looking to learn more about Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase, or the Lewis and Clark Expedition (on a fairly elementary level, that is), here are few of our favorite resources:

Thomas Jefferson by Cheryl Harness

The Lewis and Clark Expedition by Carol A. Johmann

Louisiana Purchase by Peter & Connie Roop

The Lewis and Clark Expedition by Sally Senzell Isaacs

The Story of the World, volume 3 by Susan Wise Bauer, chapter 32

Lewis and Clark: Great Journey West DVD (this is excellent!!)

The Monticello Classroom at the official Monticello website

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

1000 Gifts: His provision

"Rejoice always;
pray without ceasing;
in everything give thanks,
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

1 Thess 5:16-18

Not always easy to do...
Especially when daddy's away on business.
And the housework threatens to overwhelm.
And sickness overtakes our bodies.
And the sun just doesn't seem to shine.

Yet the beauty through it all...
God-- in all His goodness-- provides.
And day by day, hour by hour, the blessings flow.

So this morning, after one doozy of a week, I offer thanks...

two wonderful grandmoms... who selflessly help, who selflessly give, who selflessly love

Sickness gone. Healthy bodies once again.

daddy home after a week of travel

vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds... as far as the eye can see

well-crafted stories... that captivate, mesmerize, and inspire

one child teaching another... with patience, encouragement, and understanding

devoted mamas, gently leading their young, just as the Father intended

glorious sunshine & cloudless skies after five long days of rain

those five long days of rain and garden-life restored

a family reunion... for Mosby!

8 energetic littermates
+ their very sweet mother
a wonderful play date at the doggy park!

"Is there anything I can help you with, Mom?"

growing bigger every day

"Don't forget to say your prayers," from one tired boy to his brother

new challenges to strengthen & stretch us
new challenges to teach us to depend on the One who made us

and this great comfort:

"The LORD will fight for you;
you need only to be still."

Exodus 14:14

holy experience

and the list continues....

Friday, October 23, 2009

A book recommendation: Grace-Based Parenting

Weeks ago, I entered uncharted territory and posted a few book reviews here on my blog. You see, I recently made a commitment to spend more time in the literary word, and as a result, I've been attempting to slowly work my way through the list I created months ago (as for the reviews, I just wanted to share :). A few titles have been added, a few bunny trails taken. But all in all, it's been a very enlightening (and delightful) experience.

Well, it's time to add another title to that you-guys-really-must-read-this-one list. It's called Grace-Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel, and it's simply the best parenting book I've read yet (and believe you me, I've read lots). Now I hesitate to recommend anything... ever... because what appeals to me may in no way, shape, or form appeal to anyone else, but this book-- well, you simply don't want to miss it. If you have little people (or even not-so-little people), you really, really, really want to pick this one up. And I mean... really. It's that good.

Between the covers of this book, Dr. Kimmel is real. He's honest. He's practical. And he's right on the money. His presentation is chock full of Scripture, and his personal examples are priceless. Much of it I've read twice now, and I've committed myself to rereading it in its entirety every year... because it's that good. And appropriate. And necessary.

Of course I could paraphrase all sorts of passages in an attempt to convince you to grab it off the library shelf, but instead I'll just share a few of my favorites... in Dr. Kimmel's words.... because he says it so much better than I.

If God our heavenly Father is the perfect Father,
and the primary way that he deals with us as humans is through the power of His grace,
it stands to reason that grace forms the best template
for bringing out the best in our own children. (p 28)

At the core of grace is love--
a love that delights in us in spite of our sin and comes to us free of charge.
Love emanates straight from the heart of God...
[Secure love] is a steady and sure love that is written on the hard drive of children's souls.
It's a complete love that they default to when their hearts are under attack.
It's the kind of love that children can confidently carry with them into the future. (p 46)

... if the bottom line of parenting is grace,
then that should affect how you develop goals for your children,
how you handle discipline, how you process their fears,
how you deal with the quirks and idiosyncrasies,
and how you respond to their fads.
Grace keeps you from clamping down on their spirits
when they move through awkward transitions
and walk through the valley of the shadow of adolescence.
The reason grace makes the most sense as a bottom line for parenting
is because of grace's eternal appeal to the human heart. (p 29)

Grace can't be some abstract concept that you talk about in your home.
It has to be real-time action
that ultimately imprints itself on your children's hearts. (p140)

What happens inside the four walls of a family home
does more to affect the outcome of children's lives than any other single factor...
If you're sleepwalking through the defining factors of your children's lives,
you can handicap their ability
to be all that God meant them to be when they become adults.
Grace keeps you from tilting too far to one side or too far to the other.
It works just like a carpenter's level.
Grace helps you find the balance point in a world of extremes
and keeps you from investing your energies in a long list of things that don't matter.
Grace provides equilibrium for a family.
Where too many parents are concerned with how others view their children,
grace-based parents are more excited with how God views their children.
Grace-based parents avoid the silly preoccupations
with arbitrary standards devised by evangelical busybodies.
They keep their eye on the bubble in the level, which is their children's character.
To them, keeping their children balanced when it comes to faith,
integrity, poise, discipline, endurance, and courage
makes more sense than worrying about whether others think
their children look spiritual enough (whatever that means)...
In the process, they encourage their children to find the unique individual
that God designed them to be
through an intimate and authentic relationship with Christ. (p 211-212)

Grace-based parents realize that their children need security in their hearts,
significance in their lives, and strength for the future.
They also know that these things don't come via prepackaged programs based on clever formulas.
These things come by way of the heart--
transferred through parents who enjoy a grace relationship with Christ...
Grace-based parenting is not a checklist for parenting;
it's a lifestyle.
It's a clear attempt to retrofit your minds to respond to your children
in the same way God responds to you. (p 212-213)

Grace-based parenting... captures the heart of God in an all-encompassing way.
Grace includes His love, embraces His mercy, and honors His sacrifice...
You have been singled out to do a favor for God.
He is asking you to be His representative to a small but vital part of the next generation.
He needs someone to be His voice, His arms, and His heart.
He chose you.
He chose you to assist Him in a miracle.
He gave you children and then said, "Now go, and give these precious lives meaning."
It's a mandate that comes with a great reward if you succeed,
but a heavy price if you fail. This is where many parents panic.
When they realize that their job is to raise up children to love and serve God,
they wonder how on earth they will do that.
The answer isn't on earth.
It's found in heaven. It's sitting on an eternal throne.
He has many names, but among my favorites is "the God of Grace."
You wonder, How am I to raise up children to love and serve God?
The answer is actually not that difficult.
You simply need to treat your children the way God treats you. (p 228)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

We the People

This is one of the neatest projects I've seen in a long, long time...

Here's the deal: this year, our history studies picked right up where they left off last year-- with the founding of our country. On day 1, we plunged right in with a review of the Declaration of Independence and our Founding Fathers, and then we quickly zoomed ahead 11 years to the writing of the Constitution. In our co-op, we did the same thing (with a cursory glance at the Articles of Confederation)-- we studied our nation's new form of government-- 3 branches and all-- and stressed to our students that it is still at work today. We memorized the Preamble (thank goodness for Schoolhouse Rock!), and then to cement it all, our wonderful-- and I mean wonderful-- art teacher, Lisa, pulled a project our of her hat that. just. rocks. Let me tell ya-- she worked her magic in a most impressive way-- I'm still in awe!

Here's the skinny:

To each child (1st-5th grade in one class; 6th & up in another) she assigned a brief phrase... a word or two or three... a snippet of the Preamble to the Constitution. And then she handed each student a beautiful copy of his/her personal selection, written in calligraphy. For a week the kids practiced writing their phrase (at home), and then during the following class Lisa handed each child a strip of crisp white paper. On that strip each child wrote-- in his/her very best calligraphy-- his/her practiced words.

Bub loved this project and never once complained when I asked him to work on his words--"...this Constitution for the..."
It was quite the lovely treat!!
(now if I could only get him to apply that same enthusiasm to the rest of his studies :)

As for Noh-man... he loved it, too,
and practiced "domestic tranquility" over and over and over again...
to get it just right :)

In fact, the entire class had a ball with this assignment...

especially our family's budding artist... this pretty girl-- one of my very favorite nieces :)

So... when all was said and done, Lisa collected each strip, glued them one by one to a long sheet of white paper (slightly larger than 2' x 3', I'd guess),
dashed to the printer, and some time later, received the final product.

It looks like this~

The Preamble to the United States Constitution,
written in each child's hand... on parchment.

It's really quite remarkable--
I can't wait to see it framed at the students' art show this spring!

Oh, and to top it all off, Lisa even printed out notebook size copies (all on parchment)
for each student to keep~

Pretty neat-o, huh??

Monday, October 19, 2009

1000 Gifts: October blessings

Thanks is never for the things.
Thanks is for His touch.

-Ann Voskamp

daisies in October

God's gift of marriage and a family-- together-- to celebrate

"Aunt Heather's here! Aunt Heather's here!"

my 5 favorite men and Pops's superhuman strength... or perhaps just a little bit of big boy humor :)

talents, abilities, passions, and goals... and God's incredible blessings which allow us to put them all together... for His glory

my two dedicated young men and their swim meet success!

magic in the miniature

friendships unaffected by distance

a leaf collecting frenzy, the enthusiasm with which he embraced the hunt, and the beautiful work of his hands, now hanging on our dining room mirror

"Mama, I love you all the way to Pluto!"
Quiet, pensive pause.
"Is Pluto farther than the South Pole??"

a heavy burden met with timely words.... a timely message.... a timely discovery.
Exactly what I needed...
God's faithfulness every. single. time.

servant hearts, the ministry of others, selfless examples, and childlike faith

the gentle prodding of a Savior who loves me too much to leave me as I am

extravagant giving

and these Words:

"...My grace is sufficient for you,
for My strength is made perfect in weakness...”

2 Corinthians 12:9

holy experience

and my list continues...

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Markham, Virginia

... one of our favorite fall fieldtrips.

We went last year with Big Man's preschool class,
and I think we even went the year prior.
And just the other week we coaxed Grandmom into joining us for this year's venture.
We picked apples right off the trees and we tasted a few beauties right then and there.
And then we brought our goodies home to enjoy in the days and weeks to come.

We've already devoured our first batch of apple crisp...
I'm sure it won't be our last :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A lot of hot air

Last Thursday, in celebration of mom's birthday, Pops took mom and the boys on a fantastical tour of Charlottesville... not on the ground via your traditional methods, but in an enormous hot air balloon... and they had an absolute ball! I wasn't able to be there to see them off (by that time I was back home with Les in her hospital room, anxiously awaiting the arrival of her not-so-little man), but thankfully someone on site had a camera. Here are a few shots of their wonderul adventure~

Thanks again, mom & dad, for this most generous gift.
The boys had the time of their lives!

p.s.-- next time, it's my turn!

Monday, October 12, 2009

1000 Gifts: A few more little things

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord,
continue to live in him,
rooted and built up in him,
strengthened in the faith as you were taught,
and overflowing with thankfulness."

Colossians 2:6-7

With a grateful heart, I give thanks for:

human jungle gyms, hearty laughter, and a favorite trike they'll simply never outgrow

a morning at the park, fun-loving cousins, a game of catch-me-if-you-can... pure joy!

spontaneous hugs

bike helmets, even if they are a few sizes too big

acorn hunts in the backyard and a bag full of goodies for grandma's deer

the impossible math problem... solved! All by himself.

a favorite snack... made by helper hands

"This book is actually pretty good."

lazy afternoons

four energetic children, playing contendedly, yes happily... together... in the backyard


painting outdoors (and the discipline he showed by NOT painting the steps... even though he really wanted to)

a weekend away, birthday celebrations, time to rest and unwind... home

laughter, acceptance, encouragement, love

and these tiny feet, straight from his mama's womb
yes, this newborn boy... and the joy he'll forever bring

"Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."

Psalm 34:8

holy experience

and my list goes on...