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Saturday, 22 April 2017

Engaging Children In Politics

A couple of months before the last general election, Michael and I bought a television for the first time since we were married. We are both interested in politics, and staying up to watch the results come in is something we enjoy; since we weren't going to be on holiday as we had been for the previous election, we bought a television.

We also made an effort to engage our children, particularly our older two, in the event (although we didn't let them stay up!) and in thinking about politics in general. This made quite an impression, and we often have discussions about government and political parties and what we believe the role of the state is in our lives. This isn't always very deep, and certainly not always serious, but they are becoming better thinkers in this area.

We want our children to be responsible citizens, and to apply Biblical principles in this too. We also want them to see that doing this will mean careful, nuanced thinking, and a gracious attitude. We model this imperfectly, and teach these things in a flawed way at times, but they are growing up aware of many of the issues at stake as we consider our role as Christians in society.

Here are a few ways that we have helped this to happen:

1) Conversation. We talk about politics with the children, usually over a meal table. Often, this begins with Michael or I making a comment to each other, and one of the children asking for an explanation.

2) Predictions. Often this will be simply going round the table with everyone saying what they think the outcome of an election will be, and maybe why. For the last general election, Michael produced a large table which we filled in with how many seats we each (Michael and I) thought each party would win. We made several predictions leading up to the election so we could adjust our suggestions according to the polls (ha!), or gut feeling. The day before the election, our older boys each had a guess too. After the result, Michael did some clever maths to find out that the boys had beaten us both (they paid less attention to polls!). We will be doing the same again this time.

3) First News/The Week Junior. We subscribe to both of these for the children at the moment, (though I think The Week Junior is a bit better so we may stick to that alone soon). Both cover the major political events in the UK. Often we'll start talking about something to find that our children have been reading about the issue already. After the last election, we were having a conversation with friends trying to remember the make up of the new cabinet when my eldest wandered off and reappeared with his copy of First News opened to a page with all the new cabinet members listed. He'd clearly been reading it, and absorbing at least some of what he read.

4) Thinking About Thinking. Again, much of this might happen informally. Today I showed my children a Star Wars themed internet meme featuring some key political figures. Talking about the point it was making, how it was making it, and if it was, in fact, using valid reasoning (No in case you were wondering!) was a good exercise in critical thinking.

My eldest has also recently read a book called The Fallacy Detective by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn. It is a book written to help children spot bad reasoning. I put it on the kindle so that we could study it together, but my oldest son worked through it before I had chance (with permission), has re-read it a number of times, and has read many, many examples aloud to us over dinner at various points. Some guests have also been fortunate enough to be introduced to it too! He loves this book, and we've had some great conversations using it. Already, my 9 year old has spotted a politician using a red herring when answering (or not answering a question) thanks to the instruction he has received from his older brother.

5) Visit to Parliament. Clearly this was a special trip, and not possible for everyone, but a couple of years ago I took the boys on a trip to parliament organised by another home education group (our daughter was too young at the time). We took part in a session which is offered for school visits, which included a tour around the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and a workshop about making laws. The boys still remember this as a fantastic trip, and actually remember a huge amount of what they learned too.

The Boys in Westminster Hall

I imagine that there will be plenty of opportunities to continue our conversations over the next few weeks, and our younger children (particularly our 7 year old) are beginning to join in the discussions too.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Friday Reflections - 52

Our Easter break has been a good rest in many ways, although it has been somewhat marred by all of the children being ill at some point. Colds, tiredness, diminished appetites, and conjunctivitis have all featured. With this in mind, we started back to our term time work with a gentle day on Wednesday before we hit the books in a more serious fashion for a couple of days.

The week began, of course, with Easter Sunday. Unfortunately, I had to miss our Sunday service as our 7 year old was too ill to attend. He was so disappointed not to go to church on Easter Sunday, but we remembered how good it is that Jesus has indeed risen, and how we look forward to our own resurrection bodies which will not get sick.

On Wednesday, we went on a nature walk, and completed an art lesson. This was a lovely way to begin our term, and being able to take our time and not rush through everything made it all the more pleasant.

Drawing on our Nature Walk

Our Usual Nature Spot

Drawing and Painting Horses

As well as being back to work, I am just about back to running three times a week again. I had been limiting myself to 3 miles a run and only twice a week, so it is good to be able to do more again now that my knee seems to have recovered. Running in spring weather with blossom and bluebells to look at has been especially pleasant.

I have also been doing both crochet and cross stitch when I have the chance. It has been a couple of years since I decided that I needed to make sure I had some hobbies if I was going to stay sane while immersed in home education, and it has been very satisfying for me to make stuff - especially as I am not very good at creative things in general!

A Blanket for my Daughter

Cross Stitch
I'm still keeping up with my reading; the Easter holidays has made this easier. In particular, I have enjoyed Luther in Love by Douglas Bond. I will have to make sure that I keep on making time for books in the midst of all the more obviously urgent tasks that need to be done.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Avid Reader Books - Children's Choices

The boys have been steadily work through the books they chose for the Christian Reading Challenge that we are working through this year, and are all about to embark on the second list of books. The 9 and 11 year old have managed this fairly comfortably, and have also read lots of other books too. My 7 year old has surprised me by finishing the books on his list (he has a small chunk of one book left to complete). He hasn't been reading lots of other material too, but has really enjoyed the challenge and was very keen to continue.


Here are the books they have chosen for the next stage:

11 Year Old's Books:

1)     A book written by a Puritan: The Holy War by John Bunyan
2) A book by or about a missionary: Jungle Doctor Meets a Lion by Paul White
3) A book about Christian living: Commanded by L. H. Martin
4) A commentary on a book of the Bible: Introducing Acts by David Cook
5) A book about the Reformation: When Lightning Struck! by Danika Cooley
6) A book about theology: The Ology by Marty Machowski
7) A book recommended by a family member: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
8) A book with a great cover: The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
9) A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers: The Adventures of Dog Man: Dog Man by Dav Pilkey
10) A book about church history: The King’s Arrow by Douglas Bond
11) A book of 100 pages or less: The Black Island (The Adventures of Tintin) by Hergé
12) A book of your choice: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
13) A book that won a prize: The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett

9 Year Old's Books:

1) A book written by a Puritan: Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
2) A book by or about a missionary: Jungle Doctor Meets a Lion by Paul White
3) A book about Christian living: A Boy's Guide to Making Really Good Choices by Jim George
4) A commentary on a book of the Bible: Introducing Acts by David Cook
5) A book about the Reformation: When Lightning Struck! by Danika Cooley
6) A book about theology: Cross-Examined by Mark Meynell
7) A book recommended by a family member: Look Into My Eyes (Ruby Redfort 1) by Lauren Child
8) A book with a great cover: The King’s Arrow by Douglas Bond
9) A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers: The Adventures of Dog Man: Dog Man by Dav Pilkey
10) A book about church history: The Rebel’s Keep by Douglas Bond
11) A book of 100 pages or less: The Black Island (The Adventures of Tintin) by Hergé
12) A book of your choice: Take Your Last Breath (Ruby Redfort 2) by Lauren Child
13) A book that won a prize: The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett

7 Year Old's Books:

1) A book written by a Puritan: Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen L. Taylor
2) A book by or about a missionary: John G. Paton: South Sea Island Rescue by Kay Walsh
3) A book about Christian living: A Boy's Guide to Making Really Good Choices by Jim George
4) A commentary on a book of the Bible: The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung & Don Clark
5) A book about the Reformation: John Calvin: After Darkness Light by Catherine MacKenzie
6) A book about theology:  A Boy After God’s Own Heart by Jim George
7) A book recommended by a family member: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
8) A book with a great cover: Running Wild by Michael Morpurgo
9) A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers: The Adventures of Dog Man: Dog Man by Dav Pilkey
10) A book about church history: Peril and Peace by Mindy & Brandon Withrow
11) A book of 100 pages or less: The Black Island (The Adventures of Tintin) by Hergé
12) A book of your choice: Paddington Helps Out by Michael Bond
13) A book that won a prize: The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett



Friday, 14 April 2017

Friday Reflections - 51

The children have been very much in need of a break this week, and though we have been out and about, they have enjoyed the chance to rest at home too. Most of us seem to have had a cold at some point this week, and have been pretty worn out, and my 9 year old has conjunctivitis. In addition, Michael managed to have another fall while running so has sore legs too.

Despite all this, we have had a good week. The children have been building Lego and puzzles, reading, playing games together and pottering about at home.

We've still been for a few walks, and had some fun trips out. My 9 year old went on a cookery course for a couple of hours (before he got conjunctivitis), which he paid for himself as he enjoyed the course he went on as Christmas present from us so much. He had a great time.

The archaeology club that the older boys attend had an extra family session, a trip to the Thames foreshore. We found lots of bits of pottery and animal bones, and learned about London's past as we looked at maps of the area from different stages of history.

Thames Foreshore

A Mosaic of the History of London

Today, Good Friday, we went to church together, and ate homemade hot cross buns. 

Hot Cross Buns

We have been opening our Resurrection Eggs each day, and reading and talking about Jesus' death and resurrection. 

Resurrection Eggs

In the midst of colds and illness, it has been good to look at the great salvation that Jesus has won for us. 

Friday, 7 April 2017

Friday Reflections - 50

Last Saturday we decided to make the most of the zoo membership that we have had this year by making a trip to Whipsnade Zoo. A family day out, and out of London, was good for us all. Our eldest enjoyed taking photographs, and our 9 year old brought his sketch book so that he could draw.

From butterflies to rhinos to red pandas, from elephants to wallabies to giraffes, it is always amazing to see the variety of creatures that God has made.

Drawing a Giraffe

Giraffe

Elephants

Butterfly

Since most schools seem to have begun their Easter break this week, we have taken a rest too. We finished off some last pieces of their work on Monday, then on Tuesday the children made lapbooks to record some of the activities we have been doing about North America at our home education group. Now we are officially taking our Easter holiday.

North America Lapbooks

So far, this has meant one day of chores (interspersed with Lego building and other fun), a day out with friends to a park (with a duck race which the children took part in), and a trip to a chocolate museum with some other home educators.

9 Year Old Tree Climbing

7 Year Old in a Tree


Chocolate Hands!

We seem to have plenty planned for next week too! I am hoping to get some time to plan for next term, and maybe even get a bit ahead with my reading - we'll see how it goes.

Finally, we have begun our family countdown to Easter with our resurrection eggs. The children anticipate these each year, and it a lovely, simple way to remember the events of Jesus' death and resurrection.

Resurrection Eggs


Monday, 3 April 2017

Committed Reader Books (My Choices) - 2017 Christian Reading Challenge

I have now got to the point of choosing my committed level books for the reading challenge that we are attempting this year. The books I have read so far are here and here. I've written here about some books that I have found particularly helpful.

I still have half a book to finish from the previous level, but I like to have a few books on the go at a time, so it seemed like getting started on the next stage would be a good plan.


The books:

1) A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with: God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines
2) A book about Christian living: A Better Story by Glynn Harrison
3) A book about apologetics: The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
4) A book of your choice: Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch
5) A humorous book: Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson
6) A book based on a true story: Luther in Love by Douglas Bond
7) A book about prayer: The Power of Prayer and the Prayer of Power by R. A. Torrey
8) A book of poetry: Falling Awake by Alice Oswald
9) A book with a one-word title: Millennium by Tom Holland
10) A book by Sinclair Ferguson: The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson
11) A novel by an author you have never read before: How to Be Both by Ali Smith
12) A book about Christian living: Emotions: Living Life in Colour by Graham Beynon
13) A memoir or autobiography: The Long and Winding Road by Alan Johnson
14) A play by William Shakespeare: Henry V by William Shakespeare
15) A book of your choice: Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym
16) A book written by an author with initials in their name: Holiness by J. C. Ryle
17) A book by a female author: The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey
18) A book about theology: How Long, O Lord? By D. A. Carson
19) A book published by Crossway: Expositional Preaching by David Helm
20) A self-improvement book: You Can Change by Tim Chester
21) A graphic novel: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
22) A book you own but have never read: The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje
23) A book targeted at the other gender: Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughes
24) A book about Christian living: Invest Your Suffering by Paul Mallard
25) A book of your choice: The Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves
26) A book about race or racial issues: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Friday, 31 March 2017

Friday Reflections - 49

We've crammed so much in this week that it feels like a long time since last Friday. We've had sunny trips to the park, visits to friends, visits from friends, church meetings, running, and much else besides.

Last weekend, Michael and I managed to go out on our own together twice as Michael's parents were staying and kindly looked after the children for us. We did parkrun together on Saturday, and balanced this out with a trip out for tea and cake together a couple of days later.

There have been some gloriously sunny March days this week, and this has made our park trips especially pleasant.

A beautiful spring day.

Picking Daisies


We were also invited to a poetry tea by another family. The children each chose a poem to bring, and we had cookies and tea or juice while they were read out. This wasn't always as civilised as it sounds, but it was a lovely way to enjoy some poetry. Afterwards, the children played on the trampoline together - a good way to burn off some excess energy.

Today we enjoyed a special home education group meeting, as we were visited by Douglas Bond, an author of Christian books, both for adults and children. He spoke to us engagingly about writing and stories, read excerpts from some of his books, and answered questions. It was very enjoyable as well as instructive, and we have some more books for the children to read. I imagine I will enjoy reading them too!

My 9 Year Old with Douglas Bond