Friday, 31 July 2015

Holidays - A New Season

Before we had children, holidays meant reading and walking. I used to read a book a day on holiday, and still fit in plenty of walks and tea shops. After children - things changed a little. I particularly remember one holiday just after our eldest learned to crawl, in a house with polished wooden floors. I don't remember sitting and reading much.

The highlights of holidays after children have been numerous. Nature diaries and bird watching. Paddling in lakes. Damming streams. Walks in the woods or building sandcastles. Catching crabs and eating ice creams.

They like to get wet at any opportunity...

...even if it's a bit chilly.
This year's holiday in the Lake District marked a new season, though. Our children still enjoy all these things, but they also share other interests with us. We have always taken them walking, but, now our youngest is nearly 4, we can go on longer walks; she cried when we started to come down Catbells because she wanted to "do more climbing". 

The top of Catbells.

The older two read a lot as well, and they all play happily for long periods, so I actually was able to read quite a bit on holiday for the first time in a while. 

They also enjoy museums. We have visited the Pencil Museum (an old favourite) and discovered Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum. The Mining Museum was a great find - we went on a steam train, panned for minerals, enjoyed lots of big machines (especially my daughter) and looked around the little museum. My 8 year old has recently been very interested in minerals, so he loved looking around (and visiting the gift shop).

My daughter with a Big Truck.

Panning for minerals.
A new season of our lives as a family is beginning; we have left behind the world of very little children - which we have loved in many ways - and are now working out which mountains a nearly five year old could potentially manage next summer.

Ice creams will always feature on a holiday (even while reading).

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Keswick Convention

We have just enjoyed another week at the Keswick Convention, and remembered again why we keep on coming back each year.
Our primary reason for coming is the Bible teaching, for both adults and children. This year, the main Bible Readings focused on the life of Elisha. These were so helpful, as the speaker Paul Mallard tackled some of the more obscure events in the life of Elisha and explained them clearly. In particular, he showed how they fitted into the biblical narrative and are fulfilled by Jesus.
Meanwhile, the children also looked at the life of Elisha in their groups. It is a great opportunity for us to talk as a family about what we have all been learning. It also reinforces to the children that we as adults are still learning from God's Word as we go off to our meeting as they go to theirs.
Our second reason for coming to Keswick each year is the location. We have made the most of escaping London and visiting the Lakes - paddling in Derwentwater, climbing Catbells and walking in the countryside.
Finally, we come with another (brave and forgiving!) family each year, and all this is more fun with good friends to share it with.
Our children talk about it all year. We pray that it will be a holiday which not only produces good memories, but which helps them grow in their trust in Jesus as God's word is taught to them.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Christ Our Life by Michael Reeves

Product: Christ Our Life Image

Christ our Life by Michael Reeves is the first book I have read this summer. In his introduction, he examines why, in this age, we tend towards books written about ourselves. He writes:
It's not just our self-focus, though; we naturally gravitate, it seems, towards anything but Jesus - and Christians almost as much as anyone. Whether it's 'the Christian worldview', 'grace', 'the Bible' or 'the gospel'; as if they were things in themselves that could save us. Even 'the cross' can get abstracted from Jesus, as if the wood had some power of its own. Other things, wonderful things, vital concepts, beautiful discoveries, they so easily edge Jesus aside. Precious theological concepts meant to describe him and his work get treated as things in their own right. He becomes just another brick in the wall. But the centre, the cornerstone, the jewel in the crown of Christianity is not an idea, a system or a thing; it is not even 'the gospel' as such. It is Jesus Christ.
Christ Our Life is an astonishingly good book. It examines, and rejoices in, the person of Jesus. The book begins by looking at Jesus as the eternal Son of God, then takes us through his life and death, his resurrection and his glorious return. Michael Reeves manages to take complex theology, and help us to delight more in the character of Jesus, and the relationship that we can enjoy with him.

Why I loved this book:

Depth: This is a short book, but not shallow. The theology of Christ as both God and Man is richly expounded. Our union with Christ is explored with clarity and with depth. I particularly enjoyed the richness of how he demonstrates the work of Christ is echoed throughout Scripture.

Breadth: Michael Reeves leads us deep into scripture, but also draws on helpful insights from early church theologians, from Puritans, from Reformers and many others through the ages to help us see the wonderful character of Jesus, displayed in his life and work.

Brevity: At just over 100 pages, this book is not too daunting to begin. It is also broken into short, clear sections, which means that it is possible to read it a little at a time - in chunks while cooking tea or waiting for an appointment - without losing the thread of the argument.

Most of all,

Passion: This a book which delights in Jesus. It made me want to go back to the Bible and enjoy more the picture we have of a loving and merciful Jesus. It helped me to see more clearly what a great privilege it is to be united with Christ. It lifted my eyes to the realities we have in Jesus.

Christ our Life is a book which will expand your mind, stretch your understanding, and warm your heart.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Home Educating As A Minister's Wife

Sarah at Delivering Grace is currently doing a series of blog posts written by people home educating in different circumstances.

Reading Sarah's blog (and some encouragement from Sarah!) inspired me to start a blog in the first place, so it has been fun to write a guest post (here) for her about the joys and difficulties of home education when your husband is a church pastor.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Summer Reading Challenge

Today is the first day of our Summer Reading Challenge.

Over the last few years, we have used the library reading challenge. However, for a number of reasons, this didn't work brilliantly last year, so we have devised our own. Hopefully it will be a fun way to inspire our children to keep on reading. I also hope it will be a way to encourage them to read more widely, as part of the challenge is to read books that are new for them.

As a bit of extra motivation, they will each receive a bronze, silver and gold award along the way. We haven't decided what they should be, probably just a small prize each time.

The advantage of this is that we can tailor the requirements to ensure that it is an appropriate challenge for each of our children.

My eldest has always been a prolific reader, so his aim is to read 25 new books. We started this morning, and he is already a third of the way through his first book!

My 8 year old has really flourished in his reading over the last few months, and always seems to have his nose in a book too. He has to read 15 new books. He's already started another of the Roman Mystery series by Caroline Lawrence this morning, which he is loving.

My 6 year old has a different challenge. He has had significant speech problems, which has meant that it is only since Easter that I have begun to teach him phonics again. He is coming on brilliantly, not least because he has just learned to say some of the sounds that he has not been able to manage before. His challenge is to keep up with our reading curriculum over the summer, and to complete 15 lessons (some of which are quite long).

I don't want to leave my 3 year old out, so her challenge is to listen to 25 picture books. I will try to use ones that she is less familiar with, but won't be too strict about it.

When I was discussing doing this with the children, my bright spark eldest asked why Mummy and Daddy weren't joining in too. I couldn't see any reason why not, so we have to read 8 books each over the summer. Michael has agreed not to include books he reads for work as this would give him quite an advantage. Hopefully we'll manage!

Monday, 6 July 2015

3 Nights Away

Today I'm going away- for 3 whole nights. It's my annual trip to a ministers' wives conference, a time for encouragement from God's Word and a time for prayer, a chance to catch up with friends and to enjoy being cooked for. I hope to come home refreshed, and ready to support my husband, care for my children and serve my church family.

This morning is a bit more frantic, as I have been getting ready to leave. There is washing hanging out to dry and the shopping unpacked, including extra chocolate for my husband. I have taught the children and written a couple of Bible lessons for my husband to use while I'm away. I still need to pack...

After the year when I was giving detailed (and obvious) instructions to my poor husband, only to realise that my baby was holding a table knife in her hands in spite of my "supervision", I don't bother to leave notes of what to do! However, on request, I've jotted down the work the children need to get done as it is easier to have that down in one place. I'm sure that they will get on well without me.

I'm sure I will be pleased to see them all again on my return.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Summer Science Exhibition

Yesterday we visited the Summer Science Exhibition for the second time.
This is hosted every year by the Royal Society, is open to anyone who wants to go along, and is free to attend.
There are a number of excellent displays, where those involved in the project present their area of research. We have found them to be well presented displays with lots to look at, and usually activities to try. We have also had good experiences of people who are very happy to talk to us and to our children. My 8 and 9 year old boys had nuclear fusion, the structure of steel and how Richard III probably died explained helpfully and clearly to them yesterday.

In addition, when you arrive you collect a cloth bag which you can put various freebies in; we have a collection of sweets, badges and key rings. This is quite a fun way of keeping younger children involved, and helping older children to remember what they have been looking at afterwards.

Our children really enjoyed it. We were a bit concerned about our 3 year old, but she was actually quite happy to potter along, collecting bits for her bag and getting slowly covered in stickers. The older two enjoyed having things explained to them, and have both clearly learned some new science as a result. 

Things to consider:

1) It was pretty busy both years when we went. You need to be a bit patient when waiting to look at a particular exhibition (though we were never waiting for all that long).

2) If, like us, you have fairly young children it is probably worth having an extra adult with you if possible, so you can split up or hold little ones between you. My husband has taken time off to come both years - which he is very happy to do as it is great fun for anyone interested in science.

3) If you go on the hottest day of the year, as we did, then it is a bit harder work!

4) We have been made very welcome with our children, but it is aimed more towards teens/adults. However, if, like us, you have younger children who are interested in science then it is a great way to further inspire them. I don't think it matters if they can't follow everything, or are only able to visit a small number of displays before they get tired. If they learn just a little more, and are further interested and enthused about science, then it has been a worthwhile trip.