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

Friday, 24 March 2017

Friday Reflections - 48

We've had one of those weeks where we don't manage everything that I planned for us to do - but we have been doing good stuff nonetheless.

We have had some enjoyable trips to the park. The children brought all their spades along to our local park one day. We also, unexpectedly,  ran into some other home educators who were meeting there, which was fun.

Michael's parents have come to visit us for a few days, so on Thursday the children completed a modest amount of book work, and spent most of the day cooking in preparation for their grandparents' visit. By the time they had finished, we had an impressive array of cakes to eat!


Lemon Gem Biscuits

Lime Macaroons

Making Bread

Today we went to visit the London Transport Museum, which was a popular choice. Since our tickets are valid for the year, I imagine we will visit a few times.

Dressing Up

Riding a Tram
The weekend ahead is looking pretty full - with Michael speaking at twice on Sunday. I'm leading Young Church too, and when we are both busy, Sunday mornings can be quite hectic. We've done all this before plenty of times, but it still feels a bit daunting looking ahead to a couple of days where there isn't much room for anything to go wrong! 

Of course, I can't plan or arrange everything. We are frail and finite, and when it looks like I have more to take on than I can manage, it is good to remember just how limited and fragile we are. 

How good it is to be able to rely on our God who does know the future, who is never taken by surprise, and who ordains all things for his purposes and glory. If, in my eyes, it all falls apart, I can trust that the Lord knows, cares, and is at work in the midst of it all.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

3 Good Books from 2017 Reading (up to March)

I have been reading more this year, and though I have had to push myself a bit at times, in general I have been enjoying working through the books for my 2017 reading challenge. The books I have chosen are here and here. I've read all but a few now, so here are 3 of the books I've appreciated the most so far:

1) Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges

Thoughtful and incisive, this is a book which helps us to shine the light of scripture on our hearts and our lives, to show up not only how we sin, but how we tolerate or excuse certain sins. Furthermore, there is helpful instruction on how to face up to these areas of sin, and how to tackle them with God's help - as we apply the gospel, depend on the Holy Spirit, pray, apply scripture, and seek help from other believers.

2) The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

I love to hear how others have come to put their faith in Jesus, whether (like mine) the stories have no obvious drama, or (like Rosaria Champagne Butterfield's) God's transformation work is plain for all to see. In every case, the gracious hand of God saving and keeping hold of sinners is an extraordinary work to see. In Secret Thoughts, the author describes her life as a lesbian professor of English, and how this was turned upside down when Christ called her to himself. What is remarkable about this book is that the narrative dwells not so much on the before and after of her conversion (though it does do this), but on the experience of conversion itself, and of what it means to begin to know Christ. The writing about conversion is raw, and extraordinary:

"How do I tell you about my conversion to Christianity without making it sound like an alien abduction or a train wreck?" 

"When you die to yourself, you have nothing from your past to use as clay out of which to shape your future."

"...I felt the call of Christ upon my life. I was both subtle and blatant, like the peace inside the eye of the hurricane. I could in no way resist and I in no way understood what would become of my life."

The reflections about church and community are as challenging and moving as those about sexuality and identity. I cried more than once - and ended up hugely encouraged as I read a book that was, first and foremost, a book about God and his work.

3) The Good News We Almost Forgot by Kevin DeYoung

This book is a series of reflections on the theological truths articulated by the Heidelberg Catechism, a 16th century set of questions and answers designed to help believers to understand and remember key gospel truths.

As soon as I began to read this book, I found that the Heidelberg Catechism itself hugely encouraging. The language was startling and direct, and the truths of the gospel were brought home to me time and again. In particular, I found how the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer were unpacked very helpful.

The notes alongside the catechism questions were also well worth reading. They weren't particularly long, but were insightful nonetheless. I read a chapter or two a day after my morning Bible readings, and found them a really helpful way to think about and pray about some of the key truths of the gospel each day.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Friday Reflections - 47

This has been one of those weeks which doesn't quite go to plan. Nothing disastrous has happened, but extra visitors (some planned, some not, all welcome!), some extra church ministry stuff which both Michael and I have needed to be involved in, and a slightly injured knee from running have all come along at once.

My lists have not all be completed - but I am trying to accept that sometimes that's just fine!

Last Saturday I went to our local parkrun with a friend from church for the first time. I really enjoyed it, and ran faster than I hoped, which was satisfying. Unfortunately, I ended up with a painful knee after my next run, so I am resting it at the moment. It turns out that running 10K on a knee that hurts after the first 5 minutes is not a good idea.

The children have spent plenty of time outdoors this week. We have been very much enjoying the warmer weather for our walks. The guinea pigs have also been moved back into the outdoor hutch, which they seem to like, and this has meant that the children have already been spending lots of time in our garden so that they can see their pets.

Today we had our home education group. It is our final week in North America, and we were focusing on the USA. One family made a lovely presentation about New York, and also brought along New York themed food to eat. The cheesecake was especially popular with my children!

One of our crafts was making cookie dough maps of the states of the USA, some of which tuned out very well.

In spite of a fairly unpredictable week, we have still managed to have good days together - just not the days I planned!

Friday, 10 March 2017

Friday Reflections - 46

Last Sunday, we enjoyed our monthly church lunch. My 9 year old had asked if he could make cake for the occasion, and produced a very tasty chocolate layer cake. It was even gluten free!

Chocolate Layer Cake

Like many children, mine can be a bit wary of food that isn't quite what they are used to - especially when is is served away from home. This week, my two eldest both enjoyed the meal, though, and my younger two survived on rice, bread and salad (and pudding!).

This week has been unusual for us all as I have been away at a conference for the wives of those in church ministry. It was a refreshing and encouraging few days for me. I appreciate the time to rest, and particularly the opportunity to hear God's Word taught and applied.

Michael has been working hard at home while I have been away, teaching and feeding the children, as well as continuing with some church ministry around those responsibilities. Everything ran perfectly smoothly in my absence, though I was welcomed home with great enthusiasm which was really quite touching.

Today, once we had finished our work this morning, we met some friends at the Horniman Museum, which is a few minutes walk from our house. There is an exhibition called Robot Zoo at the moment, which has a number of large robot animals to look at, and plenty of hands on activities for the children. It was a fun way to spend a Friday afternoon.

Robot Zoo

A Robot Chameleon 

Friday, 3 March 2017

Friday Reflections - 45

Today we finished our week with our home education group meeting. Our activities were focused on the U.S.A. this week, so we made American flags from lolly sticks and created collages of Native American teepees with seeds and nuts. They turned out surprisingly well.

U.S.A. Craft

We have done quite a bit of history this week from The Story of the World, including looking at the Mongol Empire. The children made Chinese lanterns while I read the narrative to them.

A Chinese Lantern

The highlight of the week was probably our trip to Pizza Express with our home education group, where the children each made a pizza. Afterwards we all went to the park together.

Happy Pizza Chefs


Since we spent the morning out and about, we used the afternoon for an art session rather than getting the books out. The children completed the last level 1 lesson from ArtAchieve. It is still popular, so we will continue to the next level.


My 9 Year Old's Sheep Picture

Next week, I'm away at a conference, so Michael will be in charge. I think there will be more science and less Latin!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Small Changes

My natural tendency is to plan our lives as efficiently as possible so that we can fit everything in. This can be helpful at times - but can also mean that I try to do too much. Although this may be good for me (though that isn't necessarily the case), I need to watch that I am not expecting too much from the children.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been trialling a couple of small ways to make ours days feel a bit less pressured, but without losing too much of what we do.

Firstly, I have reduced the amount of maths that my eldest has to do each day. His maths has suddenly become harder, and although he is managing well with some difficult work, it seems fair to lessen the amount he has to do. This has been well received! In addition, I have spread out his writing lessons so that he completes his work over 5 days rather than 4. Again, this small change has made a noticeable difference.

For everyone, I have moved from teaching history 3 days a week to 2 days a week. I am guilty of a little sleight of hand here, as we are covering the same amount of ground overall. However, the time saved getting everyone together and all the materials gathered means that the week feels less pressured. Not all the children were happy with this the first time, but they seem to have accepted it and to appreciate that they gain free time over the course of the week.

Working hard...
...but not all the time!

I'm not sure that I have the balance quite right yet, and there will no doubt be further changes that need to be made. I am prone to worrying that I am not doing enough with the children, but sometimes I need to realise that I am in danger of doing too much!