Friday, 30 June 2017

Friday Reflections - 62

We've had a fairly ordinary, steady week, which we need as we finish off all our work before the summer holidays begin. We are well on track, with some subjects already completed for the year, and with the end very much in sight for the others. 

We went on a nature walk earlier in the week, and looked for honey bees to draw and to examine. Our local museum has a hive in a glass case that you can observe, which was perfect for our studies. We spent some time outside watching and drawing the bees before popping inside the museum to look at the hive. It's great to have this resource a ten minute walk away!

We also took some time one afternoon to complete an art lesson. This week, the children were drawing elephants.

On Wednesday, I took three of our children running round the park, along with two of their friends. It was a particularly successful week, with 4 of the children managing 3 laps of the park, which is 3 miles - a first for most of them. They were all very tired afterwards!

This means that my 8 year old is planning to come along to parkrun with his sister tomorrow - which he is very excited about.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Friday Reflections - 61

Last Sunday we celebrated Fathers' Day in a low key way with homemade gifts for Michael from the children. The children have spotted his love of tea, so the younger 3 decorated mugs for him - mainly with pictures of cups of tea. My 8 year old kindly drew a picture of a cup of tea pouring forth maths questions; he knows his dad well. My 11 year old carefully illustrated some new bookmarks with pictures from Dr Who - a shared interest.

Fathers' Day Gifts

Further celebrations happened on Monday when my second son turned 10. He's such a lovely boy, and he thoroughly enjoyed his birthday. All he wanted to do was make his own cake and have a couple of friends round to share it with. Since the weather was so hot, we had the paddling pool out and the children spent most of the day in it (we don't usually work on birthdays!).


A Surprise on the Inside

Actually, they were in the paddling pool most days this week, and had a number of water fights- one of their favourite summer activities.

Water Fight

Today I took 3 of the children to our home education group, which this week was a picnic in the park. Most of the time the children played in the playground (or, more often, the bushes nearby), but we did meet in our book groups briefly to read some poetry and talk a bit about our books for the term.

My 10 year old has headed off to stay with his best friend for the weekend - a special birthday treat for both boys. He was incredibly excited, and has spent quite a while in the kitchen making lime macaroons to take with him! I'm sure he will have a lovely time.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Christian Children's Books (A Long List!)

Over the years, we've built up quite a collection of Christian books for children, ranging from those aimed at toddlers to those suitable for younger teenagers too. This list is a fairly comprehensive outline of our favourite Christian books for children, organised into categories. These are not all the books that we own, but they are the ones that I think have been particularly beneficial. I hope it's helpful!

Some Good Books

Children's Bibles

The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm

This tells the story of the Bible from Creation to New Creation in simple but clear language. There are lovely illustrations which help to tell the story, and point to the themes that run through scripture.

The Beginner's Bible by Kelly Pulley

A great first Bible for toddlers, with a wide variety of Bible stories told simply and clearly.

The Gospel Story Bible by Marty Machowski

This is a new addition to our collection, and I really like it. There are many more Bible stories included than in any of our other Bibles, and the author clearly ties the individual stories into the bigger narrative of the Bible, pointing to Jesus all the time.

The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung

In many ways, this does the same job as The Big Picture Story Bible, but both the text and the pictures are aimed at slightly older children. It's only ten chapters long, but we have enjoyed it. My older children enjoy studying the illustrations.

Christian  Fiction

Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John

One of my favourite books as a child, I have loved sharing it with my own children. They all highly recommend it too. Patricia St. John writes beautifully, with exciting and engaging stories, which are full of Jesus. At the heart of all her books are children who come to know Jesus for themselves.

Treasures of the Snow is set in Switzerland, and tells the story of a bitter argument between two very different children which has awful consequences, and how reconciliation only comes as they each turn to Christ. It deals with sin, pride, bitterness, fear, and the love of Christ. Tears flow freely in this house whenever I read it!

The Mystery of Pheasant Cottage by Patricia St. John

Lucy lives with her grandparents as her mother died when she was a baby. There is a mystery about her father which she seeks to unravel, and as she does so she comes face to face with what it means to trust Jesus.

The Tanglewoods' Secret by Patricia St. John

A story about a naughty girl with a short fuse, her angelic-on-the-outside older brother, and a boy they befriend. Beautifully written, and dealing what it means to trust Jesus in the face of death, this is another favourite in our home.

Rainbow Garden by Patricia St. John

A spoilt girl from London moves to Wales to live with a large, Christian family. She has to learn about her own selfishness and sin, and about where real joy can be found.

Star of Light by Patricia St. John

This story is set in Morocco, and centres on the lives of two poor children from a Muslim family who learn about Jesus.

Twice Freed by Patricia St. John

The author imagines the backstory to Onesimus, the slave that we read about in the book of Philemon in the New Testament. A great story about forgiveness and true freedom, set all over the Roman world.

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson

This is a series of four fantasy books with clear Christian themes and ideas woven all the way through. I have written about them here. The picture of redemption is particularly beautiful. I would recommend them for any children who enjoy fantasy books.

Jungle Doctor Books by Paul White

These stories (written from the 1940's on) are based on the real life experiences of the author as a missionary doctor in Africa. They are entertaining, thought provoking, inspiring, and funny. Our children have loved them.

Crown & Covenant Series by Douglas Bond

This is a series of three books, beginning with Duncan's War, which is set in 17th century Scotland. It tells about trials and persecutions faced by the Scottish Covenanters through the lives of the M'Kethe family.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis

Classic stories set in the magical world of Narnia; full of gospel truth, these are family favourites.

The Roman Mystery Series by Caroline Lawrence

These are not strictly Christian books; they are sold in secular bookshops and are widely read - but the author is a Christian and this shows in her writing. The stories are set in ancient Rome and feature key characters who are Christians, and throughout the series Christianity is portrayed positively. Forgiveness found in Jesus is shown clearly, and some characters become Christians. They are also brilliant fun to read - and there are 17 of them, which is great if you have children who read quickly and need lots of material!


There are lots of Christian biographies for children, but I have found that many are not all that well written. I've included our favourites!

When Lightning Struck by Danika Cooley

This is a new biography of Martin Luther written for older children. My 10 year old loved it, and was able to tell us about what he had been reading when we were studying the Reformation recently.

Nate Saint: On a Wing and a Prayer by Janet and Geoff Benge

I find many Christian biographies written for children frustratingly poorly written, but this was excellent. Nate Saint was martyred with four other missionaries in Ecuador, and this book tells the story of his life and faith. I have a house full of boys, and they loved the stories of his inventions and the account of his unusual childhood, and were also gripped by the story of Nate Saint's life as a missionary pilot.

Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose by Janet and Geoff Benge

An engaging, dramatic account of the inspirational life of Jim Elliot, one of the other missionaries martyred in the Ecuadorian jungle.

Augustine: The Truth Seeker by K.C. Murdarasi

This is a simple, clearly told biography of Augustine.

John Calvin: After Darkness Light by Catherine Mackenzie

This is a great introduction to a key figure in the Reformation.

Hudson Taylor: An Adventure Begins by Catherine Mackenzie

Hudson Taylor was a pioneering missionary to China, and this is a good, simple account of his life.

John Paton: South Sea Island Rescue by Kay Walsh

This is a dramatic account of the life of a missionary to South Sea Island.

Little Light Series by Catherine Mackenzie

We have a number of these picture books, and they are a great set of books for young children. In simple, appropriate ways, they introduce children to the lives of those who have lived for Christ is all sorts of contexts.

Christian Living

How to be a Bible Warrior by C.M. Mackenzie

The author looks at various warriors in the Bible, and their trust in God.  She also points clearly to Jesus, and his work on the cross in defeating sin and death. She also shows what it means to fight against sin as followers of Jesus.

A Boys' Guide to Making Really Good Choices by Jim George

Practical, Biblical guide for boys who want to know how to put their trust in Jesus into practice.

A Boy After God's Own Heart by Jim George

Similar to A Boys' Guide to Making Really Good Choices - lots of good, practical examples of how to live for Christ. My boys liked the fact that you have to think for yourself as you read it.

Commanded: Your Mission: Loving Others God's Way by L.H. Martin

Another practical book about how to live out your life as a forgiven follower of Jesus.

A Young Person's Guide to Knowing God by Patricia St. John

Illustrated by stories with a message, Patricia St.John teaches truth about God from the Bible. There are key points to learn and simple prayers to pray.

The Radical Book for Kids by Champ Thornton

This is a new addition to our family library, and contains a whole mix of material: from biography to activities to do, from background to Biblical history to apologetic material, from Bible facts to thoughts about how to live for Jesus. It's a great resource for children who like leafing through fact books.


The Ology by Marty Machowski

This is an excellent, beautifully illustrated systematic theology for children. I have written more about it here.

Everything a Child Should Know About God by Kenneth N. Taylor

This is a simple book of truths about God written for very young children. It has been much loved in this house.


My First Book of Bible Prayers by Philip Ross

This is a very small book for young children. My 8 year old really likes using it as it gives him ideas from the Bible for his prayers.


Case for Christ for Kids by Lee Strobel with Rob Suggs & Robert Elmer

A good introduction to the reasons why we can be confident in what we believe from the Bible.

Case for Christ for Youth by Lee Strobel with Rob Suggs & Robert Elmer

As above, but aimed for older children/teenagers. My older boys have enjoyed this and found it helpful.

Church History

Chronicles of the Ancient Church by Mindy and Brandon Withrow

These volumes tell the story of church history by focusing on the lives of key individuals. The accounts are very well told. There are also short sections which explain key ideas in Christianity along the way, which is very helpful.

The Church History ABCs by Stephen J. Nichols

This is a great picture book for children which looks briefly at the lives of 26 Christians throughout history. Fun to read, and a good way to get children engaged with church history from a young age.

Reformation ABCs by Stephen J. Nichols

An illustrated introduction to the Reformation, featuring key people, ideas and places. An excellent book about the Reformation for young children.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Happy Birthday! Family traditions

Today my second son turned ten. He has spent most of the day in our paddling pool as the weather is so very hot, and apparently this has made it one of his best ever birthdays!

No book work for the children on their birthdays is one of our family traditions. It means that we can have a relaxed start to the day, and they can have time to play with any new presents and start any new books.

This makes it easier to fit in another birthday tradition - the birthday child's choice of breakfast. We often cook breakfast anyway, but the children usually choose pancakes for breakfast on their birthdays, which is a bit more time consuming.

When the children were younger, we allowed them to choose what theme or design that they would like for their birthday cake, and we would attempt to make what they asked for. As they have grown older, they have increasingly wanted to help make their own cakes, especially with the decoration.

My eldest helped quite a bit with his dalek cake last year:

Dalek Cake

My 8 year old covered his dinosaur cake in smarties:

Stegosaurus Cake

Yesterday, my now 10 year old spent hours in the kitchen creating this masterpiece, with very little help from me at all:

The finished cake...

...with a surprise in the middle!

He loves baking, and has been planning this for weeks.

When my eldest turned 10, we decided that we'd add two new "gifts" for his birthday: a new privilege, and an additional responsibility. We did the same for our second son today. He will now receive a more substantial (though still not enormous) amount of weekly pocket money, and he has some additional cleaning to do each week. It's not a massive change - he already has a fair number of regular chores - but it is a way of us indicating that we expect his responsibilities to increase as he gets older, and that the freedoms and privileges that come with age are tied to these responsibilities.

Of course, we also have presents and cards, and often a party or at least a birthday tea with friends (depending on the preferences of each child). Often, our celebrations are fairly simple, but they are remembered fondly and anticipated eagerly.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Friday Reflections - 60

We're nearly there - a week into the final half term of the year, and we are all anticipating the summer holidays eagerly. There is a mixture of wanting to push ahead to get the final pages of our work finished up, and a general tiredness which means that we need to take things a bit more slowly. Happily, we are well on track to finish on time, so there is a little bit of space for me to lighten the load if I think we need it.

I decided that we could manage well enough this week if we had an easier Monday. I scheduled nothing except history, art, and swimming lessons. We also went for a walk (including some trampolining on an abandoned mattress), and did some educational cooking at the childrens' request.

Running up the hill via a mattress.

My daughter helped make these egg-men in bread, which are supposed to represent God giving his people a home, from our bake-through-the Bible cookbook - which has been a bit neglected recently. A quiet day was a good opportunity to pick it up again.

My 9 year old asked if he could do an activity from one of the science books that has been shortlisted for the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize, which they are reading through as our home education group is one of the judging panels again this year. He chose to make a baked Alaska - which was great fun as well as a good opportunity to talk about science!

Baked Alaska

It worked! Ice cream still frozen.

It also tasted good!

We took the afternoon to complete an art lesson, drawing fish using a video from ArtAchieve.

After a more restful Monday than usual, we continued our week with our normal routine lessons. Highlights included making a sundial in the garden for science. It's perfect weather for it, and it worked really well.

My 8 year old building a sundial.

Next week will include a 10th birthday, and, according to the weather forecast, some hot days. I will adjust plans accordingly!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Friday Reflections - 59

This Friday evening, I am feeling a little bleary-eyed after a broken night following the election results. An atypical end to a week that has included a beautiful parkrun in Durham, a visit to a windmill in Brixton, and my daughter outrunning the police!

The election has been a frequent topic of conversation in our house (I've written here about engaging children in politics). The older two are fascinated, and have an increasing grasp of the nuances of politics. My 8 year old also enjoyed learning a little more about our democracy, and my 5 year old insisted on joining in our family election prediction competition although she doesn't properly understand what is going on yet. In fact, she won the competition as her haphazard guessing was more accurate than anyone else's considered prediction.

Predicting the results of the general election.

Our trip to Brixton Windmill was worthwhile. It is certainly an unexpected sight in a little London park. The children enjoyed climbing up to the top of the windmill and learning about how it worked in the past. They were also able to watch the electric mill in action, and also to try out milling by hand.

Brixton Windmill

Before we began our long journey south last Saturday, I took my daughter to the Durham parkrun, as she is so enthusiastic about running at the moment. It was fun to try a different course, and my 5 year old managed to run the whole distance again. Michael and the boys watched us and shouted encouragement. Some of the boys are keen to join us soon - but they want to build up to managing the whole 5km first.

Durham Parkrun

When I took the children running during the week, my 5 year old ran so far ahead of me on our 2 mile run (2 laps of the park) that some policemen thought she was unaccompanied and tried to catch up with her - but couldn't keep up! I know this because another police officer caught up with her on his bike and told me about it. To be fair, I was not far behind, and she was running to my friend who was waiting for her in the playground - but she has been told not to go so far ahead next time nonetheless...

She was unaware of all this until the end of her two mile run, is completely unfazed by it all - just thrilled that she outran everyone - and she was fast! More running tomorrow as she has been counting down the days until her next parkrun.

As often on a Friday, we had our home education group. We were looking at Ecuador, and the children completed crafts about the rainforest layers. We also had our book groups where, in addition to our usual activities, we distributed the science books which have been shortlisted for the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize, for which our home education group is a judging panel. It was great fun last year, and there is already a lot of excitement about this year's books. My children are already asking if we can microwave marshmallows - and I'm sure that many more activities will be inspired by these excellent looking books.

Rainforest Picture

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Committed Reader Books (10 Year Old's Choices)

The Christian reading challenge that we embarked upon at the beginning of the year is still going well, and my 10 year old is ready to begin the Committed level. Here are the books that he has chosen:

1) A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with: Monks and Mystics by Mindy & Brandon Withrow
2) A book about Christian living:  Commanded by L. H. Martin
3) A book about apologetics: Your Verdict on the Empty Tomb by Val Grieve
4) A book of your choice: The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson
5) A humorous book: Captain Underpants & The Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers by Dav Pilkey
6) A book based on a true story: The Man Who Never Was by Ewen Montagu
7) A book about prayer: Enjoy your Prayer Life by Michael Reeve
8) A book of poetry: The Mighty Slide by Allan Ahlberg
9) A book with a one-word title: Coraline by Neil Gaiman
10) A book by Sinclair Ferguson: The Magnificent Amazing Time Machine: A Journey Back to the Cross by Sinclair Ferguson
11) A novel by an author you have never read before: The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
12) A book about Christian living: A Young Person’s Guide to Knowing God by Patricia St. John
13) A memoir or autobiography:  Children of the Storm by Natasha Vins
14) A play by William Shakespeare: Tales from Shakespeare by Charles & Mary Lamb
15) A book of your choice: The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
16) A book written by an author with initials in their name: Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
17) A book by a female author: Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken
18) A book about theology: Courage and Conviction by Mindy & Brandon Withrow
19) A book published by Crossway: Reformation ABCs by Stephen J. Nichols
20) A self-improvement book: Learning to be Happy by Jeremiah Burroughs
21) A graphic novel: Tintin and the Broken Ear by Herge
22) A book you own but have never read: Millions: The Not-So-Great Train Robbery by Frank Cottrell Boyce
23) A book targeted at the other gender: Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield
24) A book about Christian living: The Radical Book for Kids by Champ Thornton
25) A book of your choice: Ink Heart by Cornelia Funke
26) A book about race or racial issues: When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

Friday, 2 June 2017

Friday Reflections - 58

We have spent this last week in the north east of England, having house-swapped with some friends. A complete change of scene and of pace of life has been restorative, and we have filled our week with a variety of activities that we can't normally enjoy.

We began at a bird reserve, where we caught sight of various birds that we don't usually see, including a spoohbill that a member of staff showed to us through a telescope.

Gleeful Girl 

Spot the Difference (They Insisted on Identical Coats!)
One visit was to Beamish, an outdoor museum where in various sections different aspects of life in the past are reconstructed. The children particularly appreciated the Pit Village and the Town, both of which depict life in the 1900s. They even got to go to school!

The mine visit was popular.

Practising handwriting, maths, and Latin - voluntarily!

Glorious sunshine meant a trip to the beach was in order. Splashing in the water, playing catch, digging sandcastles, eating ice creams, and, inevitably, reading all featured.

Sunny Day by the Sea

Reading on the Beach

Yesterday we headed off to visit Housesteads Roman Fort and Hadrian's Wall. I'm sure the children took in some history as we wandered round, but most of all they decided that it was a great place for exploring and playing hide-and-seek. Plus, I came home with a Latin crossword book from the gift shop - so we were all happy.

Housesteads Roman Fort

Exploring the Fort

Hadrian's Wall

Hiding in a Hypocaust 

Amidst all this, we have managed some quiet mornings and evenings, involving reading and resting and some running. I hope that we will go back sufficiently energised to face our final half term and finish our academic year well.