Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Musings on the Creator in Me


As someone who strives to be creative every day as an expression of the Creator in me (I'm hoping you recognize the double entendre), I am in constant seach of inspiration in the world around me.

I find it in nature . . .

I find it in my family . . .

I find it in books -- old and new . . .

I find it in music (which I don't create myself ;-)

I find it in other people's work, including what I see on other people's blogs (see my side bar) . . .

And yet that seems a bit contraditory, doesn't it? If I have the Creator (Christ) in me, I have an endless supply of inspiration in me.

So how do we tap into that source of inspiration?

I've written before about artistic responses to scripture. That's one way . . .

Prayer and journaling also work. Can you think of others? What are some active ways we can draw on the inspiration that comes from "Christ in me"? Please tell me in a comment below!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Creative Every Day / Art Every Day Month Challenge

You've all probably noticed that I participate in Leah Piken Kolidas's Creative Every Day Challenge. Well, after watching her video below, I'm finding myself more and more inclined to sign up to participate in her Art Every Day Challenge in November.

Would any of you like to join me? She assures us that it is a low-pressure opportunity to challenge ourselves to simply be more creative. Listen . . .

video for Spring! from Leah Piken Kolidas on Vimeo.

So -- are you game? Leave me a comment below if you'd like to play:)

Eight Questions

Here's a new one for me . . . My friend and First Mate on the TOS Crew, Shannon, "tagged" me. At first, I wasn't sure what that meant, but apparently there's a get-to-know-you blogging trend out there in which people are tagged to answer a series of 8 questions, and then they tag 8 other people with 8 more questions of their own. Since I haven't got much else to post about right now, and I like Shannon ;),  here are my answers to her questions:

1. Toddlers or Teens? Which are harder and why?

I actually laughed when I read that one. I'm in the throes of both, and it ain't always pretty.

Both ages are hard, as far as I'm concerned, and for a lot of the same reasons. Toddlers can drain the life out of you because they are so demanding of attention and time and energy; but then again, it's the same with teens (just in different ways). Toddlers manifest what might be interpreted as rebellious attitudes as they discover their own personhood; teens are wont to chafe at the bit in ways that we might label rebellious as they, too, strive to figure out who they are in this world. (I'm learning, though, that "rebellious" is often an inaccurate descriptor. It's sometimes more about an inability to communicate needs in an appropriate way -- not an outright rejection of how they've been raised.) Toddlers need to be repeatedly directed with grace and love so that they can learn how to conduct themselves in a variety of social settings; teens, too, need a constant out-pouring of grace and love as they wend their way independently through the treacherous waters of the adolescent social scene. In many ways, the difficulties we encounter with toddlers and teens are related to the same issue -- their quest for independence. I think both also want die-hard proof that we really do love them, "no matter what." Enabling them to come into their own is often nerve-wracking, draining, and heart-wrenching -- but that's why they say parenting is the hardest job in the world, I guess!

2. What is your favourite Christmas tradition?
That question is much easier to answer! For years now, we have been enjoying an advent tradition that revolves around a series of books: Jotham's Journey, Tabitha's Travels, and Bartholomew's Passage. The stories of these books are interwoven, so the characters appear in each to different degrees, and they are full of action and suspense. (I wish I could spell the anticipatory sound with which DH concludes the reading of each chapter. Each one is a cliff-hanger that makes us all want to hear the next chapter as well!) I'm going to save the other details about the series for a future post about our family's Christmas traditions. But our readings are accompanied by the lighting of advent candles, and each child goes to bed with a personal candle in a votive cup by which they may go to sleep if they wish. (Usually they prefer the fun of blowing it out!) On Sunday nights during advent, our readings are accompanied by a chocolate fondue! Woo hoo! Is it any wonder that it's one of my favourite Christmas traditions?

3. What do you do (if anything) for regular, physical exercise?
Ya -- lately, not so much -- unless you count climbing the stairs multiple times per day, lugging laundry, and doing housework. I used to run; now I don't. I'd like to get back into walking, and then maybe running again, but time is the factor. It's hard to get out for personal fitness during the school year. That might sound like an excuse -- but that's just the way it is.

4. Country/Traditional/Eclectic or Modern – which is YOUR home decorating style?
 We're pretty eclectic, I'd say. We used to be drawn to all things Victorian, but not anymore. We decorate with whatever we like without worrying about whether or not it fits a particular style. Sometimes it's a country washboard and tin watering can on an old wooden box; sometimes it's sleek, silver candlesticks on black, glittery fabric; sometimes it's crystal dishes and bone china. Often it's themed for the season:

Sometimes it's just plain, old clutter:

5. Baths or Showers? Which do you prefer and why?
Baths -- for sure. I usually shower because it's faster, but I grew up with baths in a clawfoot tub. When I was practice teaching in university, my SIL introduced me to bubble baths by candlelight and soft music. That is the ultimate in relaxation!
6. Have you ever lived abroad? Where and for how long?
Sounds lovely -- but I never have.

7. What is your favourite season and why?
Well, I pretty much like every season except winter. Christmas (yes, a white one) is the only thing that redeems winter for me. I love spring because I like seeing nature come to life again -- and it means summer vacation is around the corner. I love summer because it means the freedom of school being out, though I no longer experience those "lazy, hazy days" I remember from my youth. I love fall because of the crisp weather and beautiful colours, as well as our local fair and Thanksgiving.
8. Are your parents still alive? If not, what do you miss most about them -- and if yes, have you told them today that you love them?
My dad died when I was in fourth year university. He was only in my life for the first 8 or 9 years of my life, so there's not much that I miss about him. If I mourn anything, it's what might have been rather than what was. Since his death, I have become much closer to my sisters, and I'm grateful for that because they're pretty awesome people! (We have two brothers, too, but they're not really around.)

My mom is still very much alive, and lives not too far away, though we don't see each other as often as we'd like. I try to tell her I love her every time I talk to her :) You can get a glimpse of how I feel about her by reading my altered journal post.

I don't think I know enough bloggers personally to feel comfortable tagging them, but if there's anyone out there that wants to answer my questions, leave a link to your blog in my comments and I'll post a direct link to your answers here so people can visit you at your blog :) Sound like a plan? (That way, more than 8 of you can play, if you want -- or should I say, " if you dare"! ;)
1. If you had a whole day to spend as you wished, what would you do?
2. If you could change the way you did something in your life, what would it be, and how would you make it different?
3. What features or qualities of the Creator do you see in yourself?
4. If you could travel anywhere, where would it be, and why?
5. What items are on your desk, and why are they significant?
6. Identify one unspoken priority in your life and explain how those around you know it's a priority.
7. What does the phrase, "Take care of yourself" mean to you?
8. Describe something beautiful in your life.

OK -- sorry -- that sounds like an assignment for English class doesn't it?!?!? Well, some things are hard to eradicate from one's way of thinking ;) Aren't you glad I didn't ask you personally to play? ;) I do hope some of you will rise to the challenge:)

Monday Musings on the Creator in Me

I set this to post automatically, but for some reason it didn't -- and I didn't notice! Sorry if you missed me ;)

The theme at Homeschool Blogger (HSB) this week is "Teaching Science." While I've always loved learning about most things, I've never been what you'd describe as "strong" in science -- I guess cuz I'm more of a word girl. But over the years of homeschooling, I have come to love some of the "natural" and even "creative" ways we can learn about the world in which we live -- which is really what science is all about. According to, "The word science comes from the Latin 'scientia,' meaning knowledge. . . . According to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, the definition of science is 'knowledge attained through study or practice,' or 'knowledge covering general truths . . . concerned with the physical world.'" That's pretty easy to apply in everyday life! The physical world is God's creation, and any of our interactions with it furthers our knowledge and understanding of it.

One of our favourite ways to acquire knowledge of  our world is by caring for pets. While our menagerie is dwindling a bit, our grandest total of non-human inhabitants included a dog, a ferret, two hermit crabs, and eight rabbits, six of which were babies that we witnessed being born. We now have a dog, a cat, one hermit crab, and two rabbits, one of whom is our "special needs baby" because she was born with malformed legs and bad eyes. Let me introduce you to some of the critters we've loved and learned from here at Learners 4Life Academy . . .

Nikita is our latest addition to the family -- a 6 year old cat that we adopted from someone who couldn't any longer give her the attention she craves:

Our sweet ferret, Merlin, who died last Monday, on Thanksgiving weekend:

Caspian (Prince of Narnia), our 6 year-old golden doodle:

Some of our baby bunnies from the spring:

One of the babies, Honey-Bunny (aka Legolas) all grown up:

Now if we could only make these two friends:

The fact that all of these pictures were taken by children demonstrates that these animals are not just pets that share our home -- they're specimens for investigation. These critters are under constant scrutiny, and are therefore a source of information and knowledge -- outside of all that is to be learned by caring for them (which of course involves research about what food they thrive upon, how to care for their ailments as naturally as possible, and how to keep them as healthy and happy as possible). Have you thought about all the scientific things you can learn from your pets?

While it's wonderful to have these domestic animals to teach us, we also enjoy studying the fauna and flora of the natural world around us outside. We are blessed to live near a couple of conservation areas that enable us to study land and water animals at our leisure, so we often take our nature journals with us and document our observations. Sometimes, we even have the thrill of feeding birds right out of our hands! (Sorry, I didn't actually get a good picture of that.)

Besides benefiting physically from the fresh air and exercise we get from these outings (another scientific concept we can explore), we learn first-hand about plants and animals in their natural environment. Any questions we generate as we're observing and noting can then be answered by researching when we get back home. When I consider that during my elementary education, such excursions were considered rare and special "field trips," I feel blessed to be able to offer my children these learning opportunities on a regular basis. They can be "real scientists" virtually in our own backyard! Are there any special natural settings that you go to study the world around you? (The local zoo is another favourite of ours -- though it's not entirely "natural".)What kinds of things do you learn there?

Our kitchen provides lots of other opportunities for learning about science -- apart from all the experiments we conduct there for more formal science lessons. While we work together on all kinds of culinary creations, we learn about the impact of heat on raw foods, enjoying mini-explosions of things like cranberries cooking in a big pot:

And of course, we see liquids turning to solids when we cook eggs -- to go along with our reading of DS3's current favourite book -- Green Eggs and Ham ("I do like them, Sam I Am!" he announced -- once we convinced him to try them.):


When DS11 concocts his own version of chicken noodle soup, we learn about absorption as hard, dry noodles gradually soak up liquid and become soft and chewy:

There are chemical reactions to be observed as we put milk in our tomato soup -- with and without the dash of baking soda to keep the milk from curdling -- and the lack thereof when we forget to put the yeast in our batch of bread, or the baking powder in our coffee cake. What are some of your favourite lessons learned in the kitchen about the science of our everyday  lives?

Sometimes homeschoolers get hung up on curriculum, and worry that they're not doing enough bookish learning (and I'm guilty of that myself), especially about subjects like science. But the longer I travel on this journey, the more I realize that the organic learning we do in the course of living our lives is the more authentic learning -- the learning that will last a life time.

I've only scratched the surface of the scientific learning that can go on while we go about our daily lives. What are some of the other ways we can attain knowledge -- or "general truths" -- about the world around us? Be creative in your thinking, and please leave a comment about it :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fall Art

The other day, DD8 was not her usual self and wanted to do something special together. So, because we hadn't been down there in a while, we headed to the art room to just be creative -- with no plan in mind. She started out just painting on paper, but when she saw me pull out a canvas to do something I've been thinking about for a year now, she asked if she could use a canvas, too. We happened to have a 99 cent one handy that she'd painted on before -- so I Gessoed over it and she had a fresh start.

We each chose our own acrylic paint colours and set to work. I knew I wanted to use some pressed leaves I'd collected last year to make a little fall collage; she knew she wanted to paint. When I pulled out my collection of leaves, she used some in her own way -- which happened to be the same way I planned ;-)

Here is her finished product:

And mine:

Have you found any fun ways to make use of leaf collections? I'd love to hear your ideas because I still have lots of pressed leaves! (For some reason I only collected red ones, though!)

I linked this post to:

Young Hearts Longing for God - Product Review

As a member of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received this product free of charge in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received.

Soli Deo Gloria Resources is a company that offers God-centred, homeschooling resources in the areas of bible, geography, history, and science, as well as teaching, and character development. Our family had the privilege of using Young Hearts Longing for God: A Pre-Inductive Study of the Psalms, available as an e-book for $14.95. It is a 30-lesson study of that many psalms geared to students in grades 4-8.

This introduction to an inductive bible study approach asks students to read a psalm repeatedly over the course of several days and respond to the passage by following instructions that direct the reader's attention to certain details of the text, such as the speaker's feelings, or his insights into the character of God. Underlining with different colours and drawing symbols encourages students to see patterns in what they have read, enabling them to make connections within the text, and within their own lives. Exercises can be completed all at once, or they can be spread out over a series of days to make the study quick and simple while still encouraging depth of discovery.

I used the study with DS11 and DD8, both of whom enjoyed it. DD8, who does not find reading or writing at all easy, liked the fact that she could participate in reading the bible aloud. And because we studied the same psalm for several days in a row, not only was she immersed in the scripture, she was able to grow her vocabulary AND her confidence as she repeatedly encountered the same words each day. Because the physical act of writing is a challenge for both children, it was nice to have a simple bible curriculum that required a combination of basic writing actions (such as underlining with different colours or drawing simple symbols) and writing short answers. The introduction to the study wisely counselled that the exercises should not be used as a writing evaluation instrument. Rather, they are an opportunity for children to respond to scripture with brief answers to questions and short compositions (journal entries -- expected only to be a few sentences long).

Because the book is delivered in e-book format, my DH was able to manipulate the printing so that when we bound the books, each psalm's exercise was faced by a journal page rather than it being on the back of the page, as suggested.

This worked well for us, as it meant all the work for a given psalm was visible at a glance. While the study was very basic, it was easy to do in just a few minutes per day without being cumbersome. Most of the time we worked through the exercises together, but there were times that I simply assigned the work for DS11 to do independently and checked it later. DD8 needed assistance for most of the exercises, but she reveled in the opportunity to write her own responses on the big, empty journal pages (which I feared she would find daunting). I think she enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment when she saw her own words filling the lines on the page.

If you would like a glimpse inside the book for yourself, some sample pages are available for viewing here. I appreciated the fact that it was something I could use with multiple children of different levels so that each was both challenged and encouraged. If you're looking for an easy to use, simple curriculum that has your child taking more than a cursory glance at scripture, you might consider exploring Young Hearts Longing for God.

Click here to see other reviews of Soli Gloria Deo Resources.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thanksgiving Part 2 - Food Photos

Thanksgiving has come and gone already here in Canada. The days leading up to it were full of lots of culinary creativity . . .

We had to set up two tables to accomodate our guests (18 of us in all), so here is the dining room table:

One of the things I like about this time of year is using our amber glass collection. Here's Mr. Rooster holding homemade cranberry sauce for one table:

And Mrs. Hen on the other table, also with homemade cranberry sauce:

I know napkins don't belong in glasses -- but I like the plume of colour it creates:

 No, we didn't make these pickles, but don't you love the leaf-shaped dishes I found at a garage sale?

Our dining room centrepiece full of gourds the children picked at the farm a few weeks ago:

The kitchen table . . . with the cool Pottery Barn centrepiece DH got from freecycle. The picture doesn't do it justice -- but I really like how it looks in RL:

 Below is the pumpkin arrangements one of our guests brought as a hostess gift. Isn't it adorable? I love how it looked on a pedestal candle holder. We used to put cranberries and mashed potatoes and such in pumpkin bowls (a la Martha Stewart) -- but I never thought of making a cute flower arrangement!

The ever-so-popular buns that DS11 and I made using the bread maker:

My SIL is a much better stager than I, so she set up this photo to show off the turkey DH cooked:

It tasted as good as it looks!

While she was at it, SIL snapped a pic of DH and me:)

Just a glimpse of the festivities -- DD13 and Papa playing a silly game of head-butt, pushing each other across the room:

The all-time fave -- pecan pie! So simple, but sooooooooo yummy!

Caramel apple pie -- minus the usual decorations because they were eaten (by one that shall remain nameless):

DD8's cranberry loaf using the recipe from Cranberry Thanksgiving:

And it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie, which I already showed you :

What are some of your favourite Thanksgiving foods?

Of course, it's about way more than the food. Do you have any favourite "thankfulness" traditions?

Check out all the lovely tablescapes at BNOTFP, where I linked this post:

And again at American Thanksgiving time:

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