Four Winter Walks

Having Jackson means that at least one daily walk is a necessity. It's not often that task falls to me, but the other day, on a lovely sunny day, I headed out for his daily stroll.

It wasn't far off midday, but the sun was low and both Jackson and I - astonishingly - looked rather tall. 

It's not often Jackson will sit still whilst on a walk....

Once he heads off, it's all sheer joy for him. He absolutely loves his 'Walkies!' (Does anyone else think of Barbara Woodhouse any time they hear the word, 'Walkies!'? I always do.)

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Yesterday, DR - Jackson's normal dog-walker - took him for his walk. After the walk, he decided to head back down to the machair with the camera. And a set of wheels.

We've had some beautiful winter weather.

No snow, but spells of blue skies and low sun always make for loveliness.

Having a very blue sea on our doorstep is an added bonus, especially when the low sun rays give a golden hue to the land. 

Those of you who follow Homeschool on the Croft on Facebook will have seen the next two photos already. Katie took them on her mobile when she and some of her cousins went on a coastal walk just after New Year.

Such an unusual cloud formation ... looking more like an explosion.

This photo was taken on the coast looking south.

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And, finally, Katie's walk today ...

It was frosty and again she had her mobile. I love the frost, but I really love the beautiful signs of life peeking through the dead grass. 

"While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease." Genesis 8:22

Frost makes everything look alive!


Red Farmhouse's Guest Post on Why we Homeschool

Here's another post from my Drafts folder. This one has been sitting there for a long time, and it comes from Kim at her lovely blog, Life in a Little Red Farmhouse

Kim and her husband and three sons live on a homestead in Oklahoma. Head over to the blog and see how they live their lives.

Here's a post that Kim posted on her blog quite some time back ...

Homeschooling - it sounds like a hard thing to do. Honestly, sometimes it is. But often difficult things are the most rewarding. And homeschooling has been rewarding for our family.

We are on our eleventh year in our homeschooling journey. I call it a journey because it is an ever changing road that we decided to walk down. I never thought we could make it this far. Somehow it has just worked for our family. Now it just seems a normal part of life. Teaching our boys spelling and math has been an extension of teaching them to eat with a spoon and to walk. Each year we evaluate each boy to decide if it is best for them. So far, homeschooling has been successful for each of them and so we continue on our road of learning together. I must admit, over the years I have learned as much as they have, not only about phonics and history but more importantly about myself.

Today, I wanted to answer a few questions about homeschooling that I have been asked over the last decade...

1. Why did you decide to homeschool your children?

I had an excellent example, my sister in law, that homeschooled before me. Silently, I observed them for years mulling it over in my mind. I would ask myself, "Can I do that?" When our oldest, went to Pre-K, he started getting in trouble. He was a very sweet boy and obedient but wiggly as most boys are and so he became very unhappy. We decide to give homeschooling a try. And then I knew, "I really can do this!"

2.What is your philosophy of education?

Our philosophy is simple: Build a foundation of faith. Add to that the basics: math, science, grammar and writing. Polish it off with an understanding of history and good age appropriate literature.

Teach them they can pick up any book at any time and learn something from it. Encourage each one in their strengths and help them along in their weaknesses. And have a little fun along the way.

3. What has been the best thing about homeschooling for you?

That's hard to pick just one thing. I'll give you the top two:
Character development has been the biggest plus in homeschooling our boys. It has given us the opportunity to know them better as they have grown, deal with issues that arise (and they always do), and mold and shape their character in a way that we never could have without homeschooling.
And second, they remain the best of friends to the point that they all still want to share a room together at ages 17, 14 and 11. I hope that this will last their entire lives. The truth is that friends come and friends go but close brothers last a lifetime.

4. What has been the hardest thing about homeschooling?

The knowledge that we are soley responsible for their education. It can be an overwhelming thing if you dwell on it. Now that I have one that will soon be off to college, I realize that taking one step at a time down a long path is the best way to get there.

I  when I feel like I'm failing, I comfort myself in the thought that no one wants my children to succeed more than I do.

5. How do you know what to teach?

Now days, there are endless options for curriculum. Most are very user friendly and require little work for the mom-teacher. This is a great thing especially when you have multiple ages. Whenever we can combine history, literature, or science and still be age appropriate for each child, we do.

Here is my list of go-tos: 
  • Math U See
  • Apologia Science
  • Easy Grammar
  • Institute for Excellence in Writing
  • Spelling Power
  • Wordly Wise Vocabulary
  • and my favorite - Sonlight literature and history

6. What do you do if there is something you just don't think you are qualified to teach?

It wasn't until high school that this even became an issue. With our oldest son reaching that stage a few years ago, we started taking advantage of private and group tutoring for science and math. Letting some very qualified ladies teach the things that were out of my comfort zone has worked out great for us. It has allowed me to still oversee the completion of the schoolwork and step in to help if needed but leave the heavy teaching to someone else. This year, I am trading off a subject with another mom. Her girls come to take drawing from me and she teaches writing composition to my boys. I love that. I also love that she doesn't mind teaching them outside even if it's on a fence post.

7. What about socialization?

There are so many opportunities for socializing with other homeschooled kids that you can not have enough time to do schoolwork. Over the years, my boys have been involved with a homeschooled Boy Scout troop and a weekly PE class as well as art classes, pottery, playgroups, book clubs, and even a Shakespeare club. I had a woman ask me once how my children were going to learn to stand in line. Funny, we were at that very moment in a check out line at Walmart. Is that really socialization anyway? Good socialization, in my opinion, is a child being able to relate and communicate with any age of person, something that homeschooled kids often do well.

8. If "school" doesn't take as long at home as it does in a classroom, what do you do with the rest of the day?

Oh, that has been the fun part and one of the reasons we built this farm. Keeping kids busy is important. Boys, especially as they get older, need something to do that makes them feel important. And they sure don't need more time in front of a screen. We have tried over the years to encourage life skills and hobbies.

Doing things like properly saddling your horse and taking it for a ride,

building something on their own,

caring for animals (yes, even falcons),

playing thinking games,

or even working for spending money, are all ways that our boys spend their days.

"Find something that you love, and do that", is what our boys hear us say on a regular basis. Education should not be all about the books.

Thanks, Kim, 


My Bookshelf ...

I have a number of posts in my Drafts folder - twenty-seven to be precise - so I'm going to post some (not all!) of them before writing any new ones. 

At some stage towards the end of last year, I decided to post on some of the books I'd recently read. Here are the books:

Conn Iggulden's series on Ghengis Khan: Wolf of the Plains; Lords of the Bow; Bones of the Hills; Empire of Silver, by Conn Iggulden
The Well Educated Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer
The Woman with the Book, an account of Gladys Aylward's life, by M.A. Mijnders
Time for Favour, by John S. Ross
The Promised One: a ten week Bible Study - seeing Jesus in the Old testament, by Nancy Guthrie
Jesus on Every Page, by Dr David Murray
Glory Veiled and Unveiled, by Gerald M, Bilkes
Selected to Live, by Johanna-Ruth Dobschiner
Ben Carson: Gifted Hands
The Last Days of Jesus, by T.V. Moore

There's the list, and here's the photo. 

I read Conn Iggulden's series on Ghengis Khan. Four books of can't-put-it-down reading. Throughout the books I had a series of emotions: amazement, horror, inspiration, horror, sadness, horror, joy, thankfulness ...

I felt amazement and inspiration at the wonder of this family that had been left with nothing, and yet survived. 

I felt horror at the brutality of the way in which they were abandoned.

I felt sadness at the lives people lived, and how little joy they knew. 

I felt horror at the ease with which people killed.

I felt horror time and time again - at times, it was because of the death of one person; at other times it was at the deaths of tens of thousands in a short space of time.

Death and bloodshed were the order of the days. But what never stopped ringing in my heart throughout the whole series was a feeling of thankfulness for the place and era in which God has placed me. These words sum it up:

'The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places. 
I have a goodly heritage.' (Psalm 16:6)

They really have. And I really do. 

Reading of lives lived without Christ, without the Gospel, without hope ... makes for difficult reading on one level, although reading this author's work is no chore. DR has his Emporer series lined up for me now.

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Some of the books - like the Khan series - come to an end and I haven't lifted a pen once to mark any pages. Others, however, have a different story to tell!

My copy of Jesus on Every Page looks like this ...

... with page after page of underlining, of filled post-it notes, and of marks and stars in the margins.

Soon, I'm going to read this book again - straight through, with no stopping for further studying, no pausing to write my thoughts (I'll try and stick to this), and no back-and-fore to relevant sermons or articles elsewhere. 

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I'd read Selected to Live as a child. My childhood readings of some of the events in Nazi Germany spawned some of my present-day loves, hates, fears and hopes. The re-reading of this book once again made me wonder, 

'How could this have happened?' - seriously, where was every decent-hearted citizen?

Would we act differently? - after all, there are more unborn babies being killed every year than there were Jews being killed, and yet we sleep at night.

'How could they have been so accepting?' - was it because a different era from today's made people more accepting of authority? Is that why countless thousands quietly stepped out of their homes and onto trains? Or does the threat of death cause a numbness that will accept orders, unquestioningly? 

More questions than answers, I'm afraid. But reading of what was taking place in Germany in the 1930s and comparing it with what I see on mainland Europe, in the UK and in the US and other Western nations makes me fear for the future. I'm glad I can take that fear to the One who casts out fear. I'm glad the future is in HIS hands.

But that does not mean we don't fight the encroachments to our liberties. We'd jolly well better fight - and fight with all our might. Otherwise, how can we face future generations but with shame at how we capitulated for the sake of peace and comfort? 

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Both Selected to Live and the Ghengis Khan series made me wonder at God's providence.  In the historical note at the end of Empire of Silver, Iggulden says this:

The third son of Genghis was great Khan for just twelve years, from AD 1229 to 1241. At a time when the Mongols were sweeping west into Europe, Ogedai's death would be one of the crucial turning points of history. Western Europe could not have stood against them. The medieval castles there were no more daunting than walled Chin cities, and in the field, the Mongol style of fast-striking tactical warfare would have been practically unstoppable. It is no exaggeration to say the future of the West changed when Ogedai's heart failed.

The brilliant tactical manoeuvres of Liegnitz and the Sajo river were rendered void by the Mongol withdrawal. They are rarely taught outside military schools, in part because they did not lead on to conquest. Politics intruded on Tsubodai's ambition. If it had not, all history would have changed. There are not many moments in history when the death of a single man changed the entire world. Ogedai's death is one such moment. Had he lived, there would have been no Elizabethan age, no British Empire, no Renaissance, perhaps no Industrial Revolution. In such circumstances, this book could very well have been written in Mongolian or Chinese.

I couldn't but read these words: 

"There are not many moments in history when the death of a single man changed the entire world" 

with something of a smile on my face. There was the death of a man two thousand years ago too. He died, not of heart failure, but because He had a heart to save His people. Ogedai's death was the end of his rule. But this man, Christ Jesus - His death, then resurrection, is the cause of his continuing rule. He will reign for ever and ever.

God's plan of salvation is amazing - read about that in Jesus on Every Page - and God's works of providence are too. The Mongols were stopped from coming West. Our providence was to be very different for, after all, God had 'many people in this city' (Acts 18) and in these countries.

And so, whether we're reading about the past, about our present, or about the future; about God's work of redemption and of creation, our hearts cannot but praise our God, from whom all blessings flow.

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