Reading Aloud

One of my favourite things about home-schooling is reading aloud with the kids. Recently, I finished reading the whole of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series with Calum.

He loved them. I absolutely loved them.

I'd never read these books - not even as a child - though I'd seen the TV series. I had expected to enjoy them, but I have to say that they far exceeded my expectation. I simply loved them. As read-alouds, I simply cannot recommend them too highly.

Whilst on the subject of recommending, let me recommend reading aloud as an activity to any mums who don't already do it.


- the kids love it. It is, without doubt, our Wee Guy's favourite time of the day, and I don't think I ever read with him without hearing, 'Oh, mum, another chapter, pleeease.... Just one more!'

- it's a precious time for mums. Both he and I love snuggling up on the sofa. He may move on to 'better' times in his life. I doubt I will.

- so many opportunities for discussion arise. In the Little House series, we talked about the lives of pioneers, the sacrifices they made, the animals they encountered, the protection God had over them. We learnt so much about the way in which they farmed, and especially about the countless ways in which they used all kinds of foods. In Farmer Boy, I was in awe of Almanzo's mother and her knowledge of what to do with every single part of a slaughtered animal or a harvested plant.

Our generation is so ignorant compared with those who went before us.

As for this series, I'm going to ask the Wee Guy a few questions.

Mum: Out of the whole series, did you have a favourite?

Calum Stewart: Yes, I think it was Farmer Boy.

Mum: Tell us what you liked about Farmer Boy.

Calum: I like books which tell of times that are going well, and in Farmer Boy, life was going good. I loved reading about all the work Almanzo was doing on the farm. 

I loved reading about the County Fair where he entered a Pumpkin competition. He won it and then he worried that he may have cheated in the way in which he fed the pumpkin ... he'd fed it with milk, and had left the plant with only that single pumpkin. He realised that his dad would never lie, and so he told the truth, only to be told that all was well. He'd won his prize fair and square!

Also, on Independence Day, the family went to town to celebrate. There was a stand with pink lemonade for sale at 5c per glass. Almanzo was being teased by his cousin that he wouldn't get money from his father to buy lemonade, but when he asked his father for money, his father gave him two things: the money and a choice. He said he could buy the lemonade if he wished, or he could buy a tiny piglet, which he could feed up, breed and make money from. Almanzo made the right choice! I loved reading about that!

Mum: Any other books that stand out for you, Calum?

Calum: I liked The Golden Years too. The Long Winter was a good book, but it was kind of hard to read - it was a terrible time for the family, and it really made you realise how hard some of the pioneers' lives were.

~   ~   ~   ~

I must say that these books stood out for me too. The Long Winter was tough - really, really tough. Reading it truly affected the way in which I bought, prepared and ate food for quite some time. I truly felt a thankfulness for our abundance - thankfulness which should be there at all times, but I have to be honest and admit that I take so much for granted. 

In Farmer Boy, I was in awe of the knowledge they had, whether in the fields, in the barns or in the kitchen. No part of an animal went to waste, and all the vegetables and grains they grew were harvested and stored to give them an abundance of good food for the year ahead. Their work ethic was incredible. Almanzo's mother had no problem living up to the standards of the Proverbs 31 woman, in terms of her organisational skills, her work ethic, her knowledge and her running of her household.

Did she, and does she put me to shame? Without doubt - yes.

But what is even more awe inspiring than Almanzo's mum is Laura's Ma. In all her trials and hardships and difficulties - and, boy! there were plenty of them - she is not to be heard complaining. Not even once. Really, although these books are wonderful children's books, I would recommend them to anyone. I could do with being inspired again and again to be more like Ma, who always had a smile for her husband and for her children; who was gracious in her manner, regardless of circumstance; and who never ever complained, no matter what her lot was. 

She was amazing.

We finished this series a month or so ago, and now we're onto reading Scotland's Story, by HE Marshall. Although we haven't finished reading the book yet, I'd have no hesitation in recommending this as a read-aloud too. The Wee Guy is loving it, and I'm learning so much about our own history from it.

If you have made a habit of reading aloud with your kids, I'd love to hear from you. Was it an enjoyable time? What made it better? Or what could spoil it? Which were your favourite books? How old were your kids when you stopped reading aloud with them?


Butt of Lewis Lighthouse

Some interesting, though possibly useless, facts about our local lighthouse.

The lighthouse was built in 1862 by David Stevenson and his brother, Thomas. David Stevenson was an engineer with the Northern Lighthouse Board.

Thomas Stevenson was the father of the much loved author, Robert Louis Stevenson. 

It stands at almost the same latitude as Whitehorse, Yukon in Canada, and Kristiansand in Norway.

It is officially the windiest spot in the U.K, though tonight it was perfectly calm.

There used to be a foghorn beside it, which sounded until 1995. I have wonderful, comforting childhood memories of its deep, long, low bellow sounding out as I lay snuggled in my bed. 

Sadly, it is heard no more. And I miss it.

The lighthouse was manned when I was growing up. The flashing was caused by a huge lens which revolved around the light. Before it was automated, the lighthouse keeper had to wind up the clockwork motor by hand every half-hour each evening.

Initially, the light was fuelled by fish oil, but between 1869 and 1976 paraffin was used. Since 1976, it has been all electric. 

There are 168 steps to the top of the lighthouse. Sadly, the lighthouse is not open to the public now, so we cannot climb to its top any more. 

Interestingly, the man who was building the spiral stair of steps went on strike for 'an extra penny a day'. Apparently, there were so few experts to do the work that he was given what he'd asked for.


Stuff, Stuff and more Stuff

My parents have been moving home: we call it 'flitting' - do you guys across the Pond call it that? This 'flitting' has meant that for the past days I've been all boxed in. 

Putting stuff into boxes. Taking stuff out of boxes. Organising boxes: To Go. To Stay. For Charity. For Dump. Arguing over boxes: This ought to go, Mum. You haven't worn this in over a year, Mum. Why keep this, Mum?

If you have moved house, these are all gonna sound familiar. Stuff. Stuff. Stuff.

My Mum, being the sentimental type, has stuff going back decades. She has, in a frame, the last shock of corn my Grandpa harvested before he passed away. She can't throw it out. I certainly can't throw it out, even though I know it's absolutely ridiculous. And so it remains. 

She also had a dog lead. It belonged to the dog we used to have. That all sounds reasonable enough, until you realise that the dog died over 20 years ago. 

The lead went.

Wedding invitations ... from weddings that took place a decade - or two - ago. 

"Chuck 'em, Mum. The wedding has been. The couple can hardly even remember their wedding day. They've had kids." Wedding days blur into a haze once we have kids, right? 

The cards have stayed. Mum thinks they're safe. But today is another day, and I'm on the case.

All this stuff has made me realise how important it is in practical terms to have a real clear-out every few years. We've been in our house now for six years, and I can see it's time for a major de-clutter. This flitting has inspired me and if, after it is all done, I have any energy left, I am going to attack our own house with a passion.


All this stuff also makes me realise how much of this world's things we buy and keep. Stuff, stuff, stuff.

'All is vanity', it makes me think. This is not a criticism of my mum, by the way. How can it be, when I have a houseful of stuff too. But the truth is that I probably don't need half of what I have here. We say we don't want to live worldly lives, but the truth is that we live exactly like the richest 5% of people in the world. If an 'outsider' were to visit Earth, he'd never know that my treasure was elsewhere. He wouldn't know, by looking at all my stuff, that I believe the things of this world to be transient; that my heart claims to love the things of Christ, which cannot be seen nor bought; and that my heart longs for that better country, whose Builder and Maker is God.

And so, whilst de-cluttering my home may be useful, de-cluttering my heart is essential.

"Seek those things which are above... Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3:1,2)

(last night's sky as I was heading to bed)


Sunshine and Planting ... Makes me very Happy

And so the plotting begins....

Happy Days

Seeing the ground being ploughed, 

the tatties being placed in the furrow,

and watching the next furrow being, er, furrowed, 

whilst the previous row of tatties gets covered up. So good.

That ploughing is just so clever.

The other part of the plot was ploughed and then rotovated. 

And then my boys got to work erecting The Cage.

By the time the Builder had the door in place, 

I'd planted the first of my seedlings to find their way into the ground.

The forecast is looking good for this coming week, so hopefully, these little babies will not take too badly to being taken out of the warm greenhouse and placed outdoors. I'm planning on filling this cage by early next week with the rest of the seedlings that have reached this stage. 

Today had sunshine. And ploughing. And planting.

Happy Days indeed...


Thoughts in the Supermarket

Sometimes, when I am in the supermarket, I see some older gentleman there doing his shopping. He's on his own, with a basket in his hand, placing his needed items there. 

One by one. Carefully. Slowly. Deliberately.

I may see him in one aisle, and no more. Or I may keep meeting him aisle after aisle. As he goes about his business, all kinds of thoughts rush through my head.

None of them are happy thoughts.

"He must be on his own. He's widowed."

"I wonder if his wife passed away a long time ago. Or was it just recently?"

"Is he thinking of his late wife with every item he sees on the shelves? Does he remember when he used to buy flour because she baked? And Raspberry jam because that was her favourite."

"Does his heart sorrow every time he puts half-a-dozen eggs in his basket, because he and his wife used to buy a dozen?"

"Does he have family? I wonder if they live near him. Maybe they're all living off the island, and he has nobody close by."

"I wonder if he's a Christian. Does his heart rejoice because one day soon, he will be with his wife, and they will look on the face of their Beloved together - not as husband and wife, but as members of this amazing family of God?"

I may see him going through the checkout. He may fumble in his wallet. He may be slow packing his bag. 

These scenes actually bring tears to my eyes. I don't want this man to be alone. I want him to be happy. I want his wife to be still alive, and their children and grandchildren to be all around them.

And then I realise that it is eminently possible that his wife is sitting in the car waiting, and he is on his own simply because he's a gentleman who offered to nip in to Tesco so she could wait in the warm car.

That cheers me up, and I hang onto that thought because I don't want to have a red nose and watery eyes when I have to go through the checkout.

Is this normal? Do any of you folks think like this? Or do I clearly have too vivid an imagination? 


Trawling through the Past Week's Facebook

For those of you who don't follow me on Facebook, here are some of my recent statuses.

Friday 11th

Here's the Builder arriving home after cycling home from work.

He was working in town.... yep, after a week's work, he cycles the 25 miles home.

He's trying to keep up to my level of fitness.

   ~  ~  ~   

Saturday 12th

I believe Mother's Day is coming up soon if you live on 'the other side', but for us in the UK, Mother's Day is in March.

On Mother's Day of 1995, our first daughter was born. 

On Mother's Day of 1997, our second daughter was born. No kidding! 

Two daughters. Both on Mother's Day. 

Best. gifts. ever.

~   ~   ~

Wednesday 9th

-1C windchill out there. 50mph North-easterly wind. Brrrrr!

I'm very thankful to be in my warm home tonight and not outside.

~   ~   ~

Tuesday 9th

Stroll on! Trying to arrange a holiday for two irate teenagers aint easy.

Where's Frank Egglehoffer when you need him?

~   ~   ~

Monday 8th

Builder + Weathered Tan = *Very* nice 

.... Just sayin' ;)

(and of course, this is simply my personal opinion)

~   ~   ~

Saturday, 6th

Wow... that moon is *really* bright tonight :)

(This was the night our moon was closer to the Earth than normal and so appeared a good bit larger. It really was beautiful when I went out to take the photo.)


In the Greenhouse Right Now ...

Just a bit of what's happening in the wee greenhouse just now:

some Lettuce leaves ready for a bit of cutting and eating, methinks

Courgette seedlings  (zucchini to you Americans) ready for going into the ground

Unfortunately, although they are ready, the ground isn't ready for them. It really is too cold for these poor little babies to head outdoors.

Coriander (cilantro). This is my favourite herb. I simply love it, and I love the shape of the little leaves as they take on their distinctive coriander shape.

These are the two Raspberry plants I left to die last Autumn. Shame on me! I was ready to chuck them in the compost when I went to clean out the greenhouse to begin this year's planting. I am so glad I gave them a good ol' shearing and an opportunity to show whether they were alive or not. They look wonderful and the buds are already forming.

I was ready to do the same with these Strawberry plants....

... and look what we have here!

Finally, for now, some garlic bulbs, just beginning to sprout.

As y'all know if you've been listening to me this past few weeks (of course, it's eminently possible, and even likely, that you haven't been listening to me, because some of you may actually have lives to live ...), our weather is cool.

Okay, so it's cold. That means that the seedlings which would be ready to plant out the plot (ahem, our vegetable plot, not our burial plot ;) will have to survive another while under glass.

Last year's summer stayed very cool for the whole summer, but the brassica plants survived really well - in fact, it was our best year yet for broccoli and cauliflower. They are kept in the 'cages', to keep the butterflies out, and to give them wind protection. I read last year that brassicas in general grow better in cooler temperatures, so they are definitely suitable for our climate (as long as we give them some wind protection). 

All being well, in the next few weeks, our cages will be erected, and the ground made suitable for planting in The Plot.


Norwegian Submarine in Town

When I was over in town the other day, I saw this submarine coming in to harbour. 

Fortunately, Catherine had her phone, and we were able to get this photo - albeit, a rather unclear and grey photo.

More fortunately, a follower of FB Homeschool on the Croft sent me some photos he'd been able to take at the same time.

Even more fortunately, I was over in town again the following day, so I head down to the pier to take some more photos of the submarine.

As you can see, they were visiting from Norway, and being descended from Norsemen ourselves, I was glad to give them a good Lewis welcome.

A couple of notes concerning the above comment and photo:

1. I would like to make clear that I am well aware of my own lack of Norse DNA. The Pygmies living on Luchraban clearly provided most of my DNA.

2. In the photo, to the left of the flag, is Stornoway Town Hall and its clock. The inside has just been refurbished, and I was in the hall the other week for the first time since the work was done. It really is lovely.

I was also glad to be able to tell the two gentlemen sitting on deck .... Is this the deck of a submarine? Or simply the top? I have no idea, but I do know that these guys must have been mighty glad to be out of the inside for a time.... that our weather is always like this in Lewis.

They both laughed. Clearly, they'd been here before me and were not fooled by their one day of blue skies and no winds. 


He's Ruined... but Comfy

Someone told me there was a comfy seat to be had in the kitchen. I tried it, and discovered ...

... it really was a bit small for me.

Then Katie mentioned something about another comfy chair that was larger.

I listened intently, realising this is exactly what I was looking for.

Once I got the info, I was outta here...

And everything she told me about the new chair was spot on.

It is the comfiest place evah.

And Mum, you wouldn't actually ask me to leave, would you?

You couldn't, could you?

Note from Mother of the House: This fella is ruined. Ruined, I tell you.


Apparently Shabbyblogs has some major issues, and these have affected my blog. Big style!

Hopefully, Homeschool on the Croft will be up and running as normal soon.... :)


More Photos of Ness

I said the other day in this post that I would post more photos of our time with newly met friends last week. When they visited the second time, we had a (mostly) sunny, if cool and breezy day. Okay, freezing and blowing a hoolie, if you must know.

This wee fella found this flag somewhere in our house, and was happy to wave it proudly. 
By the way, this fella was such a cute little guy. He was seriously in danger of being kidnapped, both by me and by the girls.


The next photos were taken at Port of Ness, a harbour very close to the northernmost tip of Lewis, but round to the East. Because it's on the east coast, it tends to be much more sheltered that the seas we normally see, which are on the west coast - the Atlantic coast - of the island.

As you can see, the sea was fairly choppy this day. We had a fairly stiff breeze, and, more significantly, it was a north-easterly ... hence the waves here.

This photo is taken from one of the highest points in Ness, and shows part of the district.

We then drove to the Butt.

Once again folks: the BUTT is the TOP. Got it?

Good ;)

All very logical.

And then to Our Beach.

Oh, by the way.... erm, Spot the crofter in the photos .. !

What a great time we had with this family. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I love the internet!

Related Posts with Thumbnails