Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Gift from Heaven Baby Seven


I'm in seventh heaven and thrilled to share the news that our Heavenly Father has chosen to bless our family again with another baby - due in early December! We have been holding on to this news for a while but it was becoming hard to hide the obvious 'sweet little bump' which popped out early. My children thought I was getting fat from spending too much time at the computer and called it 'blogitis'... they laughed so much when we told them it was a baby and not blogging which was causing mum to put on weight!
For a while, we were having suspicions of another set of twins but on the morning of my scan (last Friday) I had a strong heart conviction that this was just one baby and the scan confirmed this and revealed that my assumption on the baby's gender was also correct but I'm keeping that a secret ... will it be a boy or girl? I have lot of girl's clothes, sweet little dresses and 'pretty in pink' cardigans but I have also kept a few little boy treasures such as these cute little shoes worn by my first son when he was a tiny baby, he now has size 11 feet!
I also kept all of my nursery furniture purchased for the twins.... a cot and matching change table, front and backpacks and my 'phil and ted's' most excellent pram which people used to stop me on the street and ask me about, now I see them everywhere! Kiwi ingenuity sells!




I have started nesting early with an insatiable urge to clean where I usually prefer not to go... under the DVD unit in my living room for example, which replenished my son's lego collection and refilled the box of blocks! I reorganised our home office and library, moving the desk to be under the window. I now have a beautiful outlook; from my desk I look out on to the forest, the camellias are in flower, honeyeaters are visiting to extract the sweet nectar... just outside the window. The sun also streams in and you cannot see the computer screen during the late afternoon.. the very time I go online! A blind is needed!

Something else every mother to be needs, is a pair of comfortable shoes. I'm in love with my new leather pumps. I found these cuties which are so me, in a shop on the Gold Coast. They were on sale for $50 reduced from $180. I love a bargain!



I have been blessed with a good pregnancy- some mild nausea at the start, a few headaches (mild) and a little acid reflux. I have felt good.... energetic even and I am just enjoying this time as I start to consider my options for the birth. I still miss New Zealand's system of maternity care and wish Australia would catch up. Having my own qualified midwife who visited me at home and provided all my ante-natal care made my life so much easier.. no trips to the clinic, even for blood tests. Knowing who would be with me in labour and there at the delivery gave me extra reassurance as I prepared for my home births ... I had two of my children at home and I'd love to have another baby at home. Knowing all is well and that it is not twins this time, means this is a possibility but it costs money and there are only a few qualified midwives who offer homebirth in this region.

Our double blessing in December 2005
Our precious twin girls

I will let you know what we decide to do and I'll share some of my prevous birth stories, each different, each unique, each special. Whatever lies ahead, I am sure of this one thing... God will be with me. I have experienced His awesome presence and His sweet peace during each birth experience. He attended me in hospital and He visited me at home. He knows how much I love the Christmas season and has chosen to bless me with three babies born during the month of December. My fourth child, a son was born in the week before Christmas and my twin girls arrived on the first day of December almost four years ago. Once again I have a due date which falls in the Christmas season. What a special Christmas it is going to be.... I will need to have my home ready in November but I do not mind. I just love preparing for Christmas. I love Christmas so much, it holds a special place in my heart. I am the girl who chose to get married on a cold December day in London. My bridesmaids wore burgundy satin dresses and I had holly and ivy in my bouquet!



The tiny babies who shared a cot are growing up. Last Christmas they were 3 years old when they stood by the tree. This year they will receive a very special gift they will have to share!


Not only does our family have extra cause for celebration this Christmas time, my husband and I also celebrate 20 years of marriage! What a Christmas gift! What a gift for our anniversary! I'm overjoyed and yes I am in seventh heaven! A mother of seven.... really feels like we are entering 'quiverfull' territory and I await the response of others. We are the biggest family at church.... will we become pointed out as 'the family with seven children'? I say this because when we lived in NZ and moved to the South Island to go dairy farming we started attending a church where there was a lady with seven children. We only had three children then but people kept telling me about this lady in the church with seven... (emphasis on the seven)... children. And then I met her... she was youthful, vibrant, friendly just full of life and so was her husband. I can remember thinking ' If this is what having seven children looks like ... well I wouldn't mind having seven'.... and here I am expecting our seventh child!
I look forward to sharing this journey with you. It has been so lovely to meet others who cherish family as we do. Enjoy your children when they are babies, when they are toddlers and as they grow... for they do grow quickly and this time passes by. I am in no hurry to give away the baby clothes or the nursery furniture (and so pleased I didn't). I'm happy to have more handprints on the window panes and a high chair at the table. Our olive plants around our table and I thank God for fulfilling the promises of His Word in Psalm 128.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants All around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the Lord.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I can't phone home or use the internet!

I'm on an enforced break from the blog as my phone line has been down for the past five days. It is a result of an outage in my area that has affected most of the homes on my road.. cannot even go to the neighbour's house! I'm at the library today catching up quickly and publishing the comments sitting in my box. Hopefully, the phone and internet will be restored soon... saw the Telstra guys with lots of rolls of cable up the road, so they are working on it!
I'll be back soon with some exciting news!
With love and joy,
Ann

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Teens on a Thai Tin Roof! My Son's First Missions Trip

My teenage son returned from his first Missions Trip to Thailand on the weekend. He had a wonderful time! He loved everything about the place .... the people, it truly is the land of smiles! I wish I could share some of the photos he brought back of the smiling children but I want to protect their privacy.... they were not street kids but children who have found a home at the orphanage that is part of the project our church supports and sends workers to each year. These children are delightful... my son tells me they rarely whinge or whine, yet they have so little in terms of material possessions. Perhaps that is what my son noticed most... the people have so little but they are happy.

He also loved the food! Delicious, cheap to buy and big servings - just what a teenage boy demands! I'm afraid Thai cooking is not one of my culinary gifts, I might have to learn how to cook Thai now. Or there is always the Thai takeaway in town!

He loved the weather, hot and humid but bearable. Afternoon storms sweep in, bringing rain which is why my son grew wise and accepted the offer of the passenger seat in the ute they drove around in. The other boys who loved the exhilaration of riding in the back of the ute.... a popular form of transport for many locals, well... they got wet!

He loved the work which did, as the title of this post suggests, involve a lot of clambering onto thin, tin roofs. The team of five young men from our church spent time working in two different slum areas. Their main tasks were to repair existing dwellings - they removed old leaky roofs and replaced them with new sheets of iron, they completed five roofs during their stay. The first house they worked on was really more of a shelter but it did not offer much protection at all. The roof leaked and was supported by bamboo poles, it had no walls. The wind and rain would blow in during storms and as it was located on the edge of a swamp, mosquitoes were a major problem. The guys recycled the iron sheets from the old roof and used them to create walls. The raised floor which was also constructed from bamboo was half covered with flimsy sheeting. They were able to purchase new wooden sheets to replace the old flooring and cover the bamboo where no sheeting had been in place. This picture is an after shot! It truly is a home improvement when you consider that it did not have walls before the team set to work! This was the home of a mother and her young child. Can you imagine living in a room like this? Seeing these pictures helps me realize how blessed I am. It puts my own home renovation and decoration wish list into perspective! Yes, I'd love an ornate mirror for my hallway but hey, I have walls - solid, plastered, painted walls with no gaps! I am blessed. The lady who lives in this dwelling was one of the people they were able to do most for... she had the least and was the most grateful. One villager who lived in better circumstances harassed the boys and demanded that they come and fix her roof. They did but she was less appreciative. Is it a case of when we have more, we appreciate less and come to expect more?


This is the final home the team worked on... a more substantial home!

The team were able to help with other projects apart from building. They went on the 'food runs' on Mondays and Fridays, delivering food to households in the nearby leper village. They participated in the running of the weekly exercise class for the people who live with this crippling disease and they handed out knitted teddy bears to children in the village, which they had taken over in their baggage. They also spent time at the orphanage, playing soccer with the children and befriending the locals. My son's extensive experience with the 'whipper snipper' was also put to good use in the orphanage grounds!

Handing out gifts at the leper village


My son is home now and he is missing Thailand. It is almost like culture shock in reverse! He wants to return soon. It is his 17th birthday next week and we asked him what he would like - his response - money to go towards another plane ticket! I know he loved the trip so much because it gave him a true sense of fulfillment. He was making a difference in the lives of others, extending his hand to the poor and putting to good use all the skills he has attained by helping build his own family home.

Some of the young people who have been sent out on these trips from our church, return of their own accord to do further missions work. They come home to spend time with their families and work, stacking shelves in the local supermarket to raise money to fund another trip. Young men who are not traveling to Asia to go surfing and partying, they are not staying in resorts and spending time chatting up girls at the beach but working in slum areas, visiting the rubbish heaps where the poorest of the poor live and forage, reaching out and helping in whatever way they can. And fulfilling the Great Commission, sharing the Gospel in both word and deed, letting the light of their Lord shine before men, so that they may see their good works and glorify their Father in heaven. (Matt 5v16). They are the type of young men who I hoped my son would follow after. And it seems likely now, that he will. I'm happy for him to do this... I set out to raise missions minded children who would grow up to be missions minded adults. It may involve more trips in the future to airports to bid farewell. The next trip may be a longer one and I am prepared for that. He has returned with a new vision and it is one this mother is thrilled to support.



And just remember, next time you are in the local supermarket and see a young man stacking shelves, please do not look down upon him or assume it is the only job he was qualified for. He may be working for a greater purpose! If you live in the country and have to wait in your car for the young man on the quadbike, moving the herd of cows across the road, the same applies and please be patient as you wait, smile and wave. You never know what his reason might be for working this job... it could be his means of paying for his university education and perhaps another plane fare to go and work on a Thai tin roof!


'They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do' From Paul's letter to the Galatians Chapter 2 verse 10.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Books to Inspire Home Educators

We began our home education adventure in 1998 and over the years a number of books, specifically written for home educators, have proved to be a source of inspiration, practical advice, ideas and encouragement. I'm sure many of these titles already line the shelves of veteran home educators, but if you are just starting out on this journey, you may find some of these titles to be very useful resources. This post is for you!

1. The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook
by Dr Raymond & Dorothy Moore

When we first started out on our home education journey, I had not heard of Doctor Moore, one of the pioneers of home education in America, who helped numerous families discover home education. I found his book on the shelves of a Christian bookshop which is very unusual, I was used to having to order in books on homeschooling... and as it was the only copy I purchased it on the spot! After reading this book I breathed a huge sigh of relief! I learned to relax as I read chapters with titles such as 'Thinking: If You Want to Hurry It, Wait' and 'Worried about Reading and the Basics? Try This!'. As society continues to rush its children into formal learning, long before they are ready and parents are being encouraged to purchase flashcards and educational DVDs for babies, this book offers a totally different perspective. If you are feeling anxious about reading and pushing your child a 'tad too much' (something I did with my first child... he had to succeed!) or wondering why he still reverses his letter bs and ds, despite having been told on numerous occasions that he has his letters around the wrong way, Dr Moore will help you understand why! It's a classic book which will ease all your concerns!

2. Beyond Survival A Guide to Abundant Life Homeschooling
by Diana Waring


I have only ever attended one homeschool conference and Diana Waring was the keynote speaker. I bought her book 'Beyond Survival' at the conference. Her enthusiasm for home education is infectious, as she helps you discover the joy in the journey. I met her children at the conference, who were teenagers at the time and I was impressed. I remember thinking, 'If this is what homeschooling produces, I'm in for the long haul'. She has written a follow on to 'Beyond Survival' called 'Reaping the Harvest' which I plan to read soon as I am now, ten years, on doing just that. I had just commenced 'Unit Studies' when I attended the conference and it was a thrill to discover that Diana Waring was a strong advocate for this method of learning. If Unit Studies are something you are considering then this book will help you understand why they work so well and how they can open up a world of learning and discovery. It is quite comprehensive, covering learning styles, curriculum, evaluations, , multi level teaching and a variety of other topics such as tackling housework and setting the atmosphere in the home. Diana's love of history shines through and many homeschoolers will be familiar with her resources for teaching history.




I have recently found out thanks to other homeschoolers visiting this blog, that Diana Waring is coming down under later this year. I am considering attending the Inverell conference but it is a long drive (will likely have to travel up the day before and stay the night) and I need to find out what workshops have been chosen for this venue before I make a decision. If anyone reading this knows what the workshops are for the Inverell conference could they let me know. You can find out more about the conference at www.dianadownunder.com


3. Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson

This is truly a comprehensive handbook for Christian home educators and it is a resource I have dipped into many times over the years. I am most grateful to the Clarksons for introducing me to the concept of 'Living Books'. Reading aloud from classics and wholesome modern titles ( and rejecting the 'twaddle' that lines the shelves of libraries and bookstores) has been an integral part of our home education programme. It's my favourite time of day and my children have reaped the benefits. This book also helped me turn my home into a centre of learning and discovery and I am so thrilled I discovered it early on in our journey.

4. Ignite the Fire Freedom is Real Education by Terri Camp

Another enthusiastic mother and proponent of home education who will help you understand the difference between schooling and education. This handbook will help you realize that conventional methods of teaching and organization designed for the schoolroom do not have to be duplicated in the home. There is a better way! This book will help you discover some of the ways you can spark your child's interest in learning and as the title suggests, light a fire of lifelong learning and discovery!

5.The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas (for kids age 3-12)
by Linda Dobson

If you are just searching for some creative ideas that promote learning, then this may the book for you. Many of the ideas are tried and tested, submitted by parents of home educated children. The materials used for many of the activities are everyday household items and art and craft supplies that most homeschool families will have a stock of. Every subject is catered for and includes reading, writing, maths, geography, kitchen chemistry and art. I purchased this book at the Australasian online bookstore www.fishpond.com.au which I discovered has quite a stock of homeschool books and resources.

6. I have purchased a number of books and resources from Vision Forum www.visionforum.com in recent years and there is one resource for home educators that I am so pleased to have found. It is this set of CDs, 'Curriculum Advice' from Victoria Botkin.



Volume1
offers practical advice for beginning homeschool mothers of children ages 3-8 and although I am not starting out, I still have children in this age group who I intend to home educate! I felt so affirmed by Victoria. So many of the ideas and suggestions she offers for teaching younger children were methods I implemented and they work! I love what she says about turning your home into a centre of curiosity and exploration, a place where learning comes naturally but this does require effort from the parents and this involves not only selecting the books and materials which will be used for the purpose of home education but also giving consideration to how the home is furnished and no she is not talking about setting out school desks! I really appreciated hearing from her children who speak so eloquently of how their mother set the atmosphere in their home. As I listened to her husband Geoffrey Botkin's introduction for this first volume, as the summary on the back of the CD promises, my confidence in home education was renewed, as was my conviction that I am doing the right thing before God.

Volume 2 offers practical advice for mothers of children ages 8-14 and once again Victoria takes you through these years instilling confidence in you and reassuring you that with diligence and Godly wisdom, you can guide your children into character, maturity and integrity, assisting them to become self motivated learners. Although the title of these CDs is 'Curriculum Advice', it is not about finding the right curriculum to ensure academic success ( although she covers every subject area offering helpful suggestions) - it is far more than that. This is more of a curriculum for life, a joyous life where the home is transformed from a mere place of shelter and dwelling , to a glorious loving abode of education, culture, creativity and productivity... a centre of excellence! If this is what you desire your home to be, you will be inspired by Victoria Botkin.

6.The Homeschooling Mother A Mom Just Like You
by Vickie Farris and Jayme Farris Metzgar

This book was published in the year 2000 and I have only recently discovered it and what a gem it is! My husband and I have come to share many of the same convictions that Michael and Vicky Farris have, particularly in regard to family, but what I appreciated most about this book was her honesty in sharing from her years of experience as the mother of ten home-schooled children and wife of Michael Farris. If there are days when you are feeling totally overwhelmed and wondering just what you have taken on, Vicky will offer you encouragement, for as her book states, she is a mom/mum just like you! A mother with laundry piles or mountains, as they can become when one has a big family! I identified with so many of the scenarios she shares and I was so encouraged by her warm, friendly advice! She really does help to dispel the myth of the superwoman and if you are feeling the pressure to perform and live up to expectations of what you or others believe a home school mother should be doing, then this is a book you should read. You will relax and gain the courage and confidence to continue the journey and you will succeed, if you do as Vicky advises ... 'simply remain faithful to what God has called you to do.'



I do hope that this post has been useful for someone reading this. It is so good to know there are so many home educators who have chosen to share from their own experiences and reach out to their fellow home educators and those considering home education, by taking the time to write books and record CDs. I have been helped by so many of these authors, especially the mothers just like me, who have inspired me, encouraged me and shown me that this journey is one worth taking!

With love and joy,
Ann

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Family Flu Prevention Action Plan

It's mid-winter and so far our family has come through this season without so much of a sniffle! Could this be attributed to our decision to put into a place a flu prevention strategy which did not involve racing off to the doctor's surgery to request a flu jab? When the swine flu hit the headlines earlier this year, my husband issued a request 'Is there a way of getting more garlic into us?' There was and it involved an awesome flu fighter.. chicken soup!

I have never cooked so much chicken soup before, we enjoy this at least 3 times a week!.. Yes, you have read that right, 3 times a week and we have not grown tired of this amazing super food, you could say it is close to becoming an addiction! I use a recipe similar to the one found in Sally Fallon's 'Nourishing Traditions'. You can find the recipe at Jordan Rubin's website www.biblicalhealthinstitute.com. The flavour in this soup is something else - it is packed with garlic. The other life giving ingredients that I never leave out are apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, celtic sea salt and ginger. It is on tonight's menu and is already in the slow cooker simmering away- slow cooking does something special to soups. I'm going to throw in some dark green leafy vegetables picked fresh from our garden, dark Tuscan kale and Chinese cabbage. Fresh chopped parsley will be added at the end.

We will enjoy our soup with crusty, authentic, homemade sourdough bread which is presently rising in a warm place. This truly is our daily bread and I've noticed an improvement in our health since I started using freshly milled flour (organic bio dynamic wheat flour). We purchased a grain mill at the start of 2009 and I use the flour in all of my baking. I find I have more energy these days and I have not suffered a cold (or any type of illness) since we made the switch to freshly milled flour. It was a worthwhile investment.

My Samson juicer sits alongside our grain mill and I'm sure it is getting jealous! The mill is having a daily workout and the juicer which has given us more than 5 years of loyal service was being neglected, especially over winter! I noticed the twins were sounding a little hoarse last week so it was time for a vitamin C boost. I did not reach for a plastic bottle of chewable tablets, rather I grabbed a pineapple and chopped it up, peeled some oranges and lemonades and fed these into the juicer together with some carrots.




I combined this juice with another super food - the life giving water of the young coconut. I buy one whenever I go into Woolworths; I wish more stores stocked them. I can drink the water straight using a straw but I tend to save it and add it to juices and smoothies for the whole family to enjoy.

I intend to catch every last drop of that amazing coconut water! I have to be quick to save the 'meat' inside the shell for desserts or smoothies, as my youngest son grabs a long handled, ice cream sundae spoon, ready to help himself to a very healthy snack!

The result of our juicing efforts is a tropical drink packed with vitamins. It is the colour of a sunset, so appealing to children and not a trace of anything artificial! After a glass of this juice I felt revitalized and recovered from the exertion of stabbing that young coconut repeatedly in order to extract its water! The twins croakiness soon subsided and no sore throat or cold eventuated.




The slow 'auger action' of a juicer such as a Samson ensures that all the enzymes are retained. Your everyday juicing machines may be faster and cheaper to purchase but the heat produced means that vital enzymes are destroyed. I'm so pleased we invested in a 'health' juicer. You can also make pasta and there is a special mincer attachment... did you see the 'Masterchef' contestants having fun with their 'mincers' (aka juicers) in the mystery box challenge? I'm not usually a fan of reality TV shows but I love Masterchef.. I have learned so much about food and cooking in recent weeks from this show. I'd love to see them tackle a young coconut though!

So there it is, our flu defence action plan which has brought us thus far, through winter, cold and flu free. There are people out and about coughing like crazy and one extra component of our action plan has been to avoid excessive amounts of time in crowded places, especially shopping malls. We have not become hermits; it just seemed sensible to minimize the risk, so it's a quick trip in to 'find what you need and leave!' It would be impossible to totally avoid exposure to sick people, even at the health food store! Beware of the supplement aisle where you will find people seeking out remedies! I was lingering in my local health food store recently, where I do enjoy browsing, when I noticed a lady asking about supplements. She looked sick, very sick and sounded terrible. In between coughing fits she told the assistant that her doctor was suspecting swine flu. That was it, I was out of there... I prayed a quick prayer on my way out for the poor assistant who had just been exposed to a potential case of swine flu and made a hasty exit! Guess what was for dinner that day? Chicken soup with extra garlic!

I've highlighted the foods throughout this post which are part of our flu prevention plan but here is a recap..
1. Chicken soup with lots of
2. Garlic
3.Apple cider vinegar (I use organic, naturally fermented)
4. Coconut oil (organic, cold pressed)
5.Dark, leafy green vegetables
6. Fruits high in vitamin C
7. Fresh juice
8.Young coconut water
9. Freshly milled flour



Even if you can only incorporate some of these foods into your family's meals, I am sure you will reap the benefits. I do believe for us, that it is combining all of these foods over winter which has made such a difference to our health and well being. I used to use my juicer on a daily basis, year round and had trays of wheat grass covering my bench top but still caught colds. This year I juiced less and milled more, so maybe there is truly something to be said for freshly milled flour. If you bake your own bread I would highly recommend a mill. Its taken us further along on the journey into health; its a journey which I'm so glad we decided to join and there's more exciting adventures to come...


We enjoy fresh eggs daily and plan to increase the number of chickens we keep, maybe some for meat for all those batches of chicken soup!


Bigger and better vegetable gardens. After the joys of last summer's harvest we are keen to grow more and enjoy greater success.

Our bananas ripening. Oh the joys of living in a semi tropical climate. Our bananas are small but sweet and grown without chemicals! I am already harvesting bananas and look forward to an ongoing supply. Also anticipating future harvests from all the other fruit trees we planted... apples, pears, citrus, mangoes and other tropical fruits.... willing these to grow!

And there's more....Bee keeping - something for my husband to learn all about! Discovering more super foods to incorporate into our diet. I'll keep you posted and I hope you haven't caught the flu this winter or if you are in the northern hemisphere, one of those annoying summer colds. It's time to finish this post, I can smell the aroma of chicken soup permeating through the house and the kale and parsley needs to be chopped up ready for adding to the pot.
Till next time,
With love and joy,
Ann

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Homeschool Graduate

At the end of this month, my son will celebrate his 17th birthday; officially he is in year 11 and a high school student but he has already embarked on his University education and is undertaking a Bachelor of Technology degree in Computer Studies via the Open Universities of Australia (OUA). If he completes all the required 24 units he will be awarded the degree by the University ( RMIT). That day may be some years away but I've never been to Melbourne and I've told my son I'm looking forward to visiting this city and attending his graduation ceremony!

My son is paying for his own education. As a New Zealander living in Australia, he is not eligible for any government assistance, no youth allowance, training benefits or 'HECS' grants. In many ways this is an advantage, when he finishes his course he will not be burdened with a huge debt. Rather he will go and thank the cows in the neighbouring fields.... for these lovely girls produced the milk which paid the farmer who has employed my son since the age of 12! He started off helping to feed calves, a before school job which fitted in well with our schedule and moved onto milking and running the dairy shed, a job he still does, except that he now has an assistant... his 14 year old sister, who is proving to be as just as competent, though I do not think she relishes the 4.45am starts!



There are many advantages to a home education and the opportunity to combine work and study is just one. My son saved his wages, not frittering them away on trivial items but when he wanted something such as his own computer and a better surfboard, he was able to purchase them himself. He also buys his own clothes and the occasional bag of licorice! As he grew older, he developed a sense of maturity which extended to finances. He was sorely tempted to buy an iphone when they first came out (and had the money to do so) but in the end he read the reviews, considered his needs and opted for a stylish mobile that cost a lot less; it wasn't even a touch screen! We were pleasantly surprised!



Working for someone else has also enabled him to develop his interpersonal skills; good communication with his employer is vital and over the years my son has proved himself to be a trustworthy, reliable employee. Developing a good work ethic in his formative years will benefit him both now and in the future, in the career he has chosen to pursue. We thought he might have chosen agriculture, for the skills he has already attained would have set him up to be an excellent herd manager but technology was always his passion and as his interest grew in this subject, I gave him the permission to study what interested him the most. We encouraged him to keep his farm job, as we told him one day it could pay his way through college and that is exactly what it is doing!


When you study via the Open Uni all your study is done at home online. Tutors are available and you can talk to other students doing the same course as you via the forums. It tends to attract mature students who are serious about studying, who want the flexibility of a course that enables them to combine study with work and family commitments. Assignments are uploaded and although I am no longer my son's teacher I am his constant encourager... I read his assignments when he asks me to, I offer suggestions about grammar and wording but as for the actual content... it might as well be a foreign language! I just had to accept that what he had written would meet the requirements. It did... his first assignment mark came back - full marks, 100 %. He achieved the same for all three required assignments.

My son's desk and study station. Amazingly, he is a tidy teenager. He cleans his own room and does his own laundry. He can't stand a messy house and somehow puts up with sharing his room with a younger brother who does not share these traits!

In June, he sat his first formal exam... ever! We had booked a room at the local library and organized the librarian to be the invigilator. The University send the exam paper to the invigilator who ensures it is sat under exam conditions. It was ready and waiting for my son on the appointed exam day and he emerged two hours later smiling! I had been a little nervous for him, after all, this was a university exam paper and he had never taken any form of test, (apart from the Learner Driver's exam at the RTA in order to obtain his Learner Driver plates! ) If he had been to a conventional school, he would not be sitting his HSC until the end of next year! I'm still trying to convince people that he is actually doing a degree and that he does not have to leave home or gain the HSC in order to go to university. I would offer this advice to home educators who are constantly receiving questions about college and higher education. Remember, there are alternative pathways to University. It does help to be a self- motivated learner, my son certainly is and this is what home education can produce!



He received his exam result last week and was very pleased with his mark of 94%. His first unit is over and he has already commenced his second unit. As his mum and 'once upon a time' teacher, I am justifiably proud but in sharing my son's achievements I am more than aware that there is so much more to home education that academic success, yet it is the one area that so many people become focused on... at homeschool support meetings the discussions centre on curriculum choices; the questions I am asked most often about homeschooling are about future educational options - how will he get into uni? I remember being asked this when my son was ten and I told them 'We will cross that bridge when we come to it'... six years later we did exactly that!

If there is one book I would encourage parents of Christian teenagers to give to their children to read, it is this book 'Do Hard Things' by Alex and Brett Harris. I gave this book to my son on his 16th birthday and it had a big impact on him. The fact that the authors were also teenage homeschooled boys added to its appeal. When your son comes and reads excerpts to you, you know its message is hitting home!

My focus has never been solely on academics; I didn't start homeschooling my son in order to accelerate him and if someone had told me he would be ready to tackle university learning at age 16, I simply would not have believed it! Especially in those days when I questioned my own competency.... 'How will I ever get this child to read?'... I did, with patience and a solid foundation in phonics. 'How will I teach him algebra when it remains a mystery to me?'.... He taught himself with a good maths text book and tried to explain it to me!
Other fears and doubts came to plague me, sometimes in the night!...'I didn't give him enough writing practice, how will he cope with writing academic papers?'... He's coping just fine! 'He never learned a language' ... but he understands the intricacies of writing computer languages.

This photograph was taken ages ago, the Bible is open in the book of Isaiah and a verse has leaped from the page which is so relevant to this post... this is amazing and I'm certain it is meant to encourage someone who is reading this.

'Lord, you will grant us peace; all we have accomplished is really from you'
chapter 26 v12 NIV

The NKJ says ' Lord you will establish peace for us' ( as you set out on and continue your homeschool journey) 'For You have also done all our works in us' ( God is at work in you as you teach your children!)


In the midst of all this self-questioning, one little phrase kept me going ... 'Christ and Character first, Skills and Schooling second' or now I would prefer to say 'Enterprise and Education second', as my son was never 'schooled' in the way most of us understand school. I allowed him to shout out times tables as he came down the slide. When he wanted to race outside to observe a magpie in the garden I said 'Go!' And I stood by in the backyard and watched in amazement, as he successfully replicated the experiment of making water powered rockets from lemonade bottles which had featured on 'Rough Science' the previous evening (a brilliant British programme which aired on SBS for a while). I think we were meant to do history that day but home education offers so many opportunities for spontaneous learning!
These are just some of the activities I encouraged as part of our home education programme but remember there is no 'one size fits all' solution, each family is different, each child is different and learns in different ways and at different rates. Another advantage of home education is that you can tailor-make your programme to suit the needs of each individual child.


And I had to tell myself, if my son chose to be a janitor but honoured God with his life, that I would be just as happy... for in the big picture, it is not about what we do but who we are. We will not have to pass a spelling test to enter heaven or recite Shakespeare word perfect. God's expectations are so different to our own.

The beauty of home education is that you do not need to neglect those vital educational foundations... teaching a child to read means he can now read the Word of God and a whole world of learning opens up to him. Having my children at home has afforded me the time to instill lessons which in the long run, may be of far greater value.
Alongside maths and science, my son learned about patience and perseverance, hard work and diligence. Kindness and compassion and most importantly of all, the love of God.
He was exposed to good books and biographies of men who were also educated at home, who read and taught themselves from books, men he identified with, such as Abraham Lincoln.
It's not always about books and study!
Learning to kayak in the South Island of NZ on a homeschooler's support day outing
It was not easy or always plain sailing. I gave away the coffee mornings, the craft groups, the visits to friends' homes and the ladies ministry in which I was actively involved but truth be told, all these activities outside of the home were more about 'me' and my own self- fulfillment. I truly learned what it means to serve through serving my family and teaching my children in my own home and I do not have any regrets. My son also made sacrifices; he gave up the opportunity to have a wider social network and saw friends return to school. He missed out on woodwork and metalwork lessons and never made a bookshelf but he did learn to use all sorts of tools as he helped his dad build the extension onto our home. He can change a tyre which is very reassuring for me and he taught me how to upload photos to Blogger and tinker with the HTML which I think he now regrets!





Looking back over the past 11 years, I have to say I am so pleased I chose to home educate and never gave into the temptation to return my son to school for friends, sports, lab facilities or woodworking classes, despite having some people question our educational choice when there was 'a perfectly good Christian school' in the region. We simply could not afford this option and it would have plunged us into debt if we had chosen this path. We also believed that God was on our side, He had called us to do this and He kept providing the strength to continue the journey. When I felt weary and would say 'I'm not up to this, I can't go on' He would whisper, 'Yes you can.... I walk with you, I'm with you, just call on me, I'm right here.' He reassured me that he has great plans for this young man; when he was a baby in the womb He told me that my son would be a light in his world and I did not know I was having a boy at that stage. Later on, towards the end of my pregnancy He protected both me and my unborn son in a very dramatic way from being the potential victims of a murderer (It's quite a story so I will save that for a future post).

Right now my son is enjoying a break from his work and his studies. Whilst we shiver in the cold he is enjoying warmth and sunshine but he's not on holiday. He is in Thailand on his first missions trip with four other young men from our church. They are helping to build houses in a leper colony as part of an established missions project that our church has supported for many years. He left on Saturday and is there for two weeks. I know its going to be life impacting, life changing and I'm so pleased he had the chance to go.



We received a text message last evening from him. He was working on the walls and a roof of a home for a mother and her child. I was thrilled to read those those last four words... 'for a mother and a child.' When our son was set to work and given tasks by his father to complete on our home extension, there were times when he indicated that he was less than thrilled with 'all this work', but we told him 'You never know, you might get to build your own home one day... it's not his own home but the experience of helping to build a home has come around a lot sooner than we ever imagined. And what a difference it is going to make for one family.


I really hope that what I have shared has inspired you, especially if you have started out on this journey and are facing those same questions, worrying about how you will teach this subject or that subject and wondering how you will motivate that son to learn! I could have told you all about how we started out, what influenced us to home educate, the materials we used, the books we read but I wanted to encourage you by introducing you to a young man who only went to school for one year, who was homeschooled through high school, who according to convention should still be at school. He's intelligent, well educated, sociable, hard working... a wage earner, a friend, a brother, a son and grandson, a defender of the faith and a servant of God. His journey into manhood is continuing and I've realized I was never raising a child... I was raising an adult. Home education has been part of his story and I pray that the foundation it provided and the solid foot stools it offered along the way will be one he never forgets! And I want to let him know..... The sky is your limit!.... Keep going, all the way to the top! .... Do hard things, shatter those low expectations people have for your generation! .... Hold onto God, He will never let you down! .... And don't forget to honour your parents, love those sisters and teach that brother of yours how to keep his room tidy!

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With love and joy,
Ann

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Denim and Lace - From Plain to Pretty!

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When you live in a bushland setting, as we do at eight acres of eden, your children need clothing that is hard wearing and practical, that will stand up to the demands of outdoor play, especially tree climbing! Oh and yes, lots of cycles in the washing machine! I have always found denim garments to meet this criteria but I do like my girls to look like girls and they love pretty clothes! I'm also looking for quality but at the right price and garage sales are where I find many of my girls' clothes. All the pieces featured here were purchased at garage sales for less than a dollar an item! The cute waistcoat cost me fifty cents. It started out plain with a frilled edge and minus a button.




I really do not have the time or the inclination to sit at the sewing machine to sew clothes from scratch and why bother when I can find complete garments for a fraction of the cost of fabric and patterns. I also find that the lovely little girls who feature here get into some real mischief when mum is preoccupied at the sewing machine! However this week, the sewing machine was dusted off and it took just a few minutes to stitch on some braid and lace in a lovely antique cream shade for a vintage look. I found some cute buttons at Spotlight to replace the original ones.... sew easy!



The best thing about using denim garments is that they have external stitching which gives you a line to follow as you attach your trim. Brilliant for novice sewers! The stretch of the braid I used was ideal for trimming the curved seam of the waistcoat.


This skirt had a frill but the white lace trim had faded. A cover up job was needed! I delved into my big box of laces and trims which I purchased last year from... yes, you guessed right, another garage sale, for a total of $8... enough lace to trim skirts for years to come! I wanted to add red gingham trim but my daughter insisted on pink! The black bric-a-brac defines the edge. Sew pretty!



Of course when you have twin girls you need two sets of everything! Do I dress them alike? .. the answer is yes and no. They do have some matching outfits but when you shop at garage sales you are unlikely to find two garments exactly the same, unless you find a garage sale at a household that has twins but amazingly I have been to a few garage sales where the owners obviously did have twin girls!



Two denim skirts in a similar design can be individualized with laces and trims. The skirt below was very short even for a littlie and needed some length added, so I created a unique petticoat by attaching the skirt of a baby dress; I simply cut it off at the bodice and with a few adjustments to the gathers stitched it into the underside of the waistband. It needed some jazzing up and the design combination of this ribbon and lace trim was hard to resist. There was just enough ribbon left to trim the front of the waistband. Tiny silk ribbon roses add a pretty finishing touch to the pleats.



The petticoat layer which belonged to a pretty baby dress I found in a bag of clothing given to me, worn for a few months and then.... recycled and revived with a lace trim to create a new and unique garment for an older child. Adding petticoat layers and trims to the hemlines of skirts and dresses makes good economic sense as your children grow in height, consider this idea before you put that too short dress or skirt into the recycled clothing bin or give it away!

And if you do not own a sewing machine do not fret.... it may take a little longer but the same effects can be achieved by hand stitching, in fact, I sewed the ribbon and trims onto the skirts by hand as the girls looked on in anticipation. As soon as their skirts were finished and fitted they were off to the trampoline to bounce and make their 'new skirts' twirl.



This is when I am pleased to have dressed the girls in leggings to wear under their skirts. These are inexpensive store bought cotton leggings which also happen to be trimmed with lace! Now that gives me an idea... adding lace to plain leggings, they usually cost less than the fancier ones. I don't think I will be putting the sewing machine away just yet! I'd love to hear how you creatively recycle clothes. You do not need to be an accomplished sewer.. I 'm not! Just a little imagination, a needle and thread and a few trips around the garage sales and op shops is all that is needed to transform clothing from plain to pretty! Give it a go!

With love and joy,
Ann
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