December 26, 2007

Bible Reading for 2008

I have been thinking about my Bible reading plan for next year a lot and think I am finally settled on the following program:

Mornings

-Read Starting Your Day Right by Joyce Meyer
-Read one chapter from Old Testament
-Read Matthew Henry Commentary

I reverted back to my 365-Day Bible (NIV), which I have read two times already. This format just works better for me -- I like that I just turn to the correct date and read the selection. It is an easy "no brainer" for me to do each am.

Evenings

-Read My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
-Read Psalms and Proverbs (one per night) from Amplified
-Read one chapter from New Testament

Ok, good idea, but not working. I am using my KJV Bible instead of Amplified and I keep on forgetting to read Chambers first!

Devotional Reading

Desiring God by John Piper
The Institutes by John Calvin from ccel.org
Sermons from spurgeon.org
More Pink, Packer and Tozer

This year, I read a similar program but used my NIV Daily Walk Bible in the morning and my King James Bible in the evening. The previous year, I read NIV DWB and Amplified. I have a real preference for reading the AMP so I am going to keep it for my evening program ad infinitum. I have a brand new ESV (Christmas 2007) that has barely been read so 2008 is going to be the year it gets broken in and really read (read well!) I would like to pick up a good AMP this year as well because the copy I have is a very old edition (hardback) and is now rainbow colored from my high liters. I think I may take a trip to Half Price books and see if I can find a new copy at half price!

One thing I plan to continue to do is read Psalms and Proverbs daily. I started doing this in 2006 and have found it to be foundational to my sense of well-being and peace. I like to read them in the evening because they settle my mind and send me off to sleep with a sense of being well-protected and sheilded. I am a VSL (visual-spatial) person and as such have always had a vivid imagination. As a child, I suffered from night terrors and have always found that Satan preferred to attack me during the night hours. Reading the Psalms and then spending time in worship is the best defense against any attack, but for me, it just covers me with God's mighty hand and I sleep in His tender mercy and peace.

So that is the plan for 2008. It will probably change once I get going on it, but one thing is for sure: I do plan to read am and pm, every single day of the year. I have found my daily reading to be instrumental to my faith in God and in my trust and reliance upon Him for my every need. There is something wonderful about spending time in God's Word -- it changes you and then gives you a new and better understanding of how to deal with and live in the world around you.

Be blessed!

December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas from our family to yours...


Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and wonderful and blessed New Year!

[I thought I would post our Christmas newsletter to my blog this year instead of actually sending it out via email or through the post. I don't know, maybe I am getting old or maybe I am just a bit lazy this year. Maybe I am "hip" with the new technology and think that this is a much better way to send out our greetings and news! Oh well....]

Dear family and friends,

This has been an incredibly interesting year for our family. It started out as normal as could be and we (David and me) expected it to be about the same as it has for every other year of our 23 years of marriage. The new year began without much fanfare, even though every New Year's is a celebration of David's birthday (Jan. 4th). The winter months passed without any major upsets or interruptions.

David continued to work as a marketing consultant with MMRT, his marketing consulting firm. He helped several of his clients achieve new sales and marketing goals as well as encourage 30-40 business professionals each week through his Mastermind Roundtable groups.

I was involved in AWANA at Scottsdale Bible Church and completed my 10th year as a Director/Leader. This past year I served as Sparks Director (along with a sweet gal) and helped organize and orchestrate our weekly club meetings for about 100 K-2nd grade students. I also had the opportunity to teach the 3-6th graders in our weekly Council time meetings (what a great blessing to me!) I also continued to work for AceWeb Promotions, my web design and hosting company. 2007 marked my 10th year as a web designer!

DJ completed 8th grade at Arete Classical Christian Academy (our home school.) He continued to excel in school and also as a pianist. He performed in several recitals and even arranged two musical selections for the "Strings and Things" chamber group. He has enjoyed Youth group at Paradise Valley Church (my parents church) and attended both the winter and summer retreats. The highlight of DJ's summer was his baptism in May 2007!

Our family plans for fall included beginning High School (at home), more music/lessons, as well as working in our home offices (David in sales and me in web design). However, the Lord had different plans for us and on June 1, we were all shocked to find out exactly what He intended for us. My dear husband suffered a mild heart attack, really a precursor attack or a warning sign on June 30. His left arterial descended artery was 85% blocked and he ended up in the hospital for 5 days in July. Thankfully, the doctors were able to clear the blockage with a stent and after a couple very scary days of uncontrolled blood pressure (and fear of stroke), David was able to go home. The months that followed were not as easy nor as "normal" as we had hoped. David had a difficult time adjusting to the medication and found the side effects to be intolerable. Most days he was unable to work or drive due to the light-headedness and marked weakness in his body.

The days seemed to fly on by and before we knew it, Christmas 2007 was around the corner. David has been able to become more acclimated to his medication and while still not feeling 100%, after 6 months, does feel more like himself now. He was finally able to resume a full-time schedule with his clients and is looking forward to a more prosperous 2008. I had cut back on my work schedule in an effort to prepare and teach 9th grade to DJ, but with our mounting uncertainty over work and finances, decided it was best for me to work more hours. DJ has done amazing well with 9th grade and is developing as quite an excellent pianist. He has performed in recital and also with the chamber group (twice in December). He also gave a private performance to the residents at the Life Care Center of Scottsdale (the rehab and nursing facility where Grandpa David is until January, 2008.) David Sr. (David's dad) fell on December 9th and was hospitalized with compression fractures in his back. He moved to the Life Care Center on December 13th and has been having physical therapy daily since then. It is our hope that he will be able to come home sometime after the New Year.

So as our year winds down to these remaining days, we look back and wonder how it was possible for us to start off with such high expectations and end with complete uncertainty for our future. David faces his 50th birthday next week and has wondered what the "next' years will bring for him. He has finally returned to an exercise routine and is determined to lose a few extra pounds. I am anxious to begin the new year and know that the Lord has a mighty and wonderful plan for each of our lives.

God has been so faithful to us through this entire year. He has graciously provided medical care, finances, provisions (food and shelter) as well as spiritual nurturing. We are truly blessed and are amazed at His mercy and grace. There has not been a day pass by that we haven't thanked Him for His presence in our lives and for giving us a future filled with hope and peace. We know, of course, that complications and the stresses of every day life abound, but God has promised us that He will never leave us nor forsake us and that His peace will surround us and bind us to Him. We are indebted to Him and are trusting and relying on Him for our daily bread.

As we spend the day worshipping our Lord and remembering that first Christmas morning, I am reminded of something our new Pastor shared with us Christmas eve. Pastor Jamie gave the most interesting message on Luke 2:1-20. I always think how difficult it must be to preach the same Christmas story over and over again. For most of us, we have heard the story so many times that we tend to not pay much attention when it is read each year. However, this year, Pastor Jamie said something that has changed my perspective on the entire Christmas message. He said (I am paraphrasing) that "your perspective on Christmas determines your expected outcome or experience." Ok, so not earthshaking new information, as most of us realize the that what we "think" can indeed alter or determine our experience or outcome (post-modern psychobabble with a kernal of truth tucked in there). Generally speaking...if we are positive people, always thinking of the "good", we do tend to experience a more upbeat and positive outcome, no matter the situation or circumstance (aka Norman Vincent Peale and his power of positive thinking approach). But, as good pastors do, he didn't just give us a mealy-milktoast type of "think good thoughts and experience good things" type of message. No, oh my, no! Instead he went on to explain five different views or perspectives on the birth of Jesus Christ and then brought them up-to-date with a modern twist. [An aside: we are grateful that God has brought us a true theologian to our pulpit and are blessed to learn as the Spirit gives wings to his words each week!] They were: passion, practical, prophetic, political and personal (embodied by the shepherds, the magi, Simeon, Herod, and Mary). While all of all these views, none of which are bad or necessarily wrong, do deal with a part or aspect of the Christmas message, it is only one that really gets to the core of the truth -- the reason Christ came and was born on that Christmas morn. The one view he encouraged us all to contemplate was that of Mary, Jesus' mother. His reference verse was Luke 2:19:

But Mary was keeping within herself all these things
(sayings), weighing and pondering them in her heart.

[If you are interested in hearing his entire message, click here to download it.]
My paraphase again -- Mary had been told my the angel what to expect and she believed him. When Jesus was born and the world was in chaos around her, she still believed that her child was "God my Savior". I am sure that Mary was quite surprised by the shepherds praising God, by the magi giving gifts, by Simeon's blessing, and by Herod's hatred of the baby Jesus. However, her faith never wavered and she believed what the angel had told to her so many months before. Mary treasured the truth and pondered them (or thought about them much) in her heart.

Yes, Pastor Jamie's message spoke to my heart last night and reminded me of the many ways I could approach Christmas day. Thanks to God's gracious Spirit who gives understanding and light, I now have a better way to ponder the wonderful gift of Jesus the Christ.

Therefore, as we look forward to the new year, it is my prayer that "we keep within ourselves all these things (sayings), weighing and pondering them in our hearts." Let us not forget why God sent His Son to us and how we may receive Him. Let us not lose heart nor lose our perspective when the chaos of the moment or that unfortunate circumstance comes into our lives next year. Let us treasure up the Lord Jesus Christ and remember Him always.

December 22, 2007

Grandma Nanny's Kifli and Sand Tart Cookies


My grandmother always made Kifli (Hungarian Walnut Cookies) every year at Christmas. These wonderful walnut-filled cookies were a favorite in our house. Each year, my grandmother would send us a package containing Kifli, Sand Dollar cookies, and homemade egg noodles. A few years ago, I decided to try my hand at both cookies and they turned out delicious (though my Kifli didn't turn out as pretty as Nanny made them -- they were still yummy.) I haven't made her noodles yet, but do have her recipe. I might just try them this year -- maybe for New Year's dinner. Hmmmm.....sounds good!

Here is her recipe for making Kifli.

Kifli (Hungarian Walnut Cookies)
Yield: 6 Dozen

Dough:
4 3/4 cups Unsifted all-purpose flour
2 cups Butter or margarine
4 large Egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 cup Sour cream

Filling:
1 1/4 lb Shelled walnuts (about 5 Cups), ground
1 cup Granulated sugar
1/2 cup Milk
1 tbl. Almond extract

Glaze:
1 large Egg, beaten
Confectioners' sugar


Make dough: in a large bowl, place flour and butter. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg yolks and sour cream; stir with a fork until combined.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board or pastry cloth. Knead dough with your hands until it is smooth and can be shaped into a ball. If dough is too sticky, knead in more flour. If desired, wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Make filling: in a medium-sized bowl, place ground walnuts, granulated sugar, milk and almond extract. Using a wooden spoon, stir in walnut mixture until ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease baking sheets with solid vegetable shortening.

To shape Kifli: divide dough into quarters; wrap three of quarters separately in plastic wrap and set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll out remaining quarter of dough to a 15" x 12" rectangle that is 1/8" thick.

Using a pastry wheel, cut rectangle of dough into 3-inch squares. Place a heaping teaspoon of walnut filling in center of each square; bring one corner of dough over filling to opposite corner; pinch edges together.

Place Kifli on baking sheets; brush with beaten egg. Bake for 10 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. Remove from baking sheet. Fill bottom of a pie plate with confectioners' sugar. Roll Kifli in sugar. Let cool on wire racks. Repeat steps with remaining three quarters of dough.

Here is the recipe for Sand Dollars (with Walnuts)

Walnut Sand Tart Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg, separated
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Walnut halves or Almonds if you have them

Preparation

Beat 1 cup softened butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add 2 cups sifted powdered sugar, beating until well blended. Add 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, beating until blended.

Combine flour and baking powder. Add to butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Shape dough into a ball, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour.

Roll dough to an 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface; cut with a 3-inch round cutter. Place on lightly greased, parchment paper-lined baking sheets; brush with lightly beaten egg white.

Stir together granulated sugar and ground cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over cookies. Gently press walnut half into the center of each cookie.

Bake at 350° for 4 minutes; remove pan from oven, and gently press walnuts into cookies again. Bake 4 more minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove cookies to wire racks to cool.

December 16, 2007

Man in Black

My 14yo has decided that it is cool to look cool now. He was dressed in black for the Macklin Music Studio "Strings and Things" Christmas concert at our local mall. DJ played piano accompaniment for 13 violinists. He definitely looked cool in his Rat-Pack hat!

BTW - the concert was great and the kids did an awesome job! The kids will play for the Veteran's Hospital next Friday.

December 9, 2007

Grace Unleashed

Our new pastor, Jamie Rasmussen, preached on the topic of Grace this past month. These are the best messages I have ever heard on the doctrine of Grace and literally had me stuck to my seat during the entire sermon. I wanted to share them with you and encourage you to download them, listen to them and then share them with your family and friends. If you have never heard the truth of the Grace message preached, hold on because you are about to hear something that will change your life forever. Give them a try and let the Spirit of God move you to a new understanding of His Marvelous gift of Grace.

Listen in order as they build on one another.

1. The World of Ungrace
http://sermons.scottsdalebible.com/sermons/11182007JRasmussen.mp3

2. Living in Grace
http://sermons.scottsdalebible.com/sermons/11252007JRasmussen.mp3

3. When Grace Doesn't Seem Fair
http://sermons.scottsdalebible.com/sermons/12022007JRasmussen.mp3

4. Grace Changes Everything
http://sermons.scottsdalebible.com/sermons/12092007JRasmussen.mp3

I pray you will be blessed.

December 7, 2007

Some Christmas Thoughts...

There is just something sweet and wonderful
about this kind of holiday picture.

It makes me long for the days of Norman Rockwell
and Frank Capra's vision in "It's a Wonderful Life."



December 4, 2007

Grace abounds

Have you ever argued with someone only to find that you were speaking different languages? No matter how hard you tried to stay on point, your opponent seemed to be slightly off-topic. You would try and try again, but each time you tried to bring them back to the point, it was as if you were simply swatting in the air and not matching blows. It can be frustrating and at some point you just give up, realizing that you will never connect, you will never meet eye-to-eye, you will never be able to see their side of things (or vice versa).

This very thing has happened to me several times recently and it has made me stop and think a little more deeply about it. It has also made me stop and consider my words BEFORE I sit down to write a post or respond with a comment. The other day I was reading through the book of Proverbs (as I do every day) and came across this passage:
"THE PROVERBS (truths obscurely expressed, maxims, and parables) of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2That people may know skillful and godly Wisdom and instruction, discern and comprehend the words of understanding and insight,Receive instruction in wise dealing and the discipline of wise thoughtfulness, righteousness, justice, and integrity, That prudence may be given to the simple, and knowledge, discretion, and discernment to the youth--The wise also will hear and increase in learning, and the person of understanding will acquire skill and attain to sound counsel [so that he may be able to steer his course rightly]--That people may understand a proverb and a figure of speech or an enigma with its interpretation, and the words of the wise and their dark sayings or riddles.The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning and the principal and choice part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; but fools despise skillful and godly Wisdom, instruction, and discipline." Proverbs 1:1-8

If you read the first chapter of this book, you will immediately get an idea of why Solomon believed so strongly in the virtue and power of Wisdom. This book is full of his encouragement to get wisdom, to get understanding, to get discernment. Solomon longed for all his subjects to be wise in every area of their lives and knew that the only true form of wisdom is of the Lord. Throughout all 31 chapters, Solomon never ceases to extol the virtue of Wisdom and he made it very clear that it was available to all who sought after it. It wasn't reserved for the King only, but it was available to the most common of men. It was and still is available to all who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ -- we can be wise, we can discern, and we can be empowered to give and receive skillful and godly Wisdom.

As I read this passage, I began to mediate on the last line where Solomon writes: but fools despise skillful and godly Wisdom, instruction, and discipline. I realized then that whenever we discuss or debate any issue or topic, we must first understand to whom we are engaging in conversation. Are we speaking with wise men and women or are we speaking with the fool who despises skillful and godly Wisdom? It is vitally important to understand to whom we are speaking because we end up wasting a great deal of time and energy trying to share wisdom with a person who has no desire or need of it. Now, I am not saying that I am all-wise or all-knowing, heaven forbid it, but the point is that if you are trusting the Lord and seeking Him for His guidance, then you are counted among those who diligently seek Wisdom. You do have the power to speak wisdom and discernment and you can be wise.

Furthermore, I realized that there are two very realms in this world, the physical and the spiritual, and that unless you are battling in the same realm, you and your opponent will never meet together on any point. It is as if you are standing on the side of a very large chasm and you shout out into the voided space and then hope that your opponent who is standing on the other side will "hear" you. Your opponent does the very same thing and shouts out to you, but the words never seem to make it across the deep cavern. They get lost somewhere in the middle and the pursuit of conversation ends up tiring and frustrating for both.

As I started to think about this very point, something became very clear to me. As a child of grace, I am uniquely positioned in BOTH the spiritual and physical realm. While I live in the physical presence, the here and now, I am able to experience the spiritual because I am a blood-bought born again believer in Jesus Christ. The closer I draw nigh to Him, the more and more I experience of the spiritual and the more I come to enjoy it and long for it. Some days I wake up and have the deepest longing to be with Him, to be removed from my physical body and to fully engulfed in His presence. Other days, I am thankful for the opportunity to experience this life and to enjoy the physical relationships God has given to me: my family, my friends, my church, my community. I am struck by the beauty of God's creation and I cry out to Him and thank Him for the grace to live today.

November 30, 2007

Enchanted with 'Enchanted'

I just got home from seeing the new Disney movie, "Enchanted." I wasn't going to go and see this movie -- no reason really -- just thought I would wait for it to go to DVD and save the $9.00 ticket price (plus goodies). But, my parents were going and it is raining today (really? in Phoenix? Yes!) and it just seemed like a good day to go to the movies. I will admit to being a big Disney fan and while I have been less than enthusiastic of their more recent releases, I have a soft spot in my heart for all things "Disney." Maybe it is because I am a child of the 1960's and I remember seeing 'Bambi' at the movie theaters (and cried all the way home when I saw what I thought was Bambi's mother strapped to the top of a car). I was in my peak movie watching years when "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and "Swiss Family Robinson" debuted. My brothers and I were dropped off at the movie theaters and were given a $1 each to spend on candy or popcorn. It was a kiddie affair back then, one of the safest places for weary Mom's to deposit their kids and take a few hours off. When I was 10, my friends and I, would go to the movies each Saturday and it was always the one thing we looked forward to each week (that and roller skating). Disney and me -- we have always had a love affair -- and even though I have cringed over the years at some of their story lines -- overall I still will watch a Disney movie well before I will watch any other kind.


I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and thought it was "enchanting" to say the least. It is a delightful movie and has absolutely nothing "untoward" in it. The PG rating is probably due to some of the graphic images (the dragon in the end is pretty scary looking) and the intense story line of the Queen trying to kill Giselle. I thought Patrick Dempsey was delightful and Amy Adams, who plays the title role of Giselle, was just perfect as the story book princess transported to modern day New York City. I loved every part of this movie and actually could see it again, just to enjoy the music and dance scenes. The choreography is superb and the score, written by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, is so typical of their other wonderful collaborations (Beauty and the Beast, Pocohontas, The Little Mermaid, etc.).

I think this movie is a great family film (sentimental dads would enjoy it too) and it is a nice film to see this Christmas season.

November 29, 2007

Taco Bowl Recipe

I found this recipe on Yahoo this morning and thought it would make a quick and easy dinner for our family. I changed the recipe a little, but basically it is the same as the one posted online.


Flour Tortillas
1 pound extra lean ground beef
1 cup Salsa or Picante sauce
1/2 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 cups chopped lettuce
1 cup chopped tomatoes

I like to cook my ground beef in a skillet and usually brown in onion and green pepper. This is my standard procedure that I use for most any ground-beef type recipe. Mix in salsa or picante sauce. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Microwave tortillas on HIGH 30 sec. or until softened. Press 1 tortilla into each of eight medium muffin cups to form a bowl. Carefully fold edges of tortilla back to keep an opening for the filling. Bake 10 min. Fill with meat mixture and top with lettuce, tomatoes and shredded cheese.

November 23, 2007

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas


Yes, I am in the mood for Christmas nostalgia. One of my favorite movies of all time is Irving Berlin's "White Christmas." When I was growing up, we watched this movie every single year during the Christmas season. I don't know why it became a family favorite, but it did, and we still try and watch it each year. A few years back I sent each of my brother's a video of the movie so that they would have their very own copy to watch with their families.

I am sitting here right now typing up this post and "White Christmas" is on TV on ABC Family channel. Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen are dancing with each other and singing "The Best Things Happen When You Are Dancing." No one writes songs like these anymore and no one dances this way.

It reminds me of a more gentle and romantic time and makes me long for snow covered villages, children singing Christmas carols and sleigh bells jingling. Those were the days when it was OK to greet one another with "Merry Christmas," to display the nativity on your lawn, and to share the Christmas message with friends and family without any fear of repercussion or intimidation. No one seemed to mind that the holiday was about the Christ child or that the reason we celebrate was to remember His precious gift of life eternal. No one seemed to be upset by crosses or shepherds or wise men. No one seemed upset by anything related to the season -- and those few who did -- reminded us of another holiday classic -- Dicken's Scrooge. No, it was OK to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas and to enjoy the entire season, sans commercialism and cynicism.

Oh how I miss those days and the warmth of the season: cookies baking, tree picking and trimming, snow crunching under boots, window shopping (real windows with Christmas displays), spending time with family, and simply remembering the reason we celebrate the season.

November 22, 2007

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like....

Ok, I am not allowed to even speak of "the event" until tomorrow -- that is the rule in our house. My DH is a fanatic about not rushing through the holidays just to get to "--!!". He absolutely forbids any singing, any talk, any hint of lights, tinsel, or cookies....until we celebrate Thanksgiving.

In years past, his drop dead date was December 1. We were not allowed to even begin to think about the big holiday, let along contemplate the year's light show or tree setup, until the first day of December. But after 24 years of marriage and the fact that he has lived with a person who absolutely loves this time of the year, he has mellowed....somewhat. We are now allowed to begin to dig out the decorations and actually put on music the day after Thanksgiving. The tree, however, must stay packed into it's box until 12/1.

Hmmm....I think after dinner today I will start to clear away the clutter from the storage area and just "look" and see what we have in there. I can hear my DH yelling, "NOT!" from down the hallway...so I will just sign off and put the thought out of my head...until tomorrow!

Remembering Days

I was looking through my old computer (now DS' computer) and found several folders of photos from our big vacation a couple years ago. It was fun to look through them and to remember all the fun we had on that trip. It will be the last "big" trip we will take for a while, what with our current situation (medical/financial) and all. God truly blessed us by allowing us to take this trip and to be able to see some of the most beautiful places on this side of heaven.

Here are just a couple of my favorite photographs (taken by me with a Minolta digital camera). Not too shabby considering it was my first attempt at photography with a small digital camera.

This is from inside the chapel at Grand Teton National Park

This was taken while on a hike to the top of the glacier in Glacier National Park.

It is funny how you forgot just how striking and beautiful a place can be until you see a photograph of it and then a flood of memories come streaming back to you. We spent about 13 days touring the intermountain west and had one of the "best" vacations on record. It will be a family time that I cherish and will always look back upon fondly.

With Thanksgiving, We Give Thee Praise


"To God who gives our daily bread
A thankful song we raise,
And pray that he who sends us food
May fill our hearts with praise."
~Thomas Tallie (1505 - 1585)~

Wishing you all a blessed Thanksgiving day!


November 21, 2007

April in Paris

If you would like to listen to a very nice rendition of April in Paris played by my son on his Korg SP250 digital piano, click the link above. I think DJ does a great job with this song (light Jazz) and has incredible depth and feeling when playing it.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

I took this picture on our vacation to Glacier Park, Montana. This photo was actually snapped at Yellowstone. I post it here in honor of my MIL, who is celebrating her birthday today. She collects all things "Daisy," simply because that is her name. Happy Birthday, Mom!

November 11, 2007

Call of Duty

In darkness surround
Didst the soldier land,
To lead the way
Into danger's hand;
Into France did he fly
Falling gently from the sky.

Bang! Boom! Whoosh!
Didst the bullets go;
Whizz! Whang! Floosh!
But to the soldier,
Ding! Zzang! Swoosh!
They landed not a blow.

On he went, through the perilous lands,
All obeying on one command:
Set up a station, to which the planes might know,
To send reinforcements, to where they might go;
He did his job, and his job he did,
And then sat he in a bush and hid.

Dawn broke, on that faithful morn
On June 6, 1944;
Where did on the beaches
Land the greatly awaited corps.
Then the soldier, with all his might,
Went out of hiding, to help the fight!
Against Nazi Germany he went,
Like an angel that God had sent;
To destory all evil; to free the soldiers;
All from their certain demise.

One year past, before it was time
For all of them to rejoice, and drink wine;
Nazi Germany had fallen, it was no more;
All thanks to the soldiers, one year before.
Those faithful soldiers in their Call of Duty
Saved Europe and all it's beauty,
From those who wished to conquer all,
They were the ones destined to make it fall.

And now, no more, does the evil Axis exist,
Who captured Europe with an iron fist;
They are gone forever, never to return,
All thanks to the soldier, whose country was his main concern;
He came home after a while,
And met his wife and children with a smile.
He was finally home, no longer gone;
And now it is a memory, a memory of that faithful dawn.

~D.J. Hepburn (age 14)

A proud Mom posts this tribute written by her poetic son honoring those soldiers who fought so valiantly to guarantee our freedom during WWII.

November 10, 2007

Biology

We are steadily working through our biology text, Biology: God's Living Creation (A Beka Book), this year. It is not a bad biology text, as biology texts go. A Beka tends to focus more on traditional natural science than most textbooks and as such their curriculum is divided into the following categories: Botany, Human Anatomy and Physiology. Life Science, Zoology
and Cellular and Molecular Biology. Some other texts concentrate more on Cellular Biology and Human Anatomy. I liked the way this text was written and think it is compatible with Charlotte Mason's approach to teaching natural science.

We will be doing many of the recommended labs this year, but will not be attempting dissections. However, to gain a full credit in this subject/course, we do need to include a complete lab, so instead we will be watching one or two of these dissections online through "virtual laboratories." Virtual Labs are now very popular and many colleges actually use them instead of physical laboratories. I found this list posted through another home school group and thought I would share it here, just in case you are also seeking an alternative to doing your own lab:

November 8, 2007

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

We are memorizing three poems this term for our Victorian Era study. The first is by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, one of my favorite poets.

Kubla Khan
OR, A VISION IN A DREAM.
A FRAGMENT.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover !
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover !
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced :
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail :
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean :
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war !
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves ;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice !
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw :
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome ! those caves of ice !
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware ! Beware !
His flashing eyes, his floating hair !
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

We also will memorize William Wordsworth's Daffodils and John Keats, Last Sonnet.

November 7, 2007

Noelle the Movie

Fellow homeschooling family, David and Kerry Wall, have produced and are starring in a new holiday family film entitled, "Noelle." David Wall is writer/producer/director and stars along with his wife, Kerry, and three of their four children. The movie is due in theaters this December 7th.

You can see the movie trailer here: http://www.noellethemovie.com/

The movie synopsis is:

"Father Jonathan Keene - a cold, impatient Catholic priest arrives in a tiny fishing village the week before Christmas to do what he does best: shut down a dying parish. But things take an unexpected turn as he becomes entangled in the various lives of the village's eccentric characters, including their beautiful librarian, the childlike priest he is displacing, and the magical experience of Mrs. Worthington's legendary Christmas Party, where everyone is welcome and anything is possible."

The trailer of the movie suggests great family fun and delivers a heartwarming Christmas message. You can contact the producers at their weblink above to inquire about movie locations and other opportunities to support this film (renting an entire theater for your church or organization).

Rated: PG

November 5, 2007

Frankenstein

I am reading this classic novel with my son, age 14, as part of our Victorian Studies this year. This is the first time I have read this novel and I must say I have found it to be strikingly beautiful and terribly sad, all at the same time. I did read about Mary Shelley in college during a semester course on the Romantic Era. I never really wanted to read this novel, feeling as many do, a dislike (er, contempt) for horror. However, as I researched and prepared our course of study this year, I wanted us to read through the Victorian era chronologically and needed 3 novels that were written in the early part of the 18oo's. I already had two in mind: Scott's Waverly and Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I needed a third and since the fascination with horror and the genre of the grotesque actually develop during this period, I decided to give this book a try. Oh my, was I glad that I did. It is a wonderful novel, with rich and beautiful writing, and a deep and very disturbing message. With the age of cloning and medical creation on the nightly news, this novel is also aptly chosen. It fits perfectly with our overall theme of studying God, His Creation, and observing life as He created it.

If you have never read this book, consider giving it a go with your high school student. It is best read in a small group, where you can engage in plenty of discussion. Well worth the time and the effort to read (it is short - just 24 chapters).

Here is a brief synopis on this book:

FRANKENSTEIN; OR, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS (1818) The novel starts with series of letters from Robert Walton to his sister. Walton is an English Arctic explorer who spots a strange creature on a dog-sled. The exhausted Victor Frankenstein arrives, in pursuit of the creature,and while recuperating tells his story. He has been born into a wealthy Geneva family. After his mother dies of scarlet fever and becomes a student of natural philosophy and medicine. Inspired by occult philosophy and the teaching of his mentor, Waldman, he builds a creature in the semblance of a man and gives it life. It body is assembled from parts which Frankenstein has stolen from butcher shops, dissecting rooms, and charnel-houses. The creature is repeatedly rejected by those who see it, but the monster proves intelligent, and later highly articulate. Receiving no love, it becomes embittered. Frankenstein deserts his creation, who disappears. "I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I have deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I have finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart." (from Frankenstein) Frankenstein hears that his younger brother has been strangled, but Justine, his family's servant confesses the murder. However, later the monster tells that he murdered William and framed Justine. Frankenstein then agrees to make a mate for the monster so that it will not bother anyone again. A wave of remorse makes him destroy the female. The lone creature swears revenge. He kills Frankenstein's bride, Elizabeth, on their wedding night. The scientist becomes mad, but recovers and chases the creature across the world. The two confront in the Arctic wastes. Frankenstein dies. The creature describes eloquently to Walton his efforts to seek out beauty and how crime has degraded it beneath the meanest animal. "He is dead who called me into being; and when I shall be no more the very remembrance of us both will speedily vanish. I shall no longer see the sun or stars, or feel the wind play on my cheeks. Light, feeling, and sense will pass away; and in this condition must I find my happiness." The monster leaps from the ship on a ice-raft, disappearing again in the darkness. - The novel contains no supernatural elements; the creation of the monster is described in the third edition on a rational scientific basis. Frankenstein is a scientist who challenges the Creator of the world with the possibilities of modern science, but is destroyed because he cannot anticipate the outcomes of his own acts. The story has also been interpreted as an exploration of the artist's - creator's - relation to society.

Courtesy of: http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/mshelley.htm

You can find this book in your local public library or through any national bookseller.

November 2, 2007

The Golden Compass Movie

There has been a huge amount of hub-bub flying around the internet regarding the release of this movie. Antagonists say the film contains anti-religious themes and supports and atheistic view of life. A brief background on the film and it's writer:

"The Golden Compass, a fantasy film starring Nicole Kidman that is scheduled to be released into theaters on 7 December 2007, has been drawing fire from concerned Christians. The film is based on Northern Lights (released in the U.S. as The Golden Compass), the first offering in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy of children's books, a series that follows the adventures of a streetwise girl who travels through multiple worlds populated by witches, armor-plated bears, and sinister ecclesiastical assassins to defeat the oppressive forces of a senile God.

Books of the trilogy have sold more than 15 million copies around the world, with Northern Lights winning the Carnegie Medal for Children's Literature in 1995 and in 2007 being awarded the 'Carnegie of Carnegies' for the best children's book of the past 70 years. The Amber Spyglass, the final book of the series, won The Whitbread Prize in 2001, making it the first children's book to do so. The series' author, Philip Pullman, is an avowed atheist who has averred that "I don't profess any religion; I don't think it's possible that there is a God; I have the greatest difficulty in understanding what is meant by the words 'spiritual' or 'spirituality.'" Critics of Pullman's books point to the strong anti-religion and anti-God themes they incorporate, and although literary works are subject to a variety of interpretations, Pullman left little doubt about his intentions when he said in a 2003 interview with The Sydney Morning Herald that "My books are about killing God." (Conservative British columnist Peter Hitchens labeled Pullman "The Most Dangerous Author in Britain" and described him as the writer "the atheists would have been praying for, if atheists prayed.")"

You can read the full article here:

http://snopes.com/politics/religion/compass.asp

To see trailer and cast information, visit the movie's website here: http://www.goldencompassmovie.com/

This film has not yet been rated and it is due in theaters in less than one month. Hmmm....I wonder what that means?? I would encourage you to check out this film to decide for yourself if you want to support this film.

November 1, 2007

Victorian Study

I thought I would post my son's reading list for this term. Our period study is Victorian England, from about 1800-1900 (with a little backtracking into the 1780s to bring us up to speed).

Bible

Our Bible program this term includes a study of the Gospel of Matthew; Commentary by J. C. Ryle; an overview of the Bible by Josiah Tidwell; and two devotional books, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, and the lovely character study by John Angell James entitled, A Young Man's Friend and Guide to Life and Immortality. Additionally, daily readings from Oswald Chambers powerful book, My Utmost for His Highest, will be discussed.

History


We have found a wonderful book by Edward Farr and E. H. Nolan called, The History of England in Three Volumes, Vol.III. From George III. to Victoria. It is online through Project Gutenberg and is the third volume of David Hume's massive and well-respected work, The History of England, Volume 1 From the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688, which was originally published in 1776. Volume 1 was written by David Hume, Scotchman and British Statemen. Volume 2, The History of England in Three Volumes, Vol.II. From William and Mary to George II, was written by the delightful Scottish author, Tobias Smollett (The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker). We have found volume three to be a very enjoyable and easy to read history of this period.

We also are reading several M. B. Synge books this term. The Growth of the British Empire is the fifth volume in the Story of the World series. It covers our time period but gives a much broader view of world events during the reign of Queen Victoria. We are also reading a children's biography by Synge entitled, The Reign of Queen Victoria. Synge was a well-known children's author and wrote a number of biographies in addition to the comprehensive world history text, Story of the World.

Historical Background

We will be reading about some of the major political reform acts that were passed during Queen Victoria's lifetime. Most namely, the Reform Act of 1832, Poor Laws, Corn Laws, Anti-Slavery Act and Women's Right to Vote.

Government & Economics

We will be reading John Stuart Mill's essay, On Liberty for our government study this term.

Geography

For our travel literature this term, we are reading A.W. Kinglake's, Eothen: Traces of Travel in the East. Additionally, mapping exercises and drills will accompany our geography reading.

Literature

Our literature readings will focus on three specific periods of the Victorian era: Early (1800-1836), Middle (1840-1870) and Late (1870-1900). Term 1's selections include: the Scottish romance novel, Waverly, by Sir Walter Scott; The genteel society novel, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; and the grostesque novel, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

For the history of English Literature, we will be reading two chapters from Robert H. Fletcher's, History of English Literature, a very easy to read and narrative study on the major writers of this period. We will be reading about the Romantic Era as well as Victorian Era.

Our poet study will follow the suggested study of Fletcher's book (also using his study outlines in the appendix).

We will be reading two Charles Dicken's dramas this term. First, we will enjoy "A Christmas Carol" and then will listen to a dramatic reading of "A Cricket on the Hearth." Both were performed on the London stage during the Victorian era and are commonly referred to as Dicken's Christmas Books.

Grammar & Composition

Our Grammar study this year will focus on Fowler's The Kings English. Two Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch essays will provide thoughtful discussion on reading and writing well: On The Art of Reading and On The Art of Writing. We will also be writing weekly essays from our history and literature readings.

Science and Natural History

Our science study will focus on Biology and we will be using A Beka's textbook, Biology: God's Living Creation, for our weekly reading. We will also be reading Charles Darwin's, The Origin of the Species, and spending time in world view studies with Answers in Genesis. A second science focus will include study through the Wiley Self-Teaching Guide to Basic Physics along with a selection of laboratory experiments.

Picture and Composer Study

We are correlating our history and literature study to include reading about and listening/viewing several works of art and music. Our reference work will be The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Timeline of Art History along with several short biographies on selected artists.

Foreign Language

We will continue our study into German using Rosetta Stones Immersion language program.

Current Events and other

Life work, handicrafts, as well a current event readings will be scheduled weekly, based on need and time. Piano practice, lesson and chamber group participation will continue as normal.

October 27, 2007

Gussy...

A face a mother could love...
Gus the Theatre Cat
October 27, 2007

Ok, now what do I do...

I cried and begged the Lord for His help and He graciously gave it to me. I begged to be released from the restriction of our previous schooling method because I could see that it wasn't a good fit for my son. I cried out to Him and offered up myself, my desires for our schooling, and all my many plans for our year. I laid them all at His feet and He gave me His peace. I felt relieved, I felt so much better, I felt like a weight had been lifted off of my head. That was yesterday and I do feel better today. I just don't know what to do now.

Have you ever been in this same kind of situation? Have you ever wondered why the Lord delivers us out of one mess and then leaves us squarely sitting in another? I have found the Lord to be incredibly faithful and understanding to me. He has rescued me so many times and given me such hope and peace. He just doesn't always clean up my messes. He often closes the door and then leaves me to sort through the details.

I have been thinking about this lately and trying to get my head wrapped around how the Lord deals with us. I used to believe that He was far off and never cared much for what was going on in my life. If I really, really, really cried out to Him, He might just glance a passing eye over my situation and maybe just feel a little bit of pity and do something about it. But not very often. Most of the time, I felt on my own and totally dependent on my own circumstances and feelings. Most of the time, I felt like He was there, way up there, and I was way down here with a great gulf in between us.

I don't feel this way anymore because I have seen the hand of God work miracles in my life, in the daily grind, the daily mundane, and the daily "oh not so very special" moments. He has showed me His character and I have been rescued, saved, loved, cared for, protected, provided for, and soothed by His tender mercies. Yes, the God of the Universe has become a very real friend to me. He is always there, always listening, always caring, and always ready to help me out. I have learned though that He just doesn't always do what I want Him to do or what I expect Him to do.

Take our schooling, for example. Last summer when my DH suffered a heart attack, I needed a fresh approach to schooling. It wasn't as if "A BEKA" suddenly popped into my head and I said "yes, Lord, I will use this method." No, I had been praying about using a textbook curriculum for three years. At least two times per year, I was on my face before Him crying about whether or not we should change from using a Charlotte Mason approach (classical good books) and follow a more traditional course and sequence. It didn't matter that when I first started home schooling and looking over the myriad of curriculum, I believed (and still do) that the Lord led me to this method and to using the Ambleside Online curriculum. I *knew* instantly that this curriculum was the right one for us -- I just knew it. I cannot really explain it other than to say that I do believe God's Spirit directed my searching and gave me some educational training so that I would know how to teach my gifted and "oh so very different" son at home.

I was overjoyed when I found AO and I was very content to use this curriculum. I spent two years immersing myself in the program, learning as much as I could about it and reading as much as I could about Charlotte Mason and her method (CM). I jumped into it with both feet and saw the blessings of using such a program. My son settled down and started to actually learn. He blossomed, to put it nicely.

Then I began to question what I was doing and started to wonder "was there something better?" I started to browse the catalogs and my eyes became fascinated with the many delights of educational intrigue. Yes, I am a voyeur of sorts. I love to look at catalogs and fantasize how they would work in my home. Yes, I know..."get a real life, will ya?" Yes, you are right. My life is pretty simple and this is one of my most glaring faults. Really, it is simply discontentment and it plays a huge part in my life. I love to think that I am content and have seriously prayed to be like the Apostle Paul and be content whether in poverty or riches. [Oh, that is another post -- what an incredible and amazing man!] I am the least content of anyone I know -- at least I can say that because I don't hide my discontent very well. Others may be discontent but they leave it simmering under the surface. I am discontent on the inside and the outside and I make no bones about it.

The good Lord has seen fit to not give me much to be discontented about so this issue becomes a doubly-troubling one for me. Why can I not be content? Why am I so dissatisfied that I constantly need change in my life? Is it that I am in such dire need to control everything that when I cannot, I literally go on the search for something, anything I can control?? Oh, yes! I do think this is a great part of the problem. I am not in control of my life at all. I have given Him control and I have rested in His care. I have experienced this over and over again -- I rest in Him and am at peace. Then I wrest with Him and I am in turmoil. It is the "wresting" part that causes me to stumble. One cannot wrest with the Lord and win. No, He will have His way and He will triumph, it is just a matter of time.

So, what does all this mean for me? Right now, it is clear that I have been wresting with Him -- literally wrestling with Him (as Jacob did, as Moses did, as so many other great Men of the Bible did) and He has won. I am left sitting in the dust, tired and worn out, unable to move. I do not know what to do, but I am alive and I am well. I am at peace and I know that my Savior loves me and that He does indeed have a good plan for my life. I just need to know how to walk in faith and how to stop questioning every single move I make ("is this right, Lord?")

Whenever I get to a point where I feel lost in my way, I find that it is helpful to recount the blessings and truths of God. Recounting them and reciting Scripture does help and does put the focus back where it belongs -- back on God (and off of me). God has promised that He will never leave me. He is with me and I feel His presence. He listens to me and cares deeply for me. He understands how hard it is for me to let go and to just be content. He knows that I need Him and without Him, I would truly be lost (or worse yet, truly be in dire need). He knows that it is best for Him to be in control and for me to be content. He knows that He cannot make me content -- that is an act of my will and I must learn how to do it myself. I have to choose contentment. I have to choose to be settled and to live with whatever choice I make. I have to say "it is enough" or "it is OK as is". I have to let go of my perfectionist ways and my desire to always be in control. I have to sit back and let Him drive this bus -- I am just a passenger, He is the Driver.

Oh, how hard it is to be a child of God some days...

Stiking a pose...


This is the life...just lazing about...and being waiting on hand and foot!
October 26, 2007

October 25, 2007

Harumph!

Whoever said home schooling was easy...

either never home schooled or never home schooled through high school! UGH! Home schooling has been the greatest challenge of my life and has been my highest joy and my worst nightmare. It is NOT EASY nor is it always a "bowl of cherries." Most days are just tough, especially when trying to teach a teenager (and a gifted one to boot.) I have agonized, struggled, stressed and waffled my way through the curriculum maze and home school fairs until I was literally bleary-eyed and blue in the face. I have tried my hand at unschooling, traditional textbooks, Charlotte Mason, classical education and just about everything in between (eclectic). This year, I decided that we needed more structure and routine and went the way of DVD education. I chose A Beka for our curriculum and enrolled my son in A Beka's Online Academy. My reasons were justified and were mostly prompted out of fear -- fear of my husband's illness and my having to return to full-time work, fear of having my son return to public schooling, and fear of being in over my head when it came to teaching high school. Even though I am a college graduate and well-qualified to teach my son at home, I still cringe whenever I have to make a decision on what books we will use and curriculum we will follow. I worry incessantly that I will make a mistake, choose poorly, do irrevocable damage to my son's self-esteem and do injustice to his awesome God-given giftedness. Yes, for me home schooling is a difficult and daunting task, one that I take very seriously and with fear and trepidation. I am gripped and consumed with fear and worry that I will fail. I worry I will fail him, fail myself and my family, and ultimately fail God, who has called me to this task.

Well, as things would go, our best laid plains have come to a painstakingly dead halt. We started with A Beka in July and began using the DVDs on August 27. My son was anxious and excited to have a video curriculum to use and liked the "idea" of having all those textbooks to read. He started strong and was focused, disciplined and on task for two weeks. Then....life intervened and we needed to take some time off. I was in the middle of caring for my mother who was in the hospital with knee replacement surgery. I had a brand new kitten at home (3 weeks old) and was feeding round the clock. I then had to spend 2 weeks living over at my parents house (kitten in tow) and relied solely on my son to "self-teach." After things settled down with my parents, we got into the swing of using the DVDs. The first thing I noticed was how rigid the curriculum was and how frequently my son was being tested (daily). I also noticed that his day was running anywhere from 5-6 hours non-stop. He didn't seem to mind the length and kept a pretty good attitude about it. But, as the days wore on, I slowly started to see my bright and cheerful boy turn sullen and disinterested. I asked and prodded -- tried to figure out what was wrong -- to no avail. I waited. I prayed. I asked again. The answer was always the same -- nothing. Thankfully, God has equipped Mom's with super-spy powered radar and after some more time I zeroed in on the problem. I noticed my son sitting idly by while the DVD teacher talked about some topic or asked the students on the tape questions. He played with the cat. He doodled in his book. He went to the fridge every 2 minutes. Eventually, I would find the DVD on pause and him lounging on the sofa upside down....just thinking.

Something was up and it was clear to me that the program was not working as it should. I read my home school support group emails and everyone seemed to be doing just fine. Their teens were studious and working from 7-2 each day without much prodding. They were busy at their studies and reporting good news -- kids were learning, they were happy, they were involved. My 14 year old didn't fit this picture and I wondered why. He is a good student, very smart, and seemed to like the DVD content. I knew he was bored -- that was clear to me. But every time I asked him, he just told me everything was fine. Then I finally pushed him and found out that he had been watching the DVDs but not doing any of the homework -- not even reading the textbooks. When asked why, he simply said "why should I? If I wait until tomorrow, the teacher will just go over the reading in class." Yep, my super smart kid figured out how to get out of doing the homework and reading, all the while maintaining an A average on the tests and quizzes.

UGH! What is a mother to do? I prayed over this situation and asked the Lord for help. What can I do now? I have invested mightily in this program and my son was willing to use it this year (his words, not mine). I just didn't think I could sit by and watch him be bored at home for an entire year. I mean...this was why we pulled him from the public school system. He was bored in class and did the exact same things (well, minus playing with the cat).

Today, we sat down and discussed our options. I am all for changing midstream, just so long as we don't make it a habit and change, change, and change again. I mentioned Charlotte Mason to him and suggested we fall back on our old standby. Read good books. Read the textbooks (science) and do the chapter review questions only. Write essays about our reading. Explore areas of interest. Yes, this perked him up. He admitted that he was bored and that while he did like some of the content on the DVDs, he really didn't like the review or the 45-50 minutes of class time sitting there watching the teacher.

So, we took the day off and went to the library. He checked out a book on programming and writing hacks for Windows. I pulled some science books (physics and chemistry) as well as a world history text for him to read. He wants to read Great Expectations and wants to study world history from 1750 to the modern period. He wants to know about current events and why the world is the way it is and why politics is such a hot-button topic. He wants to study Calculus and know how to make things work (physics). In short, he wants to know so much...just not the stuff being taught in A Beka's 9th grade curriculum.

I told my husband that it really is our fault. We raised an independent, self-motivated, self-starter of a child. He is not independent to the extent that he can sit and learn from a DVD program. No, he is independent in the sense that he has interests and desires and prefers to learn based on his own motivation. What can we do? We have decided that we will just let him teach himself the things that interest him most and leave it at that. Neither of us care much if he learns Biology or knows all the bones in the human body. We are glad that he loves God and deeply desires to study His word. We are glad that he is genuinely concerned about world events and the future end-times. He is a smart boy. He thinks deeply and often. I guess this is what happens when you home school a child and give them freedom to learn at their own pace and according to their own pursuits.

Sigh.

October 21, 2007

Lee Strobel

The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ by Lee Strobel

Has modern scholarship debunked the traditional Christ? Has the church suppressed the truth about Jesus to advance its own agenda? What if the real Jesus is far different from the atoning Savior worshipped through the centuries? In The Case for the Real Jesus, former award-winning legal editor Lee Strobel explores such hot-button questions as: Did the church suppress ancient non-biblical documents that paint a more accurate picture of Jesus than the four Gospels? Did the church distort the truth about Jesus by tampering with early New Testament texts? Do new insights and explanations finally disprove the resurrection? Have fresh arguments disqualified Jesus from being the Messiah? Did Christianity steal its core ideas from earlier mythology?

Today we were blessed to have the opportunity to listen to author Lee Strobel (best known for his book, The Case for Christ). I haven't had the chance to read his book yet (any of them), but have wanted to do so for a long while. I was so excited when I heard it mentioned that he would be speaking to our church, Scottsdale Bible, on 10/21/07. WOW! What a great speaker! I really enjoyed listening to him and found him to be a powerful and persuasive speaker. God has really gifted him in his presentation style and ability. He spoke on two points: Did Jesus really claim to be the Son of God and did the resurrection really occur. This message was excellent, and even though short (I could have listen to his entire treatise because it was so GOOD!), I came away with a new appreciation of why it is so important to really "know" the Hebrew and Greek languages. So much is contained in every word and without a thorough understanding of the historical context, it is very easy to disregard and downplay the significance of the early Hebrew writers.

Mr. Strobel's newest book, The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ, is available now and I would recommend it for anyone who is seriously considering the validity of Jesus as Christ.

October 20, 2007

Why I Love the Piano...


by D.J. Hepburn

I love the piano for many reasons. One of these reasons is its sound, which is very soothing and relaxing. The piano has its own moods which when a performer plays, can be quiet and calming or loud and exciting. Its tonal qualities are immense, giving each individual piano its own distinctive sound. Another reason is the flexibility of the piano, in that there are 88 keys, which give you plenty of room to play and write songs. I also love the piano because of the abundance of compositions written for solo performance. Even though many are hard to play, I love the fact that I can attempt to learn them and enjoy playing them.

Piano Recital Today

My son is performing Joseph Haydn's Sonata from Hoboken 16:7 for his piano teacher's (Karen Macklin) piano/chamber recital today. He will present an oral recitation on: the history of the sonata, a brief biographical sketch on Franz J. Haydn as well as an original poem he wrote entitled, "Musique." He will be playing piano accompaniment to her Chamber group (violins) and will be performing three pieces: "Colors of the Wind," "The Circle of Life," and "Hogwarth's Hymn."

I will be recording his performance (with video - hooray) and hopefully can post it for other's to see/hear. We are so very proud of our son, who hopes someday to become either a classical pianist or a computer programmer! LOL!

October 19, 2007

From my son...

I'm wishing you
another year of
laughter, joy, and fun,
surprises, love and
happiness, and when
your birthday's done...

I hope you feel deep
in your heart, as your
birthday's come and go,
How very much you
mean to me, more than
you can known.

Love, DJ

October 18, 2007

Happy Birthday to me!

I am not a big "birthday" person. In fact, I am not really into any kind of celebration at all. I do love Christmas and enjoy decorating, but I have never been big on parties and other kinds of celebrations. My parents are pretty low-key about celebrations too, so I am sure this is why I am like them. Mom always could throw a good party and often did when I was growing up. I just remember playing and hanging out...our parties were mostly BBQ or "bring your own dish" types...and were again, very low-key. My husband's family is a BIG party type group. They are the kind to throw well-planned, themed parties and invite lots and lots of people. Any kind of celebration gets the royal treatment with favors, decorations, and games with gift bags. It has been difficult for me to fit in because I really, really do not like all the hoopla. I am very happy to go to a nice restaurant or have a simple family dinner with quiet conversation and a good cup of coffee. I guess it is just the way I am.


I plan on celebrating this year's birthday with my Dad, Roger, like I have for the past 40+ years. Dad and I share the month of October and our birthdays are one day apart (his on the 17th and mine today). We have always celebrated together and usually have our favorite desert -- Pumpkin Pie. This year we are going to Black Angus Steakhouse for dinner so we will skip the pie and have their birthday brownie/ice cream desert instead. Partly this is due to my Mom's ongoing recovery from knee replacement surgery and also because it will be easier on us all. David's parents will be coming along as well and then we will go to our house for "cake". According to my MIL, "you cannot have a birthday without birthday cake!" See what I mean? My MIL has always made sure I had a proper birthday celebration and I appreciate her POV. She is so different from me and I am thankful for her love of partying!

October 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Birthday crown courtesy of my husband's aunt
who has a knack with plastic crocheting!

Today is my Dad's birthday (number to remain hidden!) Dad and I have celebrated our birthday's together for as long as I can remember. His birthday is today and mine is tomorrow. When I was little, Mom gave me my own party of course, but we always had a family birthday dinner. Once I got to the teenage years, often would go out someplace special. We are celebrating our birthday dinner this Friday (10/19/07) at Black Angus Steakhouse. Both Dad and I signed up for their birthday club so we received coupons on email for a by-one-get-one steak dinner. Yum!

October 16, 2007

PVCC Youth Retreat


DJ at Woods Canyon Lake, AZ
October 12-14, 2007

At the rim (200 foot vertical)
Good thing his mother wasn't watching at this moment!

Nice Rainbow Trout

October 10, 2007

Bear of Little Brain


"I have been Foolish and Deluded," said he,
"and I am a Bear of No Brain at All."
"You're the Best Bear in All the World,"
said Christopher Robin soothingly.
-from Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne

Today, I feel like a "bear with little brain" and my "fluff" seems to be rather bedraggled and out of sorts. I am not sure why I feel the way I do, but if you KWIM, well, then you just KWIM! Maybe it is because I am facing down another birthday (next week) and somehow the number "45" seems "oh so very old to me." Maybe it is just because it is a "Wed-nes-day" and a "little black rain cloud" seems to be following me around. I don't know...guess I will just have to wait and see how Thursday looks!

October 8, 2007

Learning Styles

Last week, a home school Mom wrote to me and asked if I thought it was necessary to know about learning styles when teaching your children at home. This was my response to her email.

Dear Homeschool Mom,

This is our 4th year home schooling and the second year I have tried to tailor my son's curriculum to his particular learning style (visual spatial). Do I think it is necessary to teach to a particular learning style? Hmmm....good question! I think many parents do a fine job teaching and never know a thing about their children's preferred learning style. Understanding how our children learn can help us customize curriculum and make sure that we address any weaknesses they may have. It can also boost their enjoyment of learning when we give them tools that align with their style (for example, using media-rich content to enhance a visual learner's experience). I think, however, it can have a reverse affect when we teach only to one learning mode. This is something that many parents do, usually out of exasperation and desperation. They have tried every type of curriculum and Johnny still cannot read. They find something that works and instead of using it to solve a particular weakness, they use it exclusively. Or, Johnny decides he cannot read so Mom decides that since he is a visual learner and prefers watching Videos, she will only make him watch video content. I know it sounds odd, but I have read many emails from parents who have done this very thing. A Ha, Johnny is auditory so every thing is 'read aloud' to him. Johnny never learns the patience or diligence needed to be able to read silently to himself.

Most educational psychologists would agree that a liberal approach, one that teaches using all three learning modalities (visual, auditory and kinesthetic or tactile) is best. By taking a more moderate approach, the student will strengthen their weak areas and better develop their already well-developed areas. Additionally, they will be better suited for success in a traditional learning situation, say college classroom, for example. Moreover, most educational psychologists' would agree that children are kinesthetic when they are young and that auditory and visual processing develops as the child ages. By the time they are ready for school, children (those without any learning disabilities) should be able to use each learning mode equally well. It is true that most children prefer one mode over the others initially and that they will naturally gravitate towards that particular style, especially when struggling with a difficult concept or subject. It is not true, however, that a child cannot learn using all three modes. One mode will always be stronger, but all three are necessary for integrated learning success. In my opinion, the best course of action is to teach right down the middle and to give the child every opportunity to use their hands, their ears, and their eyes when learning new material.

There are a couple reasons why I think it is helpful to know a little about learning styles. First, if your child happens to have a learning disability, knowledge of learning styles can be very helpful when diagnosing their strengths and weaknesses. If a disorder is suspected, often a parent can teach material with more ease when aligning the method to the child's strength. The entire learning process will be easier for both teacher and student. It will also allow the parent to focus on their child's weakness and give them time to work specifically to address each concern. Nothing is more frustrating then to try and teach the child using a method that clearly works against their natural style. By doing so, stress and frustration become a regular visitor during the school day.

Another reason I think it is helpful to understand learning styles is to understand that the majority of traditional classroom curriculum is designed towards one learning modality, namely, auditory-sequential learners (shall we say the public school teacher's best student?) The majority of public and private school teachers rely on teaching to auditory learners. For years, teachers are taught to stand in front of the class and to speak directly to a classroom. While many teachers do employ visual aids and often encourage hands-on exploration, the typical classroom is 70% auditory, 15% visual and 15% kinesthetic. Curriculum publishers also understand that their materials need to be 'presented' and as such create their programs around this modern method. So unless the teacher is coming up through Montessori or another non-traditional teaching system, students are going to be expected to learn primarily through their ears (audition). If your student is a visual spatial learner and struggles with audition, then listening to a teacher lecture or present to the class will be difficult to process. Thankfully, home school parents have myriads of options when it comes to teaching their children. There is no reason for a home schooled child to be forced to listen to a parent lecture like a public or private school teacher. The parent is free to use any number of methods to help their child learn the material. And, if their goal is content mastery versus subject mastery, they can use other methods of evaluation to see how well their child is grasping the material (quizzes and tests are useful, but they only give one small part of the overall learning picture.)

Thirdly, if your child happens to be LD or Gifted or a combo (twice-exceptional), then you will find that the more you know about learning styles, the more options you have when it comes to choosing curriculum for your child. In short, it is like taking a short cut through the buffet and starting with dessert. It is just "easier" to zero in on what will work best and it will save you a lot of time, a lot of frustration, and a lot of expense.

The whole field of learning styles has been around for 50-60 years. There have been many new discoveries in that time and the public school system has tried to implement change in the classroom and across the nation. However, walk into any high school classroom in the nation and I bet you will still find a large number of teachers standing in front of the blackboard lecturing. Audition is the primary teaching method for college professors and since Universities determine how to teach each generation of teachers, change is slow coming.

If you are really interested in learning style theory, then check out your library holdings on learning styles (even consider inter-library loan). There are a number fairly new books out (I will try and get a list together), but you can just browse through the education stacks and are sure to find one or two that will give you a good overview. Keep in mind that there are as many different views on how children learn as there are stars in the sky. Since the early 1950's and 60's, psychologists have been fascinated with how children learn and have developed theories in order to create better instructional materials, discover new ways to address learning disabilities and find solutions to help children succeed.

The one theory that most lay people are familiar with is states that there are three primary modes of learning (VAK or Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic). This theory suggests that we use these three modes for processing new information and for learning, in general. Some people do prefer learning through their their eyes (V), while others prefer using their hands (K) or their ears (A), but it is generally believed that all people are V plus A or A plus K, etc. Rarely is someone all V or all A.

Additionally, studies suggest that children prefer to learn via their kinesthetic mode until they reach the age of 5 or 6. As children begin school, they will be given more and more opportunities to learn using their ears or through audition. Audition is not new and for centuries, children have learned using their ears (in the 7th century B.C., Homer wrote his epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey, to be recited orally). Modern teachers need children to listen well, to pay attention in class, to observe the study, and to discover new information. Audition, therefore, still plays a key role in the teaching of a group of children. The problem is, however, that some children will continue to rely on one mode of learning, almost to the exclusion of the others. Often these children are either gifted or they have a combination of learning or processing disorders. In a classroom setting for example, where the normal teaching method is audition, the visual or kinesthetic learner will find it difficult to follow along or to process the information because it is being presented in a way contrary to their preferred learning mode. Some children learn how to get by and figure out how to pay attention and listen, enough to pass their classes. But, some children cannot seem to do this at all and usually end up falling behind or dropping out of school all together. They never seem to be able to achieve using standard teaching methods and will continue to struggle just to keep up with their peers.

[Just an aside: You can Google on the Internet for VAK learning profile tests -- there are hundreds of them. You can take the test yourself or put in answers that reflect your child's learning style. These are not true assessments, but they do give a glimpse into the generalities of VAK learning modes.]

Since the 1980's there has been significant developments in the field of educational psychology. Many psychologists now believe that the VAK learning identifiers are not specific enough and that they generalize the learning modality of the "normal" population only. About 20 years ago, some psychologists started to notice that gifted and twice-exceptional students (gifted and LD) tended to learn on the fringe of these accepted VAK modes. Dr. Linda Silverman was one of the few psychologists to study and theorize that there were subtle variations of the VAK style and that VAK didn't fit every child. Her work centered on the belief that within the visual spectrum there are multiple levels of learning. In her research she discovered that students who are visual AND spatial tend to struggle with abstract concepts and with traditional classroom instruction. Subjects such as math, grammar, spelling, for example, were consistently difficult for the visual-spatial learner. Furthermore, she discovered that VSLs tend to do very poorly in an auditory learning environment (the typical classroom). As she began working with gifted students she put together a system for identifying visual-spatial learning and then formulated ways to help students succeed in the public or private school classroom.

[Side note: You can read more about her work on her website: http://www.visual-spatial.org. Her book "Upside Down Brillance" is excellent, though very heady to read. I read it because I am one of the special kinds of visual-spatial learners she describes in her book -- the ones who tend to do things backwards or upside down (ex. I start at the end of a problem or project and work backwards to find the quickest and best route for success or solving.) If you happen to have a VSL and are struggling to understand how they learn, consider reading this book. It is eye-opening and well worth the price and time needed to wade through it.]

So how does all of this play out in a home school setting? I think most children who are home schooled are automatically given a much better chance to learn using all three modes of VAK. This is because in a home setting, the parent has already considered individualized instruction (usually the first suggestion made for students in a classroom). The caring parent at home has tried a variety of curriculum and has already narrowed down her choices to those that seem to work best for her children. If something doesn't work, she stops using it and tries something new. The student also gets a break because Mom is there to help as soon as she needs it. If she doesn't understand something, then Mom is there to explain it differently. Moreover, Mom often gives her children a wide variety of learning experiences. She allows them to learn through play, cooperative studies, unit studies, multi-age lessons, and hands on activities. The student is able to use all three modes of learning in the home setting whereas a student in a classroom might get more computer time or might get some pullout instruction, but generally will be expected to sit and listen to a lecture (audition) or be forced to sit and read silently (difficult for some visual-spatial students).

In answer to your question, I would say that having a general knowledge of learning styles can enhance your teaching ability. If you are using Charlotte Mason's educational method, then you really do not need to worry much about this unless your child happens to have reading problems. In a CM-education, children are taught through all three modes even though the primary emphasis is on visual learning (reading). CM was the first to suggest using VAK, though this is not what she called it. In her method, children are encouraged to read good books (V), to listen to good books being read aloud (A), and to explore and observe the world around them (K). A CM-educated student will be given wide exposure to learning through all three modalities.

If the student is well-rounded and learns well through all three modes, then this method will work well. If, however, your student happens to be visual-spatial and cannot not process information through audition, then they will find it difficult to learn using this method. Some VSL's are avid and excellent readers (some will teach themselves to read at a very young age) while some struggle with learning how to read and with reading comprehension. Some VSLs are sight readers and will not really learn to read well until age 9, 10 or 11. The gifted spatial learner will find a classical or literature-based curriculum dry and boring, simply because the emphasis is on reading visually plain books (your typical classical book is 5 1/2 x 8 with white or off-white pages and very small black print.)

This is really why I got interested in VSL's and why I have worked to customize my son's curriculum. If he were simply a gifted student and able to learn using VAK, then nearly all the home school curriculum would work for him. He is not, and as such, I have had to find the best curriculum that will fit his preferred learning style. For us, this means that I need to give him a mix of curriculum and use several different teaching methods. I do place the emphasis on visual presentation and use this as my guide when choosing books, DVDs or other teaching programs.

This year, he is using A Beka DVDs. The visual learning aspect has been right on target and he finds that he is learning and retaining an amazing amount of information in all subject areas (the proof is in his test scores -- consistently in the 97-100% range on reading comprehension and on comprehensive tests). Compared to last year with our literature-based curriculum, his tests scores were in the 50-60% range. Overall, the change from visual (reading) to visual-spatial (computer-based) has greatly improved his retention. This improvement has been seen across the board in all subject areas. In his weakest areas, math and English grammar/composition, his retention of facts has nearly tripled. This improvement it is so dynamic and impressive that I believe it will have long-term impact. The downside of using these specific DVDs is the boredom factor. Since these DVDs mimic classroom situations (teacher in front, students in desks), he finds the overall pacing to be too slow and the repetition, unneccessary. So the perfect solution is to find a visual teaching aid that offers high-quality visual instruction, but doesn't simply substitute record a high school classroom.

A Beka textbooks work well for him too. These are highly visual books and are very sequential in their presentation. Since my son struggles to follow details or to be able to order events having a textbook that already does this for him is very helpful. He likes to read these texts because they have lots of colorful pictures, charts and diagrams to look at. All of these things appeal to his visual-spatial learning mode and help him process details and put the information in it's proper context. The downside of using a textbook curriculum is that they don't really challenge the mind to think 'outside the box,' which is something that VSL's naturally do and enjoy.

Therefore, after nearly four years of trying to figure this "curriculum thing" out, I think I have finally discovered that the best approach is to not rely on one single teaching method (Classical or Charlotte Mason or traditional) and instead use a variety of methods for each subject area. Next year, my plan is to alter my son's curriculum so that he has equal thirds: one-third literature-based; one-third computer-aided; and one-third hands-on/observation study. In general, my plan is to teach using VAK, but to tailor it more towards his visual-spatial preference, all the while giving him plenty of opportunity to learn through his weaker auditory and kinesthetic modes. My goal is to enable him to learn and retain the new material using all three learning modalities.

In closing, I definitely believe that there is value in learning more about your child's learning style. In doing so, it will help you become a better teacher and it will help you better understand how to best to teach your child. Home schooling is a wonderful way to get to know your child and watching them learn is half the fun of it. By taking the time to understand their individual needs, you will be providing a higher quality learning experience for them.