Monthly Archives: January 2007

Bed time reading

Yesterday I began reading two books to B6. The pictures and the text are keeping us both amused and intrigued. The first is Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver retold by Martin Jenkins. The illustrations are filled with tiny details so that each time you gaze at them you find something new. I have not yet read the original but the retelling has B6 asking for more.
The second is Mixed Beasts written by Kenyon Cox and illustrated by Wallace Edwards. The pictures have had B6 chuckling, studying and searching, as once again there are details to be found after closer observation. Some of the favourite beasts so far have been the Kangarooster, the Bumblebeaver and the Peanuthatch.

A year on and they are balmier than ever

It is a year since we wrote the entry about Narnia and the obsession my children seem to have with all things Narnian. It appears that nothing has changed. They still listen to the radio theatre cds often, reread the books and talk about the movie. As they are always ready with a quote in any and every situation we thought we would see if any of you are as balmy as they are!

Do you know which book the following quotes come from? Or who said them?

  1. “They all say…-that I’m too flighty; don’t take life seriously enough….you’re altogether too full of bobance and bounce and high spirits. You’ve got to learn that life isn’t all fricasseed frogs and eel pie. You want something to sober you down a bit.”
  2. “I wonder if she doesn’t see that everything that little beast does is all for the sake of showing off.”
  3. “and their names were Peter and Susan and Edmund and Lucy. And so they reigned for ever so long and everyone had a lovely time, and it was all because of Aslan.”
  4. “Well done Chief. You never said a truer word”
  5. “Oh darling, don’t get so excited, I was going to say, even if we were caught everyone would say it was one of my mad jokes. I’m getting quite well known for them. Only the other day-do listen, dear, this is frightfully funny-“
  6. “Yes, I know, and few return to the sunlit lands. You needn’t say it again. You are a chap of one idea, aren’t you?”
  7. “If you were not my father, oh ever living Tisroc, I would say that was the word of a coward.”

As I have been typing all these quotes in L12 and A10 have been giving excellent renditions of each one, I wish you could have heard them.

The group of four in Ecuador

Two weeks ago I wrote about a change in our family’s homeschooling schedule. We have left the co-op we have belonged to for 5 years and are meeting with three other families. Well, yesterday we started our first unit. It is a simulation game set in a village in Ecuador. It took a while to find a game that we could adjust to suit our needs. All the mothers searched online and we found that there are many simulation games designed to be played online, many we could purchase for a few hundred dollars or even a few thousand dollars (those ones come with someone to run them). Once we settled on one, we had to transform it from an online interactive game into an “eleven children in one house” interactive game.

We began the session with the big picture, introducing the children to the Amazon rainforest with its unique flora and fauna. Then we gave them a more detailed view of a tropical rainforest’s composition and its value to us. We did throw out a few mind boggling statistics about how fast rainforests are being cut down. Then they had a quick lesson in crop rotation and at last we introduced the game.

Nine of the children are inhabitants of an Ecuadorian village, one is the owner of the general store, the rest farm coffee, maize and cacao. All of these farmers have families and are barely making enough to support them. The other two children are Eco-tourism experts whose role it is to present an alternative to farming in this community. If the community agrees the Eco-tourism people will begin running a program for them.

We gave each of the children a profile, a map of their farm and $600. They met in their community groups and started discussing what they would plant and whether they could afford food, education, farm equipment, house repairs and transportation costs. Several of them found that $600 would not cover everything as their families were large. They visited the general store where the compassionate store keeper made arrangements with some of them enabling them to pay for things later when they had more money. Many of them decided not to pay for education for all their children as a way to make ends meet. ( I guess we shouldn’t be surprised at this, they are all homeschooled)

We had to end when the Eco-tourism people were making their presentation, so next week we will pick up where we left off and the village members will decide whether to give the tourism project a try.


Today this is what I saw:

B6 singing “Count your blessings” around the house. We are learning hymns by singing the same one each morning for a week so B6 can learn by ear.

B6 wanted to read to his sisters, and they listened and praised his new skills. L12 read him a book also and then made up a story to tell to them. Apparently they loved it and are waiting to hear more.

A10 made houses with B6, combining her new doll house acquisitions with his playmobil.

A10 wanted to learn how to crochet so she and L12 sat on the bed and L12 taught her.

I know these are just everyday activities but I love to see them giving to each other like this.
Blessings for me to count.


We enjoy a lot of violin music in our home, both girls play violin, one has been playing for seven years and the other for six. They have progressed past the twinkles and the scratchy bow sounds and it is very pleasant to listen to. On Saturday night they performed at their postponed “Christmas Solo Recital”. They perform in this recital every year, it is for all the students in our teacher’s studio from beginners to senior students. It doesn’t seem very long ago that A10 and L12 were at the beginning of the program proudly playing Book 1 and 2 pieces. On Saturday night they were much nearer to the end of the program, A10 playing J.H. Fiocco’s “Allegro”and L12 playing the 1st movement of J.S. Bach’s 1st violin concerto in Aminor. Listen to an excerpt here.(we recorded it on an mp3 player, A10 plays first then L12)

It is hard to believe how far they have come and what they can tackle and accomplish now. They have had excellent teaching, many opportunities to perform, and wonderful experiences with other young musicians. Practising is not such a chore for them as it once was, but neither is it always easy for them to pick up their violins when the sun is shining and beckoning or a good book is calling. I am both proud and amazed at their playing and their perseverence. That is enough for now, we are off to violin lessons.

We’ve been waiting

We have watched a little snow come and then disappear. We survived a green Christmas, and have had rain, rain and more rain. I checked the cross-country ski boots to see who needed a bigger size, but that was weeks ago and there was no snow so I didn’t bother to check the skis and poles. This time last week we did not need coats, let alone mitts,snowboots, toques or scarves.

But that was last week. Everyone at our house was very happy to see snow fall all day on Monday, and now it is Wednesday and it is still here. The snow forts have been started as well as a big pile in the back yard, the purpose of which is yet to be determined.
snow walk
The children and I have just returned from a walk in the wooded area behind our house. It is minus 17 degrees, but once we were in amongst the trees it was not too cold. I had forgotten how beautiful it is in winter and that it is literally just over my back fence. I asked who was going to get up and go for a walk with me in the morning, before school and two said yes.
(We will see if any of us are willing to leave our warm beds.) snow tree
We stopped at the river and then came home via the park to check on the progress of the skating rink.

It is beginning to feel like winter and we like it. I had better go and check those skis.


How can I find out when there is a new post to my favourite blogs? Is there an easier way than visiting all of the sites each day?

This is a technical post to help those new to reading blogs and other information streams. Most blogs (web logs like ) or traditional media outlets ( e.g. ) also have an auxillary web page which contains a specially formatted list of the most recent articles. Depending on the formatting used , this list might be called an RSS or ATOM feed. For the examples above the feeds are at and . A news web site will often have many feeds: one for world news, one for domestic news, one for local news, etc.

A news feed is not meant to be read by humans. You subscribe to the feed by pasting the feed’s web address into an a special program called an “aggregator”. The aggregator checks all the subscribed feeds periodically, and presents a summary of new or unread articles. This can save you a lot of time if you read many sites!

Examples of aggregators:

  1. If you have a free Google Account you can use the Google Reader web interface (My current favourite).
  2. If you use the Firefox web browser there are many options. Recent versions of Firefox display the icon rss icon in firefox in the address bar when a feed is detected. By clicking on this icon, Firefox offers to add this feed to an aggregator, either as a “Live Bookmark” or using another aggregator.
  3. If you install the Firefox “Sage” plugin, place all of your Firefox “feed” bookmarks in a single bookmark folder, and configure Sage to look in this folder for feeds, then Sage will provide a good aggregator in a Firefox side bar(Heather’s current favourite). Below is a Sage screenshot showing feeds and feed articles on the left and the current article on the right.
  4. Install standalone program to check feeds. On a PC there are many free ones like FeedReader or SharpReader. There are many more, but you know how to use google.

I am interested to know how you are keeping up with this blog. Are you using an aggregator? Don’t be afraid to try one if you are not. Many of the aggregators allow you to export and import lists of feeds in OPML format, so it is straight forward to change aggregators,


Sage Firefox Plugin


This afternoon the children and I spent a few hours with some good friends. We enjoyed ourselves, but we did not meet just to socialise. These friends have all been part of the same homeschooling co-op as us, in fact we met two of the families at the co-op and the other family we encouraged to join. The reason for the meeting is the fact that we have all just left the co-op and are beginning “something else” and we met today to work out what form the”something else” will take.

The co-op has been a huge blessing to our family. I think the most significant thing the co-op has provided for our family is friends. Friends for the children and friends for me and ultimately families who are friends with our family. In the five and a half years we have been involved it has always been a teaching co-op, so the emphasis has always been on learning together, but as we learnt and taught, we talked and listened, we played and prayed and friendships naturally grew. We have made friends whose company we will always delight in even if we don’t see them often.

There are some things that are very hard to do at home and our co-op filled some of those gaps very nicely. We have done spelling bees, math olympics, geography competitions, science fairs and history fairs. We have done oral presentations about countries, novels, sports and famous people. I remember our very first oral presentation was for “Heroes of the Faith” and we did Francis and Edith Schaeffer. The presentation consisted of me reading a script we had worked out together with a line here or there that the girls had practised and a display board we had all worked on. As I watched them make a presentation about Japan last year I couldn’t help noticing the huge difference between that first oral presentation and the one they were delivering. They had prepared their speeches themselves, made the visual aids and worked out how they would involve members of the audience. This development was largely due to the increase in their ages, I know, but it was also due to many and varied opportunities they have had to improve their oral presentation skills in the co-op.

We have had a gym component at co-op also and it has been a big hit. Many talented and enthusiastic mothers have trained, taught and exhausted the children, but the favourite teacher was always Mr H, from Athletes in Action who came once a month to do all sorts of sports and games with them. He worked them hard and they loved it.

Over five years we have covered a great many topics in co-op, some of them a couple of times and I have always been impressed and amazed by the creative ideas of the other mothers. It is wonderful to see someone else’s approach and benefit from others’ expertise and gather ideas. My children were able to learn from artists, designers, musicians, writers, scientists, scholars, cooks who were part of our membership as well as the talented people we invited in from time to time.

There has been another big benefit of being part of the co-op and it is not scheduled in, it just happens. The opportunities to talk to other homeschooling mothers on a regular basis has been a treat and a lifeline. There has always been someone to encourage me, rejoice with me, pray for me, make suggestions, share experiences, lend a hand, or a shoulder. There have been women who have already experienced what I am going through and can give advice, comfort, support. There have been women who can do things which scare me and I have watched and learned and been amazed. There have been women whose lives have inspired me and still continue to, women who walk faithfully with the Lord and are raising children to do the same.

I didn’t know I would receive so much when I joined the co-op with a 7 year old, a five year old and a 10month old baby. So it is not a decision I have taken lightly to leave the co-op with my 12, 10 and 6 year olds. There are many things and people I will miss. But it is time to do something a little different and move our family in a slightly different direction. I am excited to be trying something new. I thank God for His Thursday afternoon blessings, they are too numerous to count.

For your viewing pleasure

We have watched a few movies over the Christmas break. I asked the children if they had any favourites they would like to see again and then I reserved them at the library. It is tricky finding movies suitable for everyone and one solution to this problem is some old classics.

We have recently watched:
Holiday Inn
Charlie Brown Christmas
Horse in the Grey Flannel Suit
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
My Fair Lady

I know some of you are thinking we might be unaware that new movies have been made in the last thirty years. We know that and we do watch some of them, but we like the old ones, and yes, we like musicals! This is never more evident than in the days after watching a musical or listening to a soundtrack. The house is filled with “musical theatre voices” switching almost seamlessly from Seussical the Musical to Phantom and then to My Fair Lady or Joseph and his Dreamcoat!

If you have some favourite family movies let us know by leaving a comment.

Birthday wishes

One good thing about the time difference between Canada and Australia is that I rarely forget my mother’s birthday. While it is still my anniversary here it is already my mother’s birthday there. So if I remember my anniversary then I will probably remember her birthday and vice versa!
These photos were taken during the summer while my parents were staying with us. It was a wonderful time. I think the thing I enjoyed most was having them to talk to day after day and not having to remember the things I needed to discuss next time we talked on the phone or emailed. My mother and I had many conversations and she also had time for many chats with the rest of the family too.

mum and alexandra
Another thing I appreciate about my mother is her faithfulness in prayer, it is an encouragement to me daily and an inspiration to me in my own prayer life. I could go on and write of many more things about my mother that I appreciate but I will stop there and go and call her and wish her Happy Birthday.