Spring Sewing

Spring flowers table runner

In May we'll be celebrating a wedding of a daughter (!) and the college graduation of a son! Much of my sewing time lately has gone to working on two surprises for those life-change events.

But who wants to work on two projects when she can squeeze in a couple more?

So, in between blocks for the two big projects, I've made a few spring-like little items to brighten our home.

The flower table runner is made from a slight alteration to this table topper from Cluck Cluck Sew.

But then, piecing those corners of the flowers left me with some extra half square triangles. Tiny half square triangles. So I decided to make a little fabric box. Those tend to come in handy for various things. It's the second time I've used this tutorial, and this time I made one change. In addition to using batting, I also adhered a thin layer of interfacing to both the outer basket and to the lining pieces. Voila! This little basket holds its shape so much better than the one I did before.

And finally, here's a larger basket I made. I planned to use at the rehearsal dinner for wedding #1, only to decide it wouldn't fit the bill after all. Instead, it has found its purpose as my devotions basket. In it goes my index card box with my prayer cards, my file of memory verse cards, and a small Bible. Most days I spend my prayer time in a little-used bedroom (she's away at college) where I have this view of one of our crop fields. (It's still too early for our farmer to have planted anything yet.)

This divided basket pattern is available from Noodlehead for $7. I've made a number of these for others, and I love this pattern! It works great to hold diapers and changing supplies, but it's versatile enough to work in many different situations. 

A Praying Mother

Several of my offspring, including my sweet new DIL,
threw a surprise birthday picnic for me this weekend!

Near the end of his life, the Old Testament prophet and judge Samuel spoke to his people. They had rebelliously asked God for a king, rejecting the Lord as their Ruler. Realizing some of the enormity of their sin, the people asked Samuel to pray for them. Here's how he responded:

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.
Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away.” (I Sam 12: 23-25)

I often remind myself of this passage which I think gives an example to fathers and mothers as well as other leaders. As a mother, two of my chief duties are to diligently instruct my sons and my daughters and to faithfully pray for them.

But do you ever wonder kind of impact your prayers and teaching are having? Do you sometimes grow weary in the hard work of mothering, especially in the work of spiritually training and praying for your children?

Tim Challies is currently writing a weekly series called "Christian Men and their Godly Mothers." He'll be posting a new article each Saturday. Start here with the introduction to the series.

Then read about Elizabeth Newton, a frail mother who died before her son was seven, yet left him with a spiritual legacy that lasted his lifetime.

Next you can read Amelia Taylor, mother of Hudson Taylor, who wrestled with God for the salvation of her wayward teenage son until God beautifully answered her prayers.

Even though I was familiar with these famous men, and to some extent their mothers, these stories  encouraged me. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series!

A Good Thing! (Really, really good!)

A week ago we had the great joy of witnessing the marriage vows of our oldest son Andrew to his beloved bride, Esther. 

The wedding took place in east Texas, which is absolutely lovely at this time of the year! Arriving in Texas a few days before the wedding, we were able to take in a bit of Nacogdoches, including the beautiful arboretum and magnolia gardens at Esther's alma mater, Stephen F. Austin State University.

Eliza, Jenny, Laurel, and Annie (granddaughters)
Amanda, Ben, Faith, Peter, and Paul

Our trip was a whirlwind, but one filled with continual reasons to overflow with gratitude to God for His many blessings. We were so thankful to be able to meet Esther's family and her church family, and to spend those days surrounded by all our children and granddaughters.

Jonathan and Peter were two of Andrew's groomsmen

But the sweetest of all, of course, was the beautiful wedding. For his sermon text, Esther's pastor choose Proverbs 18:22 which says, "He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord." Tears began to flow because this is the verse I've been praying for years for Andrew. Andrew and Esther have waited many years for each other, and I can't begin to describe the joy it is to watch both of them delight in each other, thankful to the Lord for bringing them together. I don't think either one ever stopped smiling! 

Except when they were kissing...

Oh no! Don't look!

My very dear friends, Mary Lee, Rachel, and Beth braved the 14 hour drive to be at the wedding!

As Andrew and Esther left the church, we formed a double line to toss colored confetti. My children took advantage of this to send them off in style. 

Amanda and Paul were ready!

Andrew's groomsman and oldest friend, Nathan, made this priceless video of the send-off. He aptly calls it "Revenge of the Siblings." Kristen (in the blue dress at the end) will be getting married in two months, so we'll see if her exuberance in dousing the bridal couple was wise or not. ;)

More on Math Facts

I had to use a tutorial to figure out
how to sew linings on three
little flower girl dresses

Maybe you'd like to paint your bathroom cabinets, sew a baby quilt, or learn how to make one of those snazzy Nutella spiral breads. Most likely your first step will be to search Pinterest for a tutorial.

Not long ago I wrote an introductory post about learning math facts. As I mentioned, some kids master math facts almost effortlessly. But for others, more work is required - both from them, and from their parents and/or teachers.  What I've wanted to do for some time is write a tutorial for teaching these kids addition and multiplication facts.

But writing any kind of tutorial is time-consuming. And with the first part of 2017 filled with wedding preparations for two of our kids, free time has been in short supply.

Happily, I've found an excellent addition math facts tutorial written by Kate Snow, a homeschool mom who has a math ed background.   "Everything You Need to Know to Teach Your Child the Addition Facts" is the best explanation I've seen of an approach that introduces and teaches addition in a common-sense, logical manner.

More than any other strategy, pay attention to step 1 - "Break it Up." Instead of expecting your child to learn all the math facts at once, teach +1 and practice those facts. Then teach +2. Then work on numbers that add up to 10. And so on.

Here let me add a couple of tools that will augment this. Print out a blank addition table like this one. Fill out the chart - but color code the various sets of facts by writing the numbers with colored pencils or markers. For example, the +1 and +2 problems could be blue and the "adding to 10" facts could be red.

Then, mark the facts that your child has mastered by shading those facts in. If he already knows +1 and +2, let him shade over all those boxes. Phew! Instantly the amount of facts she needs to learn looks less daunting! Each time he conquers a new set of facts, color in the boxes.

Next, make a set of triangle flashcards - with a twist. The twist is that you will use the same color code for these facts as you used on the chart. As you use these cards to drill, they will remind your child of the strategy for solving. I used manilla file folders for a set of sturdy flashcards that stood up through many children. Here's one *tutorial* for making triangle flashcards for multiplication and division facts. (I prefer mine to have rounded edges instead of the sharp ones shown here.) Of course, addition/subtraction cards are made in the same way. Just remember to color code them.

Mrs. Snow has numerous other helpful articles and resources. Check our "A Parent's Guide to the Most Useful Addition Strategies."   You might want to sign up for Kate's weekly newsletter, too. If you do, you'll get these three articles:
Should I Change My Homeschool Math Curriculum?
What to do When Your Homeschooler HATES Math
How to Teach Your Kids to Read Math (and Be More Independent, Too!)

Hurray! Now I can continue working on getting my family ready for wedding #1 this weekend in Texas!

When Learning is Hard

On my design board
Suppose, for example, you have a high schooler who tells you that stoichiometry makes no sense and must be done by voodoo, but you, who happen to have a degree in chemistry, think stoichiometry makes complete sense, so you proceed to tell him how very simple it is, not to mention fun. It's like Sudoku! Or Kenken! you tell him exuberantly. Until you remember that for some strange reason he takes no pleasure in math puzzles either. And then you seem to recall, neither fairly or accurately, that none of his seven older siblings had difficulty with stoichiometry, so what's his problem, anyway?

Yes - something along these lines was going on in my head last week as I worked with a bewildered son who did make some comparison between stoichiometry and voodoo. And I might have said something about how simple it really is.

At that point it became clear I needed to step back and reevaluate. Was the problem a lack of effort on his part? Well, yes, to some extent. But not entirely. (And his father spent some time addressing this!) But as I reflected, I realized I had done a poor job teaching this and some other chemistry concepts, flying through material which seems so obvious to me. So instead of pressing on, we backtracked to the point at which my son had become confused and spent a couple of days working through foundational material.

Phew. I think it's starting to come together now for him. Though yes, he still needs to apply himself thoroughly to conquer this subject for which he holds little love.

Why am I telling this story?

Because similar scenarios happen routinely in homeschools. Sometimes kids inhale knowledge and rapidly move on to the next level. Other times you watch a child go over the same material day after day, and you wonder if he will ever catch on. I had one child who learned to read before he was four and another who needed a year of intensive phonics at age eight to help him break the code.

When a child struggles to learn, there can be all sorts of reasons, including these:
- Maybe he just needs a bit more time or maturity
- Maybe he's not working hard enough
- Maybe he has some kind of processing difficulty
- Maybe the teacher did an inadequate job teaching the material in the first place
- Or maybe there is some combination of several of these

If one of your children is struggling with math facts, chemistry, reading, spelling, or something else, pause and reevaluate. Do some analysis and try to discern what is going on. Sometimes you can put the difficult material on hold for a while. Often my beginning readers would hit a plateau and need to park at a certain place for a while. Rather than hurrying through their reading program, I'd just find reading material on that level for a while without trying to introduce anything new.

Frequently, though, you'll need to try to figure out what is causing a roadblock. In the case of my son and chemistry, I had to find out the point at which he had gotten lost. After going back to that spot and making sure he understood some concepts from a previous chapter, he was ready to move forward. If you have a child struggling with math, often you can best help by finding a different way to present the material.

I have some suggestions (and some helpful links) specifically about teaching math facts for a future post, but here's one final thought about learning difficulties.

Struggle is a natural part of learning. Some kids struggle more than others, but all of them will butt their heads against some part of their academics. Yes, you as a parent, whether or not you are homeschooling, need to take measures to figure out exactly what issues are involved. But beyond that, remember that struggle isn't all negative.  Because as Mystie Winkler so wonderfully writes, "Math is Character Building"

Struggle, in fact, is often the best soil for a young person's growth and maturity.  My son who had the most difficulty learning to read? Having to work harder than his siblings to overcome his dyslexia produced the fruit of self-discipline, perseverance, and a work ethic that pays off time and again. (He's about to graduate from from college with a triple major and this summer will join the accounting office of a major corporation.)  So when your children struggle, don't panic but take a deep breath, give thanks for this opportunity, and make plans to move forward!

Just the Facts, Ma'am!

Did you know there's a controversy about how children should learn basic math facts? Some say kids should learn addition and multiplication tables through repetitive drill. Others feel they will absorb this information by osmosis as they solve problems. And still others think the answer lies somewhere betwixt these two.

Here's the part everyone agrees on: all kids need to (eventually) learn basic addition and multiplication facts.

Here's what folks disagree about: WHEN and HOW and TO WHAT EXTENT this should happen.

Math wars rage between progressives who favor "discovery learning" and  "arithmetical fundamentalists" (don't you love that!) who see a good bit of value in repetition and, yes, drill. 

Stanford math education professor Jo Boaler, author of a paper called "Fluency without Fear," argues for a deemphasis on memorization and drill:
While research shows that knowledge of math facts is important, Boaler said the best way for students to know math facts is by using them regularly and developing understanding of numerical relations. Memorization, speed and test pressure can be damaging, she added. (Learn Math Without Fear)
Others disagree with this idea.
One critic of the [Canadian] government’s adoption of “discovery-based learning,” Ken Porteous, a retired engineering professor, put it bluntly: “There is nothing to discover. The tried and true methods of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division work just fine as they have for centuries. There is no benefit and in fact a huge downside to students being asked to discover other methods of performing these operations and picking the one which they like. This just leads to confusion which ultimately translates into frustration, a strong dislike for mathematics and a desire to drop out of any form of mathematics course at the earliest opportunity.”  (Math Wars)

Which philosophy do I subscribe to? Both, actually. Of course I want my children to "develop understanding of numerical relations," and thus my young children spent a good bit of time in math play. Messing around with Cuisinaire rods, for example, helps develop a sense that 5+3=8 without hardly thinking about it. They just knew that a yellow rod and a light green one are the same length as a brown rod. And playing math games with preschoolers and primary aged children also goes a long way towards painless acquisition of math facts.

BUT - drill with triangle flashcards, wrap-ups, and Calculadder sheets, and even computer games was also an essential part of each one of my children's early math education.

Because no matter which approach you (or your child's school) takes, the reality is that by about fourth grade, children who don't have their facts mastered start falling behind. Counting on fingers may be just fine for first graders, but by the time kids are doing long-division, that won't cut it. And no, calculators aren't the answer. Kids need enough proficiency with arithmetic to determine if their calculators answers are even in the ballpark.  (And did you know that calculators are banned from certain sections of college admission tests and even from a number of college math courses including many calc classes?)

Some kids absorb math facts very readily and need little drill. For others, learning the addition and multiplication tables is painful! I've had children who feel into both categories. Recently I've had questions from a couple of moms about what to do when a child struggles more than his peers.

So, as time allows, I'm planning to write about teaching math facts using teams (math families), tools, and tricks.

In the meanwhile, you might want to take a look at this article on the Living Math website.

Job's Tears - longest WIP ever

Long, long ago, back when I had only three children, I started a quilt called Job's Tears. It was a beautiful pattern, but for many reasons, I was unable to bring it to completion. (Like six more children! And all those curves made this pattern an overly ambitious design for this young quilter.) So the completed patches and the remaining fabric languished in a plastic container for a decade. And another. And half of another.

Fast forward to a new phase of life. While those nine children still give me plenty to do, time for sewing is happening once more. So this summer out from the box came this quilt which I wanted to finish for a Christmas gift.

The fabrics are unlike those being sold today. In general, I'm moving in a more modern direction, but I still like the vintage feel of these. It was hard to find border and binding fabrics that would look right, though! Even the colors being produced these days are different from those 25 years ago.

So I finished up the blocks, added some borders, worked and reworked those wedges for the corners, and then quilted it using my new Juki TL 2010-q. That new machine makes quilting large quilts so much easier! I even tried a feather border pattern in the outer white border.

About the time I was putting the finishing touches on this quilt, I happened to be reading through the book of Job. This has always been a difficult book of the Bible for me. As a younger woman I found it hard to get past the fact that all of Job's ten children were killed. All his CHILDREN! ALL his children! I'd think, even as I made my way through to the end. In more recent years I read with a growing frustration at the "advice" from Job's three older friends.

For some reason this time it was different. First, maybe because I happened to be reading a different translation than normal, or just because I'm older, I noticed and loved the poetry. But more than that, the theme of the book shouted: God is GOD! This message shows through Job himself, through the words of his young friend, Elihu, and then most especially through God's response to Job. Yes, indeed! God is God! (And I am not!) I may not always understand His ways, but I know He is sovereign and His ways are good and righteous!

Finally, tonight I found a song called "God is God" by Stephen Curtis Chapman which beautifully expresses this truth. HE is God! All praise be to Him!