I Blinked...

It's the sentence every overwhelmed young mom hates to hear:

"They grow up so fast!"

Sometimes the words sound a bit different, but the gist is the same.  "Enjoy them while they're young," with an implied, semi-ominous, "Because before you know it..."

As an older mom, I've been surprised by how much I want to pass on this startling insight to young moms. Instead I bite my tongue, knowing such "wisdom" isn't uber-helpful to an exhausted mom who feels some days last an eternity.

But I'm living through one of those times when the reality is inescapable.

Though some individual days and weeks take eons, added together, the eighteen years of childhood move with lightning speed!

Amanda with best friend (and sister) Faith

Last weekend we moved Amanda, our sixth child, up north to attend Purdue.

Moving in

Wasn't it only yesterday she was a toddler tornado creating havoc with paint and scissors?

It took a while, but in time I came to believe she was only trying to create something. She had an innate sense for finding paint stashed away in various places around the house. Her desires to create exceeded her judgment and ability, but she's always been an aspiring artist.

Today, instead of making messes, she creates lovely things.

Amanda also delights in bringing order to places. From a young age she has enjoyed organizing closets, the food pantry, and other spaces. Do I need to tell you how wonderful this is? Just for fun, this girl has often spontaneously picked a place to reorganize and tidy, leaving not chaos but streamlined orderliness behind!

Guess what she's studying at Purdue? Interior Design, where she gets to draw and paint and design spaces on computers to her heart's content, plus figure out how to craft spaces for maximum usefulness and harmony. This area of study seems a good marriage of her love of beauty and order.

Amanda is named for my great-grandmother, Amanda Belle Ellis. Amanda Belle was a pastor's wife who raised six sons and six daughters. She was a large and gentle woman with a big heart who expressed her creativity through quilt making. Amanda Hope is a tiny and gentle woman with a big heart who expresses her creativity through paint, fabric, spaces, and just about anything she can get her hands on.

As Amanda has matured, it has been wonderful to watch her use her ever-increasing abilities to bring joy to others. She has delighted to help remodel and restore various spaces both in our home and in others'. It is our hope that her training at Purdue will only further her abilities and usefulness in these ways, while also giving her opportunities to grow in the Lord.

Before she ever made the decision to attend Purdue, Amanda (along with her dad and two beloved mentors) made several trips on Sundays to Lafayette to visit churches. Having settled on one, she downloaded and listened to many of her new pastor's sermons during the summer. It's only been a week, but wow - this church has done so much to help our daughter feel at home in her new town! There's good solid teaching and great fellowship, with a deep commitment to serving the local church. We're thankful!

Not that many years ago

OK - I'm biting my tongue here, trying not to tell you young moms to --well -- you know what!  My dad used to put it to me in a different way. When all our children were little he would say, "Drink ye deep!" I like that. So, yeah, "drink ye deep." Love those years with littles! But then be ready for the years with bigs, too.

Yes, you blink, and suddenly your children have grown up. It's inevitable. And it's good. For our goal isn't to raise children who remain children, but, by the grace of God, children who grow up to become mature, godly men and women. Rather than wring my hands over seeing another child entering adulthood, I'm going to give thanks for His work in her life and look forward to seeing the next chapters.

Colossians 1: 9-14 For this reason also, since the day we heard of itwe have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,  so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.

Two Critical Things to Pray for Your Children

Dune sunflower

What do you pray for your children? I pray about all sorts of things - salvation, future spouses, godly friends, Christ-like character, growth through trials, escape from temptation, and so much more. As part of my daily prayer card plan, I have 31 different cards with scripture reminding me of various matters to bring before the Lord concerning my children.

But I want to tell you about one simple and profound prayer that I think encapsulates essential truth.

I wish I could say that Tim and I have been praying this for years for each of our children, but it's only recently become a staple in our prayer chest. We learned this prayer from our pastor, Tim Bayly, who regularly prayed it for his children.

So what is it?

Pray that your children will hate their sin and love the Savior.

That's it. Two critical things.

So why should we pray that our children will hate their sin?

Our kids (like we do!) need to recognize their sin, hate it, and turn from it.

Children raised in Christian homes frequently have trouble seeing themselves as sinners. They all too often grow up as little Pharisees, able to see the sin of others around them, but thinking they are clean. I see this all the time in my own children and others - from the 3 year old who recently told me, "I'm not a sinner; I'm obedient!" to older kids who are too sophisticated to actually say that but act just the same.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.       (I John 1:8 )

Pray that your children will see their own sin (not their brother's!) and grieve over it.

Because until they recognize their sin, they will not truly have a need for the Savior.

And that's the second thing we need to pray - that they will love Him who gave His own life for the punishment of their sin.

Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deut 6:4, 5)
Love responds with obedience.
 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14: 15)

Praying for our children to hate their sin and love the Saviour is just another way of praying that they will have hearts of flesh and not hearts of stone.

 Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Ex. 36:26.)

Charles Spurgeon talks about how hatred for our sin and love for God are entwined and result from the state of our heart:
In the fleshy heart there is a tenderness of the affections. The hard heart does not love the Redeemer, but the renewed heart burns with affection towards him. The hard heart is selfish and coldly demands, "Why should I weep for sin? Why should I love the Lord?" But the heart of flesh says: "Lord, though knowest that I love thee; help me to love thee more!"

Dear mothers, give yourselves to praying for your children! And as you do, frequently pray that they will hate their sin but love the Savior!

You who love the LORD, hate evil! (Ps. 97:10)

Scraptasia! (A Cautionary Tale)

This is a cautionary tale of how one small quilt project grew into five quilts plus a couple of pillows.

And all because I couldn't bear to see some scraps go to waste.

It began with this twin quilt.
Quilt #1. (Shown not in kids' guest room but another bedroom.)

 I thought it would be a fun project, one that I could experiment with "big stitch" hand quilting. Maybe it would work for our children's guest room? Yes, it would do fine.

But for some reason I couldn't stop there. Oh, those lovely scraps of "Quilter's Candy Mirage" from Connecting Threads! What to do with them?

Well, there is a toddler bed in the children's guest room, so why not see if I could pull together something for that small bed?

And this little one was born. Yes, it's off center. On purpose. I'm getting more and more fond of wonkiness in quilting. But some in my family find the asymmetry unsettling. Oh well!

Quilt #2

By this time, it was clear I'd need to make a second floating star twin quilt for the upper bunk. What good was there in having two quilts that matched but left the third bed out in the cold?

So I made a second. (Or perhaps I should say "am making." It's pieced, but I'm still quilting it. By now I'm a huge fan of big stitch quilting. It's perfect for a busy, impatient woman!)

Quilt #3: 2nd star quilt in PVC lap quilt frame

Which left another pile of gorgeous scraps.

Which meant one thing: I needed to make another crib quilt. After all, there's a crib in the other guest room next door!

And that's how this starflower quilt came into existence.
Quilt #4 

But still there were scraps! What to do?

Pillows! I'd recently seen Rachel Hauser's beautiful "Ziggy Strings" tutorial and been intrigued.

Wait! I told you there were five quilts, but I've only shown four!

Faith, not to be outdone in the use of scraps, decided to make a quilt for a sweet foster baby using some of the cream scraps plus various other fabrics left from other projects. And here's what she came up with!

Faith's quilt, still in progress (binding not finished); book covers embroidered name.
(Blogger insists on turning this picture sideways!)

I thought we were done there, but all this stash-busting motivated me to actually organize the jumbled boxes of fabric tucked away on my basement shelves, which then led to another quilt... But more on that later!

July Links: Math Mania

I love teaching math! That's hardly a surprise since math was always my favorite subject before I discovered the even greater thrill of applied math in the study of chemistry. Faith, a senior this year, is exploring the possibility of studying secondary math education in college. Woohoo!

Since we're all gearing up for a new school year, I figured this was as good a time as any to share some great links about math education.

Articles Worth Reading

Six Reasons Why Singapore Math Might Just Be the Better Way
We've been using Singapore Math for fifteen years, and this article lays out why it is superior to most other approaches for elementary math. Any decent math program should teach numerical literacy. But math ought to be about so much more, including building logical thinking patterns. (Watch, for example, the answer to a Singapore math question which went viral which is highlighted in this article.)

"Who Says Math Has to Be Boring"  - New York Times article with some reasons why so many kids get turned off to math somewhere between kindergarten and high school. (Not that all the suggested "fixes" are all that great. For instance, the writer wrongheadedly seems to think full-day preschool is a solution!) But there's still some interesting stuff. Here's a bit:
A new study, by researchers at the University of Missouri, showed that the most important factor that predicted math success in middle school and upward was an understanding of what numbers are before entering the first grade. Having “number system knowledge” in kindergarten or earlier — grasping that a numeral represents a quantity, and understanding the relationships among numbers — was a more important factor in math success by seventh grade than intelligence, race or income.
Math manipulatives (counting bears) have taken on new life as game counters in our family


Some help for this essential topic, one that trips up many students.

From the Wall Street Journal : "New Approaches to Teaching Fractions"
Fractions create a wall which many students fail to conquer. And without knowing how to manipulate ordinary fractions, handling algebra becomes impossible.

Here's a sample:
A child's knowledge of fractions in fifth grade predicts performance in high-school math classes, even after controlling for IQ, reading achievement, working memory, family income and education, and knowledge of whole numbers, according to a 2012 study led by Bob Siegler, a professor of cognitive psychology at Carnegie Mellon University.

Visual Fraction Games - Teaches fractions via a number line (as suggested in the article above) with games like  "Find Grampy."

Free Fraction Strips - printable fraction "bars"

Mastering the  Facts

"Dad's Eight Simple Rules for Mastering the Times Tables" : Seven simple rules such as
Rule #7: The Nine Rule - Tens is Number Minus One, Ones is Nine Minus Tens
Using these rules will cut the number of facts to memorize from 100 down to 10.

Teach your kids how to use their 9's calculator! (Yes - your two hands make a "Nifty Nine's Calculator." And you always have it with you.) All of our kids have used this simple, fun trick.
7 x 9 = 63Fingers are numbered 1-10 from L -> R
Finger 7 is bent because we are multiplying by 7
# fingers to left = 6 (tens); # fingers to right = 3 ones = 63

John Woodward's site for Teaching Math Facts: This one is not visually exciting, but if you can wade through it, you'll find gold in the helpful articles on a logical plan for teaching math facts along with downloadable PDFs worksheets. There's good stuff here!

Triangle flashcards color coded by family
(Here: teal = square numbers; green = x 3s; purple = x 9s.)

Triangle Flashcards: Triangle flashcards are more versatile than traditional rectangle ones because you use one set for inverse operations. Which means the same card can be used for both addition and subtraction (or another for multiplication and division) by covering a different part of the card. You can print these for multiplication/division and these for addition/subtraction. Or simply cut out your own triangles from manila file folders and craft your own. Doing that allows you to color code the cards in a way that matches how your child has learned the facts: 2s, 3s, 4s, doubles, etc.

Living Math (Teaching math with literature)

Living Math
Teach math from literature? You've got to be kidding! No, really. But maybe instead would be a nice way to provide a change of pace for a few weeks.

Living Math Book List. Search by categories such as calendars, multiplication, metrics, and estimation. You'll find several book titles for each topic. (Some of this website seems to be down for maintenance, but I was still able to access the book lists.)

Living Books Library Top Picks for Living Math

Just for Fun:

This is really sweet! Make 9 square cookie puzzles with chocolate and vanilla cookie dough as you help build spatial skills. Find instructions at Almost Unschoolers blog.

Hexaflexagons! What is a hexaflexagon? Watch the video, and I'll bet you'll want to make one yourself. Very cool!


Ten Free Math File Folder Games: cute games for young children will help as they learn to count, fractions, addition, skip counting, and more.

Math is Fun: games (such as chess), puzzles (including the famous Tower of Hanoi), and activities organized topically

Multiplication.com : Games for multiplication drill

And More...

I've mentioned this before, but my favorite math blog is Math=Love. If you are teaching algebra, look no further for incredibly helpful tips on teaching this subject, especially if you would like to have your students create Interactive Notebooks.

"Favorite Free Resources for Teaching Math" from Karen at Living Unabridged. Online games, printables, algebra help, and more from one of my favorite bloggers.

Some of my previous math posts:

Choosing a Math Curriculum

Super Supplements for Math

Resources for Teaching Logic and Thinking Skills to PK-Elementary Students

Algebra Love  (Interactive Notebooks)

Co-op Book Club: 2014-2015

Students toss eggs as part of our Around the World in 80 Days book club

Book Club, Book Club - oh how we love you!

Once a month instead of having our regular co-op activities, we meet for Book Club. This past year we again had two levels: older students from  5th  -8th grade and younger ones from 4 years-3rd grade. (Books for the younger ones are listed at the end of this post.)

We're about to start in on Year 4 of Book Club, so I figured it's high time I write a bit about Year 3.

As always, Book Club provided excellent discussions about everything from the meaning of real courage to  plus plenty of active fun!

Does the idea of leading a literary discussion intimidate you? It does me at times! This summer a few of us have been going through Adam Andrew's excellent Teaching the Classics seminar. We chipped in together to buy the DVDs, and then each one purchased her own workbook. If you need help in knowing how to lead book discussions and using literature to inspire deeper thought and analysis, this is a great course! If possible, watch it with some friends. That way you can share not only the cost, but also have the opportunity for some great discussions yourselves.

OK, here's a rundown of where the older group has been this past year. We were finishing our second year of a 2-year world geography course, so again our books have something of an international flavor.

The House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert DeJong
1957 Newbery Honor book

I love this heartwarming story set in China during WWII. We follow the travails of Tien Pao (and his pig - Glory of the Republic!) as they become separated from his family in Japanese-controlled China. An American airman befriends Tien Pao, but there are many heart-wrenching ins and outs before all is resolved. This is based on true story of a young boy adopted by a squadron of American flyers though in real life things weren't quite as neat and tidy as in the book.

Activities included taste testing some of the foods Tien Pao survived on: leaves, grass, and dirt. Yum. The kids also had a contest to see who could consume a portion of rice most quickly.

Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry
This short book set in Polynesia features Mafatu, a Polynesian boy who fears the ocean. The 1941 Newbery winner, this short book led to a good discussion about whether or not Mafatu showed courage in leaving his home and sailing out to the unknown.
Our children then watched the Disney movie based on this book and mostly laughed at it, especially when they noticed silly "extrabookular" details like goggles made bones.


The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell

A historical fiction piece, The King's Fifth tells the tale of Esteban de Sandoval, a young 
mapmaker with Cornado. Esteban, writing from prison, tells how he and six others had 
set out in search of treasure and the famous cities of Cibola in the American Southwest. 
Characters include an Indian girl, Zia, and a desparate gold-hunter, Captain Mendoza. 
Over time, readers will see the bitter fruit that comes from greed in the lives of each of 
the characters except for Zia.

Our students sampled homemade beef aspic (muleskin stew) and were surprised to learn that stock made from animal bones takes on a gelatinous consistency. To wash away the taste of the beef gelatin, they then had a delicious berry crumble. Esteban was a cartographer, so the students tried a craft which replicated the way he signed his maps. We made bookmarks by painting designs on thick paper, and then drying the egg white with a hair dryer, sprinkling cork ash on top, and rubbing it all with wool.


Pearl Buck story: Christmas Day in the Morning

In December we gathered all the children together to listen to this short story written by Pearl Buck. 

Grade 3-5-Originally published in 1955, this story has been illustrated and brought to life for a new generation. A man remembers a great discovery he made when he was 15 and living on his father's farm. A few days before Christmas he overhears his dad saying how much he hates having to wake his son at dawn for morning chores. As a special gift for his father, the boy gets up at a quarter to three on Christmas morning and does the milking by himself. Buehner illustrates these scenes, many taking place at night and illuminated by lanterns or by moonlight, with a sturdy, folksy, old-fashioned solidity. The hard life on a farm, the struggle to keep the family and animals warm and fed, is reflected on the parents' faces. Moving and tender, this is a fine choice for reading aloud or family sharing.-S. P.

We played a number of parlor games including a shadow guessing game. One child was chosen to be the guesser and sat in front of a suspended bed sheet. All the other children stayed out or sight around a corner. One (or two) were chosen to stand behind the sheet, making some kind of silly actions which would disguise the identity of the poser. The guessing child had to try to determine who was behind the sheet. Great fun!


Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle

Howard Pyle is best known as an illustrator, but he also wrote a number of wonderful books including Men of Iron, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, and Otto of the Silver Hand, all of which are set in the Middle Ages.

Pyle's books are all public domain, so it is easy to find free ebooks. However, since his illustrations are top-notch, make sure to find versions with the pictures or just go with a print copy. Often you can find reasonably priced old hardbacks.

Discussion this time focused on when exactly did the climax occur? Who were the protagonist and antagonist? (After watching some of Teaching the Classics lessons, we realized that "it depends." There can be a number of different conflicts within a given piece of literature. And each separate conflict might have a different climax.) Anyway, this was one of those books which led to a vigorous, involved back and forth between the students, which is always great to see!

And what did we DO? Make silver hands, of course!

From what? What else than duct tape!

Showing off their removable silver hands


Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
Shipwrecked by Rhoda Blumberg]

This month we had two related titles. Both tell the true story of a young Japanese sailor, who in 1841, along with several sailing companions, was shipwrecked and washed up onto a tiny island far from their homes. An American whaling ship rescued the men, and Manjiro eventually ends up living in New England as the adopted son of the American captain who found him.

Eventually Manjiro ends up returning to Japan and he was instrumental in the opening of Japan to westerns. Absolutely fascinating story!

What do my sons remember from the activities this book club? Throwing "harpoons" into snowbanks!


The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia by Esther Hautzig

Yet another true story, this one tells what happened to Esther and her family when
they were arrested and taken to Siberia in 1941, leaving behind their very privileged 
life in Poland. From 10-14 she lived with her mother and grandparents in harsh conditions, 
but as the book progresses, Esther learns how to do more than merely survive.

During Book Club, the children learned more about the author and watched a documentary 
based on her life.

I'm getting long-winded, so I'll finish this summary off in a bit with one more post about our last two books.

Books the younger kids enjoyed:

Lionel and the Book of Beasts by E. Nesbit
A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald 
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Brisley
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren  
The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame

Links to posts about previous years' book club meetings:

Homer Price, Survival books, An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Snow Treasure, Peter Pan, The Enchanted Castle, Bears of Blue River

Part I :Twenty-One Balloons, Betsy-Tacy, Red Hugh, House of Arden

Part II: Stories of Don Quixote; Carry On, Mr. Bowditch; Just So Stories + Rikki Tikki Tavi; Star of Light

Part III: A Wrinkle in Time

Part IV: The Hobbit

The Duties of Parents

Tim carries a reluctant hiker in western Canada some years ago.

Parenting takes courage. It requires stamina and fortitude. Above all, it necessitates faith.

Book after book has been written telling us how to raise children. Under the "Family" tab at Christian Book Distributors, I came up with 507 pages! In the 30 years we've been parents, Tim and I have read a number of such books. But of all these there is one that stands far, far above all the rest. I believe it to be the most important book on Christian parenting ever.  It's not new, trendy, or heavily marketed. In fact, you can read it for free. And did I mention that it is very short?

What book(let) is this?

J. C. Ryle's The Duties of Parents

Bishop Ryle, a 19th century evangelical Anglican pastor, describes what parents must do in seventeen statements which he then explains more fully. Here are the seventeen points:

1. First, then, if you would train your children rightly, train them in the way they should go, and not in the way that they would.

2. Train up your child with all tenderness, affection, and patience. I do not mean that you are to spoil him, but I do mean that you should let him see that you love him.

3. Train your children with an abiding persuasion on your mind that much depends upon you.

4. Train with this thought continually before your eyes--that the soul of your child is the first thing to be considered.

5. Train your child to a knowledge of the Bible.  

Screensaver recently put on family computer by the formerly moody hiker.
He's growing up!

6. Train them to a habit of prayer. 

7. Train them to habits of diligence, and regularity about public means of grace.

8. Train them to a habit of faith.

9. Train them to a habit of obedience.

10. Train them to a habit of always speaking the truth.

11. Train them to a habit of always redeeming the time.

12. Train them with a constant fear of over-indulgence.

13. Train them remembering continually how God trains His children.

14. Train them remembering continually the influence of your own example.

15. Train them remembering continually the power of sin.

16. Train them remembering continually the promises of Scripture.

17. Train them, lastly, with continual prayer for a blessing on all you do.

Print yourself a copy of Ryle's exceedingly helpful book. (It should take only around 20 pages.) Then read it. Pray through it. And consider re-reading annually!