Summertime, Summertime, Sum, Sum, Summertime: A Quilt Finish

Stepping off the front porch to pick some fresh fruit for breakfast is one of my favorite simple summer pleasures. Raspberry and blueberry bushes line the front of our house, with more bushes in the backyard. The raspberries have been producing for several weeks, but the blueberries are just coming on. Nothing beats some just-picked berries in a bowl of oatmeal, a cup of yogurt, or hot muffins or scones.

Our nectarine tree was looking really promising this year, but alas, all the fruit disappeared one night, almost certainly thanks to a 'coon. The same thing happened with our cherries, though we were able to collect a bowlful of the first to ripen before the varmint discovered them one night.

Inspired by these and other lovely summer fruits, I made a wild and crazy summer quilt I've called "Fruit Salad."

Fruit Salad quilt

The pattern is called Summer Slice, and it's available free from Cluck, Cluck, Sew. (Yes - this is the third pattern I've used from that site! I really like Allison Harris's simple, modern, and fun style!)

Since there's such a riot of color, I kept the quilting simple with a basic all-over meander pattern.
Once it was washed, it took on a lovely, crinkly texture. 

All the fabrics were left from other projects, especially my granddaughter's Christmas jackets (featured here and here), so the only thing I had to buy was the backing.  As I've been doing recently for throw quilts, I again used a non-pill fleece for the backing. This options is less expensive than batting and fabric, but yields a wonderfully cozy quilt, just right for snuggling under, say on a wet, cool summer evening.

26 Years of Homeschooling: Then and Now

Our first schoolroom (Also the dining room)

Wowza! Tim and I have now been homeschooling for more than a quarter of a century. Yes, that means we are getting old, but we still have a few more years to go. (Five to be exact. And yes, we are definitely counting!)

Our family, homeschooling, and the world in general have undergone enormous changes in these 26 years. It's been kind of fun to reminisce about they way things were then and now. Here are some of the things I've been remembering.

1990-1991  vs. 2016-2017 school years 

President George H. W. Bush was in the second year of his presidency. He had only recently succeeded Ronald Regan.

NOW - U.S.
Donald Trump rather unexpectedly defeated Hilary Clinton and is serving the first year of his presidency. What a crazy ride it has been already! Trying to steady the ship is Vice President, Mike Pence.

THEN - World
East and West Germany reunited a few days after we started school in August.

NOW - World
Last summer Great Britain voted to leave the European Union. ISIS threatens security in the West. Syria continues to disintegrate. Venezuela is collapsing.

Baby Kristen loved just hanging out
near the school action
THEN - Our family
We had three children: 5, 4, baby, and we lived in a little house tucked into a small mountain cove in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina. Our kids liked to wander up the mountain and play in the little rill that ran down it. We met many snakes, but never any black bears, though some did roam the mountains.

NOW - Our family
This year we had only two children at home: 16 and 13. (Plus three in college and four adult children). We've made our home on a farm in southern Indiana for the past couple of decades. No bears around here, but plenty of turkey and deer. Some things don't change: Ben, our youngest, still spends plenty of time exploring the creek in our front yard.

THEN - Technology
Tim had an IBM clone that ran DOS, and I didn't yet have a computer. We were a couple of years away from hooking into email and the internet via AOL. When I needed to make copies, I ran to Kinkos or the church office where Tim worked. Our kids loved to listen to music and stories on cassette tapes. That was the extent of our technology!

Paul's life improved  immensely when
we bought headphones long enough
to allow him to attend his algebra II
online class and still reach
the fridge
NOW - Technology
I think we have four computers running in the house now plus a couple of tablets. I don't know if we would have been able to homeschool through high school without all the resources made available by the internet these past years. Most importantly, we rely fairly heavily on The Potter's School for wonderful, live classes as our children hit junior and senior high, especially for English classes. Add to that Google research, online purchasing of books and supplies, and the ability to find help and inspiration from others in forums and social media, and the way we homeschool in 2017  looks so very different from 1990!

THEN - Homeschool curricula
When we started homeschooling, I gathered catalogs from just about every homeschool supplier. This wasn't hard to do back then, as the number of people selling materials to homeschoolers was very, very limited. Finding material was sometimes difficult, but making curriculum decisions thus was pretty easy. You didn't have to decide if you preferred Charlotte Mason, Classical, eclectic, traditional, or unschooling. Most of those terms didn't really exist, or at least weren't known by most of us trying to teach our kids. Early homeschoolers generally fell into the "school at home" camp or the "anything but school at home." (I.e. unit studies, living books, etc.) For our first many years we used KONOS, a character-trait unit study program with a wonderful combination of hands-on projects, discovery learning, and oodles of good books.

Studying Indians in the early days

NOW - Homeschool curricula
Finding good curricula has become challenging for a new reason - the options are seemingly endless! Rainbow Resource, a major homeschool supplier, now publishes their catalog in two giant volumes which they mail out in two successive years! Of course the internet, blogs, and Pinterest, provide limitless inspiration and resources as well (if you can keep from getting distracted and losing focus.) As a product reviewer for Practical Homeschooling magazine, I have the opportunity to test out many new products, some of which are duds, but others which make their way into our lineup.

With our two students in junior and senior high, our methods of instruction look different than back when learning about the ear meant making a model large enough to crawl through. With our older kids we outsource a number of classes to our online school or community college. But just as back in our first year, high-quality books play a major role in all we do.

Cool! Andrew just found the lens from the cow's eyeball
THEN - Purpose
We started homeschooling because we wanted to intentionally teach our children to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength while providing a well-rounded education. We also desired to help our children grow in Christ-like character and to give them tools to learn and help them to love learning.

NOW - Purpose
We're still homeschooling for those reasons, plus we've appreciated being able to customize the education for each one. Overall we're encouraged by the results. Though we are more aware of the downsides to homeschooling than ever, this method of educating our children works well for our family. Most of all, we're thankful for the freedom parents have to choose from a variety of schooling options.

Peruvian Village Quilt

I'm partial to house quilts, so when I saw the Suburbs pattern by Allison Harris from Cluck Cluck Sew, I fell for it immediately. But instead of an American suburb, I wondered if I could instead create a Peruvian-inspired village and make something for Ben and Kristen to use in their new home. (Their wedding is in one week!)

Night in Ollantaytambo throw quilt

Kristen and I took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Peru back in September before she and Ben were engaged. Even then, though, I knew our days for such a mother-daughter trip were limited, which made it extra special. (You can read about our travels here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

Ollantaybambo is the Andean village that we made home for the bulk of our trip. We loved this ancient place which spills down a mountainside! Not all the houses in town were not quite as colorful as the ones in my quilt version, but some definitely leaned toward warm pastels. To guide my fabric selections for the quilt, I made an inspiration board with photos from our trip.

Here's the view we had from outside the apartment we stayed in.


Before we arrived in the Andes we had spent about 24 hours in Lima. Rather than take in typical tourist attractions in the capital city, we (mostly accidentally) lodged at a small Peruvian hotel off the beaten path in a commercial/residential area. From our hotel base, we took numerous walks in the surrounding neighborhoods filled with little parks, houses, and small shopping areas. It was lovely! Among other things, we were impressed with the beautiful, ornate garage doors on the houses. Clearly these doors were handcrafted, not picked up from the local Garages Doors Plus dealer!

Typical Lima house with beautiful door

As an homage to the Liman door artistry, I quilted a wide variety of designs on the village house doors.

It's hard to see, but this door has a wood grain pattern.

And because I hope Kristen and Ben will enjoy snuggling under this quilt, I backed it with cozy fleece. I quilted clouds in the sky area and a simple double loop pattern in the white space. Even in Atlanta, it will sometimes get cold enough to want something warm to wrap up with, right?

Graudation/ Wedding/ Mother's Day Mashup

With a passel of kids, it seems that major life events often come right on top of one another. Take this weekend, for example.

First, Peter graduated from IU's Kelley School of Business!

How wonderful to see God's grace in Peter's life these past four years! Somehow Peter managed a triple major (accounting, business analytics, and technology management) while working every semester. Peter also ran cross country and track with the IU Run Club and was active in our church's college group, ClearNote Campus Fellowship (CNCF.)

We are so thankful for God's faithfulness to Peter, helping this young man grow in godliness while gaining accounting skills and other business knowledge.

Peter will be moving to Minneapolis in July to join Target's accounting department. (P.S. If you have any recommendations for a good church in Minneapolis, please drop me a note! Peter's doing research, but we'd love some personal input.)

Events so often come in bunches! Sometimes it has been the strangeness of having joyful events as the same time as anxiety or even grief. Like when two of our kids graduated from college the same week a younger brother and their grandfather were hospitalized. Or the year when a family member took her life and a grandfather died in the busy days before a daughter's wedding

But this year, our other events of this mashup weekend were happy ones!

On Saturday, while Tim was at Peter's actual graduation, I was hosting a bridal shower for Kristen. (Peter wasn't originally going to go through the mass ceremony, as the important part for him was a business school ceremony the night before. Several of us were able to be at that more personal event.)

What joy to share this special time with ladies from our church who have known and loved Kristen through the years! Oldest sister, Kara, shared a wonderful devotional with biblical and practical advice about how to love your husband, forgive quickly, and serve as his helpmate.

And finally, because eight of our kids were here this weekend, they planned an early Mother's Day surprise. After the big events on Saturday were finished, Tim told me we were going for a walk on a trail in a neighboring town. I was tired! Still, I took him up on it without suspicion. He'd been asked, you see, to get me out of the house for a while.

And here's what I saw when we came home!

Seven gorgeous hanging flower baskets now fill all the slots on my porch!

I'm pretty sure our family isn't unique in having plenty of mashup times where so many different things take place at once, our heads are spinning. Most likely, you have those times as well. Though sometimes I'd like to slow the world down and take things one at a time, that's not what God has purposed for me. I'm so very thankful for His presence and grace for each day, no matter what that day brings.

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; 
He will never let the righteous be shaken.  
Psalm 55: 22 


Testing 1,2,3...

These are some of the rowdies who kept our schooldays lively.
Today these are my three college students.

Many states require homeschoolers to take standardized tests. Happily, Indiana is not one of those states. Nonetheless, for a variety of reasons, since our oldest was in first grade, every other spring we've chosen to have our 1st-8th grade children take some type of standardized test. We've used both the Stanford Achievement Test and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

I've always dreaded testing years. When we had many children at home it was a logistical nightmare. Would we combine with several other families? Send the kids to a Christian school for testing? Test only our own children at home? (We've done all of these.) Somewhere along the way I became an official test administrator of both the Stanford and the Iowa test. And of course the big question - how to keep the little ones quiet and out of the way while I was administering tests to older siblings? (Answer: Grandparents!)

This year we're down to only one student needing to be tested, but almost accidentally, I stumbled on a painless way of testing! (Painless for me, at least. I'm not sure Ben would completely agree.) Oh, how I wish this had been available back when I had a houseful of rambunctious little people.  

What's this new method? Online testing, of course.

Brewer Testing Services offers a variety of test which can be taken either on paper or online. I chose to have Ben take the Stanford Achievement Test in the online format. The tests ran for three hours on each of two days. We picked the consecutive days and start time, and Mrs. Brewer, who holds a master's degree in Education in Curriculum and Instruction, administered the tests remotely. The whole process was flawless, and we received Ben's complete results in less than half an hour after he finished the final test.

The online test cost $40, which is about what it would have cost for me to administer the Iowa Test and send it in for grading.

PROS: Super easy to set up! Speedy turn-around on test results. Quick communication from the Brewers concerning any questions. Inexpensive. No requirements or training for parent. More time efficient than paper testing. Stanford Online is available for grades 3-8.

CONS: Some research suggests that children perform better on paper tests than on computer tests.

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!