Archive for January, 2011

God is Good

Our church is doing a six week series on “Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows”. The first week was called “God is Good”. The pastor talked about why we say that, when there are so many bad things that happen in the world all the time. If God is good, why do bad things happen to good people?

Thinking about this has made me look back at one of the hardest things I’ve had to face in my life. When I was in my early twenties, my mom was killed in a car accident. The other driver was drunk…

My husband and I had been married for just over a year, and my parents had recently moved, so they were living quite close to us. Life was good. We were looking forward to having them nearer, and since we were thinking about starting a family, I was thrilled that my mom would be close by.

The night of the accident was a cold and rainy night in December. My husband and I had just come home from a movie, to find that someone had been at our door, trying to get in touch with us. Since the intercom had gone through the phone line, even though they didn’t leave a message, we could hear them talking. It sounded like the police, and they were talking about going to my sister’s house next.

I won’t ever forget the cold hard hollow feeling that I had in the pit of my stomach. We phoned the police station, and they told us that my parents had been in a car accident, and that we should go to the hospital. “Your dad is waiting for you there,” they said.

That hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach got worse. Why had they only mentioned my dad? Where was my mom then?  I phoned the hospital, and got  the same news. I asked, “What about my mom? Where is she?”

There was a pause on the other end of the phone. “Didn’t they tell you?”  And then came the news I had been dreading, ever since I had heard the police talking outside my door. My parents had been in a serious car accident, and my mom had died at the scene.

Suddenly, I felt the ground give way beneath me. Everything I had thought up to then seemed less sure. All my planning and hopes were gone. It was indescribably painful.

We drove as quickly as we could to the hospital. The weather matched the news and our emotions. The rain was pouring down in sheets, and the wind was gusting. We knew what had happened, and yet it didn’t seem real… couldn’t be real. Around us, homes were lit up with Christmas lights, and that seemed so wrong. How could people be happy and celebrating Christmas, when my mom had just died?

At the hospital, we found my dad and younger brother. Our hearts ached for our loss, but even more so for theirs. How could they go on without my mom?  My mom was the one who knit the family together. My dad didn’t know how to cook, do laundry… all of those practical, day to day things he’d never had to worry about. He had also been quite seriously hurt in the accident, and would have to remain in the hospital for a few weeks.

We stayed at the hospital for quite a while; we didn’t want to leave my dad. Eventually though, we knew we’d have to leave. Someone had to go home with my brother, there was no one else to take care of him. At the same time though, we didn’t feel that we could leave my dad alone. It was just too much, to have him face that pain alone.

So, it was decided. My husband and siblings went home with my brother, while I stayed at the hospital with my dad. Watching them walk out the door was so difficult. I just wanted to be with them, to have my husband there with me, but I knew my dad needed me at that moment.

That night was one of the longest of my life. My dad was in a lot of pain, both physically and emotionally. It was so tough to be there, and I couldn’t imagine how my dad was going to go on. He and my mom had been such a team.

Throughout that night, though, in the midst of that darkness, I felt the presence of God. My husband wasn’t there at that moment to be with me, but I knew God was. He brought a song into my heart. It was a song that I had learned as a child for memory work in grade one, and I don’t think I had sung it for years. But at that moment, it kept going through my mind.

Abide with me/ Fast falls the eventide/ The darkness deepens/ Lord with me abide/ When other helpers/ Fail and comforts flee/ Help of the helpless/ Lord abide with me.

Later that week, we met with the minister of the church where my parents had just started attending. It was a new church, and the songs they sang there were unfamilar to our family. Knowing this, the pastor tried to suggest songs that came from our tradition. I couldn’t believe it when the one he suggested was “Abide with Me”.

God really was there. And He was good. Despite the bad that had happened, I knew that he was a good God.

Feeling God’s presence didn’t stop the hurt. It didn’t stop the dark dark night that we went through over the next year. I wanted my mom back here with us. I wanted my kids who weren’t born yet to know her; I wanted her to be part of their lives. At the same time, though, God’s presence brought peace. I knew that my Mom was with her Heavenly Father.

God  was there through that time, and He walked with us through our pain. He was there in the countless people who knew the right thing to say – or not to say. He was there in the hugs and tears and meals that people brought.

God has been faithful. He later brought a new wife into my dad’s life, someone who had also lost a spouse suddenly, at a young age. She didn’t replace my mom, or stop us from missing her, but she brought happiness back into my dad (and brother’s) lives, and has been a blessing in our lives as well.

I still miss my mom. With each baby that I had, I wanted my mom to be there. I wanted to ask her all those questions a new mom has. I miss her on her birthday, and on holidays like Mothers Day. I wish that I could have had one last conversation with her. But I also know that I will see her again someday. And she will meet my children.

Life isn’t always easy; God never promised that. But he did promise to be with us. He is our Heavenly Father, and He is a good God.


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In our family, we try to work on math every day.  Over the years, we’ve used the Saxon Math Program, and I really like the way it spirals, builds on previous knowledge little by little, and gives continued practice with previous skills.  I’ve found that it’s worked great with my kids.

Sometimes, though, we like to leave the workbooks and texts, and play games or do some hands on math. As all of my boys were working on graphing in their math books, I decided it would be fun to do some real life graphing.  We decided that we would use smarties for our graph.  (Nothing makes kids want to start school in the morning more than doing math with smarties!)  Fun, educational… and edible!  A great combination!

First, we had the kids look at the smartie box, and guess how many smarties were in it.  Next, they emptied out the box, looked at what they saw, and estimated how many there were.  After that, they sorted the smarties by colour.  We found out that no one had the same amounts of any colour, and that not everyone had the same amount of smarties in their box.  That was a surprise!

Although this activity is very suited for primary students, when you pull out smarties, everyone wants to participate!  So, we did this activity on a few levels.  My youngest son sorted out his smarties by colour, and then coloured in a pre made graph.  My middle son took the information from the pre made graph, and then made his own bar graph, with the bars facing the other way.  This gave him practice with labelling and naming a graph as well as planning out the size and scale of the graph.  My two oldest took the information, and displayed it in a circle graph.

After sorting by colour, they counted up how many they had of each colour, and proceeded to fill in their graphs. For my youngest two, colouring in and making a new bar graph was easy; they’ve had quite a bit of practice with graphing.  The older two had to figure out how many degrees each smartie was worth in a circle graph, and then multiply that number by the number they had of each colour.  The tricky part with that was making sure that they measured accurately, or the last section wouldn’t be the right size.

We had a great time doing smartie math – and it made me want to think of more fun activities to incorporate into our math learning.  If you’d like to try this activity with your family, you can download the graphing form for free from my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 

Do you have any fun math activities or games that you’ve used?  If you do, please link to them in the comments box; I’d love to hear them. Enjoy your schooling!


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Today my daughter and I uploaded a bunch of family photos to the computer from when I was a kid.  We had fun looking through them, and I had fun sharing some of my stories with her.  I love this picture of me following my mom down the railroad track; it makes me think of simpler days and times.  We lived in a small town when I grew up, and as kids we could walk or bike to most any place we wanted.  You just don’t do that as quickly anymore.

But as I looked through the pictures, it got me thinking about how much easier taking and sharing pictures is today.  These pictures were originally all slides, which my sister spent many hours scanning onto a disk. We uploaded that disk onto the computer, and there they were.

When we originally viewed those pictures with my family, my dad would get out the screen and the slide projector, and we would all sit down to look at the family photos together.  There was no fast forwarding through ones that you weren’t interested in – and you couldn’t pull them out and take a quick look at them! Today, we sat down together in front of the computer and quickly browsed through the photos. If we want to look at them again, they’re right there. Now, I know not everyone took slides like our family. But still, taking pictures was much more of a process.  I love this picture, which was taken outside our house on a snowy evening.  It’s such a great picture – and my dad couldn’t quickly check if it looked good or edit it on the computer.

Today we take hundreds of pictures of one event, and many pictures of each pose – we can delete whatever doesn’t work out.  Before, we might have taken one (or maybe a couple) of pictures.  And if someone happened to look away, or start to walk out of the picture – oh well.  You wouldn’t even find out what the pictures looked like for a few months, until you had a roll filled up and the pictures developed.

Still, there were some great pictures.  Here’s one of our family car on a snowy road with our hand prints on the back window.   My dad loved to take pictures of scenery, and most years there were pictures of a big snow storm.  It makes me a bit nostalgic – we don’t get much snow where we live, and I remember having lots of fun as a kid in the snow. Of course, I also delivered papers first thing in the morning on some bitterly cold days, but somehow, now, I seem to mostly remember the positives.  :)

This is a picture of us visiting Lake Huron and watching the sunset.  I remember packing up and going to the beach after my dad was home from work.  He was the official photographer, so he wasn’t actually in many of the shots.

I love the story those pictures tell, and I’m glad I can share those memories with my kids. I’m also glad that we can now upload and edit pictures right on our computer.  Otherwise, these pictures would still be sitting in a slide carousel, gathering dust in my dad’s basement.  :)


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My Goalie Son

Yesterday, my middle son played goalie for his team for the first time.  He’s been asking if he could play goalie for quite some time, and yesterday, he got a call from his coach asking if he would.

His face beamed.  There was no need to ask if he wanted to or not.  He immediately found a phone, dialed his best friend, and both sets of grandparents.  Everyone had to know about this momentous occasion. (And come to watch, if they could make it!)

So he got to be goalie.  He was so excited, I don’t think he stopped grinning the whole time.

As a mom, I wasn’t quite so excited.  It’s stressful sitting there in the stands watching pucks get shot at your son, knowing you can’t help in any way. He looks so small out there on the ice too; he barely reaches the top of the net!   And while the puck has to get through a lot of players before it gets to him, still, the goalie’s the last stop.  The responsibility rests with him.

When our team went ahead 2 – 0, I started to relax.  It really was a fun game to watch.  And in the end, our team won, 7 – 2.  He made some good saves!

And when he walked off the ice?  He was still beaming.  Sweaty, hot, and tired, but happy.  “Being goalie is way more fun than being player, Mom!” he told me.

Hmmm… maybe I should have hoped for a more difficult game?!

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January is always a fun month to focus on the seasons.  When you get snow, you can plan some fun activities with it, and it’s great to take a day off and enjoy  the snow.  Whether you get snow or not, here are  a few fun school related activities that you could do as you enjoy this season:

1. Grow your own snowflakes: This is a fun science and art activity for January.  Using borax, water, and pipe cleaners, you can make your own snowflakes.  These are fun to make!  Here’s a link with step by step directions: http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/winter/crystalsnowflake/

2. Winter Art Projects: This is a great time of year to add a little more art into your homeschool. Art Projects for Kids is a great website with many excellent art ideas that don’t need a lot of materials and are fun to do. Surprise your kids one morning by starting with art – they will love the change in routine. :) Here’s a link to some winter art projects: http://www.artprojectsforkids.org/search/label/winter

3. Winter Acrostic Poem: Write the word WINTER down the side of your page, and describe it with words or phrases starting with each of those letters.

4. Write step by step directions for how to build a snowman, or how to build a snow fort (and then, if there is snow, try to follow those directions and build it!)

5. Find a good read aloud and curl up on the couch together and read.

If you get snowy days, enjoy them, and be sure to take some time to play outside in the snow with your kids!

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We had snow this weekend!  Okay, I realize that for many people, snow is no big deal, but living where we do, winter does not always mean snow.

Usually we get a few days of snow here and there – and then we’re back to rainy and/or cloudy days.  This weekend, we were visiting with my husband’s parents one evening for supper, and while we were enjoying visiting, the snow began to fall outside….  We were oblivious, until ten o’clock, when we decided it was time to pack up the family and go home.  It was beautiful outside, with big flakes of snow falling.

I really do love the snow – but not driving in it.  However, since our Saturday schedules had taken us in different directions, we had two vehicles there.  In our town, we don’t get much snow, so roads don’t always get plowed (or not quickly enough), and since there are a few hills around town, I prefer to be a passenger.

Anyway, I had to drive home.  And I made it.  Yes, it took me an hour (rather than the usual 15 minutes!)  And I didn’t quite make it home – I parked the van before the last hill to our home and walked the last block.  :)

It really was beautiful…  So nice to see, especially once I didn’t have to drive in it!  I took these pictures after I arrived back home.  There really is hardly any snow on the ground, but it is amazing how hard it can make it to get around here!

We’re hoping for a few more snowy days like this…  (as long as I don’t have to drive in it!)

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When I look back at my school days, geography was not a strong point for me.  I remember colouring maps and memorizing capitals and countries, but for the most part, I didn’t find it that interesting.

When I first began homeschooling, I didn’t worry too much about geography either.  However, as I taught history to my kids and read historical fiction to them, I began to realize that  history and geography belonged together.  So I bought a globe and a world map, and we began to find places on them as we learned.  It was great to see the kids being able to point out places on the globe.

Still, while the kids were able to recognize the continents and some of the countries, I really wanted them to get to know the world we live on.  (I wanted to learn more about it as well!)  Because of this, we decided to focus on world geography this year.  We would explore the world, continent by continent, and see how far we got.   Our goals were for the kids to get a good general knowledge of all of the continents and the countries of the world, and to explore a few countries from each continent more in depth.  (You can read about the lapbooks we created when we studied Asia here.)

Because we have students in grades one to eight in our co-op, we wanted to make sure that the material we used would be easily adaptable for different ages. We found a great resource from Cindy Wiggers called Trail Guide to World Geography. This resource gives an overview of the geography of the world and has atlas and map work at three different levels: primary, intermediate, and secondary.  It also has many extra activities to make your study more in depth.  The student work pages can be ordered as a download or a CD.  Although the book is organized to work through all the continents in a year, you could easily make this into a multi year study if you included more of the additional activities.

In any geography unit, you need a good atlas.  One of my favourite atlases to introduce the kids to the continents is called  The Ultimate Interactive Atlas of the World.  It has different flaps and mini books for the kids to look through, and is very fun and engaging.  A couple more atlases that we like are  the Rand McNally Classroom Atlas and the National Geographic Kids World Atlas, which has internet links as well.

We also  wanted the kids to be able to memorize the countries as they travelled the continents.  Our favourite resource for that is Sheppards Software, which has a variety of free online mapping and geography games.  Our kids have learned all of the countries of Europe and Asia through these games. (I have also!)   We’ve also really enjoyed the Geography Songs CD, which has been a great tool for learning country names.

We’re having a great time travelling around the world!  In addition to the books mentioned above, we’ve checked out lots of information books from the library, and have enjoyed reading  historical fiction together…  Hopefully this year will ignite a love of geography in my kids.

Even if geography isn’t your focus, here are some tips for incorporating geography into your curriculum:

1.  Have maps up in your home to refer to.  It’s a great idea to have a markable map where you can label places as you hear or learn about them, or to use push pins and string to highlight places that you’ve learned about or where you know people.

2.  Have a globe handy too!  It’s very different locating places on a globe and a map.

3.  Bookmark the Sheppard software site, and have your kids play the games for fun.  Have contests to see who can name the most countries in the shortest amount of time.

4.  When you read about a place in a book, look it up on the internet.  That can really help bring the book you are reading to life.

What do you do for geography? Please add any activities or resources that you’ve liked for teaching geography in the comments section.

Happy learning!

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