Today was not unlike any other day, complete with the high pitched whine of roll after roll of SCOTCH TAPE! My middle-est son, Brody, outdid himself today. "Mama, check out my wicked Wolverine costume."
As I took this photo this afternoon I remembered another post all about Scotch Tape... and one of our more challenging days.
On the last day of the boys' Summer Vacation they pulled out their hefty box of craft supplies and "invented." Caleb made a bow and arrow and Asher came up with a flower with eyes. I had nothing to do with their creative brilliance. I also had nothing to do with this...
How in the world did my five year old manage this remarkably authentic VIking costume, complete with piercings?
The answer to all things Brody can usually be summed up with that single word. Once I stopped hiding the tape, esteeming its market-value above it's Brody-value, things really got creative in our home. Some days I'll wake up to find a naked bird-boy beside my bed... truly outfitted in nothing but colorful feathers (again from the craft box) and scotch tape. Other days he turns our hallway into an art gallery with an entire coloring book's worth of art taped to the wall. And let me not forget the day he spent crying because his tape did not hold the power to turn him into a real robot... a costumed 'bot, maybe, but not a real one.
Today my creative oddball ventured forth from our tape-haven, out into the world of Kindergarten. I wasn't too concerned. My greatest memories of Kindergarten include peeling dried white glue from my little hands, and sculpting and painting the keepsake Easter baskets and Christmas snowmen my mom still puts on display each holiday. This creative child loved Kindergarten... why wouldn't he?
"So... how did it go?" you ask? Well, let's just say that when I went to the opening day ceremonies at his school, where the entire class body welcomes the incoming Kindergarteners, Brody stood up before all his peers and mine, scowled right at me in the second row, and mouthed the words "take me home, NOW!" When I smiled lovingly and shook my head no he signed the words, "I don't love you..."
I have three strong boys. #1 must always have his way,#2's way never seems to make sense, and #3 will soon be big enough to muscle the other two down to the floor until they surrender their strong wills and cry "mercy!"
As I tucked #1 into bed this evening we reviewed his first week's Memory verse:
"Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I used to interpret the words, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" to mean that God's will for us is that we give thanks in all our circumstances. But recently I've come to believe that God's will for us is the circumstance that we are in, and therefore we are to give thanks for each one, no matter how challenging they may be.
God crafted my boys together in my womb and gave them to me (in quick succession) as "gifts," as "rewards," as Proverbial "arrows" in my quiver, for His good pleasure and my ultimate good. The circumstances I find myself in each day with these Blessed Hooligans are God's will for me in Christ Jesus! He uses them to make me more like Himself; patient, kind, long-suffering, merciful, and good.
And so I give Him thanks this evening.
The boys and I just wrapped up our first unit of History together as a home school family! Caleb, Brody, and Asher had a wonderful time listening to me read "The Story of the World" by Susan Wise Bauer, and the exciting mystery of "The Boy in the Pyramids" by Ruth Fosdick Jones. Caleb stayed up many nights looking through his Usborne Time Traveler book and the King Fischer Encyclopedia of HIstory.
Painting Pyramids was another highlight. While Brody would rather have a can of paint and an empty wall, those of us looking for a bit more structure and an opportunity to integrate art with what we are learning, the "Draw and Write Through History Series" by Caryless Gressman is perfectly wonderful.
All three of the boys loved dressing up in Egyptian garb - Check out my Pharaoh, Mummy, and Tomb Robber! What a joyous motley crew they make.
And of course we ended the unit with a great feast. Caleb dressed as a slave, shirtless with only a towel around his waist, and brought a bowl of water, in which guests could wash their hands (third picture above). Brody was dressed as the young Pharaoh, King Tutankhamen (King Tut), and sat on his throne while all the other guests reclined on a blanket at his feet. Asher wanted desperately to be the dancing slave girl, but the only music I could find was "Walk Like an Egyptian" by the Bangles!
Needless to say, our first go at this learning business at home has been a mad success. My goals were many facetted, but bringing history and literature together in memorable ways was paramount in my desires for our family. "Integration" is a key word that I keep hearing over and over again in Classical Education circles. All these "pegs" we're "hanging" in their memories allow us to hang exciting pictures upon in the years to come. The learning goes deep as one aspect of learning today suddenly correlates with other lessons that once seemed unrelated.
Just this morning I saw the lightbulb turn on in my 8 year old's mind. We were reading Aesop's Fables and talking about what it means for a story to have a moral, or a "good lesson" as I chose to say. We talked about all of the fables we knew off the top of our head like the three little pigs and the boy who cried wolf, and talked about what good lessons we could take away from these stories. When we discussed the story of the ants and the grasshopper, in which the ants work all summer long to prepare for the cold winter ahead, but the foolish Grasshopper merely plays his fiddle, Caleb said, "The Grasshopper played all summer, but he paid for it in the end."
That was the end of our lesson and Caleb left the kitchen table and went back to his room where I found him deep in thought. "What are you thinking about?" I asked. He responded, "I was just thinking that people who don't believe in Jesus might have a fun time here on earth but in the end they are going to pay for it, just like the Grasshopper did."
I sat down with him then and said, "We all deserve to pay the price because we all mess up. But that's why Jesus came, to pay the price for us."
Talk about integrating subjects: Asopes Fables and the Gospel of Peace. My Goodness!
I recently heard someone say, "Don't think outside of the box... live like there is no box!" Or something in that price range. When you see a quote like that on Facebook you immediately want to hit the "like" button, but after you do what really changes about the way you live your life? What changes about the way I live mine?
This week my family made the decision to live like there was no box to contain us. We threw caution to the wind, loaded up the car, locked up the house, and headed off for some deeply needed family together time. Piano lessons and swim practices were canceled, despite their stringent "make-up policies" that always seem to have more clauses than a free ticket on United. But the most difficult box for me to deny was the box we call School. Schools are even shaped like boxes, with bunches of little boxes stacked inside, filled with children learning to behave within the boxes of life. Don't get me wrong, I'm not an anarchist! The rules school-children must learn to obey are nearly all, if not all, great boxes to help them prepare for life outside of that box. But what about when a great box gets in the way of something even greater?
Or even this...
We spent four glorious days hiking, watching old movies, reading exciting novels, playing video games, sight seeing, eating and sleeping. One of the highlights for me was, and always is, walking down the backside of our property up in Northern California. My husband always points out the poison oak, identifies what type of bones the boys find scattered around our little slice of wilderness, and comes to their rescue when they climb a ridge just a bit too high.
On this particular climb my eight year old pointed out some unusual patterns in the dirt and asked his Dad what they were from. Matt pointed up the hill and described the erosion that was taking place on the land due to the rain. Caleb's eyes lit up, because he had just learned this past month in his Science class all about soil, planting, irrigation, and erosion. Caleb then suggested to his Dad that they plant some more plants, "because leaf litter and plant roots help to stop erosion."
You see the facts of knowledge that were learned in Caleb's 2nd grade classroom came to life outside of the box. And I got to thinking about how true this is in many other area of our lives as well. We learn in Sunday school that Jesus loves us... for the Bible tell us so. But on the slippery slopes of life where erosion can cause us to stumble, we sense our need for a Savior and truly learn of His Grace. In the box of the wedding chapel we say our vows, but in the messy world of life together we learn to love and honor, serve and submit. So many things are taught our children in the safe confines of our boxy little homes, but I dare say that the lessons come to life as we "walk along the way" together.
Truth be told, while I might be a dreamer, I'm also a rule follower, so breaking the walls down to explore the world and learn with them on these little adventures isn't always easy for me... but I believe it's crucial.
I heard it said that the knowledge we learn from text books is like the skeletal system of a man; historical fiction is the blood and guts, the organs and the skin; but it's real life exploration and experiences that bring it to life.
That's what we did these past few days as a family in Northern California. We broke down some boxes and roamed free a bit, bringing knowledge to life.
"The house seemed swarming with boys, who were beguiling the rainy twilight with all sorts of amusements. There were boys everywhere, for various open doors showed pleasant groups of big boys, little boys, and middle-sized boys in all stages of evening relaxation, not to say effervescence. Two large rooms on the right were evidently school rooms, for desks, maps, blackboards, and books were scattered about. An open fire burned on the hearth, and several indolent lads lay on their backs before it, discussing a new cricket-ground, with such animation that their boots waved in the air. A tall youth was practicing on the flute in one corner, quiet undisturbed by the racket all about him. Two or three others were jumping over the desks, pausing, now now and then, to get their breath, and laugh at the droll sketches of a little wag who was caricaturing the whole household on a blackboard." (excerpt from "Little Men" by Louisa May Alcott)
When my eldest son had just turned four we began our first marvelous, foreign adventure together into a literary land... The new world was a farmyard, and there was a girl and the little runt of a pig she named Wilbur, and an articulate and generous spider named Charlotte. Caleb absolutely melted into me as I read chapter after chapter aloud to him, during his little brothers' naps. Now, my Caleb, you must know, is boy who rarely stops asking for what's next... so this sweet, contented time at my side was a treasure. And since that first journey into E.B. White's fictional world of Charlotte's Web, I have used our read alouds as a sacred time to connect with my darling, who ceases (during this sole activity) from striving, and is simply still.
After we read Charlotte's Web we went on to Stuart Little and then Trumpet of the Swan. I loved all three of these classics by E.B. White and so did my son. After each novel's conclusion we would have a special evening to celebrate. For our first party we rented the movie Charlotte's Web, and I made a cake that we decorated with tiny pink marshmallows into the shape of Wilbur's face. Caleb and I had spent his Brother's nap-time that day creating Zuckerman's Farm out of an old cardboard box, and the evening went late as we filled the farm with all the boys' farm animals.
Other favorite books have been Mr. Popper's Penguins, The Wind in the Willows, Pinocchio, My Father's Dragon, The Three Musketeers, Robin Hood, Peter Pan, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and many more. And now that Caleb is a reader I like to choose books that he can read an adaptation of at his reading level after I have read the full version aloud. I think we read three different versions of Treasure Island this past Summer before renting the Disney version of the film and playing *Pirate Music. (*Pirate Music is just the fast paced songs on my Celtic CDs!)
But this latest read aloud is my absolute FAVORITE! While I had worried LIttle Men, by Louisa May Alcott, with it's poetic prose was just a hair above his head, he has been a real gem, laughing aloud and asking the dearest questions throughout. At one point in an early chapter he teared up and said, "I think that orphan boy, Nat is going to make me cry."
Another day, during another Chapter, Father Bhaer was telling an allegorical story to his students about 12 little gardens and a gardener who had made the promise to cultivate and keep the little plots free of weeds, and producing fruit. The dear teacher asked his pupils, "what does this story mean?" To which the boys enthusiastically replied, "we are the gardens and you are the gardener!" I turned to Caleb and smiled, and he whispered, "that's like you and dad."
The allegory turned to a deep lesson in the lives of the boys living at fictitious "Plumfield," where Mrs. Jo and Mr. Bhaer raise this lot of boys in learning and good living. Father Bhaer asked each student what seeds they thought needed planting in their own little gardens, so that their loving teacher might help them reap a harvest. One boy said patience, yet another confessed to being lazy and said he needed a good work ethic... when I asked Caleb what seed he thought we ought to plant in his little garden he said, "I need to listen more and talk less... O! And probably stop getting so angry at my little brothers."
How dear is that?
I don't quite know how to conclude this post except to encourage you all to read. Read good books with your children. Ask them questions, share your thoughts, and keep your own heart open to learning a thing or two as well. Pinocchio and his wayward heart might remind you just how important learning to obey our Father is, so that we don't have to live with painful consequences; Swiss Family Robinson may inspire you to read the Bible aloud together as a family; and LIttle Men might have a good point or two to take home as well.
Here's a section from Chapter One in Little Men that I keep thinking on:
" 'Gently, boys, gently.'
...Everyone... whisked into their seats, trying to be orderly, and failing utterly. The Bhaers did their best to have the lads behave well at meal times, and generally succeeded pretty well, for their rules were few and sensible, and the boys, knowing that they tried to make things easy and happy, did their best to obey...."
I've stopped myself many times these past weeks from shackling the boys with too many rules. I've given them more time to play and later bed times so that it can all fit in without (as much) nagging. Because, truth be told, as Caleb and I cuddled in bed and talked of the seeds he thought ought to be planting in his little heart, I purposed to plant a few in my own. Trusting the great and loving Gardener of all, to help prune, cultivate, and reap in my life a lasting harvest as well.
P.S. -- Target has been having a series of great early reader adaptations in their dollar bin, so keep a look out. This season the stories were a little to scary for my boys, but we've gotten some great ones in the past! Also, check out Classics Illustrated for your kids. They are classics that have been written and illustrated as a full length comic book. My Father-in-law had a stellar collection as a child and is kicking himself for not keep them in the family. But each Christmas we get one or two as a gift.
Welcome Ladies from Blog Bash 2011!
I'm a keepsake fanatic. On my mantle is a framed picture of my firstborn with his 6 year old hand print and his first sweet love letter to his Dad and me. Then there's my three year old's framed handprint, made to look like his sweet face. But long before that I began collecting boxes of memories. I have broken friendship bracelets from my elementary bf Kerry, every passed note in Jr. High, and a sampling of rose petals from the bouquets I was given in High School. Every few years I seem to wittle down my old collection of memories to make way for the new... those covered in my children's fingerprints.
However, now that I have three boys (who gloriously hit milestones at a pace not even my fastest shutter speed can catch,) I'm very thoughtful about which pictures I blow up and frame, which ones I place into their scrapbooks, which outfits I carefully fold up and put into their keepsake box, and which of their Father's love notes to me I slip into their saved baby blankets for them to find when they are joyfully expecting their own first born miracle. Keepsakes.
Two years ago I had an idea. I bought a large canvas and a few small bottles of acrylic paint that coordinated not only with Fall tones, but also the colors in my home. I started with rolling green hills on the bottom of the picture and a bright sun shining up in the left corner. Then I asked the boys to come and help me one at a time. I liberally coated their arms with brown paint and used them as little stamps to make their tree trunks, then painted their hands and pressed them down upon the canvas to make their branches. Pointer fingers dotted leaves upon their trees and pinkies made little red apples within the boughs.
More than one child lost interest before I was satisfied, so my fingerprints are mixed with theirs I must confess.
It's not worthy of the Louvre, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a keepsake I plan to hang each Fall until I die. If you decide to do this craft I suggest you have another adult on hand to take a few pictures of the little ones lending their arms and fingers. Then place the pictures with their names and ages in a plastic baggy and tape it to the back frame of the canvas to enjoy after many years have passed and the memory has faded some.
After the picture had dried and was hanging in our family room I took a family picture that my Brother had taken a few weeks before and made a complimentary keepsake. I started with a smaller frame and painted it with the same paints I'd used for our apple orchard. I then used Mog Pog to glue it into place and give it a finished look. Finally I transferred the words "Giving Thanks" onto the finished product.
Attempting this creative endeavor took more courage than money or ability. And I am so pleased to bring it out each Autumn as the leaves begin to fall and the air contains a certain crispness that chases us in doors and forces me to bake.
So run to Michael's or Walmart and get the supplies to make your own Harvest time keepsake with your little ones. You'll be glad you did... for years to come.
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide one man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth;
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass...