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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Post-Christmas Diversions

The kids are busy listening to their new audiobooks, which they received for Christmas. The hilarious and sound-effect-laced Hank the Cowdog is playing in the boys' room. Hope and Sydney listened to The Light Princess, by George MacDonald, yesterday. The Island of Blue Dolphins is also a new, albeit sad, favorite. What a luxury this week after Christmas is! Five full days of no school and hours of new things to do: puzzles, audiobooks, books, and movies. 

Although my time isn't nearly as free as theirs (our dishwasher is currently awaiting service--my sweet husband is putting on his appliance-repair hat in the evenings this week), I'm also squeezing in some time reading on my new Kindle, which was a surprise from Mr. Edwards. Thank you, dear!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

The people that walked in darkness
 have seen a great light:
 they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. 
Isaiah 9:2

Friday, December 24, 2010

Glory to God in the Highest

"Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!
Who will not fear,  Lord, and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed."
Revelation 15:3b-4

I'm stopping this morning to repent of my casualness about the Incarnation. I tremble at His holiness. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 Ornaments

We have a tradition of giving our children Christmas ornaments that reflect the meaning of their names. There are stars for Hope, because the Star of Bethlehem gave hope of the Anointed One, the Savior, to the Magi. 

There are angels for Sydney. Although we didn't name Sydney purposely after St. Denis, because her name comes from the French for St. Denis, a third century martyr and bishop of Paris, we decided to give her angels. St. Denis was a missionary to pagan Gaul, announcing the good news of Jesus, just as the angels announced the good news to the shepherds.

Lane receives cross ornaments, reminding him of the eternal life given to him by Jesus through His death on the cross. Lane's name, of course, means "narrow road," and Scripture tells us that the road to eternal life is a narrow one, with few who take it. 

We give Tobias bells. His name comes from the Hebrew for "The LORD is good," and bells are rung in praise of a Savior, for He is good.

This is Lydia's first Christmas and she is getting her first ornament, a pineapple. Lydia is named for the biblical Lydia, who not only put her faith in Jesus, but opened her home in hospitality to the other believers in Philippi. Pineapples are traditionally a symbol of hospitality.

Special thanks to my friend Jane, who is an expert basket weaver. Jane invited me to her workshop and taught me to make Sydney's angel, Toby's bell, and Hope's star. She handmade Lydia's pineapple and Lane's cross for me. Thank you so much, Jane! I had a marvelous time and these ornaments are beautiful and special.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Reading

For the month of Advent, I've filled our coffee-table drawer with all the Christmasy picture books that we own, plus some from the library. Here are some of the Christmas themed picture books we've been reading and have handy for when we feel like curling up on the couch together for a read-aloud.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore
Lucia Morning in Sweden by Ewa Rydaker
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Santa, Are You for Real? by Harold Myra
Frosty the Snowman by Steven Nelson and Jack Rollins
The Church Mice at Christmas by Graham Oakley
Papa Panov's Special Day by Mig Holder, from a folktale adapted by Leo Tolstoy
Lucky Pup's Christmas by Ken Brown
Jacob's Gift by Max Lucado
Turkey for Christmas by Margeurite de Angeli*

It is a mix of old and new, familiar and fresh, but in no way is it a complete list of "must-reads" for Christmas.

When I look over the Christmasy books we've accumulated, I realize what we are missing: a beautiful picture book of the nativity, preferably with a text straight from Scripture. Have you found such a book?

*This was a new book for us this year, thanks to a tip from Cindy's blog. We loved it. Our Christmas will be leaner this year, so this book, in which the father asks the kids to choose between presents or a turkey for dinner, helped us put life into perspective! Even our lean Christmas is a heap of blessing, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Men for all Seasons

The Edwards Academy has been studying the Reformation in Europe and in England these past weeks. For fun we've reinforced our readings about Martin Luther and Henry VIII with two films that are both, as of this posting, available for viewing through Netflix instant streaming.

Martin Luther (1953)
Starring Niall MacGinnis as Martin Luther

This black and white biopic of the monk who started it all faithfully portrays Luther's journey from a young man studying law, to a monk struggling to please God, to a daring reformer of the church. The movie is very well done, but probably not very accessible to young viewers unless they have already read about Luther in advance. In other words, I don't recommend it as a way of teaching about Luther, but as a supplement to your studies about Luther.

Lane, 8 years old, balked when the film first opened with its black-and-white documentary-like images and narration, but he was soon drawn into the dialogue-driven action that follows.  Hope and Sydney, who had read Luther's story from several sources, recognized that some of Luther's statements were direct quotes from historical sources.  In particular, the depiction of the Diet of Worms matched up exactly with what they had read.

A Man for all Seasons (1966)
Starring Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More, Robert Shaw as Henry VIII, and Orsen Welles as Cardinal Wolsey

The reformation in England can be a confusing string of events for students. Whereas Germany's Luther is clearly a "good guy" that kids can cheer for (even non-Protestants can be thankful for Luther's stand against the corrupt Roman Church officials and their sale of Indulgences), the struggle between English Henry VIII and the Pope over Henry's sought-after divorce gives us no obvious hero. Although Henry ultimately overthrows the papal authority over the English church, he does so for selfish and sinful reasons.

Robert Bolt's play A Man for all Seasons takes this episode in history and finds a hero in Sir Thomas More, Henry's Chancellor.  In the play, Thomas is heroic for his stand on principle, refusing to sign the Act of Succession which declared Henry VIII head of the Church of England (freeing him to divorce Katharine of Aragon). Unfortunately, the real Thomas was no friend of religious freedom and persecuted those in England following Luther's doctrinal reforms. His loyalty to the church trumped his loyalty to the state, but biblical authority was secondary to both. A Man for All Seasons ignores this entirely.

The play and film elevate personal conviction as the ultimate virtue, in this embracing moral relativism. Thomas declares that he earns his way to heaven by staying true to his conscience. If his opposers are acting true to their consciences, they too earn their salvation. Both men then, believing in conflicting truths, can please God by their faithfulness to their belief. This idea that personal sincerity is more important for salvation than the object of belief is contrary to Christian orthodoxy and I doubt that the historic Sir Thomas More would say such a thing.

Nevertheless, I recommend A Man for all Seasons as good theater to compliment the study of this time period, even with its anachronistic themes. My kids enjoyed seeing characters they know from their reading dramatized and in period costume.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lucia Fest in Lindsborg

December 13 is St. Lucia's day, a holy day celebrated in Scandinavian cultures to honor St. Lucia, a third century Christian martyr. Lucia was Sicilian, but she is said to have brought food and light to the poor and needy of Sweden in a desperate time on their shortest day of the year.

We returned to Lindsborg, Kansas this year for the St. Lucia Fest and, in spite of bitter temperatures in the twenties and whipping winds, the seven of us had a nice day with Grandpa and Grandma, Aunt Jenny, and cousins.

At the Swedish Crown restaurant we had a smorgasbord of traditional Swedish food. Swedish meatballs, Jansson's Temptation (a Swedish potato au gratin casserole), salmon with a mustard-dill sauce,  and sausage were some of the main course dishes. We were happy to fill a dinner plate with desserts like bread pudding, ostkaka (a custard like cheesecake), ginger cookies, and Swedish pancakes with lingonberry jam.

As we watched the folk dancers perform, we couldn't believe how they managed in the bitter cold. Contrast their period costumes with our winter coats and hats...

The seven cousins (Lydia was shopping with Grandma in a nice, warm shop) were happy to crowd into this former phone booth to warm up.

Following the street dancing, the formal crowning ceremony of St. Lucia takes place at a Lindsborg Lutheran church. This brief service, with choral performances, congregational hymns, a reflection on St. Lucia by the pastor, and the crowning of St. Lucia, was followed by a reception of ginger cookies and cider. Hope and Sydney and their cousin Haley were glad to have their picture taken with Haley M., Lindsborg's Lucia for this year. Yes, those are actual candles burning!

If you ask most of the kids, they will probably tell you that their favorite part of the day was the park. The icy wind and below-freezing temperatures mattered little to them!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Better and Better

Here we are, without our brood, thankful for a marriage that just keeps getting better and better, by the grace of God. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Snapshots of Life

It is very clear to me now why youngest children, particularly (perhaps) girls, are often spoiled. Lydia is such a happy baby and her happiness rubs off on all of us, except when the big sisters are fussing over who gets to hold her!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Card Photo Shoot Outtakes

Last Saturday we put on our "wedding clothes," as the kids now call them, to go to a wedding. All dressed up, we decided to shoot our family picture for Christmas cards. Out of about sixty shots, we found one that will go out with Christmas greetings. It isn't easy to get one photograph that brings out the best in seven people, especially when persons number six and seven are under five years old! My dad gamely agreed to be photographer and judging from his laughter, I think these outtakes are his favorites.

We were at this for nearly thirty minutes I think, when Toby's tongue escaped!

I'll post our final choice with bloggy Christmas greetings on Christmas Day.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Age of Exploration

As we studied the age of exploration (with Tapestry of Grace Y2, weeks 12 and 13) we also learned about navigation, cartography, map projections, and latitude and longitude. With this as background, it seemed like a good time to go geocaching, something we had never done before.

After traipsing through a field, we found one of the caches, but a second one was not to be found. Mr. Edwards snapped a picture of me replying to a text message with one hand as I held the GPS in the other--and with Lydia in the sling.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dedicating Lydia

We were pleased to formally dedicate Lydia to the Lord on October 31. At our church, this is a time for parents to publicly commit to bring up their child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) and to acknowledge before the congregation that their child is entrusted to God. 

Our pastor read some of our hopes for Lydia from the "parenting roadmap" that we wrote in preparation for the dedication:
We chose Lydia's name in part because of the beautiful example of Lydia (in Acts 16) of Philippi. Like the Philippian Lydia we want our Lydia to be a woman of prayer, a worshipper of God, a teacher of Jesus Christ and a gracious hostess. We also pray that God would open our daughter Lydia's eyes to salvation found in Jesus Christ, by grace through faith, just as He did for Lydia in Paul's day.

Acts 16:13-15
And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent Collection


This Advent we are not just listening to Handel's Messiah, we are using the oratorio's Scriptures for our Advent readings along with Westminster Shorter Catechism  questions and answers. After reading an aria's Scripture, then going over related catechism questions and answers, we listen to that aria together. We intend to go through the entire Messiah, not just the traditional Christmas passages.

A good storybook goes a long way to make centuries-old sacred music more meaningful to my kids. Reading Handel, Who Knew What He Wanted together did just that, teaching them about Handel and giving some context for understanding the glorious achievement that is Handel's Messiah.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

This is a favorite book of all the kids and the accompanying audio recording by James Earl Jones captivated even Mr. Edwards. Here you see Toby reading and listening. A bit sentimental, but not pish-posh! 

A Christmas Carol

It has been in my mind to read Dicken's A Christmas Carol this year, but it hadn't occurred to me to find a picture book of the story to whet everyone's appetite for listening to the real thing. Thanks to Tonya, who asked me if I knew of a good picture book version, for giving me the idea. We found several from our library, including this one illustrated by Brett Helquist and a comic strip version by Marcia Williams. (We've enjoyed other "classic comics" from Ms. Williams, including The Adventures of Robin Hood and Tales from Shakespeare.) 

Advent Archives

I've written about some of our Christmas traditions in the past. Check out the archives:

Edwards Christmas traditions, including how we handle Santa and some of our favorite holiday films.
St. Lucia Day posts. We are returning to Lindsborg this year for the St. Lucia festival and plan to make some gingersnaps in a nod to this saint's day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Great and Honourable Actions are Accompanied with Great Difficulties

We've been reading children's books about the Pilgrims, the Mayflower, and the first Thanksgiving this week. I'm so grateful to Abraham Lincoln for making an official holiday of Thanksgiving, for one suspects that without that we might no longer take time as a nation to be thankful. The first Thanksgiving is often belittled as just another harvest feast, but I hope we never stop using the holiday as a time to remind ourselves of the Pilgrims' venture which started it all.

Reading about the voyage on the Mayflower (102 people crammed into tiny, stuffy quarters), and the ensuing suffering of starvation, illness, and death, always reveals to me my own cowardice. Would I walk into the face of danger for the integrity of the Gospel and worship? Did they understand the hardships that would come to them? William Bradford tells us:
The place they had thoughts on was some of those vast and unpeopled countries of America, which are frutfull and fitt for habitation, being devoyd of all civill inhabitants, wher ther are only salvage and brutish men, which range up and downe, litle otherwise then ye wild beasts of the
same. This proposition being made publike and coming to ye scaning of all, it raised many variable opinions amongst men, and caused many fears and doubts amongst them selves.
What were they afraid of? They had very reasonable fears, Bradford tell us.
Some, from their reasons and hops conceived, laboured to stirr up and incourage the rest to undertake and prosecute ye same; others, againe, out of their fears, objected against it, and sought to diverte from it, aledging many things, and those neither unreasonable nor unprobable; as that it was a great designe, and subjecte to many unconceivable perills and dangers; as, besids the casulties of ye seas (which none can be freed from) the length of ye vioage was such, as ye weake bodys of women and other persons worne out with age and traville. (as many of them were) could never be able to endure. And yet if they should, the miseries of ye land which they should be exposed unto, would be to hard to be borne; and lickly, some or all of them togeither, to consume and utterly to ruinate them. For ther they should be liable to famine, and nakednes, and ye wante, in a maner, of all things. The chang of aire, diate, and drinking of water, would infecte their bodies with sore sickneses, and greevous diseases.
And if that isn't enough, there is always the prospect of hostile peoples, which anyone would naturally fear.
And also those which should escape or overcome these difficulties, should yett be in continuall danger of ye salvage people, who are cruell, barbarous, and most trecherous, being most furious in their rage, and merciles wher they overcome ; not being contente only to kill, and take away life, but delight to tormente men in ye most bloodie maner that may be; fleaing some alive with ye shells of fishes, cutting of ye members and joynts of others by peesmeale, and broiling on ye coles, eate ye collops of their flesh in their sight whilst they live; with other cruelties horrible to be related. And surely it could not be thought but ye very hearing of these things could noti but move ye very bowels of men to grate within them, and make ye weake to quake and tremble.
Then there is the matter of funding...
It was furder objected, that it would require greater sumes of money to
furnish such a voiage, and to fitt them with necessaries, then their consumed estats would amounte too; and yett they must as well looke to be seconded with supplies, as presently to be trasported. Also many presidents of ill success, and lamentable misseries befalne others in the like designes, were easie to be found, and not forgotten to be aledged; besids their owne experience, in their former troubles and hardships in their removall into Holand, and how hard a thing it was for them to live in that strange place, though it was a neighbour countrie, and a civill and rich comone wealth.
How to respond to such objections? With God's help all may be borne or overcome:
It was answered, that all great and honourable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be both enterprised and overcome with answerable courages. It was granted ye dangers were great, but not desperate; the difficulties were many, but not invincible. For though their were many of them likly, yet they were not cartaine ; it might be sundrie of ye things feared might never befale; others by providente care and ye use of good means, might in a great measure be prevented ; and all of them, through ye help of God, by fortitude and patience, might either be borne, or overcome.

True it was, that such atempts were not to be made and undertaken without good ground and reason; not rashly or lightly as many have done for curiositie or hope of gaine, etc. But their condition was not ordinarie; their ends were good and honourable ; their calling lawfull, and urgente; and therfore they might expecte ye blessing of God in their proceding. Yea, though they should loose their lives in this action, yet might they have comforte in the same, and their endeavors would be honourable. They lived hear [in Holland] but as men in exile, and in a poore condition; and as great miseries might possibly befale them in this place, for ye 12. years of truce were now out, and ther was nothing but beating of drumes, and preparing for warr, the events wherof are allway uncertaine. Ye Spaniard might prove as cruell as the salvages of America, and ye famine and pestelence as sore hear as ther, and their libertie less to looke out for remedie. After many other perticuler things answered and aledged on both sids, it was fully concluded by ye major parte to put this designe in execution, and to prosecute it by the best means they could.
(William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation, Chap. IV, quoted from the 1856 publication of an exact transcription of the original manuscript, available on Google Books, paragraphing and bold text added.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Escaping the Chains of Institutionalism

This entertaining paradigm-shifting video clip helps shed light on at least one significant reason why we homeschool our children.

(H/T Chris)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

More From Texas

Some photographs from our trip to Texas for my cousin's wedding.
Unfortunately, we didn't interrupt our fun long enough to take a picture of our family all together all dressed up.

Earlier in the week, we stopped by the harbor in Galveston. The sun was bright, but the boys were enthralled with the big ships.

We also enjoyed a lovely pool party...

... Moody Gardens Aquarium...

...and on the journey home Mr. Edwards took our older three students to Medieval Times restaurant for a medieval feast and tournament.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

History Revised

I read to the children today from Jean Fritz's Around the World in a Hundred Years (1994), a book about the great explorers. The book sets the stage by reviewing the history of map-making and exploration. In the midst of telling about Ptolemy's (second century A.D.) geography, Fritz then writes,
"Then suddenly all this wondering and figuring stopped. Christianity was a new religion, fighting for survival, and in A.D. 391 Christians burned the city of Alexandria and its famous libraries, which contained, along with many ancient treasures of scholarship, the work of Ptolemy. Christians did not believe in scholarship. They thought it was sacrilegious to be curious. Anything people wanted to know, they said, could be found in the Bible..."

Having just studied the history of the first millennium after Christ, this passage seemed odd. The issue of whether on not Christianity encourages science and curiosity will go on ad nauseam, I suppose, but blaming Christians for the burning of the city of Alexandria and its famous libraries was the charge that surprised me. If this was true, how'd we miss it in our studies of this time period? I wondered if our sources were slanted and didn't mention it.

However, a quick check shows that this isn't the case. The fact of the matter is that the much-lamented loss of the ancient library of Alexandria is a mystery of history without a firm answer. There are apparently three theories. The library may have been lost to Julius Caesar's military efforts against the city (48 B.C.), an idea rooted in the writings of Seneca and Plutarch. It may have been a victim of Bishop Theodosius' attempt to purge the city of paganism (391 A.D.), which would be the "Christian" attack, although the motives were against paganism, not scholarship and curiosity. Or, another major theory is that the Amr ibn al-As and his Muslim army destroyed the library in their attack on the city in 642 A.D.*

Jean Fritz's assertion that Christianity was the reason that science and scholarship went dark for nearly a millennium, as evidenced by the burning of Ptolemy's Geography in Alexandria at the hand of Christians is quite an assumption, but is presented as fact.

We love Jean Fritz's books, by the way, and will continue to read them, but with an eye for signs of revisionism.

*Three theories found in a quick internet search and mentioned in the collection What Happened to the Ancient Library of Alexandria? in an essay entitled "The Destruction of the Library of Alexandria: An Archeological Viewpoint" by Jean-Yves Empereur, p. 75ff. (See Google Books: What Happened to the Ancient Library of Alexandria? (2008).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The sea was wet as wet could be

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright--
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.*

Playing at the seashore might be routine for those of you living nearer the coast, but for us, it is a rare and special time. We have just returned from several days in Galveston, Texas, where we gathered with lots of extended family to celebrate my cousin's wedding. 

 The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done--
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead--
There were no birds to fly.

The sands weren't all that dry, actually, as you can see in these pictures of cousins loving every messy minute. And there were plenty of birds flying overhead; the diving pelicans particularly impressed us Kansans.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

My cousin Melissa's new husband Brian is a resident of Galveston and was the perfect host for an afternoon at the beach. He was all set up with a tent, kites and flags, boudin sausage, snacks, drinks, and chairs. He even thought of the water jugs for cleaning feet before getting back in the car.

It seems that most of my pictures of the kids in the surf are of their backs! They spent hours playing, body surfing the small waves, and searching for shells.

With little Lydia in tow, I didn't get out into the water much.

Toby was all tuckered out! Grandpa gave him some love.

My second cousin, Britt, snapped a lovely photo of her grandmother (my aunt) Ginny and her husband Bill.

My mother took a walk with Sydney and Hope.

Hope and her cousin Haley found some hermit crabs.

On our last full day in Galveston, just hours before Melissa's wedding, we returned to the beach. This time it was just our seven and my sister's family of five. Lydia dozed in her beach tent.

*Opening stanzas of "The Walrus and the Carpenter" by Lewis Carroll set off in italics.
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