Cedar Wood

At the beginning of 2013 God led us to begin a homeschool facilitation centre. This has been a most awesome privilege and adventure to embark upon!

We started out with my 4 and just 2 others last year and are now up to 12 children. The vision God has planted into our hearts is to open a learning environment that is an extension of our home. A place that breaths God, a place where individually, excellence, diligence, creativity and a high standard of academics are valued.

Each child is on their own individual program – which makes for interesting mornings, but as they are at their own level for each subject, engaging in work they are excelling in, at a pace and presented in a way that is personally unique to them they are all so motivated.

Each child has a tablet, connected to the wifi, which they use throughout the day to access their reading or maths, science or history. They are required to to do daily research and then narrate about what they have discovered.

Cedar Wood is based upon a Charlotte Mason philosophy and we use a great deal of the Sonlight curriculum – especially for the history and geography. Neil runs awesome weekly science lessons that the kids can’t wait for and many Fridays are spent attending various outings or herb club (run by Peter’s Gate a farm in the midlands that grows herbs and produces herb products.)

Each child is issued with a planner of their day’s work and what they need to achieve during the day. What they don’t complete in the morning they do at home. We don’t have a break time – they simply get to eat when their work is done.

I have stood in awe of how responsible each child is for their work – even our youngest 4 year old diligently takes responsibility for her own learning! The children manage their time and their own work program. It is so interesting to watch the level of excellence and work ethic they place on themselves.

Yes there are squabbles and irritations and attitudes that need to be tweaked but just as in a family these are dealt with promptly and given natural consequences and choices they usually come right quickly.

I think the biggest reflection that this is something good that we have stumbled upon is that the number of parents who have called me to say that within 5 weeks of their children joining Cedar Wood their confidence has skyrocketed. This was never something Cedar Wood aimed to do and yet as the children have grown in responsibility and freedom to be who they were made to be this has been a natural progression.

So as we step boldly into 2014 we hope to soon have many more children learning in this sort of environment.

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A Mere Breath, A Moment, Breath

To hear the whisper of his voice brush the corners of my soul…

 To Know the One who created the depths of the universe

 cares and loves me enough to guide my every step along life’s way.

 To see the breadth and depth of colour.

 My breath catches – it’s hard to breath.

 Sunlight’s dawn caught upon a misty spider web.

Spider's Web

 My children’s eyes.

 Water: cascading, spilling, splashing upon the ancient rocks.

English: Waterfall

 A single feather. Held, between my mortal fingers.

Feather In Hand

The wonder of a world beneath the silent waves.

 The trust of innocence.

 The firm grasp of a baby fist.

 Autumn leaves – dying beauty…

Autumn Leaves begin to fall-052

 The marvel, the wonder, reaching beyond…

 Transending mind and body – Drenching the soul.

 Erupting beyond the physical – embracing the eternal.

 For every breath…

 -all birthed – and held – within a mere moment –

just breathe…

I am thankful!

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At last!! We’re 6!!

Oh my for so long we have counted the months, weeks and days and finally Joy-Summer and Lily-Grace can tell the world that they are 6! With their birthday right in the middle of December we decided to have their Princess Party in mid-November.

It was a simple party, they made princess paper dolls, iced biscuits, had to ward of brother dragon who stole the party packs and then they had a real tea-party! They did however savor every moment and it was a roaring success.

This last week however the “real birthday” arrived. True to tradition they woke to find the breakfast table set and they a breakfast treat awaiting. This time it was waffles and ice-cream!!The excitement of opening presents was however too much and so little was eaten – for a change!

We then all got ready to head off to Butterflies For Africa for the day. We had organised to meet up with granny and grandpa there so we had a full day ahead… Browsing their little butterfly shop is a treat in its self but spending the morning holding butterflies and searching for little caterpillars was so special. The girls were in their element!

They fed the fish and stoked the stick insects -aagh! A picnic was in order during lunch time. Oh and did these little princesses eat!! – before heading back into the butterfly house yet again. By 3pm we bundled 5 dirty,full and happy little people into the car to head home. It was such special day and, “Yes, NOW you can tell everyone that you are 6!!!”

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Learning Beside Mama

Toy Train Set 084Despite popular belief that children should spent as much time as possible socialising with their peer group, there are always easy and fun ways to include them into what we, the big people, are doing. It is at these times, when children work side by side with adults, that they learn more than when left alone with a room full of toys. Yes, a pretend tea set or train set allows them to spend time imagining all sorts of games. Through pretend play children develop their concept of who they are and how society and relationships as a whole fits together. Make believe is a fundamental part of childhood. However, toys don’t specifically allow a child to learn life skills that they will need in daily life. A child may be able to cut up play dough to make a dolls dinner, however, cutting a cucumber and adding it to the salad for dinner gives the activity meaning and purpose. Instead of just pretending to be useful and playing a role they are engaging in real life activities that make them feel useful and a part of the family. This gives them a sense of belonging and importance.

From the age of two or three years – under adult supervision – a child can be given a cutting board and a blunt knife, to cut up fruit and vegetables. Start off with soft fruit such as a banana, or paw-paw so that they don’t need much effort or co-ordination. From about three years children have enough co-ordination to start peeling carrots. Children as young as two years can learn to break an egg. Simply place a bowl under a mug and break the egg into the mug and if it misses the egg lands in the bowl. You may need to stick your fingers into the shell with them a few times and scoop out the shell bits. However, by being a part of the family unit in such a meaningful way from the beginning develops children to want to help as they get older. Incorporate your child in all your household chores such as hanging up and folding washing, washing dishes – you do the glass ones and they do the plastic ones. From the time they can walk children can help put dishes away and pick up toys. All these are not only training your child in vital life skills but also building an attitude of service and responsibility. Children love feeling that they are trusted and needed, therefore by giving them the responsibility of feeding a pet or wiping a table builds their self-esteem too. As children are included in the household activity they feel needed and loved.

Sjouwen van melkbusen / Children helping out a...

These times of working together as a team deepen family relationships, build friendships and encourage siblings to make a plan and work together for the good of the family. Children don’t need to be bribed and rewarded for helping keep the home running smoothly instead you may have natural consequences such as if they haven’t fed the dog they may not have their supper. Or the family can’t go out to the park until all the responsibilities are completed.

December is such a wonderful time as Christmas creates so many of these co-working opportunities. It is however also a stressful, busy time. One therefore has to determine before each morning if little people will be playing a big part in our day and if so we need to dress with an extra layer of patience each morning.

Family is such a special and wonderful concept. It is designed to train and teach a child in so many ways and yet we get caught up in babying children, pampering them and rushing to meet their needs. Instead we should see children as a part of the family. By drawing our children into the centre of the home action, we are not only preparing them for life and teaching them many important skills but they grow up secure feeling needed, valued and loved too.

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St Nicholas Celebration

Many years ago when our first son celebrated his first Christmas something just didn’t sit right with us regarding the whole Santa Clause – Father Christmas experience. This was strange as these childhood fantasies were the structure upon which my childhood was build. That aside… we chose a different route for our growing family.

We are in a difficult situation as the rest of the cousins believe in Father Christmas, sleigh , reindeer and elves overseeing their annual behaviour… Therefore in a bid to maintain family relationships and not foster pride in our children (explaining to them that other people choose to celebrate St Nicholas day on Christmas day) we chose to create and celebrate our own St Nicholas day.  This began with us making a pope’s hat – which is looking a bit weathered after 11 years of use. Then on the 6 December, after dinner we sit the children down and using very basic pictures off clipart we tell the wonderful story of how a real pope called Saint Nicholas helped pay for 3 girls to get married, by throwing gold down the chimney into their stockings. During the story Dad leaves the room and as I end the story he reappears in the hat and a big jacket or bathrobe. How funny how the children don’t recognise him! Only at the age of 6 does one of them say, “but it’s dad!” Only for us to hear another whisper, “He just has Dad’s shoes on!” St Nicolas then greets the children and says he’s so glad to hear us telling of how he gave and he then gives each child a tiny gift. This may even be just a small bag of sweets – the one year they got a tub of ice-cream to share with the family. He then reminds them about God and how he gave Jesus and how we must now prepare our hearts to give during the Christmas season.

After a quick photo shoot he leaves and the children head off to bed. This is the beginning of our time of thinking of others. This is out played in that each child is to personally make gifts for other family members. Another activity is that when we put up the nativity set Jesus manger is empty and we have a small tub of straw. Every time someone helps another or silently serves someone they get to put a piece of straw in the manger. It’s the hope that on Christmas morning there will be a soft bed for Jesus to lie in.

St Nicholas day has become a much loved family celebration that lasts maybe 45 minutes and yet speaks volumes to not only the children, but our hearts too.

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Christmas – Our Way

Christmas has always been an interesting time in our home. And in the homeschool circles you come across many families who no longer celebrate this holiday. I have always been so grateful that during our first years of marriage we lived in a town far from family so that we could work through some tough thought processes and decisions. On our return to living amongst the family we had managed to establish our own traditions, beliefs and who we were.

The most obvious of these was Christmas. We came to realise that this season has so many roots and evokes huge emotion within people. We could spend hours discussing the different world views and the pros and cons to various views. Instead I’ll simply share how we as a family spend this special season. We have spent a great deal of time learning about the different Jewish festivals and how these link to Christianity. From this study we have begun to celebrate Hanukkah which celebrates the miracle of light. This we find is an awesome introduction to Christmas as it keeps us focused on Jesus, the Light of the world. The 6 December then finds us celebrating St Nicolas Day. This we found fundamental as all the cousins have father Christmas arrive on Christmas day and whilst we chose to move away from this we found it important to honour them and not teach our children to be filled with pride by saying “we right and they are wrong,” – we simply do things differently. So by us celebrating a ST Nicolas day we could simply explain they celebrate St Nicolas day on Christmas day.

The the decision as to whether we should celebrate Christmas at all… After much deliberation we decided to continue celebrating it, for a number of reasons. Firstly the rest of our family does – many of whom are not saved so we saw this as an excellent chance to witness to them. We found it was an entire month of celebrating our savior and focusing on him. Christ himself recognised and celebrated Hanukkah which was not a God ordained holiday but rather a man made one. Therefore if our hearts are right we too are free to celebrate man made holidays and traditions.

So as a family Christmas is an exciting, much anticipated time of year. It does require much preparation and heart searching but that is what makes this time so special to us all.

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Embracing Story Writing

As a writer and literacy lover I can’t help believing it’s fundamental for my children to be able to express themselves excellently though the written word. For the last 6 years we have used Sonlight as our homeschool curriculum and have loved their way of encouraging children to write and express themselves.

I was however thinking the other day how often a child will say they went to the “beach or park” and then launch into a story about what occurred there but never actually stop to create the scene. I really wanted to have a visual way to encourage the children to think more about the setting and use expressive words to describe it.

So here was the simple plan – an art lesson…. Each child was given an A4 page and using bright crayons they has to draw their favourite place. The trick being that they could add scenery but no people or animals – as those were characters not scenery. Some got this right others not but it was a great first try. We then laminated these pages. Once this was done I pulled out some stickers I had bought. They could each choose about 4 stickers to be the characters in their story. They could then move the stickers around to help them create the story.

This part became so exciting that we forgot all about spending a good amount of time describing the setting but I was so pleased with the stories they created that on another day we’ll do the activity again and spend time describing the scenery BEFORE I give out the stickers.

These pages have been used again and again at home to play with. They have even been taken on car trips. Think this is one idea I’m going to ensure I remember to do again soon!

 

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Mommy Tides

WavesPulsing forward, relentless, endless, foaming blue, climbing green. Reaching, pulling, tugging forming tide after tide, year after year waves pound and crash. Immediately ripped back from whence they came. Always reaching yet never arriving. Always trying, hoping yet never satisfied. Instead the pull and tug, shape and form the world below them.  Churning sands, crushing shells, throwing creatures from their home upon desolate sands. Striving, striving, driving, driving, pulling, tugging, churning tide after tide, year after year forever restless achieving nothing yet altering everything.

Does this churning, relentless mass reflect parenting, my life, your story? Striving, pulling, churning, tugging. Always trying, trying whilst  churning and crushing the world below… Trying to ensure the home is not only well kept but sanctuary to all, including the wandering, distant stranger. Crushing every imaginary fort, artistic pursuit or creative flair in the chase for a perfect home. Trying to ensure manners are blossoming without reaching the broken confused soul beneath the plastic grin? Trying to ensure a solid educational foundation ignoring, hence squelching the quest for true knowledge, curiosity and insight desperate to be heard? Trying to show  little ones God, his love, miracles, mercy and grace all the while tugging and pulling their natural gaze from Him toward the parent instead? Trying to create aesthetically and nutritionally awesome meals at the cost of pushing aside little hands and hearts desperate to be involved…. Trying, trying, pulling, pushing, tugging yet achieving nothing. Depositing scraps of sand upon the shores of life only to have  the next wave wash it away again.

NestingAbove the relentless ocean soars the gull on wing and wind. Free, soaring,  nests tenderly, thoughtful woven together. Instead of year after year tugging and pulling let us take this season to weave, with love, foreknowledge, instinct, care and compassion a nest designed just right in which  family can flourish. A nest that protects and provides warmth yet allows for individual growth and exploration. Knowing everyone is safe within the protective boundary one no longer needs to keep striving, trying, pulling instead one can soar high upon the wings of creativity, free from a lifetime of bondage to this wearisome toil. Knowing for this season all are protected and safe within the boundaries of the nest. We can also rest assure that from this season, fledglings won’t be crushed and maimed but instead fed to flourish so that they too can soar!

 

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Just Waiting…

Mother with Children [front]

Recently, during worship at church, I wandered to the back with baby on my arm. Soon I noticed one of the twins had followed me. Catching up she complained how sore her tummy was. Knowing there were people all around, I had no medicine or snack to help and it was freezing outside, there was little I could do. Gently reassuring her I explained that if she waited just a little longer I may be able to help her after worship. Nodding she wandered off for a bit then quietly came back and lay on the carpet and curled up on my feet. And there she lay in a little ball and waited.

She still felt uncomfortable and sore but yet she chose to lay down, curled up on my feet. Waiting for me to take control. Waiting for me, in my time, to reach down, pick her up and use my huge “Mommy Power” to make all things right again. And all the while she simply curled up and waited, occasionally looking up from way own there, giving me a huge grin or whispering, “I love you, Mom.”

What a lesson for me today. How often to I beseech my heavenly father and hound Him to answer me here and now. How often do I hammer His chest and yell and cry and try to force his hand to fulfill my ever urgent “NOW.” Yet in Mathew 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Like a little child let me learn today to bring my requests to Him. Then to, like my little daughter, lay at his feet and in expectant, anticipation simply quietly, rest and wait.

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31

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Walking in a Land of Hope

Well to say the least 2013 has been one adventure followed by the next… Besides losing our internet connection for 7 months – and hence the lack of blogging, we have started a new business Cedar Wood – an education facilitation center, changed jobs, had a baby and all got a year older all whilst continuing with the realities of daily life.

Our theme for Christmas last year was Hope. Hope in Christ, Hope in new beginnings, Hope in friendships, Hope in meeting a healthy baby soon, Hope in the starting of a new business, Hope in anticipated family days blooming ahead and often just plain Hope in the fact that we do in fact have the joy of Hoping.

Many times the clouds have gathered, pressure has surmounted, jobs have toppled, relationships have been strained, parenting stretched and one has lost every glimmer of hope. Yet the promise has still stood. The promise of a future, the promise of a tomorrow, the promise of God, saving grace and the promised Hope of forever. Yet the simple small word of “Hope” has been the anchor. The anchor that holds, the anchor that binds, the anchor that bridges us upon the wandering, often storming waves, to the firm unwavering rock below.

As we have walked this uncharted land and forged where we have not been before the sturdy rock of Hope, that sure foundation of all time, has allowed us to hold fast to keep looking ahead and to know tomorrow will come.

As we enter the last months of 2013 our Hope still stands firm, today we stand looking toward the horizon and instead of seeing the endless storming sea of What Next, we are viewing the firm land of tomorrow. Where exactly that tomorrow is or what that land holds we will not know until we step upon its soil. One thing we do however know is that tomorrow is no longer a Hope of a future but rather a sure foundation upon which we are headed, a solid land to which we have been promised.

To live without Hope is to live forever upon the stormy sea of doubt and panic. To live without Hope is to wander aimlessly upon uncharted seas without a compass or the sun to guide one. To live without Hope is to forever swim in darkness with knowing the morning will never come.

Hope is however the light, compass and surety of tomorrow that keeps one moving solidly forward through the darkest, most stormy seas. It’s this Hope upon which we have learned, during this year, to cling and live. And it’s this Hope, the Hope that sends a double rainbow after the most epic storms – that has offered us not only a solace and comfort but fed us with Joy and excitement as we’ve traveled upon this crazy, uncharted path called Our Life!

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