Monday, May 31, 2010

When the Lord restores and builds the home....

When we moved into our home 3 years ago it was a blessing to have more space and a bigger garden. But we left behind our first little house which we had worked hard on to transform into a home.

As you know, I'm a list maker, and it didn't take long for me to make a list with ideas to transform our new house into a home for us all. Only one little snag though-we had absolutely no finances to go ahead with all of my ideas!
And when I shared my list with Ray I could see that it overwhelmed him. At the time I was very disappointed that he wasn't as enthusiastic to start as I was! I've had so many lessons to learn before the day when we could finally tackle THE LIST! Now three years later, I can see a few reasons why the Lord wanted me to wait.

For starters we needed to trust Him for provision-He had already helped us to understand that He is our provider when I left teaching to be at home with Jenna. But, we had no savings and no extra cash at the end of each month. Buying just a little something to help improve the appearance of our home could easily put us into debt at that stage. So we had to let Him grow that seed of faith which He had planted in us before. And He has blessed us and provided for us in many ways since then.

It was during this time that I felt the Lord was teaching me a few new principals: Firstly, He is the Restorer, and everything will be done in His perfect time. (I can't rush Him!!) And secondly, He is the builder of our Home (unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain Psalm 127 vs 1).

For me God always uses the situations I'm in to show me similarities of how He is working in my spirit and changing me to be more like Him. So just like our new house needed to be rebuilt and restored, so did I! And although I would have liked everything to happen quickly on the restoration side, He was saying just like you need to take time to rebuild this house: I need time to rebuild you! And that's exactly what He has been doing.

Last year in April my father sadly passed away after a long battle with HIV-AIDS. His life had been one of many struggles and I would never have thought that beyond his grave that he would be able to bless his children. But the Lord is good and even in what seemed like a hopeless situation He turned it around to bless us. Besides giving my dad the opportunity to re-build relationships with his family, he used my dad to help us financially. And so now with an inheritance from my father we have begun the restoration of this house.

Just a side note here. Through my father's death I learnt about receiving our inheritance from Christ-without His death we would never have been able to receive the inheritance of His blessings here on earth!

Now that we have begun the renovations and I'm reflecting on the past three years I can see that the Lord needed me to learn about being led-not only by Him, but by my husband too! Approaching Ray with a to-do list just after he had taken a step of faith to be the provider to his family, had been a bit of a blow to my patient, willing-to-please husband.
Submission was not easy for me (I'm just beginning to see God's wisdom in His instruction to wives about this principal-and I've had to learn the hard way-if I don't allow my husband to be the leader I'm not allowing him to fulfill the role which the Lord has placed him in.) In learning to wait patiently for him to make a decision about when we would start renovating our house, I've learnt about God's perfect timing too. If Ray had gone ahead and done the restoration when I had wanted we would have been plunged into even greater debt! But now we can make decisions about the house in the freedom of knowing that God has provided. God indeed gives our husbands wisdom!

When we came back from our holiday 6 months ago it felt like we were all breaking down our home instead of building it. I knew when we were away that the Lord was able to make something good come from that very difficult holiday time-I just couldn't see it then! I'm so thankful that we have realised just how important it is to allow the Lord to be the builder of our home-He's been THE best builder for this job!

So I can honestly say, we're coming out of a very tough season for our family, but one that was needed to enable us to get to the point when we could work together to become what the Lord has desired for us: A family who builds it's house on The Rock!

I'm very thankful to the Lord for being so patient with us and for loving us despite our weaknesses. I'm very thankful that He blessed me with a man who takes his time to make decisions, and is also determined to never give up! And I'm so thankful to God for giving us friends who've patiently prayed for us while we've journeyed through this season.

I'm trusting that the Lord is laying new foundations for us and in the meantime we'll continue to make this house into a home! Here's a peek at what we've been up to:

The before shot: notice the tiles popping off the wall! There was a major damp problem.

There's never a day goes by when there isn't an eager spectator to watch the goings on.

If you share your trade skills with me I'll let you play with my toys!

the stripped en-suite

We've been blessed with a very thorough builder. This bathroom had really bad damp problems. He wouldn't take a step forward until he was satisfied that he found the cause of the damp. Tomorrow they start tiling! Yippee! I'll post pics of the finished product soon.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Learning to read.

Jenna's love for books started at an early age!

Just the other day Jenna climbed into the car with a reader from her friend. It was a reader which I had used when teaching Grade Ones to read so I knew it's level was more or less beginner Grade One level. Now, as I've mentioned before, I knew Jen could read but I've never really sat down with her and asked her to read a book to me. I've always left it to her to initiate it if she wanted to read to me. So when I saw the reader I thought: What should I do, should I ask her to read it to me? I think she'll cope with it. It would help me to see what she does know and give me a bit of a yard stick to measure her abilities by.

So I did! And she read it! And was very proud of herself too! Part of me was amazed and another part was saying: You knew she could, why are you so surprised?!

Well, why was I so surprised? In short because I can't really pinpoint when she did start reading. You see I've always taught children to read in the past. I've watched the process happen. I've been a big driving force behind it happening. 

In schools there are generally two trains of thought when it comes to teaching reading: reading is either taught by a Phonetic approach or a Sight Word approach. Here in South Africa most schools teach with a Sight Word approach. This means that the children learn words by repeatedly seeing a word. In the beginning they remember the word more for it's shape and not by identifying the letters which make it up.
A Phonetic approach is started by first learning individual sounds, then blending sounds together (am, at, an, ap etc.) followed by building simple three letter words. From here the children read simple sentences made up of simple words by learning to sound out a word. There's lots of debate as to which method is the best but this is what I found:

When I taught children to read in schools I believed that you couldn't really rely on one method to teach them. So I relied on a combination of the Sight Word and Phonics approaches. So how was it done? We used the Sight Word readers for reading and taught Phonics as a separate subject. (Which is a very typical approach in South African schools as opposed to some countries which use a Phonics approach to teach reading and therefore have a Phonetic reader.)
This is what I observed: Those children who had good visual memory (or whose visual memory was mature enough) were the ones who learnt to read quickly using the Sight Word reader.

In a classroom setting this would mean that your Visual learner would seem to be the more advanced learner as they could read before the Auditory or Kinaesthetic learner. But with time and maturity they did all seem to catch up to each other.

What does this mean to a home schooler? For me this has meant:
1) Discover how your child learns. (Auditory/Visual/Kinaesthetic) NOTE: A Visual Learner could possibly do well with both methods. An Auditory learner may start to show signs of being able to read at a later stage as their visual memory isn't their strength. They could be more suited to a phonics approach.)
2)Don't choose your method to teach reading based on someone else's report on a good method-your child may learn differently to theirs.
3) In the beginning expose your child to phonics and sight word type books/games/activities-in this way you'll discover where their strengths lie and which method may suit them.
4) It is possible to teach your child using one of these methods only,
5) or you could use a combination of the two!

Charlotte Mason encouraged the introduction of phonics first through simple games played with letter tiles. She then moved on to blending and word building. Her next step was to use a simple poem which the child could relate to, to teach reading using a sight word type approach. (This is a very basic explanation of her method). BUT she also said that just through playing with letters and exposure to good literature some children would learn to read on their own and would therefore not need to go through a method.

This last part is mostly how I approached Jenna's reading experience: lots of playing and lots of being read to. And the rest was all left up to her to learn in her own style!

Jenna's first gymnastics competition.

Ever since Jenna was in the cruising stage she has tried to climb everything in sight. We spent a lot of time in her toddler stage at parks, as we lived in a semi-detached house with a small garden. When we moved to our present home it had a jungle gym and trees to climb! Yay! The only problem was she was still too small to navigate them successfully. So when she ventured out to the garden on her own for a climbing session, I would soon hear a cry for help! That was a time of learning to be very patient for me!! Thank goodness she mastered them quickly :-)

We've always believed that in the early years exposure to different activities is the best way to discover a child's interest and talents. If Jenna has expressed an interest in something we've tried our best to give her the opportunity to try it out-hence the ballet lessons. 

When she turned four I enquired about gymnastics in our area. The very encouraging gymnastics teacher said we'd have to wait a year, as she was too young. But he encouraged us to hang ropes and climbing ladders around our garden to encourage her physical development. So we did just that. And Jenna has spent many happy hours performing acrobatic tricks on the ropes, ladders and trees since then!

A few weeks ago a place became open at the gymnastics classes and since then Jen has been loving it! The class is run by the instructors who are aided by young gymnasts from the older class. They use all types of gymnastics equipment like the balance beam, spring board and parallel bars. The children are grouped together in abilities and they experience each apparatus in stations. It has been such fun to see her learning this new skill.

Last week-end she took part in her first competition for her BLUE BADGE. Daddy got to watch her for the first time-which is always special for Jen.

The warm up session-she looks so cute in her little leotard!

Waiting excitedly for her turn. She was so wriggly I could tell it was a mixture of nerves and excitement. Precious girl!

About to mount the parallel bars. Salute!

And there she is-doing one of her favourite things-hanging upside down!!!

A little bit of mat work and then onto the beam.

Salute! Can you see how she curls her hands over, like a ballerina? So cute! She was taught this week, by the older girls how to make a gymnast's salute. (I'm going to miss that cute little ballerina one though!)

Mounting the beam.....

Balancing along-brave girl-that beam's about the same height as her!

And ready to dismount...

Ta da!

A very happy little girl receives her first badge. She's been telling everyone that she had her first gymnastics competition and got her first badge-even the neighbours as we meet them in the road!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Simon's Town Toy Museum.

Last Thursday we headed out to Simon's Town again for our exploration day! Our destination was the Simon's Town Toy Museum. We arrived just before 10:00 and found that it wasn't open yet! There were no opening times on the door so we walked down to the nearest info office to ask if they knew if it would be open on that day. Well it turns out that the museum is privately owned and the owner opens it "in his own time". They said he usually only opens around 11:00-so if you're planning on visiting I'd suggest phoning before hand!

I didn't have a back up plan so I asked the lady there if there was anything else of interest nearby that WAS open. She suggested the Heritage Museum which is just around the corner from the Toy Museum. But luckily for us, as we were walking past the Toy Museum it opened up! (At 10:00! An hour earlier-definitely phone before hand for opening times). Well, it seemed that the Heritage Museum would have to wait.

The Museum is in a small building (one room actually) but it is one of those places that you could spend all day in because it is filled from floor to ceiling with shelves. And each shelf is packed with toys!

There are dolls from all different eras. Jenna and I thought these two were very cute!

I had to take a photo of this model ship-it's a reconstruction of Sir Nelson Horatio's ship. The goose in the story "Two Clever Geese" had been named after Sir Nelson!

This doll was handmade-every single part of it! Isn't she beautiful? Just how did those little girls play with their dolls? VERY carefully, me thinks!

And of course there were dolls from my era! Jenna was very interested in which type I had had. The closest to one of mine is the one with the frizzy hair! :-) I had one with an afro :-0

These two dolls reminded me of a pair of dolls which used to sit on my grandmother's bed. We were never allowed to touch them. I can remember that my gran had a boy and a girl and she used to change their outfits every now and then. I loved their clothes.

And then there are a few old doll's houses. These captured Jen's imagination so much. She's in that phase when little toys with intricate details are fascinating.

Finally we moved onto the boys toys! Michael had disappeared long ago in search of his own treasures-I could hear him in the distance all the time making excited little noises. I called him if I found something I thought he'd like and he came to look, to ooh and aah with me and then ran of to make his own discoveries again.
Can you imagine being the lucky child to play with this old circus?!

Michael's favourite cars are the Mini and the Beetle (he used to call it the Bug). So he just loved this one! When he climbed into bed that night and I asked him what was the best part of his day he said he loved the trains and he wanted an old fashioned beetle just like the one at the museum. He says he's going to give away his old cars so that he can now get a new one from the museum! :-) Try explaining to a 3 year old that you can't buy what you see at a museum.

Jenna had packed in some things for drawing telling me that she planned to draw something that she thought was lovely! Here she is trying very hard to draw one of the doll's houses. I'm sure if she had more time she would have produced a picture, but she was soon distracted by Michael calling her to see his latest discovery......

The electric train was voted as THE BEST toy of the day! Jen can't wait until the day we get to unpack Ray's old train set after seeing this little town and it's trains.

Besides oooh, aaah and wow the most regularly heard comment of the morning was: Oooh mom, I want one of those.....

and those....

or one of these!

After a lovely morning spent looking at the museum we decided to take advantage of the sunny winter day and stopped off at Long Beach. This beach is situated just before you enter Simon's Town-not the one on the other side of the coast. It looks onto the harbour and the Navy Dockyard.
While I soaked up the sun's rays and enjoyed the gentle, relaxing sounds of the waves on the sand, Jen and Mikey had a wonderful time playing.

They even tried to rescue a beached starfish.

And were brave enough to enter the cold sea!

But soon the wind started to pick up and we took it as our cue to pack up and head on home for lunch.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Nature Walk in Winter.

At least once a week we try to get out for a Nature Walk. I usually check the weather sites on Sunday-when I'm writing on our weekly planner-to see which day would be most suitable and then select our day according to the weather. (This is where the flexibility part comes in ;-)

This week we went for a walk around Silvermine River Sanctuary. We've just finished reading the book "Two Clever Geese" by Acton Kaye. It's a true story about two geese who lived in our area. There's a map in the beginning of the book and Jenna was very intrigued by the fact that she knew exactly where these places were. So I decided that it would be interesting to see if we could find their house, or at least see where the geese crossed the busy road to go for their walks to the beach.

After driving around the small suburb of Clovelly we couldn't quite choose which house was Whale View Manor so we headed down to the sanctuary to explore the bird life! Michael was quite convinced we would find some geese there! ;-)

We've always taken the time to discuss any signboards along our walks. Here the children can learn the rules of being out in nature in an easy way. Even a 3 year old can "read" the pictures on the signs. Jenna has lots of fun interpreting the signs on her own before she asks for clarification. Her favourite one here was the smiley face. She says it means you must always walk with a smile :-) I think that's a great rule! (But I'm really not sure what it is supposed to mean!? Do you?) Can you guess which is Michael's favourite? Yip, the dump truck! Or rather: the NO dump(ing) truck sign.

There's a lot of bird life here. Very early on our walk we spotted this Heron. We think it's the Grey Heron.

And then we spotted this bird. But from far it was very difficult to identify it so I took a close up shot hoping it would help us to identify it when we looked at it on our computer screen at home. Modern technology-what did Charlotte Mason do without it?

As we've had quite a bit of rain lately the river was flowing quite fast so I suggested a game of Pooh Sticks. (It's a game Winnie-the-Pooh played with his friends.)

We had great fun trying to spot our sticks and then cheering them on as they came out the other side of the bridge. And when they got stuck on reeds or in the long grasses on the sides of the river it was a good opportunity to discuss water pressure. They learnt about how the river flows quicker in the middle and slower on the sides. So that's why Jen's stick won in the end and Michael's one stayed stuck in the reeds along the side!

Then it was time to run along the walkway looking for crabs or insects in the water alongside.

No luck here! Just a few tiny lily-pad like plants.

The cold weather and exercise meant requests for a snack. So while we stopped to fill our tums we took the chance to see if we could find the birds we had seen earlier in our Pocket Guide.

I'm sure it's this one mum! We eventually agreed on the African Darter-but that will need another closer viewing for confirmation!

I thought these little flowers were so beautiful. Unfortunately my knowledge of plants is limited. I figure at the moment, because of the age of our children, it's easier to concentrate on animals and learning their names first. Someday I will get a good field guide which can help me to identify the beautiful flora which we find in our country, someday.....

Jenna was quite effected by a display which we saw at the Rondevlei Sanctuary on our last Co-op outing. It depicted the effects of man on wildlife and how litter, amongst other things, causes the death of the fish and animals living in the water. So when she saw this litter she wanted to save the fish!

This walk was filled with lots of little teaching moments. Or rather Jenna was full of questions! She wanted to know why the puddles hadn't dried up here. So we also had a quick lesson on clay soil and why it drains so slowly.

On another rest stop we took the time to look at the mountain. Jen wanted to know if there were any baboons living there because she was certain she could spot a cave. Well we didn't spot any baboons but we saw a happy little band of dogs running along the mountain side: All on their own, mom! Where is their owner? That's one question I couldn't answer!

Along the walk there are a few sign boards with information about the flora in the area-unfortunately it's a little illegible so we couldn't learn any of the names of the flowers :-(

But it made a great little seat for these two little monkeys!

Sadly, at the end of the river, there was a lot of pollution. I definitely couldn't allow Jen to climb down there to clean this up! We discussed what would happen with it-where would it go to? As the sea was just across the road she came to the conclusion it would flow out to sea someday and would effect the animals there. Not a happy lesson to learn-but it has made her more aware of the need to look after her little part of the planet. And because children must still be allowed to preserve their innocence and not feel that they need to save the world in one day...

There's must always be some time to make mud pies!

So we didn't find the home where the geese had lived but we did have fun exploring the area where they would have gone for their walks. And we learnt a lot and experienced a whole lot of fun while doing it!