A Gentle Answer

Saturday, January 24, 2015

He doesn't finish his lunch, again.

Why this child cannot finish a single meal is beyond my understanding.

Twenty minutes after lunch is cleaned up and left-overs are scraped to the waiting hens, he asks it:

"Mom, did I eat all my lunch?"

I know this question is packed with meaning.  What he really means to say is, 'Hey Mom, even though I know I didn't finish my lunch, I'm stalling and batting my eyes because I want to ask for crackers or bread or a granola bar or some other nutrition-less snack since I'm still starving after not eating the lunch you served'.

I snap back without thinking: "Of course you didn't eat all your lunch."  My tone is a bit too sharp for his sensitive self.

He stiffens.

"Yes, I did."

"No, you didn't."

"YES.  I DID!"

"NO, YOU DIDN'T.  Bud, I know this because I finished your sandwich for you."  I'm not yelling by any means but my tone is sharp.  It's been a hard day.

He turns, hard faced, and rosy cheeked and sticks his tongue out right at me.

Shocked, I stare, then silently walk away.  That is not a typical response of my sweet nine year-old.

I flip-flop between fleshly stewing and grumbling and desperate whispers to Jesus, Saviour, to well... save me.  I grumble about my attitude and his attitude and that uneaten half-a-sandwich.  In the midst of my half-prayer, half-whine, my heart all of a sudden jolts, then softens.

I hear it loud and clear in my heart: a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

I know this already, but I forget.  My heart forfeits the joy and chooses the harsh, impatient response.  The wisdom of Solomon is apparently wasted on me some days.

An innocent child spills a drink all across and down two binders of homeschooling books and I snap, "YOU HAVE TO BE MORE CAREFUL!"  The middle child, she stares, wide eyed.  The youngest hides in the fort they're making.  "Look at this!"  I'm frantic, trying to shake out pages and sop up water stains.  "Agh!  Mama's book!"

Finally, the mess is tamed and I stop long enough to breathe and gaze upon my children.  The youngest is guilty, lip quivering.  I'm instantly softened.  Why?  Why do I do this?  Why do I fly off the handle over a little spilled water?  "Mama's book!"  So what about the book...  Mama's children are watching and hearing and feeling my reactions and my words deep in their little hearts.

I bend low and bring them close, trying to explain away my freak-out.  As always, they understand. Always so full of grace.  I realize that water dripping and books accidentally stained is nothing compared to hearts permanently stained with Mama's harsh answers. 

Doesn't everyone in the whole of the world just desire a gentle answer?

When we ask a question, when we make a mistake, when we are having a bad day, when we are having a bad year - what does harshness do to our souls?

It stirs up anger, that's what it does.

And as a Mom, I spent years giving the hurried, impatient, 'I've-had-two-hours-sleep' answers.  And you know what I got in response?  Yep, you guessed it - anger.

I didn't see clearly then what is so profoundly true, I was the one stirring up recipes for disaster in my home.  I was running around like an untamed bronco, giving harsh answer after harsh answer and wondering why everything was so messed up.

Because when you have three children under three and you are barely squeaking by, you can say a lot of things you'll regret.  Because if you aren't clinging to the only One who can truly change the heart so the heart spews love and gentleness and kindness and patience, you are bound for disaster.

The hurried bed-times, the snappy answers, the not having time for a thousand 4-year-old questions.  The uncaring, brash tone I wore just especially for my husband.  All these things stirred up anger in the hearts of those I loved the most.  And when you're exasperated and lonely and exhausted, the last thing you need is anger.  Because that anger breeds more harsh answers.  And so the cycle of sin and selfishness goes - a never ending, joyless grind.

But oh, the sweetness when our eyes are opened, the scales peeled away and the truth revealed.  I do not have to be a slave to my feelings.  No, I can actually surrender my feelings and my desire to lash out, lose my temper, say what I'll regret.  I can stop and surrender to a Heavenly Father who comes to the rescue, breathes life into my lungs and enables me to exhale loving words.  Gentle answers.

And then - as always - the Word of God proves true.  You give a gentle answer, and it turns away wrath.  And when that darkness is gone, Light has room to move right in.

And just like that, words and reactions can change your days and your whole entire life.  Because isn't it also true that words, our words, they either bring life or death?  I choose, every time I respond to my children, to serve them up a heaping plate of life, or a rotting bowl of death.  I choose.

But I do not choose alone.

That's the glory of the life with Christ Jesus.  With Adonai.  With Emmanuel, who is God with me.  I cling to Him, I fill my heart with His words, and His love and I ask His help in every situation, and He comes and He takes over.  And slowly, slowly, my heart starts to look more like His.  And when there is spilled water and uneaten sandwiches, all is still well.

All is well because my heart no longer jumps to the freak out.  My words no longer fly off the handle and strike with harshness.  My soul takes a big deep breath and I know ahead of time, I have already surrendered those moments to something bigger, something so much better.  I have chosen to reach out for grace and give the gentle answer, to breathe the life-words.  And Christ, in His unfailing faithfulness is there.  And His peace prevails and love wins.

With those always ready gentle answers, the wrath flies out the window.  Words become life, not death - and Mamas eyes are turned to heaven.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  

Proverbs 15:1

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.  
Proverbs 18:21

I would encourage you to take time and read this beautiful post all about the power of our words from one of my favourite people.  Here's a quote from Ann Voskamp worth sharing and reading and remembering:

"Words leave your mouth, your keyboard, but words don’t ever expire quietly in a void — they always explode in hearts.
Every verb you utter causes a corresponding action, a movement, in every listener.
Measure your words — they determine the distance of your relationships."

Homeschool Plans for 2015 and more Charlotte Mason for our days...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Humbling, overwhelming, joyful, challenging, and enlightening are just some of the ways I would describe homeschooling on a any given day!  Oh yes, BUSY is a good one too!

Since we start most of our school years in August, we're usually ready for a shake-up come January.  Almost every year we revamp at this time.  As a home educator, I am constantly assessing how the children are relating to and learning with specific curriculums as well as teaching methods.

Since we try to cling to many of Charlotte Mason's philosophies, we use hundreds (thousands?) of living books every year for learning, teaching, discovering, and growing.  Every subject is filled to the brim with wonderful whole books.  It would be impossible for me to list all the books we use in our home.  We can go through 50 picture books a week, and are always using books as resources and reading novels and shorter chapter books!  So, keep in mind, below is a highlight of the more 'curriculum' type books we use.  You do not, however, even need curriculum to learn and grow well in the home…  a big 'ol pile of rich, engaging living books is a wonderful place to start with any child and at any age, especially under six years old.

Schedules and Weekly Plans:

Can I be completely honest and say - it makes me feel so weird to share this type of thing on here! My little hand-typed in NeoOffice files aren't the hight of blogging excitement!  I share only because of how many Moms have asked me to post our weekly times tables and schedules.

For our daily scheduling, I created my own files using a simple 'table' setting in a word processor. These are my life-line and I couldn't function day to day without these outlines and plans.  Each week is a four-page spread with one page for all Individual Work, two pages (see below) for our Family/Group Work, and a final page for my own review of the week and room for notes for the upcoming week.  This pages also serve as a very detailed record of our year.

So, here's how it looks for us...  please forgive the photo quality, the shots weren't coming out the best!

This is our weekly schedule with only a few changes made for 2015.

Weekly Plans - 


Page one of Family/Group work includes our Bible and Scripture Memory, Hymn Study, Literature, Poetry, Folk Tales and Songs, and usually various other planned readings.

Page two of our Family/Group work includes things like Geography, Hebrew and French, History, Art and Picture Study, Music and Composer Study, Science/Nature Study, and Handicrafts.  This page is also sometimes switched out completely for a Five in a Row planning sheet if we are doing a Five in a Row unit that week.

One thing I added this year that has been very helpful is a Reading Log.  I try to keep track and record all the books the children are reading, which is quite the task, but very nice to have at the end of the year!

Curriculum, Books, and Hopes!

Five in a Row

This year we are following Five in a Row Volume 4 for the most part.  We are also finishing up some books from Volume 3 and will do Who Owns the Sun? from Volume 1.  We love our Five in a Row as you can see by our growing collection of titles we've studied!

Language Arts

Last year we discovered this wonderful Language Arts program from Queen Homeschool.  I have really enjoyed working through these gentle, Charlotte Mason-focused books.  I plan to review them coming up soon with lots of photos and descriptions!

For Spelling this year, we are using Spelling Wisdom Book One from Simply Charlotte Mason.  We have also started implementing the Schoolhouse Spelling program from School House Teachers (review coming in a few days!).    For grammar and composition we are using Simply Grammar by Karen Andreola (a revamp of Charlotte's original grammar series), and for cursive we are using Pictures in Cursive from Queen Homeschool.

I was given Alpha Phonics about a year ago to review.  At first I was very unsure about the program in general - it seemed quite dull, very 'school-like' and I wasn't very excited about the appearance of the books or the readers.  However, after almost a year of using it in our home, I really do love the program.  It is incredibly effective at teaching reading quickly and efficiently.  Alex is working through Alpha-Phonics along with several readers including the "I Can Read It" series from Sonlight.  A full review of Alpha-Phonics coming in the next two weeks!

Poetry memorization and copywork are a big part of our language arts studies as well.  Every week the children have one poem or a stanza of a larger poem to copy and try to memorize.  This can turn into a creative art project as well.  This is also a great way to find spelling words and grammar rules.  We really enjoy this Charlotte Mason flavour to our language arts.  Above is an example of a weekly poem that was inspired by one of the Ramona books.

Some of the many Fairy Tale, Mother Goose, and Poetry books we are using this year.

History and Geography

This year, we were introduced to Mystery of History Volume 2 through a co-op that we actually never ended up attending.  It was a gift though because I bought the curriculum, and then loved it so much I kept it.  And we have been really enjoying this program.  I wouldn't say it is entirely Charlotte Mason, but it definitely leans towards the learning the literature method.  The engaging narratives, use of history timeline and narration, and the chronological study of history all fit very well with our philosophies.

The history timeline we're working on in combination with our studies in Mystery of History.


The beginning of our timeline.

An example of the author's writing style.

For Geography, I've included Charlotte Mason's Elementary Geography, which is available online for free.  It's a great intro to World Geography and written in perfect Charlotte style, since, well, it's written by Mason herself!

 An example of an activity from the Charlotte Mason Geography.

For geography we are also using Canada, My Country by Donna Ward, which we've enjoyed for simple Canadian history and geography.


Math for the two older children is Teaching Textbooks (can't say enough positive things about TT), and Alex is still working through Horizons Math along with the Charlotte Mason Math photographed below.

We are also using this Queen Homeschool Math for a living education.  This is much more geared to a Charlotte Mason style of learning and our children do enjoy these books.  They are a stand-alone curriculum, but I use them in combination with other books.

Habit Formation

Love this book from Simply Charlotte Mason.  This highlights all the habits Charlotte focused on, many biblical character traits and life skills/habits.  It is pretty intensive and we've only touched on it, but it is my prayer to really work on habits this year. I hope to post a review of this resource soon!

Bible, Faith Studies, and Scripture Memorization

We love our Scripture Memory Box that I created with the help of the 'how-to' tutorial over at Simply Charlotte Mason.

We're reading through the 3rd volume of Hero Tales this year and we absolutely love this series.  Not only is it great for Hero Recognition (a part of a Charlotte Mason education), it is such a faith builder!  The stories of the believers in these books are both uplifting and a challenge to our daily walks.  Our nine year old son especially love these stories.

Here are some of the resources we use daily in our home - the Adventure Bible for reading God's word, the Adventure Bible Devotions book, and The Complete Illustrated Children's Bible.  I can't say enough about the illustrated bible.  It is by far the most detailed 'picture' bible I've found.  It has over 600 pages and is very well written and illustrated.  Our children are constantly begging me to 'keep going!'.  Published by Harvest House.

Some more books we're planning to study/read.

Music and Art Study

We were blessed to get this Tree Of Life program for Elementary Music for only a few dollars at a homeschool sale and it is great!  We are using it slowly but steadily in combination with composer studies and living books about various composers.  Right now we're working on Haydn.

Another two books we have absolutely loved this year - ARTistic Pursuits and Come Look with Me.  ARTistic Pursuits we have used for hands on art projects and simple picture studies and the children have truly enjoyed it.  Come Look With Me is a great series of books for easy to do picture studies of beautiful paintings.  This red book is all portraits and art with children as the subject(s).  We also just starting using Everyday Easels from School House Teachers which I truly love and will review in the next week.

Some of the art resources we use regularly.

Nature Study

This year we started our first Nature Calendar of Firsts.  It is very simple, just printed basic grids with numbers pasted in a sketch book.  At the top of each page is simply the month printed.  This is were we can keep track of 'firsts' of each season as we observe them in nature.

I'm really excited to start using these wonderful nature studies from Shining Dawn Books.  NaturExplorers is hands-on, easy to use, and there are so many units to choose from.  Full reviews of various units and giveaways are coming soon!

Nature Study is our science, especially for this year.  I feel like we really need to focus on getting back into nature more and learn through smell, touch, feel, etc.  We were focusing on a text-book style science program but I feel its high time to toss the text and get back to how our children truly love to learn science... by experiencing God's creation!

The book I can't recommend enough...

A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola has been one of the biggest encouragements to me as a home educator.  Highly recommend this book!

Thanks for reading, friends...  

Reflections from a Christ-Centered Hanukkah

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

 It has been oddly mild for late December and I can't help but be glad for the not-so-wintery weather.  Last year we were in the midst of the biggest ice storm to hit Southern Ontario in years.  This year we've been playing with hens in the grassy backyard!  So much was different this year (not just the weather!).   Our home, our hearts, our new found celebration of Hanukkah - very new and very special.  I had to share from my heart...

Our embracing Hanukkah this year came after much prayer, reflection, and yes, good old fashioned research.  Last year, the day after Christmas, our hearts were incredibly burdened.  My husband and I sat on the couch praying about what was gripping our hearts so tightly.  It was Christmas.  We just didn't feel right about Christmas.  Or Easter.  Or Halloween.  Or Valentine's Day.  But we had always gone along with what we'd always done.  After all, that was the norm.  But we knew the Lord was prompting us to take a closer look at these 'traditions of man'.

We felt so torn up inside that we promptly started taking down our decorations and tree at midnight that night after watching a documentary on the roots of Christmas.

So, this year, we knew things had to be different.  There was no tree, no Christmas decorations, no Christmas at all in our home, actually.  Instead, we celebrated Hanukkah and spent the eight days of the festival reading about Christ Jesus as our Light.  After all, Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights!  Much in the bible points to Christ being conceived during this feast as well!  Imagine, the Light of the World conceived during the Festival of Lights!

The morning of the last day of Hanukkah the fog hung heavy all around our neighbourhood.  All that warm air blowing in, I suppose.  We took our weekly drive through the nearby country side to a free flowing spring where we fill our water jugs.  We could barely see trees across a harvested corn field and the twisting road seemed to lead to nowhere at all, for the fog.  I'd never seen fog so thick.

A street light was glowing far ahead as we rounded a sharp turn.  I spotted it long before anything else on the road, yellow lamplight and rings of haze all around as we approached through drizzle and low cloud.  A light was there - and we saw it, even though we saw nothing else.

I am the Light of the world.  Those who follow me will not walk in darkness but will have the Light of Life.  

This was our memory work for the week and my prayer is that this truth to be planted deep in the souls of our children.  I pray it would nestle down and grow strong roots in my own heart as well. Because I'm a girl in need of daily Light.   Just like the light of the sun brings breath to the flower, the Light of God brings the fleshy spiritual beat to our hearts.

And in all of life, doesn't every soul seek light?  Even when we don't know what we're looking for, all along we reach for it.  When wandering in the desolate dark, we squint for a small spark, a tiny glimmer - and then we run wildly toward it.  There's something about that light - about being able to see, that makes all the difference.


Every night, as we lit the Menorah, that ancient light in the darkness, all eyes around the table were fixed on the flickering flames.  The center candle is the lighting candle and it represents Jesus (Y'eshua in Hebrew).   When this candle lights the rest, we are reminded how Y'eshua brings the very light of life to us as well.  And yes, to any person, big or small, who calls on His name.  And we whisper to each other that we are also to be a light and spread His light in this world.  Yes, there's a whole lot of lighting going on, and it's a beautiful display of Christ's grace and love.

See, what moves me so profoundly about these feasts is the complete focus on our Lord.  There is nothing to distract.   No presents to worry about, no shopping to run around doing, just time with family, meals together, God's word, and simple life.  Everything is done to focus our thoughts and hearts on Him.  We humble ourselves and say, "Lord this is Your celebration... show us how to honor You", and He does!

Before we started the week of celebrating, I didn't have a plan together of what to do with the children.  The start of Hanukkah (Dec.16th this year) snuck up on me.  So, as I contemplated what to do to make this celebration special and meaningful, I prayed.  I prayed the Lord would show me what to do and how to do it.  And within a few hours, I had all my thoughts and plans together.  It was so special to feel like the Father was leading us in this way.

If you have never embraced the biblical feasts before, I would encourage you to pray and seek the Lord's face on this topic, it is so rich and so beautiful!  (And we're just getting warmed up!)

Be blessed today, tomorrow, and forevermore, friends!

A peak at how we embraced Hanukkah this year:

We used a Menorah that had 7 candles.  The traditional Hanukkah Menorah has 9.  We chose this one because we wanted to use the biblical Menorah found in the Old Testament.  

We used our nature tree, which we have used for so many family traditions.  This included the flags of Hanukkah (one had a star of David, the other had a candle to represent light), as well as tags handing for the daily themes and scripture verses.  This is always a fun and pretty addition to any celebration.

I listed all the themes and verses we used in my first post about Hanukkah.

Daily Themes hang throughout the festival to remind us of the truths we are learning and taking time to reflecting upon.

Once we read our daily scriptures, we wrote them out and posted them on the kitchen wall.

For daily themes and readings, I used small envelops labelled by day (Day 1-Day 8).  Each envelop had two decorations for our nature tree.  Each decoration was a simple piece of paper with rafia to hang.  They clearly stated the day's theme and listed the scriptures for us to look up and read.  Once we read,  we hung them during dinner each night when we lit our menorah.

Making and painting a Star of David banner.

Art Lesson - still life, painting a Menorah using Acrylic Paints.

Audrey's Menorah - love it!

Hanukkah Lapbooks/Memory Books:

Practicing the name of Jesus (Yeshua) in Hebrew.

Ha!  Love this interpretation by Simon...

Adapting for Alex (age 6).  He traced copywork on each page and drew a picture to reflect what he wrote.

I encourage you to read through Ephesians 5!!!  Such a gift and reminder of how we are to live every day...

Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground