Friday, June 27, 2014

Weekly Homeschool Wrap-Up 6/27

VBS Week News

You know Vacation Bible School has worn your kids out when their older brother, reading aloud from a nature sight, mentions that fireflies are endangered, making the younger three start crying. That was my first cue that I needed to give them the day off school today.

VBS was fantastic, despite Mary's weather/thunder anxiety, which worried me into a mild frenzy of my own Tuesday and Wednesday, after she refused to participate in the first two days. VBS is usually her favorite summer activity, but this year she sat with her fingers in her ears and a throw-up bowl by her side, staying with me, which meant I couldn't help at all until the last day. I was ready to go to the doctor and ask for Prozac of my own, having flashbacks to Peter's 3-4 years of generalized anxiety disorder. Can I really go through that again? This is worse, since Mary is eating very little on cloudy days, throwing up during thunder, and already losing weight. Peter's situation never affected his appetite.

We attended VBS at the same church we go to for AWANA, and my children made more friends, as did I. We fell more in love with that church, which is very family-oriented.

Our own church is a church plant in the local elementary school, and in the three years we've been attending, there has been no mention of praying for or seeking a church building of our own. We have to attend extra children's ministries (AWANA and VBS) elsewhere. The emphasis for our church has been on planting other churches, rather than on creating a permanent home.

For our kids this has been a real drawback, and I didn't realize to what extent until they expressed how much they love this AWANA church and all of its families and pastors (all the families are wonderful; I met several more of them while helping with ice cream sundaes the last day).

It's no larger than our church I don't think, but the music pastor is fantastic and very dynamic with the kids, showing them the time of their lives with lively, interactive songs, such as you would have at Christian camps (many a cappella). My kids have never had a music "pastor" before, especially not one who paid any attention to children. The associate pastor is also very experienced in working with children and he coordinated a wonderful VBS experience--the best my kids have ever had.

The real starting age for this VBS was age 4, but there was a 2's and 3's class made up mostly of the helpers' children who went along with the preschool group as much as they could (because staying in the nursery for three hours would have been too much). My son Peter helped with this 2's and 3's class and did a wonderful job. Several adults praised him for his maturity and initiative. It turns out that our speech teacher goes to this church and was the coordinator for the 2's and 3's class and she had a lot of praise for Peter as well. I was so proud of him! (He's a handful at home. Not always so mature, so it did my momma heart good to hear this.)

Portrait of a Family-Friendly Church 

I learned a few things about the church, including that the family stays together for the first 45 minutes of the Sunday service, after which children ages 4 years old through grade 3 are invited to children's church for the last 45 minutes of service to hear a Bible story, share in Bible memory activities, sing, watch puppet shows, pray, do crafts, play games, and have an occasional snack. Older children stay in service, which I think eliminates the behavior problems you tend to have in older kids' classrooms. Older children really should be learning to follow sermons, and ideally their own parents should deal with any discipline problems that present themselves. I will have to let you know from audio-taped sermons if this pastor attempts to make his sermons intelligible to the 4th-grade plus set. (Our current pastor speaks only to adults).

There are "busy bags" in the foyer to grab on your way into the sanctuary for young children, full of board books, crayons and coloring books, all tied around a certain theme, such as space. Wonderful idea! Everything about the church is just so family friendly, and I noticed that there is emphasis in their mission statement on bearing one another's burdens and developing meaning personal relationships with other church goers. It's non-denominational, and of course Bible-preaching and Bible-believing. They also have a food cupboard and work to care for the community, which is something lacking in our own church. Because of homeschooling and my children's issues, I couldn't take any initiative to make my own church more least-of-these friendly. I can and want to help with food-cupboard and community work, I just can't lead or coordinate it.

We weren't looking to change our church home and don't care for church changes, but as I think about Mary's escalating anxiety disorder and look back at the 3-4 year strain it was when Peter went through something similar, this family-oriented worship format will work much better. Already Mary has had trouble making it through her church class at our current church, and it's not as seamless to have her stay with us. There's nothing child-friendly about our service and she dreads going. Before the advent of this anxiety disorder she enjoyed going to class, however, in my heart I've always desired a more family-friendly, whole-family-oriented church service.

The singing at this new church is a cappella in a blend of traditional and contemporary, which eliminates a lot of the haggling over church music and how loud it is or isn't. I don't have the voice for hymns and didn't grow up with them, but I do love hearing just voices at church. It sends a thrill somehow, to hear the love for Jesus coming through all the combined voices, whereas when the instruments are loud, you don't hear many voices. (Not that I don't enjoy the instruments; I do.)

I just pared down my nursery helper positions at my current church to one per month, plus a fifth week preschool teaching position, so we can't make any change quickly, and my husband will ultimately have to make the decision. The preaching is the most important element for him, so he would have to visit several times first and listen to some audio-sermons. One definite drawback is that this church is not close, but using the freeway may make it a twenty-minute drive one-way. Our current church is just down the street from us.

What are your favorite things about your own church? Is it family friendly?

Homeschool News

Peter read Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski and really enjoyed it, especially the Christian conversion at the end. "Can someone so evil really become a Christian, Mommy?" Peter was glad to learn more about how strawberry plants grow and spread, and more about how a farmer can diversify his farm. Paul is still reading this novel.

Peter is in the middle of Preacher's Boy by Katherine Patterson and is really enjoying that also. I enjoyed it very much too, finishing it the day before Peter started it. I recommend it for boys--plenty of adventure and learning and maturing.

The main character doesn't ever really become an atheist, as the book jacket suggests. He just toys with the idea after hearing an extreme fire-and-brimstone sermon by a visiting preacher who suggests that the Lord may come back before the turn of the Century. The boy's father is very busy and preoccupied with his congregation and neglects his relationship with this young son. A lot of the boy's issues result from that neglect and from feeling unloved and unappreciated. I think this book is an important book for parents and pre-teens to discuss together, emphasizing the importance of communication in these formative and confusing years.

Lexile 860

Synopsis: A new century is fast approaching ... but will the year 1900 mean the end of the world, as some say? Robbie Hewitt isn't certain. What he does know is that he wants to get in as much living as possible between now and the new year, just in case — which includes running Mabel Cramm's bloomers up the flagpole on Decoration Day, and taking a ride in a real motorcar.

Robbie doesn't care that his antics leave his preacher father and the upstanding citizens of Leonardstown, Vermont, heartily unimpressed. But when his high spirits and hot temper entangle him in a scheme that damages far more than his father's reputation, Robbie must choose whether to take responsibility for his actions — a decision that holds the life of a man in the balance.

In a ruminative tale of a 10-year-old freethinker, set in a small Vermont town at the end of the 19th century, Robbie decides to become a heathen, a Unitarian, or a Democrat, whichever was most fun, because he ain't got the knack for holiness. As it turns out, he's not very good at sinning either, and he grows emotionally and morally when he begins to see the consequences of his actions.

A light school week: We had a light school week due to VBS. The children wrote in their journals and did their reading and math, and that's about it.

The very hungry caterpillar: They're very much enjoying "the very hungry caterpillar", which is a monarch caterpillar they've been feeding milkweed leaves. Today the caterpillar began a cocoon, after deciding that his eating and pooping frenzy was finally done. In two weeks, we'll have a monarch butterfly. None of us ever tire of this miracle and we watch it several times with several different caterpillars every year.

Trade books to share:

Big Jim and the White-Legged Moose by Jim Arnosky

Synopsis: A waggish ballard based on the artist's real-life encounter with an enormous bull moose. Rib-tickling illustrations and a lively read-aloud, sing-aloud rhyme will have everyone grabbing pencil and paper and heading for the woods to follow in Big Jim's footsteps. Music is included.

My comments: My girls and I sure enjoyed this and my son Paul attempted to play it on the piano. A lot of fun!


 Goose Moon by Carolyn Arden

Synopsis: (School Library Journal) Tired of winter, a child asks her grandfather if it will ever be summer again. He replies that she must wait and watch for the Goose Moon, for when it shines the geese will come flying back, bringing summer on their wings. The girl patiently waits and notes the little signs of approaching spring, until at last Grandpa wakes her one night to see the bright round moon and the geese returning by its light. This quiet story, somewhat similar in tone to Jane Yolen's Owl Moon (Philomel, 1987), is complemented by oversized pages with luminous watercolors subtly suggesting the chill of winter and the comfortable warmth of home. The book paints a strong relationship between the protagonist and her grandfather, bound together by their love of nature as well as for one another.

My comments: The beauty of this story lies in the relationship between the girl and her grandfather, and in the depiction of the seasons on the farm. Really quiet and beautiful, with memorable illustrations.


(2013 published) The Market Bowl by Jim Averbeck

SynopsisYoyo has listened to Mama Cécile’s song about how to make ndolé (bitterleaf stew) her entire life—long enough to know how to make it herself, now that she is finally old enough. But slicing the bitterleaf, grinding the pumpkin, measuring out the shrimp—it just takes too long. Yoyo is confident that her variation on the stew will be good enough.
As Mama Cécile and Yoyo set off to market, Mama reminds Yoyo what will happen if she refuses a fair price for the stew—Brother Coin, the Great Spirit of the Market, will put a curse on their market bowl. When Yoyo refuses to heed Mama’s advice, she is faced with the task of trying to regain a blessing from the god himself.
An original folktale set in modern-day Cameroon, THE MARKET BOWL teaches readers a lesson about patience, humility, and the value of a fair price. Back matter includes further information about Cameroon and its people and traditions as well as a recipe for ndolé—Cameroon’s national food dish.

My comments: From the author's note: "Christian and Muslim traditions thrive side by side with a belief in ancestral spirits that guide and protect the local population". I think this is a beautiful, engaging, social studies book, but requires some explaining because of the different beliefs. Also, beware that the author/illustrator gave the little girl and her mother blue eyes, which offended two African families, according to some comments on Amazon. These families thought that blue eyes on Africans would be so rare, why use them in this book? Kids may not notice such a detail, but I feel badly that it did offend some families. 

I think it's important to read many multicultural books to our children to prevent them from developing prejudices. Talk about and explain whatever they don't understand because combating ignorance and fear is most of the battle. In the end, they will learn that human beings are far more alike one another than they are different, the world over.

Two Amazon reviews shown below for The Market Bowl:

1. Sadly, children's books with non-Caucasian protagonists are nearly nonexistent. The CCBC's latest count says that only around 3% of U. S. books feature black protagonists, though African Americans are 10% of the population. I can recommend this book for showing a strong, African female protagonist and for depicting modern Africa (Cameroon) with accurate details like cell towers, cellphones and ipods. The illustrations are gorgeous, especially the highly colorful and patterned clothing of the Cameroonian people.

2. Yoyo, the BLACK AFRICAN protagonist girl and her mother have Blue eyes?? Really Jim Averback?? Blue eyes?? I am the African mother of 2 beautiful African girls and I was once an African girl myself and we do not have blue eyes. Just giving us our own lovely dark eyes will suffice. Please NO BLUE EYES!!! We do not want or need them! Most humans, even white ones, do not have blue eyes, they have brown eyes. I can't figure out why the need for blue eyes on Africans.


(2014 Published) Julibee! One Man's Big, Bold, and Very, Very Loud Celebration of Peace by Alicia Potter

Synopsis: An exuberant picture book applauds the man behind the 1869 National Peace Jubilee, the largest and loudest concert the world had ever seen — or heard.

As a young boy growing up in Ireland, Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore loved music — the louder, the better! This love of music followed him to Boston in 1849, where he became a bandleader. During the brutal Civil War, it was music that kept up his spirits and those of his fellow soldiers. So when the war ended and peace was restored to the country, Patrick had an idea. He would create the biggest, boldest, loudest concert the world had ever known to celebrate. A peace jubilee! But with twelve cannons, forty church bells, one thousand musicians, and ten thousand singers, just how would all of this sound? Matt Tavares’s spirited illustrations burst with sound words in perfect harmony with Alicia Potter’s triumphant story of the joy of music.
Weekly Wrap-Up


Christy said...

I dislike switching churches yet we have done it a few times. We are Lutheran and have always switched between congregations of our denomination. Out current church is so lovely. They have a homeschool group that meets weekly with co-op classes, the church is smaller like where I grew up. It is entirely family friendly with Sunday school / bible class hour between the services so the children are expected to be in worship with the adults. Worship is not geared for children but not above their ability either.

Tesha Papik said...

This post is interesting to me for many reasons. First of all because we are a small church plant I often wonder what takes people away from our church or what brings them to our church. We also are lacking the larger church activities like, VBS and a church food ministry. I think leaving one Church to go to another requires a lot of prayer and realy hearing from God. I feel that people are called to a certain church, to a congregation community- to support them to encourage them and to build each other up. Some of the most difficult times in our ministry has been when people have left the church, because we love those people and they are like family to us and when there gone it almost feels like a divorce. I still grieve for a group of women that left many years ago. I do believe there are times when God calls you to another place it's just that I think you have to know for certain that it is his calling. Of course listening to your husband's leadership is the best way to go! We are moving from a non-traditional church building to a traditional church building this Sunday, I know we will most likely lose and gain people just based on that. The other thing that interest me in this post is Having children in service. I have to say I love family integrated worship! We have children's church up to around age 8. However I love when children sit in service with their parents. We have our children sit in service from the age of about five and it has done wonders for their faith!!! Well I will be praying that God leads you and directs you this big decision:

Christine said...

Thank you both for commenting. I am sorry I haven't made comments back in a timely manner. Thank you Christy for visiting. I enjoyed reading about your VBS & homeschool week!

Tesha, I agree changing a church can be like a divorce, but more so when it is a small one. Ours is about 150 people and we would barely be missed and it wouldn't offend anyone that we left. We haven't had any conflicts so no one would assume anything negative about our departure. I think leaving because of conflicts is another matter and leaves behind feelings akin to divorce.

I don't know what my husband will decide. He really wants good preaching so we will see what happens. There is more connection at the church that has a home base because they are not limited to times they can get together. The building belongs to them. Our church gets together twice a year socially and that is all, except for small groups which we don't get to because we don't have a babysitter or want to get a babysitter. (We had a Bible study here in our home for adults but I discontinued it until the neighborhood children's Bible study is completed.)

The other church is more family-oriented and things center around the family and the building allows that, which is a blessing. To meet in the elementary school with no plans to have a building or a fund to make it possible, just doesn't fit for us long-term.

Beth said...

It sounds like a great church with the VBS and AWANA. My kids miss AWANA.