Thursday, July 31, 2008

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Michael and I began teaching the Westminster Shorter Catechism to our older son two years ago. He has been blessed with a remarkable ability to memorize and has done well. This year we believed it was time to advance our younger son and allow him to memorize the Shorter Catechism as well. I was reluctant to make this move, not sure that he would enjoy the study and would tire out before memorizing even the first question and answer.

To help keep his interest, I sought out some teaching resources and really love two. First, The Westminster Shorter Catechism Songs, Volumes 1-4 set the 107 questions and corresponding answers to music. The composer and performer, Holly Dutton, has a beautiful, soothing voice, and both of my sons enjoy listening to her. The music is upbeat but simple and enjoyable. We find ourselves singing the song of the week throughout the day.

I begin on Monday by writing the catechism for the week on the board. We read, review, and briefly discuss it. Then, I play the song once for them, making them listen only. After this, we sing through with the words on the board for them to reference two or three times. On Tuesday, we sing the song three or four times and then I have each boy try to answer the question without looking at the written answer. We repeat this on Wednesday and Thursday. Then, on Friday, I place a sticker on a chart that corresponds with the catechism number if they can answer the question successfully.

On Friday night, Michael reads from our second resource, The Westminster Shorter Catechism for Study Classes by G.I. Williamson. This study provides a lesson on each question and answer, offering scripture proofs and review questions. Sometimes the lessons are above the boys' heads (sometimes they are above mine!), but they glean something each week.

This system is working so well that Michael and I intend to stick to it for the next three years during which time we will cover all 107 questions. Then, Lord willing, we intend to repeat the three year cycle. This will just happen to correspond with the boys' middle school years. And, then, we will repeat once more during their high school years.

I am journaling some of their responses to the study questions so I can look back and compare their answers in elementary school to their answers in later years. I look forward to experiencing the spiritual growth that the Lord will produce through this study.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

BSU Reunion!

Narly Dude! Far Out! AWESOME!!! Insert your favorite late '80's, early '90's euphemism here. Saturday night's banquet to honor Ron served double duty as a reunion for all of us MSU-BSUers.
I was thrilled to see one of my best friends, Tonya, pictured above, along with so many other of Michael's and my best buds from back in the day.
First, we looked through scrapbooks and other artifacts left out for our amusement. It was interesting looking at pictures of us in our 20's with a 30-something perspective. In my opinion now, we looked like kids. We sure didn't think we were kids then.
We enjoyed a special time of sharing memories with Ron. Some of us spoke in person, others via video recordings. Some of us, namely me, kept quiet because the moment was just too emotionally charged for speech giving. However, those who were brave enough to speak, reminded us of the great times we shared serving the Lord together at the BSU. We reminisced about Sonburst, Noondays, and those early morning council meetings. We also remembered our many antics, like someone, who will remain nameless, nearly setting fire to the BSU. It was great recalling all the missions trips, but most especially, the infamous SPOTS trip to Chicago. The Ron-DCTalk story got many laughs from everyone present. Thanks Michelle for the great way you shared that one for us. You're brave! LOL! We also passed photo albums and "oohed" and "aahed" at each other's children.
It was great to reconnect with so many of you. I enjoyed hearing how the Lord is at work in your lives, and loved seeing the pictures of your children. It felt like a family reunion and made me long for the ultimate family reunion when the dead in Christ shall rise. Won't that be a great day?!
I was too busy talking to take many pictures, but here's what I got. Hope you enjoy.

Thanks Ron!

This picture is of Michael and me on either side of a great man whom we both love dearly. His name is Ron, and he retires this week from 40 years of faithful service directing student ministries on campuses in Ohio, Florida, and Tennessee. We just returned from Memphis, our alma mater, where a banquet was held in his honor.
College was a turning point in my life. I entered as a career-oriented feminist, set on making my mark on the world. I exited as a child of God with a heart turned toward ministry, longing for the day that I would be able to home school my children. The reason for the drastic change... what happened at the BSU during the years in between.
It was there that I first fell in love with my Savior, Jesus Christ. Then, I fell in love with my dear Michael. Finally, the Lord gave me a passion for teaching children, leading me into the field of education with the hope of home schooling one day.
I am so grateful to Ron for the work he did for our benefit. His constant presence in our lives and his teaching of the Word impacted my life in ways that I struggle to find words to express. I hope that he enjoys his retirement as much as I enjoyed my college years, thanks to him and the BSU.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


This is the picture I showed the boys to help them develop a definition for the term "worldly." I made sure to point out that being worldly does not involve owning brightly-colored scarves, but does involve a love of pleasure and having your security in something other than Christ, much like the attitude that these scarves project.
Then, we read the chapter in Little Pilgrim's Progress in which Little Christian meets the character Worldly. He convinces Little Christian that there is an easier and more pleasing way to relieve one's burden than to travel through the Wicket Gate. What ensued next reminded me of 2 Samuel 12 when Nathan told King David the story of the rich man, the poor man and the lamb. Resembling David's attitude in being ready to put the rich man to death, my boys were appalled at Worldly. "How could he say that to Little Christian," they asked. When Little Christian follows Worldly at the end of the chapter, one of my boys said, "Oh no! That can't be good. Why would he do that? WHY?"
The story definitely had them emotionally involved, so we went to 1 John 2:15, "Do not love the world or the things in the world." In discussing this, the boys were sure they did not love the world. How could they be like the characters in the book? Then, we got more specific in verse 16. "These are the evil things in the world: wanting things to please our sinful selves, wanting the sinful things we see, being too proud of the things we have." We discussed in more detail what each of those statements means.
It was a comfort to me that just like Nathan had said to David, the Spirit communicated to us that "You are that man!" They began to see the point that Little Christian represents them. They began to see how easily they can stray from the path of righteousness. We continued to discuss that only God is the faithful one, only he can deliver us from temptation, and they even began to confess that they can spend too much time seeking pleasure. We ended with a time of prayer, praising God for his Word, asking him to lead us from worldliness, and thanking him for such a good story to read.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Providential Visitor

This is who showed up at our backdoor today. Normally, a reptilian visitor of any variety would not make me very happy. Today, however, I was ecstatic about this box turtle's visit.

We were in the classroom preparing for a field trip to the zoo. This year's science lessons begin with a look at how to classify animals using Linnaeus's taxonomy. We were discussing Kingdom, Phylum, Class, and so on. I also read to the boys from Genesis 1 and the Zoo Guide, an Answers in Genesis publication that explains how God created animals to reproduce within their created kind. This led to a discussion on Darwinian evolution verses the "fixity of species" that Linnaeus, a creationist, defended. I was hoping to take them to the zoo the next day and have them complete a scavenger hunt using this guide. Because the weather forecast called for rain, we decided the classroom activity would have to suffice.

The Lord had other plans though. After hearing part of the lesson, my husband went outside to do some chores before the rain came. When he opened the backdoor, our turtle friend was sitting on the stoop. We used to live in a rural area and saw turtles almost everyday. Now, however, we live downtown and in four years have never before seen a turtle in our yard, let alone on the back stoop. When we couldn't go on the field trip, the Lord brought the field trip to us. We were able to research and classify the turtle. Instead of being disappointed about the cancelled zoo visit, the boys were thrilled to have a new turtle friend.

It may seem silly, but this made me feel so loved and blessed by God. Though my plans were ruined, his will can never be deterred. I had a pretty good lesson plan in my book, but the day he had planned was so much better. As Proverbs 16:9 says, " A man's heart devises his ways, but Jehovah fixes his steps."

Monday, July 7, 2008

What a Day!

Our first day of the 2008-2009 school year is over... whew! Our day began with a quiet time, followed by Veritas Press Bible. I am doing the quiet time with the boys to teach them how to read and reflect on a verse. During our time today, we analyzed Deut. 7:9, "Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands." I was blown away when I asked what the key word was and Bruster replied, "faithful." Then, providentially, the Veritas Lesson from Judges was completely about God's faithfulness and the Israelites unfaithfulness. What a great time we had in the word today.

We spent the next hour with science, history and grammar. First, they played a game I created on Power Point to help them distinguish between aquatic and other animals. Then, they colored beautiful covers for their journals, explained the Missouri Compromise and colored the slave verses free states on a US outline map. Next, we reviewed the 8 parts of speech. I just about fell over when Bruster said that an adjective "modifies" a noun. They really are listening!

We have two literature studies going this six weeks. First, we are reading Little Pilgrim's Progress by Helen L. Taylor. I loaded the boys back packs down with really heavy books and made them carry them around the house until they were exhausted to help them understand Little Christian's burden. Then, I showed them a power point that had pictorial representations of the vocabulary words for the first three chapters. We ended the time by reading a chapter, discussing, and reading a related Bible verse. The second study is on Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days. I followed a similar pattern, introducing vocabulary through Power Point, reading and discussing.

The afternoon was spent in individual studies. Bruster and I did spelling, handwriting and art together while BT worked on Latin and Japanese. He has begged us for two years to study Japanese. We hesitated for some time because of his age, but when I found Rosetta Stone (both years) for $50, I had to buy it for him. He loves his language studies, and I praise the Lord for how he has provided. During his one-on-one time with me, BT and I discussed his goals for the Spelling Bee and National Geographic Bee. He is intent on disciplined study in these areas, and I assigned him lists of information to master this six weeks.

The day ended with a dinner of foods from states we are studying. We feasted on Philly Cheese steaks for PA, It's the Berries (a cranberry dish) for NJ, Peaches Sunny-Side Up for GA and Cheesecake for DE. Yummy! What a great day!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Is It Time for School Already?!

Welcome to our Home School! As you can see, our "classroom" is not very large, but thankfully, a little creativity went a long way to turn this room into an inviting work space for the boys and me.
My space is in the middle. I have the three shelves for my teaching materials, the rolling cart for the overhead projector and related materials, and the filing cabinet with my laptop secured on top. I organize all my lesson plans using Microsoft Office One Note (best program available in my opinion). The green bulletin board serves as the Bible bulletin board. I have the memory verse for the week written on laminated strips, the Veritas Press card for the week, with others pinned beside it, and a mapping project that the boys will complete as we read Little Pilgrim's Progress by Helen L. Taylor. I also have two dry erase boards mounted, one for each boy so they can see easily and keep separate assignments, well... separate.

As you can tell, Bruster is really happy with his area. He has his own desk, with his supplies and books stored in the desk drawer and cubby. Behind him is the Social Studies bulletin board. I post the Veritas Press history cards here as well as their best work. To his left is his "wall of fame." I have framed awards he has won and pictures of some his best work or fondest school moments. Below that is an organizer bin filled with math manipulatives. Above the bulletin board, I have mounted all the Veritas Press cards that we have covered as a time line. I attach them to the wall with rubber cement. They do not fall, and the rubber cement does not damage the wall. Since Bruster is my scientist, I placed fish themed window clings on the window to his right.

Since BT is our historian, he has the honor of being seated at the window with the fifteen-star, fifteen-stripe flag as a curtain. This was the flag during the time period of US history that we will study this six weeks. His desk contains all of his supplies, and he also has a "wall of fame" to his left. Behind him is a closet filled with supplies and a large bookshelf which houses the books for the year as well as music, math, and science supplies. To use every inch of space as effectively as possible, I attached learning centers to the sides and backs of each desk. I also plan to do group work at the kitchen table where messes can be more easily contained/cleaned up.

Please peruse the rest of the pictures and leave me feedback as a comment. I am excited about using the room as it is arranged this year. It feels organized and comfortable, and I believe it is an improvement over last year.

Teacher Center
Wall of Fame and History Timeline
Math Bins and Social Studies Board
Fishy Window and Bible Timeline
Bible Board and Shelving

Thematic Decor and Learning Centers