More adventuring…and Myth demolishing

As I write this, on the other side of our island, homes and businesses are being threatened by a steady flow of lava.  Some people have been calling for the government to take drastic measures to try to stop the flow but the response from government officials has been to let “Pele have her way”. “She (Pele) is just cleaning house and who are we to stand in her way?”  Over and over the mantra is repeated to the public to “respect Pele” and “stay out of Pele’s way.”  So much for separation of church and state.  The government can impose all kinds of religious jargon on the people as long as it’s a pagan religion they’re espousing.  Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if the same officials claimed this lava flow to be the will of God and “who are we to stand in the Almighty’s way?”  Just a side note though, really.  What I really wanted to write about was this: 023_23 Those are our four older boys and Tom standing on British Soil!  And guess what?  They paddled all the way there! If you ever come to the Big Island, a must see sight (besides the active volcano and beautiful beaches) is the Captain Cook Monument which actually belongs by Hawaiian Royal Decree to Great Britain!  The only way to get there is via a really long hike (read about that adventure here) or by hiring one of several licensed kayak tours.  The parents of one of Tom’s students just happen to have said license and offered to take Tom and the boys across Kealakekua Bay on Saturday (Gideon and I opted for a walk to Farmers Market and a slice of quiche at a local coffee shop instead.  Poor us :)). Anyway, here are the boys paddling out on their Big Adventure:011_11  And here they are are enjoying the world-class snorkeling awaiting them on the other side of the bay: 025_25Here’s some more under-water pictures just because they’re fun and they happened to take about 100:

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When they got back home they were bursting with stories to tell of the amazing creatures they saw and all the interesting things they heard from their guide (he just happened to be a local private homeschooling tutor on the side and knew just how to talk to our boys in order to keep them completely enraptured throughout the entire excursion).  One of the stories he told them was how the Demi-god “Maui” had created Hawaii on a fishing trip with his brothers by getting a snag on the ocean floor and as his brothers rowed they pulled up this chain of islands!  “Isn’t that silly!”  My boys were quick to assure me of their own disbelief in such myths.  But actually, when I heard it, it sounded quite feasible.  At least a lot more feasible than the other explanations we’re inundated with about there being some “Big Bang” which accidentally resulted in this: 005_5 and this:004_4   and this: 020_20   and this:031_31 I could go on. But my point is:  That fish tail about the demigod, Maui, is a whole lot more believable than the one about you and I being the result of an accidental explosion of nothing. All of this was heavy on my mind as I headed off on my own Saturday adventure just hours after their return. Once a week I volunteer a couple hours at Mokuakaua Church and give tours and a history talk about the first missionaries bringing the gospel to this island in 1820.  Some guy named James Michener is responsible for profligating a whole bunch of myths about a truly miraculous story and I have to hear his version every Saturday as tourists step off the cruise ship and through the doors of our historic church.  My job is to dispel those myths with the true light of the gospel just as it was shown on this dark, death-filled land with the arrival of a few humble servants and a box full of Bibles two centuries ago.  Michener’s version reminds me a lot of that fish story of “Maui’s”.  And of a similar one by a guy named “Darwin.”  And the one about the volcano-god, Pele, that our local government officials are so fond of repeating.  It’s all the same story.  The one without Jesus in it.

Moms and Dads, Grandmas and Grandpas, we have one very important task.  It’s the same one Paul had in mind when he wrote these words to the Corinthians: “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).”  God has called us to rage war against the lies of our age, not to turn a blind eye to the Godless narratives of our time.  A story minus Christ, is a myth and a lie.  It’s not “History.”  And it’s not “Science.”  It’s a futile suppression of the one truth, The Author of Everything.  As Paul also says in Romans, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie (Rom.1:19-25).”  What’s even more pathetic, is that it’s not even a good lie!  Seriously.  Explosions of nothing and cosmic fishing mishaps?  And they think we’re crazy for believing in Jesus.  Get out there and shine the light people!  That’s the greatest adventure of all!




This is probably one of my most favorite pictures in the world. Hands down, these are the most important people in my little family’s life.  Those are my boys’ Omas and Opas.  Tom’s parents in front, my parents in back, and if my Dad looks a little nervous, I’m pretty sure it’s because they happen to be in their very first Selfie!  As I write this, these dear people are enjoying a much deserved vacation in the Canadian Rockies.  And even though I know they’re still pinching pennies (because that’s the way they all are), I’m glad they’re at least upgrading the way they travel now from the way they traveled when they had us along.  My parents took me on the same trip to Banff and Jasper National Parks when I was in Jr. High. Only we didn’t fly there.  We drove a very economical Mitsubishi pick up truck with a small camper shell on the back which I rode in all 2000 miles (give or take a few hundred).  I shared the back with an ice-chest which we ate out of all along the way, our clothes, and some sleeping bags which served as our beds every night.  I’m not complaining.  There’s nothing like waking up in the cab of the truck to your Dad shoving a giant ice-chest in your “bed” while simultaneously fighting off one of those crazy Canadian black bears.  Great, now I get to sleep with the bear bait.

I am eternally grateful to my parents for having the good sense to pull me out of school so I could travel with them during their retirement years.  I had so much fun with them I just had to repeat some of our adventures later on with my husband and his parents.  We also ate out of an ice-chest and I even got them to rough-it in a sleeping bag a couple times and oh, the memories we made up there on the north side of the border.  How cool is it that now both sets of parents are sharing the same adventure together (only without us, that’s kind of lame)!  It’s the same kind of adventure Tom and I have been thrilled to share with our own boys.  No matter how tight the budget, we’ve always managed to squeeze in some good old-fashioned road tripping.  We’ve shlepped them all over the western half of the U.S. and we’ve done it on a shoestring.

Now that we live on an island, our trips are a bit more circuitous in nature.  Okay, really we don’t get very far at all.  But some times the weekend comes and the wanderlust hits and you just have to get out and do something.  Like last weekend.  We made it all the way down town to the Library Sale and filled up a bag of books for a couple bucks (books can take you anywhere, right?).  Then I had the audacity to drag all five boys into a hoity-toity waterfront eatery because I happened to hear they were giving away free cupcakes in honor of their anniversary.  I plopped down another couple bucks for some coffee so at least we’d be paying customers and then we sat down to enjoy our gourmet desserts, new books and a million dollar view!

photo 4


To top it off we caught the trolley back home while Tom went off to a work-related event.   Nothing like seeing your own town through the eyes of a tourist.

photo 2

And really, there’s nothing like sharing adventures with your family.  Big adventures across the country or little adventures down the road.  Just get out there and do stuff with the people you love.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot.  You could get by just spending pennies.  But the memories you’ll have down the road will be priceless.

Gideon loving his first trolley ride.  Me loving it more because I get to share it with him.

Gideon loving his first trolley ride. Me loving it more because I get to share it with him.


and Self-Control….


This book is the boys favorite addition to our homeschool routine.  I use it to start all the days that I don’t have a poem for.  The next book is MY favorite addition to our homeschool routine.  I read  from it right after we pray and sing our hymn of the week.

photo 2Disclaimer:  This book is by NO means a substitution for the ACTUAL reading of the Word of God.  It throws in a couple of verses each day and includes some great Biblical principles to live by, but for the most part it’s just very interesting quips about the amazing creatures God has made.  For example:  Thursday’s reading shared how some scientists documented self-control in chimps and orangutans by offering them a bowl with a piece of chocolate in it.  If the monkeys ate the piece of chocolate that’s all they got, but if they left it in the bowl they got more.  Eventually they all learned to wait until their bowl was full of chocolate!

Of course I had to try that one out.  I set cups out in plain view with their names on them and put one giant M&M in each.

Now, as the Holy Spirit would have it, we all needed a much bigger lesson that day in Self-Control than just holding out for more chocolate.  My most impulse prone child chose that day to really display his true colors and my own nerves were entirely on edge as well. It seemed like everyone in the house was having a hard time controlling their volume and their bodies and their wills.  And there sat the cups with their one little old piece chocolate.

photo 3-2

You see, originally I had thought to keep adding more chocolates as little rewards throughout the day but I saw pretty quickly that Thursday was just not going to be a reward-earning-kind-of-day for any of us, myself included.  Then I remembered the words to a dear, old hymn we sang last week in choir.

“He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

chorus: His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and He giveth, and giveth again.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.”
(Annie Johnson Flint)

No, Thursday was not going to be a rewards kind of day. Thursday was going to be a
grace kind of day. You see, our God prepares a table for us even in the presence of our enemies, even when the enemy is our own sinful nature.  I knew no matter how badly we were all behaving, at the end of the day those little cups needed to overflow.  

photo 1

I don’t think any treat had ever tasted so sweet.

Oh, and on a related note.  That globe in the previous picture is a great illustration of holding out for the greater reward.  I’ve lived without a globe in our homeschool classroom for 3 years now and have been tempted many times to pull out the credit card and order one new (it’s hard to find used stuff like that around here).  I’ve even prayed for one knowing how the Lord has so faithfully provided the little things we’ve need in the past.   Wouldn’t you know it, He waited till the VERY WEEK we started our world geography lessons to provide one for FREE!  All along He had the whole world in His hands just waiting to hand us when we needed it most.  There are countless times that I would have missed out on seeing his rich and timely provision if I had rushed out and used my own resources to acquire what I thought I needed that very moment.  It really is so much sweeter to wait.


Recalculating Route Part 2

So with nearly 2 weeks of school done here is a continuation of the last post on what changes need to be made and a closer look at what school actually looks like for us.

Sometimes it looks like a bunch of bodies sprawled out on the floor.

Sometimes it looks like a bunch of bodies sprawled out on the floor.

Between 9 and 10am we break out the checklists.  This is brand new to us and I’m only doing it because the boys heard my friend Kristin telling me about it.  Kristin is THE smartest, most most capable woman I have ever known and my boys are just as much convinced of her abilities as I am so they decided if it was good for HER kids it must be good for them and so check lists we have.   I put their whole weeks worth of copy work, spelling, cursive, phonics, grammar and math on their personal clip board and they spend an hour each day working on those items in which ever order they prefer.  Last week they finished everything by Thursday so Friday we went to the beach instead of doing school work.

Sometimes it looks a lot like playing hooky.

Sometimes it looks a lot like playing hooky.

I didn’t know what to expect of Sam so I was figuring a couple of pages of math or phonics a day.  He finished his math workbook the first week.  Thankfully, I had another one tucked away which he did 23 pages of today.  I can’t afford for him to do any more so I made him stop.  Major miscalculation.  RECALCULATING ROUTE.

Last year Nate loved math but until the last couple months of school was sluggish with anything reading/writing.  This year Nate LOVES anything reading/writing but was overwhelmed by the amount of math on his checklist.  Easy fix.  Less math. More spelling, phonics etc… Again, thank you Kristin for the Abeka spelling book.  He LOVES it.

Joel wants more math.  At least this week he does.  I’ve been putting the tests at the end of the chapter on his and Titus’s clipboards on Monday and letting them do those first.  So far they’ve both scored 100% each time so I’ve let them skip those chapters.  But Joel actually wants to be doing more math so I’ve got to come up with something… RECALCULATING ROUTE.

Titus wants less math.  Even less than the one test a week he’s had so far.  He only wants geometry.  Looking on-line for more resources.  Also, last year he and Joel were both doing the same Sequential Spelling book (again, thank you Kristin) but this year I moved him a level ahead.  Still not challenging enough.  He wants REALLY hard words.  I don’t understand that at all.  I am the worst speller in the world and take NO delight in teaching such a mundane subject but ALL my boys claim it as one of their favorites.  Must have gotten it from their father.  RECALCULATING ROUTE.

Another change I’ve had to make is with our Rod&Staff English books for Ti and Joel.  I LOVE those books and they tolerate them except for the patently obvious pacifist undertones.  Something about my boys has them thirsty for any kind of violence or bloodshed and unfortunately Mennonite curriculum just doesn’t cut it in that area.  So I have to customize every assignment to make it more gory.  I also only give them a fraction of the assignments because they tend to be a very repetitive.  And boys HATE busy work!

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we add an hour of science and world geography.  This consists mainly of me reading aloud to them, them coloring in related activity books or looking over library books pertaining to that weeks topic, and doing one of the activities from our Apologia text.  So far, so good.  Nothing to change there.

For literature, Dad has started reading Jack London’s the Sea Wolf and they are absolutely enthralled.  I knew I wouldn’t have to change anything there because Tom is the best read-alouder in the world and always picks the perfect books for boys.  He also does a bed-time devotional with them and I am SOOOOO thankful to have Dad home in the evenings to take over when my Mommy brain is D.O.N.E. thinking.

That just leaves P.E., art, and music.  The first two I don’t even have to assign because these boys are in a constant state of creation/motion.  And piano lessons will start up again in October.  I don’t even worry about those three elements anymore.  It’s covered.  I still have to remind them to brush their teeth.  But P.E., art, and music they can handle on their own.

That’s about all we’re doing this year.  Pretty simple when you break it all down.  It all takes about 3 hours a day plus a 1/2 hour of chores which leaves PLENTY of time to play and make mischief.  And in the evenings there’s always THIS to look forward to.  Not a bad life.



Recalculating Route

All ready for the start of school.

All ready for the start of school.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way to death.”  Proverbs 14:12

With the first week of school under our belt it’s time to assess how things went and how we should proceed from here.  Every summer while Tom is working his tail off at Hartland Christian Camp I spend all the time I would normally be cooking and cleaning planning for the upcoming school year.  The boys run amuck with all their camp buddies and I have the closest thing I ever get to regular “quiet time” scouring the scriptures for passages to read and memorize during the school year.  At meal times in the cafeteria I get to drill the other seasoned veteran home-school Moms up there about everything from spelling to spot-cleaning, poetry to potty-training, and just life in general.  I am soooo thankful for the richness of Christian fellowship those fleeting weeks afford.  They keep me going through all the lean months that follow.  And the detailed planning helps me face the school year with some semblance of preparedness.

Then there’s the first week.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way to death.”  Proverbs 14:12

I just love having everything in order.  I REALLY need to get over that.

I just love having everything in order. I REALLY need to get over that.

After pouring my heart, soul, mind and strength into all the planning, prep, the extra late nights, the extra early mornings, the extra times up with the baby just because he thought this would be a great week to be fussy, the extra fun activities, the extra needs of some of our elderly neighbors, the extra work organizing the house all left me thinking, “This dying to self is going to kill me!”

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way to death.”  Proverbs 14:12

But, God also says,

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.”  Psalm 37:5

After praying and mulling and after kicking all the boys out of the house for an afternoon at the park with Dad (isn’t it amazing how just THAT can change one’s perspective so much?) the Lord mercifully acted to bring peace of soul and clarity of mind regarding our first and forthcoming weeks.

So here is a rundown of our planned schedule and some thoughts on how various components may or may not change.

1st Five (or First 5?)This was loosely scheduled for between 8 and 9 in the morning not because it takes a whole hour to complete but because my goal is to have it done SOMETIME during that hour.  Really in a pinch it could all take about 5 minutes but we like to stretch it out to about 30. First Five consists of the following:

1. Animal Joke or Poem (you can see my complete list of poems by clicking here)  I read them 1-5 poems a week and for the days that we don’t have a poem I substitute an animal joke.  This was a new feature  and has been a HUGE hit.  Nothing like starting the day with laughter.  Won’t be changing that a bit.

A snack of Animal Crackers  to enjoy during our reading of a poem by the same name.

A snack of Animal Crackers to enjoy during our reading of a poem by the same name.

2. Prayer (Because we live in a unique community environment and because Shannon’s post on prayer really pricked my conscience, we spend this time praying for our neighbors).  Still a keeper.

3.  Hymn (For a list of all the creature-related hymns we will be singing this year click here).  After 5 years they’re not tired of hearing my croaky morning voice from behind the hymnal so praise the Lord we’re still doing this!

4.  Bible Reading (Mondays I read what ever chapter our memory verse is from, and the rest of the week I either read another chapter with animals in it or we do a Speed Drill where they race to look up some animal related verses in their Bible. You can click on that list here)  Haven’t done the Speed Drills yet so can’t evaluate but thankfully the Reading of God’s Word NEVER gets old.

5.  Verse Memorization (Still using the A-Z method and keeping to our creation-related theme.  It’s so much easier for them to keep track of a year’s worth of verses in heir heads if they have the alphabetical frame work to go from).  Click here for a list of this year’s verses.  Nothing to change there.

6+/-. Then there was the addition (and subtraction) of Bedtime Math which  I called morning Morning Math because we were going to do it as the last part of our 1st Five, only then it would be 1st Six.  But unfortunately the handy app that I had used to select all the word problems pertaining to animals crashed and I was left with only 2 problems, which all the boys loved doing but then there were no more so that was that.  If you want a great oral math warm up that’s geared for ALL grade levels check their website out or get the app or order the book which I am doing now (plan B).

So far so good, right?  Not much to  tweak there.  Of course that’s only our first 5 to 30 minutes.  The next little bit had a few more bumps, but I will have to share about that in another post as tomorrow we’ll be trying out a new version of things to see if it fits a little better than my original plan and then we’ll let you all know!  (Because, of course, I know you’re all just DYING to hear).

Let me just leave off with this.  If you are an over-planner like myself, it’s best to heed the advice of my own dear-departed Oma who often said, “Mensch denkt, aber Gott lenkt,” which was her little summary of Proverbs 16:9 which reads,

“The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

If left to my own devices even my most brilliantly devised plans and strategies have the potential to kill the natural love of learning God instilled in my children.  And as much as I love being a wife/mother/teacher/neighbor/Church member, doing too much of a good thing can leave me paralyzed by fatigue and render me ineffectual on every count.  It’s only by a daily surrendering and committing of my plans to The Author of Plans and an absolute trust in His ability to Act when, no, BEFORE, I am at the end of my ability to do another. single. thing.  Only then will my plans succeed.  Because they will be His plans.  And that’s one syllabus I want to live by!

Don't want to ever kill this enthusiasm!

Don’t want to ever kill this enthusiasm!


How to “Make It Fun”

A dear reader with four little guys of her own (you can see them all here at www.storiesofourboys..com) just asked for tips on how to make school fun for boys.  Perfect timing because I just happened to score big on the fun factor today.  I’ve become more and more convinced that school shouldn’t be so much of a burden for them (or for me) and if it becomes so, some changes may be in order.  Here is an example of the kind of “change” I mean. photo  This is our Apologia science text which I read aloud to all the boys and which we all love just as much as we have loved Apologia “Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day” and the Apologia “Astronomy” books and probably as much as we would have loved their Botany and Geology books when we were studying those topics if my wonderful sister-in-law over at easygoingorganizer.com would have only introduced us to them sooner. photo-2This is the assignment at the end of the chapter which involved hiding M&M’s in a laundry basket full of torn up pieces of construction paper in order to illustrate the usefulness of camouflage for both predators and their prey.  Since all my laundry baskets were occupied with holding laundry and I didn’t happen to have enough construction paper to coordinate with the stale M&M’s that had been in my freezer since, I don’t know, last year’s post-Halloween clearance sale, and since I knew my boys weren’t about to cooperate with recording their findings on a neat little scientific experiment chart I through caution to the wind and broke out the stockpile of Jello I had saved up for emergencies just like this.  Unlike the construction paper, I DID have enough Jello flavors to coordinate with the M&M’s.  In fact I had enough of both to make a bowl of Jello and with 10 “camouflaged” M&M’s for each of the boys in their chosen “school color.”  I also had a whole bowl of whipped cream that was intended to go on the pumpkin pie which I was supposed to make yesterday and never got around to so I piled that on as well. Right after nap-time (you can’t do this kind of thing BEFORE nap-time or you won’t have one at all) I herded them all out to the lawn where we were in close proximity to the hose and gave them a science lesson that went about like this (I won’t type the boys responses, just imagine they’re getting them all right): “Remember the picture in our science book of the tiger and the bunny?  Which was the predator and which was the prey? Why did God give the tiger stripes?  Why did God make the bunny small and brown and fast?  Well, today you get to be predators again and instead of bunnies you are going to hunt for M&M’s!  Only they are camouflaged in this Jello and you have to find them!  What do you mean “Where are our spoons?”  You’re predators!  Predators don’t need spoons! Now find those M&M’s!” photo-3  Predators on the hunt. photo-5I finally let them cheat and use their hands and then Gideon wanted in on the action. photo-6I think this kind of Mad Science may have been a bit much for him. Especially when they started throwing the stuff. photo-7But lesson learned.  And thank goodness we had that hose handy.  And if you’re looking for ways to make anything fun, just add Jello.  


Where Love Is

Perfect way to start the day

Perfect way to start the day

This was how our first day of school started: with a rare chance for me to be alone with a cup of coffee and time in God’s Word.   And oh how I prayed.  And prayed.  The task that lies ahead can be overwhelming at times.  I desperately want what I’m doing to count for eternity.  More than schoolwork and housework, I want to do kingdom work.  I want that which will last.


Like the glitter to the right of my mug in this picture.  That smudge is left over from an art project we did at this table TWO YEARS ago.  I was so amazed at the resiliency of the stuff that I wrote this post about it (Click here for a step back in time).  Now every time I sit at this table I’m reminded of all the fun I get to have learning with my boys (they happened to be learning about galaxies, I was learning to hate glitter).

So as I was reviewing pictures of our first couple days of school I started asking myself,  “Which of these things is going to count for eternity?”  Will it be the stacks of new school supplies they found hidden in their new hockey lockers (another dumpster score!!!)?

Gotta love free storage!

Gotta love free storage!

The surprise field trip to the free zoo in Hilo?


The science lesson on Predators and Prey?

Thank you Apologia for the sweet little disclaimer warning more sensitive students about horrors of nature.  My boys laughed themselves silly through that part.

Thank you Apologia for the sweet little disclaimer warning more sensitive students about the horrors of nature. My boys laughed themselves silly through that part.

The special snack just to illustrate the point?

I'm thinking these guys are just a little too comfortable at the top of the food chain

I’m thinking these guys are just a little too comfortable at the top of the food chain

Sometimes it’s hard to see how ANY of it matters in the long run.  It’s like glitter in the wind.  A flash of shiny fun and then it’s gone.  Unless there’s glue around.  Then it’s stuck there forever.  Case in point again:  that glitter on the picnic table.  Wind, rain, blazing sun, and pounding ocean surf have done nothing to unstick those shiny little bits.

Colossians 3:14 tells us to above all, “put on love, which binds EVERYTHING together in perfect harmony.”  Love is the glue that makes all the glittery (and not-so-glittery) things we do for our kids really stick.   It’s what motivates, inspires, and sustains us to do this crazy 24/7 job.  It’s also what qualifies us to add the title “teacher” to the hundred other titles a mother wears.

1 Corinthians 13:1 says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I … understand all mysteries and all knowledge … but have not love, I am nothing.”  A lecture by the most learned professor, the flashiest curriculum, the most extravagant field trips are all glitter in the wind if not bound by love.  Tongues will cease and knowledge will pass away but “love never ends (v.8).”

Please Lord, I pray, let all that I do “be done in love (1 Cor. 16:14).

This pillow belongs to Tom's Mom who really, truly lives out those words everyday.

This pillow belongs to Tom’s Mom who really, truly lives out those words everyday.