Picture book round up | January 2018

It’s hard to believe that January is over already. Here are a selection of the many picture books we’ve been enjoying so far this year.

Ruby’s Wish, by Shirin Yim Bridges
A wonderful story which encourages little girls to aim to excel, as well as giving an insight into Chinese culture.

The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams

A House in the Woods, by Inga Moore

God’s Very Good Idea, by Tillia Newbell

The Most Wonderful Thing in the World, by Vivian French

Angelo, by David Macaulay
A story which touches on the subject of death in a gentle and moving way (I cried a little bit!).

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But what do you do with them all day?

Since we started homeschooling last September (or, more accurately, since we declined to send our daughter to primary school – because otherwise what were we doing for the first five years of her life?), this is one of the most common questions I have been asked by non-homeschoolers:

‘But what do you do with them all day?’

(Along with, ‘What curriculum do you use?’ and ‘How is homeschooling going?’)

It’s a question that has typically sent me diving for cover, because I really struggle to articulate what we actually do all day every day, and I feel vulnerable, exposed, and judged when people ask it.

Our days and weeks seem to go by so fast – so fast – that I haven’t had a moment to think about what we are actually doing, let alone a reasonable way of articulating it to others who aren’t even homeschoolers themselves. It’s not as if we struggle to fill our time! The exact opposite, in fact. But putting a finger on some concrete things that I could talk about with others – not so easy.

So let me tell you what a blessing it was to review my scribbled notebook of the last four months, and see all the many different things that we’ve been doing, all day, every day.

What do I do with them all day?

Reading aloud (me), reading aloud (her), writing, reading the Bible, going on nature walks, gardening, moving house, cleaning up the new house, exploring our new area, decorating, playing number games, visiting the library countless times, maths time with papa, learning to help with chores (cleaning, laundry), baking cakes and bread, watching and listening to and reading about The Nutcracker, listening to Beethoven symphonies, reading poetry, painting, going to the theatre, sewing, finger knitting, building flat-pack furniture, making Christmas gifts, playing board games, memorising Scripture, swimming lessons, gymnastics classes, ballet classes, book club, listening to science podcasts, making things, scootering, playing at the playground, flying kites, playing Lego, making origami…

What we do all day is not rocket science. It is simple family life, done together, done with (we hope) ever-increasing intentionality, with each of us learning at our own pace and digging into the world and the Word together. (And honestly, I think I am learning more than they are!) For us, it’s more about contemplation than knowledge. It’s about delight: in a story, in God’s creation, in number patterns, in working with our hands.

So, when you ask me what curriculum I follow, if you mean what topics are we covering, I will shrug my shoulders because we are focusing on learning skills rather than information.

When you ask me how homeschooling is going, if you mean how I am testing my children’s progress and attainment, I will tell you I’m not.

And when you ask me what we do all day every day, I will smile and say there are too many things to mention.

Word of the year: Through

The idea of an annual theme word is not new. It’s just new to me.

Last year, there was a verse that stuck with me all year long, that I came back to time and again as life went through its peaks and troughs.

My soul finds rest in God alone,
And my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Psalm 22:1-2

This week, I was reading the most recent Mere Motherhood newsletter, in which the author Cindy Rollins was describing her enchantment with the word ‘remembrance’ over a number of years. ‘It colored all of my thinking for several years and gave me a whole new understanding of life and education. It almost seemed I could spend the rest of my life contemplating remembrance,’ she wrote. She also wrote about how God brought a new word for 2018 to her – ‘peace’ – and about some more oddball choices that she and her friends had made in the past (‘jollification’ or ‘pun’ anyone?).

I have lately been musing on Philippians 4:13, which says ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me.’ Through. Through. It’s a word which has begun to grip me. What does it mean?

Often, when I pray, I ask God to ‘please help me with such-and-such’. Help me, be alongside me, make the path straight for this good thing. But I think maybe there is so much more to it than that. ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me.’ We are living and doing through God and he is working through us.

There’s a tremor in me which is growing, telling me to explore this word ‘through’ more deeply, and maybe uncover some of his riches that I had never encountered before.

I find myself thinking, But what about all the other riches? Ah, if only there was time to explore and dwell on every single treasure! It would take more than a lifetime to fully delve in to all the facets of the creator and the creation. That will have to wait until the glorious future. For now, it’s about choosing the best and leaving the good. And I think the best, for now, is to dig in to the Word, and to purposefully contemplate what He’s put on my heart.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13

Through. My word for 2018.