Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Learning Science Organically

I've fallen behind in blogging our homeschooling weeks.  So many interesting, new things have been going on in my life here in the hills (will blog about that soon), so forgive me for the lull in blogging about our organic homeschooling lifestyle.

So, science.  This happens to be such an easy subject to learn organically that I almost didn't blog about it.  Science is EVERYWHERE, so it's pretty simple to pick it up anywhere we are and almost everywhere we go.  It's better shown in photographs, because I cannot think of a good how-to-learn-science-naturally message to share with y'all.  Just be open to it, and it will inevitably fall into your lap.

When fall rolled around, instead of getting beautiful colored leaves in our trees (I miss you, woods of Georgia!), we were surprised with these gorgeous purple flowers (Texas, you're beautiful!).  So, we need to dig out our resources about flowers and plants and find out what this particular plant is called.  Then we need to look up how to prune them. right here in the front yard!

And once fall's mild weather began, the walking path began to be filled in with clover.  Bring out the magnifying glasses and nature journals!  

Lately, my youngest son has taken to making inventions all the time.  ALL. THE. TIME.  In just the past couple of weeks, he's been really intrigued with the workings of everything.  Like how does the remote control work?  How does the griddle get hot?  How does an engine make a truck move?  And he is into taking things apart and repurposing parts into "inventions."

This is a memory scanner.  Yes, I donated my oldest colander.  Sometimes homeschooling moms have to sacrifice!  :)  

Cute fall-themed muffin liners, right?  Well, this day they became headphones.

Comfortable headphones, no less.

He was thrilled with his final product.

And little sister got in on the action.  She sat down in the middle of the invention do-dads and went to work creating her own thing.  (And, yes, she is dressed up like a hobbit!  Did I mention that we have a costume designer/creator in our home?  Yep...we have costumes for all kinds of things!)

Here, our resident hobbit is busy busy busy.  She may not be able to hang with a textbook that rattles on about science, but who needs a paragraph about inventions when you can try your hand at making one yourself?

Learning science organically is not without its messes.  In fact, it often resembles the aftermath of an explosion.  But, it's always fun (until clean-up time!).

And sometimes we run across huge doses of science when we take day trips.  Here we went exploring Pedernales State Park.

Okay, could you possibly think of a more relaxed, enjoyable way to learn?? 

Little Miss overcame some sensory issues as her feet met rock, so this was great for her on many levels.

Ahhh, the freedom to learn and play right there in the middle of a beautiful state park (awesome classroom, right?)!

In this natural classroom, we observed all kinds of interesting cool rocks and slippery algae under our toes.

Sand and rocks were unearthed from the water...

 Rocks and shells and little minnows caught each child's attention.  Curious minds that are lit with the fire of learning WILL discover these things on their own.

And some really beautiful shells lay under the water.

We've studied science in some really beautiful places across the country, and this was definitely one of those.

Even teenagers retain their natural love of learning and exploring if it's nurtured.  Nature is a good teacher if we still ourselves long enough to simply look.

Oh, and what is a current?  Well, a paragraph in a textbook might miss the punch that our lesson on currents had.  If you click on this photo, you might be able to spot the Croc (as in SHOE, not the creature with teeth!), floating away from the boy who is trying desperately to catch it. 

The shoe is GONE!  Currents are pretty powerful and quick!  Bye-bye Croc.  Sad boy turns around, while big sister (and her momma) finds the humor in the situation.

Ahhh, but then boy realizes that someone must be downstream.  He signals a woman, who sees the shoe riding the current.  Got it!  Shoe is returned, and currents are experienced.   

Another beautiful shell is discovered.  Look at the intriguing colors.

And little creatures were spotted.  Can you see this one?

And prickly pears were discussed as we hiked back up the trail.

Often, these outside experiences will propel some further research or reading about certain subjects (currents, cactus, rivers, rocks, animals, fish, sea shells, etc).  

And we also cover science topics as we move along through our timeline of history and the accompanying books we are reading.  We just finished Johnny Tremain, an amazing historical fiction account of the Boston Tea Party and other events leading to the American Revolution.  The related science we have discussed is ocean-themed.  We've covered a broad range of ocean-related topics.  Yesterday, in particular, we discussed the diving bell that was invented in 1690 and Alvin, the submersible.  This reminded my children about the Titanic documentary they watched a couple of years ago, so watching that again is now on the agenda for today.'s a rhythmic flow from one related thing to the next, always in context, always coming from an interest in the subject at hand...and many times, it is experienced in addition to reading about it.  Science is absolutely grasped at a deep level when it happens organically.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Meet Nicholas

It never ceases to intrigue me how God orchestrates the details of our lives, crossing our paths with others on the precise day and at the exact time for His purposes.  And so it was when we recently met this sweet family.  They have graciously given me permission to share their story here.  

Take a look at this precious little guy.  It's impossible not to smile when you look at him, right?  This is baby Nicholas.  He is 8 months old and lives with his dad and his big sister Emily in Texas Hill Country.  He is a very happy, busy baby.  Like most babies his age, he is getting his first 2 teeth (see the drool?).  But unlike most babies his age, Nicholas has cancer.

On July 4th, as his dad was playing with him, he noticed a lump on Nicholas' neck.  After being seen by a doctor, Nicholas was diagnosed with mediastinal neuroblastoma, a cancer around the heart that can affect children.  He had a tumor that ran from his neck to his heart.  Doctors opted to try to reduce the size of the tumor with chemotherapy, with the hopes that the tumor would shrink enough for them to have a better shot of removing it with open heart surgery.  

As you can imagine, this news hit hard.  Nicholas' dad is a single dad, and he soon had to leave his job in order to take care of Nicholas with his many doctor's appointments, as well as to take care of his daughter Emily.  He's doing a truly wonderful job trying to be a good dad to his young children.  

He came to Light Shine Ministries, and they surrounded him with love and support.  They got the greater community involved, and last night people from different churches and denominations joined together at a local church gym to host a benefit dinner to raise funds to help Nicholas' family with their expenses during this time.     

We had a wonderful evening together and met many people from the community.

It also happened to be a week after big sister Emily's birthday, so we celebrated her special day with singing, gifts and cake.

And what was Sir Nicholas doing during his benefit dinner?  Being cute, that's what.  I couldn't get enough of him, and he loved the camera!

There are times when just coming around someone and loving them is the most valuable of all gifts.  It's what Jesus does to each of us, and it's what we (as His hands and feet) do for others. 

Having a birthday cake and some fun gifts delighted little Emily.  Love comes in many languages.

This just looks like the yummiest thing to do with a frosting-smothered ribbon off the cake!

And did you really think that I could let the night escape without scooping up that bundle of joy into my own arms?  And, oh how sweet babies smell!  I held him and giggled with him and whispered prayers over Him.  God has good plans for this little man, and I'm so very thankful that He allowed me to share in his journey.  God always weaves together the details of our lives, and this is one part of the tapestry that I find exquisite.

And these teeny tiny toes...  I can never ever resist the cuteness of baby feet!

Our Asian princess got in on the action too, as she adores babies.  Look at this mutual love going on here!  (Nicholas reallllllly wanted those pink glasses and the pink noise-canceling headphones!)

And how is Nicholas doing these days?  Well, besides being really awesome on camera, he is also fighting cancer well.  His tumor has been shrinking, and in a few weeks, they should know how this last round of chemo went.  They expect that when the tumor is small enough, they will do open heart surgery.  We'll see what amazing things God has in store.  He is our Jehovah Rapha...our healer.  I will post updates (and more cuteness) as we walk this road with Nicholas and his family.  

For those who would like to reach out and help this precious family, this would be a very real way that you could extend your hands out as Jesus' own hands to touch Nicholas' life.  First and most importantly, Nicholas needs some dedicated prayer warriors who will pray daily for his healing.  And second, if you'd like to help financially, you can make a donation online at   IN THE REMARKS/NOTES BLOCK OF THE PROCESS, PLEASE INDICATE THAT YOUR DONATION IS FOR NICHOLAS.  If you'd prefer to send a check via mail, you can make that out to Light Shine Ministries, and that address is P.O. Box 193, Bulverde, TX 78163.  On the memo line, please write that the donation is for Nicholas.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Life of Trivial Moments

Our breakfast routine every day includes reading a chapter or two in a missionary biography.  I think the Christian Heroes Then and Now series by Jane and Geoff Benge is truly the best out there.  It's one thing for Mama to think a book is wonderful, but when every child in the family begs...yes, BEGS me to read "just one more chapter...PLEASE," you know it's the good stuff. 

Why?  Why do they we love these books?  Well, for one, they are exciting.  And two, they give an amazing view of lives lived in the faith realm...that place where God's hand moves so very obviously.   To be honest, these true accounts of the lives of real people make this comfortable American lifestyle look could-I-possibly-yawn-any-louder boring.  We live well-planned, well-maintained, well-stocked, well-orchestrated, well-everything lives.  And in all the cushiony comfort, we miss the hold-onto-the-edge-of-your-seat-this-is-going-to-be-an-amazing-ride kind of life that we could have.  

Don't believe me?  Then I challenge you to ask God straight-up what He wants to do through you.  And get still enough to listen.  And when that crazy thought comes into your mind, take a step into it.  Warning: it will most likely NOT make sense.  And it will not be easy.  But trust Him enough to step.  You'll never regret it.  In fact, I'd go as far as to say that once you've tasted the walking-on-thin-air faith thing, you'll be bored if you stop.  

So, anyway, we are currently reading the biography of Ida Scudder.'ve never heard of her?!  Me either.  But I'm getting to know her, and I like her.  A lot.  See...Ida didn't set out to become a missionary.  In fact, she said multiple times that she'd never ever become a missionary.  She was mischievous and fun and high-spirited.  She had a strong personality and a mind of her own...the type that was told women shouldn't wear flowers in their hats, so she loaded her hat up with as many flowers as she could possible shove into it.  No, she wasn't what we'd typically think of as missionary material.      

Her parents were missionaries in India, and she absolutely hated the death she had seen on the streets in India when she had been there.  So, as an adult, she vowed never to return to India.  And she adored her American lifestyle.  Then one night she realized that all the things she had been focusing on (fashion, wardrobe, comfortable life) didn't seem important to her any more as she saw the immense need in India.  She sat there thinking of how she would spend her time deciding between a satin skirt and a velvet dress.  And the pointlessness of it all hit her.  She asked a question that begs to be asked of my life also: Am I going to live a life full of trivial moments?  

 Pouring your life out doing whatever God puts into your heart and mind will radically shift things.  I suppose it all has to do with the way God has wired us to feel good when we give.  He tells us that in giving we receive, and once you give selflessly, you realize it's true.  And this giving/receiving phenomenon, coupled with the living-by-faith thing has made me crave a life lived outside the typical American lifestyle.  I tell God all the time that I'd be fine in a hut in Africa with a dozen orphans...or on the streets in Taiwan where I could teach English to at-risk children...or in India pouring His love and healing into those who have been rescued from human trafficking.  My list goes on.  My dreams always revolve around this type of lifestyle.  These things all float inside me, sometimes making me quite restless.  I crave a life poured out.  I believe He's given me this desire for a purpose.  In fact, I believe He's orchestrating every detail of my life, even the things I feel are unfair and difficult, to prepare me for a life lived on the edge and way outside the comfort zone.  And I can see a point in time when I will have open doors to do those cross-cultural things in areas of the world where the need is so intense.

And for now, this is a piece of the pie that I am tasting.  This is where our family spent this afternoon.  It's one of Hill Country Daily Bread Ministry's warehouses.   HCDBM is a beautiful ministry that serves the needy in Texas Hill Country.  It is where God has placed us in this season of our lives, and we do indeed love it.

Today the 3 youngest children and I bagged rice for next week's food distribution.  While they worked, T said, "Mama, this is really fun.  And it's not just fun...we are actually helping people by doing this."  How delicious it is to actually taste the truth that it is more blessed to give than to receive!'s one of those upside-down things about God's economy.  We give to receive.  Weird, right?  But true. 

Does this look fun or what?  This was our get-the-bag-out-of-the-box-and-hand-it-to-brother girl.  She rocked her job, as you can see.  She seriously did this for 2 hours and loved it.  I guess the give/receive principle works on all ages.

The boys measured out each bag of rice to be 2 pounds.  I could totally get off on a real-world-math tangent here, but I'll spare you.  :) 

Then we added the filled bags to the large bin of rice.  We bagged over 200 pounds of rice today, which will be used in next week's food distribution among 8 counties in Texas Hill Country.  It was nice to be a part of this.  It wasn't a big work, but as Mother Teresa said, we can all do small things with great love.

HB helped with inventory today.  

And the men worked with heavier projects.

I absolutely understand the question Ida Scudder asked herself.  What kind of life am I going to live?  Will I spend this one life focusing on trivial, self-absorbed things, or will I choose to live in the upside-down, way-outside-the-box, makes-no-sense-to-the-world realm?  

Now, don't get me wrong.  I love having fun.  Sometimes the agenda of the day leads us places like the Texas State Fair, where we get some time to enjoy being together with grandparents and cousins...not to mention doing some pretty cool things and eating some seriously sugar-loaded treats.  I grab my camera and go to town, thoroughly enjoying all the fun.

Any and every moment can be used to love others and to give of ourselves...whether we are in a safe house in India or at a state fair in Texas.  But, at the end of each day, no matter what has, rough, happy, sad, frustrating, whatever...I still go to bed the same me.  I would be just as content in that African hut with orphans crawling all over me as I am at the state fair with my mouth full of cotton candy.  Probably more content.  

Because when I give I receive.

I just don't want to miss it.  Life is so distracting with its endless supply of trivial moments.  I want to love with reckless abandon, even when it's not easy.  I want to give selflessly, even when it hurts.  I want to actually believe what God tells me and walk in that amazing faith realm, even if I'm the only person on the planet who walks that road.  I want to answer no to Ida Scudder's question: Am I going to live my life full of trivial moments?