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I’m a United Methodist and I support Pastor Frank

How to get along with your fellow humans can be the hardest thing to teach.

Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

If you’ve been following the news recently, you might have seen the story about United Methodist Pastor Frank Schaefer who was suspended for 30 days for performing the marriage service for his gay son. I am part of a large segment of the United Methodist Church who support Pastor Frank, and who believe that God made people exactly how God wanted them to be made.

Our church motto is “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors”.  That means a lot.

I base my faith on scripture.  But I also look to church tradition, reason, and my own experience. (This is called The Wesleyan quadrilateral.) Thinking, feeling people know that sometimes church traditions need to change.

Here is more about my faith as a United Methodist woman. I keep this statement as a permanent page on my blog.

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I’ve been a Christian since the first time I read the Bible in its entirety in the sixth grade and asked God to be my pilot.  I’ve read the Bible many, many, many times since.  I believe in the transforming power of Christ.

I believe that the Bible is God’s living word, but that it is not literal history. The two differing time-lines and two different creation stories in the first few chapters of Genesis convince me of this.

I do not believe that the Earth is “young”. I do not believe that humans and dinosaurs lived on Earth at the same time.

I also don’t believe that God is “male”. I believe that God is bigger than we can define Him (or Her).

You can’t put God in a box.  God is bigger than a box.  You can’t define God.  God is bigger than definition.

I believe that women should be allowed to be ministers. I believe Mary Magdalene was an important member of Jesus’s crew.

I also believe that Phoebe was a deacon.  My understanding is that Paul used the word “diakonos” thirty four times and that it always gets translated as “minister” or “deacon” except the one time he uses it in reference to a woman.  In reference to Phoebe, the word diakonos is often translated as “servant”.  (Romans 16:1) That does not seem fair!

I also would side with a large portion of the Methodist church that believes that God made gay people exactly how God wanted them to be made, and that homosexuality is not a sin.

I believe that Steve Camp and Mary Lambert can both teach us about God.

I believe in caring for the Earth and God’s creation.  I can’t understand how some people think it’s okay to trash the environment and then say that is God’s plan.  God created us.  God created the Earth.  Let’s care for everything.

I do not believe that God cares about politics.  I do not believe God has sanctioned Republicans, Democrats, or Libertarians as the “true” party.  But if I was going to talk about politics I’d mention that George Bush and Hilary Clinton are both Methodists!  ;)

I believe Jesus would want everybody to have health care.

I do not believe that God agrees with anything Ayn Rand stood for.

I don’t know if Jesus would like the way some Christian financial gurus talk to people.  I don’t think Jesus would care if you paid with a debit versus a credit card, so long as money wasn’t controlling you.

I reject the practice that a lot of Christians engage in these days, that makes family almost a cult. (I’m thinking of the Duggars on TV.)  I disagree with homeschooling your children for the primary purpose of “being closer as a family”.  Homeschooling your kids so they can have a great education is wonderful.  Homeschooling your kids so they will become your clones is wrong.

I believe you can send your children to public school and still be a good Christian.

I believe in teaching children to think, not just memorize.

I don’t think you can force a child to believe how you believe.  I believe in giving children free choice about their faith, and educating them about religions outside of Christianity.

I strongly disagree with isolating children from other points of view.

I believe in thinking about God, not just believing hook, line and sinker what somebody from a pulpit tells me to.

I believe in living my life in a way that I believe Jesus would live it. I am far from perfect! But I believe that service, not valuing possessions, and giving to others in need is really important.

I believe that the purpose of my life is to form relationships in three important ways: a relationship with God, relationships with each other, and a relationship with God’s creation.

I do not believe in arguing about any of this.

(There is a story behind that thinking, but a blog is not the place to explain why.)

My witness is how I live my life, which is far from perfect, but full of love.

Deep Blue Bible Review

Right next to the Legos!

Right next to the Legos!

Earlier this month my son Bruce celebrated a major milestone. As part of the third grade program at our United Methodist church, Bruce attended four “Learn to Use the Bible” classes, and then received his very own Bible with his name on it.

It was a beautiful Sunday morning service. I wish you could have seen all the kids lined up on the altar with their parents. It was a big moment for everyone.

The Bible the children received was a CEB Common English Deep Blue Kids Bible Imitation Leather Burgundy The tagline is “Diving Deep into God’s Word”.

Bruce loves the “Bet You Can, Reading Challenges” section. It’s a list of Bible versus, check boxes, and estimated times. Can you read John 1: 9-7 in one minute? I bet you can!

Bruce also likes the list of Bible verses to read when you are feeling a particular emotion. Are you anxious? Read this verse.

For my part, I appreciate Deep Blue’s very real and meaningful commentary. For example, right by the first chapter of Genesis is a “Life Preserver” box that asks “Why are there two stories of creation?” It goes on to say that the two stories are written in different ways but that both invite us to think about a God who created the universe with love.

In 1 Corinthians a “Life Preserver” box asks “Why does the Bible talk about what to wear in worship?” and then goes on to say that his is a hard passage to understand.

The Deep Blue Bible is full of color, drawings, and cartoon like characters, but it doesn’t talk down to children. It’s not patronizing. That’s why I really like it.

If there was a Deep Blue Bible for Moms, I’d buy it!

 

Beeswax Candles Rock!

DIY Christmas Idea for Little Hands

DIY Christmas Idea for Little Hands

Longtime readers of Teaching My Baby to Read will know that I LOVE making beeswax candles with my kids. It’s one of our favorite fall traditions. (Here’s a post from the archives.)

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We usually order the Holiday Beeswax Candle Rolling Craft Kit
on Amazon, but you can also order it straight from Hearth Song.

Beeswax sheets are very forgiving. It’s really hard to mess up, and even if something turns out ugly, it’s still a candle.

Jenna has been rolling candles since she was 20 months old. Now she’s four, and her candles are looking a lot better.

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Candle making is a fun activity for kids because for twenty bucks you end up with decent presents for children to make and give the adults in their lives. Unlike many kiddie projects, these gifts are decorative and usable.

I’ll end this post with a great quote I heard for the first time today:

Light a candle instead of curse the darkness.

That’s a great thing to remember in the depth of a Puget Sound November.

 

Sunday morning rituals

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My favorite Sunday morning ritual is one I can no longer indulge in because I can’t eat gluten. Have you tried the chocolate croissants from Trader Joe’s?  Mmmmmmmmm…..heaven.

But I digress. Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column from today’s Everett Herald: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20131117/BLOG5205/701279858/With-a-day-of-rest-we%26%238217re-ready-to-take-on-the-week

An Elegant Solution, by Paul Robertson

Murder, mystery, and math? That’s the premise behind An Elegant Solution by Paul Robertson which delves into the history of Leonhard Euler and the Bernoulli family in Basel, Switzerland.

This book was a complex and challenging read. It took me about eighty pages to really get into it, but once I had mastered the premise, I was hooked. Then later when I was looking up the real-life history on Wikipedia, I felt like I was reading about people I actually knew.

Robertson writes in a poetic, lyrical style. The back of the book says “History Suspense” but I wouldn’t describe it as genre. I found it to be more akin to a literary novel. For example, There’s a Faustian theme that I didn’t quite grasp until the end, that completely blew me away.

Part of what made An Elegant Solution so challenging is Robertson’s excellent use of world building. It’s almost like reading a fantasy book by Tolkien because Euler’s world was entirely different than our own. There were different customs, traditions, educational systems, and diction. After reading this book, I feel like I’ve got a good grasp on what life was like in 1700s Basel.

If you’re looking for a good beach novel, this isn’t it. But if you have the fortitude to handle James Michener, than you might really like Paul Robertson.

P.S. I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest opinions and review.

Science Kits by Mail

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Sorry about the dearth of blog posts recently. Our schedule right now is completely packed. The good thing is that brains are being fed, kids are being exercised, and the house is (marginally) clean.

I still want to do more science with my kids. That’s been on my mind ever since we went to the Pacific Science Center a couple of weeks ago. I just don’t have time to plan anything.

Yesterday, I saw that Homeschool Buyers Co-op has a deal going on with the Young Scientist Club.  I’m not familiar with this particular kit, but we have used a lot of the other products that the YSC also carries, like the one pictured up top and The Magic School Bus kits. Those kits have been fun, educational, and engaging, but not perfect. Every single one we’ve tried had at least one thing about it that I wished was different.

But… The idea of science experiments arriving at our door every single month without me having to do anything is really appealing. Even expecting imperfection, I’m intrigued. My eight-year-old son Bruce is thrilled with the prospect.

So I went ahead and placed an order for a 12 month subscription. The grand total was $157.92. That comes out to $13.16 a month, which isn’t too bad.

On November 25th Homeschool Buyers Co-op starts a similar deal with for The Magic School Bus kits. I’ll probably sign up for that plan too, because it will be a good fit for my four-year-old daughter Jenna.

Unfortunately, shelling out all that money for science kits is really expensive. I would hate for my blog readers to think that Afterschooling is only for people who can afford it.

So here are two top-notch, lower-cost alternatives from the homeschooling blogosphere:

  1. Science Without a Net
  2. Learning to Be a Scientist

I also have some Afterschooling science ideas on my Pinterest Board.

As for our house, guess what Santa’s bringing? Who knew they made science kits at the North Pole!

Finding Time to Afterschool

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I don’t know you in real life, but I’ve got a hunch that your family is a lot like mine in that you don’t have time for gosh darn it, one more thing.

Phew! Just thinking about today makes me crazy. Drop off, pick up, run here, run there; I spent more time in the car than I did reading to my kids in our cozy corner on the couch.

All of our activities seem like a good idea in theory. If I was looking for someplace to cut I don’t know what would be axed. Swimming lessons? Nah. Cub Scouts? No. Homework? Not an option. Afterschooling? Yes and no.

Right now I don’t have the time to orchestrate something really cool like Science Without a Net. Heck, I didn’t even know Farrah had a cool new webpage design.

But I do have time to Afterschool. When life gets busy we go on autopilot. Here are the basics:

My advice is to be kind to yourself and your children. 15 minutes a day of Aftesrchooling will still add up to 120 hours a year (if you do something extra over the summer).

You don’t have to be Supermom. You don’t have to be Superdad. Your goal is to inspire your children to love learning. Sometimes that can be as easy as turning on a CD in the car, or powering up the computer when you’re trying to make dinner.

Can you find time to Aftershool even if you’re really busy? You bet you can! If I can do it, you can do it too.

Ikea meets preschool is my signature style

Can you spot the Ikea?

Can you spot the Ikea?

Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column from today’s Herald: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20131110/BLOG5205/711109961/Theres-no-home-decor-that-children-cant-defeat

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I wasn’t kidding about the ugly 1980’s wallpaper. Thankfully it’s gone now, but we lived with it for six years.

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This is what it took to get rid of it.

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And this.

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Here’s the after.

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Everything is painted now, but we do have one tiny wall of wallpaper up behind the china cabinet. Nobody is allowed to touch it!

It’s unscathed…for now.

Princess Bob Books

Bribery works!

Bribery works!

My 4-year-old daughter Jenna and I have been doing what we call “Princess Bob Books” every day this week.

She really, really, really wanted to get Princess Bedtime Stories (Storybook Collection)when we saw it at Costco. Frankly, it made me want to gouge out my eyes. But then I noticed that Costco also had Bob Books Sight Words Collection – Kindergarten and First Grade (Bob Books, Sight Words Collection), which we didn’t own.

So Jenna and I struck a deal. We’d buy both.

This week, every new Bob Book Jean reads “unlocks” a new princess story from her collection.  This has been very motivating.

Some phonics-fanatics freak out when they see the term “sight words”. Not me, because I’m a Balanced Literacy proponent.

These Bob Books still have a ton of phonics. If I had to guess, I’d say 95% of the words are decodable.  So if you’re afraid of sight-words, calm down! 😉

In terms of difficulty, BOB Books: Sight Words: Kindergarten seem to fall somewhere between Bob Books, Set 1: Beginning Readers  and Bob Books Set 2-Advancing Beginners. It’s a great fit for Jenna, and a great opportunity for me to read about my favorite Disney princesses–not!

 

The Best Christmas Present Doesn’t Cost a Dime

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Here’s “I Brake for Moms” this week in The Everett Daily Herald: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20131103/BLOG5205/711039991/This-Christmas-give-a-jar-full-of-memories

P.S. There is a very cool backstory to this column that I share on Teaching My Baby to Read’s Facebook Page.

Life Sciences Extravaganza!

Fresh ideas from the Pacific Science Center

The best science fair you’ve ever experienced!

We are all really tired, but my whole family had a lot of fun at the Pacific Science Center today. There were scientists from all over Puget Sound presenting hands-on activities as part of the Life Sciences Research Weekend.

Extracting strawberry DNA

Extracting strawberry DNA

Touching a real sheep's brain!

Touching a real sheep’s brain (up at the top)

I wish I had the energy to share more inspiration from today, but I’m pretty zonked.

Here are a couple of projects I’m tagging to look into later:

Sing about Science and Math was there from the University of Washington. I really want to find out more about them, because their project sounds interesting.

There was also a booth from the Seattle Science Foundation’s Kids in Medicine program.

The Pacific Science Center is awesome to begin with. So the Life Sciences Research Weekend was like icing on a very good cake. No wonder I’m exhausted!

Only one section of the many exhibits.

Only one section of the many exhibits.

Christmas gifts for grandkids (that won’t make moms scream)

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It’s that time of year where Grandmas everywhere are asking their daughters and daughter-in-laws what to get the little ones for Christmas. Inwardly, moms are thinking “Not another video game! Not another junky plastic toy from China that I’m going to trip on!”

I’m sure Grandmas are thinking something too. Maybe it’s “I want to get something good! This year I’m going to be the favorite Grandma. First stop, Toys R Us!”

So much hope… so many good intentions…so much money–and so many toys all over the ground.

Well, here are my suggestions based on personal experience and my background in teaching. These are my top ten ideas that won’t make moms scream:

Babies

 

I love Baby Signs!  For our family, they really worked. Full story here.

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Preschool

Selective Leap Frog videos. Most of them are sub-par, but The Letter Factory and Talking Words Factory are both really great. Why I think that here.

Do-a-dot art stampers.  I LOVE them. Find out more here.

Place Setting Placemats. We haven’t gotten these yet, but I want them.

We love our Yoga Pretzel cards for kids. More info here.

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Elementary School

  

 

The “Beethoven Lives Upstairs” audio CD series is excellent. More ideas for educational CDs here.

Another great idea is Snap Circuits, a Lego-type way to introduce kids to electrical engineering. More info here.

     

If you’re thinking of books, Tom Angleberger’s Origami Yoda books are very popular.

Tweens and Teens

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My first idea for tweens and teens is to take them out to lunch at Sky City, on top of the Space Needle. Sometimes experiences are the best presents of all.

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365 New Words-a-Year 2014 Page-A-Day Calendar

If you aren’t afraid of being “lame”, another idea is to buy them a word a day calendar. It’s never a bad idea to get a jump start on the SATs.

Purple Sunrise Cereal

If you’ve got a gluten-free, or health-conscious teen on your hand, then Purple Sunrise cereal from Camano Island Mills could be a surprising idea that says “Grandma’s pretty with-it”.

My last idea for your grandkids?

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But them a puppy!

JUST KIDDING! Their mom would hate that!  😉

Singapore vs. Right Start, an Afterschooler’s Dilemma

Afterschooling with Singapore Math?

Afterschooling with Singapore Math?

The other day I was at the teacher store buying Christmas presents (yes, I’m weird), when I  decided to take a look at the Singapore math section.

Long time readers will remember that I’ve blogged about Singapore math before. A couple of years ago, I used the fourth grade Singapore Standards book to help supplement my son Bruce’s math work afterschool.

A math balance is a fun way for kids to develop number sense.

From our Right Start kit.

But with my daughter Jenna(4), we’ve been working through Right Start Level A, because I love Right Start.

I love the manipulatives…I love the constructivist approach…I love that handwriting doesn’t have to get in the way of progress… Dr. Joan Cotter is my hero!

The downside of Right Start is that parents have to set up a lot of stuff. You can’t just open a workbook and hand your kid a pencil.

Right Start Level A also seems to stretch out into 1st grade territory. So right now, Jenna’s on lesson 30 (out of 77), and we’re pretty much treading water.  I need to wait a bit for her to developmentally catch up and be ready to continue.  Some kids would be able to move faster. Some kids would need to move slower. But Jenna’s only four, and there’s no rush.

So while I was at the teachers store I picked up a copy of the Singapore Math textbook A for Kindergartners. It’s colorful (some would argue cartoonish), and really engaging for a little girl like Jenna, who loves to do “homework”. She breezed through half of the book in a few days, of her own accord, and then polished off a lot more over the weekend.


Earlybird Kindergarten Mathematics Textbook A (Standards Edition)

Now we’re at the point where Jenna really needs to learn to write the number 5 before she can finish up book A, and move on to book B. (Darn, that handwriting!)

Anyone familiar with Singapore can probably guess what we have not done this past week, which has allowed Jenna to breeze through those pages so quickly.

We haven’t been following all of the instructions that involve collecting toys to count, measuring objects in the house, or discussing potatoes as a food source.

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That’s the real danger of using Singapore. It’s easy to skip all of the important, hands-on stuff, and just have your kid do workbook pages.

That doesn’t mean that I think Singapore is bad, I just think that parents need to be careful.

In our situation, I’m fine with Jenna using it as a fun workbook so that she can have “homework” like her brother. That’s because she’s been doing so many hands-on activities from Right Start.

But if Singapore was the only way I was supplementing math afterschool (or in this case before school), I would purchase the teacher’s guide and be a lot more careful.

Teaching is different than watching your kid to workbook pages, –even if you are drawing out dots for the number 5!


Earlybird Kindergarten Mathematics Textbook A (Standards Edition)


Earlybird Kindergarten Mathematics Textbook B (Standards Edition)

Coffee Table Science

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Halloween is just a few days away, which means it’s almost time for rotting pumpkins!

Watching jack-o’-lanterns decompose in our front yard is an annual family tradition. This year we have a head start. One of our pie pumpkins was mysteriously stabbed, and the culprit has yet to confess.

I gathered the rotting pumpkin, as well as some other biological specimens, on our coffee table. Then I surrounded them with science books. Setting up a learning table right in our living room is an easy way to get kids interested in science.

It’s also a good lead-in for when we go to the Life Sciences Research Weekend at the Pacific Science Center.

From November 1st-3rd real scientists from all over Puget Sound are coming to meet families, lead demonstrations, and talk about how scientific research impacts our everyday lives. Entry to the event is included with an admission ticket.

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Both of my kids love science, but finding time to set up experiments at home is hard. Some of the things we’ve done in the past include building atoms with marshmallows, discovering osmosis with food dye, and experimenting with desalination.

If I was a cooler mom, I’d be setting up a science experiment for my kids to do each week. In the meantime, I bet a day at the Pacific Science Center will provide lots of inspiration.

What NOT to do with Halloween Candy

What's in the pumpkin? Read to find out!

Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column from today’s Herald: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20131027/BLOG5205/710279971/Halloween-candy-A-treat-for-kids-and-a-trick-on-parents