Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Prayers of Jeremiah

The message of Jeremiah is a difficult one.  Reading about judment isn't any more fun for us now than it was for Judah to hear then.  I've written before about the timing of Jeremiah and how I think he was instrumental in the short-lived revival under Josiah.  (I found this interesting because I had always been taught that Jeremiah preached his whole life and never had a convert.  I no longer believe that.)

Anyway, I was just blown away by Jeremiah's prayers this time.  I won't reprint all of them, but just some highlights.  These are from the New Living Translation. 

"I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own.  We are not able to plan our own course.  So correct me, Lord, but please be gentle.  Do not correct me in anger, for I would die."  Jeremiah 10:23-24 (LOVE this prayer!)

"When I discovered your words, I devoured them.  They are my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven's armies."  Jeremiah 15:16  (Sounds like he's been reading the Psalms, doesn't it?)

"O Sovereign Lord!  You made the heavens and the earth by your strong hand and powerful arm.  Nothing is too hard for you!  You show unfailing love to thousands, but you also bring the consequences of one generation's sin upon the next.  You are the great and powerful God, the Lord of Heaven's armies.  You have all wisdom and do great and mighty miracles.  You see the conduct of all people, and you give them what they deserve.  You performed miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt- things still remembered to this day!  And you have continued to do great miracles in Israel and around the world.  You have made your name famous to this day."  Jeremiah 32:17-20

Sometimes it's hard for me to keep my focus while reading through the prophets.  I tend to lose the forest for the trees, so to speak.  You know, trying to understand the judgment on the nations- past or future, why some nations will be restored and some won't, end times stuff, etc.  I love these prayers of Jeremiah, extolling God's sovereignty, inviting His discipline,  delighting in His Word.  I'm glad I didn't miss them.  Our nation is probably due for some judgment.  These prayers of Jeremiah are timely for us, too.  We share a common hope and comfort with Jeremiah.  Our hope is in the Lord and even in the midst of hard times, or perhaps especially in the midst of hard times, we can praise Him for His sovereignty and justice, accept His correction, and take joy in His Word.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


We all know the secret of teamwork.  Many hands make light work. 

You can always tell when Twinkle Toes has her hand in something.  She's so creative.  Her snowman is in the background with the hat.  Measle's and Prince's is in the foreground. 

Anyway, this post isn't really about making snowmen.  I've been very spoiled to have help with my house.  We've had a wonderful housekeeper who has actually been more wonderful than housekeeper, but anyway she's been a big help to us through the years.  Her life has gotten crazy and unpredictable lately and she hasn't been able to help us very often... at all.

Big D came home from work last night and decided he was up for some cleaning.  What's funny is the house didn't even look dirty, but he knew it was, down deep.  The stuff I never have time to get to!  I manage to keep clean clothes in the kids' closets and keep everything pretty straightened up and the kitchen clean, but the other stuff has to wait for project days.  Well, Big D had a major project day last night.  He used the handy dandy vacuum with attachments to clean in all the corners and even braved the sofa!

Isn't that terrible?!  We actually dig around in the sofa about once a week looking for the remote, but Big D lifted the back cushions up and scooped everything to the front.  I knew all those pencils couldn't have been disappearing into thin air!  Yuck! 

Then he emptied out my computer desk and hutch and filled an entire 50 gallon trash can with junk!  Let me repeat- I had 50 gallons of stuff in my computer hutch.  I know it's hard to believe.  I'm very skilled at cramming things into tight spaces.  And I keep everything computer-related.  Software, instruction manuels, cords, scanners (this was one of the original prototypes- I got it in college!), scanner accessories, camera card readers (to cameras we lost long ago), modem and router boxes, EVERYTHING.  I couldn't even watch.  I just kept telling myself that if I really needed those things then I would have been using them on a regular basis.  I'm one of those people who thinks I should hold onto anything that I might want to use someday.  It feels great to be purged.  Hopefully I won't need anything that ended up in the trash can.

I'm grateful to have a husband who doesn't expect me to do everything on my own.  He knows how busy I stay homeschooling the kids and running the house.  And he knows that I just don't have the heart for some jobs.  Thanks, Big D!

Friday, October 28, 2011

TOS Review of First Start Reading and Classical Phonics by Memoria Press

Together, the Memoria Press books First Start Reading and Classical Phonics by Cheryl Lowe make a comprehensive program for teaching reading and writing.  I've taught four of our children to read, thus far, and here's what I really like about First Start Reading.

  • It integrates reading and writing in a way I haven't seen before.  I've used a popular phonics book to teach reading in the past that leaves you on your own for the writing component.  First Start Reading includes guided printing practice for every sound and sound blend.

  • It's organized into three workbooks that provide progressively more difficult reading and printing assignments.  In lesson 5 of Book A, your child is reading "I am Sam."  By lesson 31 of Book C, your child is reading a three paragraph story about a queen!  (This also makes it easier to adapt for an older child or more experienced reader by just starting them in the next book up.)
  • I really like that the workbooks introduce writing the words one sound component at a time. This gives your child an intuitive feel for spelling. For instance, writing the word "rest" begins with one line of the sound "st", then one line of the sound "est" emphasizing "e" connected to "st", then one line of the sound "r" connected to the sound "est", and finally the complete word "rest". 

  • Dictation exercises provide listening and spelling practice while learning to read.  This is something that's been missing for us in the past.  Before, I taught my kids to read first and then worried about spelling later.  I'm learning that it's SO much easier to teach spelling alongside reading!  (And I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY wish I'd started doing dictation exercises with my 8 year old when she was 5 and just learning to read!!!)

  • Drawing pictures of objects that begin with the sound being taught provide opportunities for artistic expression, but more importantly (to me, anyway) they help solidify the connection between the written letter and its sound.

  • Your child can't fake it by looking at the pictures with First Start Reading because there are no pictures!    In fact, in First Start Reading after reading the story, your child will be asked to illustrate the passage, thus demonstrating their level of comprehension.  (As a mother of a very smart 5 year old who likes to look at pictures and guess the sentence, I LOVE this!)
  • The dictation exercises and drawing component make this a Charlotte Mason-friendly approach to teaching reading and writing.
  • Classical Phonics provides all the word lists for sounds and sound blends in one place!  What a great reference to have on hand!

When we received First Start Reading and Classical Phonics, my 5 year old son was already reading on a mid-late first grade level, but he lagged behind in his writing.  Because of this, I went ahead and had my son start in student workbook A and he blasted through it in a week.  He's now making his way through workbook B and has really improved his writing and spelling!  All that by way of saying, this program is not limited to kids who are just learning to read. 

OK, my son is a bit of a ham.  Your five year old might not enjoy First Start Reading as much as mine did, but it really is a confidence-building reading program!  In fact, First Start Reading and Classical Phonics are really more than just a reading program.  With phonics lessons and guided-writing practice, Spelling/dictation exercises, and reading comprehension assessment, First Start Reading and Classical Phonics constitute a comprehensive Kindergarten/First Grade Language Arts curriculum. 
You can purchase First Start Reading from Memoria Press for $29.95 including the teacher's guide or for $21.00 for just the student workbooks A, B, and C, but not the teacher's guide.  Personally, I don't think the teacher's guide is necessary, but it does contain about 250 pages of scripted lessons for those who are looking for that.  Classical Phonics:  A Child's Guide to Word Mastery is available for $14.95 and would be a great addition to any reading curriculum you're already using.


Don't forget to check out other TOS crew reviews of First Start Reading and Classical Phonics!

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of Memoria Press's First Start Reading and Classical Phonics in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed above are my own.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Excellence in Literature Review for TOS

I was so excited to receive Excellence in Literature:  Reading and Writing through the Classics by Janice Campbell!  My oldest son is a seventh grader this year and we received Introduction to Literature, the first year (8th grade) of the five year Excellence in Literature High School English Literature course.  I was super impressed upon looking over Janice Campbell's Introduction to Literature, but I was fearful that it would be WAY over my seventh grader's head.  In the end, it has caused me to second guess our approach to writing.  I don't think I've been requiring nearly enough of my kids, because my 12 year old son rose to the occasion and wrote a fantastic approach paper to the first short story in unit 1. 

Excellence in Literature is designed to prepare your High School, or almost High School student, for the independent study required in college.  EIL is full of links to author biographies and cultural and historical background information on each of the focus texts and your student is encouraged to use these as a starting point for their own research.  EIL emphasizes reading a work within its context and prepares your student to become competent at researching the information needed to truly understand a work.  Introductory chapters include How to Read a Book and Discerning Worldview through Literary Periods.  Honestly, one of the reasons we've been talking about sending our kids to high school is because I don't feel competent to teach literary analysis and writing.  Science and math, no problem.  Teaching writing scares me to death.  This course completely eliminates that fear.  It is so much beyond what I learned in high school and I went on to make A's in a private liberal arts university. 

I was tempted at first to skip unit 1,which uses 6 short stories as focus texts, and move on to a book I knew he'd really love like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (I've read it multiple times), but the writing assignments get progressively more difficult and really build upon one another.  The first unit uses short stories to teach students to recognize and compare and contrast the five literary elements in fiction:  Plot, Theme, Characterization, Setting, and Style.  Each unit takes 4 weeks to complete assuming 1-2 hours of work per day.  There is a great deal of flexibility in how you divide your time between reading, research, and writing, much like in a college level course.  There is no micromanagement of read x number of pages and write x number of paragraphs per day.  This takes getting used to for those of us tied to a strict schedule, but it's an important transition for our older students.

Around the World in Eighty Days, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Jane Eyre, Pygmalion, Treasure Island, Animal Farm, The Tempest, and Gulliver's Travels serve as the focus texts for units 2 through 9.  The Honors track requires reading an additional work and more writing for each unit.  Incredibly, your 8th grader will be able to write a 650 word analytical essay by the end of this course!  That seems impossible to me, but I didn't think my son could write an approach paper just a few days ago and with the preparation Introduction to Literature gave him including the wonderful forms and models section, he cranked it out no problem.

I am so impressed with Excellence in Literature on every level.  It is academic and rigorous, yet it contains, or directs you to, all the tools your child needs to learn to write (and the rubrics you need to learn to evaluate their writing).  Excellence in Literature also emphasizes morality and good character within the classics, which your child will NOT receive in either public school or a liberal arts college!  Our son readily picked up on the character trait of loyality, which we have been studying for several weeks as a family, within "A White Heron".  It was really neat seeing him develop loyalty within a context other than our biblical and nature studies.

Each of the Excellence in Literature courses, including English I: Introduction to Literature which I reviewed, is available for puchase either in book format for $29 plus $4.95 shipping or instant e-book download for $27.   You can purchase Introduction to Literature here.  If your child is a 9th-12th grader and already an experienced writer, you may be interested in English II:  Literature and Composition, English III:  American Literature, English IV:  British Literature, or English V:  World Literature.  I recommend starting with English I:  Introduction to Literature, even for an older child, however, since it really can make a writer out of a student who has no previous writing experience.  I watched it happen and couldn't believe it!   


Please check out other TOS Homeschool Crew reviews of Excellence in Literature here.

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of English I:  Introduction to Literature by Janice Campbell in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Divide and Conquer?

Homeschooling brings a lot of togetherness to the family.  And that's a good thing, most of the time.  Our school efficiency, however, has been steadily sliding since the beginning of the school year.  I felt pretty confident our kids could finish with their studies by 1 or 2 in the afternoon if they applied themselves diligently and lately we've had kids still working on school at 9 pm!  Granted, they've been doing lots of other things each day, too like practicing music, swim team, helping out with younger siblings, doing chores, etc.  But, still.  I knew we weren't giving them that great of a load and that the main problem was all the time spent daily in messing around.  On one level, I suppose that messing around could be construed as our kids enjoying their homeschool experience.  I'm not opposed to fun, after all.  But, it's been getting out of hand. 

My husband and I want to prepare our kids for real life and real life is tough for people who do things inefficiently. More importantly, we want our kids to do all to the glory of God and we hope that someday they'll be the kinds of adults who make time in their busy schedules for things like Bible study, prayer, serving in the church, and helping out a brother in need.  So, my husband suggested assigned seats.  Crazy, huh?  No more doing homework on the swing set, stretched out on beds, or giggling across from one another at the homeschool table?  Well, at least not for now.  You know what?  It worked. 

Measle at my her desk.  Lately, I've struggled to keep this girl on track.  Today she finished school before 11!  Divide and conquer seems to be working.

Mr. Monk has been banished to the upstairs for the majority of his work and Twinkle Toes has the homeschool table to herself.  Lest you picture our children languishing in separate cells of a cold, harsh school- prison , let me assure you they still have plenty of togetherness!  We still spend an hour all together each morning on Bible/character training/catechism and science, and Measle also listens in when I read aloud to her older siblings.  Then there's breakfast, lunch, and dinner, practicing music at Nana's, going to swim team together, and all that free time now that they're finishing school earlier.  You get the idea.  Together is great, but when it comes to school time, for now we're going with divide and conquer.

How do you keep your kids on track to finish at a reasonable time each day?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Christian curriculum or Christ-centered teaching... or both.

Maybe I should have titled this post, "Knowing when to say when."  It seems I'm there, when it comes to our science curriculum, anyway.  I've argued previously in a post on biblical homeschooling that I believe a Christian education is not an education gained by reading books only written by Christians, but rather is an education from a Christian worldview.  I still hold to that. 

There are many books written by secular humanists that the Lord has used in my life to draw me to Him.  In fact, I'm almost positive that I didn't read a single book or paper by a Christian during the entire course of my doctoral studies.  And yet, as I learned more and more about our bodies on a molecular level, I became more convinced that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  These massive scientific textbooks all written with the assumption of evolution inspired me to give thanks and praise to God.  Another example is when I read America Alone several years ago and the Lord used it to completely change my life.  I went from a career woman finished having children to a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of six!  I know the credit goes to God and not to Mark Steyn, but still God did use that book in my life. 

Moreover, there are Christian authors who do not or did not believe in a literal six day creation.  Does that mean we discount everything they say?  Does that mean we shouldn't read C.S. Lewis?!  I don't think so.  But as a Christian and a scientist, I do not believe biblical creation and evolution are reconcilable.  In other words, I think by swallowing theistic evolution you must liberally interpret some parts of Scripture and ignore others. 

So... I have decided after some prayer and reflection that we are ditching our Sonlight science curriculum because at least one of the books is written with the assumption of evolution.  In fact, probably most of the books we're using this year as part of Sonlight's Core F science on the human body are written from an evolutionary point of view (I've noticed this with most of our Usborne books, history and science), but one author in particular makes her assumption of evolution clear quite often, while the others are more discreet.  My 12 yr old son has even nicknamed Blood and Guts, their evolution book.  It does not teach or endorse evolution per se, but it assumes that we are the product of evolution.  And that assumption just keeps popping up over and over again. 

It's not that I'm afraid it will brainwash my children, because they're the ones telling me that their science book is wrong.  If there were no better books available, we would stick with our current science curriculum and just continue teaching from a Christ-centered point of view.  In this case I believe a Christ-centered point of view means not only giving the credit to Christ, by whom God made all things and holds all things together, but also assuming a literal six day creation as outlined in Genesis 1. 

So, having said all that, we've made a switch.  I've never done anything like this before, changing curricula one-third of the way through the school year.  It means not finishing something.  It means I've wasted money on something we're not going to use.   That bothers me, but I know it doesn't mean failure.  Failure would have been making do with something that does not honor God and His Word when we could have been using something that teaches the same subject matter in a way that does honor God and His Word.   

I absolutely love God's Design for Life:  The Human Body by Debbie and Richard Lawrence, available through Answers in Genesis.  It was written by a husband-wife team who are both believers and engineers. 

Compare exerpts on the nervous system from Blood and Guts to God's Design and you be the judge over whether we made the right choice.

Blood and Guts:  "Bilaterally symmetric creatures no longer drifted every which way.  Their lives had direction.  Their nervous systems got bigger and much more sophisticated.  An onslaught of new information had to be dealt with by these creatures, like how to move along in a particular direction.  Gradually, a knot of nervous tissue developed at the end of the body facing the unknown.  This became the first brain.  Later, mammals developed ever bigger brains to deal with ever more complex worlds of sight, smell, and sound; not to mention internal controls like temperature and equilibrium." (Blood and Guts by Linda Allison page 112, emphasis of evolution code words mine)

God's Design:  "Have you ever seen an animal that could read a book and understand it?  Can a monkey build a building?  A parrot can repeat words, but can it carry on a conversation?  No.  Why not?  Animal's brains were not created to learn and think the same way that human brains can.  Of all of God's creatures, only man was given a mind able to think and reason at a high level. ... Be glad that God gave you a special brain and exercise it every day." (God's Design: The Human Body by Debbie and Richard Lawrence page 48 Beginner's section for younger kids.)

God's Design:  "The human brain is so complex we can never hope to fully understand it.  God has designed our brains to not only control our bodies and to react to the world around us, but to learn and think so we can understand and enjoy the world God has created."  (God's Design for Science: The Human Body by Debbie and Richard Lawrence page 49)

Do you see the difference in assumptions?  And of course, our conclusions depend largely upon our assumptions.  Why haven't we been using this curriculum all the time?  I have no idea.  I guess because the idea of Sonlight's Charlotte Mason approach to science of using living books rather than textbooks appealed to me.  I did look at God's Design for Science briefly when we were at the Creation Museum last year, but I didn't have much time and my husband was anxious to get the kids out of the bookstore, as you can imagine.  We'll be using it from now on with our younger kids.  It's geared for multi-level homeschooling grades 1-8.  I love that it's broken up into short lessons and sprinkled throughout with special features, biographies of great scientists, and fun facts that ispire awe and praise.  (Very Charlotte Mason-like and un-textbook-like on the whole.)

Disclaimer:  I figured this out on my own and had to actually buy the curriculum.  It was money well spent, though!

I've written before that our goal is to glorify God in our homeschool.  That's our top priority.  Using a science curriculum that gives God the credit for creation and leads us to praise Him for it, makes it that much easier for us to glorify God as we study science each day.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

There's crazy hair... then there's just crazy.

Tuesday was crazy hair day at Lucie's pre-school.  Her big sisters helped her get ready. 
Lucie with her signature drink, a Roaster's decaf white mocha. 
And today I walked in on my weird unsocialized homeschool kids playing SPY.

Can you tell which one's Russian?

That one in the front-left is especially dangerous.  Ask anyone in our family. 

Just another day in the life.  What can I say?  I was an only child and spent a lot of time reading or playing quietly by myself in my room.  I'm thrilled my kids have fun playing with each other.

North Star Games Review for TOS: Wits and Wagers Family

We had so much fun reviewing the game Wits and Wagers Family by North Star Games!  This game is super easy to play, even my 8 yr old had no problem.  The answer to every question is always a number and since most of the questions are not common knowledge (though all are family-friendly), each player guesses a number that they think will be closest to the answer without going over.  But, the most fun is not in guessing the answer, but in seeing everyone elses guesses and in betting which player has the best guess.  In other words, you're tested not only in your knowledge of trivia, but in how well you know each player's areas of expertise.  And yes, I did win, but just barely. 
Each player or team gets one re-usable answer card and two meeples, wooden people-shaped game pieces, one large and one small.  After the question is read each player discreetly writes their guess on their answer card with a dry-erase marker (5 are included) and turns it face down.  Once everyone has guessed, the cards are turned over and lined up next to the permanent "1" card in order from least to greatest.  Then the fun begins.  You're awarded points based on writing the closest guess without going over (1 point) and betting on the closest guess (2 points for the large meeple and 1 point for the small meeple.)  If you write the correct guess and bet on yourself exclusively then you can earn a maximum of 4 points in one round.  Of course, you might be wrong, in which case you would score zero, so it's more wise to hedge your bets and split your meeples between two different guesses.

I know from experience that it's just as fun playing Wits and Wagers Family
when your house is messy as when it's clean : ).
What's cool is that it's completely possible to win at Wits and Wagers Family without knowing any of the answers.  How?  Just keep in mind that your 10 year old daughter probably knows more about Barbie than your 12 year old son and vice versa when it comes to the Chronicles of Narnia and Disney Pixar films.  And unlike so many family games, an adult is not necessary for playing.  Your kids can play this one on their own just as easily, but then you'd miss out on the fun!

Wits and Wagers Family is suitable for ages 8 and up and can be played with as few as 3 players.  We usually play as 4 individuals, but I can see that this could be a fun party game played in teams of 3 or four people each.  The game doesn't have a board, which makes it easy to play anywhere, like on this ottoman in the middle of our living room.  And because I know you're dying to know, I'll share with you my winning question.  I guessed correctly and bet on myself that the longest known celery stalk measured 9 feet.  As you can see above, Mr. Monk was ahead and feeling a bit overconfident when I pulled out the win on this question.  While we each had our areas of expertise, and no, I hadn't realized celery and spelling bees fell into that category for me, there were also questions that we were all completely clueless about.  One of them had to do with American Idol and another with Sponge Bob, two shows none of us know anything about.  Actually, it's almost more fun on those questions, because you have the greatest range of answers and have to spread out your bets.

Wits and Wagers Family is available from retailers such as Barnes and Noble for $19.95.  If you enjoy family game night at your house you might want to consider Wits and Wagers Family for a Christmas gift this year that will keep on giving.

Please check out the other TOS reviews of Wits and Wagers Family and North Star Games other new game, Say Anything.

Disclaimer:  I received a free Wits and Wagers Family game in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Always Icecream Review for TOS

If you have to stand in line behind your girls to get time on your own computer, then Always Icecream will have your girls begging to "play"!  It's geared toward girls age 7-10 and I can tell you it's a HUGE hit with my 10 year old!  She's been finishing school as soon as possible each day to maximize her time for Always Ice Cream.  My daughter's geography skills have really improved as a result of her "playing" and she's WAY more motivated to quiz over math facts if she's earning something in return!  The creators of Always Icecream are geniuses.  They know what makes girls tick.  The chance to buy a house, pick out furniture, upgrade your house, decorate, etc. are the types of things your daughter can buy with all the ice cream $coops she earns playing the myriad educational games on Always Icecream.  That plus she soon acquires her own social network much like a kid version of facebook.  (This can be managed in the parent account.)

Not long ago, when we actually had a real pet, I was lamenting the fact that our kids were always quick to take care of their webkinz and feed their virtual fish, whereas our real dog got short shrift.  Always Ice Cream has capitalized on our kids' affinity for cyberspace and made a fun online gaming and social experience educational, as well.  Kudos to them!  I love that I never have to ask my daughter to play, she just wants to. 

Always Icecream has some wonderful learning games that teach and/or reinforce multiplication/division math facts, adding fractions, reducing fractions, US geography, European geography, anatomy, Bible trivia, Bible verse games, and more.  Your daughter can even test her knowledge about dog breeds!  My daughter is very proud of being a diamond girl on anatomy and the states game.  This means she has mastered those games on a particular set of levels.  When you play educational games, you earn $coops which can either be redeemed for virtual stuff for your virtual world or to play non-educational games.   It's rigged so that your child will spend much more time on the educational games than the non-educational games, which are just good clean fun like dressing your Victorian paper doll or hatching a new pet.

Is it just me, or are you sometimes concerned that these types of online games are more fun than educational?  I'm usually a little doubtful about how much learning is taking place. Always Icecream takes the guess work out of keeping tabs on the content of your daughter's play.  You can easily check  a summary of her activities online by clicking on the "parent summary" at the top right of the screen.  I learned that my daughter has earned bronze medals in multiplication and addition levels 1-9 and 1-12 respectively, synonyms, state capitals, and internet quiz.  She's earned silver medals on quizzes over classical music and countries in Europe, and a gold medal on the Bible quiz.  That' s my girl!  She made "diamond girl" in basic anatomy levels 1-32, US presidents levels 1-6 and states of the US levels 1-46.  I also learned that she's watched skads of educational videos including oddly enough How Toilet Paper is Made.  Can't say I've ever wondered about that, but at least she's learning!  You can also choose to have Always Icecream send you weekly email updates on everything your daughter is learning.

We've been VERY happy with Always Icecream.  My daughter is already trying to recruit our across the street neighbor to join so they can be virtual friends, as well.  Members are allowed to give their friends a one month FREE trial here.  The subscription rates depend upon the term of subscription.   Personally, I think $29.99 for 1 year is a bargain!  Or you can pay monthly for $4.99 a month. 


Don't forget to check out other TOS reviews of Always Icecream!

Disclaimer:  We received a free lifetime membership to Always Icecream in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The rebellion and redemption of Korah

One of the things I love most about reading the Bible in 90 days and doing that multiple times each year, is making connections between different books of the Bible.  I have to confess to you that my first few times through the Bible my eyes glazed over reading the ubiquitous and often long geneology passages.  Not so, now.  I love lingering on the names and thinking about how God redeems individual people, yes, but He also works through families.  For instance, I remember wondering at one time why David put up with Joab, his bloodthirsty general that David admitted to being afraid of.  (For the record, I don't think Joab was all that bad.  He did counsel David against taking the census which so angered God, after all.  And Absalom was a traitor and leading a revolution against David when Joab killed him.  I also wonder if Abner was really sincere in switching his allegiance to David, and Abner had killed Joab's brother.)  David talked on several occasions as if he would have rid himself of Joab if he could have.  When you realize that Joab is David's nephew, son of his sister Zeruiah, it makes more sense.  Blood really is thicker than water!

Anyway, what I've been thinking about for the last few days is Korah.  Numbers 16 details Korah's rebellion, and in fact that's the heading my Bible gives to Number's 16:  Korah's Rebellion.  Interesting, that Korah gets all the blame since Dathan and Abiram were in on it with him.  I'm not going to reprint Numbers 16 here, but just give the highlights.  Korah is a Kohathite so he's a Levite, but not a priest.  Remember the three divisions of Levites are Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarities.  Numbers 4 tells how the labor of the tabernacle was to be divided among the families.  The Kohathites were responsible for the transportation of the most sacred objects like the Ark, the lampstand, the table of showbread, and the altar.  But, the only Kohathites allowed into the sanctuary to care for the objects and to cover the sacred objects for transportation, were the sons of Aaron.  Only the priests, the sons of Aaron, could see the holy objects in the sanctuary and only the priests could present offerings to the Lord on behalf of Israel.  Anyone else who even went into the holy place while the objects were uncovered would die.  This was a big responsibility and also a great privilege. 

Dathan and Abiram, both Reubenites and Korah, a Kohathite, but not a son of Aaron, thought this wasn't fair.  They gathered together 250 other leaders of Israel and incited a rebellion against Moses and Aaron.  They argued that the whole community of Israel had been set apart by God and that the sons of Aaron should not have any special privileges.  It just wasn't politically correct!  Moses spoke to Korah (interesting that he addressed Korah and not Dathan and Abiram) and pointed out the privileges God had given him in being a Kohathite and being allowed to minister in the Tabernacle in the first place.  

"Does it seem insignificant to you that the God of Israel has chosen you from among all the community of Israel to be near Him and serve in the Lord's Tabernacle and stand before the people to minister to them?  Korah, He has already given this special ministry to you and your fellow Levites.  Are you now demanding the priesthood, as well?"  Numbers 16:9-10 

Moses went on to point out that Korah was actually rebelling against the Lord, not just Aaron.  (And remember, Moses though a special intercessor for Israel with God, was a Kohathite, but not a son of Aaron.  Aaron was appointed by God as high priest, not Moses.  Moses was pleading with Korah, one of his own clan.)

Unfortunately Korah didn't heed Moses' plea.  Numbers 16:19 says that Korah "stirred up the entire community against Moses and Aaron."  Now this is where it gets interesting.  The glorious presence of the Lord comes down to the entrance of the Tabernacle and threatens to destroy the whole community.  Moses and Aaron fall face down and beg the Lord not to destroy all of Israel.  Then the Lord tells all the people, who were all gathered in a rebellious mob about to storm the Tabernacle, to get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.  Moses jumps up to do God's bidding, and warns everyone to step back from the tents of the three leaders of the rebellion.  Then the text (verse 27) says that Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the entrances of their tents, together with their wives, and children and little ones.  Korah died too, but his sons didn't.  The children of Dathan and Abiram all died.  The sons of Korah didn't.

"But the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them with Korah, and fire devoured 250 of their followers.  This served as a warning to the entire nation of Israel.  However, the sons of Korah did not die that day."  Numbers 26:11

Do you know who some of the sons of Korah were?  The most famous is Samuel.  The geneology in 1 Samuel 1 gives only a partial geneology of Elkanah, so unless you realize it from other Scriptures like 1 Chronicles 6:33-38, you may not realize Elkanah is a Levite, a Kohathite and descended from Korah to be precise.  Heman, chief musician assigned to the Temple by David, was also descended from Korah.  Isn't it amazing that God continued to work through Korah's sons?  He didn't wipe them from the face of the earth.  He was merciful, compassionate, and gracious.  1 Chronicles 9 relates that even after the Babylonian exile, descendants of Korah were responsible for guarding the entrance to the sanctuary, just as their ancestors had guarded the Tabernacle in the camp of the Lord.

Now that you know the backstory, Psalms 84 and 85 written by the descendants of Korah, can be more fully appreciated.

"How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord of Heaven's Armies.  I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord.  With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God.  Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O Lord of Heaven's Armies, my King and my God!  What joy for those who can live in Your house, always singing Your praises... A single day in Your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!  I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.  For the Lord God is our sun and our shield.  He gives us grace and glory."  Psalm 84:1-4, 10-11a

"You forgave the guilt of your people- yes, you covered all their sins.  You held back your fury.  You kept back your blazing anger... Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, so our land will be filled with His glory."  Pslam 85:2, 9

I'm fairly certain the descendants of Korah were aware all their lives that they shouldn't be alive.  They must have realized in a special way that every breath was an act of God's mercy.  And never again do we see them complaining about their God-ordained duties.  Rather, we see thanksgiving and praise to the Lord.

Korah died for his sins, but even in his death, God redeemed his name.  God let his sons live on and God used them for His glory.  The name of Korah lived on, but its legacy is not one of rebellion.  Just think of it- Psalms sung by God's people in praise to Him for all eternity.  (Yes, I think we'll be singing Psalms in heaven : ).  God turned Korah's rebellion into praise.  Isn't that what He does with each of us?  Plucks us out of our rebellion and redeems us, breathing new life into our souls?  Let us also leave a legacy of praise to Lord!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The ALMOST Balloon Launch

I was going to title this post Failure to Launch, but I suppose that's not exactly accurate.  I think the balloonists knew when we got to the park this morning that they would be prevented from launching due to wind currents, but they put on a great show for the kids anyway.

We got word that hot air balloons were taking off from parks all over town this morning, including our own local elementary school park.  The school encouraged parents to watch with their kids and allowed school to start late this morning in honor of the hot air balloon. 

So we made it to the park bright and early, or dark and early in this case around 7:40.  My mom met us over there and of course I forgot Calvin's jacket.  Calvin, Lucie and I watched mostly from the car while the older four kids and my mom were right in the thick of it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Girls. Talkin' 'bout my girls.

I was a tomboy, so when we started our family I naturally assumed I wanted to have all boys. I admit to being a little disappointed the first time I learned Twinkle Toes, now 10, was a little girl. I didn't know anything about girls. I played football and rode bikes. I tortured frogs and built forts. I'm a scientist! But, the Lord has been gracious and given me THREE little girls. He has also been patient with me and little by little my girls are helping me to embrace femininity.  Aren't they just the cutest?

  All three of our girls are as different as they could possibly be, but they all have such larger than life personalities.  Twinkle Toes is our resident artist.  She's left-handed, extremely artistic and creative, and bit well, dramatic.  My theory is that the drama kind of goes with her artist's personality, so we embrace it : ).  Twinkle Toes is currently composing a piece of music for the piano to submit in the Texas state composition contest.  It sounds so great- I can't believe it's coming out of her mind!  Twinkle Toes is fiercely independent and competent to accomplish most anything she sets her mind to.  I'm so blessed to have her as my daughter!

Measle is 8 and in one of the middle positions in our family.  That's a tough place to be, but she's such a great little mother to her younger siblings.  She loves being Louie's big sister and sharing a room with her.  She loves bathing, dressing, and reading to her roommate.  (Sometime's Louie's more receptive than at other times : ).  Measle is a fast swimmer and is becoming a really good violinist.  She's taking part in a fiddle contest this weekend.  She likes to do everything fast!   We're especially enjoying reading Leading Little Ones to God together this year. 

Lucie just turned 3 and I've already told you lots about her.  I started blogging when Lucie was still a baby so you've seen evidence of her shenanigans.  I made the mistake of starting Lucie on mochas early in life.  Once when she was a toddler in the church nursery, she bent over to look through the window of a Little People dollhouse and shouted to the nursery worker, "Do you want a white mocha?"  She was months shy of two at that point.  Lucie is an absolute pro at drinking mochas in the car and often reminds me when it's hot to "take little sips."  Lucie sleeps with us and when she turned 3 I thought she might be ready to sleep in her room with her sister.  She held up her open hand and told me when she was 5.  Hmmm.  She totally cracked me up the other day when I saw her struggling with her baby, carseat, and diaper bag.  She's such a mom!

I love my boys, too, and will write about them in another post, but I'm SO grateful to God for blessing me with these sweet girls who love hanging out with their mom.  I never have to run errands, cook, shop, exercise, or do anything alone.  These three girls are ALWAYS up for some fun and they even manage to make our chores fun.  Thank you Lord, for the gift of little girls!


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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.