Returning to books

In my current (temporary) job I catch the bus into Cheltenham each day.  This means I have around 30 minutes reading time each day (how else would one pass the time on a bus after all?).  For the past few weeks I’ve been buried in preparing and delivering a short Exodus course at church, but the final session was on Wednesday so on Thursday morning before dashing out of the door I looked at our bookshelves and pondered what sort of book I should read.

In the end I grabbed a book I haven’t read for a while, but which profoundly influenced me first time round when I read it as an undergraduate student at Durham.  The book is “A call to Spiritual Reformation” by Don Carson.  It has a cover almost as off-putting as the title – although slightly less off-putting than the original cover.  The subtitle is “Priorities from Paul and his prayers” which gives more of a clue as to what the book is about.  After a brief introduction to prayer, and some practical tips, Don Carson expounds several of Paul’s prayers to see what we can learn for our prayer lives.

First time round the whole concept of praying for other people based upon passages of scripture struck me as extremely useful and gave me plenty of ideas for praying.  I was intrigued as I opened the book this time round to see what might strike me this time round.  This time round I was struck in the introduction by the importance of prayer, and the need to make time for prayer.  One quote hit me forcibly: “many of us in our praying are like nasty little boys who ring front door bells and run away before anyone answers”.  Too often it feels like that is what I do in prayer.

In January 1995 when I read those words the answer was easy.  Get up 15 minutes earlier and write down my prayers.  If I do that now a 2 year old will be screaming for my attention, and grabbing the pen in order to write her own prayers.  I can just about manage to read a few verses of the bible, but even then I have half an eye to make sure that the 2 year old has not decided to wake up the older ones while Daddy is distracted.  Today I have to make more of an effort.  So this time round the reading convicted me once more – and I think my aim now needs to be to pray at lunchtime – so combining my half hour leg stretch with a prayer walk is my intention.

I moved into the first main chapter – based around 2 Thessalonians 1:1-10.  Here I was reminded of the need to remember Jesus’ return.  This life is not everything.  This life is the start of something much bigger.  Marriage, parenting, work and even job hunting are all just the start.  Jesus’ death and resurrection introduced God’s kingdom, and one day Jesus will return.  All we have done for him, in obedience to his call and for his glory will have been woven into his new creation.  Every sacrifice we have made for him will be seen to have been worth it.  Having been immersed in Exodus for a while I can’t help but remember in this context that the promise of Revelation 21 – he will be our God and we his people is the fulfilment of God’s promise back in Exodus 6 of the very same thing.  The land Israel were promised was a foretaste of the new creation believers will be a part of for ever.  I read about this new creation recently in Isaiah 11:

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

No more harm.  No more destruction.  No more sickness, suffering or death.  Living for that world does not lessen our usefulness here – rather it enhances it.  It was either Wilberforce (ending the slave trade in the British Empire), or Shaftesbury (laws stopping child labour) who said “I have not lived one single day without being influenced by the conscious thought of Christ’s return” (or something similar) – and it was one of Wilberforce’s friends who said “I would be as happy as he is, if I had the hope of heaven that he has”.

So then – my aim is to pray and walk during my lunch half hour – and to remember Jesus’ return and live out my responsibilities in that light – a concept that needs a bit of sharpening up, and hopefully reading and pondering this book will help.  I’m looking forward to reading on in the book, and seeing what will strike me this time.  You can get it from the Good Book Company at reduced price right now – its well worth it – maybe as a book to read for Lent:


reflections on our home learning journey 17 & 18/2 and into our week off

So Friday evenings and reflection and writing have not happened either intentionally or through a lack of smooth running evenings. Life has felt up in the air, on hold and confusing for the most part and with that comes tiredness and uncertainty of what to write if anything.

We have been looking for a new home locally for various reasons and no door has opened for us. We have reached a new stage in parenting where Sunday lunch times after church feel like a space to spend time with friends and opening our home to others which my heart has delighted in being able to do once more. We are no longer trying to rush to time naps and meals times so as not to have significant knock on effects during the day. The boys are tolerating and discovering they can enjoy Mummy’s desire to invite guests over and Kanga loves to play to the audience who seem only too willing to encourage her.

Learning has been focused around science, thanks to the great BBC documentaries on i-player and history by listening to Story of the World CDs which we have just got. We have also kept our grammar ticking over and maths has come into everyday life events. Sports days have carried on as has nature walks and a day at the museum. New friendships are being made as another family from our village has joined our group. And some of the mums from our group even managed an evening get together which was a real treat.

All 3 but in particular Bob and Kanga have wanted to help with meal preparations over the last while. This is great on days when all is running smoothly and I long for everyday to be like that. There are other days when our tempers alone could cook the meals. Zog is usually lost in his world of colouring and numbers with letters being a completely unnecessary interruption in his otherwise creative day. If I do bring letters into his day he would far rather tell me how many sides or lines make up the letter than tell me what the letter is, so I am just hoping that behind this numerical front something is going in and being filed away and he will use when he is ready to.

Musical beds has been a theme of late also in our house and late nights. This has had a gradually increasing knock on effect to our days hence learning through audio and documentary to keep us all on an even keel and keep some structure of learning on board. Sleep disruption has come about because Bob has been battling a painful left hip. His limp has gone but the pain has remained and nights are often the hardest for him as he cannot get comfortable. It all started just over two weeks ago when he woke up on the Saturday morning in pain and limping without wanting to put any weight on his leg. We thought he must have pulled a muscle even though none of us could pin point a moment of injury that might have led to it happening. As he was still in the same state on the Sunday morning I checked with friends thanks to the wonders of Facebook and the advise from a GP friend and physio friend was to get it checked out as there was no injury. Following X-rays he was referred for an appointment two days later at the fracture clinic where we were told that his left femur at the top which should be nice and spherical to form the ball part of the ball and socket joint was flat. We were told this could just be one of those things or it could be a condition known as Perthes Disease which we had never heard of and to come back in two weeks time. From the reading we have done no two doctors seem to have the same opinion on diagnosis/treatment of Perthes and that became apparent today as he was seen by a 2nd doctor. The first doctor was happy for him to carry on with all physical activity and if it turns out to be Perthes they would deal with issues that arose. Today’s doctor said that it was so hard to give a definite diagnosis as it has so many manifestations of the condition and each individual was different but was less confident in just letting him do sport and wants him seen again by the paediatric orthopaedic clinic. So we are no further on with a definite diagnosis and while he is weight bearing again, he is in pain most of the time. He finds being active helps him forget about it but he did confess after a fairly major melt down this afternoon after sports that it was then more painful following activities. As I have mentioned before he is also our book worm and is having to work hard to find a position that is comfy enough to be in to read. So the history CDs have been great because in moving about and shuffling about he has not had to worry about holding a book and not losing the page he was on and can just let his mind drift. Having had my own battles as a teenager with painful knees I am struggling to watch my 6 year old deal with bone on bone pain.

So I am trying to balance our days with alternating active and quiet and there is a definite reduction in the amount of pain medicine Bob asks for on quieter days but he wrestles with being at home. I am letting go of our timetable of lessons and my tick box in a big way. I am on the look out for those moments which can be turned into learning moments with out spoiling the moment, of seeing board games as a means of learning and reinforcing skills without needing to specify that we are learning a specific new skill, lesson. I am going to have to learn ways of teaching around his difficulty to sit and concentrate for any length of time. There is also a big journey to help him walk through in learning how to handle this situation whatever the diagnosis and length of time it is going to last for. Once more I have been reminded the learning at home is so very different from learning at school and so the way maths and writing etc are brought in looks very different to a school day and that that is ok.


reflections on our home learning journey 16/2




photos thanks to Emma and Bethan. ( I had left my camera in the car)


Winter weather has finally arrived with crisp blue skies and the need for layers and hats and scarves. We have made the most of the out door weather with den building at a friend’s small holding over looking the flooded River Severn and cooked toast and marshmallows on the campfire. We have learnt about the marine live off the Florida coast thanks to one of home ed group’s recent trips home to grandparents. We have spent hours at Pitville Park with friends enjoying the space to let physical and creative selfs run free. We have gazed at the stars thanks to the clear crisp skies at night at long last.

We have curled up with hot chocolate and good books. We have played lots of silly word games as Zog loves the sound of words. We have discovered that doing maths on a  white board removes the constraints workbooks have for requiring answers in small spaces and the need to work left to right which gets frustrating when left handed. We have discovered that in fact we do know lots of maths facts and can take on multiple digit addition and subtraction with ease and confidence and speed when the space to work it out is not restricted.

We have sat with tension watching the live space walk until the work was done and breathed a big breath of relief when the two astronauts were safely back inside the ISS again. Bob’s tension reduced when they got their task done, mine when they were safely back inside. We have learnt about the pressure our bodies endure when we push the boundaries of exploration up and down through the programmes ‘To Boldly Go’. I concluded if I was forced to go one way or the other that I was heading to space, diving seemed far more risky and unappealing when learning that the divers working in the rigs in the North Sea go down for a month at a time as it takes a week to decompress safely and that we can get folk back from space far quicker (a matter of hours) than we can from the bottom of the North Sea (minimum is 5 days).

We have not had enough sleep, we have played musical beds. We have explored new tastes and decided that some new things might in fact be quite edible and enjoyable. We had a day off lessons because it was my birthday on Tuesday and the joy of learning at home means that birthdays can count as days off lessons. Well that is what Bob told the lady at the shoe shop when buying Zog new fleece lined wellies and I saw no reason to disagree.

I am letting go once again of my completer finisher/ tick the box need within me to allow learning to be fun and explorative. To remind myself that one reason for learning at home is not so we simply re do school at home but that we are providing a different environment and way of learning. We don’t have to finish something just because that is the next chapter in a certain text book. We have considered lots about the Atlantic (another nod of thanks to the BBC and Iplayer) and worked out that as the ISS and the space walkers are going over the coast of Brazil that means they are looking down on the South Atlantic and what marine life might be there.

Its been a week when subjects have merged and life is learnt about. Its been a great week even if learning has felt at times like it is in free fall. Horizons have been expanded and new possibilities dreamt up. And nothing beats den building and toast fresh from the campfire with friends.






reflections on our home learning journey 15/2

Friends have kindly taken the children for the afternoon, the wind and rain have replaced the sunshine of this morning and just as the weather has changed so has my frame of mind. I woke eager with hope, of new possibilities only for them to be dashed in one brief phone call, not helped by the indifference of the estate agent on the other end. Clearly phoning as soon as the office opens is not acceptable, to check on a house which we saw advertised last night. Price, near friends, space, garden, all boxes ticked and it was gone. Unsurprisingly but still, it was the 2nd time this week that has happened to us.

It has been hard getting back into our rhythm of lessons and life and activities after a wonderful relaxed family Christmas season. Bob especially struggled as Mark was not only back to work but away at a conference this week so that was a big adjustment which was not overly welcomed. Bob has also been struggling with sinuses and it turns out a sore ear all week though he only admitted it all last night and though we thought something was up he kept denying it. And younger two have thought that the best place to sleep was with me as I had a big bed all to myself and while they might have slept beautifully I cannot say the same for myself. So all round patience has been less than abundant and dashed hopes have left us all reeling this weekend somewhat.

My highlight was getting out to our Thursday nature walk and all 3 children loving it despite it being our coldest day. I had worked hard on layers before we went out. Certainly for that day I seem to have found the winning combination as we were there for a full 3hours and had to convince them that we were going home. They would have happily kept going. And a new thermos for hot chocolate is sure to be a winner. We also had new friends from the village join us which was great fun. It is so exciting to see our group grow and more folk joining up with us.

I have learnt a lesson I have learnt before but all to easily forget that the more I am prepared each day the better the day flows. The battle comes when evenings do not run to plan and time to prepare seems to evaporate. I get frustrated with my sense of failure to be on top of everything. To not let circumstances and environment get me down. Three years of a drought means my roots are not firm and strong and steady. The littlest thing sends me flying.  The brick wall of silence in front, our attempts to change circumstances and environment ending in disappointment after disappointment. I trust God, I trust He knows me better than I do, but I struggle hearing right time/right place from others when right now is so hard, so dry.

So this week BBC Iplayer has been a helpful teaching assistant and we have been learning all about The Great Barrier Reef and The Atlantic. Explorers’s maps of The Atlantic have been studied and coloured in. Tears have been shed by Zog because no one has yet come up with colouring in pictures for children of black smokers in The Atlantic. He now has photos on the wall of them and coloured over scientific diagrams of how they work to compensate.

We have been reminded of how each child is wired, eldest and youngest need full on listening attention from us as they talk non stop. If Bob knows he has been heard than he can occupy himself no problems but as as soon as he feels that his voice has not been heard he will push back hard. He thankfully  now can go stretches of time in between if I give him my full attention (120% at least) at certain points in the day. Kanga is the same as Bob was when he was 2, where that need to have someone listen fully to them lasts all day. Somehow I managed to give her that time yesterday and it was a delight.  In with all that listening we need to remember that Zog is all about contact. Which I think explains why he loves to still sleep in with us, as he will tank himself up at night and then he can roll through the day in his own world of colouring and all things visual. I have also learnt that he listens incredibly well while seemingly preoccupied. Ask him to be still and listen it is likely he will not hearing anything but while colouring away in another part of the room while I am reading aloud and he will suddenly pick up on a phrase and run with the humour of it, totally following the story.

Montessori styled learning would be welcomed with open arms by Zog and so my structured self needs to be ready to allow that as we move toward more formal learning in the next year with him. His love of colour, art and numbers means he is already a very confident pen holder and mathematical patterns fascinate him. Whereas for Bob his love of the big picture, of science, history, fact and narrative need much more direct support from us still at this point as his fine motor skills are not up to speed with all the thoughts and ideas stumbling around inside his head. And why we love BBC Iplayer science and nature programmes. And I need to trust that as his fine motor skills develop and his body and brain connect with each other he will find ways for himself to express all that he is thinking about.

We have had farm shop set ups, deep sea dives, laughed ourselves silly over chapters from Nurse Matilda which we are reading at lunch times. We have had time with friends, we have loved deeply, we have lost our rag, we have said sorry, we have dug deep to offer genuine forgiveness. We have shared meals, we have read books, we have longed for sunshine and a glimmer of hope. Hope is what we will hold onto as we head into a new week.




Light sightings Day 3 & 4

  1. The joy of eldest as he races his hand powered racing car around the track.
  2. The massive smiles and joy as children opened their presents for Epiphany in the morning.
  3. Middle son’s delight at being able to act out the entire story of the Gruffalo and Gruffalo’s child as he got the last two animals for the complete set.
  4. Laughter around the dinner table.
  5. The 10 minutes the laundry basket was empty because Mark had been wonderful and taken all the bedding to the laundrette this weekend so the house was not overflowing with damp washing needing a space to dry.
  6. Youngest’s love of finding me out to help with whatever I am up to once she realises I am not in the room with them.

Light sightings Day 2

  1. Cuddles with my daughter as she falls asleep at the end of the day.
  2. The most amazing Sabbath Dinner cooked by Mark including home made stuffing and cranberry sauce as we celebrate Epiphany a few days early as he is away at conference on the 6th. It was incredible.
  3. The imagination and joy that comes from the children going to the Court Farm shop to get our weekly vegetable, fruit and meat. Spending an afternoon entering into the aforementioned imagination and making felt food for their own farm shop. They have plans for many more items….DSCN3506

Light sightings day 1

A friend has taken to taking photos of what she is calling ‘light sightings’ to help her give thanks rather than complain about the dark uncertain times. That thought resonated deep within me as we continue asking and wondering what and where is next for us as a family. A couple of years back I tried to post three things each day I was thankful for and so this year I want to continue cultivating a heart of thankfulness once more but in borrowing my friend’s term light sightings I hope to remind more of my senses to be open to God at work around me even if they are not always reflected here in a photo.

  1. The intentional or not gift of the 1st of January to a renewed sense of hope and possibilities. To holding onto God’s promises once more with anticipation rather than end of year weariness.
  2. A new two volume set of daily prayers for Mark and I to share as we look forward. Thanks to Kath and Kevin for the voucher that let us treat ourselves to this beautiful collection of daily prayers/readings.
  3. For the joy of colouring and for a new collection of grace moments to colour thanks to my mum in law. Both the joy of slowing down and reflecting and seeing something bright emerge but also the gift of time with our sons as they join me to colour. Moments of peace together.
  4. DSCN3502DSCN3501