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Preparing for the future

One of my goals for this blog is to offer insights and advice from those with experience in educating at home. I plan to "interview" people and post their responses here for the benefit of others.  Mel Gaebler has kindly agreed to answer my questions. Mel is wife to Ben and Mum to Ainsley, Brodie, Bethany, Jasmine, and Jake. Mel is pictured here with Ainsley (8) and Jake (5 months). Mel's responses to my questions will be posted in three parts, so if you enjoy this please come back for more! 

I have one baby. You've been there, done that, and now you have five! What advice would you give to young Mums like me about how to prepare for future years? 

The best preparation that I can suggest for any mother young or old is the importance of  having daily quiet time set aside with your bible (and any relevant tools) and in earnest prayer for yourself, your husband, children & others before the LORD. This is the one area in mothering that seems to be let go off as children come into a family. The day can be so busy and the idea creeps in that there is not enough time to do this.  When I give my time to the LORD it is not a waste.  I always get everything I need to get done in the day, because I have my time set in the right priority.  

Having the right priorities in the day as to how your time is spent, is  important in preparing for the future, by sowing into the right areas now you will reap the fruit of that later.  I have always found that by having a routine/schedule it keeps me accountable to the way my time is spent and helps bring order and peace to our home.  An excellent site for many practical tools is  

The bible also speaks in Titus 2 about the older women teaching the younger women. I have gleaned vital things in the years through this principle.  Keeping an open heart and mind that we all still need to be growing and learning from those who have gone before us.  The women that have gone before us can “call back” to us with the wisdom they have acquired in their homemaking, mothering  and roles as godly women and wives.


What do your walls teach?

I was prompted to ask this question when I read that walls are one of a home's best teaching tools in Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson. In all honesty, I'm not sure what our walls teach at the moment! I have taken pictures of some of our walls to give you a little tour.

Elnathan has a bug Grandma drew and a growth chart from friends in South Africa. The little pictures include two cross stitches I made as a child and two pictures made for me by childhood friends.

On the other side of the room we have the quilt I made of Australian and South African animals. This quilt represents Elnathan's heritage as the child of a South African and an Australian, and there is a special message on the back about how we want him to love both places. You can also see a teddy bear I painted during an art class I attended as a teen, and a clock Gran in South Africa gave Elnathan. On the drawers are three toys I made as a teenager.

Step out into the hall and we have a collection of wall ornaments from South Africa. A friend made the collage of people who could not make it to our wedding.

In the bathroom we have a picture from Cradle Mountain, where we went for our honeymoon. You can see one of our elephants on the windowsill reflected in the picture!

Step back into the hall and you see another African item, which Dave purchased on one of his trips in Africa. The little red item is a beaded bug Dave enjoyed purchasing from a stall on our first trip together to South Africa.

In our room we have a wedding picture over our bed (sorry about the poor photo).

I was also recently able to complete this picture which includes our full wedding vows. It is wonderful to have the reminder on the wall all the time!

We also have a picture of a man, a lady and a house. I love the images of fruitfulness in this cross stitch, and the verse about God giving to us according to the fruit of our doings. It seems appropriate for a family like ours as we love to grow things.

In our living room we have two prints of John Glover paintings (one is pictured here) and two watercolours. You can also see our Advent calendar in this picture! All the pictures in our living room are of Tasmania.

In other parts of our house we have lists of words we are trying to learn in Zulu, photos taken by Dave and by my younger brother, a map of Africa, a framed BA certificate, and more handwork.

I am not sure what Elnathan will learn from our walls, but here are some thoughts . . .

* We love Tasmania and Africa.

* We appreciate making things and displaying the things others have made. Making things is a valuable thing to do!
* We love to delight in the beauty God has given us, and the memories of special places and events.

Perhaps walls serve as a tool for remembering and displaying what the family cares about, and what defines them as people.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Merry Christmas!

Christmas Day 2009


Outline of the human body

Today I wanted an outline of the human body to label with Zulu words so we can learn them more easily. This was the best one I found during Internet searches. It comes from a lesson plan associated with Anatomy Acts, a Scottish exhibition of the connections between art and science. I found lots of interesting sites while searching for this. Attempting to help my family learn at home is also a good way to keep up with resources that could be useful in the primary classroom, should I ever have the opportunity to use my Dip Ed in paid work as a teacher. In the end, though, I wondered if it would have been a better use of time to simply draw a human body outline myself!


Haystacks for dinner

Yesterday we enjoyed haystacks for dinner. This is a simple meal of corn chips topped with a bean and tomato mix plus cheese, sour cream, and whatever fresh or canned veggies you want! I'm always looking for meals that can use a variety of garden produce, and this is one. Yesterday we enjoyed fresh lettuce, rocket, and grated carrot from our garden. Elnathan ate some homegrown turnip (frozen prior), plus some pumpkin and avacado. I love meals like haystacks for Sundays as they don't take long to prepare. Sunday is my official rest day, so I don't like to spend it doing lots of cooking.

Another reasonably quick meal we've discovered recently is homemade whole wheat tortillas. These are much cheaper than the store bought variety, and taste yummy! Like haystacks, you can use lots of garden vegetables on them. I think these may well become a summer staple at our home. It is also great to use beans on tortillas and haystacks as they are a frugal and earth friendly option. We're blessed that we happen to love beans!

Here are a few extra photos of our boy . . .

Natey loves to sit by himself, but occasionally falls over so we still put a cushion behind him.


He pushes himself right up with his arms when we put him onto his tummy, but doesn't roll yet.


A Christmas Carol

Stacy McDonald has posted some thoughts on A Christmas Carol. It looks like this would be another good movie to watch at Christmas time. I'm looking forward to perusing resources like this in the years to come as we consider the books and movies we'd like to enjoy in our home.


Little Lord Fauntleroy DVD

On Friday we loved watching Little Lord Fauntleroy, which we borrowed from our local library. This movie is based upon the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Cedric Errol (Little Lord Fauntleroy) is left the only heir to the title of Earl of Dorincourt after the death of his father and uncles. Cedric lives in the USA as his mother is American. His grandfather, the current Earl, hates Americans and Mrs Errol in particular.  Earl Dorincourt's son married Mrs Errol against his will and he has not forgiven this offense. The Earl sends his lawyer to America to ask that Cedric come to live with him, on the condition that Mrs Errol lives nearby but separately. As the story progresses Cedric conveys unconditional love and positive regard to the grumpy old man. As a result, the heart of the Earl is transformed.

The last scene of Little Lord Fauntleroy is a Christmas dinner, so it is particularly appropriate for this time of year. It is a good movie for children, as the main character is an exemplary child. As we were watching, Dave said "I want Natey to be like him"! The movie also presents many themes that would be worthy of discussion. These include the political structures of England and the United States, poverty relief, the responsibilities of the rich, the value of holding one's tongue and choosing not to speak ill of people, the importance of forgiveness, and the wonder of unconditional love.

One problem with the film is that it may give the impression that people can be transformed without Christ. Little Lord Fauntleroy seems too perfect to be true, and he is. Only one child, Jesus, has truly held the transforming power of unconditional love. Children, like adults, need to remember that they cannot transform the lives of others on their own. They can, however, point to the one who came into this world as a perfect child and whose birth we celebrate with joy. Human love provides a shadow of the unconditional love that led our Heavenly Father to give his precious son.


The rose as a symbol of God's kingdom

The rose ornament for the Jesse tree can be seen as a symbol of God's coming kingdom. In Isaiah 35, the Bible teaches that when God's kingdom and salvation comes the desert will blossom as the rose.

 1 The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them,
      And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose;
       2 It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice,
      Even with joy and singing.
      The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
      The excellence of Carmel and Sharon.
      They shall see the glory of the LORD,
      The excellency of our God.
       3 Strengthen the weak hands,
      And make firm the feeble knees.
       4 Say to those who are fearful-hearted,

      “ Be strong, do not fear!
      Behold, your God will come with vengeance,
      With the recompense of God;
      He will come and save you.”
       5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
      And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
       6 Then the lame shall leap like a deer,
      And the tongue of the dumb sing.
      For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness,
      And streams in the desert.
       7 The parched ground shall become a pool,
      And the thirsty land springs of water;
      In the habitation of jackals, where each lay,
      There shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
       8 A highway shall be there, and a road,
      And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness.
      The unclean shall not pass over it,
      But it shall be for others.
      Whoever walks the road, although a fool,
      Shall not go astray.
       9 No lion shall be there,
      Nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it;
      It shall not be found there.
      But the redeemed shall walk there,
       10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,
      And come to Zion with singing,
      With everlasting joy on their heads.
      They shall obtain joy and gladness,
      And sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35, New King James Version)

What a beautiful picture of God's coming kingdom! It is fun to learn so that someday I can teach my son about these pictures of what God is doing in the world.


The crown Jesse tree ornament

Today I started and finished the crown Jesse tree ornament. In this picture you can also see a couple of the beaded ornaments we purchased in South Africa. I love the angel in orange because it reminds me of the way African women dress!

The crown Jesse tree ornament relates to 2 Samuel 5:1-5, which speaks of David becoming king. We know that Christ fulfills God's promise that David's descendants would rule forever. Many biblical truths can come to mind when we look at this ornament. God has sent us his perfect king to rule over us forever. In our sinful nature we want to rule ourselves, but when we become Christians we choose that Christ will be Lord of our lives.

I used little beads I had left over from making other projects to represent jewels on the crown. I'm enjoying working with the soft felt, and it also seems like a child friendly fabric!

I hope that this ornament will give rise to some good teaching opportunities and discussions with Elnathan in years to come.


Sunday at the Drews

Sunday at the Drew Patch has been happy and relaxing for the most part!

Elnathan had a ride on his Daddy's shoulders. 

Dave enjoyed one of his favourite activities, which is to water and observe the garden.


On the 20th of last month, the corn was tiny in comparison to what it is now . . .

After observing the growth in the corn, Elnathan turned his mind and hands to other matters . . . 

He has become quite the mango fan, and can suck a lot of fruit through his mesh feeder.

He can also hold his own cup! All these things seem remarkable to his parents as it seems like only a short while ago that he couldn't even hold his head steady!

This must be one of the happiest seasons of our lives, as we enjoy the smiles of our little person.


Gregg Harris and Delight-Directed Study

We have been blessed to be able to borrow the "Households of Strength" teaching series by Gregg Harris. Dave and I listened to the CD "A Place of Delight-Directed Study" and appreciated its insights into home based education.

Key points

* Homeschooling is not a biblical requirement. It is what Gregg calls a "liberty garden" issue. Each person should be fully convinced in his or her own mind about what God's will is. To decide how to educate your children, you should look at the fruit of what others are doing. Ask yourself "What does the fruit look like in their liberty garden?".

* Leading children to delight in learning at home is important for all Christian families. All families can apply the principles of delight directed education.

* God calls us to delight in Him and in his works in the world. We can foster this delight through an appropriate mental hunger for good things. In order for this "hunger" to occur, we must avoid "snacking" on inappropriate mental food (e.g. trivial TV, endless pointless emails, formulaic novels). Instead, stock your home with excellent resources and get a library card!

* Appropriate companionship is vital. Foolish companionship hinders learning as children are taught that it is not cool to be excited about God and what he has done. Parents should seek out excellent mentors and companions for their children.

* There are two main questions worth asking about your child's education. How can I best foster delight in learning? How can I help my children have good companionship? After asking these questions, choose the educational setting which will facilitate these goals.

 Personal responses

* My parents are happy for us to have their piano, and we want to move it over soon so we can have musical instruments in our home. This may turn out to be a tool for delight in learning - we'll see!

* I personally want to exhibit greater delight in learning, and greater discernment about what is good.

* The fruit in some homeschooling families is not good (rebellion, discontentment, selfishness, pride). I have been asking myself what our response should be to this. If this was all we saw of homeschooling, should we reject it? This was my response for many years. Or is it a question of application? There are many ways to homeschool!

* I'll have to try out the principle of fanning the flames of intellectual hunger before having much idea of how it will work in practice.

* Our family needs to continue to seek God for good companions for us as a family. God is the one who provides helpful relationships. We are blessed in many ways, but we don't know what will come up in our years of child rearing and we need to be prayer for God's provision at every stage.

You can read more about Gregg Harris onWikipedia.

You can download Gregg Harris' seminars online.


Happy Advent!

Dave and I can hardly wait to put up our Christmas tree each year! This year we put it up on on November 29th, four Sundays before Christmas. This is the first Sunday of Advent.

It was more fun than ever because we had a tiny person to do it with! Elnathan tried to grab everything and put it into his mouth.  Having a tiny baby gives us an extra opportunity to contemplate the miracle of God becoming man. Isn't it wonderful that God was faithful to provide us with a Saviour from our sins so that we can have eternal life! We sent some of these pictures and more to relatives overseas today, and hope they take some of our joy in Christ with them. I've also been scrapbooking our Christmas tree decorating this afternoon - fun!


Room time

Some child training books recommend that children start having time in a playpen at an early age, and then move onto "room time" when they are toddlers. It seems that this is as much for the parents as it is for the children, so they can have a set time each day to get something personal done. The idea is that a child will stay in his or her room and play with the toys the parent has determined, for a set amount of time. You can read about it in the book Terrific Toddlers. Personally, I don't want to clutter up my small (by Australian standards) house with an ugly play pen. I may feel differently once baby can move, but right now I don't want yet another piece of baby equipment! So I've started giving Elnathan 10 - 15 mins "room time" while I shower and get ready for the day. I put on a praise music CD, get out some toys, and put a pillow behind him to make sure if he falls over he doesn't conk his head on the drawers! He plays quite happily. I can see this working (with a gate across the open doorway) when he crawls as well, because there is nothing dangerous in his room.


Quietness of Mind and Singleness of Purpose

My mother Lorraine with her grandson Elnathan

I am blessed to have a mother who has faithfully followed Christ for many years. She is an example of godly womanhood. Those who know Mum value her steadiness, quiet spirit, deep relationship with God, constant prayer, and faithful training of her children. I asked Mum to share her advice for mothers of babies, just starting out on their journey of educating their children.  

From the time you first cuddle your baby, speak to him and nurture him, he is beginning his education as God planned it. With quietness before God and steadfastness of purpose you can bring your baby into an awareness of the fountain of life and truth, the Lord God Almighty.

Reflecting on my own experience as a mother of four children and grandmother of eight there are things which I know are vitally important.

  1. Cultivate the habit of continual quietness before the Lord. This takes decisive effort- too much to do, lack of sleep and crying babies are challenging to your walk with God. I worried too much about how to look after my babies and fretted over many things instead of taking them to the Lord. My mind was constantly churning over possibilities instead of going quietly to the Lord and asking His Spirit to convict me. This anxiety is a sin. My prayers were too hurried and my mind constantly fatigued. He loves you and He gave you this baby, therefore He will direct your path. A quiet spirit trusting in God shows your baby that life has a peace which comes from the Father.
  2. Read the Word of God aloud once a day as you feed your baby. He will come to love the Word as you do and it will nurture both of you. Include your baby in your daily family worship, so that it becomes a habit of life for him.
  3. Sing spiritual songs as you look after your baby. Worship the Lord as you go about your chores. Your baby will come to know that the Lord is your home and that all things are under His control. You are a door opener for your child to grow in all areas- physical, mental and spiritual.
  4. Decide on how you want to run your day and do not waver from the principles God gives you. You decide what is best for your baby and do not let him become demanding. From about six months onwards he must know that you decide what is best for him. Mealtimes and sleeptimes should settle into a routine which gives a rhythm to his life and helps him be more content. He has a foolish, self-centred heart and mind and must learn early to obey and accept Mum’s and Dad’s wise authority in his life.
  5. Take your baby outdoors on every fine day for a short time to experience and enjoy nature, to listen to the rustle of the leaves and the happy singing of the birds- this is God’s amazing world!
  6. Cultivate a loving relationship with your husband so that your baby will see love in action in the family.
  7. You will sin every day and sometimes you will feel down and exhausted but you can go to the Lord and confess your sin. He loves you, He understands your situation and He will forgive you. He will also help you grow and change.
  8. Look after your baby yourself and if you do need someone else occasionally to take care of him, let it be a relative who loves him and has the same vision for his life as you do. He is precious and should never be put in the care of those who do not love God and who do not have a living relationship with Him.
  9. Sometimes my selfish heart would rebel – this baby seems to consume all my time and energy, but the Lord is calling each of us to sacrifice and die to self to bring up this baby to His glory and for His Name’s sake.
  10. What a privilege you have!!


The Rose Jesse Tree Ornament

Our church has been holding wonderful "Fun with Felt" craft nights, and at the last one I took the opportunity to start our Jesse tree decorations! I am happy with the rose I was able to create with the materials provided, and think it looks quite similar to an opened rose like this one . . . 


I felt deflated, though, when I got home and looked up the passage that is suggested for use with the rose ornament. Isaiah 9:2 -7 doesn't seem to have much to do with roses! What do you think? The only thing I thought of is that perhaps we could talk about the way flowers die quickly but Jesus' government will have no end.


Pilgrim Hill

This place was built
by the Lord of the Hill
For the relief and security 
of Pilgrims

Our friends the Baehrs are beginning a hospitality ministry in the Huon Valley called Pilgrim Hill. You can read a little more about it on Mikey Lynch's Christian Reflections blog.

A couple of weeks ago we had the pleasure of going up to Pilgrim Hill for a picnic. There are no buildings on the hill as yet, but it is a wonderful place to spend a sunny afternoon in good company.

Dave and Elnathan enjoyed father and son time. Elnathan looks very Australian in this hat, but it is actually a South African hat we bought at Stellenbosch last year!

Later in the afternoon we went for a walk up the hill. We thought Elnathan might sleep, but his eyes were wide open!


Then we enjoyed sitting together and having a family picture taken. This is one of my favourite family pictures so far!


An outdoorsy kinda guy

Elnathan loves to be outside. When he is grumpy indoors, his mood is often transformed when he is placed on a blanket on the grass. He is much happier having tummy time or lying on his back outdoors than he is indoors, and is not as insistent upon being sat up to look at everything! He is quite happy to try to grab at some grass and stuff it in his mouth. We think a few seeds may have been ingested in the process, but that is OK.


Starting a Jesse Tree

The Christmas season is a wonderful opportunity for teaching about Jesus Christ, and creating family memories. Like most opportunities, it also comes with temptations. What should be a time of focusing on the gospel together often becomes a season of stress and family conflict. To my surprise I have already fallen into some of those temptations this year, and it is not even December. I believe that most Christians want to focus on Jesus at Christmas, but deliberate efforts have to be made in order to achieve this. The amazing truth is that God became man in order to save us! How can this truth dominate our Christmas season?

One way to ensure that our Christmas is focused on Jesus is to create special family traditions that seize the opportunities the season offers. A tradition that has been recommended on many sites and in Noel Piper's book Treasuring God in Your Traditions is that of the Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree tradition helps families to pay attention to the way the whole Bible leads up to Jesus Christ. Many adults struggle to understand the way the Bible fits together. The beauty of this tradition is that year after year, the images and devotions reinforce the way the Bible leads up to Christ. Giving children a deep understanding of God's plan in the Bible is a wonderful gift for them to take into life. Having a Jesse tree is a fun way to give this gift, as children will enjoy the different decorations for each day.

You can read suggested family devotions for this year from the Reformed Church of America. You can also read Lindsay's compilation of pictures and links about their family's Jesse tree. The image above is courtesy of RE at St Thomas More School. This picture represents just one of many ways to incorporate a Jesse tree into your home. I am not sure yet whether or not we will have a separate Jesse tree or incorporate the little decorations into our existing tree, bringing one out each day in the lead up to Christmas. I am sure the tradition would still be memorable, even if there was not a separate tree. I also need to work out how to incorporate our existing lovely advent calendar. We will probably just use this as an additional lovely decoration and fun visual reminder of the meaning of Christmas.


Dave's new car

On the weekend Dave purchased a new car, a 2006 model Mazda 6.

It was an exciting day, and the weather was perfect for a first drive! It felt unreal to have such a nice car all of our very own!

It is certainly an upgrade from our very reliable but less than exciting 1994 Ford Laser.

If anyone is in the market for one of these, I recommend buying ours - I would have stayed with it but my very patient husband had waited long enough for his newer car!


Windmill Educational Hobart

Windmill Educational in Hobart looks fascinating when you drive past. Despite this, I'd never been in the store until yesterday. It is a fantastic place for any family attempting to create a home that is full of learning opportunities. The only problem is that you may come out feeling like you "need" a whole lot of stuff! The products are amazing. I thought we did well to emerge only with one large dice at a cost of $5.95 - perfect for teaching instant recognition of numbers in dot form. We didn't buy the ABC puzzle, the felt pictures, the wooden nativity, or even the Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids book! We did emerge with a catalogue though, which could be dangerous!


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