Photos from August

The new school year started on August 5th. Here are some shots of our family and our surroundings.

Our girls after a long day of school.

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I have never seen anyone move a refrigerator using a motorcycle. Granted, it was a smallish refrigerator.

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The piano tuner (at right, in red shirt) and his band of movers. We bought a used piano from the departing Faith Academy music teacher, Nate Becker. Both the girls take lessons with Miss Wendy now. It was bought with some extra money given by my parents. Naomi is making it utter some pleasant sounds in our living room now.

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“My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist!”

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Ezekiel shoots a jump shot in happier days. He’ll be sitting on the bench for the rest of the season.

Basketball is not intended to be a contact sport. Unfortunately, during team practice today Ezekiel’s little finger made contact with the ball and he came home with a swollen pinkie that was jutting out at an odd angle, which he could not straighten or move without extreme pain. After icing it and hemming and hawing a little bit we headed to the ER of one of the private hospitals in town (it was late enough in the evening that no clinics or doctor’s offices would be open.)

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Who needs a lead apron for a little old hand x-ray?

The ER  experience was smooth, easy, and efficient, an incredible contrast to understaffed, overcrowded ER at the public hospital where we usually bring any patients who need transport for higher-level care. Ezekiel was unquestionably the healthiest patient there but we were still seen immediately. Within half an hour of arrival we had paid for our x-ray (in the Philippines, you pay first and then get treated: that’s why there’s no wait time in the ER) and Ezekiel was getting zapped. The radiology tech was surprised when I asked him to put the apron on my kid for just a hand x-ray.

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Probable diagnosis: chip fracture. (They x-rayed the uninjured hand too to compare but I only got a photo of the first one.) No orthopedists in house at 7 pm so Matt’s going to take him back tomorrow.

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The ER doctor offered to admit him so he could have first crack at the ortho in the morning rather than having to wait around in the outpatient clinic (Seriously? Seriously! “Since there is a fracture, we are allowed to admit him.”) This was obviously overkill so I said we’d just come back tomorrow. They settled for immobilizing the hand and finger (which Ezekiel considered excessive), telling us to keep icing, and writing a prescription for mefenamic acid which we probably won’t bother with since the swelling is fairly minimal (post title notwithstanding) and he’s not in pain unless he tries to move his finger.

The most remarkable part of the whole thing (besides being in and out and home in about an hour and a half, half an hour of which was spent driving?) Total bill for ER visit with x-ray: 823 pesos. (At today’s exchange rates, that’s USD$18.39.) Plus $0.65 for the bandage. Except… that this is at the expensive private hospital that very few families can actually afford to go to. It’s still hard to fathom that what seems like such a small amount to us is an insurmountable barrier to care to so many others.

Busy times!

The beginning of August has been busy! We returned from the Faith Academy staff orientation on Friday afternoon. On Saturday, the Newlife class of 2013 graduated after two intense years of hard work and hundreds of births. I spent June and July teaching a review class for these students in preparation for their board exams and will be so proud of them when they are finished that last big exam!

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Graduates!

The venue for the graduation was a place called Gap Farm Resort. Here are some of our kids under the giant caribao at the entrance:

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That’s one BIG carabao!

Many of the graduates have already left Davao — I drove two of them to the airport this morning. They’ll be writing their board exams in the states in just a few weeks, then on to new adventures. And in just a few days, the class of 2015 will be arriving and there will be a whirlwind of activity welcoming the new students and getting them settled in.

Speaking of new students, school started today for our kids too:

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Naomi and Hosanna on the Faith Academy campus

Hosanna is in kindergarten, Naomi is in fourth and Ezekiel in sixth grade. Isaiah (7) will be homeschooling again this year. Matt is teaching Bible and literature in the high school.

January was full of new beginnings for us this year with our arrival in Davao, but for a teacher’s family the year really begins in August!

Hosanna on night shift

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“Stop taking so many pictures of me mom!”

Last night was Hosanna’s first time to come with me on a birth room shift. Her first shift was a busy one! I’ve chosen to take the girls at night for their first shift for two reasons. First, eight hours is a long time for a little person and at night they’ll sleep for part of the time. Second, apart from births there is a lot less going on during night shift — no prenatals, no baby checks, no extra clinic staff. In the morning the birth center can be extremely busy even if there is no one in labor!

Hosanna was very excited about her first shift, the more so because the scrubs we had made for the girls were finished the week before. Night shift starts at 10 pm. Hosanna took a nap at 5:00 pm and at 7:30 was up and asking me, “Can we go now?”

When we arrived at the birth center at 9:45, we found that swing shift (2:00 pm to 10 pm) had been quite busy: three births — one baby born in a taxi just before pulling up outside the clinic at 9:30 pm — and one patient still in labor. The first thing we saw when we walked in was a newborn wrapped up in a blanket lying by himself on a couch. His mother had been transported to the hospital because of a complication and the midwives on shift were all busy with the taxi birth that had just taken place. Hosanna made sure little “Superman” didn’t get lonely waiting for his daddy and lola (grandmother) to come and pick him up.

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It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a baby!

After endorsements (when the outgoing shift gives report to the incoming midwives) Hosanna and I were assigned to take care of the “taxi baby.” We monitored the mother and baby, did a newborn exam,  gave injections, filled out lots of paperwork (okay I did that part without much help from Hosanna) and then Hosanna got to snuggle her second baby of the night while his mother went to the CR (the euphemistically named “Comfort room”.)

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Don’t cry, baby. I’ll hold you until your mommy comes back from the CR.

During this time Hosanna went back and forth between the birthroom and the “midwives station.” She played Minecraft on my laptop while I did the boring parts — she was happy not to have to compete with her siblings for a turn at the computer. But she was also very willing to help out whenever there was a job she could do.

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Wiping down the bed with Lysol after moving mom and baby from the birth room to postpartum. (You can’t tell from the picture, but she is wearing gloves for this.)

By the time we had this mother and baby settled into the postpartum room it was well after midnight, and I suggested Hosanna try to sleep a bit. But she was wide awake and perky. Good thing, too, because less than an hour later the patient in labor was ready to push. One of the younger Filipina midwives was delivering the baby, and Hosanna got a front row seat for her first birth. “Another baby boy — it’s all boys tonight!!” I wasn’t needed for anything else so I could sit with Hosanna and answer all her questions (and she did have lots of questions and comments!)

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Watching babies be born is thirsty work!

Finally, after 3:00 am, she fell asleep. She had asked me to wake her up when it was time to give the taxi baby his bath but when the time came there was no waking her.

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Finally asleep a little after 3:00 am.

Our Homeschooling

(Cross-posted from Colvinism.)

We are fairly laid-back classical homeschoolers. (The laid-back part is important for sanity when running around the USA visiting churches, and now adjusting to a new culture here in Davao City.) I know we were always interested in reading about what other homeschoolers do, so I’m posting this for others’ benefit. Please take it in the spirit in which it is offered: not a narcissistic post saying “Look what great homeschoolers we are” (for we are not), but an explanation of our curriculum in hopes that it may be of benefit to others. We stumble and struggle in many ways, and it is not by any means all smooth sailing. It is, however, a joy, and it’s not one I want to give up for any institutional school without overwhelming reasons to the contrary.

We gather as a family each morning to do a version of Cindy Rollins’ “morning time“. For us, this involves the form for Morning Prayer for Families at the back of the REC’s Book of Common Prayer. We do rotating prayers for our senders, changing each week to a new diocese or group of churches or friends. Scripture readings are taken from the Reformed Episcopal Lectionary, and hymns chosen from the 1982 Episcopal Hymnal, the blue CRC Psalter Hymnal, the Canadian Reformed Book of Praise, and Duck Schuler’s Cantus Christi. Some of our hymns:

Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah (Ps. 148, Kirkpatrick)
How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place (1982, #517)
Sing, Ye Faithful, Sing with Gladness (1982, #492)
Come, Ye Thankful People, Come (1982, #290)
If God is On Our Side, Against Us Shall Be None (Book of Praise, Hymn 27)
The Son of God Goes Forth to War (Cantus Christi, Greg Wilbur’s tune Greyoaks)
Holy God, We Praise Thy Name
St. Patrick’s Breastplate
As The Hart, About to Falter (Genevan tune for Ps. 42)
Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus (1982, #495)
I Will Sing My Maker’s Praises (Gerhardt, 1659, Cantus Christi)

We also sometimes sing Nick Kozel’s through-composed NKJV psalms, which we learned during our time in the FORC. We add a new hymn maybe once a week or less often. We sometimes discuss the Scripture lessons. I focus on having the older kids draw typological and situational parallels, which trains them to think about the details of Bible stories in a deliberate way. For instance, Ezekiel delighted me today by remembering that the calf of Samaria mentioned in Hosea 8 was set up by Jeroboam.

Since starting in August 2012, our older kids have learned by heart the first 22 questions of the Heidelberg Catechism. (We use the version in the CanRef Book of Praise, which I think has a more pleasing phrasing than the CRC version.) The younger two kids lag behind the older two by about 6 questions or so.

Naomi and Ezekiel have also memorized the following poems, and each recite one of them every morning:

John Donne, “Death Be Not Proud”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “No Man is an Island.”
Robert W. Service, “The Cremation of Sam McGee.”
Kipling, “If.”
Robert Frost, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”
Blake, “The Tyger”

(“If” and “Sam McGee” are fairly long, and require regular review, sometimes with prompting. But they’re neat things to have in a kid’s memory.)

All the kids also memorize passages of Scripture and recite them during Morning time. These are typically about 3-5 verses long. Examples: Matthew 16:24-27, Matthew 5:5-12, Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

We looked at Renaissance art last year and discussed it: Michelangelo’s sculptures and Last Judgment; Dürer’s Rhinoceros, Brueghel’s Tower of Babel. We need to get back on track with this, as we haven’t looked at art in a while.

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(Not Dürer’s Rhinoceros.)

That’s it for Morning Time. I would like to add in some music listening and appreciation, but haven’t found a way or a time to do it yet.

For Math, our older kids use Teaching Textbooks. Ezekiel is in Math 7, and Naomi in Math 4. I do not like the fact that they require CDs. Having a kid insert a CD into a MacBook’s slot-loading optical drive is a recipe for scratched discs. So to get around this, I have copied all the discs as disc images using Disc Utility, and the kids run their math off these “virtual CDs”. The younger kids do Miquon Math. Isaiah loves it, and is in the blue book. (This is the kid who was beating his parents at chess at age 6, and whose math skills have been honed to a fine edge by the need to keep score in all the games he loves to play.)

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Ezekiel and Naomi also use the computer for typing practice using MasterKey for Mac.

For writing, we are doing exercises adapted from the excellent Classical Writing: Homer. We have the old version of the textbook, from back when it was available as a PDF. (I don’t think they sell it that way anymore.) I was influenced to use this curriculum because Sora used it with Talia many years ago, and it made her a better writer. I was also impressed with the ideas expressed in this blog post about the definition of real literacy, and the skills of which it consists. I want my kids to be able to express their own ideas well, to have copia when they are composing, and to be able to expound and condense. I also want them to have an ear for good writing, i.e. writing that is “sounding and significant,” as C.S. Lewis says. Right now, Naomi is doing paraphrases by synonym substitution, and Ezekiel is doing paraphrases by grammatical change. We are not doing much sentence diagramming or formal English grammar, because I feel that they will get just about enough of that via their studies of Latin.

I use Hans Ørberg’s outstanding Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata series, which covers all of Latin grammar. Ezekiel is on chapter 9, and Naomi is on chapter 4. Yes, this is slow, but I am very pleased with how thorough the book is, and with the excellent vocabulary retention the kids have from it. There are 40 chapters, so Ezekiel will be almost halfway done with Latin grammar by the end of 5th grade this year. I supplement Ørberg with English-to-Latin composition sentences of my own devising. We also do almost all the exercises in the accompanying workbook, and read the dialogues in the Colloquia Personarum book. Kids also review their vocabulary using the Quizlet app for iOS. Some other person has kindly uploaded flashcards for all the vocabulary in the entire book, and the kids enjoy the “Scatter” matching game. I get more grumbling about Latin than any other subject, but I don’t take it too seriously, because I remember how much I grumped about it when my mother taught me, and I chuckle because no other subject was so formative and important in my education. I am intent on giving my kids Latin and Greek and Hebrew before they leave my home. Whether they keep them thereafter is their business. (Our oldest, who graduated last year, appears to be more interested in movies than languages, and has probably forgotten all the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew she ever learned. But she did learn them.)

Finally, the icing on the cake and the most enjoyable portion of the homeschooling day for me is literature. The kids have their own reading that they do in their spare time (lately, this has been The Ranger’s Apprentice and Percy Jackson books borrowed from the Faith Academy Library, and Ashtown Burial series by N.D. Wilson on the iPad’s Kindle app), but we also read together aloud. We have been reading Padraic Colum aloud for the last two months. He is an Irish poet and reteller of mythology and folklore whose books are in the public domain. We first discovered him with The King of Ireland’s Son, which I read aloud for Sora and Ezekiel, and we all enjoyed it so much that I decided to use Colum’s The Children of Odin for Ezekiel’s literature reading as well. Since then, we’ve moved on to The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles. When we finish, we will move on to The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tales of Troy. These books have several great advantages: They are told in a literary manner that is engaging for young readers. They are available as illustrated ePub files that can be read on an iPad. (We have limited sources for physical books right now, and our shipped boxes have not yet arrived from the States.) They also happen to be among the sources for the model exercises in Classical Writing: Homer, so it’s hard to go wrong when picking passages from them to use for paraphrase or transformation exercises. By the time we’re done with Colum this year, our older kids will have a very good grounding in Norse and Greek mythology.

We’ve had a lot of fun with the Colum books so far. Some of the illustrations are just delightful. I call this one “The Argo meets Hokusai’s Wave”:

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The kids go to sleep at night listening to the music of Jamie Soles or Alexander Scourby’s reading of the KJV.

I hope this is useful to other homeschoolers. I should reiterate that we are very low-key about all this. We often miss a subject, and probably miss a whole day a couple times a month. But I don’t worry about it because I know how much time-wasting happens in an institutional school (assemblies, convocation, busywork, lessons paced below a student’s ability, etc.). One-on-one instruction is so much more effective that, ceteris paribus, a homeschooler can afford to spend much less time on formal lessons than an institutional school student would.

Sports

Back in Ohio, Matt used to play tennis two or sometimes three times a week. When we left to drive across the continent and then fly to Davao, regular tennis was what he missed the most. It was a great physical outlet, good exercise, and it made him happy. So he was really hoping to find some “tennis buddies” here in Davao too. God does not overlook the little details: this week Matt met another tennis player of similar skill level who is interested in playing twice a week. He even knew about a covered court fairly near our house so they can still play in the evening when it rains (we get torrential downpours after dark almost nightly, and being near the equator, the sun sets shortly after 5:00 pm year round.)

Ezekiel, our 11-year-old, isn’t enough of a tennis player to give his dad a run for his money yet (we’ll see where he is in 4 or 5 years…) but basketball has been his game since he was about four. We were praying for an opportunity for him to play on a team here, and this week he started practice with Faith Academy’s junior high boys team. (He’s also now taking PE twice a week at Faith, as enrolling for at least one class was necessary in order for him to join the team.) Today I took ZZ out to buy him a new pair of basketball shoes.

These may seem like small details, but we weren’t sure either was going to happen and we are very thankful to have them fall into place so quickly! Both of these guys are much happier when they have a regular athletic outlet!

Below: Ezekiel playing last year for Mars Hill Academy.

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Farewell and the Trip West

We departed from Cincinnati last Sunday, after saying farewell to many dear friends at Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church. My farewell sermon is posted here. Fr. Wayne and Sandy McNamara came down from Dayton. We were also delighted to see some our senders from outside our church: Tim and Monique O’Neil and Wendy Jacques and her daughter Jenna. The Jacques family was the very first to pledge monthly support for our mission, so they occupy a special place among our supporters. Here are a few shots of the gathered crowd of friends:

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Words of encouragement were spoken, toasts were proposed, and we were very blessed.

Then we started driving. And driving. And driving.

Our goal was Las Vegas, where my wacky brother and his beautiful fiancée Trudie were scheduled to be wed in the Luxor Hotel on Wednesday evening. That is 2,000 miles in 3.5 days. Our kids saw the last snow they are likely to experience for three years – in Texas, of all places!

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We stopped in Amarillo, TX for the night. We make it our policy always to choose hotels that offer breakfast as part of the package, and we had a good experience with the Staybridge Inn and Suites in Amarillo. They had some very nice waffle-makers:

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We started driving again, and had gone one exit on the highway when we realized that Isaiah had left one of his hearing aids on a table in the hotel lobby. We turned back and reclaimed it. After that, we made such good time that we were able to stop and see the south rim of the Grand Canyon, which you can read about in an earlier post. Our kids are fantastic travelers after five months of trips to the East coast to visit churches.

(Click on the panorama picture for a larger version.)

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The next day, we pulled into Las Vegas. My brother and his bride exchanged their “I do’s” and enjoyed the company of several friends who came all the way from Maryland. We’re pleased to report that Isaiah was kept safely away from the gaming tables, and we escaped Vegas without visiting either the topless revue or the exhibit of plasticized human cadavers. The kids were impressed by the Egypt theme:

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From there, it was a mad dash to Victoria, BC – a trip that took 1,400 miles as we attempted to avoid the Rockies. We ended up making the trip in only two days, and actually made it to the Tsawwassen ferry by 4:15 on Friday, just as the sun was setting:

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Hosanna, hearing us discuss the ferry boat before we boarded, inquired, “Are the fairies making the boat go?”

Now we are safely arrived and comfortably lodged at Sora’s parents’ house. We had planned to visit three churches to share our mission to the Philippines, but God, in what we have come to know as His usual way, has made it five – four Anglican and one Presbyterian.

Please pray that we’ll be able to sell our van, and that we will continue to have God’s mercy attending us as we travel. Pray that our vision for missionary work will be a blessing to the congregations we visit.

Also, please continue to pray for the people of Mindanao who have a long recovery ahead of them after the recent typhoon and the devastation it brought. Both of the mission works we’ll be involved with are working on bringing the love of God to the affected areas, with hands and skill to heal and help.