Martial Law

Mindanao (the island where we live) is under martial law because of fighting between the government and terrorist groups in a city about six hours from here.
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Bible reading and young children

Q. How do I get my 3 y.o. to narrate?

You don’t.  Narration, the kind where you ask the child to tell you back (rather than his own spontaneous retellings) doesn’t start until six.

Q. If I don’t teach him how to do this now, how will he do it when he’s of school age?

Developmentally, this question is a lot like asking ‘how do you teach a child to read at 6 if you don’t teach him how to read when he’s 2?” You don’t (yes, yes, there are some special exceptions, but in general, 2 year olds are not interested or developmentally capable of handling, or in need of formal reading lessons). You teach him other things that are related- like letting him develop maturity and good health (lots of outside free play), get used to word patters and rhymes (nursery rhymes, conversations with parents, stories), some letter recognition if he’s interested but drop it if he isn’t (and this is best done naturally, and as you go- pointing out one letter whenever you see it at the grocery store or on a cereal box in the morning, and then later another), singing together, and so on- these things all are like building blocks with connections on all sides (sort of like waffle blocks with lego interfaces) that work together and kind of lay the foundation which makes later learning work.  There’s good research showing that seemingly unrelated skills- catching and throwing a ball, climbing, jumping, building eye hand coordination and large motor skills, aid in brain development in areas that will be later applied in academics, so that free outside play is vital at this age.

Q. so what are some of those early building blocks for narration skills?

Much the same as for other skills.  If you give him plenty of free time to play freely and spend lots of time outside at this age, and work gently on issues of cooperation and obedience, and tell him stories now- orally, and choose about 6-12 or so per year to tell over and over-  he will learn to listen, to picture in his mind’s eye the ideas and events of the stories, he will build those connections that make other things work together later.  Also be sure to sing together, work together, build relationships, then at 6 you do not have to motivate him to respond when you read a story and ask him to tell it back to you. He will try to do that. Then if he does poorly, you model narration for him to give him an idea of what you are asking for. Sometimes you have him draw a picture- but that is for six and later.

Q. I don’t buy that a kid of 3 or 4 can’t narrate.  My kid tells the story of the 3 bears to his toys, and when daddy comes home he is always retelling something that happened to day.

That’s true- but those things are spontaneous, he’s not being put on the spot and told to tell back.
Before he is six, he will also narrate some things naturally on his own but they will at first be concrete things he experienced or saw himself, not abstract things he only heard about- when you go to the park he will come home and tell Daddy something about it- listen, be glad to hear him, don’t badger him, and when he’s done sometimes you might say, thank you for narrating that for me, that was interesting, and it sounds like you had fun, use the word narration here and there to connect that word in his mind with what he’s done (if you don’t learn about narration until you kid is ten, that’s okay, you haven’t ruined his life or failed as a parent, I’m just suggesting things you can do if you are fortunate enough to know about it before 6).  When you go to the zoo and he tells you later about his favourite animal, listen, be engaged, tell him something about what you liked about the zoo, but don’t badger him with questions- it might help before you ask a question to think about it and see if it would be natural to ask this question of an adult who just got done telling you about his zoo trip. I know the child is not an adult, and you are his parent not his colleague, but this will help you recognize which kinds of questions are conversational and which are really a form of pestering and turning something natural and fun into an oral pop quiz.  Don’t do the pop quizzes for this kind of thing.

Q. What do you mean by oral stories?  Why only 6-12?

Oral retellings- the kinds of things pre-literate cultures would sit around the campfire and tell each other, or that families might have told around the fireplace in days before gas lights or electricity.  Children like stories of when their parents were young- and the stories do not have to be dramatic and brilliant.  They like continuity and old familiar tales, so you don’t need a variety.

Here’s Charlotte Mason, volume 5:

But we must adapt ourselves to new conditions; “books for the young” used to be few and dull; now, they are many and delightful.

In connection with this subject let me add a word about story-telling. Here are some of the points which make a story worth studying to tell to the nestling listeners in many a sweet “Children’s Hour”;––graceful and artistic details; moral impulse of a high order, conveyed with a strong and delicate touch; sweet human affection; a tender, fanciful link between the children and the Nature-world; humour, pathos, righteous satire, and last, but not least, the fact that the story does not turn on children, and does not foster that self-consciousness, the dawn of which in the child is, perhaps, the individual “Fall of Man.” But children will not take in all this? No; but let it be a canon that no story, nor part of a story, is ever to be explained. You have sown the seed; leave it to germinate.

Every father and mother should have a repertoire of stories––a dozen will do, beautiful stories beautifully told; children cannot stand variations. “You left out the rustle of the lady’s gown, mother!” expresses reasonable irritation; the child cannot endure a suggestion that the story he lives in is no more than the “baseless fabric of a vision.” Away with books, and “reading to”––for the first five or six years of life. The endless succession of story-books, scenes, shifting like a panorama before the child’s vision, is a mental and moral dissipation; he gets nothing to grow upon, or is allowed no leisure to digest what he gets. It is contrary to nature, too. “Tell us about the little boy who saved Haarlem!” How often do the children who know it ask for that most hero-making of all tales! And here is another advantage of the story told over the story read. Lightly come, lightly go, is the rule for the latter. But if you have to make a study of your story, if you mean to appropriate it as bread of life for your children, why, you select with the caution of the merchantman seeking goodly pearls. Again, in the story read, the parent is no more than the middleman; but the story told is food as directly and deliberately given as milk from the mother’s breast. Wise parents, whose children sit with big eyes pondering the oft-told tale, could tell us about this. But it must be borne in mind that the story told is as milk to the child at the breast. By-and-by comes the time when children must read, must learn, and digest for themselves. By the way, before a child begins school work may be the time to give a little care to a subject of some importance.” pgs 216-7

Q. What Bible stories? 

Here are some suggestions of the sorts of Bible stories to tell him:
Jesus birth; Creation; the serpent tempting Eve to sin and the awful result; noah’s ark, Jonah and the coat of many colours, the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jesus raising a little girl from the dead, Jesus calming the storm, Peter walking on the water, the fishing story (where the disciples caught no fish and then Jesus came along and told them to cast their nets elsewhere and the nets were so full they started to tear), Elijah, Elishah, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, David and Goliath, the fiery furnace,
Rather than questioning him about them, listen in on his own free play – he may incorporate them into his play, retell them to a toy, or make observations like “there’s a fish like the little boy gave Jesus,” or “A rainbow! God showed that to Noah.” Use a couple simple props to tell the stories and you may notice he picks them up on his own and retells.

So should we stop family Bible readings?

Oh, I don’t think so. Just be clear about what you’re accomplishing, and what you’re not.
The Bible is important, and having family readings together is wonderful, and important and I am always happy to hear about families doing this. But it’s important for the parents and for communicating and building a couple of habits and attitudes. At this young age this is not going to be where he learns most of his spiritual lessons or Bible stories.

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Buko (Coconut)

I should have taken a picture yesterday but I was too hot and sweaty to think about it, so you’ll have to make do with a description of the first part, although I did find a photo that is similar but not quite the same.

There is an open air stand not very far from our house (unfortunately, it’s just past the worst curve in the road for walking with the Cherub- no shoulder, a serious blind spot because of a wall right on the edge of the road, bumpy road which she stumbles over or trips, and lots of traffic). But once you get to the vendor- there’s a pile of green coconut rind on the ground to the side, and a bit behind the vendor, a woman who looks to be in her 30s or 40s, but it’s hard to tell. She’s been in the sun a lot, but Asian genes also have been baptized in the Fountain of Youth, so I think everybody looks younger than they are.

She has a plastic canopy, I think, and is also kind of under a shade tree, behind a white plastic table in front of her with containers of plastic bags, white coconuts with the green rind hacked away by one of the two or three machetes she has on the table close to hand, a box of straws, and a container for the juice she sells.

In the picture I’ve shared of another vendeor, the differences are our vendor has a much smaller pile of husks and shells and trimmings, her table, if I recall correctly, is a modern white plastic folding table, her buko juice dispenser is also very modern- it chills the juice and has a large capacity and she dispenses juice from a spout in the front. She has clear plastic cups, and straws for those who prefer a coconut (buko) with a straw.

You can get 10 or 20 ounce cups of the buko juice, which will have moist, succulent, creamy strips of coconut in it and the drink tastes like she sugars it but I don’t know that she does.It’s cold and it is such an awesome thirst quencher when you’re hot and sweaty.

Now, I do not love drinks with texture and I have to chew jello, so I drink the juice, but strain mine with my teeth leaving the coconut pulp in the cup and then take the cup home and eat the coconut strips with a spoon. The Cherub and the HM just gulp theirs down.

If you prefer, she will hack off just enough of the white rind at the top to reach the softer, flavourful pith in a spot where you can insert a straw. She’ll provide the straw or you can be all I speak visayan like a boss and say something stupid and broken that translates roughly as I am a straw at my house, and she will look at you oddly and try not to laugh in your face and think for a second and realize you probably meant to say that you ‘*have* a straw at your house,’ and that you mean you don’t need to take one of her straws because you will drink the buko juice at home with your own straw.

So then she hacks away a chip at the top of the coconut, wraps it up first in the clear bag and then the blue one (one keeps it moist, the blue one has handles for easier carrying).

Then you pay her 85 pesos (about 1.70) for two mga buko (coconuts) about as big as bowling balls and three icy sweet delicious drinks, one larger than the other, or it would only be 75 pesos or about 1.50 USD. A single coconut generally produces a good two large glasses of juice, and then you scrape out the inside meat for more goodness.

Every time I have purchased coconut juice in a bottle in the US or tried buying a whole coconut (those hairy, hard brown shells at home), I find the meat is dry, dry, dry and the juice is bitter. The only time there’s been a hint of bitterness here is when I cut tasted a piece of the white/yellowish outer shell here and tasted it out of curiosity. You can’t even imagine the difference in flavor- pure, sweet, refreshing, clean.

I like mine chilled. So I take home the coconut, and put the buko in the fridge (still in the bags to keep it moist). After it’s well chilled, I insert my straw (if a helpful vendor has not hacked away to the soft part for me, I just poke a hole in the top with a philips screwdriver, but not too hard because if the screwdriver goes ALL the way in, it displaces the juice inside and you waste some. Plus, get it squirted in your face, oh, look a physics lessons but no thank-you).

So anyway, I drink my chilled buko juice feeling ever so decadent and spoiled and even guilty, like I don’t deserve this goodness and somebody is going to come along before too long and ask me who I think I am to partake of this nectar reserved for spiritual beings.

The Boy and I have a symbiotic relationship over coconut. I really like it all, but especially the juice, and he doesn’t like the juice at all (nor does my husband, lucky me), but he adores the meat. So. When I have slurped it all, I tell him the juice is gone so he can have the rest and he takes a big knife and hacks the thing in two and tells me we really need a machete and then he uses a spoon to scoop out the soft, juicy, delicious inside meat. Sometimes he cannot be bothered to hack it in half himself, and when I have to do the hacking I give the other half to the Cherub and sometimes I let him have half and sometimes I don’t. Mostly, he is willing to do the hacking. And the eating.

When he goes home I will have to do most of the hacking, but maybe that is when I will buy a machete.

vender pic from here:,coconut



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Considering What’s In Your Hand?

Sometimes a specific, precise and detailed bit of frugal advice is what you need most immediately and short term (chicken is on sale here, corn starch is better than and cheaper than baby powder, you can make adequate biscuits with water instead of milk).  But for long term savings what does the most good is a philosophical change, an alteration in your views of necessities vs needs, a wider view of how you think about frugality.

What’s in your hand was a life changing question for me.  Instead of ‘what’s the least I need to buy to accomplish this,” it changes my focus to “What do I already have that will do?”

Often, the answer to the whats in my hand question will vary greatly depending on very specific circumstances. In one place we lived, for example, what I had in my hand was just about all the free fresh-caught salmon our family could eat, a liberal supply of other free seafood (including crab legs) and blackberries and apples for the picking. Thats an unusually bountiful (and delicious) example of free, but not very applicable to most of the country. It would not be very helpful to a wide range of readers if I wrote about whats in my hand by sharing recipes for salmon and crab soup.

There are a few things we can all have in hand, no matter who we are or where we live, no matter what our circumstances. Lets allow Aunt Sophronia to explain what one of those universal gifts might be.

Aunt Sophronia, as some of my regular and more long term blog readers know, is a character from an old book formerly belonging to my great-grandmother. The Complete Home, An Encyclopaedia of Domestic Life and Affairs Embracing All the Interests of The Household, by Julia McNair Wright is one of my favorite Domestic Treasures. Mrs. Wright wrote to help impoverished families economize during the depression of the 1870s. She writes in the first person in the character of a delightful old gentlewoman named Aunt Sophronia. Aunt Sophronia has three nieces of her own whom she is guiding, and she is aunt by courtesy title to most of the young people in town.

In this excerpt Aunt Sophronia has been invited to a tea her niece is hosting for a newly married lady in town and the question of building up wealth arises, and Aunt Sophronia answers the call to share her advice:

All that has been said can be boiled to a very short and simple answer, I replied; and all the difficulty in the work lies in the needful self-sacrifice. The question first is: Will you be content to call honest independence, enough to live upon tastefully without fear or favor, enough to keep away the wolves of debt and want, and to send out from your door, on your errands, the full-handed angels of benevolence, will you call that being rich?

Self-sacrifice, which is another word for self-denial, and contentment are two things available to all of us striving to live within our means. Self-denial has, perhaps, to our modern ears a grim, grudging sort of sound. But it is our ears at fault, not the word. Self-denial is following in the footsteps of Jesus, it is a pathway of joy, and it is necessary for growth. It is part of what separates the childish from the child-like. Aunt Sophronia continues:

I will give you the rules, which are few and simple, and easily performed by self-sacrifice. Work hard; see and improve all small opportunities; keep out of debt and carefully economize. That is the best that all the wisdom of the world has been able to digest and formulate as rules for getting rich. The matter is simple and lies in a nutshell: have the end definitely before you; do your own work toward it and do it honestly, and dont give up until you have reached your goal; the same plain, straight, unadorned and yet passable road is open to all.

This should not be your Frugal Face.

Of Aunt Sophronias’ three nieces, one of them is more well to do than the others, but more than a little silly, and lacking in those qualities of contentment and self-denial that make for pleasant companionship and grown up life. Another is quite poor in financial matters, but has a can-do spirit, is hard working and possesses a servants heart, as well as a contented spirit. These two nieces are about to be married and they ask their aunts advice on what sort of capital they need to begin married life. Aunt Sophronia makes it clear that the first niece had better lay be quite a bit of financial capital before she gets married, but the niece practiced in the arts of making do with joy and contentment has a capital that more than matches teh value of an earthly bank account:

Economy will be especially demanded of young people who have no fortunes but in themselves. Are you capable of self-denial and self-sacrifice? Can you be cheerful while others, your friends, make a greater display and have more showy pleasures? Can you be resolute to save a little every year, even if it is a very little indeed? This strength of character which can attain to self-denial, to perseverance, self-sacrifice, is fine capital
Practise Economy as a Fine Art: make a duty and a pleasure of it; it is the mortar wherein you lay up the walls of home; if it is lacking, or is poor in quality, the home building will crumble. Dont be ashamed of economy: study it, consult about it; dont confound it with meanness: economy is the nurse of liberality.

Before you can properly consider and apply what you have in your hand, you just may need to examine what you have in your heart. Without a spirit of contentment, we can never truly achieve a gracious and cheerful frugality. Without that pleasure in economy as a fine art, we cannot expect to be able to see all the possibilities in those things we do have in our hands.
And without that strength of character that makes possible cheerful self-denial, all our attempts at frugality are merely ash and dust in the eye. As we read in Proverbs 17:

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

You’re saving money, working toward a goal. Do it with joy, not sourness.  Have fun.  Cheerful, affectionate, contentment will help you go a long, long way on what’s in your hand.


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Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival!! (Guest Hosting)

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