Monday, February 25, 2008

More on Bible Copy

Here is Noah, soon to be seven, working on his Bible copy. Today, with a big smile, he informed me that he is copying about Cain and Abel.

There are many benefits to introducing the Bible to children when they are young. We have been learning so much more about this with our youngest children.

First of all, the Bible is true. We have always noticed with our children, they would to ask if a thing was true. When Zak was little, we had many children's books, many with animated teddy bears or other talking animals characters. They had what we considered good messages in them, about being kind, etc. However, we slowly phased many of these out, for the obvious reason, we didn't want something goofy to appear more interesting or fun than the Bible. That is, we didn't want to give the kids a taste or preference for what could be considered spiritual junk food. We wanted them to develop a taste for healthy food!

We also phased out Bible story books, for the most part, especially those with "pictures" of Jesus. To some extent, books illustrating parables (such as the wise man built his house upon a rock) have been useful, but there is a limitation that illustrating a Bible story puts on things. And, there are benefits gained from the child listening attentively to the actual scriptures and processing what details are actually in the story. I guess, you know, more of your brain is involved in the process.

[We do select alot of non-fiction, such as biographies and how-to books, creation science books (from Answers in Genesis), nature guides, etc. We have a few Dorling-Kindersley type books for the little kids, with bright photos of household objects. Don't care for the DK books aimed at at older readers, for a variety of reasons. ]

Second, we have sought to memorize scripture passages, rather than isolated scriptures. We follow a routine where the whole passage is read daily, and then we take it one verse at a time, trying to nail a verse a day. (We have been blessed by this booklet you can find on our main site.) We later discovered that some of the less verbal family members, though not always reciting along with us, were soaking it up. Recently, when Giddy and Sammy and I were going over Enoch, Giddy (3) recited the verses in Hebrews 11 about Enoch as I read them! (Of course, to what extent he understood the words is not fully known, but knowing the words is a start!)

Third, besides family Bible reading, we have started doing Bible reading during the Kindergarten/Preschool time with the younger boys. This can jump around to favorite stories (Jonah, Noah, creation, and recently Proverbs), and we repeat their favorites alot.

We have seen this bear fruit with our reading students as they begin sounding out more words. If they are familiar with a passage or book, such as Jonah, then this gives them a little self-check as they are working through the words. For example, Susanna was working on Jonah, and since she's pretty familiar with hearing it, it helps her have a hint about some of the words, especially those that are tricky to sound out (for English isn't always very phonetic). Also, reading from the Bible, which has no pictures, eliminates some of the crazy guessing we used to see when they were reading their "Bob Books". (Mommy would have to cover the illustration, or they would give an alternate reading without trying to sound out any of the words on the page at all!) Yes, it's slower, and the child needs more assistance. But there seems to be much more satisfaction in the child when they can tell their siblings they read from their own Bible. And ultimately, this our goal anyway.

So, we are still learning alot as we work with the younger children.

The benefits to reading the Bible are limited if you don't DO what it says. And of course, there are plenty of times that God's Word can and should come up in our everyday conversations. We are thankful for what the Lord is teaching us. One of the girls was heard to have said that if/when she has a child, she will begin reading the Bible to him or her from the day of their birth!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Back in one vehicle again!

Praise the Lord, we were able to get the bus titled and rough fit for our first voyage. We celebrated our February birthdays, a week early, by visiting the aviation museum in Oshkosh. Daddy is on a trip this week, so missed Joanna, Sammy and Zak's birthdays. We had a fun family day in our warm bus, all in one vehicle for the first time in a long time.

Here is the steel frame assembled in the bus. It was measured precisely to fit the cut OSB, which Zak took care of. To simplify finishing the dinettes, we used contact cement to cover the OSB with the same type of paneling on the walls of the bus.
The OSB is screwed directly to the steel frames, which took a little muscle power, and a few extra drill bits. (The paneling is used on the exposed sides of the dinette seats only.) The seats have a very minimal incline, but are very high.
The paneling is much easier to clean than a painted surface. At least, that is what Mommy is banking on.

This is the last photo we took thus far. The seat box will be for storage. The visible horizontal bar is what the seat belts are attached to, and there is another piece of OSB for the seat back. A couple of the boxes are cut out to accommodate the bus heaters on the floor (in previous photos). We will have to add some kind of vents to allow the heat to escape, as these seats get pretty toasty after a while.

So far, we have made only four the benches, and Zak and Daddy decided to make the ones in the middle shorter, so we are able to see one another easier during trips. Zak has got that figured out and is working on that.

Before heading home from Oshkosh, we noticed a warning light for the brakes and a loss of the power assist steering. We made it home safely, as the bus has a backup motor for the brakes. However, we may need to replace the steering pump, which provides pressure for the hydraulic brakes. Other than that, the bus runs great, and as we mentioned, is nice and warm! It was 6 degrees outside on our trip to Oshkosh, but much warmer in the bus.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mommy dresses them funny?

Here are Dave and the boys after they arrived home from the Chicago Java Users' Group meeting, where Dave was invited to speak on Grails. Walmart had these flannel shirts on sale for $3 a piece, and they had this one in everyone's size. Don't they look handsome??

It gave quite an, um, impression at the meeting.

"You all dress alike?"

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Two steps forward, two steps back, and beyond...

When last we wrote, we were hoping to keep the bus running and heated overnight for the floor primer to cure, and then begin lay vinyl squares for our flooring. How did that go? Well, it bombed totally. We ran the bus all night, in some of the coldest temps of the year thus far, but forgot to turn on the heater! Ha ha ha! What can you say? The next day, the bus was colder than ice.

But, we heated it up again, and primed it again, and used the heater again. The result?

After trying out a good number of the tiles, we saw it was not going to take to the OSB. Our joints were very uneven. Also, the primer did not take very well. Lesson: All OSB is not created equal. We should have gotten the BCX kind. So, we pulled up the tiles and realized, hey, we weren't really ready to put down flooring, because we still had the walls to insulate and cover!

So we branched off into two efforts:
  1. beginning the dinettes, which required welding steel frames for them, and
  2. finishing off the walls and outlets in the walls.
Zak got Solomon set up with the welding, and then proceeded to working on the walls with some of the other kids.

The dinettes required a lot of steel cutting and welding for the frames, mostly done by Solomon. We had to acquire a chop saw, which Solomon thoroughly enjoyed using, to cut all the pieces. Zak made up a cutting list for Solomon. That done, Zak set up a welding jig for him, made up assembly diagrams, and they arranged Zak's shop to acomodate welding.

Note from Mom: You took a picture of the arc??? With MY camera???

Here is the welding bead, which Solomon later ground off, leaving a flat, nearly perfect surface.

Solomon was accompanied by Sarah or Hannah, just in case he got in a bind during welding. The frames turned out nice, and nobody was electrocuted, praise the Lord! The girls busied themselves with reading or Bible copy in the shop, backs turned to Solomon during welding.

Solomon finished the welding yesterday, and now the shop is turning back into a carpentry set up. The dinette frames will be covered in OSB, which is cheaper than plywood, and which we will finish with the same paneling we are using for the walls. (This is really a good deal, since the paneling wipes clean so nicely and doesn't require paint or varnish, etc.)

The walls were supervised by Zak, with Abi and Ben assisting. After staying up very late last night, doing paneling for the walls, Zak, Abi, Ben, and Solomon slept in a bit. (Sarah got out of the job, as she is very sensitive to the insulation.) They felt that a final late night push would get the job done, and it did.

The bus walls are insulated and then covered in cheap particle board, and the walls which will be exposed are covered in this paneling.

The work crew requisitioned Mountain Dew and unspecified "treats" to get the job done.

Zak figured a fairly flawless way to cut the openings for the outlet box. Ben wired the walls with Romex, using small PVC pipe to shield the wires as they went through the bus frame members (equivalent of wall studs). That way, the vibrations won't eventually tear the shielding on the Romex. Good idea, Daddy!

Here we are looking from the bus midsection to the front passenger door (on the far left of the photo). The black box on the floor is one of two bus heaters, and will sit inside a cabinet which separates the two dinettes on the door side of the bus. Two dinettes will be on either side of the front compartment.

With the walls done last night, the plan was for Mommy and the younger kids to tackle the flooring today. New plan: sheet linoleum. However, it took a while to get the bus all cleaned out, vacuumed, etc. Abi took care of most of that. Zak and Solomon worked on cutting out the dinettes from OSB. Ben did alot of snow removal, including roof raking, and then attempted to cap off the outlets located by each dinette. However, the outlet boxes are too small, so that didn't go as planned. Tonight, he helped chisel out the entry landing, which Mommy hopes to cover in linoleum.

Tonight, Zak and the kids had dinner and devotions while Mommy laid out cutting plans for the linoleum that would go under the seats, as well as the WONDERFUL BLACK VINYL RUNNER FOR THE CENTER AISLE. The black vinyl runner has channels that cause all the spills and snow and sand to be trapped, for ease of sweeping. It is Mommy's favorite design feature of the bus thus far. Mommy did all the geometry in the bus while the kids ate dinner. (Daddy was stuck at the office in Madison, waiting for the roads to be cleared before venturing home. Record snowfalls in this part of Wisconsin today.)

By the time Mommy had the linoleum all laid out and mostly marked for cutting, Noah showed up ready for action. He helped finish the marking, and proceeded to cut. Little hands cutting linoleum is pretty hard work, so I expected he'd be ready for one of his sisters to take over, but as they arrived, he was still going strong and did a good job. He did grant a couple of sisters to do a bit of the cutting.

These linoleum squares will be directly under the tables of the dinettes, if you can visualize that. Zak had the floor marked for us, so we knew exactly where to lay them. If all goes as planned, which happens occasionally, the dinettes will hold down the perimeter of the linoleum, and the edges of most of the runner. We shall see.

Found the perfect job for my helpers: holding down the vinyl flooring while the adhesive cured. They were told that if they wanted to stay up and help, they had to be still and not wiggle the flooring.

The boys ran extra heater hose under the passenger compartment, so the floor stayed nice and toasty, and helped accelerate the process.

We attempted to have the sheriff sign off on our bus conversion affidavit yesterday. It is a form which says the bus no longer has distinctive school bus markings and features. We have to submit it with our title registration form.

The sheriff was very nice, but wanted the front and rear flashers removed first. They are disabled, but still there. So, we removed them and contemplated the best way to cover the open cavities.

The solution: coffee can bottoms! We removed them from the cans (leaving fun cyllinders which are now buried in the snow), and Sarah took them to the basement and painted them blue with our bus paint. We caulked them on in the 15 degree weather with low temp caulk, but needed duct tape to keep them on while they cured, much to the chagrin of the boys, who were hoping to avoid duct tape on the exterior of this bus. But it worked!

Is that custom cut steel or what-- by Mommy with the can opener! Just don't tell the Winnebago crowd!

Well, that's it for now. Congratulations! You are either really into school bus conversions, or a grandparent!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Short attention span?

Here is a video of Joanna telling the little boys the Bible story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. (She went on for quite a while, but the clip is short, as I kept running out of memory.) I really tried to get the attentive look (which to the untrained eye seems like a "dazed" look!) on Sammy and Giddy's faces,. They have heard this story plenty of times.

Common educational research asserts that most kids (especially the very young) require lots of visuals, lots of hands on, and short amounts of information. We have not found that to be a requirement (though our kids enjoy that too, of course). Sammy and Giddy are 4 and 3 years of age respectively. We have found even our young children, with just a little explanation, will listen and follow stories straight from the Bible (even KJV) for long periods of time, with no props or visual aids! (It does take a little narration in the ear during Bible reading time.)

We didn't know this from the beginning of our parenting career. I (Debbie) taught Sunday school and children's church for multi levels for over 10 years, and never even tried simply reading the Bible to the children. With our own children we really looked for good "children's Bibles" with pictures. However, we soon realized that by relying on these, we were missing alot of details, and the illustrations were instilling certain limitations on the story that were not in the Bible anyway.

For the little boys (Sammy, Giddy and Noah) we occasionally read the entire book of Jonah in one sitting, and they pay attention, and you better not skip a detail! In fact, we have found that we can occasionally pause and they will fill in the next few words.

We have found having several Bible stories fairly memorized (creation account, resurrection story from John, Noah and the ark, etc.) really puts the children miles ahead when they begin learning phonics and want to read from their own Bible! Whatever they can't sound out becomes a "sight word." We have not found any "look-say" related problems, and spelling is not a major problem with any of the kids. In fact, the child who struggled most with spelling has made great progress -- NOT from a spelling program, but by reading and copying the Bible!

This is not because OUR kids are exceptional, but because the amazing way in which God has wired the brains of children. Evolutionists can't figure it out, why we are so wired for language from such an early age! Yet the Bible says over and over "these words" should be taught to the children...

"And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them dilligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

The Bible has no pictures either, yet "from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 3:15)

Several years ago, I recall my friend Brenda explaining her surprise in teaching a Sunday school class. One morning, she decided to forgo the curriculum and just open the Bible and have the kids read something: They loved it!

As our brother Art has well said, "Children memorize their favorite stories word for word. Do you want them to learn the Bible or fairy tales?"