Friday, June 23, 2017

Enjoying the "Canadian" Season in Melbourne

Self-Reliance Corner

Success in School Begins at Home

We find that a very popular self-reliance class in our church congregations is one called "Success in School Starts at Home".  This is a course for parents, grandparents and young adults who want to learn more about good learning habits and how to support education in the home.  Here are some of the lessons that are covered:

  1. Learning starts in the home.
  2. Teach your children the doctrine of education (that is, why education is important to God).
  3. "Get all the education you can".
  4. Use family routines (which helps a family be more calm and productive).
  5. Improve reading and writing skills.
  6. Be an expert in your child's progress at school.
  7. Learn to use study groups (particularly for older children).
  8. Teach children to plan, organize and prioritize.
  9. Help children learn to "act for themselves" (it is our personal choices that lead to success).
  10. Establish good homework habits.
  11. Help your children prepare for tests.

The manual for this course can be downloaded here:  Success in School

We sat in on one such class that was being run by a family - parents and adult children and their spouses, and a few friends.  Many of them are educators who work in both primary and secondary school.  One person said that the course distills 20 years' of experience from his teaching career and is essential reading for parents.  He noted that children are often afraid to fail in school and so may answer a question with "I don't know".  In his class, they learn to say "I don't know...yet".

Another class participant said that he liked the chapter on reading to your children each day.  He finds that develops a love of reading in his children and strengthens the bonds between children and parents.  They had one son who hated reading, but based on a suggestion from another group member, found a series of books suited to young boys.  His son devoured all 8 books in the series.

The class is facilitated by one of its participants.  The week we attended, one mother was the facilitator and she had asked her 9-year old son to present an idea from Lesson 9 called "Fixed Mindset versus Growth Mindset", that he had also learned at school.  The group could then discuss and consider as to how it might apply in their homes with their children. This 9-year old did a very impressive job of teaching a dozen adults for about 10 minutes.  He shared the following image which is posted in his class and helps him each day think about how he approaches learning, (you can obtain this image by searching the title in Google Images).

What an amazing concept for a young child to learn and apply as they progress in their primary education!  You can read more about this by downloading the Success in School manual (link given above) and reading p. 37.


Trip to Serendip

We took a trip out to the Serendip Bird Preserve, west of Werribee, a few weeks ago.  We were looking for a few fall "hangers-on" - birds that were new to us or that we just liked.  The variety has certainly decreased at this time of year, but there are still beautiful birds to be seen and interesting photographs to compose and take.  When we say "compose", keep in mind that most birds are more difficult than a 2-year old child when it comes to picture-taking.

Male and Female Chestnut Teal in a Beautiful Setting
Golden Whistler
White-winged Chouff, Skulking Amidst the Boulders (Red Eye is a Giveaway)
Magpie Goose

Out and About

Kangaroo Attack

Walking in Warringal Park the other day, we met a couple of celebrities who had been featured on the cover of an English magazine for an article entitled "Models and their Pets".  This fellow has a wolf hound / stag hound cross breed; he draped him across his shoulders for the photo shoot, if you can believe that.  He told us a remarkable story - he used to let his dog run free in the park, but one day it disappeared, running after a kangaroo.  A passing bicyclist told him "Your dog is over in the billabong (pond), getting drowned by a kangaroo"!  He rushed over, jumped into the water, pushed the kangaroo away with a heavy branch, and saved his dog.

He is lucky that he was not badly injured and that his dog survived.  Kangaroos are very powerful and have long, sharp claws.  Like bears in Canada, not an animal to trifle with.  Some other dog owners have been clawed badly by kangaroos in a similar situation.

Male Kangaroo guarding his "mob" and watching us carefully as we walked by.

Misty Morning

One of our Favourite Birding Spots on a Misty Morning

Fall Leaves and Fruit

We had some friends over for dinner recently.  In the church, they help by advising young people who have returned from a full time mission to settle into life back home, reconnect with friends, decide how to continue on with work and/or schooling, and maintain a spiritual balance in their life.

They have some lovely fruit trees in their yard and brought us some fresh mandarin oranges and lemons.  Keep in mind that these were picked at the very end of the fall season and that these trees will continue to produce fruit right through to the end of the winter.

They tasted wonderful; we were spoiled for life!

Orange tree with Autumn Leaves
Budding flowers mix with fall colours outside the Melbourne Temple

Monday, June 5, 2017

Autumn in Australia is NOT like autumn in Canada!!

Self-Reliance is a Principle of Salvation

For our family home evening this week, we spent some time discussing what is now the first lesson in the My Foundation manual: "Self-Reliance is a Principle of Salvation".  The lesson shows how the spiritual and physical aspects of our lives are closely entwined, and how our progress in physical matters relies heavily on the faith and trust we place in God and Jesus Christ.

One important concept is given in John 10:10 - "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly".  And what does it mean, to have an abundant life?  Everyone will understand that term differently.  To us, it means that we all can enjoy God's blessings in both spiritual and physical (sometimes called temporal) matters, if we are faithful.  Effort on our part and help from God are both key ingredients.

As this lesson tells us: "Being self-reliant does not mean that we can do or obtain anything we set our mind to.  Rather, it is believing that through the grace, or enabling power, of Jesus Christ and our own effort, we are able to obtain all the spiritual and temporal necessities of life we require for ourselves and our families.  Self-reliance is evidence of our trust or faith in God's power to move mountains in our lives and to give us strength to triumph over trials and afflictions". 

There are three doctrines of self-reliance that will help us to understand the relationship between God's grace, or enabling power, and our efforts:

1.  Self-reliance is a commandment - "The Church and its members are commanded by the Lord to be self-reliant and independent" (Teachings of President Spencer W. Kimball, 2006).  Knowing that becoming self-reliant, that is, becoming more like God, is a commandment helps us to realize its importance and properly set priorities in our life.

2.  God can and will provide a way for His righteous children to become self-reliant. "And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine" (D&C 104:15).  This scripture tells us that all things are in God's control and that he desires to help us.  All it requires is for us to ask, in faith, and obey his commandments.

3.  The temporal and spiritual are one to God. "Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual" (D&C 29:34).  It is essential to grasp this concept, that everything we do in our life has a spiritual component.  Even our everyday labours can be a consecration on our part to God, if it is done with self-reliance (and in particular, supporting ourselves and our family, and helping others) in mind.

If you would like to read more about these concepts, or see a related video, please click on the following link:

My Foundation - Chapter 1.  You will be able to download a PDF of the My Foundation manual (look in Chapter 1) and also click on a link to the video "He Polished My Toe".

Out and About / Birds


A few weeks ago, we went on a one-day excursion with some other senior missionaries, to some locations west of Melbourne.  The first was Werribee, where we visited the estate of a sheep baron (see photos below).  At its peak, the estate was over 600,000 acres in size and held about 900,000 sheep.  As you will see by the size of the estate house, that must have been a lucrative business!
Werribee Park Mansion - built around 1876
(not bad for two sheep farmers from Scotland)

Beautiful trees and botanical gardens on the estate 

Pathway close to a pond with rock garden 

Grotto with shell designs, copied after aboriginal art 

 Floor of the same grotto, with shell designs
Pacific Black Ducks on Pond near Grotto

                               Pied Cormorant Watching for Dinner


Our next stop was Geelong, a moderate sized-city with a gorgeous shore front, famous for its wooden figures (life sized; carved from wooden bollards).  There are over 100 of these figures scattered along the waterfront, colourfully painted.  Sister Sobkowicz's favourite was the group of musicians.

                                         Geelong Bollard Musical Ensemble

We also saw two old friends (birds) with an unusual characteristic.  The first is a silver gull, but look carefully to see what is missing...

                                        Silver gull; anyone want a drink?

This fish tale is hard to swallow!

As we were leaving Geelong, right by our parked car, we saw a tree in full bloom, full of New Holland Honey Eaters.  They migrate into this area in the fall, when the gum trees are blooming.

New Holland Honey Eater

Flowering Gum Tree.  Can you find the Honey Eater?

Banyule Swamp

The last photo is of a Musk Lorikeet, taken in one of our favourite birding parks near where we live.  This lorikeet is less common than it's noisier cousin, the Rainbow Lorikeet, but beautifully coloured.  It is feeding in a flowering gum tree, which is one of the primary food sources for many birds at this time of the year (and yes, it is flowering at the end of autumn, with winter just around the corner).  Many of the local plants flower in the spring and again in the fall, not being able to handle the summer heat.

Musk Lorikeet