How-To: Sew Children’s Pilgrim Costumes for less than $5

Julie / October 25, 2013


Please excuse the unironed costumes.  I didn’t want to wait until Halloween to take the pictures for my quasi-tutorial here, but today turned out to be very, very chaotic.  You can still totally get the point, I think. ;)  I should also add that I can’t tie bows for anything, and someone else will have to tie them on Halloween so they aren’t sticking out everywhere!  Haha.

I thought it would be really cool for the children to dress up as pilgrims (and Squanto) for Halloween this year—there are many qualities of the pilgrims and Puritans that I find very imitable for young children, and thought dressing up as such would raise their curiosity in a rather good historical subject—and pilgrim costumes are not very hard to find on Amazon.  But even at the relatively affordable costume prices, with four children, we were looking at $80-$100 for costumes that were made of cheap material, which would tear easily and not make good additions to the dress-up bin.  I just couldn’t quite bring myself to do it!

Then, after I started trying to figure out how to make them myself, I realized that pilgrim costumes must not be a very common DIY, because I could find very little information on Pinterest or elsewhere on how to make… anything.  I was hoping for a bonnet pattern.  A collar pattern.  Anything.  Nada.

I eventually found this page from Plimoth Plantation on what pilgrims actually wore (most specifically, that they didn’t particularly wear black), and this page for a simple, more-accurate-than-most-costumes bonnet (pilgrims don’t seem to have worn the frilly brimmed or gathered bonnets that they are often depicted with now).  I was afraid, however, that if I dressed them like completely accurate pilgrims, then no one would realize they were supposed to be pilgrims at all.  And that’s no fun for kids.  So I decided: no black, because I had no idea what I would do with black dresses after Halloween was over; and I would do the simple bonnet, and make the “simple” theme a pervasive one and an opportunity to talk about dressing as for God and not for man or fashion; but otherwise I would somewhat loosely abide by modern ideas of pilgrims, i.e., the bib-type collar, the stark white, the slight flare on the bonnet, the buckles on the (anachronistic) boy pilgrim hat, and so on.

I also ordered a Native American costume for our Squanto.  I figured making three pilgrim costumes would be quite enough for a somewhat last-minute dash!

Bearing all that in mind, practically, I wanted to write down somewhat what I did, in case someone else out there would also like to make a non-paper pilgrim costume for their child! 🙂

DSC06307Girls: the dresses
The need was for a long-sleeve dress, which is surprisingly hard to find a pattern for, and also something quick-ish, because I didn’t want to spend a lot of time sewing a dress in a plain color that was unlikely to be “pretty” enough for everyday wear.  I soon settled on a peasant-style yoke, which are soooooo easy, but they tend to be a bit poofy and unfitted and I thought it might be worth a little extra effort to find a pattern that would be a bit more tightly drawn (and useful for making other dresses in the future that weren’t destined for the dress-up bin).  I finally settled on the Molly Peasant Dress, which cost me $10.  Although I could have made a regular peasant dress for free, I think it was a good decision; the Molly takes very little fabric (the entire pink dress is made from one single curtain panel) and is indeed more fitted, and I look forward to using it for more dresses in the future! I think the cap sleeve version (which is included) is really cute. I made the brown dress mostly according to the pattern, DSC06337with a $2 sheet from the Goodwill store, and long sleeves with elastic at the bottom (as per the pattern).  I made the pink dress (from a $2 curtain) without a lot of the “tack in place” sewing (which is to say, when the pattern said straight-stitch and then finish the edges, as two separate steps, I just serged it all in one), and cuffed the sleeves instead of elasticizing them.  Now, here’s the huge caveat with this pattern: pilgrim dresses definitely should not be high-waisted. I had originally planned to make a vest-like cover of the same fabric, ideally with buttons, to make it more realistic, but once I actually tried the dress on the girls, I think the giant pilgrim collar distracts from the high waist and that it’s fine for a Halloween costume.

Girls: the bonnets
DSC06317DSC06331All the white stuff was made from a single large new 99¢ sheet from Ikea.  Doesn’t get any cheaper than that! And it’s an extremely cheap sheet, so the fabric is rough and “matches” the pilgrim milieu. I followed the general idea for bonnets in the post I linked above, basically measured the girls’ heads side-to-side, to made sure my DSC06318rectangle was adequately wide, and then folded the brim back (and basted it down, except for about two inches on each side, so that it would flare out as seems more typical with pilgrim costume bonnets) with it on the girls’ actual heads.  I didn’t include side ties because they don’t seem historically accurate.  The bonnets were fundamentally very easy.


DSC06307Girls: the aprons
DSC04284Aprons are soooo easy.  Especially the ones from this era, which are basically giant rectangles.  I had made pretty much identical ones for their colonial costumes in February, but those had been eyelet lace (which doesn’t fit with the pilgrim-simplicity theme, obviously) and since aprons are so easy, and I had the fabric already, I made two new ones.  I should say at this point that the outfits as a whole, including the aprons, are rather less poofy and full-skirted than a lot of depictions.  I’m not sure which is more historically accurate.  If I had it to do over, though, I would have added some extra yardage to the skirts of both the dresses and the aprons, so the skirts would look more like the colonial ones did.


DSC06322Girls: the collars
And here we come to the part I really struggled with!  Again, what is historically accurate seems quite broad, but mostly it seems like there weren’t these extraneous giant white things hanging around their necks for no obvious reason.  But this also seemed to me to be a key to making the kids look like pilgrims to random viewers, since it is so much a part of our modern conception.  So I made collars.  I couldn’t find a pattern for these at all, so I made my own:


You can download it—click the picture.  There are lots of extra lines, obviously; think about what your collar will look like (round or elongated) before you decide which lines to cut! Children’s necks are not very differently sized in diameter, so I was able to use the center hole unaltered for everybody from my 1-year-old to my 5-year-old. (It looks big on the one-year-old, but that’s actually an optical illusion because his shirt is a turtleneck.) You can easily add extra seam allowance on the outside lines for wider shoulders, and cut the inside hole a teeny bit bigger (or just sew with a deeper seam allowance) for older kids.  I did the circle collar for our boy pilgrim and the elongated one for the girls; if I had more time / less costumes, I considered doing buttons down the front… I ended up doing ribbon ties at the top instead.  The really easy thing would have been to cut these out of white felt or fleece, single-layer, no sewing.  But I didn’t have white felt and have been too busy/tired to go to the store to get some!  So instead I used my reliable old sheet, cut two layers, sewed them together around all the edges (leaving a hole on the inside back of the neck area to turn), turned them right side, top-stitched all around, and sewed up the hole.  I should have left the hole at the end of one of the straight parts of the collar to turn, and then been able to tuck it back inside, and top-stitch, all very neatly.  Live and learn!

DSC06291Boy: the outfit
Since I was dealing with a one-year-old, and dress-up is pretty meaningless at that age… I hunted and found a plain black shirt and plain black pants out of his drawer.  That said, you could make a peasant type shirt and simple elastic pants, if there are no plain clothes in your boy’s drawer.  Lose the ruffles and the skirts and they’re workable enough boy patterns, especially if you used a drawstring tie on the shirt instead of elastic. :)  For Halloween, I need to find him some kind of belt!  And tall white knee socks.

Boy: the collar
DSC06298The same as the girls’, but in the fully round version.  And I left both ends open to turn it right-side, and then tucked the ends in at an angle before top-stitching so that there is a bit more of an upside-down V shape at the front.  This is much easier than the bib style I did for the girls.

DSC06338Boy: the hat
This was an ADVENTURE, let me tell you!  I’ve never made a hat and couldn’t find anything remotely like instructions or a pattern online.  Nothing.  I finally decided to just go for it and see how it turned out.  This was an attempt at a fully stereotypical pilgrim hat, not an actual in-any-way-accurate one…

First I made the tall part.  (See, I’m so hat-ignorant I don’t even know what that’s called.  The non-brim.)  I measured my kiddo’s head, about where a hat would seem to fall, cut a piece of felt a little bigger than that (and what seemed a good height, in the other direction), serged it up the side, and stuck it on his head.  Felt stretches a little, and it fit.  Obstacle one complete; I now had a big black tube that fit snugly on my son’s head.  But how to get the brim and the shaping?  DSC06342Shaping:  I experimented a little and kept sticking it on the poor child’s head to test, but since it’s black, just for Halloween, and he’s a baby, I think it’s good enough by far.  You can see what I ended up with (right, picture of the hat inside out), and when it’s right-side I kind of punch it down on top a bit and round it out to make it look even a little better.  If he wasn’t going to outgrow it right away, I think this could be a pretty decent way to go about it, and add some starch or something to keep it from folding flat.  Of course the great thing to do here—which was way too much trouble for me—is to make a proper cone with a tiny circle for the top, like a birthday hat with the very top part cut off and replaced with a flat piece.  Brim: I suggest using actual math for this step.  If you fold the tube flat, measure, and double, you have a circumference, which you can use to find the diameter of the circle you should cut for the inside of the brim.  Add about six inches (three all around) more to get the diameter to use for the outside of the brim.  I didn’t use math, DSC06341because I wasn’t near a calculator.  Trial and error also worked but it was a lot more work!  Anyway, you’re going for a shape pretty much like the collar shape, except without a cut down the middle—you want a solid, flat, wide ring.  I should also add that the little felt rectangles at the store will not be big enough, you want felt by the yard, which is quite cheap but I’ve only found at an actual fabric store.  Then turn your hat-top right side and slide the brim over the end of it, matching the inside of your newly-cut felt ring with the right side of the hat-top-tube.  If you’ve done the math right, this will lay flat with no gathers or folds (see right, the fabric to the right of the seam, and under the seam, is flat).  Pin as much as necessary (I’m not a fan of pinning, DSC06339and even I used four!) and stitch around, continuing to make sure fabric lays flat.  Buckle: This doesn’t really need instructions, but I was pretty pleased with how it turned out for as simple as it was.  It’s just a piece of tan felt with two slits cut in it, and then a long strip of the white fabric sewn into a belt and made to fit just above the rim.  Easy.  Again, white felt would have been even easier.  Also, glue would have been easier.  One last thing: The brim is really floppy.  It would look better stiffer.  I think this might could be accomplished with schoolglue-and-water-mixture, or spray starch, but I haven’t yet experimented to figure out which.  It would also work to cut it down to less width.

Boy: the cuffs
DSC06298Again with the sheet; I just made two simple white rectangles, turned right side, and then basted the center of them over the center (inside) seam of his shirt sleeves, at the very bottom.  They are actually sewn on, until after Halloween.  Then the “cuffs” open on the outside, where you can see them, and are pinned so they make a V rather like the collar.

The great conclusion:
Three Halloween costumes, including a fairly pricey pattern that I’ll be able to use in the future, and fabric (about 75% of which I didn’t even need, and folded back up for future projects): $15.  Less than the single costume I decided to buy for Squanto. :)  If I hadn’t bought the pattern, this would have been 3 costumes for $5 total.



Homeschool, week 6, randomness and solutions.

Julie / September 6, 2013

I have learned so much in the past month.  I had all these ideas and so many things that didn’t entirely pan out the way I thought they would.  I have a great urge to try to spit it all back out in an organized post so that others might not make the same mistakes that I did, but then I realize in my next thought that there are still ten million things I don’t know, and everything is incoherent (hello, pregnancy brain, I love to blame you!) anyway.

Nevertheless.  A dear friend chronicles her life in blogging with lots of pictures.  So here are lots of pictures from this very week of ours.


Lesson first: Daddies are great.  (Okay, I already knew that, but this is a new context.)  We did school on Labor Day.  Seth was intrigued with what we were doing, so we drafted him into helping us build our Mesopotamian ziggurat.  I would have never, ever, in a million years come up with such a good resemblance!



Lesson two: Visuals are great.  Specifically, the alphabet here, which is hanging over our dining room doorway, has been a great help.  It helps the children remember which letter is which and which sound goes with which letters, and it gives them a lot of confidence in “guessing” answers for our various phonics games.  We also have a vowel chart which we refer to daily as well.  Actually, I pretty much have our walls plastered with things we’re working on, and I take them down and replace them as we move through our studies.



Lesson three: nameplates really work!  I printed these up TOTALLY just for fun.  I’m not sure whose fun I was thinking of; it makes it look more like a school, right?  But I thought they’d get ripped up and destroyed in a week.  Instead, they’ve actually been great resources that the kids actually USE.  Both girls have the worst time remembering how to make numerals, in particular, and they actually refer to the itty-bitty (but right in front of them) print on this during their math lessons.  They’ve also noticeably improved their handwriting, especially of their names, from referring to the plate.  Now I just feel dumb for having thought nameplates were merely classroom decorations!

DSC06048Lesson four: a brainless (overwhelmed) Mommy needs a real preschool curriculum.  I had vague notions of throwing something together for L as we went along, matching (vaguely) whatever the girls were working on.  You can guess how that story went—it didn’t!  Thankfully I had ordered a copy of Horizons Preschool for Threes way back in mid-summer, and they finally released it and mailed it to us, and to my great surprise, I actually really like it!  It is reasonably affordable (like $30 or less?), covers all subjects, and really is designed for beginning three-year-olds.  And it’s just about all I can handle, myself, to sit down with him and work through it.  It could be a good jump-off point for a mom with more time to devote to preschooling (I think the teacher’s guide has lots of extra activities), but I needed something really simple (for me) that was also reasonably well-rounded to build all the essential preschool skills. So we literally just sit down together and work through the day’s worksheets. Preschool for Threes is a perfect fit for us. L also follows along with phonics, and often science and history lessons as well, and we do extra math with manipulatives. And the girls actually enjoy “teaching” him things like counting and adding, and he actually learns from them sometimes!


Lesson five: children love maps.  Not the preschooler, who I think doesn’t understand what maps even are, but I have a modern map of the whole world hanging on one wall, and on the other wall, we tape up multiple maps of the area we’re actually studying—Mesopotamia here.  We compare the maps, remember where we are, where Florida is (this gives them some concept of distance, because they know how long that drive is!), so they know where we are studying.  And they can also compare to other places we’ve studied; they quickly recognized the Nile on their Mesopotamia map, and it opens the door for talking about ancient trade routes and other things.


Lesson six: planning is… enlightening.  Really I could say much more emphatically that planning is the root of all success in homeschool or something like that, except that I know it isn’t true for everybody. :)  But, trying to balance THREE children’s schooldays, when none of them are independent learners… I figured out in about week two that a vague plan or even a weekly sketch was just not nearly sufficient.  This is what we’ve ended up with—those blocks of lessons are for one week.  And that is terribly, terribly abbreviated.  Behind those lines are actual plans, links, projects… this is just what I need to remember what page to turn to.

The really amazing thing is that all this planning actually saves me time.  Week one and two, I had my weekly list of things to accomplish, and then when we’re all sitting there actually doing school, I had to keep double-checking and calculating which part we had to accomplish that day in order to get through our week plan.  It took a lot of time and stress, right in the middle of the school day when I couldn’t afford it!  Now I just look at my sheet, open the books, and literally check it off as we go.  We’ve been getting more done, more projects, more subjects, and finishing our day about an hour earlier.  Seriously!  I cannot believe how much time I was wasting scrambling throughout the day.

How do I plan?  Like this:


Homeschool Planet is the awesomest homeschool planner ever.  It’s new.  It’s a little rough around the edges (just came out of beta).  It’s a little bit expensive.  But… it’s totally worth it.  I tried planning on paper for two weeks.  In the amount of time it took me to plan one week on paper, I can do at least half a semester on here, and best of all, I can plan ahead as I have time to do it. And I can plan per subject rather than per week.  That really helps with continuity.  And in execution, this saves me HOURS each week. No exaggeration.  I have tried lots and lots of planners and this was the first one that was powerful enough but also quick/simple enough. RECOMMEND.


Lesson seven: kids like to plan, too.  This is our “into our brains” chart for a week.  Every week I put a new one up.  The stickers match our subjects, and when they complete a subject, they put the sticker in the right block, and throughout the week it completes a path—and at the end of the path is an increasingly-small reward.  It works.  Seriously.  It’s like magic.  Even the subjects they hate (*handwriting*), they know it’s just a sticker on the chart and then they will move on.


Lesson eight: projects and games are really helpful.  Above, the girls hold leaves from their nature walk looking for monocots and dicots to put in their botany notebook, and are standing in front of the remnants of a phonics game that we’d played earlier in the morning (every right answer and you move the correct worm an inch closer to the apple).  I hate projects.  As a student, I was not the one who wanted to go out and experience it for myself if I could just read about it in a book.  And as a teacher… projects are CHAOS. Seriously. Every time you do “fun,” you are inviting chaos into your home. :)  But… it turns out they remember things better.  They have fun.  The silliest little game or a run out to the back yard to fetch some moss, and they get a boost of energy that will last them ‘till lunchtime.  It’s great.  It requires a lot of planning, but, again—worth it.

So.  There’s my homeschool randomness, for anyone who’s curious what we do all day, how it works, with three littles and a baby and a pregnant, perpetually exhausted, brain-deficient Mommy. 🙂


Fall 2013–the best-laid plans…

Well, after all my planning, I ended up scrambling a whole lot of things over the summer!

Still on Tapestry.  Still on Singapore Math.  But we went to a curriculum fair and I have come to realize a few more things, and… pretty much everything else has not quite ended up as I planned! But now that we are working through our first week, it’s all official—if still subject to change!


The first thing is, I switched to A Beka phonics.  Now, I really don’t like A Beka.  I don’t like what I have read about their business practices, I don’t like their prices, and I don’t like their theology or their rampant civicism.  But…  While feeling like I still don’t know anything and wishing that I had majored in early childhood education instead of secondary education, I have nonetheless come to the conclusion that I have been going about teaching reading all the wrong way.  I think I have been too laid-back and random.  E got a hold of math really well, with very little effort on my part, and I thought reading would be the same way, that learning was just a natural process that needed to be facilitated.  But it didn’t work.  So, while she knows a lot more than the beginning of A Beka Letters and Sounds K5, we are starting in the beginning, doing all the exercises, all the games, all the chalkboard stuff, everything—and we’re taking R along for the ride.  They’re doing the exact same thing.  It will be a lot of review for E, and a real challenge for R, but they really enjoy doing it together and I am hoping it will serve as a good foundation for R, while cementing a lot of concepts that E didn’t get so well (particularly blending), while building her confidence and mine.  A Beka is supposedly about a grade ahead of most other curricula, so while it kills me that my otherwise-first-grader is doing a K5 curriculum, I’m trying to be very chill about it and just ignore the “K5” on the cover. :)  And for R, I’m not really expecting her to master the concepts, just to do her best, and then next year we would either move on to something only incrementally more difficult for mastery, or, if she does better than I expect her to, she could keep on with E.  They don’t seem to mind doing the same thing.  I even have L in on the fun and am hoping he at least picks up his letters, if not his letter sounds, from the exercises. (For him, I am supplementing with extra preschool-oriented worksheets centered around the same letters that the girls are working on.)

I will say that the experience has given me a great determination to be more purposeful in earlier schooling, and I am pursing a more systematic preschool curriculum for L so that he might have a better foundation than E did when he gets to this point.  That’s my hope, anyway!

I also changed science.  We went to a homeschool fair and there was an Apologia Science display, and I looked at it and really liked it.  It is designed such that the whole family studies science together, with different levels of activities and notebooking for the different grades.  I really like doing school together.  It also, instead of doing every science subject in every grade year after year, picks one major area (botany, animal science, anatomy, astronomy, etc.) and spends a whole year going into great depth on it.  That seems a lot more conducive to learning.  Then, after I’d decided on it, and went through to compile my supplies lists and pick our experiments and projects for the year, I was even more impressed because it’s full of things that are really hands-on but also use affordable/available supplies and are easily adapted to a wide age range.  The only thing I really don’t like about it is the textbook is very word-heavy and has few pictures (and some is downright clipart-looking) and it isn’t bound very well.  The text itself is fine, but the formatting just is not very appealing, and it’s hard for small children to be engaged with so many lines of unbroken text.  All three children do science together with very different expectations of their participation.

I’ve also added subjects.  We are doing First Language Lessons for grammar, which are really short auditory lessons that all three children participate in, which fits well with our school day, A Reason for Handwriting (A & K) for handwriting (I don’t like A Beka’s), Draw Write Now for an art supplement, and Polished Cornerstones for a “character”/home economics supplement.  I should add that none of these is terribly time-intensive, nor do I try to do them all every day (except for handwriting).  But it is good to have them on my weekly schedule and work them in here and there. Smile


Homeschool Day Book — Review

I have been hunting for the perfect homeschool planner for months.  And finally ended up with an Excel spreadsheet and a whole bunch of paper printouts.  Still not thrilled with that solution.

But when I read about a record keeper that let you put things in after finishing them, it seemed like it had the potential to be a good fit for us: I could keep my spreadsheet for planning ahead, but then keep track of what we actually did in a neat little program.

So… how did it work?  We just started our school year so I decided to give it a whirl.

One area that Homeschool Day Book really shines is in simplicity.  It took me less than ten minutes to put in our three students and all our subjects.  Similarly, it has been taking very little time for me to enter what we did – less than five minutes. If I’d put the program on a laptop that I kept in the schoolroom (this would have been smart) then it really would be effortless.  I love how easy it is to tick which subject each lesson falls into (this would make field trips, for instance, really easy to categorize), and that each lesson can include any combination of students.  You can also record how long you spent on each activity, and add a “description” to explain what you actually did.  This could be really useful for those who aren’t using textbooks or who need detailed notes to compile for the state.  So far that is not me, however, so I am just putting the page/lesson numbers in the title and leaving the description blank.  It works well.

Then there are the reports:


And this, to me, is the weakness of Homeschool Day Book: there just aren’t quite enough options on the reports. And I would love to be able to export all my data to CSV or some such readable format so that I’m not locked into the program’s report options.  For me, the major thing the reports are lacking is the subject name.  You can print subjects when you do the “Time Spent Per Subject/Date” reports, but the “Entries” report (seen above) doesn’t include the subject names at all… leading one to wonder what on earth “Cooked Cornbread” was supposed to fall into (it was actually part of our kindergarten phonics exercise).  This would be a handy option.  The reports are neatly formatted and sensibly divided by date, subject, or child, so this is kind of a minor quibble, but honestly, the inability to export the data wholesale would make me really question the wisdom of entering my information in every day, day after day, and then be limited to these few report options that the program provides.  I can think of lots of ways I might want to format the data, but will never be able to.  That said, the program is so simple and fast to use, and light to run, that I might use it anyway.  They’ve really put together something that excels in simplicity, and that’s a good thing.  “Reports” is just a little too simple.

The last point is the price: I downloaded the trial to do a review, and popped over to check out the price, and it’s $39!  That’s a lot, for something that you could do with just a spreadsheet (admittedly a sloppy and hard-to-print spreadsheet, but still).  If it was half that, I would say, that’s fair, and I would consider paying it myself for the convenience and simplicity of the thing.  I would also think about paying that much if it was web-based so I could access it across computers, because I bounce from one computer to another all day, and having to go upstairs to enter information on “my” computer is a small hassle.  If it was $29 instead, I would think it was pricey but would still consider it.  I understand that in some ways, $39 is not so much since it is a permanent license, and it is a useful, niche program, and if I used it every year for twelve grades, then $39 would be an absolute steal.

To conclude… on the one hand, I do think I’d be more likely to use this than any other planning software I’ve tried.  It is so easy and requires so little time.  It’s easy to understand, easy to get started, and easy to be up and running in less than a half hour.  It’s practical.  On the other hand, the fact that I’m limited to the predefined (and few) “reports” to get my data back out again… I’m not so keen on that. And honestly, that is what is making me waver about whether or not I’m going to continue using it.  My advice would be: wait until you start school, then check out the trial, take a good look at the reports, and if you’re happy with what they generate, then this could be a great solution. Smile

Disclaimer: I was offered a free license for the software in exchange for writing a review. It did not impact my opinion.
Old Wisdom

Bunyan on the Lord’s Day

I recently stumbled across John Bunyan’s little booklet, “Questions About the Nature and perpetuity of the Seventh-Day Sabbath,” a fascinating insight into Bunyan’s views on Covenant Theology and the continuation (or not) of the Mosaic Law.

The booklet is written with the purpose of refuting the “Seventh-Day Baptists”—Baptists who had apparently taken to the belief that it was necessary to continue the Jewish Sabbath, on Saturday, and meet for worship on Saturday.  Which, of course, is not a very prevalent argument today, making the piece a bit of an oddity to the modern reader!

However, the way Bunyan chooses to refute these people turns out to be immensely relevant to many discussions that are still happening.

Bunyan’s argument against the Sabbath

On reading, his booklet immediately divides itself into two logical sections: first, he dismantles the idea that the Sabbath is, or has ever been, a moral law.  He does this by making the following outline:

  • In Question I, he establishes that the Sabbath is not evident by nature.
  • In Question II, he establishes that God did not give the instruction before the Mosaic Law.
  • In Question III, he establishes that it was only given to Israel, not the Gentiles, even after Sinai.
  • In Question IV, he establishes that the Sabbath was done away with along with the other Jewish rites and ceremonies, at the time of the Apostles.

He makes excellent arguments.  He attacks the fundamental assumptions of what we now call Covenant Theology.  He attacks the idea of a “creation ordinance,” even.  In short, he attacks the idea of a Saturday Sabbath not by setting out to prove that the Sabbath has been moved, but by proving that the Sabbath was never a moral law, rather a shadow of what was to come—Christ.

This is an interesting approach, and he is very successful.  I have never read such a convincing anti-Sabbatarian piece.  He pulls in relevant pieces from all over Scripture to disprove the notion that the Sabbath was moral, or that it continues today.

The seventh-day sabbath, as such, was a sign and shadow of things to come; and a sign cannot be the thing signified and substance too. Wherefore when the thing signified, or substance, is come, the sign or thing shadowing ceaseth. And, I say, the seventh-day sabbath being so, as a seventh-day sabbath it ceaseth also.

Bunyan’s argument for the Lord’s Day

The second part of Bunyan’s argument is found in one single, incredibly long question: Question V.  Here he attempts to demonstrate why Sunday is the correct day for having worship.  Since he spent the first four questions (less than half of the entire essay!) establishing that Saturday was not moral, without Question V, one would conclude that the Church could simply do whatever it pleased, or even nothing.  These seventh-day Baptists could easily respond, well, we’ll keep our worship on Saturday, then!

So—he has something to prove, here, too.  But Question V is difficult, because he appears to backtrack a little bit, and could even be said to contradict his own earlier points.  Indeed, when my husband found out I had read Bunyan on the Sabbath, he recalled an essay by John Resinger who says Bunyan did contradict himself.  Reisinger says, “on the one hand, [Bunyan] appears to be a full-blown Sabbatarian, but at the same time, he removes the foundation of that very position” and “Bunyan destroys the foundation of Covenant Theology’s view of law… [then] he changes direction completely and lays out Covenant Theology’s view of the Christian Sabbath. Bunyan’s position… is inconsistent and untenable” (p 2, 5, Reisinger, “John Bunyan on the Sabbath”).

Reisinger’s opinion surprised me.  I had felt a little uncomfortable with the strength of some of Bunyan’s language in Question V, and indeed, at one point he does even say the day was “changed,” as Covenant Theology would—and that odd word choice stuck out to me—but I hadn’t seen his argument as untenable, or even disagreeable.

Bunyan begins this section by affirming two conclusions from his prior questions: 1) it is denied that the seventh day sabbath is moral, and 2) it is not to abide as a sabbath forever in the church.  Then he asks, “What time is to be fixed on for the New Testament saints to perform together divine worship to God by Christ in?

This question is an important frame for the very, very long argument that follows.  Is Bunyan trying to prove that the Sabbath moved?  Resoundingly not.  Rather, his purpose here is to establish what is the proper time, appointed by God, for the Church to worship.

Bunyan begins with the precept that I found uncomfortable:

TIME to worship God in, is required by the law of nature.

On the one hand, this seems utterly self-evident.  But he’s giving it a theological stamp of approval, and it is a major premise for the arguments that follow, and it’s absurd, honestly, how much he doesn’t even try to establish this precept from Scripture.  He says it, and leaves it.  Suddenly it’s very clear that when he said a “seventh-day Sabbath” wasn’t evident from nature, he really meant exactly that—the seventh-day Sabbath wasn’t evident from nature.

Then he moves into a second precept, taking Hebrews 4:10 and using it to draw a parallel between God resting on the Sabbath and Christ resting on Sunday:

Now God rested from his works, and sanctified a day of rest to himself, as a signal of that rest, which day he also gave to his church as a day of holy rest likewise. And if Christ thus rested from his own works, and the Holy Ghost says he did thus rest, he also hath sanctified a day to himself, as that in which he hath finished his work, and given it (that day) also to his church to be an everlasting memento of his so doing, and that they should keep it holy for his sake.

Again, it is hard to argue with what Bunyan is actually saying, but that it seems to lead him into a second Sabbath-like mandate, a day of rest for the Church in imitation of Christ, is—awkward.  It’s very clear why Reisinger says he appears to be a “full-blown Sabbatarian.”

However, this is only on the first page or two of Bunyan’s seventeen-page-long answer.  And it is necessary to ask, what does Bunyan mean by a “sanctified day,” and what does he mean by “rest” and by “holy”?  What’s the significance of his calling Sunday a “memento” rather than a “mandate” here?

It certainly seems like he is setting up traditional Covenant Theology again, but… this isn’t a sermon where someone possibly wandered off mid-stream and got their train of thought mixed up.  This is a well-executed, well-edited essay by a very intelligent thinker.  Moreover, this is an essay written by someone who didn’t have twentieth-century theological terminology and all its nuances at his beck and call.  I’ve noticed this with Gill—even while refuting Covenant Theology, he uses some of their terms which we would probably not use today.  So it is doubly important to try to understand what they actually mean, and not base so much off of signal language.

The term “the Lord’s Day” is a good example of this, as it appears not a single time in the entire essay, despite being the phrase that would be on the tips of our modern tongues.  “Sunday” is also completely and totally absent.  What is not absent is “the first day,” which appears 108 times, almost all of which in this latter section.  In fact, while he occasionally calls Sunday “the Christian Sabbath,” the vast majority of his references to “Sabbath” are to either the Old Testament Sabbath, or to the eternal Sabbath we have in Christ.  And he has a clear preference for calling our meeting-day “the first day of the week,” rather than a “Sabbath.”  (Although, again—he does call it a sabbath occasionally.)

I think we should begin with the assumption that Bunyan wasn’t setting out to completely contradict himself, and take careful note of what he said of the old sabbath:

This sabbath then, was God’s rest typically, and was given to Israel as a sign of his grace towards them in Christ. Wherefore when Christ was risen, it ceased, and was no longer of obligation to bind the conscience to the observation thereof… All the rests therefore that Moses gave them, and that Joshua gave them too, were but typical of another day, in which God would give them rest (Heb 4:9,10). And whether the day to come, was Christ, or Heaven, it makes no matter: it is enough that they before did fail, as always shadows do, and that therefore mention by David is, and that afterward, made of another day.

So the old Sabbath was a sign, and the first day is a memorial, a “memento,” as Bunyan says.  The old Sabbath had a sanction, which it lost:

By this last clause of the verse, ‘Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind,’ he doth plainly declare, that such days are now stript of their sanction. For none of God’s laws, while they retain their sanction, are left to the will and mind of the believers, as to whether they will observe them or no. Men, I say, are not left to their liberty in such a case; for when a stamp of divine authority is upon a law, and abides, so long we are bound, not to our mind, but to that law: but when a thing, once sacred, has lost its sanction, then it falls, as to faith and conscience, among other common or indifferent things. And so the seventh day sabbath did.

The old law of works is changed to a rule of life in Christ:

the whole law, as to the morality of it, is delivered into the hand of Christ, who imposes it now also; but not as a law of works, nor as that ministration written and engrave in stones, but as a rule of life to those that have believed in him

This is, in fact, the very heart of Bunyan’s argument for a sanctified first day:

So then, that law [of Christ] is still moral, and still supposes, since it teaches that there is a God, that time must be set apart for his church to worship him in, according to that will of his that he had revealed in his word. But though by that law time is required; yet by that, as moral, the time never was prefixed.  The time then of old was appointed by such a ministration of that law as we have been now discoursing of; and when that ministration ceaseth, that time did also vanish with it. And now by our new law-giver, the Son of God, he being ‘lord also of the sabbath day,’ we have a time prefixed, as the law of nature requireth, a new day, by him who is the lord of it; I say, appointed, wherein we may worship, not in the oldness of that letter written and engraven in stones, but according to, and most agreeing with, his new and holy testament.

In short, Bunyan argues that in Old and New Testament alike, we must have a time for worshipping God together, and then he spends many, many pages explaining that the day in the New Testament for worship is Sunday, and that it is sanctified by the Resurrection.

Yet what does he mean by sanctified?  It is worth pointing out that he, earlier in his argument, showed that the regulations of the old sabbath no longer apply—

Now if these be the laws of the sabbath, this seventh day sabbath; and if God did never command that this sabbath should by his church be sanctified without them: and, as was said before, if these ceremonies have been long since dead and buried, how must this sabbath be kept?

Thus, the rules, the regulations of the old, do not apply to the first day.  He even says the first day is ordained “to perform that worship to him which was also in a shadow signified by the ceremonies of the law.”  The ceremonies of the old (including the sabbath) are fulfilled in the worship of the New Testament church, the regulations and rules fulfilled in the reality of a New Covenant in Christ.   This is not a new “ceremony” Christ imposes.

What “rules,” then, does Bunyan apply to the first day?  He goes through the New Testament and systematically pulls out the commands for corporate worship, and calls this “the work” to be done on the first day: 1) to break bread; 2) to collect for the saints; 3) to worship.

He also warns specifically against entangling the seventh-day sabbath with the first day:

A new covenant, and why not then a new resting day to the church? Or why must the old sabbath be joined to this new ministration? let him that can, show a reason for it… Christians, beware of being entangled with old testament ministrations, lest by one you be brought into many inconveniencies.   I have observed, that though the Jewish rites have lost their sanction, yet some that are weak in judgment, do bring themselves into bondage by them.

Bunyan notably doesn’t repeat the admonitions of his time and contemporaries to avoid recreation, or any of the other Puritan prohibitions.  Further, he elucidates against prohibitions,

Nor can I believe, that any part of our religion, as we are Christians, stand in not kindling of fires, and not seething of victuals, or in binding of men not to stir out of those places on the seventh day, in which at the dawning thereof they were found.

He is not concerned with enumerating the laws thereof, but of emphasizing what Scripture calls us to do on the first day, what is our privilege to do on the first day.  He shows that the early church did it by agreement, by custom, on that most logical day that encompassed the Resurrection and Pentecost and many other happenings—but is clear throughout that even still, even sanctified as the day was, it was their custom to devote the day to a memorial.  Bunyan speaks often in terms such as “this day is appointed… to do this duty in,” and speaks of some specific duty (such as gathering an offering for the poor) which Scripture describes as being due on that day.  He says we “mark” the day, “for so many memorable things were done on it… let saints be ashamed to think that such a day should be looked over, or counted common… when kept to religious service of old, and when beautified with so many divine characters of sanctity.”  He points out that in Acts 20:7, the church was clearly intending to spend the entire day to worship, and he clearly finds this a model, although he falls short of describing it as a mandate—rather, as a custom.  A delightful custom, as Bunyan demonstrates by contrasting, again, the old Sabbath with the first-day:

…the first day of the week is the Christian’s market day, that which they so solemnly trade in for sole provision for all the week following. This is the day that they gather manna in. To be sure the seventh day sabbath is not that. For of old the people of God could never find manna on that day. ‘On the seventh day [said Moses] which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none’ (Exo 16:26).

Again, a great distinction.  Where the old sabbath was somber, empty, waiting for fulfillment, the first day is the day of rejoicing in what has been provided.

And Bunyan concludes,

Let this [essay] then to such be a second token that the Lord’s day is by them to be kept in commemoration of their Lord and his resurrection, and of what he did on this day for their salvation.

He’s gone full-circle, dismantling the old Sabbath, and appearing for a moment to build a new one, but ultimately, it is a “sabbath” without regulation, except for worship, and not for the purpose of law, but of grace, and not a sign, but a commemoration.  The law of the sabbath was not a creation ordinance, but worship was.  The rest is not from day-to-day endeavors, but a rest in Christ.  It is not a fast of Moses, but a time of feasting on the Bread of Life.

I find it hard to disagree with him, and don’t find his arguments to be Sabbatarian or Covenant Theology, to the end.  He has his moments of questionable terminology, but these seem easily understandable by his temporal context, and not the substance of his arguments.  He would surely offend those who believe Sunday worship is not instructed in Scripture, but believing in Sunday worship is not the same thing as the Covenantal /  Sabbatarian position, especially since his purpose in this article is not to dismantle Covenant Theology (although he does!) but to dismantle the idea that Christians should not meet on the first day—which necessitates that he vigorously defend first-day worship.


Fall homeschool planning.


So, next fall we will, Lord willing, begin our first foray into 1) official, state-registered homeschooling, and 2) first grade.  And so I am attempting to make sure that we are covering all our bases, and covering them well!  Because I am expecting to be greatly pregnant by the time we begin, and have a newborn halfway through the year, I am trying to do as much planning ahead as I possibly can.  I have my lesson plans broken down to the weekly level for the entire year, and am beginning to work through which specific activities we’ll do.  I am planning for a long winter break from Thanksgiving through New Years, because I’m sure otherwise school will fall apart then anyway until we settle into the routine of a new baby.  That long break also means that we are beginning in August, and running through the end of May.  When our year isn’t planning to be interrupted by a newborn, I would ideally like to plan 9-week terms separated by substantial multi-week breaks and run year-round.  But this year, I think we need one big fat break in the middle instead.

Our core curriculum, although it is treated as more of “dessert” at the early stages, is Tapestry of Grace.  This is a classical curriculum, in four yearly cores, which repeat three times each throughout the schooling experience, covering a multitude of subjects from history, social studies, English, composition, philosophy, government, rhetoric, and geography.  The first year, which we are doing at lower grammar level, is the Ancient World.  The thing I am most excited about is that all students, regardless of age, are centered around the same basic part of history every week, while the activities, expectations, and reading and writing assignments are tailored to each student’s individual level. So, for instance, one week the lower grammar child may be learning about the geography of Egypt and the importance of the Nile to the local economy, building pyramids and making Egyptian headdresses, while the rhetoric-level teenager may be writing a 10-page essay analyzing the intricacies of the ancient Egyptian religion and its influence on later philosophy.  I think this is a great opportunity for larger families to maintain a lot of cohesion while also meeting each child’s academic needs, and I am excited to see how it plays out as the years go on!  I am intending to repeat this year almost exactly in four years with E2, rather than E1, in the student role (while E1 would have moved on to an upper grammar approach to the material), so in addition to trying to make meticulous plans beforehand, I am going to try to keep detailed notes and lists as we go along.  I will say, the books seem a little ambitious with only a first-grader and a kindergartener; I am expecting it to go a little haphazardly, but then of course the next time around we will use the same books except then we will have a 2nd grader and 3rd grader as well, Lord willing, because by the time the cycle repeats, even if E1 is moved on to upper grammar, the younger ones will still all be lower grammar.  So I’m definitely looking at this year as a low-stress test drive of the material and the course structure.

For science, I honestly didn’t agonize over the decision very much.  I’ve looked at many lower-grade science curricula, and they all seem incredibly similar.  This one is MacMillian/McGraw-Hill, 2nd grade (because we’ve already been doing “first grade” for quite some time—early science is easy and our kids love science!), and I picked it because it was incredibly affordable (widely available used), and has a good website with lots of supplementary videos, and is simply structured with review questions and suggested experiments all right within the text.  I am planning to keep our kids “together” for science in at least pairs, which seems doable to me because the high school sciences don’t necessarily have to go in order, so we can simply reshuffle partners around as necessary to make sure everyone gets the right curriculum at the right grade level.

For math, we are continuing into Singapore Primary Mathematics 1A and 1B for E1, and Singapore Essential Math Kindergarten A and B for R.  I like Singapore, and so do the kids!  From what I’ve read, it is pretty well leveled with Saxon, so I am intending at this point to switch to Saxon once we are out of early elementary… or not.

For phonics/reading, I have not been able to “plan” it very well, because it has seemed like more of a brain development issue than a textbook/teachable issue.  With that said, I have been pretty pleased with EPS Primary Phonics, and we worked through the K book last year and are currently working through the 1 book, so I am hoping to begin the 2 book by fall and begin, at some point (probably earlier than fall), the K book with R.  We also use lots of supplementary materials, games, and computer programs.  Once such which was recently recommended is Phonics Pathways, which I’m going to try to draw all the kids into.

Lastly, preschool… L will be our youngest-yet “preschooler,” and my plan so that I can actually teach the girls is to assemble a number of “busy boxes” for him so that when I need him distracted, he can sit at the table and work on his schooltime-only special exciting activity/toy.  I am expecting that with both Tapestry and science, he can sit with us as we read together and even do his own semblance of many of the activities—not necessarily to absorb any of the learning, but at least for distraction purposes.  So it will be more when we are doing the “seatwork” of math and reading that I will be trying to distract him with his busy boxes, and hopefully at some point in the year he can begin his own workbooks.  We have had good experiences with the Rod & Staff Preschool Workbooks, which are by far the most well-suited to very young children that I have ever come across.

Mothering, Studying God, Toddlers

Tips for Finding Time in the Word

There’s been a quote by D.A. Carson making the rounds on the blogosophere, most recently here (emphasis not mine):

Martyn Lloyd-Jones once spoke with a group of medical students who complained that in the midst of their training and the ferocious work hours they really didn’t even have time to read the Bible and have their devotions and so on. He bristled and said, “I am a doctor. I have been where you are. You have time for what you want to do.” After a long pause he said, “I make only one exception: the mother of preschool-aged children does not have time and emotional resources.

It is important to recognize, too, that there are stages of life where you really don’t have time to do much, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Children will sap you. If you have three children under the age of six, forget serious reading unless you have the money for a nanny. When our youngest finally went off to kindergarten, we celebrated that day—I took my wife out for lunch. Only then could she get back into reading again. It’s the way life is. You have to be realistic.

You can read the comments for some of our attempts to point out the flaws in his logic.  But it did make me think: what are some practical, concrete ways that Mommies of littles can still meditate on Scripture and spend time in prayer?  There are no “right” answers here, but these are some of the things I’ve personally experienced.


1. On the computer.

Be it a tablet, a laptop, or a full-fledged desktop, computers are a lot more child-friendly than a thin-paged Bible. Bibles and toddlers do not fare well together.  So let’s get out of the way, right away, that there’s nothing holier about reading a bound book than a glowing screen.  I’ll bet the glowing screen will be a lot easier. If you’re reading this blog post, you could be reading your Bible.

2. On index cards.

High schoolers taught me this one: write verses on cards and stick ‘em on your mirrors, on your windows, over your kitchen sink.  Who says it has to be a whole chapter? Better to eat a bite here and there than to starve!

3. With your children.

This is easiest if you invest in some good, Scripture-filled story Bibles.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been reading illustrated Bible stories to my kids and found my own heart profoundly convicted.  I imagine older kids would have the attention span to listen to a non-illustrated, real Bible reading, but for toddlers, I can speak firsthand of the great impact that an illustrated, but still literally Scripture or at least paraphrased Scripture, Bible story reading can bring to Mommy’s heart.  Similarly, you can memorize a story and tell it to your children.

4. When your children are asleep.

Naptime. I really believe in naptime, for many reasons. In our house it is a “quiet hour” (actually, two hours long) when the children are expected to be quietly in their room, by themselves, asleep or resting.  This is a great time to do things like talk to God and spend time reading His word.  Also, children, especially toddlers, need a lot more sleep than grown-ups, so hopefully they either go to bed way before you or get up much later than you – even more time to read and pray.

5. In music.

There is a LOT of music out there that is just Scripture.  Seeds Family Worship jumps first to my mind.  If I’m having trouble eking out time to sit down and read the Bible and pray, I’ll put on some Seeds or other Bible memory music and listen and sing and praise and pray while I’m dashing around the house chasing children, cooking dinner, or mopping floors.  Multitask!

6. With other people.

One thing I have learned about myself is that I can make time appear out of nowhere if there are other people expecting me to accomplish certain tasks.  In other words, all I need sometimes is a little push, a little pressure, to inspire me to tear through the laundry or the dishes in record time so I can sit down for a moment and get to the Bible study.  If I know someone is expecting me to have read and prayed, and expecting to discuss it with me… I’ll usually have figured out a way to get it done.

7. As a family.

This is like #3, of course, except that I’m talking about more of a “family worship” type thing here. This isn’t including the children in my devotional time, this is a time of mutual benefit in which I am following my husband’s lead.

8. In school.

If you homeschool, pay attention when you teach Bible!

9. On your phone.

Waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting for the pediatrician to decide it’s time for the appointment to actually begin, sitting in the rocking chair nursing the baby, sitting next to your toddler soothing them to sleep, pacing the church foyer with a fussy baby… like computers, phones make great Bibles. I am not an extremely distractible person, but I still try to keep the apps on my Android phone at a minimum to encourage myself to reach for the Bible app rather than something else to alleviate those temporary moments of boredom.

10. Throughout the day, constantly.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12)

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
(2 Peter 1:3)

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17)

I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
(Psalm 119:11)

The message of the Word of God is relevant to our lives. If you live with toddlers, how do you answer the unending questions without cracking open the Bible? So many things in our daily lives tie back to the Word of God. So many things with children require the wisdom of Scripture. We have to know it and use it in order to evangelize our little ones.  We have to know it and use it in order to know how to behave ourselves.  We have to know it and use it in order to remind ourselves of the daily comforts of grace and the coming glory of heaven.  The words should come to our minds and be in our hearts and flow out of our mouths. If we don’t know the words, we should be flinging ourselves into the pages of Scripture and pleading with God to engrave it on our hearts.

Being without Scripture is like being without water. We thirst for God. We need to drink.