Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Not the Same Thing

"There is a special case of thinking that is called problem-solving. Solving a problem is not the same thing as understanding a principle. It is, however, the sort of thinking that we have come to accept as the mark of intelligence, and the thinking that some people seem to like a lot. Somebody chose that understanding. Not one somebody, of course, but many somebodies, and I deceive myself and you if I say that "we" have either chosen it or that we have come to adopt it. Certain people did all that. Haphazardly. And now we live by it. We fashion our schools to match it, and measure their 'products' by its yardstick. And thus we will win the disapproval of Prometheus and then perhaps even the loss of his gift."

--Richard Mitchell, _The Gift of Fire_ (emphasis mine)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ooh, good!

Cindy has started a discussion of David Hicks' Norms and Nobility.

Krakovianka is joining it with posts from her blog, which hasn't seen much action in the last couple of years.

Just letting you know.

I do not own this book, and see no prospect of owning it until at least next Christmas, but I have wanted to read it for years, got to flip through it for twenty minutes at a friend's house once, and I am definitely following this discussion.

What I am Reading

I have decided it is better to make a blog post every so often about what I am reading, rather than keep it loaded on the sidebar, where it is less permanent. I am reading a book of memoirs by Louis L'Amour, and he saved lists of what he was reading from the 1930s on. I am not a prolific and effective writer like Louis L'Amour, but still, perhaps I might want to look back someday, and I don't know how permanent is a blog post in the ether of the internet, but if I wrote my booklists on paper, I surely would lose them.

Like I said, I am reading Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L'Amour, a really good book. He was self-educated, and a lover of books, and his memoir also provides insight into the decade before the Great Depression. Apparently, the economy was in bad shape all through the 20s, but many people didn't realize it. The workers knew, though-- the number of wandering laborers grew throughout the 20s. He said when the Crash of '29 happened, he and his laboring friends hardly noticed it. Work had been hard to come by for years for them.

I set aside the Pickwick Papers (Dickens) in order to read L'Amour. I find Pickwick Papers slow going, although I have finally found my 'friend' in that book-- Samuel Weller. It's funny how I have to get almost through a book before the point of it begins to dawn on me. A little slow on the uptake, I guess.

Aravis and I have finished The God Who is There (Schaeffer), Macbeth (Shakespeare) and Marcus Brutus (Plutarch). We are now reading Postmodern Times (Veith), Julius Caesar (Shakespeare) and the Life of Dion (Plutarch). Mariel reads Plutarch and Shakespeare with us too.

We are still working slowly through Trial and Triumph (Hannula), Understanding Your Bible (Gowens), Ourselves (Mason) and Brightest Heaven of Invention (Leithart). We read between a chapter per week and a chapter per term in each of these books. The Gowens and Leithart books are commentaries on other things we are reading.

Cornflower and I finished Children of the New Forest (Marryat) and began The Jungle Book (Kipling) last week. Mariel and I are now reading Be Ready to Answer (Gowens) to go along with the comparative religion study she is doing in some of her other books. We also just started The Sea Around Us (Carson), which I haven't yet read in its entirety.

Our moms' book group is reading Toward a Philosophy of Education (Mason). We just discussed Chapter 5, The Sacredness of Personality. I finished rereading For the Children's Sake (Macaulay) a couple of weeks ago, and am now trying to get interested in Children are Wet Cement (Ortlund), which I found at a thrift store, along with Kay Arthur's How to Study Your Bible and Dickens' The Life of Our Lord, which he wrote for his children. But I just started The Gift of Fire (Mitchell) at the recommendation of the DHM, who is currently writing some amazing posts on education, and I think it will trump the Wet Cement book, at least for awhile. (The advantage of the Ortlund book is that I can keep it in the van and read while I am waiting for someone, and I have to read the Mitchell book on the computer.)

I haven't updated my Bible reading list in the sidebar for awhile, but I have continued my reading. I need to get over there and update it. I just finished Romans in the New Testament, and am in 2 Chronicles (just finished the reign of Josiah) in the Old Testament. (I have so many thoughts running through my head from sermons and Bible studies I have heard lately, and I have tried two or three times to write blog posts on them, but nothing is congealing at this point. I think I just need to write stream of consciousness on those things for awhile and maybe then thoughts will come together.)

So that is what I am reading.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Unity and Fellowship

Kindred in Christ for His dear sake,
A hearty welcome here receive;
May we together now partake
The joys which only He can give.

May He, by whose kind care we meet
Send His good Spirit from above,
Make our communications sweet
And cause our hearts to burn with love.

Forgotten be each worldly theme,
When Christians meet together thus,
We only wish to speak of Him
Who lived, and died, and reigns for us.

We'll talk of all He did, and said,
And suffered for us here below,
The path He marked for us to tread
And what He's doing for us now.

Thus, as the moments pass away,
We'll love and wonder and adore
And hasten on that glorious day
When we shall meet to part no more.

--John Newton (1725-1807)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Twilight Zone

I know homeschooled children are supposed to love learning, but this week I feel like I have entered the 'realm between light and shadow':

Mariel: "I love dictation! I don't know why, but I love it!"

(I'm sure she will regret having said that later, but still. I have *never* heard a child rejoice at the idea of doing studied dictation. And this was just as she sat down to study a new passage, so she was fixing to have to do it. I was so encouraged.)

Cornflower: "I want to learn big words. Lots of big words. Do you have a book for that?"

(Aravis and I gave her two books by Eleanor Estes, one by E. Nesbit, and the dictionary.)

We are going to the Fort Worth Bureau of Engraving and Printing today. The kids have been less than enthusiastic. Seems they want to stay home this morning and do schoolwork. I reassured them that they could bring all the schoolwork they want in the van.

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Our Duty to Others

I'm using this post as a memo for some links I plan to read.

PR Article on Manners

Certain Relations Proper to a Child (Pages 82-90, CM Vol. 3 Ch. 8)

Misdirected Affections (Pages 58-63, CM Vol. 6 Ch. 3)

Faith and Duty: Parents as Teachers of Morals (Pages 101-116, CM Vol. 2 Ch. 11-- modern paraphrase)

(That one is very interesting to me. In it, CM reviews a progressive German author's attempt to inculcate moral teaching into modern 'education'. She goes with him a certain distance and no more. Her review shows how, although she embraced progressivism's improvements, she understood its limits and prejudices.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Random Thoughts

We saw rain lilies today, and wild onion flowers.

Mr. Honey was in Oklahoma yesterday and most of today, but he is home now. We are in our easy chairs next to each other looking at our laptops.

Clint Eastwood is on the TV. Do people eat pasta in spaghetti westerns?

Aravis came home today. She had a very big day of rehearsals after she got off the plane.

She brought home chocolate and tea.

It is supposed to snow tomorrow. We are going to Javamom's daughter's wedding.

(Except Aravis, she has to rehearse some more.)

I get to wear my swishy skirt.

Cornflower has decided she loves nature, and has been drawing lots of nature pictures in her journal. My favorite is called, "The Ways of a Rabbit".

She was so excited to see her sister that she couldn't stop talking and teasing until we made her go to bed.

We are baking cookies next week for our church meeting. We think we will make a batch every day. I'm planning to make sugar-free peanut butter cookies for Goggy.

Ya'll come to our church meeting. It's sure to be an uplifting time, Lord willing.

I'm reading the memoirs of Louis L'Amour. That man really loved books.

Mariel got a new desk from Ikea this week. She and I put it together without man-help (or Aravis-help). She is getting good at reading directions and wielding a drill.

Mr. Honey and I are currently watching all the back episodes of "Chuck" in the late evenings. Yes, I know. We just got hooked. Some parts are not nice. But 1) I really like Chuck and Sarah, 2) the idea of someone having an entire juxtaposition of computers inside his head and the way that interacts with his emotions and internal principles is fascinating, 3) the struggle the agents have between the good of the country (and obedience to the people in command) versus the good of the individual is also fascinating, and scary to boot, and 4) I just know Casey has a heart. That is why I like watching Chuck. Also, I think Chuck and Sarah should quit the spy business and go live in some suburb, although NOT the scary Stepford-Fulcrum subdivision. That would pretty much end the show, I guess.

I'd like to watch Chuck right now, but the spaghetti western ended, and Mr. Honey is watching some kind of sport-thing. It's March Madness. I do not find it as interesting as Chuck.

Also, Mr. Honey will no longer be known as Mr. Honey. From now on, he will be called The Poet Warrior, with all the attendant honor that implies. Mr. Honey, as a name, was just not adequate. If you must, you may refer to him as The Warrior Poet Formerly Known as Mr. Honey.

I sure love him. :D

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Schaeffer on Humanity and Personality

Our book club is studying CM's Volume 6 Chapter 5 this month. I am getting ready to read it, but I only made it as far as the title before I remembered this quote.

One of the most thrilling ideas in _The God Who is There_ is the idea of personality-- both the personality of God and the personalities of His children. We are *specific*. We are not simply machines that receive input and deliver output, and He is not a generic, interchangeable god-- He is *the* God, and we are His people, and He relates to us in a personal way. Amazing condescension.

Here is the quote. It's pretty long, but such great stuff. If you only have time to read a portion, read the last paragraph:

When we use the phrase, 'it is only human,' we are usually referring to something sinful. In this sense, the Christian should feel a calling *not* to be 'human'; but in a more profound sense, the Christian is called to exhibit the characteristics of true humanity, because being a man is not intrinsically being a sinful man, but being that which goes back before the Fall, to man made in the image of God.

Therefore, Christians in their relationships should be the most *human* people you will ever see. This speaks for God in an age of inhumanity and impersonality and facelessness. When people look at us their reaction should be, "These are human people"; human because we know that we differ from the animal, the plant and the machine, and that personality is native to what has always been. This is not something only to put foreward intellectually-- when people observe us, their reaction should be: 'These *are* human people!'

If they cannot look upon us and say, 'These are real people,' nothing else is enough. Far too often young people become Christians and then search among the Church's ranks for real people, and have a hard task finding them. All too often evangelicals are paper people.

If we do not preach these things, talk about them to each other and teach them carefully from the pulpit and in the Christian classroom, we cannot expect Christians so to act. This has always been important, but it is especially so today because we are surrounded by a world in which personality is increasingly eroded. If we who have become God's children do not show Him to be personal in our lives, then in practice we are denying His existence. People should see a beauty among Christians in their practice of the centrality of personal relationships-- in the whole spectrum of life and in the whole culture. This is equivalent today, when many think both God and man are dead, to the songs of wonder and exultation in the Old Testament, sung because God is a living God and not a lifeless idol.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Science Texts, Living Books, Thinking, and How We Don't

There was an article on MSNBC this week on how Christian homeschooling science textbooks 'stack the deck against evolution.' It is an interesting article. I thought it somewhat balanced, although I do not agree that the Apologia textbooks go as far as to 'stack the deck'. (The Apologia response is here. I do not know anything about the Bob Jones textbooks. We do not use Bob Jones, but we know people who do, and their fourteen-year-old daughter just took the prize overall in the middle school division of the regional science fair, competing against kids from public, private and science magnet schools in a multi-county region which includes a very large metropolitan area. Also, if folks would take the time to read up on homeschool graduates, they would find that they are quite as adequately represented in science careers as other demographics, and with excellence.) The Apologia texts are Christian textbooks and as such can be expected to present creation theory as well as the theory of Evolution, since, based on the scientific method (which must include empirical evidence), neither theory can be elevated to the level of 'fact' or 'law', it makes sense to include the Christian belief as well as the materialist one. (I also think it makes sense for secular texts to present both sides, based on the same argument.)

I feel for the secular homeschoolers. It is tough when you can't find the books you want to use because you aren't a large purchaser such as a school district, although I think they would be wise to discuss both viewpoints with their children.

So, there was the article. Now there is a poll on the article. The question asks, "Is it okay for homeschool textbooks to dismiss the theory of evolution?"

:sigh: I did not vote in the poll. But I did make a comment:

I would like to point out that this question is slanted, as it implies that the choice is either 'embrace evolution as fact' or 'dismiss evolution out of hand'. (I realize the question does not actually state that the alternative is embracing evolution as fact, but it is implied from the tone of the AP article.) This presents a problem for a homeschooler like me, who teaches her kids using both the Apologia textbooks and classic science books such as Rachel Fields'* _The Sea Around Us_ and Darwin's _The Origin of Species_.

Education is about surrounding your students with ideas and allowing them to think and reach their own conclusions. I think folks in the mainstream United States would be surprised at how many people homeschool their children because they want to *broaden* their children's viewpoints, rather than narrow them.

*(I had to write another comment to correct this-- _The Sea Around Us_ was written by Rachel *Carson*, not Rachel Field.)

It is astonishing to me how some folks following the most popular line of thinking on any given subject simply assume they are being broadminded and tolerant. It is not tolerant to dismiss another viewpoint out of hand, even if it is the Christian viewpoint. (And don't tell me that Christians do it too-- I know that. Wrong is wrong no matter who is doing it, and anyone who tosses out that argument and thinks he has just made a telling point is succumbing to a juvenile level of reasoning and ought not to be taken seriously.)

I just wish more people would *think*. Then we could have sensible conversations instead of bashing each other.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Going Back to the Beginning

I have been rereading the book, _Postmodernism_, by Gene Edward Veith, in preparation for a study with Aravis, and for some reason it was important to me to search Cindy's blog for any posts containing that word. I was not disappointed.

She quotes Andrew Kern, another one of my favorite bloggers and a very thoughtful educator, as saying that the tools used for assessment can actually change the learning that is being done (my very general paraphrase of his words), and not in a good way. Cindy talks about recognizing the tension between what she intrinsically knows to be right in terms of education and the "proof" society expects from us, then she gives her wise-woman advice, which I love:

How do I deal with reality? I do what I want in my homeschool and then I have the students use study guides for the various tests they take and also take sample tests.

Savvy homeschoolers learn to translate what they do in their homes to the institutional world without having to compromise too much.

Mr. Kern does utilize standardized tests at his private Christian school, and he gives a run-down on the benefits of standardized testing here. And here is an interesting post in which he thinks through standardized testing in terms of the Christian classical tradition. A quote:

The Christian classical educator embraces his ignorance too. He recognizes perfectly well that he can know almost nothing about what the tradition is doing right here and now in the child. He can certainly measure whether a child is developing in a healthy manner, but that is more easily done by particular observation of a particular child in a human relationship. He recognizes the danger that measurement will distract from what really matters.

Ironically, of course, by tending to the health of the child’s soul and body, the Christian classical educator produces a child who scores higher on the standardized tests. Which leads the school to celebrate these scores more than they merit, thus distracting the activities of the school from the tradition and gradually converting the Christian classical school into a hollow shell.

Unless it is led by men and women of clarity and courage.

Standardized testing can be very intimidating to homeschoolers, and it is quite easy to sink your family into "the modern trap of assessment" after experiencing some success, rather like the monkey with his hand in the coconut gripping the peanuts: he doesn't want to let go of the prize, but his liberty is lost until he does.

Ask me how I know.

As I continue to delve into these ideas, I am comforted to realize a truth that Francis Schaeffer expressed in _The God Who is There_. I cannot find the quote at the moment, but if I am remembering correctly, he said that no matter where you are, returning to the biblical Christian system of thought is as simple as going back to the beginning-- "in the beginning, God..."

I am a big goof, but that makes me think of Inigo in "The Princess Bride": "I am waiting for you, Vizzini. You told me to go back to the beginning, and I have. This is where I am, and this is where I'll stay. I will not be moved. I do not budge... I - am - waiting - for - Vizzini!"

**We may be confused on whether to seek some pre-Enlightenment ideal or postmodern Christian resurgence, or whether to simply make sure the house is clean and the kids are respectful-- but in the midst of this chaos of mind, these Martha-thoughts, it is good to remember that Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken away from her. Like Inigo, she goes back to the beginning. She brings her children and sits at the Lord's feet, drinks in His words, and lets the philosophies fall where they may.

**Edited to change the last paragraph back to the way it was before I hit publish the first time.

"Humility is not Relative, but Absolute"

I just want to post a quick link to this insightful article, by Laurie Bestvater, on scheduling and living-- specifically about a schedule found in Cholmondley's biography of Charlotte Mason. Good food for thought as we round the corner and head into the last term of the school year. My favorite quote is:

This living within a careful routine is not a Victorian straightjacket, a legalism, a pitiful constraint brought on by ill health, but a prayer,[2] a wonderful living out of her vanguard posture…to be a person means to be rightly related to our Creator…who says,” in vain you rise up early, and retire late.”[3] When there are needs pressing in at all sides and the only time for putting two thoughts together seems to be when the rest of the world is fast asleep and when one more e-mail will seem to win the day, this deep and faithful woman is living out a whisper that it is time to get ready for bed, tomorrow is another day, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should and after all, you are just one woman—a person, not superhuman after all.

*Title taken from the biography, which is quoted in the article.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Friday, March 05, 2010

On A Wonderful Day Like Today

We are currently enjoying sunny skies and temps in the 60s. Perhaps winter is over for us. I got up this morning and put on my denim capris and impressionist-inspired flouncy blouse, felt festive, and rejoiced in our new picture study.

Praying the weather will continue beautiful for Javamom's and K's plans!

The turtledove is singing now
The winter's past and gone
Rise up, my fair one, come away
I'll take you home to stay!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

If Your Daughter Says...

'You know, Mom, when we read a book together, it's five times as easy to understand and five times as confusing.'

Do you think she means it as a compliment? Or perhaps she simply has Alice overload.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


'Christ says, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." How could a perfect God say, "Just sin a little bit"? This would be impossible. The standard is God's own perfection. And yet the Word of God does not leave us with a romantic notion that we must either have total perfection in this life or, if not, that we must smash everything and have nothing. I am firmly convinced that many wonderful things have been destroyed because people have had a preconceived and romantic notion in their minds as to what the perfect thing should be, would settle for nothing else, and thus have smashed what could have been.

'How glad we should be for the Apostle John when he says, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father." There is a tremendous and wonderful implication in that word, "we." John, the beloved apostle, places himself among us. On the one hand, we must stand against all standards lower than perfection. The standards are not arbitrary, but are those which the holy God who exists has given us in the Bible, and we are to take them with total seriousness. Anything less than the totality of these standards will not do. Sin is not to be minimized either in the individual or the cororate life. Antinomianism in theory or practice is always wrong and destructive.

'Yet, on the other hand, we must stand against all the romantic concepts of perfection in this life. The Bible does not promise us perfection in this life, except in the area of justification. It does not promise us in this life perfection morally, physically, psychologically or sociologically. There are to be moral victories and growth, but that is different from perfection. John could say "we". Paul could indicate his own lack of of perfection. There can be physical healing, but that does not mean that the one healed is a perfect physical specimen. The day Lazarus was raised from the dead he may have had a headache, and certainly one day he died again. People can be wonderfully helped psychologically, but that does not mean that they will then be totally integrated personalities. The Christian position is understanding that on this side of the resurrection the call is to perfection, and yet at the same time not to smash and destroy what we cannot bring again to life-- just simply because it is less than the perfections that we romantically build in our thinking. For example, how many women have I found-- and how many men-- who have stomped on a perfectly good marriage until it was dead, just because they had a romantic concept of what marriage should or could be, either physically or emotionally.'

--Francis Schaeffer, _The God Who is There_, Section 6, Chapter 1

Lunch and Dinner On the Run

We had to spend yesterday in the city (11am to 10pm), and I am feeling Rather Clever in a Pooh-ish Way about how I fed everyone lunch and dinner without going to restaurants. So I have to crow a bit. Please bear with me as I share our ordinary bag lunch and oh-so-ingenious dinner:


Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on sourdough
Apples and Bananas
Goldfish crackers
Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies


Mexi-Ranch wrap sandwiches (recipe below)
Carrot sticks and cucumber rounds

We also had chocolate to snack on in between times, which I realize isn't all that healthy, but my dad had given us gifts of chocolate for his birthday (Happy Two Days After Your Birthday, Dad!) and we thought it would beguile the weary hours. Which it did. I love chocolate. Mine was Ghirardelli dark chocolate with mint. Refreshing.

Anyway, here is the recipe for the wraps, which in reality was the Only Clever Thing on the menu, but I did think it worked so nicely:

Mexi-Ranch Wrap Sandwiches

12 fajita sized flour tortillas
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
olive oil
garlic powder
onion powder
ranch dressing

I eyeballed most of what I added, so I can't give you exact amounts. I heated the olive oil in a skillet and added the seasonings, except cilantro, to the chicken breasts, then cooked them in the skillet until done (around 5 to 7 minutes each side). While they were cooking, I spread ranch dressing onto each tortilla (I wanted to spread sour cream, but didn't have enough). After the chicken was finished, I sprinkled it with chopped cilantro, then cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, placed a bit into each tortilla, and wrapped them up. (I wanted to add cheese, too, but we were out.) I used cling-wrap to package each sandwich, and placed them, six to a bag, into freezer bags. (This was just in case our ice bags in the ice chest leaked. I didn't want soggy sandwiches!) I placed the freezer bags into the ice chest, and we were set! Yum. The only thing that could have improved them would have been to have eaten them warm, as yesterday was a cold and wet day and we ended up eating our meals in the van.