Sunday, December 08, 2013


The ice came and conquered this weekend's schedule.

Almost every moment this weekend was filled, and every single activity was cancelled due to weather.  I am glad of that.  From Friday to Sunday we had co-op, drama rehearsal, Christmas party, an outing to a play, cotillion, church, orchestra performance, and a Messiah sing.  (We were also given opportunity to attend/work at least three more events that we refused.) The ice annihilated those plans in one quiet night, and we gratefully settled into a weekend at home.  (Okay, I settled gratefully.  The kids were disappointed but quickly got over it.)

This level of activity is ridiculous.

Why do I allow it?  Parents these days (myself especially) feel like kids need so many opportunities in order to be well-rounded. What should I do to safeguard our time?  Is this just the way it is with older kids?

 I cannot believe that a smile and shrug is the solution.

What is the limit?  How do you know when to say no?  How do you know *how* to say no?

My excuses:

1) We aren't as busy as others.  This is an insidious excuse.  It compares us with others and finds that we are further along in our relinquishing of activities.  Because we are closer to balance, we are okay.  But comparison is not how we are to make decisions.

2) We are at home so much of their education.  They need these activities to learn to interact in formal social situations/work together in groups/produce music, etc., that cannot be done alone.  This is legit, so the question becomes how *much* of this is needed?

3)  I get tired of being the only one instructing them.  I love having other teachers come alongside and encourage and admonish, adding their voices to mine.  I gain strength from this.

4)  They love people and get stir crazy at home.  You should see how they look forward to their time with friends.  They just love their friends so much.  And these are good kids.  I like the people they work and play with.  We should invite people over more.  Then we could stay home and the kids could still enjoy their people.

5) Kids need many opportunities in order to become well-rounded.  How much of this is true and how much is a lie of the ever-increasing competitive, measuring-stick-happy society we live in?  Two things-- this is easily carried to ridiculous extremes, as illustrated by this essay written by a bright and snarky high schooler.  This kid has our number.  Weak as we are, we need more young people willing to declare the emperor has no clothes.  The other thing is a quote from Charlotte Mason, which I have hanging on my wall, and which is not enough to keep me from sacrificing my children on the altar of busy-ness:

We are steadfast to the affinities we take hold of, till death do us part, or longer. And here let me say a word as to the 'advantages' (?) which London offers in the way of masters and special classes. I think it is most often the still pool which the angel comes down to trouble: a steady unruffled course of work without so-called advantages lends itself best to that 'troubling' of the angel––the striking upon us of what Coleridge calls 'the Captain Idea,' which initiates a tie of affinity. -- Volume 3, page 212
I look at my kids.  They will not have everything.  No matter what I do, they will not have everything.  What are the most important things?

6) I hate saying no to my kids.  I would rather they make right choices themselves.  I talk and talk, trying to lead them to no on their own.  This sounds good, but I mainly do this because I hate saying no.  And it does not always work.  And sometimes we need to bump up against a 'no' so we can get used to submitting to a superior when we disagree.

As I look at the graveyard of this weekend's opportunities, I still do not know which of them should have been refused.  Probably the orchestra performance, which was optional, and they had already performed once this week.  We could have skipped the Messiah sing, which only comes once per year.  I would hate to skip that.  Soul food, you know.  If I had said no to the Christmas party, I might have had a revolt on my hands.  Cotillion happens every month, but only once every month, and they love it.  Plus, they are learning etiquette and manners, the almost-forgotten grace of accepting the help of a gentleman at table and on the dance floor.  Church is a non-question-- of course we would never skip church.  The play outing was sister time for one of my girls and her oldest sister.  And the rehearsal was a requirement that only comes twice per month.  You can't skip rehearsals when you are in production.  We could have said no to the entire production, of course.  But it is only once every two weeks.  Feeding the drama monster with an activity once every two weeks... seems like a nice compromise.

And that is how we arrived at the activities.  It's so easy to reason these things out.  Sheesh.  I still have no answers.

Everything was cancelled this weekend.  The girls have slid, put together puzzles, played darts, renewed friendships in the neighborhood... also watched movies, pinned things on Pinterest, visited their friends online... and we had time for their father's birthday dinner, which had been squeezed out by the above activities.  That we had squeezed out their father's birthday is unforgivable really, but his work schedule has been so unpredictable that we weren't sure when he would be available anyway.  And this is the postmodern, fragmented life.  I want to fix it and make it whole.  I don't know how to do that.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Gracious Words

A paraphrase of Proverbs 15:1-3, based on information found here:

A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger. Express your knowledge prudently and gracefully. A gentle tongue brings life, but perverse speech wounds the spirit.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Anxiety the Note of the Transition Stage*

(Title and quotes taken from CM Volume 3 Page 27)

I have often recalled CM's idea that anxiety is the note of a transition stage-- I always thought it meant that the presence of anxiety may reveal that the person is in some kind of transition.  I liked the sound of it.  It rung true.  And I took it and let it echo in my mind, free of context.

This morning I was thinking about my family's various transitions, and there it was again-- "anxiety is the note of the transition stage".  While I have never actually used this statement as license for anxiety (there is that whole "be careful for nothing" scripture in the Bible, after all), it does appear in my head when fear enters my heart-- well, anxiety is the note of the transition stage. What did I expect? To be exempt?

Strange how our minds work.

I was thinking about praising God in the hallway, and there it was, right on schedule.  But this time I wondered, what exactly did she mean by that?  So I went and looked it up.  It is in a chapter on masterly inactivity.

Every new power, whether mechanical or spiritual, requires adjustment before it can be used to the full... to perceive that there is much which we ought to do and not to know exactly what it is, nor how to do it, does not add to the pleasure of life or to ease in living. We become worried, restless, anxious; and in the transition stage between the development of this new power and the adjustment which comes with time and experience, the fuller life, which is certainly ours, fails to make us either happier or more useful.
She is talking about a transition into better habits.  She is revealing that tendency to indulge in restless action when we perceive that our previous efforts have been lacking.  And she is encouraging us to exercise wise passiveness, to be gentle with ourselves (and our children!) as we change:

We ought to do so much for our children, and are able to do so much for them, that we begin to think everything rests with us and that we should never intermit for a moment our conscious action on the young minds and hearts about us... We may take heart. We have the qualities, and all that is wanted is adjustment; to this we must give our time and attention.
 She is really talking about the development of a new power in a human being, not the deliverance of God in the midst of circumstances.  Not every transition in our lives is the result of us making a move toward better habits.  I have been misapplying this idea!

I wonder how many other idea fragments float around in my head, prepared to leap out and be misapplied at a moment's notice.

Anxiety is the note of transition from a worse habit to a better one.  And, rather than anxiously nitpicking every little thing that has to do with a new habit, Miss Mason recommends we rest ourselves in Sphynx-like repose, keeping on the alert without being fussy, and trust that the new habit will develop with time.

What does this have to do with praising God in the hallway as we wait for him to open doors?  Well, in some cases we need to work and wait, asking Him what we should do. (It is often not what we want to do.)  In others we need to wait without work, accepting that there is nothing we can do, and refrain from complaining. (This is often harder than doing what the Lord tells us to do!)  But always we should ask the Lord to redeem our feeble efforts.

I'm praising God in the hallway and in the doorway and fully in the room this morning.  I pray He will direct my steps, redeem my efforts, and still my murmuring thoughts.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Current Events: Science

IT is a new school year, and with it come new intentions.  We are hoping to be more dedicated to our different journals this year.  With that in mind, I plan to write a current events post once per week.  So here goes:

Scientists have produced brain-like structures from stem cells.  These aren't actual functioning brains, but structures that resemble brains.  They were able to produce these "cerebral organoids" with both embryonic and IPS (developed from skin cells rather than embryos) stem cells.  The structures in some ways resemble the brain of a 9- to 10-week-old embryos, but are missing certain key components such as the cerebellum and hippocampus.  The researchers said they did not intend to try to reproduce fully functioning brains, but that these organoids are useful for studying the brain.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

2013-2014 School Plans

I am just about finished with school planning for this year.  The girls are reading AO Year 10 and Year 7.  Here are some details.

(For those who don't know, Year 10 focuses on the 1800s and Year 7 focuses on Medieval times.  The AO Years thread through the ages of Western civilization with detours into other cultures.)

We're adding Plutarch again after almost two years of neglect.  I wanted to do Scott and couldn't fit them both in, but with AO Year 12 focusing on current times instead of ancients, I realized I need to fit in Plutarch every year.  There are other important reasons for reading Plutarch every year, but sadly, those did not motivate me like the thought that the girls wouldn't get an in-depth introduction to ancient times.

We are going to read Coriolanus and Demosthenes.  I wanted to read Cicero too, but couldn't fit it in.  These look fun to me because Anne White has made new study guides for them (scroll through link above to find those).

We are continuing Sir Walter Scott.  We didn't finish reading Waverley together last year, so we are carrying it over.  Then I think we will read Quentin Durward.  I heard it contains archery, and it fits into Cornflower's medieval time period.  She will also be reading Ivanhoe on her own.

I want to add in The Everything American Government Book for both girls this year.  I will probably purchase it around Thanksgiving and add it at the beginning of second term.  This is a new book recommended by AO for Years 9-11.  Cornflower is only in Year 7, but we did Hillsdale's Constitution 101 last year, and she is chomping at the bit to attend Patriot Academy, so I think she can handle this book.

(Btw, if you decide to purchase any of the AO books mentioned, please go to AO and use their affiliate links to get to Amazon, etc.  This helps the Advisory pay website/forum expenses.)

We will continue the new edition of Be Ready to Answer, a departure from AO's devotional and worldview selections.  This book is by Michael Gowens, a Primitive Baptist elder. He does an excellent job dealing with the different religions and isms of our time.  I found that I need to proceed very slowly with the younger two on this book if we want to apprehend the ideas, so we are setting a time-not-a-number-of-pages for each week and reading even more slowly than normal.  We are in the middle of Chapter 8 (of 20 chapters), so I hope to finish the book this year.

One day of the week I hope to focus especially on homemaking and ladylike pursuits.  ;)  I'm not sure how this will go, but we have gotten away from the art of housekeeping in the last few years. Not surprising when it falls far down the list of things to learn, as it has lately.  The Warrior Poet doesn't feel this is a big loss, but I am increasingly aware of a lack in this area, so here we are.  A friend lent us The New Christian Charm Course last year and we haven't gotten to it yet.  We are also reading Home Comforts, an AO recommendation.

In addition, I'm thinking about us reading French Women Don't Get Fat.  I don't like the author's focus on weight loss, but I do like her focus on enjoyment and finding the best fresh foods every few days.  I want us to rejoice in our meals.  Our eating habits must change.  I had a really good thing a year or two ago with the Clean program, but I couldn't rope anyone else into joining me for long.  So I'm thinking about this book.  We should probably start with mindful enjoyment and move on to things like gluten free.

Also, our timeline, current event and quote notebooks have been too much business and not enough joy.  We just check them off the list.  We don't enjoy them, and often they are neglected.  Especially the timeline books.  I'm setting aside time and laying out fun materials to hopefully inspire all of us to relax and get into our notebooks.

That is the extent of our group work.  You will notice Bible reading is not on the list.  The girls are doing that on their own this year so we can take a thirty minute walk every morning.  It's time for them to do their daily devotions on their own.  I will be reading devotional and worldview books with them, and we attend church together and discuss the sermons and Bible studies. I scheduled out their daily Bible reading and loaded it into the Homeschool Tracker so no one forgets.

I've changed up Mariel's devotional and worldview books too.  We aren't doing How Should We Then Live? (We ARE doing the Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde study-- The Deadliest Monster-- which is on the AO Year 10 list.)  Schaeffer was pretty discouraging for us last year, so we are taking a break from him and reading Paul Copan instead.  Copan's up-to-the-minute apologetics seem pretty important to Mariel's life right now.  Together we are reading When God Goes to Starbucks, and she is reading Is God a Moral Monster? on her own.  For devotional books, I have her finishing The Jesus I Never Knew (started last year) and then Seeking the Face of God.  Along with her Bible reading.  I don't know if she will get through all of these.  The monsters, Copan books and Bible reading are a definite.  The others are negotiable.

Cornflower is following the devotional recommendations at AO Year 7, except I substituted Stepping Heavenward for The Pursuit of Holiness.

I've added poetry and scripture memorization back to their assignment lists too.  For some reason this is always a beating.  I don't know how it will go, but I've schedule six memorization assignments for each girl.  At the end of each memorization period, I want to serve a nice dinner and ask them to recite for the Warrior Poet.  Again, reaching for joy.  And grace.  I want them to be diligent, and I also want to respect their honest efforts.  And fun, relaxing family time would be nice too.  Ah, Utopia.  But surely we can achieve some sort of balance?

For narration and composition, Cornflower will attend a Lost Tools of Writing I course that I am teaching in my home.  Mariel has gone through that curriculum twice, so I hope to get LTW II by the first of the year.  I don't know.  She is going to be rewriting classic essays as well as practicing the dreaded SAT/ACT essay prompts, so I think perhaps we could do that all year and put off LTW II until 11th grade.

Once again, our math journey has taken a turn.  Last year the girls used ALEKS online, but they begged me for textbooks and a human being to help them understand concepts.  They are getting the University of Chicago math books and me for a teacher. Lord help us.  Algebra every day and me trying to explain it.  We can get through it if the Lord redeems our efforts.  This is another area in which we are naming time-not-pages in the assignment list.  The most important thing is that they understand the math they have worked through.  If they don't, it doesn't matter if they have Algebra, Geometry Algebra II, Trig, etc., on their transcripts.  They won't know them.  So my hope is to get through as much math with understanding as we can this year.

And I'm saying another special prayer over science.  Cornflower will have Apologia General Science.  Mariel will finish up Apologia Biology and move into a new curriculum-- Paradigm Accelerated Science-- which I hope will be a good fit for her creative mind.  My plan is for her to do Anatomy and Physiology after she finishes the last few modules of Biology.  Next year I hope for her to do the Integrated Physics and Chemistry course, and then her senior year to finish with either Chemistry of Physics.  We'll see.  I felt encouraged when I found this curriculum at the Rainbow Resource booth at the homeschool book fair this spring.  Hope, hope, hope.

We need to take a year off from formal foreign language, which is sad to me, but I don't think it will hurt either of the girls.  We plan to explore ASL as best we can on our own, and then take it up next year with a teacher.  Mariel studied Spanish last year, but it wasn't a good fit.  It took me awhile to accept this as a solution, but I'm feeling pretty good about it now.  Mariel still has two more years for foreign language after this year.  (Sadly, Latin has been a nonentity at our house, lo, these many years.  Cornflower may take it up in high school, but we are leaving that to her discretion.)

Mariel's geography focus will be the Middle East and Rome.  That strange combination is the result of me letting her choose one book while I chose the other.  Cornflower is focused on Europe this year.  They will do map drills at Seterra.

History and Literature are pretty much what is recommended in AO Years 10 and 7. :)  Okay, they won't read ALL the additional reading.  I generally keep a list of the additional readings for each student, and check off things as they read them.  So they will read some additional books from previous years as well as the current year, and put off others.

Their arts needs are being addressed by co-ops and extracurricular groups.  I'm teaching Shakespeare again this year at our co-op.  We will read Taming of the Shrew.  I love the other moms in our co-op and appreciate so much their careful preparation each year.  I especially appreciate that all I have to prepare is Shakespeare!

The girls will not have violin lessons this year, and while that makes me sad, it was the right decision for several reasons.  For one, they will have more time to devote to their other pursuits.  Violin practice takes up a lot of time.  Thankfully, they will still participate in orchestra, so violin won't be tossed completely to the wayside.

As far as life skills, in addition to the homemaking stuff, we are using the Dave Ramsey high school money management course.  Mariel has an outside job and Cornflower will be working on music readiness with young children at intervals.  There is so much that needs to be done in this house, I hope we will be able to do some home improvement projects this year.  Mariel is also learning to drive.

All in all, I hope this will be a quiet, profitable year for the girls and all of us.  I want to do the unseen things that reap future benefits.  My major hope is that we live in liberty and grace and joyfully help each other and others around us.  I'm going to post the following as a reminder.  (Some of this is paraphrased from our pastor's sermons and emails.)

Our theme this year is Liberty, Grace, and Jubilee.
Stand fast in the liberty of Christ, and by love serve one another. (Gal. 5:1 paraphrased)

Instead of working harder to do good, work harder to rest in Christ.
Work at not being works-minded, even as you do your work.

Trust GOD for ALL your righteousness
(NOT your self-improvement efforts, character, or due diligence)

Spend time every day concentrating on the glory of our completed salvation

in Christ Jesus.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Book Review: Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of WorkShop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book clarifies some of the moral dilemmas intrinsic in a culture that values knowledge work and egalitarian autonomy over work done with physical things and face-to-face with people.  Work has consequences, and work that divorces itself from outcomes hides those consequences.  Knowledge work can be done in a way that keeps consequences to the forefront, and has been done that way in the past, but in our era it generally is not done that way.  This is a *moral* loss for the individual worker as well as the whole society.  I never thought of it that way.

Take this example: as recently as one hundred years ago, bankers were not allowed to operate banks in communities outside of their own.  People had to trust their banks.  Bankers were supposed to determine whether someone was a good credit risk when giving loans.  This knowledge was not just extrinsic, but tacit.  The banker would ask around, talk to local merchants, etc.  He was skilled at reading the responses of others in the community, and therefore able to use his intuitive judgment to reward virtue with a loan.  Nowadays, banks are national and international, loans are bundled and sold off to other entities (even other countries), and the banker is often required to offer loans to those who haven't demonstrated a pattern of trustworthiness.  This degrades the morality of the loan officer.

You can see this in government as well.  (This is my own rabbit trail, not included in the book.)  For instance, in TX right now we are debating whether people receiving food stamps ought to be required to take a drug test.  This is a dilemma for many reasons, but my main problem is how can you know? Obviously, you don't want to help someone who isn't interested in helping himself, but what if it is a family?  What about the rest of them?  And should government even be doing this?  Isn't helping the poor the duty of individuals and churches?  But what if individuals and churches are not involved enough in their communities to understand which individuals need and merit help and which do not?  See the problem?

Anyway, this is a very thoughtful book.  He does not extol the virtues of working with your hands to the exclusion of other work, but he does raise some questions about how we respect or disrespect our own humanity and that of others in the work we do and the work we value.  I have these questions too.  There are no easy answers, that's for sure.

I'm giving it four stars because I did find it difficult to navigate his analogies at times-- I'm not a mechanic. ;)  I was able to get around the difficulties though.  It is an excellent, thought-provoking book.  I recommend it to anyone that is a person, and educators/legislators especially.  Also to people in middle management who wonder why they feel so spiritually/mentally bankrupt.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


I am going to the Charlotte Mason conference, oh yes I am.  Aravis wanted to attend as part of her graduation gift.  Perhaps I will blog some about it.

We left from church Sunday afternoon and drove to WestTennessee.  The next day, we drove into East Tennessee and Aravis got to visit friends she has loved for years and never met.  The visit was too short, and I forgot to take pictures, but it was still worth it.

Some beautiful people in Kingsport, Tennessee opened their home and their hearts to us, and we have been visiting with them the last day or so.  So many great conversations have already taken place, I feel the conference has already started.

This morning, we will complete the drive into Virginia.  They tell me the conference is exceedingly edifying.  Even if it is not, I have already been fed.

And here is a fabulous post by Cindy on school planning.  Just because it is restful and now is a time for rest and renewal.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Where We Are

(It is tiresome to read someone's apology for not posting and resolution to write more, so I won't say anything about my hope that I will be a more dedicated blogger this summer.)

I mostly want to write about where we are in our homeschooling.  My two youngest are still finishing this year's schoolwork, but Aravis has officially been handed her diploma and is now a high school graduate.

Mariel and Cornflower will do math all summer.  We are also doing a neurodevelopmental program.  I am learning more about how the brain works, which is very interesting: visual/auditory processing, hand/eye/ear/foot dominance. That sort of thing.  It goes on for four months and then we will see whether the results are worth the effort.  I mostly hope it will help with short term memory, organization and sequencing.  The girls are being good sports about it.  I promised Cornflower we would get her some workout clothes. :)

We take daily walks as part of the program.  We are going to get pedometers and once we have walked a total of 450 miles, we are going to visit friends that live 450 miles away.  That will be our reward for sticking it out.

Our work has changed too.   The Warrior Poet is working in a warrior shop now.  He sells guns and that sort of thing.  It's more his style than selling soap.  He is happy. This past year has been confused and frustrating, like a whirlwind, but the Lord has set us down in a good place.

I teach more private music lessons now, three afternoons/evenings per week.  I enjoy teaching music.  Funny how I always feel renewed after working with individual music students for a few hours.  I must be meant to do that sort of work.

We are still adjusting to the odd times of the Warrior Poet's retail and my after-school teaching schedule, looking for those golden hours when we are all available for family time.

Aravis still works at the Walgreens on the corner, although that may change once she gets her schedule for her first term at the university.  Mariel just started a job as car-hop at the nearby Sonic.  Cornflower aspires to work as well, and actually did have a twice-a-month gig this school year, teaching music-readiness activities to two of the brightest and sweetest little boys you ever did see.  They are off for the summer, but will begin again in the fall.  In the meantime, she plans to volunteer at the library.

Here are the books we read this year. An asterisk (*) means we are still working on it. A bold title is one I read also.  Italics means we read it together (at least some of us).  I am not including outside courses or curriculum-type things.  These are real books we read. We also did ALEKS math, Apologia sciences, Lost Tools of Writing, the Hillsdale online Constitution course, fine arts co-op, an outside Spanish class (Mariel), dual credit courses (Aravis), a personal finance course (Aravis), drama club, and orchestra/music lessons (Cornflower).  And we read the Bible together every school day.  Now.  These are the books we read:

Aravis (a cobbled-together Year of Ancients)-

The Iliad
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Vanity Fair
The Greek Way
The Roman Way
The Portable Greek Historian
The Portable Roman Reader
Heroes of the City of Man
The Christian Imagination
The Odyssey
Quo Vadis
The Blood of the Moon

Mariel (AO/HEO Year 9)-

A History of the American People
Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington
*How to Read a Book
Land of Little Rain
Marie Antoinette and Her Son
Miracle at Philadelphia
Mozart (biography)
Salem Witchcraft Trials
She Stoops to Conquer
*Simond's History of American Literature
Reflections on the Revolution in France
Tale of a Tub
The Four Loves
*The God Who is There
*The Jesus I Never Knew
The Problem of Pain
The School for Scandal
The Sea Around Us
The Vicar of Wakefield
*Undaunted Courage
Poetry of Byron, Pope and Phillis Wheatley

Cornflower (AO Year 6)-

*Be Ready to Answer (updated version)
God's Smuggler
Age of Fable
Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity
Animal Farm
Augustus Caesar's World
Carry a Big Stick
Genesis: Finding Our Roots
It Couldn't Just Happen
*Little Women
*Never Give In
School of the Woods
Secrets of the Universe
Story of the Greeks
*Story of the Romans
Story of the World Vol. 4
*The Bronze Bow
The Story of David Livingstone
Poetry of Alfred Noyes and Robert Frost

I've been feeling kind of down that we aren't finished with school yet.  That is a common small-talk question currently: "Are you finished yet?"  Well, no, we are not.  And it made me feel somewhat down, like we hadn't worked hard enough to get things done on time.  But we did a lot.  Maybe I shouldn't plan so much of everything next year.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Many Things

I don't know how to trust God.  My screensaver bounces with the words, "Trust God, Trust God".  I put that up months ago, hoping it would somehow seep into me, perhaps by spiritual osmosis.  I think in some ways it has, but not really.  It HAS.  But it also hasn't.  I mean, there's a long way to go.

It's silly to trust someone if you don't talk with the person.  I want to pray, but then I think He knows everything already, and He knows what is happening with me.  He knows my secret thoughts and motivations that I don't even understand and couldn't express to Him.  Why do I have to pray? He already knows.

Then I hear C.S. Lewis, in the voice of a Narnian horse, "He likes to be asked."  Well, really.  He likes to be asked.

And I know He doesn't have to help me.  I haven't done anything to be worthy of help.  I believe He chose me and saved me and I am safely in His eternal care, and if He never did anything else for me, He has still done way more than I deserve.  Why would He do more? He saved me from eternal torment, didn't he?

But He DOES help me.  Even when I forget to pray, He still helps.  I feel Him reminding me that I am His child, and He loves me, and will do for me, and when things are so hard, so hard, He is there and why don't I talk to Him?

I don't want Him to hear the angry things.  Why do people have to deal with so much pain, why is there so much cruelty, and it goes on for so long?  Why doesn't He just take us to Heaven right now?  Why doesn't He get my life in line with my expectations?  Always short something, always unsure what will happen next, always wondering.  Why does He love such a self-absorbed me?

And I'm so silly.  Does He really want me to pray about the worn carpet, or the disheveled flowerbeds, or the broken vacuum cleaner and lawn mower?  How I feel alone in a room full of people, with my own family even, and how I hate and love our screens and devices that bring so much to us and take so much away?  Or my feeling that I may dehydrate and shrivel up if I don't get my coffee obsession under control?

How embarrassing it is to need help.  We're supposed to be self-sufficient, right?  Well, I am not.  My life overwhelms me.  And he helps.  He really does.  Right now I could name at least ten providential mercies that have occurred in my life in the last six months, even when my prayers were apologetic struggles... Lord, sorry, but I'm not keeping it together.  I need You AGAIN.  I really want to keep it together so You can help the people being martyred for loving You, and the people perishing in floods and tornadoes, and the people dying with terminal diseases.  And all the terrible stuff happening in Washington.

Oh goodness.  I'm limiting God.  Like He can't do it all.  I know what it says in the Bible, and I believe it, but I don't really believe it. I know it is there, and obviously it is true, but I don't feel the truth of it.

You know what's funny?  I do not think He can do all the work set out for him in the world, and yet I think I ought to be able to take care of every thing that passes in front of me, and I want to rally my troops to take care of every thing that passes in front of us because then God will have more time to deal with the important stuff, like martyrs and cancer victims.

But sometimes just mowing the lawn or getting started on schoolwork feels like an inhuman struggle to me, and I am so ashamed of that.

And you know, He doesn't fix everything.  He leaves some things as-is for whatever reason.  He could leave me and my life as-is, but so far He hasn't, even when I can't pray.  He is merciful to me.  And yet I worry and do not trust Him.  Maybe He will decide not to be merciful next time.   And what if He does?  See the paragraph above regarding His eternal care.  Or maybe my idea of mercy is not the same as His.  Maybe His thoughts are not my thoughts.  Let the unrighteous woman forsake her thoughts.  Let her return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on her.

The key to this is to focus on Him and not on me.  I am not sure how to do that.  I am so self-centered. Who will teach me this focus, to keep turning myself back to Him when I realize (almost every moment of every day) that I am focused on me?

With all this failure, I know He still loves me and will love me forever.  That is such a miracle.  Why does He love me?  He is a good God and loves His children, even though they don't deserve it.  Can I accept something I don't feel I deserve?  If I can't, then why not? Must be pride.

How does one practice simply trusting God and accepting His gifts?  That nagging guilt, that ugly lie of Satan, "You should not have this.  You have not worked for it." It needs to be silenced.  Go away, devil! My God says I may have it, and therefore it is okay.  It is a beautiful, sacred thing that He has given me because He loves me.  Love isn't about work and earning things.  It is mine, and He is mine, and you are a liar.  I can relish His good gifts and and trust Him, and rest from guilt and shame.  There is no condemnation.  Have you read Romans 8?  I am free from the law of sin and death.

Oh, that I could live in the Spirit!  Lord God, give me that.  That's what I want.  Lord Jesus, I can put up with the lawn mower and the schoolwork, and the questions about good and evil, but teach me to live always in the Spirit!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
 Life is but an empty dream !
 — For the soul is dead that slumbers,
 And things are not what they seem.

 Life is real ! Life is earnest!
 And the grave is not its goal ;
 Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
 Was not spoken of the soul.

 Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
 Is our destined end or way ;
 But to act, that each to-morrow
 Find us farther than to-day.

 Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
 And our hearts, though stout and brave,
 Still, like muffled drums, are beating
 Funeral marches to the grave.

 In the world's broad field of battle,
 In the bivouac of Life,
 Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
 Be a hero in the strife !

 Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant !
 Let the dead Past bury its dead !
 Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o'erhead !

 Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
 And, departing, leave behind us
 Footprints on the sands of time ;

 Footprints, that perhaps another,
 Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
 A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
 Seeing, shall take heart again.

 Let us, then, be up and doing,
 With a heart for any fate ;
 Still achieving, still pursuing,
 Learn to labor and to wait.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Wayfarer by Stephen Crane

 Perceiving the pathway to truth,
 Was struck with astonishment.
 It was thickly grown with weeds.
 “Ha,” he said,
 “I see that none has passed here
 In a long time.”
 Later he saw that each weed
 Was a singular knife.
 “Well,” he mumbled at last,
 “Doubtless there are other roads.”

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Book Review: Beauty Will Save the World

Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological AgeBeauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age by Gregory Wolfe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this book.  I especially liked the chapters on authors and political figures. I think my favorites were Wendell Berry and Russell Kirk, because I was fascinated with them to begin with, but didn't know much.  I also liked the section on Flannery O'Connor, because it helped me understand why I can't get comfortable in her stories.

Parts of the book were rough going.  Sometimes I had trouble following his arguments.  Other times I struggled with my own lack of theoretical literary knowledge.  I didn't get some of his terms, but chose to let them fly by rather than looking them up. I did not want to get bogged down with the dictionary.

I liked the autobiographical bits.  They made the book more personal and were just plain interesting.  I like knowing how a person's experiences have colored his ideas.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review of the Harry Potter Books

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

I read the series over Christmas break because Mariel had read it and I wanted to have conversations with her.

The first book is not very good writing. The writing and storyline get better as you read through the series, although it always seems somewhat self-conscious.

First... it's about witchcraft. I have definite philosophical/religious problems with that. Setting that aside, and looking at it as a parallel universe, it turns out to be a great story. I admire Harry Potter. He feels real, he faces difficult decisions, and he gradually comes to nobility.

Rowling is good at character development. I would be reading along thinking, "Ho hum, your basic tween/teen series with all the repetitive 'novelty' of that genre," then a character would take a turn that I didn't expect. This happened over and over. She makes you realize that it is easy to misread a person's actions-- that a bad guy may not be bad at all, you are simply taking his actions at face value.

I am noticing these characters more and more in current literature. I guess you call them anti-villains or anti-heroes, or what-is-this-person-a-good-or-bad-guy. Take Elphaba in the musical, "Wicked". (Also a witch, btw.) She seems to be the dysfunctional bad guy in Oz. Glinda appears to be the good one. Then Glinda seems to be the legalistic status-quo bad guy and Elphaba is the misunderstood, mistreated misanthrope who becomes noble. Then at the end they are both noble. Elphaba saves her world, and nobody ever knows.

Getting back to the Harry Potter series: Rowling is very good at this. What does this do for us as human beings in search of truth? I think it shows us that you NEVER know. You really never know. You have to judge people by their actions because that is what you see, but just remember... you never really know. God knows. We don't. I think it is a good reminder.

So I ended up liking the series. The characters were real and noble. I probably would wait to let students read the series until at least middle school.

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Saturday, February 09, 2013

Here I Raise My Ebenezer Part 2: The Still Pool

(Part 1 here.)

I thank God we have the resources to homeschool.  Over the years, we have met families that do not.  A lot of families make large sacrifices in order to homeschool, but sometimes even then it is not possible. Dads leave.  Moms get sick.  Families lose their homes.  

The Lord has always provided for us through the Warrior Poet's employment, help from family and bartering arrangements with friends.  It does not necessarily look like what we call education nowadays, but I have seen the girls grow through activities, reading and responsibility.  Even when our resource-pool is low (especially then?) learning takes place.
We are steadfast to the affinities we take hold of, till death do us part, or longer. And here let me say a word as to the 'advantages' (?) which London offers in the way of masters and special classes. I think it is most often the still pool which the angel comes down to trouble: a steady unruffled course of work without so-called advantages lends itself best to that 'troubling' of the angel––the striking upon us of what Coleridge calls 'the Captain Idea,' which initiates a tie of affinity. (CM Series Vol. 3 pg. 212)
Affinity.  In chemistry, it describes two dissimilar chemicals that are capable of forming compounds.  In literary terms, affinity is a spontaneous or natural attraction of one thing for another.  I want the girls developing beautiful, right affinities.  It cannot be forced.

I strain to gather every thing and every thought I can reach for the growth of my girls.  But often they need me to step aside.  If I stir the soil too much, the seedlings will not grow.  It is difficult as a mother to stand aside and watch, knowing I have the power to act, but that my acting on these things and thoughts will not strengthen the will of my child toward good things.  She has to act on them.

I often think I know what the girls need yet feel powerless to provide it.  And yet they grow.  The Lord is faithful.  He loves us and knows what we need.  The still pool, a steady, unruffled course of work: fewer activities, much reading but not many books, a quiet growing time at home, talk, discussion, rough edges smoothed out by constant contact with loved ones that are so precious and yet so irritating at times.

I am in the middle of raising these girls.  One of them moved out this Christmas.  She is not far away, but she is not here.  We no longer kiss good-night every evening and hug every morning.  It takes so long and goes so fast.  But I am in the middle.  Two more girls await my kisses and hugs each day.  They need much instruction and are so beautiful.  What will the future hold for these three?  I want to know, but oh! only the Lord has that knowledge.

In my vanity, I am sure I could do better if only I saw deep into the future.  No, Katie.  That is not right.

So I am in the middle.  Here I raise my Ebenezer.  I have made it this far by the grace of God.  Lord, grant us wisdom to discern beauty.  Teach our hands to help.  Teach our hearts to love what is good.  Teach our feets to walk with You.  So many ways we can squander time and live low.  Help us choose what's right, even if it's not what we want.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Teeth-Pulling Narration

This is the one where you finish reading and the student is not sure where to start, so you throw out a keyword and the student gives a short sentence answer, you throw out another keyword, she gives a short answer, etc.... at my house, this student is in danger of being handed the book to study alone and then write a narration, having forfeited the privilege of oral narration through lack of attention.

Someone should write a narration field guide. :)