Homeschooling Agendas

April 18, 2013 at 10:11 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Lessons LearnedTitle: Lessons Learned

Author: Andrea Schwartz

Genre: Homeschooling, Education, Christianity

I have mixed feelings about this book.  On one hand everything she said I agree with.  On the other hand, the way she said it often made me cringe and think of severely right-winged “Jesus-freaks.”  The DC Talk fan in me thinks Andrea Schwartz shouldn’t and wouldn’t mind being called that.  The fellow Christian in me tells me it’s a little unfair to call her that when I agree with her points and conclusions.  The public-school educated child wants to scratch my eyes out and scream, “Really!? Did you have to use the phrase God-hater that way?”

Homeschooling for many is merely an educational choice… the public school system is broken and parents no longer feel comfortable counting on the state to properly equip their child with the realities of the world.  Children are being herded from class to class like cattle.  Fine teachers are being stretched too thin and don’t have the time, energy, or resources to give each student the educational nurturing they deserve.  Everything has become about teaching a test, obeying dress codes, and keeping everyone happy and supposedly safe, rather than about creating an environment of true scholarship.

For others, and possibly what it is misguidedly known for… it’s for freaks who don’t get along with the rest of society.  Potential crazies, kids that don’t groom properly, weirdos… I hope that stigma can be put to rest as I found just as many people who fit this description in public school as I did outside of it.  If your parents are socially awkward you will probably have a lot of socially awkward tendencies whether you spend 8 hours a day with them or without them.  I went to public school my whole life and I will totally admit to being a little bit strange.  I live inside my head a lot, and there are plenty of social cues that I completely miss.  Some kids I’ve seen were far more socially awkward under the pressures of a school environment where they are forced to try to fit in with a thousand people their own age, when in the real world they get along better in a more diverse setting where they are not expected to be like everyone else.

Then, there’s the other group, the Religious group… For many parents, choosing to homeschool your child is a calling from God.  We have been given this precious child to train up in the ways they should go and we want to ensure that we do that the best we can every step of the way.  Submitting them to 8 hours of frustration, government indoctrination, and poor education is not high on the list of things we believe God wants for our children.

In our household, we’re one and three.  Yes, I believe passionately about being good stewards of our minds.  I desire to eagerly pursue all the most riveting aspects of educating my daughter that I can.  I am completely caught up in the idea of combining a classical styled education with a tiny twinge of unschooling so that my kid gets the most thorough and engaging education available… custom tailored to her little brain and the way it works.  I want to give her the education I didn’t get.  I want her start out ahead in life, prepared for anything!  But I also believe this passion for education was given to me by God.  I believe that it is God who calls us to be good stewards of our minds.  I believe that having the freedom to not be politically correct in our studies and studying from the Bible throughout our day will only prepare her more, provide her with a firmer foundation.

Andrea Schwartz comes off as believing God first and education second.  I believe that to be an honorable and good philosophy.  But I believe that by putting God first, your education will be enhanced, not placed on the back burner as some would suppose.  How fascinating will it be to read the Bible, Augustine’s Confessions, and Homer during our Ancient History studies… I can’t wait.

Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer explain this all best in The Well Trained Mind:

“People of faith have influenced history at every turn. Until the student is willing to examine honestly and soberly the claims of relivion in the history of mankind, this study will be incomplete.

In the effort to offend none, the public schools have managed to offend practically everyone – either by leaving religion and ethics out of curricula altogether or by teaching them in a way that satisfies neither believers nor skeptics.  In sympathy, we’ll say that the public schools are in an impossible situation.  They are legally bound to avoid the appearance of promoting one religion over another.  And in a mixed classroom, how can you take one religion seriously without antagonizing those who don’t share it? […]

When you’re instructing your own child, you have two tasks with regard to religion: to teach your own convictions with honesty and diligence, and to study the ways in which other faiths have changed the human landscape.”

Susan Wise Bauer and her mother then spell out very elegantly how to do this: including religious works in the study of primary sources, researching the beliefs of all the major faiths, seek out biographies of those who have changed others’ belief systems, and keep a watchful eye for any logical fallacies, chronological snobbery, and so on.

I am a huge Susan Wise Bauer fan, her books are what I am using to map my own child’s education.  I recommend Susan Wise Bauer for any homeschooling parent of any religion.

As for Andrea Schwartz… her stuff is really great if you are a Christian parent who homeschools or is thinking of homeschooling.  I have a huge problem with her description of her son’s experiences in community college, they seem unusually extreme.  But then again, I live in Texas and they are in California, a lot changes culturally from state to state.  Regardless of the fact that her complaints about public school differ from my own, Schwartz reminds you to stay the course and remember the number one goal of making a disciple of your child, a well-educated disciple, but a disciple none-the-less.  We are not just teaching our children their math, science, and history.  We are not just teaching our children the pleasure of research and reading.  We are not just teaching our children how to learn.  We are teaching our children how to live, how to walk wisely, and how to make logical choices while still keeping the faith.

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A Life With Poetry

March 10, 2013 at 7:33 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

calvertTitle: God’s Love Spiritual Liberation through the Emancipation of Virtue

Author: Calvert Tynes

Genre: Poetry/ Religion

Let me premise by saying I don’t review a lot of poetry.  I actually didn’t read a lot of poetry outside of what was required of me for school and pieces my friends wrote until my daughter was born.  It was then, rocking a sleepy baby back and forth in a glider, that I really started to enjoy the genre in its full capacity.  Kiddo and I spent a whole year reading Edna St. Vincent Millay and it was very comforting.

Calvert Tynes is not comforting.  He’s raw, but not in a crass way or anything.  Tynes’ poetry has very few soft rhythms, instead I imagine his work being best presented in person in a performance setting. There are a few kids at the Poetry Nights in Humble that could read some of these pieces and rock an audience’s socks off with them… I’m not so talented and my kid asked me to hush when I tried to read this to her.  So though my kiddo didn’t much care for the book, she’s two and there are some things she just doesn’t have a say in right now, whether or not Calvert Tynes is a good poet is one of them.

God’s Love is indeed a testament to the love Tynes has found in Christ, but from where I’m sitting it reads more like a memoir than a spiritual guide.  I’m probably biased in saying this, as I’ve never been a fan of things with pictures of Jesus on them…  probably a narcissistic issue after the emotional damage of drawing the worst stick figure of Jesus ever on my leather bible when I was seven and getting in a lot of trouble over it; I wasn’t upset I was in trouble so much as I was upset that my mother couldn’t tell that my stick figure was my portrayal of Christ.  But still, knowing what I know about the crucifixion it seems a little grotesque to immortalize the moment in graven images.  For that reason, I was a little turned off by the front cover, although a lot of people I know would find it beautiful – it’s just me and I get that.  Tynes may have turned me off with the cover, but he won me over with his poems.

I particularly liked I See You, Love and Theodora.  Nope, I’m not going to print them here, you have to buy the book for that!  But I will share my favorite quote from I See You, Love:

“If your love was land, then I am its sea,/because your love exemplifies/ the completion of me.”

Of course I adore the sappiest line in the whole book… of course.

I also adore how God is clearly a part of every aspect of Tynes life, but I think this book of poetry (if true) is as much about Tynes as it is about God.   In my perfect book world,  the front cover should reflect that in some way.  The thing I’m finding I love about poetry, that you don’t always get with fiction, is how autobiographical a writer’s book of poems can be.  Poetry is so personal.  Especially touching are Tynes pieces on fatherhood and the stories he shares about his children, something I’m not sure I could have appreciated as much three years ago.

In God’s Love Tynes shares a full life with God, a full life with poetry, and well, a really full life.  He has a lot to offer the world and I’m glad I have a little piece of that offering in my library.

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A Day with the Glass Family

December 21, 2012 at 4:05 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

zooey_tTitle: Franny and Zooey

Author: J.D. Salinger

As much as I disliked Catcher in the Rye, I loved Franny and Zooey.  Apparently a short story combined with an intertwining novella, it reads like a full length novel just fine, and it’s pretty intriguing, unlike Salinger’s more famous work CitR.

Franny and Zooey are the youngest children of the rather large Glass family, and the baby (Franny) starts the book off as a twenty year old histrionic having a bit of a meltdown while out to eat with her boyfriend.  Her brother, Zooey, spends a large portion of his story in the bath tub talking to his intrusive mother about the meltdown that has migrated to the family’s living room.

Surprised that Zooey is a boy? I was.  Apparently it used to be used as a nick name for Zachary and Zachariah.  I spent all of Franny wondering how this mysterious Zooey was going to fit into the story, which at that point revolved around a girl freaking out about Bohemians and Academia the way people in their mid to late twenties today lament the so-called Hipsters.   There’s not much of a plot, more of a theme of self-discovery, religion, and philosophy, and what that all really means.  But I like that sort of thing, and I loved Zooey and his smart ass attitude.

It was actually pretty cold today, completely out of nowhere, so the kiddo and I spent most the day snuggled up and bundled in sweaters while reading and writing.  Basically, the perfect recipe for reading a quick book like Franny and Zooey between lunches and writing sessions and nap times.  I picked it up around noon and after reading tidbits here and there all day, finally wrapped it up around kiddo’s bed time.  I like having books like that around, especially as I finish up my year round Les Miserables Read-A-Long.  It is the kind of book I hope to publish a few of here and there before I die, not in topic and theme, but in mood.  I like getting to know characters in a specific moment of their life, like Virgina Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.

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Gibb’s Christians…

January 3, 2011 at 1:56 am (Reviews) (, , , , )

I promised myself I would write more complete reviews this year, keep my blog updated and all that, but after reading Edward Gibb’s Christians and the Fall of Rome I just don’t have a lot to say.  I got tired reading it.  Despite its short hundred pages I found it difficult to focus on the topic.  Gibb spent a lot of the essay comparing Christianity to various mythologies and its a good thing to read and be familiar with differing viewpoints, but I found his writing style tiring and without passion.  So I just didn’t care.  I will have to re-read it with Ayla when we study the history of Christianity as well as when we cover the Greek and Roman Empire, but I’ll need a good solid pot of coffee in my system to do so.  I suppose that’s my review…

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Reason for the Season?

December 24, 2010 at 6:13 pm (In So Many Words, The Whim) (, , , , , )

I’m not a big fan of Christmas.  I hate the consumerism, I hate the blow up creepy Santa Clause’s in people’s yards.  Oh, also, I’m a Christian. That being said,

Nothing chaps my hide more than hearing fellow Christians tell me: “Remember the reason for the season!”

The reason for the season, if they looked a bit closer into history was to help aid in the conversion of pagans who already celebrated December 25th, Yule, Mother’s Night, Winter Solstice (whatever you wish to call it) with carnivals, gifts, food, and lots of hooplala.  The theory was to keep the month of partying and give the holiday Christian symbolism  so that they would not feel such a loss of fun when they converted.

For instance, mistletoe was a plant collected by Druids to ward off witch craft and protect the carrier, pretty much an all around healer.  Now, we use it as an excuse to kiss people in doorways.  Either way, it has nothing to do with Christianity and everything to do with “Christmas” or Winter Solstice Celebrations.

Now, with all that being said, I don’t mind that Christians today use it to celebrate the birth of Christ.  I think the birth of Christ should be celebrated.  But don’t tell me to remember the reason for the season when the season existed long before this particular reason.  If you want to celebrate the birth of Christ without the consumerism and drunken partying – don’t overlap it on a holiday that was created thousands of years ago for that exact purpose.  Pick a different day and celebrate it with all your reasons in tact and no distractions.

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All this Easter business

April 8, 2010 at 10:16 pm (The Whim) (, , , , )

This is an ode to Interested, as this post is actually a comment I made on her blog. I wanted to share it with my personal readers.

As a Christian who some people would call “religious” I have to say: I don’t think Easter should be the most celebrated Christian holiday.

Celebrating the Resurrection is quite different (in my book) from celebrating Easter. Easter, by name, is a celebration of the Spring Equinox.

The ancient Saxons in Northern Europe worshiped the Goddess Oestre at the time of the Spring Equinox. The Goddess Easter represents the sunrise, spring-time and fertility, the renewal of life. Pagan Anglo-Saxons made offerings of colored eggs to her at the Vernal Equinox, putting them at graves. Some people believe that the Egyptians and Greeks did this as well.

“Christians” used the name later and morphed their religion onto a pagan celebration so that new converts wouldn’t find the transition intimidating… and/or new “converts” kept celebrating their old traditions because rather than actually converting they added Jesus to one of the many gods they already worshiped. (I’ve seen the history written both ways, and both is equally believable.)

I would never prohibit a child from attending an Easter Egg hunt, because its now a fun tradition that many people participate in – but I also will never tell my kid that its an important Christian holiday or make up any kind of “Christian” symbolism about the eggs. In my book, the Resurrection celebration and the Easter celebration should be considered separate holidays, but they have been merged for so long people can’t remember the difference

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What’s Up With Those Templars?

February 15, 2010 at 9:41 pm (Reviews, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , )

So in Fall of 2009 I started a discussion thread in my book club about The Templars and Freemasons, and all those other secret societies that seem to have become lumped into one cohesive thought over that last few hundred years. I thought it would be fun and interesting (not unlike the Darwin study I’ve been doing lately). No one joined me.

My Book List was to Include:

Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco (fiction)

The Holy Bible – I am still using the Archaeological Study Bible put out by Zondervan (religion) as well as another version called ESV.

The Masonic Ritual or Guide to the Three Symbolic Degrees of the Ancient York Rite – Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons at San Antonio, Texas (religion/secret societies/ Freemasons/ occult)

Adoptive Rite Ritual of the Order of the Eastern Star together with the Queen of the South – arranged by Robert Macoy (religion/secret societies/Freemasons/ occult)

The Amaranth – Robert Macoy (religion/secret societies/ Freemasons/ occult)

The Templars – Piers Paul Read (history/religion/secret societies/ Freemasons/ occult)

The Meaning of Masonry – W. L. Wilmshurst (religion/ secret societies/ Freemasons/ occult)

Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott – (fiction / literature)

also for fun…
The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown (fiction/ mystery)
The Pickwick Papers – Charles Dickens (fiction/ literature)

Out of those, I read Foucault’s Pendulum (which was brilliant, as are all things Umberto Eco) and I just finished the book by Piers Paul Read.

Why did it take so long?

Piers Paul Read has an extensive history that spans three or so centuries – parts are fascinating and I couldn’t put the book down, and other parts were dull and I couldn’t wait to put the book down. What I discovered upon completion of the book, though, is that I was just being made more and more aware of how many interesting people there are in history that I should be reading biographies on! Eleanor of Aquitaine is mentioned a bit right around page 140 or so… There’s a picture of Richard the Lionheart in battle featured in the ‘centerfold’ pictures. I should know more about these people who are so well known among historians that every day people recognize their names too. Its not enough for me to recognize them – I want to KNOW them.

I noticed too that I tended to plod slowly through this book (and this topic in general) because it seems to create more questions than it answers. There is so much documentation of so many conflicting ideas. Were the knights actually crusaders for Christ? Were their actions even remotely compatible with the teachings of Jesus? Or, were they really devil worshipers like so many throughout history convicted them of being? Can the documented confessions be trusted? Or was it all just a a little too similar to events such as the Salem Witch Hunts?

The discussion thread for the book club is still open – join and add your thoughts there:

Or, just tell me your opinion below. Also, if you’ve read something interesting on the Templars or the Freemasons, share the book and your review of it as a comment. I plan to continue my studies on the topic.

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Intelligent Design: More Than a Bandwagon

February 3, 2010 at 10:05 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

A Review of Michael J. Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box

I thoroughly enjoyed Behe’s well-crafted and easy-to-understand argument against Darwinian “science.”  I found Biology fascinating when I was in school, and this has sparked some of that forgotten love for studying things under the microscope.  I would like more Darwinist groups to actually give this book the time it deserves rather than casting it aside because they think its a soap-box for Creationists.  Behe clearly states that he is NOT a Creationist at the beginning of the book – put your pride aside and see what he has to say about his research before you judge his viewpoint.

Purchase Behe Books Here

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Origins and Thoughts, and Original Thoughts

January 19, 2010 at 5:44 am (JARS, Reviews, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

My thoughts on Irving Stone’s The Origin so far… (I’m on Book Ten)

Irving Stone presents a very cheerful, almost carefree, narrative of Darwin’s life. Friendships are dwelt upon, discoveries are glorified, and opposition breezed over. Even the death of Charles and Emma’s third child is skipped over with a mere page and a half of detail.

Despite being an enjoyable novel, its astonishing how much humanity is lacking in the description – it has the feel of a 1950’s family sitcom, Leave It to Beaver meets the Darwin family in Victorian England.

I like Irving Stone’s version of things, however. It gives a detailed time line of publications and events. Its a good source to use as an introduction to the study of evolution: names, dates, and important essays, journals and other writings are handed to you chronologically on a silver platter so that you can jot them down and do additional research afterward.

The book is quite clever, actually, sidestepping every controversy and smiling noncommittally.

“They established a routine in which everyone fitted harmoniously,” (from book nine: the Whole Life) seems to be the theme of the book, rather than the development of the theory of evolution. It is full of lines like: “The Manuscript on Volcanic Islands moved along felicitously.” Even through his many illnesses and the death of his two daughters, Charles Darwin seems to have led a very charmed life.

I discussed all this with a member the physical JARS book club, and she pointed out something important that I failed to notice: this is exactly the way a man of the Victorian Age would want his biography written. The Victorian era was a time when the upper class mastered the art of smiling and pretending everything was fine, introducing what my friend described as “that very British attitude of ‘Get Over It and Move On.’ ”

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