Our November Reads

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Where has this last month gone? For that matter, the year. Without even trying it seems our days have been filled with a flurry of activity; pulling our time in several directions and leaving us in awe of our many adventures. Before we prepare to fully immerse ourselves in Christmas cheer, we want to take a quick moment to peruse the few reads we included in our monthly routine.

We’ve broken down our list into categories and included our personal rating from zero to five stars. To read more about a particular book, simply click the title!

Learning Resources:

  • The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for The World’s Most Adventurous Kid (Dylan Thuras & Rosemary Mosco) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️- Created by the same team behind Atlas Obscura, the #1 New York Times bestseller that has over 600,000 copies in print in its first year, The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid is a thrillingly imaginative expedition to 100 weird-but-true places on earth.

General Reading:

  • Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say (Kelly Corrigan) ⭐️⭐️⭐️– In channeling the characteristically streetwise, ever-relatable voice that has defined Corrigan’s work, Tell Me More is a meaningful, touching take on the power of the right words at the right moment to change everything.
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Susan Cain) ⭐️⭐️⭐️ In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. 
  • The Final Curtain (Ray Comfort) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – “How could any successful, famous person who is rolling in money and who is surrounded by adoring fans be depressed? Happiness comes from what happens to us, and if good things are happening, we should be happy. So why the depression? That is the question that they and we ask ourselves. Why?” If you are suffering from depression or know someone who is, this book can help you find hope.

How are we rating these reads? Good question! If the book has a five, whether learning or for fun, it’s clean and we want it on our bookshelf permanently. Four stars are sorely tempting us, but as our local library carries them we’re in luck. Three stars are worth a look, but we don’t see ourselves reading them too often. Two stars were entertaining, but once was enough. One star was acceptable. And zero. Well, it’s zero.

What to be on the lookout for… 

  • The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide is a fantastic book. The illustrations are lovely, and our children enjoyed learning about fascinating places around the world we don’t often hear about. We were so blessed to receive this book.
  •  The FInal Curtain is an amazing read, and one I highly recommend. It’s fitting for young adults and anyone who looking for a way to minister to people battling clinical depression. 
  • The other two reads were personal selections for myself. I found both topics intriguing and am pleased with my choices. 

Well, this month’s list is short but sweet. Between learning adventures, outings, and a holiday, we spent more time with personal reading than we did on group selections. No problem with that! In December, we’ll be taking a break from our regularly scheduled book list in order to fully enjoy the Christmas holiday! Be sure to check back here in January as we share another round of fabulous, and sometimes not so fabulous, reads.

We’re curious… How many Christmas books does your family currently own?

“I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.”
~ Psalm 101:3

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Who Has Time for a Sick Day?

Who_Has_Time_for_a_Sick_Day?It got me. I’ve been skillfully avoiding it for the last few weeks, and lacking all subtlety the dreaded virus finally caught up with me. I am now under the weather. Strictly speaking, sick. Doesn’t this ill-timed disease understand I don’t have time for this? I’m a mom. I’m a homeschooling mom. I’m a mom with way too much on my plate to become even the slightest bit tired much less down for the count. I can’t take a sick day. Who has time for a sick day?

Dramatics aside, how does being sick affect our learning routine? It’s one thing for one of my children to be sick. Mom can attend to their needs while keeping the remainder of our household intact. But when I get sick almost everything stops. As we can’t afford to keep this up for too long, I need a plan of attack:

Just How Sick Am I? I might not be feeling at top shape, however this doesn’t mean I’m necessarily bedridden for the day either. The minute I start feeling sick, I try to take an assessment of how bad this might get and act accordingly. The worst thing I can do is push myself too hard when I really need rest. Neither do I wish to take a day off when all I really needed was a little peppermint oil and a cup of tea.

Prayer First The Lord knows what I need and how to tackle this issue. Before I allow my mind to wander into unhealthy thinking or worry, I ask the Lord to comfort my heart and give me peace about how this day is going to go. Of course, asking for the Lord to heal me instantly isn’t unfathomable. It doesn’t usually happen, but why not ask?

Slow & Steady Because I have issues with not going through with my day as planned, I generally try to get as much done as I can while avoiding the fact that I am truly sick. (Ridiculous, I know.) My brilliant strategy? Do things slowly and with care, then I won’t over-tire myself and I will still feel accomplished. This usually works until my body rebels and I’m flat on my back resting.

Eating Myself to Wellness When I’m sick the last thing I want to do is eat. However, to maintain strength and fight off illness, I make an attempt at eating that which will bolster my system. My husband’s cure for just about everything is chicken noodle soup. Before you laugh, that stuff rocks. (The homemade kind. Avoid the cans if at all possible.) I also make sure to increase the amount of dark greens I’m eating, avoid caffeine, and intake as many liquids as possible.

Rest & Relaxation The hardest thing of all to do, yet the most needed. Everywhere I look I see things which need to get done. Things I had planned to do. But if I plan to get up and do those things tomorrow – without falling on my face – I need to get some rest. It’s time to make this a fun “sick day” event by pulling out the couch, letting the kids pick their favorite flicks, and allowing the teenagers to play doctor. Hard, right? Yeah, I know.

I don’t often get sick. When I do I usually am back to normal within twenty-four hours. I seem to have a remarkably strong immune system. I am truly blessed. Perhaps this is why it always surprises me on those odd occasions when I manage to contract something or other. By the time you read this post, I’m sure I’ll be back to full speed and laughing over my silliness. Until then… I really dislike being sick.

While I overstate my case for the sake of humor, I truly feel for those moms who are dealing with illnesses infinitely more difficult than mine. Feeling sluggish and slightly light-headed is nothing in comparison to parents who are truly ill. My heart goes out to you. May the Lord be your strength, comfort, and Healer.

We’d like to know… What is your plan of attack for sick days?

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases”
~ Psalm 103:2-3

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10 Life Lessons from Generation Joshua and SAT’s

ten_life_lessons_from_genjNow I know November has all but come and gone, but before the title of this post sends anyone into a panic, please allow me to put your mind to rest. This month held a lot of amazing life lessons but taking college SAT’s was not one of them. No, our little family had the opportunity and blessing of attending our first Generation Joshua Student Action Team event, and we can’t stop talking about it!

Generation Joshua is an American Christian youth organization founded in 2003 that aims to encourage young people to learn about and become involved in government, history, civics, and politics. During election months throughout the year students and their parents have the opportunity to volunteer around the United States on Student Action Teams, encouraging people to get out and vote.

Earlier this month, the girls and I spent five long days working with a local campaign alongside many other homeschooling families. Days were spent running around town, knocking on doors; while evenings were spent making thousands of phone calls. It was crazy, busy, and absolutely amazing. Through it all we learned a few life lessons.

The Fruit of the Spirit Is… – There is nothing like faith in action to give you first-hand knowledge of spiritual fruit. We quickly learned the value of patience, as waiting for the right moment to move and for everyone to be ready plays a big part in election season. We learned to be joyful in harsh circumstances. Kind toward those who would abuse us. And so much more. Our week-long experience put Scripture into action, and we learned so much.

Everyone Has Limits – We had a perfect plan set in place. Then reality hit. Some of us could not run as much as others; eating lunch mid-day proved to be problematic as we got tired afterwards; and bedtime became a serious need. Our team learned to identify our own weaknesses, and then set about a plan to strengthen the group. Our limits didn’t prevent us from reaching our goals, but it did teach us to rethink how we would accomplish them.

My Kids Far Exceed My Expectations – My children never cease to amaze me. While I think they do fairly well on a day-to-day basis, there’s nothing quite like a stressful situation to bring out the worst and the best in someone. Through this event the Lord allowed me to see my children’s gift of communication, their kindness, their teamwork, and their dedication to a task. There were a few tough moments, but overall they did exceptionally well and I’ve learned not to discount their abilities.

My Children Don’t Always Need My Help – Confession. New situations tend to make me anxious. When my children are in new circumstances, I tend to over-instruct or hover. It’s true. Student Action Teams depended on trust. Trust in my children making wise decisions, sticking together, and working smarter not harder. Trust that the Lord would protect each of us while out doing the work assigned. While I don’t know that new situations will ever make me feel entirely comfortable, SAT’s were an eye opener. My kids can do so much more than I am ready for.

Competition Can Be a Powerful Motivator – Our Generation Joshua team was divided into six smaller teams, each with its own vehicle, navigation tools, and assignments. At the end of each day, teams would meet up to compare notes and see who had reached the highest goal. All in good fun, and for the benefit of our candidate, our teams quickly caught the spirit of competition; determined to reach more people than any other team. It was amazing to see these children so motivated and ready to do a good work.

We’re Most Productive When Inspired – I’ve noticed a trend in our home. When I push and cajole, my children are likely to lose interest. Quickly. On the other hand, when I am excited – when their friends are excited – the desire to move forward comes from within them and work happens naturally. It was a blessing to see our children be inspired to action and for them to care so deeply about the person they were representing.

Everyone Has a Part to Play… – But not often the same role. We would have done far worse had we all tried to do everything. Early on, we learned to appreciate each person’s unique gifts and put them to use. Some of us were awesome runners, others were fantastic navigators. We each played a vital role, but in different capacities.

Every Little Bit Helps – We can too often get caught up in serving only when it seems we will make a big impact. But who’s to say what is big? Those delivering food to call rooms were equally important to those answering phones. As were those who emptied the trash, cleaned the tables, and filled our gas tanks. Our children leaned the value in doing the smallest of jobs, and how even little things help in the biggest of ways.

God Is Ultimately in Control – Once more we were reminded that while we may lend a hand, God does the work. We might be momentarily frustrated with how some of the elections are turning but we trust He is in control.

We Loved It! – Student Action Teams are a lot of work. I won’t lie to you. But, it was an incredible blessing. We loved being there, lending a hand, meeting new people, and serving the Lord. When people ask if we would do it again, our response is an easy, “Absolutely!”

Unfortunately, November has almost come and gone. However, we’re soaking up the last few days of the month and rejoicing in the coming holiday season. While enjoying our turkey and cranberry sauce, I’m sure we’ll all be fondly remembering the blessing of serving with local homeschool friends and sharing moments of thanks for the Lord’s blessing during our trip. We learned so much, and give God the glory for each moment of our adventure.

We’re curious… Have you ever joined a Generation Joshua SAT, or something similar? We’d love to hear all about it!

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”
~ I Peter 2:13-15

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When Our Children’s Learning Styles Differ From Our Teaching

when_our_children's_learning_differs_from_our_teaching

Let’s face it. It can be hard work determining how our children learn best. We struggle to understand which method fits their needs, we research endlessly the resources needed to best help them learn, and we readjust continually for their growing minds. But what about you, the teacher? What happens when how your children learn is completely foreign and you’re both struggling to make your adventure in learning work?

I wish – Oh, how I wish – all my children learned in the same way. It would have made life so much easier. But God, in His infinite goodness and wisdom, made each of my kids unique. They all learn differently, are motivated by different things, and tackle the adventure of life in their own way. As if that isn’t crazy enough, then you throw in a mom who also has her own individual style of learning and teaching; some of which is a throwback from her days in public education. You can imagine how much fun school must be in our home.

Truthfully, it is a blast. It isn’t always easy, but over the years the Lord has shown us ways to make this work. It all starts and ends with Him.

Prayer – If I plan to do this all by my own efforts, I can plan to fail. It’s hard enough to manage myself, much less an entire household. Prayer brings me before the Lord, asking what He wants of their education and how I can go about the work He wants to do in my children.

Understanding – I am persuaded that while I could force my children to adjust to my way of doing things, in the long run I might be doing more damage than good. Instead, I want to pay attention and have a heart willing to adjust according to everyone’s needs.

Communication – When our children were little they tended to simply follow my lead. As they’ve matured, we’ve learned to discuss studies as a family. Our children are free to ask why things are done a certain way, suggest possible changes to their learning, and at times even determine which courses we will be studying next. We allow them to help chart the course, with the understanding that we have final authority and all things must be led by the Lord.

Meeting Half Way – Four kids. Four learning styles. And a mom who sometimes gets stuck in her ways. Sometimes. How do we make this work? We find a middle ground. There are areas of study the kids do on their own, in their own unique way. Other lessons are done as a family, with consideration given to everyone present. Some courses are more of a struggle than others. It is in these moments character development plays a role in their education. We learn humility, grace, patience, understanding, and long-suffering towards one another. We seek the good of each, knowing at times how we want to do things must be put to the wayside for the best of those we love.

Research, Research, Research – Sometimes in order for my children to learn, I need to re-learn. And re-learn again. I understand the concept being taught, but how will my child best grasp what is being given? So I learn various ways to teach the same subject, and can frequently be found studying my children’s textbooks in anticipation of questions they might have regarding the material.  This often takes a bit of time, as well as some trial-and-error, but it is well worth the effort.

Getting Out of the Comfort Zone – I like being comfortable, don’t you? It seems I am in the wrong place. Parenting and homeschooling are not a comfort zone. This life will stretch us beyond anything we could imagine. But, it is making us into something beautiful. I find the Lord makes a practice of shaking up my routine and my misconceptions about my limits. All of this is done not to frustrate and hurt me, but to give us a better understanding of the world He has created and to keep us always relying on Him. Comfortable is nice, for a time, but it is not a place to remain.

Faith, Trust, and… – When the Lord has called us to a work, He will be faithful to complete it. God called us to parenting. He called us to homeschool. So we pray minute-by-minute and faithfully do what He has asked; knowing at the end of all things He is in control.

Yes, it would have been easier if I had four children who all learned the same way. My way. But it would not be as lovely or as special. Through each of our children’s educational adventures we have been shown a world of beauty and joy. Each unique learning path has brought its own benefits and growth. In them and in us. Through the grace of God we are learning, together. It is an inspired adventure which always keeps us on our toes.

We’re curious… Is there a subject you find difficult to teach?

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
~ Philippians 1:6

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Is My Dream Dangerous?

is_my_dream_dangerousJust like Mr. Martin Luther King Jr., I too have a dream. It might not seem as grand as his. No one but me and God might know it exists. But it’s there. Deeply rooted in who I am, extending to every fiber of my being. My dream is a beautiful one, but potentially dangerous. For my dream, like all dreams, is not reality. And if I’m not careful, my unfulfilled dream can quickly cause a great deal of trouble.

The dream is me always smiling. I stand in my kitchen watching over my children while we homeschool happily. I am always dressed to perfection, and own a spectacular apron which personifies the glory of homemaking. There are fresh-baked cookies in the oven ready for my family to devour. We get through our lessons with little fuss, anxious to continue exploring. We play games together, cook together, and we are constantly encouraging each other.

The reality is I don’t smile as much as I probably could, or should. While I’m usually with my kiddos, there are some schools days which have us all pulling our hair out. The apron I do own is usually forgotten, and my clothes are evidence of this fact. Lessons don’t always work as planned. Particular subjects are a challenge to the day. We’re all craving cookies, but mom is on a ridiculously tight budget and can’t find five minutes to bake, even if she could find chocolate chips in the cupboard. By the time we’re done schooling, we’re all needing a few moments of space and relaxation.

While I jest, and over-exaggerate just a tad, there is nothing wrong with the dream. We all need something to aspire to. Nor is there anything horrible in our reality. We all have hard days. The danger lies in my inability to separate what I’d like to be from what God calls me to be. God is not asking me to be what anyone else thinks I ought to look like; not even myself. God calls me to be faithful.

There are days I get lost in the dream. This isn’t the life I imagined! Why can’t I seem to be the mom I want to be? Why isn’t our homeschool day as I envisioned? My day is so clouded by my dream, I fail to see the beauty in my reality. No, the day isn’t perfect, but it is mine and it is a joy. If only I would look past what I wanted and see how God has blessed.

I am sure there is a dream in each of us. A dream of what type of parent we want to be; what our marriages would look like; and how our homeschooling year would flow. Our dreams are special, ideals we are reaching towards. But in the struggle to obtain, let us rejoice in the reality in which we live.

We’re curious… What was beautiful about your day?

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”
~ I Timothy 6:6-7

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The Importance of Asking Questions

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“My mother made me a scientist without ever intending to. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: “So did you learn anything today?” But not my mother, “Izzy,” she would say, “did you ask a good question today?” That difference – asking good questions – made me become a scientist.”

Isidor Rabi

I’m a firm believer in never letting go of our love of learning. Even as adults, we ought to continue increasing in wisdom. But while some might think learning is merely a matter of intaking knowledge, learning is also the asking of great questions.

One of the many reasons I love our pastors at church is their openness. They are willing to admit they don’t know everything and are constantly encouraging us to test everything we hear against Scripture. Why is this important? We aren’t to simply intake information, accepting it for truth; we are to search truth out and verify what aligns with God’s Word, not man’s.

Shouldn’t all learning be this way? When learning anything new, we ought to break it down to the innermost parts. We ought to weigh the arguments being made, turning them inside and out. Everything we hear, read, and see should be carefully considered and thought over; weighed against God’s Word.

Some parents are afraid of their kids’ questions, especially those about their faith. However, there is no need for fear. It is okay to ask questions. It is good to ask questions! There is no question too big for God; He knows them all and their answers.

Let me be clear, I do not believe in teaching our children to be skeptics; they need to trust our word and what we share with them. But we also want them to be inquisitive and examine the world around them. It’s also important to note: not all questions are because you doubt what is being learned, but because you are attempting to build an argument for why something is true.

In our home, our children understand they are welcome to ask us anything. They are able to question our beliefs and ask why we believe what we believe. By asking these questions of us, in the comfort of a loving family, they are able to have their questions answered fully and truthfully. We are laying a foundation for all the learning to come and the questions they will receive from the world around them.

If we don’t ask questions of our children and encourage them to ask in return, how are we preparing them for the world outside our front doors? We need to learn not only to be open to questions, but welcoming. Wisdom and knowledge have been gained through many a good question. Why not start asking more today?

“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
~ Acts 17:11

We’re curious… How do you help your children determine the difference between asking a good question and just questioning authority?

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Children’s Books – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. But Mostly The Ugly.

My wife, thankfully, is a voracious reader. I say, “thankfully”, because someone has to vet all the literature our children read; and they read a lot. The thing is, there’s a lot of ugly stuff out there, and it’s produced by a secular entertainment industry which cares nothing for the well-being of children. All they care about is pushing the envelope in order to tantalize young minds. In the end, it’s all about appealing to the basest of human nature in order to sell a product whilst promoting a worldview untethered from moral restraints. What’s worse is that the entertainment industry is propped up by secular critics who, quite frankly, are shills for their material (whether for ideological or for pecuniary reasons).

Not all critics, however, are quick to embrace the trend toward dark children’s literature. Meghan Cox Gurdon has made the case more than once for “good taste in children’s books“. You can read her well-argued position at the Wall Street Journal. Her arguments are so good that I can’t improve on them, so I’ll simply quote her to give you an idea where she’s at.

Gurdon observes, “How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.

Some of her detractors have suggested that reading about such subjects does not lead one to participate in such things, to which she responds, “Reading about homicide doesn’t turn a man into a murderer; reading about cheating on exams won’t make a kid break the honor code. But the calculus that many parents make is less crude than that: It has to do with a child’s happiness, moral development and tenderness of heart. Entertainment does not merely gratify taste, after all, but creates it.

Gurdon also notes that an “argument in favor of such novels is that they validate the teen experience, giving voice to tortured adolescents who would otherwise be voiceless.” Gurdon responds to this by suggesting that “it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures.

When addressing the literary world’s view of this trend, Gurdon observes, “literary culture is not sympathetic to adults who object either to the words or storylines in young-adult books.” Gurdon goes on to share about an editor who “bemoaned the need, in order to get the book into schools, to strip expletives from Chris Lynch’s 2005 novel, ‘Inexcusable,’ which revolves around a thuggish jock and the rape he commits. ‘I don’t, as a rule, like to do this on young adult books,’ the editor grumbled … I don’t want to acknowledge those f—ing gatekeepers.’ By f—ing gatekeepers (the letter-writing editor spelled it out), she meant those who think it’s appropriate to guide what young people read. In the book trade, this is known as ‘banning.’ In the parenting trade, however, we call this ‘judgment’ or ‘taste.’ It is a dereliction of duty not to make distinctions in every other aspect of a young person’s life between more and less desirable options. Yet let a gatekeeper object to a book and the industry pulls up its petticoats and shrieks ‘censorship!’

In a recent Imprimis article (July/August 2013 issue) adapted from a speech given by Gurdon at Hillsdale College on March 12, 2013, she again shared about those on the secular Left who view her efforts as repressing freedom of expression. This objection is, of course, an hypocritical double-standard. In fact, Gurdon notes in her speech that such secularists “have their own list of books they claim are tinged with racism or jingoism or that depict [GASP!] traditional gender roles.” Gurdon’s larger point is that “the self-proclaimed anti-book-banners on the Left agree that books influence children,” insofar as they demonstrate this by preferring some books to others. This unavoidable elephant in the room is a damning indictment against irresponsible persons who would despoil children’s innocence by promoting an endless stream of material which presents nothing more than (if I can borrow from Dennis Prager) “a proctologist view” of the world.

Rather than continuing, I would invite you to search out Gurdon’s articles on the subject and read through them for yourselves. Allow me to share the ending words of her Hillsdale College speech:

Let me close with Saint Paul the Apostle in Philippians 4:8:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.

 And let us think about these words when we go shopping for books for our children.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

FG

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Our October Reads

 

our_october_readsOctober has come and gone. While we most assuredly made time for great literature, this month had us occupied with reading of a different sort. Political material! It made for many a fun conversation, and we all learned a great deal about what is going on in our state and country. In between discussions, events, and family gatherings you could find us in our respective corners digging into this month’s incredible reads.

We’ve broken down our list into categories and included our personal rating from zero to five stars. To read more about a particular book, simply click the title!

Learning Resources:

  • Walden (Henry David Thoreau) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️- A vivid account of the time that Henry D. Thoreau lived alone in a secluded cabin at Walden Pond. For the student and for the general reader, this is the ideal presentation of Thoreau’s great document of social criticism and dissent.
  • Narrative on the Life of Frederick Douglass (Frederick Douglass) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Frederick Douglass’s Narrative, first published in 1845, is an enlightening and incendiary text. Born into slavery, Douglass became the preeminent spokesman for his people during his life; his narrative is an unparalleled account of the dehumanizing effects of slavery and Douglass’s own triumph over it.
  • Historium (Richard Wilkinson and Jo Nelson) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️- There are more than 160 historical artifacts to be discovered in Welcome to the Museum: Historium. Wander the galleries of this museum whenever you wish—it’s open 365 days a year!—and discover a collection of curated objects on every page, accompanied by informative text. Each chapter features a different ancient civilization, from the Silla dynasty of Korea to ancient Rome.

Children’s Books:

  • Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems (J. Patrick Lewis & Douglas Florian) ⭐️⭐️⭐️- The U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate and an award-winning children’s poet join their prolific forces in this picture book of poems about cars. But they’re not just any cars…
  • The Night Gardener (The Fan Brothers) ⭐️⭐️⭐️- One day, William discovers that the tree outside his window has been sculpted into a wise owl. In the following days, more topiaries appear, and each one is more beautiful than the last. Soon, William’s gray little town is full of color and life. And though the mysterious night gardener disappears as suddenly as he appeared, William—and his town—are changed forever.
  • The Little Gardener (Emily Hughes) ⭐️⭐️- There was once a little gardener and his garden meant everything to him. He worked hard, very hard, but he was just too little (or at least he felt he was). A story that teaches us just how important it is to persist and try, no matter what the odds.
  • The Alphabet Primer Series (BabyLit Books) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️-

How are we rating these reads? Good question! If the book has a five, whether learning or for fun, it’s clean and we want it on our bookshelf permanently. Four stars are sorely tempting us, but as our local library carries them we’re in luck. Three stars are worth a look, but we don’t see ourselves reading them too often. Two stars were entertaining, but once was enough. One star was acceptable. And zero. Well, it’s zero.

What to be on the lookout for… 

  • Historium, part of the Welcome to the Museum Series, is fabulous. We’re in love with each of the books. The artwork is beautifully done, and the pages within offer hours of learning fun.
  • Our family likes to collect picture books. This month’s selections were a great deal of fun. The Night Gardener was incredibly sweet. The Alphabet Primers from BabyLit had us wishing we still had little ones. But we not going to let that stop us. A great many books from this series will more than likely find their way onto this mama’s bookshelf in the very near future.
  • Walden was a lovely surprise. We weren’t sure what to expect, and I didn’t know how much the kids would appreciate the essays within. Surprisingly my children loved it! They found the language beautiful and Thoreau’s descriptions and thoughts meaningful.

The weather is finally cooling down, and we’ve stocked up on ingredients for hot cocoa. This is the perfect weather for curling up with a good book and immersing ourselves in a story. Join us again during the month of November as we explore a world of books and the adventure of reading. What will we read next?

We’re curious… Do your literature selections tend to correspond to other areas of learning?

“I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.”
~ Psalm 101:3

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5 Practical Steps to Teaching Civics

5_practical_steps_to_teaching_civicsFor those of us in the US of A, mid-terms are upon us. And while we are all focused on fulfilling our civic duties and thanking the Lord for the incredible blessing which is this privilege, it is equally important that our children understanding civics goes beyond just voting. It starts with the attitude of hearts and manifests itself in the way we live life.

As educators there are a multitude of ways in which civics and government may be taught. A wealth of resources are available to us. But where do we begin? It starts with laying a solid foundation and is built with practical application.

Reading & Comprehension – When educators stress the importance of learning to read, we generally associate this with the intake of good literature. Our children read well so they can understand Shakespeare and other classics. However, reading skills are essential to all areas of life. Civics is no exception. Anyone who has ever attempted to breakdown the wording of a proposition or muddle through the jargon put out by politicians understands knowing how to read well and comprehend what is being presented is paramount.

Biblical Literacy – When learning civics, it is important our children understand we are not acting upon emotion, personal feelings, or prejudice. Instead, it is based on intelligent thought.  We, therefore, must have something to inform our deliberation, i.e., when deciding how we will vote for a candidate or laws, we need some objective standard of ethics to guide us. Given that a theistic worldview is the only one in which such an objective standard can be found, we turn to God’s Word for guidance. Thus, we teach them to look at policies, political parties, and/or proposed legislation and see how closely all options align with Biblical principles.

Character Development – As our pastor constantly reminds us, “Christians ought to be the most law-abiding citizens.” Civics goes beyond merely voting, it starts with being a good citizen. That begins in the heart. A love of truth and justice, patience, kindness, goodness, peace, faithfulness, and self-control; all of these must be trained and discipled in our children. For when these things are foundational, then can good judgement be made.

Educational Resources – I know a teacher or two – possibly three – attempted to teach us civics while in high school. Suffice it to say most of it didn’t stick. Thus, as my children’s educator, I now find myself looking for materials which will not only help my children understand civics and government, but will encourage them retain what they are learning. Thankfully we’ve found a few we love.

Application – I firmly believe in hands-on learning. Our children need to understand how their lessons correspond to reality and have an opportunity to put what they are learning into practice. Over the years we’ve been blessed to find a few amazing ways in which to make this happen.

  • iCivics (Through the medium of games, iCivics exists to engage students in meaningful learning. Students can run for president, be a supreme court judge, help pass laws, and more!)
  • Generation Joshua (Generation Joshua is an American Christian youth organization founded in 2003 that aims to encourage young people to learn about and become involved in government, history, civics, and politics.)
  • Fulling our Civic Duty as a Family

Voting season is here. With all grace, I remind each of us to take this seriously and fulfill our responsibility with care. I would also encourage us to use this as an opportunity to engage our children and take a learning adventure. It beings with laying a strong foundation built on Biblical values and is constructed through practical application and practice. May the Lord grant us wisdom and show us how to raise the next generation of citizens.

We’re curious… What are your favorite resources for teaching civics and government?

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Fulfilling Our Civic Duty

fulfilling_our_civic_duty

“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government…”
~ U.S. Constitution – Article 4 Section 4

Mid-terms are upon us and it’s time to turn our attention to the voting booth. As citizens of this constitutional republic, wherein we are blessed to participate in this experiment of self-governance, we have a civic duty to be proactive in electing representatives and voting on legislation.

As parents, not just “homeschoolers”, it’s our duty to teach our children about fulfilling their civic duties. While our children’s textbooks taught them government and civics, we thought it was time to start putting what they learned into practice. So this year I decided to include the whole family in the voting process; a practice we intend to continue, hopefully, for the rest of our lives.

Begin the Voting Process With Prayer

During the Constitutional Convention, Ben Franklin declared: “In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and by word down to future ages.”

If one of the Founding Fathers, a self-confessed deist, believed in divine intervention and called for an appeal to God based on divine scripture, certainly we who call ourselves by Christ’s name can and should do no less.

“You can’t legislate morality.”

In truth, morality is one of the few things you can legislate, and it’s important for our children to understand this. Upholding and enforcing moral principles is the main point of legislation (the other legitimate duties of government being that of adjudication and defense). Laws are passed to codify and announce to everyone that there will be a penalty for engaging in activity that violates moral principles. Thus, while there is nothing inherently wrong with driving past a pole with a red light affixed to it, it’s certainly wrong to endanger the lives of people walking or driving in the other direction, so we have rules to uphold the moral principle of not intentionally endangering others, and this principle is upheld via things like traffic-lights. We need to teach our kids that, upon examination, most laws have some underlying moral principle. The few that do not obviously require weighing other considerations.

The REAL “Voter Guide”
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” – Jeremiah 17:9

Too many people vote based on emotion (which they confuse with morality) and not via any sort of intelligent thought. This leads to much of the chaos we see today. However, we must have something to inform our deliberation, i.e., when deciding how we will vote for a candidate or laws, we need some objective standard of ethics to guide us. Given that a theistic worldview is the only one in which such an objective standard can be found, we turn to God’s word for guidance. Thus, we look at the policies of a candidate or political party or proposed legislation and see how closely all options align with Biblical principles.

Don’t Take Biased Material on Face-Value

We began by taking all of the voting materials sent to us, both the official ballots and general election guide as well as all of the junk-mail, i.e. political flyers. I passed out all of the material to everyone, and we all had a chance to read out loud the things sent to us. Needless to say the junk-mail sent out by candidates or proponents/opponents of certain legislation seriously lacked informational substance or else contained outright misinformation. The kids quickly saw how useless most of this kind of material is.

Just the Facts

After ignoring most of the junk-mail, we turned our attention to the official election material. Depending who controls the state, the names of proposed legislation and the analysis can sometimes be misleading as well. If you really, really, want to be certain what’s in a proposed bill, it’s best to read the actual text of the bill. I’ve only done this a few times with controversial laws because it can be a daunting task reading the vomit of verbose legalese used to conceal the dubious activity contained in most legislation. Certainly the kids won’t sit still to listen to me read through all of that mumbo-jumbo. So if you decide to read through a bill, do it on your own and give a brief recap to the kids so they don’t lose interest.

“Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things,
to draw away disciples after them.”
~ Acts 20:30

While this verse is teaching about doctrine, it can also be applied to “Christian” churches or organizations that put out voter guides. We teach our kids not to place blind trust in such material simply because it alleges to be from a trusted source. If false teachers lie about God’s word, you can bet they’ll lie about political issues. We teach the kids to be diligent and do their homework to the best of their abilities.

Candidates for Our Republic

Again, most political mailers were not at all helpful when deciding on candidates. Usually, their political party platform is sufficient to determine their position on issues, so comparing their positions to Biblical standards is an easy enough task. One thing we impress upon our children is the Biblical principle that all of mankind are sinners and flawed individuals, so we’re not looking to elect a perfect person. Moreover, politicians will be long gone while their policies remain to wreak havoc on us and our families, so it’s best to impress upon the kids that one ought to vote based on a candidate’s policies, not the man’s flawed character. It’s those policies that will affect us for generations, not the person.

While we’re on this subject, it’s also important to impress upon our children the fallen state of the world. We can’t create heaven on earth. Any and all of our efforts will always be flawed in some way. Our choices in life, including our political choices, will be wrought with compromise of one sort or another. Often, in order to enact one law or another, it may adversely affect something else. Furthermore, electing a person who upholds one set of Biblical values may mean you have to suffer their endorsing of some unBiblical value. Few if any candidates will share every single position we hold, and even if they do so through their rhetoric, few actually do so through their practices. The point is, it will always be easy for critics to level some charge at any policy or politician, because few decisions in this life prove to be flawless or without some consequence. The guiding principle is to remain as close to God’s Word as possible and, where there are apparent conflicts of duty, seek to do the greater good.

“And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
Mark 3:25

While we, the parents, will ultimately cast the vote, we let the children know that their participation mattered in how we decided to vote. It was also important to let our kids know that, since we are looking to God’s word to guide us, we should be united and of one mind, so one family member ought not to be voting contrary to another where clear moral principles are concerned. We are not voting based on personal opinions or preferences, but according to God’s will, which seeks unity.

Make This Family Event Fun

We didn’t want to turn this into a drudgery. All of the kids were allowed to speak their mind and give their opinion. We asked them to defend their positions and explain how it corresponds to Biblical principles. We highly encourage healthy and civil debate, if people differ, until a resolution can be found, again, based on God’s word.

It is our duty to not only fulfill our civic responsibility, but to pass the importance of that blessing down to our children. Through prayer, open discussion, careful research, and the study of God’s Word we’re looking to encourage our children both in their learning adventure and in becoming responsible members of the world in which they live. And, prayerfully, have a little fun along the way.

We’re curious… At what age did you begin to take an active role in civics?

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