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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Back to the Future

It seems like a good time to be reminded of this observation by C.S. Lewis regarding chronological snobbery:
We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. We have all seen this when doing arithmetic. When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit this and go back and start over again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistake. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.

(From Mere Christianity, 1943)

Finding High Ground

Another observation of the culture to keep in mind when you think about how your homeschooled children should be "socialized." Ashley Samuelson writes:
A few weeks ago, I helped my 18-year-old sister move into her freshman dorm at Hillsdale College in Michigan. I was anxious for her -- I worried that the female culture at her school would be similar to that at my own alma mater, Tufts University in Medford, Mass.

As a reserved evangelical from Colorado Springs, Colo., I was shocked by a lot of things at Tufts when I entered in the fall of 2003. What shocked me more than anything, however, was the way women treated other women. I regularly heard young women refer to each other using the most obscene and degrading insults. I observed females encouraging others to binge drink and then berating those who couldn't hold their liquor. At breakfast on the weekends, I often overheard young women discussing their shame after feeling pressured by their girlfriends to participate in a degrading activity, such as a lingerie-themed or "secretaries and bosses" party. One year, a sorority actually commanded its pledges to strip to their underwear and allow fraternity brothers to mark the physical flaws on their bodies with permanent ink.

Continue reading the Wall Street Journal piece "Lipstick Jungle" by Ashley Samuelson.

Unfortunately, kids that grow up in this environment do not become more skilled at resisting it. Instead, they tend to become it. Learning to take the high ground and rise above coarseness might be the most valuable social skill that we can impart to our offspring.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Toby's Zoo Commentary

Mom: Did you see the gorillas at the zoo?
Toby: Yeah.
Mom: What were they doing? Walking around or sitting?
Toby: Sitting
Mom: Were they eating anything?
Toby: Yeah.
Mom: What were they eating?
Toby: Apples
Mom: Apples? Where did they get the apples?
Toby: God

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fine Arts with Tapestry of Grace

This year we are doing picture studies from time to time with the Fine Arts component of Tapestry of Grace. TOG includes reading and other information for the history of Fine Arts. The Fine Arts readings correspond historically with the period that we are studying each week. TOG includes plenty of hands-on activity options, but also includes teaching talking points and information on teaching art.

Yesterday we worked on picture studies of Kandinsky's "A Study in Color" and also talked about the six elements of design.

When we do picture studies, I usually pull up the piece of art from the website.
Colour Studies by Wassily Kandinsky
Colour Studies

Above you see All's reproduction of this painting. Usually I print the website screen to a PDF file, open the PDF file in Mac's "Preview" software (similar to Adobe), take a screen "grab" and print the selection on our color printer. This way each of my Academy kids can have a copy to paste into their workbook.

Next, we work on copying the work of art. For this Kandinsky painting, we used water colors. Before the kids began painting, we talked about color. Then, as the kids painted, I read some of our TOG history readings aloud.

Their finished products are below.
Hope's Study in Color
Lane's Study in Color
Sydney's Study in Color

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Faberge Eggs

Since we all learned about the Russian Revolution and the history and geography of Russia before and immediately after WWI in our Tapestry of Grace homeschools, our Truth Treasure Hunters co-op gathered to decorate eggs as an homage to Faberge. One of our moms, Mrs. G., found an excellent way to make beautiful jeweled eggs that was manageable for all ages.

We capped off our co-op meeting with a screening of Charlie Chaplin in "The Rink." It turns out that even eighty years later Chaplin is hilarious. "The Rink" kicked off our home studies this week and next of the Jazz Age, the Roaring Twenties, and other history from the 1920s. What a joy it is to study along with two other families. We all "do" Tapestry in our own style at home, but join together for projects, book reports, and sharing time and discover that we learned much of the same things, but that we can teach each other as well.

Thank you to the other Truth Treasure Hunter families. We appreciate you!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bail! Bail! Bail! Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!

This is a favorite line from Rocky and Bullwinkle. The heroes Rocky and Bullwinkle are canoeing frantically as Boris and Natasha are stroking their paddles in unison to catch up. Alas, our heroes have a leak in their canoe and must "Bail! Bail! Bail!"

This might be the current rallying cry of the U.S. Treasury: "Bail! Bail! Bail! Or the U.S. economy will sink!" But who or what caused the leak?

The answer is so complex that most reporters don't know how to describe it. That leaves Presidential candidates puzzled as to how to squeeze it into sound-bite size solutions. And the rest of us are wondering...what is going on?

I thought yesterday's front page Wall Street Journal article * was helpful in explaining what is happening. But you must wade through daunting business reporting to discover it. Here are a few key quotes:

...Fed and Treasury officials have identified the disease. It's called deleveraging. During the credit boom, financial institutions and American households took on too much debt. Between 2002 and 2006, household borrowing grew at an average annual rate of 11%, far outpacing overall economic growth. Borrowing by financial institutions grew by a 10% annualized rate. Now many of those borrowers can't pay back the loans, partly because of the collapse in housing prices. They need to reduce their dependence on borrowed money, a painful and drawn-out process that can choke off credit and economic growth.

...Deleveraging started with securities tied to subprime mortgages, where defaults started rising rapidly in 2006. But the deleveraging process has now spread well beyond, to commercial real estate and auto loans to the short-term commitments on which investment banks rely to fund themselves. In the first quarter, financial-sector borrowing slowed to a 5.1% growth rate, about half of the average from 2002 to 2007. Household borrowing has slowed even more, to a 3.5% pace.

...Hedge funds could be among the next problem areas. Many rely on borrowed money, or leverage, to amplify their returns. With banks under pressure, many hedge funds are less able to borrow this money now, pressuring returns. Meanwhile, there are growing indications that fewer investors are shifting into hedge funds while others are pulling out. Fund investors are dealing with their own problems: Many use borrowed money to invest in the funds and are finding it more difficult to borrow.

...The latest trouble spot is an area called credit-default swaps, which are private contracts that let firms trade bets on whether a borrower is going to default. When a default occurs, one party pays off the other. The value of the swaps rise and fall as market reassesses the risk that a company own't be able to honor its obligations. Firms use these instruments both as insurance--to hedge their exposures to risk--and to wager on the health of other companies. There are now credit-default swaps on more than $62 trillion in debt--up from about $144 million a decade ago.
(My emphasis added.)

What's the sound-bite here that no one wants to point out to voters? This is the fault of greedy Americans and greedy Wall Street. Naysayers have been warning about the level of debt taken on by American households, but the rest of us have turned a blind eye. Meanwhile, financial institutions slapped respectable labels on financial contracts that are merely bets on the performance of other companies. 

I'm pro-business, but something has to change when traders and investment bankers hide behind the obscurities of their complex business and play with our money. Whether it is as taxpayers or customers, we're all providing the cash for these dubious practices. 

On the upside: Beware the talk about this costing taxpayers billions and trillions. It is true, and it is very concerning that our government is taking a stake in private companies, however, I'm noticing that the media is failing to mention the glimmer of upside here. Our government retains the ability to sell off these assets, which the government obtained for bottom dollar, and potentially reap a big profit. So don't buy the line that this means we need to raise funds from taxpayers in the form of higher taxes to foot the bill. It might turn out to pay for itself. News reports even now suggest AIG is moving heaven and earth to find a way to pay back Uncle Sam before their deadline (to avoid the government taking an 80% stake in AIG).

Both presidential campaigns are struggling to offer a political solution and to differentiate from their opponent. Ironically, the scramble that is now taking place at Treasury and in Congress will do more to determine the economic course of the next 4 to 8 years than anything either candidate proposes.

Applied Knowledge

Our family was gathered around the dinner table, enjoying pepperoni pizza, and listening to Mr. Edwards tell about his day at work. As he spoke, he used the word "portable."

Lane interrupted, "Dad, what does portable mean?"
Mr. Edwards started to reply, "Well, Lane--"
"Wait!" I interjected. Then I turned to Hope and Sydney.
"Girls! Tell everyone what the Latin word porto means."
In the rote fashion that characterizes the grammar stage they both answered in unison, "Porto. I carry."
I looked over at Lane. "So what do you think that portable means?"
"Something that you can carry?"
"That's right!"

And that is why we study Latin!
(It also demonstrates the value of much-maligned rote learning.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blogging for a Year

After reading that Sharon's blog is now one year old, I realized that today marks one year of Veritas at Home.

Veritas at Home trivia:
  • My book reviews, "Faith of a Child" and "The Dumbest Generation" are the posts that are most often found through Google searches, but snag few reader comments.
  • The book review on on The Dumbest Generation has received the most comments, but eight comments is pretty unremarkable by Internet standards.
  • One of my favorite posts is probably "In Defense of a Chronological Study". 
  • My post "Family with a Mission" might be one of the duller offerings, but it has proven to be the most useful to me. The process of articulating our family's mission really has influenced our family's direction.
  • Since I began tracking the site, I've received 2,327 hits. About half of those are from my handful of faithful friends who stop by regularly. The fact is that Veritas at Home is not a high-traffic site, but that suits me fine.
For the most part, we celebrate personal Edwards Academy accomplishments here, but Veritas at Home also gives me a place to put into words the ideas and thoughts that form in the background of my mind as I listen to my kids say their Shurley grammar jingles, sound out their Phonics Pathways phrases, or practice their math facts. 

Thanks for reading.

Bible Study Fellowship

Edwards Academy kids (and teacher/parents) started a new year of Bible Study Fellowship recently. (This picture shows them ready to go on the first evening.) BSF will be studying "The Life of Moses" this year. This is Lane's first year to attend the elementary program. All three older Academy kids were in the BSF preschool program in prior years. This year the kids go with Mr. Edwards to the Men's Evening Class, which has kids' classes. I go to an Evening Women's Class that meets on a different night.

BSF gives each of us daily time in Bible study, plus a time to meet once a week with others for discussion and teaching. It is so exciting now to have five of us studying through Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy individually and together. We start off our homeschool morning with BSF time. Sydney and Hope work independently on their lesson and I help Lane read the passages and spell his answers correctly, although he decides what to say and writes them.

Meanwhile, Hope and Sydney are back in AWANA this year, their first in T&T. We are working hard to memorize a lot of verses. I know that their Grandma loves having them in her Council Time class! And they love having her for a teacher.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Meet Jessi

Last week, quite unexpectedly, we adopted a dog! Jessi is a Viszla, a Hungarian pointer, and is five years old. She is very sweet and seems to be enjoying the doting attention of four Edwards Academy kids!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Did you have fun?

Last Sunday as we were making our way to the exit at our church, I overheard a father say to his very young son, "How was church? Did you have fun?" They were behind me in the hall and I never turned around to look, but I could tell that the father, like us, had just picked up his preschooler from children's church. His son didn't give the hoped-for answer.

"No? You didn't have fun? Oh, I'm sure you did! You always have fun in church! Didn't you go outside?"
"Well, wasn't that fun?"

A week earlier I caught myself having a similar conversation with a student from my 3rd grade Sunday school class. I was in the hallway visiting with her and her mother. Before I realized what I was doing I asked, "Did you have a good time in class today?" It was our first week with this group of 3rd graders, so I was curious about her reaction to the class. Still, immediately I realized that the question itself didn't match my priorities. 

My student graciously nodded her head that yes, she did have a good time. But I decided to correct myself.

"I'm glad you had fun, but actually that's not my first priority. My first priority is to teach you about God." I smiled at the two of them. "I'm really looking forward to our year. We're going to be detectives and solve the mystery of Christ's death."

Remembering this conversation as I heard the dad and his boy, I thought about the subtle ways we contradict our own convictions. Like me, that dad probably wants very much for his children to know Jesus and that is one of the reasons that he is in church. And yet, we as parents are in such a habit of asking our kids, "Did you have fun?" that we don't even realize we are reinforcing the wrong idea.

No one wants church to be a turn off for kids, but it isn't meant to be about entertaining them either. As we walked out of church last Sunday, the sermon about worship was fresh in our memories. Our pastor hammered in on the idea that worship is not about pleasing the congregant, it is about pleasing God. 

After-church conversations aren't always easy. We ask, "What did you learn about God?" and often the kids give a less-than-thrilling response. Still, we need to fight the urge to wonder if they are having fun and we need to resist the idea that the level of "fun" that they enjoy at church is a helpful measure of the value of the morning.

What do you ask your kids as you head home after church? Are you intentional about following up on what they are learning about God?

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