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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.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Uh-Oh!

Toby came up behind me in the kitchen and stomped his foot.

"I'm right here, Mommy!" I turned around at the sound of his stamping foot and demanding voice.
"Yes?"
"I'm sorry, Mommy." He spoke softly with a small smile on his face.
"You're sorry?" I squatted down to his level. "For what, Toby?"
"I'm sorry we got in your stuff."
"You got in my stuff? Where have you been?"
"Lane and I have been hiding."
"Why?"
"I'm sorry, Mommy." He smiled at me. I hugged him and said, "Let's go see."

I didn't find what he was talking about. At least not yet.

I think that Lane was hiding because I had asked him to pick up "stuff" in his room. I'm repeating (from Proverbs 31--see "He Will Transform" post) "she works with willing hands" to myself all day today. I'm not the only one that finds that difficult. Lane told me, "Work! Work! Work! That's all we ever do!"

If you have been to my house and seen our messes, you know that can't possibly be true!

He Will Transform

I always turn a bit sentimental at the close of a year. I feel the passage of time and shake my head to realize another year is ending. Reading the Christmas cards of friends seems to drive home the point. So-and-so's out of high school now...Look, Mr. Edwards, the H. family's daughter is a teenager. Wasn't she a baby when we got married?...Look at the C. family's kids! They are getting so grown up. And so on.

In the break from our homeschool I also tend to give myself a year-end performance review. What am I doing well? What do I need to improve? Do I need to make any changes? 

With this in mind, I opened up my Bible for Day 364 in my yearly Bible reading plan: Proverbs 31, Job 42, and Philippians 3. What a combination!

Proverbs 31 gives me plenty of ideas for New Year's Resolutions:
She does [her husband] good and not harm, all the days of her life...
She...works with willing hands...
She rises while it is yet night...
She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy...
She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue...
She does not eat the bread of idleness...

Job 42, which caps off two weeks of reading the book of Job, gives me a proper sense of God's sovereignty over all when Job says to the LORD,
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)

And Philippians 3 gives me encouragement in the face of conviction:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on...
For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sights of our Season

New nightgowns for girls.

WWII airplanes for boys.

The game of Risk. Not a new gift, but an old favorite. Grandpa always wins, but Lane and Wesley show signs of his same ruthlessness. A few more years and they are bound to dominate the game. Aunt Jenny had Europe and Africa, but then Grandpa turned in his cards and the game was over!

Cousins decorating cookies.

The new things are nice, but the time with family is even better. This time next week I'll be itching to return to a sensible schedule, but for now it is great to relax together. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Traditions

Last year I posted a bit about our Advent traditions here.

I was thinking the other day that we don't seem to have many Christmas traditions, but then it hit me that the habits we have around Christmas will probably be fondly remembered by our kids as "tradition."
  • Daddy's working. Because Mr. Edwards serves at Christmas Eve services held on the 23rd and 24th, we usually attend one with him and then spend those evenings at home without him. Also, he works in a job that requires coverage 365 days a year, so he usually carries on his usual work schedule over Christmas break. If Christmas doesn't fall on his regular day off, he works.
  • Edwards Christmas. We celebrate Christmas with Edwards family relatives (usually) a few days before Christmas with an evening dinner and gift exchange. At these dinners one of the Mr. Edwards (my husband or his dad or his brother) read Luke 2 before we open gifts. Another Edwards family habit: listening to Hudson & Landry's comedy routine, "Frontier Christmas." (Listen to "Frontier Christmas" on YouTube. Pure silliness here; if you worry about political correctness, you may want to skip it!)
  • On the Screen. We generally watch the Christmas movies "White Christmas", The Royal Ballet's "The Nutcracker", "Miracle on 34th Street", "It's a Wonderful Life", and "Holiday Inn" during the month of December. 
  • On the Stereo. We listen to our favorite Christmas music almost non-stop in the month of December. Christmas music from Michael W. Smith, Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, Burl Ives and others are on our playlist. We also listen to Handel's Messiah--the whole thing, not just the Hallelujah Chorus. 
  • The Edwards and Santa. Our kids leave a plate of cookies and a glass of milk on the mantel for Santa and eagerly awake in the morning to discover what is in their stockings. Our approach to Santa is influenced by Tapestry of Grace, C.S. Lewis and the Jackson Five ("I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"). We studied Greek mythology with Tapestry of Grace Year 1 when our oldest were in kindergarten. Through that study we learned the meaning of "myth", so it naturally followed that when we learned about the man known as St. Nicholas we explained to the kids all the mythology that has grown up around the obscure truth of St. Nicholas himself. In this, my kids happily accepted the tradition and fun of Santa and knowing (here's where the Jackson Five come into it) that Daddy is our Santa. Mr. Edwards and I felt uncomfortable upholding a deception of Santa (I know, some of you find that harsh) but don't find any harm in enjoying as a family the myth. It is fun to find elements of the True Myth (as Lewis famously calls Christianity) in the myth of Santa. Santa's omniscience ("He knows when you are sleeping/He knows when you're awake...") reminds us that only God is omniscient. His omnipresence reminds us that only God is omnipresent. His generosity in giving gifts remind us of the Gift given by God at Christmas--His Son Jesus Christ. 
  • Christmas Day. We spend Christmas Day at my parents' home with my sister's family, my aunt and uncle, and Mr. Edwards' parents. We relax, open gifts, enjoy a big Christmas dinner, and read from the Bible about Christ's birth. Mr. Edwards joins us as soon as he can get off work.

In Luke 2:29-32 Simeon praises God after seeing baby Jesus:
"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel."

May His light reveal to you the One who is Righteous and True and may you see His salvation this Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hanukkah

Hanukkah began last night at sundown. Although we are a Gentile and Christian family, we are always interested in the Jewish holidays. Just a few weeks ago Lane and I read By the Hanukkah Light for our Tapestry of Grace studies. In Year 4 Week 18 we studied the founding of Israel in 1947 and the history of Zionism. Then, in another coincidence, Hope and Sydney pulled out of the bottom of their drawer their audio CDs of More All of a Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor. They've been listening intently to this book, one they had essentially forgotten was in their drawer. The sequel to All of a Kind Family, the book recounts adventures of a New York family of five sisters and one brother. In More All of a Kind Family, Hope and Sydney heard about Yom Kippur and Hanukkah, as celebrated by a Jewish family in New York in the early 1900s.

Tapestry of Grace provides a look each year at world religions such as Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. In Year 4 Week 19, we studied the history of India and Pakistan in the 1900s and in the process reviewed again the main tenets of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. Since our family is also studying Exodus right now in Bible Study Fellowship, God's ten commandments are fresh in our minds. I was so proud of Sydney, who decided to compare Buddhism's Noble Eightfold Path to the Ten Commandments. When I asked the kids what was wrong with this Noble Eightfold Path, which sounds so good, Hope correctly pointed out that SIN is the problem. So we talked about how Hinduism and Buddhism and Islam all fail to provide for the problem of sin. It was a great discussion. Tapestry teacher's notes provide a wealth of Scriptures to read and inform the discussion. Although we simply surveyed the history of India and Pakistan, it was a good conversation that was immediately relevant. Edwards kids' eyebrows went up when, after we labeled the maps and read the history, I told them the story of several men who embarked from Karachi, traveled on boats across the water to Mumbai, and attacked the city as terrorists. This, I said, happened a few weeks ago. The study of history is so relevant!

Next year, when we study Tapestry of Grace Year 1, we will go back to the beginning and as we learn about Moses and the Israelites, we will study Jewish holy days, such as Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and Succoth (Feast of Booths). It will be a good time to get out the All of a Kind family stories for fun reading during that time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Only Thing I Want for Christmas

The economic downturn is touching our extended family pretty significantly, either through job loss or portfolio losses, and my brother-in-law is preparing to deploy to the Middle East in February. Like so many people in America and elsewhere, the economic difficulties are bringing about a re-assessment of what is important. In our recent Edwards Academy study of the Depression and the 1930s we discovered Eddie Cantor's music. It was then that I first heard his 1939 song, "The Only Thing I want for Christmas." We have it in our iPod's Christmas playlist.

If Santa passes by my stocking,
I promise not to mind a lot,
The only thing I want for Christmas,
Is just to keep the things that I've got.

A pair of loving arms around me,
A garden of forget-me-nots,
The only thing I want for Christmas,
Is just to keep the things that I've got.

A friend or two, a peaceful sky of blue,
A place to hang my hat,
When work of day is through.
If Santa passes by my chimney,
I'll still be happy like as not,
The only thing I want for Christmas,
Is just to keep the things that I've got.

At the conclusion, Eddie Cantor says, "You know, there is a lot of unhappiness in the world today, but we still have peace over here. In this country we really have Christmas 365 days each year."

This song hit the radio in 1939, the year of "The Wizard of Oz," "Gone with the Wind," and Hitler's invasion of Poland in September, followed by Britain's and France's declaration of war against Germany. The Depression was still painfully hurting our nation. In fact, Eddie Cantor lost everything in the stock market crash and spent the Thirties recovering as best as he could.




Music hosted by Odeo.com

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sovereignty Narcissism

Do you receive updates from ParentalRights.org? This organization is advocating an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would protect the rights of parents. Why on earth would we need such an amendment? Because U.N. treaties like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child seek to endow children with rights that would free them from parental influence and Senate Democrats are eager to ratify this treaty

There are at least two alarming difficulties with this: 1. It seeks to subject the sovereignty of the United States to international law, a movement that is already afoot in some pockets of the U.S. courts, and 2. It gives children unreasonable rights that overturn the traditional rights of parents, known for centuries. According to ParentalRights.org, "A child’s “right to be heard” would allow him (or her) to seek governmental review of every parental decision with which the child disagreed."

A recent e-letter update from ParentalRights.org explains:
Those who want to change family policy in America to comply with international law are preparing a full-scale effort to seek ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child during this next Congress. Barbara Boxer recently told a planning group that they intend to use children’s health care as leverage to seek ratification of this UN children’s rights treaty...

...The strength of their forces has been greatly increased with the addition of Hillary Clinton as the nominee for Secretary of State. She will have direct control over the submission of this treaty to the Senate and will acquire the authority under international law to sign any other treaty on any subject.

Hillary Clinton was the person who made the announcement for the Convention on the Rights of the Child when her husband’s administration signed the treaty. Seeking its ratification is a lifelong dream for her.

The letter goes on to say that proponents of ratifying the treaty recently described those of us who might stand in their way as the “narcissistic sovereignty crowd.” In this worldview, the idea of national sovereignty is tarred as some form of narcissism. Whatever you think about parental rights, many Americans bristle at the idea of allowing international law to influence American judicial decisions. It is time to get the word about this out into everyday conversation. I never once saw it as an election issue except when mentioned by HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) and ParentalRights.org.

Many homeschooling parents are keenly aware of this situation, but most Christian parents outside of the homeschooling community are not. This impacts every parent, not just homeschooling parents. Be sure to mention it to your friends.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Does Newsweek have a point?

A friend in my Bible Study Fellowship group asked if I’ve read the Newsweek cover story on gay marriage and the Bible and, if so, what I thought about it. I hadn’t read it, but now I have and I thought I would post a few thoughts.* I’m veering a bit off the homeschooling track, but this post does underline a key goal of our homeschool: teaching our kids to understand the world around them with the mind of Christ.

First, a few Scriptures to remember:
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.
(2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. (Jesus speaking in John 16:13)
Although we must always be ready to give an answer (“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”1 Peter 3:15)  we must remember that non-believers will be arguing without the Holy Spirit’s illumination (“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8).

Christians attempt to persuade gay marriage advocates on the basis of the facts, pointing out the damage gay marriage would inflict on marriage between a man and a woman, the benefits of traditional families, and the dangers of homosexuality. But in this way we’ve just invited them to disprove our facts. We need to admit to ourselves from the outset that the truths of the Bible will be foolishness to our foes.

In the Newsweek article the author tries to take every Biblical argument against gay marriage and discredit it. In this attempt it is obvious from the first paragraph that she cannot be taken seriously by believers in the Bible.
Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?
The author, Lisa Miller, cleverly mischaracterizes the Scriptures and then mocks anyone who would follow them as she interprets them. But Lisa Miller reveals right off the bat that she doesn’t understand the Bible. There is no mention of God’s clear disapproval of Abraham’s conduct (Gen. 17:18-19). She doesn’t acknowledge that Christian theology holds that Jacob was chosen by God in spite of his imperfections to show us that we cannot earn God’s favor. Yes, many of his actions are indefensible. (Do Jacob’s deceptions to his father contradict the Bible’s teaching on honoring parents? Of course not.) She tries to point to the conduct of Judah’s and Israel’s kings as an example, but fails to acknowledge that all of Israel’s kings were wicked and many of Judah’s were also wicked. The exile of the Israelites to Babylon was God’s judgment on His nation’s failure to obey His commands. In short, God gives us the example of Biblical heroes to demonstrate that we cannot live up to His standard and that we need God’s mercy in Christ. Miller's New Testament facts are equally foggy. Here she says Jesus preaches that we should hold earthly relationships loosely but later she will claim that Jesus wants us not to be lonely and sad. 

The article goes on, and is filled with misrepresentations of Christian belief. It is easy for her to mock a caricature of Christian belief rather than respond to actual Christian doctrines, and many readers will be fooled into thinking that the caricature Miller presents is the real thing. But we are not deceived by such hollow thinking.

In another example of the author’s shallow representation of Christian teachings, she suggests that Jesus’ loving acceptance of the woman at the well (John 4) should encourage us to accept homosexuality. The author writes:
In the Christian story, the message of acceptance for all is codified. Jesus reaches out to everyone, especially those on the margins, and brings the whole Christian community into his embrace. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, cites the story of Jesus revealing himself to the woman at the well— no matter that she had five former husbands and a current boyfriend—as evidence of Christ's all-encompassing love. The great Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann, emeritus professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, quotes the apostle Paul when he looks for biblical support of gay marriage: "There is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ." The religious argument for gay marriage, he adds, "is not generally made with reference to particular texts, but with the general conviction that the Bible is bent toward inclusiveness.
In quoting expert scholars, the article tries to cloak itself with authority, but this is once again a false representation of the Bible’s message. Christ indeed reaches out to everyone—and calls on them to receive His redemption. He never endorses their sinfulness. This is the hope of the Gospel: that Jesus came to save us from our sins. It isn’t that we meet God’s approval and therefore receive His love. No, we fall far short of His approval, but in His mercy He extends His love and hope in Christ. Romans 5:8 reminds us, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

The article concludes with:
More basic than theology, though, is human need. We want, as Abraham did, to grow old surrounded by friends and family and to be buried at last peacefully among them. We want, as Jesus taught, to love one another for our own good—and, not to be too grandiose about it, for the good of the world. We want our children to grow up in stable homes. What happens in the bedroom, really, has nothing to do with any of this. My friend the priest James Martin says his favorite Scripture relating to the question of homosexuality is Psalm 139, a song that praises the beauty and imperfection in all of us and that glorifies God's knowledge of our most secret selves: "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." And then he adds that in his heart he believes that if Jesus were alive today, he would reach out especially to the gays and lesbians among us, for "Jesus does not want people to be lonely and sad." Let the priest's prayer be our own.
It is somewhat ironic that she brings up human need, which she defines as community relationships. Actually, the Bible teaches that Jesus is the only satisfaction for every human need. He is the Bread of Life, the Living Water, the Light of the World, the Father to the fatherless, the King of kings. In Christ we have our sustenance, our direction, our family, and our authority. The physical needs are temporal; the spiritual needs are eternal. Jesus promises freedom from loneliness and sadness in heaven (Revelation 21-22), but promises trouble in this world ("I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33). It is wrong to suggest that Jesus desires us to find a cozy, happy existence. It is an unwelcome truth to modern ears, but God’s aim for our life is that we be a living sacrifice in worship to Him. This might not be a cozy, happy existence.

We must know the Scriptures so that we can confidently stand firm against the basic principles of the world and stand on Christ. In this, we must avoid two errors. One error is to conclude that Christian belief is irrational because it requires the Holy Spirit’s guidance to comprehend it. The truth of the Bible is hidden to non-believers, but it is not senseless. When we encounter truths that require faith to accept (the Trinity, election, creation) it is not because these truths are irrational. No, it is just that these truths transcend our finite ability to comprehend infinite truths. We cannot simply say, “God said it, so I believe it.” We need to be ready to explain the hope we have in Christ and be ready to teach it to others. On the other hand, we must not deceive ourselves and pridefully try to defend our faith in the realm of human wisdom. Trying to do this has ensnared so many Christians as they respond to articles like this one from Newsweek. 

The real threat of articles like this in Newsweek is not what they have to say about gay marriage and the Bible. It is that Christians will be either deceived by them or drawn into argument against them. Instead, let’s know our Scriptures so that we are not deceived and let’s compassionately love people as Jesus did: by sharing with them the Gospel.** 

*Evidently a debate over this story is raging in the blogosphere, but I’ve not been paying attention. Arguments over this sort of thing are futile; there’s no persuading gay marriage advocates by citing Scripture or by attempting to disprove their facts. I’m posting a response not to debate the point line by line but to (perhaps) assist Christians like my friend in understanding the article Biblically.
**I Corinthians 15:1-4 reads, "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...

All Scriptures taken from the NIV, emphases added.

Newsweek cover story published December 6, 2008, magazine dated December 15, 2008. You may find it online, but I'm choosing not to link to it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

St. Lucia in Lindsborg







Last Saturday we visited Lindsborg, Kansas for the annual St. Lucia Fest. Although our weather has turned bitterly cold and snowy this week, last Saturday was sunny and about 60 degrees (F). We had a wonderful time with each other and with some other friends in our GRACE homeschool group.

Lindsborg is a small Swedish community in Kansas. The days' events included the Swedish Dancers, the crowning of Lucia, shopping, and plenty of playtime in a unique Lindsborg park. We also enjoyed a lovely lunch with our friend (see other post) and had dinner at the Swedish Crown restaurant with the G. family. You'll spot Kaity and Addy G. in the amphitheater with Edwards kids (see the picture). Lindsborg has plenty of Swedish horses throughout town like the one Toby is perched upon in the picture. They are painted in unusual patterns and this playground horse has handprints painted all over it. 


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Trailblazing Friend




When we visited Lindsborg Saturday, we stopped to visit Brenda and two of her sons. I was privileged to work the Tapestry of Grace convention booth with Brenda back in June. Brenda is also teaching TOG Year 4 this year, but this is her second time through Year 4. I wish I could see Brenda more often and learn from her wisdom and experience. It was good to meet two of her sons, Michael and Samuel. Her husband and oldest son were at work during our visit.

Lane was very impressed by meeting these older boys who homeschool with Tapestry. Brenda, thanks for opening your home to us and for giving us an example to follow!

Friday, December 12, 2008

USO Night: Truth Treasure Hunters Celebrate

Hope stands next to her "The War in the Pacific" poster.
Sydney stands next to her "The Battles of Europe" poster.

The Truth Treasure Hunters, our Tapestry of Grace Year 4 group, celebrated the completion of Unit 2 with a "USO Night" party. The kids presented the Armed Forces Medley, read the Franklin D. Roosevelt speech declaring war after the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese, gave individual presentations, and sang White Christmas.

Tapestry of Grace curriculum encourages holding unit celebrations. It is a way to cap off nine weeks of study, give the kids a sense of accomplishment, provide them with a goal ("You'll be reading this at celebration; make sure you do a nice job."), and share their work with Dad and grandparents.

We used to have unit celebrations with just our family, although we didn't get it done every quarter. This year, with two other families in our Truth Treasure Hunters group, celebrations are even more rewarding.

Sydney shows Grandma Edwards her work.
Lane looks through a World War II book with Dad and Grandpa Edwards.
Lane presents his "World War II Aircraft" poster.
Sydney and Hope show off their Victory Roll hair styles. They are standing in front of the painting that the Truth Treasure Hunters made in the style of Jackson Pollack.
  

Toby Tap Dancing

video

At our Unit 2 Celebration, Toby spontaneously tap danced during the kids' Armed Forces Medley song. You can see him here dancing and telling Daddy that "I'm making firecrackers!" He's referring to Fred Astaire in Holiday Inn. You can see that clip by following the link from a few posts back. In this one, you'll see Toby reaching into his pockets for firecrackers and, of course, shooting firecrackers from his finger guns.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Talking with Toby

Toby, two years old,  sat confined in his high chair during school, working on wooden puzzles.

Toby: I want a new puzzle from the play room!

Mom: Toby, don't talk to me in such a demanding way. I'm not doing anything for you when you talk that way.

Toby: I'm so frustrated!

Monday, December 8, 2008

What's So Great About Christianity

I just received my November Imprimis. Dinesh D'Souza articulates just what I've been thinking about lately: Western civilization owes an awful lot to Christianity and probably can't continue without it's principles. (Click here and here for my feeble writings on this subject.)

Click the Imprimis link to see why D'Souza concludes:
Let me conclude with a warning first issued by one of Western civilization’s greatest atheists, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The ideas that define Western civilization, Nietzsche said, are based on Christianity. Because some of these ideas seem to have taken on a life of their own, we might have the illusion that we can abandon Christianity while retaining them. This illusion, Nietzsche warns us, is just that. Remove Christianity and the ideas fall too.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Weekend in Narnia


This weekend, by coincidence rather than design, has been a Narnia-filled weekend. We listened to the first half of The Last Battle during breakfast Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon I read a book review of The Magician's Book by Laura Miller. Saturday night Mr. Edwards and I watched Prince Caspian. (Look at the beautiful Anna Popplewell as Susan. Don't you think that she will do a lot for the sport of archery?)

The book review is worth reading. The Magician's Book might have a different take on Narnia than you are used to seeing. So many of us either take for granted that Lewis told Christian truths through his stories that we assume everyone understands this. Meghan Cox Gurdon writes in her review:
For some, gaining the understanding that the lion-god Aslan is a stand-in for Jesus has come as a weird relief. It confirmed the quasi-religious stirrings we felt when we encountered the books the first time [as a child].

Others, such as Ms. Miller, have been outraged by what seems a betrayal, the smuggling-in of an agenda: "Of course, the self-sacrifice of Aslan to compensate for the treachery of Edmund was exactly like the crucifixion of Christ to pay off the sins of mankind! How could I have missed that?" she writes of the realization. "I felt angry and humiliated because I had been fooled."
The movie Prince Caspian was a lot of fun, but we won't be watching it as a family anytime soon. It is very intense and the evil creatures are too much to bear for our crew. Even the war movies we've seen recently haven't had the disturbing elements of Prince Caspian. Yes, it is a great adventure movie, but not one for our two-year-old and even our other three don't really need some of those scary images. Toby's had some nighttime fears lately and told us he's afraid of "monsters." We can't really imagine what might be feeding that fear, but we are certain that the monsters that populate Narnia (both good and evil) aren't the sort of images that would help him sleep at night! 

Meanwhile, the kids are loving The Last Battle (we're listening to the Focus on the Family Radio Theater version). I'm in the middle of reading Revelation in my yearly Bible reading plan, which makes it even better.

Image from narniaweb.com by blu-ray.com 

Friday, December 5, 2008

Fourth-of-July in December

We watched Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn last night. The last time I saw this movie was about fifteen years ago and our kids had never seen it. It is a fun Christmastime movie, but this scene of Fred Astaire tap-dancing with firecrackers was my favorite because Toby tried to match him step for step in his two-year-old way (tap-stomping).

Since I don't have a video of Toby tap-dancing in his socks and jammies, I hope you will enjoy this clip showing Fred Astaire saying it with firecrackers. Gather round by the fire...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Academy is Listening

Recently Hope, Sydney, and I were shopping at a bookstore. We couldn’t find the book we were looking for, but did find a few that we weren’t looking for! Talking about it later, Hope said, “Mom, It is like what Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler says, ‘The search proves more profitable than the goal.’”

“Who says that?”

“Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.”

Hope and Sydney love this book. Last Christmas Grandma and Grandpa Edwards gave them the audio CDs of “The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” and recently they’ve been playing it often. In fact, at the bookstore they spotted the paperback book and begged me for copies. “Mom, we really want to follow along when we listen!”

Audiobooks have been an important part of our family life since about five or six years ago when Sydney and Hope were still preschoolers. We were having trouble getting them to settle into bed at night in the summertime, when the evenings are light until well past their bedtime. A friend suggested playing a story for them. I think they’ve been listening to audio books nearly every night since then (although recently we had to make a rule that they can’t listen to a story on school nights because as they’ve matured they just put off sleep to listen).

We started with stories like Frog and Toad and The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher. These short stories are easy to listen to and have some background music to keep things interesting. But, remembering something I read in The Well-Trained Mind about getting kids listening to stories without a lot of sound effects, I started them on “Little House” audio CDs. All of the Little House books are now available on audio CD and over the years we’ve collected nearly all of them. The kids listen over and over and over. I think they probably have much of the books memorized.

Although we often check out library audio books, our favorites generally find their way into our collection on Christmas and birthdays. Lane started listening to Cherry Jones read Farmer Boy when he was two or three, just as Toby is listening now to the ‘Manzo Christmas chapter, as he calls it. Lane’s favorite chapter for weeks and weeks was “Filling the Ice House.” After three-year-old Lane listened to Farmer Boy repeatedly, the kids received Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan for Christmas. I’m especially fond of these audio CDs because they are read by E. B. White himself. At the beginning of the Charlotte’s Web recording E. B. White says,
“This is a story of the barn. I wrote it for children and to amuse myself. It is called Charlotte’s Web and I will read it to you.”
His voice is rich and deep and it is lovely to hear his stories told just as he must have heard them in his head when he composed them. (If you, like me, love to read Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style just for fun, you’ll be thrilled to know your children are listening to a master writer perform his own work.)

We’ve now amassed a collection of long and wonderful recordings: Anne of Green Gables, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Peter Pan, Paddle to the Sea, and Focus on the Family Radio Theater’s Little Women, The Secret Garden, and The Chronicles of Narnia. (We also have the unabridged reading of the Narnia books, which Sydney was blessed to buy at the AWANA store!) Focus on the Family radio theater uses a cast to re-tell the story, so for purists looking for the unabridged book you might look elsewhere, but I don’t mind this once in a while. I usually order these audio CDs from Amazon.com. Also, try downloading mp3s from Audible.com. 

Our kids amaze me with their ability to learn from listening. They far outperform me in this area. I believe (and this is completely unscientific) that their brains actually developed stronger in this area because they’ve grown up listening to rich language through these quality books, starting even before they could talk. Even Toby (he’s almost three at this writing) can pick out phrases from things he’s heard and repeat them, as he does with a funny line from Farmer Boy, “Hi! Leave that be! Where’s my pants?”

Toby wasn’t talking much last year around his two-year-old birthday and I was worried about it. One day during his afternoon “book time” I sat with him as Frog and Toad played on the boys’ CD player. As Arnold Lobel read his story about “The Button,” Toby suddenly said the next word that Lobel would say before he said it! It was just a fraction of a second ahead of Lobel, but I took great comfort knowing that he was soaking up all that wonderful language.

A few years ago, we read in school that spiders have eight legs. Sydney interrupted me,
“Mom, I know what the seven sections of a spider’s legs are called: the coax, the trochanter, the femur, the patella, the tibia, the metatarsus, and the tarsus.” I looked at her dumbfounded. 
“Where on earth did you hear that?”
“It’s in Charlotte’s Web.”

Or, there’s Lane, saying, “What’s Montana-banana-banana?” quoting from The Trumpet of the Swan. Not long ago the city of Boston entered our conversation and Lane interrupted, “Louis went there!” He’s picked up phrases like “topsy-turvy-pell-mell” from Farmer Boy or lines like Grandpa Joe’s reaction to Augustus Gloop getting stuck, “He’s blocked the ‘ole pipe!” from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

As preschoolers, all our children spent at least an hour in the afternoon having “book time” in which they listened to an audio CD and were allowed to look at books in their beds. Toby still does this. We also allow them to listen to stories at bedtime (except for Hope and Sydney on school nights). In their free time they often play their audio CDs just because they chose to do so. Recently I found them on a quiet Saturday afternoon holed up in the boys' bedrooms listening to Barrie’s Peter Pan

We have some of the books loaded on the iPod and play it through our stereo at mealtimes. We did this recently with Your Story Hour episodes about Charles Lindbergh, the Wright Brothers, and the Thanksgiving stories. I also have poetry loaded on the iPod and make playlists with our Latin and Grammar jingles to play during school or as we have breakfast.

Sharon, this was probably more than you bargained for when you asked about our listening list! Thanks for indulging me in one of my favorite subjects!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Using Tapestry of Grace

Amy, over at Learning at our House, has written,
“I really like what I see in Tapestry of Grace, but feel a little confused about it. I did order the package that they offer so I can get more into it. For those of you who do have experience with this curriculum, what do you think of it? What advice can you give me if we decide to use it?”
Since I love using Tapestry of Grace, I thought I would post an answer.

The Tapestry of Grace website describes their product as follows:
“Tapestry of Grace is a homeschool curriculum: a plan of study that helps parents provide a Christian, classical education using a guided unit study approach, with the history of the world as the core organizational theme.”
It is a humanities curriculum, meaning that it provides history, literature, art history, church history/worldview, geography, philosophy, and writing instruction. It is structured around two key elements of a classical educational model: the learning stages of the trivium (lower and upper grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric) and a chronological approach to history.

Because of its approach, Tapestry of Grace appeals to homeschoolers who were initially inspired to homeschool after reading The Well-Trained Mind. It also finds loyal users who are fond of the Charlotte Mason method, which focuses on reading living books and using notebooking and narration. As a Christian, classical curriculum with unit study characteristics, Tapestry of Grace competes in the homeschooling curriculum market with Sonlight, Konos, Mystery of History, The Story of the World (from the author of The Well Trained Mind), Veritas Press, and WinterPromise, among others.

Tapestry of Grace does not produce textbooks but instead uses reading assignments from a variety of books. Its assignments and activities (with the exception of literature readings) are not book specific, they are topic specific. This makes it extremely easy to substitute books and gives a tremendous amount of flexibility to the homeschooling mom. Many moms use The Story of the World as a “spine” resource for TOG and some also use Veritas Press history cards along with TOG. If you are a Veritas Press or Sonlight user, you will recognize many of the books on the TOG booklists. TOG high schoolers will study the important and traditional high school literature selections, such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Les Miserables.

Tapestry of Grace is also hugely popular for its four learning levels, which provide assignments for every child in your home. Your high schooler will study the rhetoric level, your middle schooler the dialectic, and your elementary kids will find their assignments in the upper and lower grammar level, BUT, all of your kids will be learning about the same topic. It is much easier on mom not to have one child learning about ancient Egypt while another child is studying the Renaissance and yet another is learning about early America. With Tapestry, the whole family is studying together the same period of history. As you can tell from my blog, our history studies spill over into our family life as we watch movies related to our studies and work on projects together and with our co-op. We read aloud some of the books so that we are studying together.

Although it is at first confusing, TOG is pretty easy to implement and flexible in how you use it. (Check out some of the blogs on the TOG blogroll for a look at how other moms use Tapestry.) All of history, from creation to present day, is covered in four years. Each “Year-Plan” provides assignments for all learning levels. We started using Tapestry of Grace Year 1 when my oldest daughters were in Kindergarten (I was eager!). Next year, in fourth grade, they will repeat Year 1 for the first time but encounter the same topics at a higher learning stage. By the time they graduate high school, they will have studied history chronologically three times.

Each year is organized into 36 weeks and lesson plans are given for the week (you decide how you work your daily breakdown of assignments). Each week has a reading assignment for history, literature, fine arts, and worldview along with geography map work. Student assignment pages provide kids with activities, discussion questions, and comprehension questions. Writing assignments are also provided and coordinate topically with the history studies.

We use a notebooking approach to TOG. Each quarter I give my kids a workbook I put together for them that includes the TOG student activity pages, blank “notebooking” pages I found from Notebookingpages.com, maps, picture study pages, writing assignments, and blank lined paper for their writing assignments. This keeps everything neat and tidy and helps them know what is to be done for the week. Every Monday I give them an assignment sheet with all their assignments for each day and every subject (including math, Latin, spelling, and grammar). As they grow older, they will be expected to help divide their weekly TOG work into daily chunks themselves, learning to budget their time over the week to be done by Friday.

What advice can I give if you decide to use it? Here a few suggestions:
  • Order the Year Plan and the MapAids disk. This makes all the map work very easy to teach. MapAids gives you blank maps for the kids and teacher maps with the answers, all in easy to use PDF files. I usually give my kids the blank map for labeling and coloring and provide them with a teacher map to find the answers. Copying the labels and colors into their map is a very easy and effective way to learn geography.
  • Don’t order all the books on the booklist all at once! Once you receive your Year Plan, look over the book list and prepare your own list of what to buy and what to find at the library and what you might substitute. Until you get the hang of TOG, I recommend that you only buy the books you need for the first unit, or quarter. After you get the feel for TOG, you’ll discover that many of the books are better found at your library or that you have substitutes available on your own shelf. Some titles are real gems and it is worth it to buy the book TOG suggests, but sometimes it just doesn’t matter (for example, any elementary-level biography of Woodrow Wilson will suffice). 
  • TOG is a plan of study. For lower grammar especially, think of it as an outline that guides you in teaching your kids history. For our younger ones, we follow the topics by week, fill our home with library books, music, dress-up clothes, toys, and sometimes movies that fit the theme, and we experience it together. 
If you think history is dull, TOG will change your mind. Don’t worry if you aren’t a history scholar. All that you need is in your TOG teacher notes. TOG calls itself “curriculum for K-Mom” and it is quite true: TOG moms are learning along with their kids and loving every minute of it!

There are plenty of bloggers who have already offered up similar posts describing Tapestry of Grace and you can find them through the blogroll. Also, to see how we enjoy TOG, click on the topics "Tapestry of Grace," or "TOG Co-op," or "TOG Year 4."

A few hours after posting this, I corrected the Notebookingpages.com link.

Monday, December 1, 2008

St. Lucia Day is Coming



We made the costumes and then wore them for the presentation.
I read Lucia Morning in Sweden to the group and Hope and her friend Addy (both dressed as St. Lucia) served gingersnaps (pepparkakor) .

Making Costumes

We spent Saturday morning making St. Lucia costumes so the girls could dress as St. Lucia and her attendant and the boys as Starboys. We are scheduled to visit Lindsborg, Kansas, a town famous for its Swedish heritage, on St. Lucia Day, with the GRACE homeschool group.


In anticipation of this, our family and the G. family explained the St. Lucia tradition to our group. The legends that surround St. Lucia form the backdrop for the Swedish tradition in which children dress as St. Lucia and attendants and bring breakfast in bed to their parents. Legend says that St. Lucia was seen at the bow of a ship, wearing a wreath of candles and lighting the way through the winter darkness. It is said that the starboy costume is meant to remind us of the (traditionally) three wise men (three stars on the hat).



Protestants like us forget that the calendar is full of saints days, but we've enjoyed in recent years reading picture books about St. Nicholas around his day (December 6) and St. Lucia (December 13) on her day.

Great-Grandpa's War Service

A look at our family's connections with the history that we are studying:


Edwards Academy kids’ Great-Grandpa R. was born in 1918, just a month after the Armistice, to Slovenian immigrants to the United States. He grew up on the south side of Chicago in an Eastern European immigrant neighborhood. After he finished high school in the Thirties, he found a job working for Sears, Roebuck. He ran the duplicating machine in their advertising department, earning 40 cents an hour. He changed jobs later and worked on the manufacturing line of Western Electric. He still worked there, earning 90 cents an hour, when the Army drafted him in 1942.

Great-Grandma R. met Great-Grandpa through a magazine pen pal program. Great-Grandma lived in Missouri’s boot-heel. Her father ran a general store, but sold too much on credit in the 1930s and when his customers couldn’t pay, he lost everything and closed his store. Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa eventually arranged to meet and continued to correspond. When Great-Grandpa was drafted in 1942, he and Great-Grandma married.

Great-Grandpa was sent to basic training at Fort Warren, Wyoming and then was transferred to Fort Lewis, Washington and then Fort Knox, Kentucky. After this, his unit was loaded onto a Liberty boat and shipped off to England where he would prepare for the coming European invasion. Great-Grandpa remembers that the crossing took six to eight weeks, since the ship was forced to avoid German U-Boats, which patrolled the north Atlantic.

On D-Day plus three, Great-Grandpa landed at Normandy. His was in a medical detachment that was part of an ordnance battalion in the Third Army. Great-Grandpa stood on the Normandy beach and everywhere he looked he saw Allied soldiers, ships, tanks, trucks, planes, and firepower. The sea, land and sky were filled with Allied forces. Great-Grandpa moved steadily toward Germany in Patton’s army. He wasn’t a medic, but assisted in bringing wounded men to the tents for medical care. Great-Grandpa went all the way to Nuremburg, Germany with Patton’s army and was there on V-E Day. The victory celebration was tempered by news that his unit might be transferred to the Pacific theater. In the end, however, they weren’t needed and Great-Grandpa returned to the States and was re-united with his bride.

Great-Grandma spent the war years staying with family and working. She did move to Kentucky when Great-Grandpa was stationed at Fort Knox, but at other times she lived with her brother in Colorado and Tacoma, Washington. When she lived in Washington, Great-Grandma went to work in the shipyards near Tacoma, which were building Liberty ships.

Together again after the war, Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma tried a few different jobs in Missouri and Illinois, but by the 1950s they moved their family to the Chicago area, where they stayed for over twenty years, raising three daughters. This year Great-Grandpa R. will celebrate his ninetieth birthday on December 7, now known as Pearl Harbor day. Great-Grandma passed away about twenty years ago.
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