Imparting a classical education at home. Check out the Edwards Academy.

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.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Lines of Literature: What's So Great About Christianity? (Cont.)

A significant problem for the atheist is the existence of morality. It turns out that it is very difficult to get rid of morality, and for some atheists this whole problem is major motive in their atheism. Morality is confining and one wishes that it were possible to just philosophically invalidate the whole idea. If only it were that easy. (This makes me think of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, which explored this idea through the story of Raskolnikov.)

In response to the idea that all the evil and suffering in the world comes from religion or religious conflict, D'Souza examines the record of atheist regimes. It isn't pretty. Why?
"A second reason for the horrors of atheist regimes is that they operated without any of the moral restrains that are the product of religion and that, however slightly, held back the bloodthirsty tyrants of the past. Nietzsche saw this coming....The death of God, Nietzsche wrote, would result in the total eclipse of all values." (page 225)

How much have we adopted atheistic philosophies without recognizing it?
"We are accustomed to speaking of the scientific laws of nature. It's worth asking if there are moral laws of human nature. Many of us are unwitting heirs to a philosophy that denies objective morality. We hold that science is objective, but values are subjective. We believe we can know scientific things but morality is a matter of mere opinion."

Darwinism concludes that humans have evolved into moral creatures. But, it is a senseless evolution and the enlightened Darwinist would have us regress to the level of animals, for morality is a false construction.
"So the appeal of Darwinism for many is that it eliminates the concept of a "higher" human nature and places man on a continuum with the animals. The distinctive feature of animals, of course, is that they have no developed sense of morality...Consequently Darwinism becomes a way to break free of the confines of traditional morality. We can set aside the old restraints and simply act the way that comes naturally." (page 270)

"In a powerful essay, 'The Discreet Charm of Nihilism,' Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz argues that in order to escape form an eternal fate in which our sins are punished, man seeks to free himself from religion." (page 271)

"Bioethicist Peter Singer invokes Darwinism to make the point that there is a continuum, not a clear separation, between humans and animals. Therefore animals should be given some of the rights that are now given only to humans. Singer also argues that humans should be denied some of the protections they now have on the grounds that they are not fundamentally different from animals." (page 274-275)

"My conclusion is that, contrary to popular belief, atheism is not primarily an intellectual revolt; it is a moral revolt. Atheists don't find God invisible so much as objectionable. They aren't adjusting their desires to the truth, but rather the truth to fit their desires. This is something with which we can all identify. It is a temptation even for believers. We want to be saved, as long as we are not saved from our sins...The atheist seeks to get rid of moral judgment by getting rid of the judge." (page 276)

It isn't easy to pretend morality doesn't exist.
"Consider this: why do we experience suffering and evil as unjust? If we are purely material beings, then we should no more object to mass murder than a river objects to drying up in a drought. Nevertheless we are not like rivers. We know that evil is real, and we know that it is wrong. But if evil is real, then good must be real as well...there is a moral standard in the universe that provides the basis for this distinction. And what is the source of that moral standard if not God?" (p. 280-281)

As a Christian, I know that arguing point-for-point will never persuade a non-believer. Scripture is clear that it is God who draws us to Himself. So why bother with these arguments? We can all think of some who become obsessed with making these arguments and it ultimately isn't edifying. And yet, we cannot remain intellectually soft. While some are obsessed with the arguments, others are unwittingly co-opting anti-God philosophies because they are weak in their knowledge of Scripture and weak in understanding the foundational beliefs of trends that are seen in our culture, and unable to make the arguments.

Hopefully you've enjoyed this taste of D'Souza's book. It is certainly one to add to your reading list.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Straw Man

My eight-year-olds will be entering the the logic stage as President Obama nears the end of his first term. By that time, I'm confident that his presidential speeches will provide us with many instances of the straw man fallacy to discuss. In fact, in just a few weeks we already have plenty on the record.

Forget what the straw man fallacy is? Brush up here.
Don't know what I mean about President Obama? Read this.

Lines of Literature: What's So Great About Christianity?

In his book What's So Great About Christianity? Dinesh D'Souza takes us on a whirlwind tour through economics, physics and astrophysics, biology, philosophy, the problem of evil, and the problem (for atheists) of morality. His aim is to give an answer to some of the anti-God and anti-religion voices that demand our hearing of late. His answer also helps believers to be more confident, not in our faith so much as our ability to stand up reasonably (within the bounds of reason) to arguments against God. 

Earth Images I - ©Spaceshots

Because Christianity acknowledges that man is depraved, western civilization has developed societal mechanisms to cope with the sin of man. In other words, the hallmarks of western civilization are owed to the implications of Christian beliefs. D'Souza writes:
"One may say that capitalism civilizes greed in much the same way that marriage civilizes lust. Both insitutions seek to domesticate wayward or fallen human impulses in socially beneficial ways." (page 64)

About the origin of the universe (the "Big Bang" being the idea that our universe had a beginning ex nilio, from nothing):
"It is very important to recognize that before the Big Bang, there were no laws of physics. In fact, the laws of physics cannot be used to explain the Big Bang because the Big Bang itself produced the laws of physics....Scientists call the starting moment of the universe a "singularity," an original point at which neither space nor time nor scientific laws are in effect...Once upon a time there was no time...If the universe was produced outside the laws of physics, then its origin satisfies the basic definition of the term miracle." (page 121 and 122)

The philosophy of science:
"Modern science seems to be based on an unwavering commitment to naturalism and materialism. Naturalism is the doctrine that nature is all there is. According to naturalism, there are neither miracles nor supernatural forces. Therefore reports of the supernatural can only be interpreted naturalistically. Materialism is the belief that material reality is the only reality....Scientific truth is not the whole truth. It cannot make the case for naturalism or materialism, because it operates within naturalism and materialism. When we realize this, then philosophical atheism becomes much less plausible...." (page 164, 168)
It strikes me, reading this book, that even when we determine not to, we limit God in our perception of Him. We forget that as His creation we are incapable of comprehending fully our Creator. We slip into secular thinking and try to fit truth into materialism and naturalism. We capitulate intellectually and concede that our faith is beyond reason. But our faith is very reasonable if we think bigger about our God. We need to understand that expecting our God to conform to the laws of physics that He Himself created is very limiting indeed.

More quotes from What's So Great About Christianity? coming soon.

Image from Earth Images I @ Spaceshots

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Keeping Sharp

I've recently added two blogs to my Reader that you might enjoy, if you don't already keep an eye on them:  Koinonia, which is a Zondervan blog, and Desiring God Blog: God Centered Resources from the Ministry of John Piper.

Koinonia, being a blog from Zondervan, features many of Zondervan's writers and in some sense is a promotional tool for the publishing company. I've found some very interesting and thoughtful posts from the world of Biblical scholarship (including this post about Johannine studies from Dr. Gary Burge, who was my Christian Thought professor at Wheaton). You'll find posts about Bible translation (Biblical languages and text), Old and New Testament backgrounds, archeology, hermeneutics, book reviews, and interviews with authors. (Hat tip to Sharon for directing me to an article on this blog about hermeneutics and children's ministry curricula.) I've especially enjoyed the recent book review posts on The God I Don't Understand, by Christopher Wright, including video clips of Mr. Wright discussing his book. 

The blog from Desiring God contains wisdom and resources from John Piper's ministry. John Piper is the author of Don't Waste Your Life and other books, and the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. The arm of Desiring God ministries for children, Children Desiring God, produces an excellent children's ministry curriculum. I am enjoying teaching the "In the Beginning...Jesus" third grade year of this curriculum. I've found posts here that get me thinking beyond cliches, such as "Is God's Love Unconditional?", trustworthy Bible commentary, and wonderful quotes from historical Christian thinkers.

There are so many quality blogs and websites produced by churches and Christian scholars--there are too many to track! There isn't time (or priority) to keep an eye on all of them, but I've found that with these in my Reader I can catch posts here and there that interest me and I feel that I'm staying connected with Biblical scholarship from my homeschooling classroom!

Monday, February 23, 2009

March Reading: Orthodoxy

This March I will be reading through G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy. There is still time for you to pick up a copy of the book and read it with me! This book is on my 2009 Reading Wish List and my blogging friend Sharon suggested reading it together this March.

I'm not doing as well on my reading wish list as I hoped. I got a bit bogged down in The Coldest Winter, a fascinating but long Korean War history, and haven't nearly kept pace at one book a week! But, I expected as much. Even though I'm finishing up D'Souza's What's So Great About Christianity, skimming Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics, and reading Ralph Moody's Little Britches, not to mention our school reading, I'm planning to read Orthodoxy in March. (Look for Lines of Literature posts on What's So Great... and Basic Economics soon.)

This is my first time to read G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), a prolific writer that influenced many writers who followed him, including C. S. Lewis. Chesterton writes in his preface: 
It is the purpose of the writer to attempt an explanation, not of whether the Christian faith can be believed, but of how he personally has come to believe it.

The book is therefore arranged upon the positive principle of a riddle and its answer. It deals first with all the writer's own solitary and sincere speculations and then with all the startling style in which they were all suddenly satisfied by the Christian theology.
The annotated edition (Craig Kibler, editor, Reformation Press) that I ordered from runs just 230 pages. Won't you join me?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lines of Literature: Talkative and Pilgrim's Progress

On the journey, Faithful encounters Talkative and strikes up a conversation with him, assuming him to be on the journey with him. Thinking he is an excellent pilgrim, Faithful turns to Christian and asks about the new companion:
Faithful: Do you know him then?
Christian. Know him? Yes, better than he knows himself.
Faithful. Pray what is he?
Christian. His name is Talkative; he dwelleth in our town. I wonder that you should be a stranger to him, only I consider that our town is large...notwithstanding his fine tongue, he is but a sorry fellow....This man is for any company, and for any talk; as he talketh now with you so will he talk when he is on the ale-bench; and the more drink he hath in his crown, the more of these things he hath in his mouth. Religion hath no place in his heart, or house, or conversation; all he hath lieth in his tongue, and his religion is to make a noise therewith.
Faithful: Say you so? Then am I in this man greatly deceived.
Christian: Deceived! you may be sure of it. Remember the proverb, "They say, and do not" (Matt. 23:3). But the "kingdom of God is not in word, but in power" (1 Cor. 4:20). He talketh of prayer, of repentance, of faith, and of the new birth; but he knows but only to talk of them. I have been in his family, and have observed him both at home and abroad; and I know what I say of him is the truth. His House is as empty of religion as the white of an egg is of savor. There is there neither prayer, nor sign of repentance for sin; yea, the brute, in his kind, serves God far better than he. He is the very stain, reproach, and shame of religion to all that know him (Rom. 2:24,25);...Thus say the common people that know him, "a saint abroad, and a devil at home."...
...Faithful: This brings to my mind that of Moses, by which he describeth the beast that is clean (Lev. 11:3-7, Deut 14:6-8). He is such as one that parteth the hoof, and cheweth the cud; not that parteth the hoof only, or that cheweth the cud only. The hare cheweth the cud, but yet is unclean, because he parteth not the hoof. And this truly resembleth Talkative: he cheweth the cud, he seeketh knowledge; he cheweth upon the Word, but he divideth not the hoof. He parteth not with the way of sinners; but as the hare, he retaineth the foot of the dog or bear, and therefore he is unclean.
Faithful rejoins Talkative for futher conversation and discovers that indeed, Christian is correct. Talkative has the knowledge of salvation and the words to describe it, but the knowledge has not changed him. As Faithful tells him, "for knowledge, great knowledge, may be obtained in the mysteries of the Gospel, and yet no work of grace in the soul." Faithful proceeds to tell Talkative exactly what a "work of grace in the soul" is: conviction of sin, confession of faith in Christ, and
"a life answerable to that confession; to wit, a life of holiness: heart-holiness, family-holiness (if he hath a family), and by conversation-holiness in the world; which in the general teacheth him inwardly to abhor his sin, and himself for that, in secret; to suppress it in his family, and to promote holiness in the world: not by talk only, as a hypocrite or talkative person may do, but by a practical subjection in faith and love to the power of the Word."
I re-read this particular section of Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress after Jerry Bridges mentioned Talkative in his book The Pursuit of Holiness. Every time I read The Pilgrim's Progress, I am amazed. Bunyan's story does such a good job of capturing doctrinal and practical truths of Christianity.

In days gone by The Pilgrim's Progress was often the only book a family owned besides their Bible. Children learned to read with it and most Americans knew the story quite well. Our own times seem to be filled with Talk, don't they? I found in this section about Talkative a bit of a warning. Blogs like this are filled with talk of faith. May my life demonstrate that I am changed by the work of grace in my soul and not merely a Talkative, but empty, person!

I spent some of my "coffee with the Lord" this morning looking up all the Scripture passages that Bunyan references in this section about Talkative (there are about two dozen). 
Image from Wikipedia, a map from a 1778 edition of the book; bold emphasis in quotations added.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Space Race: Cosmosphere Field Trip

It might surprise you that one of the best space museums in our grand land is right here in Kansas! It is true. The Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas, has actual artifacts that were flown in space, actual artifacts that were back-ups to what was flown in space, and high quality replicas. In fact, Mr. Edwards and I felt that the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center had a better museum than even Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Of course, Cape Canaveral offers a tour of the launch pads and other places on the space center, including a full mock up of Mission Control, but the Kansas Cosmosphere museum did a better job educating the visitor on the chronological events of the Space Race and displayed plenty of actual artifacts and models.

Mrs. Edwards, Edwards kids and a couple of cousins stand for the camera in front of the actual Apollo 13 Odyssey Command Module that landed safely in the Pacific after a harrowing trip, one made famous by the Apollo 13 movie.

Mr. Edwards and kids read the the display and gaze at the full-size Lunar Module on display. Behind them you see actual Apollo space suits.

The kids could have spent twenty minutes on the Mission Control board. We urged them on since others were waiting! They were hammering on the keys and calling out, "This is Houston, ..." 

The museum leads you through time, beginning with World War II Germany and the development of the V-1 and V-2 rockets. The Cold War gallery includes actual back-up artifacts of Sputnik 1 and 2 and other authentic Soviet space artifacts from the late 1950s. With hands-on opportunities for kids (pretend you are in the blockhouse and look through the spy-glass at the launch, sit in a B-52 ejector seat, push the buttons on an actual Apollo-era Mission Control control board, walk in the "white room" that Apollo astronauts walked through as they entered the spacecraft, sit in a Mercury mock-up capsule, etc.), the Cosmosphere does an nice job of combining text, displays, and sounds (Kennedy speeches, Apollo radio traffic, launch sounds).

The kids are standing at the base of the Titan II replica rocket. This rocket was used to launch the Gemini manned space capsules that were launched in the mid-1960s. As we stood outside looking, we heard actual audio recordings of the Gemini astronauts communicating with Mission Control.

In the giant entry way of the Cosmosphere, an actual SR-71 Blackbird is on static display. This amazing spy plane expands one to two feet during flight! It had cruising speeds over Mach 3, about 2,200 miles per hour. 

After a week of studying the space race at home, reading books about the Apollo program, and even watching the Apollo 11 moon landing, Edwards Academy kids were primed and ready to appreciate nearly three hours of museum walking. We had a fantastic time.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Edwards Academy Magazine III

For a descriptive writing assignment, Sydney and Hope were asked to describe the comic strip "Peanuts." They were written separately, but because we worked together on the initial clustering diagram to get their structure in place, you will notice similarities. 

By Sydney Edwards
February 11, 2009

“Peanuts” is a funny comic strip drawn by Charles Schulz. Schulz developed “Peanuts” in 1950 and drew it until 2000, when he died. He drew the kids in the comic strip with big heads, short arms, and short legs. The comic strip never included grown-ups because Schulz wanted it to show the kids’ perspective.

Charlie Brown, who is bald and always wears a yellow shirt with a black zig-zag line is the main character. Whenever Charlie Brown does something it always goes badly. Snoopy, an imaginative beagle, is Charlie Brown’s dog. Snoopy is quiet all the time but he’s always thinking. Lucy, drawn with black hair, is mean, ungrateful, and bossy. She also calls Charlie Brown a blockhead. Lucy’s brother Linus has straight hair and he always has his blue blanket. Charlie Brown’s sister Sally has yellow, poofy hair with a blue ribbon. She loves Linus, but he ignores her. Schroeder is a piano player. He constantly plays Beethoven’s music.

There are many recurring stories. In one, Charlie Brown plays football with Lucy and she always tricks him by taking away the ball just as he is kicking it. Another recurring story is about Charlie Brown’s baseball team. His team always loses and the other kids blame him because he is the pitcher. Another story is about Charlie Brown’s kite. His kite always gets stuck in a tree and then the kite-eating tree eats it. Charlie Brown likes the red-haired girl, but she does not notice him.

Snoopy likes to pretend that he is fighting in World War I against the Red Baron. Snoopy wears a pilot hat that covers his ears and goggles and a red scarf. He sits on top of his doghouse and pretends that he is in a Sopwith Camel bi-plane.

Lucy loves Schroeder and sits by his piano as he plays. Lucy irritates Schroeder and Schroeder irritates Lucy, and she gets mad. In her anger she hits him across the piano.

Linus believes in the Great Pumpkin. He thinks that on Halloween the Great Pumpkin comes to all the pumpkin patches to see if they are sincere. If it is, he gives candy and gifts to the children who own the Pumpkin patch. Linus waits in this patch for the Great Pumpkin, but he never comes.

I like “Peanuts” because it’s all about kids! I like to read the comics about Snoopy and Charlie Brown. Snoopy’s imagination fascinates me. I’m just like Snoopy. I like to pretend I’m in my own world of my imagination.
By Hope Edwards
February 13, 2009

Charles Schulz drew the funny comic strip “Peanuts.” The strip ran in newspapers all over the United States from 1950 to 2000. The strip only showed kids in it. All of the kids have short arms and legs; they also have big heads. The main character of “Peanuts” is Charlie Brown. Nothing goes right for the bald-headed Charlie Brown, whom no one cares about. Charlie Brown always wears a yellow or red shirt with a crooked black stripe around it.

Charlie has many friends in his neighborhood. He has a beagle named Snoopy. Snoopy is black and white. When it seems he is talking he is actually thinking. Snoopy, who is anthropomorphic, also likes to pretend. Linus is one of many of Charlie’s friends. Linus’s hair is thin and unkempt, and he hates girls. Linus has a sister named Lucy. (She hates him.) You almost always see him with his blue blanket. Lucy is another one of Charlie’s friends. Lucy has raven black hair and is very bossy. Lucy loves Schroeder. Schroeder loves Beethoven and plays piano. Sally is Charlie’s little sister. Sally has poofy yellow hair and she always wears a dress. Sally loves Linus.

Charles Schulz used some story lines again and again. Snoopy is always imagining that he is a pilot in World War I fighting the Red Baron. There are also many recurring stories about Charlie Brown. For instance, on Valentine’s Day Charlie Brown loves the red-haired girl, but she does not like him. Whenever Charlie Brown flies his kite it gets stuck in a tree.
Charlie Brown plays baseball and football. When Charlie kicks the football Lucy snatches it away. Just when Charlie believes that Lucy is finally being kind to him, she is not! On Halloween, Linus thinks that the Great Pumpkin comes to every pumpkin patch and if it is good he gives candy and toys to children.

I like “Peanuts” because it is funny. At the same time, I also feel sorry for Charlie Brown because nobody seems to care about him. Charles Schulz uses the strip to describe how people feel sometimes. We all feel like Charlie or Lucy or Linus or Snoopy sometimes. “Peanuts” is a wonderful comic strip.
"Peanuts" strips from Sorry they don't fit in the width! I'm not sure how to fix that, if I even can.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bible Quizzing

Last Saturday Hope's Bible Quizzing team took second place for the T&T Book One competition! We were so proud of her for competing. 

AWANA Bible Quizzing is a competition for kids from churches in the surrounding area. Each church that participates fields one or more teams for each Truth & Training book level. Book One had about two dozen kids or more competing. Scores are awarded individually and to teams.
Hope, like all the competitors, competed in the paddle quiz and the written test. The written test had ten questions and the paddle quiz also had ten questions. I didn't get to watch her take the written, but the paddle quiz took place in the church's auditorium. Quizzers sat on the stage and were instructed to look steadily at their paddle box as they listened carefully to each multiple-choice question. Then--"Paddles Up!"  Hope did so well! I think I was more nervous than she was! 

She only missed one of the paddle quiz questions. It is agonizing when you miss one, because after the judge announces the proper answer, you must bravely hold up your incorrect answer until the judge instructs everyone to put their paddles away. (This gives the judges time to record all the scores.)

Hope's team did very well and some of the questions were pretty tricky! Each question was multiple choice and derived from the first half of the AWANA T&T Book One. Kids needed to remember their Scripture references, recognize which Scriptures support the various T&T Questions (this is similar to a catechism), and know all the "Word Wise" definitions.

Hope's already looking forward to competing next year. Meanwhile, my sweet (and shy) Sydney is considering it...

The Tide That's Rising

How do I sense the tide that's rising, de-sensitizing me from living in the light of eternity?
How do I sense the tide that's rising? It's hypnotizing me from living in the light of eternity?

The "Lose my Soul" song by TobyMac, although not my favorite style of music, seems to capture exactly what I think when I observe the world around me lately. Inspired by Matthew 16:25, which says, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?" (ESV), the song describes a danger that Christians need to guard against, perhaps especially in our current days. 

When my clock-radio switched on this morning, I heard the dee-jay (my alarm clock sadly doesn't tune in our Christian radio station) talking about the week and he said, "If you saw Obama's press conference Monday night, I'm sure you thought that was amazing."

I didn't see it, but from what I read it was amazing. But I'm not amazed by Obama in the same way the dee-jay is. What kind of tide is rising in America right now? Journalists fail to follow-up on questions or press the President for straight answers, but instead laud him for his brilliance. Then, the next day, in a town-hall meeting, people flat-out begged our President for help, one woman even pleading, "Help me," after describing her woes. To which the President of the United States responded in Oprah-like fashion: "OK, Ms. Hughes, well, we’re going to do everything we can to help you, but there are a lot of people like you. And we’re going to do everything we can, all right? But the — I’ll have my staff talk to you after this — after the town hall, all right?"

The whole thing reveals just how much Americans have begun to see their government as their provider. Instead of seeing that a strong central government should provide a just and reliable framework for society to function within, so we can pursue our lives and provide for our own needs, people now want government to provide for all their needs

I also see the rise of emotionalism over reason. In that same town hall meeting, so many of the questioners were carried away by emotion and asking for help from the President with the fallacy argumentum ad misericordiam (appeal to pity).  So it was interesting to read this passage from the classic The Pursuit of Holiness (by Jerry Bridges, NavPress, 2006 edition):

These faculties [the mind, the emotions, the conscience, and the will] were all implanted in man's soul by God, but were all corrupted through man's fall in the Garden of Eden. Our reason (or understanding) was darkened (Ephesians 4:18), our desires were entangled (Ephesians 2:3), and our wills perverted (John 5:40). With new birth our reason is again enlightened, our effections and desires redirected, and our wills subdued. But though this is true, it is not true all at once. In actual experience it is a growing process. We are told to renew our minds (Romans 12:2), to set our affections on things above (Colossians 3:1), and to submit our wills to God (James 4:7). (p. 108)
And on the next page,
Therefore we must guard what enters our minds and what influences our emotions...The Bible speaks to us primarily through our reason, and this is why it is so vitally important for our minds to be constantly brought under its influence. There is absolutely no shortcut to holiness that bypasses or gives little priority to a consistent intake of the Bible. (p. 109)
In light of that, it is a bit comical that atheists accuse the Christian faith of abandoning reason. But, on the other hand, they cannot abide by a faith system that presupposes an inability to understand the things of God by non-followers and in that essentially invalidates their every protestation.

Forgive my somewhat random collection of thoughts. But watch out for the rising tide!

UPDATE 3/6/09: The TobyMac video was removed from YouTube so I removed the embedded video.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Kennedy Years

First Lady Jackie Kennedy Supervising Workman in Room at the White House by Ed Clark
First Lady Jackie Kennedy Supervising Workman in Room at the White House

This week our history studies focus on the Kennedy years. In one quick week we briefly covered the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the geography of Cuba, and the Kennedy family. Today, we spent extra time learning about Jackie Kennedy's White House renovation. We last focused on the White House's architecture and decor when we learned about its construction (in TOG Year 3). I suppose I gave it a disproportionate about of time, but the kids were very fascinated with the history of our President's house.

I read a bit out of Upstairs at the White House by former Chief Usher J.B. West about the Kennedy years and Mrs. Kennedy's renovation plans and then we watched her 1962 NBC television special, A Tour of the White House.

The site absorbed most of our day. We just couldn't stop looking at each of the rooms and how they've changed over the years. This website gives you a look at the ground floor and the third floor that is rarely seen in White House coffee-table books, and of course gives photographic histories of all the rooms on the first and second floors.

I admit, this was mostly a fun day, but we did learn to recognize some features of the Federal style and the Victorian style and the Empire style.

Photo from

Thursday, February 5, 2009


This morning I worked on my BSF lesson, studying Leviticus 25 which tells about the Sabbath Year and the Year of Jubilee. At breakfast I told my kids, "You'll love your BSF today: it's about the Year of Jubilee." To which they replied, "Mom, that's like the song."

It's been a long time since I heard "Days of Elijah," but we downloaded it from iTunes and took a school break to celebrate with praise and dance. Clap your hands! Raise your voices! Vibrate the walls of your house!

Behold He comes! Riding on the clouds!
Shining like the sun! At the trumpet call!
Lift your voice! It's the year of Jubilee!
And out of Zion's hill salvation comes!

We like this version, from Beth Moore's praise band, but Twila Paris has a great recording as well.

Various Artists - Beth Moore Presents: Voices of the Faithful - Days Of Elijah

To my BSF readers, don't mention the song in your challenge question! :) But nothing can stop me from declaring the word of the LORD! There's no god like JEHOVAH!

(For Tonya: Hope is doing her change-two-threes to this song!)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Child Development Comedy

Yesterday I took Toby (pictured on the right, listening to Lane read Cowboy Small to him) to the pediatrician for his three-year-old check-up. I appreciate our doctor because she doesn't talk down to me. But that creates some humorous moments.

She asked about Toby's eating habits, checking on his nutrition.

"How is he at eating?"
I couldn't keep from chuckling, "He eats--a lot. We joke that if we both keeled over he'd survive in the house for a week because he gets into every cupboard and helps himself."
"Okay," she smiled and turned to her laptop to type it into the chart.

Later on, about potty training:
"How's that going?"
"Well...not so great. He still has accidents."
"But he understands how it works?"
"Oh, yes, he can do it, he just doesn't."
"Well, as long as he knows what to do and how it works, I think it is a battle that you won't win." At these words I must have looked crest-fallen. But, on the other hand, Toby's my fourth child so I know it will resolve eventually. She looked at me.
"Have you tried token economy?" My brain searched for a connection--had I heard of this? I could deduce what it meant but--
"What's that?"
"Well, you can give him a jar to collect marbles in and when he gets a certain amount of marbles, you reward him with a video or something. He earns the marbles by having a dry day. He loses marbles when he doesn't have a dry day. This puts him in control of the situation, which helps." She went on to explain this method of behavior modification, which you will no doubt recognize immediately if you have taken psychology classes (a subject in which I am only self-educated through reading). Nevertheless, in my assessment of my son, this won't work. I just smiled.
"We have used rewards," I couldn't tell her about our system of candy red hots; it suddenly seemed weak and simple. Not exactly token economy. "But haven't seen much difference."

She thankfully moved on.

"Safety!" It was a declaration of a new topic. She launched into her spiel.
"At this age safety is a very important area of concern. Make sure that you put all medicines out of reach--even out of his problem-solving reach, and be sure that..."
Problem-solving reach? Once again I quickly put together her meaning. Oh yes, child development tells us that when Toby naughtily climbs on my counters to reach the marshmallows that are tucked in the top cupboard he is problem-solving.

Isn't he smart?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Crazy Colors: Warhol Project

About a month ago we saw a few Warhol and Lichtenstein pieces in our Art Museum and I told the kids, "We'll be studying their art soon!" The time has arrived and we did a Warhol project last week. Except that icy weather cut short our Truth Treasure Hunters co-op meeting and we didn't get to do it together. And then when Sydney caught strep throat, Hope was the only one to do the project. (I found this Warhol art project on the Tapestry of Grace forum, where Jana shared about doing this project.)

Here is Hope's original photo:

Here you see it after I altered it in iPhoto:

I printed the doctored photo through iPhoto, choosing "multiple copies per page" and printing "four up" as we used to say when I worked in a print shop. Then, I printed the photos four up on a laser printer transparency film sheet. (They still sell these, but with overhead projectors becoming passe, I wonder...) We taped the clear film to some white card stock, and carefully made some pencil markings to outline faintly some details of the photo onto the blank paper. Then, Hope chose her watercolors and began painting. I showed her several Warhol pieces to give her some ideas. Here you see Hope carefully painting.

Here I took a snap of her work in progress.

Here I took a shot of her finished project.

Hope really loved doing this project.
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