Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How Does A Homeschooler Change A Lightbulb?

This appeared in the HEAV Homeschool Update email that arrived today.  It made me smile.  I have often been guilty as charged... enough so that my daughter EV asked, laughing, "Did you write that?"

How Does a Homeschooler Change a Light Bulb?
First, mom checks three books on electricity out of the library; then the kids make models of light bulbs, read a biography of Thomas Edison, and do a skit based on his life. Next, everyone studies the history of lighting methods, wrapping up with dipping their own candles. Then, everyone takes a trip to the store where they compare types of light bulbs as well as prices and figure out how much change they'll get if they buy two bulbs for $1.99 and pay with a five-dollar bill.

On the way home, a discussion develops over the history of money and also Abraham Lincoln, as his picture is on the five-dollar bill. Finally, after building a homemade ladder out of branches dragged from the woods, the light bulb is installed. And there is light.
- Author Unknown

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Recently I received an email from a friend which contained a video attachment of a recording of John Lennon's "Imagine" featuring Deaf and hearing students signing and singing together.  (I'm assuming that it must be from the television show "Glee," which I've never seen.) I think she sent it to me because she knows that my daughters and I are all learning ASL (American Sign Language), and she (rightly) assumed that we would enjoy seeing the interpretation and song-signing of the Deaf students in that group.  It is a moving and enjoyable video.

That, I would venture to say, is part of the problem.  It is moving.  It is inspiring.  Seeing all the kids joining together to sign the song was a beautiful reflection of the message of unity and brotherhood attempted in that song.  However, we can't ignore the fact that the ultimate "peace" that is sought in the song "Imagine" is at the expense of Truth and reality. 

True peace (with God and with our fellow man) does not come when we abandon the realities of heaven and hell and just "live for today."  And while it is true that the "religion" of man, if void of relationship with the living God, is fruitless, it is not true that the idea of abandoning the Truth of our religion, Christianity, leads to a better way of life.  It leads to a less full life here, and to a life of eternal damnation after death. 

"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father but by Me," Jesus said.  Seemingly "exclusive"?  Yes.  Incredibly divisive?  YES!  But that is the Truth upon which we stand.  And every day hundreds of believers around the world are murdered or tortured for their faith in God through Jesus. 

So, while one day there will be "no countries" (once Jesus has returned to take His children home to heaven), the reality we live in now is that there are many things "to kill or die for," because of the injustices foisted on our fellow human beings--particularly believers--by the unjust governments of those countries.  Many of our brave men and women in the armed forces, and those living on the mission field, are willingly facing this injustice in order to bring the Truth of the Gospel--or at least the beautiful freedom that makes the sharing of the message of the Gospel possible--to those lands where it is currently forbidden.

And so to "join them (those who dream of his 'better' life)"--as John Lennon indicates he hopes people will--would lead ultimately to a life here on Earth without relationship to God, which results in an eternal separation from Him in the life to come.   "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels," Jesus said.

So, while it may have been a "great video," unfortunately, it is not a great song.  And things like this, when they move us--and it is a moving video--make a great impression on us.  I do long for the day when there will be true peace--and we will truly live as one in heaven--but in the meantime I also hope to be faithful to debunk these false messages about false hope in "the brotherhood of man" at the expense of belief in the ONLY true Way to get there, Jesus.

May I always share these truths with love, gentleness, and grace as well as boldness!

On a lighter note, here is a humorous rendition of this song, Tim Hawkins style.

Friday, October 22, 2010

An Allegory

Apparently my 9-year-old daughter knows me better than I realized.  The following paragraphs, which she wrote for a school assignment, "remind (her) of (me)," she said.  She is so dear... and life is so precious... and the moments are so fleeting!  I'm reminded again to savor every moment...

The dog ambled through the almost endless field; she lifted her head into the dimly lit sky and took in the sweet aroma of the spring air.  She imagined her small puppies leaping through this field, playing together by the tall trees.

The field's deep grass was damp from the storm the night before; it swayed and sang a song with the wind.  The dog imagined her small puppies growing and growing until they were gone and imagining their own puppies just like she was.  A tear came to her eye.  She knew she couldn't stop this from happening, and she realized how much she was going to miss them when this did happen...

She loved her puppies and this field, and that was all that mattered right now.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"How to Raise Boys Who Read"

This morning, I finally got around to reading an Op-Ed article from the Wall Street Journal entitled "How to Raise Boys Who Read," (subtitled "Hint: Not with gross-out books and video game bribes").  It mentions the popular but failing philosophy in many homes and schools today--just get them reading something, even if it is silly, gross, absurd, and banal--because  their tastes will eventually mature.  Ridiculous.  No young (or older) boy (or girl, for that matter) develops the attention, focus, persistence, and hard work necessary to read something other than mindless drivel--full of short, choppy sentences and crass humor--if he has not been fed a steady diet of challenging, high-quality children's literature.  And no book like that can compete with video games.  TV.  The Internet.

As the famous saying goes, "The secret is, that there is no damn secret."

It is a fantastic, thought-provoking article.  I would highly recommend that you read it in its entirety.  And it occurs to me that articles posted online are often
removed, leaving the article unavailable for reading later on.  So, actually, here it is:

Published in the Wall-Street Journal Opinion Journal
September 24, 2010
How to Raise Boys Who Read
Hint: Not with gross-out books and video-game bribes.
By Thomas Spence

When I was a young boy, America's elite schools and universities were almost entirely reserved for males. That seems incredible now, in an era when headlines suggest that boys are largely unfit for the classroom. In particular, they can't read.

According to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy, for example, substantially more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. This disparity goes back to 1992, and in some states the percentage of boys proficient in reading is now more than ten points below that of girls. The male-female reading gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents.

The good news is that influential people have noticed this problem. The bad news is that many of them have perfectly awful ideas for solving it.

Everyone agrees that if boys don't read well, it's because they don't read enough. But why don't they read? A considerable number of teachers and librarians believe that boys are simply bored by the "stuffy" literature they encounter in school. According to a revealing Associated Press story in July these experts insist that we must "meet them where they are"—that is, pander to boys' untutored tastes.

For elementary- and middle-school boys, that means "books that exploit [their] love of bodily functions and gross-out humor." AP reported that one school librarian treats her pupils to "grossology" parties. "Just get 'em reading," she counsels cheerily. "Worry about what they're reading later."

Not with 'gross-out' books and video-game bribes.

There certainly is no shortage of publishers ready to meet boys where they are. Scholastic has profitably catered to the gross-out market for years with its "Goosebumps" and "Captain Underpants" series. Its latest bestsellers are the "Butt Books," a series that began with "The Day My Butt Went Psycho."

The more venerable houses are just as willing to aim low. Penguin, which once used the slogan, "the library of every educated person," has its own "Gross Out" line for boys, including such new classics as "Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger."

Workman Publishing made its name telling women "What to Expect When You're Expecting." How many of them expected they'd be buying "Oh, Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty" a few years later from the same publisher? Even a self-published author like Raymond Bean—nom de plume of the fourth-grade teacher who wrote "SweetFarts"—can make it big in this genre. His flatulence-themed opus hit no. 3 in children's humor on Amazon. The sequel debuts this fall.

Education was once understood as training for freedom. Not merely the transmission of information, education entailed the formation of manners and taste. Aristotle thought we should be raised "so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; this is the right education."

"Plato before him," writes C. S. Lewis, "had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful."
This kind of training goes against the grain, and who has time for that? How much easier to meet children where they are.

One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn't go very far.

The other problem is that pandering doesn't address the real reason boys won't read. My own experience with six sons is that even the squirmiest boy does not require lurid or vulgar material to sustain his interest in a book.

So why won't boys read? The AP story drops a clue when it describes the efforts of one frustrated couple with their 13-year-old unlettered son: "They've tried bribing him with new video games." Good grief.

The appearance of the boy-girl literacy gap happens to coincide with the proliferation of video games and other electronic forms of entertainment over the last decade or two. Boys spend far more time "plugged in" than girls do. Could the reading gap have more to do with competition for boys' attention than with their supposed inability to focus on anything other than outhouse humor?

Dr. Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University, confirmed this suspicion in a randomized controlled trial of the effect of video games on academic ability. Boys with video games at home, he found, spend more time playing them than reading, and their academic performance suffers substantially. Hard to believe, isn't it, but Science has spoken.
The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.

People who think that a book—even R.L. Stine's grossest masterpiece—can compete with the powerful stimulation of an electronic screen are kidding themselves. But on the level playing field of a quiet den or bedroom, a good book like "Treasure Island" will hold a boy's attention quite as well as "Zombie Butts from Uranus." Who knows—a boy deprived of electronic stimulation might even become desperate enough to read Jane Austen.

Most importantly, a boy raised on great literature is more likely to grow up to think, to speak, and to write like a civilized man. Whom would you prefer to have shaped the boyhood imagination of your daughter's husband—Raymond Bean or Robert Louis Stevenson?

I offer a final piece of evidence that is perhaps unanswerable: There is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls. How many of these families, do you suppose, have thrown grossology parties?