30 April 2009

Speculation and Keeping the Ninth Commandment

Q. 76. Which is the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Q. 77. What is required in the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness-bearing.

Q. 78. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own, or our neighbor’s, good name.

Westminster Shorter Catechism

One of the least-discussed aspects of homeschooling is, I think, the sanctification of the parents which ensues. I have only seen two books that I can think of that discuss this, but I don't believe my own experiences so far are really all that unique. As children, the faith is handed down to us {if we are from Christian homes} and then, as parents, we are the ones doing the handing down. There is so much focus on the impact this has on children that I think we forget that the parents are being forced to review, relearn, and revisit the fundamentals of the faith. They, rather than asking the hard questions, are now the ones being asked.

This is a terrifying, yet fortifying experience. I have been blessed with at least one child who didn't wait until the logic stage to start asking difficult questions.

I had one of those moments last week when we were studying the Ninth Commandment. Every Thursday we study a simplified version of the shorter catechism using Big Truths for Little Kids. This particular lesson impacted me because of the simple story the author had used to illustrate the point.

Suffice it to say that three little boys are competing against one another for a prize. When one little boy looks like he's really going to win, one of the remaining two half-jokingly mentions he must be cheating. The third little boy takes this seriously, and circumstances lead to a rumor flying through their church over the issue.

Later in the day, one of my own children came to me with something wrong, I don't remember what. The child explained that So-and-So did this. The day's lesson reminded me to ask, How do you know? And I was shocked to learn that the child had just assumed this was true because it seemed like something So-and-So would do. It turned out that there was another explanation for the situation, and I had to explain to the child about how the child's speculation had been wrong and actually a breaking of the Ninth Commandment which we had learned about that day.

And then I began to catch myself breaking the same.

I kid you not, I cannot believe how much I speculate! Part of it is the conspiracy theorist in me. Part of it is assuming the worst about others more often than I realized. Part of it is assuming that someone else sins in the way that I do {and so I read myself into the situation and make assumptions based on that}.

When my husband and I were discussing a situation the day after this study, I remember that I started to say, "I bet So-and-So did..." I sounded just like my child.

Ack.

Suddenly, I realize I'm just as bad as the little children I've been correcting.

This is good, healthy sanctification. Now we have a bit of a joke around here, teasing each other about speculating when we really don't know the situation. And it's a wonderful joke to have, for it helps us realize the limits of our own knowledge and insight.

And when it comes to speculating about politicians, well...they do enough wrong without adding lies to the matter. There is no need to break a commandment, for they will condemn themselves in due time.

Or maybe I'm just speculating.

29 April 2009

Preventing Allergies: Bifidobacterium Infantis

Something I began studying shortly after I realized my children had severe food allergies was prevention. Even though we have a cure now, I am still studying prevention. After all, being healthy is the goal, and being healthy from the very start used to be usual, normal even. Now, my pediatrician looks shocked when I tell her that I don't know if my younger pair have drug allergies because they have never been exposed to a drug.

Why is this shocking? Why is it becoming normative to have babies less than a year old on drugs of one kind or another?

But I digress.

This is not a formal series. I am not about to go on one of my information-seeking missions again. But, from time to time, when I discover something that I think is key to allergy prevention, I'll publish it here.

My latest discovery, introduced to me by a friend in a recipe for homemade whole food baby formula, is a good gut bacteria called bifidobacterium infantis. B. infantis is a bacteria which, ideally, dominates the gut in humans from birth to around age seven. Now, it is always in our digestive tract, but the infantis is there because it is super plentiful in young children.

If you aren't familiar with human digestion {which is a key to true health, by the way}, this might get a bit confusing. The idea is that babies are born with an intestinal tract which is completely sterile. Within the first days, weeks, and months of life, that tract becomes colonized. In healthy babies, the bowels are colonized by good bacteria, which not only aids in healthy, thorough digestion, but also prevents overgrowth of bad bacteria which can cause digestive disturbances, among other things.

The baby's first exposure to B. infantis is in the birth canal during birth. {This was strike one for me, as my babies were all born by C-section.} The baby's extended exposure is in mother's milk when nursing {This was strike two, as my milk supply is very low and my babies have all gotten the majority of their nutrition from formula.} And, as we can see, the babies are getting this bacteria from their mother, who may or may not have healthy intestinal flora herself.

If Mommy has been struggling with digestive problems, has been on repeated antibiotics, or has candida overgrowth, there is a chance she doesn't have a sufficient supply of B. infantis for her children. B. infantis, it turns out, is critical for allergy prevention:
In 2004, scientists took a further step and demonstrated that B. infantis is the critical factor in allergic response. They examined babies in Ghana, where the incidence of allergies is low, and compared them to babies in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, where the incidence of allergies is more than twice as much. The missing link was shown to be B. infantis, found only in the Ghana infants. When compared with the other species of Bifidobacterium, the protective properties of B. infantis smoothed the allergic response of the immune system. {source}
I am guessing that my own children are very low in this essential bacteria. And I'm guessing that lots of babies {and mommies} are also.

So I did some thinking, and here are a few unusual steps that can be taken to help combat allergies in our children:
  • Mommy must build her own intestinal flora up before giving birth. Pregnancy is a critical time for our babies. Most babies are born naturally, and so Mom can start them off right from birth. There are many companies making probiotics, but Natren is a trusted brand. A lot of small health-food stores carry this brand and keep them properly stored.

    If I were expecting a baby, I would take probiotics during the last trimester especially. I would also continue to take them during the early months of breastfeeding.
  • Expose the baby orally to B. infantis. Obviously, if you have the natural delivery and full breastfeeding and you are confident in your own flora supply, you have no worries. But for those of us who are less confident, for whatever reason, Natren has a product for babies called Life Start that can help. {I am in no way affiliated with Natren, by the way.} This product is a powder that can be mixed into bottles. If you are nursing, you might want to pump an occasional bottle if you have cause for concern in this area. If you are doing formula, you might want to consider putting it in every bottle.
  • Expose older children to B. infantis. If the theory on B. infantis is correct, then I have cause to worry that my children could continually redevelop their allergies. I am buying a supply tomorrow and I plan to slip some into everyone's milk in the coming weeks. I know for sure that they were all underexposed to this healthy bacteria as infants, so this will be my attempt to make up for that.

28 April 2009

Homeschooling with a Vision

Mystie wrote a wonderfully thoughtful post on Saturday, and you simply must check it out. This is her addition to the weaknesses-of-homeschooling conversation that I've been tempted to participate in {I keep waiting to see if someone more experienced writes on my topic}.

Here is my favorite part of what Mystie wrote:
Education is an atmosphere, and it is a life. Life — including education — should be holistic. So what keeps nagging me in the back of my mind whenever I concur with these truths? It is a fear that life will just happen, that circumstances will rule, that life will be reactive to chaos instead of measured, purposeful, and intentional. My fear is that each day will slip by, seeming to be full, and 20 years from now I will look back and wonder what the days were full with, because there is no fruit yielded, because it turned out I was only reacting, cleaning up messes, wasting time, then cleaning up the messes that ensued while I refused to pay attention — and thus no viable seeds were sown.
And also:
Schools, by their nature, are routine, structured, intentional; plans are made and executed. Teachers teach because it’s their job. I taught classes while suffering {mild} morning sickness during two pregnancies — because I was being paid, kids showed up, and there were expectations. I sucked it up and met the expectations. Would I do that if it was just everyday life? My own life. My own kids. My own home.
My first thought upon reading this is that this is what I fear most concerning my entire life. I have been pregnant, nursing and/or raising tiny babies for just under eight years. This means I have spent the majority of my time being brain-dead and/or nauseated. The fruit of such labors is four smiling faces, but I'm glad I took pictures because I remember far less than I like to admit. I am also occasionally haunted by the fear that my oldest, especially, was cheated out of something intangible and undefined due to my inability to be supermom while pregnant and recovering from C-sections.

But here we are, still on this road, for better or for worse. I have been tempted to quit many times for various reasons. One of the things that has kept me on the road so far {not that we've gotten very far down the path at all, for we haven't} is knowing that the reasons for why we do what we do transcend this moment in time, this specific frustrating circumstance.

Naming Our School

I found additional motivation this past summer when we were compelled by law to name our school. The state of California doesn't technically have homeschools, but rather small, family-centered private schools, which need to choose a name for use when filing waivers.

Well, now here was something fun!

Si and I discussed our school, our goals for it, and how our name could express these ideas.

This was the day that Whetstone Academy was born.

Now, I know that the primary definition of "academy" is an institution of secondary learning, but there are other definitions, and one is simply a fellowship of learning. This is the definition we were going for. In fellowship with one another, with other families in our community, with members of our church, and also with the greatest minds of the Western world, we set out into a life of learning.

A life which, incidentally, didn't begin in first grade {which we call Year One} and won't end at graduation. At least not if we can help it.

The word "whetstone" is possibly even less accurate than the word "academy" as no one is sharpening knives during school time.

However, comma.

The word "whetstone" likewise has a secondary definition, and that is anything which sharpens. A proper education sharpens the mind and also the soul. Is it not so that we say in our culture that someone is "sharp" when they are showing intelligence? This is what we mean here. We are taking little minds and sharpening them. But also we sharpen character and spirit and skill and so on because we know that memorizing math facts is not all that there is to life.

Children are souls, we hope not to forget it.

So that is the history of Whestone, more properly called Whetstone Academy.

A Scripture-Inspired Mission

Our school verse, on the other hand, was not the result of a deliberate process, but rather something I noticed around Christmas time when we were studying the birth and youth of Christ Jesus. There are a couple verses in Luke which describe Jesus' maturation process. My favorite is Luke 2:52:
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

With this verse came my desire for Si to design a seal for our school, a seal with three simple Greek words around it: σοφια {sophia, meaning wisdom}, ηλικια {helikia meaning physical stature or maturity or a state of being fit for adulthood} and χαριτι {charis, meaning affording of joy, charm, loveliness, and goodwill}. Or, perhaps, we'd put it in English and just say wisdom, stature, favor.

Wisdom is a very broad word, biblically speaking. The idea is one of skill. So spiritual wisdom would be the ability to make righteous decisions, but the broad sense is more general. Composers, carpenters, and cooks, all can have wisdom in that they are skilled in their labors. We desire to develop a broad skill set for our children, focusing on, but not limited to, the skills gained through studying the traditional liberal arts, grammar, logic, rhetoric, astronomy, geometry, mathematics and music.

Stature involves physical development. This would point to our responsibility as parents to properly nourish the child, and also our responsibility to provide physical growth opportunities and to train the child to be fit for adulthood in general. The world has an ample supply of very tall, grown-looking children. Stature would focus on holistic development, meaning not forgetting the physical part of the child in the midst of bookish study.

Favor is something we can only help with since the Greek word, as used in Scripture, actually pinpoints the work of God in the soul. It is God who saves us and transforms us into pleasant, loving people who are worthy of favor, of goodwill. However, as parents, Si and I can commend our children to others by teaching them manners, instructing them in the things of the Lord, and guiding them into a proper relationship with the world around them.

Why Does This Matter?

When I start to wonder about possibly losing myself along the way, or losing the way altogether, I am really sensing my own weakness. When I am letting circumstance dictate our lives and our education, I am forgetting the call to take dominion. Sure, there are times when it is right to roll with life's punches. Perhaps a defect of institutional schooling is that it rarely stops for things which are deserving of a pause. But when I head the direction of a life which is essentially chaotic and reactionary, I am, as Mystie rightly pointed out, in Big Trouble.

The reason why I detailed our "mission verse" and school name is because having a vision has done wonders for me as I make daily decisions about our schooling. When life gets really chaotic, having a framework like "wisdom, stature, favor" from which to begin helps me discern and discard the excess. Having a name with a purpose actually causes me to ask certain questions which keep me on track: Does this sharpen our minds or souls or spirits? Are we acting as a fellowship of learners? And so on.

There are other, more concrete tools, to help me combat the weaknesses of my flesh. A daily chart helps me stay on track, for example.

Keeping the Fear

Perhaps the scariest thing in life is not being scared. Ours is a casual culture. There is no propriety {or impropriety}, and it is tempting to view Jesus as a best friend rather than Lord. Just as there is cause to approach the throne of God with reverence, which is a healthy sort of fear, so there is cause to approach rearing children and homeschooling with a fear that denotes respect for the undertaking.

After all, this is a big deal. Education is first and foremost a spiritual endeavor, which is why it should be taken seriously and religiously. As Mystie wrote:
Housework can get caught up in a day or two with peppy music and three or four cups of coffee. Children — not so much.
Good reason to keep my priorities in order.

Read Mystie's post for more. She's a homeschool grad, so she knows what she's talking about.

27 April 2009

Three Revolutionary Words

When Si and I first got married, we had an agreeable honeymoon followed shortly by an argument. I distinctly remember that it had something to do with bathroom towels, and also that I was the one who was wrong. God graciously gave me children in order to prevent me from continuing in a life of pettiness. Not only do children often heal us from our own selfishness, but they also make us too tired to care about silly things like towels.

I spent my weekend in a sort of morose nostalgic stupor, if there is such a thing, and in that time my mind wandered back to our early days together. That was when it dawned on me that there was more to the story than "I got pregnant," even though I do have personal evidence that I have been saved through childbearing.

It was Si who taught me to forgive.

In fact, I titled this post after the simple phrase that I had never put into practice before our marriage: I forgive you.

I have found myself uttering this phrase repeatedly throughout our marriage {and he has, too, of course, being not perfect and all that}, and I believe this simple habit has probably been our saving grace.

And why not? For forgiveness is the foundation of the ultimate Saving Grace.

I remember the first time Si suggested that we actually say the words, "I forgive you." I fought him tooth and nail! I told him it felt fabricated, and what did it matter as long as we act like we forgive each other? But eventually, since I believe in submission, I broke down and did it.

This was a healing moment for my soul.

The act of verbalizing forgiveness has cleared up a lot in our marriage, I think. For instance, when he apologizes, he knows we aren't done until I've said that I actually forgive him. When I don't say it, he knows I'm still holding on. In contrast, when I say it {or he says it, more often, since I have more failings than he does}, he knows we are done fighting, that reconciliation has begun.

This is because he also taught me to discipline my words to match my heart.

On a couple occasions, I refused to forgive for a couple days. This wasn't due to any horrible deed on his part, but rather to the fact that my heart was hardened toward him. I didn't want to forgive him. I wanted to hold on to my injury and wield it like a weapon.

And he, being so patient with me, tolerated this. And then I forgave, and we both knew that the past was truly past, and would never be remembered again, for what is forgiveness without choosing to forget the wrongs which have been done?

And now, I am teaching my children the lesson their daddy taught to me. Forgive each other, little ones, as Christ has forgiven and will forgive you. Live a life of love, my children.

For now, they mostly learn the words, the habit of saying it. This is actually very powerful for them, for how many of us grew up saying, "It's okay" as a lame, weak substitute when in fact the sin against us was emphatically not okay, which is why we were angry in the first place? To say that they forgive is to not only agree to let go of another's wrong, but also to declare that it was wrong in the first place.

My children wronged a neighbor of ours recently. I marched them next door to apologize and the woman told me that it was okay. I looked her in the eye and told her that it was not okay. They were wrong, and they needed to apologize. Their eyes were wide as they told her they were sorry and they'd never do it again. I couldn't tell what she appreciated more, their apology, or the acknowledgement that a sin against her was not okay.

God is like this. He doesn't say that it's okay. He simply says He forgives. And this is, of course, what we need. We need our wrongs forgotten and forgiven so that we can be free, once again, from the haunting of our sins.

23 April 2009

Duckle-lings

Two out of three children in my home who can speak the English language agree that the proper pronunciation of the world ducklings is three syllables long: duckle-lings. If you know me, then you know I wasn't expecting to have duckle-lings for another month.

And yet...

Please meet Sam and Alex:



Do these look like Khaki Campbells to you? They don't to me either. In fact, they look and act suspiciously like Pekin ducks.

There is only one explanation for this, and that is that we are Suckers.

I was browsing Craigslist and, long story short, when I could get a feed bowl and big bag of feed free if I took the ducklings dependent on said items also, I instantly considered this a "good investment."

Now we all know why I'm not a stockbroker.

Somehow, I can have a newborn and keep right on blogging, but today I feel like these duckies are going to put me in an early grave. Newborn babies don't have bedding that gets so filthy you have to double-wash it just to make it sanitary. Newborn babies don't step in their food bowl and spill it all over their clean bed. Newborn babies don't swim in mud puddles.

Ahem.

Anyhow, Sam and Alex are a mystery in a number of ways. Sam might well grow up to be Samantha. On the other had, Sam might be Samuel. Alex likewise might be Alexandra...or maybe Alexander.

We just aren't sure.

One of the duckies is looking conspicuously larger than the other, making me think we might have a Samantha and Alexander on our hands. What to do when only one is male? I say this because they are good friends, and yet we have no intention of keeping a male. They don't lay eggs, you know.

I suppose we will decide once we know for sure. Pekin ducks look like they are a solid white when grown, but males have a single black tail feather which which novices like us can identify them.


Duckle-Lings

22 April 2009

Socialism and the Law of Sowing and Reaping

I have a habit that I have maintained on and off for almost eight years. Shortly after Si and I were married, an older and wiser woman than I handed me a little tiny Bible reading schedule. With said schedule, I would be able to read through the Bible in a year, Proverbs thirty times in a year, and Psalms two or three times {I don't remember which}. Instead of accomplishing this, I got pregnant, suffered through nine long months of incessant nausea, and had a beautiful baby boy. However, the habit of reading Proverbs thirty times a year has never permanently left me. Whenever I become convicted that I lack wisdom, I realize I have forgotten this practice, and I quickly resume it.

This is not to say that Proverbs is the sum total of all Biblical wisdom, for it would be silly to say such a thing. But Proverbs is set about as a practical guide for life that is easily understandable; it has a way of getting into my brain and soul, even when my mind has turned to Mommy Mush through lack of sleep.

The Law of Sowing and Reaping

If you have ever planted a garden, then you know that you cannot reap what hasn't been sown. Granted, occasionally the wind will sow a volunteer for you, and if it isn't a weed, then it is embraced with gratitude as a special blessing from the Lord. However, as a general rule, on good soil, a farmer plants a seed, cares for a plant, and reaps a harvest.

This is a natural law, a way in which the world works.

The Bible uses this imagery to explain another natural law, which I call the Law of Sowing and Reaping. This, too, explains a way in which the world works. An example would be Hosea 8:7 which says
For they sow the wind
And they reap the whirlwind
The standing grain has no heads;
It yields no grain.
Should it yield, strangers would swallow it up.
In this instance, Israel is worshipping idols. This is what is referred to by "sowing the wind." The idols are nonsense, made by men and nothing more. There is nothing to them. But there is a consequence to such behavior, which is to say destruction and ultimately death. There is cause and effect here: sowing the wind means reaping the whirlwind.

Proverbs is less cryptic, though. For instance, Proverbs 11:18 says that sowing righteousness will lead to reaping a great reward. In contrast, Proverbs 22:8 assures us that sowing wickedness means reaping trouble.

Cause and effect. Cause and effect.

And Proverbs is full of this sowing and reaping, even when the terminology is not used. For instance, much is said about what happens when a person is slothful:
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
But the soul of the diligent is made fat.

Proverbs 13:4
Laziness casts into a deep sleep,
And an idle man will suffer hunger.

Proverbs 19:15
The desire of the sluggard puts him to death,
For his hands refuse to work...

Proverbs 21:25
I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.

Proverbs 24:30-31
Sloth is equivalent to an unfulfilling life, spiritually, physically, economically, and so on. As a character flaw, its effects are evident when looking at the property of a sloth, for it has not been maintained. The sloth sometimes even starves to death because he refuses to work.

Even the New Testament warned about this, and within the church there was a rule that if an able-bodied man refused to work, he was not allowed to eat. This is not to say that compassion has its limits, but rather that we are not to shield others from natural consequences.

Sometimes natural law must be the teacher.

And herein lies one of my major objections to socialism, for I believe that it is an attempt to deny this Law of Sowing and Reaping, to even rebel against it at times. This isn't just disrespectful for the One who created the Order of things, but it also cannot be successful in the long run. The Law will always prevail because the Law is simply a description of how things actually are.

Revisiting Jamestown

Let's look at Jamestown again, since this is a less controversial example of socialism, small scale though it might be:
This had required that "all profits & benefits that are got by trade, working, fishing, or any other means" were to be placed in the common stock of the colony, and that, "all such persons as are of this colony, are to have their meat, drink, apparel, and all provisions out of the common stock." A person was to put into the common stock all he could, and take out only what he needed.

This "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" was an early form of socialism, and it is why the Pilgrims were starving. Bradford writes that "young men that are most able and fit for labor and service" complained about being forced to "spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children." Also, "the strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes, than he that was weak." So the young and strong refused to work and the total amount of food produced was never adequate.
This was a clear violation of sowing and reaping. Here we have a situation where some men were sowing more than others. They may have been sowing smarter, or harder, or better, or whatever, but it was more than other men. The natural law would say that, more often than not, these men would then reap more than others as well. But the colony's economic system threw a wrench in this. All the men were forced to bring their harvest, their earnings, to the common stock. And then they were given a share in every man's harvest, according to their own need.

This was extremely discouraging to men. There was no reward for harder labor, or smarter labor. And so the men that had potential were given to sloth.

Sloth can come from an internal character flaw, or it can be born of discouragement, which I think is what happened here. Actually, I'm pretty sure of it as, when Jamestown decided to practice distributism, a form of capitalism where each family had a share of land in private ownership where they could practice the natural rhythms of sowing and reaping, the situation turned around and Jamestown became more successful.

But What About Christian Generosity?

I'm going to raise the objection which often arises when studying this situation because all evidence points to the majority of the Jamestown settlers being Christians. Wasn't it greedy for these men to want to keep all that they had earned?

My answer, quite simply, is no. At least, not in the way I understand the situation. I think the question is a wrong one, for I'm not sure the real desire was to literally keep everything that had been earned. The desire was a desire for ownership, in this case ownership over their own earnings and profits. This is a natural, healthy craving, to enjoy the fruit of our own labor.

The Law of Sowing and Reaping does not exist in tension with the call on Christians to practice generosity. After all, if one does not reap, one has nothing to share. Earlier this year, a verse we memorized was Ephesians 4:28:
He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
If we are only allowed to keep what we need, then we become as one who steals in that we have nothing to share, nothing to be generous with.

In the book of Acts, the early church is described as "holding all things in common." Many will declare that this is God's stamp of approval on socialism. Matthew Henry, however, would disagree. He wrote about Acts 4 and 5 saying:
They did not take away others' property, but they were indifferent to it. They did not call it their own; because they had, in affection, forsaken all for Christ, and were expecting to be stripped of all for cleaving to him. No marvel that they were of one heart and soul, when they sat so loose to the wealth of this world. In effect, they had all things common; for there was not any among them who lacked, care was taken for their supply.
In the situation of Ananias and Sapphira, who wanted to pretend to share all they had, while secretly holding back a portion,
Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?

"While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."
We see here confirmation of Henry's observation that the "holding of all things in common" was not a requirement of the law or of the Church, but rather a quality of the heart.

Freedom and Generosity

In 1828, Noah Webster put this phrase in his definition of generous: free to give. Generosity is an action of a person and is only noble and virtuous when voluntary. When the state confiscates the bounty of its citizens and redistributes that bounty to other citizens against the will of the people, this is far from generous. This is legalized theft, among other things. A State cannot be generous, for it is always giving something it has taken from someone else. In the instance of printing more money, the State is taking from its citizens as inflation is taxation, a slogan for a sign I should have made for the TEA Party but didn't think of until a day later.

I want to talk more about the relationship between socialism and vice, and also freedom and virtue, in my next post.

21 April 2009

S is for Socialism, Schedules, and Supper

S might be for socialism, but frankly my brain is too mushy today to discuss it. So I will talk average life for a moment. Yesterday, the baby dropped down to four feedings a day. I wasn't totally ready for that, as this is a sign of weaning {there are other signs as well}, but considering my difficulties and track record, I suppose I should be satisfied with the fact that he has nursed the longest of all my babies.

With that said, dropping to four feedings means that life feels less like life-with-a-newborn and more like just plain life-with-four-little-ones-under-the-age-of-seven. We inaugurated our new-found freedom with a walk around the block to meet the family whose yard backs up to ours {our children discuss religion through the fence}.

Anyhow, in my enthusiasm over more space in our day, specifically more space at one time, I typed up a schedule which, naturally, we didn't follow even remotely today. So, I reverted to my old title, the Average Day Chart. I like the word "chart" as it seems less demanding. Having a chart always helps me stay on task, and I haven't had one since the baby was born because I was mostly surviving, and doing things whenever I found the time, even if it was 9pm.

Now, I have a chart, and I thought I'd share it just because I know I get emails about what it looks like to homeschool one child while juggling three little ones. This is what it looks like on paper. What it looks like in person is another story and tends to involve looking like Toys R Us vomited in my living room.

I'm just saying.

Average Day Chart


Sorry for the terrible colors. On my computer, the document has nice muted tones, but Scribd apparently prefers them to be garish.

Sigh.

If you will notice, Baby O.'s entire "schedule" consists of eating, sleeping, and playing. I am thinking of putting my name over that column and seeing how it works out.

In other news, S is also for Supper. I found a frugal, easy, healthy, serve-hot-or-cold meal that I thought I'd share: Everyday Italian Rice Salad. We ate it warm last night and then cold today and it was great both ways. Unless you ask the two-year-old. I think I am the more trustworthy one, personally.

S is also for School, or my own continuing education. I have been giving myself Latin class in the evenings. I am currently still in the Introduction. At this rate, I will know a bit of Latin by the time I have grandchildren. Thankfully, our resident six-year-old steals my Latin text when he thinks I'm not looking. Maybe he will learn faster than I have been.

And, finally, S is for Si, who wins the best husband prize because he brought me home my very own box of trail mix granola bars from the grocery store last night.

It's the little things.

20 April 2009

Reflections on Socialism: Definitions

This weekend, I began drafting some thoughts which became a series of posts I've decided to call Reflections on Socialism. I'm not a perfectionist, but I am a realist and none of them are really ready for posting. But then it dawned on me that in order to think about things properly, I need to lay a foundation, which is to say that I need to define my terms.

And I'm going to define a few different words in order have a broad base from which to discuss. I am not a dictionary, so this will be long and winding rather than short and concise.

Socialism: Socialism is an economic perspective, a system of theories about how the world, especially economics, works {or should work}. When applied in the real world, it is collectivist in nature. What this means typically is that property is held in common ownership rather than private ownership. This idea of property would include both land and also the entire economic chain, the means of producing goods {like a factory or a farm}, and the means of distributing those goods {like a trucking industry or stores}.

In early America, Jamestown is a good example of socialism. The colonists starved for years due to their economic philosophy, which was socialist in nature. In this instance, everything any colonist earned was put into a common store, to be shared by all. This was something the colonists had agreed upon together {at least initially}. In Industrial countries, socialism takes on a more frightening form, because it usually involves confiscation of property on the part of the government. More recently, it is the helpful hand of the government in the form of a bailout.

It is important to note that Karl Marx believed that socialism was a stage following capitalism that a society passed through in order to reach the goal of communism.

Socialism is not an epithet. However, there are many people who hold to this perspective who do not like the term. The term, however, should be applied if and when it is accurate, and regardless of how a person feels about the term. Using correct terminology is the only way to think properly about a thing.

Communism: It has been said that all communists are socialists but not all socialists are communists, and this is true. In fact, utopian socialists who are not familiar with Marx are often shocked when someone implies that socialist ideology might or will lead to communism.

The technical differences between communism and socialism are harder to explain. For instance, in high school I was taught that communism was socialism in a hurry. But this isn't exactly true, though there is typically more violence on the part of the state when a country is becoming or is officially communist.

I suppose there is a sense in which communism is socialism refined. For instance, Jamestown would be called socialist because the villagers held all things in common in a literal sense. A distinction would be a communist nation where everything is held in common, which is to say the State owns everything {or controls it, which is the ultimate test of whether property is actually private or not} and the citizens are under various stages of illusion about ownership depending on their relationship with the Party in power.

Communism goes beyond economics, though. Communism necessitates a totalitarian state, controlled by a single political party, which controls social activity as well as economic activity. In fact this is why we use the word totalitarian, because the government attempts to control the total, the whole of a society.

Fascism: This is a variation of communism that most academics have difficulty defining. As an outsider looking in, I would say that fascism seems to be the name we use for communist countries which possess the additional distinctions of a strong sense of nationalism and sometimes racism.

Like communism, fascism is characterized by a strong central government, but power is generally dominated by a central figure {a dictator} rather than a central party. So, for instance, I would characterize Russia as communist with its domination of a Party rather than a figure {though it was considered fascist under Lenin}, compared to North Korea under Kim Jong-Il. Of course, it isn't popular to consider any nation to be fascist these days, so I understand I am in the minority. However, it is helpful to make distinctions, and it is terribly hard to distinguish between fascism and communism.

I don't know that Kim Jong-Il is a terribly attractive personality, but fascist countries in general tend to revolve around a cult of personality. The central leader is, at the very least, initially attractive to the people. Either that or he is very, very scary and the people acquiesce out of fear.

Technically, fascist countries are not completely socialist, but it is my belief that this is only an illusion. Freedom within a fascist country is almost identical to that under communism, meaning that citizens have the freedom to conform. If they do not conform due to race {like Jews under Hitler} or politics {like individual Christians and political leaders under the same}, they quickly find they have no freedom at all, and the government confiscates their property.

Fascism, like socialism, tends to be used as an epithet at times, and this should not be so. I will never forget the day my high school principal called my father a fascist simply because he did not agree with him. My father, naturally, was not espousing a single tenant of fascism, which flies in the face of the classical liberalism to which my family ascribes. However, it is typical to misuse words in order to silence opposition, something I hope to avoid in this series.

And, incidentally, I do not intend to solve the world's problems in week.

In case you were wondering.

Keynesian Economics: The theory is the namesake of John Maynard Keynes, a bisexual British economist who, incidentally, advised the US into prolonging the Great Depression {that is an opinion, granted, but a pretty good one, I think, as I got it from my incredibly handsome husband}. If Marx had ever wanted someone to build a bridge between capitalism and socialism, Keynes was his man. What we are seeing now in our own government, with both George W. Bush and now Barack Obama, is the influence of this sort of thinking.

Keynesian thinkers are the ones that say things like "such-and-such company is too big to fail." This assertion is based on a global perspective of economics: that one company can begin a domino effect. Now, I suppose we would all admit that such effects are possible and we have seen them before. But Keynesian economists go farther and say that the possibility of a domino effect necessitates the direct and indirect intervention of the State. So, for instance, in the case of AIG we have a big company that certain economists say could cause a domino effect, which may or may not be true. Keynesian thinkers assume that we can {a} know that this is true for sure and {b} choose to intervene in such a way that will bring about desired outcomes.

Keynesian economics, in my opinion, has a romanticized view of the State, assuming that the State is {a} qualified to make such judgments and also {b} able to act in such a way that it both prevents disaster and does not cause any negative side-effects by its actions. In Keynesian economics, the State is usually seen as immune to all of the laws governing the economics of private companies.

One additional important idea if Keynesian economics is the goal of full employment. Employment is a form of compensatory slavery in this sense, with employees under the power and authority of an employer. This is to be contrasted with the distributist goal of a broad base of citizen-owners, something I explain more below.

Classical Liberalism: Let's start by deconstructing these terms a bit. Classical tends to refer to the idea of "traditional." Here, I'm using the word classical as a contrast to the word "liberalism" standing alone, which these days has no resemblance to its former meaning, having been hijacked by politicians. The word "liberal" is rooted in the Latin word liberalis which deals with freedom, or something befitting the free.

Which begs the question: free from what, exactly?

Or begs an even better question: free for what, exactly?

So here we have a traditional {"classical"} view of the philosophy called liberal, which is dealing with freedom, a citizenry of free people.

The most concise document to point to in this instance would be the Declaration of Independence, which explains that God created people equal, meaning that they are all meant to be free and have certain rights which shall not be denied them. The Declaration calls these rights life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Of course, the "pursuit of happiness." It is important to note here that the idea of pursuing happiness was, in the context of its time, tied to personal economic development and the ownership of property.

I could write for days and days about the classical ideal of liberalism, but I will try to be brief about my ideas in order to prevent boring even myself.

The idea is that people are free because it is their nature to be so, not because some official somewhere decided that this suits them. This is why, for instance, the Bible encourages slaves who are able to attain freedom to do so; it is human nature to be free, bound only to God and His commands.

Because the idea of freedom is rooted in nature, it follows that humans are not free to do anything and everything they please. However, it also follows that because this is rooted in nature, we don't necessarily have to meddle in the affairs of others because nature's God has built nature in such a way that discipline follows fools by way of natural consequence.

But we'll discuss the book of Proverbs at a later date.

Since I'm trying to define terms, I will say that classical liberalism can be seen in contrast with the other terms in this list. This idea rests on a firm conception of private property and also personal responsibility {and not State responsibility}. The State exists by and for the people {not the other way around} and the State should be as small and limited as possible because, as one of our Founder's wrote, men are not angels, therefore power must be checked and balanced.

In regard to economics, Classical Liberalism rejects State intervention and State ownership as a matter of course.

Capitalism: At its core, capitalism is quite simple: an economic system or theory based on private ownership and private control of land, the means of production, the means of distribution, and all profits gained by economic activity.

Capitalism is often portrayed by Hollywood as a form of greed. If it is greedy to want to own your own home, raise a cow on your own property, drive your own car, or simply make your own choices with your own money, then pretty much every human being is guilty of this sort of greed.

It is important to note that while some capitalists are greedy, capitalism does not necessitate greed. Capitalism is simply an economic system based on private ownership and limited State intervention.

Distributism: I have to mention this one as it was the belief of G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. Distributism is, I believe, an ideal. Those of us who express any sort of distaste for capitalism are usually upset not at the idea of private ownership, but at the abuse of the power wielded by the rich or, worse, huge impersonal corporations. Even my father, a staunch capitalist, once expressed concern over what happens when businesses get too big.

Chesterton once said that when we feel this way, it is not because there are too many capitalists, but because there are too few. This idea has a connection with agrarianism, which I won't define except to say right now that it is a agriculturally-based economic system.

The theory of distributism maintains a goal of all the parts of capitalism {property in all its forms and functions} being available to as many citizens as possible. The ideal would be like what we saw in the LORD's founding of Israel, where each family owned a portion of property {except the priests, but we won't go into that}.

Distributism holds up a capitalistic ideal that desires not a select few rich people and the rest of the citizens having mere jobs, but as many families as possible being self-employed owners of productive property.

18 April 2009

The Bibliomaniac's Prayer

Other than a few specific types of poetry, I hate to admit I am not much for it. I like the idea of being crazy about poetry; it seems a terribly romantic thing. For the most part, however, I must have been reading the wrong poetry.

Except for Christopher Marlowe's The Passionate Shepherd to His Love. I have always adored that poem.

Ahem.

So, I am pleased to announce that I have discovered a poem that I not only love, but also identify with completely. May I introduce to you, in honor of my once yearly participation in National Poetry Month, Eugene Field's The Bibliomaniac's Prayer:

The Bibliomaniac's Prayer
The Bibliomaniac's Prayer
The Bibliomaniac's Prayer


I shall always remember this: "Let my temptation be a book..."

16 April 2009

The Darndest Things: Words of Encouragement

Yesterday's TEA Party meant our little brood was out and about. Near people. Most of us are introverts here. This means that we had trouble staying awake on the way home and there was no arguing once we arrived except as resulted from a race to see who could get to take a nap first.

I won.

Just kidding.

Anyhow, our resident six-year-old will hardly take a nap when he is ill, so I was surprised that he disappeared for two hours. I was not surprised, however, to learn that part of his time had been spent writing a letter to his Daddy, with whom he is quite smitten:

Letter from E


Translation (mostly, I have to keep some of the adorable punctuation), for those of you who don't read the language commonly known as Year One:
Good job, Daddy.!
for telling the people what you had
written down on the paper. even when you were
embarrassed to talk in front of a lot of people.

to! Daddy!

famous!!

Good job! E

Tea Party Report

Our local TEA Party was a huge success yesterday. In fact, attendance was much greater than I had anticipated. Si's event at noon had close to 500 participants, and the evening rally had thousands.

Thousands.

A good day, for sure.

I thought I'd share some photos of my husband from the noon rally. He really did a wonderful job. I was surprised at the media attention, and was amused to watch him being interviewed by local television stations, and even The Huckabee Report.

My husband loves the story of America's republic, and he was able to share a bit of his vision for our country in his speech yesterday:

Speech Closeup
Giving a Speech
{made possible by the kind folks at KERN radio,
who provided the audio equipment}


Crowd Shot
Part of the Lunch Time Crowd


Inga Barks
Local Talk Show Host Inga Barks Giving a Speech of Her Own
{Inga Barks: it's not just a name; it's a sentence.}


Si Bull Horn
Si Using a Bull Horn
{This was after the City turned off the audio. I kid you not. This required three officers. Apparently using audio in front of government buildings without a permit is a crime. No comment.}


Si on the News
Si on the Local News at 5



Both rallies were peaceful but passionate. It was nice to have some actual action items, the most important probably being to vote no on Proposition 1 {A-F}, which is being advertised by proponents as a budget reform initiative but in reality extends the new tax hikes for another two years, plus attempts to punish representatives who aren't on the take {1F}.

Non-Partisan

Si and I both encountered some interesting insights into what is considered partisan and non-partisan. For instance, at one point Si's event being called "partisan" because a local Republican leader spoke at the event. Si's argument was that this event was primarily focused on taxes and out-of-control government spending. Proposition 1 is a tax proposal, and this man was the most qualified to speak on it and explain it to the people. There were also accusations hurled at Inga Barks during her morning show because she was speaking at the event. This was somewhat connected to the idea of partisanship as well.

Si and I are classical liberals. We often vote Republican and we are registered as Republicans because there is, in our opinion, no other useful option in our state. {No, we have no Constitution Party here, for those of you who are wondering.} There were likely few Democrats qualified to speak at this event, but this is not because they are Democrats, but because they are not typically against higher taxes and excessive government spending. Again, this has nothing to do with party affiliation, but rather with the purpose of the event.

With that said, my assessment is that the definition of "partisan" is often twisted to suit the user. My hunch is that some people simply didn't like the choice of speakers, and that is fine because you can't please everybody, and only crazy people would try. But to say that an event is partisan because a Republican spoke at it is nonsensical. This would then need to be extended to where only Independents were qualified to speak at nonpartisan events, or perhaps only unregistered voters as they are the only ones without party affiliation.

A Glimpse of Local Politics

Oh, the stories I could tell. However, I think my husband would frown on my telling them, so I will be respectful. I will just tell you what I learned from what I witnessed this week: We should not be surprised at the culture in the Beltway. D.C. is made up of officials elected on the local level. If the man a city elects is more interested in his own self-promotion than he is in respecting the wishes of the citizens who he claims to represent, that city should not be surprised when he doesn't always represent them. After all, self-promoters represent themselves, first and foremost.

And if every city elects a self-promoter, guess what? We, a collection of cities making up a collection of states, have created a selfish D.C. culture. Remember, the culture is defined by the sort of people who make it up, which, in the instance of Washington D.C., is to say the sort of people that we elect time and again.

If you want to change D.C., you have to start at home. You have to stop voting for the guy more interested in himself than he is in the Republic, regardless of his party affiliation.

14 April 2009

Tea Parties and More

There is a lot going on around here. Tomorrow is a Big Day. My husband is planning one of the Tax Day Tea Parties coordinated by the AFA. He's doing a great job, in my biased opinion. There are two Tea Parties in our town; my husband is in charge of the one at noon. The children and I will be there:

Tea Party Signs


I still need to make one more sign. Any ideas? My problem is that I can't boil my ideas into something that fits on a poster, which is why Si made the two signs you see in the photo.

If you want to attend a Tea Party in your area, look here for a location near you. These rallies are planned for over 2,000 cities, so chances are you won't have to drive all that far.

In Other News

While we're here, I thought I'd let you know that we've finally taken the plunge. In a very short while, six of these lovely ladies will be joining our family:

Khaki Campbell Ducklings


Khaki Campbells, my friends. They lay an egg a day on average. They are friendly. They are small. They will mow our grass and eat our wasps. I am also hoping they will take out the trash. And they are darn cute.

My kids wanted a dog. Um. Can you say quieter than a dog? And cheaper. And then there is useful since the eggs will become part of our family diet.

We are working on names. We will have to use Jemima, of course, from Beatrix Potter's famous Jemima Puddleduck. That leaves us with five names to go. Thankfully, we have a few weeks until delivery.

One Last Thing

We had a brief discussion of The Faerie Queene in the comments a while back. I wanted to let you all know that Book I is available at, of course, Google Books. I've been reading it in small chunks. It takes a while to get used to the old spelling, but it is a treat, indeed. Of course, I love the old types of poems, epics, ballads, pastoral, etcetera. Simply beautiful, that Spenser.

13 April 2009

Honoring What is Worthy of Honor

Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

Romans 13:7
There has been a bit of a controversy in our town. I've been observing it as an outsider, since the debate deals with details within the government schools, and we are homeschoolers. But the issue points to a larger principle that I have been thinking about over the last three weeks or so.

What got me started was a short blog post by Andrew Kern over at the Quiddity blog:
Technically an honor roll can’t be a “classical concept” because they didn’t give grades in the classical world so there was nothing to build it on.

However, they made a huge deal out of honoring what was worthy of honor {they never would have considered honoring students who didn’t demonstrate virtue in their work just to make them feel good} knowing that “what is honored is nourished and that which has no honor is neglected.”
I've never met a homeschooling family that has an honor roll, a valedictorian, kindergarten or eighth-grade graduations, or other such "honors." Most of them seem to have a graduation ceremony {some big, some small} when the child graduates entirely from the family's school, meaning when they become an adult.

Now, I'm not saying that, for instance, a valedictorian shouldn't happen in an institutional school setting, because I think it is worth honoring the school's top student.

What is up for debate in our area is eighth-grade graduation. This graduation is a tradition here. In talking with older folks, I have discerned that there is a good chance this graduation began back in the days when many families considered graduating the eighth grade the end of formal, institutional schooling. There wasn't much the four years of institutional high school could do to prepare children for a life of labor on the family farm.

And also eighth grade was a lot harder back then.

So when we look at it from this perspective, eighth grade graduation should have simply been replaced by high school graduation when California began to require attendance in high schools because high school then replaced eighth grade as the end of the child's formal education. Because eighth grade is no longer the end, eighth grade graduation has been emptied of its former significance. My father explained this to me when I was in eighth grade, but I disagreed with him then because I really wanted him to buy me a pretty dress.

I am oversimplifying here, and I know there are a few other issues to be considered, but this is basically what it boils down to.

What I found fascinating was Kern's idea that Honor Roll is not a classical concept. As I started thinking about it, I began to wonder if Honor Roll isn't another instance of the modern desire for efficiency playing out. It is easier to have a mathematical scale and then churn out an honor roll quarterly or annually or whatever the school decides than it is to honor individual virtue when and if it is appropriate.

I made the honor roll a time or two in my day, and I can say that I didn't have to work that hard to do it, and I certainly would have worked harder had it been required of me. But honor roll was enough.

If we maintain that only the things which are honorable should be honored, then we have to admit that some kids work harder for "honor roll" than others. Some kids cheat their way to honor roll. If it is virtue which should rightly be honored, then we need to recognize that the honor roll system in the way it is now administered is likely to be consistently rewarding both virtue and vice, and it has no method of discerning between the two.

The children are therefore not learning, in this instance, to distinguish between what is good and noble and what is evil and shameful.

I think that when David Hicks wrote that the goal of modern education is not to produce virtuous citizens, but rather to help students learn to get along in this modern world, this is part of what he meant. We do not always honor what is honorable, and we also sometimes honor what is dishonorable.

Now, because we run our own school, we have to figure out how to apply this in our home. And since this is a lesson which transcends school, we have to figure out how to apply this in our life.

As I considered this, I was surprised to find that this was something we had done in the past once or twice, though I need to make a better habit of it.

Once upon a time, I had a little boy who had to conquer a fear in order to be potty-trained. He had been trained in about a week, and then we went to a party. At the party, a man who shall remain nameless {you know who you are} joked with my little boy: "Don't fall in!"

And my boy became terrified of the toilet.

It is sort of amusing in retrospect, but at the time it was irritating because I thought I had gotten off so easy in the training aspect.

To make a long story short, it took nine months to complete his daytime potty training. He didn't just have to learn to control his bladder; he had to learn to be brave.

And when he did, we threw a party. I made a cake with a toilet on it {I kid you not}, and family came over and other family made phone calls and he received a lifetime supply of Big Boy Underwear.

And there was great rejoicing.

Our second child potty trained in a week, easily. We didn't throw a party. But we did throw a party for her a couple weeks ago when she had finally mastered recognizing her capital letters. This was a hugely difficult task for her because her brain is still healing and catching up from her delays due to allergies. I have never seen a child work so hard at such a young age. She wanted to learn her letters so badly, and she quizzed herself constantly throughout the day.

She was using mainly Tasha Tudor's A is for Annabelle and specifically requested an Annabelle cake. Thankfully, I already had the right cake pan!



So, again, family came over and celebrated an accomplishment.

And soon, Si is taking our son E. on his 100 Books Trip.

So we have the form of the thing, I think.

However, comma.

I don't think we fully have its power. When we celebrated potty training for our son, we made a bigger deal out of being trained than we did bravery. With our daughter, I made a bigger deal out of knowing her letters than I did diligence.

The power in honoring lies in honoring that which is honorable. This is what I have been learning. My hope is that, as we move forward, we don't forget to give honor where honor is due, and in correct proportion. And I hope that we remember to highlight virtue above all.

09 April 2009

Healing Allergies: Where to Go From Here

Welcome, all of you mommies out there searching for help with allergies, especially food allergies. You are not alone. Trust me, I know. I am currently averaging three emails per day from women all over the country whose families are just like yours. This week so far I've discussed eczema, allergy-induced asthma, extreme food allergies, and the relation of these things to antibiotics and vaccinations.

And I find that I'm saying many of the same things over and over.

I love hearing from all of you, however I am beginning to get low on time. Whereas I used to be able to reply within 24 hours, this window is beginning to stretch, and I've decided a post like this might help you faster if you are in a hurry.

Now, before I go on, please know that I still welcome your emails. You can use the contact form right now, if you like. I love hearing from all of you.

However, comma.

I can also anticipate many of your questions and answer them right here. This will save both of us time, and then when you send me an email, we can get down to details that are more specific to your individual family or situation.

So here's the deal. If you are a wealthy person, or you just got your tax return and you're dying to spend all of it pursuing care from our doctor here in California, email me and I'll tell you how to get in contact with her.

However, most of us can't afford to do this. So this is, generally speaking, what I would do if I were in your shoes. If I had a child suffering from allergies of any kind {hay fever, asthma, food problems, even neurological problems} I would:

  1. Get my child off or away from as many allergens as humanly possible. This might sound basic to some of you, but I've noticed a pattern here. There is this concept that someone can have a slight allergy. In my new and improved view of allergies, I believe this to be untrue. A person is either allergic or not allergic {though, to get technical, there are also combination allergies, where someone reacts to certain foods eaten at the same time}.

    The person's reaction might be more or less severe, but that person is still completely and totally allergic to said food.

    I now believe that allergies can be described in terms of compatibility. What I mean is, a person is either compatible or not compatible with something. If a body is not compatible with a food, that food weakens the body, even if the food is a generally nutritious food.

    Once I realized that noncompatible foods weaken a body, I realized that every little slip, every exception, actually tore down my child's body. And, if, as I describe below, good health and strength will cause some allergies to disappear and others to be more easily eliminated, then it is important to keep a child away from food with which he is not compatible.

    {Please note that I'm talking about allergies. Food intolerances are something I would distinguish as not weakening, but rather indicative of poor digestion. This is something I've given my children digestive enzymes for without avoiding those foods.}

  2. Find and use a Neurolink practitioner. Here is a way to search online for someone in your geographic region.

    Depending on your area, you might find a regular MD or DO, a chiropractor, physical therapist, or even a massage therapist who does this. I would say that this was essential to the healing of my children. The most important distinction I could make is to say that I now believe that allergies are themselves a SYMPTOM. This is why Neurolink is important. Neurolink is the best thing I've found for laying a foundation for overall health.

  3. Find an NAET practitioner. If you find one practitioner who does both of these things, you have hit the jackpot! But most folks I've talked to have to first pursue Neurolink and then later NAET. NAET is a type of allergy elimination. I personally would do Neurolink first because, once my son had undergone Neurolink {which is noninvasive, by the way, in case you were wondering}, the majority of his allergies just disappeared. So Neurolink is an important first step, and might save you money on allergy elimination. Here is a way to search for NAET practitioners.

Did you expect a long list? I almost added in supplementation, but I'm not an expert. We can chat over email if you want to know what my children are taking to build their health.

By the way, I would love for you all to email me and let me know what happened. I love to hear reports back, and I plan to occasionally publish positive experiences right here on the blog.

07 April 2009

Norms and Nobility: What's it All About?

Yesterday, I announced my desire to have a book club this summer. I am announcing it this early because {a} I'm excited and {b} it gives you time to try and hunt down a cheaper copy of this not-so-cheap book. Today, I'm bringing you my sales pitch on why you should read along.

Reading about education has transformed me in ways that most of my reading has not. I have become a better mother, a better person by studying this subject. I have begun to see the failings in my own education, and to seek a better education for my children. But this is not to say that all members of the "club" must be homeschooling moms. Teachers in institutional classrooms would definitely benefit. People who just like to think and don't even have children {yet}--completely welcome here!

This isn't about homeschooing, per se. It is about thinking about our culture's approach to education, discovering how it is different from, oh, about three thousand years of historical precedent (at least), and thinking about whether or not this difference is a good thing.

Obviously, I don't think the difference is a good one, generally speaking, but you don't have to agree with me to read this book. Or read this blog, for that matter. I like to think with people, not necessarily get everyone to conform to my exact view of everything.

Anyhow, this is definitely a college-level text. Please do not be intimidated if you aren't used to the reading level. In fact, when I first started reading my favorite book, Poetic Knowledge, I remember feeling like I had gotten in over my head. It had been a while since I had read such a well-written work. So I read each page of the first two chapters or so approximately three times.

By the end of that, I had raised my reading and comprehension level to the point that it matched the book.

Consider reading difficult books a point of growth, then.

I want to whet your appetites a bit. Here is an excerpt from the prologue:
Education at every level reflects our primary assumptions about the nature of man, and for this reason, no education is innocent of an attitude toward man and his purposes. The writer on education who fails to state his view of man at the outset expects to perform some polemical magic. He masks his premises and invites a gullible reader to judge his conclusions on the deceptive merit of a logical deduction. In fact, whether he wishes to or not, he presupposes an order of human values; his understanding of the nature and proper end of man determines the purposes and tasks that he assigns to education. {emphasis mine}
This blog presupposes that both the nature and end of man can be known. These questions are the foundational questions of existence, and were answered nicely by a number of catechisms. For instance, the Westminster Catechism asks:
Q. What is the chief end of man?

A. The chief end of man is to glorfy God and enjoy Him forever.
Or, we have the Heidelberg Catechism saying:
Q. How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily?

A. Three; the first, how great my sins and miseries are; the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries; the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance.
And also:
Q. Did God then create man so wicked and perverse?

A. By no means; but God created man good, and after his own image, in true righteousness and holiness, that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love him and live with him in eternal happiness to glorify and praise him.
Our modern minds find it quite natural to detach the questions {and answers} as to who man is and what is his purpose from the idea of education. And yet, for thousands of years, it was expected that education was a means of encouraging man to fulfill the purpose for which he was created. We have replaced this certainty with experimentation in cultural change, courtesy of the likes of Descartes and his heir John Dewey. In fact, Mr. Hicks would say that our patterns of thought, in which we divorce the reality of these monumental questions from education, are a result of the way we were educated. And so the relatively new way of educating is actually perpetuating a mindset about education itself. Mr. Hicks writes:
The modern school, for example, has an established methodology of which it is more or less unconscious. Its method narrows the search for truth and the free exchange of wisdom by rejecting immaterial categories of thought, as well as the ancient notion of the mind's participation in the object of perception. This method stamps students for life, establishing aprioric rules for perception, thought, and experience and inviting them to dismiss subconsciously the impalpable, the marvelous, the inexplicable. {emphasis mine}
Traditional education, that which we call classical {which is not to be mistaken with reading of the "great" books, which may or may not be undertaken within a classical method}, was not as concerned with learning a certain number of facts {reaching standards is the contemporary way of saying it, I suppose}, but with producing a certain kind of person. I leave you with this final excerpt:
The modern era cannot be bothered with finding new answers to old questions like: What is man and what are his purposes? Rather, it demands of its schools: How can modern man better get along in this complicated modern world? Getting along--far from suggesting any sort of Socratic self-knowledge or stoical self-restraing--implies the mastery of increasingly sophisticated methods of control over the environment and over others. Man's lust for power, not truth, feeds modern education.

Buy your copy and read along starting in June!

06 April 2009

Norms and Nobility Book Club

Okay. I think I've made a decision. I really don't want to restrict myself to a real-life book club. What I mean is, I can already tell I'm going to want to blog my way through this book. I am slowly feasting on the prologue, and it is as satisfying to read as Poetic Knowledge. Every family I've met {in real life or through blogs and articles} that seems to understand the classical model of education--not just its practices, but its principles--tends to reference this book. Couple that with my commitment to read at least one book on educational philosophy and practice each year, and it was a match made in heaven.

So here she is, folks:


Norms and Nobility: A Treatise on Education
by David V. Hicks


I apologize for the fact that this book is priced more like a college textbook than a nice little paperback. My hunch is that it is a college textbook, since my copy is a beautiful hardback that used to sit on the shelves of the Cubberley Education Library at Stanford University. I got it at least ten dollars cheaper than the list price, by the way.

And apparently the folks at Stanford rarely opened the book because it's about twenty years old, but in pristine condition.

Anyhow, here is what I'm dreaming up. I'm not yet sure of the pace. I need to go through the book a bit more to find out what would be appropriate. My goal is not to race through a bunch of books this summer but to spend the entire summer marinating in one really good book.

With that said, I will still try to have my in-person book club beginning after the conclusion of Term Three, which means sometime in June. However, I'm going to say now that if I don't have at least four or five women committed, I'm probably not going to do it. My purpose is to discuss with a variety of perspectives and possible applications. However, if you are local and there are only two of us we will meet at least once.

Whatever the pace of the book club in real life is, that'll be the pace on the blog. I'll try to master the use of a Mr. Linky widget so that everyone can link their posts. If you do not have a blog, but wish to participate, let me know and I am more than willing to post your thoughts here on Afterthoughts. I'll just call you a guest blogger or something. Alternately, you could just participate in the comments, if that is more your style. Or, you could start a blog for the purpose of participating in book clubs like this.

I was going to write more about the actual book, but I will save that for my next post as I'm running out of time. We have a cramped schedule today.

02 April 2009

Sum Sum SummerTerm

I always thought that, since we homeschool, we would year-round school. You know, live a life of learning and all that jazz. However, last year it became very evident that it was time to mix it up a bit. At the time, I was gigantic and pregnant and this, combined with the triple-digit temps and an upcoming move just wasn't conducive to academics.

I'm not pregnant this year, but I've got the itch to mix it up again.

And, if I can get our garden under control {we apparently have some sort of a fungus out there attacking our seedlings}, we are going to have a harvest on our hands in July. This means we should be canning rather than cramming.

So.

I started dreaming of a SummerTerm. I learned from our term break last week that a week of no plans simply doesn't work with little ones. We all drove each other crazy, and it didn't help that three out of four babies had a bit of a cold.

Filling in the Gaps

What is SummerTerm? Well, if I could describe my goal, it would be to fill in the gaps. We won't have Ambleside readings, so we will have extra time every day. I haven't decided if we will do a full Circle Time. I am leaning toward a simple daily Bible reading together, with perhaps a bit of singing, but nothing fancy. This would leave a lot of space in our days.

By filling in the gaps, I mean rounding out their education. On top of just trying to fit in all the things I think make for a good education {academically speaking}, I have also had a new baby to care for. This has made me tight on time. An example of a side effect of this is that, for the past seven months, the children have not really been helping in the kitchen.

Anyone who is inexperienced at something goes more slowly. Any task takes longer when we are learning. This isn't something peculiar to children. Knowing this, I pretty much kicked everyone out so that I could fly through the kitchen and get a soup in the kettle in thirty minutes flat.

This made for a decent dinner, but a poor education.

And we've had gaps all over throughout the year, I think.

How to Discover the Gaps

Last night, Si and I had about an hour alone at Starbucks. We ordered what we assume will be our last hot chocolate of the season and we sat outside in the breeze and read a chapter from Teaching the Trivium. I had forgotten how much I love this book. The chapter we read is actually available as an online essay on the Bluedorn's website: Ten Things to do with Your Child Before Age Ten.

This list of ten things is a list I plan to revisit during Term Three every year. It is a concise list of what is most important in the proper education of young children. {The book has other lists for other ages, by the way.}

Sum Sum Summer Plans

So now I have spoken with the children. I have discussed with Si. I have fluffed my brain a bit by thinking alone. And I have a short list of some possibilities:

  • Weekly lunch with Daddy at the office
  • Enroll E. in swim school {umm...for those of you who actually know us in real life, this is a surprise so please don't say anything about it}
  • Weekly painting day
  • Go swimming at the homes of various relatives who own pools, focusing on practicing swimming skills
  • Field trips
  • Once per week, bake alone with one child, teaching them the kitchen skills they are ready and able to learn
  • Assign children each one night to help make dinner, again working on kitchen skills and use of kitchen tools, one goal being that E. will know how to make one simple meal alone by summer's end
  • Teach each child a new chore, having as a goal older children handing at least one chore down to younger children by the end of summer
  • Continue with basics a few days per week {copywork and spelling especially for E., learning letter and number symbols for A., playing with puzzles and learning shapes/colors for Q.}
  • Have more friends over
  • Visit relatives
  • Work in our garden together
  • Look for service projects that all of the children can participate in
  • Read aloud
  • Mommy wants to have a book club--if you are local, would you be interested?
  • More time spent doing crafts

What are you doing this summer? Have you started planning yet?