28 February 2011

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Today was our first day of swimming! The good news is that we made it out alive. The bad news is that O. cried through almost his entire lesson. I don't usually start lessons for one so young, but he is convinced he can swim, making him very dangerous around a pool. I'm pretty sure he promised (in baby garble) to try not to cry at the next lesson. We shall see. I hate the idea that I'm paying someone to hold my crying child instead of me.

In other news...
  • When you leave a comment, I find out who you are. This past week, Silvia commented for what I think is the first time...and I'm so glad she did! I do not read Spanish well, but I was thrilled to glance over her blog at Charlotte Mason en Español. If you have friends attempting a bilingual homeschool, now you know where to direct them!
  • I don't usually plug the TRWBB blog here, but last Friday I did discuss what Charlotte Mason meant by learning to read before learning to read. 
  • Speaking of TRWBB...Um. My cute stripey background seems to have disappeared, even though it is still in the code and still showing as my chosen option in the template designer. Any of you savvy in this area and able to solve the mystery? The only change I made recently was to add a Google metatag. I took it off, but the stripes have yet to reappear...Grrr...
  • Apparently, Obama has told state governors that if they don't like his health care plan, they can design their own (and earlier than the law specifies). Everyone seems to have forgotten that Mitt Romney already tried this and failed miserably. The only mystery is how he managed to escape his governorship still bearing the title of "conservative."
  • Mystie has been writing an excellent series. It's called The Seven Laws of Teaching Your Own. Here is the introductory post to get you started.
  • I've been enjoying reading over the Large Family Slow Cooker blog. She has posted recipes for bulk seasoning mixes that one can mix up in advance and keep in jars in one's pantry, where one can have them ready when one needs them at a moment's notice. One is thinking this would be helpful for oneself. Ahem.
  • The Touchstone gentlemen have declared Of Gods and Men to be the movie for the Lenten season. I'd like to see it in the theaters, but so far my town is not on the list. If some of you are on the list, make a good showing so that the smaller cities get a viewing!
  • We added some new books to the family library recently. We acquired a bunch more Signature Classics children's biographies (which I collect). Among them are The Story of Robert Louis Stevenson (which E. tells me is his new favorite book), The Story of Annie Oakley, The Story of Joan of Arc, and The Story of Dwight D. Eisenhower. I also scored a copy of Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal by Joel Salatin.
  • Apparently, getting pygmy dairy goats is still up for discussion. I was toying with the idea (again), but then I read that goats are herd animals, and you really need to have at least two of them. Well, even though our zoning says that we may have up to three pygmy animals (such as goats, pot-bellied pigs, etc.), two just sounded like a lot. I was pretty sure I only wanted one goat, and I wondered if our property could support (food-wise) a goat. We just planted our pasture beds and have yet to see how they turn out. So what changed? My husband did some math and realized that we spend over $1800 a year on milk alone. Suddenly, a dairy goat sounded really cheap to him.
Anyone else have links for us?

25 February 2011

Leave the Unions: It's Time

Last night, I had pondered an attempt at grappling with the word hero, after the discussion in the comments on Wednesday's post. Thankfully, by the time I finally got to the computer, I found that Mystie had tackled the subject, and tackled it well. I'm relieved, for I think she did a far better job that I would have done. Check it out: Hero: Some Definitions.

That leaves me with a single subject on my mind: The Trouble with Unions.

I am going to assume you all are following the news about the protests of the public sector unions in Wisconsin so that I can feel free to not link to anything.


There are two issues at hand in regard to the unions, in my view, though there are more issues than these surrounding unions in general.
  1. In general, unions are causing harm to our country. Labor union dues are not used solely to "fight for the protection of the worker." A portion of the dues is used to pay for contract negotiations, to be sure, but much of the money collected is used for political purposes. For instance, the NEA teachers union spends a portion of dues supporting organizations such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, GLAAD, Human Rights Campaign, National Council of La Raza, just to name a few. Most of the individual members of teacher's unions that I have met are absolutely offended by this use of their hard-earned money, but they don't know what else to do. They think they are required by law to be a member of the teacher's union.
  2. Public sector unions are even more trouble. Not only do they use dues to promote causes that are against the will of some of their members, there is another level here. They are often promoting causes that are against the will of the taxpayers who pay the wages, and therefore the dues, of the members. Every time you see a public sector union doing something you don't like, you need to remember that you are the one paying for it. I would highly recommend reading the thoughts of FDR on unions. I am not an FDR fan by any stretch of the imagination, but he was spot on.
What Can Be Done?
Something I don't talk about much here is that my husband has a day job. At his job, he is urged to be a member of a union (he is not). This union stands for everything our family stands against. Because he is a public employee, my husband also has the conviction that he works for the taxpayer. Unions designed to pit the employee against the employer are especially inappropriate in this instance because they pit the public "servant" against the public he is supposed to serve.

Basically, they take the "servant" aspect out of the whole scenario.

What my husband has done is what any of you who are forced to be union members can do. Most folks are not aware of their rights, so they join the union because they think they must, that they are legally required to do so. In some cases this is true.

In the case of my husband, we discovered that he had the right to only pay a representation fee, rather than become a full member. This means that the union cannot use his dues for anything other than representation. At the end of each year, he can request a refund of any political-related dues collected from him. This year, that amounted to over $160. (Note: if you are already only paying a representation fee, make sure you request your refund each year or your extra dues will be used for political purposes.)

The right to have your dues used only for direct representation with your employer is known commonly as your Beck rights, referring to the Supreme Court case Communication Workers of America v. Beck. This right is recognized in all fifty states*.

If you want to make a difference right this minute, and you are a union member, find out how you can exercise your Beck rights. There is money financing all the nonsense going on in this nation right now, and unfortunately a lot of it has come from the pockets of good people.

Rock the Boat
I have met teachers, for instance, that say that even though they completely disagree with their union's politics, they must be members of a union because the union will protect them if they are ever sued or [insert some other union benefit here].

This is what we call self-preservation.

Let's see.

Here is the logic: Yes, my union works for causes that are against my country. Yes, my union works for causes that are against my morals. Yes, my union works for causes that are against the children I claim to serve by teaching them. But, I am Afraid. Therefore, I will turn a blind eye, and I will send the union my money every month and let the union destroy my country and its children so that I can Feel Safe.

We've talked about heroes this week. This is about as far from thinking like a hero as it gets. Keep quiet, go along to get along, and Don't Rock the Boat--these are the thoughts of a slave.  Not coincidentally, these are also the thoughts that lead to tyranny.

If you find yourself thinking the world is a scary place, go read John Adams and call me in the morning.

If you are in California, you can contact Pacific Justice to consult on your individual rights. Search the internet for a legal representative in your own state if you are not in California.

Now is the time to stand up. If you do not agree with the unions, you need to do what you can to get out. Our forefathers fought long and hard for this country, and they had much more to fear than we do now.

*Please note that Beck rights are easier to exercise in some states than in others, so check with a lawyer, legal organization, or legal website concerning your own state's laws before taking action so you know which approach will work best.

24 February 2011

Six Years Old

On Tuesday, my second-born--my first daughter--turned six. Six. I am not kidding when I say that every birthday is a sort of traumatic event for me. Oh, how I long to freeze time. In the past, I always consoled myself with the fact that if I froze time, there were other babies I wouldn't get to meet. What if I had frozen time, for instance, when Q. turned one? I would never have gotten to meet O.

But, now that we cannot have more children, I find myself thinking that if they just wouldn't grow up, I could reconcile myself to this.

But, grow up they must.

When E. turned six, it seemed like such a big deal. All the baby was gone, and here was this big-little boy.

Well. Now A. is six, and it seems like a big deal this time, too. Where did the time go? And why is she so tall?

As I look back on the year, I see a girl child who...

...learned to ride a bike without training wheels...
...worked hard at learning to read, and has come so far in twelve short months...
...dropped a lot (but not all) of the baby talk...
...still says "hanguhber" for "hamburger" and "sguhbetti" for "spaghetti"...
...laughed every. single. day....
...pretended to be a mommy...
...learned freestyle stroke in swimming...
...asked 1,030,027 good questions...
...brought a smile to many faces...
...climbed trees...
...lost her first tooth...
...grew out of toddler clothes forever...
...and then started wearing the same size (well, almost) as her older brother...
...learned to have a friend and be a friend...
...pondered becoming a vegetarian...
...brought frogs in the house and dropped them on the office floor and then chased them...
...baby mice, too...
...took her first communion with a shining face...
...decided she wanted to marry either Superman or a policeman...
...pretended to be the virgin Mary and called her husband "Jofess"...
...went from being my flighty, scatter-brained child to one who consistently conquers in memory work...
..."lost" a duck...
...began to enjoy and follow chapter books being read aloud...
...told her first real joke...
...learned to narrate...
...proved herself a good sister many times, in many ways...

The Official Castle Cake

And I'm particularly thankful that, in addition to this list, she managed to request a princess cake without requesting a princess cake. (I am about princess caked out.)

What she wanted was a castle cake fit for a princess...

23 February 2011

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child: Method 6

One of the reasons I didn't touch on heroism a whole lot in last week's post is because I knew that this method was coming: Cut all heroes down to size. Let's quickly review the tactics for accomplishing this before we talk.

Here are the approaches suggested in the book:
  • TEN WAYS TO DESTROY THE IMAGINATION OF YOUR CHILDCast aspersions on the military ideal. We do this by
    • Belittling the intelligence of soldiers
    • Settling for an "easy, self-serving pacifism"
    • Reducing the military career to an option for everyone, regardless or physical prowess or sex
    • Focusing on the misery of war rather than asking hard questions such as "what would Europe look like has Britain surrendered to Hitler and Mussolini?"
  • Instill a contempt for the more difficult and fantastic virtues. We do this by
    • Sniggering rather than cheering (flippancy)
    • Encouraging a knowing smirk rather than the flush of admiration
    • Laughing and what we don't understand
    • Encouraging "small-souled envy"
      The proud man wants to excel; the envious man fears lest someone else excel.
    • Teaching children that they are virtuous simply because they have adopted the opinion that other people are not virtuous.
  • Hate and suspect excellence. This is mostly self-explanatory, but here's some pointers...
    • Attack excellence itself (Esolen says this is a risky venture because in order to attack it we'd have to introduce the children to examples of it, and they might admire it anyhow)
    • Call everything excellent, even doing ordinary tasks (if everyone is a hero, then no one is)
  • Tarnish the genuine heroes of the past.
    • Point out their real flaws in such a way as to circumvent any praise for them
    • Mention foul rumors about them, even if there is little to no evidence for the rumors
  • Place mirrors everywhere for self-adulation.
    • Egalitarianism is key here. Make sure they digest the lie that no one is better than anyone else:
      [T]each them to consider themselves better than others because they consider nobody better than anyone else.
I did something I usually don't do, which is to say that I read some of the other posts before I wrote mine. I noticed that others were grappling with the same issue as me--viz., what is real heroism? Sometimes I feel heroic when I have a Supermom day. But is this real heroism? Sometimes I feel like my husband is heroic because he faithfully goes to work and provides for us, or when he does something out of the ordinary, such as fixing the sprinklers for a divorced neighbor. Is this real heroism?

My guess is that in order to regain a working definition of heroism, we're going to have to admit that Doing Our Duty is not heroic, even though it's easy to feel like it is when it's hard, or when we're surrounded by slackers, or what have you.

So I suppose heroism requires one to go above and beyond the call of duty.

I got out my trust Webster's 1828 Dictionary and found hero defined as:
1. A man of distinguished valor, intrepidity or enterprise in danger; as a hero in arms.
2. A great, illustrious or extraordinary person; as a hero in learning. [Little used.]
In looking through related words, I discovered that a heroic act requires courage. A heroine, for instance, is "a woman of brave spirit."

I found myself wondering if perhaps there are two categories of greatness, one being a sort of moral excellence or virtue which has been attained, while the other being the sort of heroism achieved by the few (usually on behalf of the many, I might add). I was thinking through women of the past that I admire, and I thought that perhaps Tabitha and Caroline Ingalls might be great, perhaps it was only Jenny Geddes (out of the three) who was actually heroic.

Newsflash: I am neither great nor heroic.

Shocking, I know.

-Don't forget to read the other book club entries!

22 February 2011

Starving our Children

Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established:
And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

-Proverbs 24:3-4
I was reading through the beginning of Charlotte Mason's A Philosophy of Education last night. I've read this portion a number of times before, but it seems that each time something new jumps out at me. Once, I was struck by the idea that all education is self-education, that the teacher can never compel the child to really know something. Another time, I was struck by the idea that she never offered any "stray lessons" based upon a child's interest--all of the teaching was methodical because "knowledge is consecutive."

This time, I was struck by the idea that knowledge is the natural food for the child's soul:
Now, let us consider for a moment the parallel behaviour of body and mind. The body lives by air, grows on food, demands rest, flourishes on a diet wisely various. So, of the mind,--{by which I mean the entire spiritual nature, all that which is not body},--it breathes in air, calls for both activity and rest and flourishes on a wisely varied dietary.


The life of the mind is sustained upon ideas; there is no intellectual vitality in the mind to which ideas are not presented several times, say, every day....Our schools turn out a good many clever young persons, wanting in nothing but initiative, the power of reflection and the sort of moral imagination which enables you to 'put yourself in his place.' These qualities flourish upon a proper diet; and this is not afforded by the ordinary school book, or, in sufficient quantity by the ordinary lesson. I should like to emphasize quantity, which is as important for the mind as for the body; both require their 'square meals.'
It is so tempting {I speak here from experience} to give children hoops to jump through in order to feel like we accomplished something in our days with them. But piling up paperwork or "kinesthetic activities" that "prove" our productivity is not the same as raising children who know:
We come dangerously near to what Plato condemns as "that lie of the soul," that corruption of the highest truth, of which Protagoras is guilty in the saying that, "Knowledge is sensation." What else are we saying when we run after educational methods which are purely sensory? Knowledge is not sensation, nor is it to be derived through sensation; we feed upon the thoughts of other minds; and thought applied to thought generates thought and we become more thoughtful.
We classify children as something other than human when we say that they are "too young" to have thoughts, too young to ponder, too young to read thoughtful books. Yes, children are not the same as adults, but having thoughts is a function of the soul--to assert that children cannot be thoughtful is to deny that they bear God's image, that they have souls at all.

I see mothers in this world who twist themselves into knots over planning expansive days for their children, full of "learning activities." They doubt themselves, wonder if they are doing enough--there is so. much. pressure. The child must study P by studying pickles and petunias and peanuts.

The mama is tired.

Charlotte Mason takes all of this chasing after the wind and calls it like it is:
A person is not built up from without but from within, that is, he is living, and all external educational appliances and activities which are intended to mould his character are decorative and not vital.

...[N]o external application is capable of nourishing life or promoting growth; baths of wine, wrappings of velvet have no effect upon physical life except as they may hinder it; life is sustained on that which is taken in by the organism, not by that which is applied from without.
Some of us like more decoration than others. Some of us "wrap ourselves in velvet" while some of us wear jeans. As long as it does not hinder the intellectual life, these things are fine in moderation. But let us tell ourselves the truth: educational games do not provide knowledge. They provide skills. Skills are helpful only insofar as they enable the child the child to gain access to knowledge.

This is, for instance, why many of us focus on reading skills when children are young. We know that the world of books is the world of ideas, and that they can never reach at ideas themselves if they are illiterate.

The idea that P has anything to do with pickle or petunias is ridiculous. A child that is taught ideas will learn that seeds grow plants which grow cucumbers, which are harvested and prepared using whey or vinegar, aged, and then enjoyed as what we call a pickle but which is really a pickled cucumber.

To say that P can only deal with pickles in a child's life is to disrespect their ability to understand ideas.

Does this mean it is wrong to read an alphabet book?

I certainly don't think so.

But perhaps we ought to put the alphabet book in the category where it belongs. It is a skill-building decoration. To the extent that it helps children along the road to reading, it is even a useful decoration.

But it not a substitute for ideas, which are the proper food of the child's soul.

One of the things I love about Charlotte is that she wasn't afraid to let a four-year-old completely "waste" a day outside watching ants build a hill or birds build a nest. She didn't think they needed to be hustled off to the next thing to learn skills.

In the same vein, she didn't wait for a child to be able to read to encourage their reaching out at ideas. The children were read aloud to--from broad and varied books of a high literary quality. And then those little illiterates narrated back what they had heard, claiming the ideas as their own, assimilating them into their very souls.

And eventually, with a little skill-work here and there, the reading abilities caught up to the comprehension levels.

To use an analogy: in our world, we approach children in a way that is like taking a four-year-old and saying that, as she is only capable of pouring herself a bowl of cereal by herself, and cannot prepare other foods, therefore this is the diet she ought to subsist upon until she is older and able to make something a little more elaborate.


Just as mommy prepares the child a generous diet regardless of her ability to prepare it herself, so the generous teacher reads aloud from wonderful, beautiful books. We do not assume that just because the child can only make pancakes, therefore she can only appreciate pancakes. Rather, we assume that she can read the pancake books on her own, but that we honor her soul by feeding her generously, even if in the early years it is a feast of the ears rather than the eyes and it is consumed with Mom rather than in solitude.
My son, eat thou honey, because it is good;
and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste:
So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul:
when thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward,
and thy expectation shall not be cut off.

-Proverbs 24:13-14

18 February 2011

One Hundred Eight Days

Today is our one-hundred-eighth day of the school year, and I thought we were overdue for a review. Plus, I am working on a birthday party for a certain soon-to-be six-year-old, so I don't have time or brain power for a Thoughtful Post.


Circle Time
When the year first started, O. was still taking a morning nap. He dropped it by Thanksgiving, and I've been learning to handle having so much energy at Circle Time ever since. I love this child. But he is not anything like my other children, meaning that lots of my old tricks don't work. Actually, I didn't need as many tricks before this bundle of energy entered our lives and made us laugh more than we ever thought possible.

Our morning meeting was getting more and more stressful in the month of January. On the one hand, I like my preschoolers at Circle Time because I think it is never too young for them to hear the words of Scripture and learn to sing songs and such. On the other hand, O. decided that Circle Time was a great time to agitate his siblings by pulling hair, throwing things at them, and so on.

He is determined to be voted Class Clown.

A week or two ago, I realized that swimming season was creeping up on us, and it was time to try a breakfast Circle Time because in March and April that is what will work best (I think).

Lo and behold! This is the best thing ever. When I finish my food, I pull out my supplies and start Circle Time while everyone is still eating. This means I needed to move Memory Work to the end sometimes, because recitation doesn't work very well when everyone has their mouths full. But toddlers trapped in high chairs during Circle Time are an amazing solution. And now that he's been forced to sit still and really listen, he has learned to sing (in gibberish, but mostly in key) a number of the hymns.

The word Jesus is very recognizable in those songs.


So cute.

Go Outside
My main solution to other logistical difficulties is still to send people outside. Children are just made to be outside. All the "bad" things they want to do inside are almost totally fine outside. I am willing to do the extra laundry if it means they are free.

In the mornings after Circle Time, we do chores. Both the girls are being timer trained right now, as they were not making the transition to post-Circle Time chores very well. After chores are completed, everyone but E. is sent outside (he is the one with Real School, remember). Then, I gather my supplies, park myself in my office (which has a view of the swing set), and start calling people in. A. comes in for reading lessons and other preschool activities (if I have them--I don't always have them). She goes back out and Q. comes in for the same. E. pops in and out, narrating to me as needed. Usually he is ready for a narration after each reading lesson, so it works out well.

School is still done-by-lunch, which leaves the afternoons free for naps for the littles and music lessons, music practice, and other special projects for the big kids.

Speaking of Piano Lessons
So far, I am loving PianoPhonics. It is accomplishing exactly what I hoped, which is to say that E. is learning to read musical notation, understand rhythm, and play nicely. I really appreciate the author's methodical introduction of different concepts. He is a concert pianist, I believe, so I suppose it is no surprise that he'd know how to teach his instrument well.

I am so excited that the author is coming out with another set of lessons. And that set of lessons is, according to the website, supposed to end where the Bach Two-Part Inventions begin! It's perfect, and skips all the twaddle songs that are typically considered a necessary evil to learn to play.

I am still convinced that around eight or ten is the right age to start this type of learning. A. is very interested, but I told her she'll have to wait until she's at least seven. I think one of the great things about it is clipping along at a nice pace, and that would be less likely to happen with a younger child.

I had planned to have Fridays set aside for lessons, but I have found that homeschool piano has its freedom, too. We are at liberty to have a lesson when he is ready, rather than waiting for the scheduled time. So he practices each excercise in the spirit of Charlotte Mason: until he has attained perfection. Once he can play it perfectly (and do whatever else is necessary, such as counting the rhythm or saying the names of the notes as he plays), we move to the next excercise.

Educating Mother
I'm finishing up my sourdough class. I haven't done every single lesson, but I never intended to. My main goal was to learn to make an awesome loaf of sourdough bread. I've done a few other things, and enjoyed them greatly, and now I'm just looking through the lessons to see if there is anything else that we'd actually take to eating.

One thing that made the cut was pocket bread. Check it out:

That, my friends, is a gyro, and the pita was homemade! Truly, I am ecstatic. I think this was actually more exciting than mastering the loaf. Pita bread is a favorite with me, but it has always been a great mystery. Thankfully, the class instructor (whose family is from Israel and knows some of the old ways) is a wonderful teacher.
I am almost to the point where I can teach the children to do this.

17 February 2011

On Reading New Books

It dawned on me recently that I'd said now a number of times something along the lines of, "I don't usually like new fiction (and is new literature even written at all anymore?), but I was surprised to find myself liking..." Insert name of book that made the list of exceptions.

I think I can only say this so many times before I have to admit that I like a number of new books. I liked The Thirteenth Tale. I adored Ella Minnow Pea. Most recently, I declared my approval for The Charlatan's Boy.

Does anyone else see a pattern here? The new books I all remind me of something good about the old books I've loved. Whether it be the Brontë overtones of The Thirteenth Tale, the clever, Austenian way with words in Ella Minnow Pea, or the tinge of Lewis here and Tolkien there in The Charlatan's Boy, I find that there is something to be said for contemporary books, after all.

Some of them, anyway.

And I think that perhaps that's the point.

The old books have already been tested. The sieve of time has already tossed out the dull, the uninteresting, and the hopelessly-lost-in-their-own-time, while preserving the gems that are beautifully written and timeless.

Surely Shakespeare had his peer playwrights, but we see that the sieve proved him while discarding most of the others.

My issue with modern books, then, is that the sieve has yet to be applied. I approach them with a sense of wariness. Will they prove to be worth the time and energy it takes in reading them? A good book can add depth to the mind and wisdom and virtue to the soul, but how hard it is to find good ones in the midst of the cluttered shelves of New Releases.

It dawns on me that perhaps it is simply not my calling to be a sieve.

16 February 2011

The Darndest Things: The Case of the Missing Duck

We have a daily rhythm in regard to our duck flock. Just after dawn, Son E. heads out to collect eggs and offer a pellet ration. He leaves them in their cage, to finish up laying and eating. Later, between 9 and 10, Daughter Q. opens the cage, and they are free to roam and forage until sunset, when Daughter A. locks them in their cage and offers a second pellet ration.

This has worked like clockwork for us the past couple years.

On Friday morning during breakfast, we noticed a beautiful hawk perched on our fence. He sat there a very long time, long enough for us to procure toy binoculars from some forgotten corner of the play nook, to find the birding book, to identify him (he was a Cooper's Hawk), and to admire him. He sat there for so long that I finally shuffled everyone off to their chores.

I noticed the hawk checking out the ducks in their cage, and the ducks were obviously chattering amongst themselves about the hawk. The hawk was gone by the time we were ready to open the cage, but I wasn't worried that he knew there were ducks on the property. He was smallish--little more than half the size of a grown duck. If we had ducklings, I'd have worried, but I figured the ladies could fend for themselves.

So imagine my surprise on Saturday morning when we discovered that our flock was down one duck. We searched high and low. I walked the perimeter myself, checking everywhere I could think of, but truly there are not many places to hide in our suburban backyard-turned-microhomestead.

I was mystified, but we all had to assume it was the hawk. The only other known predator in the area is a raccoon, and we'd have seen the evidence. I had recently read that some hawks like to carry their prey off to another spot and then pluck them there, so that was our best guess.

Daughter A. was particularly sad. She wanted to know if Jemima (the missing duck) was sad or hurt or in pain. We assured her that Jemima was probably dead, and therefore could never feel pain again.

Hours went by, and we were all reconciling ourselves to our loss when Toddler O. overturned a bucket in our yard.

And out popped Jemima.

It seems that Daughter A., on the afternoon of the previous day (the day of the hawk sighting), had thought it fun to put ducks under buckets.

And then she forgot about one of them.

Thankfully, Jemima is alive and well.

And our house has yet another new weird rule: Do not put ducks under buckets.

15 February 2011

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child: Method 5

Method Five is: Cast aspersions upon the heroic and patriotic. I love the subtitle on this one: We are all traitors now. It speaks volumes, I think. It's super cool these days (as evidenced by our Commander in Chief, who loves to apologize for America's existence) to think little of our country. We do this under the guise of a false humility, but Esolen calls it as it is.

He calls it refusing to honor our father and our mother.

I've been thinking about this chapter for a while now.

I thought of it the other day, when I was talking to someone about some problems at a church (not my own).

"They let him go," she said of one of the volunteer ministers.

"Why?" I asked.

"They hired a new young thing and found a new vision. Whatever that means."

I know what it means, because I've seen it in action at other churches at other times.

It means that the church has decided that Cool will reign, that Cool somehow is the best way to serve God in the world. And so Cool disposes with the old and the antiquated, with the traditional and the remembered. Cool fires the outdated worship minister in favor of some young guy who plays electric guitar. Cool changes the rythms, and even the melodies, of the Old Songs, simply because it can, and New is Better in America today.

Cool doesn't care that the old people in the church can't sing the song that way, that the old way is etched in their very bones.

That they will die missing the songs they once knew.

Esolen didn't talk about Cool a whole lot, but I'm from California, which is more than a state. It's a Present State of Mind. Cool reigns supreme here, right? Or so it seems.

One of the things that breaks my heart over and over is seeing my beloved locality decide that it simply must be Cool. Cozy old diners with crotchety old ladies behind the counter aren't enough--we need all the best chains from Los Angeles. Sometimes I think my Place is determined to lose itself in trying to be like LA or San Francisco, or what have you.

And we are taught this in our youth at school, for it is Cool at school to "cast aspersions" on the past. I loved this passage of Esolen's:
TEN WAYS TO DESTROY THE IMAGINATION OF YOUR CHILDWhen Sophocles wrote Oedipus Tyrannos, it seemed to some in Athens that they had, in their radical democratic reforms, also killed their fathers. The danger, as Sophocles saw it, struck to the heart of the social order. To ignore tradition--to despise the past, to "kill the father"--is to set oneself above those laws that have no past, because they apply to all men, everywhere, at all times. So says the Chorus:
I only ask to live, with pure faith keeping
In word and deed that Law which leaps the sky,
Made of no mortal mould, undimmed, unsleeping,
Whose living godhead does not age or die.
We should prefer instead of Sophocles the spawner of modern education, John Dewey:
Education has accordingly not only to safeguard an individual against the besetting erroneous tendencies of his own mind--its rashness, presumption, and preference of what chimes with self-interest to objective evidence--but also to undermine and destroy the accumulated and self-perpetuating prejudices of long ages.
It is to Dewey's credit that he saw that you cannot destroy those old prejudices while continuing to expose pupils to the literature of the classical past. Oedipus killed Laius, but he did not know it. Dewey killed Sophocles, and he did know.
Now please don't worry that Esolen is in favor of blind tradition. He makes the point that our duty to honor thy father and thy mother is not a duty to "whitewash thy father and thy mother." As a Christian I must assert that I love my country on the one hand, and that, on the other hand, I desire to see her not as she is, but as the Father would have her. I believe that Jesus truly intended nations to become His disciples--that they will become His disciples in time, and we will see the nations serve Him.

But I do not think that America would better serve the Lord by acting British (as much as I adore the idea of Britain), nor Nigeria better serve the Lord by acting Chinese. Just as the Lord created many different people in my own family, I believe that the grand variety of cultures pleases Him, and He desires to redeem them for His glory.

This desire to see one's country redeemed is rightly called patriotism. (I'm not making much mention of heroism, but suffice it to say that heroic acts always have at their core some great love, patriotism being among the options.)

Patriotism sparks the imagination, and therefore causes Esolen great concern. Esolen explains that multiculturalism is a great way to destroy patriotism:
[W]e want no patriots. Therefore we want no lovers of their own place. The very purpose of what is miscalled multiculturalism is to destroy culture, by teaching students to dismiss their own and to patronize the rest. Hence the antidote to love of this place is not only a hatred of this place, but a phony engagement with any other place. Multiculturalism in this sense is like going a-whoring. Pretending to love every woman you meet, you love none at all. Nor do you genuinely get to know any of them, since it never occurs to you that there are any depths to learn to appreciate.
Something in this chapter reminded me of Wendell Berry, and it wasn't just the reference to Jayber Crow. I was thinking more of his essays. Can you see the similarities? For instance, in his essay Economy and Pleasure, Berry wrote:
The idea of the teacher and scholar as one called upon to preserve and pass on a common cultural and natural birthright has been almost entirely replaced by the idea of the teacher and scholar as a developer of "human capital" and a bestower of economic advantage.
In another essay, The Work of Local Culture (which has much that informs a good reading of Esolen here, I think), he talks about the failure of succession. It once was that men rose up and took the place of their fathers.
Throughout most of our literature, the normal thing was for the generations to succeed one another in place. The memorable stories occurred when this succession failed or became difficult or was somehow threatened. The norm is given in Psalm 128, in which this succession is seen as one of the rewards of righteousness: "Thou shalt see thy children's children, and peace upon Israel."

The longing for this result seems to have been universal. It presides over The Odyssey, in which Odysseus's desire to return home is certainly regarded as normal.


[B]y now the transformation of the ancient story is nearly complete. Our society, on the whole, has forgotten or repudiated the theme of return. Young people still grow up in rural families and go off to the cities, not to return. But now it is felt that this is what they should do. Now the norm is to leave and not return. And this applies as much to urban families as to rural ones.


According to the new norm, the child's destiny is not to succeed the parents, but to outmode them; succession has given way to supersession. And this norm is institutionalized not in great communal stories, but in the education system. The schools are no longer oriented to a cultural inheritance that it is their duty to pass on unimpaired, but to the career, which is to say the future, of the child...The child is not educated to return home and be of use to the place and community; he or she is educated to leave home and earn money in a provisional future that has nothing to do with place or community.
Something big, like a healthy patriotism, starts small, with a love for one's own small place.

I am reminded of a little speech my husband once gave at a meeting of our City Council. I don't remember the issue, but it seems that perhaps our city was trying to build something big and impressive that it couldn't afford, probably using federal dollars, in order to attract outsiders, who would come and be impressed and, if all went as planned, spend money in town. My husband's assessment was that what our city lacked was a love of the citizens for their Place--as evidence by the graffiti and crime problems. Building some great edifice was not a solution to the underlying issue, which had nothing to do with money, and everything to do with heart.

He was quoting someone else when he said, "Men did not love Rome because she was beautiful. She was beautiful because men loved her."

-Visit Cindy's blog for more book club entries.

14 February 2011

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Well, hello and happy Valentine's Day! We've got a big day planned today, so I'll get straight to the list.

  • Need hints on controlling whining in your house? This came up in the comments last week sometime (or maybe it was the week before that), and I shared what I've learned from women older and wiser than I. After that, I found a couple insightful posts on the subject: Using the Reins and Raisinettes.
  • Looking for a good book list? Cindy has written a lot of wonderful lists throughout the years, but I completely appreciated her post over on the CiRCE blog: Books to Feed a Child's Soul. Along these same lines is Mystie's fabulous list: Fairy Tale Picture Books.
  • I watched the documentary Foodmatters this weekend. All of the information on using megadoses of vitamins to heal the body of various diseases (including depression and cancer) was fascinating. However, comma. I felt like there were two storyline in the movie. The main one was the megadoses one, but then they had this random "eat raw" guy that was really dynamic and interesting, but what he said didn't really fit with the rest. Technically, Charlotte Gerson (who was interviewed also) is a special diet person, rather than a megadoses person, but her interview was cut down to fit the premise. Anyhow, the raw guy was interesting (and really hyper), but he seems to think that going organic vegetarian is going to solve the problems with soil fertility, and so he's got another thing coming. I am starting to get crotchety about people not realizing that vegetables and grains take from the soil while meat and dairy (when pastured, obviously) give to the soil. The cycle of fertility requires the eating of meat and/or dairy products.
  • I'm just saying.
  • Talbot Theological Seminary has launched a faculty blog. This is the seminary I dropped out of to get married and have babies. I had finals a couple weeks after our honeymoon, and when I was done, I hoped to go back, but God (and E.!) had other plans for life. For the record, my favorite professors were Walt Russell and Dave Talley, and I will always have a special place in my heart for Rex Johnson, who obviously adored his wife.
  • If you remember, I linked a post from Cindy last week on being Middle-Class Poor. She wrote a follow-up this weekend called Behind the Frown that you won't want to miss.
  • We're making a bunch of small changes in our home based upon our reading of Cure Tooth Decay. I'll share a quick list as long as you understand that a lot of this is only necessary when you are trying to cure existing cavities. In other words, if you have nice teeth, you probably don't need to worry about any of this. So here's the list:
    1. Eliminate all consumption of oats, including oatmeal. Substitute this with eggs as they are still easy, cheap, fast, plus they help (rather than hurt) teeth. However, I have had to start buying eggs to supplement our flock's production. Hopefully, this time next year our new duckies will lay enough to stop the expenditure.
    2. Seriously cut down on fruit consumption.
    3. Change the children's evening "dessert" from fruit to plain whole yogurt with a few berries on top.
    4. When the children do eat fruit, make it lower in sugar (like green apples), and/or couple it with protein (like cheese or roasted almond butter).
    5. Learn to drink broth with meals that do not have it as an ingredient.
    6. Up the fermented codliver oil/butter oil intake of the two children with cavity and teeth issues. Turns out we were giving them the maintenance dose rather than the repair dose.
    7. That's all I can remember for now.
  • Did you know ducks eggs are waaaaaaay more nutrient dense than chicken eggs? Even when commercially produced, duck eggs contain more fat, meaning more fat-soluble vitamins (twice as much vitamin A, for instance). They also have more B-12. I'm thinking our ducks must have a ton of vitamin D also, as they graze most of the daylight hours. Their pellet supplement is half what it was this time last year, the grazing is so good. I was excited to see we are doing something right in regard to teeth.
Please don't hate me for talking about teeth so much. If you had seen my oldest child's baby tooth up and disintegrate, you'd be reading this book, too!

Have a very happy Valentine's Day.

11 February 2011

Teeth are Alive and Need Their Vitamins

What a lame title. I am running low on ideas today, and I'm spending another afternoon pretending not to flirt with reading more of Cure Tooth Decay without my husband. Yesterday, I flipped through the book whenever I walked by it and read the various charts.

Charts don't count, right?

My dear husband, if you could just stay home until we're done reading, that'd be great.


Even though it is nice when nutritional books jump right in to The Cure for whatever it is they are claiming to cure, I've found I retain a lot more when the author explains How Things Work.

Take teeth, for instance. I have always thought of teeth in the way I think of hair and nails. They're practically dead! Just like hair and nails, nutrition can effect them, but I didn't think of teeth as existing in some sort of harmony (or disharmony) with the rest of my body. I mean, I could go bald or lose a nail and not be in bad shape, right?

Well, teeth apparently aren't like that.

Now, if you took real science in school, perhaps you already knew that. I, unfortunately, went to a school where they did what Esolen says is needed in order to kill the imagination--they turned all science into biology and all biology into ecology.

I didn't even know the lymph system existed until I took my first science course in college.

But I digress.

Author Ramiel Nagel uses the work of dentists Ralph Steinman and John Leonora to explain how other parts of the body are actually responsible for tooth health:
Cure Tooth Decay: Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition, Second EditionThe hypothalamus in our brain regulates the relationship between our nervous system and our glandular system through the pituitary gland. Drs. Leonora and Steinman found that the hypothalamus communicates with glands in our jaw called the parotid glands via parotid hormone releasing factor. When the parotid gland is stimulated by the hypothalamus it releases parotid hormone which triggers a movement of mineral rich dental lymph through microscopic channels in our teeth. This mineral-rich fluid cleans teeth and remineralizes them. When a cavity-causing diet is ingested, the hypothalamus stops telling the parotid gland to release the hormone that circulates the dental remineralizing fluid. Over time, this interruption of mineral-rich fluid results in tooth destruction, what we know as tooth decay. That the parotid gland is in charge of tooth remineralization explains to me why a small portion of the population is immune to tooth decay, even with a relatively poor diet. They were born with a strong parotid gland.
Chapter Two deals primarily with summarizing the research findings of the dentist Dr. Weston Price, who is probably best known due to the work of the Weston A. Price Foundation, which promotes traditional food, farming, and healing. Around the time that Si ended up in the hospital (summer 2009), a friend had lent me Price's definitive tome, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. I read most of it, but I was so busy dealing with Si's recovery that I finally gave it back to her--I felt like it had overstayed its welcome in my home! How I wish I could finish reading it!

I am contenting myself with the primer given in the second chapter.

If you are not familiar with Dr. Price, I'll introduce you briefly. Dr. Price was first appointed as the research director of the Nation Dental Association (which became the American Dental Association) in 1915. While carrying out the duties of his post, he traveled the world in the 1930s, studying the characteristics of the people groups who were immune to tooth decay.

Yes, you read that right.

Immune from tooth decay. He found multiple populations that suffered from less than 1% tooth decay. This includes the Australian Aborigines, who had 100% immunity. Cure Tooth Decay goes into this in detail.

Dr. Price found that tooth health was dependent upon six primary nutrients: the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and what he called the "X-factor" (known today as K2), plus the minerals calcium and phosphorous. All four of the fat-soluble vitamins are found only in animal products, including dairy products. Nagel tells us,
Fat-soluble vitamins are essential for our physical health, not just because they provide nutrients to the body, but precisely because they are activating substances that help our bodies utilize the minerals present in our diets.
Nagel doesn't mention this, but I recently read that vitamin K2 is protective. So, for instance, if you are taking in a lot of D and A--too much, perhaps--K2 keeps you from actually reaching toxic levels. (I wish I could rediscover my source on that. I know I read it somewhere...) Not sure how that happens, but that's what I read. It is already widely known that vitamin A protects against vitamin D toxicity.

What I found particularly interesting is that, so far, the problem seems to be two-fold as far as teeth are concerned.
  1. Not eating enough of the right foods
    • Even though the fat-soluble vitamins are prevalent in animal products, they are usually concentrated in organ meat and pastured raw milk and eggs, which most Americans no longer eat
    • A traditional source of calcium is bone broth, which many families no longer make
    • Vegetables contain pro-vitamin-A and K1, both which are only minimally converted into their useful form by the human body, so the emphasis on eating more vegetables doesn't help heal the teeth
  2. Not raising our food correctly
    • A lot of research is finding that the industrial methods of raising animals result in huge nutrition deficits. For instance, pastured milk is higher in vitamins A and E than grain- and soy-silage-fed milk (probably because cows are designed by God to eat grass).
    • Grain-feeding birds results in eggs of inferior quality. Pastured birds, which eat a variety of grasses and seeds as well as bugs and insects, lay eggs that are higher in vitamins A, D, and E--and by higher I mean much more than double.
It's funny because I sometimes read something on nutrition and get overwhelmed. It starts to sound like a lot of work, or a big balancing act. But really, this book, at least, sounds like it all boils down to eating like our great-great-grandparents ate, which includes raising the food the way they did.

With that said, I am highly interested in the author's protocol for healing cavities which already exist.

In other words: We have cavities. Now what?

10 February 2011

Tooth Decay and Germ Theory

I mentioned back when I reviewed that vaccine book that I am interested in alternatives to Louis Pasteur's germ theory. Someday, perhaps I'll read a book on the subject. For now, I'm noticing alternatives being mentioned in books that I'm reading about nutrition--possibly because nutrition is all about making the terrain immune to germs in the first place, rather than fighting germs as a primary solution to health problems.

Cure Tooth Decay: Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition, Second EditionLast night, Si and I started reading Ramiel Nagel's Cure Tooth Decay. I found mention of the issue throughout the Introduction and First Chapter, and I thought I'd share some of it here. Dentistry, like most modern medicine, is based upon the idea that Bacteria is Our Enemy and Must be Destroyed. The idea is that bacteria cause cavities, and that if we could just get rid of them, we'd get rid of dental caries. So we brush our teeth, rinse our teeth, floss our teeth, all in an effort to get rid of bacteria that cause cavities and the food that it might thrive on if it survives the brushing and rinsing.

I thought this was a good point:
Bacteria exist everywhere and are nearly impossible to get rid of completely. More than 400 different bacteria are now associated with dental disease, and many more have yet to be discovered. Since bacteria are a part of life, with some good ones and some bad ones and trillions of them everywhere, dentistry's approach to eliminate bacteria seems helpless.
So far, the most interesting thing I've learned from the first chapter is concerning the theory of dental cavities--where do they come from? Why do we get them in the first place?

From what I understand from the book, what is accepted dental theory today is based loosely upon the work of a Dr. W. D. Miller in the late 1800s. He performed some experiments upon extracted teeth that caused him to believe that bacteria form acids that "dissolve" teeth--in other words, cause tooth decay. What is overlooked in today's dental theory is what else Miller learned:
In simple terms, Dr. Miller believed a dense strong tooth would "resist indefinitely" an attack from acid, whether it be from bacteria or from food. Meanwhile, a non-dense tooth would succumb quickly to any sort of acid, from bacteria or otherwise. Dr. Miller also wrote that, "The invasion of the micro-organisms is always preceded by the extraction of lime salts." In plain terms, the tooth loses its mineral density first (lime salts), and then microorganisms can cause trouble.
If I understand the first chapter correctly, what will follow in the remainder of the book will deal not so much with bacteria, but with mineralization. Dr. Miller himself said that a strong, firmly mineralized tooth would be immune to the effects of bacteria, so let's learn to be immune, right?

I'm looking forward to reading more, and I'm having trouble waiting until my husband gets home.

Last year, Daughter A. went to the dentist and had seven cavities. Instead of treating them (and it was debatable whether or not she needed treatment), we looked at the information Ramiel Nagel offers over at the Cure Tooth Decay site. We acted on that information, and three of the cavities have since healed. There is still concern about the other four, of course, but I figure we were working from an incomplete picture, having read the website and not the book. I look forward to attacking the other four using Nagel's full protocol.

Whatever that is.

If my husband would just come home from work early so I could read this book...

09 February 2011

John Piper's Future Grace: Chapter 3

This third chapter is the first true "application" chapter, and let me just say that I loved it. I still am a little on the fence concerning whether or not I agree with Piper that gratitude ought not be the primary motivation for obedience. Sometimes, I really think I agree with him, and then we'll find a verse that seems to say otherwise. Or, like today in Pilgrim's Progress, I'll read a passage that tells me that past Christians really did see gratitude as a motivator, and falling into sin as a symptom of forgetting what we have to be thankful for.


But, I must be honest and say that I do think the typical evangelical, influenced by the disintegrated thinking of Dispensationalism (I speak here from experience), has little grasp on what it means to walk in faith to cling to the promises and character of God. We are a forgetful people, indeed, and what we forget are the Words of Life. Francis Chan says something similar to John Piper in his book Crazy Love:
There is an epidemic of spiritual amnesia going around, and none of us is immune. No matter how many fascinating details we learn about God's creation, no matter how many pictures we see of His galaxies, and no matter how many sunsets we watch, we still forget.

Most of us know that we are supposed to love and fear God; that we are supposed to read our Bibles and pray so that we can get to know Him better; that we're supposed to worship Him with our lives. But actually living it out is challenging.
Later, he again echoes Piper, who believes that we are forgetting (or ignoring) certain passages of Scripture, which in turn causes a lack of faith (and therefore a lack of walking in faith). Chan walks his reader through the characteristics of God (He is holy, eternal, etc.). Why?
We need...reminders about God's goodness. We are programmed to focus on what we don't have, bombarded multiple times throughout the day with what we need to buy that will make us feel happier or sexier or more at peace. This dissatisfaction transfers over to our thinking about God. We forget that we already have everything we need in Him. (emphasis mine)
This is the foundation of Piper's Future Grace: we already have everything we need in Him.

This third chapter, then, is called Faith in Future Grace vs. Anxiety. I can't possibly go through it all here, but I highly suggest reading the chapter yourself, especially if you struggle with anxiety, or its "associates," as Piper call them--
Think for a moment how many different sinful actions and attitudes come from anxiety. Anxiety about finances can give rise to coveting and greed and hoarding and stealing. Anxiety about succeeding at some task can make you irritable and abrupt and surly. Anxiety about relationships can make you withdrawn and indifferent and uncaring about other people. Anxiety about how someone will respond to you can make you cover over the truth and lie about things. So if anxiety could be conquered, a mortal blow would be struck to many other sins.
Piper shares with us many glorious Scripture passages, reminding us that we really can cast our cares upon Him, for He really does care for us.

I think the most important point Piper makes in his chapter is that anxiety is not a sin:
Psalm 56:3 (RSV) says, "When I am afraid, I put my trust in thee." Notice: it does not say, "I never struggle with fear." Fear strikes, and the battle begins. So the Bible does not assume that true believers will have no anxieties. Instead the Bible tells us how to fight when they strike...It does not say, you will never feel any anxieties. It says, when you have them, cast them on God.
Piper spends most of the chapter walking through Matthew 6:25-33. The question becomes one of faith--do we really believe God's words? Do we really believe that He cares for the birds, and that He cares for us more than them? Do we really believe He will take care of us?

Building Faith While Mothering
One of the questions I find myself repeatedly asking of the text is how this might change or enhance my interactions with my children. Piper mentions throughout the book that his parents were of the faith-building kind, exhorting Him to cling to truth and walk in it, and I keep thinking that that is the sort of mother I want to be, too.

I got an opportunity yesterday, when I encountered a child freaking out about his schedule, getting his lessons done, and generally not dealing well with the fact that I have been sick. He had already decided that tomorrow would be worse than today. I realized that the root of all of this complaining and discontent was really anxiety. This child takes comfort in a predictable schedule, and when it is gone (or even modified), he experiences a shock.

So I prayed, and then I said, "Do you know that the Bible says that God's mercies are new every morning?"

Blank stare.

"Do you believe that?"

Si calls this new technique "causing a crisis of faith."

From there proceeded a discussion about worrying, about how each day has enough trouble of its own, about how God gives us mercy and grace for each day, about how we, even when we are little, can cast our cares upon God.

This morning at the end of Circle Time, I dismissed the children to their chores and independent work. But before they went, I tried to choose a promise or exhortation of the Lord that fit their situation. To one, I repeated the promises from the previous day, that we are to cast our cares upon the Lord, and explained how that might be done. To the little girls, I reminded them that it is a glory to them to overlook an offense and perhaps they do not need to come and tattle every time someone bumps into them when they are playing.

I felt really empowered, for God's Word is much more effective than mine.

So I look forward to reading more of Piper's book, not just for my sake, but to improve upon my ignorance, that I might help my children walk in faith, too.

08 February 2011

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagintion of Your Child: Method 4

Method Four is: Replace the fairy tale with political clichés and fads. If you are looking for a summary of the chapter, Mystie's blog is probably the place to find it. I just want to deal with a couple things that came up while I was reading. I have grown to love real fairy tales as an adult, I agree with Esolen that "fairy tales...are for children and childlike people, not because they are little and inconsequential, but because they are as enormous as life itself." I've defended princesses here before in a related discussion.

What is the Value of a Fairy Tale?
I've never really sat down and hammered out my thoughts on this. I simply believed, instinctively, that they had value, and I've seen them work their magic in my own home. The more of them we have read, the more I believe in the power of the fairy tale as an instructor in wisdom and virtue, as a tutor in the proper organization of the affections.

Esolen had a few brilliant little thoughts on their value that I thought I'd share here. For instance, many in our culture will sneeringly declare fairy tales little more than stereotypes.
It has been a great victory for the crushers of imagination to label such figures "stereotypes," and add a sneer to it, as if people who used them in their stories were not very imaginative--or, sometimes, as if they were downright narrow-minded and wicked. The youth, the lonely maiden, the ineffective father, the doting mother, these are all types, because they are true to life; it is how they came to be types in the first place.
If you are like me, you have known women who have grown up under a real, live wicked stepmother. I often wonder if such stories would offer comfort to little girls in the midst of their troubles, knowing that justice will prevail someday. Wicked stepmother stories were written for a reason, even though it is also true that not all stepmothers are wicked.

Is there value in types and archetypes? Esolen says there is.
Such characters are like a child's palette of colors: bold blue, and green, and yellow, and red, and white. Of course they simplify: as the towering marble pillars of the Parthenon simplify, or as the tonic chord in a Bach chorale resolves all the preceding complexity into the perfectly expected and harmonious simplicity of the right ending.
How would depriving children of fairy and folk stories help destroy the imagination of a child?
If you do not want a child to paint, you take away his palette. If you do not want him to use his imagination to conceive of archetypal stories, you take away his narrative palette. You take away, or corrupt, or subvert all his types. That you will do most efficiently if you deprive him of folk tales.
This has ramifications for the man the child becomes.
[W]hen you starve your child of the folk tale, you not only cramp his imagination for the time being. You help to render vast realms of human art (not to mention human life) incomprehensible.


If you don't want your child to have a mind capable of falling in love with the music of Puccini or the poetry of Dante, you had better see to the folk tales.
Just as nourishing the child's body impacts the health of the man, so nourishing his mind and soul does likewise.

An Axe to Grind
I was totally with Esolen on the value of folk tales and fairy stories. We here read Aesop (sans the morals) because we think he is good for the soul.

Esolen maps out for us a three-prong strategy for separating the child from fairy stories forever:
  1. Drown the stories, flattening them into homogeneity.
  2. Sneer at any connection to the timeless (right here and right now are all the matter).
  3. Turn all stories into "a bald, brazen sales pitch, preferably a political pitch."
Here is my disappointment: few, if any, of Esolen's examples in this portion dealt with children's tales. He himself has told us of the "broad bold colors" of the child's palette, how the stories deal in types, and then his first example is from Sigrid Undset's The Master of Hestviken. He himself explains that "none of the three characters...is wholly good." Well, this is a cornerstone of fairy stories. They deal in exaggerations, with main characters often being wholly good or wholly wicked.

Though I was intrigued by his explanation of how to change Undset's work into "McNovel," as he calls it, I was hoping for direct examples from fairy stories.

For instance, Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew is a delight for children, and it seems to take a number of elements from fairy tales and folk tales (for example, the father requiring one daughter to marry before the other). Esolen could easily have compared the merits of the play to the movie 10 Things I Hate About You. In this movie, the shrew, Kat, behaves badly because she is Cool and Jaded About Men. Bianca is sweet because she is naïve. Kat is tamed not as a horse is tamed by a husbandman (through weariness and lack of food), but when she realizes that Not All Men Are Bad.

I happen to like the movie, but I realize it is a perversion of Shakespeare's story, and that it changes all the lessons learned.

I wish, moreover, that Esolen would have discussed what Disney has done to fairy stories.  I enjoyed reading his discussion of the film adaptation of The Scarlet Letter, but I have yet to meet a mother who'd read such a tale to her preschoolers before nap time.

If you see what I mean.

In All
Read fairy tales, folk stories, and nursery rhymes to your children. They are good for the imagination, good for the soul.

And, in my experience, they are also good for Mom.

Read More:
-Other book club entries are link over at Cindy's blog
-Buy the book and join the conversation
-JRR Tolkien's essay On Fairy Stories