29 July 2011

Quotables: A Return to Modesty

A Return to Modesty:
Discovering the Lost Virtue
by Wendy Shalit

Since respect for her modesty gave her the freedom to withhold affection, so to speak, until a virtuous man came around, men were in turn inspired to become worthy of her. {p. 98}
Today our society makes fun of modesty, and then we are surprised to find our men behaving abominably. {p. 104}
Hume's contemporary, Rousseau, recognized right away that defending modesty in utilitarian terms alone was just one step away from seeking its extinction. What happens to a notion founded on mere utility when it is someday deemed useless? {p. 109}
Since a woman's modesty made her so evidently different from men, if women were to strive to be the same as men, of course modesty would have to be the first to go. {p. 111}
[M]odesty is so threatening to the egalitarians because whenever it emerges, it is evidence. It is evidence that woman's experience of love and sex is fundamentally different from man's, and as such it rebukes the androgynous project. {p. 112}
[T]he reason for modesty is not that women have any less s*x drive than men, but that it is of a different kind. {p. 115}
Could Rousseau have been right in saying that when the differences between the sexes are appreciated, each s*x needs the other, and when women pretend to be men, men tend to need them less? {p. 120}
It's natural. If modesty were not natural, but inculcated into women, then the older and more cultured a woman got, the more modest we could expect her to be. But instead, the opposite seems to be true. Girls seem to become instinctively modest around boys as soon as they hit puberty, and our culture teaches them that this is a problem. {p. 125}
Kant thought that since modesty flows from the natural circumstances of women, and is not the result of any rational struggle, it couldn't qualify as moral: "The girl is not so much virtuous as she has the capacity to make men virtuous." {p. 127}
Not only do we think there are differences between the sexes, but we think these differences can have a beautiful meaning--a meaning that isn't some irrelevant fact about us but one that can inform and guide our lives. {p. 140}
In order to court women men must, in some sense, need to court women. Do people imagine men courted women in the past because they simply found it more fun than casual s*x? No, it was because women's modesty required it. {p. 146, emphasis mine}
Surely the egalitarians never intended to take away freedoms women already enjoyed. But once an idea is in common currency, it doesn't matter whether the consequences were intended or not; the idea drifts into the culture in ways no one anticipated, and the damage must be assessed. {p. 158}

28 July 2011

Modesty and Chivalry

I'm still making my way through Wendy Shalit's A Return to Modesty, and even though some sections are a little more...descriptive...than I'd prefer, I maintain that it is a profound book written by a good thinker.

Today I want to touch on a single idea that I've been mulling over after my reading last night. Shalit  asserts that the proper complement to female modesty is male character {or what was once called honor}:
Like modesty, which once made every woman a lady, male honor was what made every male a man.
As female modesty has faded from our culture, so has male honor and chivalry. There is much to think about in Shalit's discussion of our attempts to build a genderless society:
A Return to Modesty
by Wendy Shalit
Today we want to pretend there are no differences between the sexes, and so when they first emerge we give our little boys Ritalin to reduce their drive, and our little girls Prozac to reduce their sensitivity. We try to cure them of what is distinctive instead of cherishing these differences and directing them towards each other in a meaningful way.
The result of attempting to erase the differences between the sexes is frightening.
Part of the problem is that we said it was sexist for a man to be gentle around a woman. For instance, a checklist from the Westchester Coalition for Family Violence agencies includes "an overprotective manner" as evidence you might be abused. In this light, the more boorish and less protective, the closer a man is to the liberated ideal.
Shalit quotes feminist after feminist who believe that what was once basic manners on the part of a man towards a woman {opening a door, rising when she walks, carrying packages} is reinforcing a woman as weak and inferior. She quotes "intellectual" John Kasson who defends women's rights by stating:
The entire ritual structuring of urban life, although performed in the name of honoring women, assumed and encouraged their subservience to men.
The reason why I was thinking about all of this so intently is that only a few hours before, during our evening family time, I was reading aloud the book Sir Nigel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is not a deliberate study on female modesty, and yet the portion I read last night was striking, to say the least. First, we have the description of Squire Nigel's {for he is not yet a knight} chivalrous view of women:
To his pure and knightly soul not Edith alone, but every woman, sat high and aloof, enthroned and exalted, with a thousand mystic excellencies and virtues which raised her far above the rude world of man. There was joy in contact with them; and yet there was fear, fear lest his own unworthiness, his untrained tongue or rougher ways should in some way break rudely upon this delicate and tender thing.
Ah, yes. Chivalry: the attempt to keep a woman down.

I think not.

Edith wasn't feeling particularly modest on this evening, though.  From her first words, we see Shalit's assertion that modesty and chivalry reinforce each other in action {or, as is the case here, weaken each other by their absence}. She speaks immodestly--and also sinfully--and Nigel? Well...
Nigel flushed and winced under the words, but he said no more, for his mind was fighting hard within him, striving to keep that high image of woman which seemed for a moment to totter on the edge of a fall.
Before the evening is over, Edith {to make a long story short} has run off with a man who she has been deceived into thinking loves her and wants to marry her. Nigel, a priest, and Edith's more prudent older sister, Mary, run to her rescue, determined to preserve her honor, if at all possible.

Initially, Edith is completely offended by this.
'I have but one word to say to them,' said she. 'It is that they go hence and trouble us no more. Am I not a free woman? Have I not said that this is the only man I ever loved?'
Does she not have her rights? Isn't this all an attempt to get her to obey her father?

As the story goes on, though, we see that chivalry and modesty are, in this story at least, doing exactly what Shalit supposes they do. The whole culture was structured in such a way as to protect a woman's greatest hopes and aspirations.

In the end, it is revealed that this wicked man has only been deceiving Edith, that he had no intention of ever marrying her, but would rather have used her up and thrown her out. In the ensuing alteration, Edith sees the truth, and repents:
'No, no; I see him as he is! I know him now, the mean spirit, the lying tongue! Can I not read in his eyes that he has indeed deceived me, that he would have left me as you say that he has left others? Take me home, Mary, my sister, for you have plucked me back this night from the very mouth of Hell!'
And so Edith is led home, heartbroken, I am sure, but still intact and preserved.

It is worth mentioning that our modern world expects a woman to live in "the mouth of Hell" indefinitely...and be so thankful that they are finally free from all this chivalry stuff. If they don't appreciate their residence in said mouth of Hell, well, something is definitely wrong with them.

Shalit continually asks the right questions. Free from what? Free to what?

It's an interesting study. I think Sir Nigel, or something like it, ought to be a required companion read to Shalit's A Return to Modesty.

27 July 2011

Simplicity: One Goal Per Person Per Year

Since the name of the game here is Afterthoughts, it ought to go without saying that the ideas presented here are not my own. Today, I want to give special credit to Hannah Ploegstra, the amazing brain behind The Disciple Curriculum. I have been privileged to sit and listen to Hannah's talk Ah, Simplicity! twice now. Once, at a Winter Encouragement Seminar in Visalia, and then again at the Bakersfield Home Education Conference.

One of the ideas I gleaned from Hannah's talk was to have one goal per person in our family for each academic year. It was this goal which would determine our "success" for the year. The example Hannah gave in her speech was that one year their goal for one daughter was that she would learn to love math. They did all sorts of things to help their daughter fall in love with one of the seven liberal arts! Can you say brilliant?

I think I latched on to this idea because it revealed an ability to be single-minded. It's not that we throw out everything but the goal, but rather we allow the goal to give focus to our family educational project. If we have extra time, money, or other resources, we know where to put it.

Daughter A. was my easiest one to plan a goal for. {Actually, I couldn't help it: I planned two goals.} I chose the ability to narrate as her goal, for narration is the cornerstone of a Charlotte Mason education. If, by the end of the year, she can listen to a whole story and narrate it well, I will have succeeded in meeting this goal. Our secondary goal is to see her continue to progress in her reading. This is an underlying goal for all of our children until they are strong, solid readers.

I even planned a goal for myself: regular nature study. I always start off well, but then the holidays come, and then I am sick from January to March, and suddenly we have no nature study habit. This year I really want to stick with it all the way through, and I've found a new friend to have "nature dates" with {I hope this really works out} and I think that will help. A little accountability goes a long way.

I now have a nice little list of names {yes, even the toddler is on it}, with a single goal next to each one. I hope to see my children grow in all sorts of ways this year, but I will use this list to determine "success" at the year's end.

What are your goals for this upcoming year of learning?

26 July 2011

On Weekly Schedules

During the rush of school planning, we might as well talk about the process and the content. After all, that is what is on our minds these days, no? In talking with other moms, I have found that some of them think my weekly schedules sound like a mystery. Since I've been working on them, I thought I might as well share and demystify.

What I plan this time of the year is what I call my "skeleton plan." This is because I only print one week at a time. During the school year, I find it helpful to spend some time each weekend preparing for the coming week. That prep time is when I flesh it out for real. I cannot know when I plan today that a child will have a dental appointment on a Wednesday in October. But I can prepare the bones of a workable schedule so that my weekly planning doesn't take much time.

One thing I must confess at the outset is that I only plan four days of formal lessons per week. The fifth day is for more hands-on activities. We might go on a field trip, do our nature study, or head to a friend's house for handicraft instruction. Typically, this is on a Friday, but not always. This is yet another reason I find it helpful to only print one week at a time.

Each child gets their own Excel spreadsheet {or should I be calling it a workbook?}, within which each week is assigned its own separate page. I have found this to work best for me.

So here is a sample of what I have so far for E.'s first week of Year Four {please ignore the second page; Excel was giving me a hard time}:

Year 4 AO Sample Weekly Schedule

Note that this is not complete. This is what I mean by skeleton. I haven't yet printed out the poetry, but basically I've decided to give him one poem to read each day from the assigned poet for the term. Once I have those printed out, I'll plug the titles in for him.

For math, I usually just type in how many pages he needs to complete. Because I haven't printed out the new chapter yet, that is also blank.

Typically, when I'm doing my pre-term planning, my goal is to have all of the Ambleside readings sketched out for the entire term. Some books need to be manually broken up {such as my Robinson Crusoe, which does not have chapter breaks}. In addition to this, I try to at least create a row for each activity that my student will complete in a given week {unless it is a part of Circle Time}.

In week four, for instance, I planned a book Son E. is to read to Daughter A. I coordinated that on a day when they both have light reading on their schedules.

Most of E.'s work this year will be sans Mom. Unless something changes along the way, I plan to only work with him directly on Minn of the Mississippi and Bulfinch's Age of Fable. In addition to this, I still need to figure out exactly how we are going to do Shakespeare. Studying his lines for our Shakespeare night, as well as regular Latin lessons, will go on the schedule eventually, though they will likely both be done in the afternoon {my goal is for everything but piano to be done before lunch}.

As time goes on, I'll fill in our open days, too, with whatever activities I have planned by that time.

Here is a similar schedule for Daughter A., my Year One student. The only difference here is that every. single. thing. will be done with me, for she is not yet a strong reader {and I love all the cuddle time Year 1 affords me with my students!}:

Year 1 AO Sample Weekly Schedule

For the first week, I'm combining math with penmanship, to make sure she can write her numbers. We'll start our regular plans a week or two later after she's completed this exercise.

In the "extra" row, she might have a craft to do from her leftover Kindergarten pages, or something of that sort.

Both of these children have a clipboard, but Daughter A's clipboard is mainly for me, while Son E.'s is for him to use. He likes to check things off as he goes along, and I plan to do the same.

Weekly Preparation
I try to be as thorough as possible before the term begins so that I don't have to spend a lot of time in weekly planning. With that said, I still spend one to two hours per week. {This prep time also includes correcting any work--specifically math--that didn't get proper attention during the week.} It takes me about 20 minutes to update the spreadsheet so that it actually fits our week, and most of that involves quickly typing up cursive copywork passages.

Next, I print my sheet and head to my favorite chair, because the remainder of the time is spent pre-reading anything that Son E. is expected to read alone and narrate during the week. I know a lot of Ambleside moms try to avoid this step, but I want to encourage pre-reading as much as possible. As the children grow, narration becomes a preliminary stepping stone in reaching the greater goal, which is actual discussion of the ideas contained in the assigned passage. I am not sure how we expect to have those discussions if we haven't read the material ourselves.

It is also impossible to hold a child accountable for a poorly done narration if we don't actually know what is in the reading.

It is my hope that in reading the material as we go along, I will only need to skim briefly in order to prepare for my other students. The heavy work is done for my first student and I hope it will benefit all of those to come.

Anyone Else?
If you have planning posts up on your own blog, feel free to share your links in the comments!

25 July 2011

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

I don't know about you, but this week is going to look a lot like last week, with school planning crammed into each and every spare second. I'm getting excited! It looks to be a good year, if my plans say anything about it. I'm still praying constantly for Daughter A., as she transitions from full-time playing to a real school schedule.

In other news...
  • I'm trying to compile a list of living books on health. Do any of you have suggestions--for any age? Health is a branch of study required by our state, and I thought if I had a list, I'd just choose one per year or something. I asked for suggestions over on the AmbleRamble Yahoo group, and most of them were for older children--like having them read Nourishing Traditions. I actually thought about using Weston Price's Nutrition and Physical Degeneration in high school as a health and geography text combined, for his descriptions of the places where he does his research are intriguing. So far on my list {for younger years} I have: I Wonder Why I Blink, Prudence and the Millers, Exploring the History of Medicine, Galen and the Gateway to Medicine, and Blood and Guts. Anyhow, if you have ideas to add to this list, I'd love for you to share them in the comments.
  • Our soil, as most of you know, is severely...lacking. I've had wonderful success by trucking in 15 bags of soil for my garden this season. We've harvested zucchini and marigolds and lettuce and green onions and radishes. We have tomatoes and pumpkins and beets in our future. It's been a very encouraging year. But I'm still thinking about the seemingly endless barren areas on our property. What to do? Do I seriously truck in soil every year in a different spot? I'm composting, but it is impossible for me to compost enough for such a large area. We're also parking the duck tractor in various needy areas, hoping their nighttime manure will do them some good. But what else? I'm considering ways to increase the mineral content of our soil. So far, I purchased a gallon of liquid fish fertilizer from our co-op. Volcanic rock dust, anyone?
  • Any Anthropologie fans out there? To be honest, I only know about Anthropologie because when we were first married, one of their catalogs arrived regularly at our door. The couple that lived there before us were art majors from our university, hence the catalog. Well, I have a little treat for you: a blog by an Anthropologie designer. If you want to see her garlands made from cork, or her flowers made from Post-It Notes, well...it is a lot of fun! There's also this. {HT: Nester}
  • I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm on Google+. I blame Rick. And Cindy. And also Mystie. I can only say I'm trying it out because I think it has potential. If you want an invitation, email me.
  • Speaking of Mystie, she has a great memory binder post up, if you haven't seen it. Since her memory binder looks remarkably like my memory binder, she has saved me some time because I no longer feel the need to post my details. I also think she solved my one single problem remaining with my binder. I was using the 31-day tabs, but we don't actually review 31 days of the month. We review four days of every week. So whenever something was moved to that section, it was likely to be skipped at some point. Mystie uses a moving tab for review; I'd like to try the same this year.
  • And lastly...You've probably seen this already, but I loved it, so here is an encore:

That's all for today. Share your links in the comments!

22 July 2011

The Lunch Problem

I don't know about you, but I hate lunch. I especially dislike lunch on weekdays. During the school year, we are humming along, and then suddenly it hits me: LUNCH! No matter how long I've been at this gig, I never get used to it. Lunch shocks me almost every day. During the summer, it's still the same, only we are playing, or we are out and about, and suddenly I remember that lunch is necessary.

Children need to eat.


The past two weeks have been one lunch disaster after another due to me being under the weather most of the time. The only reason we made it through was due to the generosity of various family members.

But now I'm back on the wagon, and I thought I'd share my one and only lunch solution.

I mean, yes, I do have a couple emergency ideas in my back pocket. Usually this is scrambled eggs {since we raise our own eggs, we rarely run out} or some sort of fruit and buttered popcorn.

My children adore popcorn, so while I view this as a panic meal, they view it as a special treat.

But one cannot eat popcorn daily.

At least, I don't think they can.


Anyhow, here is my big answer to the lunch issue:

Eat leftovers.

It is quite likely that this will not be a reasonable solution for me when the children are older and eating as much as adults. But for now, this is my one and only bright idea.

For whatever reason, on an average day I have plenty of time to make dinner. I figure that making a double-sized dinner is not actually twice the work, so that is what I do. Some of my recipes make three servings, and when I make those, I use them for one dinner and two lunches, allowing myself to make a one-time meal {like fish} in the interim.

Other families probably do interesting things like make sandwiches but that is a habit I never really got into because my children were allergic to bread for so long. Also, I find that serving sandwiches to five or six people daily can really add up in price, whereas leftover chili can be served to all of us for around a dollar.

This takes a bit of planning on my part. When I'm pondering the week's dinner menu, I'm also weighing out lunch portions. But in the end, I find this keeps lunch from interrupting our rhythm with lessons. I store all of my leftovers in the containers in which I will reheat them most of the time. Around 11:30 or noon, I run and pop things in the oven, or plop a kettle on the stove top and turn the heat on low. When lunchtime rolls around, we are putting school things away, rather than scrambling for lunch.

What about you? How do you solve the lunch dilemma?

21 July 2011

What's New This Year: 2011-2012

I'm school planning again. And just like every other year, I'm getting excited. One nice thing is that now that I've been doing this for a while, I'm getting decent at planning a reasonable year. As long as we go without catastrophic events, we ought to be able to accomplish these plans. In the past, I couldn't say that with confidence because I really didn't know enough about how our family worked with studies to make a workable plan.

That doesn't mean there won't be tinkering along the way, of course.

Here are some things that are new {or sort of new} for us this year.

New Student This Year
Daughter A. is commencing with first grade, and I'm putting her in Year One of Ambleside. A year ago, I was wondering what I would do with her at this point. It was hard for me to imagine that she would be ready for Ambleside. And yet, here she is! She'll be six-and-a-half exactly on the first day of school, and she is totally and completely ready.

What does it mean to be ready? I see this debated a lot on the Ambleside Yahoo group. There seems to be this misconception that children have to already be able to do the work when they enter Year One. Well, I suppose some children are this way, but for the most part I see Year One as material not just for learning, but specifically for learning how to be educated the Ambleside way.

So, for instance, Daughter A. knows what narration is, and sometimes she can narrate, but I am starting off with the assumption that she really hasn't mastered narration at all and will need to be trained.

For this year, I want to focus on improving her reading ability and learning to narrate. If we do those two things, we will have come far by the end of the year.

More Poetry
I think poetry is a big jump for a lot of us. It certainly was for me. It is hard to like it or see the point of it if you aren't accustomed to reading it. I tried just reading a poem a day for two or three years, but I didn't find that my affections changed at all. But last year was different. First, we memorized poems rather than just reading them. By the end of the year we knew The Cow, Whole Duty of Children, and Bed in Summer by Robert Louis Stevenson, as well as Opportunity by Edward Rowland Sill.

And now we like poetry.

I don't know why that worked better. You'd think the exposure of reading it every day would have been more effective than learning a handful of poems intimately, but that wasn't the case.

Now that we like poetry, I am ready to add back in daily reading, and I'm actually excited about it. What I am trying to decide is what to do about having different poets for different students. I'm not sure E.-Age-Nine should be reading his poetry entirely on his own. I don't know that he has the cadence down yet. But if I add too much to Circle Time, O.-Age-Two will check out before we're done.

Folk Songs
Last year, I used CDs to teach folk songs, but didn't actually sing the songs with my children. I feel like I'm up to the addition this year, so I'll be adding folk songs for us to sing together during morning Circle Time. We'll learn one at a time, and they'll be placed into the memory binder for review.

This isn't new, but I need some advice. Most of you know that we have been using the Simply Charlotte Mason Scripture Memory System for all of our memory work. What SCM does in a box, I do on a larger scale in a binder. And it has worked great. My only problem is that I inadvertently dropped the Children's Catechism because it didn't really fit the binder system.

So I want to know what all of you do.

Do you learn a new question each week, and also review all previous questions? What do you do when your children know so much of it that this sort of review becomes incredibly time consuming? Have you done Catechism memory work using the SCM system? If so, how did you work it? Specifically, I'm wondering if you split up the questions individually, or into sections.

Can you tell I need some advice?

Preschool Activities for the Little Guy
O.-Age-Two has shown me lately that he is ready for his own Kumon workbooks by cutting up doctor referral forms and household bills into teeny tiny pieces. Also, he painted his brother's desk with glue {during nap time when he was "sleeping"} and put stickers all over the kitchen floor {which was much harder to clean up than I anticipated}. I think channeling his interests is in order this year, so he and Q. will have "preschool" together a few days a week.

Shakespeare Night
This is the last new thing I'm ready to confess to today. Year Four is the first year for Shakespeare, and I feel E.-Age-Nine is more than ready for it, as long as we choose an appropriate first play. Since Shakespeare is really supposed to be performed rather than read in solitude, we thought having a Shakespeare night with friends would be fun. We'll assign parts beforehand and then read the play together {between dinner and dessert, of course}. I think it sounds like fun on a cold autumn evening, don't you?

What About You?
What's new for your family's educational project this year?

20 July 2011

Thoughts on Uncle Tom's Cabin {Entry 2}

A typical "education" provides us with a very insufficient view of history. We have no depth. Instead, we are taught talking points about various events in the past.

Take, for instance, the issues of the Civil War and of slavery. I don't really remember studying it at all. It is possible that I don't just remember. But really, what I remember is being taught that slavery is bad, and then it logically followed that in the Civil War the Northerners were the Good Guys and the Southerners were the Bad Guys.

End of discussion.

What I love about the education I am trying to give to my children is that they get the opportunity to dig into the story a bit more. In the process, I hope that they learn not some sort of rote recitation of who and what is good and who and what is bad, but that they learn to feel properly about situations.

Uncle's Tom's Cabin
{assigned for AO Year 10}
Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin caused me to feel about slavery. In comparison, it is interesting to look back on the history I was taught in school as a child and see that not only do I not recall having any emotion about it at all {other than thinking it was boring}, but I recall thinking that perhaps it was inappropriate to have emotions about history. We were told when I was very young that emotions were a sign of "bias" and to be avoided in history.

It seems to me, though, that as we read history, we ought to feel very strongly about it. I'm not saying that we are to manufacture emotions, but it just seems natural to read, for instance, the story of Uncle Tom and feel a whole range of emotions.

Today I want to share two things that Uncle Tom's Cabin taught me about the system of slavery and the politics of that era that I had never even thought about before. It is possible these ideas were never introduced to me. It is also possible that they were, but that a dusty textbook full of facts can never put on flesh like fiction can.

Slaves Weren't Allowed to Have Families

I always knew that when babies were born to slave women, they, too, were the property of the slave owner. But I never thought about the implications of this. As a mother, it was heart-breaking to read tale after tale concerning slave women having their children literally ripped out of their arms and sold, and to know that the "law" allowed such things.

Marriage, too, was illegal. Though some owners allowed their slaves to marry, those marriages were not respected by the law, and often they weren't respected by the slave owners. So, if the marriage was convenient for the owner, it might continue, but if not, it might not. An owner legally owned body and soul. He could command a slave woman to marry, or to "breed," and he could sell a husband away from a wife without recourse {in this life, at least}.

The dialogue concerning these issues was sickening. For instance, Stowe portrayed one man as justifying this because he believed that blacks were the link between animals and man. {Incidentally, I believe this idea from the 1800s is covered in the book Darwin's Plantation, which I just acquired and plan to read in the near future.} Considering that Stowe and Darwin were publishing their works around the same time, this lends more credence, in my mind, to the idea that Andrew Kern is always propagating--viz., that Darwin is a product of his time. Kern says he justified the British economy {many of Darwin's famous terms originate in works of British economists, according to Kern}. I say it is likely he also justified the American slave-based economy.

In another instance, two slave traders were wishing that these women could be brainwashed into forgetting their natural instincts toward their children. It would make their jobs so much easier if slave women were bad mothers. According to an article over at Black News, 1786 African-Americans are aborted daily in the United States. Sadly, it seems the dreams of the slave traders have come true in the worst possible way.

It is hard to read this book and not see some of today's cultural problems as being the direct, logical consequences of what has gone on before us.

Good Owners Justified a Bad System

Stowe started her book from an interesting place. She began with an idealistic version of a Kentucky plantation, where the owners were kind Christian people {well, the owner's wife was a Christian--the owner himself was a caring man}. The slaves were well cared for. They were fed and clothed. Uncle Tom had his own home--a little cabin--with his delightful little family. The slaves had leisure time for Bible reading and singing.

In time, we learn that these good owners are used politically to declare that the system "works." Look how happy these slaves are! Goodness! It almost makes me want to be a slave myself! This is what the politicians could say when pointing to these "good" plantations and kind owners.

It seemed to be Stowe's opinion that Christians, trying to live Christianly within the system {rather than opting out or even fighting the system}, actually prolonged the existence of the system. If the only plantations left had been bad plantations, it would have been easier to get rid of the system. Or so the thinking goes.

Another realization was that slaves belonging to good owners weren't as protected as they seemed to be. The second an owner got himself into debt, or died without a finished will in place, the slaves were sold down the river to some of the worst plantations around, often to die within a few years. If the difficulty in acclimating to the weather didn't kill them, the overwork did.

Thinking Through Our Own Culture

I found myself wondering about our culture today. Are there places where Christian participation is actually detrimental? Are there places where our involvement actually causes people to justify a bad system? Or will it only be that in the retrospect of history, we will see our own flaws and weaknesses?

19 July 2011

Quotables: A Return to Modesty

A Return to Modesty:
Rediscovering the Lost Virtue
by Wendy Shalit *

[T]hey do not seem to be missing anything for not having had a series of miserable romances under their belts. They seem happy. Is this, perhaps, what annoys people most? {p. 6}
When I talk to women my age and hear some of the things they're going through, the kind of treatment they put up with from these boyfriends of theirs, the first thing I ask them is, "Does your father know about this?" They look at me as if I'm from another planet. Of course their fathers don't know. {p. 6}
[W]hat is really so terrible about "belonging" to someone who loves you? {p. 7}
They have been trained to accept that to be equal to men, they must be the same in every respect; and they, and the men, are worse off for it. {p. 11}
For some reason, no one connects this kind of harassment and early s*x** education. But to me the connection was obvious from the start, because the boys never teased me... {p. 18}
[E]mbarrassment is actually a wonderful thing, signaling that something very strange or very significant is going on, that some boundary is being threatened--either by you or by others. {p. 22}
Sometimes when things aren't comprehensible to children, there's a very good reason. {p. 23}
All those bad feelings we are too enlightened to feel nowadays--such as resentment, jealousy, betrayal--also signify the capacity to lose yourself in the first place, to fall in love with someone other than yourself. {p. 34}
A society that has declared war on embarrassment is one that is hostile to women. {p. 39}
Our pursuit of androgyny...has not aided the task of socializing our males. It's rather difficult to turn around suddenly and try to teach men to be gentle around women, when we have been training them all along to assume that women are the same as they. {p. 43}
We all seem to long for the advantages of a more moral, less crude society, but we want it without having to judge anyone else or draw any lines in the sand. {p. 51}
And was Rousseau right that the best s*x education for women was an education in the ways of modesty? {p. 88}
Modesty is a reflex, arising naturally to help a woman protect her hopes and guide their fulfillment--specifically, this hope for one man. {p. 94}
[W]omen became something deeper, more elemental: possessors of a deep and wondrous secret that is revealed only to the one who proves himself deserving of her. {p. 97}

*Note: I have now changed my recommendation from "highly recommended" to "recommended with reservations" due to the graphic nature of some of the content of this book.
**Note two: I do not think s*x is a bad word. I'm just trying to protect from Google hits on this subject.

18 July 2011

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

I hope your weekend was better than mine! I am still fighting this dreaded cold, so I was very, very low key. Of course, I was not so low-key that I neglected to remember my husband's 33rd birthday yesterday. Happy birthday, Si!

In other news...
  • Stressed out about preschool? If you are like me, then you did a lot with your firstborn, but it all sort of dropped off after that. There are a couple amazing things about this. Amazing Thing Number One is that somehow, by the time they are kindergarten age, they still know all the stuff without you teaching it to them. Amazing Thing Number Two is that if you find something is missing--that there is a gap in their knowledge somewhere--it can be taught to a six-year-old in ten minutes, rather than a three-year-old in four months. All of this is to say that Ellen linked a very nice article by Carletta Sanders called The Truth About Preschool. {FYI: none of this is an endorsement of ignoring your preschoolers; it's just an acknowledgement that they do not actually need formal lessons of any kind.}
  • Got Shakespeare? Did any of you notice that CiRCE is adding a second Shakespeare summer course? I long to take it! Unfortunately, my time zone issues mean that what might be nap time for mothers in other states is right midmorning and lunchtime for me. No way I could peacefully do Shakespeare while on Red Alert. Too bad.
  • This week, I shall make popsicles. My children have been harassing me about it, and this past week I was able to play sick {because I wasn't playing; I really was down for the count} but I'm ready now. I think I will be trying these recipes, to mix things up a bit.
  • I just love Narnia. I wasn't introduced to Tolkien as a child, but Lewis? Oh, yes. I knew Lewis. My first memory of Narnia is when my second-grade Sunday School teacher was absent, and Pastor Brent {who, by the way, baptized three of my children a couple months ago} had us all sit still and listen to him read this strange book about a wardrobe. I am sure this was of last-minute necessity, but I. was. entranced. I have loved Narnia ever since. Anyhow, there are some incredible articles about Narnia available in the Touchstone archives.
  • On my Course of Study, I noted Visual Latin as my nine-year-old's Latin curriculum this year. This morning, I was delighted to read a review of Visual Latin on Cindy's blog.
  • A Return to Modesty arrived in my mailbox last week. I promptly started reading it because I'd just finished a book, so I had some extra room in my rotation. Plus, I was sick. This book is much more than I expected. It is extremely well thought out, and full of insight. The author pulls from a very wide reading, and it is interesting to read about modesty from an inquisitive, nonchristian perspective {I believe she was raised Jewish}. Highly recommended.
Do you have interesting links? Share them in the comments!

15 July 2011

Movie Review: Under Our Skin

Last night, Si and I did something we rarely do on a weeknight: we watched something. That something was a documentary I've been waiting to see for quite some time now, and it is currently available streaming on Netflix. It's called Under Our Skin, and it's a story about Lyme Disease.

Most of you know that I had chronic Lyme Disease for around a decade--basically my entire adolescence. Like every. single. patient. in the video, I became chronic because I went undiagnosed. It was more difficult to watch than I expected; I found myself nodding my head--yes. Yes! YES.

These things really do happen, and the parallels to my own experience were striking.

I thought the movie gave an accurate depiction of the issues surrounding Lyme Disease. For some reason, the disease is highly politicized. There is a whole group of physicians out there who say there is no such thing as chronic Lyme. I never understood that. How can you argue with results? My doctor treated me with long-term antibiotics...and I didn't just get better; I got well.

I know that it's not fun or popular to take antibiotics for years and years and years, but the alternative is slowly dying, so why not bite the bullet?  If it's done soon enough, patients don't actually require hospital care--I certainly never did.

One thing that never made sense to me is that here is a disease that gives pharmaceutical companies the ability to make lots of money off of old drugs. Plain old doxycycline and Biaxin work wonders with Lyme. Why don't they jump on that bandwagon more aggressively? What am I missing?

When I posted about Lyme a couple years ago, a number of you commented and said that you yourselves had Lyme, or had a relative or friend with Lyme. Since it is the number one infectious disease, I have no doubt that this is still true. Watching the documentary might help you know what you are up against.

I can't say I learned much from this film; I've lived it, after all. But one new thing really stuck out to me: the connection between Lyme and other diseases. One research scientist in the film, for instance, claimed that he biopsied ten brains from patients who had died of Alzheimer's. Seven tested positive for Lyme. Even more interesting was the doctor who listed off five or six diseases with no known cause--among them ALS and MS--and said that he had never had a patient come in his door with one of those diseases who did not test positive for Lyme.

This would make sense, if you are aware that Lyme is a cousin to syphilis, with the same ability to cross tissues and systems.

Fascinating disease, as long as you are on the fun end of the microscope.

14 July 2011

Course of Study

At the Bakersfield Home Education Conference this past weekend, I attended a breakout session on record keeping. The gal who taught the class was obviously über-organized. I learned a lot from her. Specifically, I discovered a few gaps in what I thought was my simple, yet water-tight {okay, maybe that's stretching it a bit}, record keeping system.

Now, some people {like me...ahem} might tell you that there is nothing really required beyond taking attendance. People {um...me again} who say these things don't know what they are talking about and ought to be promptly ignored.

I'm just saying.

One of the things I haven't been doing, at least not as precisely as it ought to have been done, is completing a Proposed Course of Study at the beginning of each year. According to my breakout session teacher, when I sign the affidavit each year, I am certifying that I am keeping this record.

Among others.

So this is the time of year I begin my school planning. Unlike former years, I am currently fighting a bad cold or flu or something, so in between using up entire boxes of tissues and dying lying on the couch, I decided the easiest place to start was with this Course of Study thing.

I thought I'd share mine here {sans the names, of course} because it's likely that it seems harder to propose a course of study when you are using a living books curriculum. I would say that it isn't, except that textbooky families can say they use English Textbook A for English and Math Textbook B for Arithmetic and Social Science Textbook C for Social Sciences whereas in a living books situation it's possible there'd be a whole long list of books for each category.

Or something.

So here are my first attempts at a Course of Study*, based upon the sample forms in CHEA's An Introduction to Home Education, which is really helpful to own if you live in California**:

Course of Study {Ambleside Y1}

Course of Study {Ambleside Y4}

I have a few thoughts on this sort of paperwork. First, this is a requirement of my particular state {California}. Therefore, it is important that I use the actual words in the education code. Even though I like saying "history" or "geography" rather than "social science," I need to use the prescribed words and combine the subjects as needed so that it is obvious that my school is in compliance. In other words, this form is really for the state rather than for me, and I ought to customize it with that in mind.

In addition to the required seven branches, I added a few things which didn't fit, but did need to be on the list, since they comprise what we will do this coming year. For me, that meant Bible, foreign language, citizenship, and applied arts {that the word the state uses for handiwork-type activities in the upper years, so that is what I chose to use in the lower}.

I was told that it is acceptable to go back and modify at the end of the year, in order to reflect what really happened, rather than just what was proposed. I like that, and I'll probably go back and add in our Advent activities. I don't want to let this Course of Study thing put pressure on me to plan our DecemberTerm right now. That is something I usually do around Thanksgiving, and I don't want to add that into my summer work.

This process took quite a bit longer than I had hoped, but mainly that was because I was designing the spreadsheet from the ground up. Once I got the first child's perfect, the second child took me only fifteen minutes. I decided to save one of these documents {in Excel} separately for each child, but then just add a new "edition" each year to make it easy.

*Note: I'm going to go back and prepare a Course of Study for each previous year we've done. Since I've kept very thorough teacher records, it should only take a half hour or so to bring my school into full compliance.

**I know the title of these records says "Ambleside" and then the year. They do include the Ambleside assignments {except I chose different artists, etc.}. Ambleside Online kindly granted me an exception to their License and allowed me to use the copyrighted booklist for this purpose. There are various additions I have made, and most of this is because I needed something for a required branch of study, or I like to mix state history in with the chronology as it goes along. California is a young state so Year Four is the first year I add in anything special.

I am getting a lot of hits on this post concerning the filing of the actual California Affidavit for private schools. This form must be filed between October 1 and October 15 of each year. Click here and follow HSLDA's instructions, which are not always completely up-to-date, but will suffice as long as you pay attention to the actual questions on the form.

13 July 2011

Quotables: Young and in Love

Young and in Love:
Challenging the Unnecessary
Delay of Marriage
by Ted Cunningham

I am a promarriage pastor. I believe God created marriage to be enjoyed between a man and woman for a lifetime. The only part of creation that God declared as "not good" was man's singleness, and throughout Scripture marriage is normative, while singleness is the exception. So young men need to start approaching young women, falling in love, and getting married--it's biblical. I believe Satan has duped our culture into believing the lie that says, "Marriage is the problem, not man." He has convinced us that one of the best ways to prosper in life is to abstain from marriage or at least delay it as long as possible. {p. 13}
Marrying young is not the problem. {p. 17}
For us, marriage was a milestone at the front end of adulthood, not the back end, and we genuinely looked forward to marriage and figuring out our lives together. {p. 19}
In truth, we were taught to honor celibacy and purity and not marriage. {p. 26}
I would go so far as to say that encouraging young people to abstain from marriage falls into the category of a demonic doctrine. {p. 31}
Some of you guys need to consider marrying the single moms in the church and adopting their children as your own. When you do that, do you know what you are? You are a man.

After preaching this text from I Timothy, a man in his midfifties approached me with tears in his eyes. He said, "Ted, all morning while you were speaking, I thought about my stepdad. he married my mom and took in all seven of her children and adopted us as his own. He as the greatest man I have ever known." {p. 62}
Marriage and family therapist Ryan Pannell defines prolonged adolescence as having too much privilege and not enough responsibility. {p. 68}
[T]here's a difference between a rushed marriage and a young marriage. {p. 83}
Professor Mark Regnerus addressed this issue: "Marrying young can spell poverty, at least temporarily...Good marriages grow through struggles, including economic ones."

Let me interpret that for you. Think egg-crate furniture and a mattress on the floor, not Ethan Allen or Posturepedic. Think top ramen or spaghetti at home for dinner most nights, not Applebee's. Grab Folgers on the way out the door in the morning, not Starbucks on the way to work. {p. 103}
Modern entitlement makes us want things now, things our parents might have spent thirty years accumulating. {p. 104}
Consider cheaper weddings. {p. 109}
Independence trumps oneness in a marriage. As a pastor who regularly does marriage counseling, I see independence as one of the leading causes of marital conflict. {p. 115}
I talk to adult children all the time who are still calling home in their twenties and thirties asking their parents for money. Then they get frustrated with their "controlling" parents. My first counsel to them is to get the Star Wars bedsheets off the bed. It's time to grow up! {p. 131}
Moral laxity is the number one cause of divorce in this country. Debt, adultery, and broken promises are symptoms of a spouse's lack of character. {p. 137}
Twenty years into marriage, laziness is not cute. {p. 143}
Money does not cause divorce, and money is not the root of all evil. It is the love of money that is evil. Just remember, when you say for richer or for poorer, you'll probably start off poor. {p. 198}

12 July 2011

Book Review: Young and in Love

I wasn't sure what to expect when I began reading Young and in Love by Ted Cunningham. On the one hand, I knew I agreed with his thesis--that this cultural trend of putting off marriage {on purpose} until 25, 30, or even 40 is not healthy. On the other hand, Cunningham took a not-so-subtle swipe at I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and even though I haven't read it in probably fifteen years, I still think of it as a positive book in terms of its influence.

Let's Talk About the Good Points

Young and in Love
 Cunningham builds a good case for getting married young. Say...as young as I got married, for instance. The funny thing is, I didn't think of it as being so very young. I was living on my own, providing entirely for myself {except for various types of insurance--thanks, Dad}...I even had a college degree! And yet we were told by a couple people that we were "young" and oughtn't we to wait a bit longer?

One poor soul even suggested we try living together first, to make sure we liked it. Siah squeezed my hand so that I kept my mouth shut. Am I a car, that someone might take me for a test drive? What kind of girl does he think I am? I was also pondering what my loving father might have done to this person had he been there!

But that's another story.

The point--Mr. Cunningham's point--is that a lot of people who are "young and in love" get this kind of negative feedback. They hear it from their parents, or from the church. Everywhere they turn, folks are discouraging them from getting married.

This book wasn't exactly what I expected in that it was really the "young and in love" who are his audience. It's a sort of premarital counseling packaged up in a book. He tells them they aren't necessarily too young {that young marriage isn't a cause of divorce}, and then he helps them sort through various issues. What are necessary delays? What are unnecessary delays? What should a person look for in a spouse? What are signs of trouble? And so on.

I think I would have found this encouraging way back when I was 22-years-old and engaged to be married, and I find myself pondering what the future holds for my own children. How will I respond biblically to them when the time comes?

I'll post a bunch of quotes separately {probably tomorrow} because this book was full of little gems worth thinking about, but I just wanted to briefly mention Cunningham's pro-marriage argument. Yes, he talks about marriage being normative for human existence; he's correct, I think. But what I found interesting was that he used Genesis 2:24:
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

Cunningham sees this as a biblical argument for early marriage. Man leaves home and gets married. This all happens in quick succession. This idea of leaving home and being unattached for years and years--perhaps decades--is a foreign concept. In other words, marriage ought to happen on the front end of adulthood, as a general rule.

For what it's worth, I think I agree with him, to a point. But I also know that certain guys we knew that I thought were delaying marriage really just hadn't met the right gal. Once they did--BOOM!--they were married before we knew it. Even though it is normal and natural to leave home and take a wife, it doesn't always work out that way, and I don't think that's horrible or anti-marriage.

A Couple Precautions
This book is written to encourage those considering marriage not to unnecessarily delay it. As long as we consider this being its primary message, I think it does okay. But there are little bits of advice nestled within it that I thought were at least slightly questionable.

For instance, at one point, in response to what single girls ought to do who really want to be married, the response was that they ought to learn to flirt smarter. Well, okay, I suppose that is good advice for some girls. Some girls are not responsive to men, and if they are interested in getting married they probably should learn to be. But one person's idea of flirting can vary greatly from another, and I hope that Cunningham isn't accidently suggesting that women throw themselves at men. Some young women will read that and think their inappropriately familiar ways with men are acceptable.

As an aside I'll mention that I appreciated what Carolyn Mahoney said in Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Proverbs 30:19 says:
There are three things which are too wonderful for me,
Four which I do not understand:
The way of an eagle in the sky,
The way of a serpent on a rock,
The way of a ship in the middle of the sea,
And the way of a man with a maid.
It is easy for us to try and explain why someone isn't married. She's too fat, he's too thin, she's socially awkward, he's a jerk--or maybe she just doesn't have her flirting down?--and all of this might be true. But how many fat, awkward, or ugly people are married? Lots! Solomon himself didn't understand the way of a man with a maid--it is a great mystery. Though individual singles may be helped by individual advice tailored specifically to them, to say that girls need more effective flirting skills is really asserting that we know more about this issue than Solomon.

Also, Cunningham doesn't mention Joshua Harris by name, but more than once he implies that "kissing dating goodbye" is part of the world's anti-marriage movement, and I'd just like to point out that we're all on the same team here. Harris kissed dating goodbye because he was pursuing marriage and he didn't think dating was the best path to a great marriage.

I would agree with this, too. I know that there are strange sub-cultures out there with their "boys" staying home until 30, and their girls so tightly locked up that they're hardly able to meet eligible bachelors to marry, but still. Every family I've met in real life that practices the Harris-version of courtship seems very reasonable. Because they believe in marriage, they focus their children on preparing themselves in maturity when they are teens, and then they usually marry the first or second sweet thing that comes along.

In contrast, Cunningham seems to ignore the degree to which casual dating contributes to the promiscuity problem. I suppose if you are really seeking marriage, then no dating can really be viewed as casual, but as someone who used to work in the dean's office of a Christian college, let me just say that young couples, dating towards marriage, and totally in love, still ended up pregnant before marriage, or getting caught doing things they ought not. This was not {in my opinion} because they were putting off marriage. Many of them were planning weddings a few months out. It was because the culture of dating made them vulnerable to temptation.

That, and they were sinners like the rest of us.

In short, I think it is possible to have a casual courtship culture that is more pro-marriage than a serious dating culture like the one Cunningham promotes.

Then again, he's a pastor who's given thousands of hours of premarital counseling to young couples, and I'm just me...with opinions, so take them for what they're worth.

In Summary
It's a good book. I think I'll keep it on my shelf. I'm building a little library on this subject and starting to think about these things, so that I have some fodder for thinking through how we'll handle these issues alongside our own children. We are definitely pro-marriage {and pro-grandchildren!} and we got married young {my own parents married as teens and will be celebrating their 40th anniversary next year}, and we have no problem with our children following in our footsteps. I think that our family already sends the message to our children that people leave home...and get married. When our son asks us at what age people usually get married, our answer tends to be that men get married when they have a job that allows them to afford a wife. Nothing fancy, but wives do this thing called having babies as a general rule, so a job is a must.

If you find yourself holding on to the idea that your child has to have everything perfectly together before getting married, I'd highly suggest checking out this book. It'll help you let go.

Legal Drivel
I received a free copy of Young and in Love from The B & B Media Group in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

11 July 2011

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

To all of you who were praying for the Bakersfield Home Education Conference: thank you! There were a couple bumps with technology, nothing major, so for the most part it went smoothly and seems to be getting good feedback from attendees. We're hearing what we wanted to hear: "We were encouraged." That, my friends, was the point. Also, thank you for praying for me. I made it through my talk without fainting, and even discovered that, if I could just get over my nervousness, I actually like talking.

In other news...
  • Do you looooove cholesterol? I always got funny looks from people when I mentioned that baby's first food around our house was soft-boiled egg yolks. Isn't that full of cholesterol? some people gasped. Well, yes. Yes it is. It's also full of fat-soluble vitamins necessary to grow a healthy child. And soft-boiled eggs yolks are easy to prepare and easy for baby to eat and digest. They are a perfect first food. All of that to say, I appreciated this article: 5 Reasons to love Cholesterol.
  • I now have links for Alibris and Abe Books in the side bar! This is something I have often thought about doing, but never really had the motivation. When I shop for school books for the year, I usually have open five or six tabs, where I am comparing prices. Alibris and Abe Books are always two of those tabs--they are wonderful places to purchase used and hard-to-find books. With that, I feel like my sidebar is complete...at least for the time being.
  • I mentioned before that Daughter A. has cavities. She also has this thing called "resorption" where one of her adult molars is growing into the side of a baby molar. That baby molar is going to have to be extracted. Extracted! If you knew how pain-intolerant this daughter of mine is, you would shudder right along with me. However, comma, she is, and always has been, entranced by the television. She is completely unaware of her surroundings while watching a movie. The dentist will leverage this, and have her watch a movie in a special visor while he works on her teeth! So...now I need ideas. This child is very sensitive--she completely freaked out about a fire in Little House on the Prairie! So I need a list of movie ideas that are, of course, morally appropriate for a six-year-old, but also not scary in any way at all, as well as at least an hour long--preferable an hour and a half, just in case. Please give me lots of ideas in the comments! We watch very few movies, so I have no idea.
  • We had a houseful of sickness last week. I forgot how exhausting it can be with four children sick all at once. In addition to some sort of high fever/sort throat combo, we had a pink eye outbreak in three of our children. This was my opportunity to check and see if the rumors are true that breast milk is an antidote to pinkeye. It was either that or drop $80 on doctor visits and prescriptions, not to mention gas and time and babysitters, ad nauseam. So...a friend of mine generously donated out of her abundance. The verdict? It works! Hopefully, now that it is gone it will stay gone.
  • Ever wonder how you're going to deal with high school math? Well, after hearing about Khan Academy from various places, I finally decided to check it out. I am very happy with what I see over there in the mathematics department. As of today, my plan is to start E. in pre-Algebra {which I think they call "developmental mathematics"} around age 12 and then set him free to go at his own pace. Even though I am able to teach most of high school math, I am concerned that I'll have four students at that point, and would like to keep my personal focus on the humanities. This seems to be the solution I was looking for. By the way...I don't feel the need to use this in the younger years, and I prefer a low-tech approach, but these classes really do start at 1+1 if you want to try it out from the very beginning.
  • "Banana Attacks Gorilla, Then Splits." This was a headline on Drudge over the weekend. No joke. Thought it was hysterically funny, but then again I appreciate a bit of boyish imagination every now and then. I've embedded the video for your viewing pleasure, but there is also an article.


Have a great day, everybody...

07 July 2011

Mr. Challies and the Strong Man

I've been reading with great interest Tim Challies' short series of posts on school choices. Titled The Weaker, The Stronger, The Homeschooler {that's Part 1, read Part 2 and Part 3 if you like}, Challies takes the text of Romans 14 and the discussion of those who are weak and strong in regard to eating meat or going vegetarian, and superimposes it over the homeschooling issue. Personally, I think his posts are riddled with problems. I'm sure a lot of folks waaaay smarter than me are discussing this, but I'd like to take three problems I see here, say what I think, and then give all of you the opportunity to share your own thoughts in the comments.

Text Selection
Romans 14 is an interesting passage. There was division over food choices within the Church at that time {and also observation of days, but let's stick with food for the moment}. In the context of the passage, we first assume what we already know from the rest of Scripture. There was a day when certain foods were considered clean, and certain unclean. Jewish Christians were coming from a long tradition of avoiding foods for religious and ethical purposes {here I am considering whether or not it was sacrificed to an idol as an ethical and not merely religious issue}. Peter is clearly told that all foods are clean in the book of Acts, and we know that early Christians began to live out what Paul talks about in I Timothy 4, that everything created by God for food is good and not to be rejected, but rather to be received with gratitude.

Romans 14, then, is dealing with the issue of those who are still tender in conscience. Perhaps they were raised Jewish, and old habits die hard. Perhaps they were raised sacrificing their meat to idols, and they are plagued by wicked associations. Whatever the issue, Paul tells us that vegetarians are weak in the faith, and so those of us who are strong must be careful with them. I always think of this as analogous to how we treat babies in our home. You humor them more than you would even a toddler. You're careful with them. You fuss over them, even though once they go to bed you are free to be "strong" again with other adults. {The drinking of alcohol comes to mind here as well.}

Paul obviously doesn't want us to crush the weak in the name of our own strength. He leaves room for conscientious objection. If your eating isn't done in faith--if someone hands you a steak, and you just can't do it--to you it is sin. This is a personal weakness, and those around you shouldn't tempt you, shouldn't criticize you, shouldn't judge you.

In this context, we see that the "strong" are those who are strong in faith--they know that God's will is for us to recognize that all the food He made for us is clean and good to eat and we should be thankful for it. This strength, however, is not an excuse to plow over the weak. On the other hand, it is made clear that the vegetarians are weak in faith, and our actions toward them ought to be careful, respectful, and faith-building.

In regard to observation of days, Paul only says that "each one ought to be convinced in his own mind." His judgment of day observation seems to be very egalitarian, as if there really wasn't a weak or strong position on this issue, and his only desire was to see men abide by their own consciences. And Paul asks us, then, why in the world we would judge our brother based upon a non-issue, a seemingly neutral issue.

What does all of this have to do with homeschooling? Well, that is what I'm trying to decide. It is very convenient to try and frame the issue this way, if we really want to be able to do what we are already doing and not have others hassle us about it, but the fact of the matter is that we have to decide where homeschooling falls in this area. Are there definitely positions of strong and weak? Or is it truly an egalitarian, be-convinced-in-your-own-mind issue?

The reason I raise this question is because Challies equivocates on the issue. In Part 1, Challies equates the issue of a child's education to the idea of observation of days. He paraphrases Paul, and believes that each one ought to be convinced in his own mind. The problem is that he is still insisting on utilizing the terms "weak" and "strong" in regard to this issue, while claiming there is no right answer. {Note: Challies claims that those who see every day as the same are "strong" while those who observe days are "weak" but the text does not actually say this.}

In Romans 14, it is very obvious that those who eat meat are strong in faith. They are the ideal. Those who are weak are those upon whom the strong are to have compassion. But if the weak got up and preached a vegetarian gospel, Paul would have had a fit! It was fine to be weak, but Paul makes it clear in his other writings that the strong were to lead and teach others to become strong themselves {hence the aforementioned letter to Timothy on this exact issue}.

All of this is to say that I think Challies chose the wrong text to frame the discussion. How can we talk about it in this context without first discussing what God has to say about the issues itself? Is it a neutral issue, where each man ought to abide by his own conscience? Challies says that it is, but without referencing any of the passages that discuss a child's education:
The way we educate our children is important—let’s not downplay this—but it is not a matter that is central to the Christian faith and not a matter in which the Bible indisputably demands one path or the other.
Or is there a strong position and a weak position? It cannot be both.

Who is the Strong Man?
In Part III, Challies attempts to define who is weak and who is strong. As I mentioned above, Paul's assertion that those who eat meat are strong is reinforced by his other letters. Paul is aware of what the ideal right answer is, but he is leaving room for Christians to be weak, or to grow into it, or what have you.

I agree with Challies that we shouldn't spend time judging each other for educational choices. The more I've talked with other families, the more I understand how complicated the issue can be in certain homes. With that said, in the issue of food, Paul obviously knew the "right" answer. He just wasn't willing to make a secondary issue a deal-breaker.

But let it be said: we know who is strong in an absolute sense because we know what the ideal is.

Challies says there is no ideal when it comes to education, but then he attempts to identify "weak" and "strong." There cannot be weak and strong in this context unless someone is closer to the ideal and someone farther.

At one point, Challies seems to equate being strong with being counter-cultural. Once upon a time, it was unpopular {and even dangerous} to be a homeschooler, and so those who homeschooled in that context were "strong." Now, in some churches, it is unpopular to attend public school {or any school at all} and those who choose this anyhow are "strong."

My problem with this is that Paul's definition of "strong" is based upon an absolute. He knows absolutely that all food is clean, but leaves room for those weak in conscience. In regard to observation of days, which he deals with in a more egalitarian manner, he doesn't label anyone as weak or strong--they are just different, and as long as what they are doing is done "unto the Lord" they are fine.

In my opinion, Challies is muddying the waters in trying to hold equally to weak, strong, and egalitarian issue. I do not see Paul doing any such thing. This is why my primary concern here is not necessarily with school choices, but with interpretation of passages.

Dealing with Tradition
The tag line for Challies is "Informing the Reforming." Well, that's fine and well, but even I, as someone born and raised outside of the Reformed tradition, know that the Reformed church has a long history of promoting a Christian education for Christian children, as well as holding up a Christian education for all children. His assertion that education is morally neutral sounds much more in keeping with the Dispensational tradition {ask me how I know}.

One of Martin Luther's first items of business was to turn monasteries into schools for children. All of the reformers--from Luther, to Zwingli, to Bucer, to Calvin, etcetera--believed in the power of education to direct children to God. The original Reformers would never have accepted the idea that education is a morally neutral issue.

Later down the road we see men, such as Comenius, who carry on in this vein, working towards a Christian education for children.

The idea that education is "morally neutral" is a result of John Dewey, one of the fathers of pragmatism, who, in applying Darwinism to the classroom, believed that education was totally and completely practical in its ends. It was Dewey who eliminated the spiritual nature of the classroom and recreated it to serve the practical ends of a changing society.

If Challies has evidence that Dewey's "morally netural" classroom was actually more in line with Scripture than the Reformers {not to mention the history of the Catholic and Orthodox churches}, I'd love to find out about that.

I personally have been in all three camps. Growing up, I thought homeschoolers were a bunch of crazies, and if you would have told me I'd be a homeschool mom someday, I'd have laughed at you! Like most pendulum swings, when we decided we were going to homeschool, we just knew homeschooling was the ideal.

It was only in studying what Scripture actually says about education, from the Old Testament all the way up to the New, that I realized that there was a principle that left a lot of leeway. The principle stands on the foundational idea that education is religious in nature. In Ephesians 6:4 commands fathers to bring their children up in the "paideia of the Lord," a direct reference to the whole of a child's education. But what is not mentioned is that the father needs to do this directly. Can he hire a school? A tutor? Do it himself? Have his wife do it? Have a public Christian school do it {if there were such a thing}? Some other option I haven't thought of?

Yes. Personally, I think all of those options are equally valid. We here homeschool. This fits our family, our priorities, and our finances. But it isn't for everyone, and it certainly isn't the only application of the Biblical principle of Christian education.

In an age of tolerance, churches still need to preach what is right and true, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes us.

And we still have to have mercy.

I have met a number of women who would love for their children to have a Christian education, but their husbands have forbidden it, for whatever reason. Paul is also clear that wives must submit to their husbands. In my opinion, especially since Paul directly says that education is the responsibility of fathers, the father's opinion trumps the mother's.

But does this mean our churches ought not to preach Paul's words on education? That they ought to, in the name of withholding judgment of the "weak," to leave off the tradition of their elders?

May it never be.

I think it is clear that Christians need to speak the truth in love. And we need to abide in love. I can love my brother--regardless of where his children go to school--and still know what Scripture says about the nature of education. I say this especially because I think Paul makes it clear it is the father's business...which means it's not mine.

So What Say YOU?
Is Afterthoughts overthinking again? Do tell.