31 January 2012

Book Review: The Gospel Story Bible

I was so excited when I found out that I was going to be able to review The Gospel Story Bible. I've now read The Jesus Storybook Bible and The Big Picture Story Bible countless times to my four little people, and I was looking forward to adding this to our collection of good, quality children's Bibles.

So, what's the verdict?

I like it. I really do.

Quite frankly, I wish the illustrations were different. I'm not sure what this style of illustrating is called, but I am not in love with it. Some of it looks like something my preschoolers would do, though admittedly with better proportions. On a number of pages, my girls have been mystified: "What's that supposed to be?" Truly, it is not to my taste, and I can't figure out if it's me or them. Do I have bad taste? Or is the art just bad? I don't feel like I yet have enough aesthetic training under my belt to judge properly.

I do wish sometimes they would bring back the old Bibles illustrated with fine art. As a child, I was amazed by those. Cartoons just don't lend themselves to awe and reverence in like manner.


With that said, I appreciate the content of this Bible. It definitely seeks to be covenantal, reminding readers of how this or that in the Old Testament points to Jesus. It does this without being annoying. It also tries to help children make some connections that are only available in the original languages. For example:
Did you know that the word God used for Moses' basket is the same word that is used for Noah's great boat, the ark? Just like God used the ark to save Noah, God used the little basket to save Moses. God protected baby Moses from Pharaoh's order because God planned to used him to rescue his people from their slavery in Egypt. Many years later, God protected baby Jesus from another evil king. King Herod tried to kill him, but God warned Joseph in a dream to go to a place of safety. Jesus, like Moses, grew up to rescue God's people from slavery. But it was a different kind of slavery--a slavery to sin.
I did find myself asking if the author was making too many connections for the children. As you know, my educational philosophy rests partly upon the assumption that children are created to learn and remember best the connections they made for themselves. There is a sense in which education takes place mostly in that space between confusion, wondering, and the aha moment.

I'm not sure if this book gives enough room for a child's own aha moments.

I'm comparing this mainly to The Big Picture Story Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible, both of which are, in my opinion, more spacious...meaning they are also less obvious. The former, being written to ages 2 and up, mainly focuses on repetition, allowing children to make the connections along the way as they are able. So we see constant allusions to God having a rescue plan and keeping His promises. This is repeated {artfully, by the way} when Noah builds the ark and when Joseph works for Pharaoh during the famine and when Moses delivers the people from Egypt and on and on. When you get to Jesus, you realize that all of these little deliverances and promises kept are pointing you the Big Deliverance and Promise Kept.

The Jesus Storybook Bible is a little more direct, but never completely specific.  For instance, when Moses leads the people out of Egypt, it says:
Many years later, God was going to do it again. He was going to come down once more to rescue his people. But this time God was going to set them free forever and ever.
The difference is subtle, but important. Being too obvious kills the wonder. Leaving a little of it to mystery and imagination is the key. In my opinion, this Bible fills the spaces a little too much. It is probably symptomatic of how we respect children too little, and fail to realize they are willing and able to ponder the mysteries of Scripture and then be delighted when one comes into the light and they grasp its beauty.

But I like it. I did say that, right? We're using it with our children {Si is reading through it in the evenings once or twice per week}. It is definitely a step up in maturity from the other two Bibles I mentioned, which is great since our oldest is almost 10 now. But I have to admit that I was hoping for something just as perfectly magical and mysterious as the other two children's Bibles, and this is, in some senses, an almost.

It is funny to me that something can be an almost because it said too much, rather than too little. Perhaps I should take that to heart in my own writing!
Final Note:
The Gospel Story Bible was given to me free of charge by The B&B Media Group in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

30 January 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

I wasn't sure I'd get to this today, but here we are. Seriously, my weekend flew by, and I just keep telling myself if I can make it through to Saturday--when The Wintons arrive!--we'll be good. {I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...} Whose bright idea was it to have appointments every. single. day. this week, anyhow?

Oh: mine.

As Siah's grandma would say, "Dummy me!"


There aren't many links this week, but perhaps that'll give you time to read them all.
  • Cindy is at it again. As a mother of sons, this interested me to no end: Where Have All the Men Gone? She points us to another article, also titled: Where Have All the Men Gone? I haven't read that second one yet.
  • I think I might have linked this via Twitter during the week, but oh well. Martin Cothran had some interesting thoughts: Should we not vote for New Gingrich because of his past marital problems?
  • So, let me ask it again in a more extended fashion: Are conservative Christians, who believe in the morality of the natural law and all that it entails about marriage, family and civil society, prepared for America to have a First Lady who was a home wrecker and was once the President’s mistress, with her husband as the national standard bearer for the causes of life, conjugal love, and the common good?
  • Ever have a breakthrough moment with one of your children? One where you really pushed through the struggle? Daisy had a moment like that, and I just loved her post: This Spelling Moment Brought To You By Dysgraphia.
  • I finished an actual book this weekend! I have been crazy busy, and I've had little time for reading {beyond the book of Job, anyhow}, but I finally finished Wendell Berry's Home Economics. Highly recommended. I'll probably post some quotes in the next few days.
  • I have a deep appreciation for people who stand up for the truth when it is hard, or even heartbreaking. Our family friends, Pastor Chad Vegas, did just that this week. You can read about it here: Mark Driscoll, The Elephant Room, and Why I Left Acts 29...
And that's all for today! Leave any links you're reading in the comments, as usual.

27 January 2012

Because Philosophy is Where We Start

I am currently waiting for my dryer to complete a cycle, which means this may be the shortest and/or sloppiest blog post I've ever written. But I've been thinking about something all day, and I thought I'd bring it up here.

Also, I'm home alone and there is no one else to torment with my thoughts.

So here goes.

The questions of giving allowances and paying a child for schoolwork came up in one of the AO discussions. I do not want to talk here about whether you or I give allowances or if it is ever appropriate to pay for schoolwork. Instead, I want to talk about what we simply must talk about before we talk about these things.

Charlotte Mason, Classical Education

Have you ever wondered why our friends Charlotte Mason's final triumph {also known as her sixth volume} was called A Philosophy of Education and not The Best Curriculum Ever?

It's because philosophy -- our beliefs about something -- precede action.

Or, at least, it ought to. When it doesn't we get ourselves into trouble.

How many times have we done something, later to repent of it and realize it didn't actually match what we believed about the nature of the situation? We simply had acted so thoughtlessly -- or thought about the situation wrongly -- that we made a bad decision and took a wrong action.

This is why Charlotte spends hundreds of pages talking about philosophy before she ever talks about curriculum. How can we be expected to understand and implement a curriculum -- however beautiful and perfect it may seem -- when we have not explored the first principles behind it?

Especially in regard to paying for schoolwork--or giving grades or earning prizes or whatever it is that someone you know started doing and got instant results even--we need to ask the important questions first.

What is a child?

What is learning?

What is the appropriate motivation for learning?

What are the inappropriate motivations for learning?

How do we cultivate the appropriate motive{s} while also discouraging the inappropriate motives?

I am reminded of George Sanker's lecture at CiRCE this year entitled Escaping the Ed School Trap. I don't remember the context of this story, but I remember that he mentioned a school that used "bucks" as a motivation for their students. This was a very big deal -- the school improved student test scores almost immediately. Students could earn bucks that they could spend like cash in the school store, or save up and use to pay for school trips. Sounds like fun, right? Well, Sanker says that these same "successful" students dropped off the map in college when there were no more bucks to be earned.


What can we learn from this?

The students were never motivated to learn. They did not learn to love their subjects. They did not learn to love reading. They did not learn to love knowledge and wisdom and goodness and truth and beauty.

They had learned to love Bucks.

When we think about this in terms of character formation, we see what dangerous ground this school has tread.

26 January 2012

Shakespeare with Littles

Before I begin, please know that I am only using Nesbit's and Lamb's children's Shakespeare books. They are enough for now for my little ones. E.-Age-Nine will continue to attempt the real thing, of course, but when I say  Shakespeare with Littles I mean children's Shakespeare. So that's today's disclaimer.

I've been reading said Shakespeare stories as assigned for Year One. I didn't do this with my oldest in Year One, so he's been joining us in this venture. I quickly found that Daughter A. could not follow the story unless we acted it out. Shakespeare often wove complicated plots, and even summaries can be complex, especially when dealing with mistaken identities, which can be difficult for six-year-olds to understand.

The preschoolers were emphatically not interested.

Until yesterday.

After months of acting out plots using smallish stuffed animals, I had had it. If I divided a play into two days, I never remembered which animal was which character on the following day, which was a source of frustration for everyone. And, of course, it took fifteen minutes just to gather the animals, which were always discovered in the unlikeliest of places.

All of this is to say that whoever invented the Shakespearean Masterpuppet Theater is a genius. Let's be honest. Today is the day to buy one. I was going to blog about this anyway, but I was shocked when I looked up the link. I paid fifteen bucks for this set {and I consider it worth every penny}, but it's bargain priced at less than four dollars today! Wow...you guys actually bought out all of Amazon's stock. Here is a new link to Amazon for the best deal I can find.

Every character is not included, mind you. But we don't care. Yesterday, we did As You Like It. We found Rosalind and Orlando easily enough. On the back of the Rosalind card is even Rosalind-dressed-as-Ganymede. Perfect! Mistaken identity crisis averted!

Rosalind and Orlando
We then proceeded to pick out cards that fit the parts. This guy? He looks like a mean duke. This guy? He looks enough like how we think of Oliver. And so on and so forth until we had a collection of fitting cards.

Little fingers inserted in the cards, we were ready for showtime, with backdrops to set the scenery.

People always say that Shakespeare wrote to be seen and heard rather than read silently. I agree. What I didn't expect was that once we incorporated backdrops and character puppets, the preschoolers would suddenly think that Shakespeare was the greatest guy who ever wrote.

In all, a successful Shakespeare with littles, I think.

25 January 2012

Of Ducks and Goats {Part 2}

You didn't really expect me to write a post about goats, did you? I mean, we are only a month in. I'm not an authority; I'm still flying by the seat of my pants! But you asked about them. Why did you do this to me?

{Note: I added photos to yesterday's post.}

On Goats
You all seem to be specifically asking about raising goats in a suburban or urban area. This is what we are doing. The first issue, then, is your zoning. In our area, we are zoned for up to three pygmy goats or pigs. Kinder goats are half pygmy, genetically speaking. We purposely picked out goats that were more pygmy in size. One of them in particular was nicknamed "Tiny" because she was so small when she was born. We looked for signs of health, of course, but because of our zoning, we wanted to make as sure as possible that we weren't going to have to get rid of them later because they grew too large!

With that said, I learned last week that the breeding organization trademarked the word Kinder. If a goat is not a registered Kinder, bred to registered parents, they are not legally Kinders, regardless of actual lineage. I understand why they did this, but I also find it annoying. In interviewing the former owners, my best guess is that these doelings of ours are what are referred to in the breeding world as "third generation Kinders." This means that, once upon a time, someone crossed a Nubian doe with a Pygmy buck. The resulting offspring is called first generation. When two first-generations are bred, the result is second generation. You do the math and figure out what a third generation is.

However, comma, we purchased these from a woman who was first and foremost a pet owner. The goats were wild with spoiling, to be honest. The buck was not registered. The mother was not registered. We even met the grandmother, who was also...wait for it!...not registered. {All conformed to breed standards, though.}

So now I don't know what to call these girls. Perhaps "Knockoff Kinder Goats?" He he.

I wasn't out to become a breeder, so I don't think this hurts me too much, but I do find it annoying. I mean, I can't really call them a Pygmy/Nubian cross when they have Kinder blood going back for three generations without registering! Seems a shame to label them "mutts" when the breeding was done by design, if informally.
Abigail {background} and Charlotte

When we looked into rabbit breeding, the authenticity of the breed was judged by the breed standards and not registration of lineage alone. I wish there was a loophole where I could document the lineage to the best of my ability, and then have them evaluated for conformity to breed standards. They are not full grown, but so far they appear to conform.

Anyhow, that is neither here nor there, but beware that breeding rules can change right after you purchase your goats.

Did you know that goats are more like deer than anything else? They are a beautiful, fun animal to keep as a pet. {But treat them like farm animals so they don't get wild on you.}

Read and Talk
We are still in training as far as raising goats, so I have no advice to give you other than to read and talk and read and talk some more. Find people who are experienced with goats and get their advice. Interrogate them! You will get different opinions from different people, for sure, but you will learn how to think about goats from these conversations.

Kelly suggested that I read Pat Coleby's Natural Goat Care. This is an amazing, amazing book. Who knew that brown goats need more copper than white? And black even more? Who knew that free access to seaweed meal would cover a multitude of sins, as would free access to dolomitic lime? I am learning a ton, and our doelings appear to like the results.

Goats like to eat trees and leaves because trees have roots that go down deep into the soil, bringing up broader spectrum of minerals. (Goats have high mineral requirements.} So almost every single day the children and I take a walk and gather a bucket of fallen leaves {the cleanest ones we can find} as a lunchtime snack. We wouldn't have done this had I not been reading Coleby.

Someday I'll share some quotes from the book.

24 January 2012

Of Ducks and Goats {Part 1}

I was going to write about something entirely different today, but all of a sudden I began receiving emails inquiring about our animal menagerie. My general rule of thumb is that for every person that writes an email, there are probably ten of you who wondered the same thing. To those of you who could care less, hopefully in the future Afterthoughts will be more interesting!

On Ducks

Khaki Campbell ducks
We actually have two breeds: Khaki Campbell and Welsh Harlequin. Our drake is Welsh Harlequin, so any ducklings will be mostly that breed. I didn't mention the Khaki Campbells yesterday because as far as I know they are not considered a "rare breed." Or, at least, they are not as rare as the Welsh Harlequins. At one point, I read that there were only a handful of breeders left for Welsh Harlequins, but I do not know how true that is as we do not register our pets, nor do we belong to any of the breeding organizations.

In regards to these ducks, what I am being asked is: Are they messy? Are they loud? In regard to the former, my answer is emphatically yes! Besides the fact that they are water birds, which means that they need a lot of water and slop it around {making their environment muddy a lot of the time}, it is the webbed feet that really cause the problem. While chickens delicately pick their way along, webbed feet are like giant puppy feet, with mud and grass and who-knows-what-else stuck to them all the time, which means they track this everywhere they go.

To be honest, we have accepted them for who they are because we love them. But I wish I could train them to stay off of my patio. We could spray it down ten times a day, and maybe then it would be perfect. Of course, whenever we want a tidy patio, we simply keep them penned.

Welsh Harlequin ducks and drake
In regard to the latter, I have to say that it depends upon the bird. Drakes are not loud. Ducklings make cute little chirping sounds. But ducks get their quack between 15 and 20 weeks of age, and then it depends upon the duck. We had Pekins for a very short time, until we discovered they were loud like the worst geese you ever met. It was embarrassing -- a loud honking throughout the day! We live in a neighborhood, and owning such birds was not neighborly, so we gave them away.

The Welsh Harlequins are advertised as being quieter than Khaki Campbells, but in our experience it was the other way around. Our current flock, however, is quiet enough to be neighborly, and quieter than most chickens I have met.

For us, the selling point was that the Welsh Harlequins might not have had the ability to incubate their young themselves entirely bred out of them. We were hoping for good mothers, as Khaki Campbells are useless in this area. We had one get broody for about an hour, and then she acted embarrassed and abandoned her lone egg.

I also think Welsh Harlequins are prettier. In terms of laying, these two breeds are identical*. They lay about five out of every seven days, throughout the year. If you change their feed, though, they freak out and stop laying for a while. If they really hate the new brand, they even lose their feathers over it. I don't really like our feed brand right now, but I'm literally afraid to change it.

On Duck Feed

A lot of folks out there will talk about soy-free feed and/or organic feed. I am not a soy fan by any means, and organic is probably ideal, too. But the reality is that it is cost-prohibitive for us to feed them that way. The cost is at least double, if not more. It is no wonder to me that soy-free, organic eggs often sell for upwards of seven dollars per dozen.

What I do is try to make bagged feed only one portion of their total nutrition. {I also add cheap grains to their feed--like chicken wheat, for instance--when I find it on sale through our co-op.} The real nutrition from pastured eggs is not the feed but the eating of tender green plants and insects and reptiles and amphibians...and even the occasional mouse! {I always laugh when I see "vegetarian feed" boasted on egg cartons in grocery stores--poultry are not vegetarian, and raising them as such diminishes the quality of the eggs!}

Raising ducks changed my perspective on bugs, for sure. When I saw slugs in an area of our garden, I celebrated, and let the ducks in. They cleaned them out in 10 minutes flat! It was a feast! Any place where weeds have grown up next to a water source {like a neighbor's sprinkler, for instance} attracts frogs, which ducks greatly prize. They will swallow frogs so large, it seems they ought to have choked to death!

All of this is to say that, other than buying unmedicated feed {which is imperative}, I think a high quality egg can be raised on normal feed, as long as the birds have a lot of room to roam, and lots of weeds and creeping, crawling things to eat.

On Water

Different breeds of ducks need differing amounts of water. The attraction of these two breeds for us is that they are also low-water birds. They do not need a swimming pool. {We offer them a little kiddie pool, though, and they do spend time in it daily.} With that said, all ducks, without exception, require water deep enough for dunking their entire heads. This is how they keep their beaks clean, and they will contract sticky eye {or other issues} if you do not offer them deep water.



* Note: I found out that the breeds are not identical over the long haul. After a year or two, the Welsh Harlequins stopped laying. The Khaki Campbells, kept laying until they were five years old, at which point our zoning changed and we had to relocate them to new owners.

23 January 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

It's that time again! Another week has gone by, and another collection of links has been gathered for your perusal. I hope you had a nice weekend. Mondays are always tough because Daddy goes back to work. It's like I have no backup.

Because I don't.


In other news:

  • Most of you know that my husband almost died from HUS-TTP {resulting from E.coli 0157:H7} a few years ago. This is why I keep up on food poisoning news. Anyhow, this was absolutely fascinating: Manganese Can Stop E. Coli Toxin, Study Says. Even though this type of E.coli is very dangerous, only a small fraction of people who are exposed even get symptoms, and only a small fraction of that are hospitalized, and only a small fraction of that get HUS, and only a small fraction of that get the TTP. Why are some people more vulnerable than others? Could it be manganese that makes the difference?
  • We raise Welsh Harlequin ducks. This is considered a rare breed. I admit that this was part of the appeal--helping to preserve something that was being lost. Here is something to think about: Why Care About Old Fastioned Breeds of Livestock? The article is about cows, but a lot of the rationale is something I've heard about other species.
  • I have one child who particularly struggles with being flexible. Everything is fine when the day goes according to plan, but getting off just the tiniest bit used to ruin our day entirely. It was simply unacceptable to change the plan, even when circumstances dictated that we must. These days, the situation is better and the child has learned to accept changes {especially when I spend time explaining why we are changing something}. I wish I could have read this post when I was first beginning to fight this battle: Teaching Children to Embrace Plan B.
  • I admit to being a bit jaded about homeless/hungry people. It all started in college when I worked with a homeless ministry and discovered that most of the homeless I met {in Santa Monica, at least} were homeless by choice. Many of the men had chosen this path in order to avoid paying alimony and child support to the families they had abandoned. With that said, this post convicted me that, especially with the economy the way it is today, I need to reconsider my attitude: Feeding the Hungry.
  • My girls love to color. Sometimes, I give one of them a coloring page while I am working with the other on a reading lesson. Right now, they adore these free mandala coloring pages. I was surprised that they saw the patterns and colored the pages accordingly.
  • There are some religious battles going on in our nation. Take, for instance, the New York pastors who were arrested for praying during a protest, or the Kentucky Amish men jailed over their objection to a new state law.
  • Ever wonder how to make it through a pregnancy without a prenatal vitamin? This is not for the feint of heart, that is for sure, and I never could have done it because I had so much trouble keeping food down. But someone worked it out for those of you with tough stomachs and a sense of adventure: The Outlandish Alternative to Prenatal Vitamins.
  • In the mood for an example of a truly stupid environmental law? Examples abound in our nation, as Being Green is the new cultural religion. How about this? A Fine for Not Using a Biofuel That Doesn't Exist. Truly the postmodern politicians believe they can create reality by edict.
I think that's all for today. If you have an interesting link, you know the drill: share it in the comments!

20 January 2012

January Books

Yes, we acquired more books for the family library this month, in spite of a windfall in the month of December. I momentarily wonder why my house isn't cuter, and then I remember I am too busy buying or trading for books and reading them. It's a sickness, really.

Here is what came our way this month:

In the mail, headed my way:

What about you? Did any books join your family this month...so far?

19 January 2012

Lessons from The Master-Maid

The Master-Maid is a fairy tale from Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book, assigned in Ambleside Online Year 1. Unlike many of the other stories in this volume, I had never heard this story before when I read it to my oldest child a number of years ago. I wouldn't consider it one of the best fairy tales because there is a little too much going on. It's almost as if the writer took two separate fairy tales--one about a prince working for a giant and then escaping with a beautiful lady, another about a lady whose prince is stolen from her, and how she reminds him of herself--and smooshed them together.

Smooshed is a word, right?


Nevertheless, it is one of those tales that reflects small parts of the story of our faith, and I always get so excited when I find these hints nestled inside the old stories.

Today, we read the second half. The Prince tells the Master-maid that it would be bad form for him to bring her to his father's house on foot. He will return to the King's palace, get the horses, and come for her, that he might present her to his family in a royal fashion.

She begs him not to leave her. You will forget me if you go! Because he will not yield, she makes him promise that he will not have anything to do with anyone or anything other than the horses when he arrives at the palace. He must keep his mind on his mission. Do not greet anyone. Do not eat or drink anything. They will gather around you, because they have missed you, but you must pretend they are not there.

He gives his word, and then he makes a valiant effort. When he arrives, people are everywhere preparing for the wedding of the Prince's brother. They crowd around him. They want to know where he has been, what he has been doing. When he ignores him, and continues to prepare the horses, they bring him fine food from the wedding feast. You must be hungry after your journey.

Still, he stays the course.

And then it happens.

Well, if you will not eat anything, you might as well take a bit of this.

And an apple is rolled {by the bride's sister, incidentally} his way across the grass.

In that moment, he forgets his promise.

He takes, and he eats.

And then he really forgets, for suddenly he has no recollection of why he is saddling the horses and puts them back. The Master-maid waits for him for a long time before she finally gives up on him and tries another course.

The first time through, I didn't catch it, but this time I did.

That apple, rolled across the grass? It's rolled by a troll-witch, though the Prince doesn't recognize her as such.

The Prince, you see, is a reflection of Adam.

Oh, I'm not saying Adam forgot. I'm just saying the Prince's downfall was a result of a simple piece of fruit. Don't think for one minute the author randomly chose an apple.

I asked my little scholar who else in history ate a piece of fruit and paid a price, but she didn't want to discuss it. She wanted to know what happened to the Master-maid.

And who can blame her. Isn't that really what we want when we read about Adam? Gosh, he ate the fruit. Now what happens? Is there any hope?

For a long time in the story, it really does look hopeless. The Master-maid settles herself quietly in a little hut in the woods near the palace. She has a variety of suitors who visit her, none of whom are the Prince. The Prince is engaged to the troll-witch {he still is blind to her true identity}. We begin to think that all really is lost. Will the Master-maid remain forever hidden away in the woods? Will the Prince marry a troll-witch? Will one piece of fruit really change history forever?

It is not until the very last moment that the day is saved. A series of strange happenings lead to the Master-maid being seated in the place of honor beside the Prince at his wedding banquet, because the King believed she was more than she appeared. She makes a simple comment, and the effect is as if scales fell from the Prince's eyes.

He remembers.

He remembers who he is, who she is, who he ought to be marrying. And he finally recognizes that he has been tricked.

The troll-witch is torn to pieces by horses, and the couple is finally united. All is set right in the world.

And we're left remembering that this is how it is in our world, too. One day, all will be set right. One day we will not forget, nor will we be forgotten, and the Wedding Feast will be in perfect order.

18 January 2012

Stop SOPA Blackout

Afterthoughts is participating in the internet blackout to support protest efforts against proposed legislation SOPA and PIPA that, if passed, would seriously damage the free and open Internet. This is not about politics, it's about access; if you want continued access to online information, then you should know that this legislation could threaten access to homeschool resources such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Google Books -- or even the AO website itself. I fear for AmblesideOnline especially. If AO even has a link that goes to a site that has something copyrighted, AO would be blocked. AO has a plethora of links and is an incredibly text-rich site which means there are lots of opportunities for claims or even false accusations of copyright violation. This will affect AO users negatively.

17 January 2012

Functional Orthodontics

Most of you have heard me whine and complain about the teeth issues we've experienced over the years. The other night, I looked over at my son, and was wowed to see how far he's come. His smile is really looking nice these days, and that reminded me that I've been meaning to write a post to share what we have learned about the orthodontic issue so far.

It all started a little over a year ago. We took Daughter A. to the dentist and she had just under seven million cavities.

Or something like that.

Basically, there were so many that we are still working on them, though some of that comes from trying to find a dentist that we liked that was willing to do lots of work on a child so young.

But I digress.

One pediatric dentist that we visited basically blamed the cavities on how tight her teeth were, and that really got my mind going.

She had already begun losing teeth, and I was terrified of what I was seeing. This child did not have that normal crowded-we'll-probably-do-braces-someday mouth. She didn't have room for her first two adult teeth to come in.

So they came in at 45-degree angles.

In the meantime, her older brother, who wasn't quite as bad, was still having problems of his own. He had teeth that simply were not coming in at all because there was no space.

I did the math and knew that we simply could not afford braces, especially considering that it looked like all of our children would need them.

And I do mean need.

Though I think that aesthetics are important, this was becoming a health issue, and we also did not like hearing from various dentists and orthodontists was consulted that they would require multiple extractions of adult teeth.

Some children really do have mouths that will continue to grow, but considering that these teeth issues appear to go back for at least two generations, I wasn't holding out a lot of hope.

So I began to do research.

And yes, yes, I read all about how this is usually caused by a poor prenatal diet. That really would explain why Daughter A. has the worst of it: my pregnancy with her made me so sick that I was lucky if I could keep down 400 calories in an average day. There is no way she got optimum nutrition in utero. I was sick for eight months of all of my pregnancies, and always had a difficult time eating, but it was worse with girls than boys for me.

But that is not the point. So what if I would eat lots of yellow butter and organ meats if I were pregnant today? My children are already born.

So after kicking myself once or twice, I moved on to trying to figure out a solution that we might be able to afford {and I don't mean financing}.

I asked one dentist if there was a way to force the bones to grow, and he said no, and he answered so quickly and thoughtlessly that my first thought was that he didn't really know what he was talking about. So I went home and asked Google and that was when I discovered the concept of functional orthodontics.

If you search the Internet for functional orthodontics, you will see a lot of different options. Some are pricier than others. Some are for tougher cases--like cleft palate patients. Some work for adults, while others are better for children. A lot of websites will make it sound like the primary purpose is aesthetics, and though that is a great way to market it, I think that philosophically it misses the point.

I had a long talk with our orthodontist last week. He does functional orthodontics as well as traditional braces. He was telling me that braces are the typical way that orthodontists in the United States are trained to deal with the problems of crooked teeth. They extract teeth to make room, and then they use train-track-style braces to align whatever teeth remain. In some worst-case scenarios, head gear is actually used to restrain upper jaw growth in order to maintain bite alignment.

Functional orthodontics, however, are actually more orthopedic in nature. They seek to make room by encouraging palate expansion and jaw development. He told me, for instance, about reverse-headgear, which, instead of restraining the upper jaw's natural growth, encourages growth of the bottom jaw by pulling it out.

He equated this to a child born with one leg too short. In his mind, braces are {usually--not always} equivalent to waiting until that child is almost fully grown, and then hacking on the good leg to make the sides equal. Functional appliances do the opposite, trying to straighten and force growth that should naturally occur, but doesn't {for various reasons}.

All of that is a fancy way of saying that it helps the mouth make room for the teeth.

What I found appealing {besides the fact that it is costing us less that a quarter of what braces would cost} is that it works with nature rather than against nature. Most people are not born with grotesquely large teeth, or teeth that come in backwards. Rather, they are born with underdeveloped jaws. Nature says that the twisted, short leg ideally would be longer and straight. Working with nature is fixing that through orthopedics, and working against nature is hacking at the good limb. Likewise, working with nature in orthodontics is encouraging natural growth rather than removing teeth to "make room."

In my experience, there are a lot of options out there, but unless you live in a big city with lots of fancy orthodontists, what you will really need to do is find out what is even available to you. In our case, we heard that a certain doctor offered this service, and we went to see him. He was very discouraging at first: Kids these days, they won't wear their appliances, he said. They don't think it's cool, so they take them off when they get to school. Then all the research says it doesn't work. It doesn't work because they won't follow the protocol! Unless your children are homeschooled, I cannot suggest this to you.

That was when I told him they were homeschooled. He he.

He immediately changed his tune. He was more than happy to use his expertise--in fact, he prefers it. But he tells me that 30 years ago children followed his instructions better than they do today, and he hates to see parents throw good money after bad.

I know what it is like to realize that your children may need something you think you cannot afford. In my experience, this is not only a more "natural" route, but it is much, much cheaper. The price can vary drastically depending on your geographic location, but I have notice that it is consistently priced between one-quarter and one-half the cost of braces. If you think you are facing orthodontics in the future, you may want to do some research and see what you think. In our case, treatment will start with our younger two once their first adult molars erupt.

Just something to think about* **.

*I was going to use photos and then I realized that I hate looking at teeth photos...and you might, too!

**Obviously, sometimes braces are necessary--like when teeth come in twisted or backwards. I just thought you all would like to know that there are options out there.

16 January 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Hopefully you all had a fabulous weekend and are refreshed and ready to face what is likely to be your second week back at a "normal" school schedule. I don't know about you, but I had a hard time doing the juggling act last week after so much time off. I bombed lunch more often than I didn't!

But that is neither here nor there.

On to the links!
  • Cindy has been on a roll! Last week, she wrote so many posts worth reading, my biggest recommendation is to head over to her blog and subscribe, if you haven't already. As I have said before, if you can only subscribe to a single blog, I suggest hers. Here are a few faves, though:
    • The Problem of Pleasure
      Ravi says that all pleasure must be bought at the price of pain. This does not mean that pleasure in itself is evil, only that it must be paid for. Virtuous pleasure is paid for ahead of time. Work hard, sweat through an uphill battle, and you get to enjoy a little leisure, maybe a movie or murder mystery. When we indulge in pleasure before we have earned it, we are moving toward meaninglessness.
    • Towards a Defense of Charlotte Mason {if you can only read one, read this one!}
      And then classical education became popular. With that popularity came all kinds of confusion. Definitions abounded. Dorothy Sayers’s inspiring, off-the-cuff essay, The Lost Tools of Learning, was trotted out and whole catalogs built around random sentences from her essay began to appear. In fact, many people looked at classical education as merely a push to return back-to-basics. To some, classical education literally meant “really hard” and to others it meant memorizing information as ‘poll parrots‘.
    • Teaching from a Place of Stress
      Often the questions young moms bring to me baffle me. Usually it goes something like this. First they ask a question about writing or phonics or math or science. Then I begin to answer it. Then I stop and ask them how old their child is and then they say something like 3 or 6. And I just smile and say, "Really, you want to waste time teaching spelling to a 6 year old?"
  • Do you collect books? I do! Which is why I found this post over at Dewey's Treehouse to be fascinating: Why there weren't enough children's books...and why there aren't enough children's books.
  • I once read that when Rome fell, the people who remained went back to the land. It looks like the Greeks are following suit: With Work Scarce in Athens, Greeks Go Back to the Land.
  • If you are like me, making homemade chicken broth comes easily enough. Beef stock--or lamp, for that matter--is another story. I tried doing what I had done previously with chicken, which is to say covering the bones with water and simmering for hours and hours. But what resulted isn't what I would call actual, usable stock. I'm happy for this advice: Real Food 101: How to Make Beef Stock and also Bone Broth Questions. The key seems to be roasting the bones first!
  • The Jesus-hates-religion fallacy has recently gone viral. I'm sure you've noticed it out there on Facebook or whatever. I've already written in this issue, but today I bring you a rebuttal from The Gospel-Drive Church that is well done.
  • Can the church really hire and fire as she pleases? This was the question up for discussion in the United States Supreme Court this past week. Thanks be to God! The Court decided unanimously that the government may not infringe upon the church's right to govern herself! Because of the nature of the case, this decision also reaffirms the rights of Christian schools to self-govern and hire and fire based upon criteria such as morality and theological beliefs.
That's all for today. Any of you have any links to share with the rest of us?

12 January 2012

Charlotte Mason, Total Depravity, and the Divine Image

Whenever I quote Charlotte Mason, I assume that folks understand the context, which is probably a mistake considering that very few CM educators have actually read her original works. In addition to this, I sometimes tend to assume that readers grasp the context of my mind…which isn’t very realistic as sometimes my husband has trouble doing this! So I find myself today in need of clarifying what I said yesterday, so that we don’t have any misunderstandings. Here is a comment—a very good one, by the way—which was left on yesterday’s post:
I have been an avid 'anonymous' reader for some time and most often wholeheartedly appreciate what you have to say, finding much of it Biblical and Christ-centered. That said, I don't often comment, but I feel I must at this time.

I would ask you what is your biblical backing for the statements you have made concerning children and sin? I may be completely mistaken, but it seems you are saying some very dangerous things here...such as children only being taught to sin, not knowing how on their own...and forgetting some of the scriptures which clearly state otherwise, such as Proverbs 22:15 which says "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child" and Genesis 8:21 which states, "...the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth."

Perhaps I have misunderstood you, but if not I implore you to consider these things in Scripture. This is a great article I have come across from Desiring God.
I have to admit that when I wrote the post, I wondered if this might come up, and I tried to phrase everything in such a way that we wouldn’t have this misunderstanding, but obviously I was not clear enough. I try to balance in my writing my desire to communicate a single idea with the temptation to cover all of my bases with every possible objection or misunderstanding of what I said. However, comma, in this case I do not think I did a good job.

I love comments like this because I think they refine all of us as readers and thinkers.

So let’s talk.

Some Clarifications

First, I want to clarify exactly what I believe. As I said in my original post, I believe in the co-existence of two components of anthropological theology {i.e., {1} man is fallen in nature and {2} he still bears the Divine Image}. When I say I believe in the total depravity of man {and I do, as did Charlotte Mason before me}, this means that I believe that man cannot save himself. In other words: man needs Jesus. But it means more than this, for being depraved implies being not perfect. Man is lacking morally, yes, but he is also lacking in every other way. He is fallen in every area of his being and requires redemption and improvement on every level.

When I say, as I said yesterday, that “most men are not as fallen as they might be,” I understand how this could be taken as an attack on the doctrine of Total Depravity. I should have explained this better.

Let’s take an individual, generic man as an example. He is not a Christian, and so not redeemed. If he were “as fallen as he might be” he would be a murderer, adulterer, etc. He would be the worst thing we can imagine. When I wrote that man’s natural “goodnesses” are a form of common grace, I mean that just as God sends rain to the godly and the ungodly, so He gives innate goodnesses {“virtues” is perhaps a better word} to the godly and ungodly. These goodnesses do not save. They do not redeem. But they are an amazing sign of the Divine hand…and the Divine plan.

I think here of Horatius the pagan, boldly defending the bridge over the Tiber river, laying his life down for his friends and comrades. We are told that no greater type of love exists, and yet this man did not know Christ. All we can say, then, is that there are goodnesses that are common to us all, for humanity bears the Divine Image. Even these things, then, are a gift of God.

Charlotte Mason in Context

I think that when we read Miss Mason’s works, we need to remember that she was first and foremost writing an educational treatise. Even though the way that we educate naturally flows from our theology, when she speaks of “children as persons” and children being born with “possibilities for good and evil,” I think she speaks here first and foremost as a teacher, not a theologian.

To clarify further, by “possibilities for good and evil” I believe she is thinking about developing the child as a person, not of the idea that he is still in a perfect state and does not require redemption, or that only society or his family corrupts him.

Now, personally, I think Charlotte's principles are an excellent outworking of the theological tenants I mentioned before—meaning man being both fallen as well as bearer of the Divine Image {and, I might add, possessing a soul, though this used to go without saying}. Charlotte herself, though, called education the handmaid of Religion. She believed that education could offer real, tangible assistance to the progress of the work of the Gospel, but she never believed it replaced the Gospel. If we keep this in the back of our minds, it helps us know the limits of her ideas.

All of this, and more, was in my heart when I wrote about the little girl I observed. I firmly believe that most people are born with a natural reverence or religious impulse. I would say this is akin to the now proverbial “God-shaped hole.” Romans chapter 1, for instance, talks about the idea that there is a natural knowledge of God that must be honored {and if it isn’t, a culture quickly plummets into every imaginable depravity}.

What I saw in this little girl was the brief honoring of this natural form of religion. I saw a glimmer of the Divine Image. This does not mean I thought she was not fallen. It means that I saw her possibilities—what God originally intended her to be, and what I hope will be her future.

I also saw that she had not yet been fully tainted by our education system and popular culture. There is so much packed into this statement that it is hard for me to explain it all in this small space. I do not mean that our culture is the sole source of sin, or that if we could just clean it up, we would reach perfection. I know that perfection is only found in the Gospel.

But I also know that there are good cultures, and there are bad cultures, and there are great cultures...and that culture is built by men. God ordained it to be so. So the way that we do things really does matter. My husband always draws this out as a cycle. We make culture, and culture makes us, and on and on.

I think the most logical application of my post is to consider the culture we have built and are building around us. It predisposes people to be silly, shallow--it steadily lessens their humanity day by day. I think here of Wendell Berry describing the television as a tube which pumps meaning and depth out of the home.

One of the things I love about Charlotte Mason is that she taught me that children really are persons. Or maybe it is actually bigger than that. I think she actually taught me that all people really are persons. They really have potential. And we really often do approach the child-mind as if it were silly and shallow and only capable of being entertained by highly animated kindergarten teachers that plan and control the carefully constructed child-centered environment.

We treat them as less than human, and by the time they are grown they actually seem it.

This is one contributing factor to our culture's decay.

In many ways, the Greek pagan culture was much, much higher than ours, and that is probably because it actually educated its children more in accordance with the Divine Image than we do. They didn't believe in it, of course, but their view of man was much higher than the average American Christian you meet on the street. {Of course, they believed in the perfectibility of man without Christ, which was their downfall, except for those individuals who realized the beauty of Christ being the Logos.}

I completely understand how parts of my post could be misconstrued, and I appreciate the chance to clarify my stance. I never want anyone to think that I do not believe in the depravity of man, or in man's need for redemption through Christ. When we consider the bulk of Charlotte's work we see that she was not talking here about the need for redemption. She was talking here about the Divine Image--the fact that all are human, that all deserve respect, that all are capable of a sort of reverence that is due to common grace, and that all ought to be educated in light of these truths.

Remember that while others in her day believed that the lowest of low society could not be educated—almost as if they bore no Divine Image at all—Charlotte was offering her generous curriculum to the least of these {in this instance, the children of the impoverished miners}.

When I say that "we have made them so," I understand that not everyone was inside the context of my head.  I am not a Utopia-touting {Sir Thomas More} Rousseau disciple by any means! However, comma, as John Hodges once said, cultivating good things in the soul of all children will not save them...but there will be more of a soul to save!

Let’s Discuss the Scriptures Framing the Conversation

Proverbs 22:15 is a good example here, I think. It is true: all children have foolishness bound up inside of them, and, according to this Scripture, need a good paddling now and then! But this doesn’t mean that they need be paddled all the day long. These foolish little sinners are still more than capable of delighting in butterflies and frogs and meadows and lightening and all the good things that the Lord hath made. They are able to love. They are able to extend kindness and joy to others. In other words, they still possess {broken} fragments of the Divine Image worth cultivating.

We extend much grace to children, believing that they are able to receive it.

In the case of Genesis 8:21, I looked up the Hebrew to be sure. The idea here is that the form of the man's heart—of his conscience—is evil. It is malignant. It gives pain. And so on. I completely agree. In Adam's fall, we sinned all. We are a fallen race, and the evidence for that abounds. But I do not believe that this means that we no longer bear the Divine Image. We are twisted and in need of redemption, but the imago dei is still there. Because it was the essence of what we were at creation, it has remained after the fall. When we fell, we became fallen humans. We did not become subhuman. This is why Paul can still say that man is the glory of God.

I know that salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit. But even the Scriptures tell us that faith comes from hearing and how can people hear if we do not preach? God chooses to use people—mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and on and on—as means. When people tell their testimonies, they do not just say, "the Holy Spirit saved me;" they usually give a name—I was talking with so-and-so, and he preached the Gospel to me.

God gives us the honor of sowing seeds and helping to prepare the ground. A child that knows grammar and logic and rhetoric will be more able to understand the Gospel when she reads it or hears it, because he is more able to understand anything he reads and hears. Education, being the handmaid of Religion, has a rightful place in preparing the ground and sowing seeds.

And here is the crux of the issue I meant to be addressing {though my effectiveness in this instance is clearly up for debate}: modern education handicaps the soul. I do not have the time to discuss all that this means, but let me be clear here. A modern Darwinian education cultivates nothing less than practical atheism, if not actual atheism. This approach to educating eliminates questions of metaphysics, thereby disregarding the Divine Image, thereby treating students as less than human. When I said that the little girl had not been ruined by our culture, I meant that every little religious impulse had not, in the words of C. S. Lewis, been completely debunked out of her soul.

At least, not yet.

And my hope, of course, is not ever.

11 January 2012

We Have Made Them So

The first two principles of a Charlotte Mason education are that {1} children are born persons and {2} they are not born either good or bad, but rather with possibilities of good or evil. In my mind, this is basic anthropological theology--these principles naturally flow out of the twin concepts that children come to us as divine image bearers, while they are also fallen and possess a sin nature. {As Christians, we acknowledge that though mankind is fallen, most men are not as fallen as they might be.}

This means that children really do have natural goodnesses in them, even though they are also plagued by natural sin. This is a type of common grace.

A little over a month ago, Si and I took the children to our local Christmas parade. One of the things about parades is that it attracts residents from all walks of life. Next to us that night were a couple of very loud, very rowdy women. One of them was a mother and had brought with her a daughter who was probably around five, and a son who was probably around ten or even twelve.

By observing the mother for a while, I could guess some things about the life these children had to live. They had probably never gone to a church {unless, perhaps, they had a caring grandmother who insisted}. They probably ate a lot of junk food, and very little nourishing food. They probably didn't get enough sleep {because their mother was dragging them around to places where she could have fun}. They were probably encouraged to walk in the ways of the world, babysat by the television, and so on. They probably hadn't seen their father in years, if they even knew who he was.

It is possible they didn't have the same father.

This may sound very judgmental, but really I want to set the stage, so that you understand the significance of what happened next. These were not little church children with a "perfect" upbringing.

The last few floats had been loud--in a fun way. It was a parade, after all. And then, suddenly, it grew dark and  the night sky was filled with slow, sober music. I instantly recognized the Ave Maria, the first Latin song I ever learned to sing. Our local Knights of Columbus won first place in the religion category for floats. It was basically a beautiful living nativity on wheels. What really stood out {in my mind} and separated it from the rest of the floats was that they had chosen reverent music, rather than the various selections of rock and rap and marching band music that peppered the rest of the parade.

{For the record, I think that rock and marching band music, especially, are appropriate for a parade.}

But the Knights chose music for their float rather than for the parade in general. And the crowd quieted down and paid homage to the lowly manger scene.

Before we could see the float, however, when the first few phrases of Ave Maria were just beginning to waft over the crowd, the older brother turned to the sister: "What's this music for?" he sneered.

It was a sneer. He wasn't sneering at the Christ Child, mind you, and my best guess is that he emphatically did not like opera {as many young boys before him}.

The sister, though, waited a moment. She craned her neck. She wanted to see better. Once the float was right in front of us, her sweet face looked up, and one hand pointed while the other tapped her brother to get his attention. She pointed at Him.

"Look! That is why the music sounds like that."

The moment came and went in an instant, and yet I was struck. Here was a child who knew. She didn't know because someone had spent time bathing her in Scripture and catechizing her, cultivating an understanding of propriety.

It was pure instinct.

She knew that Christ demanded reverence.

The brother was less than impressed, but my heart held out much hope for the little girl.

I think the vast majority of children are born with this type of natural reverence. It is of an ignorant sort, of course, but it is there for the cultivating, if we have a will for the labor.

Charlotte Mason once told a story to illustrate how grave children can be:
I know a person of three who happened to be found by a caller alone in the drawing room. It was spring, and the caller thought to make himself entertaining with talk about the pretty 'baa-lambs.' But a pair of big blue eyes were fixed upon him and a solemn person made this solemn remark, "Isn't it a dwefful howid thing to see a pig killed!"
How is it that this sober mindset, this ability to perceive something with reverence and awe is destroyed? And by ten, if not by six years of age? Mason wrote:
It is a curious thing about human nature that we all like to be managed by persons who take the pains to play on our amiabilities. Even a dog can be made foolishly sentimental; and, if we who are older have our foibles in this kind, it is little wonder that children can be wooed to do anything by persons whose approaches to them are always charming. It is true that...the child... sang her Kindergarten songs with little hands waving in the 'air so blue'! but that was for the delectation and delusion of the elders when bedtime came. [She] had greater thoughts at other times.
She also wrote:
Grown-up people who are not mothers talk and think far more childishly than the child does in their efforts to approach his mind. If a child talk twaddle, it is because his elders are in the habit of talking twaddle to him; leave him to himself, and his remarks are wise and sensible so far as his small experience guides him.
We look around us, and we see an irreverent, irreligious culture. We wonder how we got here. What happened? Who dropped the ball? We need to remember, when we see the children who cannot talk about anything beyond clothes and shoes and TV programs and technology and petty gossip--who cannot think about an idea--who have not the will power to attend to what is at hand--that they, like all persons, were born with possibilities.

Somewhere along the way, they were mishandled.

If they are less than they ought to be, there is a sense in which we have made them so.

10 January 2012

Quotables: From Behind the Veil

From Behind the Veil
by Peter Leithart
False prophets and lying spirits are known not only by what they confess, but by their audience and by their influences. We must certainly ask what teachers are saying and teaching, but John also teaches us to ask who is listening to them. And to whom are they listening. Whose shema do they profess? {p. 130}
It is not simply that we ought to exercise discernment out of love for one another. It's also the case that we cannot exercise proper discernment well without love. We might think that we see clearly even if we do not love, but John doesn't agree. The late Richard Neuhaus is fond of quoting Martin Luther King Jr.'s claim that anyone who brings a message of prophetic condemnation must first love those to whom he prophesies. Without love, we cannot test the spirits rightly...Hateful people become stupid. {p. 132}
False prophets thrive on times of calamity. When the world seems to be falling apart, people flail around for someone who seems to know what is happening...During times of crisis and uncertainty, prophecy is big business. {p. 133}
Satan is given an opportunity to turn you into an ally if you don't deal with your anger, confess sin, forgive, and extend forgiveness. If you fail here, Satan has an opportunity to infect your marriage, your relations with your co-workers, your relationship with others at church. {p. 135}
It goes against the cultural grain, but John says that we have to judge. Don't jump on every religious bandwagon that comes along. Don't believe every spirit, or everyone who claims to be a prophet. Pause. Stop. take the time to test the spirit. Ask whether the prophecies have come true. Ask whether the prophet or new movement is confessing Jesus in the flesh and all that this implies. Ask to whom they are listening, and who is listening to them. As John Stott says on this passage, unbelief is a mark of spiritual maturity. {p. 138} 

Italian Rice Soup

Do Italians actually eat rice? It seems the name of this recipe begs that question, don'tcha think? Anyhow, that is what I named it, for lack of other inspiration. This recipe was, once again, born of desperation. We had canceled Daughter Q's fifth birthday party {again}, and with it went the party food for lunch, and the leftovers I had planned on serving for dinner.

Plus I was running out of food.

In my freezer and pantry I had things like rice and homemade chicken stock and spinach. So here is what I made:

Italian Rice Soup

  • 1.5 cups white rice, rinsed {gasp! white rice!}
  • 20oz diced tomatoes {I used a bunch frozen, peeled whole tomatoes I had in my freezer, leftover from my grandfather's garden...but I think this was equal to about one large can of tomatoes}
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage
  • .25-.5 cups wine {whatever you have on hand and open...it's optional}
  • 3 qt. chicken broth {more if you plan to serve it again the next day leftover--you'll have to add up to another quart to get it soupy again}
  • 1 head spinach, rinsed, de-stemmed, and chopped
  • 1 onion
  • 1-2 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. savory
  • salt and pepper to taste
Throw everything in a giant soup kettle, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is soft. If you are fancy, you could saute your onions and garlic in melted butter or olive oil beforehand, but I wasn't feeling fancy on this particular occasion.

Other Tips
  • Chicken stock or broth is waaaaaay cheaper if you make it yourself. Just boil your chicken bones in water. Add vegetables if you like, but it isn't necessary in a pinch.
  • I think that, in a hurry, you could probably omit the tomatoes, garlic, and spices {except salt and pepper} and use a big jar of spaghetti sauce instead. I haven't done it, but it seemed possible to me. Of course, this would require you to actually have a jar in your pantry!
  • My husband is always bringing me home discounted packages of nitrite-free sausage in various flavors. Really, I think as long as it isn't a flavor that clashes with Italian-type spices, it'd work. The one I used was actually a gourmet cheesy spinach flavor.
  • The sausage could be cooked whole in the oven and the cut into bite-sized pieces, or cut open and browned like ground beef {if it is uncooked}.

09 January 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Greetings, and welcome back to the school year! Part of me was ready to start this morning, because we haven't done lessons in what feels like a very long time. That other part of me? To be honest, it's a little bitter that I spent the second half of my break cleaning up vomit rather than having all the fun I imagined. It didn't feel like much of a break. But we're starting nonetheless!

Are you?

In other news...

  • I've always been attracted to no-till farming. It's probably the part about not having to till the soil that really gets me. You know: less machinery = less cost + less sweat. I'm not sure which I hate more: spending money...or sweating. But maybe it's just me. Anyhow, it was disappointing to have Gene Logsdon burst my bubble: No Till Farming Not So Great After All.
  • A lot of blogs out there list New Year resolutions involving simplifying and paring down. There is a place for this sort of thing, of course, but I just loved this alternative perspective from Mama Squirrel: Why my New Year's resolutions do not include decluttering.
  • A lot of you enjoyed my previous link on counting the cost of college. I thought I'd let you know that a Part 2 is now available. Lots to think about.
  • Is it possible that vegetarianism kills more animals than the normal human omnivorous diet? Some people seem to think so. Of course, if you have read much about soil, you know that animal populations are key to keeping it healthy. Which is why we are celebrating a continuous supply of decaying hay and goat manure. It's really the little things that make us happy, no?
  • My husband is a twin. This always makes me listen when folks say things about twins, even though he and his twin are fraternal rather than identical. This was fascinating: A Thing or Two About Twins. DNA is amazing.
  • How many of you are using Pinterest? When it first debuted, I really thought it wasn't for me, but I've changed my mind. For years, I have kept binders full of ideas for decorating, books to buy, school plans, and so on. {This was back when I read magazines.} Now that I read the Internet, I always find myself debating: to print or not to print? I forget my bookmarks, at least any of them that are long term. Pinterest, then? It's my old binder system...without the binders. Any of you who blog, though, know that each time one of these things catches on, it changes the way we blog. I mean, back when I first starting blogging, no one had a share button! The best article I've read dealing with the changes that Pinterest requires us to consider is this one: Pinterest and Blogging:: The Good, The Bad, and the Huh?
  • Most of you will be voting in the Republican primaries. Have you decided on your candidate yet? If you are me, of course, there is a chance that whoever you want to vote for will not be running by the time your state has a primary. I mean, Herman Cain already dropped out! I was so disappointed, though obviously he wasn't exactly who I thought he was, either. Anyhow, my real purpose is to share USA Today's Candidate Match Game. Who did you match with?
  • Has anyone else found it disturbing that all the new teen heartthrobs look like girls? Where have all the men gone? Here is a Christian guy's take on this issue: Justin Bieber and the Redefinition of Manhood.
  • Here's one for all you Amblesiders out there! Naomi posted a fabulous collection of links for the Mendelssohn study.
  • What has reading aloud done for your family? Angelina shares her observations: Creating Family Culture through Reading Aloud.
Okay, I had collected a few more, but goodness! I think that is enough for now. Unless, of course, you want to think about when Aslan banished winter, or possibly the existence of blade factories in the ancient world. Something for everyone, folks! He he.

Enjoy your first day back at the grindstone. And, naturally, share your interesting links in the comments.

06 January 2012

2011-2012 Term 2 Circle Time Plans

I almost didn't get these done, what with the vomiting and all. Ahem. Anyhow, they are done, and now they are here...to share with you.

I didn't add much or change much around. Circle Time this term will follow essentially the same rhythm as Term 1, with artist study on Wednesdays, for example.

Of course, I am supposed to call and sign my preschoolers up for swimming lessons beginning next week, which will surely throw a wrench in all of this!

Anyhow, I usually type out each and every Bible story, but I decided not to do this each time. I'm pretty confident I can find a starting and stopping place easily enough. I added in a New Testament reading because I was horrified to discover that, in assigning New Testament readings for my oldest to read on his own, I was failing to ever read the New Testament to my other children!

We've been reading pretty straight through the Old Testament for a few years now. {I only read the stories, while skipping laws and long lists of names.} We are ready to begin Ruth when we start back up. We'll start our New Testament reading in Matthew and read straight through that book as well. And, of course, we'll keep up our daily practice of one Psalm and one Proverb.

I switched a couple books out. Last term, we were reading I Wonder Why Trees Have Leaves and selections from The Book of Virtues. We finished the former, and I was ready to move on from the latter.

Circle Time Weekly Schedule 2011-2012 Term 2


  • My Shadow
  • Crossing the Bar {This is the first time E. picked his own poem--he was allowed to choose from all the Tennyson poems he read last term. He says, "I just love this poem! It is sad and sweet at the same time."}
From my Scribd account...

Annual Review

My husband has his annual review at work each December, and so I suppose it is time for mine! In his job, my husband has lists of tasks and responsibilities to carry out, plus goals for each year. I see New Year Resolutions in a similar light. Something might come up that keeps me from completing them {like the year my husband's task of giving a semi-annual talk was destroyed by the idea of an Internet conference that could be recorded once and then given online for much less money}, but they are still a way of gauging whether I moved in the direction I intended to go.

And if I didn't, I get a chance to ask myself what happened.

What can I say? I don't mind the exercise, and perhaps that's because I try to only make realistic resolutions. No becoming-a-different-person-by-March!

Below, I pasted my resolutions from last year, and next to it is my analysis of what happened.

Spiritual Formation Goals
  • Read a book of the Bible with a commentary. Done. Well, sort of. I started reading through John's Epistles {slowly} using From Behind the Veil by Peter Leithart. Probably the best thing that has come from this thus far is that I finally understand chiasm, something I tried {and failed} to grasp when I was in seminary. The problem here is that I didn't exactly finish. About halfway through the book, my pastor started preaching through the first five chapters of Revelation. I couldn't resist; it was the perfect time to purchase Eugene Peterson's Reverse Thunder. I read through the first few chapters of that in pace with the preaching, which lasted through the autumn. I'd like to finish both of these soon. Even though I didn't exactly meet my goal, I think I met with the spirit of it, and it was a fruitful experience.
  • Journal the promises of God and the Bible's IF/THEN statements. Not done. And I really have no excuse, other than I think that it was generally hard for me to think about commentaries and journaling at the same time. I know that sounds silly, but apparently I am only capable of adding one thing in addition to normal Bible reading.
          Self-Education Goals
          • Add literature to my self-education program. Done. I didn't read a lot of it, but since there have been years where I read no fiction or literature of any kind {save what I read aloud to my children, of course}, I consider reading five titles a success. I'm already planning to read more in this coming year, and I hope to make it a habit.
          • Keep track of books read. Done! This was great; truly enjoyable and now I regret that I didn't do it sooner. If you missed it, the list is here.
          • Finish summarizing Charlotte Mason's Volume 3: School Education. Not done. Actually, I completely forgot I meant to do this. There are benefits to re-reading our resolutions, I am learning. Perhaps this year I ought to resolve to print my resolutions out and re-read them every month!
          Kitchen Goals
          • Perfect sourdough skills and finish sourdough class. Done. I can make two loaves of sourdough bread without looking at a recipe, and they taste great.
          • Learn to ferment vegetables. Not done. I tried a couple different recipes, and I failed each time. It was discouraging {to say nothing of the mocking I endured from a certain man I happen to be married to}. I'm not giving up, though!
          • Learn to make clam chowder. Done. I did this for Valentine's Day. It was extremely expensive, but a fascinating experience to work with live clams. I'd do again if I could afford to.
          • Focus on nutrient density. Done. Sort of. I learned that my best bets on organ meats are two: liverwurst, and a type of inexpensive pastured ground beef blend I found that is 10% heart and liver.
          Health Goals
          • Get more sleep. Done. Most of the year, I did well at this, and part of that was due to my husband insisting that this was something I needed to do.
          • Build a healthy snacks rotation. Not really done. I tried and served some healthy snacks, but they never made it into an actual rotation. Old habits die hard, I guess. I am still consistently serving apples and cheese! I still plan to work on this because I think variety would be good for all of us.
          • Buy a lightbox or sunlight lamp. Not done. I decided not to do this. I have problems with my eyes, having become legally blind due to a condition called keraticonus {my eyes do not actually look like cones, as you see in some pictures} when I was a teenager. The more I read about the stress these things put upon the eyes, the more I decided they weren't a good idea for me. Instead, I found that making a habit of daily walks {not a resolution, but something I did} gave me lots of sun exposure, and combined with my addiction to fermented cod liver oil, I'm sure I'm getting enough Vitamin D.
          Home, General Life, and Microhomestead Goals
          • Focus on the master bedroom. Not done. {I have hope for this year, though.} Si gave me a very generous budget. I started shopping around and deciding what I liked. About three weeks later, we discovered our two oldest children needed extensive orthodontic care. I gave my budget back to help cover those bills. I will say, however, that I continued to shop {and read a few decorating blogs}, and so I feel like I know what I like, which is helpful. Perhaps this year I'll find the budget I need...or a miracle on Craig's List!
          • Make window covering for play nook. Not done. No excuses: I procrastinated too long, and then Daughter Q. broke one of my most important tools for this task. So now I need to go buy a new tool, and it's all my fault for waiting too long.
          • Paint with the children weekly. Sort of done. It wasn't weekly, but it was much, much more than ever before. I still would like to make it a weekly habit, but that seems to work better during summer breaks than the rest of the year.
          • Enroll all 4 children in swimming lessons in March. Done. More important, the oldest two are done with lessons. Only the little two need them this year.
          • Organize girls' desk/craft supplies. Done. And it looks great.
          • Research the raising of meat rabbits. Done. I researched them. And then we decided that this wasn't something that was going to fit our lives. And so now we own two goats. Go figure.
          • Replace the two dead trees in the orchard. Done. I thought that one of the new ones died again, but this winter {of all times} it has revealed some little green leaves, so we're just going to keep on babying it and hope for the best. This means that, as long as nothing dies on us, the orchard space is all full.