31 January 2013

When Things Go Wrong: Using CM to Troubleshoot

[W]e are limited to three educational instruments--the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas. The P.N.E.U. Motto is: "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life."
This past week, our CM reading group discussed the above, which is Charlotte Mason's fifth principle of her philosophy of education. She says we are limited to these three. That's it. There's nothing else, because she believed everything else was a form of manipulation, or it was preying upon the child's sinful tendencies. If we bribe them, we appeal to their greed; if we hold up prizes, we appeal to their avarice; if we threaten them, we appeal to their fears, and so on.

Now, whether or not you entirely agree with her, stay with me, because that's not the direction I'm going.

When I read this quote, our morning Circle Time had begun falling apart {again}. I have jokingly referred to it as the "best and worst time of our day," and there's truth in that. It's sort of like that Longfellow poem about the girl with the curl:
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.
Yep. Circle Time is like that. When it is good, it is almost magical. When it's bad, I sort of want to throw something, or at least throw in the towel.

I think that because it can be so good, I am more sensitive when things go wrong. I want that goodness, and I want it every day, in the way that I want good food and clean air and pure water. I want it to be as much a habit as the necessary things we have come to expect, a crowning of our daily lives.

But it doesn't always work out that way.

Recently, my seven-year-old daughter kindly taught my four-year-old son how to fake burp. He has decided that Circle Time is the best time to practice his new talent. No matter how funny you do or do not think this is, I'm sure you can understand that it is emphatically not funny the five thousandth time, and during prayer at that!

Everything sort of declines from there. People stop paying attention out of silliness, and suddenly our wonderful time is chaos.

I was irritated by this, and grumbling about it inside of myself when I sat down to study up for our reading group.

We are limited to three educational instruments...

What if?

It was like a light bulb turned on in my brain.

What if we used these instruments as mental categories when we were pondering what to do about the problem areas in our days?

Problems of Atmosphere

If we read chapter 6 of Charlotte Mason's sixth volume, we see that by "atmosphere," she doesn't mean a contrived environment, where everything is tailored to make life wonderfully cushy and perfect for children. She simply means a realistic, wholesome feeling that is infused into the very air of the house. Atmosphere is the intangibles as well as the tangibles, the smile on Mother's face when she greets you in the morning as well as the habit of sitting down to breakfast as a family. The child is taught as much by his conveniences as his inconveniences -she specifically mentions adapting himself to others, such as when he must be quiet for the sake of the baby, or put away his toys because Grandmother is coming.

In For the Children's Sake, Susan Schaeffer Macauley includes:
  • The child is accepted for who he is
  • His mind is not looked down upon
  • He shares his interests
  • Friendship
  • Security
  • Creativity
  • Not judgmental
  • ALL are under God's authority
  • Enjoying knowledge {i.e., the parents/teachers are enjoying it also, not just the children}
  • Not artificial
  • Freedom within structure
  • Friendly
  • Purposeful
  • Relaxed
  • Not cooped up or organized too long
These are some aspects of good homeschool atmosphere.

Some of the examples given at our reading group, when we discussed this, were fascinating to me. I think especially of my friend, who was able to have a contagious interest in something. Her son, who was not initially interested, became so because she was interested.

When it comes to my current Circle Time difficulties, I think that our main problem is not atmosphere, but there is a resulting atmosphere problem that I need to control. First, there is the silliness. I am not against silliness, but it is tearing down our Circle Time habits, and once it appears, it is like a weed with a long taproot, almost impossible to get rid of, at least for that day.

But second, there is me. I start to violate the above list, becoming unfriendly, tense, and generally unpleasant to be around. It is something I need to guard against.

Problems of Habit

Habits are things we don't actually make decisions about. Miss Mason likens them to train tracks. We run along the rails, as it were.

Macauley tells us that habits can be things like:
  • Paying attention or concentrating
  • Noncommunication
  • Failure or discouragement
  • Truthfulness
  • Self-control
  • Unselfishness
Of course, there are far, far more habits than these. These are just the beginning of the list we can build.

Macauley also considers the daily rhythm or schedule a habit--and I noted when I read this that there have been times in the past where I've "solved" problems by moving the routine around so that it better fits our current needs.

When I think about using these categories of atmosphere, habit, and life to troubleshoot, I am struck by the idea that habit is where our problem lies. We had a habit of good Circle Time behavior. We are losing it, and if I don't get it under control soon, we will have a habit of bad Circle Time behavior.

I need to think through my behavioral expectations for Circle Time and help my children regain the old habits they had, or new ones they might need. I think this is my surest road back to Happy Circle Time.

Problems of Life

Education, Miss Mason says, must be life-giving. So just as food and air and water and sunshine and sleep are necessary for a wholesome bodily life, so the mind must be given its due allotment. The mind needs but one thing, according to Mason, and it is ideas. This is the food upon which is grows and thrives.

To use this for troubleshooting, though, I think we'd have to expand the category to simply mean "life-giving," for how many of us have tried to settle down to a good, living book, full of wonderful, beautiful ideas, only to have the time spent unsuccessfully because we or the child are too tired. The bodily life is inextricably tied to the life of the mind, which is why, when it came to one of our daughters, the quickest way to educational progress was dietary adjustments and not curricular.

For this category, I imagine we can ask ourselves these sorts of questions:
  • Is my child getting enough sleep every night?
  • Is my child eating a healthy, balanced diet?
  • Is my child allergic to anything?
  • Is my child exposed to pure water and clean air?
  • Am I offering my child a broad and generous education, full of living ideas? Or am I offering busy work full of information divorced from ideas, things which couldn't be interesting to anyone for very long?


It seems like every problem I've experienced while homeschooling, every bump in the road, fell into one of these categories. Sometimes the problem was atmosphere. Our family was in the midst of a crisis and the home felt tense. Or I was putting pressure on a child to do something he simply wasn't ready for. Or someone woke up grumpy and upset everyone else.

For us, the problem has often been habit. Miss Mason reminds us that if we do not put in place good habits, bad habits will grow up of their own accord. This is why she says that the job of habit is to correct nature. It is assumed that we will run into bad ways without structure. So I need to constantly build and guard our habits--I need to have a habit of habit making, truth be told. I don't always have that, and we suffer for it.

And sometimes the problem is that something is no longer giving the child in question life. Something is draining the child. If, for example, I was filling Circle Time with tedious things, devoid of ideas, no amount of good habits or atmosphere could rescue us. Sometimes, a child is trying to have a habit of attention, but they are distracted by their own tiredness from lack of sleep, or that unsettled feeling from food allergies.

I am going to try and file this away in my mind so that, next time troubles pop up {and they inevitably will}, I have some categories to use as I try to get to the bottom of the matter.

30 January 2013

Happy Early Valentine's Day or Something: 25 Free Kindle Books

It's not customary to give Valentine's gifts to readers, but perhaps you are loading a Kindle for someone you love? A little boy, perhaps? If so, good news: I'm sharing 25 more free Kindle books, books I will soon put on my own 10-going-on-11-year-old son's Kindle. He's the type that is always starving for books. I considered limiting his reading time, but when I timed him, I found he didn't spend too much time reading. He's just very, very fast.

25 Free Kindle BooksAnd also voracious.

We gave him a {used and very inexpensive} Kindle for Christmas back in 2011. I had loaded it with 100 free Kindle books. He also received real books.

You know.

The kind you put on a shelf.

So with all the real books we have, it has taken him until about now to finish the 100 books. He's almost done, and this list is preparation. I didn't want everything to be fiction, but honestly that was what was easy for me to decide upon at this point.

Besides, I am also giving him the letter A of his Gran's encyclopedia set. That should keep him busy!

Like my last list, I've checked it against the Ambleside Online book lists so that I don't give him a book that should be saved as an assignment someday {which I have accidentally done--and regretted--before}.

Also: beware that, when it comes to Kindle books, sometimes you get what you pay for. I cannot guarantee that there are not major problems with some of these books, that there are linked tables of contents, or anything of the sort. I can say, however, that out of the extensive last list, my son only complained about a couple of the books. And, honestly, free is the price I am willing to afford when it comes to digital copies. Some of these are titles I'm looking to add to our family library eventually, but for now this will do.


Tiger and Tom and Other Stories for Boys
What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge
The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
The Gentleman from Indiana by Booth Tarkington
Ramsey Milholland by Booth Tarkington
Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington
The Phantom Ship by Frederick Marryat*
The King's Own by Frederick Marryat*
Masterman Ready by Frederick Marryat*
Main-Travelled Roads by Hamlin Garland
A Son of the Middle Border by Hamlin Garland
Prairie Folks by Hamlin Garland
The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
The Spy by James Fenimore Cooper
Pathfinder; or, the Inland Sea by James Fenimore Cooper
Twilight Land by Howard Pyle
Stolen Treasure by Howard Pyle

Science Fiction

The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
A Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne**
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

Fables and Faerie

Tales of Troy and Greece by Andrew Lang
Myths of the Norsemen from the Eddas and Sagas by H.A. Guerber

Australian Studies

The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay
Seven Little Australians by Ethel Sybil Turner

*Technically, "others" by Marryat are suggested as free reading for Ambleside Online Year 10. I skipped the actual assigned title, but offered these because they are suggested for grades 4-6 on the 1000 Good Books List.
**I have heard some complaints about bad Verne translations, and I have no idea of this is a good one. If one of you has an opinion, I'd love to hear it.

28 January 2013

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Well, we made it to another Monday. Last night, I thought I might not, but, behold!, the sun still arose in the east. My least-favorite goat did almost kill me last night, though. Actually, it was probably something akin to pride that did it. Charlotte, our queen of the herd {no matter the size of the herd; she always comes out on top} decided that she would not be penned up last night. I decided right then and there that I would win this battle of wills. It was like dealing with a toddler, only she has horns and can run fast. Right?

Well, I ran after her, I did. In my boots. In the mud. Over hill and dale. Or something.

I ran.

And then I tripped.

I fell.

Actually, it was more like flying.

I landed on my arm, which, by the way, still hurts right now.

You know what they say about pride, right? It truly goeth before falling, and I am living proof. We are all glad my arm is not broken, and my good jeans don't quite have a hole in them {though I am kicking myself over the state of the knee regardless}.

The end.

This concludes my personal "news." On to the real stuff!

  • Choosing Conviviality or Perpetuating a Pity Party? from Simply Convivial. I'm comforted to hear I'm not the only one who sees a fault in my child, only to find it later in myself.
    It’s easy to tell him, “Look, this same sheet took you 5 minutes last week. You’re being ridiculous. Just do it instead of complaining about it and you’ll be done.”

    Yet I go around the house, seeing piles of stuff to deal with, laundry to be folded, a basket of random stuff I don’t want to think about, a cupboard that I am afraid to open for fear of the avalanche of papers and pencils and random bits, the crumbs and spills left in drawers, the crumbs and spills left on the floor. I see all that I could or should do, and instead of doing something, stare out the window (or at the computer screen) and feel sorry for myself.
  • Whoops: PolitiFact's 'Lie of the Year' Turns Out to Be True from The Weekly Standard. Of course it is. You didn't really expect them to fact-check their lie of the year, did you?
    By expanding Jeep production to China, instead of increasing Jeep production in the U.S., it's safe to say Jeep (or more properly, Fiat, which now owns Chrysler) is choosing to create more jobs overseas instead of in America where taxpayers bailed the company out.
  • 17 lost pyramids discovered in Egypt by space scientists from NBCNews.com. How cool is this?
    Sarah Parcak and her team at a NASA-sponsored laboratory at the University of Alabama at Birmingham made the discoveries using a satellite survey, and also found more than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements in infrared images that show up buildings underground...
  • If you lose your cellphone, don't blame Wayne Dobson from Las Vegas Review-Journal. This poor man! Talk about a technology nightmare!
    A technician there explained the problem, but didn't provide a solution, he said.

    Dobson was told that cellphone GPS systems don't provide exact locations - they give a general location of where to start your search. And for some reason his house is that location for his area.

    "I knew then I had a problem," he said.
  • Given Tablets but No Teachers, Ethiopian Children Teach Themselves from MIT Technology Review. This didn't surprise me as O-Age-Four just taught himself to write an "S" as I was sitting here mostly ignoring him.
    Earlier this year, OLPC workers dropped off closed boxes containing the tablets, taped shut, with no instruction. “I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,” Negroponte said. “Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”
  • Why C.S. Lewis Didn't Write for Christianity Today from Christianity Today. Velly, velly intellesting.
    "But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world," Lewis later said of the power of fiction to present truth, "could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons?" Lewis thought so. Thus, his writing career focused on smuggling theology behind enemy lines. The enemies Lewis now faced were comfort and post-war apathy. To battle both, he would engage his readers' imagination.
  • Homemade Christmas: Introduction and Monogram Art from Dem Golden Apples. My sister-in-law, Kristen, is doing a once-a-month, preparation for Christmas, handmade gift series. {Was that really a sentence??} I think it's great but, knowing me, I won't actually do anything until October.
    Recently I decided that I would challenge myself to make every single Christmas gift (and maybe even birthday gifts along the way) for Christmas this year. I could focus on one or two ideas a month, make however many I needed to correspond to my gift list, and try not to spend any money doing it. I wonder if I can only use supplies that I already have or obtain for free throughout the year. This will be a fun challenge, and I am looking forward to also sharing these ideas with others.
  • Sarkozy's plans 'to dodge new 75% French tax rate by moving to London with wife Carla and setting up £1bn private equity fund' from MailOnline. Yet another rich person leaves France to avoid excessive taxation. California should take heed...but it won't. Sigh.
    Former president Nicolas Sarkozy could become the next wealthy Frenchman to flee to Britain over his country’s looming tax hikes on the rich.

    Mr Sarkozy – who famously snubbed the Prime Minister’s attempt to shake his hand after Mr Cameron vetoed changes to the EU treaty in 2011 – is reportedly planning to move to London to set up a £800million investment fund.
  • The Economics of Downton Abbey from Acton Institute Power Blog. I am still waiting for Netflix to deliver the Season 1 DVD, but this is an interesting read nonetheless, and I'm sure moreso if you have actually watched the show. And, by the way, the beginning appears to hail the type of German education that...well...that produced the Germany Britain later had to go to war with. Twice. Creating jobs? Good! Utilitarian education? Production of men without chest and therefore war. {Bad.}
    Great Britain undertook massive insurance and pension schemes in the early 1900s. By 1911, they had unemployment insurance and compulsory medical insurance. Tocqueville called this sort of thing “soft despotism” — “the people’s voluntary surrender of their liberty in return for material ease.” The languishing lifestyle of the Granthams of “Downton Abbey” is now within the grasp of all Brits – surely, equality at its best.
I actually have more, but this is a long list, so I'll save it for next week. Someday we'll catch up.

25 January 2013

The Three-Hour Birthday Cake

Because I became totally obsessed with the gun issue for a couple weeks there, I almost forgot to share the cake photos from when Q-Age-Five became Q-Age-Six. She is a New Year's Eve baby, if you recall.

This is the first time I've chosen a cake directly from Pinterest. Usually, I search around on the web and pin things to Pinterest so that the birthday child can pick from a selection of cakes I think I can actually make. But this time I searched on Pinterest, repinned, and there you are. Talk about a time saver!

Q-Age-Six had requested a butterfly cake, but for some reason a photo similar to the ones you see here also turned up. I'm so glad, for I wasn't really relishing the chance to make my 87th butterfly cake, despite how pretty they may be. I try to make something new each time, and I was coming to the end of butterfly options.

I call this The Three-Hour Cake because that is how long it took me--along with my husband--to decorate this cake.

The Tutorial

I didn't actually read directions for this cake, but instead tried to duplicate what I saw in the original photo. The cake underneath is a sourdough chocolate cake that came out a little heavy. Oh well. It is three layers. As a general rule, I choose the number of layers in a cake based upon how many guests we're expecting rather than what the cake ends up looking like.

I made a triple batch of frosting. While it was still white, I stacked the cakes {using frosting as the fill} and also did a crumb coat {which you can see a bit and for the record I am not a perfectionist, therefore I don't care}. There were seven colors: pale pink, bold pink, purple, green, blue, yellow, and orange. I divided the frosting evenly into seven bowls and tinted all the colors. Then, I put star tips onto bags and filled the bags with the frosting.

Do not try to make this cake without seven separate bags of frosting with their own tips.

You may lose your mind if you try to do that. I skimp on bags and tips as a general rule, but this cake makes that impossible.

I took four colors and my husband took three and we just started putting stars on, trying not to touch colors. As the night wore on, I cared less and less {Type-B} while my husband began to feel challenged to make sure no color ever touched {Type-A}. I accidentally touched two stars of the same color and he took it off and fixed it.

He was very passionate about it, even though when we started he thought cake decorating was a pretty lame way for us to spend a Friday evening.

I'm just saying.

Three hours later: pretty cake. It is really easy to make; it just takes a. lot. of. time.

But it was fun and, more importantly, the birthday girl was completely thrilled. There was a lot of oohing and ahhing and jumping up and down cheering, which was very satisfying for the two tired parents hosting the party.

I keep joking to my husband that when they are big I'm not going to make fancy cakes anymore; I will retire. But actually, I can see myself calling my thirty-year-old and telling her to look at all the cakes I pinned on Pinterest--which one does she want?

What can I say? It is a fun tradition.

And see? I made it through the entire post without freaking out that my littlest daughter turned six.

Oh. my. gosh. Is she six?

I keep telling them to stop growing up, but they are all four disobedient.

24 January 2013

Understanding Guns in America:
Res Publica, the Nature of a Republic

Farmer Boy
by Laura Ingalls Wilder

{affiliate link}
"The Hardscrabble boys came to school today, Royal tells me."

"Yes," Mr. Corse said.

"I hear they're saying they'll throw you out."

Mr. Corse said, "I guess they'll be trying it."


"They have driven out two teachers," he said. "Last year they hurt Jonas Lane so bad he died of it later."
"Bill Ritchie, come up here."

Big Bill jumped up and tore off his coat, yelling:

"Come on, boys!" He rushed up the aisle. Almanzo felt sick inside; he didn't want to watch, but he couldn't help it.

Mr. Corse stepped away from his desk. His had came from behind the desk lid, and a long, thin, black streak hissed through the air.

It was a blacksnake ox-whip fifteen feet long. Mr. Corse held the short handle, loaded with iron, that could kill an ox.
"The boys didn't throw you out, Royal tells me," Father said.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union..." This is the famous beginning of our beloved Constitution. That little phrase--we the people--sums up the idea of a republic, which comes from the Latin phrase res publica, meaning "public matter."

I have never lived under any other form of government. I find that, for example, my ideas about monarchy are being constantly unmade and remade as I read about different countries and different times in history because I do not fully understand monarchy.

Or any other form of government.

But I do have an intimate understanding of a republic because not only is our federal government republican, but the Constitution guarantees to each State a republican form of government as well:
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government... {from Article IV, Section 4}
In a republic, the government is the concern of the governed. The government is not the property of a ruler or a ruling class.

In President Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address, his final sentence was:
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
In a republic, the government is you and the government is me. We elect leaders and they lead according to the consent of the governed. If they lead badly, we can even recall them rather than allow them to finish out their term, as my great state did with Governor Grey Davis not so very long ago. We fired him; he no longer had our consent.

It is here, then, that we get into what I think is the symbolic nature of keeping and bearing arms. In a republic, I, the citizen, am a part of the government. I, along with the rest of the citizenry, hold the supreme power. What goes on here is my responsibility, not the responsibility of someone else out there in "the government." Government starts with me. It starts at home.

In owning and using weapons, then, I affirm that I am a citizen of a republic. In Rome, which clearly had an influence on our founders, as evidenced by their almost unceasing quotation of Cicero, citizens owned and carried weapons. Slaves did not, unless the bearing of arms was a part of their duties {such as if they were an armed guard}. Accordingly, citizens had rights and duties while slaves did not. Slaves were property to be taken care of; only citizens were free.

My gun or my crossbow or my sword--whatever it is I choose to own and operate--is a symbol of not only my rights, but my duties as a citizen of the republic.

Conversely, if the government takes away my weapons, we are no longer on equal footing. It is asserting its right to rule over me. In effect, I become a subject of some sort of monarchy or ruling aristocracy, rather than a citizen.

The Bill of Rights was modeled after the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was drafted by George Mason {primarily} in 1776. The phrasing in the Virginia Declaration in regard to bearing of arms is a bit different, however, and instructive:
That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and be governed by, the civil power.
The only nation I'm aware of that practices this traditional republican form of defense today is Switzerland. America obviously has a standing army, and a big one at that. Even though this is true, many of us still believe that the most natural defense is the body of citizens itself because, again, a republic is a public matter, not a private one. It belongs to us all, not to a ruling elite.

This is the way of a republic. This is its nature. We vote. We walk precincts. We run for office. We own weapons. This is all part and parcel of self-government.

Many citizens of our country have not studied the republic. Classical education has been dead here for a hundred years, and consequently we are no longer producing the caliber of men we once saw--the type of men who made up the founding generation. In the public schools, we are constantly told that we live in a "democracy," while snacking upon shallow soundbites about how George Washington owned slaves or Thomas Jefferson had an affair. When we graduate, we are ignorant.

I was mostly ignorant, and would have totally been so had it not been for the intervention of my father, and one teacher who dared to have his students read the original documents.

I did not really study up until years after I had graduated from college.

In spite of our ignorance in the details, many Americans still have a collective memory, fuzzy though it may be. When someone mentions taking our guns, we get literally up in arms {ammunition sales have skyrocketed lately, as have new memberships to the National Rifle Association}. I think this is a reaction to a symbol. Guns still remain as a symbol of not only our natural rights and freedoms, but of our equality to our government--to the fact that we are not a ruled people.

I cannot imagine Mole and Ratty and Badger without their firearms, for free men wage war when they have to, even if it is only upon stoats and weasels. I cannot imagine Mr. Corse without his ox-whip, putting order back in his schoolhouse. I cannot imagine Lord Peter Wimsey and Bunter without their automatic pistols, for free men don't wait for the police to show up. And I cannot imagine an American republic without her proper, natural, and safe defense.

Read the Understanding Guns in America Series:
The Noise that Made the Redcoats Run
Our Inherited Rights as Free Englishmen
Natural Rights and Legal Rights 
James Madison's Angel Problem 
On Amendments and Ratification
Res Publica, the Nature of a Republic ⇦ you are here

23 January 2013

Understanding Guns in America:
On Amendments and Ratification

Why can't you just change the Constitution?" she asked. I admit that my first thought was, Why don't we change the Bible as well? It just isn't done! But then I found I needed to think about this because, of course, it is done, it has been done. The Constitution itself outlines the appropriate process for approving an amendment. It has been badly done, as in the case of Prohibition. And it has been wisely done, as in the case of the outlawing of slavery.

But what has never been done is to tamper with the Bill of Rights. We have made additional amendments, but we've never altered those original ten amendments.


To understand this we have to go back over the concept of natural rightsIf natural rights originate in the mind of the Creator, and if this means they are therefore unalterable, and if the bearing of arms is a natural right, then we have no right to alter the Second Amendment.


Charlotte Mason talks about this in regard to other parts of life. She says our thoughts are not our own, that we are free to think what we like:
Our thoughts are not our own and we are not free to think as we choose. The injunction,––"Choose ye this day," applies to the thoughts which we allow ourselves to receive. Will is the one free agent of Mansoul, will alone may accept or reject; and will is therefore responsible for every intellectual problem which has proved too much for a man's sanity or for his moral probity. We may not think what we please on shallow matters or profound. The instructed conscience and trained reason support the will in those things, little and great, by which men live.

In regard to child rearing, she says something similar. Our children are not our own, that we can do with them what we will. We do not have the right, for example, to ignore lying or to fill them up on candy, for this sort of mismanagement is against the law of God, which is our rightful governor when we are mothering our children.

In regard to teaching she says that we do not have the right to make undo play upon a child's passions, to bribe him with prizes, to play upon his pride with praise, to play upon his desire to please with a manipulating personality, and so on. In other words, we do not have the right to transgress natural law in order to get our desired results.

Natural law, you see, always has attendant duties.

In the same vein, then, governments may not do what they will with their citizens. They do not have that right. Natural rights are the things which they are obligated to respect. Some governments don't, of course, but the fact remains.

This is why I say that when we discuss the Second Amendment, we need to have a philosophical conversation rather than one which plays upon fear or appeals to statistics. We need to ask what is a natural right, if keeping and bearing arms is one, and if it is, we are obligated to respect that, regardless of our personal feelings about weapons

The Bill of Rights: Foundation of the Constitution

I have heard more than one person comment lately that, in overturning the Second Amendment, our legislators or President {if he attempted to do this by Executive Order} would be overturning the Bill of Rights, and therefore the Constitution itself. I have also noticed that some people who overhear this sort of comment cannot comprehend how that might be. After all, it's just an amendment, right? So...why not amend it again?

Even though the Second Amendment is considered an amendment, it is not an amendment in the usual sense. The Framers of the US Constitution were barely able to get the document ratified by the States on its own. What was required for a more unanimous agreement was a brief statement of natural rights.

All of the first ten "amendments" compose what we call the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was a statement defending citizens from any infringement upon their natural rights of life, liberty, and property.

The Constitution was ratified prior to the ratification of the Bill of Rights by only the slimmest of slim votes. It was considered by many to be unacceptable on its own, even though, if you read it, the Constitution is brilliant and elegant all in its own right.

But it wasn't enough.

Many people today read The Federalist Papers and are struck by how cautious the authors were. There is no Big Government to be found anywhere. The Federalist Papers, if you are not familiar with them, were written in order to persuade the American people to ratify the Constitution.

The Anti-Federalist Papers were written in response by the legendary Patrick Henry. In them, Henry argued against the ratification of the Constitution...because the government it proposed was too big and too powerful.

When I say the founding generation was concerned with tyranny, I am not joking. Their primary goal was to provide for the defense of natural rights.

The concern of the day was whether or not the Constitution proposed a government that consolidated too much power at the Federal level. This is what was being debated. The Bill of Rights made explicit what was implicit.

There was a huge concern at the time that in writing down--enumerating--natural rights, said natural rights were actually diminished in some way. In Federalist #84, for example, Alexander Hamilton argued against a Bill of Rights for this very reason:
{affiliate link}
I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and in the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why for instance, should it be said, that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power.

In the end, the solution was the Ninth Amendment:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
And the Tenth Amendment:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
After the passage of these ten amendments--the Bill of Rights--all at once, according to the process laid out in the Constitution, the other States were willing to ratify the Constitution, and so we became, truly, the United States.

Because so many states did not ratify the Constitution until the attachment of the Bill of Rights, many Americans believe we cannot have one without the other. Both documents were written around the same time, by the same people, with the same goal, which was of establishing an appropriate government for our people.

The Second Amendment wasn't something tacked on at the end, a big afterthought {not to disparage afterthinking, of course}. It came right after freedom of religion, press, assembly, and speech, and before biggies like freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, or the right to a trial by jury. It was considered part and parcel of natural rights belonging to citizens of a free republic. Moreover, what Hamilton wrote about the press applies here as well: Why for instance, should it be said, that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed, when no power is given by which infringements may be imposed?

In other words, it was assumed all the way around that the government had zero authority to infringe upon the bearing of arms by the citizens of the Republic.

Read the Understanding Guns in America Series:
The Noise that Made the Redcoats Run
Our Inherited Rights as Free Englishmen
Natural Rights and Legal Rights 
James Madison's Angel Problem 
On Amendments and Ratification ⇦ you are here
Res Publica, the Nature of a Republic

22 January 2013

Understanding Guns in America:
James Madison's Angel Problem

I mentioned natural rights at the end of last week. Natural rights are universal and inherent. They are not granted by any government--they are either respected or ignored. Government has no right to take them away, and when it does so, it is in violation of the moral order. This is a basic philosophical understanding of natural rights, albeit in capsule form

I think it is appropriate to raise the question of why the right to own and use a weapon must underpin the basic trinity of natural rights, the rights of life, liberty, and property. The answer is theological: man is fallen.

The Second Amendment is only one of many protections against tyranny found in the United States Constitution. It is, to some extent, a physical example of the balance of powers that is found all over the document.

When I was sixteen or seventeen years old, I fell in love with Madison's words in Federalist Paper #51:
{affiliate link}
If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

There is evil in the world. Scripture tells us that a day will come when it is appropriate to beat our swords and spears into farm equipment; a day when the nations shall no longer need to learn war. But as long as the current reality is--as long as there are bad men and bad governments--there is a need for the bearing of arms. I'm not saying I like it. Yes, I've enjoyed target practice with a bow and arrow. Yes, my children think learning to shoot is great fun. Yes, my husband loves skeet shooting. But do I get warm fuzzies from thinking about firearms?


The world is what it is. Our Founders created a document that addresses the reality that men were fallen, and yet men run governments. It acknowledged human frailty and sin. All of the various balances of powers, including the right of men and governments to own weapons, take into account that this world is not perfect, nor at the men in it. Utopia is not something we can bring upon the earth, even if we ban every gun, bullet, and kitchen knife.

If you recall, legal power is Constitutionally distributed over three branches. The Legislative Branch consists of the two houses of Congress: the House of Representatives and the Senate. These have the power to make law {but not to enforce it} and declare war {but not to wage it}. The Executive Branch consists of the President, Vice President, and the Cabinet. These have the power and responsibility to enforce law {not to make it--this is why the practice of making executive orders is so scandalous} and wage war {but not to declare it}. The President can propose things to the Congress, and he can veto things the Congress proposes. The Judicial Branch consists of the Supreme Court and other Federal courts. These evaluate the law. They can declare a law unconstitutional.

This same trinitarian separation of powers is seen {vaguely, I admit} in Plutarch's Life of Brutus. Did you ever notice that?

But I digress.

Why did they bother to create something so elaborate? The Branches are, after all, only the beginning. For example, the President is chosen by Electoral College rather than direct vote, and until the passage of the 17th Amendment, Senators were not elected directly by the people of the individual States, but appointed by individual State officials to represent the State's interests. {In fact, I would point to the 17th Amendment as the beginning of the decline of the Republic qua republic.}

Power must be balanced, rather than concentrated in any one place. It is the political equivalent of not putting all our eggs in one basket. The power is distributed, and the hope is usually that if one portion is corrupted, the other parts can put it back in order by using their particular powers.

Likewise, the Second Amendment prevents a monopoly on force, which is to say, a monopoly on whose rights can be defended, and who is able to defend rights. The government is not any more exempt from human failings than we are, for it is run by men, every bit like us. I think this is a good way to end today's post:
[A] belief in natural rights tends to result in pluralistic use of force, because people obviously have the right to defend their rights, whereas disbelief in natural rights tends to lead to an absolute monopoly of force to ensure that the state will have the necessary power to crush peoples rights and to sacrifice individuals, groups, and categories of people for the greater good. Conversely a monopoly of force leads to the denial of natural rights...

Read the Understanding Guns in America Series:
The Noise that Made the Redcoats Run
Our Inherited Rights as Free Englishmen
Natural Rights and Legal Rights 
James Madison's Angel Problem ⇦ you are here
On Amendments and Ratification
Res Publica, the Nature of a Republic

21 January 2013

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

I had hoped we'd be back to a collection of links by today, and we are. Happiness! Some of you were kind enough to help me out by emailing me a link or two, and I want you to know I appreciate that, as well as your patience during my computer's extended hospital stay.

I'm sure we all appreciate a break from thinking about the right to own and use a weapon! I will try to finish up this week, my friends.

Without further delay, let's get on to the list!

  • The gluten made her do it: How going gluten free saved my daughter's mental health from Anchorage Press. We never had a situation this bad in our home, but I cannot tell you what an amazing effect food allergies and sensitivities can have upon neurological functioning. It is truly amazing!
    By the time my twins were almost two years old, I was no longer mothering my daughter. I was merely surviving her. The night-time episodes continued, and the dress solution had been a fluke; it didn’t work a second time. I never knew what was going to set her off. I now had to hold her when she got upset, and instruct her twin brother to keep his distance, because now that she was older my daughter flailed wildly during an episode, hurting herself, her twin and me if she wasn’t gently but firmly restrained.
  • Attorney: Hobby Lobby to defy morning-after pill insurance requirement while lawsuit's pending from newser. This is likely not the latest news on the Hobby Lobby issue, but I had saved this link from Before Computer Problems and thought I'd share it today.
    Kyle Duncan, who is representing Hobby Lobby on behalf of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a statement posted on the group's website Thursday that Hobby Lobby doesn't intend to offer its employees insurance that would cover the drug while its lawsuit is pending.

    "The company will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees," Duncan said. "To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs."
  • The Big Things vs. The Small Things from The Winding Ascent. Wise words from Leslie.
    Rather than spending our lives dreaming of some big, heroic deed we'll do that will save the world, it might be more effective to look around at those people around us in the circumstances we've been placed, and make a difference in smaller ways, one life at a time, lest "while we are dreaming we are letting all our chances of doing slip by us."
  • Teaching our children to write, read & spell: A DEVELOPMENTAL APPROACH from You and Your Child's Health. Yet another reason why spending hours outside during the preschool years can be beneficial.
    The proprioceptive system is strengthened by physical movements, like sweeping with a broom, pushing a wheelbarrow, carrying groceries, emptying the trash, pulling weeds, or hanging from monkey bars. When children do these types of activities they stimulate pressure receptors within their muscles, tendons, and joints, thereby allowing their minds to make a map of the location of these various pressure receptors within the body.
  • Teaching a Child to Walk, to Use the Bathroom, and to Read from Simply Convivial. So true.
    There is so much to learning developmentally-based skills: desire, motivation, ability to control oneself in a new way, comprehension of a new facet of life. If we wait for readiness and cultivate that readiness when it comes – whenever it comes – we’ll be going with the grain of our individual student rather than against it. And, if there are no signs of readiness when we think there really should be, we can attempt it and see if those readiness skills and aptitudes were just hidden. And, if there’s frustration, we can back off, knowing the time will come and we can be patient.
  • Les Miserables Taught Me How to Hate Again from The Matt Walsh Blog. Please note: I love and appreciate Les Mis as a story, but this. was. hilarious.
    Les Miserables apparently holds the Guinness world record for longest musical about a minor parole violation. It tells the utterly pointless tale of an ex-con as he tries to elude a bumbling parole officer for 20 years. This is also, it should be mentioned, the first film to show two decades pass by in real time.
  • How reading Shakespeare and Wordsworth offer better therapy than self-help books from MailOnline. I've been reading both. I should be enlightened any day now, right? Right?
    Researchers at the University of Liverpool found the prose of Shakespeare and Wordsworth and the like had a beneficial effect on the mind, providing a 'rocket-boost' to morale by catching the reader's attention and triggering moments of self-reflection.
  • Please Don't Help My Kids from Alameda Patch. I so identified with this! I often make sure I have a friend or a good book with me at the park precisely so I will not be overly tempted to help my children.
    Dear Other Parents At The Park:

    Please do not lift my daughters to the top of the ladder, especially after you've just heard me tell them I wasn't going to do it for them and encourage them to try it themselves.

    I am not sitting here, 15 whole feet away from my kids, because I am too lazy to get up.

I could go on, but that's enough for today. Enjoy!

18 January 2013

Understanding Guns in America: Natural Rights and Legal Rights

The Declaration of Independence came after the start of the war, when it became evident that our differences with England--or, more accurately, King George--were irreconcilable. The text of the Declaration, then, gives us many clues as to the cultural, philosophical, and historical context--a context which eventually informed the Constitution and Bill of Rights, including our beloved Second Amendment.

In the Introduction, the Declaration says:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

So we see that the Founders start right off by referring to natural rights. The next sentence {the beginning of the Preamble} affirms this:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
We often focus on the end of this sentence, but I've highlighted some other words above because this is what I'm focusing on today: the concept of natural rights.

Natural rights are fundamentally different from legal rights. Legal rights are particular to a certain time and place. They flow from the government to the citizen {of course, in a Republic, the government derives its power from the citizen in the first place, but we'll get into that another day}. Natural rights are different; they are universal, fundamental to the accepted ideal conditions of mankind.

Now, the philosophical history of natural rights varies. Some, like Hobbes, believed they came from man himself, from man's ability to use reason. The Declaration, however, claims that they come from the Creator.

So, you see, the traditional American view is that there are some rights that are universal {they are the birthright of all men}, that are normative {they are prescribed for man by Nature, but obviously can be ignored by men in power}, and that are not to be infringed by an ideal government.

The question, then, becomes whether gun ownership is a natural right. I wish that this was the actual discussion we were having, because then we would be discussing what is normative and prescriptive. We would be having a discussion about some of the most important ideas out there, about things which transcend our own time.

The acknowledged natural rights were life, liberty, and property {Locke called them life, liberty, and estate}. Keeping and bearing arms was attendant to these three; the ability to defend the three natural rights was considered the fourth natural right. It could even be said that keeping and bearing arms was the foundation for the natural rights.

A man in full possession of his natural rights was said to be free. Bearing arms was the distinction of a free man, according to James Burgh {from Political Disquisitions, 1774}:
The possession of arms is the distinction between a freeman and a slave. He, who has nothing, and who himself belongs to another, must be defended by him, whose property he is, and needs no arms.

The purpose of this series, if you recall, is to try and understand gun ownership in America. Why do Americans own guns? Why do we like owning guns? {Why does no one complain that the Swiss own guns? But I digress...}

Today's lesson is simple. We believe that gun ownership is a natural right--not a legal one. Because of this, any infringement upon it is immoral. Natural rights do not change over time--they are a right of all men at all times.

When we debate the Second Amendment, then, we need to talk about natural rights. Natural rights do not change, so is weapon ownership not a natural right? What other natural rights were the Founders wrong about? Is there also no natural right to life? To liberty? To property? If the Founders were correct about life, liberty, and property, why should we think they were wrong about weapons? Are we aware that natural rights were considered to be among the Permanent Things? Why do we think our forbears were wrong? What evidence can someone give that natural rights do not exist, or that the right to bear arms is not among them?

These are, I believe, good questions to think through.

Read the Understanding Guns in America Series:
The Noise that Made the Redcoats Run
Our Inherited Rights as Free Englishmen
Natural Rights and Legal Rights ⇦ you are here
James Madison's Angel Problem
On Amendments and Ratification
Res Publica, the Nature of a Republic

17 January 2013

Understanding Guns in America: Our Inherited Rights as Free Englishmen

It is ironic that the most vehement opposition to gun ownership I have ever witnessed was voiced by a British citizen, because our right to bear arms here in the States is an inherited right--it was an acknowledged right of free Englishmen, which is why the colonists were so appalled when their King tried to disarm them {to say nothing of his other tyrannical acts}.

Russell Kirk talks about this extensively in his Roots of American Order, which is a must-read if you want to understand the extensive historical background of our founding documents. Truly, the structure of our laws go back to the Hebrews of Ancient Israel, the Greek and Roman Republics, in addition to the obvious, which is English common law.

According to Kirk:
The Roots of American Order
by Russell Kirk

{affiliate link}
One needs to note, moreover, that the Declaration's word is "government"--not "state." Eighteenth-century writers made a clear distinction between the two. "Government" implied the temporary possessors of power and their current political policies: whenever the king dismissed his ministers and chose new ones, a new "government" was formed. "State," on the other hand, meant what today we tend to call "society"--the established civil social order, permanent in character, with some sort of enduring constitution. The Declaration spoke of instituting "new Government," not of overthrowing the state itself, or the social order. That is another aspect of the moderation of the America "revolutionaries;" they argued that governments might be altered or abolished, but contemplated no pulling down of fundamental institutions and ways of life.
This is really important: the American Revolution was not actually a revolution, regardless of what we have called it {it is also called the War for Independence, which is more accurate}. It was believed that the King had departed from the laws. Therefore, the colonists were deposing him. Actions in this vein really go all the way back to when the English lords forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, but this will be a 100-part series if I go down that road, and I really don't think we all want me obsessing over the philosophy of gun ownership for the next year. At least my poor husband doesn't.


The important thing to understand today is that the right to bear arms, like so many other rights expressed in the Bill of Rights {the Bill is the first ten amendments to the Constitution, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the document} was an affirmation of already assumed English rights, many of which had been under direct attack by the King. The Founders saw themselves as restoring the natural order, not wreaking havoc.

The best place to read about this specific right is to read the Cato Brief on Second Amendment rights as a right inherited from England, which was filed for a US Supreme Court case not too long ago. {If you are not familiar with the Cato Institute, one of the Institute's primary goals is to promote an English common-law historical context in modern American public debate--this is why it is named after Cato's Letters.} The brief begins:
Over a century ago, this Court declared it “perfectly well settled” that the Bill of Rights was “not intended to lay down any novel principles of government, but simply to embody certain guaranties and immunities which we had inherited from our English ancestors,” including the rights’ “well recognized exceptions.” Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 U.S. 275, 281 {1897}. Indeed, “[t]he language of the Constitution cannot be interpreted safely except by reference to the common law and to British institutions as they were when the instrument was framed and adopted.” Ex parte Grossman, 267 U.S. 87, 108-09 {1925}.
I cannot excerpt the entire brief, of course, but it is fascinating reading, and I'd highly suggest it if you want to grasp a full historical context of this issue. Some seem to think the right of Americans to keep and bear arms is a novel curiosity, but I would say that, historically speaking, it is not. What is both novel as well as curious is the idea that men can be called free at all when they do not possess the basic, historically acknowledged rights of free men, the right to bear arms among them.

Again, according to the Cato brief:
The English right was a right of individuals, not conditioned on militia service; individuals might exercise the right collectively, but the unquestioned core was a broadly applicable and robust right to “keep” firearms in one’s home for self-defense. Even the “well recognized exceptions” confirmed this core right, by focusing on the carrying, not the keeping, of weapons.
In the future, we'll talk about the Declaration of Independence, and, of course, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, but today I thought we should reach further back in history before we move forward.

Read the Understanding Guns in America Series:
The Noise that Made the Redcoats Run
Our Inherited Rights as Free Englishmen ⇦ you are here
Natural Rights and Legal Rights
James Madison's Angel Problem
On Amendments and Ratification
Res Publica, the Nature of a Republic

16 January 2013

Understanding Guns in America: The Noise that Made the Redcoats Run

The cannons leaped backward, the air was full of flying grass and weeds. Almanzo ran with all the other boys to feel the warm muzzles of the cannons. Everybody was exclaiming about what a loud noise they had made.

"That's the noise that made the Redcoats run!" Mr. Paddock said to Father.

"Maybe," Father said, tugging his beard. "But it was muskets that won the Revolution..."

-Laura Ingalls Wilder

In most of the debates surrounding the Second Amendment, there are statistics flung around. I find these statistics of interest. Is it true that gun-free zones are more likely to attract crime than other places? Do guns cause criminals to think twice before committing an offence? Are most crimes involving firearms committed with illegal weapons, meaning that gun control would have no effect on said crimes because the guns used in these crimes are already disallowed? It's an interesting discussion, isn't it?

The problem is when we try to group this {admittedly interesting} discussion into our talk about the Second Amendment, the issue can get muddied.

As I said yesterday, the Second Amendment does not exist because our Founding Fathers were concerned with the uncanny knack of guns to deter crime, or the deep American affection for hunting. One of the things I have always appreciated about our Founders was their focus on Permanent Things. They aimed at universal, timeless principles rather than creating a governing document that was mired in its own time.

Our time, however, is very caught up in itself. This is why, when we discuss issues, we refer to statisticians and economists rather than philosophers and prophets. We have a bad case of chronological myopia. Culturally, we tend to be concerned with here and now. We don't think much about yesterday, nor do we think about tomorrow.

I think if we are going to try and understand our time and its problems {which are not unique, mind you}, we have to look back through the halls of history and find out how we got here {and also how men wiser than us dealt with similar problems}, not just in regard to the problems we have, but the legal documents that structure our society.

In the latter case, we need to go back to the days preceding the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, and even the Declaration of Independence. There are events which preceded these documents that inform their reading.

Often called "the shot heard 'round the world," the first shots of the American War for Independence, fired at Lexington April 19, 1775, were fired why exactly? Are you aware of the history of this? You may not be, for I know that I personally was not taught this in school; I had to learn it for myself as an adult studying history.

No one knows which side fired the first shot {or if perhaps a spectator fired one to get things going}, but what we do know is that General Gage had received orders shortly before this battle. His mission was clear: he was to disarm the colonists and arrest the rebel leaders. The colonists, who were supposed to have the rights of a free Englishman, had been taxed without representation, forced to quarter soldiers in their homes, and, to add insult to injury, the King had now ordered their total disarmament.

The Battle of Concord had the same cause; British troops were sent to Concord for the purpose of confiscating the colonial stock of firearms and ammunition.

The Founding Fathers were concerned with protecting the rights of citizens to bear arms because they knew not just history in general {though we can and ought to look there}, but their own very recent history, in which a tyrant stripped freemen of their rights--first their right to representation, then their right to a private domain, and then their right to arm themselves. The Founders' purpose was to protect against tyranny.

Our national discussion must center around universal principles and timeless concepts, around important ideas such as what it means to be free and what a tyrant looks like, what is a free man and what is his proper place and what are the rights proper to his position as a free man, if we are going to make wise decisions. Wisdom does not crunch numbers and read statistics and polls to make decisions. Wisdom concerns itself with truth--timeless truths. Or, as the Founders called them, "self-evident truths."

But I digress.

If we want to understand gun ownership in America, today's lesson is clear: Americans own guns--have the freedom to own guns--because there was a time when their government tried to take guns from them. The British oppression of the American colonies actually culminated in disarmament. Disarmament was the line the colonists did not allow their King to cross; it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

Once upon a time, the colonists were stripped of their rights as free men. Tyranny showed itself clearly in the very act of disarmament. And we put an end to tyranny using the very guns we owned.

Our history runs deep, and if we seem to cling to our beloved Second Amendment, this is one reason why.

Read the Understanding Guns in America Series:

15 January 2013

Understanding Guns in America: Introduction

I've had two topics on my mind lately: Latin, and gun ownership. {No, they do not have anything to do with one another.} The former I already dealt with in one lengthy post, but the latter topic I plan to cover over a few days or even a couple weeks, as I have time. Obviously, there is a debate raging over whether Americans should be "allowed" to own guns, and though this debate comes up time and again, I feel compelled to contribute to the conversation in a way I haven't before.

As in: out loud and in print.


Facebook is an interesting place, and not only that, it's a place I haven't spent much time until this past year. What has been especially fascinating to me is the discussions between people from the United States and people from other countries, especially Western nations that ban all or most gun ownership, such as Great Britain.

One family friend of ours was taken quite to task by his friends from the UK, who liberally sprinkled their arguments with the assertion that our {we Americans, I mean} insistence on owning guns is "stupid," "silly," and "dumb." Now, though the logic behind these statements is hard to locate, I'd like to suggest that this is a sign that we have officially reached a cultural barrier. At least some of the people in other cultures are completely baffled by Americans in this area. {A few people in New England and San Francisco are, too, but I digress.}

I'm not much for multiculturalism, and I do not think that all cultures are created equal. Therefore, I think debates like this can be quite healthy to have. I also enjoy talking to people who don't agree with me; I think it is fun and I like being forced to think harder.

With that said, I want to explain this series of posts. In a sentence, this is my attempt to explain why I think Americans own guns, value owning guns, and are unwilling to give up owning guns. I don't expect all of you {not even all of you Americans} to agree, and I don't expect to change your minds. I'm pretty sure that whatever you think about guns is what you will still think about guns when I'm done writing.

However, comma.

I hope that this endeavor of mine fosters an understanding that though our President likes to paint those of us who own guns as ignorant backwoodsmen clinging desperately to our barbaric "guns and religion," there is a lot more to the issue than meets the eye. If we were to suddenly change our cultural minds about guns, it would actually mean we were changing our cultural minds about a lot of things.

Richard Weaver told us ideas have consequences, and he was right. We--I mean Americans here, not just my personal family--own guns not because we want to kill and eat an antelope, or shoot a bad guy who tries to steal our stuff, though those are certainly ancillary benefits. We own guns because of how we have defined ourselves as a people and what we think about big things, like how government is structured, and what it means to be a free citizen of a Republic. These are the types of ideas that I hope to explore in coming posts, and I think they are important for all Americans to think about, whether they choose to own a gun or not.

Read the Understanding Guns in America Series:
Introduction ⇦ you are here
The Noise that Made the Redcoats Run
Our Inherited Rights as Free Englishmen
Natural Rights and Legal Rights
James Madison's Angel Problem
On Amendments and Ratification
Res Publica, the Nature of a Republic

14 January 2013

Blog Award?

Sweet Bethany saved me from having nothing to write today. Having been mostly computer-less lately, I have no links collected. {Next week! Next week!} So I was just going to skip today, until Bethany gave me something fun to do.

The Liebster Award

Bethany from Little Homeschool Blessings has given me the Liebster Award! The Liebster Blog Award is given to up and coming bloggers who have not yet hit the 200 follower mark. The award is presented by a fellow blogger as a sort of pat on the back "you've got a great thing started" type of award. "Liebster" is German for favorite.

The Rules

  1. List 11 facts about yourself.
  2. Answer the 11 questions given to you.
  3. Create 11 new questions for the bloggers you nominate for the award.
  4. Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate.
  5. Go to each bloggers page and let them know about the award.
  6. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.

My Facts

  1. I am two months older than my husband.
  2. He reminds me of this during said two months.
  3. I had blonde, mostly straight hair when I got married.
  4. Four pregnancies caused my hair to get dark and curly. Go figure.
  5. When I was in seminary, I told the other students I wanted to be a senior pastor.
  6. This was not true.
  7. I think I forgot to tell them this was not true.
  8. Now I'm embarrassed.
  9. I like SUVs over cars and trucks over both.
  10. My weapon of preference is a bow and arrow.
  11. I wish Regency period fashion would come back.

My Answers

  1. What makes you most happy about homeschooling? I love it when the lights literally come on in a child--their whole face glows with understanding. That is a breathtaking moment.
  2. What is the subject you like the least? I like math, but I don't necessarily like teaching math.
  3. What is your favorite season? Autumn.
  4. Who inspires you the most? Charlotte Mason, but I think you already knew that.
  5. Where do you like to spend your time? Avila Beach, CA. I don't actually get to spend much time there, but you asked where I liked to spend my time. My children agree with me on this.
  6. What is your favorite homeschooling song? Do you mean songs we sing during school? Because, if so, Early One Morning is my favorite right now. My four-year-old sings it...very cute.
  7. Which chore do you like the most? Laundry.
  8. What is (are) your hobby(ies)? Writing. Reading. Thinking. Milking goats. Raising children. Eating the Southwestern Chicken Salad at my favorite sandwich shop.
  9. If given the choice between sleeping in or going to bed early, what would you pick? Going to bed early.
  10. What is your favorite movie? Family Man.
  11. What is something you'd like to do if you had an extra hour? When I read this question, my mind was immediately filled with all the things I ought to do. But I supposed I'd like to read to my children or take a walk.

My Questions

Hmmm...I'm not feeling very creative today, so I mostly picked my favorite questions between the ones Bethany gave me, and the ones someone else gave to her.
  1. What is your favorite book?
  2. Where would you go on your dream vacation?
  3. If you could have any animal for a pet, what would you choose?
  4. What is your favorite season?
  5. What is something you'd like to do if you had an extra hour?
  6. What is your favorite color?
  7. Coffee or tea?
  8. What is your favorite subject to teach?
  9. What is the subject you like the least?
  10. Which chore do you like the most?
  11. If given the choice between sleeping in or going to bed early, what would you pick?


Here's who I'm giving the award to...go check them out! This is all a fancy way of suggesting some of my favorite blogs to you all. {Hint hint!}
  1. Cindy at Ordo Amoris
  2. Tammy at Aut-2B-Home in Carolina {I actually can't tell how many followers Tammy has, but I love her blog}
  3. Mystie at Simply Convivial
  4. Jeanne at A Peaceful Day
  5. Ellen at Suburban Saga
  6. Hayley at A Mum's Bouquet
  7. Jen at Joyful Shepherdess
  8. Kristen at Dem Golden Apples {Kristen is also my sister-in-law!}
  9. Dawn at LadyDusk
  10. Willa at Take Up and Read
  11. Phyllis at Hunsucker's Home
Whew! A number of my favorite blogs are juuuust over the 200 mark, so this made it difficult.

Thanks, Bethany, for the fun!