Monday, November 28, 2011

A Tale of Two Geneologies

It's that time of year again.  Advent.  A time to celebrate the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  My fifth 90 day Bible challenge has had me reading through the gospels and my husband preached on Christ's incarnation yesterday, so I'm primed for this post.  Remember when I confessed to you that my eyes used to glaze over when reading through geneologies in the Bible?  Can you relate?  Those names are becoming more familiar to me now and instead of letting my mind wander while reading lists of names, I've begun paying attention.   Guess what?  I discovered something that is not new at all, except that it's new to me.  Theologians have been discussing the two geneolgies of Christ for over a thousand years.

Mathew 1 and Luke 3 give two completely different geneologies for Christ.  They both show Him in the tribe of Judah and heir to the throne of David, but other than that there aren't many similarities.  They both say they are the geneologies of Jesus through His earthly father, Joseph.  Mathew lists only 27 generations (actually refers to 28) between David and Christ, whereas Luke lists 42.  That's a big difference!  But it's not only a difference in number of generations.  If you try to slide the missing 15 generations from Mathew's account into Luke's, they still don't fit.  Mathew traces the geneology of Jesus through Solomon.  Luke's geneology goes back to David's son Nathan, instead.  While there have been many explanations proposed, I'll touch on the ones I like that make sense to me.  With a few of my own musings thrown in, just for fun.

The most popular theory on the geneologies of Christ is that Mathew gives Joseph's geneology, whereas Luke gives Mary's.  This theory is not recent and seems to have been supported by Origen, Irenaeous, Tertullian, Athanasius, and Justin Martyr.  It would be strange for the geneology of a woman to be listed in the Bible, unique even, but then Mary is unique in all of history.  She was the one and only mother of the Messiah.  (Interestingly, Luke's gospel also gives the birth narrative from Mary's point of view.)  Then why didn't Luke just come out and say he was giving Mary's geneology?  Maybe he assumed since Mathew's account was already circulating that the church would immediately recognize his own as Mary's.  (It is debated whether Mark or Mathew was the first gospel written, but it's accepted that Luke was written after Mathew.)  It could be that Mary didn't have any brothers, so Joseph, as Mary's betrothed, was her father's heir and therefore considered as his son.  Mary and Joseph may even have lived with her family, further solidfying Joseph's role as Heli's descendant and heir.

And why does Mathew give a skeleton outline of a geneology, while Luke's is exhaustive?  Mathew was writing to the Jews to prove Jesus was indeed the long awaited Jewish Messiah.  He emphasized the kingship of Christ by tracing the kings of Judah from David to the captivity.  He also seems to give the numbers of generations that he gives for a reason (I didn't find anyone who commented on this, but I'm such a numbers person I can't believe it is without meaning.)   

"So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations."  Mathew 1:17

He's missing one according to my count, I count 14 from Abraham to David, 14 from David to captivity, and 13 from captivity to Christ.  Not sure if this was an oversight on his part or a trascription error later, or what.  But what's interesting to me is that Mathew emphasizes the number of generations that he's giving, even though Luke's geneology leads me to believe that Mathew's is only a skeleton.  I don't really know what Mathew has in mind.  14 x 3= 42  What's the significance of 42?  Maybe nothing.  If you multiply the number of man by the number of God (6x7), you get 42.  I realize that's a stretch.  I mean who thinks about those kinds of things?  It could have simply been a mnemonic device.  Mathew seemed to group things in numbers, especially the numbers 3 and 7.  Or what about symmetry?  Fourteen generations from God's covenant with Abraham, really the beginning of the Jewish nation, until David, God's annointed.  Then fourteen generations of the nation of Israel rebelling against God until judgment (captivity).  Then fourteen generations of captivity (national, yes for Israel never really regained her freedom, but also, or perhaps mainly spiritual captivity), until Israel's Messiah, God's Anointed, finally comes.  Fourteen generations of promise.  Fourteen generations of rebellion.  Fourteen generations of captivity.  And now the fulfillment of the original promise was here.  I think I get it.  I think I get Mathew and why he gave the geneology of Christ the way he gave it.

Now for Luke.  Luke was probably a Gentile (Greek), though that's debated.  At any rate, he doesn't seem to have the same audience in mind that Mathew has.  Luke emphasizes that Jesus is the savior for all of mankind, not just the Jews.  Luke gives explanations of Jewish customs and feasts, that a Jewish audience would have no need of.  Luke is also quite thorough compared to the other gospels.  For example, he includes 18 parables not found in any other gospel.  In Luke 1:3, he gives the purpose of his gospel, to write "an orderly account". 

"Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in oder a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed."  Luke 1:1-4

Luke was a physician, a profession requiring careful observation.  Precise details were important to Luke.  He's thorough, consulting multiple eyewitnesses.  His gospel is chronological.  No skipping generations for him.  In fact, Luke takes Christ's geneology all the way back to Adam, emphasizing more the humanity of Jesus, where Mathew emphasized His kingship.  Both were important.  Both were necessary.  Mathew and Luke are both right, but they're emphasizing different aspects of Christ's incarnation.

Immanuel means "God with us", God in flesh.  To redeem His people, God had to become man.  He also had to temporarily lay aside His kingship, only to pick it up again later, forever.

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  Philippians 2:5-11

So Christ only laid aside His kingship temporarily.  God had promised David that his kingdom would be established forever, and Jesus was and is the fulfillment of this promise.

"When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom... And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you.  Your throne shall be established forever."  2 Samuel 7:12, 16

Mathew was writing to a Jewish audience, so he emphasized the Jewish prophecies about the Messiah, that Jesus was the long-awaited, once and future King of Israel, the son of David who will rule forever.  Luke's gospel presents Jesus as Savior to the Gentiles, so he emphasized the humanity over the Jewishness of Jesus.  He goes back to Genesis 3, showing that Jesus is that promised seed of Adam who would crush the Serpent's head.  They're both right.  Jesus is King of the Jews and He's the Son of Man.  He's the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the World.  Let's remember to thank God this Advent season for including both of Christ's geneologies in His Word.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Couch Swimming Champion

Lucie has a big brother and two big sisters who swim.  She has ALWAYS been interested in swimming.  Lately she has devised a way to participate in her favorite sport (since she doesn't actually know how to swim).  Couch swimming.

Every swimmer knows the importance of a good start.

We're gonna have to work on her stroke.

On the winner's stand.

Showing her muscles.
What's really amazing about our champion couch swimmer, is this was her an hour earlier:

After a little while Lucie said, "Daddy, am I done with my smoke?"  Calvin's checking out the nebulizer.  I wonder if he remembers RSV from last Christmas.  Hope we don't get a repeat.

Reaction to Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck

I've had a little extra time to read over the Thanksgiving holiday and the first book I devoured,no pun intended, was Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck.  A friend had shown me her first book, Real Food, and I was interested enough to buy both it and her newer one for fertility, pregnancy, and babies.  I was really most interested in the diet for babies part, Calvin being allergic to most everything!

It's an enjoyable book and I found myself laughing in places and getting choked up in others.  I've already started preparing our meals differently, so I think the book will make a lasting impact on our lives.  Below are some of my mixed reactions.

1.  Nina confirmed suspicions I've had for years, but have never read elsewhere (although I haven't exactly been reading lots of nutrition books).  I am no nutrition expert, for sure, but I would guess I know more about nutrition than the average person.  My mom was always interested in nutrition and exercise and passed on lots of information to me when I lived at home.  In college, I majored in Sports Medicine and took lots of classes that aid in understanding nutrition such as anatomy and physiology, chemistry, organic chemistry, and nutrition itself.  In graduate school I studied biochemistry, more physiology, pharmacoloy, and as a professor even taught a Sports Nutrition class. 

Many things have bothered me through the years about food labeling and advertising.  For instance, you may have noticed orange juice fortified with vitamins.  I even bought this orange juice a few times before I got to thinking that the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) would never be absorbed in the absence of fat.  Unless I was serving up bacon or sausage with my kids expensive fortified oj, it was just vitamins down the toilet.  (And for the record, I wasn't serving up bacon and sausage, though that may change now.)  That goes for vitamin D fortified 2% and skim milk, too.  No fat, no absorption of fat soluble vitamins.  Same goes for my son's infant vitamin drops.  Added to cereal, it's pretty much useless.  I've never had a physician tell me this.  Maybe they assume I know.  Maybe I assume they know.

Another big confirmation was in the inefficiency of vitamin pills.  I had a professor in college who said taking vitamin pills was just buying expensive urine.  I filed that away and have thought about it from time to time.  Researchers are just beginning to understand the amazing complexity and interconnections between micronutrients.  We've known for a long time that vitamin D is needed for Calcium absorption.  We also need vitamin C to absorb iron, saturated fats to fully utilize omega-3 fats (an essential kind of unsaturated fat), and vitamin E probably prevents the oxidation of and thereby prolongs the usefulness of vitamin A.  I remember being in cancer biology and pondering which ingredient(s) in green tea could have anti-cancer effects.  The point is, it's very difficult to isolate one micronutrient from all the others and expect it to do its job.  There are many complicated interactions between vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and more.  Nina Planck's solution:  eat real food, or more precisely a combination of real foods with real fat.

2.  Nina Planck operates under an assumption of Darwinian evolution, although interestingly she has trouble resolving this assumption with some of the evidence she presents in her book.  My biggest problem with her diet is that she has a bias against grains due to her belief that man hunted and gathered for thousands of years before they settled down and began cultivating the earth.  So she sees meat, fish, dairy, vegetables, and fruits as more "traditional" foods than grains.  According to the Bible, which I believe to be true, farming is just as traditional as fishing (actually more so since killing animals for food didn't begin until after the Fall recorded in Genesis 3).  Cain was a farmer, as was Adam I suspect.  I think cultivating the earth goes along with taking dominion and people started doing it as soon as there were people. 

All this by way of saying, I think Nina Planck gives short shrift to grains, calling cereals the poor man's baby food, but far from ideal.  She may have a point in there somewhere and Calvin much enjoyed his salmon today, but I find it hard to believe that grains should really be so secondary as they are with her diet.  I mean bread is huge in the Bible.  Passover, manna, Jesus, communion.  "Man cannot live by bread alone," is a statement of spiritual truth that assumes bread to be necessary for our physical bodies.  It would have sounded pretty silly to say something like man cannot live by yogurt alone.  We all know that while yogurt is wonderful, we don't need it to live.  Man does need carbohydrates to live, though, and grains just don't figure very large in Nina Planck's diets, either for women or their babies.

3.  Good fats versus bad fats.  I agree with Nina Planck's assessment of good versus bad fats and also of her convictions that cholesterol doesn't cause coronary heart disease.  Very little of our physiological cholesterol is consumed in our diet, we make most of it.  Cholesterol is an essential component of plasma membranes and has many other vital functions in the body.  We've known for some time now that atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease process and I think physicians are more concerned now about markers such as C reactive protein, as well as HDL to LDL ratio, than total cholesterol.  She explains trans fats from an industrial point of view (not a biochemical one) and warns readers to steer clear because of their damaging effects.  Bottom line:  she encourages those who have been brainwashed by the low fat mantra of the last 30 years to cook with butter and olive oil, and other good fats.  This is probably where she will have the biggest influence on me.  I admit that I've been brainwashed against fat.  I avoid it as much as possible.  My poor children.  I grew up without butter on the table, or salt and pepper for that matter, and now I've done the same to my kids.  When my mother-in-law eats with us she's forever hunting for the butter, salt, and pepper!   I'm convinced, though.  (And I have experienced first hand terribly itchy dry skin when depriving my body of fat.)  We need healthy fats to live and Americans have really screwed up omega 6 to omega 3 fat ratios.  I'm making a concerted effort from now on to give my family more omega 3 fats, even if I do have to cash in my Starbuck's fund to start buying salmon and fish oil!  Let's call it an investment in the future!

In summary, I highly recommend Nina Planck's book Real Food for Mother and Baby.  I dog-eared lots of pages and underlined key points that I'll go back to time and again.  But, more than a book about nutrition, it's a story of one woman's journey from fat deprivation and overweight to healthy whole food eating and thin.  And it's one woman's journey of pregnancy and delivery, nursing and feeding her baby for the first year.  Whether you agree with her or not, you're sure to enjoy the book.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Our Little Warrior

I haven't posted about Lucie in a while, but she's still at it.  She's always making us laugh with her larger than life personality.  I thought I'd post a few recent pics for kicks.

Have you ever heard yourself yell, "No, you're going to hurt yourself!  Wait.  Let me get my camera"?  I never would have said that pre-blog!

Fortunately she was still headed upstairs while I ran to get my camera.  I did take the scooter away as soon as I got the shot.  I encouraged her to ride her scooter on the flat sidewalk outside. 

A few minutes later I tried to capture Lucie as she flew past me in a flash.  And no, she isn't outside.  I noticed that, too.  After this picture, I took her scooter to the garage.

We had a big laugh a few years ago when I bought these swords for my then 10 year old from Vision Forum.  I was somehow invisioning something a little safer.  They are very heavy duty and meant for big kid sparring, not exactly what you want your 5 and 3 year olds playing with in your living room.  Cute, though.  My little warriors in training.  And if you're wondering what Lucie is wearing, that was one of my outfits from the 70's.  When you only have one child, you tend to hold onto a lot of her things.  Lucie sits every day at the little table and chairs my mom and dad bought for me in Germany 36 years ago. 

This just made me smile.  Lucie loves dressing up and can be found in any number of different ensembles.  I love the combination of ballerina, Dorothy shoes, and giant tennis ball, don't you?  Oh, and don't miss the knit snowman hat I bought her yesterday.  I'm sure she was thinking, it's pink, it matches.

Future WNBA player?  I hope not, but it's a funny picture.

This girl is all about action.  She asked me this morning if she could get her jacket on and ride her scooter to Nana's house.  Uh, no.  Then she asked her big brother if he would take her.  It's awfully hard to say no to Lucie.  She's so much fun and such a blessing!  (Just stay out of her way when she's armed.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why did you decide to homeschool?

click button to go to the Blog Cruise
I really like this week's Blog Cruise topic, especially in light of my current re-evaluation of our homeschool.  It's always helpful to remember why we started down this road in the first place!
Here's why we originally decided to homeschool.

1.  My husband had two brothers who had homeschooled their kids, so he was always interested in the idea.

2.  Our oldest son didn't seem to "fit" too well in first grade, so we pulled him out, even though I was working full-time.  He went to school with me and sat across from me at my desk two days a week.  I was able to be home most Fridays and his dad was off on Mondays.  It wasn't ideal, but he learned a LOT that year, mostly on his own.

3.  The year I graduated with my PhD and started my "career", several people I knew died unexpectedly and I began asking myself if I would change anything about my life if I knew I had one year to live.  The answer was "yes".

4.  I read America Alone by Mark Steyn and started thinking globally, not just locally.  I realized that if every believer welcomed children and then made discipling their children their top priority, the world would be a different place.

5.  Teaching in a local university, I was apalled at the "academic quality" in the students I was teaching.  I taught one class to education majors and just for kicks I would begin the class by asking what books they read over the break.  Maybe one out of every 30 would-be teachers were readers.  That scared me.

6.  Most of the students I was teaching were unable to think for themselves.  To do well on exams they had to know the questions and answers ahead of time (they called this review) and the tests had to be in multiple choice format.  This also scared me.

Our Students

Look, Calvin's already interested in books!
If I'm honest, I think I decided to homeschool as much for myself as for my children.  I only have them with me for a little while and I enjoy their company.  Some days I question our approach.  Some days I question our curriculum.  Many days I question my management skills, or lack thereof!  But, I never question our decision to homeschool.  It was one of the best decisions we ever made!

Why did you decide to homeschool?

Monday, November 21, 2011

TOS Review of The Reading Game

The Reading Game is a memory card game/storybook combo for beginning readers by Kenneth Hodkinson of Wordly Wise fame.  The game, designed for kids age 4 and up, is simple to play and works!   Six sets of memory cards and storybooks are included.  The first book contains only the 30 words used in the first set of memory cards.  By the time your child progresses to the sixth book, he should have a working vocabulary of 180 sight words. 

Each set of memory cards has 60 cards with 30 pairs of words.  After playing 6 fast paced memory games, your child should be able to recognize all 30 words in the first story.  My Prince (5 yrs) really beamed with pride as he flawlessly sped through each of the books after we played the games.  My only gripe, if I have one, is the absence of capitalization and punctuation.  Hodkinson addresses this in the instructions and even suggests adding correct capitalization and punctuation as another reading activity. 

Phonetics is also easily incorporated into the game by grouping the cards of words in the same sound family.  Hodkinson lists these word families in the instructions.  For example, after playing the six fast paced memory games with the 30 words in book 2, you could line up the word cards for "glide", "side", and "hide" and emphasize the commone -ide ending and sound.  There are five such word families just in book 2.  The author suggests playing the memory games first and then emphasizing phonetics if you choose, before allowing your child to read the book.  The author also suggests having your child read one or two of his "test sentences" for each book before having them read the book.  This was unnecessary with my son, but would be helpful for kids brand-new to reading.

My son really whizzed through the books after playing the memory games and book 6 contains 180 words, including 23 of the 25 most common English words and 42 of the 50 most common English words.  The 30 words for each book are also conveniently listed at the back of each book.

You can purchase The Reading Game for $24.95 and when you consider that it includes a game plus 6 illustrated storybooks, I think it's a bargain.


Please check out the other TOS reviews of The Reading Game.

Disclosure:  I received The Reading Game for free in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thankful for a week to catch-up and various homeschool musings.

We started school a couple of weeks early so we could take a whole week off at Thanksgiving and I'm so glad it's here!  We will be doing some school, but mostly playing catch-up.  I've gotten a little behind in reading aloud to my big kids.  Also, I finally broke down and bought Rosetta Stone Mandarin Chinese, so we're all having fun with that.  And of course, there are a few organizational projects I'd like to get accomplished this week.  I'm not going to tell you what they are, in case I don't get to them.  If I do, you'll be hearing about it.

I've been reading, reading, reading and studying, studying, studying homeschool curricula.  I'm thinking about some major changes around here.  I have a love-hate relationship with change.  The idea of something new is exciting, but I can't stand letting go of the old.  I'm so afraid of over-planning my oldest son's schedule next year, but so want him to have a top-notch education.  That's the rub we all face, isn't it?  It has me re-evaluating what counts in an education.  Priorities.  Maybe that differs with each child.  What do you think?  I mean, we want all our children to learn to think for themselves and be able to recognize and articulate truth, but beyond that, there are differences.  It's important to us for our sons to have marketable skills.  They need to be able to provide for their families, so I'm always thinking of skills that will pay, whereas I'm happy for my girls to pursue art and other hobbies for their leisure. 

All that by way of saying, my 12 yr old's "electives" (in quotes because they're mandatory, just not traditional subjects) are a pretty heavy load on their own.  I want him to have computer skills, so computer science including programming languages seems important.  I also want him to know a foreign language that will help him study the Bible (Greek) and also a language that could help him land a good job (Chinese).  Then there's typing, which seems necessary for most anything these days, piano, which he loves and is getting so good at, and he could spend all day just on electives!!   Swim team involves another 5-10 hrs per week.  And we don't consider Bible an elective, but if you include our family devotional time plus his Community Bible Study homework along with his individual reading and memory work, there's another 6+ hours per week.  Am I crazy?  Is this reasonable?  Am I expecting too much?  Should I vary electives, some MWF and others TRS?

Stay tuned to see what changes we have in store.  I've ordered several "trials" and if we're really encouraged by the change we may even do some switching over at the semester break. 

One more musing I have to share with you.  I have been absolutely blown away, in a good way, with IBLP's Character Sketches.  This is not something that's just for kids.  They've challenged me to look in a new way at several people/passages in Scripture.  My kids love the illustrations from nature and are much better at remembering them than I am.  But, I just love the biblical selections.  I usually end up googling some question and often my husband and I have in depth talks that are sparked by some aspect of the character sketches.  If their wisdom booklets are anything like the character sketches, I might have to take a look. 

What are your plans for Thanksgiving week?  Oh- we're having Thanksgiving dinner at our house this year, but our double ovens are broken!  I'm going to be borrowing my mom's electric roaster and using crockpots.  It's going to cost over $700 to repair our double-ovens (electronics) or over $1700 to replace them!  We've gone back and forth about a million times and still haven't decided which to do.  The repair only comes with a 30 day warranty on replacement parts.  We'll probably go with the repair, what would you do? 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Freedom through Structure

Playing hair salon during school.

Impressive, no?  My 8 yr old is already better at doing hair than I am.
This has been a rewarding, but challenging year of homeschooling, thus far.   I've shared with you a little about my visual learner.  Another challenge I'm facing this year more than ever before is keeping my kids on task.  I think there are several reasons why this has been a challenge.  First, I have a low tolerance for disorder.  It may be that given another mom, my kids would not be considered disorganized or disorderly.  Granted, they do get their work finished every single day.  But, their proclivity for breaks, talking, playing the piano every five minutes, playing with little siblings whenever they get the chance is driving me crazy.  Then add my husband to the mix and complete chaos results.  It makes me want to swing too far in the other direction and become Nazi mom who straps her kids into their chairs and doesn't even give bathroom breaks.  I know there's a happy medium where my kids diligently and quietly get their work done while allowed to take short breaks between subjects and of course go to the bathroom when needed.  My husband reminded me of the one room schoolhouse model.  He said it worked in this country for hundreds of years, there's no reason it shouldn't work for us.  (Um.  Did they have infants and toddlers in the one room schoolhouses?  Just checking.)  I'm thinking two rooms might work better, one for the school and a padded cell for the little ones.  Just kidding.  The padded cell would be for me.  Seriously, I've come a long way from the imaginary string that trailed along behind me and couldn't get tangled, but this year has been a challenge.  Let's just say there have been lots of tangles.

Doing crafts during school.
The second reason I think I struggle to keep my kids on task, especially Monk, is that he is just easily distracted.  I remember the days when it would take him 30 minutes to sharpen a pencil.  He's doing MUCH better now and really accomplishes so much every day, but he does still get distracted.  The piano is a major distraction.  Monk loves to play the piano, even if only for 30 seconds.  Some parents make their kids practice every day, we tell our kids to get off the piano all day!  (Their real practice session is in the afternoon at their Nana's house.)   And there are the little siblings that are too cute to resist.  I love that my three big kids get to interact with their little siblings during the day, but sometimes it's too much.  Monk seriously cannot walk past Calvin without picking him up.  In the old days when Monk was 6 or 7, I used the kitchen timer to help motivate him to stay on task and focus for short periods of time.  That worked well.  Kids in school have 50 minute periods to help them divide the day.  Charolotte Mason recommends shorter, more intense lessons rather than expecting kids to sit still and pay attention for longer sessions.

Our solution:  To create a one-room schoolhouse feel in our own home with 30-50 minute periods for each major subject before lunch and electives after lunch.  The kids will not be tied to their chairs, although I still think masking tape over their mouths might be a good idea.  Just kidding. 

I've revamped their checklists to include times so that the kids now have a detailed schedule of their school day.  I realize many homeschoolers don't need this.  I do want my kids to learn to organize their own time, but for now I'm going to clamp down on them in the hopes that our homeschool will run more smoothly and be more peaceful.  Perhaps by 14 or 15 they'll be able to get everything done on their own timetable.  And perhaps by the time they're 14 or 15, I'll be able to handle that.  Hey, we're all a work in progress here.  It was either get on a strict schedule or plug the kids into Switched on Schoolhouse all day.  I've been seriously drooling over that curriculum, lately.  Can't you just see them all in a line plugged into their respective computers with headsets on?  I'm not knocking it.  We might go to that before it's all said and done.  I've got to keep my sanity, but I so value the time spent reading with the kids each day!  Hopefully, the new schedules will help us stay on track.

What do you do to keep your kids on schedule?  Do you dictate when they do each subject or do you let them organize their own time?  How many subjects do your kids complete each day? 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

David Nevue survived us, just barely.

We met David Nevue yesterday and it was a fun experience.  His concert was great!  He's not only a talented pianist and composer, but a terrific storyteller.  He has a heart for the Lord, which comes out in his music as well as his stories.  Mainly, I was impressed that he put up with us so graciously!

I realized just before going to my mom's for dinner that my camera battery was out of charge, so I left it charging during dinner.  I was disappointed not to get any pictures from our dinner with David Nevue, but it was just as well.  Twinkle Toes sat down in his place at the table and proceeded to use his knife and get a glop of butter on his placemat just as he was coming to sit down.  (In her defense she didn't realize it was his place.  In my mom's defense, she had just told us where everyone was sitting.)  Anyway, he handled it well.  Then as I was taking his plate after dinner I dropped his fork on him.  More like flung actually, it had some centrifugal force behind it.  I should have explained to him that we normally eat out of a feeding trough, but I think he figured it out on his own.  He seems very kind and it was a pleasure meeting him.  And mom's dinner was delicious, as usual.  Hopefully it made up for everything else.

The concert was nicely attended, which we were grateful for.  We had around 75 people, including kids, which we thought was good for a Tuesday night.  I've already talked to several people who attended and everyone is glad they went.  It was more than just a piano concert.  It really was a time of worship together. 

After the concert, my mom teased David that hadn't played her favorite song, so he gave a miniature private concert for my family.  Lucie danced.

Refreshments made for a fun intermission.

I'm so grateful that it worked out for David Nevue to come.  I'm thankful for my parents and know it was God's provision for us, especially my son.  He was super excited to meet his hero.  Can you tell?  After the concert, my son asked me when David Nevue can come back.   Seriously?  He was just here!  My son was positioned during the concert to get the best view of all the piano action and is already working on another David Nevue song, his arrangement of Amazing Grace. 

I'm not sure how often David Nevue tours, but I highly recommend having him come to your church or home for a concert.  It will be a wonderful time of peaceful relaxation and worship, unless you're holding a one year old on your lap the entire concert.  Then it will just be a wonderful time.  God is good!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Preparing the soil of our children's hearts to receive God's Word part 3: Giving them deep roots!

Am I the only one who starts a series, writes two posts and then forgets about it for 9 months?  Just checking.  I'm in the gospels again this week and was reminded of the parable of the sower and the implications it has for Christian parenting.

In parts one and two (which I wrote last April) I talked about cultivating tender, responsive hearts in our children and delighting in God's Word.  Tonight I want to talk about giving our children deep roots.

"Other seed fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched.  And since they had no root, they withered away."  Mathew 13:5-6

And Christ's explanation:  "As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away."  Mathew 13:20-21

What does Jesus mean when He says, "they had no root"?  What kind of root is He talking about?  We know what it means in gardening.  A plant without roots will not receive the nourishment it needs from the soil.  A plant without roots will be blown about by the wind, rather than staying anchored to the life-giving soil.  The plant may appear healthy on the surface temporarily, but it will not grow and bear fruit once its root has been severed.  In the same way, a person who seems to receive the Word of God, but doesn't have a root, will not persevere.

This is the part of the post where I give you a disclaimer.  I am not a theologian.  I have not read any commentaries so I could be completely out there.  Read on at your own risk!

I think the "root" in question here refers to faith.  Well, not just any faith, but faith in God's promises, faith in the person and work of Christ.  Saving faith.  The kind of faith Abraham had that was counted as righteousness.  I'll give you two reasons.  First, according to the parable of the sower, the root is essential for the plant to bear fruit.  Second, according to the parable of the sower, the root is what anchors the plant so that it perseveres when conditions get harsh.

1.  Just as the root of a plant is essential for the plant's growth and nourishment that allows for it to bear fruit, so genuine faith in God's promises is essential for bearing spiritual fruit.  In both cases, no root equals no fruit.  And what is the fruit of faith?  Obedience.  Hebrews 11 repeats this testimony over and over again. 

"By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain...By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household... By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.... By faith he went to live in the land of promise... By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac... "  Hebrews 11: selected verses(emphasis mine)

Faith results in obedience.  Disobedience is in essence due to a lack of faith, a failure to believe that God's promises are true and better than the lure of sin.  (John Piper's books Faith in Future Grace and Battling Unbelief  Bible study caused a paradigm shift for me on this subject.)

"And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him."  Hebrews 11:6

Some might argue from Romans 11 that our "root" is Israel or the patriarchs.  They might be right.  I read a good book along the lines of our Hebrew roots.  I would counter that in Romans 11 Gentiles are the wild olive branch, Israel is the domesticated olive branch and the common root of both is faith.  Paul says in Galations that "those who are of faith are sons of Abraham."  (Galations 3:7) 

A better argument might be made that the root is actually Christ.  I can see this.  There are several verses in Isaiah that contrast the root of Jesse with the root of Satan.  (I did a word study on root.)  And then we have the vinedresser analogy that Christ uses to show that abiding in Him enables us to produce fruit.  Even so, without faith it is impossible to abide in Christ.  So maybe the distinction isn't too important for the purposes of applying this parable to Christian parenting. 

2.  The root supplies water to the plant which prevents it from whithering in the hot sun.  The root is also what enables the plant to stay fixed in place when winds blow.  So without the root, a plant cannot make it in harsh conditions.  In the same way, without faith in God, we cannot weather times of testing and tribulation.  

"But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."  James 1:6-7

It is a lack of faith which makes a person unstable.  In this analogy, faith is what allows a person to stay the course in the midst of a storm, rather than being driven one way by one wave and the other direction by the next wave.  I think this is like being rooted in the parable of the sower.  It is faith in God that enables us to persevere under harsh conditions.  Faith is our lifeline when the sun scorches and the wind blows. 

Now, for the application.  If I'm right about faith being the root, the bad news is that we can't actually give our children a root of faith any more than we can give our children an arm or a leg.  But, the good news is we can give them the means of acquiring a life-giving root.  You know what's coming, don't you?  It always comes back to this.

"Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God."  Romans 10:17

I have to constantly remind myself that our homeschool will amount to nothing if we neglect time in God's Word.  Bible is not a "subject" in our homeschool.  We have to give our children God's Word when we're driving along in the car (CDs can help with this), as we're doing chores, at mealtime, when they get up in the morning, when they go to bed at night, at church, at home, during science, while correcting them, etc.  (Deut 6:5 my paraphrase)

And more good news is that we can also help strengthen or deepen our children's faith.  Many of us have children who already believe, but they are young in the faith.  We can help deepen those roots by discipling them in the Word and by praying for and with them.  This is not the job of our church staff or Sunday school teachers.  It's our job as parents.  Thankfully, there are many tools that exist to help us with this, but ultimately it comes down to making the committment (I'm talking to myself again).   

To get back to the parable of the sower- we plant the seeds and we water the seeds (give them the gospel).  I think we can also influence the type of soil the seeds fall on to some degree- how hard or soft our children's hearts are.  Only God can cause genuine faith to grow.  But certainly there are many ways a gardener continues to care for his plants, once they've begun to grow.  A good gardener may cover his plants when it's freezing or give shade when the sun bears down.  Parents protect and shelter the faith of their children so that it won't be damaged by the elements of our culture. 

"And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea."  Mark 9:42

Pretty serious stuff.  God wants us to give Him godly offspring (Malachi 2:15).  We all know there's more to that than just giving birth.  We give birth to depraved sinners, granted they're cute, depraved sinners.  We must daily work in the garden of our children's hearts.  Fertilizing, hoeing, planting, watering, tending.  And pray that God will give the increase.



Monday, November 14, 2011

TOS Review of Read Naturally's One Minute Reader

We all know how important reading well is to overall education.  Read Naturally has a full line up of products aimed at increasing literacy including One Minute Reader.   I was really excited to try One Minute Reader with two of my children, Prince (5) who is a beginning reader (first grade level) and Measle (8) who struggles with reading comprehension.  I received a complete Ready, Set, Orange! set, level 1, for Prince, and a level 3 booklet for Measle.  One Minute Reader is designed to be something your child can do on their own, but mine needed some help.

Here's how One Minute Reader works:

1.  Allow your child to browse the titles, look at the pictures and select a story.  (Each booklet has 6 stories.)

2.  Set the timer for one minute and read the story out loud, underlining any unknown words.  (Your child is supposed to be doing this for himself, but I found that my 5 year old was really slowed down by handling the pencil, so I told him to just keep reading and skip any words he didn't know.  I kept track of his missed words.)

3.  Mark your cold score in blue (number of words read correctly in one minute).

4.  Read along with the CD three times.  (The CD contains each story on three separate tracks so you don't have to keep getting up and turning it back.)

5.  Read alone to raise your score.  They can do this as many as 5 times and record their score on the green lines beneath the story. 

6.  Take a short reading comprehension quiz (4 questions).

7.  Read for an adult for one minute. 

8.  Mark your hot score in red (number of words read correctly in one minute.)

One Minute Reader has lots of interesting booklets to choose from in 6 reading levels, E-5.  I think they roughly correspond with grade level, but I could be wrong.  The One Minute Reader placement exam can help determine which level of booklets your child needs.

My thoughts on One Minute Reader are varied.  I saw both of my kids' reading scores improve after completing the 8 steps.  No doubt about it, reading the story along with the CD three times helped them to recognize words they stumbled over the first time through.  I think One Minute Reader was more successful with my 5 year old than with my 8 year old, though.  Level 1 might have been a bit of a stretch for my beginning reader as his initial scores were low (teens-30s).  After reading with the CD his scores improved dramatically (doubled to tripled).  He also did well on the reading comprehension quizzes (getting 3 or 4 out of 4 each time).  And he enjoyed the process, especially the fun stickers.  Could we have accomplished the same thing by my looking over his shoulder and correcting him when he mispronounced a word?  Probably.  I think One Minute Reader is designed to save the parent work since the child is supposed to complete steps 2 through 6 on their own.  My 5 year old really wasn't able to do it on his own.  I had to be there anyway, so I just as well could have been reading with him.  That said, I will probably buy some more of the level 1 booklets because a.) it works and b.) he likes it.

My 8 year old had a completely different experience with One Minute Reader.  She also enjoyed it, which is always good when it comes to school, but her scores started out already high (in the 100s).  But my 8 year old couldn't pass the comprehension quizzes.  One Minute Reader did provide confirmation for me.  I knew this was her problem.  I had to re-read portions of our read-aloud book this morning two and three times and then explain it to her!  It makes for frustrating reading time.  I was hoping One Minute Reader might help her with comprehension, but it seems my daughter is talented at not paying attention.  She can actually read the story more than 6 times in a row and not know what she's read!  Maybe she got a little too into the timed reading thing and was reading so fast she didn't have time to process it.  She did up her scores into the 160s and higher.  She was reading really fast and she usually missed two out of four of the comprehension questions.

In my opinion, One Minute Reader is ideal for kids who are old enough to work independently, but who are also struggling with their reading.  I think kids who hesitate and stumble over words will be greatly helped by One Minute Reader. 

Students struggling with reading comprehension, however, probably need to slow down their reading until it sinks in.  We keep hoping it will sink in with Measle one of these days!  I think I'm going to have Measle go through Prince's book now and see if she can understand the easier stories.  I know she'll easily be able to read the entire stories within the minute, but hopefully she'll also begin understanding what she's reading.

If you have a struggling reader, you can purchase One Minute Reader here.  With each booklet and CD combination priced at only $12.95, you can afford to try this for yourself.  You can check out sample stories from each reading level and don't forget about the placement guide.  The starter set also which includes graphing pencil, timer, and instructional CD is $24.95.  Each complete reading level package, which includes 8 booklet/CD combos along with the timer, pencil, and instructional CD costs $99.95.


Please check out the other TOS reviews of One Minute Reader and other Read Naturally products.

Disclaimer:  I received a complete Ready, Set, Orange! level 1 One Minute Reader kit and a level 3 booklet in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What is up with our food?! Allergies, the disappearance of bees, and other musings.

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I was blissfully ignorant about our food situation until I saw Food, Inc.  That caused me to pause and think for a bit.   I wrote this post pondering whether we're in a food crisis?  I guess it's not a crisis in the same sense that a food shortage is. We have plenty of food and for that we're blessed.   But it may be killing us all the same.  In my previous post I laid blame on the government.  I realize everyone has his ax to grind, including the organic folks, but something just doesn't smell right with Monsanto (world's largest seed company) and the FDA.  In 2009 Obama appointed Michael Taylor, former Monsanto executive and past Monsanto chief attorney and lobbyist, as Food Czar over the FDA.  No conflicting interests there.  Then more recently, the USDA decided to allow Monsanto and other biotech firms to determine for themselves the environemental safety of their GMOs (genetically modified organisms).  Hmmm.  I'm all for the government to butt out and let companies make a profit, but it seems fishy that big oil gets crucified while Monsanto gets a pass.  I guess big oil just doesn't have enough of its executives in high places.

I'm really not a conspiracy theorist.  (Though I do blame GE and their massive bribery lobby budget for all these stupid lightbulbs I'm supposed to buy now.  If they're so environmentally friendly, why do you have to call a HazMat team when you break one instead of just tossing it in the garbage?)  I'm a normal person who shops at the grocery store and usually buys regular chicken even though I'm a bit haunted by visions of windowless chicken farms where the chickens are bred with such lopsided proportions they have difficulty standing.  I buy the cheap chicken even though I realize it's been fattened on genetically modified corn and injected with all kinds of antibiotics.  I cringe, but I buy it anyway.  Guess I haven't exactly put my money where my mouth is.  The problem is, it's a LOT more money.

But that's all old news.  Two things have caused me to revisit this food issue.  First, my one year old seems to be allergic to foods that none of the rest of us have ever been bothered by.  Why all of a sudden would our sixth child have all these crazy food allergies?  And he isn't the only one.  I know several moms with babies right now who have food allergies.  They're also perplexed.  And we're not talking peanuts, but staples like wheat and corn, milk and oats.  What's up with that?

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The second issue I've recently become aware of is the disappearance of honey bees.  I don't have all the answers, but pesticides seem to be largely responsible.  New, genetically engineered pesticides that get intercalated into the bee's DNA.  Let's see.  I realize people are not bees, but we do both have DNA and our DNA is more alike than different (compared say to bacteria).  I wonder what effect these pesticides will have on our next generation (that's where DNA mutations show up).  And though I admit I've never been an admirer of bees, they're kind of necessary to the whole pollination process.

So there you have it.  My paranoid ramblings on our food.  What do you think?  Have you noticed any of these trends?  What can we really do about it?  Have you read any good books on this topic lately?   


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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.