Friday, March 26, 2021

Things people shouldn't say

 A month ago, I was talking with an older woman who was making excuses for the decisions someone had made.  The excuses, I knew, were really the reasons for her sympathy for her bad choices.  I, too, felt sympathy for the choices that had been made and the situation that had resulted.  But, my perspective is a little different.  I also felt that the woman had choices about how to respond to her own pain.

Years ago, my best friend had a friend who had been abused by her husband for many years.  My friend shared with me that her friend had become an abuser towards her children, taking her frustration and stress out on her kids instead of protecting them.  After the woman later got a divorce and entered her senior years, she couldn't understand why her children didn't like her or want to be around her.  She didn't recognize that she had become an abuser herself.  

In life, when we are faced with stressful situations, it can be tempting to lash out at the people we believe will love us unconditionally.  But, I think we should strive and try our best not to do this.

My dad once told me when I was young that if someone hurt him that he was going to hurt them back more.  I remember hearing him say this and I remember immediately having the thought that if someone hurt me, then they are hurting themselves.  If I lashed out at them in return, it would continue a damaging cycle of hurting each other back and forth.  

As a result, I have often walked away when people have hurt me instead of lashing back.  This has been hard because I've ended up with a lot of wounds that hurt for a long time.  I've had to give my pain to the Lord over and over.  I struggled for years when I was young wondering if God cared about my pain, but I learned He did.  I realize that I come across to people as a strong person, who knows who she is and isn't.  This is true.  I am strong.  God made me this way and I have to be strong.  My family needs me to be.  

I had one pastor once tell me, "Giving Up is not an Option."  

He was right.  

Yesterday, I sat on the back porch of my home and something my dad emailed me a month ago came to my mind.  My dad is dying.  He reached out to me through a family member because he wanted to email me.  The purpose of his email?  

To tell me that he has been better off without me in his life for 25 years.  He is happier than he has ever been and I am his motivation.  There were no questions about me or my family.  There was no, "How are you?"  

You see, my dad disowned me early in my 20s, so we haven't spoken by phone or email in years.  But, even so, what a horrible thing to say to their child!  

I know I have a choice.  I can let this define me and mire me down.  Or I can realize that my dad is a very broken man who doesn't know the Lord.  I can cling to God, knowing that He made me and He loves me.  

Over the years, there have been other things that have been said to me...

"You're unloveable.  I tried, but I just can't love you." an ex-boyfriend years and years ago.

"Everyone doesn't like you." just a few years ago by someone I thought was a friend.

"We don't like you and this is why..." back in 7th grade by a group of girls.

Words are daggers.  They can be hateful and damaging.  Without knowing and understanding that God loved me, I don't know how I would be standing today as healthy as I am.  

Each of those words has a story behind it.... An ex-boyfriend who told the same thing to four other girls he dated because the problem was really his own issues...a woman who felt insecure because I thought a group of people should change and welcome people more...and a group of 7th grade girls who systematically turned on each other after they turned on me.  

James 3: 5-12 talks about the fires that our tongues can start.  It is so true!  

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God's likeness.  10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers and sisters, this should not be.  11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?  12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives or a grapevine bear figs?  Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.  

I've written about this same idea before on this blog.  But, it's on my heart this morning because the Lord is having to remind me about it again.  Each time the words that have hurt me creep in me, I have to remember... "God loves me, my family loves me, and I do have friends."  


Saturday, January 30, 2021

What About Abortion? Should this one issue determine how Christians vote?

 I don't think I've ever written directly about politics before on my blog.  I was talking with a friend this week about abortion and voting.  She shared a couple of points that I agreed with and which were my oldest daughter found helpful.  Then, on Friday, I was talking with another friend who mentioned a video she found very informative.  She asked me to watch it and let her know what I thought of it.  I found it to be very helpful and to be inline with what I think.  

Two years ago, I listened to a woman speak from a  local crisis pregnancy center.  For 45 minutes, she spoke about fighting against the abortion clinic in town.  I longed to hear her speak about loving the women in town struggling with their decisions.  There's a song that I think many of us learned as a kid, "They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, They will know we are Christians by our love..."  

But, I wanted to share a link to a video about the issue of abortion and politics in case you haven't seen it.  My kids really liked it and found it to be very clear and helpful.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Nobody likes you

When I was getting my master's degree in education, one of our assignments required us to pick a book to read and write a report about it.  The book had to be chosen from a selection of books on varied topics in regard to education.  I chose You Can't Say You Can't Play by Vivian Paley.  At the time I read it, I had no idea how much a single book would impact my philosophy about life for years to come.

The book's premise is a simple one.  Paley conducted a social experiment in her kindergarten classroom and made a new rule:  You can't say, "You Can't Play (with me/us)".  The kindergarteners response to its introduction was astonishing.  One child even asked rhetorically what the point of play was if they couldn't say it! Yet, the rule changed the climate of her classroom in an extremely positive way and children who had been excluded the first few weeks of school found friends.  She also asked a 4th grade classroom at the same time to try this rule for a month.  They were skeptical, but they nonetheless implemented the rule.  At the end of the experiment with the 4th graders, the students asked why no one had given them this rule before, because they wished a teacher had!

The events in my life this week reminded me of how adults and children live out and bring about the exclusion of the people they want to keep out of their circles.  As children go beyond kindergarten, "You can't play with us" morphs into "Nobody likes you".  Often that is followed up with... "This is why..."

When I was a teenager, this was said to me more than once as a way to tell me to go away.  But, I watched as the same people used the same statement on others afterwards to manipulate and bully them.  A few years ago, this was said to me when someone didn't like that I was encouraging a group to be more friendly and open.  I left.  I walked away.  It caused me to ask the question as to whether it was true.  I remember the last Sunday asking someone, "Was I ever wanted here?"  The person (not knowing about what had been said to me) said that I had always been wanted there.  Last year, it was written in a dialogue someone shared with me by a teenager.  A couple of kids were involved in the dialogue.  One parent was grateful to find out about it and encouraging to me.  Another parent responded with the words that "it's just a chat, a text--  It doesn't really matter that much."

Does it not matter?  Why do people throw those words around?  I know I'm not the only one who's had those words said to them.  My children have already heard those words from other kids before over the past few years.

So, why do people--adults and children say them?  Those words are a way to exclude people-- a way to get people to do or not do what we want them to do.   They are also a way to hurt the people who they feel hurt by.

I remember the first time I saw it with my own children.  A little girl had come over for a few minutes and grabbed the hand of one of my girls and said to the other--"You can't play with us."  I stopped the girls as soon as I caught what was happening and explained that we don't do that at our house--everyone plays together.

A year later, I watched as my oldest daughter was looked up and down by another girl when she tried to talk to her at a birthday party.  I saw it in the girls' eyes as she turned around and ignored my daughter.  Yet, my daughter still tried to talk to her.  I called her over and instructed her to talk to someone else.  She, my compliant child, did--but she didn't understand.

As I've watched all three of my kids grow, they've learned how to make good friends--friends who like them for who they are.  I've also watched a few of them change and turn their backs on my kids.  My advice to them has always been--when someone doesn't want to be your friend, go find someone who does.  They've taken that advice to heart and have made some great friends in the process!  They value their friends who accept them and who they enjoy hanging out with.  But, they also hurt deeply when they see or hear other kids being hurt by others' words.  These experiences have begun to shape my kids.  I see them valuing their true friends and letting go of the ones who aren't.  I see God shaping their hearts through the pain and joys of friendship.  

Tonight when I opened up this post to finish writing down the thoughts swirling in my head, I was surprised to realize that this is a theme that seems to run through my life.  I keep hoping it will leave me and stop pressing on my heart, yet it hasn't.  

This year has been a hard year for the world.  Covid-19 and a divisive election in the U.S.  Families and friends split apart, kept apart.  Some of it done to protect one another.  Some of it done out of disagreement with one another.  

Covid-19 has brought out the best and the worst in people.  I've watched people be kinder in some ways and meaner in others.  But, there is enough to talk about on that subject to write a whole post and I fear it would take away from the subject of this post.  The second event that divided people this year, though-- the election-- has more relevance.

You can't play with me... if you disagree with me.

In my life, I have been told every few years that I'm not liked.  Sometimes I've been told that everyone doesn't like me.  Sometimes it's just been the person telling me.  When I was a teenager an adult in my life told me that if someone hurts them, they would hurt them back harder.  This made me realize that hurting people hurt people.  Knowing that has helped me have compassion for the people who have said these things to me over the years.  I've come to understand that not everyone is going to like me.  No one is liked by everyone, really.  

But, this year I was told by someone that basically, "I don't like you if you disagree with me."  My heart feels very sad as I write that.  I lost a friend who doesn't feel she can be my friend because I disagreed with her about the national election results.  I had heard about the election dividing friends and family.  I have good friends who have chosen not to say anything to family members they disagree with in order to keep the peace.  But, I didn't expect it to happen to me.  Yet, it did.  

Why?  I think this election cycle was different than ones that I have lived through in the past.  Social media ramped up in a way I haven't seen before.  Posts were written in ways that insulted people who disagreed with the ideas in them.  I remember one string of comments in which people bantered and kept saying, "How could anyone be so stupid to vote for the other candidate?"  I did.  I was one of those people.  It seemed as if people lost a lot of politeness.  When I read some of what the media was publishing, I saw that loss there as well.  I listen mostly to NPR and read the Economist.  I  have realized that the tone of the articles on these news sources is more polite and more middle of the road.  The Economist is written from a more global perspective.  When I have glanced at Fox News, World Magazine, and CNN, the words used have much stronger connotations.  I watched one news clip and it helped me understand why people felt so angry after watching it (angry in the way the speaker did), yet the speaker kept saying things that had been proven to be false.  Anger is a very powerful emotion.  It makes a person feel in control, though they really aren't.  Anger is also a very destructive emotion and can do so much damage in the blink of an eye.  

Part of being friends with someone is knowing that you won't always agree.  Over the years, I have really appreciated the friends who I could discuss things--whether it was education, history, parenting, or our faith.  There is a saying that "good friends can agree to disagree".  I hope that when the dust settles after this election, people will realize how relationships have been hurt and seek to heal them.  

You can't play with me.  It doesn't matter if you're a kid or an adult.  The words still hurt.  In my heart, I don't think they need to or should be said.  My kids know when someone doesn't like them without them saying it.  So do I.  But, the words do make it hurt more.  

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Strange Obituary

This is a longer note than I can post on Facebook, but it is over the years I have noticed something that I have never quite been able to reconcile with.

When people die and get married, often a very different picture is painted of reality. 

And it troubles me. 

I have known parents who were abusive throughout their lives to their children when they were both children and adults, who have been painted as loving husbands/wives and fathers/mothers who cared deeply for their families when they die.  Yet, the family members told me these people were unkind and selfish, which is to put it mildly.  Their children were deeply wounded by what they had endured from their parents throughout their lives. 

I noticed this morning on the news that there was outrage that the young man who murdered several people in Dayton, Ohio, was painted as a kind and loving young man--yet no mention was made of how he died.  In a way, I understand their consternation and frustration. 

Yet, I experience that same emotion when I watch abusive and selfish people painted as saints when they die. 

When people marry, there is often a similar situation.  People are painted as highly religious who are not.  And the opposite is also true.  Religious people are painted in the opposite way. 

I remember my own wedding and our frustration when our pastor did not recite the traditional vows that we had expected.  Instead, we recited more modern vows that took out several things that we valued.  We had simply assumed that he would recite the traditional vows and he had never indicated before the wedding that he would do otherwise.  Yet, it was our strong faith in the Lord that was the crux of our relationship.

Several years ago, I knew someone who had a wedding which was a full Catholic mass--yet the person didn't believe in God and claimed to be a secular humanist.  The spouse painted themselves to be highly religious yet didn't live out those values, and instead was quite a conniving, ungracious, and unforgiving person!

But, where does that leave me? 

Troubled.  Unsure of how to sort through my frustration at how people are being painted as kind and loving when they weren't or aren't.  My cynicism about human nature and distrust in people is given large amounts of fuel by such things, which I dislike.  I want to believe that people are real and are being honest with me.

So, how do I respond?  How should I respond?

1.  When I have a friend who's parent is emotionally and mentally or physically abusive to them, I encourage them that they do not have to continue in that relationship the way it is.  They can step back and set boundaries.  When the relationship remains the same, the person allows the abuser to continue sinning against them.  I encourage my friend in the truth--that God loves them and that they are valuable.

2.  I pray for couples who misrepresent the state of their hearts at their weddings.  I pray that they would have faith in the Lord.  I pray for God to hold their marriages together and that when they find themselves in great conflict with each other that they might realize that it is only God who is truly able to hold marriages together.  Every marriages is that of two sinners married to each other and we do struggle with one another.  It is inevitable. 

3.  I pray for the people I know who have been hurt by deceptive and manipulative people.  I pray for myself and ask God to heal my heart from what I have endured and how I have been treated.  I strive to give those hurts to Him and remember that He understands.  Truly He does. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Silent Pain

A few months ago, I read a blog post that a friend on Facebook had linked to.  The mom was lamenting her life and explaining that no one understands how hard her life is, but also that it is truly harder than anyone else's.

After I read the post, I felt differently than the author did.   Throughout the post, she talked of friends she had--friends who listened, friends who tried to help.  She even getting to go on a girls' night out.  From where I stand, she has many huge blessings.

Her friends and family may have loved her and her family imperfectly... but they were clearly trying.  If she has gone on a girls' night out, she has had some time with friends--by herself. 

Each of us face struggles every day.  Some are silent and invisible.  Some are more visible.  This mom in the post has a special needs child.  Her struggles are very real.

So are mine--even though they are invisible and silent. 

Mine aren't less or more than hers.

They are different.

When I read posts like that one, I feel like someone is saying to me that my struggles are less, though they aren't.  She doesn't know me.  She doesn't know my life.

When I read posts like that one, I pray and hope that she will see the blessings and support she has in her life--that she talked about in her post.  Support networks I don't have where I am.  Some pain and struggles are silent and invisible so they do not garner support.

I spoke with a woman yesterday morning who shared with me the story of how her marriage ended several years ago.  She tried to talk to her church elders and explain what was going on.  But, they didn't believe her because her ex-husband was very eloquent and believable.  She knew she had to get a divorce for her own safety.

Her struggle was very real, but people she trusted denied it.

What I would wish for that blogger is that instead of focusing on how her struggles are more and harder than others is that she would focus on her struggles and turning to the Lord for the strength.  In some ways, she has so much more than others have!  And I pray then that her eyes would open and she would have compassion for others' struggles.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Twisting Scripture

Two months ago, I read a post that a page I followed had linked to on Facebook.  I was curious, so I went to the article and read it on the site Gentle Reformation (  The title of the post was "A Letter to the Inactive Member".  As I read even the first paragraph, my heart became unsettled.  Something was implied in the first paragraph that was a slight twisting on Scripture.  It wasn't directly stated, but it was there, so I read on to see what the author would say as he wrote on.

What the author, Kyle Borg, implied in the first paragraph of what he wrote was a particular interpretation of the Parable of the Lost Sheep from Luke 15.  I felt he implied that when the shepherd has to go after the lost sheep that the lost sheep is negligent because he/she is causing the shepherd to neglect the other ninety-nine--and that is irresponsible and unfair to the shepherd and the other ninety-nine sheep.
These are his words as to why it is of concern if a member of a church is going to service, but not actively participating outside of the worship service each Sunday: "But it’s not only a great discouragement for a pastor (and congregation), it is also a good reason for concern. An inactive member is one of the sheep that has gone astray and requires the shepherd to leave the ninety-nine to go after the one."

When I read the author's words, I felt concern in my heart, but I knew that the best thing to do was go directly to the scripture--the Bible.  So, I opened my Bible to Luke 15…

The parable says this:
15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Luke 15:1-7, NIV

The point of the parable when I sit and read it is not the shepherd being resentful or that he has to leave the 99 other sheep, but rather that he misses the one and rejoices when he finds that lost sheep.  There is no name calling or belittling of the sheep--"What a dumb sheep you are!  How could you go get lost like that?!"  Instead, there is rejoicing.  The shepherd is glad that he has found the lost sheep.  The parable is introduced by the Pharisees having an accusation about Jesus that he receives and eats with sinners.

This week I have been listening to Rosaria Butterfield's newest book, "The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in our Post-Christian World".  Early in the book she talks about the paradox of Christianity--Jesus ate with sinners but did not sin like sinners; He lived in the world, but he did not live like the world.  Jesus was eating with the sinners because He wanted to.  It was intentional.  

Often it can be tempting to take our own world view and apply it to God's Word.  I know I did by picking the words irresponsible and negligent to describe what “being required to go after the sheep” means that the shepherd feels towards the lost sheep.  But, the man who wrote the post is a pastor.  Is he tired?  Does he feel that he had to neglect his congregation because of the people who were members but weren't attending and he felt he had to go chase after them?  I don't know.  I don't know him.  I am sure that his experiences as a pastor shaped what he wrote and the choice to describe the shepherd as being required to go after the lost sheep because of the actions of the lost sheep.  

But, we have to be careful not to take scripture out of context.  The Parable of the Lost Sheep is not about the Shepherd being resentful that he had to leave the 99 sheep to go find the one.  The focus of the parable is on finding the lost one and that every sheep is important--even the one that gets lost.  Much rejoicing is had when the sheep is found!

Recently, I heard the story of a friend who grew up in a church that twisted the meaning of the word grace.  The meaning the members of the church were taught sounded like the truth, but wasn’t Biblical.  It changed so much for my friend.  

Twisting scripture is dangerous.  One thing I had pointed out to me a long time ago is that while we may want to know other details about a story in the Bible, the details that are there are included on purpose.  My concern about the way this pastor interpreted Luke 15 and the lost sheep is that the focus then shifts to the shepherd and what he "is required" to do, instead of the verse that mentions that the Pharisees were concerned that Jesus cared about the sinners, even ate with them and then Jesus told the parable of the lost sheep-- a sheep was lost, the shepherd went to find the sheep, and rejoiced when he found the sheep.  There is no mention in the Bible that the Shepherd was required to go--instead it is implied that he wanted to go and rejoiced when he found the sheep!

The premise for this post about inactive members was only the beginning of my concerns about it.  I found that I had several other significant concerns about the assumptions and conclusions the author made and I have been struggling for the past two months about how to express these concerns so that they might be heard.  I wanted to post this article first before I delve into those in a future post...  

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Ah, the teenage years!

My girls have both entered their teenage years.  Yet, they are so different from each other.  In conversations with each of them this past week, I became aware of moments when I frustrated them.  And I was reminded of something that my husband warned me about a while ago.  He advised me to tread carefully with them even when I have strong opinions because I need to protect and preserve my relationships with them so that they might here me when I need them to--and when I want them to.

Last week, my oldest daughter and I went to a college fair.  Those kind of things are fascinating to me and aren't intimidating at all.  My daughter on the other hand, was a bit overwhelmed.  But, I plowed on ahead.  I learned some information that I needed to know to help me select her courses for high school that I hadn't known before--even though I had already done a lot of research already.  The most helpful part of the night for my daughter was a table we stopped at that gave her a stack of cards to sort through to help her discern what types of careers she might be interested in.  We talked later and discussed it.  What she learned.  What I learned.  She and I are in a place where we need to start to switch roles.  She needs to get into the driver's seat.  I'm not a helicopter mom, per se.  I'm just a "do"er.  If something needs to be done, I will do it.  So, I need to consciously switch gears and guide her in the doing rather than "doing" what needs to be done myself. 

We're going to go to another college fair in two weeks.  This time she has time to prepare (we only learned of the other one that morning and had no time to discuss it beforehand).  I asked her to think of what questions she has.  What would she like to know?  This time is going to be a little different...

My other daughter is a very typical teenager and her tone of voice can quickly rub me the wrong way.  It sounds on the edge of being disrespectful and questioning--yet, when I say something, almost every time I realize that she doesn't realize how she sounds and looks.  In the Journey of the Strong Willed Child by Kendra Smiley, the author talks about the importance of not taking a strong willed child's words and actions personal.  What they are doing is about them, not you--the parent.  My daughter's words and responses are indeed about her heart and I need to remember that and be patient.  I need to not take them personal and respond the way her tone makes me feel. 

Oh, to be a teenager!  What a journey...

Monday, June 11, 2018

The ups and downs...

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a mom telling me that she was in a place where she was really enjoying homeschooling and feeling good about being a mom.  She was in one of those places I've been before--savoring a moment of peace and contentment that you're doing what God wants you to and that things are working!  I remember the first time I had that feeling.  I think it was after the end of my oldest daughter's second grade year.  The feeling lasted for a month or so.

Since then, I've had times when I've felt that peace about parenting and school.  Sometimes that peace lasted minutes, sometimes hours, days, weeks, or months.  But, I have learned that it comes and goes.  Having it is a blessing--a time of rest.  When it is absent though, I have learned that it doesn't mean things are wrong, instead, it usually means one of two things for me... 1.  It's time to step back and evaluate.  What's working, what's not.  and 2.  It's also time to just put one foot in front of the other. 

I talked with a young woman on Saturday in a store who told me that she felt like she is just working her life away.  She's going to college and working two part-time jobs.  I nodded my head and understood.  I had three part-time jobs while I went to grad school.  So, I agreed with her that it was tough but that she would get through it.  I asked her what she wanted to do and it turns out that she really wants to be a missionary.  But, she doesn't want to go on a short term missions trip.  She really just longs to be out there.  So, I encouraged her to look for a week long camp of sorts--maybe through YWAM or Navigators--to help her get reenergized and remember where she's heading and why she's doing what she's doing. 

I feel like that's what we need as moms too.  I do.  A lot of moms I've known over the years who homeschool go to conferences and that really encourages them and reenergizes them.  That never worked for my family and our schedule.  But, what I did have were conversations.  I found that finding a friend I could talk to about homeschooling, or parenting, or life, was often just what I need. 

But, what do we do when we feel like there isn't anyone we can talk to?  Sometimes it's because there isn't any quiet space in our lives.  Sometimes it's because our family has constant needs.  Sometimes it's because we feel empty and it's hard to get back up or we feel hurt and it's hard to go out on a limb again and ask for help.  And Satan would love that!  But, I don't believe that's what God wants.  When I read the Word, I hear that "He will never leave me nor forsake me."  I really need to remember that.  Sometimes it's really easy to forget it, though. 

And sometimes people let us down so when we do reach out, we get rejected when we're already hurting.  I remember after I had my second child and my family wasn't plugged into a church yet.  We weren't members because we were still searching.  I reached out to a church because I was seriously depressed but when the woman I spoke with realized that we weren't committed members yet, she said she couldn't help me and that I needed to go somewhere else (but she didn't have anywhere to suggest when I asked).  I was so hurt.  I didn't know what to do and I didn't know who to reach out to.  But, I should have remembered... God said He would never leave me nor forsake me.  I learned what it felt like to be rejected while in a pit.  But, I also saw God provide in unexpected ways and simply get me through it step by step by putting.. one foot in front of the other.  I'm still standing.  And I learned to stop and help when someone in a pit reaches out to me.  I don't want to be that person who says, "I can't help you." 

If I were playing a football game right now, someone would say that I have taken a lot of hard hits this season (aka this past year).  It's been really hard to get back up.  To find someone willing to listen and talk.  But, I think part of that is just in my head because I have to fight the wrong things that someone said to me last year that still linger in my head.  When I look at reality, I can see that I've made new friends in each of the places we've lived this year.  Friends that have changed my life and who I'm thankful for.  I think that Satan really tries to tell us that we're alone and that no one, least of all God, cares.  But, that's not the truth.  None of us are truly alone.  And if you're my friend and know me, well, I always tell my friends that it doesn't matter if it's day or night.  Call me or email me (if it's after 10 pm unless it's an emergency :) which in case definitely call!) if you need to talk! 

But, that's just my two cents for whatever it's worth...

Friday, May 25, 2018

How to Use 100 Easy Lessons to Teach Reading

When I was student teaching in first grade over fifteen years ago, I remember being in awe of how a child learns to read.  I felt this enormous amazement at how a child's brain connects symbols to sounds, sounds together to make words, and then words together to make sentences and to make meaning!  In the school where I student taught, there was no set curriculum.  Teachers always wrote their own.  Fast forward to when my oldest daughter was 4.  It was time to start teaching the letters!  And then we'd be on to reading.

I wasn't sure how to teach the letters and their sounds.  I couldn't find a curriculum with my oldest daughter that would teach me how.  So, my oldest daughter, at age 4, and my middle daughter, at age 2, learned their letters and sounds by watching Leapfrog's Letter Factory DVD.  Then, they both went through the Explode the Code books A, B, and C.  These books are wonderful!  They focus on developing a child's visual discrimination (essential building block for good reading), ability to follow directions (on the clues page), beginning phonics skills, and fine motor skills.  It is very important to get the teacher's guide to go with these books because otherwise a child can't complete the clue pages in the books.

By the time my son was ready for his alphabet, I finally found a curriculum that would teach me "how" to teach the alphabet.  It was Hooked on Phonics, Pre-K.  I love the video that comes with the series.  For each letter, there are several kinesthetic activities to do for each letter.  Part 1 focuses on the capital letters and Part 2 on the lowercase letters.  I also used The Letter of the Week, Book 1 by the Mailbox Books Staff.  This was great letter reinforcement and cut and paste practice, which my left-handed child needed.

Once my children learned their letters, it was time to start learning to read.  Initially, I started out with the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise.  This book does give instructions on how to teach the alphabet, but since my oldest daughter already knew that, I started with the reading lessons.  I had chosen this book because Jessie Wise talks so persuasively in her book The Well-Trained Mind.  After reading WTM, it felt as if the OPGTR must be right!  I am not exactly sure what it is about Ms. Wise's writing, but she writes in such a way that makes the reader feel that if you follow the model she sets forth, then you will be guaranteed to have a very well-educated and academically successfuly child.    What I learned as I started using the Ordinary Parent's Guide is that the reason there are so many different curriculum is that there are so many different children--there is no one program that will work for all children.

Autumn and I spent three weeks on the first lesson of OPGR and it wasn't clicking for her.  I had looked at How to Teach your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, but had been so puzzled by the strange markings that I had put it back on my shelf.  After 3 weeks, though, I gave up and went back to the drawing board.  I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and my daughter.  No one my husband works with homeschools and I felt that I had to keep up with the Jones' and prove to the world that this homeschooling thing would be the right thing for my family--I needed to prove to myself and others that my daughter would and could learn better at home than in a school setting. 

At this point, I pulled 100 Easy Lessons off the shelf and started working with it.  This is when it clicked and I figured out how to use this book.  Whenever I talk to parents about this book, I encourage parents not to go straight through this book, one lesson per day, from one to 100.  Here's why:

1.  We want our children to love reading and learning.  Forcing reading down their throats will only push them away.

2.  There are several big clicks that need to happen in the book (1 is somewhere around lessons 30-40, and a second is around lesson 60, and a third around 70-80).  These clicks are different for every child, but I did see all three of my children have big clicks.  If a child pushes ahead without those clicks, they won't become fluent readers.  It will take them longer to learn to read.

3.  You don't want your child to learn to read from simply rote memory, but rather to develop phonics skills in the process.  So, I did 5 lessons, then backed up, repeated and went forward 10 lessons, went back 5 lessons, repeated and went forward 5 or 10 lessons.  If my child stumbled at all, I'd back up 5 and repeat.

4.  I started using this book with my kids in PK4.  But, in that first year, I did 1/2 a lesson each time I worked with my kids.  By the end of PK4, one of my kids was at lesson 20, one at lesson 30, and one at lesson 15.  But, by the end of grade 2, they were all done.  It is 100 easy lessons, but my kids all finished at different points--1 was done by the end of kindergarten, 1 in the middle of 1st and 1 at the end of 1st.  When a child is done with 100 Easy lessons, they will have a 2nd grade reading level.

5.  After 100 easy lessons, I continue with Phonics Pathways, reading 1-2 pages per day (repeating when they don't get them to practice).  100 Easy Lessons doesn't do a lot of work with compound and multisyllabic words, which kids need and Phonics Pathways covers. 

6.  I don't do the writing portion at the end of the lessons.  My kids fine motor skills developed later and I didn't want that part of the lessons to frustrate my kids.

7.  100 Easy Lessons is one of the few reading programs that is not based on rhyme and that is why it works for many kids when other programs don't.  But, it also teaches rhyme!  And it is one of the few programs that teaches rhyme.  My oldest daughter is an excellent reader (always several grades above her reading level) but she didn't get rhyme until she was in 2nd grade.  Ironically, she wrote poetry as naturally as most people breathe air in 2nd grade, so not rhyming early did not impede her reading or writing development. 

8.  I use Explode the Code alongside 100 Easy Lessons.  If a child reads easily, 100 Easy Lessons and Explode the Code whole and half number books are enough phonics.  But, if a child struggles, I would add in the phonics lessons from the Explode the Code teachers guides.  Using these books together would provide an inexpensive and strong phonics program.

As for where to buy these books...  CBD is the best place to get the Explode the Code books and
Teacher's books inexpensively.  Each Explode the Code book is about $7 and the teacher's guides cost about the same, but 1 teacher's guides covers 2 whole number books and 2 half number books.  As for 100 Easy Lessons, it hasn't been updated in years so a new or used copy can be purchased on Amazon.  When I checked, a used copy could be purchased for $10.50 and a new one for $18.  If you're going to use it with several children, a new copy is worth it.  As for Phonics Pathways, don't buy anything older than the 9th edition.  It has some great eye tracking exercises in the back that may come in handy!  Dolores Hiskes also wrote Reading Pathways (older editions are titled Pyramid) and this can be a helpful book if kids are skipping words and need more practice tracking. 

It's been several years since my kids finished their phonics lessons.  My youngest has just started book 8 of Explode the Code because I use it in place of spelling through 3rd/4th grade.  Explode the Code really is an amazing series because it works on visual discrimination, reading comprehension, blends, spelling, writing, and pulling words apart and putting them together (a modified Orton Gillingham type approach).  I am so glad I found these books to use.  They gave all of my children a solid base in reading.  So solid that all of my kids have always read well above grade level--

I hope that I've remembered everything in this post.  Please comment if you have any thoughts or questions! 

And the series goes on... and on...

Just a few posts ago, I wrote a review of the book Troubled Waters by Susan May Warren.  And it's already time to write a review of the next book in the series! 

Storm Front is the next installation in the series.  So many Christian fiction series only have three
books in them.  So, when I read the third book in this series I expected it to end--but it didn't!  Now, the series is up to book #5 and it's clear that this isn't the last book in that series.  One more book will be published this coming November.

Storm Front tells the story of another search and rescue team member, Ty, and the woman who has captured his interest, Brette Arnold.  It hasn't been smooth sailing and both have troubled pasts.  Their paths cross after a tornado hits a town where another member of the search and rescue team was performing in a music concert.  This story tells the tale of their search for missing people after the storm has past.  This book moves through the plot and smooth pace.  The characters are likeable and flawed people.  Perfect people really aren't as likeable.  It is harder to identify with them, picture them as real because we are all flawed. 

This book didn't engage me as much as the previous novels in the series did.  But, because I've enjoyed the series I want to know what happens to the other characters.  This is a series that makes a lot more sense if you start with book 1, Wild Montana Skies.  Some series you're able to just read any book in the series and it will make sense.  But, in this case, Storm Front, really makes more sense if you read the other books first. 

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of the ebook of this book for review from Revell Books. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A little behind...

I'm a little behind in my book reviews.  A lot has been going on in my house.  House projects, homeschooling, sports, and the like.  Amidst all of that, I've read a few books that I need to write a few quick posts about... so here goes!

The first book in my stack is Bountiful Blessings:  A Creative Devotional Experience by Susie Larson.  Several years ago, I read a book by Ms. Larson that I loved--Growing Grateful Kids.  So, I
was very curious about this devotional.

This book is a very short.  For each day, there is a Bible verse, a short blessing/prayer based on that verse(s) and a 5' x 7' coloring page. 

I'm not quite sure what I think of this devotional.  If it's what you're looking for, then it's okay.  But, the question is what are you looking for?  What am I looking for? 

This isn't what I'm looking for.  The coloring pages take time.  I don't have a lot of time.   And I wasn't always comfortable with the blessings.  I'm not a name it and claim it believer. 

So, I'm reading another devotional instead.  It's titled 31 Days Towards Trusting God by Jerry Bridges.  I read part of a day each day.  It has been very encouraging to me and challenged me.  I wanted more meat in a devotional.  I do highly recommend this devotional!  I have read the book Trusting God before and done the Bible study that goes along with the book.  Both deeply encouraged me, so I love reading this devotional. 

At different times in my life, I have found that I have more time for my morning devotions than at others.  Right now, I don't have a lot.  So, this book works well for me! 

Please note that I received a copy of Bountiful Blessings for review from Bethany House, but that these opinions are entirely my own.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

And the Series Goes On...

I enjoy getting into a book series and looking forward to the next one!  There have been several series I've enjoyed over the years, but right now there's a Christian fiction author that I enjoy reading.  It's Susan May Warren.  Her books are the typical Christian fiction and I've wondered why I like them more than others...

I think it is because the first series I read by her looked at a family of five kids and how their relationships changed as they became adults.  God helped me consider what that looked like.  My husband is the oldest of six kids.  Over the course of our marriage they have all become adults.  We read books because they help us to make sense of our own lives--as Leland Ryken says. 

I find that amidst the stress of life I can't handle heavy books filled with drama, but I can read light Christian Fiction. 

In the latest series from Susan May Warren, she writes about a group of rescue workers in Montana.  The last installment came out in January--Troubled Waters. 

The series began with a question mark about the relationship between Sierra and Ian Shaw.  This book finally brings them together.  The rescue squad's helicopter crashes.  So, Sierra decides to fundraise to help replace the helicopter.  Sierra heads out on Ian's yacht with a couple of his friends only to encounter some "troubled waters".  This story falls in line with the three books that precede it.  This book can stand alone, but it makes much more sense in light of the series.  I'd recommend starting with book one of this series (Wild Montana Skies).  This book flows well, with fun characters that easy to imagine.  It keeps going at a steady pace and never holds you up for too long! 

Ian and Sierra have been two of my favorite characters of the books and I looked forward to this book.  It didn't disappoint!  If you enjoy contemporary Christian fiction, I'd recommend this series!

Please note that I received a complimentary ebook copy of this book for review from Revell Books, but these opinions are entirely my own! 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Correcting One Another...

I have come to the conclusion that people often do not realize how harshly they speak and how long their correction stays with people or how it damages relationships. I think we really need to think long and hard before we speak to someone in an effort "to correct what we think is wrong in someone else". Matthew 7:3-5

Here's an interesting and different take on speaking the truth in love... see article HERE According to Tony Reinke, that verse actually applies to speaking the Gospel truth into someone's life--not correcting minor flaws you might perceive in someone else. It's easy to want to correct someone in how they are treating you, but is that loving? Is it necessary (unless it is abusive or manipulative--in which case it definitely is)?

I have observed that it is easy to want to control how people treat us when we feel out of control in our own lives (or grew up feeling out of control in our childhoods) and tell people how to treat you, but I don't believe that is what real friends do for each other. I don't believe that's what loving others really means.

We don't ever really know all that is going on in another person's life. No one knows the load I truly carry and I don't know anyone else's full load. Why add to that? What if those words are the criticism that is the straw that breaks the camel's back? Instead of criticizing one another, wouldn't it be wiser to grow in grace and forgiveness towards one another? Speaking the Gospel truth is a different matter--it is life giving and strengthening. It is a different matter altogether.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Fun, Light Hearted Reading

Whew.  A few weeks ago amidst the stress of life, I sat down and took a little break from it all.  I had fun reading the latest novel by Jen Turano.

Out of the Ordinary is the second novel (after a novella and novel) of her Apart from the Crowd Series.  It tells the story of Miss Gertrude Cadwalader and Harrison Sinclair.  They have quite the names, of course!  Ms. Turano's main characters are always quite likeable and fun to read about.  Gertrude is a companion to a very eccentric woman who is quite the thief!  Her escapades were touched upon in the first book, Behind the Scenes.  As the reader, Gertrude's character will draw you in and make you smile.  This story meanders around until it finally arrives at a happy finish.  The writing is descriptive and keeps things moving along.  There are the good characters and the bad ones who produce the conflict at the heart of the story.

I have to be honest.  I can always depend and look forward to reading one of Ms. Turano's books when they come out because they are funny and light-hearted (and unbelievable of course as any fairy tale-ish story is).  My husband constantly teases me about reading books like Out of the Ordinary.  He reads much more serious fiction.  But, my heart just needs a break and a happy ending when I pick up a book!

This book delivered just that--a fun break from life.  I could smile and chuckle as I read about Gertrude's adventures with Harrison and her friends.  It was a breath of fresh air!

As I was getting to post this, I discovered on Amazon that the next book in this series is going to be published next July.  I am so glad!  As I was reading this story, I had really wanted to know what happens to Gertrude's friend Temperance...

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishing for review, but these opinions are my own.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Engaging with Social Media

I realized yesterday that it's been about a year since I got back on Facebook.  It was quite the anniversary...

I chose to comment on a thread in a homeschool group I had joined on Facebook.  The person who started the thread asked for insight about how to help her young daughter who didn't want to do her handwriting.  I commented that I had been reading a book about handwriting research and that it was interesting to read about the important connection between the automaticity of handwriting and becoming a fluent writer.

Someone else commented and asked for the title of the book--which I replied with.  Then, the original person who started the thread commented about how she agreed with the importance of reading and writing and that they are foundational.

Well, it went downhill from there...

I replied with this, "I agree that reading and writing are the foundation of everything. ;) "

I included the wink.  The wink just meant to me that I agreed--and I thought that most people would agree--

But, a woman took offense to my simple statement.  She attacked me and my "wink".  I was surprised, but I shouldn't have been.

This is the way of social media.  People make assumptions about other people and think the worst--rather than the best. 

The commenter in this case went on about how I simply didn't understand what it was to have a child with learning disabilities and that reading and writing are not essential--that someone could function in the world without being able to write. 

The ironic thing about all of it is that God has laid it on my heart to pursue understanding learning disabilities better and specifically struggles with reading and writing.  This woman didn't know me, nor did she know this about me. 

I responded to her comment that no tone was meant by the wink and that my statement had no particular tone.   I reminded her that she didn't know me nor know my heart or experience with kids. 

And then I said that her comment is one of the reasons I stayed off social media, and Facebook in particular, for five years. 

I've thought about getting back off.  I start a lot of conversations with friends asking how they manage and approach the pitfalls of social media because it is a part of our lives for better or for worse. 

I've discovered that most people I know have concerns about social media.

What common struggles do we have?

We all see the lives of others and at times think that their lives are easier or better than ours. 
We can compare ourselves and feel that we have failed personally or professionally--that we are less that we should be or can be. 
We get caught up in the gossipy details about people's lives.
We're privvy to complaints that family members have against others that we'd rather not know about. 
We only hear one side of the story and it's easy to get caught up judging the other side--the one we don't know. 

But, what is the antidote to these struggles?  Is there a way to find our way through it?  Is staying off social media the only solution? 

I think there are a few ways I've found and I've heard from friends to deal with these things. 

1.  You don't have to friend everyone.  Be wise. 
2.  You don't have to unfriend people who's posts you don't want to see--you can unfollow them. 
3.  Keep your privacy settings tight.
4.  Set boundaries with yourself about how much you want/don't want to get on social media. 
             For me, I only have facebook access on my computer.  I did put the app on my phone.  So, I
            don't get pinged when someone posts and I'm not distracted by it when I'm not home.  I have
            other friends who only get one once a week or who only use it to connect with family
5.  Practice thinking the best of people and not the worst.
6.  Weigh the emotional costs of engaging in banter on a post.  Does the person have ears to hear or would it be a case of throwing pearls before swine that they might turn and trample upon--and then attack you?  If you don't want to comment, you can always PM someone if you have a positive thing to say or simply want to ask a different question.  I've gone this route multiple times.

But, I haven't figured it all out at all.  It still hurts when strangers say unkind things when I choose to share something I think in reply to a question they've asked.  I struggle when I know there are two sides of a story and one person is broadcasting their side and people are jumping on board--criticizing the other side.  It makes me sad when I find myself comparing myself with others. 

It's not easy to figure out what to do.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Ugh... A horrible book.

I just read the kind of book that gives homeschoolers a bad name.  I feel like I have had a unique combination of experiences.  I have taught in several public schools, substitute taught at various schools in several different states, taught at a private school, taught at a homeschool co-op, taught in a GED program at a community college, have tutored K-12 subjects, and have now homeschooled for over ten years.  I know that there are strengths and weaknesses of each system.  But, one of the biggest problems I see is how the systems--public, private, and homeschooling--interact with each other and view each other.  It is this problem that grieves me.  I don't believe that there is one right educational fit for all children, but I wish there was more respect and grace shown between these three systems.  The book I just read does not help to encourage that.

In front of me sits a new book by Dr. Kevin Leman, Education a la Carte:  Choosing the best schooling options for your child.  What this book should really be titled is Education:  Valuing Public, Private, and Charter Schools More.  My time is short and so I'll try and get straight to the point and explain what my issues with this book are.  I know I don't have time to really dig into them.  I realized that this book first of all doesn't have a Christian emphasis, but does have a moral slant.  Secondly, the author perceives that the goal of all parents is that their children will achieve worldly success and by that I mean monetary success.  Lastly, this author was "privileged to sit in on a homeschooling focus group" in which he listened to a group (of what size? where?  who was in it?  what ages were their children?  who was running it?) which made some statements that by no means were representative of the vast variety of homeschoolers who are educating their children today.  So, my last issue is how he portrays homeschooling.

I'll start with my first point.  The books I'm aware of by Dr.  Kevin Leman's books have all been published by Christian publishers over the years, so I assumed that they were grounded in the Word.  But, as I perused this book, I realized that there weren't any Bible verses in it or referenced in it.  So, I spoke with a friend who has read several of his parenting books and asked if they were Biblical.  She explained that they had some solid, good advice but that they would better be classified as "moral" than "Biblical".  But, what that means for the book is that many Christian parents may not find that they agree with the premise of most of his points.  I didn't.

Next point.  The first chapters focus on explaining and identifying what parents want first for their children and then what they should look for in a school--note that he really means in a formal school setting.  The feeling I got as I read those chapters was that we should all want monetary success and acceptance to the best colleges for our kids.  On page 27, Leman writes "Let's be honest, shall we?  Each of us wants our child not only to compete but also to be top dog in an increasingly complicated, global world."  No, that's not want I want most for my kids!!  What I want for my kids is to to love God, to love others well, and to be able to live independently as adults.  Then, two pages later, he writes that "the reality is that you have to go to some sort of college these days in order to make a decent buck."  No!  That's not true either.  I talk to people all the time about their jobs and how they got them.  But, college isn't always a part of the picture.  My husband took a very nontraditional path to his degree and he's a great example that debunks that myth.  He's a smart man who works hard and has a lot of knowledge.  He does have his degree now, but it is his experience and the knowledge he sought outside of a classroom that really helps him do his job!  When I consider my own children, I expect my youngest son to pursue a trade that will allow him to be practical and support himself (and a family) and pursue his interests.

At one point, there's this statement that tells you about Leman's wife's reaction when he brought up homeschooling to her.  This is how he relates the story on page 63, "...I once brought up homeschooling to my wife.  "What?" she said, baring her teeth like a German shepherd patrolling the junkyard against potential adversaries.  That was the end of the subject for us."  When you read a statement like that in the book, you know that the author and his wife do not see homeschooling the way homeschoolers do.  I wish he had left that story out of the book.  The section on homeschooling is very short and gives a very strange and in many ways wrong view of how homeschooling actually works.  He focuses on the drawback he sees of what to do when your child misbehaves and paints the picture that homeschooling parents have to separate the roles of teacher and parent.  My experience is that you can't fully separate the two roles.  You are always parent and teacher, too.  Because as a homeschooling parent, I engage in my kids' lives throughout the day.  Ironically, the homeschooling authorities that he quotes are odd ones--two of them I've never even heard of!  I have been reviewing homeschooling curriculum for over ten years and listening to parents about the different books they read and I've never come across these two...  I could go on and on, but instead hopefully I'll write a book some day that's a better representation of homeschooling.

I think the last thing that surprised me about this book is that the list of resources at the end of the book is just a list of Dr. Kevin Leman's books.  There were no references or explanation of the "homeschooling focus group" he attended, no footnotes explained, or the site that told him Susan Sutherland Isaacs and John Holt are two of the major driving educational philosophical forces behind homeschooling.

I wish Dr. Leman had written a better book.  I would not recommend this book.  It is not a broad research based book.  Instead, it is a book written based on stereotypes and anecdotal evidence from his own life and experience.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book by Revell books and very obviously these are all my own opinions.

The next yearly installment...

For the past how ever many years, I have reviewed Melody Carlson's annual Christmas novella.  This year is no different.  This post is about her new one, The Christmas Blessing.  I've had some favorites over the years.  Christmas at Harringtons, The Christmas Cat, The Christmas Box...  But, this one kept me going until the end and then it didn't make my favorites list.  Let me explain.

The book is just fine.  It's a made for tv Christmas movie.  It's a sweet story about a young mom at
her wit's end choosing what's best for her son over what's best for her, sacrificing her heart.  Amelia Richards had hoped for so much more in her life, but she made a choice and then her love died in the World War II.

Melody Carlson writes fun Christmas novels.  And this one is enjoyable until the end.  There is a scene that is missing.  I feel like she took the easy way out.  It is the hard scenes in a book that I love and learn the most from.  The scene right before the end is the one I most want to read!!  But, it's not there.  The author chose instead to infer in two sentences what happened.

Is the book still worth reading?  It's a fun, pick up to read book when you have a cup of tea one evening.  But, just be warned, there's a scene that I think is missing!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Revell Publishing for review, but these opinions are my own.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The many approaches to homeschooling

In a former life, in what feels like a long, long time ago, I was a middle school teacher in two different public schools.  It seems like a lifetime ago.  I had earned a master's degree in education and fell in line with an educational philosophy similar to many of my colleagues.  I was in a cohort of students that hoped to teach at urban schools--to help kids who were struggling learn.  My educational philosophy was based upon theories of the likes of Lev Vygotsky and Jean Piaget about how children develop and learn.

But, when I entered the world of homeschooling, the phrase "educational philosophy" took on a different meaning.  The greatest difference I found among homeschoolers was whether parents considered their philosophy to be in line with the likes of Charlotte Mason, Maria Montessori, classical education, or was standards based.

In a post a few months ago, I mentioned that I started out when my oldest daughter was in kindergarten subscribing to the educational philosophy outlined in Susan Wise Bauer's book, The Well Trained Mind.  This book sets forth how one can follow the classical model for education.   The Classical model is based on teaching children according to three stages of development: grammar, logic, and then rhetoric.  Trivium Pursuit gives a detailed explanation of what a Classical education is Here.   I think parents who see problems in the public schools and the tide turning away from phonics towards common core and whole language reading like the appeal of academics and a wholly new way of attacking the same problems.  It strongly appeals to people who feel they were missing things in their own education as children, love the classics, see a huge value in learning Latin and Greek, and appreciate the promises it gives of a well rounded education for students if parents follow through.  There are other books which outline this approach as well, including Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn.  Teaching the Trivium differs from The Well-Trained Mind in that the latter book is written from a secular perspective and the former is written from a Christian perspective.

After following the model of WTM for two years, I realized that it was not working for my daughter or me.  We were both at our wit's end.  Something needed to change.  We moved away from the philosophy of WTM and back towards a standards based philosophy of education using public school textbooks as the foundation of our curriculum.

But, the classical model works for many families.  I have watched this over years and listened to many parents who love what their children are learning.  So, how do you figure out how to follow this model?  There are a lot of great resources out there.

Many families I know have joined Classical Conversations groups.  The founder of this network of groups is Leigh Borten.  I do want to note that her ideas are very intellectually similar to the ideas of Lev Vygotsky.  Another way to follow the classical method is by using the WTM as a guide or Teaching the Trivium.  Leigh Borten's book and Douglas Wilson's book Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning both argue why classical education is the best way to argue education.  Wilson, in his typical style, is of course very inflammatory.  Borten is more moderate and balanced, though.  Even though she plagiarizes other educational theorists' ideas, her book is easy to read and understand.  Her book, The Core, is easy to understand and clear (although she plagiarizes other educational theorists).  If I were to recommend one book to explain the classical method, this would probably be it.  Although, I recently spoke to a friend who wouldn't recommend this book.  After being a part of a classical conversations group for several years and being a tutor, she felt that it isn't a program that works for all students, although it presents itself as one that does.  She also explained that Borten's ideas are based upon Douglas Wilson's ideas, which gave me concern.

Teaching the Trivium takes a very specific approach to classical education and it's the right book for the right person--just as the other books are the right books for the right people.  As homeschoolers, we all find books that will encourage us.  But, no book will have all of the answers.  They can give us ideas, but since all of our families are different, we have to take the ideas that have worked for other families and consider how they will work for us.  Teaching the Trivium is written from a strong Christian perspective and the belief that all families should homeschool.  I did correspond with the author about her book and she expressed that if they could publish a second edition that there are changes they would make to the book.  I would keep that in mind and just like you would read any book--read it looking for ideas about what might work for you.  Sometimes even an opposite idea can help you figure out what you believe about homeschooling.

The Well-Trained Mind, like Classical Conversations relies heavily on curriculum from the authors as the foundation of their programs.  It has a very specific tone...  It is a very helpful book, but I think it is important to keep in mind that you are not "right" if you follow the author's advice, and "wrong" if you don't.  Rather, it is one approach to education and if you find that you align with the ideas set forth in the book, then it will give you a framework of how one can implement classical education in your home.

Many homeschooling parents love the classical model and there are many other classical publishers out there including Veritas Press and Memoria Press.  But, I think if I could wish one thing for homeschoolers in regard to classical education, it would be that we would all show one another respect--whether we do or don't agree with this model.  I truly believe that there is no one "right way" to homeschool in regards to educational philosophy.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of Teaching the Trivium for review from the publisher.  But, the thoughts in this post are all my own.  I borrowed a copy of the Core, checked out a copy of Douglas Wilson's book from the library years ago, and owned a copy of The Well-Trained Mind when my oldest daughter was in kindergarten years ago.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Cops and Robbers

A while back, I started reading Lynette Eason's Elite Guardians series.  It was fun.  I enjoyed the characters.  So, I looked forward to reading the new book in the series, Chasing Secrets.  Chasing Secrets could be a stand alone novel, but it really makes more sense when read in the sequence of the series.  I had missed one of the books, so I went back and read Moving Target before I read Chasing Secrets.  There were a few details about the characters in Chasing Secrets that you wouldn't know if you didn't read Moving Target.

Chasing Secrets tells the story of Haley Callaghan.  Haley is one of the Elite Guardians, a group of bodyguards in Columbia, South Carolina, that works with the police department to protect people.  At the beginning of the story, a young man Zeke attempts to rob Haley.  How that scene plays out will make you like Haley from the very beginning.  Another character is introduced at the beginning of the story that you will come to like, Steve.  He's come home to South Carolina after several years away.  He, like many book characters, is running away from the past, but finds that he has to stop and face the past.

Isn't that life?  We each have our own history and if we don't take it to the Lord and sort through it, it will confront us (or rather God will confront us with it).  Of course, it's always more dramatic in Christian fiction, but that truth remains the same.  We are all products of our past.

Ms. Eason writes a compelling story in Chasing Secrets.  It moves along at a good clip.  There are neither too few nor too many characters for most of the story.  Although at one point, there were quite a few moving people to keep track of.  It's a good solid Christian crime-suspense novel.

If you have read any of her other novels, I'm sure you'll enjoy this one!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell books for review, but these opinions are my own.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


Sometimes I feel embarrassed that I read Christian fiction as a way to relax and take a mental break from life.  My husband teases me about the books and I am embarrassed when friends or family ask me what I've been reading.

To me, life is quite heavy.  It's busy and I have a lot to do.  My life only allows me to breathe for a few minutes here and there.  And Christian fiction books let me do that--breathe and be entertained.  Yes, they are entertaining to me.  Some are better than others, though.  Some Christian writers are more skilled in their character development, and description.  Some stories are more feasible and believable (even in a fairy-tale sense) than others.

Having said all that, there are still books that I've read, but have not really enjoyed.  The book I read this past week is falls into this category.  I didn't like or enjoy it and found myself skipping past 3/4 of the book to the end to see how it ended.  I've read other books by this author and they fell in the middle of the pack of "Christian historical fiction" that I've read.  They neither stood out, nor fell to the bottom.  But, this one was irksome to me.

The book was A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White.
I have been pondering why I disliked this book and I think it had to do with the glorification and justification of theft.  The plot was also more ridiculous in nature than the usual Christian fiction.  The main character of the story, Rosemary Gresham, is a thief who is recruited for the task of discovering whether a gentleman's loyalty lay with Britain or Germany.  She is an orphan who was adopted into a family of thieves and orphans.  The story follows her as she wrestles with her heart over her task yet seeks to follow it to completion.  When she changed, I didn't entirely know whether to believe the changes or not and that didn't sit with me.

I want to clarify that it's not that this particular story or book is bad in my opinion.  It's just that I didn't enjoy it and I think the story line rubbed me the wrong way.  I much preferred Ms. White's Ladies of the Manor series.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishing.