Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Harry Potter Reviews (Warning: spoilers ahead)

We have had quite the Harry Potter week! We got the book on Saturday and finished reading it on Tuesday. Yesterday (Wednesday), after we took Mr. Math Teacher and Grandma to the airport, the kids and I went to the "big city" public library for a Harry Potter party. Then, we went to see the new movie.

First, the Harry Potter party - totally fun! The kids had a blast. They both entered the costume contest, but Wild Man couldn't give his name as Albus Severus Potter because that is from Book 7, so he had to be "A Relative of Harry's". Ga'Hoole Girl made a clock (real clock works) with a CD and a clock mechanism. It is supposed to be like the Weasley Clock, so she has it sectioned into things like "home", "school", "dance", "mortal peril", and "death". (There are a few others, but I can't remember them.) There was a wand-making station and both kids made wands (although they also had the wooden ones that Mr. Math Teacher carved for them a couple of years ago). They also had a ton of food - pizza, cookies, juice. It was a very good use of an hour and a half.

The movie - "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"

The kids' assessment: a rip-off. I'm not quite as harsh, but I must agree that it was less than satisfying. First, the good stuff: The actors continue to do an excellent job. The special effects were excellent. The set and costumes were also excellent - it really felt like what Hogwarts is supposed to feel like. The not-so-good stuff: The plot was very thin and forced. Obviously, they had to cut a lot out from the book in order to make a movie, but they cut out so much that the movie seemed to be racing along. Unfortunately, they gave such short shrift to some important plot lines that they seemed understandable only because we knew the movie. Mrs. Figg was also very poorly done. She was supposed to be this little old lady who was very frazzled and talked quickly. Instead, she is very hesitant about everything. In addition, she lightened up the beginning of the book. In the movie, the beginning was more dark than it needed to be (partly because of the lack of Mrs. Figg). The fight scene at the ministry was also thinner than it should have been. People kind of showed up without much explanation. And, at the end, Harry is supposed to be very angry, but, in the movie, he is just sad. I don't think we're going to bother purchasing this movie. It's probably OK to rent when it comes out on video. Let's hope that "The Half-Blood Prince" has a better transition to the screen.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

J.K. Rowling has done an excellent job in this last book. We read it out loud from Saturday to Tuesday. It is well-paced and kept us interested throughout. There was, indeed, a lot of death, but I was very glad that Harry and his closest friends survived. I really liked that the mission could not be accomplished without all three friends contributing - and Dumbledore knew this, so he gave each of them something that they would need. I was a little worried when Ron left Harry and Hermione, but was thrilled when he returned. Hedwig's and Dobby's deaths were rather devastating. I was glad, though, that Dobby died saving Harry - that was a great scene. Throughout the early part of the book, very little is said of Snape. I had become convinced that Snape was indeed completely evil and a Death Eater. What a surprise, then, to find out that Snape had been on the side of good the whole time (well, at least since Harry was a year old)! The scene in which Snape dies and gives Harry his memories was very touching. I must admit, though, that the entire concept of Snape loving Lily his whole life was a total shock to me. But, it tied up lots of loose ends and explains Snape's turning away from Voldemort.

The theme of redemption and sacrifice continues throughout the book. Harry's facing Voldemort without fighting back was a great scene. It is certainly not an allegory of the Christian story (as in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), but is a clear picture of love overcoming evil. Harry is willing to die in order that the rest of them might be saved. Of course, others died in the fight against Voldemort as well. I was especially saddened by Tonks' and Lupin's deaths.

I very highly recommend this book, but not till after you have read the first six. I recently re-read books five and six, which I found very helpful in order to understand the events of book seven. This book is very dark, and there is a lot of death. It is probably not appropriate for the under-8 crowd. Wild Man is nine and did very well with the book. We have had several very good (and very deep) discussions about the whole Harry Potter series. I have to say that Ms. Rowling has done an excellent job in finishing the story.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Knitting update

One of the fun things about camp is that I have lots of free time in which to read and knit. During May and June I made a cute sweater and pair of pants for my brand-new nephew. I also made a fun little bath mitt for his big brother. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures, so I can't post pictures until my Dad sends me some. The sweater pattern is from LionBrand and is a striped hoodie. It was so adorable. The pants pattern was from Knitty.com. This was a little more tricky. I made the first leg and then put it on a yarn stitch holder. Then, I made the second leg. I was supposed to then put all these stitches on a circular needle with some additional cast-on stitches between the two legs. Well, doing this on a circular needle just didn't work. It was a good way up the hips before I was knitting anything resembling a circle or oval - it was more of a figure of eight shape. So, I put the work on five double point needles which made much more sense. In any case, they were really cute. The bath mitt pattern was also from LionBrand. I used cotton worsted weight yarn. I was very happy with the outcome. I still have left-over yarn, so I'm looking for more things to make.

I am currently working on lace socks from a pattern I got over at Writing and Living. I made one pair socks on needles that were far too big for the pattern. I wanted to use them as slippers, but they were even to big for that. And, the socks were each of a different color because I didn't have enough to do both socks (I was using leftover purple and teal yarn from a sweater that I made for a friend). So, I ripped out the socks and have started over with the correct size needles. And, I'm making the toe, heel, and top in teal with the foot and lower leg in purple. So far, so good.

One of the coolest projects I'm working on now is making throw rugs. I really need one under the piano bench because the hardwood is getting scratched up (and I don't really want to sacrifice a towel as a rug). So, I'm cutting old t-shirts and other clothing into strips and knitting it with size 17 needles. Working with such big needles is something of a challenge, but I like it. My plan is that I don't have a plan. I started in navy for 6 rows, then did 2 rows of a patterned fabric, then 2 rows of navy, then I'll add in the other stuff in increments of 2, 4, or 6 rows as the Spirit moves me! I really like the effect of the knitting.

I'm able to do a good bit of knitting these last few days because I knit while Mr. Math Teacher reads Harry Potter to us!

Book reviews - July 23

I've been doing a lot of reading lately - some of the books have really impacted me, others were just kind of interesting. Ga'Hoole Girl and I read all of the Artemis Fowl books except for the second one (there are four altogether). It's definitely preteen stuff, but it was fun. There is a lot of fairies and magic stuff, but clearly not occultic. I recommend it for adolescents.

Dumbing Us Down by John Gatto

The subtitle of this book is "The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling". This is a compendium of five talks that he has given about schooling. He is very clear that education and schooling are very different, and he gives compelling evidence that schooling is actually damaging to children. What is interesting is that he doesn't say that the current public schools are the problem: He says that the concept of compulsory schooling is the problem. We have taken children out of the adult world, where they were learning to be competent, thinking adults and have put them in an artificial world where they learn to be dependent. He doesn't argue that all structured schooling is bad, but that our current system of schooling from ages 5-17 is the problem. Excellent book! I highly recommend it. I'm currently working my way through The Underground History of American Education by the same author. He definitely challenges us.

Saint Catherine of Siena by Alice Curtayne

Now, I am not generally given to reading biographies of medieval Catholic saints, but my interest was piqued by a short article in Christianity Today. This book is a good biography of this woman. It is not, however, unbiased. The author clearly venerates this saint. Several of the incidents that are recounted (and said to be miraculous) stretch the imagination. Were miracles just more frequent during that time period? Or are there other explanations? For one thing, Catherine's "ecstasies" to which she was prone sound very much like partial-complex seizures. So, would she have been treated differently in our current society? It sounds like she was a product of her times. What I did take away from this book is how seriously this woman took prayer. She spent hours every day praying - and then more hours writing letters, visiting the sick, etc. We can say that we have so many more demands on our time in this day and age, but that doesn't take away our obligation to pursue time with God.

A Christian Manifesto by Francis A. Schaeffer

I recently read How Shall We Then Live by this same author and decided to see what some of his other writings are like. This book is a discussion of humanism and our obligation as Christians to oppose it. He spends a couple of chapters discussing how we can impact society for Judeo-Christian values, including civil disobedience. His writing is clear and compelling. I highly recommend this to anyone who takes their faith seriously.

Desiring God by John Piper

Wow. What a book. This book took me much longer than usual to read because there is so much in it. His thesis is that God is most glorified by our enjoyment of Him or (as he modifies the Heidelberg Catechism) "The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever". This was a really hard book to get through. Piper makes the claim that we are to pursue our pleasure in God because God is most happy when we are happy. Then, he spends the rest of the book showing how that works out in our lives - in love, in worship, in prayer, with money, in missions, and in suffering. He doesn't want us to persist in the belief that it is more "Christian" to go around being miserable "for the Kingdom". Piper's belief is that when we are truly serving God, we will have joy - even if it is tempered by the earthly situation in which we find ourselves.

Piper is a Calvinist, which comes through in his writing. I'm not sure that I accept the Five Points of Calvinism completely, but it helps to understand his background. He frequently quotes Jonathan Edwards (yes, of "Sinners in the Hands of Angry God" fame - there's a lot more to him!) and C.S. Lewis (of whom I am a really big fan).

I think I have done a poor job of explaining this book. It is quite rich and in-depth. I would encourage anyone to read it and spend some time with it. In the meantime, check out www.desiringgod.org, Piper's website which has many of his sermons and shorter writings.

The Language of God by Francis S. Collins

Here is yet another offering in the origins debate. If you think that the debate is as simple as "Young Earth" vs. "Old Earth", take a look at this book. Collins is a Theistic Evolutionist. He calls his position BioLogos - God created the universe and used evolution as a tool for his Creation of all life forms, but that, at some point, He gave humans a soul, making us different from all the other animals. In any case, he argues that the evidence for evolution is quite strong and that even the "Old Earth" Creationism argument is simply a "God of the Gaps" theory. That is, he believes that "Old Earth" Creationists reject evolution because we don't have all the information in order to completely understand it, so we invoke God for the stuff we don't yet understand. That is a valid point. Is "Old Earth" Creationism just accepting what sounds good of the current science but making sure to put enough God in it so that it's not pure naturalism? I don't really know. This book really made me think about what I believe and why.

Here are the things that I know. 1. God is the Creator of the universe and could have used any method He wanted in Creation. 2. The book of Genesis does not require a literal reading for it to still be the inspired Word of God. 3. "All truth is God's truth" (attributed to St. Augustine). When science and Scripture disagree, we must look at our interpretation of Scripture and the accuracy of the science.

Does Scripture allow for Theistic Evolution? Yes. Am I a Theistic Evolutionist? No. I still think that Evolution is a theory with many flaws. I just can't be convinced that Evolution could create the biodiversity that we see in Nature. But, I'm always willing to be further educated.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in the subject of Origins. It is very well-written and understandable. I do have some objections. The author rather frequently appeals to the fact that "almost all scientists agree" as support for his position. He says this about things that I know there is legitimate scientific disagreement about. His views need to be taken seriously.

The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins

Dawkins is one of the megaphones of the atheistic position. He writes frequently about Evolution for the lay person. I tried to read The God Delusion but couldn't get past the first chapter. Dawkins has a very annoying habit of making statements for which there is no support. He claims that since Evolution can explain all living things, that God must not exist - WHAT? As noted above, it is possible to be a Theistic Evolutionist. He also states categorically that Evolution must have occurred because we are here. He basically makes his arguments on tautologies. ARGHH! So, I only got through about three chapters of The Ancestor's Tale before I had just had enough. I think I will try Christopher Hitchens new book about atheism. Maybe he will actually have an argument that makes sense or at least can be supported. Dawkins' claptrap is just too much for me.

I'm going to be 40!! . . . .Someday!!

If you have seen "When Harry Met Sally", you probably recognize this line. I just love it! And, I used to say it, too, whenever I was feeling kind of old. But, now, as of 2 Saturdays ago, I am 40 - so I'd better find a new movie line!!

I really don't have any profound thoughts about turning 40. It feels pretty much like 39. We celebrated by having birthday cake around the campfire at Family Camp. My kids got me the book If I'm a Stay-at-Home Mom, Then Why Am I Always in the Car? - a Baby Blues comic book. Totally fun! And true!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Change of plans - already!

Well, all of my great plans are now seriously rearranged. I forgot that Grandma is taking the kids to Door County for several days between Ga'hoole Girl's piano camp and the Fair - they're going to tour lighthouses and make a DVD about them (sounds suspiciously educational). Sooooo, I am not starting our "real" school year until after the Fair. I am still doing the Electricity TOPS with Wild Man while Ga'Hoole Girl is at piano camp. But, everything else gets pushed back. (The good news is that I'm using the Lesson Plan function of Homeschool Tracker Plus, so the assignments will be deleted from the calendar, but they're still in the lesson plans for me to use in a few weeks.)

I am going to make a list of things that the kids can do if they ever feel tempted to tell me they are bored or "need something to do" (Wild Man says that so that he doesn't use the actual word "bored"). Otherwise, we'll do some reading and Ga'Hoole Girl will be working on her Fair projects.

The good news is that I'm reading The Underground History of American Education by John Gatto and am being reminded about the importance of letting kids learn by exploring and being self-directed. It is amazing what they do when they are "bored". There were several days in the weeks before Family Camp in which the kids didn't think to ask for media until late in the evening. They spent the days drawing, reading, and playing. Then, of course, there were the days in which they acted like they would die of boredom without media. I'll try to remember the former days and forget the latter!

I finished reading several books at Family Camp. I'll write more about them later. Suffice it to say that I have been very impacted by Desiring God by John Piper. I am also working on Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver and just finished The Language of God by Francis Collins. More on all that later. Of course, right now we're reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

A New School Year

I'm planning out the school year this weekend. We are starting school tomorrow, will skip the next week since Ga'Hoole Girl is going to piano camp, then school for a couple more weeks, then take a week off for the Fair. I am trying to be more relaxed about schoolwork, but still keep enough of a schedule that the kids have some structure.

I am going to start getting up early every morning so that we can have breakfast together and start school and chores at about the same time every day. This is going to be hard for me because I don't always sleep well, so I tend to sleep in on those days. When public school starts, Mr. Math Teacher will have to leave early for his student teaching, and Ga'Hoole Girl will have to be at school by 8 for her art class (first thing in the morning this year!). That will give me and Wild Man some time to work on his reading and dictation stuff. My plan right now is that Wild Man works from 8am until 11:30 (lunch time). Ga'Hoole Girl works from 8am until 2pm, unless she needs more time. I am going to start giving Ga'Hoole Girl a week's worth of work at a time so she can plan out her week accordingly. But, if she is done with stuff before 2pm (or there's only stuff that she needs me for and I'm not available to help her), then she is to continue doing math, grammar, typing, or Spanish until 2. Those are the subjects that she can just continue on her own. [The caveat is that we're only going to school until noon while Grandma is here so that the kids have time with Grandma and Ga'Hoole Girl and Grandma have time to work on Ga'Hoole Girl's sewing projects.]

We are Sonlight die-hards in this family. Mr. Math Teacher and I just love how the Cores are put together (a Core is the history/social science subjects combined into a type of unit study). I decided last year that it was too hard to have kids in 2 separate Cores so this year we are doing Core 6/Core 1. Actually, we are doing very little of Core 1 since both kids have already done it. We don't want to do the Core 1 read-alouds again, and Wild Man has very good comprehension and is doing well with the Core 6 read alouds. For the history stuff, we are doing the Core 6 Story of the World with The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History. Then, I have the kids do a notebooking page every week on what we have studied. I also print off maps for the kids to put in their notebooks. We use a timeline to help understand how stuff fits together in History. The main difference between Ga'Hoole Girl's work and Wild Man's work is that I expect a higher level of writing from her on her notebook pages and she and I will discuss some things in more depth. Wild Man dictates his notebook pages to me, while Ga'Hoole Girl writes or types hers.

I don't believe in changing up the Core too much - I figure that I paid a lot of money for someone else to make a schedule for us to follow, so it better be a schedule that I like. But, I am starting to add art history and music history for Ga'Hoole Girl using internet resources. I was very surprised to find out that there are some great sites about ancient Greek music - I assumed that we didn't really know much about music until the Middle Ages. I occasionally add some hands-on stuff since Wild Man is a little more of a hands-on learner. For example, we mummified apple slices in the spring and learned which combination of salts did a better job of mummifying. Right now, though, I think that notebooking provides a good "multisensory" experience for him (at least, he seems to be learning!).

Language arts is a tough one for us. I have the Core 6 and Core 1 Language Arts (actually, for Core 1, I only have the activity sheets). Ga'Hoole Girl does not like Sonlight LA at all, though. We have come to a reasonable compromise: We are using Easy Grammar Plus for grammar (she can learn most of it right from the book), we will still do dictation /copywork from Sonlight, and I will add Sonlight writing assignments as I see fit. She has to do a research paper this Fall, and the Sonlight resources for that are very good. Wild Man continues with reading lessons with a tutor. He is a little past where he would be in Core 1 reading, but I have him working through the Core 1 worksheets because they give him practice in handwriting, some introduction to grammar, and a boost in confidence since they're so easy. Ga'Hoole Girl also uses Spelling Power which has been very successful for us.

We use Singapore Math and love it. The one exception is that Ga'Hoole Girl is finishing up the "Key to Fractions" series. That was such a great series! I am planning on getting her the sets for decimals and probably several other topics. I was concerned that she isn't as far along in Math as I'd like her to be, but she told me that she was the only one of the kids in her summer school math class who really understood fractions - I felt 100% better. It appears that she is really learning her math, even if she hasn't covered as many topics. Wild Man loves his Singapore math so we continue that. I have also used the game "24" to help the kids with math facts. We have the addition/subtraction, multiplication/division, and original games.

For Bible, we are using Sonlight's Bible curriculum. We use the Children's Bible Field Guide as our main text. This book does an overview of the entire Bible in 36 weeks. So far, we have really liked it. I don't always do the activities in the book, but have supplemented with maps and charts from the "Tyndale Handbook of Bible Charts and Maps". I also find some stuff on the Internet at times. For example, we are learning about the Tabernacle this week, and I found some great sites about the Tabernacle on the web. Sonlight also has a Bible reading schedule that we follow so we're also reading in 2 Chronicles right now. That has spun off some interesting things. When we read about the Temple, I found some good internet sites with pictures so that we could visualize what was going on. Ga'Hoole Girl wants to do a math project in which she figures out how much all the gold and other expensive stuff in the Temple would cost in today's dollars.

Science has been kind of an issue for us. The Sonlight stuff has been OK, but not very in-depth. We are currently using Apologia Elementary Biology - "Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day of Creation". It is an in-depth study of bird, bats, and insects. It is working pretty well, except that our experiments have not gone well. We have very few birds visit our bird feeders and haven't had a chance to go on a nature walk yet. But, the information is clearly presented and she has some pre-made notebook pages on the Apologia website. After this, I plan to do the book on Astronomy and then start Ga'Hoole girl with the 8th grade physical science. Next week, while Ga'Hoole Girl is at piano camp, I'll be doing one of the TOPS books with Wild Man. He wants to learn about electricity, and Ga'Hoole girl never got to the electricity TOPS book. In this book, we will use everyday type of items (which were included in the Sonlight Science kits!) and learn about current, circuits, and other important electricity things.

I also have developed something called "Code H" for when I have a headache. When I have a headache so bad that I can't do schoolwork with the kids, I call a "Code H". Code H for Ga'Hoole girl means that she will do what she can do from her schoolwork list without my help and then continue until 2pm with workbook work. She is responsible for keeping the kitchen presentable and, if I'm still not feeling well in the evening, for starting dinner (usually a frozen pizza!). For Wild Man, he will do any work that doesn't require my help, then do work in his math book or Explode the Code until 11:30. He is responsible to keep the dining table cleared off during the day. When I'm feeling better, we go back to our regularly scheduled day. So, now I feel like I have a plan for days that have previously been out of control.

Well, that's our "school" schedule. I am learning to relax about the whole schooling thing. My kids have learned far more from just living as part of a family than they ever will from school books. I feel very strongly that they need to learn to communicate well, so we do lots of writing. I feel strongly that they need to know how to take care of themselves and our home. They are both learning to do their own laundry. Mostly, they need to learn about Jesus. And that comes more from watching the adults in their lives than it does from books.

We're Home!

We got back from Family Camp two days ago. We had a great week, as usual (although it was marred somewhat by some headache issues). The camp is in the Northwoods, which is just beautiful this time of year. We had one day in which the temperature didn't even hit 70 degrees! We had one rainy evening, but otherwise had great weather.

Ga'Hoole Girl did several crafts, including making a necklace with a piece of amber that she got from a nature class. Wild Man spent all his time (and money) at the archery and gun range. They have a 22 range where you can shoot, but you have to purchase the shells. Mr. Math Teacher and I just enjoyed the lovely weather and the peace and quiet.

The entire family (including Grandma) went on a loon float - the "science guy" at camp took us out in a pontoon boat to see the loons on the lake. We have done this a number of times, but this year we got to see baby loons and they came closer than they ever have before. (It is a crime to approach loons closer than 100 feet. But, our guide turned off the boat motor and we drifted and the loons came up very close to us!) We got to see the adult loons feed the babies - something we had never seen before. And, we got to hear several of the loon calls. Grandma videotaped the whole thing and made a really cool DVD!

We also went on a "Lumberjack breakfast" one morning (with about 30 other people). The guide (the "science guy" again) was a French lumberjack who took us on a walk partway around the lake while he talked about the original lumberjacks of the Northwoods. He also talked to us about the things in nature that we saw on our walk. One thing I have always liked about this man is that he relates everything back to our walk with God. When we had walked about half a mile, we came to where other staff members were cooking us breakfast on an outdoor cooking area. We had bacon, pancakes (made to order with chocolate chips or fruit added), milk, juice, and coffee.

We're still unpacking from our trip. But, we have now started reading the last Harry Potter book!! It was supposed to be delivered yesterday, but the UPS tracking number didn't give any info past Friday. So, we were concerned that it wasn't going to be delivered Saturday. When we were at the grocery store, they were selling copies of the book, so we picked up a copy (for Grandma, of course). We started reading as soon as the groceries were put away. I went to get our mail late in the afternoon, and there was our copy!! Apparently, UPS had given it to the Post Office to deliver, and it was delivered on the 21st, as promised. We are hoping to finish reading it before Mr. Math Teacher and Grandma go to Florida on Wednesday. But, if not, the kids and I have a copy that we can keep reading, and Mr. Math Teacher and his mom can take the other copy to read!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Try out this link to a great article about socialization of homeschooled kids. I think it's great!


Monday, July 09, 2007

Book reviews - July 9

As you can probably tell from my changing reading list, I have been doing a good bit of reading lately. I must say that reading real books is so much more interesting than only reading medical journals and medical charts. I have finished two more books recently, so I'll share my thoughts on them.

How Now Shall We Live? by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey
This is an excellent book on Christian worldview and I highly recommend it. I can't say that there was a lot that was new for me, but I did get a new perspective on things. The book is split into five parts: Worldview: why it matters, Creation: where did we come from and who are we?, The Fall: what has gone wrong with the world?, Redemption: what can we do to fix it?, Restoration: how now shall we live?.

The authors make a good case for the encouragement of Judeo-Christian values throughout our culture. They also make a strong argument for our working to develop these values in ourselves, our communities, and our nation. They don't just say to get involved in politics, but say to get talking to our friends and neighbors (sounds a lot like the Great Commission!).

The one thing in the book that challenged me was their assertion that "the medium is the message" meaning that the media of pop culture (TV, videos, contemporary music) make it easy for us to become lazy. We have a hard time focusing on anything for any length of time. So, many very intelligent people don't read books because they can't/won't focus for long enough to really read anything. Our music, even Contemporary Christian, is so simple as to allow us to listen and only feel without any thinking. Now, I'm not ready to give up my CCM music, but I did take this as a reminder of the importance of having a wide variety of music in our home. So, today I put on a classical music station (I normally play classical music when the kids are doing schoolwork, but today I had it on while I was cleaning) and Wild Man sat down and just listened. Then, Mr. Math Teacher said, "The bad news is that our son is a head-banger. The good news is that he's head-banging to Beethoven!" Indeed, Wild Man was enjoying a Beethoven trio.

Reading isn't an issue in this house. We use Sonlight curriculum, which is literature based, so we read out loud every day. We also read out loud even when we aren't doing school work (we're waiting with bated breath for the next Harry Potter book!). But, I did realize that one result of our "do everything quickly" culture is that we spend very little time in devotional time. So many Bible studies are advertised as "learn this topic in as little as 15 minutes per day". If you study history, though, the people who really made a difference for Jesus spent hours a day in prayer, meditation, and studying Scripture. I'm still struggling to get in a total of 30 minutes. So, it's important to help our kids develop the habits of reading and praying in more than a cursory fashion.

My conclusion is that this is an excellent book about worldview. I think everyone will be challenged on some level, even if you are familiar with most of the material.

The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism by Ronald Numbers
One of the first things that I noticed about this book was in the introduction. Dr. Numbers was raised as a Seventh Day Adventist, but when he was exposed to evolution, his faith didn't have good answers for him. Consequently, he is now an atheist.

That being said, he is very sympathetic to his subject and treats it fairly. Basically, the book traces Creationism (generally, literal young-earth 6 literal day creationsm) from the time of Darwin to the 1980's. It was a little difficult at times to really get engaged in the book when there were names of different men from different universities who were starting different organizations. But, I did get through, and I'm glad I did.

One of the most interesting things that I noticed was that the tenets of Young-Earth Creationism developed along with other Fundamentalist ideas, specifically premillenial dispensationalism. That isn't to say that there were no YEC'ers around before Darwin (think Ussher), but it had never really been a big deal and wasn't discussed very often. But, since many Christians saw where Darwinism leads (naturalistic materialism without a need for God), they went to Genesis and read the first several chapters very literally. The YEC thought went very nicely with those who read Revelation very literally. So, for the Fundamentalists, there was no room for a discussion of the types of literature they were reading. They read it literally, took it at face value, then went to find science to support it.

I also have concluded the importance of teaching our children real science and getting them prepared for the real world. Now, I hold to an "Old Earth Creationist" view (although this view has it's problems, too), but my kids need to know what the theory of Evolution is about, what support there is for it, and what science says that does not support it. When they start to hear evolutionary theory in college or wherever, I want them to have enough understanding to know that scientifically intelligent people can and do disagree on this topic. In addition, I want my kids to have a real relationship with Jesus - something that you don't just walk away from. I think it is very sad that learning about evolution can drive someone to atheism.

I really recommend this book for anyone interested in the creation/evolution debate. Understand that it's not really exciting, but it is very illuminating.

Public Service Announcement

Disclaimer: I got this idea from another blog - http://www.healthcentral.com/migraine/c/93/2392/ten-things-to-person/.

I was going to write a top ten list of things not to say to someone with chronic migraines or other chronic illness, but I couldn't come up with ten. Then, I decided that I needed to also add what you could say that would be helpful instead of hurtful (or frustrating or just disheartening). I think people mean well but just don't know what to say to someone with chronic illness. What often comes out is not supportive. So, here's something to help you.

Top Three Things Not to Say to Someone with Chronic Migraines

1. Don't they know what causes it yet? Yes, it's called migraines, and there is no cure, just treatments. Yes, I have had my head scanned and no, I don't have a brain tumor.
2. I heard about (this, that or the other) on/in TV/magazine/internet. You really have to try it. (Variations: My family member/friend tried so&so and it really worked for them, or you should really try some diet modification since that works for some people.) Yes, I've heard and read about a zillion different treatments, and I've tried lots of them. If there was a miracle cure for migraines, my doctor and I would have come across it.
3. You have to come see my (doctor, dentist, chiropractor, etc.). I'm sure they can help you. Thank you for the thought, but I've already seen three neurologists, a couple of chiropractors, and have read everything I can about my condition.

Top Three Things to Say to Someone with Chronic Migraines

1. I'm so sorry you're still in pain. I will pray for you. And, then, pray for the person.
2. I'm so sorry you're still not feeling well. May I (bring you a meal, help clean your house, do some laundry, whatever you can offer)? Be prepared to follow through because I may take you up on it. But, if things are going pretty well right now, I might not. So, it's OK to ask again another time.
3. I'm so sorry you're still sick. I read about someone who was chronically ill but God really used them through their illness. I thought about you, because I can see God working in your life. Believe it or not, someone actually said this to me. I was walking on air for a day or so. Of course, don't say it to someone about whom it's not true. But, if you do see God working in someone's life, go ahead and tell them. This comment really put a lot of stuff into perspective for me.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

She's going to camp!

Today is the day that Ga'Hoole Girl leaves for Girls' Camp. She is, understandably, quite excited about it. This is her 5th year going to camp, her second at Girls' Camp (they have the Girl's Camp for Junior High girls separate from the main camp, at a more "primitive" location). It's been interesting to watch Ga'Hoole Girl grow up these last few years. This year she didn't need any help packing, although she did ask me to "help" her, which involved sitting on her bed and talking to her. Her camp goes from Saturday to Friday. She is going to stay at a cottage near the camp with her friend and her mom on Friday night and then they are going to wash clothes on Saturday morning. Next Saturday, the rest of us will go up for Family Camp and meet her there. So, she will be away from the family for only a week, but away from home for two weeks.

The new Harry Potter book comes out the day that we come back from Family Camp. I have a copy on order at Amazon! Mr. Math Teacher and his mom are going to go to her house for a few days, so we have only four days in which to read the book. But, I'll bet we can do it! We always read these books out loud as a family - and no reading ahead!!

Book reviews:
Disciplines of the Home by Anne Ortlund
I have read good reviews of this book and I really enjoyed The Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman when I was younger. Her previous book was rather detailed about which disciplines are important, ad how to get started doing them. This book, though, is much more general. She gives two important "don't's" and 10 important "do's". The things that made the most impact on me were the recommendations to "slow down" and "cocoon". Slowing down is hard for me - I have absorbed a lot of the performance orientation of our society and am having a hard time working out of that. But, to that effect, I reduced the 4H projects that the kids are signed up for, they are each taking just one dance class next year, and I'm going to get very selective about outside activities. My goal, though, is not to isolate them, but to give them unstructured time to develop their creativity, learn things in which they are interested, and get to know our neighbors. Cocooning is also not supposed to be synonymous with isolation. Instead, it is making home the focus of the family's life. We already do a pretty good job of that. I want to be careful that we don't lose that focus when Mr. Math Teacher starts student teaching in the fall and eventually gets a job.

The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine, PhD
I read about this book on a website and thought it would be good to read. Indeed, I highly recommend it. She talks mainly about the difficulties that affluent families have in raising children. Now, it's hard to call us affluent at this time in our lives, but she makes a number of points that are helpful for all parents. One of the biggest problems for parents in affluent communities (and for parents who are achievement oriented) is that they can be emotionally disconnected from their kids (preteens and teens) but overinvolved in certain parts of their lives. So, they may never sit and chat with their kids about life but they are certain to know exactly what their grades are and to tell them exactly which classes to take. Dr. Levine recommends really spending time with our kids and spend more time helping them develop autonomy and be less enmeshed in every activity of their lives. It is also important that kids learn that there is more to life than good grades and getting into a good college. There is a whole world out there that kids need to be free to explore. She also reminds us that the values of the affluent society are very materialistic. It is extremely important that children learn values besides materialism; this book is not written from a Christian perspective, so she doesn't talk about Christian values, but I think it is clear that, as Christian parents, the best thing we can do for our kids is help them know Jesus and develop Godly values. I highly recommend this book for all parents, not just those who can say they are "affluent".

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The cat and the string incident

So, Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Math Teacher was at the coffee shop with a friend, who is a vet. The kids and I sat on the sofa and were playing with Sophie, one of the cats, with a piece of yarn. Now, I have all my knitting stuff out in the living room and none of the cats has ever played with any of it, eaten it, or otherwise done anything with the yarn. So, I didn't worry about playing with a piece of yarn with the cat. She played for a while, then jumped off the sofa. A minute or so later, I looked at her and saw that she had the last inch of yarn sticking out of her mouth (it was about 12 inches long). I chased her, but by the time that I got to her, she had swallowed the yarn - EEK! The good news is that it was cotton yarn, so I wasn't worried about her getting something non-organic in her system.

I called Mr. Math Teacher, who asked his vet friend what we should do. He recommended that we give the cat some hydrogen peroxide to make her gag. So, with Ga'Hoole Girl sitting on the sofa in great distress, I took the cat in the bathroom and tried to get some peroxide down her - with very little luck. Mr. Math Teacher and his vet friend came home and the vet got some peroxide down the cat's throat. Despite this, the cat refused to gag or vomit!! The vet gave her several doses without any luck. Two days later, while changing the cat boxes, Mr. Math Teacher found documentation that the string has passed. Thanfully.

The rest of life has not been nearly that exciting. The bathroom is now painted seafoam green. Wild Man doesn't like it. I think it looks really nice with the grey tub, sink, and toilet. Ga'Hoole Girl got 1/4th of one wall painted last weekend. We'll get her room painted next, and then the stairwell and hallway.

Wild Man has been asking for his own baseball helmet for awhile now. So, he bought one yesterday with his own money (along with some baseball gloves). Mr. Math Teacher and I sprung for a new bat (his old one was way too small). Anyway, the boy loves the new helmet. He wore it all around the house yesterday, and I found it in his bed with him last night! What a silly boy!

Fireworks are tonight. The fairgrounds are just two blocks from here, so we are going to walk over. We can see the high ones from the house, but it's not much of a walk to get to see all of them.