Friday, April 25, 2008

Happy Habits of a Homeschooler

This is the first time I'm participating in Heart of the Matter's Friday meme. This week's meme is "Happy Habits of a Homeschooler".

Our family does have a few good habits that seem to work well for us.
1. Reading aloud at bedtime. We usually read a Sonlight read-aloud, but we have also read other books because we finish the books pretty quickly.
2. Books on CD. I have Story of the World on CD that we listen to while we're in the car. I also pick up other books that we listen to. The kids are on an "Artemis Fowl" kick right now, but I also come up with other books that we have enjoyed.
3. Quiet reading time. I came up with this to help Wild Man with his reading since Ga'Hoole Girl reads constantly, but I find that we all really enjoy this 20-30 minutes of the day.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Book Reviews - April 11

We just got back from the movie theater - in the snow! On April 11! An old/new movie theater opened here in town a few years ago. They reopened the old opera house/theater as a movie theater. There's only one screen, so there's only one movie playing at a time. It's not as comfortable as modern theaters, but it has a really cool, antique feel to it. Here are some reviews of what I've been watching and listening to lately.

"Nim's Island"
This is a fun movie about a girl who lives with her biologist father on a small island in the Pacific ocean. Her father leaves for an overnight trip, but gets caught in a storm. During that time, Nim is corresponding with the author of some adventure books, Alex Rover. Nim thinks that Alex is a brave, hero-type man, when, in actuality, Alex is an agoraphobic woman who won't leave her San Fransisco apartment. But, when Alex realizes that Nim's father hasn't returned and that she is alone, Alex manages to overcome her phobias and get herself to Nim's Island. There's also a storyline about a cruise line that wants to make the island a stop on one of their cruises for it's passengers. I won't give the ending away except to say that it's not sad. The movie is like a cross between Jungle Book, Monk (the TV show), and Home Alone. We laughed a lot, but felt sad as Nim worried about her father. I highly recommend it for families.

Mapping the World of Harry Potter edited by Mercedes Lackey
Ms. Lackey has compiled here a collection of essays about the Harry Potter series (up through Book 5). These essays range from "The Dursleys as Social Commentary" to "It's All About God". Some are humorous while others are quite serious. But, they are all good and useful additions to the Harry Potter discussion. One of my favorites had to be "Hermione Granger and the Charge of Sexism", in which the essay's author, a feminist writer, argues that the character of Hermione does not show evidence of sexism. Overall, I recommend this book for adult fans of Harry Potter (one of the essays is definitely a PG-13!).

My Fundamentalist Education by Christine Rosen
I loved reading this book, at least partly because I was reliving my own childhood. The author details her years (K-8th grade) in a Fundamentalist Christian school in Florida. I went to a Christian School (probably more Evangelical than Fundamental, but apparently rather similar) from 1st-5th grade during my growing up in South Florida. The author is no longer religious at all, but reminisces about her years at the Christian school with fondness. Her book shows the good and the bad parts of life in such an overwhelmingly religious environment. She gives us glimpses into her questioning about creation and evolution during her summer spent at a science museum compared to her young-earth creation science classes. She shares her anxieties about the End Times as she was taught about the impending rapture of the saints. She also tells us about her distress that she wasn't "winning more souls" to Jesus as a third grader. I relate so much with these things. I remember being taught a very strict Young-earth creation position, with no room for discussion of any non-literal reading of the first part of Genesis. Our school didn't talk much about End Times, but I recall learning about all the premillenial dispensational theories from church - and being worried that the Rapture might come and I might get "Left Behind". The author of the book compares growing up in Fundamentalism to "comfortable swaddling" which she has now left behind. I have many fond memories of my Christian school, but I have more memories of feeling rather strait-jacketed during my last year there and being very glad that I was allowed to transfer to a public school. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in growing up in Christian Schools.

Field Guide to Harry Potter by Colin Duriez
I was already familiar with this author because of his excellent encyclopedias to the work of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein. In the Field Guide, he has produced another excellent guide to a series of books loved by many. The first part of the book is a series of essays about the whole series - how the books are "school stories", some background on the author, Ms. Rowling's spiritual worldview, etc. The second half of the book is a guide to the many characters, places, things in the Harry Potter world. Mr. Duriez has done an excellent job of giving us Harry Potter fans some background on the series and a nice guide to use to find things when we need them. I really recommend this book.

Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna
I'm not sure I can really do an adequate job of reviewing this book. If you are interested in more points of view about it, I would recommend starting here with Christianity Today then do a Google search - there are lots of good reviews. My first impression was a very negative one. The point of the book is that much of what we do as Christians is based on pagan traditions. The authors make the (dubious) link that we should then abandon everything that the church does that might have ever had a pagan link and go back to "pure" Christian practice. The problem that I see, though, is that they appear to be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. According the this book, no one since the book of Acts has come anywhere remotely close to practicing Christianity the way that it is supposed to be practiced. And that, because of that, the Church's effectiveness has been minimized. They say that the Church should be made up only of house churches without paid clergy. There is some negativity about seminaries as well, so I'm not sure how anti-academic the authors are. I am having a bit of a hard time sorting out whether some of my negativity is that the book is attacking things I hold dear (my current church practices) or because it really is going too far with their conclusions. Other reviewers (who have more background than I do in church history) also argue that their use of historical sources leaves something to be desired. Overall, I think that it's a book that should be read. We need to consider how much of what we do in church and Christianity is really necessary, but I think that they go too far in their conclusions.

The Twilight of Atheism by Alister McGrath
As I mentioned in an earlier post, McGrath is becoming my new favorite author - and this book is one of the reasons why. This book is an overview of atheism as a philosophy and why McGrath thinks that it is in decline. He surveys atheism from Ancient Greece to the present time. Because of the breadth of the survey, he does not go into much depth. I reviewed a book one time called Without God, Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America which gives a much deeper treatment of atheism in the US. McGrath then spends some time talking about atheism in the present. He shows that atheism is very much a product of modernism, with its emphasis on science. As many people are turning to a post-modern worldview in which truth is relative and science is not as trusted, atheism is becoming less viable. Atheism is as dogmatic as Christianity, but the real threat to Christianity today is not atheism, but post-modernism. This is an interesting conclusion, given the attention gotten recently by Dawkins, Harris, et al. However, McGrath supports his case well. I very highly recommend this book to anyone interested in atheism and modern philosophy.

Modern Scholar audiobooks - Our library system carries the Modern Scholar series of course on audio CD. I have really enjoyed my time listening to these. So far, I have done "The Dead Sea Scrolls", "From Jesus to Christianity", "Rings, Swords, and Monsters: Exploring Fantasy Literature", and "The Literature of C.S. Lewis". I'm currently enjoying a series about the Crusades. This is a great way to learn something while exercising, doing dishes, or riding in the car.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Eclectic reading

Today is library day. We go to the public library in Appleton in the 45 minutes between Wild Man's reading lesson and the kids' piano lessons. During the week, we sometimes also go to the library in our small town and the nearby larger town, but I love the Appleton library because it is larger and I can spend time browsing. Today, I checked out five very different items.

1. "God Wills It" Understanding the Crusades - Lecture series by Modern Scholar. I have listened to several of these lecture series and loved them. I hope the kids will listen in on this one since we're studying the Middle Ages.

2. This Common Secret by Susan Wicklund - The autobiography of an abortion doctor.

3. My Fundamentalist Education by Christine Rosen - The story of one woman's childhood education in a Fundamentalist Christian school.

4. The King James Only Controversy by James R. White - An overview of the arguments about using only the King James translation of the Bible.

5. Revolution by George Barna - Why are so many Christians abandoning church?

The next few weeks promise to be quite interesting as I delve into my new set of books. Have I mentioned how much I love the library?