Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Classical Education in Our Home, Challenge #1: my own background

When God first called us to educate our children at home, he placed in me a desire for them to have a Classical Christian education. That was a tall order since I really had no idea what it was! So I started doing the research…
What I learned was that Classical Christian education had been around for a long time, and that in my own educational background (13 years in a “progressive” public school system and a BA from a highly respected liberal arts college) I received the vestiges of a Classical education – the leftovers from an earlier era.
During the 1960’s and 70’s (for those of you too young to remember), we were going through a social revolution that sought to throw out anything that was “old”, “classical” or “traditional”. But in any institution, public education included, there is a process to change and a period where the old mixes with the new…and that was the confused educational climate I grew up in. Our teachers had us read the “classics”…because we should, somehow, they thought, be exposed to them…you know? It just seems right, you know? (Yes, the teachers were more confused than we were!) So I read Les Miserables in 8th grade, in a class taught by a teacher who was more concerned with social justice than literature, and at the same time “studied” American “history” taught by a teacher who impressed us more with her “mod” clothes (remember Mrs. Peel in “The Avengers”?) than with anything she had to say in class. This same trend continued through to my college years, so even though I was given an “excellent” public school education and graduated from a top ranked college, I reached adulthood feeling like I really hadn’t learned anything.
I’ve discovered that the problem with my own education is that I was given bits and pieces in a vacuum. How could I hope to understand Les Miserables without any understanding of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era? How could I understand the French Revolution without understanding the humanistic philosophies of the time? How could I hope to understand the main theme of redemption in the story without an understanding of the religious and moral underpinnings of that society or my own? And that was just the beginning. I read Moby Dick under the guidance of a professor who refused to look at the Christian symbolism of the book, Dante’s Divine Comedy with only the shallowest of understanding of medieval literature, and Beowulf with just an inkling that there may be a connection between Old English literature and the modern pieces by Tolkein and C.S. Lewis.
The result was an English major who hated reading literature, and a writer who couldn’t write. I wanted something different for our children, and God called us to something different.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Case for Imagination

Our family seems to be in the minority among Christian homeschoolers. Well, yes, in several ways – but there is one area that stands out most sharply at times: we encourage our children to read fantasies and fairy tales, and to play games that have “magical” elements in them.

We don’t advocate “spiritualism”, or exploration of anything scripture prohibits (we don’t even look at horoscopes and astrology, for instance), and I wouldn’t think of encouraging those who are against exposing their children to fantasy and fairy tales to change their convictions. I only hope to explain our own decision.Before you stop reading (although I know a few of you already have), let me explain why we draw our lines where we have.

First of all, we have carefully chosen this route because of a very important aspect of our faith. God is a Spirit – our triune God has a physical body in one part (our Lord Jesus Christ), but the other two parts of the trinity (God the Father and God the Holy Spirit) are part of the supernatural, spiritual realm.

Before I go on, let me define “supernatural” as being outside of nature, not “demonic”.

This spiritual, supernatural aspect of our faith is almost impossible for our minds, schooled in rational thought and anchored in the material world, to understand. If we only let our minds think on things that are natural and easily explained, then we are limiting our imaginations to what we can experience. Our understanding of God, therefore, is also limited to what our minds can understand – and we end up limiting God.

But by training our minds to think of things beyond what we can see, touch, hear and feel - training our minds to fathom the depths of what the scriptures reveal to us of the spiritual world – we can begin to imagine what God’s word tells us about Himself, His angels, Satan and his demons, and our role in God’s created order in both the natural and supernatural worlds.

Secondly, we have chosen this route for our family because we, as Christians, are in a battle. A very real, very serious battle.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Ephesians 6:12-13 ESV

Our battle is fought in the spiritual realm as well as in the material. We need to have imaginations that can understand this, imaginations that can see beyond our own experiences to a bigger picture. We need to train our minds and imaginations to see the world as God sees it.

To do this, we immerse our family in God’s word, and expand their imaginations through stories that go beyond our own world – both true and fantastic. We cannot fight against that which we cannot imagine existing, so we imagine.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


It's been 43 years since I ate my first lobster. That's me on the far left, next to Grandma Tomlonson. My mom and brother are across the table from us. My dad took the picture.

That was my first and most recent trip to Maine. We took a lot of camping vacations when I was growing up. My parents wanted to travel around the country and see as much of it as possible before my brother turned 16. So in 1967 we traveled to New England, in 1968 we went to the Southwest, and in 1969 we went to the Northwest.

I have great memories of those trips - always a new place to sleep, new things to see, new foods to try. I swam in both oceans, fell in love with rocky sea shores, discovered the rain forest on the Olympic Peninsula, attended the rangers' fireside talks at the National Parks. I learned to love the Kansas prairie at dusk, the Rocky Mountains at sunrise, and the wondrous cold of a mountain stream on bare feet.

I remember looking out from our campsite in Rapid City, South Dakota one night and seeing the lights of Wall, SD 60 miles east. I remember the sandy feeling of the warm wood of a boardwalk along the Jersey shore on a July afternoon. I remember the view from the rest stop near Banff, Alberta, as we ate a picnic lunch on my 12th birthday.

Years later my dad added up the total costs of those trips - buying the camper, gas, campground fees, etc., and found that we could have made the same trips staying in motels for the same money.

Sorry Dad, you're wrong. They wouldn't have been the same trips.......

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Little Things....

“There is neither honor nor advantage in the neglecting of little things. God makes the flower which is to perish unseen in secret nooks as perfect as that destined to bloom before millions of admirers; he carves with the same exquisite symmetry the shell which is so small as to be almost microscopic, and the great treasure of the sea. God slights nothing. They who love goodness and beauty for their own sakes will slight nothing.” - The Complete Home by Mrs. Julia Mc. Nair Wright

To be faithful in the little things – what does it mean?

It means making sure that the knife is facing the plate when setting the table. It means matching the patch of wallpaper in the corner above the door where no one will ever look. It means straightening the towels on the rack in the bathroom before you leave it.

Faithfulness in the little things means that the big things fall into place.

Because you were faithful in the little thing of writing “peanut butter” on the list when you saw that the jar was getting low, you have peanut butter to use next week when the jar is empty. Because you were faithful in washing the towels on Monday, your family has clean towels to use on Tuesday. Because you were faithful in the little thing of turning on the dishwasher after supper, you have clean dishes to use in the morning.

Because you were faithful in paying the bills on time…Because you were faithful in keeping the toilet clean…Because you were faithful in changing your baby’s diaper…

Because you were faithful in memorizing Bible verses…..Because you were faithful in praying for your children’s spouses….Because you were faithful in giving to that missionary….

Take a moment and think what your life and your family’s lives would be like if you neglected the little things….

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Couple of Splendid Lads....

Our two younger boys (ages 16 and 18) both earned their Eagle Scout ranks in Boy Scouts this past spring. A great accomplishment and the pinnacle of their scouting careers – but there’s more than that to being an Eagle Scout. Earning the Eagle Scout rank shows that a boy has what it takes to be a man.

We’re trying hard to raise our boys to be men. It seems like it would be natural – let nature take its course, the hormones will kick in, and then suddenly they’re men, right?

But two things work against that. First of all is our culture. We are a feminized culture where defense of the weak is called violence, schools expect nine year old boys to sit quietly in their seats for six hours a day, organized sports for children downplays competition, churches are led by women. On television our boys see men as idiots, husbands as something to tolerate until you can change them, fathers as clueless. In other words, for a man to be accepted in our culture he has to more like….a woman.

The second thing that works against our boys is their own sin nature. It’s hard to step up to the plate, to work until you’re exhausted, to take charge. It’s scary to accept the role of the spiritual head of the home. It’s so much easier to take the quieter road, the passive road, the….feminine road.

To prize manliness goes against our culture, but that’s what we want for our young men. We want them to get dirty, to know how to lead their peers, to accept the roles God has given them. We want them to take responsibility, to try even when they know they will probably fail, to succeed against all odds. We want them to be the boy with his finger in the dike, Horatio on the bridge, Churchill during the London blitz.

Will earning the Eagle Rank guarantee that our boys will be manly men? No, but it’s a great start.

An Eagle Scout

True to his God and his Nation's Flag,
A boy whose loyalties never sag.
An adventurous sort of a rough, tough lad,
He'd share with anyone, all that he had.
He's cheerful and good, and he's filled with fun,
He always helps till the work is done.
No loafer is he, this young man with skill,
With his disciplined heart, mind and will.
He camps and cooks, he hikes and climbs,
He can sing a song or make a verse that rhymes.
He's a splendid youth with a lifetime goal,
He's the type of boy who's in control.
There's no better young man in this great land,
Than an Eagle Scout with a helping hand.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Our Miracle Baby Born July 4, 1988

We know about those miracle babies who are born prematurely or with drastic health problems but survive through God’s intervention and the advances of medicine. Their survival is a true miracle. But there’s another kind of miracle baby – the kind that in spite of all kinds of threats to their survival are born at the right time, whole and healthy. My daughter is one of those miracle babies.

The first threat to her survival came early. In 1987 I had my first two miscarriages, one in April and one in August, both at 10 weeks gestation. My doctor at the time was our family practitioner, and his advice was straightforward and simple: “We usually don’t investigate for causes to miscarriages until there have been three in a row. So go ahead and try again.”

We found out a few years later (after two more miscarriages) that I have a condition called “luteal phase defect”. In other words, most months my body doesn’t produce enough progesterone to sustain a baby’s life until the placenta is mature enough to stimulate the production of progesterone. The levels of progesterone fluctuate from month to month – only God knows which months I would be able to conceive and carry a baby past 10 weeks. Going ahead and trying again – as my doctor advised – was basically a death sentence to any babies we would conceive…unless God intervened.

But we didn’t know that back in 1987, so we tried again. In November I went to the doctor for a pregnancy test, and it was positive. I had wanted another child so badly, but when I heard the news I could only cry. We had already lost two of our babies, and I felt like we were sacrificing the life of this one just so that we might have another baby sometime in the future.

The 10 week point for this pregnancy was the week between Christmas and New Year’s. We cancelled a trip east to spend Christmas with our families. I didn’t want to have another miscarriage away from home, and didn’t want my mood to put a damper on everyone else's holidays. Christmas was quiet, with just our 3 year old son, my dear husband and me. Each day during that week passed with me constantly watching for signs of an impending miscarriage. The first week of January came, I went back to work, and we began to hope that maybe this pregnancy would be successful, with a due date of July 21.

By the middle of January we had passed the milestone of the first trimester and we began to plan for our new baby. I grew larger and larger with each passing week and my doctor’s examinations gave me a clean bill of health. The spring months passed slowly (as they always do when you’re pregnant), and in May we planned a birthday party for our son who would be 4 on May 28.

Then came the second major threat to our baby’s survival. May 27 was a Friday and I was at week 32 in my pregnancy. After work I picked up our son at daycare and then ran a couple errands before going home. After supper I was finishing up the plans for the birthday party the next day. Suddenly, blood started pouring down my legs. By the time my husband had called the doctor, someone to take care of our son, and we were ready to go to the hospital – a space of about five minutes – I had lost so much blood that I couldn’t walk to the car. My husband somehow half carried me there, and we rushed to the hospital.

Once I had been stabilized in the emergency room, an ultrasound was done and we found out that I had a condition known as placenta previa – meaning that the placenta was completely covering the opening of my uterus, and if I continued in labor the placenta would be delivered first and our baby would not survive. We discussed transferring us to another hospital equipped with a neo-natal intensive care nursery for an emergency caesarean. Then the contractions stopped, the bleeding was under control, and we stayed where we were.

I stayed in the hospital for a week. The doctor said I could go home to wait for the caesarean we had planned for July 12, but only if I had someone with me who could drive me to the hospital in case of an emergency. We ended up hiring a 14 year old girl to stay with me during the day for a few weeks (in Kansas, 14 year olds can have a provisional license to drive to and from work and school), and my dad took a couple weeks of his vacation to stay with me (spending some of that time working from our home), and we waited. I was on bed rest – I could take a shower, eat at the table for one meal, and use the bathroom - but other than that I was on the couch or in bed. I was also taking drugs to speed up the development of the baby’s lungs and to prevent me from having any contractions. Time passed very, very slowly.

Early in the morning of July 4 I got up to use the bathroom and felt a “pop”. I knew something bad had happened. Within a minute or two I was in the car, but I don’t remember much past that point. I was losing blood so quickly that I had mostly lost consciousness by the time we reached the hospital – less than 5 minutes away. I do remember the anesthetist putting me under, and an emergency caesarean was done. At 3:00 our daughter was born.

I found out later how much blood I had lost, how much time it took to stitch me up again, and how my husband was able to hold his new daughter for hours and just rock her and talk to her. She was healthy, over 8 pounds, and beautiful. She had been carried through two threats to her life – she is truly God’s miracle gift to us.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Daylily is Being Transplanted Again

We've moved too many times, but up until now the moving has been the hard part. For the last 30 years my dear husband has worked for the same company, and a move didn't mean a brand new job - just a different place for the same job.

All of that changed just over three months ago. For reasons beyond his control, my husband's company decided they no longer wanted him to work for them. So now we've joined the ranks of the unemployed, and the next move will be a jump into the unknown unlike any other move has been.

Being unemployed has been...well, I wouldn't say fun....but not as bad as I thought it would be three months ago.

At the end of March, God gave me this verse: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9 (ESV). That verse came to mind night after night as I'd think of what could happen - the "what if's" that crowd our brains at 3:00 am when rational thought escapes us. I resolved to not fear the future - after all, aren't I a child of God? Doesn't He hold me in the palm of His hand? I know, firmly believe, and can testify that He never, ever lets anything touch me that hasn't already passed through His hands. He is sovereign, and that's the end of the story.

We've gone through April, May and now June without fear of the future - we know that what we are living through is for our good and His glory. We know He knows our future, and it will be better than we can imagine.

But there's more. There's another verse that He is reminding me of more and more: "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Phil. 4:11-13.

I've always thought of myself as being content, but the past few months have shown me the source of my contentment - God Himself. I can imagine situations where contentment escapes me, but not this one. He is supplying our needs, and what He doesn't supply, we find we don't need.

And as an added bonus, I get to do something I didn't think I'd be able to do for many years yet. I get to spend every day with my best friend. I didn't think that would happen until he retired!

"Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble." Phil. 4:14. Keep our family and every family you know that faces unemployment in these difficult times in your prayers!