Some Days

We often homeschool in the most relaxed manner possible.  A little bit of math, a dab of reading practice, some field trips, some Bible memorization, looking at great paintings, singing great songs and reading great books are the core of what we do.  We also do a little bit of oral narration and a little bit of written.

Most of the time, I don’t think about what we do as school.  We often leave the house once or twice a week for a field trip, a lecture or an outside class.

Somehow for three weeks recently, I had some time without any scheduled field trips or lectures.  It was incredibly refreshing for this introvert, and I felt like we got a ton done.

Maybe we got too much done.

My seven year old suddenly declared one day that he had learned so much that his head was about to explode.

head explode

That got me thinking about myself and learning.  A wise mentor in my Bible study group was talking the other day about “receiving God’s word.”  She was reminding us that we must “receive every word” of the scriptures.

I often am not “receiving” because I am bombarded.  I have a little bit of this and that going on.  I read a book, do a Bible study, read some commentaries, listen to podcasts, hear devotions and sermons, listen to my Bible study group’s learning, read blog posts and find that my head is spinning.

Sometimes I think my head might explode.

There’s so much input that I feel like my head might explode.

I can put so much input in my life that I actually drown out what God is trying to tell me through his words.

Some days I find that I can’t hear him when I do that.

Some days I make resolutions to meditate on just a few things in a day.

Some days I actually succeed.

This is when his word comes alive and it speaks to me.

When Connor said that his head was about to explode, I didn’t truly understand it.

Then, I realized that I was living that feeling of, as the current expression goes, “drinking from the fire hydrant” in my own spiritual life.

Some days I must turn the volume down.

Some days less is better.

Some days just a couple of verses, when mediated on throughout the day, are better for me than all the books and podcasts that I could ever listen to.

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Legacy: Reflections of a Homeschooled, Homeschooling Mama

Legacy: Reflections of a Homeschooled, Homeschooling MamaLegacy: Reflections of a Homeschooled, Homeschooling Mama by Ruth Adams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a homeschooler, I often wonder what my legacy will be to my children. I often wonder if we’re changing our family tree by starting a legacy of homeschooling in our family or if we’re just doing something isolated that my children will consider too weird or hard to continue.

That reminds me that one day, when I was out and about, I was talking to a mom friend, and she was telling me how hard it is to homeschool, and how she could never do it. One of my older children, piped in to tell the poor lady that homeschooling wasn’t all that hard. In fact, in her view, it was pretty easy. While I think that homeschooling is a little more challenging than Emalee put it, I realized something that day. Homeschooling is simple if you put your priorities in order.

This is also the heart of Ruth Adams book Legacy: Reflections of a Homeschooled, Homeschooling Mama . In this book, while sharing her reflections on being homeschooled and homeschooling her children, Adams continually turns us back to one priority for homeschooling. This is that the reason for homeschooling, in her words, is “to teach them to know, love and fear the Lord, and to walk according to His word.”

Adams’ book is wide-ranging. She covers topics from traditional homeschooling and large family management tips to raising our children to be defenders of our faith. She discusses family planning, media usage, avoiding the traps of legalism, marriage, tough times, and slowing down our pace to be still and know the Lord.

I find that I often disagree with her on specific topics, such as her definition of antinomianism or her distrust and dislike of modern media usage. We’ve always been a technology friendly family, and I’ve seen the positives of how technology has shaped our relationships and learning, and I think she really gives grace-based parenting (which I am an adherent of) a bad rap as almost non-parenting. In some ways, I would love to see her sources on that.

However, on the whole this is a very fruitful book. This is a book that has reminded me to focus on the important stuff. I did consider how powerful it is to slow down so that I can focus on following the Lord’s plan. I consider how she came through an excellent and discipleship focused homeschooling and that left her with the desire to homeschool her own children. That’s what what I hope and dream for my children. And I agree so much with her premise that if a homeschool is not based in Christian discipleship, then we should not allow academic pressure or outside activities to take our focus away from the main thing. We should keep it the main thing.

I think this is a great read for all Christian homeschool parents. It is affirming to our goals. It is a challenging reminder of our job. It is also a reminder that only God can give us the results that we’re looking for. As we homeschool, we need to keep remembering prayer and praying for God to change and control our children’s lives.

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Getting Our Terminology Correct

I have been reading a book recently that I have found very helpful.  It’s a book about homeschooling, and I have found that the reflections on putting my focus on Christ and on our discipleship above our academic worries to be a good reminder for me. I needed that message because I feel academic and extracurricular pressure from other homeschoolers.  It makes me feel like we’re not doing enough, but I don’t think I could ever feel like we’re doing enough.

I digress though.

As I was reading this book, I came across a chapter entitled, “Legalism, Antinomianism, and Holiness.” That’s some pretty heavy terminology.  The author does her best to give simple definitions of what each one is, but I think she misses the mark, and when she does, she has redefined the terminology in a way that is incorrect.

It reminded me of how we must be careful.  We must be as simple as possible as teachers, but we cannot afford to give a wrong definition or we may be leading someone down the wrong path.

In the book, the author defines the terms this way:

LEGALISM: A heart attitude that says I’m right and you’re wrong based upon my own personal standards.

ANTINOMIANISM: One who leans very heavily upon cheap grace while ignoring the need to walk in obedience to the scripture.

I know that some of you who are reading this are surprised by the simple definitions that the author gives.  Then the author goes on to say, “There is a beautiful and delicate balance in Scripture of grace and truth. Both are essential.”  While this statement is okay in itself, in context, the author is implying that both legalism and antinomianism can be corrected by just leaning a little more towards the center.

This is just not true because, at heart, legalism and antinomianism are simply two different fruits that come off the same tree. Both are wrong positions that need corrected, not by balance, but by exposing the false position to the gospel.

Both legalists and antinomians are defined by not understanding the joy of obedience to the moral codes of the Bible.  They are characterized by a lack of love for God’s precepts. Instead, they see obedience as a list of “have-to” items.  They feel like they must work for God’s blessing and that God’s love for them is conditional.

The main difference between them is where this attitude takes them.  Legalists, with much weariness and duty, put on the works of the Bible and add to them, much like the Pharisees of second temple Judaism.  They embrace that they must obey for God’s blessing, and so they obey.

Antinomians, on the other hand, reject virtues and laws.  They say that a God who justifies by grace wouldn’t require obedience to his laws.  They reject the God they see  requiring holiness for a God of their own making.

These aren’t just ditches that you can fall to in trying to walk uprightly.  These are key misunderstandings of the gospel and of God’s work in our lives.  The best that we can do is to pray to love God and his word more dearly so that we don’t find ourselves developing the wrong ideas about God.

Worship

A couple of weeks ago I was at church and the pastor peached on worship.  He actually preached from Mark chapter nine on the transfiguration.  He went through the transfiguration, its meaning then made the statement that Peter wanted to prolong his mountaintop experience and turn it into a permanent experience.

That’s the way we always do.  We have an excellent VBS week, an amazing youth camp, or a seriously successful mission trip, and we want to make it into a plateau to amp up our spiritual growth.  However, we always come down from the mountain.  Of course, the reason why is that the mountaintop experiences are so important.  They prepare us for the spiritual battle of our everyday life.  They give us the glimpses of God that get us through the mundane and the times when it is difficult to see the light ahead.

The point here is that our spiritual experiences matter.  They apply the spiritual knowledge that we have in our heads into our hearts.  We enter into the worship experience and find that we are changed and that we are able to commune with God in a way that shows us his power.

Music is often a way to enter into worship, and I feel that way very strongly.  However, I find that the way that I most often feel worshipful is when I create art in my Bible or art journal.

Sometimes I’ve felt embarrassed over that, like my drawings are silly or irreverent.  Sometimes that’s from the questions other people ask.  Other times, it’s from the blogs I read that are dismissive of Bible journaling as a hobby or way of worship.

I’m against forms of worship that are not Biblical.  Do not get me wrong here.  However, Biblical expressions of worship can still have many, varied expressions depending on our creativity.  So, I find that I’m happier with the realization that I can use my art to worship God.

In that spirit, here’s a piece I made this week to remind myself to pray without ceasing.  I often forget to pray until I’m really desperate or I’m feeling guilty or super needy.  I’ve been slowly learning that the key to revival in my life is to learn to keep my thoughts constantly turning to God and to conversation with him in prayer.

Worship

The Underground History of American Education Volume 1

The Underground History of American Education, Volume I: An Intimate Investigation Into the Prison of Modern SchoolingThe Underground History of American Education, Volume I: An Intimate Investigation Into the Prison of Modern Schooling by John Taylor Gatto

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have found that, as homeschoolers, many of my influences are not the same as my friends. They’re influenced by Susan Wise Bauer, Leigh Bortins, Charlotte Mason, and many other excellent Christians authors. I, on the other hand, came to homeschooling under the influences of authors such as Holt, Gatto and Gray. Although my friends and I both homeschool, there tend to be distinct differences between the way that our homeschooling looks and feels both to ourselves and the outside world.

However, despite being influenced by Gatto, I found that I have never read his largest and most subversive book. A large part of the reason that I have not read it is, even though the PDF was available on an author website, the actual book has been out of print for a while. So, when I was able to find that a first volume of a revised and expanded version of Gatto’s Underground History of American Education had been printed, I soon had ordered one and had it one its way to me.

This volume is a back-and-forth telling of Gatto’s experiences as a teacher, and his research into the history of American schools. It twists and meanders through both in a way that is interesting, and yet sometimes confusing, as you go back and forth through time. I actually did feel like I should takes notes and create a timeline of Gatto’s text to see if I was reconstructing the timeline of modern education correctly. That is something that is a hinderance as a reader.

Throughout the book Gatto raises some important questions. He raises the question of meaningful work, the question of interest-driven education, the psychological effects of forced schooling, the bureaucracy of education, and the replacement of home with institution. He raises questions of literacy, of methods of reading education, of changes in literature and the rise of the genre of children’s literature. He raises more questions than he truly is able to answer, but that is not a bad thing. I am interested in seeing what the other two volumes say.

Gatto is a man of forceful opinion, and at times his interpretations of the facts become more prevalent in his book that the facts themselves. I would have appreciated a book that was not quite so polemic at this point in my homeschooling journey. I also find that, while schools are not as good as most parents claim, they are also not as bad as Gatto’s text implies. Many students have thrived in traditional schooling, despite the horrific class and racial inequities to be found in many schools. I realize that if this was a parent’s first exposure to homeschooling that they would probably be driven away from the idea.

On a personal note, I felt like he bashed Calvinism several times, and I found it to be distasteful. I understand that he is lapsed Catholic, but I think that his history exposes how influenced he is by the American ideas of free will and self-determination, when public schools are ensuring that true self-determination is often not possible in our culture. It’s an interesting conundrum.

Despite my concerns, I found that this book was a provocative book of ideas. It is a book that is a reminder that education is not neutral. It raises many questions about how we educate our kids, and how we need to be aware of the schoolish influences that even tend to creep their way into homeschooling. This is a book that will remain on my shelf and one that I will turn to when I need support to remind me of my reasons why we homeschool the way that we do.

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Spurgeon on Walking Uprightly

As I studied Psalm 15:2, I continued to ponder what talking uprightly meant.  I had learned from my studies of the word in Psalms that walking uprightly involves serving God and keeping from sin on my part, but trusting in God to do the rest because his law and his ways are perfect.

My next step was to consult my favorite commentary on Psalms, Charles Spurgeon’s Treasury of David. It contains Spurgeon’s thoughts along with some notable reformation era and puritan commentary.   Although I love both sections of commentary are impressive, for this section, I decided to stick to Spurgeon’s own words.  His word pictures in this are vivid, and I even attempted a few simple drawings to illustrate his two major word pictures in the commentary.

First, was the tight rope walker.  If you lean over to the side, you are going to go over, whether that is into sin or into legalism.

tight rope walking

The second image Spurgeon uses is one of a basket carrier.  I need to “walk uprightly” like my righteousness is the same as someone carrying a precious fruits or other merchandise in a basket on her head.  If I tip over the basket of my righteousness, I will lose all of my precious wares.

basket carrier

Another section of the commentary that I loved in this verse was this quote.

True believers do not cringe as flatterers, wriggle as serpents, bend double as earth grubbers, or cross on one side as those who have sinister aims; they have the strong backbone of the vital principle of grace within, and being themselves upright, they are able to walk uprightly.

Because I belong to Christ, I am able to walk uprightly.  Because he has made me upright.  He is changing me daily, and through those changes, I find myself less and less likely to lean to the side or to tip my basket in so many areas of my life.

Breath of God

Recently, I’ve been in major geek out  research mode for the book of Genesis.  Much of my research has been restricted to creation so far.  After all, that’s a huge topic that takes up the first two chapters of Genesis.

Part of the research that I’ve been doing is a reminder that God spoke the universe into existence and his words are very powerful.  (If you want to do a little side study on the power of God’s words, here are some verses to get you started. Psalm 33:6, 9; 148:4-5; Isaiah 55:11, Romans 4:17, and Hebrews 11:3.)

As I was going through these verses, Psalm 33:6 really stood out to me.  It says:

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.

As I was reading these verses, my first thought was, Did God really create the angels just by his breath?

So, I decided to research it.  Although I couldn’t find complete verification that “host” in Psalm 33:6 stands for the angels, I found something of far more value. The Hebrew word associated with breath in that verse was the same work that is often associated with the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.

This made me curious, so I consulted a couple of commentaries, and found that there is a consensus that the word “breath” in this verse may be an illusion to the Holy Spirit. I also found that many commentators also agree that the “word” referred to in this verse is the Son.  This makes this verse a trinitarian reference and support, and I found that pretty amazing.

Then, I consulted the Treasury of David and found a great quote on the breath of God that I just have to share.  In this book, Spurgeon says,

It is as easy for God to create the universe as for a man to breathe, nay, far easier, for man breathes not independently, but borrows the breath in his nostrils from his maker.

I often forget how powerful God is and how small I am.  I also sometimes forget that the same breath that created the universe now lives inside of me.  Praise the Lord for both!