Friday, March 31, 2006

A Funny Story

Talking to the kids at lunch the other day, I asked what all they had covered in school. They were telling me things and asking me if I knew this-or-that; things they knew the answer to. The 4 year-old piped up with "What's a lower case three look like?" "I don't know, what's it look like?" I asked, over the other kids hollering "There is no lower case three!" Four year-old says "A straight line on the top and a silly line on bottom." "Oh," says I. He must have got that idea from the refrigerator magnets, which have 3s with the flat line on the top.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Pensacola Christian College and A Beka in the Chronicle of Higher Education

In the same March 24, 2006 Chronicle of Higher Education, there is an article on Pensacola Christian College that makes them sound rather draconian and Big Brotherish. I am aware of some possible bias, but it seems to me that PCC is beyond the pale. Encouraging snitching on fellow students for minor infractions and changing rules as you go don't sound to me like the way a Christian college should be run. I worked at a fairly conservative Christian college so I know what rules are for and like. But when you call Bob Jones University liberal, and won't let your students leave without signing out, it sounds to me like you are heading toward cult status. They claim Baptist beliefs, but are not part of any Baptist denomination. They developed A Beka curriculum, and that supports the college. I don't think I will allow A Beka in our house now. I'd love to hear some opinions.

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Chronicle of Higher Education on SAT Scores

The March 24, 2006 Chronicle of Higher Education has a front page story on the College Board and the SAT errors. College Board Finds Hundreds More SAT Scoring Mistakes. My favorite quote is from Robert A Schaeffer, of Fair Test, "It should cause all Americans to rethink the heavy dependency on standardized testing in education." No doubt. I never took an SAT or ACT. I took some classes while in the Army, then went to college as a transfer student. However, when I graduated, I had to take about 3 tests, each costing a bunch of money, and all this after passing all my classes that I had paid money for. Then there are more tests to get into graduate school. It seems someone has duped the schools, and is making a ton of money off this. And it isn't fair.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

13th Carnival Of Homeschooling

Growing up a contrarian, I always liked the number 13. I embraced it as my own lucky number. Therefore, I am happy to announce the 13th Carnival of Homeschooling. Look for my post.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Sabbath Book Review The Rest Of God by Mark Buchanan

Is the Sabbath a day devoted to God? Or, a day devoted to Rest and Re-creation? Or, a day like any other? A few years ago I started seriously looking at how I keep the Sabbath. I decided that we would no longer spend money on the Sabbath. If we are out of milk, we are just out of milk. Planning ahead is key. No going out to eat after church either. We usually have leftovers or sandwiches. Only necessary chores are done on Sunday.

This is more of a rule than a law. If we are on the road, we stop at fast food joints and gas stations. If we have company in town, we sometimes go out to eat. A few times each semester I have to work a three-hour shift at the reference desk at work. But these are the exceptions, not the ‘rule,’ and they keep me from being legalistic.

I’m not sure what to do with football yet. I really enjoy watching pro football, but does it help me focus on God? I have backed off my mental and emotional commitment to football so it is just, simply, enjoyable, not something to get uptight about.

For these reasons I was excited to receive an offer to review Mark Buchanan’s The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring the Sabbath. (Purchase here or here.) The Rest of God is not a Bible study on the Sabbath, parsing every verse that mentions the day. It’s more like a personal journal, written to convince others of the need of Sabbath rest. Mr. Buchanan’s writing style is occasionally lyrical, and very personable. (“...your principal memory of [the Sabbath] is of stiff collars chafing at the neck and a vast, stern silence that settled on the house like a grief.”)

Each chapter ends with what the author calls a Sabbath Liturgy. Others would call the liturgy the practical application. Each liturgy is designed to get us God-focused. As he says, “Liturgy is by me...but it’s not about me.” “The first orientation for good Sabbath-keeping, ... is to practice, mostly through thankfulness, the presence of God until you are utterly convinced of his goodness and sovereignty, until he’s bigger, and you find your rest in him alone.”

The Bible has a lack of specifics on Sabbath-keeping. Buchanan finds this interesting. He decides “Sabbath-keeping is more art than science. It is more poetry than arithmetic.” This isn’t a lot of help for those who prefer lists of what is OK and what is verboten. After a discussion of Jesus healing on the Sabbath, and that healing making the Pharisees mad enough to plot his death; he says, “For the longest while I felt a smug pleasure in sitting in judgement of these legalists. And then I realized I was one of them... I developed some rules... prided myself in keeping them... then I started to find fault with those other people... when they dared to feel tired or stressed. Well, if you had kept the Sabbath holy – as I do – you wouldn’t feel that way, now, would you? It’s not too far from here to plotting murder.”

Buchanan wants us to get the big picture, “God gave us the gift of the Sabbath – not just as a day, but as an orientation, a way of seeing and knowing.” The author uses both meanings (day & orientation) in his exploration. Mostly, though, the book covers the orientation. “God is more interested in changing your thinking than in changing your circumstances.” Buchanan does not get involved in what day of the week Sabbath should be. That is not his point here.

“One of the largest obstacles to true Sabbath-keeping is leisure... Leisure is Sabbath bereft of the sacred.” Here he brings out the point about how many times we return from our vacations or other leisure activities more exhausted and drained than before. This is a good place to discuss football. Does it make me a better man to watch three to six hours of something complete with loud, annoying, materialistic commercials, or would that time be better spent in silence reading, talking with the wife, or playing with the kids? I think I’ll end this now. Ouch.

Recreation, or re-creation is another matter. Something that energizes you, even if it takes physical exertion, can be good. Buchanan works at a desk all week, so he enjoys mowing the lawn on his Sabbath. I can’t stand mowing the lawn, so that is not a re-creational activity for me. Not that I would be legalistic about it.

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Jobs to EncourageYour Kids to Look Into

For those wondering what kind of field to send your kids into, ones that will have a long-term opportunities, check out this column by Marty Nemko. It's good to look ahead, but of couse, you never know what the future holds. Nothing beats a hard-worker, except nepotism.
"Well-above-average employees in nearly all fields. Even in offshore-prone fields, some jobs will remain in the U.S. but will go primarily to those who are exceptionally capable, hardworking, or extraordinary networkers."
My Grandfather made a good living as a heating/air conditioning person, and I have a brother-in-law and a cousing that have gone that route also. People will pay for comfort.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids

I am going to write a magazine article on this, but thought I’d throw this out now.
Ben’s Guide, is a kids web site sponsored by the Government Printing Office (GPO). An excellent educational tool, Ben’s guide has sections for every level of student. There is a lot one can discover just looking around: for example, Why Yankee Doodle “Stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni” has always puzzled me. What did the Colonists know of macaroni? But at Ben’s you can discover that macaroni was a style of fancy dress. So, really, the song is calling Yankee Doodle a country rube. Read about it by going here. One can listen to the song or view the words. Viewing the words allows you to see definitions of some words in the song. Your student can also view primary sources such as the U.S. Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, and the Federalist Papers. There are also links to other Government web sites for kids. Many of them are really nice, including the National Park Service. The CIA also has a section for kids!

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

NEW FLASH! Divorce is Bad for Kids!

As if this was something people didn't know, divorce damages kids. Even when they deny it. CT has a good interview with author Elizabeth Marquardt here. Marquardt is the author of Between Two Worlds : The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce
"How do the children of "good" divorces fare worse than those from unhappy, low-conflict marriages?
"They're far more likely to get divorced themselves one day compared to those who grow up in unhappy, low-conflict marriages. They are far more likely to say they were alone a lot as children, to say they missed their fathers, to say they had to protect their mothers. They had more responsibility to care for younger siblings than those from intact families.

Some people might be surprised to hear that, because a prevailing attitude among some in recent years is, as one academic put it, "A good divorce or a good marriage-it matters not." Many experts have said, wrongly, that both situations are fine for kids."
My folks divorced when I was 21, and it affected me seriously. I don't see how anyone can deny what happens to the children when parents divorce. Human blindness is amazing to me.

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I'm No Fan of the United Nations, but...

In this Times (UK) story, this paragraph appears
"If as a parent I think faith is fundamental, why should I not be free to shape my child’s education according to a religious ethos rather than a secular ideology to which I don’t subscribe? This is precisely why Article 26 in the UN Charter of Human Rights guarantees parents the right to choose the kind of education their children receive."
Aren't liberals the ones who support the United Nations? Aren't liberals the ones who support forced public schools? There appears to be a conflict of interests here.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

SAT Test Scores Wrong

The SAT got several thousand test scores wrong. This was discovered when two (that's 2) students challenged the scores. It turns out that 27,000 scores were wrong on one test. How often has this happened and not been caught?

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More John Stossel on Education

John Stossel isn't done with the teacher's unions yet. But, of course, they aren't done with him either. Anytime someone makes such a high-profile show about education that doesn't tow the give-us-more-money-and-leave-us-alone line they are sure to get heat from the NEA and the AFT. I like the vouchers idea, but I'm not sure I would use the money for homeschooling. Anytime you take money from the government, there are strings attached. I'm not fond of strings.

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Fathers are Important

Kathleen Parker has noted a trend in the New York Times, and it is a sad one. It appears as if modern culture thinks that Fathers are optional. There are many reasons for this, but how long can society go with dads not being around for the kids? A dad helps complete the parenting, keeps strong-willed children in line, and teaches boys how to be men. There are so many unfortunate families where dad is taken out of the picture by death or illness, but why force him out? Or as some women are choosing, not even have him around to begin with?
"These are sad stories that reveal symptoms of a diseased culture in which human relationships have no moral content and children are treated as accessories to adult lives. Yet, these trends are portrayed as the latest gosh-gee fashions.

A society in which women are alone, men are lonely, and children don't have fathers is nothing to celebrate."

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Monday, March 20, 2006

What is Education and Liberal Learning in the Renaissance

Suzanne Fieldswrites today in TownHall about Rediscovering the Renaissance.
"What's astonishing in these revived texts is how they testify to the changes in attitudes toward what we should learn. The humanist writers saw the study of art and literature as necessary for teaching virtue and building character...Petrarch might have been writing about politically correct professors when he observed that the more educated men become, the more aggressively perverse they become. It was more important to Petrarch to be a man of character than a learned man."
Harvard UP is actually reprinting sellections from the Italian Renaissance that discuss the purpose of Education. And it isn't jobs, which is what Spunky is fond of saying.

There is also some controversy over Gideons giving kids Bibles -- of course. Read about it at CT Weblog

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Joyeux Noël

Another movie reviewed by Christianity Today that I want to see. Joyeux Noël


Carnival of Kid Comedy #2

The second Carnival of Kid Comedy is up over at Life in a Shoe. I've even got one of mine there.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Interesting Links for St. Patrick's Day

First, Laura Hirschfeld Hollis, Maybe it isn't the teachers; maybe it's you. Ms. Hollis writes that part of the problem with public schools is the parents. There are a good number of lousy parents and they raise lousy kids.
"When I say that "parents aren't being parents," I mean that in the most basic sense: children come to school not properly fed; their clothes aren't clean; no one makes them do their homework or go to bed at a decent hour each night; there is no discipline or organization (and children desperately need both)."
I have several friends who are school teachers. One who teaches kindergarten had a student throw a desk at her. In kindergarten.

And from Why HomeSchool, a link over to Friends of Dave and his argument that Testing does help students retain info.

And now for something completely different, Gene Weingarten writes about a guy who will send messages to the afterlife for you.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Couple of Columnists on Education

First, John Stossell responds to the Teacher's Union.
"[T]hey wanted me to go into a school and teach for a week. "Teach, John, teach!" they chanted. I wasn't expecting that ."

And Walter Williams has an update on indoctrination.
"Preaching instead of teaching might go a long way toward explaining why in civics, math, reading, writing and geography, nearly a quarter of all students leave high school with academic skills that are "Below Basic," the category the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) uses for students unable to display even partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at their grade level. In science, 47 percent leave high school with skills Below Basic, and in American history, it's 57 percent. I'd like for Jay Bennish's supporters to explain how his indoctrination will help that."

And Thomas Sowell discusses the differences between brainwashing and teaching.
"Some say teachers should give "both sides" -- but they should give neither side if it is off the subject. Academic freedom is the freedom to do academic things -- teach chemistry or accounting the way you think chemistry or accounting should be taught. It is also freedom to engage in the political activities of other citizens -- on their own time, outside the classroom -- without being fired."

What an abomination considering that the front page of the Chronicle of Higher Education, School & College Section B for March 10, 2006 says, "The facts are stunning. More than 40 percent of students arrive on college campuses needing remedial work." Read here for more.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

Christianity Today has reviewed Sophie Scholl. This looks like a movie I want to see. A strong Christian woman stands up to the Nazis. A true story, there are over 100 schools in Germany named after Sophie.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

10th Homeschool Carnival

Wow, 10 weeks gone! The 10th Carnival of Homeschooling is on at Palm Tree Pundit!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Kansas Law Allows Mothers to be Mothers and Nurse their Children

Do we really need a law to allow breast feeding? Amazing, but at least Kansas is taking care of it now, and not waiting until something stupid happens and it becomes a big brou-ha-ha.

Christianity and Culture

Frederica Mathewes-Green writes a really insightful article about how Christians should interact with Culture at Christianity Today called Loving the Storm-Drenched. Comparing Culture to the weather Green writes,
"As Mark Twain famously remarked, everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it. I think much of our frustration is due to trying to steer the weather, rather than trying to reach individuals caught up in the storm."
Despite the hyphenated last name, I really like her writing.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Glory of Public Schools - and Why Only Trained Educators Should Teach

From Why Homeschool, we have a link to a report summerizing just the last six months of the public school record from news reports. Is We Educating Our Children Good? has 11 bulletin points. I'm sure there are many more that for one reason or another didn't make the news in the last six months. Just imagine what 12 years of this would do (has done, is doing, will do) to people.

I know the common thing is to think that your local school district isn't so bad as "those" schools. That's what I thought. Then, in the Army, my best friend Tim was from Southern California, just north of LA, Ventura County. What he calls middle class, we in Kansas call upper class, but perhaps not wealthy. Tim was also a public school graduate. However, the books he had read, and the vocabulary he had, and the general knowledge he had, made me look dumb. I was mad that I hadn't been exposed to things he had. His parents weren't intellectual types, his dad was a sanguine salesman, not given to much reading. Tim wasn't an above average student, but his schools were a lot better than mine. How was I to know my education was sub-standard? It was all I knew. By the time I got out of the Army and into college I had pretty much educated myself, and that continues today. Why shouldn't I educate my children? Why make them wait until they are 19 and feel like idiots before they get themselves the education they should have?


Friday, March 03, 2006

Rebuilding New Orleans

Here is a little write up on my trip to New Orleans that I promised a few weeks back. I sent it to our Kansas Nebraska Southern Baptist Convention Baptist Digest, but it keeps getting bounced back. So, I guess I won't be published there. Anyway, here it is.

New Orleans is a mess. That is the simplest way of saying it. The volume and magnitude of destruction is mind boggling. Have you ever seen The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston? This 1971 movie shows a world where most of humanity is gone and the buildings are vacant. Driving around New Orleans, I felt like I was in The Omega Man. Only with traffic. Like there are only automobiles, and vacant buildings.

As we drove into town, the first things we noticed were blue roofs. Most roofs have a blue tarp on them. At first I thought, "Why haven't they fixed the roof yet? It's been six months." Eventually I realized that many of them may not have the money to fix it yet. Some insurance companies are slow to pay and are paying only part of the actual cost. Many buildings may have also flooded, and therefore, the owners are waiting to see what FEMA, or the insurance company, is going to do. Many owners may not be able to get people and/or materials together yet, as there is a waiting list for everything construction related. The scale of the problem is so large, that the wait for someone to do any kind of work to your property is months long.

When I first heard reporters claim "10 years to rebuild," I thought that was exaggeration. But now that I have seen the scale of destruction, I believe them. Imagine if Wichita, KS or Omaha, NE had three-quarters of the town made unlivable in one day. Not just homes, but businesses as well. How long would that take to rebuild? Where would the people go? How would they earn a living? Where would they get supplies? All those small owner-run shops that were just staying afloat, that were the sole income for many families, are now gone. What will they do?

Wherever one goes in New Orleans, there are piles of trash along the streets. Everything in a flooded house (meaning 3/4 of the city) is hauled out to the curb in a pile waiting for the city to pick it up. Looking at these piles you see every material possession that these families owned. Every single material possession. Except the literal clothes on their backs. Everything they have worked for, saved, collected, treasured, or inherited is gone. What an opportunity to see what is truly valuable.

I am proud to be a (very small) part of the rebuilding effort and proud to be working with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Regenerate Our Culture Is On The Way!

Regenerate Our Culture is new blog/web site/magazine from Agent Tim Online, Spunky Jr., Alex King, and Jake Smith. All four are around 17-18 years old and burning to change the world. Best of luck to them, and perhaps they can mentor my kids in a few years.

Drip, Drip, Drip of Popular Culture

Suzanne Fields writes about the corrosive effects of our electronic popular culture. Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter, by Steven Johnson, says that electronics make us smarter, but the book ignores the content of the electronic messages. "Content is King," as the saying in writing circles goes. Yet, Mr. Johnson ignores this very basic concept in his effort to glorify technology.

As a side note, when people say that Jesus faced every temptation we do, I have my questions. It seems that the sins are the same, but many are easier to get away with now. Jesus didn't have the internet. I'd love to hear some thoughts on this.

EDIT: There is also an Unplugged Carnival that everyone should at least look at.