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Wednesday
Mar292017

Even older people can improve their reading ability

Is it still okay to say good things about homeschooling? Lately, I've seen people who used to homeschool say some really negative things about it. No education system is perfect, including homeschooling. However, it's still something I recommend. My kids grew to be good writers, good thinkers, and good readers. They all did really well in high school and university. My youngest son recently made the Dean's List.

Homschooling was good for me, too. I have always been a good reader. I have always engaged with books, pencil in hand. But I learned to be a better reader after homeschooling; thanks to Susan Wise Bauer's books The Well-Trained Mind and The Well-Educated Mind. By teaching reading principles to my children, I was able to learn some helpful ones myself.

In her book The Well-Trained Mind, she encourages students learn to outline passages. It all begins with dictation: having a student tell you what he's just read. Later, you write down what he tells you, and later still, she writes what she's read. I did that with my kids. Later, it turned into full blown outlining of short passages, using a formal outlining system with Roman and Arabic numerals. In my daughter's first years of undergraduate study, she told me that learning Latin and outlining were the two best things she got from homeschooling.

Susan Wise Bauer's book The Well-Educated Mind is similar to Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book with the exception that it isn't mind numbingly boring. Honestly, when I see people recommending Adler's book, I feel sorry for the potential reader. I read it, and so did my daughter. Ew. Ick. I didn't realize how boring it was until I read The Well-Educated Mind. The only benefit it has is that it addresses reading science. 

Bauer, in The Well-Educated Mind lays out a reading plan for self-education whereby we have different levels of reading corresponding to the Classical model of the Trivium. There is Grammar Stage Reading, Logic Stage Reading, and Rhetorical Stage reading. Grammar stage reading is the basic level of observation, Logic delves into deeper questions, and Rhetorical even deeper. The book encourages one keep a notebook. The genres of fiction, biography, history, poetry, and drama are examined individually, and each chapter ends with an annotated list of suggested books. While I have put my The Well-Trained Mind away in a box, I keep The Well-Educated Mind on my shelf. For those people who are queasy (or outright hostile) toward homeschooling, one can read this book without bothering his conscience.

Last night, as I got out my "Theology II" notebook, I thought of how much Bauer's book has helped me with reading. We have weekly quizzes, and outlining has helped me read with a purpose. Every week I read the assigned chapters, and then a couple of days before the quiz, I outline the chapters, using the techniques I taught my children and the ones derived from The Well-Educated Mind. It prepares me well for the quiz, and cements the content in my head which will be necessary to write the final exam. One summer, while reading a lot of fiction, I used the same procedure, and from those books, I remember more of the content, themes, and some specific passages. That's something else we can use a notebook for, to write down passages we really like. Outlining and going through levels of reading makes me more attentive to detail. If one does not like paper notebooks, there is always digital help through things like Evernote or even just having a file on one's desktop.

I'm thankful for homeschooling in so many ways, and what it gave me is just as valuable as what my children received. And today, they are well-adjusted, well-socialized young adults. It's a win-win.

Tuesday
Mar282017

And this is why I don't identify as a feminist

Today, a news story was brought to my attention through a link which featured Al Mohler's "The Briefing." I confess I have only every listened to one or two of these broadcasts, and this morning, I simply read the transcript, but it alerted me to one of those things that gets me riding the rocking horse of indignation.

The story comes from Australia, where journalist Sarrah Le Marquand puts forth this view:

Rather than wail about the supposed liberation in a woman’s right to choose to shun paid employment, we should make it a legal requirement that all parents of children of school-age or older are gainfully employed.

I believe it is implied that "gainfully employed" means employed for financial remuneration. She bases this conclusion on economic reasons, saying that her country's financial health would be better served by women contributing through paid work rather than childcare. A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recently pointed out the shortfall of female representation in Australia's workforce, so the best option is to mandate all parents work:

Only when the female half of the population is expected to hold down a job and earn money to pay the bills in the same way that men are routinely expected to do will we see things change for the better for either gender.

I firmly believe that women are free to work after they have children. I am grateful for the work of many feminists in the past who worked to change inequitable and unjust situations for women. Their goal was to make life better for women. But in their pioneering to make work options more equitable did that mean removing their choice not to work? When a woman like Le Marquand tells me that I am not free to make my life's work my children, she is doing what feminists have long accused men of doing: exerting control. When feminist groups seek to dictate how other women live, they set themselves up as an elite (and sometimes, not a wise elite, but rather the elite who has been aggressive enough to be heard) handing down judgment. A women's boy's club. 

This is why I am not eager to embrace the title of "feminist." It's such a loaded word. I know women who identify as feminist who are godly women, who long to see women grow in the things of God, and to be seen as the equal heirs of Christ that we are. And then then there are extrapolations like this article. And when feminism begins to run to extremes as in this article, I don't want the title. I remain a committed Christian Theist, and I believe, if properly worked out and understood, it will necessitate equality of value for both men and women; including those who want to stay at home full time with their children for as long as they like.

Sunday
Mar262017

Daily Readings - John 6:66-71

J.C. Ryle, Daily Readings
John 6:66-71

Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life?" (John 6:68) 

The question with which Peter begins is just as remarkable as his confession. 'To whom shall we go?' said the noble-hearted apostle. 'Whom shall we follow? To what teacher shall we take ourselves? Where shall we find any guide to heaven to compare with thee? What shall we gain by forsaking thee?'

The question is one which every true Christian may boldly ask when urged and tempted to give up his religion and go back to the world. It is easy for those who hate religion to pick holes in our conduct, to make objections to our doctrines, to find fault with our practices. It may be hard sometimes to give them any answer. But after all, 'To whom shall we go,' if we give up our religion? Where shall we find such peace and hope and solid comfort as in serving Christ, however poorly we serve him? Can we better ourselves by turning our back on Christ and going back to our old ways? We cannot. Then let us hold on our way and persevere.

Friday
Mar242017

Challenged in holy living and productivity

Yesterday, at my school, our Ministry Leadership Day hosted Tim Challies. It was a well-attended gathering; there were quite a few people standing at the back of the chapel. For a young man attending, I think he would have seen two positive things: a good example of someone exegeting a passage of Scripture, and being challenged in the area of productivity. I had no idea I would get as much out of the productivity session as I did. I went to the day intending to purchase Visual Theology, and came home instead with Do More Better.

The first session had Tim sharing from I Thessalonians 4:1-12. It was a very good session. I have never heard him speak in the venue of preaching, and I was really challenged by it. The theme of the session was how to live holy lives, and he focused on the areas of being sexually pure, loving others, and living quietly. The last point, living quietly, was about embracing being unremarkable. He even mentioned that perhaps these days, with our love of celebrity, it is more radical to be unremarkable. I think that was a good message for everyone, but especially for the young men there with a future in the ministry.

Lately, I have felt that despite having the time, I seem to accomplish less than I would like. The second session, where Tim introduced principles for productivity, gave me some good pointers; ones I had not anticipated getting. In the past, I confess to being a little aloof toward productivity books and tools. I don't have a job outside my home, and my responsibilities are few compared to my husband, who juggles many. Why would I need productivity tools? I had my mind changed. I find it is good to have one's mind changed every now and then.

One of the aspects of the second session was doing an inventory of our responsibilties. That alone, is a good exercise. Tim mentioned a few things which I had never thought of before. He recommended using tools that are best suited to the task, i.e. don't use your email to remind yourself of something; use a scheduling tool. He recommended separating our tools to scheduling tools, information tools, and task management tools. I am hoping to make better use of my Google calendar in the future, and I am planning on starting to use Evernote. As I looked at it yesterday, I saw how convenient that will be in keeping track of information with regard to working on my term paper over the next month.

One thing that happens when your kids move out and you are presented with this life of reduced domestic details is that it is easy to simply stop worrying about them. As I walked through my living room yesterday evening, with the sunset streaming through the sheer curtains in my living room, I could see a layer of dust on the hardwood under my desk. I used to be better at housekeeping. I am sure using productivity tools for work or school research is a good idea, but why not for home organization? Maybe the reason I am not getting enough done is that I'm not as organized as I thought I was. 

Regrettably, I could not stay for the afternoon sessions, and I was particularly disappointed I missed the Q&A, because my prof was on the panel. But through the wonder of digital technology, I can catch it later. I left feeling challenged, and that is good. Being challenged will give us renewed purpose.

Thursday
Mar232017

Thankful Thursday

Today will be the last sunny day here for a while. The forecast for tomorrow is a temperate 14°C, but there will be rain. My puppy will be thrilled. He loves to dig and paint the garden doors with muddy paws. 

I am thankful for spring. I love the change in seasons, and as the birds have been returning, I am looking forward to tulips blooming and trees budding.

I am thankful for my middle child's birthday this weekend. Twenty-five. Hard to believe. I'm thankful we'll be meeting for a celebration with the whole family and their "significant others."

I'm thankful for the prospect of my son's wedding. A good friend is making my dress, which means it will fit well. I'm thankful for our future daughter-in-law. She's a gem.

I'm thankful for afternoon snoozes with two dogs who snuggle up with me.

I'm thankful for my theology prof. He has taught me so much this year.

I'm thankful for sudden realizations that God has taught me something significant. I love those moments when I realize that I have not been my usual hard-headed self, and that the Spirit of God has wrought change in my heart.

I'm thankful for today's Ministry Leadership Day at my school. Tim Challies is speaking to us, and I hope to pick up a copy of his Visual Theology.

I'm thankful for audioboooks for the ride to school, and watching the sun rise as I drive through the quiet morning as I drive.