Archives For Homeschool Notes

Parents can tend to place their kids on a pedestal.

It’s not that children take the place of God nor that parents deify their children. The pedestal is more akin to that of an illusion; a fog of false security which assumes our children are perfect, and if not perfect, at least better than we are.

In sum: without sin.

Of course, parents know deep down that it’s naïve to think children are excluded from a sinful world.

We know by our own childhood and teenage years that they aren’t. Those years teach us that we shouldn’t be complacent in thinking that our children are not prone to the affects of sin, in the same way that we are, and once were.

The condition of the human heart, as described by Jeremiah 17:9, says that we can expect ‘the human heart [to be] deceitful above all things’. This goes right back to the retro-prophetic witness in Genesis, whereby the archetypal humans, together as male and female, through temptation, broke humanity and at the same time, broke fellowship with God.

In the beginning was God and relationship with God. This relationship was initiated by God and nurtured by boundaries. By breaching those boundaries, man and woman broke fellowship with God. Having already outlined the consequences, God brings humanity to account: “Where are you? Why are you hiding? What have you done?” (Gen.3:8-13).

In a great act of love, God punishes the serpent, makes clothes for the man and woman (Gen. 3:21), then removes them from the Garden. Where, if they were to remain and eat of the second tree (the fruit of the tree of life), as they had the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, death – this break with God; its lifeless godlessness; the nothingness of the abyss[i] – would be forever.

The cherubim and flaming sword (Gen.324) are set in place to save humanity from the condition they now find themselves in. God doesn’t cut and run. He sees the consequences and redefines the relationship. He removes them from the Garden, but not from His fellowship. For ‘God does not flee to man for refuge – man flees to God and lives by God’s grace’ (Barth, p.187).

By removing man and woman from the Garden, God removes them from their own destruction. That God does this proves His love for His creature. He doesn’t separate the man from the woman. Any separation of male from female; man from woman, at God’s command, or any others, would bring about the same thing that God is protecting humanity from – its own absolute and final self-annihilation.

By choosing to help them, in the midst of God’s judgement, we see His wisdom and mercy. This decision helped humanity, it was never about depriving or hurting humanity.

God never stops being graceful, merciful or just. This is who He is. No where greater is this seen than in the constant care God shows towards His people, through His people, and with decisive finality, in His son. In Jesus Christ, the entire world sees His glory. Jesus Christ is God revealed; God in revolt against the disorder of the world. God, the light of the world, pushing back against eternal darkness; against the potential forever of lifeless godlessness, and the nothingness of the abyss.[1]

By choosing to help us, we see wisdom and mercy, in the midst of God’s judgement.

‘sin means that man [and woman] is lost to themselves, but not to their Creator’. That ‘true freedom is in the act of responsibility before God […] it is never the freedom to sin’ (Barth, pp.196-197)

Contrary to God’s parenting style, parents can tend to place their kids on a pedestal. One indication that we might have put ourselves, or our children, on a pedestal is thinking that “our kids can do now wrong”. This is dangerous because the pedestal is high. The inevitable falling-off can lead to a serious falling-out between mum, dad and children. One way that we can remove ourselves and our children from that pedestal, is by acknowledging human limitations.

It stands as a well established fact, that parents are limited in being able to protect their child from the consequences of their child’s rejection of parental advice or poor decisions. We cannot wrap children in cotton wool, nor completely protect them from the affects of a sinful world.

As much as parents may want it to be different, Children are not excluded from a sinful world. As much as parents fight for their kids; teach or desire to walk with them. Just as the archetypal humans did, children may choose to walk away. They will choose not to listen to advice. They will choose to run too fast on a slippery floor, deceive from time to time, and be reckless with a knife, boiling water or worse. When these things happen, the pedestal shatters and the child comes crashing down.

Parenting then is not about pedestals, but about recovery, joy and improvisation! Being there to nurture, correct, create with, love and empower those entrusted by God into our care. Giving a firm “yes” and loving “no”, and allowing wisdom and mercy to inform when to give them.

God has no grandchildren; just as we are children, our children are God’s children. Therefore, parents are caretakers (Gen.2:15). We are given a great gift, and entrusted with the ‘training up a child in the way he should go; [so] even when he is old he will not depart from it’ (Proverbs 22:6). .

Parenting is a gift. There can be no pedestal for us or for them. There can only be protest and petition. Protest for them against the disorder of the world [ii]; prayer for them, as they walk with God against it and all that sets out to destroy them.

Ultimately, parenting is receiving what God has to teach us. Learning what God has done for us. Learning from what God does and will have us do, then doing our best to walk in that; to help pick up the pieces of our children’s poor decisions, when they make them; to pray like breathing [iii], to ‘love justice, love mercy, [and together], walk humbly with our God’ (Micah 6:8).


References & Notes:

Barth, K. 1960. Church Dogmatics III/2 Hendrickson Publishers

[1] ‘With the creation of woman God expected man to confirm and maintain his true humanity by the exclusion of every other possibility [of a partner].’ (Karl Barth CD. 3:1, 1958 p.294) ; ‘Every supposed humanity which is not radically and from the very first fellow-humanity is inhumanity’ (CD. 3:2, p.228)

[i] As are the terms given to this breach by Karl Barth & Dietrich Bonhoeffer

[ii] I’m adopting Karl Barth’s phrase: ‘Prayer is a revolt against the disorder of the world’ from CD Fragments IV:4 

[ii] because to pray is to act. Prayer is action. Prayer is not stoic detachment.

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Photo credit: Liane Metzler on Unsplash

As part of our home-school English curriculum this year, I decided to tackle Twain’s, ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn‘.

I’ve read a few of the, for and against arguments on the internet, by writers who either have an higher opinion of themselves (than they do of Twain), or they raise Twain to a higher level, just because he’s Twain.

My conclusion is this: forget all the, “I’m offended therefore ban ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’, because Mark Twain uses offensive language.” Then ditch the flip side which says, “I’m offended, because you’re offended, that Mark Twain didn’t consider your feelings, before he wrote the book”.

What should be deemed offensive is the fact that we’re told our children cannot be taught to discern for themselves; told that they cannot learn the difference between appropriate, and inappropriate language. Especially the term which Mark Twain contextually applies to Huck’s, African-American friend, Jim.

Such an ideological imposition goes against everything that my role as an educator involves. Such as teaching kids how to think for themselves and act responsibly with what they’ve been taught. I’m a facilitator, not a computer programmer; I facilitate the learning process, I don’t insert information into an object, in a certain way, in order to get a specific set of desired results on demand.

Although age and capability are factors for why filtering certain topics is essential to healthy nurturing, I don’t water down facts to appease feelings. With age and capability factors in mind, I present the how, and we discuss the what. Deep learning requires learning the hard stuff and how to digest the hard stuff. We read, learn and act, therefore does not equate to, “we install and stoically obey”.

Learning is a journey, a discipline from which we grow together. This is encapsulated in the whole meaning of reader beware (caveat lector) and it corresponds perfectly with buyer (consumer) beware (caveat emptor).

For example: my students know the difference between Niger (the Latin adjective for black, pronounced Nigh-jer), and the perversion of the adjective used to refer to African-Americans in a derogatory way. Our students understand that the name of the country Nigeria is not pronounced or used with that pejorative in mind.

They are capable of concluding that if a term has an historical significance and was used in such a way to control and abuse others, than that term is not to be used, but is to be left in the historical context where it once was applied. Whitewashing history in order to make it digestible isn’t conducive to education proper.

Take for instance the term ‘wandering jew’’. This is a common name of a pervasive weed in Australia. It pops up everywhere and is hard to get rid of.  But the term raises some important questions: a) is the name of the weed, “wandering jew”, a term of endearment, or is it a pejorative? b)  Can the term be understood differently?  Just because I think the phrase is potentially offensive, doesn’t mean that a Jewish person would agree. c) The plant is strong, hardy and persistent with okay flowers. Instead of disparaging Jewish people, does it stand as a compliment to them?

Instead of banning terms, we educate our children about them. We teach them that the term ‘wandering jew’ can be viewed as a slur on a people group, used in order to dehumanize them. We also take note of the possibility that ‘wandering jew’ could also be viewed as a term of endearment. As a result, while knowing that the phrase is common, we give them reason whether or not to insert weed, where jew once stood or keep it. The consensus has been to use ‘wandering weed’ instead of ‘wandering jew’. If, however, someone used the term ‘wandering jew’, our children would understand its reference, and if someone was offended by it, they would understand why.

We can teach this without demanding that all horticultural books or websites which use the term, “wandering jew” be banned. Just because some Jewish folks might be offended, or use the term, doesn’t mean we have to either ban it, or use it. Likewise, just because the African-American community might (and some do[i]) use the pejorative version of the word ‘Niger (Nigh-Jer)’, doesn’t justify our own use of it (no matter how hypocritical it may seem).

In the case of ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’, the student is taught to understand what the word means, how and why it was once used, and to whom it was once applied. Instead of having them repeat the word, the pejorative version of ‘niger (nigh-jer)’ is easily replaced by the reader with African-American. We acknowledge the complications, but chose to think for ourselves instead of having a censor do that job for us.

The genius of ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ is that, when allowed to speak for itself, Twain confronts us with the harsh reality of how words have been used to dehumanize others.

In order to holistically educate our students about the slave trade and the abuses carried out under the banner of racism, they have to be allowed to be confronted with the truth. The truth and the words associated with it. Thanks to Mark Twain, our students are no longer spectators. They get to participate in, and experience, hard truths through the eyes and ears of Twain’s characters.

There is no reason to ban ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’. Any ban would teach students to steer around being confronted with the horror and tragedy of that era (especially white folks[ii]). It denies them empathy and understanding, and as a consequence, fails to recognise that one of the essential building blocks of effective reconciliation and responsible freedom, is education free of emotional bias and ideological interference.

Banning a book because of a word that it uses, is asinine and ignorant – the very basis of Hannah Arendt’s ‘’banality of evil’’; a phenomenon that leads to the mass tolerance and participation in totalitarianism by people who are blinded by an uncritical trust in the blind bureaucrats who lead them[iii]. Not only would a blanket ban on ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ disallow children access to an experience of the past, but such a blanket ban would have to be applied to many African-American rappers, and movies where the pejorative use of ‘niger (nigh-ger)’ is applied regularly; the quintessential example being, N.W.A.

When reading the text, Twain’s consistent use of the pejorative derivation of the Latin word for black, “niger (nigh-ger)”, is easy enough to switch with African-American. Children can clearly see that black slaves are the category which such a pejorative has been applied.

Why all calls for a ban on ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ ultimately fail is that they are based on fear. If we give in to this, we let the past determine the future; repeating the past. Fear underlines racial hatred as much as excessive ethnic pride does. It restricts us from seeing our neighbor, and having our neighbor see, us.

In addition, we shouldn’t fear words, we should continue the age of old quest of learning how, when, why and where to apply and respond to them.

Parents and educators need to push back against any technological society which tries to program our kids as if they were computers. Conveyor belt education as part of an industrialised education complex has been an attempt to produce a certain type of human; if not a certain type of voter.  Androids are programmed, humans aren’t. Yes, humans can be influenced by conditions, but humans can also learn to overcome those conditions. We adapt because the gift of reason, empowered by God’s grace, hope, faith and love, allows us to overcome. We read, learn and act, therefore does not equate to, “we install and stoically obey”.

What is, and should be deemed offensive, are attempts, through the media, to tell us all what to think. The education industrial complex, for example, tells us that it needs to create “safe spaces”. Sinless spheres which are empty of any opportunity to develop reason, faith and resilience.

The subliminal message is that today’s men and women can’t be trusted to process or understand the power of the words that encounters humanity on a daily basis; words that come to us as either comfort, confrontation, conviction or a combination of the three. In a nutshell, “experts” take the false view that the humanity cannot be trusted with the God-given permission to speak freely, therefore thought, conscience and speech needs to be controlled. The fact that actions cannot be justified by their consequences is ignored.

Free speech is vital to our humanity. We need it in order to exist, first, in order to be free for God, second, to be free for others. We encode – decode – then reciprocate responsibly. Without that freedom we fail, as Karl Barth astutely put it, to see our neighbour, and having our neighbour see, us:

‘Humanity as encounter is looking each other in the eye […] Humanity as encounter must become the event of speech. And speech means comprehensively reciprocal expression and its reciprocal reception, and its reciprocal address and its reciprocal reception. All these four elements are vital.’
(Karl Barth, The Basic Form of Humanity, CD 3:2:251)

 

Banning ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn‘ denies humanity by exalting the inhumanity Twain’s adventure story ultimately, so brilliantly decries.


References:

[i] This is so pervasive; I don’t really see a need to highlight any specific examples. However, for the sake of thoroughness, see the movie, ‘New Jack City’, a good portion of Ice Tea’s albums and the rappers N.W.A. (the abbreviation goes without spelling it out).

[ii] If I was to unpack this further I would say that, should the concept of “white privilege” actually exist, banning Twain’s book would only be feeding “white privilege”, not answering it, or having white people repent of it. If anything calls to ban the book, proves that “white privilege” is a myth.

[iii] Karl Barth (CD.3:2:252) : “Bureaucracy is the encounter of the blind with those whom they treat as blind.”

[iv] Barth, K. 1960. CD. 3:2, The Doctrine of Creation, The Basic Form of Humanity. Hendrickson Publishers

I recently had the privilege of being a guest on an XYZ Google hangouts panel, which included XYZ’s editor-in-chief David Hiscox, & Matt from Matty’s Modern Life.

A few things worth mentioning: this was a first for me, though I don’t think this factor took too much away from the overall discussion. It was great to sit down with David and Matt to discuss, in brief, the finer points of homeschooling, Resurrection, freedom in Christ and cultural Christianity.

The panel was live streamed to YouTube and the link can be found here:

Over parenting is not the same as homeschooling. Over parenting is the parent smothering the child in too much kindness. An old term for this is ‘’babying’’. Suited for when the parent refuses to let their child grow up.

Every bump, bruise or brawl is accompanied by an excessive amount of sympathy and concern. Even if their child started the fig)ht, or caused an incident, their child is innocent and everyone else is to blame.

What usually drives this is insecurity and separation anxiety. Mum or dad projects their fears and insecurities onto their child. Out of an unhealthy fear and connection the mum or dad wraps their child in cotton wool.

In some instances, over parenting is about making the parent shine. Everything done for the child is only done for sake of the parent. The world looks on and applauds. Here, vanity metrics matters.

Being seen to be a good parent, always saying “yes” to our children in order to keep them feeling happy, is of high importance. In these cases, maintaining appearances in public or on social media takes priority over the actual nurturing a child’s character.

Over parenting is not the same as homeschooling because over parenting involves doing everything for the child. Ironically, this results in the parent having done next to nothing for the adult their child turns into.

19th Century pastor Charles Spurgeon, using the pseudonym, John Ploughman wrote,

‘Happy is he who is happy in his children, and happy are the children who are happy in their father. All fathers are not wise. Some are like Eli, and spoil their children. Not to cross our children is the way to make a cross of them. Those who never discipline their children, shouldn’t complain when their undisciplined children become a burden to them.’ (2007 pp.80-81) [i]

In addition, Psychologist, Lisa Firestone notes:

‘When we assume our children need more than they do, we are undermining their abilities and hurting their confidence… as parents, we often fail to recognize how capable our children are.’ (2012) [ii]

There’s no disputing that most parents want the best for their kids. For some parents, though, the only way they think this can be achieved is by doing everything for their child. Everything they might never have had done for them. This is admirable, but it ultimately goes from one extreme to another.

The problem is that,

‘doing too much for our kids teaches them to be dependent.’ (Firestone, 2012)

It’s important children be given guidance and a reasonable amount of room for independence as they are growing up because

‘growing up, by its very nature, is a series of weaning experiences for children. From the moment a child is born, they are weaned from the comfort and safety of their mother’s womb. Learning the lessons of how to get their needs met then transitioning to meeting their own needs is not only essential to a person’s survival but to their psychological well-being.’ (Firestone, 2012)

While over parenting can be a real trap for some homeschooling parents, it’s wrong to equate over parenting solely with homeschooling.

The basic goal of homeschooling is raising children up outside the academic industrial complex. There is no conveyor belt conformity. Homeschooled kids do not become clones of the system nor are they forced to conform to any playground social order.

Homeschooling means equipping the child with the shared responsibility for their own education.  Ideally, the homeschooled child will not only have acquired academic skills from a holistic and rigorous learning environment, but the child would also have acquired a decent amount of life skills.

For instance, among other things they learn to love learning, how to manage a budget; where to shop on a budget. How to change a car tire, maintain a bike, cook, clean, and craft. Most also learn how to engage people of different ages, recognise and refute the propagandists when they come, think critically, when to show compassion and hopefully, how to live out a loving relationship with God and neighbour. In short, they learn to become independent.

Homeschoolers won’t be entering the adult world with unrealistic expectations about how society works. They won’t have had these expectations drilled into them by the social order set by the trends, likes, dislikes and moods of those who dominate the playground or schoolroom.

Over parenting is not homeschooling because the aim is to

‘help our children get a real feeling for themselves by offering them real love and affection, while equipping them with skills that help them feel competent.’ (Firestone, 2012)

Homeschooling isn’t about training up experts. That’s an untenable goal. Homeschooling is about training the child up in the way they should go. Independent of the academic industrial complex, both mum and dad, provide guidance and enough resources to empower their child to succeed in life. Homeschooling is about doing school together.

This process involves parents working alongside their children, helping them to identify and then develop their childs gifts and talents; and work towards a trade and career. Over parenting dis-empowers, whereas homeschooling channels freedom for empowerment.

It isn’t fair to equate homeschooling with over parenting:

‘The most honest proof of good parenting is seeing our child doing well, showing interest, learning skills, finding contentment, and finding him/herself. What we can offer as parents is love, safety, support, and guidance, a strong security from which our children can confidently venture out and independently experience the world.’ (Firestone, 2012)

For me, the purpose of homeschooling is best summed up by Hannah Arendt:

‘[Homeschooling] Education is the point at which we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, not to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new – but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world’
(Hannah Arendt, 1961:193 parenthesis mine) [ii]

This isn’t over parenting. Homeschooling is about funding and facilitating our children’s potential.

It’s another way of selling all that we have and giving it to the poor. (Matthew 19)


References:

[i] Spurgeon, C.H. 2007 The Complete John Ploughman: Combined Edition Christian Focus Publications

[ii] Firestone, Ph.D, L. 2012 The Abuse of Over Parenting Sourced 20th November, 2017 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201204/the-abuse-overparenting

[iii] Arendt, H1961 Between Past & Future, Penguin Classics p.193

One of the key themes throughout the Pentateuch (the first five books of the bible), is that in delivering His people, Yahweh fights for His people. This homeschool term brings us into the book of Joshua where this theme continues.

Yahweh doesn’t abandon Israel rather He goes with them. He is committed to the covenant and expects the people to also remain committed.

The book of Joshua is a continuation of Yahweh’s war against the gods of the Ancient Near East.

The commands given to Israel to remember “the one who brought them out of Egypt” are to safeguard Israel from the seduction of the culture which surrounds them.

Yahweh’s actions are not without mercy. The twelve tribes face their own failings and are brought back through repentance and correction. In addition, foreigners are accepted and some adopted into Israel without overwhelming prejudice. Such as the descendents of Zipporah (the Midianite wife of Moses), Rahab (the Canaanite prostitute), her family and all who were with her.

Yahweh is at war with the gods of the Ancient Near East, He is at war with those who place these idols of clay, stick and stone at the centre of ANE culture. Yahweh is at war against the superstition that has inflamed the hearts of the people with perverted passions. Passions that include human sacrifice. Chief among them was the ritual murder of innocents.

As with Pharaoh, Yahweh reaches forth in righteous judgement against each city-state because He is righteous and is committed to His people. One of the primary messages communicated by Exodus, up to Joshua and beyond, is this:

where men or women raise themselves up as god, their human throne and the empire it represents become enemies of God.

Man provokes God to anger, and in doing so brings about his own judgement.

It is true that the Israel of today is not the Israel of Joshua’s day. The latter was made up of the twelve tribes of Israel, and it would be difficult to prove that the former is also. What exists is a remnant. It would be careless than of me to say that the history of modern Israel reflects God’s commitment to Ancient Israel, without the above qualification.

It is enough, though to say that biblical prophecy regarding the promises made to Ancient Israel, do appear from time to time to be on the front page of the news. If we cannot give a definite “yes” to this, we still do well to at least pay attention to it.

One of those examples came up today as we reached and read through Joshua 11. Once again we hear the message “Yahweh fights for His people”. If we don’t hear that as a direct word today, we can hear today echo of that message.

The 1967, Six Day War is considered by many to be a miracle. Israel was outnumbered and outgunned. It had no strategic advantage or strategic strongholds, and was threatened on three fronts by a coalition of oil producing nations who had the power, means and motivation to wipe Israel off the map. They failed.

In an excellent series of short videos Jerusalem U sums up the events and consequences of that attempt. I used these for the first time today as part of our lesson in order to show how the biblical texts parallel some events in the world around us. They’re worth checking out.

‘..It was indeed necessary that they should serve as soldiers, and fight strenuously with the enemy, but still they were to depend only on the Lord, to consider themselves strong only in his might, and to recline on him alone…Hence the saying of Psalm 20:7, “some may trust in chariots, some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God”
(John Calvin, Commentary on Joshua 11)


 

 

As we approach term four in our seventh year of homeschooling, I’m continually amazed at the blessings we receive. Not only having the freedom to do what we do, but the guidance and provision to do it. The kind that only God can provide.

One such example this term was Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice. We read the play, talked about it and watched the movie. We devoured it, comparing the movie to the play and writing our own commentary on it.

As it turned out, our regional theatre was hosting a Bell’s Shakespearean version of ‘The Merchant of Venice’. So I added this to compliment our learning.

The same thing happened when we did Hamlet a few years back. I tend to leave these events out of the yearly calendar, largely because of cost. Like Hamlet, I didn’t plan on seeing T.M.o.V live when setting out the course of study for the year.

I’m a Christian, therefore I believe that the Holy Spirit leads us and that we should invite such leadership into our lives.

Joining with the Psalmist,

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!”
(Psalm 143:10, ESV)

That, His

‘gracious Spirit will lead me forward on a firm footing.’ (Psalm 143:10, NLT)

It’s this faith that drives us towards better things; holding onto the good, correcting the bad. If we, as parents aren’t humble enough to be led by God, how can we, ourselves, be humble enough to lead?

Since it’s offered, I’ll take the Father’s hand, and choose to trust in the wisdom of His government before I do my own.

For:

‘Neither man’s headship or humanity’s dominion (lordship) over the earth equals ownership of woman or creation. Humanity’s rule exists, as a gift. It exists in the light of God’s rule and therefore cannot be absolute.’
(Karl Barth, p.205 paraphrased) [i]

Koral Wojtyla, (John Paul II) in his 1979 address to the Latin American Churches encouraged its leaders to look upon the pastoral care of the family, for

‘…evangelisation in the future depends largely on the “domestic church”. It is the school of love, of the knowledge of God, of respect for life and for human dignity.’ [ii]

 

 

This edition sees some exciting reflections on the term that was and the term that will be. We, I’m happy to say, more than reached the goals laid out in our Winter edition.

On top of these, we’ve travelled African river rapids in The African Queen, traversed the English country-side, chasing puppies in 101 Dalmatians, unpacked the lessons of George Orwell’s, The Animal Farm, and revisited The Pilgrims’ Progress. We also made our way through the ups and downs in the book of Deuteronomy, farewelled Moses and got excited about our new journey with Joshua at the helm.

As for this term’s reads:

1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Janet & Geoff Benge, 2012

I’ve insisted on each of our homeschoolers learn about Corrie Ten Boom and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. When it comes to history, the Holocaust and the events surrounding it is the only real history, outside the Biblical texts, that I place an importance on learning above all others.

This will be our fourth journey into the life of Bonhoeffer and the tragic events that brought about World War Two. I am of the firm conviction that in learning from Bonhoeffer, Boom and countless others, such as the White Rose Movement, that society can not only avoid the horrors witnessed then, but navigate a path towards a future that gives rise to Christian compassion, Christian passion for truth and Christian mercy in the seats of human Government.

2. The Wind in The Willows, Kenneth Grahame, 1908

I didn’t read a lot when I was growing up. We learnt from movies and television. Most of that wasn’t all as wholesome as it should have been. I do remember The Wind in the Willows, though.

This book is a classic. Our youngest has only just picked it up, is having a great time.  I wanted something to keep his interest going after finishing the 101 Dalmatians, and the Oxford Children’s version fits the bill.

3. Teen Sex, Dr. Patricia Weerakoon, 2012.

Patricia is a Sri Lankan born Australian. Like most parents, dads in particular, I was very apprehensive about teaching this subject. That was even after my wife read it and gave her own thumbs up.

Don’t let the title of the book distract you. The heading grabs as teens attention, but doesn’t do a lot of justice to the breadth or level of precision Patricia skillfully employs in bringing to the Church, what is, in my opinion, the best sex education book available.

Patricia is graceful, God centered and she handles each subject with the dignity it deserves. This is a counter-cultural read, far from any “Puritanical” view of sexuality. I’m glad we chose it.

4. The Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Over the course of the past year, our older homeschoolers have read through both of Lacey Sturm’s autobiographies.  As we read we discuss the material; stopping to cover thoughts, emotions and any areas that we found surprising. Our older homeschoolers handled those with excellence.

So I decided to take them through Ayaan Ali’s autobiography. Ayaan is an atheist and an ex-Muslim. She often talks out, under threat of death, about life under Islamist rule. In The Infidel, Ayaan outlines her life experiences openly and with honesty.

Adding Ayaan’s YouTube lectures in with our read and discuss sessions added value and depth. Ayaan is skeptical of religion, and has good reason to be so. Our prayer for Ayaan, though, is that she will find her ultimate peace in Christ, and as such move beyond religion towards relationship with God.

5. Lord of the Flies, William Golding

Lord of the Flies is, once again, being turned into a film. This time, however, it’s apparently an all girl cast. Golding has captured my attention when I first saw the 1990 film adaptation. Since then I’ve been returning to its key themes in discussions about politics, society and world history.

One of those key themes is the regression into tribalism and exercise of arbitrary power. For our year 9 studies, this has also coincided with our work through Deuteronomy, Animal Farm and Ayaan’s autobiography. I recommend it.

Through most of our read and discuss subjects, each child reviews the chapter they’ve just worked on. I set the task within a read and response paradigm.

This allows us to practice paragraph writing and sharpen our essay writing skills. In order to do this, I also will, for important paragraphs, read their final draft out loud over some thematic music. This measures whether or not the paragraph has rhythm, dynamics and flow.

For example:

Requiem for Piggy (Lord of the Flies, Year 9), read out loud over the theme from Rambo:

“Piggy is unjustly treated. No one knows his real name. The boys just called him “Piggy” because he was short and pudgy. Piggy was a friend and advisory to Ralph. He helped Ralph when he needed it. Piggy was smart. He knew of Jack’s hatred for Ralph and warned Ralph of it. This shows he was observant of those around him. Piggy chose to stay with Ralph, who put down rules and order. Unlike the majority of the boys, who follow whichever leader looked the most fun. Piggy chose the one who was the wisest.”


References:

[i] Barth, K. 1958. C.D The Doctrine of Creation, Hendrickson Publishers

[ii] Wojtyla, K. 1979. On Liberation Theology et.al Third General Conference of the Latin America Episcopate (Sourced 26th September, 2017 from The Holy See

Marcus Garvey was a Jamaican poet and civil rights campaigner. He had a level of popularity in America during the early post-war years, from 1919-1922, wasn’t an academic, but had a keen eye for studiousness.

He was intelligent, talented and charismatic, but appears to have lacked consistent success because he lacked staying power.

Garvey clashed with intellectuals like W.E.B De Bois.

He had a flair for the flamboyant and not being an American, at times found himself outside the very communities he was seeking to raise up.

Because of this he is credited by some, as having a significant role in laying the early foundation for what would become the African American Civil Rights movement.

The decline in his popularity coincided with Garvey’s radical views on Africa, and the way forward for Americans, such as his support for Black Nationalism and pro-segregation.

His five year imprisonment in 1922, for mail fraud, sealed his, now inevitable, ultimate removal from public life. He served two years before being released and sent back to Jamaica.

Garvey was schooled and later self-taught. His radical racial views aside, Garvey’s short treatise called ‘Educate Yourself’ is a back to basics organic approach to education. The kind of stuff homeschoolers do daily.

It’s clear that some of the ideas on education presented by Garvey are not unique to Garvey. What is unique is the fact that Garvey saw these ideas as worth reflecting on from within his own experience.

Taking into consideration the racism of the era and the muddied struggle for equal educational opportunities, Garvey’s words here carry inspirational gravitas.

 ‘’Never stop learning. Never stop reading […] Make pencil or pen notes of the striking sentences and paragraphs that you should like to remember”
“You should also read the best poetry for inspiration. From a good line of poetry, you may get the inspiration for the career of a life time.”
“Read history incessantly until you master it. You can only make the best out of life by knowing and understanding it. To know, you must fall back on the intelligence of others who came before you and have left.’
“Never write or speak on a subject you know nothing about, for there is always somebody who knows that particular subject to laugh at you or to ask you embarrassing questions that may make others laugh at you. You can know about any subject under the sun by reading about it.”
“By reading good books you keep the company of the authors of the book or the subjects of the book when otherwise you could not meet them in the social contact of life.”
“You should learn the two sides to every story, so as to be able to properly debate a question and hold your grounds with the side that you support.”
“Always have a well equipped shelf of books.”
“In reading it is not necessary or compulsory that you agree with everything you read. You must always use or apply your own reasoning […]Pass judgement on what you read based upon these facts. When I say facts I mean things that cannot be disputed.”
“Don’t waste time. Any time you think you have to waste put it in reading something.”
 “Never pass over a word without knowing its meaning.”
“Read a chapter from the Bible everyday, Old and New Testaments. The greatest wisdom of the age is to be found in the Scriptures.” [i]
“God gives you intelligence to do things intelligently for yourself. You will get no more out of life than you put in.” [ii]


References:

[i] Garvey, M. The Ultimate Collection of Speeches and Poems.

[ii] Garvey, M. 1937, Speech (source) Hill, R.A. (Ed.)

[iii] Sandbrook, D. 2008 The Rise And Fall of Marcus Garvey, The Telegraph (source)