Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:34
Bet you didn’t think those words would ever be used to describe me. I sure didn’t ever see that one coming!
But, a recent commenter on my blog basically accused me of being just that, and for what reason? Not liking one of the books I reviewed–The American Patriot’s Bible. I still stand by that review (and the fact that I was, in fact, not trying to “spin” it into something else), and I still think that book is a terrible misuse, and perhaps even abuse, of Scripture. But, my anger at being labeled in such a fashion got me thinking about that Bible, and about that genre of Bibles, and I came to a realization about myself that I wasn’t really aware of before.
I don’t really like the whole devotional Bible/themed Bible thing.
A good study Bible, that I love. Cross-references, chain-references, concordance, word studies. I think these things are great, because they are strictly about the words written in the Bible, not about how they make us feel, not about us at all. Just about the Word of God. And that’s what a Bible should be. Doesn’t the Word of God stand on it’s own, without narrative from us?
I don’t mind devotional books, either. Now, if I am to be honest, I will say that I think a lot of the current ones out there are too feel-good and trite, but there are also some good ones, that force the reader to really think about the Scripture, about why it was written, who it was written for, and what it means for us today. Hey, I even own (and use!) a few such books!
But, I just don’t think that kind of man-made narrative belongs directly in the Bible. In it’s own book to be used alongside, fine. But leave the Bible to be just that–the Bible. Not the Bible plus.
I guess I just realized why any of the devotional Bibles I ever received sat unread on the bookshelf, while my good old Concordia Self-Study Bible has been used, highlighted, and somewhat dog-eared over time. Interesting. I like when I learn something new about myself!
I really wanted to like The American Patriot’s Bible. It’s printed in the New King James version, which isn’t my favorite, but is a reliable translation. I love American history. And the material presented within the Bible is mostly good–summaries of events in our history, quotes from the founding fathers and Presidents, and notes at each Bible verse that was chosen by a President as the spot on which he was sworn into office . But, in the end, I think it’s a totally inappropriate way to present the Bible.
First of all, Americans are not the only people to read the Bible. It’s all fine and good to tie our country’s history to our faith, but in doing so, most of the world, and most of world history, is excluded.
I also find that the way this Bible presents early American history is twisted, at best. While there is an acknowledgment that not all the founding fathers were Christian, the resources assume that they still operated from a Christian worldview, which is not necessarily true.
The supplementary materials could have made a nice handbook or Bible study on their own, but I think it was a big mistake to try to interleave them with the Holy Scriptures.
I have a wide variety of Christmas storybooks, (in addition to reading both the Matthew and Luke Christmas stories straight from the Bible on different days), each that tells the Christmas story in a different way. We really enjoyed these, and tried to read one book each day (which also included The Nutcracker and Saint Nicholas).
My personal favorite is The Crippled Lamb, which I’ve owned for almost 15 years. That book was a little hard for me to read aloud this year in light of Moose’s problems, but I made it through, and the children loved it. We also read both The First Christmas (which Ryan bought for Turkey the Christmas before he was born) and The Very First Christmas. They sound similar, but are wildly different. I really like The Very First Christmas; The First Christmas is good, but it places the wise men at the stable the night of Jesus’ birth, so I just skipped the end of it. Bunny especially enjoyed reading The Three Wise Women of Christmas, and I think we all enjoyed learning a little bit more about Anna, who tends to be easily overlooked because her story in the Bible is so short. Our final Bible storybook was From Heaven Above, which is based on the Christmas carol by Martin Luther. The illustrations are especially nice–Turkey and Bunny really enjoyed the close-up of Jesus in the manger. We will also be using a storybook for Epiphany: The Visit of the Wise Men. This title gives a more accurate portrayal of the journey of the magi, so I don’t have to worry about editing as I read. I’ve also found a book that’s already on the schedule for next year: Fear Not Joseph. I couldn’t get my hands on it this year, and I couldn’t afford to buy it, so it had to wait, but I’m really excited to have a storybook from Joseph’s point-of-view, because that’s one thing we don’t really have.
Turkey, Bunny, and I have been reading the “Little House” series, and we’ve made our way partway into The Long Winter. Today’s chapter started with Laura and Carrie going to school for the first time in the town of De Smet, Dakota Territory. Turkey and Bunny were astounded that the teacher started the school day by reading a Psalm from the Bible. Even though they’re home-schooled (or maybe especially because they are), they know that they don’t teach about Jesus in our public schools, so it was quite a surprise that they could read from the Bible in theirs.
Turkey, inquisitive guy that he is, had to ask me some questions abour that. “Mommy, they were having Bible time at school? Like we do?” So, I told him that they used to read from the Bible in public schools, but they don’t do that anymore–they just don’t talk about Jesus in public schools. And, in his unique way of looking at things, I think he summed it up rather eloquently:
“Did they forget how to talk about Jesus? They should go to church, and maybe then they’ll remember how to teach about Him.”
I guess that’s all there really is to say.
We stepped into some uncomfortable territory in our Bible readings this week. In the past, whether it’s been intentional or not, there have been some Bible stories I have avoided telling the children. In part, probably because a lot of children’s Bibles leave out (or diminish) some of the harder stories. Cain and Abel is one example of this that we tackled in the first days of homeschooling. That’s a story that, if it even appears in a children’s Bible, is usually grossly understated–Cain wasn’t nice to Abel, etc. Understandable–when you’re talking to impulsive children who are prone to push, hit, or bite (OK, only Moose does the biting!) when they’re upset, you may not want to mention a guy who killed his brother. That tends to make the aforementioned pushing, hitting and biting seem less bad. But we made it through that story without incident…
This week was harder, though. We had to read about Abraham being instructed by God to sacrifice Isaac. Another story we hadn’t read before, and one I really didn’t want to have to try to explain to two small children. How do you talk about a father preparing to kill his only son, and then add in that he was doing it because God told him to? But we made our way through that one, too. Turkey and Bunny didn’t say or ask much, but I could see the wheels turning in their heads as they pondered what the story meant. I didn’t want to press them too hard–I certainely didn’t want to be the cause of any nightmares by talking about it too much.
What we did talk about, though, was how good it was that Abraham loved God so much, was obedient and able to trust Him. And how good it was that God provided a ram so that Isaac wouldn’t have to be the offering. And most of all, how, because Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for all of us, we don’t have to offer sacrifices to God anymore, and He would never ask us to what He asked of Abraham. I hope I reassured them sufficiently. Reading that part of the Bible is a totally different experience when you’re doing it with your own, rather sensitive, children. I think I need some reassurance, too!
So, after spending the last several weeks going through homeschooling catalogs and websites of all kinds, as well as talking to people online, I think I have a plan for this year!
We’re going to start with Sonlight K, but not the newcomer package, because I decided to use A Reason for Handwriting instead of Handwriting Without Tears, which is what comes with the newcomer set. (And how much does all this agonizing I’ve done over handwriting curriculum even matter? Everybody is typing nowadays. But they still need to learn to write properly!) I realize that most people who have tried Handwriting Without Tears have loved it, but I really prefer the more traditional look that is taught in A Reason for Handwriting, and I also like that the practice is done with Bible verses (even it is selections from the Living Bible. *sigh* I’ll have to see how the lessons are presented, and how easy it would be to substitute with the ESV). So, my big challenge is going to be making sure I order everything else that would have come in the newcomer package, just switching out the handwriting materials, and also adding Ready, Set, Go for the Code for additional learning to read help.
I know some people would probably recommend starting with the P 4/5 curriculum, since I’m going to be working with a four and five year old. But I’ve been over both the K and the P 4/5 materials many times, and I really think they would both be bored with the 4/5 stuff. I don’t want to sound like the typical bragging parent, but both of my older children are pretty advanced, which was partly the reason we decided to homeschool, so they could be more challenged, and I think they know most of the stuff from the 4/5 curriculum. I guess at worst we end up stretching out or repeating the K curriculum, but I really don’t think it’s going to be an issue.
As long as homeschooling goes well this year, and I feel comfortable with what I’m doing, I may look into switching out other parts of the curriculum. Not the core, obviously, because that’s the best part of Sonlight–all of the reading, and the natural learning method as far as history, geography, etc., goes. In the future, though, especially if I actually get to a curriculum fair, I think I may want to try Apologia for science (maybe starting at grade two, so I can do the astronomy, botany, and three zoology texts before general science hits in seventh grade), because I always loved science in grade school (and high school and college for that matter, except for physics, but that’s a whole other story!) and the Apologia curriculum looks really cool!
I’m also hoping to get a chance to compare Saxon math to the Horizons curriculum that Sonlight recommends, because I know it’s a tried and true method, and a lot of homeschoolers use it, so I figure I should at least check it out. Hopefully I can make that decision before we start grade one next year–that way I won’t end up doubling up on manipulatives sets (I know I could put together my own, but that idea is still intimidating to a new homeschooler like me!).
Eventually I know I’m going to want to move away from the religion that Sonlight provides, as well. I’m already adding the Lutheran Children’s ESV to our materials for this year, to beef up the Bible curriculum that they provide, and maybe some Arch books, too. I’m OK with Sonlight’s offerings (supplemented by CPH material) up through about grade two or three, but then they A.) start using Bible translations I’m not fond of, and 2.) start teaching some stuff that could be contradictory to Lutheran theology, at least from what I can tell so far. I can always fall back on CPH’s dayschool religion curriculum or *gasp* prepare my own–I was a DCE before children, after all, so if there’s anything I should be able to create on my own, that would be it!
The reading, read-alouds and Language Arts all look good to me, so no worries about replacing those. The electives look pretty good, too–certainly more about music and art appreciation than I ever learned in the early elementary years. And while I’m not using Sonlight’s number one recommendation for handwriting, and I may decide on different math and science, all of those materials are still available to order through Sonlight (and I think still eligible for the member discount), so except for the religion materials, it appears I can keep all of my business in one place. Very convenient!
I’m most excited about Sonlight’s core, though–I can’t believe how much we’ll be reading! I think I’ve looked at the book lists for almost every grade, and there are so many familiar books from my childhood that I can’t wait to share with my children. And I love the way they use “real” books to teach history, instead of just dry textbooks. I know I remember much more from the stories I read as a child, whether they were true, or just entertaining fiction, than I do from any textbook I read. I know this isn’t the only way of learning, but it is the one that makes the most sense to me, so I’m especially happy Sonlight has put together such a nice curriculum for me–I wouldn’t even know where to start doing this on my own!
I can’t believe we’ve actually made the decision to homeschool. I certainly never saw myself as a homeschooling parent. Then again, our family has always been a little unorthodox, so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised that this seems to be such a good fit for us–we’re good at going against the grain! I’m especially grateful to my husband, because he was obviously listening to me, (at times when I didn’t even realize I was talking!), and was open minded enough not only to consider this, but to actually do a complete 180 on his opinions on homeschooling. I never even would have seriously considered homeschooling without his support, but I feel that with God calling me to do this, and Ryan’s encouragement, I’ve been set free to do something I always wanted to do, without even really knowing it at the time.
I never thought I’d be the type of parent to consider homeschooling. I’ve never had a problem with it, it’s fine for other families, just figured it was something that wouldn’t really work out for us. Ever since we registered our oldest for Kindergarten, though, I’ve felt this growing sense of trepidation. Not about him leaving me (although I’ve thought about the tears I will shed that first day of school!), but about what kind of things he’ll learn at school. And not just picking up stuff from the other children that I’d rather he not be exposed to. I’m worried about the stuff he would actually be taught.
First of all, I really don’t want my children being taught evolution. I don’t mind them knowing the theory is out there, but I don’t want them learning it as truth. I 100% believe in Creationism, and I fully intend to teach that to my children. But if the school system isn’t on board with that, I’m going to spend time that would be better used elsewhere trying to undo their teachings. And evolution will trickle down into other subjects besides science. Things like history and biology will also be affected.
Then there are “family life” units that I really have a heavy heart about. I feel that it is my responsibility to teach my children what a family is, based on the Biblical perspective. Again, I don’t want a public school curriculum mucking up what I’m trying to instill at home.
Sex ed is another concern along those lines. I really don’t think the school system needs to be teaching that. Now, I realize that schools teach it because so many parents are hesitant to, but I’m not other parents, and I want my children learning those things from their parents, not from people who may have very different ideas from me as to what is appropriate sexuality.
The general teaching of morality is also a concern in the public system. Again, I want to instill morals in my children, morals which are all traced back to my faith. I don’t need a school system to do that for me.
I don’t how many of these things are a concern right now where I live. But I have heard horror stories from school districts around the country, and I know it’s only a matter of time before that kind of mentality seeps in everywhere. Public schools have changed so much, even from the time I was a child (although I didn’t attend one), so I know they will continue to change, and probably not for the better.
The really weird part about all of this, is that while I was going through all of these arguments with myself in my head, I was apparently also talking about them at home, without even realizing it. And now, all of the sudden, my husband, who has always been pretty opposed to homeschooling, is also thinking that this may be the best solution for our family, as long as we don’t have a Lutheran dayschool in our area and/or that we can afford. I’m really getting the feeling that maybe this is what God wants us to be doing, because we sure didn’t come up with this plan on our own!
Here’s the other thing–I want my children to continue to be who they are. They love drawing pictures of church, talking about church, talking about Jesus, reading Bible stories. On the one hand, I know my children could be a good witness to the Gospel because they are so outspoken with their child-like faith. On the other hand, I don’t want their faith to be crushed when they’re told that they can’t talk about those things in class, maybe can’t even draw pictures relating to their faith (I just read a news story addressing this very issue–something else that contributed to my heavy heart).
And the issue of holidays. For example, we don’t do Halloween at all. We’ll celebrate fall with a trip to the pumpkin patch, but we don’t carve those pumpkins. No dressing up (we can do that other days), no trick or treating (what a great idea–go beg food off of strangers on a threat, and overdo it on sugary snacks!), etc. Public schools (and some Christian schools, I know) make a big deal out of this day. Or, on the other hand, Christmas. Public schools can’t focus at all on the true meaning of Christmas–no hymns, no Christmas story, no baby Jesus. But the secular stuff–songs, Santa, presents–that they’ll over-emphasize. Well, we don’t do Santa either, and I’ve already spent the last five years trying to make sure that the focus of our celebration is Jesus; I’d really rather no have to undo all my efforts when teachers and classmates talk about Santa all the month of December. And the same kind of thing goes for Easter and the ridiculous story of the Easter bunny. Let’s face it, we’re the kind of family that is going to have angry parents beating our door down because our child told their child that Santa isn’t real. (And no, I would never tell my children to do that–I try to be very respectful of that tradition, even though I disagree with it, but my children can be honest to a fault!)
My children just love Jesus so much–I just want to continue to encourage that in them and help it grow, and I really think the best way I can do that is by choosing what they learn, what curriculum they use, and teach it to them myself. Who has their best interest at heart more than I do? And wouldn’t the one on one time I could give them be much better than being lost in a classroom full of students, all with differing needs? And, I can personalize the lessons to them–help them learn more about the things they’re really interested in, help them work on the stuff that gives them trouble.
I know it won’t be easy. Part of me was looking forward to the oldest two being in Kindergarten and Pre-K half days this fall–being able to run errands during the day with only two children in tow had it’s appeal. And it’s going to be expensive. The curriculum I’m looking at right now will run about $800 for the year–that’s about a quarter of what a Lutheran dayschool tuition would cost, but still a lot more than public school. But looking at the curriculum, I can’t help but be excited. Our faith can be present in all of the subjects, from reading to science, to the Bible lessons we’ll do daily. We’ll be able to look at things from a Creationism perspective, read Bible stories, learn about the true meaning of Christian (and maybe Jewish) holidays. When we do calendar in the morning, we can do both the date and look at the liturgical calendar. It’s so exciting to think of all the ways we’ll be able to include God in our daily lessons!
On the other hand, the curriculum I’m looking at also uses secular material, which I’m happy about. I don’t want to isolate my children from the outside world, I just want to filter it a bit. We’d read books I remember reading as a child, have regular language arts, math, etc. Eventually, they’d also be introduced to the theory of evolution, which is fine by me, but it would not be presented as the truth.
I think I could do this successfully (do I sound like I’m trying to convince myself?). I was an early childhood ed major at one point, and had I the wisdom in college that I do now as an adult (well, at least I have a little more wisdom now than I did then!) I would have stood up for myself and would probably have my teaching degree. Hindsight is 20/20, and I didn’t have the courage to stand up for myself then, so I didn’t finish the education track, but as a DCE, I do still have some experience in that area. Teaching is not without it’s challenges, but I think that I am up to that challenge.
Despite my past reluctance, homeschooling is really beginning to look like a win-win situation (financial investments aside!). Hopefully, we’ll be able to make a decision for sure soon, and then I can start planning.
I’m finding myself at a place in life that is not very comfortable to me. Everything around me seems to be changing, and from my perspective, very little of it for the better. I don’t know, maybe this is just what happens when you get older. I am losing faith in my church body as a whole, am beginning to feel like maybe they have lost sight of what’s really important. I know there are still faithful congregations out there, and thank God I belong to one, but overall, I am starting to doubt whether the higher-ups have anyone’s best interest at heart but their own.
I have come to expect feeling this way in the world–as though I don’t really matter, like I don’t have anything valuable to add, and that most people are concerned with looking out for number one, but I didn’t expect that I’d begin to feel that way about the denomination I’ve belonged to since I was baptized close to 30 years ago. But now that my voice has been marginalized as only 1/3 of 1%, I come to realize how little I mean here, even though I spent 14 years of my life in denominational education, supported my husband through Seminary, worked at the headquarters of the church, and at a congregation–still, my voice doesn’t count. And when I think of the decades long members and workers who have been told their voices don’t count either, my heart hurts. We have been trivialized and swept under the rug, just so that the boys in charge can save face publicly, not caring what damage they’re doing to the people who put them and keep them in office.
I also look at old friends, friends I thought we’d have for life, and realize I don’t even recognize them anymore. I don’t understand how people can change so much in such a short amount of time, or how they can end up opposite us on almost everything we believe, but there it is. The things and people I had come to depend on in life have become foreign to me, and if not for my family, and a few very select friends, I don’t know who I’d turn to.
My heart is heavy these days, as I come to better understand what Christ meant when He said He came not to bring peace but a sword. I guess I never figured the sword would hit so close to home.