Adam and His Kin

adam and his kin

Adam and His Kin, by Ruth Beechick. Originally published in 1990. 176 pages.

When our sixth-grade student was assigned this book for her literature class, I’d never heard of it. It is basically the characters and stories of Genesis framed as historical fiction. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it when I picked it up. Apparently, it is well known in homeschool circles, and opinions on it are mixed. A positive take can be found here, a negative one here, for those interested in both sides of the issue.

As I began to read it, my initial reaction was a mixture of apprehension and horror. It seemed sacreligious to me to fictionalize Scripture. What, I thought, would possess anyone to do such a thing? However, I kept reading and allowed our daughter to keep reading primarily because I fancy myself open to new ideas and I genuinely trust the heart, intentions, and faith of the administrators and staff of the program where we have  our kids enrolled and taking classes.

After I got over my initial reluctance to the very idea of Ruth Beechick’s project, I began to see it differently. It gave us opportunities to go back and study Genesis closer, note contradictions and parallels, and remember that what we were reading the author’s attempt to help the reader see these people as more than just Bible story characters.

On the whole it was a decent read, when kept in proper perspective. The literature teacher who assigned it was careful to make the distinction between the Bible and this book, and even gave the children opportunities for class discussion on the pros and cons of reading such a book.

If there was one thing I appreciated about the book more than any other, it was that the author tried to capture the universality of human nature, that it is as it has always been over time. The sin nature that motivated Adam, Eve, Cain, Ham, or the builders of Tower of Babel was as evident then as it is today. Greed, jealousy, lusts for power and self-aggrandizement are as old as humanity itself, despite our tendency to believe that people are uniquely horrible in our time compared to times past.

That said, it certainly needs to be read with caution, and an eye toward the Scriptures.

Grade: B-

Content advisory: I wouldn’t recommend this book to any child under middle school age and certainly not to anyone without an in depth knowledge of the Book of Genesis.

 

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Farmer Boy

farmer boy

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Originally pulished in 1933.

This review was written by our 9-year-old daughter. I do minimal editing to her writing when I post her reviews. Like Paddington, this book was part of assigned reading for her literature class.

Farmer Boy is a nonfictional classic by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It is about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s husband Almanzo Wilder, and his childhood.

It is very engaging and entertaining. I have not read many classics yet but this has to be one of my favorite’s. Once you start it is very hard to stop.

It is also very easy to read. Some of my favorite chapters are Birthday, Independence day, and also The Fair.

In The Fair Almanzo enters the biggest pumpkin contest. He fed his pumpkin milk  everyday. It was so big Father had to put in the wagon the night before.When he got to the fair he won the contest and everbody asked him what he had done to make it so big he was going to lie but his father was standing there he thought that he would get disqualified and get his ribbon taken away but he had to tell the truth so he did. He had a wonderful day at the fair.

I highly recommend this book. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

 

 

Captains Courageous

Captains Courageous, by Rudyard Kipling. Orignally published in 1897. 144 pages.

Our 11-year-old had to read this book for her middle school literature class, so I read it also. It was at times a hard read, as dialect heavy books tend to be for me, and this one was heavy with various dialects of both the American seamen from the northeast and foreigners from various points around the globe.

However, I make a point of not being dissuaded by dialects when reading a book and pushed forward. Our daughter tackled this problem by listening to several of the chapters on Librivox as she read it, and it helped her grasp Kipling’s style -in this book- much better.

Captains Courageous is a very masculine book. In fact, if I have to answer the question, “What is Captains Courageous about?” my answer is manhood.  In fact I was asked this question. It’s about a boy, coddled, spoiled and entitled by his mother:

“Like many other unfortunate young people, Harvey had never in all his life received a direct order—never, at least, without long, and sometimes tearful, explanations of the advantages of obedience and the reasons for the request. Mrs. Cheyne lived in fear of breaking his spirit, which, perhaps, was the reason that she herself walked on the edge of nervous prostration.”

One day, as Harvey and his mother (his father is busy managing and increasing their multi-million dollar fortune) are sailing from America to Europe, he falls off the boat and is believed to be lost at sea. He isn’t lost but instead is rescued by a pasing fishing boat filled with men based on the New England coast. Men who are not scheduled to return to the east coast (where Harvey can be reunited with his parents) for another four months. He is eventually presumed dead..

Stuck on the fishing vessel with a crew of sea-hardened sailors from all over the globe, away from his father’s money and his mother’s coddling, Harvey has to work for his keep. He initially balks, but it doesn’t take long before the ship’s captain, Disko Troop, literally beats it into his head that he isn’t in New York anymore, he won’t be for several months, and that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

This book is ultimately about a boy coming of age, and becoming a man of character as he is influenced by the crew of the We’re Here. The rather obvious dichotomy between the understanding the two fathers represented (Disko Troop and Harvey Sr.) and the two mothers represented drove home to me how much Kipling was driving home the reality that there are things about manhood that women will never quite be able to grasp.

Lots of seafarer terminology is here and I had to look most of it up, and there Kipling spends pages describing the experience of ocean life. So much so, our daughter thought it would be valid to categorize the sea as a legitimate character, which I found very interesting and insightful.

This… This is a good book. It may have been a children’s book in 1897, but given the decline in most American’s level of reading, I feel completely comfortable recommending to anyone from age 12 to 92. Besides, what was it that C.S. Lewis said:

No book is really worth reading at the age of 10 which is not equally- and often far more- worth reading at the age of 50 and beyond.

Grade: A

Content advisory: Some racial slurs and religious slurs. Some murkiness on matters of faith that would probebly be best explored with children under 12. Death, violence, and peril are included as well.

Age recommendation: 12 +

 

 

 

Book life, homeschooling, and a request.

I still have a few book reviews in draft, which are being slowed down significantly as we adjust to our new homeschool workload. Sometime over the next two weeks, I expect to post reviews of the following books:

  • Captains Courageous
  • Hillbilly Elegy
  • A Bear Called Paddington
  • Your Man is Wonderful

In the meantime, we are experiencing quite the challenge juggling the demands of homeschooling, the homework and readings associated with the supplemental classes our kids are taking, and regular homemaking necessities.

The positives are that our kids are getting top notch instruction from some amazingly gifted women (and a few men) in subjects I could never have tackled with the same depth of knowledge and enthusiasm. Latin, literature, drama, speech, visual arts, and art appreciation taught by teachers with passion for the subjects, years of studying them, and a wholly Christian worldview are pretty priceless. We are thankful to have found such a great community to add to our homeschool repertoire and more parents to join us on the journey.

The challenge is that being out of the house two days a week means that we have to incorporate the reading and homework for those subjects, the instruction of the subjects I am solely responsible for (math and science primarily), meals laundry, and other daily duties into a workable schedule. This, five readers, is where you come in.

I am looking for a scheduling program -online or PDF- that I can use to organize our day, keep good records, and generally organize our new homeschool life. It doesn’t have to be free. I’m willing to pay for it so long as it is adaptable and works. Up until this point our days have been fluid and relaxed because we weren’t out as much with the exception of our much less demanding co-op. It’s a new day, and I need something new to tackle it with. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Today has actually been a pretty sane day. So much so that we made it to the library. Everyone in our house has different reading interests, and as I moved about the house this afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice the different stacks and what they revealed about the range of readers:

 

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My stack.

 

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lover of all things magical.
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The eclectic reader.
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foodie/aspiring culinary artist.
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Too busy mapping northern Europe to check out books! Also busy reading Captains Courageous.

I’ve had to break out my long abandoned -but pretty effective- laundry schedule to keep that from being a huge pain. My slow cooker is also going to start getting quite the workout.

Basically, I’ve got to up my time management game since we decided to abandon the relaxed homeschooling approach.

Write These Laws on Your Children

write these laws on your children

Write These Laws on Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling, by Robert Kunzman. Published in 2010. 240 pages.

When I ran across this book on the education shelf of our local library, I checked it out with a hearty bit of skepticism. Anytime a researcher is purporting to give readers a glimpse “inside the world of….[insert here]”, I expect that I am going to read a hit piece. I was pleasantly surprised.

Kunzman, despite his clear bias as a former public high school teacher, took pains to try (emphasis on try) to give homeschooling a fair shake and acknowledge the upsides as well as the potential pitfalls.

After what turned out to be a more arduous search for willing participants than he anticipated, the author spends significant time visiting with and chronicling the techniques, atmosphere, learning, and family environments of five Christian homeschooling families who live in various regions of the country.

The fact that the families who were willing to participate were scattered around the country was useful in the presentation of how the different families, despite their firm adherence to Christian faith, processed the delicate balance of homeschooling and the regulations or lack thereof in their particular states.

Of the five families he visited, only two of them had very large broods. One family, a Vermont pastor and his wife, were the parents of one child, a 12-year-old daughter. I appreciated the variety of family sizes represented rather than focusing on families of six or more since our experience “inside the world of Christian homeschooling” has been more in line with what Kunzman observed. While we certainly have very large families in our community, the vast majority are families of 3-4 children with “big” families such as ours being represented mostly by families of 5-7 children, and a scant few with more than that.

The families which provided the most comprehensive and satisfactory education experience in the author’s assessment included one of the largest families, as well as the family with one child. The other three families ranged in his opinion from adequate to what he considered outright educational neglect. Most of the families were like ours in that they were willing to begin to a la carte school subjects as their children reached the middle school years and beyond. Some of the teenagers were transitioning to community college as dually enrolled students while others would begin using public or private schools for labs and music instruction their parents were not equipped to provide at home.

There were a couple of families for whom this was not an option due to ideological or logistical reasons and unsurprisingly, they were the families whose children Kunzman felt were getting shorter educational shrift. This wasn’t in my opinion based on the information he provided, always  fair assessment.

My biggest problem with Kunzman’s assessment of homeschooling was his dogged and repeated insistence that because the children in the families represented were being raised with a strictly Biblical worldview, that somehow their ability to “think for themselves” was being short-circuited in a way that it wouldn’t be if they attended public schools. He frequently intimated that the public school environment is one where the free flow of competing worldviews and ideologies are offered for children to make up their own minds.

Public schools are every bit as ideologically rigid as devout Christian schools or Christian homeschoolers, and there is mountains of evidence to support the notion that colleges and universities are even worse. Nevertheless a couple of these “rigid patriarchal ideologues” allowed their teenagers to attend community colleges.

That he actually believed that public school are bastions of free thought, despite the parent attempts to argue otherwise to him, was a bit irritating. No one in the education monopoly seems to have a problem with student indoctrination into progressive ideology, which is exactly what happens. Students are probably less free to learn to “think for themselves” than they are in a Christian homeschool family.

In between the chapters where he spent time with the families -on and off over two years- Kunzman visited homeschool conferences and did interviews with officials at HSLDA. One short chapter dedicated to the suggestion that conservative homeschoolers are motivated by race also filled one of those spots, although Kunzman refrained from commenting except to note that three of the families he visited couldn’t have possibly been referring to race when they talked about the “public school environment” since they lived in places that were lily white.

The atmosphere at the homeschool conferences he attended was understandably very pro homeschooling and adversarial to the suggestion of increased accountability to the state to ensure that homeschooled students are getting a proper education.

Aside from his private conversations with the fathers of the researched families, however, there was little in the day to day schooling or curriculums which indicated that a conflation of Christianity and political ideology was a major part of their homeschool motivation. Kunzman found the same when he visited the churches of the families, which was refreshing to me because I have met very few homeschool families where politics is a major part of why they do this, or how they do it.

The book was more fair than I expected, and Kunzman did concede that there are public school turning out kids far less literate than the ones he felt -rightly so- were losing out on a good education. Overall, the book did a good job of asking questions as well as making me think about some things as we continue on our homeschool journey.

Grade: B-

No content advisory necessary.

Note to self…

It is probably not a good idea to try and *do* school full tilt the last two days before you leave for vacation. At least, it’s not reasonable to expect your children to be fully attentive while visions of fun and games dance in their heads.

I’m currently reading Write These Laws on Your Children. The author has taken his kill shot yet, but I’m only 40 pages in. This should make for an interesting review.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

School’s Out For…Spring?

It’s April, and within the next two weeks every supplemental homeschool program we know of (including the two we participate in) will wrap up their activity for the 2016-2017 school year.

Because of that, it takes a lot of mental energy to stay engaged and maintain our educational zeal for another 6 weeks. After all, when you’re attending end-of-the-school-year parties, events, and promotion ceremonies, that means it’s summer. It’s time for summer vacation to begin!

However, in our house, a full summer off from school doesn’t bode well for the fall. It would be especially detrimental this summer because the upcoming fall will find our kids in a program slightly more rigorous than they have experienced to date. We cannot take the summer off.

What we will do this summer is spend time doing activities, experiments, and field trips that will serve as supplements to the subjects we gave less attention to during the regular school year.

Specifically, we spend a lot of time doing science experiments, building things, and doing the attendant research to explain the principles behind why and how these things work.

It is never a good idea to go without math reinforcement for weeks on end so there will be some lightweight math review and reinforcement once or twice a week.

We’ll have a book club, and once I decide which books we will read together, I will review them here.

We’ll be doing field trips, and the girls will be writing summaries of what they learned to give to their father. They always write markedly better when they are writing with him as their primary audience.

In other words, we’ll be doing school in a way that doesn’t feel as much like school.

Fellow homeschoolers: Do you take summers off?

*I am still reading The Righteous Mind, by Jonathan Haidt. It tweaks a lot of my mental rabbit trails and it is taking me longer than I anticipated. I hope to have it finished by the end of next week.