December 12, 2008

Living the Dream

I have spent most of my life falsely believing that I must sacrifice my own individual development so that I could support my children to learn what the public school system required of them. Good parenting meant enrolling my children in every kind of extra curricular program I could squeeze in after-school hours and during the summer. I was so caught up in giving my kids every possible opportunity to excel that there wasn’t time to focus on real family life. The most important outcome was their accomplishments and not the focus on relationships.

It’s a painful realization that in many ways I was following the masses along a conveyor belt of compulsory education. I sent my children out the door each morning and didn’t see them until the late afternoon. Then my time was spent making sure they got to all their lessons and games. There was little time or energy left over to focus on the children’s real needs. My heart often cried out in quiet anguish, yet I had no idea there existed a different and better way of living. Pulling my kids out of school and staying home from work to raise them simply was not an option.

But extending my parenting time into a second season has brought new opportunities to enlighten me in ways I never dreamed were possible. Through my discovery of the principles found in the book by Oliver DeMille, “Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century,” I have had a major paradigm shift. I no longer sacrifice my own development. My children no longer have compulsory education and now have the freedom to choose what they’d like to study and have unencumbered time to do it. My focus is on my family and not my career and they get the best part of me each and every day, no longer having to get by on my left-overs.

Oliver DeMille said in a recent seminar that the biggest challenge of the 21st century is the “lost family” because most people don’t talk about classics, tradition, family history and stories anymore. There isn’t time because of over-commitment. Building and nurturing long-term relationships based on core values of right and wrong, true and false, good and bad through family work and play are fundamental to everything else.

In our home we are raising youth instead of teenagers. Youth who get themselves up early everyday to go out in the dark and cold to feed a variety of animals. Who chop wood, keep the fire going that heats the house, complete their stewardship without complaining, read and enjoy the classics and study for hours independently. Youth, who have no desire for television, video games, I-pods, cell phones and are not concerned about the latest fashions or fitting in with the crowd. It really is possible to say no to stuff and yes to family.

Our family life has never been better. We make the time to focus on what matters most. I no longer experience the regrets I had when our family was on the conveyor-belt. We are happy just being together day in and day out. We enjoy a much richer, deeper friendship with each other as we learn to serve and help our family relationships grow and thrive. This is what I have always wanted for my family. We are finally “living the dream.”

December 11, 2008

Title Swap for December

The Children's Treasury of Virtues - William J. Bennett
Wrinkle In Time - Madeline L'Engle
The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch
Chicken in the Headlights - Matthew Buckley
The Giver - Lois Lowry
John Adams - David McCullough
Mandy - Julie Edwards (Andrews)
Seven Medieval Queens -
Man of LaMancha - Don Quixote
Kidnapped - Robert Lewis Stevensen

December 3, 2008

An Adult On the Path of Leadership

I was the oldest of us four children while we were growing up. My mother and father both worked outside of the home, thus I was left in charge during the hours in between school and when our parents returned home from work. Our generation has been referred to as the “Latch-Key Kids” or “Generation X.” Although no real harm came to us during these hours alone, most of us missed the paternal guidance that is helpful to naturally acquire the skills needed to become effective leaders as adults. The results are a nation of parents who are dependable followers, trying to guide and raise their own children in a very difficult and demoralized society. I refuse to believe that what the conveyor belt has to offer is all that is available for my life and my children’s. I want to break free from being a dependable follower.

According to Dr. Oliver DeMille, in his book, “Leadership Education, the Phases of Learning,” the best dependable followers are great at copying, counting, and comparing with others. In contrast, responsible leaders create, value, and impact others.

An example of a mother who is lost as a dependable follower was found on a recent blog entry I came across. In an effort to save money, she and her husband had decided to turn off their cable. She wrote that she was bored out of her mind because she was not able to watch TV and she had already read the Harry Potter and Twilight series. She was desperate for advice because her husband was about to go out of town. To my astonishment, she received 18 comments, ranging in advice on how to download illegal copies of her favorite TV show off the Internet, to renting a TV series from Blockbusters. Others commented on how they were too addicted to TV to ever consider trying to cut out their cable bill. I was deeply saddened by this mother and her friend’s inability to think outside of the conveyor belt box. What if this mother pulled out a classic, like Jane Eyre or began to study the Constitution? What if she began organizing her home or did a 6-month purge in her new found time? I commend her for turning off the TV, but filling the void with something worthwhile would have made her a leader, instead of a follower.

I am finding that simply by reading classics, I am weird. You would not believe how many strange looks I get when I tell people that not only my book group reads classics, but writes papers to share with one another. Pulling yourself off the conveyor belt can be very scary and isolating. At first, I found myself excusing and apologizing for my son being instructed at home. I have had to find the courage to not only take the smart risk of home schooling my children, but to not look for external approval and to stop fearing my own greatness. All of these are transition skills that are needed to be an effective leader; skills that I did not acquire when I should have because I was a “Latch-Key Kid” left on my own.

To create, to value, and to impact: this is what I want for my life and my family’s. I want to create an inspiring environment that enables my children to have a love of learning. I hope to show them how to value the good things in life, instead of how to count them. I pray that I may acquire the skills needed to make a positive impact on others.
When I slow down and take time to reflect and feel the pulse of my family, I know there are some things missing. Reading “Leadership Education” by Oliver and Rachel DeMille confirms it. Obviously I can’t incorporate everything I think would be ideal for us overnight, but as a result of reading, studying, and praying, the Lord has helped me to prioritize what my family specifically needs.

One of the concepts mentioned in several ingredients of “Leadership Education” is the concept of hard work building both character and body. The pictures created in my mind when reading about Oliver James chopping wood, milking goats, mending fences, planting trees, and still doing the work of a scholar make my heart race. My soul hungers as I read of the DeMille children taking care of bunnies, the dog, the chickens, and most importantly, their handicapped brother, Hyrum. The DeMille’s explain, “We simply could not imagine how to have the kind of family culture our grandparents did without having the environment and activities they had. . . The yard, the animals and the home required our attention as if the homestead were a part of the family. We had to take care of it so it could take care of us.”

I recently had an invitation to my friend, Molly’s house in Round Valley. Her house is twelve miles south of Cascade. As I drove the nearly two hours to get there, I felt like I was entering into the presence of God. That sounds dramatic, I know, but the absence of everything commercial had the same effect on me as leaving a smoke-filled building to suck in that first breath of pure air. The experience, although lasting less than 24 hours, was surreal to me. Round Valley is a place where keys are left in the ignition in full faith that they will still be there upon return, where the night sky is darker and yet brighter at the same time, where you can clearly see the view of the mist hanging in the trees at the base of the mountain, and where cattle have the right of way.

Upon my return, I cried: first, because I felt like I was headed back to Sodom; second, because we were 4 weeks away from buying a house in a perfect little neighborhood with a yard, a fence and lots of neighbors. It’s all I ever wanted . . . until Cascade. I don’t want what I used to want. I want a place for my children to play and explore outside without the worry of neighbors disliking the noise, or traffic whizzing by, or sex offenders in the house down the street. I am tired of the HOA complaining about toys left in the front yard and weeds in the cracks of the driveway (true story). This is the season in my life that is for rearing children, molding character, building human edifices to God. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t have the delusion that simply moving a few miles south, buying a few chickens, and chopping some wood will fix all our problems and make us magically complete. However, I do feel that a change in the lifestyle of my family will aid us in becoming the kind of people Heavenly Father needs.

I’ve heard that when you read a book over and over, you have a different experience each time —not because the book has changed but because you have. That’s how I felt when I came home. Everything was different. I saw my house and family differently. I treated them with more care. My house hadn’t changed, my children and husband were the same, but I had changed through my experience in Cascade. And it made all the difference. What changes could come through a daily marinade of souls in such an environment? I can only imagine.

November 25, 2008

Title Swap

I just want to remind everyone that we have our next meeting in one week, December 2nd. It will be at the Red Feather Club house again at 7:30 pm.

I would like to add something new this week. I would like you to bring any books you have read besides the five pillars to share in a "Title Swap" at the beginning of our group. The only thing I request is that you share only titles that you have actually read, not intend to read.

Please also bring the current TJEd book and paper you would like share like usual. I can't wait to see you. Let me know if you have any questions.....thanks, Emma

November 19, 2008

The Statesmen

Yesterday, my husband and two other fathers met for the first official "Statesmen" book group discussion. Their first read was "The Inferno" from Dante's Divine Comedy.

If any other Fathers are interested in joining them, check out their web site at:
The Statesmen plan to read "Red Badge of Courage," by Stephan Crane. Their next meeting is December 16th at 7:30pm

October 29, 2008

Good and Great Leaders

This quote is found on page 2 in the introduction of the Leadership Education book, by Dr. Oliver DeMille we are reading this month:

Separation of intellectual learning from moral development most characterizes the modern conveyor belt educational system - from pre-school through post-doctoral studies. It is precisely this separation that parents and educators of our generation must overcome if we are to educate a generation of leaders with character and competence, who are both good and great.

Today, more than ever we need leaders with a moral backbone. WE are the ones who are educating tomorrows leaders, this is a very exciting but daunting task. I hope you find this book helpful in your endeavour to educate...I can't wait to hear what you think.

October 23, 2008

Seek Knowledge

There are times in my life when I feel as though I cannot get enough information on a particular subject. I am engrossed. I want to read all I can. I wish I could read faster so I could get the information in faster. I inhale the information. In "The Walking Drum", by L'Amour, this is how Kerbouchard seems to live EVERY moment. "Learning to me is a way of life. I do not learn to obtain position or reputation. I want only to know." If someone has a skill he does not, he takes the time to observe and learn or to be taught. He listens to gain knowledge. He reads to gain knowledge. He not only learns because it is enjoyable, but because he wants to be prepared for a future when he may need that knowledge.

"The mind must be prepared for knowledge...a discovery made too soon is no better than a discovery not make at all." This is so true for us and our children. If we WANT to know, we are prepared, it will be enjoyable to learn and we will remember what they learn. The same is true for our children. If we try to teach them things they don't want to know, or don't care about. It's not enjoyable and the knowledge we are trying to impart will soon fade away.

Just as Kerbouchard did, we would do well to use every moment as a learning opportunity. A final quote from the book that gives great direction on learning is, "You are your own best teacher. My advise is to question all things. Seek for answers and when you find what seems to be an answer, question that, too."

October 22, 2008

The Frontier Within

“Our challenges define us, our reactions to them mold and shape us.” (p. 51) I’ve read those words several times, now, but it wasn’t until this most recent reading of Oliver van De Mille’s, “A Thomas Jefferson Education,” that I saw my challenges in a different light. I have a choice, to let my challenges beat me or to beat them. The Lord didn’t send me here to be beat. He sent me here to discover and my potential and reach for it with all my energy. Our challenges are to fight against physical, mental, and spiritual atrophy. De Mille calls this, “the frontier within.” (p. 51) Brutal reality tells me than my frontier has at least three major challenges. First, I need to make the changes in myself that I would like others to make, in this case, my children. Second, as I make changes and begin to really have “aha” moments, I need to share them with my children. And third, I need to practice what De Mille calls, “Socratic self-restraint.” The world will provide my children with enough criticism—I need to be their biggest cheerleader. These concepts, to me, embody the Thomas Jefferson Principle of Inspire, Not Require.

Oft times I find myself expecting my children to have qualities that I do not exhibit. I yell if they do not obey right away, but expect them not to yell if they are frustrated when not immediately responded to. I tell them not to compare themselves to their siblings, but they hear me on the phone comparing them to one another. I apply the “Tough Noogies” rule if we have something for dinner that they do not like, but I refuse to eat Ramen noodles when we have them for lunch. I expect them to write in their learning journals each day, yet haven’t written in mine for over a week. And then I wonder why my children act the way they do. I don’t know who said it, but the saying goes, “Your actions scream so loudly at me, I can’t hear what you’re saying.” Since my latest reading of TJEd, I have begun to really examine what my actions are teaching my children. I watch myself, as if an outsider, and ask myself what I would like my children to learn from watching me. I then respond in the appropriate manner, allowing myself to reflect and adjust when necessary.

I often get excited about my “aha” moments, but rarely do I share them with Todd or the kids. I assume that they won’t understand what I’m so excited about, or that they will think I’m silly for my excitement. Sometimes I want so much for them to have the same “aha” moment as I had that I try to plan out the teaching moment perfectly. By the time I actually have a chance to share it, I cannot remember anymore why I thought they would appreciate it. My excitement has waned. My spark is gone. I cannot spread the fire of inspiration without a spark. What is important is not that someone have my “aha” moment, but that someone desires to have their own “aha” moment. I have begun to share my excitement, even if it comes out in indecipherable shouts of sweet success. My family may not know why I am excited, just that because of my hard work and perseverance, I am excited!

I loved the way De Mille used the phrase, “Socratic self-restraint.” He follows with this: “Be positive and use restraint; you are simply a resource, not a critic: Focus on content, not technique.” (p.51) Too often, I have told my children, “Well, that’s great, but it would have been better if …” or, “You’re right about that, but it is spelled like this …” or, “I like what you have here, but don’t you think it would sound more exciting if . . .?” They walk away thinking, “Can’t I do anything right? I’m not good at this. I always mess up. I’m not as smart as _______. I don’t want to show her next time I write something. I don’t think I will try again,” instead of walking away thinking, “My mom loves what I do. I am a great learner. I am a talented writer. My thoughts are worth something. I can produce good work. I want to do it again. I’ll do even better next time. I’ll blow Mom out of the water!” I was glad to understand Love to Learners better than before in this aspect. And because I am in the Love to Learn Phase, I can ask myself the questions, “What do I want people to say when they read my papers? What responses make me want to try harder and keep fighting for a great education? How can I respond to my children in a way that shows my confidence in them?”

These concepts of Starting with Self, Sharing my excitement, and Socratic Self-Restraint may seem elementary. But every concept that it is possible to learn in life has many layers of understanding. They are similar to the Phases of Learning. I have found another layer to the concept of Inspire, Not Require in my own life. True application of this principle is what will boost me to the higher thought processes that I am searching for. Sometimes we think we know where we want to be, but we don’t know how to get there. I still have a lot of questions, but focusing on applying these principles has been revelatory and refreshing to me. My challenges can still be frightening, but no longer are they the enemy.

Honor be to Portia

“It is a good divine that follows his own instructions. I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching.” Shakespeare’s Portia, soon-to-be wife of Bassanio, best friend to The Merchant of Venice, spoke this truth.
I wanted to write about how we often expect things of others—spouses, children, friends, the driver in front of us, our grocery store clerk—and then during poignant times of self-evaluation, find ourselves to be hypocrites.
I wanted to point out that we have no right to put “no-exceptions” expectations on other, especially children, when we ourselves, adults, fail to act in accordance with some or other of those expectations daily.
I wanted to point out that Portia must be quite the flake to say what she said about it being easier to teach twenty what is right than to make herself do what she professed to be right.
I wanted to challenge each of us here to put special effort to having more integrity and living more as we expect others to live—to stop holding back that little nuisance of a flaw that we keep holding on to. After all, perfecting ourselves would finally give us the right to point out others flaws, wouldn’t it?
I have had to humble myself numerous times in my life, but not usually to a made-up character in a play. I have decided that Portia knows more than I do. She has made an honest assessment of human nature. She must have understood that we have each been given flaws in this life that are meant to be challenging to overcome. If it were as easy to do everything right all the time as it is for us to teach others what is good and right and true, we would all be perfect right now, and there would be no reason for us to be here.
So instead of calling us all to repentance of imperfection on penalty of hellfire and damnation, I thought it wiser to call us each on a mission of mercy. If we each gave others the same grace that we wish for ourselves when we err, perhaps there would be less self-pity in our families, perhaps less broken friendships in our communities, less divorce, less suicide, less offense, less loneliness. Perhaps there would be more understanding, more self-evaluation and subsequent motivation to change, more unity, more “whole” families, more self-esteem, more obedience, more kindness, more love toward one another.
It might be the perfect time to remember a couple of things. First, as we judge others, so will we be judged. It is always the right thing to do to be merciful. Second, as we treat others, we are also treating our Savior. The only way to truly show appreciation for our Savior for what He did for us is to treat our fellow men with respect and forgiveness. If we only realized that most of the people we encounter in this life know that they have flaws and are sincerely working on them, we would be more apt to forgive and forget.
Obviously in focusing on mercy towards others, I did not intend that we neglect the pursuit of righteousness. However, maybe finding sympathy and understanding for others is the first step in truly being able to transfer our energy from being frustrated with others to transforming ourselves.
Well does Portia play her part as she forgives Bassanio his parting with the ring—the ring given him by Portia that he swore never to part with.
But is it enough? I have pondered recently on the burdens we carry when faced with the need to forgive. My wounds have been deep, and many turned to scars that I am so used to that I forget that I once was beautiful. Of course I am speaking spiritually. We speak so much of forgiveness, and I do not want to downplay its importance to each of us, but what if we could avoid some of the situations that required forgiveness? What if we chose not to judge others, not to find a reason for feeling hurt by their actions or pushed to change them to be, “more like us,” whatever that may be? What if we loved people where they were at and focused on what they had to offer us—not in a one-sided, usury sort of friendship—but in a way that says to them, “This person thinks I have worth, they are looking for my positive traits, I am comfortable with them and want to be a better person because of their influence on me.”
As our Savior was on the cross, He begged the Father’s forgiveness of the soldiers and the people who had sent Him to His death. Forgiveness is the obvious lesson from this scripture. The hidden one that was revealed to me was this: If we were more like our Savior, we would need to do more than forgive—He didn’t say, “I forgive them,” He said, “Father, forgive them.” If we want to be like Him, we will be advocates with the Father for those we meet who are imperfect. We may need to forgive first, but the extra mile is becoming their advocates. Weren’t we told to, “Pray for them that hate you?”
As Portia would say in our lingo, “Easier said than done.” I think that’s what she meant. We each preach a good sermon, but to really live it, to follow the “path less traveled,” is the ultimate test.

A Tapestry

“How young is too young to begin to discover the power and the beauty of words?” Louis L’Amour answers his self-posed question time and again in The Lonesome Gods. Such discovery, he asserts, has no beginning. Nor has it an end. L’Amour’s bold assertion is that learning is eternal. Further reading exposes his demand that each be responsible for his own education. Thus The Lonesome Gods awakens in us a sense of tradition—a continuous thread, unbroken, keeping the tapestry of time from unraveling. What the past understood, L’Amour desires us to foster; for without nurture, it will fray. Each generation is called to keep it vibrant and whole, then to add its own unique hue to the tapestry.
L’Amour’s favored character, Johannes Verne, lost his mother at age five and his father at seven. Many would declare he had not enough time with his parents to learn much. Yet Johannes reveals as a teenager, “My father had prepared me for marvels.” Pondering the timeline of my own children, I found it impossible to pinpoint the exact time their education began. Generations ago, parents ingrained principles into their children that have since found their way into me. Consequently, even before conception, my choices, formed by those endless principles, affected each of my children. Their formal education began the first time I smiled and said, “I love you,” to the warm bundle handed me. Children learn more from what we as parents are than from what we profess to teach them.
Johannes learned from his father’s words as well as his example. He shared, “My father always said that was the wonderful thing about learning, that there was no end to it.” Speaking of the desert, Johannes’s father, Zachary Verne, said, “[It] is a book of many pages, and just when you believe you know all there is to know it will surprise you with the unexpected.” Does this hold true for the desert only? No, but for marriage, parenting, industry, business, art, language, people. And of those things that seem concrete, tangible, or quantifiable, L’Amour teaches, “Nothing remains the same. Things are forever changing, and one must understand the changes and change with them, or be lost by the way.” This lesson, no doubt, was one learned by the author himself as he lived through the final stages of the change from the agricultural age to the industrial age, and then saw the birth of another change—one from the industrial age to the information age. We can learn the same lesson if we choose, as we are living to see that change come to full fruition.
Who can see to it that we keep up with the changes? L’Amour holds us accountable. He simply stated, “All education is self-education.” Once read, the words award ownership to the reader. Awareness and responsibility are instantaneous. He continues, “A teacher is only a guide, to point out the way, and no school, no matter how excellent, can give you an education.” The obvious point is that we are responsible to initiate the search for truth. The secondary point is that education comes in diverse forms. In addition to books, examples from mentors, living and long gone, are a precious resource for the hungry. L’Amour entreats us, “Do not be like the oyster who rests on the sea bottom waiting for the good things to come by. Search for them and find them.” We are our children’s first mentors, and our parents were ours. To find additional mentors who can stretch us and challenge us is a worthy goal.
Of his young son’s education, Zachary Verne confided, “Perhaps he will not understand, but there is a clash of shields and a call of trumpets in those lines. . .In some year yet unborn he may hear those words again, or read them, and find in them something hauntingly familiar, as of something long ago heard and only half-remembered.” In my personal search for wisdom, I find both comfort and determination in L’Amour’s The Lonesome Gods—comfort in knowing that all of humanity has been or will be where I am now—in search of truth, goodness, and mercy—and determination to push through the deserts, Fletchers and Isidro’s of my own. I do not think I can phrase my feelings any better than this very author who wrote, “What I am to be is something I must become. I must create myself from this that I have. We are nothing until we make ourselves something.” To own my future is my gift, my strand in the tapestry.

October 21, 2008

Yol Bolsun! May There Be A Road: Women and A Walking Drum

By Diane (What is the trick to indent paragraphs?)

Mathurin is a lustful youth accustomed to the cultures of his time, yet he treats each woman with the respect she seeks. “This tribute have I always paid to women. I have not forgotten [them].”(188) The village woman, captured by pirates inspired him with her escape and he repeatedly honored her for it. “Aziza…even lovelier than I remembered… had made her peace with her new life and had forgotten...I remembered.”(188) Of the shepherds dark-eyed daughter, he mused “…she was such a woman as could topple kingdoms and lay dukedoms in the dust.”(123)

Disapproval is clear when he relates “With all the talk of chivalry among the Franks, women were considered mere chattels.”(139) Among the “Moslem worlds of Spain or the Middle East [women] were not restricted [in education] and had attained eminence in the field of letters. Many had attended universities…”(139) In spite of these paltry educational freedoms women continued to be bought for politics, sold with a dowry, and beauty was too often a curse. Even those women who obtained a measure of power held their scepters with a shaky hand, their very physique betraying them by simultaneously offering temptation and displaying frailty. L’amour makes it clear that the same creature so easily procured for any harem is also capable of such influence as Helen or Cleopatra.

In spite of the apparently unanimous religious & societal views of women at that time Aziza explains “We manage, somehow. ...some become very clever at politics and intrigue. Some simply find a lover; some sink into whatever life they have with their children, and often they are enough.”(107) Mathurin accepts her statement without question, but later relates that “Women are neither weaklings nor fools, and they, too, must plan for what is to come.”(290)

Mathurin’s praise transcends gender and pits Safia triumphantly against humanity when he relates that “It had taken more courage than a person had a right to possess for her to come to warn me.”(174) “Safia” he explains, “was unreadable, beautiful again, and a mystery forever. She was soft and lovely…yet quiet, with much of the queen in her presence. There was a steel in her, a command of herself and those about her such as I had seen in no other woman.”(188) How easily he could have kept her with him, instead he respects her wishes and bids farewell as she travels her road to Paris. With Suzanne he is playful and taunting but he still allows her freedom to choose or deny him. Of Sundari, the woman he vows to marry, this book says little, but Mathurin prepares to risk everything for her. Finally he had found “Someone more important to me than anyone or anything….”(348)

“[T]here comes a time when it lies within [ones] grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be.”(336) Mathruin warns that we must be careful what we wish for as the “woman who wishes to be the equal of a man usually turns out to be less than a man and less than a woman. A woman is herself, which is something altogether different than a man.”(219) Through the character of Mathruin, Loui L’amour subtly encourages all women to recognize their historical importance, find the road that calls, and stride forward with confidence. Woman is not man, she was not meant to be and will find greatness only in being woman. Yol bolsun! May there be a road for the women who wish to exit mans’ marathon and travel a feminine path.

The Dogma of Yesterday

In the book, “The Walking Drum,” by Louis L’Amour, we find the author illustrates the idea that each civilization is always in a state of transition. After Kerbouchard leaves the progressive and intellectual environment of Muslim Cordoba and returns to his native Christian France, he finds his home to be an alien world that he is no longer a part. Kerbouchard declares to a young scholar of Paris, that the “radical ideas of today are often the conservative policies of tomorrow, and dogma is left protesting by the wayside.”(255) Today we are experiencing firsthand the decadence of our traditional family values with the legalization of same-sex marriages. Is the ideal of marriage between only a man and wife going to be the “dogma” that is left protesting by the wayside? Can we progress too far?

In the state of Massachusetts, gay marriages have recently been made legal. Because their state government deems same-sex marriage as being morally equal, they felt it was necessary to affirm these new ideals in the children’s minds through the public schools starting as young as kindergarten. This last January David and Tonia Parker, residents of Massachusetts, were shocked when their five-year-old brought home a diversity backpack that contained the book, “Who’s In a Family,” by Robert Skutch.

Same-sex relationships use to be deemed as “radical ideas,” but unfortunately they are becoming the “conservative polices” of today as declared by Robert Skutches own words, "The whole purpose of the book was to get the subject [of same-sex parent households] out into the minds and the awareness of children before they are old enough to have been convinced that there's another way of looking at life . . . It would be really nice if children were not subjected to the -- I don't want to use the word 'bigotry,' but that's what I want to say anyway -- of their parents and older people.” In their cry for tolerance of same-sex marriage to be deemed equal, they are ironically no longer tolerating traditional family values. Because I uphold that marriage is scared only between a man and women, I am being referred to as a “bigot.”’ This country is starting to feel like a world that I am an alien, and am on longer apart.

The Parkers also felt that this subject was not appropriate to be introduced at such a young age and asked the school’s administration for a parental notification in the future, so that their children could opt out when same sex relationships are being discussed. They felt like the policies were infringing upon their sacred parental duties to teach what they believed. David Parker stood his ground in his beliefs of traditional values and found himself shouting his dogma in jail.

Every great civilization of the world has risen, enjoyed prosperity that soon leads to decadence. Are we witnessing the transition of our society going too far? Kerbouchard declares, “The important thing is to know where you stand and what you believe, then be true to yourself in all things.” Even if you find yourself protesting your dogma by the wayside… I hope to protest until I am hoarse…

October 19, 2008

Who Shapes the Clay of a Man's Life?

There are so many good quotes from The Walking Drum, by Louis L'Amour, but I just had to share one that I would love to tell many people I have encountered in my life:
Up to a point a man's life is shaped by environment, heredity, and movements and changes in the world about him.
Then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wished to be.
Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune, or the quirks of fate. Everyone has it within his power to say, this I am today, that I shall be tomorrow. The wish, however, must be implemented by deeds.

September 23, 2008

All That Glisters is Not Gold

In the play, The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare, we find a major theme portrayed in the struggle to distinguish between appearances and reality. The ability to choose wisely, to distinguish between what appears to be valuable and what really is so, depends not on intelligence, but on something deeper. In this play it is love, not for glory, or nobility of place, or wealth, but for another human being that brings true happiness and joy.

This theme is expressed in the choosing of one of three caskets to win the hand in marriage the beautiful yet witty Portia, who is the wealthy heiress of Belmont. The Prince of Morocco, one of Portia’s numerous suitors, chooses the gold cast because it is made of the most precious metal and is inscribed with, “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.” Upon opening the casket, Morocco is so shocked he calls upon hell when he finds a skull staring back at him instead of Portia’s portrait. He discovers a scrolls that instructs, “All that glister is not gold; Often have you heard that told. Many a man his life hath sold but my outside to behold. Glided tombs do worms in fold.” The Prince of Morocco is only interested in the glory that winning Portia’s hand in marriage would have brought him, and so he chooses unwisely.

The next suitor of Portia we watch is the arrogant Spanish Prince of Arragon. He decides upon the sliver casket because the precious metal’s inscription, which reads, “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.” But when he opens this casket he exclaims, “What’s here? The portrait of a blinking idiot…do I deserve no more than a fool’s head?” The Prince of Arragon is blinded by his own self-importance and pride and thus he also chooses unwisely.

Unlike the previous two suitors, Bassanio does not set his heart upon glory or wealth. He has to borrow the money from is friend, Antonio to even attempt to court Portia. He rejects the golden casket stating that gold is “hard food for Midas.” He turns away from the silver casket because silver is the “common drudge,”’ a medium of exchange, a means rather than an end. And so Bassanio finally comes to choose the least likely looking casket – the leaden one – which bears the inscription, “who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.” He finds Portia’s portrait in the casket and is rewarded with the chance to marry her because of his love for her and his willingness to sacrifice all he has.

Shylock, a rich Jewish merchant, is the villain of the play because his heart is set on only his possessions. When he finds he only daughter, Jessica has not only abandoned him, but also has stolen much of his wealth when she elopes with a Christian, he morns over the lost of both interchangeably. Shylock cries out, “My Daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter!” in anguish. Although Shylock may be the most intelligent character in the play, he finds himself utterly alone. He loses his wealth, this daughter, and his faith. Shylock’s obsession for acquiring wealth blinds him with such hatred that he is unable to distinguish between what appears to be valuable and what really is so.

Are our hearts set upon glory, pride, wealth, or upon the love we have for others? Which will bring us lasting happiness and joy? What do each of us value most…

August 27, 2008

Beck Family Education

What do I want for each of my children? I long for each of them to be faithful, compassionate, hardworking, educated individuals; possessing a clear sense of direction towards their personal mission in life. Today, we live in a “conveyor-belt” society that naturally consumes our family’s time, energy, thoughts and values. “People sup together, play together, travel together but they do not think together. Hardly any homes have any intellectual life whatsoever.” (Pg 66 from A Thomas Jefferson Education by Dr. Oliver DeMille) How do Richard and I remove our family off this absorbing conveyor-belt and promote intellectual life into our home?

First, we must set forth a strong foundation of our family’s faith and belief in God. The simplest way for us to do this is by slowing our lives down. When we become too busy and distracted by outside events (even too many play dates) our time is quickly eaten up and the spiritually things tend to go by the wayside first. These distractions may all be “good” things, but the spiritual teachings we can share with our children are “better.” When your life is quiet and simplified, it allows the spirit to return to your home and all are edified within.

Second, we wish for each of our children to have compassionate relationships. Teaching them academics is very important to us, but how to be Christ-like is the most valuable lesson a child could ever learn.

Next, it is a joyful task to lead and guide each child into the “real world” of a productive adult. My curriculum involves: laundry, dishes, cooking, gardening, reading, singing, playing the piano and violin, sewing and caring of our baby. Richard’s includes: mowing the lawn, car maintenance, studying, and household repairs. Naturally children love to “play” at the work you do, so let them come along for the ride. When I do the dishes, the younger ones play with dishes at our feet while the older ones contribute to the chore. Once a work ethic is established through daily responsibilities, it can easily be transferred to academics latter.

Finally, we desire each of our children to become genuinely educated. As parents, we must inspire them to educate themselves. Richard’s strongest impression he felt after reading this book was that he was not fully educated after all. We, as parents are trying to fill in the gaps of our own education by reading the classics ourselves. Although it is challenging, we have found that as Oliver DeMille states, “You as the reader awaken. Your exposure to greatness changes you: your ideas are bigger, your dreams wilder, your plans more challenging, your faith more powerful.” (Pg 71) Already our excitement to study has begun to inspire our children to educate themselves.

Every moment we are with our children they are watching, absorbing and mimicking us. What lessons do we want them to learn? As parents we must consciously exemplify the attributes of faith, compassion, work and education in our home because: “Indeed, coaching occurs one way or another, even if just by bad example or ambivalence.” (Pg 89) In our home class is never dismissed!

July 22, 2008

Human Nature

My quote was taken from Louis L’Amour’s book, Lonesome Gods found on page, 251. “Yet no doubt the Indians thought all white men strange, for our ways and different from theirs and each people is apt to consider their own ways as ‘human nature,’ not realizing they were merely a pattern imposed upon them by rearing, by education, by the behavior of those with whom they associated.” Because Don Isidro was caught up by his own “human nature” he led a very unhappy, destructive, and lonely life. Miss Nesselrode chose to break away from her “human nature” and found happiness and enjoyed a very fulfilling life.

“Don Isidro had fierce pride in a name whose reputation had been won by others and to which he had contributed nothing. He had fled to this country to keep from his peers a knowledge he deemed disgraceful (the birth of a giant son, Alfredo, who would be his natural heir,) and he had driven his daughter (son-in-law, and grandson, Johannes) from his door for the same reason. Now a lonely and embittered man, he was left with nothing.”(pg 372) Don Federico (a distant relative that could inherit Isidro’s estate) sensed Don Isidro’s passionate weakness of pride and preyed upon it. In the end, Dona Elena explains to her brother that, “He has been your evil genius, always at your elbow, advising or suggesting. I think you would have relented long ago had it not been for Federico.” (pg 515) It was Don Federico who had wanted to kill Johannes in the desert instead of just leaving him there, as his grandfather insisted. This event will haunt Don Isidro for the rest of his life. If Don Isidro had not surrounded himself with such an evil associate as Don Federico, he may have chosen to break away from his upbringing (human nature) and instead, accepted, loved and cherished his grandson. “The little one” he muttered. “He called me grandpa.”

Miss Nesselrode was a woman whose “heart was made of iron.” She fled her country to ours as a felon. Her crime stemmed from being raised by a family who were deemed traitors that were banished and then almost executed. As the sole survivor of her family, she decides to break away from her “human nature” and start a new life in California. Miss Nesselrode listens and watches for opportunities to contribute to the growing community of Los Angeles by opening a bookshop that allows the business men to come and relax and talk in her presences, where she may not have otherwise heard their schemes. She surrounds herself with good friends and associates. She opens her heart and home to Johannes where his grandfather does not. She lives a very successful, rich and happy life.

They main difference between these two characters is whom they choose to associate with after they move to California. Both have chosen to come here for a chance at a new life. But whom they surround themselves with shapes their destinies for them. Therefore, we may not have a choice about our past upbringing that determines our “human nature,” but each of us has a choice about what our future will become by whom we collaborate ourselves with. Thus we can always change our future “human nature.”