December 17, 2013

Laddie by Robyn Henrie

            As I read Laddie, I noticed several themes throughout the book.
            The first theme was nature. Little Sister goes in to much detail in some parts of the book describing her natural surroundings, how comfortable she is within that environment, and how she adores God’s creations. I found it interesting that her pets and playmates were a blue jay and two chickens.
            In a couple of places in the book, Mother and Father either explain to their children or are looking over their property. They reflect on the beauty as well as the many uses they have gained from  their property. As an example, the fruit trees they have planted provide food in the fall, as well as beautiful blossoms in the spring.
            The second theme was education, but more importantly, how and where this education was acquired. Little Sister had a fairly vast amount of knowledge for a six or eight year old. Her father taught her all about nature as they walked and worked together around their property. It sounds like she had a large amount of time to freely roam the property. She learned to find answers to her questions from Father, and in the books their family owned. Formal education didn’t suit her; she wanted to be outside. She learned her lessons in the top of the granary.
            Father was well-read through the books and agricultural magazines he read every evening. Mother gained her education at the same time her older children were learning and going to school. Father knew Mother had very little time for studying, and read to her and discussed with her while she worked. Most evenings were spent with the children memorizing and then reciting their lessons to Father. I share Laddie’s opinion that you never ‘finish’ your education. You are learning all the time until you die.
            In addition to school knowledge, each child had a list of skills to learn according to their gender before getting married. Mother made sure each of her daughters could care for a home, and tested those skills as she took a vacation for one month. Father made sure each son could do all the work necessary for running a farm, and left them in charge for a period of time.
            The next theme was moral character. There are plenty of examples of hard work, compassion, and conviction. The parents did their best not to judge those neighbors who worked hard. However, they made their opinions known to their children of community members who didn’t work and lived off the sympathies and guilt of their neighbors. Mother showed compassion by living the principle of doing unto others when she took in travelers just as she and Father had been taken in when they first arrived in the community. Laddie showed his conviction to be true to himself in choosing farming as his profession instead of a lawyer, as the Princess desired. Your profession does not define who you are.
            The last theme was relationships with other people and also the animals. The most prominent relationship is between Laddie and Little Sister. He loved her from the day she was born. He helped her in her learning. He confided secrets to her. They had a special bond.
            Little Sister was very observant of her siblings, and knew how to interact with each of them. She mentions that Leon had a different personality, and she was the only one who understood him.
            Whereas some members of the community avoided interactions with other individuals and families, the Stantons were friendly with neighbors, regardless of status. Laddie went the extra mile to work his way into the social graces of Mr. Pryor, so he could date Pamela. My favorite example of relationships is between Laddie and Mr. Pryor’s dogs, much to the surprise of Mr. Pryor.
            This family was very religious. The parents had a personal relationship with God. Little Sister tells of the time Leon went after the ‘Even So’ traveler. She would hear her parents pray for Leon and said it sounded like God was in the room with them. Because of this relationship, Father was not afraid to tell Mr. Pryor that his opinion God was a myth was offensive and not to repeat it in his home, even though Mr. Pryor became very angry.

            Although there are more themes in this book, I focused on education, nature, moral character, and relationships.

December 16, 2013

The Hiding Place by Kami Hymas

The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom is one of those books that I have to read every few years.  It is chalked full of beauty and truth.  It is the story of ordinary Christian women living as much like the savior as any two people can.  I read this book over and over because it has real life examples of how I want to live my life.  The things that I am not brave enough or good enough to do, Corrie and Betsie did.  I would hope that I could be that brave, that faithful and that full of Christ’s love.  There are many themes in the Hiding Place, but I would like to discuss only three.

First is the theme of Love.  The power of God's love can transform any person or situation and we see this over and over in the book.  When Corrie loses Karel, her father teaches her that God can transform her love.  "Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way, Corrie, God can give us the perfect way."  This is then exemplified in her own life years later when she is able to pray for Karel and his wife during the war, “Bless Karel, Lord Jesus," I murmured under my breath.  "And bless her.  Keep them close to one another and to You."  And that was a prayer, I knew for sure, that could not have sprung unaided from Corrie ten Boom. “
And again when her mother is paralyzed and can no longer love in the old way.

Mama's love had always been the kind that acted itself out with soup pot and sewing basket.  But now that these things were taken away, the love seemed as whole as before.  She sat in her chair at the window and loved us.  She loved the people she saw in the street-and beyond: her love took in the city, the land of Holland, the world.  And so I learned that love is larger than the walls which shut it in.

It took great love to hide the Jews in their home.  It also took great courage, but their courage came from their love of Christ.  They were able to risk their lives to save others because they loved Christ more than themselves.  They put the needs of others before their own.  That is Christ like love.
Betsie especially had an amazing ability to love unconditionally and to see the human need in even her enemies.  When they enter Ravensbrook, she sees the guards in a way that Corrie does not. "These young women.  That girl back at the bunkers.  Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love!  We must find the way, you and I, no matter how long it takes…"  Where Corrie "saw a gray uniform and a visored hat; Betsie saw a wounded human being."

I love watching Corrie fight with her natural man and win as she struggles within herself to forgive John Vogel, the man who betrayed their family.  But the ultimate example of the power of Christ's love is when Corrie meets one of her captors after the war.

His hand was thrust out to mine.  And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.  Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them.  Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more?  Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened.  From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His.  When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.

The scripture says, With God, nothing is impossible.  But I would add, with God's love, nothing is impossible.  If we are filled with Charity, we can endure any hardship or situation.  Corrie and Betsy transformed their barracks into havens of peace where the spirit could dwell, even amidst the squalor, through God's word and his love.  They found meaning and purpose in the worst conditions imaginable and great good came from it.  Certainly we can and should do the same in our own homes, in our church and in our communities.

Another prominent theme in the book was trust in God.  In all things the Ten Booms put their trust in God.  They believed he was at the helm and would conquer all.  They were humbly willing to follow his plan and looked at everything that happened as God's will.  Their courage was emboldened because of that faith.  They were willing to risk their lives because they believed whatever happened was God's will.  When the war was about to come to Holland, Father said, "Oh my dears I am sorry for all Dutchmen now who do not know the power of God.  For we will be beaten.  But He will not."  That is a perspective that would help in so many everyday situations, not just in war.  If we have the overall view that God will prevail and his kingdom will prevail then the evils of the world and the hardships we encounter can be endured so much easier.

The night the bombing starts when Corrie tells Betsie about her dream, she says "If God has shown us bad times ahead, it's enough for me that He knows about them.  That's why He sometimes shows us things, you know-to tell us that this too is in His hands." Betsie exhibits this faith again the night that Corrie gets cut by the shrapnel on her pillow.  "Betsie, if I hadn't heard you in the kitchen------"
But Betsie put a finger on Corrie's mouth and says, "Don't say it, Corrie!  There are no 'if's in God's world.  And no places that are safer than other places.  The center of His will is our only safety--O Corrie, let us pray that we always know it!"   Honestly, I am torn about this idea.  Part of me wants to believe as they do and I think in the church today many do believe this way. I think I do too to some extent.  We believe that whatever happens is God's will.  That every trial we have is God's will, that if someone dies it is his will, that if there are people living in the world in horrible situations and conditions that it is God's will.  That concept can certainly bring comfort during hard trials. But where in the scriptures does it say that?  Where in the writings of the living prophets does it say that?  Does God really control everything?  What about free agency?   We live in a fallen world.  A fallen world where people choose evil.  Where people get sick and die.  Isn't our job to do the very best we can to know God's will and to do it?  And to endure the trials that come from living in a fallen world?  And to seek comfort and find purpose through the Holy Ghost and through trying to do God's will? Not necessarily that everything that happens in life IS God's will.   I'm not sure how I feel about this idea and I'm sure many would strongly disagree with me.  But I'm just putting it out there as a discussion point, as food for thought.  I’m not necessarily challenging the concept fully.  I would need to do more study for that.  

The last theme I want to discuss is the Ten Booms ability to be grateful in all situations and the perspective it gave them to endure.  Some of the most poignant parts of this book came when they were showing gratitude.  As Corrie and Betsie were forced to strip down for showers, they were able to find a place to hide their bible and vitamins.  They walked back out of the bathroom with nothing on, standing in a long line of naked women and Corrie thought, "And so it was that when we were herded into that room ten minutes later we were not poor, but rich.  Rich in this new evidence of the care of Him who was God even of Ravensbruck."  It would have been so easy to focus on the bad in their situation, but they chose to feel grateful for the little they were allowed to keep, looking on it as a miracle of God's love.  How much happier we would all be if we could do that in our lives- which are not nearly as awful as Corrie and Betsie's were.  Even hours later still standing naked in line, Corrie leaned toward Betsie and said to her, "Betsie, they took His clothes too."  Remembering that the Savior suffered all for us and felt all our sorrows and pain can be immensely comforting in our times of trial-as it was for the Ten Booms. That perspective helped them and can help us to endure.
My favorite story in the whole book is the story of the fleas.  When forced to sleep on a bed covered with fleas, Betsie remembers that the bible teaches us to give thanks in ALL things.  She tries to help Corrie understand that the way to endure the hell they were in was to thank God for every little thing.

I stared at her, then around me at the dark, foul aired room.
"Such as?" I said.
"Such as being assigned here together."
I bit my lip.  "Oh yes, Lord Jesus!"
"Such as what you're holding in your hands."
I looked down at the Bible. "Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here!  Thank You for all the women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages."
"Yes," said Betsie.  "Thank you for the very crowding her.  Since we're packed so close, that many more will hear!" She looked at me expectantly.  "Corrie!" she prodded.
"Oh, all right.  Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed, suffocating crowds."
"Thank You, Betsie went on serenely, "for the fleas and for---"
The fleas!  This was too much.  "Betsie, there's no way even God can make me grateful for a flea."
"'Give thanks in ALL circumstances,'" It doesn't say, 'in pleasant circumstances.' Fleas are part of this place where God has put us."
And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas.  But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.

Weeks later, they discover that the reason the guards left them alone and gave them so much freedom in their barrack, freedom to teach the gospel, was because of the very fleas Corrie could hardly muster gratitude for.  There are many fleas in our own lives.  Hard things, or even just annoying things that we can be grateful for and it would change our whole outlook on life.  I know it would for me.  I have a tendency towards negativity that I want to break myself of.  I want to be grateful in all things, to see the beauty and good in all things.  When we can do that, we can conquer as Corrie and Betsie did.

As for us, from morning until lights-out, whenever we were not in ranks for roll call, our Bible was the center of an ever-widening circle of help and hope.  Like waifs clustered around a blazing fire, we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light.  The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God.  "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword?....Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."
I would look about us as Betsie read, watching the light leap from face to face.  More than conquerors….It was not a wish.  It was a fact.  We knew it, we experienced it minute by minute--poor, hated, hungry.  We are more than conquerors.  Not "we shall be."  We are!
Many classics are fictional and we will not ever be able to thank the characters in those pages for the ways in which they change our lives for the better.  But someday I will thank these two women.  I will give them a hug and thank them for the ways in which their story, their courage, their faith and their love changed me and made me better.

November 26, 2013

Freedom Shift - By Jesse Edwards

Freedom Shift

My thoughts on this book are scattered to say the least, maybe because I thought the book lacked focus.  I will attempt to make my thoughts understandable here.  At first I thought the author was a bit presumptuous in the title, going on a play, in my opinion, of Stephen Covey's paradigm shift phrase.  But that is beside the point.

As a book I found it to fail, because by the end the only way I was really able to distinguish which "choices" he wanted us to make was through his repeating them in his concluding chapter.  I don't come away from the book knowing exactly what his point is.  I understand that he wants us all to step up and do our part, but I think he has a weird way of getting the reader to understand that.  He did have some good ideas, and I will comment on the ones I liked, and agreed with.

I agree with his statistics in the beginning that a small group of people can effect great change.  That is in the scriptures and is no surprise.  To me, at this point in history, seems to be an insurmountable task.  My feelings about this can be related back to The Fourth Turning.  This time in history is a turning point.  We all know that.  However, it's a different turning point than in the days of the founding fathers.  God was at the helm then.  The states had huge disagreements and took a long time coming to conclusions and agreements.  I think the only way they actually did end up agreeing was because God had a hand in it.  Now, as people are continually turning away from God, God's help is farther from us.  Does that mean we shouldn't put forth valiant effort?  No.  Most definitely not.  In fact I believe we should do the opposite, because we have to help the Lord in hopes of preserving the vineyard (don't mind the Jacob 5 reference).

Anyway, on to the 3 choices.

Choice 1: a revolution of Entrepreneurship.  I have to admit this was my favorite part of the book and I could not agree with this more.  I find it interesting that he uses the term entrepreneurship alone and not a phrase including self-reliance.  He does talk about self-reliance and the need for everyone to take care of their own needs.  But he uses it as an entrepreneurial mindset, where you innately just take care of yourself.

Having been raised by some of the most entrepreneurial people I have ever seen, and having them encourage all of their children to follow in their footsteps I have strong opinions about this.  Society teaches us to go to school, get an education, and get a job which generally implies working for someone else.  I used to work for a company and the company went south.  I was let go and was at the time the primary benefactor of our family.  I had just had Gracie, she was 8 weeks old.  I was afraid and didn't know what to do, because naturally as a mother you want to be with your baby.  I didn't want to go back to work, but there wasn't any other option.  My entrepreneur mother reminded me that I had set out in my education keeping in mind that I would be able to use my degree from home as a mother to bring money in. She asked me what I had to lose, to which I replied, nothing.  I decided to give it a go, and found out that what my mother had taught me my whole life was true.  You are more successful when you work for yourself.  Why?  Because you have your best interest in mind.  For me I saw immediate benefit.  It does all start and end with you, and if you are going to be successful it is up to you, you just have to be willing to take a risk.

I think it would be beneficial if society did go back to a free system where everyone was responsible for themselves.  DeMille talks about the socialist beginnings with 401Ks and insurance benefits in the workplace.  I agree.  It would be good for people to be responsible for their own retirement funds, and their own insurance. He talks about encouraging creativity and thinking skills.  I agree.  I think the education system has a huge part to play.

I also loved the whole section on producers and how we need to help our families and children become producers.  But I have to admit by the time I got to the end of this section I started to feel he was trying to fit too many ideas into one book, and continued to feel that throughout the remainder of the book.

Choice 2: A Rise of the Independents.  This part I half agree with and half disagree with.  I agree with the idea of having people not associated with a particular party and voting in accord with what they believe in their heart.  I also agree with what he's saying about educating yourself about the issues.  I don't think you need to be an independent to do that.  I also don't think they are the only ones that do.    This is where I begin to think he starts over generalizing things.  He starts saying it's this vs that which I don't agree with.  When you start talking political there is a lot of gray.  I also understand that that is the point he's trying to make, that there are a lot of people who don't want to be classified as one or the other, because if you're a republican you must abhor all things democrat.  But I also don't agree with being a fence sitter, which is what I think a lot of independents are.  They go back and forth, but if they were truly educated then the polls wouldn't flounder so much.

Politics and government will be a hard fix.  I think it would take a lot more to fix than to just be an independent voter.  Media would need to change, politicians would need to change, funding of politicians would need to change.  I understand that he is saying that we need to do our part as voters by becoming educated voters, which is what I will take away from it without getting into how he was trying, in my opinion, to not ruffle feathers with his delivery.

Moving on.

Choice 3:  Building and Leading New tribes
There was a lot I like in this section.  I have a lot highlighted, maybe because I feel this is one area where what he wrote could be applied and could actually make a difference.  The other two choices, I don't feel my personal contribution could change much.  But in my "tribes" I feel I could.  One thing I liked was where he wrote "It is unfortunate that some people of the purest faith and the most deeply held convictions about peace, charity, freedom, family, etc., seem to have little ability to connect with anyone but those who already share their views… I think this limits their influence for good…"  This is a common feeling I've had lately, the need to branch out of my comfort zone and connect with those I may not necessarily share views with.  How else would one be able to make a difference in their sphere?  This I really did like a lot of this section.

There is a part in the book where he talks about people who are either angry and afraid, or hopeful and helpful.  I had a hard time getting through this because I don't feel you can separate people like that.  I don't feel I fit into A squared or H squared.  I don't think many people are.  I also don't like that he states that republicans are only concerned with certain freedoms while democrats are concerned with others. I think most people are concerned with all freedoms, but have different ideas of how to achieve and execute those freedoms.  Just because I am conservative doesn't mean that I don't want academic freedom, or freedom of the press, or social justice.  My idea of how it should be implemented is just different than liberals.

At the end he stated what he should have stated earlier on.  That we need to do our best and improve so that we can be leaders for good.  Overall, some good ideas, however, this book seemed somewhat scattered and the flow of it lent to some confusion for me as to where he was trying to lead the reader.  But I will take what I liked and try to apply it.

October 23, 2013

King Lear

Fool "If thou wert my fool, nuncle, I'ld have thee beaten for being old before thy time.
Lear "How's that?'
Fool "Thous shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise....

Act I  Scene V

September 15, 2013

3 Teaching Goals of Leadership Connections Commonwealth

1.  Help children develop a love for learning.

2.  Build students' confidence in their ability to learn anything with resources and hard work.

3.  Teach strategies and processes for learning - various methods through which information and skills can be learned and even mastered.

(Chapter 3 pg. 35.)

July 25, 2013

If Men Were Angels

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary.  If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary."  (The Federalist Papers, No. 51, p.322.)

July's Title Swap

Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Giver by Lois Lowery
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
Great Courses (video/audio):
    The Great Debate: Advocates & Opponents of the American Constitution
    The World Was Never the Same: Events that Changed History
    Natural Law and Human Nature
    American Ideals: Founding a Republic of Virtue

June 11, 2013

Little Previews of Heaven

"At last either Betsie or I would open the Bible.  Because only the Hollanders could understand the Dutch text we would translate aloud in German.  And then we would hear the life-giving words passed back along the aisles in French, Polish, Russian, Czech, back into Dutch.  They were little previews of heaven, these evenings beneath the light bulb.  I would think of Haarlem, each substantial church set behind its wrought-iron fence and its barrier of doctrine. And I would know again that in darkness God's truth shines most clear."

"The Hiding Place"  The Triumphant True Story of Corrie ten Boom
Bantam Books 1974
pg. 201

June's Title Swap

Darkness Over Denmark: The Danish Resistance and the Rescue of the Jews - by Ellen Levine
Number of Stars - by Lois Lowry
Forgiving Dr Mengele - Documentary
Whatever Happened to Justice? (An Uncle Eric Book) - Richard J. Maybury

May 20, 2013

Marmee's Ambitions

"My dear girls, I am ambitious for you, but not to have you make a dash in the world - marry rich men merely because they are rich, or have splendid houses, which are not homes because love is wanting.  Money is a needful and precious thing - when well used, a noble thing - but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for.  I'd rather see you poor men's wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace."

April 23, 2013

April's Title Swap

1913 by Oliver DeMille
Leader Shift  by Woodward and DeMille  web page started by Sandra Day O'Connor
The Number Devil:  A Mathematical Adventure by Hans Enzensberger
The Communist Manifest by Karl Marx
Understanding the Times by David Noebel
Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin

Favorite Tempest Quotes

The Tempest is considered to be one of Shakespeare's final plays.  It is a wonderful masterpiece that combines many of his greatest stories all into one.   Here a few of my favorite quotes:

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on,
and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”  

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”  

“What's past is prologue.”  

"You are three men of sin, whom Destiny,
That hath to instrument this lower world
And what is in ’t, the never-surfeited sea
Hath caused to belch up you—and on this island
Where man doth not inhabit, you ’mongst men
Being most unfit to live. I have made you mad,
And even with suchlike valor men hang and drown
Their proper selves. " 

March 11, 2013

Why We Chose the TJEd Model for our Family's Education

As a high school senior I became disillusioned about the fidelity of the school system I was graduating from.   I distinctly remember feeling that I had become GOOD at a lot of things, but I was not truly GREAT at anything.  I started college feeling lost and unsure.  What I needed was a mentor; someone who could guide me through the world personally by introducing me to the classics.  Someone who could help me to become GREAT!

Oliver DeMille started a movement in education almost two decades ago.  He named his philosophy the Leadership Education Model or Thomas Jefferson Education.  Five years ago, he spoke at a seminar I attended.  He challenged us as we left, to go home and read classics books, find like-minded people, and get together regularly to discuss our thoughts.  Plunging into the unknown, I started a book group called “Mothers Who Know” that meets once a month. 
Studying the classics regularly brings you face-to-face with the greatest minds in history.  This process will change and inspire you to become better.  If I am going to mentor my children in the classics, I need to know them intimately myself.  For instance, when I studied Les Miserables this last fall I read the book, watched the movie, listened to the CD of the musical driving around town, attended a live performance of the musical, and discussed it with my book group.  My children now have a great love of Les Mis, because I exemplified a real love of this story.

Studying great classic works can be hard work.  If the home is filled with distracting media, it may be difficult or impossible to study.  Thus, my family has opted to not have a television or any video games in our home for the last four years.  Our children are allowed to be “bored” on purpose.  They have to find their own fun.  Without distracting media in our home, I am able to fill that space with great things.  Memorizing and reciting poetry, studying the Suzuki method for violin,  Spelling to Write and Read, Latin, The Life of Fred math series, gardening, swimming, reading and listening to classical stories for children, canning, raising pet chickens, and serving others in our community keeps us plenty busy.
The Thomas Jefferson Education model does not offer a specific curriculum. It is a philosophy and a way of life.  DeMille identifies different phases that children go through as they develop.  Each of the phases has specific goals that help our children to become the best individuals they can be.  Young children need to learn a set of core values.  Older children should establish a wonderful love of learning with different strategies of how to approach studying classics. Teen and young adults dig deep into great works and learn to keep commitments as scholars.  Through succumbing to a mentor and exposure to the classics, children can’t help but become not only GOOD, but GREAT!