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Other Priorities

Several times over the past few months I tried to write a blog post and it just wouldn’t work.  For a long time I couldn’t figure out why and then it hit me:  I’ve been busy with other priorities.

Here are some of them.

When homeschooled teens take advanced courses, sometimes mom needs to scramble.  I have had an intense but wonderful spring relearning calculus and intro physics after 35 years.  It’s funny what sticks after such a long time, and what has disappeared from memory.  It’s also amazing to watch a young person learn these fascinating subjects.

We have also been digging into the world of food science and as a gardener/traditional food person I am astonished.  Apparently it’s a good thing that “food scientists have made great strides in expanding the food supply. They have developed thousands of new food products and many food processing methods.”  In any case, we’ve invested in the textbook, it teaches a lot of useful things, and I’m making a study guide, modeled on those that come with Apologia’s high school science texts, for my daughter who functions best with that.

And here are some more things that have been keeping us busy.

Yes, we have a cherry crop for the first time ever! This is especially amazing because cherries don’t really grow in our area.  Our sun-warmed cherries, despite the usual ‘extra protein’ hazards of organic foods, are a tremendous treat.  The rest of the garden, too, is growing well—except for the peppers and some of the tomatoes—and it is now mostly covered with straw mulch to keep the water in and the weeds down.  In other words, there’s less watering and weeding to do, which makes me very happy.

So, work is slowing down and I am planning to blog regularly again.  It’s been so long!  I have a handful of reviews planned, along with some articles about homeschooling teens, and maybe even a monthly round up of interesting links.

Finally, here are a few books currently on my reading pile.  It’s so exciting to have time to read and review again!  I plan to write about several of these books in the next few months.

Dear friends, it’s good to be back, and I hope to be connecting with you at your online ‘homes’ as well as in the comments.

Review: Civics in Action

Civics in Action

It can be difficult to find helpful civics textbooks for the homeschool.  Of course, some families don’t need a textbook because they are so involved in politics; that used to be us.  Other families can make do with a short Christian resources such as Christian Citizenship Guide.  Although we used that book, we also wanted a more thorough overview, and for one teen we ended up using Civics in Action: In Your Communities Across Canada and Globally.

This very colorful, action-oriented text covers

  1. Becoming Engaged in your Communities
  2. Community Involvement and Municipal Government
  3. Your Rights and Responsibilities
  4. Government Roles and Structures
  5. The Political Process
  6. Civics and Citizenship in Global Communities
  7. Global Action

Civics in Action is full of information.  Much of it is highlighted, and much is presented in charts, tables, timelines, and illustrations.  The book is very colorful and while this could be distracting to some, it is undoubtedly helpful for others.  There are many stories, interviews, and examples.  Although the book is laid out well, there is so much going on visually that it can be difficult to see the structure and follow the flow of thought.

Civics in Action promotes action in its teaching, projects, and examples.  Many of the illustrations are of young people volunteering, making a political impact, or demonstrating in one way or another.  In a three-part “Guide to Action”, the book shows students how to get involved:

  1. Get inspired,
  2. Get informed
  3. Get involved
  4. Get connected
  5. Get moving
  6. Have a lasting impact

This textbook aims to teach students to become informed and to think wisely about impacts of both actions and ideas.  For example, “Determining the Impact of an Issue” teaches students to consider what impact an issue may have on a wide range of issues in fields of economic, environmental, social, cultural, health and safety, research and development, and technological growth. Students are encouraged to consider both short-term and long-term effects as well as possible ethical implications. If our governments considered each of the sub-points listed for each field, our society would be much better off. (p 169)

Another helpful page discusses media bias:

  • By omission
  • By story selection
  • By tone
  • By selection of sources
  • By placement
  • By choice of words

These examples of bias can be used to evaluate the text itself.  It omits right-to-life issues such as abortion and euthanasia.  Its examples showcase a demographic that is not representative of the cross-section Canadians.  Its tone is authoritative about issues that are not necessarily settled and about ideas that are not necessarily true.  It depends heavily on one source, the organization, Samara. It selects opinions and gives them prime page space, sometimes more than the facts get.  And yet, it does its best to be objective on sensitive topics as well.

In terms of philosophy, Civics in Action focuses very much on human rights (except the right to life).  It even states that a responsibility of all Canadians is the duty to stand up for their own rights and that of others.  In the past one would have focused more on duties such as personally helping those in need; this book promotes a less personally involved, more hands-off approach that tries to involve government instead of quietly meeting others’ needs. As such, it is very contemporary; that trend was thoroughly discussed in the free Christian Citizenship Guide that I reviewed recently.  (I highly recommend that book to help clarify nuances and aspects of the human rights movement that are sometimes difficult to understand; it is about Canada but something similar is obviously going on in the US.)

In line with that, Civics in Action assumes that activism related to global issues is an important responsibility, although personal help and hands-on involvement is also discussed.

Furthermore, in discussions of economic systems, the ideal definitions of socialism and communism are given without pointing out difficulties in real world examples, especially of communism.

Finally, freedom of religion is not mentioned often, and the right all Canadians have to life and freedom is not mentioned at all. I suppose that is inevitable in a textbook for public schools because abortion is not a considered a politically correct topic for discussion, because the euthanasia debate has heated up since the book was published, and because human trafficking is a sensitive subject people prefer to ignore.  Free high school curriculum units from ARPA address these and similar topics from a Christian point of view and could be a good supplement to Civics in Action.

Our teen had already gone through Christian Citizenship Guide and she studied Civics in Action to complete her civics half-credit. She was able to go through it very quickly because much of it is review for anyone who keeps up with the news, attends ARPA events, and reads Reformed Perspective.  I read it quickly, too, to prepare to give an oral exam.  The oral exam took us about three hours and was a very efficient way ensure that there were no obvious knowledge gaps and to finish a required course.

If your teen wants to get involved in political life, see the example of Sam Oosterhof, Canada’s youngest  elected MPP and a committed Christian.

Note: Civics in Action has been heavily influenced by an organization called Samara, a “non-partisan charity dedicated to strengthening Canada’s democracy,” to the extent that there are more references to Samara in the index than there are to the prime minister, political parties, or parliament.

If you enjoyed this review, you might want to connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read or friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up. 

Disclosure: We borrowed this textbook from our public library.

This post may be linked to Booknificent Thursdays52 Books in 52 Weeks ChallengeLiteracy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook as well as to Inspire Me MondayThankful ThursdayFriendship Friday..

Three Pandemics and the Great Physician


Photo by CDC on Unsplash

The mainstream media is giving us an endless stream of information about the pandemic caused by COVID-19—the number of cases, the number of deaths, what governments are doing, what is happening around the world, how individuals ought to behave, and the progress of vaccine research.

The alternative media passionately exposes the pandemic of fear caused by this terrifying news and its disastrous economic and social consequences, pointing to the value of supporting the immune system with sleep, fresh air, sunlight, vitamin C and D, zinc, physical activity, relationships, and calm.

But very few voices discuss the greatest pandemic of all, the pandemic caused by sin.  This infectious agent is transmitted to newborns at a rate of 100% and has a mortality rate of 100%, but we have gotten so used to it that people rarely discuss it.  We just live with it.  And that’s probably why very few people are talking about the Great Physician who has the cure for this pandemic.  He never runs out of medication, he never runs out of energy or compassion, he never gets ill, and he never charges for his work.  Instead, he says,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  (Matt 11:28)

Dear reader, don’t be blinded by the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and fear.  Instead, look to Jesus who came to destroy the devil’s work.  The devil’s work includes the coronavirus;  it includes fear; in fact, it includes all illness, all terror—whether of death or of Satan accusing us before God or of anything else.  Jesus came to destroy all of this, and to restore humankind and the entire universe to its blissful, God-honoring perfection.

So do not be anxious, child of God.  Do not fear what these people fear; instead honor the Lord. (Isaiah 8:12,13)

And if you are not yet a child of God, do not fear what the media is discussing; fear God! Turn to him and prepare for the rest of your journey.

This Good Friday and Easter, we can celebrate that Jesus destroyed the devil’s works.  We no longer need to be terrified of God, because Jesus has paid the all the prison sentences, fines, and capital punishments we deserved for all the times we did not truly love all those around us, and for all the times we did not passionately love the God who made us.  Jesus has paid for it all and has written his perfect goodness over our criminal records.

We no longer need to fear death, because for those who love God it is the portal to always being with him.  We no longer need to fear that God will reject us when we slip into sin, as we still so often do to our great dismay, because we know Jesus has paid for those sins, too.  We no longer need to fear anything, because nothing can separate us from his love! (Rom 8:38,39)

Once we know these amazing things, we are no longer are aimless and wandering in this world, tossed about by conflicting bits of media.  No, we have a worthwhile life goal—to tell people how good our great God is, and to be joyfully close to him forever.

Is there still a dangerous virus going around? Are there still disastrous social and economic consequences?  Do we still need to wash our hands and keep away from others?  Yes, yes, and yes!  But we do not need to panic and, rather than focusing only on COVID-19 news, we and our families can pay attention to the Good News about Jesus.

Dear reader, may God bless you and your family this Easter weekend.  Above all, may he save you from sin, the greatest pandemic of all, and give you a way to tell others about the Great Physician and his most undeserved, unexpected, and miraculous cure.

Happy Easter!

If you benefited from this article, you might want to friend me on Facebook where I occasionally share helpful links or connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually discuss books I’ve read. 

This article may be linked to Inspire Me Monday, Thankful Thursday, Friendship Friday.

Past Weston Lectures, A Springtime Treat for You

Every spring in downtown Ottawa a very special event takes place, the Weston Lecture.  These lectures are examples of top level scholarship from a Christian point of view.  Professors and scholars who love the Lord share their expertise on how Christianity impacts their disciplines.  Often it seems that a lifetime of thought is distilled in these lectures, thought that is often not welcomed at universities but that is a key feature of the Weston Lectures.

These lectures by Christian scholars are both interesting and challenging for adults and older teens.  In fact, they have been a highlight of my spring each time I’ve been able to attend.  This year, of course, the lecture did not happen.

Rather than ignore the event, I decided to see if I could find an online Weston Lecture from the past that I had missed.

When I went searching I found a treasure trove, eight past lectures!  That is too good not to share, so I’ve made a list for you of the eight Weston Lectures that are easily available.  To help you decide which one to start with, I’ve copied the descriptions found with the lectures, some from the Augustine College website and others from the Augustine College YouTube channel.

If you are willing to have your mind stretched, your convictions strengthened, and your understanding of the world enhanced, here’s a treat for you.  Enjoy!

“Against the Ongoing Abolition of Man” (2019) by Dennis Danielson

“Three quarters of a century after the publication of C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, proponents of materialism and naturalism still dominate the public square. Their reductionist and nihilistic approach to morality and other things that give meaning to human life also continues to shape what our children are taught in school. There’s every reason, in face of this ongoing dominance, to defend the case that Lewis’s potent little book sketched three quarters of a century ago—a case I seek to reassert in my primer on moral realism, The Tao of Right and Wrong.” (from the Augustine College website)

Visions and Re-Visions of Love:  C. S. Lewis and Dante (2018) by Dominic Manganiello

“The luminous figure of Dante casts a long shadow over the modern literary imagination. The brilliance of The Divine Comedy radiated widely over several generations of twentieth-century writers, including the Inklings. C.S. Lewis in particular hailed Dante as “a strong candidate for the supreme poetical honours of the world,” and drew inspiration from the Florentine poet’s literary masterpiece and other writings for his own project of infusing new life into old tales. Like his great medieval predecessor, Lewis was steeped in St. Augustine’s affective theology which was based on the understanding of virtue as rightly ordered love. Dante, in fact, had used the Augustinian exhortation, “set [your] loves in order,” as the epigraph for the second part of the Comedy. Lewis became captivated also by Dante’s account in the Vita Nuova (The New Life) of how, after a number of wrong turnings, he had come to understand the true nature of love and was eventually led to salvation by the greeting of a young girl named Beatrice. These treatments of an individual’s changing perceptions of love inspired Lewis to explore many variations of the virtues and perils of affection in his own fiction.  He adopted Dante’s literary technique of the dream vision notably in The Great Divorce and in Till We Have Faces to illustrate the key notion that love involves the exercise of free will and moral choice. In the lecture, I will focus on some representative scenes from these novels in which Lewis, like Dante before him, presents the dynamics of love as the “drama of the soul’s choice.”” (From the Augustine College website)

Just Medicine for the Dying (2017) by Farr Curlin

“Dr. Curlin speaks about the purpose of medicine in the health of the patient, about conscientious practice intrinsic to good medicine, and about unjust, nonmedical uses of “medical science” to bring about situations, including being dead, that contradict the purposes of medicine. Dr. Curlin encourages people to contend for good medicine, to bear witness to it in their practices before persuading their colleagues. This means in part letting go of helplessness and victimhood. It means connecting with others who share a commitment to the patient’s health. It means patience and endurance and probably long suffering.” (From the Augustine College website)

Alexander the Great: A Military Genius Who Changed the World and Paved the Way for Christianity (2016) by Edmund Bloedow

I have not been able to find a description of this talk, but the title speaks for itself.  Dr. Bloedow was a beloved professor and a brilliant man who loved the Lord with his whole heart. 

Against Critical Thinking (2015 )by R. R. Reno

“In his talk, Against Critical Thinking, Dr. Reno discusses the way in which today’s academic culture places great emphasis on critical questioning and doubt, but fails to train in how to pursue and assent to truth. Reno argues that the life of the mind is based on our capacity to know and affirm truth, and for that we need a pedagogy of piety – an approach to instruction ordered towards the affirmation of that truth.” (From the Augustine College website)

The Incarnation, Human Dignity, and Freedom: The Christian in the Public Sphere (2014) by Andrew Bennett

“An understanding of the Incarnation is central for Christians’ understanding of human dignity. Such an understanding must inform how we engage the world and more particularly how Christians participate in the political and economic worlds. Drawing from the richness of the Christian tradition, including the Church Fathers and texts such as Dignitatis Humanae, Dr. Bennett spoke to the imperative of Christians being active in the world so as to make the mystery of the Incarnation ever present.”  (From the Augustine College YouTube channel)

The Shocking Truth about Christian Orthodoxy (2012) by John Behr

“Fr. John Behr takes on those who dismiss Jesus Christ on “historical grounds,” by explaining how historicism itself is problematic and, indeed, heretical. The alternative to historicism as our mode of interpretation, he explains, is Christ on the cross as the foundation of all our knowledge and interpretation.” (from the Augustine College YouTube channel)

Clothing Our Moral Nakedness:  Education for Christian Virtue (2010) by Ralph C. Wood

“His lecture revisited Richard John Neuhaus’s famous thesis that the moral arena in our time has been vacated of serious social content by a refusal to deal with the most basic ethical questions: human nature, the human good, moral evil, the virtuous life. The result is not moral perversion so much as moral nakedness, the unclothing of our species as we revert to animality.

Dr. Wood’s familiarity with both literature and theology will move us through Walker Percy’s hilarious and N.T.Wright’s more sombre account of our resulting predicament: “a bizarre privatism in which the left and the right become unacknowledged twins.” Further attention to Flannery O’Connor and G.K. Chesterton – two advocates of education as training in the virtues – promise to make for an engaging evening. The instruction of virtue in the context of education “may well be a long twilight struggle,” says Dr. Wood, “but it is the only one worth waging” in the hearts of the young.” (From the Augustine College website)

Note that I have not attended all of the Weston lectures and I did not agree with everything in the ones I did attend.   Unfortunately, I am unable to be more descriptive than that because it is all too long ago. But I do know that I learned from each one I have attended, was challenged by it, and have benefited from it.  And I’m excited to be ‘attending’ another one this week.  Hopefully you and your teens will have the same experience.

To God be the glory!

Disclosure:  I am a big fan of Augustine College and am not compensated for recommending these talks to you.  I have not yet enjoyed them all, but fully expect they will all be worthwhile.

This post may be linked  to Inspire Me MondayHomemaking LinkupFriendship Friday.

Free Virtual Field Trips

For some of us, being at home is not a big deal—some of us even prefer it. If, however, you and your kids are used to being out and about, being at home can be a difficult thing to manage cheerfully.

However you and your family react to the home-based life, a field trip is always a welcome treat. Here are some great virtual field trips for you to enjoy…and they are educational, too.

The last two days I’ve been taking my breaks at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, enjoying their ‘story’ tours and discussions, remembering the happy days years ago when I visited with three small children. A vast number of other galleries can be visited via this link. (As always, some artwork may not be suitable for children.)

In my blog post, “Visit the Sistine Chapel Virtually”, I give links to a self-directed virtual tour as well as to other online resources to enjoy Michelangelo’s famous masterpiece.

Or, if you wish to explore the history of science, visiting the home of James Clerk Maxwell, one of the greatest physicists who ever lived, is a real treat. Each room can be explored by clicking on artifacts and the pictures on the wall. I was especially fascinated by all the portraits in the stairwell, with accompanying mini-biographies, but there is so much more. (To access all parts of the museum easily, click on the awning on the bottom left of the screen; otherwise it can be easy to miss large sections.)

The Berlin Philharmonic is offering a free voucher to their digital concert hall that features concerts, educational films, and more. Redeem by March 31.

Or, if you like opera, the Metropolitan Opera is offering a different streamed opera every day according to this schedule.

Recently I wrote about a thought-provoking apologetics conference, “Is Modern Science Making Atheism Improbable?” giving annotated links to each of the talks and panel discussions.

If you know of any other great virtual field trips, please let us know in the comments.

Thanks to Miss 22 for some of these links.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read or friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up. 

Disclosure:I am not compensated for recommending these links, nor am I recommending any objectionable content.

This post may be linked  to Inspire Me Monday, Homemaking Linkup, Friendship Friday.

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