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Weeds, Whirlwinds, Projects, and More

Heatwave Sunrise

Sunrise and Fog

All my gardening life, I’ve managed to keep ahead of the weeds using a combination of diligent effort and Amy Dacyczyn’s simple advice to stir up the soil every week. This summer, we’re struggling just to get out the weeds out before they go to seed, and I’m not sure we will even manage that. It’s a matter of priorities, and the garden is not as high a priority as other things this year.

We can—and must—plan our days carefully and wisely. Occasionally, however, God replaces manageable plans with a whirlwind, speaking to and through us in the wild spinning.   Even though he gives calm in the midst of it, and even though the outcome can be good beyond our wildest expectations, I find it can take me a long time to recover.

For a months now, we’ve focussed on reviewing the Bible texts, Psalms, and hymns we’ve memorized over the years rather than learning anything new. Now we are memorizing again, and it’s refreshing to be putting new aspects of God’s truth into our minds. Once again I’m reminded of the difference in memorizing ability between my brain and my children’s brains. Honestly, it is such a difference that I would suggest that memorizing the Bible and Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is one of the most valuable opportunities of childhood.

Other activities this week: camp, including waterskiing and canoeing; Bible study; caring for our bunny’s sore leg; eating cherry plums, plums, apples, and raspberries and giving them away; praying for many sad and sick people; drywalling part of the basement; visiting friends; swimming; driving lessons; avoiding the heat; cleaning up inside the house and out; watching spiders mend their webs at dusk; swimming at night; watching the bats fly around in the evening; playing Cross Crib; eating lots of barbequed food; walking; eating outside; digging up wild parsnip; medical appointments; watching the full moon instead of sleeping.

Project progress (or lack thereof): I did not get a chance to sew our bedspread, nor is my desk looking much better. There was absolutely no opportunity to work on the back end of my blog, and the homeschool planning did not progress much either. Next week looks less busy, so hopefully at least one of those projects will move along…and the younger girls may start to patch and paint their bedroom walls under the supervision of Miss 17 who knows all about that sort of thing.

Reading: Little pockets of waiting time are perfect for reading, so I did do some of that. For our study, I read the next section of Disciplines of a Godly Woman, and I also finished Bonding with Your Child Through Boundaries. It turns out there is a similar book for older kids, Bonding with Your Teen Through Boundaries, which I should probably have read instead, considering my children’s ages.

I’m eager to start Side by Side, a book about walking through pain with others, and Death in Florence, about Leonardo de Medici and Savonarola, my big history read for the summer. Minds More Awake, about Charlotte Mason education by one of the founders of Ambleside Online, is also on my list for next week. Books to be finished and/or reviewed: Disciplines of a Godly Woman, 101 Top Picks (but not until I’ve finished thinking through the educational implications of Scrum); Sex Matters; Taking God at His Word; God Did Say.

Now that Miss 12 is home from camp, we’ll pick up Journey Through the Night again; I can’t wait to do lots of reading aloud just like we always used to.

In Bible reading, we’re in Proverbs most meals, when my husband is home we read John, and in my personal reading I’m in 1 Kings with many forays into other parts of the Bible.

Our summer is half finished, and I really need a vacation.   Careful prioritizing and planning may help get me the breathing space and project time I’m looking for, but I need to remember that when God sends whirlwinds into my life, it is always his best for me.

How is your summer going?  Is it almost over or are you still looking forward to a few weeks?  Since I’m having trouble with  my blog, please go here to comment.

Where I want to spend a lot of time next week.

Where I want to spend a lot of time next week.

Review: Redeeming Philosophy by Vern Poythress

Redeeming Philosophy

As a classically educating homeschool mom, I regularly encounter philosophies of all sorts. Now, it is fairly easy to find resources about the history of philosophy, and we have read some of them as part of our homeschool. At a certain point, however, one needs to read some real philosophy and to thoroughly explore the world of ideas from a Christian point of view.

So I picked up Redeeming Philosophy by Vern Poythress, a challenging book that took me many months to absorb. It is not primarily about the ideas of others, which is what I expected, but more about a newer Bible-based approach to philosophy developed by the author and his colleague John Frame.

Poythress’s main idea is that, yes, we really can know real knowledge because God has revealed it to us, but each of us can only see a bit of this real knowledge based on our own perspective (influenced by our past, our personality, our gifts, etc., and, ideally, sifted through a careful study of the Bible). What we individuals know is true, although it will always be tainted with sin to some degree, but it can never be the whole truth. We can learn more of the truth about any topic by examining the perspectives of others.

In order to explain the idea of trinitarian multiperspectivalism, in which one contemplates an object or a topic based on a triad of perspectives which are all mutually interrelated and interdependent, just like the Trinity, the author uses a variety of examples. Whole chapters are devoted to thinking about an apple (Granny Smith, by the way), a walk, and a bookmark (as in something to mark one’s place in a book) in terms of different interrelated perspectives. This is a bit repetitive, a bit surreal (did I really just read 22 pages about the meaning of an apple?), and thoroughly explains the author’s meaning.

The rest of the book analyses different subdivisions of philosophy, from ethics to logic to the history of science (a woefully brief section), with many suggestions for further reading. It also discusses a few philosophies, showing how a philosopher’s conclusions can be built into his assumptions or his terms.

As a homeschooling mom and a scientist, I see the idea of differences in perspectives everywhere. As a homeschooler, I see different kids with the same assignments or books give different, yet equally valid, responses. Sometimes, though, the responses are wrong, based on misunderstanding or faulty procedures. As a scientist I see people of different backgrounds and beliefs examine the same data and get different interpretations—and, generally speaking, the promoters of opposing interpretations cannot both be right, although in some complex topics like quantum mechanics that does indeed seem to be the case.

However, there are obviously some limitations to the validity of the idea of multiple perspectives and Poythress goes to some effort to point them out. Because we are sinful, our perspectives can be tainted with sin, or even be outright sinful and wrong. We need to examine them using the Bible. We also need to acknowledge that there is one Truth of which we see different perspectives and which is based in God, not many truths that are equally valid.

One interesting point about multiperspectivalism is that sometimes it seems forced, as in Poythress’s analogy of the Trinity. Obviously multiperspectivalism is not the whole answer but merely a significant part of it: it, too, is merely one perspective on the Truth, albeit a powerful one.

I would hope that the author would also consider the absolute perspectives of those who are convinced that there is only one point of view on certain matters; this is, again, a form of learning from the perspectives of others. I would suggest that the idea of antithesis is an absolute perspective. So is the idea of God’s sovereignty, even though it is woven together with the concept of man’s responsibility in a most complex way. So is the idea of holiness, although there could be various closely-related biblically based perspectives on what personal holiness means.

In conclusion, Poythress points out that philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom which, according to the Bible, is a worthwhile activity. My impression is that the biblical term ‘wisdom’ is not quite the same as the philosophical one and that some muddy thinking may be going on here.  Biblical wisdom is indisputably good and we are commanded to seek it.  We are not commanded to become involved in what is traditionally called philosophy and are even warned against some of it.  On the other hand, Poythress’s philosophy is more like biblical wisdom than standard philosophy is.

Be that as it may, Redeeming Philosophy aims to minimize the reductionism that necessarily characterizes non-Christian thought and thus produces a much more realistic view of the world. As a scientist, I am intrigued by the concept of multiperspectivalism and how it would apply experimental design, data, data analysis, and interpretations. As a homeschooling mom, I see the value of explaining the concept of biblical multiperspectivalism to my teens to teach them wisdom, knowledge, and humility, and to counteract the twin errors of modernism and postmodernism. I suspect that the concepts presented in Redeeming Philosophy can clarify and enhance ideas in many other aspects of life as well.

If you are interested in learning more about how to think clearly and deeply about the world and its ideas from a biblical point of view, I recommend this book. It is suitable for adults and motivated older teens, especially those who have been exposed to a broad range of ideas as in classical education.

Resource Lists

More accessible but less thorough philosophy resources that we have used in our homeschool include:

  • Life Views by R.C. Sproul: clear and interesting overview of world views.
  • The Consequences of Ideas by R.C. Sproul: somewhat scattered discussion of various philosophers and their ideas.
  • The Best Things in Life and The Unaborted Socrates by Peter Kreeft: practical and fascinating discussions with a strong basis in Greek thought.
  • Thinking Like a Christian by Noebel and Edwards:  thorough but perhaps more systematic than the subject itself allows; as I recall it is more about information than wisdom.
  • The 6-volume Omnibus Series from Veritas Press: an intense theology, history and literature curriculum that includes in-depth analysis of many philosophical ideas and world views. (More about our Omnibus experience.)

Helpful examples of multiperspectivalism:

  • The Heidelberg Catechism’s view of Christ as prophet, priest and king and of our tripartite role as his followers is a powerful and fruitful lens through which to see our Lord, the world, and our role as believers.
  • Blind Spot by Collin Hansen: This interesting discussion of multiperspectivalism in action shows how not valuing the perspectives of others can lead to sin and conflict in the church.
  • The Five Love Languages theory of Gary Chapman describes multiple perspectives of giving and receiving love, a practical reminder that people, too, are much more complex that many thinkers admit.
  • The wave-particle duality in quantum mechanics posits that two mutually-contradictory views are nevertheless both true, a much-needed reminder that the human mind can understand many things but not everything.
  • I have heard that Head, Heart and Hands: Bringing Together Christian Thought, Passion and Action presents a very helpful multiperspectival view on much of life, but have not yet read it.

Note:  If you wish to respond to this post, please comment here.  Currently my blog comment form is not working.

This is yet another book in the in the 2015 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook.

For more encouragement, visit Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday, R&R Wednesdays, Finishing Strong, and Trivium Tuesdays.

Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from Crossway for the purpose of this review.  All my opinions are my own, and I am not compensated for sharing them.

Projects, Books, Everyday Life, and Wonderful Encouragement

Rideau Trail

Rideau Trail

Right now, Mr. 20 is taking his three younger sisters out for Chinese food. The girls, especially Miss 15, are thrilled, and so am I. It is such a joy when siblings love and enjoy each other!

Earlier in the week some of us were suffering from headaches, sore throats, and dizziness, but with good food, garlic, sleep, and vitamins we are doing quite well. Miss 17’s joke collection helped, as did the cooler weather.  Now the air conditioning is off, the windows are open, and bird songs float into the house along with the sunshine.

Our dear bunny is getting tamer and tamer, but she’s nibbling more and more—shoes, cords, cushions…. That is a problem, and she is spending more time in her outside hutch.

This spring we fenced our yard for our dogs. Today one of them crawled underneath the gate, remembering the trick Miss 12 had taught him before we put the fence up. That, too, is a problem, and he’s spending time in the dog kennel.

We found a rack of very inexpensive colorful jeans and bought some to turn into shorts. Miss 12 and Miss 15 did the sewing themselves and the shorts are beautiful, modest, and a whole lot cheaper than anything readymade.

We’re hurrying to get the weeds out of the unplanted part of the garden before they go to seed. It’s a big job, but the raspberries, plums, cherry plums, salads, and apples are a good reward.

In other news: Miss 17 had some real job interviews, and Miss 12 had one, too, at a horse farm. Our phone line is broken, my husband went swimming with his cell phone, and our internet has become flakey, all modern inconveniences. On his day off, Mr. 20 put up some drywall in the basement, and if Miss 17’s interviews were not successful, we hope to do some painting next week.

We walked the next section of the Rideau Trail (Map 13, from Merrickville to Richardson Road). Despite the bugs it was a joy to trek through the woods, listening to a beautiful bird we could not identify, watching butterflies, and dodging poison ivy and thorny branches.

Long ago, before I got ill, I bought fabric to decorate our bedroom, and lately I’ve been sewing in any spare time I have. The curtains are finally finished, the bed skirt is half-finished, and the bedspread is next week’s project. It’s good to have energy and opportunity to sew again.

How is my desk cleaning project going? Well, I’ve added to the mess: lots of notes, Rideau Trail maps, The Drop Box DVD, an Adventures in Odyssey episode based on The Drop Box, Focus on the Family’s Club House magazine, homeschooling catalogues, Daugherty’s Magna Charta, The Secret of Willow Castle, a wedding invitation…. Life is just too busy to get my desk organized, but it would be so much more pleasant if the job ever got done. Maybe next week.

But we do find time to read, especially while waiting for appointments or when exhausted. I finished Redeeming Philosophy, my big read for the year, and hope to have a review up early next week. It is a worthwhile book for families that homeschool classically and keep on encountering different philosophies, but it is also very intense and I was so excited to have completed it. I also finished Scrum, The Secret of Willow Castle (Canadian history novel for kids), and Mysteries of Time and Creation (which I plan to review on The Curriculum Choice next month), and for fun I’ve been sharing The Happiness of Pursuit with Miss 15. We giggle a lot and think a bit, too.

Books to be finished and/or reviewed: Disciplines of a Godly Woman, 101 Top Picks (but not until I’ve finished thinking through the educational implications of Scrum); Sex Matters; Minds More Awake; Taking God at His Word; God Did Say.

I finished reading Daugherty’s Magna Charta out loud to the girls and just started Anne de Vries’s Journey Through the Night, about World War 2 in the Netherlands. They groaned when I began, but Miss 12 was excited by the second paragraph and it didn’t take Miss 15 much longer.

Finally, even though my comment form no longer works, sometimes people go to the effort to contact me in other ways. This week I received two wonderfully encouraging emails that brought tears to my eyes and drove me to the organ to play Psalms. It had been a very difficult decision to publish ‘What God Has Done for Me,’ but perhaps it was necessary. Perhaps one of the reasons that we have suffered so much and that the nuthatch died was to remind us all to run to God when unbearable times and unanswerable questions come into our lives. Dear reader, always run to him and never away from him!

How is your summer going?  If you wish to comment, please comment here since my blog comment form is still not working.

This post is linked to Kris’s Weekly Wrap Up , Week in Review, and Finishing Strong.

Review: AP English with Alexandra McGee

AP  English

At a certain point and with certain teens, we need to bring outside expertise into our homeschools.  Miss 17, for whom reading and writing are almost as important as breathing and eating, needed a higher level of English than I could teach, so last fall we enrolled in Alexandra McGee’s online AP English Language and Composition course.

It was one of the best homeschooling decisions we ever made, and you can read why we think so over at the Curriculum Choice.  We have many reasons, but one of the main ones is this:

When you engage an outside teacher for your homeschooled teens, you really, really want to find a qualified and skilled person who loves the Lord and who will support your teen’s faith while discussing material that will challenge it.

The rest of this review is available here.

Disclosure:  We were given free access to this course in order to be able to review it.  Now that I’ve seen how it benefitted Miss 17, I would gladly have paid for it myself; it is truly a worthwhile investment for an advanced student.

For more homeschool inspiration, visit Finishing Strong, and Trivium Tuesdays.

Turtle Trauma, Waterpark, Charlotte Mason on Reading Multiple Books

Miss 12 prepared this tray for me when I felt ill.

Miss 12 prepared this tray for me when I felt ill.

Even before the door slammed shut I knew something was very wrong. Miss 12 had taken the dogs for a walk to our small river, and while they were playing in the water, she used stepping stones to get to a small island. Except one of the ‘stones’ she stepped on was really an enormous snapping turtle. Understandably it was upset at being stepped on and chased her through the river. “They go really fast, mom!” she sobbed. I am so thankful that she went even faster!

A few hours later, still not entirely over the shock, Miss 12 noticed a cloud or swirling insects. Bees were swarming! Because they did not belong to either of our bee-keepers, they will be Miss 12’s if they do enter the new hive set out for them.

The girls and I visited Calypso waterpark with our half-price tickets. Because of the weather, lineups were not very long so we had an exciting time trying out different slides (all three girls tried the vertical drop!), the wavepool (very powerful, almost aggressive waves), and the Kongo Expedition (three times in a row).  What a wonderful and tiring day!

Other activities this week: soccer, a sleep over, Bible study, a track meet (throwing shot put and watching Pan Am games athletes train), friends for supper, driving practice, gardening, haircuts, writing resumes, applying for jobs and volunteer positions, swimming, and sewing (sweatbands, bathmits). My husband took down a diseased tree and trimmed the posts of our new fence, and my son is cheerfully working two almost full-time jobs, spending any spare moments sleeping.

This week I’m reading Redeeming Philosophy (fun stuff about the metaphysics of an apple and of walking) and Scrum (a business and computing book that just may have the answers to my homeschooling dilemmas; it’s used in education in the Netherlands).

Books to be finished and/or reviewed: Disciplines of a Godly Woman, 101 Top Picks (but not until I’ve finished thinking through the educational implications of Scrum); Sex Matters; Minds More Awake (to read after Scrum). Taking God at His Word; God Did Say; and Cheri Field’s new free ebook for middle schoolers, Mysteries of Time and Creation.

Charlotte Mason promotes reading books slowly, several at a time, to build relationships between them and to have time to think about them. Scrum and other efficiency books point out the inefficiencies of multitasking. I suppose if the task is to learn a topic, then simultaneously reading many books about it is not multitasking but just doing the one task even though many books are involved. On the other hand, if the task is to master one book or idea and then apply it to other thoughts, reading many books is an overwhelming exercise in multitasking.  I’m feeling very overwhelmed with my current reading, something that rarely happens, and I think it’s because I’m trying to hold too many ideas in my head.

Summer goals: I did not have much time to continue organizing my desk; in fact, it has at least 10 new items on it. Sigh. On the other hand, other summer goals are being reached: the garden, various sewing projects, having a memorable stay-at-home summer, and completing articles I’ve been writing for months. Encouraged by Psalm 66:16 “Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me,” I finally published a very personal article this week. I hope it will bless many.

How is your summer going?  Please comment here since my blog comment form is still not working.

This post is linked to Kris’s Weekly Wrap Up , Week in Review, and Finishing Strong.

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