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Summer Learning

Ney's Provincial Park

We’ve had our vacation and are back at work, doing a lot of necessary learning.

The girls are all behind in some areas and if they don’t catch up this summer they will be negatively affected in the school year, whether due to CEMC competitions, an extreme work load, or missing high school credits.

Miss 11, who is behind in her math, spends 45 minutes a day working on Key to Decimals, and also does 5-10 pages of Key to Metric Measurement.  She also needs to write a book report every week and is reading a fair bit of historical fiction as well as the occasional Nancy Drew  mystery.

Miss 14, who needed to take a few weeks off last year due to a concussion and who had already fallen behind before that, is working hard to finish Apologia’s Physical Chemistry this summer.  She also has work to do in math, computer, Bible, Grammar of Poetry and church history.  This summer she has already completed The Complete Career, College, and High School Guide for Homeschoolers which has given us a lot to think about. Her goal is to work 4-6 hours each day in total, including schoolwork, gardening, and other work.

Miss 16, who is behind due to two years of health struggles, is finally her old energetic self again.  In her daily 8 hours of work, she is diligently finishing up Apologia Chemistry, doing some of the experiments with her ‘lab assistant’, Miss 11. She also spends time on math (Singapore’s New Elementary Math 3B) and Omnibus V (Dante essays).  This summer she also hopes to finish Canadian geography as well as last year’s portion of Canadian history.  Yesterday she had the first oral test on Canadian history (aboriginals, exploration, and the fur trade) using Charlotte Mason’s narration technique.  Examining this way is intense because both of us really need to know what she is talking about and I need to be able to guide and evaluate any rabbit trails she goes on, too. On the other hand, this method is very effective both for evaluation and learning.

Of course, there is more to life than book learning.  Almost every day since our vacation we have spent time weeding or doing extra household tasks such as polishing our antique Dutch furniture or washing the walls in preparation for painting.  Miss 16 also volunteers and has a small part-time job.  These activities are included in the daily hours of work and they are every bit as valuable as formal learning.

And then, of course, there are summer activities:  hanging out with friends, going to Shakespeare in the park, swimming, having camp fires, wandering through the woods, and going on outings.  Today we are all planning to go to IKEA together.

Our summer is not as slow as I had hoped it would be, but we are really enjoying it and also meeting some of our goals.

Review: Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey


total truth

Few books have been recommended to me as highly as Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey.  This book about Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity more than lives up to its reputation.

I suppose the whole premise of Total Truth is summed up in this thought:  “Redemption is not just about being saved from sin, it is also about being saved to something—to resume the task for which we were originally created.”  And what was this task?  According to Genesis 1:28 our purpose is very simply  “to create cultures, build civilizations—nothing less,”  in other words, to develop all aspects of families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws, agriculture, engineering, science, arts, and more.

Based on the idea that it is important to redeem the culture as well as individuals and that we need to move beyond a privatized faith, Total Truth aims to equip evangelical Christians with the conceptual tools they need to impact culture.  However, it is not a ‘how to’ book of political activism; instead it analyses our culture, showing why and how Christianity is marginalized and what we can do about it in our everyday lives.

North American society has developed a crippling way of looking at the world based on the idea that there are two aspects of life:

  • the value-based, private, subjective world of religion and feeling, and
  • the fact-based, public world of science, politics, and everyday life.

Notice that Christianity is put outside the realm of objective fact.  Therefore, when Christians appeal to the Bible as truth for all people at all times, our society does not see this as a truth claim but as a power grab.  And there, I think, is the crux of the paradox of Christianity thriving in North America while having so little actual influence.  It is important in people’s private lives, but has almost no impact on business, politics, science, economics and other public endeavors.

Pearcey points out that we need to learn the language and the worldview of our culture in order to be able to connect with it, just like missionaries and embassy staff do.  We also need to be able to analyze worldviews around us (as well as those we have absorbed into our own thoughts), and the best way to do so is to compare our the biblical message with what these worldviews say about

  • Creation (Where did it all come from?  Who are we and how did we get here?)
  • Fall (What has gone wrong with the world?)
  • Redemption (How can the world be set right again?)

Not only does this grid of Creation, Fall, and Redemption provide us with a simple and effective way of comparing worldviews, but it also explains why the biblical idea of Creation is under such relentless attack.  Creation, as first principle, is foundational and “critics of Christianity know that it stands or falls with its teaching on ultimate origins.”

The rest of the book is divided into two main parts,

  • challenging Darwinian thought from many angles and explaining the idea of Intelligent Design, and
  • outlining the history of evangelicalism and its surprising influence on American thought, including feminism.

Both sections are full of unexpected but well-documented concepts that challenge readers, from a discussion of the deliberate deception acknowledged and practiced by evolutionary scientists to the idea that feminism is directly related to the public/private split, mentioned above, that is so pervasive in both the evangelical and secular world.

Nancy Pearcey, “one of the brightest minds serving evangelical Christianity,” has skillfully combined many complex ideas into 400 pages of eminently readable, though intense, discussion.  The book itself is supported by another 100 pages of appendices, notes, book recommendations, and study guide.

Total Truth would be an excellent resource to equip teens for life in the world.  It is also an important book for parents and, indeed, all Christians to study.  I highly recommend it for your family, homeschool, and church.

This is yet another book in the in the 2014 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Works for Me Wednesdays, Booknificent Thursdays, Raising HomemakersFinishing Strong , and Trivium Tuesdays as well as the Carnival of Homeschooling and the Charlotte Mason Carnival.

Disclosure: I bought this book after having it repeatedly and enthusiastically recommended to me.  I am not compensated for this review in any way.

Weekly Wrap Up: Weeding, Learning, and Driving

In our lives this week

I feel as though we have been very busy.  Once again I’ve discovered that being busy at home (the title of my friend Jenn’s blog) is much more peaceful than being out and about.  That is something to keep in mind when planning our school year.

So what did we do?  At home we weeded and transplanted (we are almost caught up), swam often (once even before breakfast), did our summer learning, filled out forms for this fall’s volunteering, read books, and kept up with meals and laundry.  We also had friends over.

Our van broke down, was fixed, and broke down again.  Now it seems to be fine, and I am so thankful!  Replacing it would have been a serious difficulty.

Regulations have changed, and while it used to be possible to just show up to volunteer positions and start helping, now there is the exhausting ordeal of multiple phone calls to make and multiple forms to fill out, including police checks for each of the girls.  I suppose it is a good experience for all, and the constable accepted our paperwork with a big smile.  Seeing kids who want to contribute to the community must be a joy to those who so often have to deal with delinquent kids.

My husband and I went to see A Company of Fools’ production of As You Like It, which is touring Ottawa area parks this summer.  It was fun, funny, and tastefully done, and my husband had prepared a delicious picnic to enjoy beforehand.

I made it to Bible study again, but the late night drive home was not safe because I was too tired.  I suppose I’ll just have to be diligent about leaving early from now on.

Mr. 19’s boss had no work for him this week, so he has been busy in our yard and woods.  He also read parts of Total Truth, explained all our van’s controls to Miss 16, helped us with computer issues, and ran errands.  Because mankind has been created to work, our rule is that if he cannot go to his ‘real’ job he will work an 8 hour day, 5 days a week, doing whatever needs doing at home.  This has been a blessing to us as well as to him.

In our homeschool

We’re doing some summer school.  It gives structure to our days, and after last year we do definitely need to catch up.

Miss 11 is focusing on music, specifically guitar, and on math (Decimals and Metric Measurement in the Key To… series).  She is also reading as many Eric Walters books as I let her and is learning a lot about history.  I’ve reviewed a few of his books, but some of the things he wrote are not suitable for her.

Miss 14 has spent the week working on Apologia’s Physical Science and going through The Complete Career, College, and High School Guide for Homeschoolers.  I learned a lot from all the assessments she did, and I think she did too.  In any case, it is helping us plan her high school years wisely.

Miss 16 will be doing the The Complete Career, College, and High School Guide for Homeschoolers later.  For now she says the best preparation she can make for the future is to finish her courses from last year, and that makes sense.  She is busy doing chemistry experiments, chemistry reading, and math, and she is also writing essays.  Besides that, she is preparing to paint her room and has gone for her very first drive.  That is so exciting…but scary too.

In our gluten free kitchen… Porridge, once even with pears and almonds.  Yoghurt.  Quinoa.  Grandma’s potato salad.  Eggs.  Pancakes.  Pizza.  Cookies.  Cherries and plums and pears.  Lots of chicken.  My husband and I had a picnic in the park with sausages, antipasto, black cherry juice, carrot sticks, cheese, and fancy chips.  Pork roast.  Chard from the garden.  Radishes.  Pork chops.  Chocolate mini muffins, made by Miss 11.  Pancakes.  Pork roast.  Nachos.  Stir fries.  Raw vegetables.  And even some rice cakes, topped with luncheon meat, eggs, and tomatoes or nut butters and bananas.

In our garden

We’ve weeded and weeded and weeded, and are almost caught up.  We transplanted lettuces and both they and the brassicas we transplanted last week are doing well.  In the empty spaces Miss 11 planted snap peas.  Although this is the wrong time of year to plant them, we are expecting cooler weather so we decided to try it.  Our first broccoli planting is almost ready to enjoy and so are our onions.  The beans have flowers, and the cherry tomatoes are covered with little green balls.  This is a nice time of year:  we can eat garden foods but the busy preserving season has not yet started.

We also discovered tent caterpillars in an apple tree, an infestation of something in a butternut tree, and downy mildew on an enormous grape vine.  The latter is my own fault; we did not prune the vines last year.

Some of my favorite things were

  • Having a friend with her adorable kids over.
  • Observing my kids learning diligently.
  • Seeing the garden get back into shape.
  • Seeing how calm our vicious rooster is with Mr. 19. He obviously trusts him.

Questions/thoughts I have…  Although our vacation was wonderful, I like being home.

Fitness… I managed about 10,000 steps most days, but that took a lot of determination on the busiest days.  Hanging out laundry and gardening kept me active for many hours, and I also did my physiotherapy exercises twice.  I really want to be doing them every day, and that is a habit I must develop.  I also just saw this article about becoming really fit in 12 minutes a day.  Sounds good to me!

Some of the things I’ve been working on

  • Summer schooling, planning for next year, and wrapping up last year.
  • Gardening.
  • Contributing to The Curriculum Choice’s Five Days of Homeschool Reviews round up.
  • Trying to balance my activities and goals for the summer and fall to accomplish what needs doing without becoming tired or stressed.

I’m reading… Romans.   I’m also reading Mendeleyev’s Dream, The Slight Edge, Pascal’s Pensees, A Man Called Intrepid (related to the Camp X stories), 52 Weeks of Family French, and The Meaning of Marriage.

We Watched Funny Face which was silly but much better than the similar but revolting movie Singing in the Rain that had been highly recommended to us by several people.

Reading Aloud… We’re continuing with Ezekiel.

When my husband is home for meals, we read Isaiah.

I’m grateful for ….  Family, friends, sunshine, rest.

Quote or link to share…. How to be really fit in 12 minutes a day using the RCAF XBX exercise plan for women (download the XBX booklet at the link).

This post is linked to Kris’s Weekly Wrap Up .

Vacation Wrap Up

Neys Provincial Park

Neys Provincial Park

In our lives these weeks

We’ve been to Manitoba and now we are back home, after 5900 km.  We enjoyed precious hours with extended family, with countless conversations, walks, games, and meals, and hours of play in and out of the water.  Our memories are full of people, wildlife, waves, and the endless tree-carpeted hills of the Canadian shield.

I had hoped to have a slow summer, and it is turning out that way.  These holidays were slow in a delightful way, with long peaceful nights and time to chat.  In another way, they felt rushed because there were so many people to connect with and so little time for each one individually.   But still, it was wonderful.

In our homeschool

The girls did no formal schoolwork (Miss 16 did take her math book along) but they certainly learned a lot.  We drove north of Lake Superior, through twenty hours of Canadian shield, experienced some results of the Manitoba flooding, visited a fossil museum, saw wildlife, exclaimed over artwork, saw black-capped and white-capped Amish, spent hours in the waves, toured an enormous greenhouse, and were inspired by others.

In our gluten free kitchen… Well, I ate separate gluten-free meals and prepared them in busy, gluten-filled kitchens.  It worked, although at times my food was boring.  I relied heavily on yoghurt with nuts; V8 (to drink and as a soup base); packages of coleslaw mix (as coleslaw, in soup, in stir fries); raw veggies like carrot sticks and mini-cucumbers, tomatoes, and salad; boiled eggs, precooked gluten-free sausages, instant quinoa flakes, gluten free crackers, a loaf of commercial gluten free cinnamon bread (much too sweet), pancakes, fruit (cherries, strawberries, blueberries), potatoes and olive oil.  I tried buckwheat ramen noodles, which are quick but don’t taste as noodles should. We also discovered that some Old Dutch potato chips and Doritos are gluten free, as are some Chapmans ice cream treats.  And on the two-day trip home, when we did not cook at all, I added Tostidos cheese dip, corn chips, and pickled herring to my diet.  Strange food it was, perhaps, but mostly yummy and healthy.

In our garden

We’ve been home two days and have spent much of that time pulling weeds.  Because we mulched the entire garden heavily with straw before we left, the weeds were not too bad, but a 4000 square foot garden is a lot of work no matter what time-saving measures you use.  And I’ve been transplanting brassicas:  broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale.  Now they just need water.

Some of my favorite things were

  • Time with parents and siblings.
  • Time with aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews.
  • Not needing to do anything at all.
  • Hikes, eating wild strawberries and blueberries, wildlife.
  • Watching the children enjoy the water. Miss 11 and Miss 16 used windsurf boards as paddle boards, standing up to ride the waves. Everyone enjoyed those boards, and we took the canoe out as well.
  • Coming home.

Questions/thoughts I have…  Vacations are great, whether they involve long trips or are spent at home.

Fitness… I managed about 10,000 steps most days, enjoyed short hikes up and down hills, and took one long hike.  That long hike was blissful:  rocks, hills, steep streams, a stag with fuzzy antlers, wild blueberries, and fresh, clean air. For 6 years I’ve been trying to build up strength to be able to walk long distances.  That long hike was the reward for thousands of daily decisions to take just a few more steps.

I’ve also been doing physiotherapy exercises to rebuild upper body strength, although not very faithfully.  Even so, I was able to row a wind-surf board through choppy water around a distant island, a goal I was hoping to meet 5 years from now!  That was wonderful encouragement as well as a lot of fun.  Mr. 19 came along in case I could not make it, and he did not have to help me at all.

Some of the things I’ve been working on

  • Relaxing.
  • Enjoying time with family.
  • Reading Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey.

I’m reading… Acts. I finished Total Truth and Daughter of Time. Only two books in three weeks!  Total Truth is a slow, deep book, requiring much thought.  I’m also reading Pascal’s Pensees, A Man Called Intrepid (related to the Camp X stories), 52 Weeks of Family French, and The Meaning of Marriage.

Reading Aloud… None.

I’m grateful for ….  Vacation.  Coming home.  Straw mulch on the garden.

Quote or link to share….   Rather than sharing a quote or a link, I’m encouraging you to check out Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey.  It is an excellent eye-opener for high school students and adults and has received amazing reviews.  I would not be surprised if this book turned out to be the best book I read this year.

This post is linked to Kris’s Weekly Wrap Up .

Review: Plain Faith: A True Story of Tragedy, Loss, and Leaving the Amish

Plain Faith

Late one summer night while the Eash family was driving home from visiting relatives, their Amish buggy was hit by a semi-truck.   Seven year old Suetta and five year old Sarah Mae were killed in the accident, and the parents, Ora Jay and Irene, began their journey into despair.

For, while all Amish agreed that the little girls went to heaven because of their age, no Amish adult can ever be sure he or she is good enough to go there as well.  And, even if they had been good enough, dying in the wrong clothing or on a day they committed a sin would negate all the good they had done.  In the wake of the tragedy, these ideas meant that perhaps they would never see their girls again.

Plain Faith is the story of Ora Jay and Irene and how they found the comforting truth of Christ’s salvation.  In their darkest days, they realized, “We’d grown up Amish and lived our whole lives for God…the only problem was we did not know Him.”  This thought and its consequences changed their lives.

Tired of the rat race of Amish life in Indiana and looking for a way to connect with their growing boys before the tumult of rumspringa, they visited the Amish community in Montana.  Later they moved there for a year, and finally for good.  Why?  Because in Montana they discovered the joy of Bible studies, of discussing the Scriptures, of praying together…with their Christian Englisch neighbors.  And in doing so they discovered that the Bible and the Amish way of thinking do not agree.

The focus in their Amish communities was always on rules, not grace; on judging, not loving; on what humans do, not what God does.  The Eash family discovered that anything that focuses our lives on works rather than God is an idol—even if it is a good religious system.

Ora Jay wrote, “…there is no true hope of salvation in most Amish churches.  The concept that faith in Jesus is the only way is not taught.  If we wanted to ensure a spot—we had to work for it and live a good Amish life.”

But, much later Irene wrote, “Knowing that it’s not what I do that puts me on God’s good side, but the blood of Christ.  I can never change his love for me.”  What a blessed change in outlook!

Some people think that theology does not matter, that living a good life is all Christianity is about.  This book shows us that theology, the study of God, is vital to life and death, because in the end it is all about God and what he does, not about humans and what we do.

Tricia Goyer, a prolific Christian author, teamed with the Eash family to share the good news of God’s grace.  Ora Jay wrote some sections; Irene wrote others, and many of their letters to their family and to their grieving parents support group are also included in this book.

Plain Faith is highly recommended for anyone caught up in a works-centered life, for anyone wishing to understand the Amish, and for anyone who loves to see how God works in people’s lives.

For a novel based on leaving the Amish, see my review of The Miting.  For ways to help Amish facing the prospect of leaving their works-centered community for a more Biblical congregation, visit Mission to Amish People.

This is yet another book in the in the 2014 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, and is also linked to Saturday ReviewsWorks For Me Wednesday , Raising Homemakers.

Disclosure I received a free review copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in order to share my honest opinions.

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