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Review: Darwin, The Voyage that Shook the World

Many of the papers and books I’ve been reading these days have been influenced by Darwin’s thought; most of our news items are as well; and our entire culture is driven by offshoots of his ideas.  Science, politics, medicine, social sciences, law, literature, music, and even Christian thought have largely absorbed Darwinian concepts of survival of the fittest, natural selection, evolution, and the irrelevance of God and his gospel to everyday life.

A decade ago a documentary was being prepared about this man and his thought, Darwin:  The Voyage that Shook the World.

We have watched Darwin a few times now, and each time I enjoy both the professional quality of the film and the discussions with experts from around the world.  Each time something new sticks with me.  This time, I remember the boy Darwin exploring nature, the young man absorbed in the exhilarating world of ideas, and life aboard the ship.  Costumes, acting, scenery, and the HMS Beagle itself were a treat to watch.  I also happily noticed that several of the experts are science historians, a field I have been dabbling in for a few years.

Although Darwin:  The Voyage that Shook the World is full of information, the cinematography and the well-written script make it interesting to children as well as adults, to laypeople as well as scientists.

What is unusual about this quality documentary is its even-handedness.  It does not idealize or idolize Darwin, but on the other hand, it does not vilify him either.  Instead it presents him as a brilliant and engaging person who thought deeply about many things and whose thought was shaped by great men such as Erasmus Darwin, Lyell, and others.  It shows how his observations, beliefs, and aspirations led to his ideas. Finally it discusses his ideas and shows under what circumstances they are valid and where they have problems.

The overall tenor of the film is that Darwin’s discoveries lead to our culture’s main paradigm as well as to significant scientific ‘research problems’.  These problems are well-known to the actual researchers in various fields but not to many others, and any scientists who are willing to discuss them openly risk being targeted by promoters of evolution theory.

With its beauty, professionalism, broad spectrum of recognized experts, and clarity, this documentary gets around some of the rhetoric commonly used in the origin of life debate and can be appreciated by people on both sides of the argument.  If only people would listen to each other, respect each other, and be willing to acknowledge their own presuppositions, they could examine facts together and understand each other’s conclusions.  But people with opposing religions rarely do such things and, for Darwin and many of his followers, the theory is as much about fundamental religious/philosophical  presuppositions as it is about facts.

I highly recommend Darwin:  The Voyage that Shook the World for homeschoolers in middle school and high school.  It is an excellent accompaniment to Apologia’s Biology chapter 9 but is interesting on its own as well.  Of course, the concepts discussed in this movie are vitally important for everyone in our society, not just homeschooling teens.

Resources like this form part of our math and science reading and ‘extras’, an essential aspect of our homeschool science studies.

Books I’m pondering that lead back, in some way, to Darwin’s ideas (links are to my reviews):

Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcey—cultural and social results of the theory.

No Christian Silence on Science by Margaret Helder—research problems involved in modern origins research.

A Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan—a classic example of how evolution is assumed and used as a basis of a whole train of thought.  (In this particular case, the awe and deference accorded to evolution and the universe could just as easily be given to God; most social science books are not ‘spiritual’ like this.)

Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis—how to make unbelievers and influence people, profoundly but obliquely relevant.

Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey—cultural results of evolution and examples of the fabrications, acknowledged in prestigious scientific journals, used to promote it over the years.

Busting Myths by Sarfati and Bates, a tip-of-the-iceberg biographical collection of scientists who use the paradigm of creation in their research.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I am just a newbie, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

Disclosure: We borrowed this DVD from the library and have expressed our own honest opinion.

This article may be linked to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

Summer Fun and Learning Ideas

Now that we fall asleep to the deep croaks of bullfrogs and the robins are once again nesting in my husband’s good extension cord, it finally feels like summer! We will continue our usual schoolwork for another month, but it is definitely time to start planning a good long break, with a bit of learning.

Recently some of us over at the Curriculum Choice shared our families’ ideas for summer fun and learning.

Heather wrote about ‘Adventure Boxes’ and how to make them, a different kind of ‘Summer Reading Challenge’, and ‘How to Host a Summer Writer’s Workshop.’  The writing workshop post is a goldmine of resources for all ages.

Heidi talked about all sorts of summer fun, from ‘Making Ice Cream’ to ‘Dollar Store Forts’ to ‘Summer Reading’, and she also discussed ‘How to Schedule a Homeschool Year with Summers Off.’

Eva gave many examples of how learning comes naturally as a family enjoys summer adventures.  Journaling and summer bucket lists can help with planning and remembering special experiences.

Tricia discussed the joy of summer fun and how to use all the extra time that is available when there are no lessons or extracurricular activities.  She uses some of that time to help her children build habits and to rest.  This summer she and her talented mom are hosting an online Summer Art Camp.

And here’s my contribution:

Summer can raise tricky questions for homeschoolers.  Do we do any official learning?  Do we continue on as usual?  Do we take the whole summer off?  Each of these has pros and cons, and our family has tried various approaches.

For us this summer will most likely be a mix of holidays, part time jobs, volunteering, and math. I hope to read, be outside, and rest, but first I’ll need to finish our high school records for this year.

If you are wondering what to read, I put together a helpful list of homeschool books last year.

We have often followed a three-step approach to planning our summer.  We would brainstorm our dreams (always a helpful exercise), list things that absolutely needed to be done, and then put together contracts and checklists for ourselves.

If you want ideas for a busy and productive summer, you might want to see my very ambitious plans from half a decade ago. One year I even published a list of things that I myself needed to catch up on, my ‘nibbled to death by ducks’ list.

But some summers one just needs to slow down.

I wish you wisdom and peace as you plan for a summer of memories, growth, and refreshment.

The entire article ‘Summer Homeschool Ideas’ is available at The Curriculum Choice.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I am just a newbie, or connect with me on GoodReads where I, eventually, share what I read.  

This post may be linked to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

Dreams, Kitchen Adventures, and the Perfect Gift

One of my dreams is to cycle through the Dutch tulip fields with my husband.  Yes, it sounds impossible and it may be, considering that someone recently asked me why I don’t have a handicap parking permit!  Yet, dreaming is fun and, who knows, perhaps I will get well again.

These days I’ve been working very hard at getting well from all sorts of angles, but the most interesting approach recently involves food.

If you’ve ever looked at superfood lists, you have read how important bone broth can be for all sorts of aspects of health.  A simmering crockpot full of bones is nothing new for our family; it makes yummy and healthy soups and, an important factor in our student days, it costs essentially nothing if you buy boney cuts of meat.

In my quest for health I now enjoy a cup or two of bone broth almost every day, seasoned with salt (pink Himalayan salt since it’s supposed to be healthier) and sometimes pepper and garlic powder.  It is surprisingly delicious.

Boney cuts of meat are not plentiful enough to support my new habit, though, so the other morning I phoned around to search for soup bones.  I did find some, as expensive as a nice steak, and that I could not justify.

Then my son told me of a grocery store that often sells bones so Miss 15 and I dropped by to get them, but there were no bones to be seen.  Instead, we came home with a package of salmon scraps, including a head that glared at me accusingly until I dropped it into the pot.  I’ve only rarely cooked salmon scraps, so that was an adventure in itself (to debone salmon, cook, cool, and use your fingers).  I added onion, sweet pepper, hot pepper, garlic, fresh ginger, cabbage, salt, pepper, and lovage, and the resulting soup was the best we’ve had in a long while.   The salmon bones, of course, went into the crockpot with garlic and ginger to make bone broth.

But here’s the best part.  A few hours after my husband heard of our failed bone-hunting expedition, he walked in with a present, a huge 25 pound box of soup bones that he bought from his buddy the butcher!  So then we had fish stock cooking, a box of marrow bones in the freezer, and the promise of gallons of the most delicious—and nutritious—stock imaginable.  What a blessing!

There is something so special about getting exactly the right gift at the right time: bones to make bone broth, fuel for dreams of being well enough to cycle through Dutch tulip fields.

I am very grateful for my husband, who understands what kind of gift means the most.

Note:  I thank Wardee of Traditional Cooking School who reminded me of the importance of drinking lots of bone broth. Although we’ve always made smaller amounts  using this chicken or turkey stock recipe, I needed her encouragement that it really is important enough to drink every day.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I am just a newbie, or connect with me on GoodReads where I, eventually, share what I read.  

This post may be linked to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

Review: The Avion My Uncle Flew by Cyrus Fisher

Every once in a while it still happens: I discover a ‘new’ old book that absolutely delights me.  The Avion My Uncle Flew, a 1947 Newbery Honor book, was the latest.  Charming, complex, beautifully written, exciting, uplifting, and funny, it tells the story of Johnny Littlehorn, an injured American boy who unwillingly spends the summer in the small French village of St. Chamant.

Johnny’s mother grew up in St. Chamant and his Uncle Paul has moved back there to build and test his avion (airplane) .  The family home, destroyed by the Germans, is uninhabitable but when Johnny and his uncle go see it, Johnny discovers it is being lived in and that the fresh loaf of bread conceals a German pistol.

But enough of that.  First Johnny has to get to St. Chamant, and he is determined not to go… until events conspire and there really seems to be no option except to accompany Uncle Paul on the long train ride, and escape.

My teen girls were uncertain as I read the first chapter.  The second chapter convinced them that this was a terrible book.  And then, once the groundwork was all in place and the story really began, I was begged to read on and on until my voice gave way.

What’s unique about this book is that Johnny and his mother make a deal. If he will learn enough French to write her a letter in French by the end of the summer, he will get a dynamo for the bicycle that his pere (father) will buy him if he strengthens his injured leg enough to walk 2 miles by the end of the summer.

Oncle Paul sees it as his mission to teach his neveu (nephew) French, gently lulling him to sleep with it at first.  Word by word, phrase by phrase, the book becomes more and more French, with even the English sentence structure occasionally changing.  None of this ever interferes with the story, which is fast-paced and an enormous amount of fun and completely understandable, but by the end Johnny can write a short account of the avion in French, and the readers can understand it. C’est bien. (It’s okay.)

Highly recommended fun and wisdom for middle school and up, as another aspect of WW2 history, and as a delightful addition to French language lessons.  However, anyone reading it aloud does need to know French.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I am just a newbie, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

Disclosure: We borrowed this book via interlibrary loan and are not compensated for our honest opinions.

This article may be linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook  as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

Celebrating Ascension Day

Tomorrow is Ascension Day, the day we celebrate that Jesus went to heaven.

But why is that a cause for celebration? Why is it good that Jesus went to heaven?

  • First of all, of course, he is interceding for us at God’s right hand.  (Romans 8:34)
  • And, amazing thought, he is busy preparing a place for us and will come again and take us to himself.  (John 14: 2, 3)
  • Finally, he went to send us his Spirit to dwell in us and be with us forever, and to be a guarantee to us of our resurrection.  (John 16:7, John 14:16, 17, and 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22)

So, yes, the fact that Jesus ascended to heaven is indeed worth celebrating!

Furthermore, we can look forward to the day when he will return, just as he ascended into heaven.

When I see majestic clouds, especially the ones with sunbeams streaming out from behind them, I often wonder if those are the kinds of clouds our Lord Jesus will return on.  Or sometimes I wonder if, perhaps, he is returning right then.

Of course, he can return on dull rain clouds or fluffy summer clouds as well.  And when he does return, we won’t be wondering if it is actually him; his return will be blindingly obvious to everyone.

So, this Thursday is Ascension Day.  Although it is not commercialized like Christmas or Easter, or even remembered like Good Friday, it is a day worth celebrating, both for what it means now and in anticipation of Jesus’ return.

You, like me, may want to spend some time looking at clouds, dreaming of when Jesus does actually return.

And then, since all celebrations involve music, you may also wish to rejoice along with Bach’s beautiful Ascension Day Oratorio (lyrics here).  Especially the beginning and end of this piece make me think that this may be like the music in heaven, but Miss 15 wisely pointed out that that music will be even more sublime.

Your church’s songbook likely has some music for Ascension Day, or you may wish to check out these lists of traditional hymns, praise and worship songs, and contemporary hymns. One of the newest, written only last year, is “Christ Went Up on High Far Above the Sky.”  And then there is this recording of All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I am just a newbie, or connect with me on GoodReads where I, eventually, share what I read.  

This post may be linked to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

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