Archive for December 2008

Fall 2008 to Spring 2009

December 23, 2008

Now that our semester is over, I’m taking some time to assess which goals we accomplished and which ones we didn’t. Of course, our “break” times really aren’t much different then our semester time.  We still do some schoolwork, but we’re just even more casual about it (if that’s possible).   It’s just a good time for me to see what’s working and what’s not and make new short-term goals.

DD#1 (turned 6 in November) did finish her Kindergarten math with about six weeks left in the semester and couldn’t wait to dig into her first grade books when they arrived. She made real jump in her reading abilities, and by the end of the semester she was starting to breeze through BOB books and a few other simple readers from the library.  She and I had some very good discussions about theology.  She also learned a lot about baseball, fashion, and elections. In gymnastics she leaped from Preschool to Developmental I, and she has been recommended to move up to Developmental II in the next session.

I also learned two very important things about my oldest.  First of all, she does much better having school time after dinner.  During the day, she has too many other things on her mind and erratic eating habits.  This makes her easily frustrated.  After dinner she really hits her groove, though.  I also realized that she doesn’t really like fiction very much.  If she’s going to be read to at all, she would generally prefer non-fiction.  Now that she can read a bit, though, she is starting to appreciate books a little more.

DD#2 (turned 3 in October) learned her numbers 1 to 9 (she thinks ten is one hundred). She also learned how to spell and type her name correctly. Developmentally she made big leaps in her understanding, vocabulary, and communication.  Towards the end of the semester I discovered that she could crudely write half the letters of the alphabet.  Who knows what other knowledge she absorbed when I wasn’t looking.

She also had her first session of gymnastics.  At the first class she was very overwhelmed by the complex directions.   And physically she was unable to do certain things, like a forward roll, without help from the teacher.  By the end of the session she was rolling perfectly and able to follow all the directions really well.  It was amazing to watch her develop so much in just a few short weeks.

And the baby (7 1/2 months) learned how to smile, laugh, and roll over (and over and over and over).  She has started kind of crawling.  I don’t know what you call the opposite of the army crawl, but that’s what she’s doing.  She pushes forward with her knees and then drags her arms out of the way.

There were things we didn’t quite accomplish.  I still haven’t managed to work in daily reading time with my younger two daughters.  And since DD#2 discovered Crazy 8’s we haven’t even been doing bedtime stories.  That is definitely something I really need to work on for next semester.

I think I did better about getting my internet time under control (as evidenced by the scarcer number of blog posts).  Unfortunately, my cleaning schedule kind of went out the window early on.  Oh, well, I know it will get easier as the baby gets bigger and more self-entertaining.

In the meantime, once our semester starts back up on January 12th, I hope to start working with DD#1 three days a week instead of two.  I would like her to finish Singapore Primary Math 1A by the end of the semester.  We’ll continue working on reading lessons by alternating worksheets with practicing in readers.  She’ll be doing one more session of gymnastics and then it will be time for tee-ball.

I’ve got Kumon’s workbook on Uppercase Letters waiting in the wings for DD#2.  She often asks to “do Math” when her sister is doing schoolwork.  So, once we finish Kumon’s First Book of Tracing, we’ll refine her letter-drawing technique whenever she feels like it.  She’ll do at least one more session of gymnastics.  I would like to keep her in something while her sister does tee-ball, so we may stick with gymnastics or find some other activity for her.

John Lennon was very wise when he wrote, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans”, even if he was rather pretentious most of the time.  So, keeping this in mind, I am again keeping our goals for the next semester short and sweet.

From Jesus to Christianity

December 20, 2008

I’ve been meaning to write this up for weeks, but I have been extremely busy.  I wanted to take some time to recommend the book From Jesus to Christianity by L. Michael White.  It’s a great book for other religion nerds like me or anyone wanting to get a more accurate picture of the development of Christianity and the Scriptures in the first few centuries.

It took me quite a while to get through this interesting book due to the volume of information to mentally process.  The author begins by discussing the ins and outs of Judaism in the 100 years leading up to the birth of Jesus.  For the first time I truly understood the difference between the Pharisees and the Sadduccees.  White also describes the state of the Roman Empire, because to really understand early Christianity and the development of the Scriptures it is important to put both into their Jewish and Roman contexts.

I really liked the way Mr. White breaks down each piece of Christian scripture, including some apocryphal books, into concise tables which he elaborates on in the text.  He also discusses the different academic theories regarding certain issues before noting the one that he prefers.   As we all know, it is not uncommon for some authors/professors to just to pretend that other theories don’t exist and their unaware audience does not realize they  have even done this.   (I am having a few flashbacks to college.)

Having come across several fundamentalist Protestant anti-Catholic blogs over the past few months with rather skewed versions of history, I’ve become very sensitive to ideological bias.  I was happy (and frustrated at times) not to detect any in this book.  In other words, just by reading the book I was not able to discern to which Christian denomination if any the author adheres.

There were a few times that I felt he was kind of skipping over a few things to avoid getting sucked into theological debates.  For instance, he constantly refers to James as the “brother of Jesus”.  For some denominations this would reaffirm their belief that Mary did not remain a virgin after the birth of Jesus.  The author just completely avoids arguments made by those that believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary that the translation “brother of Jesus” could refer either to Joseph’s son from a previous marriage (as passed as possible through some tradition) or that the term “brother” was mistranslated, because in Aramaic the same word means “brother” or “cousin”.  It’s like the elephant in the room.

There were a few instances, though, where he seemed to coincide more with the Catholic understanding of history and the Scriptures.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember the exact issues because my book was due back to the library a few weeks ago and got returned late as it was.  Overall, I thought he did a pretty fair job of trying not to filter his academic understanding through his own religious tradition, at least as far as I know.  I was unable to find any information on L. Michael White’s religious background.

Of course it must be understood that he is attempting to look at things academically and not theologically.  There are many who would probably be shocked and upset by the discussions about the true authorships of various books of the New Testament, as most Christians accept the traditional authorships of each book.  So there are few instances where one must discern how the facts fit in with their theological understanding.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this book and it would definitely be on my buy list if I had infinite amounts of money.  It is definitely worth a read for anyone who enjoys putting Christianity it’s historical and sociological context.

Vegetable Soup

December 14, 2008

I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks, but tonight I dusted off my recipe for vegetable soup.  I think I got the basic recipe off of allrecipes.com, but I tweeked it to fit my peculiar likes and dislikes.  For instance, I don’t like onions but I like the flavor they lend, so I use onion powder instead.  I added a little sugar to make it taste a little more similar to Campbell’s Vegetarian Vegetable.  I also throw in some macaroni to make it a little more hardy.

I lived off of this stuff when I was pregnant with my last child.  (I always crave tomato stuff when I’m pregnant, so the V-8 juice in the recipe hit the spot.)  And the tad of black pepper adds a little kick without giving me indigestion.  It’s also a very quick and easy recipe for the cooking-impaired like me.  I usually cook up a big pot, refrigerate it, and heat it up a bowl at a time through the week.

So, may I present my recipe for Vegetable Soup.

1 large potato, peeled and diced

1 ½ c. water

½ c. frozen carrots

½ Tbsp onion powder

¼ tsp pepper

1 tsp salt

½ tsp sugar

1 c. frozen green beans

2 c. V-8 juice

½ c. frozen peas

1 8.5 oz can of corn (juice in)

½ tsp Italian seasoning

¼ tsp garlic powder

2 handfuls of macaroni

1 bay leaf

  1. Put first three ingredients in pot and turn on stove to medium heat.
  2. Add in other ingredients ending with macaroni and bay leaf.
  3. Cover and simmer on low ten to fifteen minutes or until macaroni is tender.
  4. Discard bay leaf before serving.

Busy, Busy, Busy

December 8, 2008

I know that my posts have slacked off a lot.  I’ve just been pretty busy with birthdays and visitors and such.  Plus my dishwasher broke adding to my daily housework load.  And I was taking on too many hobbies:  blog, 750-piece jigsaw puzzles, and reading some really good books.  With what limited internet time I’ve been spending, I’ve been on Facebook reconnecting with tons of old classmates from high school and college.

So for the five of you out there who are waiting on pins and needles for my latest mind-blowing insight into life…well, those are few and far between as it is.  And unfortunately my blogs posts also may be few and far between for a while longer.  But do not despair.  I haven’t given up on blogging all together.  I’ve just been busy with other things.

A Landscape with Dragons

December 1, 2008

One of those books you hear a lot about in Christian homeschooling circles is A Landscape with Dragons by Michael O’Brien. This very short missive basically talks about monitoring what your child reads and watches. Instead of concentrating on cuss words and sexual content, the reasons most children books are flagged for banning, he focuses more on pagan images and promotion of the occult. He examines certain popular series and movies for whether they fit his Christian criteria or not.

Now Mr. O’Brien talks about how traditionally dragons and serpents are representative of evil in stories. He claims that children know this instinctively and is very concerned about any piece of work that represents dragons or serpents as cute, nice, or anything good. He worries that it confuses kids about the absolute existence of evil. And even though he may not realize it, he is picking up on Carl Jung’s concept of psychological archetypes. Furthermore, this idea was further explored by Joseph Campbell. Where as Campbell noted the archetypal connections in mythology and literature, O’Brien goes as far as to judge which ones are good or correct.

O’Brien goes on to criticize certain works that he deems deceptively dangerous or using archetypes incorrectly so that his readers can get an idea of what they should be protecting their children from. One author whose work he examines is Madeline L’Engle. One of her most popular works that I first encountered in school was A Wrinkle in Time. I agree that her equating Jesus to Shakespeare and Einstein is rather sketchy. And there are a few other red flags when the books start following Meg and Calvin’s daughter Polly. However, I think he gets a little silly when he equates a plot device in which Charles Wallace jumps into people’s bodies in A Swiftly Tilting Planet with demonic possession. By his logic, Quantum Leap was satanic as well.

O’Brien goes on to break down a few “modern” Disney movies. Now in my opinion he doesn’t even skim the surface of everything that is wrong with the movie Aladdin. That move is truly a wolf in sheep’s clothing, no matter how much I enjoyed it when I was a teen. As an educated adult that movie has so much wrongness it’s not even funny. But then he goes on to attack Beauty and the Beast. He doth cross the line for me.

However, before he even got to his very lame criticism of Beauty and the Beast, he did the unthinkable. He attacked Star Wars. His book came out in 1994 so he is not just attacking Star Wars, but he is attacking Original Trilogy!! Now, not only to do I find this uncool because I love Star Wars (original trilogy), but it is also kind of silly. Just a few years after A Landscape with Dragons was released, there was a book written as a companion to the Smithsonian’s Star Wars exhibit that basically broke down Star Wars into traditional pyschological archetypes like the ones O’Brien holds so high. In fact George Lucas his a huge fan of Joseph Campbell’s and studied mythology extensively in college (besides film-making). O’Brien complains that Star Wars has too many elements of Gnosticism, Manichaeism, and other cultic religions (p 38). This assertion just goes to show how little O’Brien understands the Star Wars universe. The battle is never between the “good soul” and the “bad body”; it is between good and evil for possession of the soul. Sounds like a familiar Christian theme to me.

Before he gets into all of the books and movies that are wrong, he examines two authors as examples of what is right and good in literature. C.S. Lewis gets a lot of praise, however, O’Brien has a few concerns about his mixing of mythology in the Chronicles of Narnia. It’s funny because when I was in college I first heard that this was a criticism that came from Lewis’s good friend J.R.R. Tolkien. So it didn’t really come as a big surprise that O’Brien thinks that The Lord of the Rings is perfect in every way. He’s one of those people who just prefers Tolkien over Lewis, like people that prefer Springsteen over Mellencamp. They can’t see that they are just two halves of the same coin.

Now, I must admit that I am not a Tolkien person. I’ve tried to read Tolkien and just have not been able to get into him. Maybe some day I’ll actually finish one of his books. I did see the first movie; does that count? Something tells me, though, that someone could go through and find superficial things to pick apart in LOTR that may not be 100% kosher by O’Brien’s previous criteria. In fact, A Landscape with Dragons kind of comes off as his own opinions of whether a piece of work is good or bad for children based on whether he liked it personally or not. There also seems to be that element of “when I was a kid literature and movies were good but now it’s all rubbish”.

Maybe I didn’t like the book because O’Brien attacks many things that are personal favorites of mine: Star Wars, Beauty and the Beast, Chronicles of Narnia, and the works of Madeline L’Engle. Now I am not saying that I don’t have any reservations about any of these things just because I really enjoy them. And there are other works that I enjoy that I don’t believe are suitable for children due to mature themes. (He probably really doesn’t like Anne McCaffrey between the sexuality issues and that the dragons are helpful pets/partners.) I just can’t help wondering what fantasy/science fiction works besides Lord of the Rings would ever be deemed acceptable in his eyes. And something tells me that Harry Potter did not go over well in his house, either. Never mind that the magic is strictly a substitute for science in the series, not religion. He probably agrees with Laura Mallory that their too steeped in the occult.

All in all I think A Landscape with Dragons is highly over-rated, unless you’re a Tolkien person or someone who really enjoys defining books strictly as either literature or twaddle. I think the author at times doesn’t really understand the material he is criticizing, and he is trying to make his criticisms sound more academic than they really are. I also think that some of his criticisms are very shallow, like the ones you hear from people who want to ban The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. While I understand that Mr. O’Brien is not trying to ban works outside the home, I sometimes think his criteria for banning them inside the home are very superficial if not just completely incorrect at times.