Saturday, June 13, 2015

Extraordinary People

Ordinary people
have big TV's.
Extraordinary people
have big libraries. 

Robin Sharma

Monday, June 1, 2015

20 Years and Counting

Today began a blessed milestone in my life.  Today I began my 20th year of homeschooling.  It's so hard to believe that little boy who sat on my lap for stories so long ago is grown and gone.  My two boys at home are growing up before my eyes before I can grab the years and toss them to the wind. But that's the way of life.

We have shared so many memories over the years.  Trips we've taken, sights we've beheld...books we've read...  They've all woven themselves into the fabric of our lives to form us into individuals and bind us into family.

God has been so good to give us this opportunity to educate at home.  We are thankful and give Him the glory for everything we have learned for His Spirit is our teacher, after all.  Lord willing I will have seven more years of homeschooling.  I'm excited to see how much more we can learn.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

To See with Other Eyes

We want to see with other eyes,
to imagine with other imaginations,
to feel with other hearts,
as well as our own... 
We demand windows. 
Literature as logos is a series of windows,
even of doors. 
One of the things we feel after reading a great work is
 "I have got out."

An Experiment in Criticism
~C.S. Lewis~
 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Raising Dragon Slayers

Fairy tales are more than true;
not because they tell us that dragons exist,
but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

G.K. Chesterton


There is much being discussed and written about the moral imagination.  So much so that I'm wondering why I'm entering the conversation, but I believe understanding the importance of this aspect of our children's upbringing can redefine culture in a profound way.  I certainly don't have anything new to add. I have read books and blog posts, listened to podcasts and seminar sessions, and so everything I have to say is a conglomeration of all my study.  But I'd like to use this space to narrate what I've been learning and hashing out what this might look like in my own home.

First of all, what is this moral imagination that seems to be the buzz word of late?  I like Sarah Mackenzie's definition:

"The Moral Imagination is the ordering of the soul rightly toward Truth. It rests entirely on the understanding that humans are reflections of the Divine Image- our value does not rest on our usefulness or utility, but on our very natures. It is, basically, the intrinsic knowing of God’s Truth in our souls."

Notice the capital T in truth.  The concept of "truth" is very subjective in today's culture.  The person with moral imagination is able to rightly discern Truth...God's absolute, unchangeable Truth.  Another way to look at it is virtue vs. society's quest for values.  Vigen Guroian, in his not-to-be-missed book, Tending the Heart of Virtue:  How Classic Stories Awaken a Child's Moral Imagination says:

"There are real and very important differences between what we now call values and the virtues as they had traditionally been understood.  Let me put it in this way.  A value is like a smoke ring.  Its shape is initially determined by the smoker, but once it is released there is no telling what shapes it will take.  One thing is certain, however.  Once a smoke ring has left the smoker's lips it has already begun to evaporate into thin air.  Volition and volatility are characteristics of both smoke rings and values.  By contrast, a virtue might be compared to a stone whose nature is permanence.  We might throw a stone into a pond where it will lie at the bottom with other stones.  But if, at some later date, we should want to retrieve that stone from the bottom of the pond, we can be sure that the shape of the stone has not changed and that we will be able to distinguish it from the rest of the stones."

It is comforting to know that Truth is unchanging, that virtues are a constant rock.  But how do we equip our children with a rightly ordered moral imagination in today's relativistic world?

Stories.

Specifically...fairy tales and fantasy stories.

We were made for story. Our lives are connected to the great Story of the universe which begins with, "Once upon a time, a great and benevolent King created a Kingdom full of Truth, Beauty and Goodness.  But a wicked dragon, intent upon the destruction of the Kingdom, its people and the very King Himself, purposed in his villainous heart to crush the Kingdom forever.  However, the King, because of His great love for His people, sent His Son to slay the dragon by His own death and defeat of death, releasing the King's grateful servants from their bondage...and they lived happily ever after."

This is our story.  And it has been told in countless ways through fairy tales.

How are our moral imaginations fed through these stories of old?

First, fairy tales confirm in a child's imagination that Truth is not relative.  Black is black and white is white.  The bad guy is obvious and he will be defeated.  This is a powerful notion for a child.  The enemy will not only BE defeated, he IS defeated.  The dragon has been slain, even while we must still fight.

Secondly, enchantment is reality.  We live in an enchanted world.  The God of the universe spoke the world into existence, parted a sea, made a donkey talk, was born of a virgin, rose from the dead.  In our cynical world, where we are bombarded with scoffers who reject any spiritual aspect of our existence, we must instill in our children the fact of enchantment.

And thirdly, imagination is necessary for faith.  "For faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  (Heb. 11:1). While we have access to so many wonderful books of "real things," we often neglect works of imagination, believing them to be somehow less worthy because we are not learning something "real."  Teaching children that the things we hope for, the things we do not see are produced through imagination and grows in us faith, wonder and awe of our great King...what more incredible gift can we offer them?

I can understand a parent's concern of what they perceive as possible dangers of fairy tales and fantasy.  We must always be discerning.  Many modern renditions and current authors twist the archetypes we've always held as good and evil.  Sometimes the clear water is muddied and we can't even tell whom we are to cheer for.  I suggest starting with the tried and true. Find a good old version of fairy tales, such as Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book and slay a dragon with a child.

Resources:

In addition to the resources above I recommend this outstanding sermon which was presented as part of a conference at my former church.  Also Sarah Mackenzie hosts the Read-Aloud  Revival podcast which also has a membership site.  Inside the membership site, there is an excellent video workshop given by Andrew Pudewa entitled How Fairy Tales Shape the Moral Imagination. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Salute to Private Librarians

In 2001, thanks to a fire lit by Michelle Miller, author of TruthQuest History and owner of an incredible private lending library, I began preparations for opening a library of my own in my small town in East Tennessee.  For several years I collected books, prayed, prepared, prayed, researched the Dewey Decimal System, prayed...  Finally I opened my doors officially in June 2008.  At that time, to my knowledge, there were four other such libraries in the country. 

Three years ago, my friends and owners of Living Books Library in Virginia, hosted the first ever homeschool librarians conference.  I was priviliged to attend and give the keynote address.  Since that time many libraries have been springing up around the country and more are in the works.  It is so exciting and rewarding to see so many families stepping into the role of Keeper of the Stories and sharing their collections of living books in their communities. 

If you have ever wondered whether there is a library in your area, please check my updated page entitled Libraries Near You

If there is no library in your vicinity, I implore you to consider starting one of your own.  The need is great.  So many families are desiring to give their children the gift of living ideas through living books but many of the best books are out of print and difficult to come by.  You don't need a large collection to make a difference.  500 treasures are worth more than 5000 volumes of mediocrity.  If this is something you would like to consider, I recommend the recording of the conference mentioned above.  There is also a yahoo group dedicated to these libraries.  Here we discuss all aspect of book collecting, lending, organization, challenges, etc.  I invite you to join us.  Search for Homeschool Library Builders in yahoo groups.

I pray more will join us on this journey, whether as members of these libraries or fellow librarians. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Frugal Chariot

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul.
 
 
Emily Dickinson
 
 
I am rich.  Oh, I don't mean in the monetary sense.  My family, like many families around the country, has been hit very hard with current economic unrest.  Our lifestyle has changed a great deal in the last couple of years.  We've never lived extravagently but we have always been able to afford the necessities of life and many of our wants.  Now our lives are...well...simpler.  We used to be able to travel a good deal.  We can no longer afford to do that...
 
Or can we?
 
Come to think of it, I have over 17,000 tickets to take our family nearly anywhere we want to go.  Just by opening the pages of a book, we have been able to sit on the four thrones of Cair Paravel in Narnia, flee the Nazis with Prince Michael of Hungary, go 20,000 leagues under the sea and to the center of the earth, and defend the abbey at Redwall.  We have traveled to the past and into the future.  We've met Benjamin Franklin, Julius Caesar, Millet and John Muir.  We've flown south with Honker the Canada goose and to Mars with Freddy the Pig.  We've stopped by woods on a snowy evening and gone down the road less traveled.
 
Most importantly we have been comforted by the words in The Living Book by our Lord who said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you," and by Paul when he encouraged us to, "Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
 
So many families I know are feeling the stress of hard times, whether economic, family troubles,  or health issues.  And while books cannot take away the reality of the situation, they can offer relief from the stress of the day, comfort in the loss, company in the sick room and a frugal chariot to other lands.
 
This frugal chariot is available to anyone with a bookshelf or a library card.  Little or no money is necessary.  Are you ready?  Let's go...

Monday, April 13, 2015

Why Try Audible This Week

As you know, I am a big fan of reading.  Reading silently and reading aloud make up a good part of our day.  Sometimes it's just hard, though, to get in as much reading time as we'd like especially this time of year when things are really gearing up on the farm.  We also spend much time a couple of days a week in the van.  Audio books have been a great solution for these times when we are yearning for a story but just can sit down to read one.

I have come to love my Audible membership.  So much so that I wanted to share it with you.  Audible offers a trial membership (click the link in the right column.)  During that time you have all the benefits of membership.  They offer a Daily Deal of an audio book at a very low price.  You can also rack up many audio books very inexpensively or even free as in wonderfully-done classics at Amazon.  This post tells how to get the most from your membership.

April is listener rewards month at Audible meaning you get $10 back if you buy 4 audio books with a regular price of $14.95...even if you get the audio books for free or almost.  In addition to that, this week (through 4/20/15) all titles are half price.  I'm adding some incredible titles to our audio library this month.

If you would like to try Audible, now's the time.  The link to the right (which is an affiliate link...all commissions support the library) will take you there.  If you decide to try Audible, let me know what you're "reading."