Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I Finally Remembered and Prepared for Easter

A Christ-Centered Easter: Day-By-Day Activities to Celebrate Easter Week A Christ-Centered Easter: Day-By-Day Activities to Celebrate Easter Week by Janet Hales

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I finally remembered a few weeks ago and dug this book out. Every year in the past we dig it out on the Monday or Tuesday before Easter and then I remember, oh yeah, I was going to start this on Palm Sunday. Not only that but I was also going to start my spring cleaning weeks ago to get my home clean to harmonize with Christ's act of cleansing the temple before his atoning sacrifice and resurrection. So I have been dejunking somewhat and it feels good to get my home clean for Easter.

This is written by my husband's cousin, Janet Hilton Hales, and her husband. It has great ideas for what scriptures to read, and activities to do every day for the week before Easter with your family. I love the stories. At last, an LDS perspective on how to make Easter the highlight of your year!

Here are some of the other activities suggested:

-Learn an atonement hymn and resurrection hymn as a family
-Have a Jerusalem dinner on Easter Sunday with the foods eaten in Jesus' time
-Make oil lamps like those mentioned in the parable of the Ten Virgins
-Make Easter cookies which you place overnight in the oven (i.e. tomb) and then discover the next morning that they are empty or hollow
-Do a family service project
-Teach your children the doctrine of baptism for the dead by having a family treasure hunt with clues that teach about this doctrine (you get the clues from the book). The treasure, eternal life, is something sweet like ice cream.
-Tell the Easter story with small tokens like a rock, white cloth, thorn, nail
-Read Easter stories from this book. One is a personal story from Cousin Janet's sister, Cousin Lynne, about her son healing from a debilitating disease. You can find Easter stories in LDS Church magazines. Go through your old stash if you are a packrat like me or search online.
-Have an family testimony meeting on Easter Sunday when you share your testimonies of the risen Lord.

Cousin Janet recommends getting out the Easter baskets and candy on the first day of spring, which this year was two weeks ago. It gets tricky when the first day of spring and Easter coincide to the same weekend like they did two years ago. I prefer to have an Easter egg hunt and baskets on the Saturday before Easter. We get natural candy from the health food store and use those to fill plastic eggs. I emphasize to my children that the egg symbolizes new life and Jesus is the source of new life. After the hunt we watch LDS Church movies about Easter while we eat our candy, namely, The Lamb of God, and Finding Faith in Christ. Thursday I will post some healthy chocolate Easter candy recipes I got from my girlfriend Caralee!

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Night Out With the Girls and a Renaissance of Virtue

I took my baby son and oldest daughter to a church meeting last night that was for young women and their mothers. So baby son had a night out with the girls. Wanting to have a fun, social, and inspirational night with my daughter and some kindred spirits (a friend of my daughter's and her mother), I arranged to meet them at their chapel and then go to their place after the meeting for ice cream, which I offered to bring. (Haagen Dazs- yummy! All of my listening to Sally Fallon interviews on the Internet has turned me on to real cream. "Eat Fat, Lose Weight" is one of the titles of her book. Sounds heavenly to me! As a nursing mother I feel like I am always hungry but the hunger is less constant now that I am eating more animal fat. My next step is to move on up to homemade ice cream made of raw cream, not pasteurized.)

That's one thing all this Leadership Education has taught me, that if I want something, I get to create it. And why not? Why sit and wait for others, like my daughter's YW presidency, to organize a social after the broadcast? Last year we got to go to the Conference Center and hear President Monson in person speak to the young women. Wow! I felt a witness from the Holy Ghost that he is God's prophet and mouthpiece. Last year I was pregnant and knew that this year I would not be able to go to the Conference Center to see the meeting in person, as I don't like to leave my nursing babies for very long and they don't allow babies.

The speakers inspired me. More on that later. This morning I marveled that I only had to take my baby out once during the whole meeting, not because he was fussy, but to change his diaper. I was wondering about why that happened and that it occurred to me as to why. It's because I felt free to nurse him right there in the chapel, since all the lights were off so the satellite broadcast of the meeting could be seen on the screen. (It was the Young Women's General Broadcast for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. See lds.org) I used to nurse occasionally in church meetings just to make a point that I felt that a woman should be able to nurse wherever she has a right to be (I still feel that way). But sometimes it is just easier to nurse in the nursing mother's room where I can kick back and relax and not worry about the baby popping off, exposing me. I also don't have to worry about my baby's noisy slurping bothering people. (My nurslings tend to sound like little piglets.) I don't do the blanket thing as the baby pulls it off after he's about three months old. So it was nice to sit in the meeting and nurse and not have to walk out and find the nursing mother's room in a strange building.

Anyway, it was fun to be at a chapel in a more rural setting where I could see a tractor across the street when I looked out the glass door of the building. Sister Elaine Dalton was on fire! She continued her theme of "Return to Virtue." This talk last night must be Part III. Part I was a year ago, and Part II was last fall at a CES fireside. She made comments that I wish had been made by Church leaders when I was a girl, about how virtue is the best beauty secret, and that virtue is the only source of eternal beauty. She told the story of getting to meet the prophet David O. McKay's wife in Huntsville, Utah. (I love Huntsville-- that's where we go ice skating and go to visit my friend KeeNan. We also got to meet Senator Bennett at the McKay home in Huntsville two years ago. I won't say any more about Bennett in this time of political volatility.) President McKay called his wife "my queen." Sister Dalton said she was a queen because she had lived years of virtue. Her hair was gleaming white and her eyes sparkled like jewels, all because of her inner virtue.

I love this Renaissance of Virtue! It just wasn't emphasized when I was young. My son has a T-shirt he bought from our Commonwealth School that says on the front "Want freedom?" When I first saw the shirt I thought, "Yeah, I want freedom. Of course, who doesnt'?" On the back of the shirt, it says, "Get virtue." That's not the popular answer as to how to get freedom but it's true. You can see and buy the shirt at getvirtue.com. Why is virtue so important? Because, as Sister Dalton has pointed out, virtue actually means "strength," as the Latin root word is virtus which means strength. We can only be strong from protection from the Lord and that protection comes from being good. I have felt motivated to organize some firesides for my youth and their peers that focus on virtue. When we are good, or virtuous, more freedom comes to us, and when we are bad, our choices become limited and we have less freedom.

I have learned that Montesquieu taught hundreds of years ago that the best form of government is a republic. In a republic, the goal of education is to instill virtue. So it's no coincidence that in this time of political and economic trouble, Sister Dalton feels inspired to urge a return to virtue. In her talk last fall she stated that our economic and the physical upheavals in our world come from a lack of virtue. Our government is supposed to be a republic, according to the Constitution. Our Constitution is ordained by God for the protection of all flesh, according to the Doctrine and Covenants. Only as we are virtuous will we save the republic. People are mad enough at the government, as evidenced by the huge turnout at the caucus meetings, that hopefully we will start being good and turn this country around!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Revolutionary Children's Book on the Revolution

King George: What Was His Problem?: The Whole Hilarious Story of the Revolution

Pirates...a petticoat loaned to a boyfriend so he can complete a dangerous mission...a young man who gets caught up in a spy ring and then helps two lovers betray their country...a sneaky guy who pretends to be a peddler so he can case the joint...doing acts in the name of Jehovah...a general who is more loyal to his country than to his own plantation. Sound like intriguing historical fiction for adults right? Well, it's not fiction, it's all true, and it's for children. It's all part of the history of our own country in the Revolutionary War. Best of all, it's all told in a history book written for children.

This is the coolest book about the Revolutionary War ever! It's called King George, What Was His Problem? and I give it five stars. (I read about it in the Chinaberry catalog. Go to chinaberry.com and request one. I have been getting that catalog for over ten years now. I read the book reviews in it and then get the books from the library, both for me and for my children. I have read so many great books suggested to me from Chinaberry. If your library doesn't have the book, you can request it through interlibrary loan. This is one book that after reading, I want to buy and have in my permanent collection.)

This is a masterpiece you probably won't find used in a public school classroom. It is just plain too revolutionary and politically incorrect. It was written by Steven Sheinkin. Steve is a reformed textbook writer who now writes books that kids actually can't wait to read. One of the first stories in this book is an example. It's a story that appeals to little boys but would horrify sedate citizens. The story goes something like this (I read it last month and my memory might be a little fuzzy): the Sons of Liberty made an effigy of a tax collector for Britain who lived in New England. After the Stamp Act, these patriots cut off the effigy's head and sent it to the tax collector at his office, while they were having a bonfire outside burning the effigy.

My husband has an uncle who fascinates me. He once made the remark that the Sons of Liberty were terrorists. When I first heard this I thought, "So they threw in a bunch of tea into the Boston Harbor. Big deal." But after reading this book I totally believe the terrorist part. They committed violent acts, more than just the dumping of the tea.

Anyway, I loved this book! I read McCullough's 1776 book a few summers ago. That was hard reading. If I had read this book first my mind would have been in a much better place to understand 1776. I passed the AP American history test in high school, but I was taught history mostly the conveyor belt way, of learning dates and names, regurgitating on a test for credit, then forgetting most of it. Credit, then forget it. From this book, I finally understand the whole "one if land, two if by sea" thing, the geography of Boston and the Boston Harbor, and why the Battles at Trenton and Yorktown were so important. I love the maps included in this book!

This is the way to learn history, by learning the stories of the humans involved. That way we involve emotion, and it's the emotion that cements the dates and events into our brains and hearts. These humans were usually religious, they weren't perfect, and they were liberty loving and clever and petty and heroic. Thanks to Sheinkin, we can hear these stories. He has written a book about the War Between the States (as a Georgian told my mother-in-law who went on an LDS mission there, in her southern drawl, "There was nothing civil about it!") that I can't wait to read, and also one on the wild west. See stevesheinkin.com. He "tells you everything your schoolbooks didn't!"

Monday, March 22, 2010

Passionate Teaching

Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 by Rafe Esquith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
this book is so inspiring! Esquith is one dedicated teacher. I wish every kid had someone like him for a teacher. I thought it was interesting that Esquith uses some of the great keys of teaching that Oliver DeMille teaches, namely, use classics, not textbooks, and inspire, not require. He also uses more than just the standard lecture environment that most people are so familiar with in school. He uses simulations by having his classroom be an economic society with each desk as a property for the students to buy or rent. These kids are all poor and come from minority families in downtown L.A. Yet with his economic simulation and creative teaching methods they learn how to manage money and excel academically. Many of his students have gone on to Ivy League schools.

He has figured out so many fun ways of teaching math (marcycookmath.com), Shakespeare (they put on a play every year), writing, science, economy, geography and history (they go on a trip to Washington D.C. every sumemr) and music (each student gets a guitar and they play rock music). I read this over a family vacation in Palm Springs and couldn't wait to read it every day. This book will leave you feeling good! see rafeesquith.com for more info.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

It Was a Blast

You know how sometimes you read mommy blogs and you think, wow, your life seems to be the parental nirvana suburban life with perfect children. The picture some moms paint seems blissfully materialistic. I feel tempted after reading them to think that being a mom is all about coming up with entertainment and novelties for children such as great clothes, parties, movies, trips and toys.

Well, you won't find that here. I love fashionable clothes, parties, trips and toys as much as the next gal but I want to talk about more than that. Here I like to write about the great books that I am reading as well as with the family, the great people we get to meet and know in our neighborhood, church, and community, the great dinnertime conversations we have, the great discussions we have in my Sunday School and Relief Society meetings, and the great times we have at homeschooling conferences. I also throw in a little about about the problems we encounter just to show the human, messy side of my life.

We went to the Thomas Jefferson Education Forum yesterday in Salt Lake. I can't wait to write a blog post about each amazing speaker I heard. This is the first time we took our new 12 year-old to a TJED conference. It was my husband, my three oldest children, my baby and I. Grandma generously babysat the other three kids. At the last minute, the night before, I was asked to fill in for a volunteer at the registration desk who had to back out at the last minute to help care for his goat's brand new kids. (I'll refrain from making jokes about homeschoolers and goats and how they seem to go together.) I already had a ticket to the forum in exchange for volunteering for the Family Ball in the evening. But with this extra volunteering I was able to get a HUGE discount off all of the recordings of the talks. I can't wait to get them all as downloads for my iPod. Can you see more blog posts about all these talks coming? Stay tuned...

I went to bed at 1 AM the night before after convincing my daughter that we should give up fixing her dress for the ball that we had miscommunicated about. (lesson for next year- if she says "Yes, I could wear that," when I suggest a dress she already has to wear, but hasn't worn in a long time and seems new to me, she really means, "Um, no I am planning on getting a dress a few days before the ball and changing the sleeves, which will involve lots of hand sewing and tears since the sewing machine is broken." So much for my previous blog post about how much fun and what a great boding time it is for mothers and daughters to prepare for the ball together.)

We got up at 4 AM to get to the Forum by 6 AM, dressed in Sunday best and ready to volunteer (4 of us) and fill our minds with nuggets of truth. It was so fun to help at the registration desk like I did last year and visit with my friends Emily Clawson, Brandi Palmer, Michele Smith, Emily Satterthwaite, and Jeniece Sloan. I got to go to a few classes and say hi to so many of my friends. I had a chance to talk with Stephen Palmer, of the Center for Social Leadership. ( I got to meet and chat with James Ure in person, who is the headmaster of Williamsburg Academy , which is where I want my scholars to attend in the fall. It's a cool school that uses the Internet for scholars to attain a leadership education. I got to eat lunch with Diann Jeppson, Kelli Poll, Rachel DeMille, Michele Smith, Heather Burton, Leslie Householder and her husband Trevan, and Rachel Keppner and her husband, by sitting at two different tables for two different plates of food. That was fascinating conversation!

I felt inspired to revamp my closet of learning games and manipulatives so that it has more of a Mary Poppins magic feeling. Thanks to Mary Ann Johnson, the closet mentor for that. See majcoach.blogspot.com. I also felt a call from Rachel Keppner (to spend more time with my children, doing things that only a mother can do for them.

Then I got to help with the ball registration. Actually my son and husband filled in for me most of the time because my four-year-old daughter threw a fit in the car on the way to the ball from Grandma's house and refused to get into her pretty dress. I descended into the dungeon of the parking garage under the SLC Hilton Hotel to coax her to eat her dinner (a banana- she refused to eat at Grandma's house) and get her dressed in the car. I never did changed into my own ball clothes after the escapade with my daughter or do my hair up like I had planned. I was too tired to dance since my baby had hardly napped all day and we stayed too late. We finally came home, after waiting eternally in the dungeon for my 14 year-old daughter to appear after supposedly being summoned by her brother.

After we got home, my son threw up on his brother's futon mattress. It was past midnight. My husband and I felt like zombies as we stripped the heavy mattress of the sheets (he) and cleaned the floor (I) and then collapsed into bed at 1 AM. (Keep in mind I had had three hours of sleep the night before and had been schlepping my darling, large infant boy around all day. In the sling, but still, he gets heavy.) It was just a reminder that even on the best, most exciting, inspiring and elegant of days, you deal with problems and do work. That's life!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fiona's Luck

Happy St. Patrick's Day! We celebrated by reading about St. Patrick in our ancient encyclopedia, which hails from the 1960s. This reading brought up the topics of the Catholic church, the Reformation, the shamrock and the trinity, and missionary work.

A fun picture book with an Irish theme is Fiona's Luck, by LDS author Teresa Bateman. It is a darling story about a girl who outwits a king who is trying to horde the leprechauns' luck. Teresa is a children's librarian turned author. She grew up in a big family and loved to read and tell stories. She went to Ricks College and BYU. She has some other picture books with Irish themes, like The Ring of Truth and Harp of Gold. I can't wait to read them all to my children.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

I once got to hear Oliver and Rachel DeMille speak about the remnancy of today's culture. This is the feeling we sometimes get that we are the only ones seeking for what is good and wholesome. Oliver explained that we overcome this by reaching out and creating a tribe and community. He then said that the best way to bind a community is to go dancing, just like the dancing traditions in ancient tribes. It's amazing what happens to people as the night goes on and the music keeps up with a dancing beat. People get relaxed and start showing a side of themselves they don't show every day. Differences of opinion, petty grievances and unfounded prejudices melt away when we get all glamourous and have fun with our neighbors. (Can you hear the title track from Footloose coming on?)

I have been so thrilled that in the past five years that I've been involved in the homeschooling community since moving here, we've been to several formal balls. My son and daughter's ballroom dance teacher puts on a holiday ball every year between Christmas and New Year's. Last year one of my homeschooling girlfriends commented the next day at a homeschooling moms' luncheon "Wow, I've never seen Johnny do that, that was amazing," to Johnny's mom.

It's a lot of fun for moms and daughters to plan together what they are going to wear and how they are going to style their hair. Every year in the past I have felt bad that I haven't taken much thought or time to plan with my daughter and left her to her own devices and the results are not as elegant as I end up wanting. After last year's Family Ball at the TJED forum I thought, "Next year will be different, I will take some time to learn to do something new with her hair." So this year I remembered and had the mom of one of her commonwealth school classmates come over to teach us how to do updos. Maybe I will post the pictures of our beautiful hair that Amy styled up soon.

Going to a ball reminds me of something out of Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, and Cinderella. When I was young, dances at church and school were very disappointing. They were more like "stands" with most kids standing around talking. I always had this fantasy that I would walk into the ball like Cinderella or Drew Barrymore in "Ever After," dazzle everybody, and get swept off my feet by a dashing Prince Charming at the ball. Well, that never happened. When I saw the dance scene in Pride and Prejudice with Kiera Knightley I thought, "Now that looks fun! That's something I wish I had been able to attend as a young woman!" Lots of elegance and lots of heart-pumping fun all mixed together.

I am so happy that people like Diann Jeppson, Diane Hopkins of Latter-day Family Resouces (ldfr.com) and Tricia Leslie organize formal balls to provide an alternative to "stands." They ask instructors to come and teach the youth how to actually do something besides the dreaded moving from one foot to the other side to side. These kids actually learn how to waltz and fox trot. At the Family Ball coming up at the TJED Forum, there is a live band. The big ballroom is where most people congregate, and then a smaller room offers instruction throughout the night. IT's a TON of fun! Even my rowdy little boys love it. I hope to see some of you there. Come even if you don't homeschool. Come even if you don't like to dance just so you can visit with me. It's this Saturday, March 20, from 6:30 to 11:30 PM at the SLC Hilton downtown. Go to tjedmarketplace.com to register. See you there!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Another Dream Come True

A lot of people, when asked to write something substantial, meaning something more than a Facebook status update or a shopping list, think, ugh, no thanks. That sounds as much fun as hitting my head against a filing cabinet. Then if they are asked to teach kids how to write they would rather take a ride inside a cement mixer. That's how popular writing and teaching writing are for most of us. I have met someone who not only enjoys writing, he loves teaching kids how to write. He loves teaching kids to write so much that he would rather go around doing that and speaking about it than actually writing.

I met Andrew Pudewa four years ago through my girlfriend Becky. Andrew owns his own publishing company called Institute for Excellence in Writing. See excellenceinwriting.com. It sells resources, many created by Andrew, on how to teach kids to write. My two oldest children took his High School Intensive Essay Workshop last spring and enjoyed it. I thought it was superb and wished I had been able to take such a class when I was their age to prepare for the ACT.

I have oodles of female kindred spirits. Andrew is one of the few male kindred spirits I have. I got to sell his books at a booth for the UTCH Convention four years ago. (UTCH stands for Utah Christian Homeschoolers.) That's because Becky, the Utah distributor of his materials, wanted to go to the TJED Forum, which was the same day. This is before I really converted to the TJED philosophy of education. Normally she would have been the one to be at his booth. (The whole story of my experience at the UTCH convention could be another post. I felt like a spy among all these evangelical Christians. They were all friendly and it was a great experience for a Utah Molly Mormon like me. My only previous experience of being among so many non-Mormons was when I went to second and third grades in upstate New York.)

Anyway, I immediately liked Andrew. We have many common interests. He has studied and taught the Suzuki method. That's something I've always wanted to do. He has also been a teacher at the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential. (See glenndoman.com or iahp.org) That means he has studied how the brain works and how to make your babies and kids smarter. More than once, LDS Church President Monson has, in General Conference, referred to Glenn Doman's studies about how much little children are capable of learning. I've read Glenn Doman's books and have some of his recommended Bits of Intelligence on CD to flash in front of my budding proteges.

I've always wanted to take Doman's courses at the IAHP that Andrew has taken. But that would involve leaving a nursing baby for a week which would damage the baby's brain more than I would be helping. Andrew also owned and ran a preschool. That's something I've fantasized about too. We are both into Leadership Education. We both homeschool and have large families. We are both Christians, but of different denominations, and so we've had some interesting conversations about that.

I have several of his talks on CD. Whenever I would listen to these, I would think, "let's get him to come speak at the TJED Forum." I suggested that to him and to Diann Jeppson, founder of the Forum. Every year was the same, "no he can't come, he's already booked." But this year, he is coming! I am so excited! He is teaching kids how to write essays for the ACT and SAT exams on Friday March 19. Then on Saturday March 20, he's teaching parents how to teach kids to write, especially boys who just want to build forts all day. (I have three of those, what a fun challenge.) You can to tjedmarketplace.com (click on "events" to find out more and register.

So one of my dreams is coming true. Leslie Householder teaches that when pursuing success, you can attract more success, even if it seems like you are failing, by framing your present negative experiences in relative terms. In other words, take a step back and look at the big picture. The little bumps in the road don't look so bad. They especially don't look so bad when you compare them to experiences like say the handcart pioneers or Holocaust prisoners. That's the Law of Relativity.

So I'm thinking, OK, the dog got hit by a car last year. The surgery to fix her set us back financially. All around finances have been bad for us. I still have the same 30 pounds to lose and a car that doesn't have enough seatbelts for all of us, or a kitchen like I want or a big home. My book, Tree of Life Mothering, still isn't done and I still have the same obstacles to getting it out. But those are just minor bumps. I have soooo many things to be grateful about. I am grateful that the dog got better, extended family helped pay for the surgery (thanks Mary), my house hasn't flooded or burned down, my baby is here, cute, fat and happy, and all my children are healthy and happy, and that Andrew is coming to speak. Leslie is speaking too, and that was another dream/suggestion that I gave to Diann, two years ago. My life is great and it's getting GREATER so hooray!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Parents' Choice in Education

A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century

A few weeks ago after having some prayer and mentor sessions with my daughter, we decided that it was time to drop some of her classes in her homeschooling. We had decided last spring for my son to take Open High School. Two of the big draws were that he could do BYU independent study through it and that he would get his own laptop for the school year. Open High is the first Internet-based charter high school in Utah. See openhighschool.org. After we heard that one of my daughter's friends would be doing it, we decided to let her try it too. After all, when you are off the conveyor-belt, it doesn't matter if she really isn't high school age, being only 13 at the time. I have to admit, getting her own laptop was probably the real reason she wanted to do it so much.

She did well, and got A's, but then after Christmas she added some more classes to her homeschooling bag, like Pyramid Project (see thelemi.com), classical acting, ballroom dance, and mock trial. This is all in addition to her regular math course, LDS seminary, and her Leadership Education-based girls scholar academy. I was reading in the TJED for Teens (tjedforteens.com) book about how a parent-mentor is supposed to help the mentee be real about time requirements for projects they commit to. I immediately knew I had been lacking in this area for my daughter and needed to gently remind her that she was taking on too much.

The upshot of this is that she finally decided to quit Open High School, at least for this year. The biggest reason was that they didn't follow the "dual enrollment" policy of regular public schools. She couldn't take one or two classes, which we thought she could handle, Open High said she had to take four. (This whole story is worthy of another post.) So I had to return the laptop. That meant a trip to downtown SLC. It was eye-opening to find out that Open High shares office space with an organization called "Parents Choice in Education." At first I thought, how great that there's a place you can go to learn more about your educational choices for your children, to learn about an alternative to public schools.

But then after more reflection, i realized this is a sad commentary on our society. We are so disconnected as a community at the grassroots level that we need an office to tell us about our choices for educating our children. Yes, public schools are a choice, or resource, but they are not the only choice. Why don't more parents know this?

The word is starting to get out, especially thanks to the TJED movement. Yes, your children are yours to educate, they are not the state's. All parents should know that when it comes to education, you have lots of options. No, you don't have to homeschool, you shouldn't feel forced to homeschool, and there are options besides the neighborhood public school. It's important to ponder the idea about how much government should be involved in education. Glen Beck has a whole chapter about education in his book Arguing With Idiots that I recommend to every parent. He points out that the federal government has no authority given in the Constitution to be over education of children. So can we just nix No Child Left Behind? After all, whose plan does that sound like?

He also asks why it is that parents are supposed to enroll their kids in the public school they live the closest to. Why not allow public schools to have to compete for students' public school dollars just like businesses have to compete for customers' dollars? Competition breeds excellence. That's why we have such amazing high-tech gadgets like cell phones, computers, and iPods, and why they keep getting cheaper every year. I love that the charter school movement and homeschooling are giving regular public schools some kind of competition. It's about time.

If you would like to learn more about your educational options then read A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille. We don't need an office for parents' choices in education, we just need to read more as parents and ask questions and create more community.

Homeschooling isn't awful, incredibly hard, and socially backwards as people make it out to be. You can still have a life when you homeschool. In fact, you actually have more of a life! You meet some really fun people and read cool books and go to neat places. You create your own schedule, not the schedule of a school district's. That's what the TJED movement is all about, creating your own schedule based on what you want to learn as a woman, and what you want to help your children to learn. It is hard, but it's worth it, and even fun LOTS of times!

In Relief Society the lesson from Gospel Principles was recently about Freedom to Choose. I had to leave during part of it to take sick kids home, but I was going to mention that freedom to choose applies to all areas of life, including our children's education. Why do we force children to sit at desks when they are five when they should have the freedom to run and play and work along side their parents? LDS educator Neil Flinders wrote a book called Teach the Children, an agency approach to education. DeMille was mentored by Flinders and his book is the non-LDS version for the masses.

Come to the TJED Forum in SLC on March 19-20 at the Hilton Hotel to learn more about choices in education. LDS author Brad Wilcox (bradwilcox.com) is speaking on the 19th, as well as someone from the Arbinger Institute. Some amazing speakers are speaking on the 20th too, like Kelli Poll, my homeschooling mentor, and Lara Gallagher of lazyorganizer.com fame. Come even if you don't homeschool just because it's so much fun to learn. This is for all parents, not just homeschoolers! We won't force you to sign any commitment form to homeschool. See tjedmarketplace.com for more info. If you can't come, you can buy downloads of the talks at the same web site, as well as talks from past years. I hope to see some of you there!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Discovering Christ in All Things

The Hidden Christ: Beneath the Surface of the Old Testament

My rating: five out of five stars
For all of you James Ferrell groupies...a book review of his latest and greatest...
Ferrell amazes me with his scholarly ability to keep track of the details of so many characters in the Old Testament. He has such a great mind for picking up on symbols and linking them to the Savior. In this book he shows how at least 15 or so characters are key similitudes of the Savior Jesus Christ because of their traits that are similar to Christ's. Appendix A sums all that up. He also lists the ancient temple, the House of Israel, and the trait of wisdom as symbolic of Jesus and why. No way could all of this come about by random. The way all of these hidden symbols point to Christ testify of a God designing it this way to testify of His son Jesus Christ. The chapter on the use of chiasm in the Bible and the chiastic history or the earth was cool as well.

His study of Abigail in this book actually led him to write the Peacegiver, a book he is probably the most famous for.

The concluding paragraph was my favorite, "The story of Christ's life and the history of His gospel speak to us from every verse of scripture. This is the hidden testament of Christ, that He lives, and that He has prepared the way that we might live as well. May we like the disciples of old, discover his life and gospel more fully, so that we might come more fully to Him, and be blessed with life and the 'great joy' He promises to those who follow him."

If you've read his other books like the Peacegiver and the books from the Arbinger Institute, youre gonna love this. I found a cool talk by Brother Ferrell that he gave at SVU, the only private LDS liberal arts college. He tells 3 fun stories of his own self-deceptions. One even happened not far from my home along I-15. I love his ability to sympathize with the human condition and explain the stories from the scriptures to point us all to Christ. It's at svu.edu/mp3/2008-06-06-james-ferrell.mp3.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Happy Birthday America!

No, it's not the fourth of July, it's March 4. This is actually America's birthday. How many of us know this? I learned this from listening to Stephen Pratt at libertyandlearning.org. I heartily recommend his site and DVDS. I have learned so much about history and government from his site.

According to wikipedia.org:

"On September 17, 1787, the Constitution was completed, followed by a speech given by Benjamin Franklin, who urged unanimity, although the Convention decided that only nine states were needed to ratify. The Convention submitted the Constitution to the Congress of the Confederation, where it received approval according to Article 13 of the Articles of Confederation. Once the Congress of the Confederation received word of New Hampshire's ratification, it set a timetable for the start of operations under the new Constitution, and on March 4, 1789, the government began operations."

This new government was a republic of republics, a confederation of state republics. Despite popular belief, it is not a democracy. That's one thing I learned not from my high school AP government class, but from my own studies as a homeschooling mom in my "you, not them" studies. I recently had a HUGE AHA! moment relating to my study of Montesquieu and republics. I will be writing some time soon about that. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I Learn So Much From Other Homeschooling Moms

Gospel Principles Gospel Principles by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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Last weekend, I got to spend some time with a bunch of homeschooling moms at a moms' retreat. It seems that moms' retreats have become all the rage lately. I've been to three in the past six months since my baby was born, and I missed one. But before I blog about that, I have to write about the lunch I had with the moms of the North Star Scholars Commonwealth School a week ago. (If you don't know what a commonwealth School is, go to thelemi.com.) I wasn't going to go because it was my son's birthday and I had SOOOO much to do to get ready, but I reasoned, I have to drive my son over to the house of the lunch anyway, so he can take his speech and debate class, and I have to eat lunch anyway, and I need a spiritual boost. (I'm not going to blog about the birthday party because I basically promised awhile ago that my blog wasn't going to be the typical mommy blog that is a bragfest about what we got for birthdays and Christmas.)

Joyce Kinmont, homeschooling pioneer and founder of the LDS homeschooling group LDSHEA (see credits Oliver DeMille, founder of the Thomas Jefferson Education movement, with getting moms to study the classics. She says it's such a beautiful thing. As moms study the classics, kids can't help but have some of it rub off them right? And the bonus? Some of it rubs off on other homeschooling moms. And I'm the lucky recipient.

Some classics rubbed off on me at this lunch. First, Karianne shared that she had taught the previous Sunday her Relief Society lesson, #3 from the Gospel Principles book, "Jesus Christ Our Chosen Leader." She remarked that the lesson emphasized that we each chose Jesus to be our leader in the premortal world. One other mom, Kathy, said "Oh I know those words for the lessons must be chosen so carefully." Karianne then said, "Yes...it's just like in Montesquieu where he says that there are only two types of government...those that involve force and those that involve choice."

Wait, it says that in Montesquieu? I want to read him now. My AP US History teacher in high school mentioned him, that his book, The Spirit of the Laws was the foundation of the separation of powers in our Constitution but that's all I knew. We used a textbook in that class and not classics so I didn't know that cool exciting tidbit of force vs. choice in government. I came home and found that the Spirit of the Laws is going to be added to Librivox.org's collection so then I will be able to listen to it on my iPod. (Oops, I just checked again and it is in French! Oh well! Guess I will have to read it while I am nursing.) I am taking James Ure's Constitution Made Simple class and he refers to Montesquieu too, and how prescient he was. Oh, I am excited to study his works!

Somehow, we then got on the topic of Booker T. Washington and his book, Up From Slavery. (You know how a group of people talking can easily get off on tangents.) Karianne shared how cool it was that Booker had desperately wanted a hat to wear to school. So his mom sewed him one. All the kids made fun of him in that hat. But Booker had such a high moral character that instead of feeling low he felt cool! He felt it an honor that his mom was not about impressing other kids but about doing what she could to fulfill his desires and at the same time not go into debt to please him. So instead of borrowing money to get him a hat, she made it out of what she had at home.

WOW! That really got me thinking. Am I doing things for my kids or in my life that give my kids or others the wrong impression? What do I need to change to be more virtuous like Booker's mom? Now I want to read that book too. Librivox.org has it too, so I can look forward to listening to that while I do my chores. Kathy said it was such a good book that it is chockfull of gems like that and she read it twice. I love learning from these amazing moms. Thank you Kathy and Karianne.