Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How to Raise Boys Who Read

How to Raise Boys Who Read
Hint: Not with gross-out books and video-game bribes.

When I was a young boy, America's elite schools and universities were almost entirely reserved for males. That seems incredible now, in an era when headlines suggest that boys are largely unfit for the classroom. In particular, they can't read.

According to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy, for example, substantially more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test.

The good news is that influential people have noticed this problem. The bad news is that many of them have perfectly awful ideas for solving it.

Everyone agrees that if boys don't read well, it's because they don't read enough.

But why don't they read?

A considerable number of teachers and librarians believe that boys are simply bored by the "stuffy" literature they encounter in school. According to a revealing Associated Press story in July these experts insist that we must "meet them where they are"—that is, pander to boys' untutored tastes.

For elementary- and middle-school boys, that means "books that exploit [their] love of bodily functions and gross-out humor." AP reported that one school librarian treats her pupils to "grossology" parties. "Just get 'em reading," she counsels cheerily. "Worry about what they're reading later."

Education was once understood as training for freedom. Not merely the transmission of information, education entailed the formation of manners and taste. Aristotle thought we should be raised "so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; this is the right education."

"Plato before him," writes C. S. Lewis, "had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful."

This kind of training goes against the grain, and who has time for that? How much easier to meet children where they are.

One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn't go very far.

So why won't boys read?

The appearance of the boy-girl literacy gap happens to coincide with the proliferation of video games and other electronic forms of entertainment over the last decade or two. Boys spend far more time "plugged in" than girls do. Could the reading gap have more to do with competition for boys' attention than with their supposed inability to focus on anything other than outhouse humor?

The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.

Most importantly, a boy raised on great literature is more likely to grow up to think, to speak, and to write like a civilized man. Whom would you prefer to have shaped the boyhood imagination of your daughter's husband—Raymond Bean or Robert Louis Stevenson?

I offer a final piece of evidence that is perhaps unanswerable:

There is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls.

How many of these families, do you suppose, have thrown grossology parties?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Baby's First Cold

Recently, Julia got over her first cold. She developed a low grade fever and a runny nose when she was cutting her top teeth, but it turned into a cold.
Here's what I did:

  • I upped my Vitamin C intake to 6000 mg daily.
  • I began taking one GSE tablet daily.
  • I gave Julia a single drop of GSE each morning in her breakfast.
  • I nursed her twice as often so she could get more nutrition from me.
  • I gave her Horehound Extract to prevent it from turning into an ear infection.
She got over it in less than a week.

Friday, September 24, 2010

When Babies Meet

One of my best friends, Gretchen, came over yesterday for a playdate. Her Amelia and my Julia are 5 days apart. We were due on the same day. I won.
Amelia and Julia only played together for about 15 minutes before we put them both down for their morning nap. They really got to know each other well in that short span of time. Allow me to interpret for you.

Is there something next to me? Something squishy? I'm afraid to look!

Whoa! Where'd she come from? And who in the world is she? She doesn't look like my siblings. And why is she smiling like that?

Oh, she's another baby! She's kinda cute! I wonder if I can trust her.

Well this is awkward. She's putting my face in her mouth! Oh my, she's grabbing me. Mama, she's grabbing me! Mama, that huuuuuuuurrrrrrrrtttts! Waaaaaahhhhhhh!

It took me a few minutes to console her after this baby brawl, but she was soon interested in Amelia again.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Julia Update - 8 months

Guess what Julia's been doing?

Thunder Thighs has just started eating solids this month and we all fight over who gets to feed her. I told the kids that her skin would turn orange if we fed her just orange vegetables. I think we're now doing an experiment to see how long it takes to make an orange baby.

I just found this cute walker on the curb. Someone's baby outgrew it and they were tossing it. I oxycleaned the thing and it's as good as new. I love free!!

And Julia loves going for a drive around the living room and kitchen. She's a terrible driver, but she gets where she wants to go.

You'll be happy to know I'm now over missing her newborn days. I'm having fun just enjoying her present stage. Experience tells me that it will stay fun for the next 12 years at least.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wake with a Song

My day starts around 7am when Julia wakes up. I nurse her and we go downstairs and chit chat with Kyle before he leaves for work. Elena and Daniel are usually the first ones up. Then Chloe shuffles downstairs too. That's my cue. I go upstairs to get the rest of the kids so we can start our day.
With a room full of sleeping angels, I start singing in my most cheerful voice:

Good morning to you!
Good morning to you!
We're all in our places, with bright shining faces
How do you do?
Good morning toooooo yooooooooooooouuuuuuuuu!

I wasn't sure how they felt about my top o' the mornin' singing, but after a few days of my skipping it, Isaac asked why I wasn't singing to them anymore. Funny boy. He always acted irritated, but he secretly loved it. He loves me. That good lookin' hunk, my lovee dovee boy, he loves my singing.
I'm a happy woman.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Movie Review: The Least Among You

I received this movie from Thomas Nelson to review. I was very unimpressed with this movie. It received the Dove Family Approved seal, but it's rated PG-13 for violence, thematic elements and drug use. Why a movie that's clearly inappropriate for children would be considered "family approved" I have no idea. Further, as a Christian movie, blasphemy should have no place in this movie, but the Lord's name was taken in vain several times and a highly offensive curse word was used, although no where noted in the movie rating. Feminism is glorified in the female lead, a professor at the seminary.
This movie gives a bad name to Christian films. I cannot recommend it.

Jane Austen Would Be Shocked

I've been reading a lot of Jane Austen recently. Discretion, propriety, and manners were so important back then. Where there was a lack thereof, everyone present was ashamed.

Yesterday, I took all the kids to the grocery store. Everyone helped and we made short order of my grocery list. When we got to the check-out, the cashier said something along the lines of "You've got your hands full!" I smiled and said: I am really blessed.
She said: "Do you have a daycare?"
That one usually comes before I say how blessed I am. Threw me a little when she asked that.
I just said: Nope. {big smile}
"Which ones are yours?"
Again, a little slow on the uptake.
I replied: All of them. {another big smile}
"Oh, you adopted them all?"
Ok, seriously, the children you're being so nosy about are right here! {This is in my head. I'm dumbfounded by her sequence of questions and am trying to hold my tongue.}
I answered "no" {little smile this time} and then quickly turned to tell whoever was closest to me what a big help they were. I smiled real big at my kids and began talking to them.
I was done with that conversation.

Where is the discretion? Where is the propriety?

If we are at a park and somebody wants to know our family story, great! I'd love to share it! But don't ask which ones were adopted and which ones weren't. See how uncomfortable that makes my adoptees? They felt like an equal part of our family just a few minutes ago. As well they should.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Book Review: The One Year Book of Encouragement

This devotional boasts seeds of wisdom from such great theologians as C.S. Lewis, John Wesley, Spurgeon, George MacDonald, A.W. Tozer, and Oswald Chambers to name a few. Still, I was wary of a book including "encouragement" in the title, a word that has come to be used to mean: words that make you feel good. This gem is not simply full of words that make you feel good, but each day's devotional takes amazing spiritual insights from these great Christian leaders and convicts with their words. Each devotional ends with a prayer and scripture to meditate on and memorize. I will be gleaning wisdom from this book for a long, long time.
I received this book from Tyndale Publishers to review.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Worship Notes for Children

Since Kyle and I have become convicted that we should be providing the discipleship of our children (and not other children's parents), we have begun attending a family-integrated church and worshiping as a family. While keeping our children with us is definitely important to us, the focus of our worship is on Christ, not on having good little robotic children who can sit still better than anyone else's. (Quiet toys and frequent glares are generally used to train children in robotic behavior at church.)

In order to keep Christ the focus, we have tried out many ways to help our children attend and commit to memory what they learn on Sunday. I created this sheet for that purpose. If I do say so, it has worked very well. This week, I heard last Sunday's sermon referenced at least 3 times by the kids. For example:
When I set out cinnamon raisin biscuits for breakfast, Daniel reached to grab the biggest one. Isaac said: Uh uh, Daniel, remember what Pastor Jesse taught us? Treat others the way you want to be treated. (Matt. 7:12) You shouldn't get the biggest biscuit. You should get the smallest!
At which point I quoted the scripture Pastor taught a couple weeks ago: "How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matt. 7:4-5)


Here's the Kids Worship Notes. Feel free to share.

Update: Here's the new Big Kids Worship Notes.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's (Only) Elementary!

I don't let myself explore lots of curriculum. I did that once at the big homeschool book fair that comes every year. Everything looked great! I wanted to do it all! I wasn't even thinking about teaching Latin, but after looking at this great Latin program, I just knew my 5 year old had to have it.
(I didn't actually start teaching Latin until 3rd grade fyi, so I do have some self-control.)

I want a liberal education for my kids. I want them to learn Latin, Shakespeare, study hymns, appreciate classical music and art, and do nature study. I used to spend a lot of time and energy reading about nature study and trying to implement it for my kids. But it's just not me. A good friend, also a Charlotte Mason fan, when I asked her what she did for nature study, said: I'm not an outdoorsy person.
That really freed me. The kids will find a katydid now and come in and look it up themselves in the giant Handbook of Nature Study book I spent gobs on and never used. And we read a chapter of the Christian Liberty Nature Readers every week. That's it.
I used to spend a lot of time teaching 6 Shakespeare plays per year. I'd read it, we'd act it out, listen to an audio and watch the play on dvd. Now, I only do 3 plays per year. We listen to them on audio school, then I have the kids narrate them. The end.
It's only elementary school!

I want them to have a foundation in classic music, art, and Shakespeare. But they don't need to be able to "name that composer (or artist)", or have the characters of the Shakespeare plays memorized. They can tell you, while giggling, the basic storyline of Two Gentlemen of Verona, but they don't remember the names of the two main characters.

Don't stress out about what non-essentials your kids are or are not learning.

It's only elementary school! You've got plenty of time.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Teaching Children to Cheat

(AWANA "What You Want to be When You Grow Up" Night)

When Elena and Chloe were younger, we put them in AWANA because we wanted them to memorize scripture and have fun doing it. After the adoption, Isaac and Maya joined them. Every morning during our Bible time, we would review their memory verses. I only did 1 at a time because I wanted them to really learn the verses well. My goal wasn't to see how fast they could fly through the books, but how many verses they could commit to memory.
One of the teachers took a liking to Isaac, whose English was pretty stilted back then. He understood a lot and was great at memorizing, but he had an itty bitty vocabulary for his age. (He had only been in America for a few months at that point.)
This teacher decided to do Isaac a favor and help him earn "jewels in his crown" whether he'd really learned the verse or not. He said: Repeat the verse after me and I'll sign for it.
Kyle and I talked to Isaac about it, but I was irate with the teacher. The following week, I talked to the director.
This happened three more times during the year. Each time, we talked to the leader about it, explaining that he was not modeling integrity for our son, and not helping him to "hide God's word in his heart" (our whole goal of joining AWANA).

Although we wanted Isaac to understand that he shouldn't give in to adults who try to get them to do wrong, it was really too much pressure to put on a young child.

We eventually quit AWANA.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Warrior Princess

She figured ashes from the grill would make great war paint. You probably can't tell from the picture, but she was not happy about me taking her picture after having just discussed why that was not the smartest move.

{snicker, snicker}

What have your kids done recently that made you wonder: What were they thinking???

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How We Do Bible Study

On weekdays, Kyle makes breakfast for all of us so I don't have to. I know, I'm spoiled.
While the kids are eating their breakfast, I read the Psalm and Proverb of the day. I say the same thing every time: Today is September 15th, so I'm going to read Psalm 15. Then, I'll read our memory verse of the week. I use hand motions and dramatic inflection to help them commit it to memory. They love this.
Then we read the section that our pastor just taught the previous Sunday. We've been working through the Sermon on the Mount, and this week we covered Matthew 7:12 After a week of reading this verse every day, they have learned it. That was easy! If only applying it could be as simple.
Then, I'll read the memory verse again.
(All this time, Julia is sitting in Maya's lap, practicing sitting still during worship. It really pays off at church.)
Finally, I take prayer requests and we all take turns praying.

I want my kids to learn that time spent in the Word is top priority. If we don't have time for anything else, this is the one thing we don't sacrifice. So it's always first.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

More Kids & Money

A good friend of mine recently found out she's pregnant with #5. One of the responses she got to her announcement was:

Are you being financially responsible? I mean, if you were financially independent that would be one thing, but. . .

Considering how many families of four are in debt up to their eyeballs, I found this statement quite interesting. What do you think?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Book Review: Your Money God's Way

I received Your Money God's Way from Thomas Nelson to review. I was surprisingly impressed with this book. The scriptures she quotes fly in the face of all the bad financial concepts so many professing Christians hold. According to the author, Christians make more financial mistakes than the rest of the population, which is because so many "counterfeit convictions" are taught in place of sound biblical principles. When we enable family members who consistently make bad financial decisions, that's not ministry. That's unwise. Taking great financial risks and calling it great faith is ignorant, not spiritual. Treating God like an ATM may be "prosperity theology"; but it's not correct theology at all. The subtitle tells you what to expect: "Overcoming the 7 money myths that keep Christians broke".
Dave Ramsey calls the message of this book "common sense and biblical wisdom". I couldn't agree more.

Get It Down, Not Just Done

I have been making a diligent effort this school year to not just say Better Late Than Early, but to actually act on it. By personality, I'm a list check-er off-er. I love when we finish one book and move on to the next. But the point of schooling isn't really to check books off a list. The point is to gain the knowledge offered in each of those books! Imagine!

It's not about getting it done. It's about getting it down.

So, instead of making it my goal to see how quickly Elena can get through the math book, my goal is for her to fully understand and be confident in her skill at multiplication. Who cares how quickly she whizzes through the book if she can't remember 8 x 4? So, we do a few lessons in the multiplication book and then we take a break and just do FlashMaster until we get those facts down pat. We take however long we need to on a given workbook in order to learn the material. Finishing the math book by the end of the school year isn't the goal.
What good is it to finish 20 books in a year if the children aren't enjoying and learning from each of the books? Better to really dive into just 5 excellent books and take our time enjoying them.

After attempting to teach 3 children to read when they weren't ready and having them laboriously struggle over each word, and then one day it all clicks and they just take off reading completely independent from all the effort I put into it. . .
I am making the counter-cultural decision not to push my reluctant reader to do something for which he isn't developmentally ready. I'm going to wait.

Applaud me or judge me, I'm not making the same dumb mistake for the fourth time.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Cayenne, or Capsicum, is one of the most important herbs because it's a wonderful healer. It acts like a catalyst when combined with other herbs. Cayenne is high in Vitamin C, so it builds up the body's immunity.
It improves the entire circulatory system. It stops bleeding internally and externally. It can be poured directly on an external wound to stop bleeding, fight infection, and promote healing. It may feel warm, but won't burn the skin.
It should be used with Lobelia for tetanus. It's a great gargle to heal sore throats, including the pain of Strep throat.
It's also great for asthma, Bronchitis, and chest congestion.

If you have a good quality Cayenne in your spice rack, use it. I think you'll prefer it in capsules. ;)

Friday, September 3, 2010

How Can You Have Quality Time With That Many??

I was talking to my stepdad the other day about two young boys he knows. Their mother works full-time and prefers to spend her weekends with her boyfriend rather than her children. My stepdad was lamenting how much these sweet children want time with their mom and he made this comment:
If only they could have as much quality time with their mom as your children do with you!

I found that very ironic given the way the world views big families. We can't possibly have enough time with our children, right? I mean, sure we might be home with them all day long (since so many big families tend to homeschool), but how can we spend quality time with all of them when there are so many?

Ha! And again I say HA!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Red Raspberry Leaf

Red Raspberry is useful for all female organs and problems. It is a wonderful pregnancy and labor herb.

  • Strengthens wall of uterus and entire female reproductive system.
  • Decreases profuse menstrual flow.
  • Good during all months of pregnancy. Alleviates morning sickness and nausea. Has been used as a preventative for hemorrhaging during labor. Assists labor, makes delivery easier and relieves after pains. Tones and regulates before, during and after childbirth.
  • Increases and enriches milk for lactation, can be combined with marshmallow tea.
  • Raspberry tea is mild and pleasant to taste. It is good for stomachaches and bowel problems in children. For diarrhea in babies.
  • Soothing to stomach and bowels and cankerous conditions of mucous membranes in the alimentary canal.
  • High mineral and vitamin source.