Author Archives: Sara

About Sara

I practice permaculture on my homestead in southeast Louisiana.

“We need more Marines down here.”– A veteran’s story, Part 1

I don’t know how to stop veteran and active duty military suicide. I don’t know how to stop any kind of suicide. I know part of my brother’s story, though, and maybe somewhere in there is an answer. He started writing a book in the early spring of 2013. He attempted to explain the sickness plaguing the Marine Corps. He never finished his book.

In his own words:

“I am no Chesty Puller. I am no Hero. I am no shitbag. I am a Marine that is retired from the business of keeping his mouth shut. I’m just telling the truth behind the things I saw and my Marine Corps experience. I am telling what I see causing the sickness and depression inside our Corps and how I’ve seen my brothers, some wounded Warriors support the efforts to fix the problems from the outside that our Government will not recognize.”

He has written more about his experience on his website All Around Intensity Fitness.

———-Tuesday, October 15, 2013. ——-

My brother was spray painting a pair of motorcycle helmets with a matte black paint. I told him to go closer by the woods, since the fumes were drifting toward the house. I went for a walk to the end of the driveway, and turned to look back at the house. Standing there, on the ground at the end of the driveway, the house was clearly visible. I walked back toward the house and stopped by the woods where my brother was painting.

“They definitely lied,” I said.

He nodded in agreement. For a moment he paused, looking down at the helmets, and I didn’t think he would respond.

Then he asked, “why?”

I told him that you could see the house easily from the ground. Without a doubt it could be seen just as well from the air. Earlier that morning, after we spoke to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force , they went over to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility and had someone from CBP call us to explain a helicopter flyover. My only conclusion to their explanation was that they must have lied.

Several months before this conversation– July 5, 2013– a helicopter operated by Customs and Border Protection flew up our driveway, parallel to the power lines, and then circled three times over the very woods where my brother was standing– the woods which separated the front pasture from our private yard. The helicopter flew over us at less than 40 ft altitude (the height of our utility pole), perhaps the same distance– 40 ft– from the front porch of our house.  I called FAA, outraged that anyone was allowed to fly that low. We were not close enough to the airport to justify that. I was told by FAA that they couldn’t do anything about government aircrafts, and that I would have to call CBP directly. I did. By CBP, I was told that the flyover was part of an investigation.

The October 15th, 2013 explanation was that there was an unanticipated low cloud ceiling and the helicopter operator was forced to fly at a much lower altitude than usual. He made three circles to get his bearings, then flew back to the airport.

On the phone with them, my brother asked: “do you make any effort to avoid people and houses on the ground?”

“Yes, we do,” was the officer’s terse response.

Looking at it from the end of the driveway, I could not understand how an operator with any intention to avoid disturbing residents on the ground would fly along the driveway leading toward the house, when the house could be plainly seen from 300ft away. He circled the woods 3 times, flying through our yard each time. Our trailer was shaking violently. He could have simply veered into one of the surrounding fields instead— we have 17 acres of open pasture– if it were a matter of getting his bearings straight. CBP

 

But I’ve never operated a helicopter before so maybe I’m just mistaken.

My brother finished painting the helmets. He painted 3 of them, one for me, one for Seth, and one for himself. He told me we’d have to get one for my 4 year old son, too, but for now he could use one of ours.

“They won’t stop a bullet, but they’ll still be helpful.”

My brother was getting us prepared for a fire fight. He was certain that the FBI, or another branch of Homeland Security, would be dispatched soon– most likely to take him, because he was a veteran. He was convinced that they would not spare any one of us, though.

He was troubled over the fact that he had recently had surgery for an infection on his right hand. He was on antibiotics that made him “feel weird.” He couldn’t use his thumb, and the reality sank in that he might not be at his prime when it mattered most. I remember how somber he was that day. How his mood had changed since the hours earlier, when he had been cooking pancakes in his swim shorts, joking and lighthearted.

I was concerned and relieved. My brother was looking out for us. He must know things about the government that we didn’t know. He knew his own training, his own capacities, and that there were other men out there with the same kind of training who might be ready, even eager, to use their training against civilians here in the US. Against us.

I mean, it was clear that the flyover must have been intentional, if not a sign of absolute recklessness. I didn’t need my brother to point that out to me. We had just been visited by the FBI as domestic terrorism suspects because we had been persistent to inquire about the flyover and because my brother was a well-trained veteran Staff Sergeant in the Marines who had been making videos to demonstrate tactical weapons training… that scared them the most. Not only were we upset, but at least one of us was very upset and very skilled.

I sat on the steps and watched him finish cleaning and prepping vests and other protective gear that we would use if it became necessary. When he was done, he walked over to me, calmly explaining how we would use each item and where we would store it in the meantime for quick access.

He looked at me intensely. “We need more Marines down here.”

Those words struck me more deeply than anything else he had said. He was losing confidence in himself. He needed his brothers.

We weren’t living in a mutual paranoid delusion. This was reality.  Naturally, we had no capacity to know what it meant for the future. Perhaps the FBI really did determine that we were mostly harmless individuals with some political views rooted in suspicion and cynicism. Or perhaps we seemed more of a threat than we thought. And if so, then what would they do?

My brother Jon and his best friend from childhood, also a Marine.

Shooting at the farm. My brother Jon and his best friend from childhood, also a Marine.

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An early arrival

After a relatively easy, problem-free pregnancy, I developed signs of preeclampsia around 36 weeks and the doctors recommended induction at 37 weeks (term) because that’s the typical course of care for pre-e (it doesn’t get better until the baby is delivered, and in the meantime some pretty nasty problems can arise.) After talking with my midwife about the risks and possible complications, and whether or not an induction was likely to be successful, I agreed that it was the best way to go. So nearly two weeks ago our wonderful little girl was born. Despite the horror stories I’ve heard about inductions, it wasn’t really much different than my first spontaneous natural labor except that I was hooked up to an IV the whole time. The pain was about the same (intense!) and nothing awful resulted.

IMG_0507It’s pretty easy to stay positive during pregnancy and enjoy it when everything is going well, but to be perfectly honest, it’s even better to have the whole thing come to an end and to begin life with a healthy new little baby. That’s where I am right now. I’m ready to start doing everything I was doing before I ended up on bed rest at the end of June, but I feel like I’m in that stage of partial recovery where I might do too much and set myself back. So I’m just taking it easy. I should be ready when time comes to start the fall garden cleanup and planting.

For now, I have a lovely crop of figs. Going out and picking them is a perfectly easy chore for postpartum recovery.

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Celebrating June with flowers and blueberries

The Vitex is in full bloom. Yesterday I spotted a Swallowtail visiting the flowers. Usually the tree is buzzing with bumblebees, but hummingbirds and other pollinators stop by every once in awhile.

We had a full week of rain through Wednesday, so we didn’t mow anything at all and the grass grew thick. The wheelbarrow in the picture below was full after the first day of rain, and it just kept coming and coming after that. Even though I’m now close to 9 months pregnant (I can’t believe it!) I still occasionally indulge in lawn mowing since that’s one of my favorite activities. Plus, I’m a bit of a perfectionist and my husband just doesn’t give the lawn the same attention I do. That’s what I’ve been catching up on the past couple of days. Since the rain, the mosquitos are outrageous (yes, I did empty the wheelbarrow and every other pot and pan that I found collecting water). The heat is unrelenting during the day already and I have to be really careful to stay hydrated and not be out in the sun too much.

IMG_0412The blueberries have been ripening over the past week, so we filled a huge bowl, froze some of them, and the rest went into pancakes.

IMG_0415IMG_0417Because of the heat, we spend the hottest part of the day inside doing my son’s first grade lessons during the week. We decided to jump into the 2014 school year early, since I’m probably not going to be able to stay consistent for the first few months after the baby arrives. On Saturdays and during free time I’ve been reading a lot and trying to keep myself busy.

I’ve been thinking about my brother a lot lately, too. I have a couple of chapters of a book he started writing several years ago. I was trying to encourage him to self-publish. Re-reading it, I realized how much of it focused on the theme of depression and suicide plaguing his brothers in the Marines. He died from suicide 7 months ago (actually 7 months to the date on Memorial Day).

I’m hoping to add to his story a bit, and write more of the things he didn’t get to. We made so many videos with him while he was here, so he left a pretty good record of his thoughts. But, I know, there was so much he never got to say.

Take care, friends, and blessings to you all.

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Polyculture greens

Greens are easy to mix in the garden. Mesclun is an obvious example, as you can buy these in packets pre-mixed. Some types can also be excellent for a naturalized bed, one that reseeds itself every year and doesn’t require much work on the part of the gardener. I gave a preview of my partially self-seeding polyculture bed, but now that it’s a little more mature, and in my opinion quite beautiful, here it is again:

polyculture garden greensThis bed has parsely (3rd generation), Red Russian Kale, Red Rib and Catalogna Chicory, Mayo Indian Amaranth, garlic chives (perennial), a few types of lettuce and green onions, Egyptian Walking Onions, and cilantro. I also have tomatoes in there that I didn’t have room for anywhere else. I just figured some of the other things would go to seed and die back about the time the tomatoes got big enough to start interfering. Not sure how that will turn out, but we will see.

We’ve been harvesting lots of wild blackberries this week, and a few Pineapple Guava flowers.

wild blackberries

Garden resident

IMG_0055A few days ago, I was digging in the garden and removed a piece of dirt that popped out in a big chunk. Underneath I saw the skin of a Speckled King Snake sliding through an underground tunnel. It looks like this creature is a new resident in the garden bed. Yesterday it emerged from the dirt to sunbathe beneath the kale and let me snap this nice photo. I suppose the snake is living in an old mole tunnel.

Lazy Spring 2014 – Modified gardening technique

Here’s a quick photo update of the happenings here at our homestead. I love Permaculture because it tends to be forgiving. Unlike traditional annual gardening, there’s always a little bit of work surplus from last year (and the years before) to give leverage to the new season. This year I’m slowing down. No more all-day-gardening binges in the heat, but instead I have to practice a little more patience and consistency. But I am optimistic.

Gifts from the seasons before:

Parsley and Amaranth that re-seeded themselves in the bed after last season. With a no-till method, it’s easy to let these little seedlings come to life on their own, then thin them out or transplant them to wherever you want them in the garden bed. Instant spring garden. Parsley_and_Amaranth.JPGFor comparison, here are the “mother” plants from last year.

Mayo Indian Amaranth

 

Lovely Red Russian Kale persisting from the fall planting. I scattered these seeds everywhere (including beds and aisles) just to see what would happen. When they got sizable enough (and after I crept out of my winter hibernation) I transplanted the strays back into the garden bed and they are doing well. Yesterday I littered some Comfrey leaves over them for compost and mulch.Red_Russian_Kale.JPGThe blueberries are bursting with flowers this year. It will be my biggest crop yet! They also have plenty of runners that I plan to divide and transplant elsewhere to continue expanding the blueberry orchard. Perennials, especially trees and shrubs, are well worth the early effort. I love that permaculture encourages perennials planted amongst the annual garden, though some of us might need to practice a little better separation of the two (vs. layering or forest gardening) for weed management.

Blueberry flowers

Blueberry flowers

Blueberries.JPGThe Goumi Berry is flowering, too. This is the first year. These flowers are all over the Goumi that was out in the sun, and they have a faint but very pleasant sweet smell. I also planted one in the shade for comparison, and its flowers are not nearly as abundant. I’ve transplanted that one it out to the sunny side, too, and it seems to be taking well to the transplant.

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These little chicory plants (Red Rib and Catalogna) are being smothered by the sorrell that grew up instead of my clover cover crop. They seem like good candidates for an emergency transplant before they bolt. Or maybe I’ll just let them stress and go to seed, and try again with new seed next year. They can be classified as a weed, after all, so I suspect they’ll have little trouble competing too much with low-growing sorrel.  HPIM0059.JPG

Instead of building full beds this year from the virgin space, I’m just digging little holes and making what amounts to planters for each little pepper and tomato transplant that I plan to put out in the next day or two. This is my lazy-spring gardening style. My normal bed-building style is a cheap sheet mulch where I lay down hay with composted cow manure on top. I usually make the whole bed this way for seeds that can be broadcasted. Tomatoes and peppers need a little more space than I’ve traditionally given them, so I think the planter-style should work. No reason to put a whole bed out for them. This way I spend less than an hour total on each bed, including the mulching, then I’m good to go. Normally my 4′x20′ beds take about 2-3 hours each to build.

I’ve had variable results with my sheet-mulch method, but usually it tends to work (better for brassicas, parsley and leafy greens, not so good for strawberries and squash, in my experience). The hay and cow manure needs a little more agitation (not full-tilling, but not exactly no-till) for the first year or so, since the hay can get matted and grow a lot of fungus, and the manure gets dry and crumbly when it’s not well-mixed. After a year of the sheet mulch, plus a little bit of chopping after the first season, this method can make a beautiful garden soil as  foundation for your beds. I use it because both the hay and the manure come to me absolutely free. There are definitely other options for sheet mulching, depending on what you have available.

The planters below are made with this quick technique:

1) Dig a hole

2)Fresh manure goes into the hole 3

) Hay on top of the fresh manure, enough to kill the weeds and help quick-compost the manure

4) Aged manure mixed with dirt, or compost on top. At least 8 inches so the roots aren’t exposed to the new manure as it heats up and composts below.

We’ve got heavy clay so we’ll get better root-penetration  and healthier plants by digging at some point in the building of a bed, even though later I revert to no-till beds by simply adding new layers of compost and mulch. In the photo below, the left side is a completed and top-mulched version of my planter holes. On the right is halfway through the process– holes have been dug, fresh manure dumped in. Next goes the hay, compost, and thick hay over the remaining green (sorrel, or cover crop) as a kill-layer.

Planter_Style.JPGSome extras:

Admiral Semmes Native Azalea from Margie Jenkin's Nursery

Admiral Semmes Native Azalea from Margie Jenkin’s Nursery

Red Knockout Rose

Red Knockout Rose

Christian Homeschooling, Part 2: Greek vs. Hebrew Education

There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. – Romans 10:12

I’m coming to this topic reluctantly. I don’t like making generalizations without all of the facts, yet that’s exactly where this conversation comes from. We’re talking about the respective influences of two ancient societies on the western education model. That’s a huge topic. I realize I can spend many more hours studying Greek and Hebrew educational models on my own to try to make a fair comparison (I do want to study both in more depth, but not  to write a blog post), or I can just respond to the assumptions that initially bothered me in Robin Sampson’s book What Your Child Needs to Know When. I’ll stick to the latter.

Robin Sampson has written several homeschooling books. One is the book that I have, and another is the Heart of Wisdom, which presumably goes into more detail. The Heart of Wisdom website has the same chart (almost) that’s found in What Your Child Needs to Know… and that summarizes the author’s argument. Make sure you check out the chart if you want to follow this post.

My first objection comes from the titles of the columns. One column is “Ancient Greek Education (as taught in Public Schools today)” and the other is “Hebrew Education.” That doesn’t really sound like a fair comparison, because on one hand we’re looking at an ancient system as adapted in modern (US) schools. On the other side, we’re not really sure what time period of Hebrew education we’re looking at, but I can say with reasonable confidence that whatever time period it is, the second column probably represents the favorite concepts of that culture and leaves out the rest. I mean, it’s clear that the chart is supposed to show Hebrew education in a favorable light by comparison.

It turns out we’re probably not looking at “Ancient Greek Education (as taught in Public Schools today)” in the first column either. For one thing, Sparta and Athens were very different societies, but they are indistinguishably combined in this table. Next, this isn’t an ancient system adapted for modern schools. The row “How Accomplished” talks about things that really don’t go on in public schools, especially these:

1) Memorize the laws of Lycurgus, the Spartan lawgiver.

2) Memorize selections from Homer.

3) Develop physical excellence through games, exercises, and the pentathlon (running, jumping, throwing the discus, casting the javelin, and wrestling)”

Now, these might be ideals that our public school systems wish they could follow, but we haven’t gotten anywhere near reproducing these accomplishments on a large scale. Why not? Well… because our culture is not as close to Greek society as the author proposes. Most parents don’t expect their children to perform like this. Some parents do, some school administrators might want to see it happen (maybe not casting the javelin), but our society is fundamentally different from Sparta and most of the methods of accomplishing the Spartan ideal demand very strict discipline and break our society’s ethical code (taking young boys away at 12 or 13 for rigorous military training). We don’t have that discipline, and we don’t pretend to. It also stands to reason that if homeschoolers don’t want to teach this part of the Greek method but still want to teach the Trivium, then this chart doesn’t really help homeschoolers, the intended audience, make a reasoned judgment about why to avoid all Greek influence in their curriculum.

Okay, so the Ancient Greek column repeats that this method prepares children to serve the state, but in the very next row, “Result,” the Greek system is regarded as “self-centered” with the motto “my will be done.” If it’s all about the state, then I don’t see how self-centeredness is the logical conclusion of state-focused training. The last row, “Philosophy” also equates the Greek system to lawlessness. We know that’s not true in Athens, but it does have some semblance to Sparta. Yet I don’t understand the logical jump from “prepare… to serve the state” to “lawlessness: to each his own, look out for Number One, there are no absolutes.” If service to the state is the goal, then that’s a type of specific servitude. The goal of servitude to the state is not met with a philosophy of self-centered lawlessness.

(In Romans 6:18, Paul writes that all men are in servitude, either servants to sin or “servants of righteousness” – KJV. Yet this does not explain confounding servitude to the state with servitude to self, unless its simply that all things that do not serve God serve self.)

Something’s missing here. I think I know what it is. It goes back to that original problem of an “Ancient Greek Education” being merged with “(as taught in Public Schools today).” The self-centeredness of kids today is visible, and widely discussed. It’s not as much a result of Ancient Greek education or modern US education as it is a result of human nature unrestrained. A lack of moral grounding rather than a specific type of training. I think John Taylor Gatto makes a stronger case about public education being designed for the benefit of the state when he describes the much more recently developed industrialized model of education based on the Prussian system. The story behind this is fascinating. Common schools in the US began with a very strong religious motivation, but the goals were also humanistic, meaning to rid society of evil and corruption.

In addition to selfishness, Greek training is said to produce the results of “Violence, corruption, pornography, racial tension, promiscuity, abortion, infanticide, etc.”The Hebrew method is said to produce “Authority with responsibility. Literacy, strong family ties, love of learning, security, independent thinking, high morals and values.” Yet looking back at the common schools, public education in the US was designed for exactly the same reason, to rid society of the former and revive the latter. These goals are man’s– they are humanistic. Did this approach work in public schools?

The evils of society mentioned above are just as applicable to Hebrew society at various times in history as they are to today’s society, and to Ancient Greek society. From the Bible, we know that the Hebrews weren’t always in line with God’s plan. After all, the well-educated (by Hebrew standards!) Pharisees of the New Testament put the Son of God to death for blasphemy. If the Pharisees are not a perfect example of violence and corruption in Hebrew society, then I think the author has a different definition of violence and corruption than I do. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether we’re Ancient Greeks, Ancient Hebrews or modern Americans. If you study the Bible it is clear that sin nature is what corrupts and leads to these vile results.

Then there’s the bizarre “curriculum subjects” section. On the Hebrew side it is asserted that Hebrew education teaches “Creation science.” Yes the Bible includes the story of Creation but that does not automatically make this story a “science.” “Creation science” never really became a subject until well after the theory of evolution appeared to threaten the story of Creation. Creation science, which, unless I’ve misunderstood it, typically seeks physical evidence to support the Creation story, isn’t exactly obedience to God’s authority. Science doesn’t demand reverence, God does.

I must briefly digress. Collecting evidence to support a claim either carries the risk of rejecting the claim (hypothesis), or it’s not science. You don’t collect evidence only to prove a hypothesis. Approaching God’s revealed creation as a scientific hypothesis is a dangerous place to go because you’re admitting a willingness to reject it. With that said, I don’t study Creation science and I would not consider approaching God’s story as a science to be the same as Creation apologetics, which might be supported by scripture (1 Peter 3:15). If you want to reject evolution, you either do it by science or by faith, or even by argument. But you can’t turn science into faith, or faith into science.

The Greeks are said to have taught humanism, evolution and social studies. Of these three, I know the theory of evolution absolutely did not exist in Ancient Greece. When it emerged at the end of the 19th century, atheism played a major role in its development. Unbelief in the one, true sovereign God predates Greek society by just about as long as humans predate Greek society, but the Greeks did give atheism the benefit of its own precise definition. Therefore, I wouldn’t consider atheism a product of Greek society as much as a beneficiary of it. Evolution is a product of atheism plus centuries of thought piled on top of ancient Greek philosophy. You simply couldn’t say the Greeks created or studied Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Finally, there’s the Trivium. The three stages of learning were enunciated in the middle ages, but grammar, logic and rhetoric were all components of Greek education. Grammar is the basics of language, logic is reasoning (like mathematics), and rhetoric is the art of argument. Robin Sampson considers these three simple stages to go hand-in-hand with the legacy of horrors that have come from the Ancient Greeks.

Although it’s not actually in the chart on the website, in What Your Child Needs to Know.., the Hebrew education system is credited with the “three learning stages” of “knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.” While you can read the Bible and see that these three things are valued at times (and at other times considered “a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:17)) I don’t think that they were ever considered “three learning stages” until Robin Sampson began developing a curriculum meant to compete with the Trivium, which has dominated for centuries. My biggest complaint about this is that, unlike grammar, logic and rhetoric, “knowledge, understanding and wisdom” are not easily distinguished. Unless preserving the vague, immeasurable characteristics of knowledge, understanding and wisdom is beneficial for children, then I have to say that the Trivium still seems to be the best traditional approach.

This is where I get really cynical about the whole comparison. Sampson claims that the Hebrew education model has the ultimate outcome of children who “learn to learn.” This parrots the statement made by Dorothy Sayers in 1947 about the classical method and the Trivium. Dorothy Sayers is regarded as a Christian humanist, so maybe that’s what makes Sampson uncomfortable with the system that Sayers championed. I don’t know. But after reading Sampson’s method (Heart of Wisdom or HOW) closely, she does advocate “reasoning” and “higher-level thinking” despite the fact that these very things have been so aggressively attacked by her where they appear in Greek culture or public schools.

Ultimately, it feels like the “Hebrew education” or “biblical” model proposed by Robin Sampson is actually Robin Sampson’s “biblical” model and not an unadulterated model practiced by Ancient Hebrews, nor commanded by God. In fact, it is Sampson’s curriculum. It’s the HOW method, an eclectic method that borrows from all kinds of philosophies, including classical  Greek, medieval and, perhaps, Hebraic. But it is absolutely not THE Hebraic education method (study the Talmud with a Rabbi if you want that), nor is it THE biblical method that all Christian homeschoolers must follow to preserve the Christian worldview.

Yet this belief seems to be recited by plenty of homeschoolers, including Kelly Crawford at Generation Cedar (where there’s lots of *ahem* rhetoric if anyone hasn’t had enough of it.)

Most importantly, I feel I should point out again that the New Testament is written in Greek. I was reading some of the comments on the HOW page, and people are suggesting that we somehow get all of the Greek out of the Bible. If we purify the New Testament of all of the words and thoughts that came from Greek, we will end up with a handful of verses in Aramaic that are repeated from the Old Testament. The New Testament was written in Greek! If this was pleasing to God, then we must accept that. Speculating that He made an error, and that it was all meant to be in Hebrew? Yikes!

My previous posts on the subject are:

Christian Homeschooling: Greek vs. Hebraic tradition

Christian Homeschooling Part 1: Discipleship

And Understand our language, a pondering on Christian worldview and (specifically American) cultural diversity.

Understanding our language

I want to briefly digress from the homeschooling discussion, but this actually serves as an illustration of some of the points I want to make later on the Christian Homeschooling topic.

Last night we caught a documentary on Louisiana Public Broadcasting called Native Waters: A Chitimacha Recollection. This program explored the rich history of the Chitimacha people whose traditional lands are in south Louisiana, in the Atchafalaya Basin. It’s a beautiful documentary that shows how the native people of Louisiana interpreted their environment, formed a culture closely tied to the bayous where they lived, and how they’ve been affected by the progress of history: namely, the immigration of a new people and a new culture that has largely displaced their own. A particularly painful part of this story is the loss of the language and the land that held so much of their heritage.

I remember when I took my first Spanish language classes in middle school, I finally started to grasp the basic concepts of English grammar. I had been taught grammar since 2nd or 3rd grade. I knew the difference between a noun and an adjective and the basics of punctuation, but I had no idea what verb conjugation was, or subject-verb agreement, or any of these other things that I had learned without understanding the underlying technique. Learning Spanish became a way for me to understand the structure of my own language.

Language is like the thread that weaves it all together. Just as studying another language can help us understand ours, studying another culture can bring us to a deeper understanding of our own. I took a course in college that introduced me to Native American history and science. We went into topics that approach taboo in our culture, like genocide, cannibalism, witchcraft, eugenics, and disease-infested boarding schools. Gut-wrenching topics.

But first, before our instructor shared any of these things with us, she demanded that we write about our own culture’s influence on us with confidence. Who were we? Where did we come from? She wanted an honest examination. Before this exercise, I had been through so many sociology and human studies courses that bashed dominant culture without remorse. All members of the dominant group were complicit in its crimes, guilty by privilege, and the others were uniquely oppressed and above reproach. This approach seems to demand guilt while at the same time scoffing at the guilt it produces.

In those classes, we were supposed to step away from our own culture and see it as evil before we proceeded. Professor Woodside’s class was totally different. She approached very challenging topics from a position of mutual respect. It was transformative for me! I should add that this was quite awhile before I accepted Christ after straying for years, a rebirth which was much more profound.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrews faced pressure to adopt the ways of their captors in Babylon and Egypt, and their Roman oppressors in the New Testament. The influence of Greek and Eastern philosophy threatened Paul’s work to establish early Christian churches. In each of these examples, a keen awareness of the cultures around them helped God to reinforce the godly identity he sought to preserve in His people, while also drawing out precise commands that He meant for us to observe. God used cultural differentiation to reinforce His message, as well to point out the underlying similarities between peoples that make the gospel of Christ available to all. I think this is awesome.

The Creation story emphasizes that the world’s people have a common heritage. God’s promise to Abram (Abraham) “… in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Gen. 12:10- NKJV)” is fulfilled in Christ. The Bible speaks of both differentiation and unity. What a challenge for us to resolve these two, seemingly contradictory, ideas. Yet this can be done by beginning at the point of mutual respect. Love, respect and honor are Christian virtues that glorify God.

With this said, perhaps I’ll be ready to tackle Part 2 in an upcoming post.

Christian Homeschooling, Part 1: Discipleship

“Train a child up in the way he should go,

And when he is old he will not depart from it.” -Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)

Perhaps the most pertinent question for Christian parents to answer is whether their plan to approach homeschooling emphasizes discipleship, versus an approach solely based on knowledge-building. Discipleship is the only education priority that God establishes for parents. In the Old Testament, this command was made through Deuteronomy 6:7, 31:19. The NKJV translates these passages:

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” -Deut. 6:7

 

“Now therefore write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.” – Deut. 31:19

Deuteronomy 31:19 does not speak specifically to young children, but to the nation. However, it is relevant to the training of young children. As Christ taught his disciples and the masses who gathered to hear him, so we should teach our children. In Christian tradition, this is fulfilled through the singing of hymns, catechisms and the oral reading of the Bible. Children should be instructed in the Word every day. Daily Bible study should be a part of the family’s lives together. Christian discipleship requires the parents to introduce the gospel of Christ to their children, to instruct them in recognizing a sinful life (understanding the law), and teaching them how submission to God’s authority comes by faith in Christ, through Him.

Discipling our children is a joyful activity!  Discipleship is not without troubles. Jesus had to rebuke his reluctant, unfaithful disciples at times. Yet there is such joy in learning alongside a child. It is a challenge for a parent that is worth every effort.

There are no commands in the Bible to teach most of what modern school curricula include. Indeed, there is no biblical requirement that a child learn writing skills at all, much less the skills of argument. Yet teaching in practical areas of life is important, and most parents will want to do this. As I mentioned yesterday, some homeschoolers are resistant to teaching history that includes references to pagan gods. Some don’t believe in teaching Greek or Latin: “pagan languages.” I’ve also talked to homeschooling parents who see no use for teaching chemistry, algebra or physics, presumably because they’ve read that these things are useless to teach to young people and/or they haven’t found application in their own lives. On a personal note, chemistry was one of my favorite subjects in college and I think chemistry on a daily basis. Chemistry comes up in issues of health, cleaning, cooking and gardening. It is absolutely practical and useful even for younger children. Algebra helps a child solve problems, and physics is essential for building, understanding why objects float on water, and creating all sorts of entertaining toys/games (some admittedly useless). I wouldn’t dream of withholding this type of knowledge from my children because the origin of these discoveries might have come from an ancient, pagan culture.

There is certainly no formula for educational training that will lead to salvation. We are admonished “do not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2, NKJV) and to avoid things which are sinful. When such things do not contradict the supremacy of God, the gospel is not undermined by the social traditions and culture of any one society. To the contrary, Paul advises that all men are in Christ (Colossians 3:11), regardless of ethnicity, culture, or circumstance. Culture and tradition tend to establish which subjects we learn in school. Some are very practical. Others can be insidious. This is where the tendency to run from all of the ways of modern education can emerge.

If we view it that way, then the system of organizing our curriculum is a matter to be prayerfully discerned by parents. Within our responsibility to disciple, we must study the Word diligently and be cautious to share with our children the truth of scripture. It is clearly written in 1 Timothy 1:4-7, that we should not be led astray by questions outside of the “purpose of the commandment” to “love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith.” We must reject all things that lead us away from God.

To become sidetracked by questions about proper homeschooling methods is not biblical when it distracts from the gospel of Christ and our responsibility of discipleship. This applies to all sorts of legalistic attitudes that can be cultivated by sincere followers of unsound advice. Recently, some major issues have come to light over precisely these questions, when legalism gets taken too far (and now I’m tempted to start a whole new post about that, but I’ll resist).

Avoid the temptation in homeschooling to worship another “master” (Matthew 6:24)– strictly devoting yourself to a homeschooling philosophy– as Paul warns: “your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Bible study is laborious and necessary, yet the gospel itself is simple. Start first with the gospel. Keep this as your focus in all that you study. Refer to the rest of the scriptures for a deeper understanding. Then turn to prayer and, finally, preference.

In Part 2 I will discuss some of the controversy of the Greek vs. Hebrew question, and a closer look at whether a classical system based on the Trivium necessarily undermines a biblical worldview.