Best of Homeschooling with the Trivium Newsletter Year 2003-Part 1

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Date: Tue, 10 Dec 2002
From: Pilgrim South
Subject: Re: history curriculums

Dear Bluedorns,
Thanks for all the info on the history curriculums that will work with your upcoming book! If you had to choose one, which would it be for an older child (14)? Thanks so much for all your efforts for all of us!

Pilgrim South
I would want these reference books in my library:

1.Beechick, Ruth. Adam and His Kin: The Lost History of Their Lives and Times
2.Bloom, Jan. Who Should We Then Read: Authors of Good Books for Children and Young Adults
3.Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History
4.Hull, Edward. The Wall Chart of World History
5.Miller, Christine. All Through the Ages: A Guide to Experiencing History Through Literature
6.Stanton, Mary and Albert Hyma. Streams of Civilization: Volume One
7.Walton, John H. Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament

This is what I’d use to teach ancient history to a 14 yo:

1.Guerber, H.A. The Story of the Romans
2.Guerber, H.A. The Story of the Greeks
3.Miller, Michelle. TruthQuest History­: Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece; Ancient Rome

Plus I’d use one or more of these three:

1.Hobar, Linda Lacour. The Mystery of History: Volume I Creation to the Resurrection (this might be too easy for a 14yo)
2.Hulcy, Jessica, Sarah Rose, and Carole Thaxton. KONOS — Ancient History
3.Somerville, Marcia. Tapestry of Grace (I’m not sure if her ancient history volume is finished)

Date: Wed, 11 Dec 2002
From: Anne L Dreblow

My question is about my 14 yr.old son who is using Artes Latinae and is in the middle of the second book (Level One). He is really getting bogged down with the vocabulary–copying all of it (and all of the forms) as well as trying to learn all of it. Any shortcuts or words of encouragement?

Thanks, Anne Dreblow, Fridley. MN
Learning Latin, or any foreign language, is difficult. It is a mind exercise, and like exercise for the body, needs to be practiced on a regular basis. A 14 yo should probably be studying his extra language for about 20-30 minutes, 4-5 days a week. Writing out his vocabulary words and the declensions and conjugations is part of the process of learning the language. If you only practice speaking or reading the language and avoid the writing part, you won’t learn it thoroughly. If he is getting bogged down, perhaps you could tell him to do Latin for only 20 minutes a day, 4 days a week, and then increase the time when he gets over this hump. Also, be sure to read the little booklet we wrote entitled Learning Latin at Home with Artes Latinae. I think a copy of it is on our web site. It gives some hints on making the study of Latin a little easier.

We all come upon “humps” once in awhile. When I was about 13 I was getting tired of practicing my flute and wanted to give up. My wise and wonderful Mummy suggested I cut back on practicing from 30 minutes each day to only 15. I followed her advice, got over that little hump and continued to play the flute through high school.

From: Amy Huesman
Subject: math
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 2002

Dear Bluedorns,

I have reached the point with my 9yos where I may be ready to try your recommendations regarding math. (I must admit that I have been too “chicken” until now.) I realized today, while teaching two-digit multiplication, that he can follow the steps without prompting, but he does not understand why those steps make sense. I have always insisted that my children understand the “why,” and not just the “how.” He also struggles with fractions, which makes me think that your recommendation to delay math may just make sense for him. My questions are these: 1) if we abandon our current math programs (Singapore with Horizons for review), what should we do for the rest of the year, since he has already covered so much math? 2) How/when should we reintroduce a math program? (He is doing 4th-grade work right now.)

Your idea about delaying formal math is especially intriguing to me at this point in my life, since I am pregnant with our fourth child. The thought of spending this pregnancy in a chair with good books and my children, instead of serving as taskmaster over the workbook, is most appealing.

Thank you for your time. Amy H in Memphis, TN
Perhaps you could spend the rest of the year playing math type games such as dominoes, RummyCube, or cribbage. Play these in the evening when Dad is home and can help.

I suggest waiting till he is 10 and starting with a book similar to Saxon 65. I’m not familiar with any of the other math curricula, so I don’t know where he would start with the others, but most math programs have placement tests which will help you decide. Sometimes it’s just a matter of trial and error — try one book, and if it doesn’t work try a different level. If you can borrow books or get them used then it won’t cost you too much.

Have fun and read the winter away — and let us know what books you are reading!

The Midwest Book Review
James A. Cox

The Fallacy Detective
Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn

Collaboratively written by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn for a Christian readership, The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Six Lessons On How To Recognize Bad Reasoning presents common-sense guidelines to reasonable discourse that readers of all faiths and backgrounds can understand and appreciate. Indeed, The Fallacy Detective is a first-rate guide to common logic pitfalls and errors in human decision making. From red herrings and ad hominem attacks that avoid the issue at hand altogether, to fallacious hidden assumptions of “either-or” in a world filled with multiple possibilities, hasty generalizations and statistical fallacies, as well as the dark power and abuse of propaganda, The Fallacy Detective covers an immense range of illogical appeals that are as frustrating as they are distressingly effective. Highly recommended for the non-specialist general reader, The Fallacy Detective is a superb written and presented primer for making informed conclusions in a world filled with lies, deceits, and misconceptions.
We have used the Gileskirk Program (George Grant) audio tapes and book list. The history discussed is well researched, informative and interesting to use at home. My children, ages 15-18, have used them. I would suggest filling in his booklist with your own booklist choices from time to time based on what you personally want your child to learn and study. We use biographies by secular writers that I have looked carefully at, usually the older ones written before the 1970’s. Many books that are considered “classics” contain material not suitable for dwelling upon and philosophy of men that isn’t Biblical (Col 2:8). The thing I don’t like about the Gileskirk curriculum is that it teaches “Covenant Theology” throughout. If you don’t hold to Covenant Theology you will have to do a lot of re-teaching.

Date: Mon, 9 Dec 2002
From: Memof6
Subject: Reading Greek

We recently started reading a Greek inter-linear, now that everyone knows the alphabet and is able to pronounce the sounds.

I’ve read Teaching the Trivium on this, but still have questions. How do you go about reading so that the children actually pick up some vocabulary? I find that if I’m reading the Greek, I don’t notice the English. Right now, I tell the children which verse we are going to read, and ask them to read it silently first, noting the English translation below. Then we read it out loud together, watching our pronunciation.

Is this necessary, or do you think just reading the Greek without any emphasis on the English will still help over time? We have only been doing this for about a month.

Thanks for any input.
Park, for a moment, on particular words. Note those words which bear some phonetic resemblance to the English. Note those words which keep occurring over and over again. Memorize some verses along with the literal translation. Look some of the Greek words up in a Greek lexicon and do a words study.

Just reading the Greek will train the eye and the ear and the tongue. Noticing the English translation will also exercise the brain, and will make the whole procedure more interesting and stimulating.

I like your website and have been looking for logic books for my 2 boys for some time.

But please, I do have a comment:

This Christian Italian-American mom is offended by the “my cousin Tony…pizza restaurant” example. C’mon, you have good working brains over there, I’m sure you could come up with a “fear” example which would not be offensive to any particular ethnic group.

Thank you. K.D.
Translate this phrase, and tell us which 19th century work of historical fiction includes this phrase.

Manus argentea quam manus ferrea melior est.

Hint: We mentioned this work in an e-letter late last year.

The first person to email us the correct answer will win the WFF’N Proof game Queries and Theories: The Game of Science and Language.
From: Donna
Date: Fri, 3 Jan 2003

<<This Christian Italian-American mom is offended by the “my cousin Tony…pizza restaurant” example. C’mon, you have good working brains over there, I’m sure you could come up with a “fear” example which would not be offensive to any particular ethnic group. >>

Reply: In our local phone book there are two separate listings for: “Tony’s New York Pizza” and “Tony’s New York Pizza & Italian Restaurant”. If anyone
wants to call them and suggest they change the names, I can get the phone numbers. It’s a shame people have to pretend reality doesn’t exist lest it offend someone.

Donna in PA
American Home-School Publishing 800-684-2121 is a catalog promoting a classical education.

Here are a couple of books they have in the 2001/2002 catalog:

Plutarch’s Lives, Ed., by John S. White (1900), “A special edition prepared for Junior and Senior High students.”

Herodotus for Boys and Girls, by John S. White, for students in grades 7 – 12.

Their catalog is more than just history, but some of the authors of the history books they sell are William Stearns Davis, Edward Stratmeyer, Edwin Tunis, Albert Marrin, G.A. Henty, and many more.

Someone recently asked us for information on autism. Dennis Gunderson of Grace and Truth Books publishes Too Wise To Be Mistaken, Too Good To Be Unkind by Cathy Steere ($9.75 | Paperback | 181 pages): In Too Wise to be Mistaken, Too Good to Be Unkind, you will join David, Cathy, and Drew Steere on their difficult, yet remarkable journey into the complex world of autism. More than a “how-to” manual on dealing with a special needs child, this is the heartwarming testimony of two parents who placed their trust in a faithful Heavenly Father and lovingly persevered in training Drew in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

From: carr
Date: Mon, 6 Jan 2003

Hello Laurie! told me to start in reading with “The Matchlock Gun” and I did that today and I was amazed…my 5 year old son sat through most of it and played a bit on the floor. My girls were glued to every word. I was going to stop after 15-30 minutes because we are just starting this and they had me read the whole book…it was very good and they enjoyed it. I was so glad! Anyway…thanks for the recommendation!

Kim Carr
Date: Fri, 10 Jan 2003
From: Kari Hilpert

city: ST. Paul
state: MN

I haven’t looked at your site much yet but I loved the book “Teaching the Trivium”. I actually bought it just for the info on waiting on math because of the “homeschool hunch” I’ve had about that with my oldest who’s 9. I had put math away but I needed some reassurance about that! I loved your whole book though and as we have been learning Spanish, we are now going to attempt Greek (which I took in Bible School) and I am learning Latin on my own so that I can be of help when we tackle that. May I just say too, one of the things I appreciated most about your book was the grace in it. My husband and I have read many books on homeschooling and on childrearing and so often authors come across very self-righteous and as if their way is the only way. I want to thank you for your approach. It makes it much more appealing too.

Blessings. Kari Hilpert
Reprinted with permission by The Trinity Foundation

The Trinity Foundation Website

The Trinity Foundation
Post Office Box 68
Unicoi, Tennessee 37692

Christ and Civilization
Part 1 and 2
by John W. Robbins

….Americans, if we think about the subject at all, entertain a romantic and idealized view of Greece and Rome as peaceful, pleasant, and free societies. We see the statuary and the ruins, we hear the philosophers discussed and praised, and we read the exploits of the Caesars. Athens, we are told, was a model of enlightenment and democracy, and Rome was a model of justice and law. It is largely to Greece and Rome, to their philosophers and statesmen, so the traditional story goes, that we owe our freedom, our civilization, and our prosperity.

The World Book Encyclopedia, commonly used by high school students, informs its readers that “The principles that bound the Roman Empire together—justice, tolerance, and a desire for peace—influenced countless generations.” But the very next sentence—so startling in contrast to the first—is closer to the truth: “Roman cruelty and greed caused great misery, and the use of force brought hardship and death.”(2) Rome was an empire of violence, not justice; it grew through conquests accom-plished by armies led by brilliant generals; and it was held together by the feared Roman legions. It tolerated no disobedience, and peace was a rare event. Even at its best, that is, the Pax Romana of the first and second centuries after Christ, the Empire was, in the Roman historian Livy’s words, “rich in catastrophe, fearful in its battles, fertile in mutinies, bloody even in peace.”(3) The debt that Western civilization owes to Greece and Rome has been exaggerated. To understand the impact of the coming of Christ, one must have a more accurate understanding of the classical world.

Classical Religion

Greece and Rome were not secular states; they were drenched in religion. There was then no significant distinction between sacred and secular; that was a later Christian idea. On Paul’s arrival in Athens he found a city “given over to idols” (Acts 17:6). Dreams, omens, ghosts, apparitions, and the “evil eye” were both feared as sources of harm and sought as sources of guidance. Astrology was a science and part of high culture, enjoying the respect psychiatry does today. Idols, images, and shrines were ubiquitous. Animal sacrifice was a regular part of religious worship, and festivals and holidays—by one count 109 days each year were holidays in Rome—were frequent. Temple prostitution was commonplace. The name of the Greek city of Corinth, a center of religious devotion, became synonymous with sexual immorality. To “corinthianize” was to engage in the most perverted and debauched sexual practices. In the pagan culture of Rome, homosexuality was commonplace and accepted.

The Greek and Roman gods and goddesses were men and women larger than life. They fought, they schemed, they lied, they got drunk, they raped, and they committed incest. The Romans worshiped twelve major gods and goddesses and thousands of lesser gods, which had arisen from the animism of early Rome. There were gods for war, fertility, love, harvest, travel, doors, ad infinitum. Each god and goddess had his or her own sphere of influence, his or her department; and the devout Roman did not worship one god to the exclusion of others, but worshiped all as circumstances demanded. A succession of spirits “watched over each period of a man’s life from birth to death. Juno Lucina, Candelifera, and the Carmentes aided at birth. It was Vagitanus only who could inspire the first cry. Cunina guarded the infant in its cradle, giving place to Cuba when the small Roman attained the distinction of a bed. By Rumina he was taught to take his mother’s milk; Edusa and Potina watched over him in the days on his weaning. Fabulinus taught him to talk; Statilinus to stand; Abeona and Adeona attended him in his first ventures from the house;…Catius sharpened his wits; Sentia deepened his feeling; while Volumna stiffened his will…. Viduus parted body and soul.”(4) Prayers and pilgrimages to shrines and temples were a common part of life in the ancient world. Features of Roman religion included not only astrology, but also witchcraft and ghosts; divination by dreams, by birds, and by entrails; magic, spells and hexes; heroes, gods, and goddesses; holy water, holy tombs, holy relics, holy cities, holy shrines, and holy days; visions, signs, and incantations; animal and human sacrifices; miracles of healing, of nature, and of destruction; rituals, processions, statues, and frescoes; incubation, curses, and worship of the dead; worship of Diana, Queen of Heaven; mendicant priests, monks, and asceticism; incense, bells, and choirs, ad infinitum. Roman society was very religious, and that religion did not end until the Christian Reformation of the sixteenth century.

Roman and Greek religions were very different from Christianity, not only in their polytheism (or, more accurately, polydemonism), but in that the pagan religions did not emphasize knowledge, learning, understanding, and teaching. They had no sermons, no books to be studied, no body of doctrine to believe.

“The chief objects of pagan religions,” W. E. H. Lecky tells us, “were to foretell the future [through the study of animal entrails and later the questioning of oracles], to explain the universe, to avert calamity, [and] to obtain the assistance of the gods. They contained no instruments of moral teaching analogous to our institution of preaching, or to the moral preparation for the reception of the sacrament, or to confession, or to the reading of the Bible, or to religious education, or to united prayer for spiritual benefits.”(5)

One result of this anti-intellectualism was, of course, that religious piety was expressed in religious behavior—attending temples, offering sacrifices, making pilgrimages—for “the Greeks valued ‘orthopraxy,’ right doing, rather than orthodoxy.” In all this, Greek religion “reflected and supported the general ethos of Greek culture. It discouraged individualism…. it emphasized the sense of belonging to a community and the need for the observance of social forms.” (6) Greece enforced those emphases with death.

To the extent that teaching, reading, and education were done in Greece and Rome, they were functions not of the priests, but of the philosophers, who were largely unconnected with the popular religious cults. Christianity, by contrast, made theological and moral knowledge and teaching both central to the mission of the church and available to all, not just to the aristocratic classes thought to be capable of virtue. (This was not true of the Catholic Religion, which later split into the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches. From the fifth century on, the Catholic Religion preferred to use images: icons, statues, frescoes, and so forth, not literature, to “teach” the populace. And those thought to be capable of virtue were the “religious,” not the laity; the “religious” were the new Catholic aristocratic class.) Lecky, certainly no Christian, wrote: “Under its [Christianity’s] influence, doctrines concerning the nature of God, the immortality of the soul, and the duties of man, which the noblest intellects of antiquity could barely grasp, have become the truisms of the village school, the proverbs of the cottage and of the alley.” (This, of course, was the result of the Reformation, not of Catholicism.)

Because of the variety of gods in Rome, some historians have mistakenly concluded that Rome enjoyed religious liberty. But the command of the Twelve Tables (c. 450 b.c.), as well as the persecution of religious dissenters, makes it clear that religious liberty was not a feature of Roman society: “Let no one have gods on his own, neither new ones nor strange ones, but only those instituted by the State.” In the second century after Christ, the pagan jurist Julius Paulus reported a contemporary legal decree: “Of those people who introduce new religions with unknown customs or methods by which the minds of men could be disturbed, those of the upper classes shall be deported, those of the lower classes shall be put to death.” The only religions permitted in Rome were those licensed and approved by the state.

Both the Greek poleis and the Roman Empire were totalitarian church-states. For the ancient as well as the medieval pagans, statecraft was soulcraft. Socrates was executed for being an atheist, that is, for corrupting the youth of Athens by teaching them to doubt the gods of Athens. Others suffered the same fate. Centuries after Socrates was executed by the Athenian democracy, Pliny the Younger, Special High Commissioner to the provinces of Bithynia and Pontus, wrote a letter to Trajan the Emperor in a.d. 111. His letter illustrates both Rome’s treatment of religious dissenters and its lack of a justice system:

“This is the plan which I have adopted in the case of those Christians who have been brought before me. I ask them whether they are Christians; if they say yes, then I repeat the question a second and a third time, warning them of the penalties it entails, and if they still persist, I order them to be taken away to prison. For I do not doubt, whatever the character of the crime may be which they confess, their pertinacity and inflexible obstinacy certainly ought to be punished….” In Rome, “pertinacity” was a crime punishable by indefinite incarceration.

Pliny explained what his subjects were required to do in order to regain their freedom:

“Those who denied that they were or had been Christians and called upon the gods in the usual formula, reciting the words after me, those who offered incense and wine before your [the Emperor’s] image, which I had given orders to be brought forward for this purpose, together with the statues of the deities—all such I considered should be discharged, especially as they cursed the name of Christ, which, it is said, those who are really Christians cannot be induced to do.”

In Rome, as in Athens, one could escape punishment by worshiping the gods.

In one case in which some persons had anonymously accused their neighbors of being Christians, Pliny “thought it the more necessary…to find out what truth there was in these statements [of accusation] by submitting two women, who were called deaconesses, to the torture…. Many persons of all ages, and of both sexes alike, are being brought into peril of their lives by their accusers, and the process [of inquisition and punishment] will go on. For the contagion of this superstition [Christianity] has spread not only through the free cities, but into the villages and rural districts, and yet it seems to me that it can be checked and set right. It is beyond doubt that the [pagan] temples, which have been almost deserted, are beginning again to be thronged with worshipers, that the sacred rites which for a long time have been allowed to lapse are now being renewed, and that the food of the sacrificial victims is once more finding a sale.”(7)

Pliny was pleased to report that his methods of torture and imprisonment were encouraging people to worship the gods, and that the Roman temples were growing again. Throughout history, coercion has been a favored method of achieving church growth.

In his letter to Trajan, Pliny emphasized that worshiping the Emperor is the way to avoid punishment. At the time of Christ, the Imperial cult was relatively new, having begun with Augustus, and it was the cult that unified Rome. Tiberius succeeded Augustus as Emperor in a.d.14. Here are a few excerpts from a letter Tiberius sent to the magistrate of the city of Gytheon, instructing him in the proper rituals of the imperial cult:

“Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the god Augustus, pontifex maximus…. He should place an image of the god Augustus Caesar the father on the first [chair], one of Julia Augusta on the second from the right, and one of Tiberius Caesar Augustus on the third. … Let a table [for sacrifices] be set by him in the middle of the theater and an incense burner be placed there, and let the representatives and all magistrates offer sacrifices…. Let him conduct the festival on the first day in honor of the god Augustus the Savior and Liberator, son of the god Caesar…” (MacMullen and Lane, 74-75). The worship of the state, in the person of the divine Emperor, was the ideology that unified the Roman Empire at the time of Christ.

War and Peace

The pagan world was not peaceful. Athens, usually considered one of the most peaceful of the Greek city-states, was at war more than two years out of every three between the Persian Wars and 338 b.c., when Philip of Macedon was defeated. The following three centuries were even worse. Athens never enjoyed ten consecutive years of peace.

Livy reports that the Roman Republic was at peace only twice in its entire history, once at the end of the First Punic War in the mid-third century b.c. and once in 30 b.c. after Augustus’ defeat of Antony and Cleopatra. War was a way of life in the ancient world.

In the opening pages of the Laws, Plato makes Clinias say that “what most men call peace is merely an appearance; in reality all cities are by nature in a permanent state of undeclared war against all other cities.” But in his dialogues Plato depicts a sanitized Athens of intellectuals discoursing on philosophical questions, strolling about the city, eating and drinking from house to house.

“Plato’s dialogues portray Athens in vivid detail, as a world of young and godlike intellectuals meeting in private houses for conversation or social drinking, strolling in suburban parks or walking down to the Piraeus for a festival, listening to famous visitors skilled in rhetoric or philosophy from all over Greece…. Yet for most of the time which Plato describes, Athens was fighting a long and bloody war in which at least half the population died, many of them from a particularly horrifying plague which scarred even those who survived it, and which was partly the consequence of the unsanitary conditions in which vast numbers of citizens were camped, at first in the heat of summer and later all year, on every available space of open or sacred land within the city walls. In reality travel was dangerous and very much restricted; and the way down to the Piraeus must have been as filthy, as stinking, and as crowded as the slums of Calcutta.”(8)

As for Rome, “In the half century of the Hannibalic and Macedonian Wars, ten percent and often more of all adult Italian males were at war year by year, a ratio that rose during the wars of the first century b.c. to one in every three males.”

Finley traces the prevalence of warfare in the ancient world to pagan religion:

“Neither the enormously powerful Roman Mars nor the weaker Greek Ares received the slightest competition from the minor divinities of peace. It was always assumed that divine support was available for a war…. [T]he gods through their oracles and signs [never] recommended peace for its own sake…” (Finley, 68).

It is revealing that despite perpetual war in Greece and Rome, war was neither the title nor topic of a single ancient philosophical treatise. The Pax Romana during the first two centuries of the Christian era, although an improvement from earlier centuries, was punctuated by wars on the Empire’s frontiers and the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, with the loss of an estimated one to two million lives.

Economics, Slavery, and Work

At the time of Christ, the population of Roman Italy comprised an estimated five to six million free citizens and one to two million slaves. Many slaves worked the mines of the Roman Empire, and they were sometimes forced to live below ground until they died. Slaves were forbidden to marry, and the power of masters over their slaves was absolute. The castes of Roman society—slaves, plebeians, notables, and nobles—were not so rigid at the time of Christ as they had been in earlier centuries, but Roman society remained radically unequal.

The Republic and Empire’s military conquests resulted in the influx of hundreds of thousands of slaves to Rome. These slaves were used not only for work, but also for entertainment in the gladiatorial contests that both nobles and proles loved to attend. The enthusiasm of the Romans for gladiatorial gore both produced and reflected a savage desire for and delight in the infliction of pain. Thousands of slaves died entertaining the Romans. Because they were vivid expressions of the cruelty and will to rule of the Roman elite, the gladiatorial “games” were part of the official celebration of the Emperor in every large city.

Apart from the gladiatorial combats, “numerous acts of the most odious barbarity were committed: Flaminius ordering a slave to be killed to gratify, by the spectacle, the curiosity of a guest;… Vedius Pollio feeding his fish on the flesh of slaves;… Augustus sentencing a slave, who had killed and eaten a favorite quail, to crucifixion…. Old and infirm slaves were constantly exposed to perish on an island of the Tiber” (Lecky, I, 127).

Slavery was not only the ubiquitous practice of the pagan world, it was the theory as well. The best and brightest of the Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, defended slavery, for slaves were naturally inferior beings. The status of slaves, women, and children reflected the judgment of Aristotle that “the deliberative faculty is not present at all in the slave, in the female it is inoperative, in the child undeveloped.” The Christian notion that all men are created in the image of God, and that the image of God is rationality,(9) was foreign to pagan thought and societies. Murray commented on the status of women in Athens:

“We idealize the Greeks as the originators of Western civilization. But we should remember that (polygamy apart), the position of Athenian women was in most important respects the same as that of the 200,000,000 women who today [1986] live under Islam…” (216).

In any society in which slavery plays a major role, idleness becomes a virtue. It was so in the American South, and so it was in Rome. The Romans held labor in contempt and scorned those who worked with their hands. The workingman was base and a social inferior. All freedmen were artisans and shopkeepers; most shopkeepers and artisans were freedmen; and all were despised. “No one,” Aristotle had written, “who leads the life of a worker or laborer can practice virtue.”

The eloquent Demosthenes, defending himself before an Athenian jury, presented his argument this way:

“I am worth more than Eschinus [the plaintiff] and I am better born than he; I do not wish to seem to insult poverty, but l am bound to say that it was my lot as a child to attend good schools and to have had sufficient wealth that I was not forced by need to engage in shameful labors. Whereas you, Eschinus, it was your lot as a child to sweep, as might a slave, the classroom in which your father served as teacher.” Demosthenes easily won his case.

Seneca, the tutor and later the victim of Emperor Nero, wrote that “The common arts, the sordid arts, are, according to the philosopher Posidonius, those practiced by manual laborers, who spend all their time earning their living. There is no beauty in such occupations, which bear little resemblance to the Good.” The great Roman senator Cicero believed that “wage labor is sordid and unworthy of a free man, for wages are the price of labor and not of some art; craft labor is sordid as is the business of retailing.” Capitalism could not develop in a society in which such a view of labor prevailed.

Rome’s control over the economy was hampered by the primitiveness of the economy. But wherever economic activity could be controlled, the worldly philosophers and statesmen believed the state had the right to control it. A basic feature of the constitution of Sparta was complete control of economic activity. Athens owned the silver mines of Laurium. Economics, a treatise probably written in the third century before Christ and incorrectly attributed to Aristotle, recounts how rulers filled their coffers by robbery and exploitation of their people. The book assumes that every sort of private property is at the disposal of the state. Hasebroek, writing in Trade and Politics in Ancient Greece, reports that the control of economic activity in the poleis was tyrannical.

As for Rome, “wholesale uncompensated confiscation of private estates and peasant farms to provide bonuses for soldiers was not an uncommon practice…. Eventually all generations of workers—oil-suppliers, butchers, fish handlers, bakers, transport and mine workers, and minor government officials—were frozen in their occupations to stabilize taxes and balance the budget.”(10) Fustel de Coulanges concluded, “The ancients, therefore, knew neither liberty in private life, liberty in economics, nor religious liberty.”(11)

Life and Death

In the ancient world, abortion, the exposure of infants, infanticide, and suicide were common and legal. At the coming of Christ, the Roman governor in Judea, Herod the Great, in an attempt to murder Jesus, ordered that all the male infants in Bethlehem and the region surrounding it, from two years old and younger, be put to death.

The head of a Roman family had the power of life and death—patria potestas—over his children and slaves. At birth, the midwife would place the newborn on the ground, where he would remain unless the father took the child and raised him from the earth. If the father did not lift the child, he—or more likely she—was left to die in some public place. The pagans exposed their children for many reasons: poverty, ambition, or concern about their “quality of life”: “so as not to see them corrupted by a mediocre education that would leave them unfit for rank and quality,” to quote Plutarch. The early Christians rescued thousands of children discarded by the pagans. Pagans also rescued thousands, and they would rear them to be slaves and prostitutes. If infants were born with defects, they were frequently killed, rather than exposed. Infanticide was not merely the practice of the pagans, it was their doctrine as well: Plato and Aristotle endorsed infanticide, and Seneca wrote: “What is good must be set apart from what is good for nothing.”

According to Roman law, the power of the father over his children remained as long as he lived. An adult Roman man could do nothing without his father’s consent; his father could even sentence him to death. It is likely that the Mafia inherited its focus on the family from its Roman ancestors.

The contrast between ancient paganism and Christianity is clearest in these matters of life and death. In his History of European Morals, Lecky wrote:

“The first aspect in which Christianity presented itself to the world was as a declaration of the fraternity of men in Christ. Considered as immortal beings, destined for the extremes of happiness or of misery, and united to one another by a special community of redemption, the first and most manifest duty of a Christian man was to look on his fellowmen as sacred beings, and from this notion grew up the eminently Christian idea of the sanctity of all human life.”

It is not the laws of nature that determine behavior or ethics, for “nature does not tell man that it is wrong to slay without provocation his fellowmen…. [I]t is an historical fact beyond all dispute that refined, and even moral, societies have existed in which the slaughter of men of some particular class or nation has been regarded with no more compunction than the slaughter of animals in the chase. The early Greeks, in their dealings with the barbarians; the Romans, in their dealings with gladiators, and in some periods of their history with slaves; the Spaniards in their dealings with Indians; nearly all colonists removed from European supervision, in their dealings with an inferior race; and an immense proportion of the nations of antiquity, in their dealngs with new-born infants—all have displayed this complete and absolute callousness….”

Rather than the laws of nature, Christianity changed ancient culture:

“Now it was one of the most important services of Christianity that, besides quickening greatly our benevolent affections, it definitely and dogmatically asserted the sinfulness of all destruction of human life as a matter of amusement or of simple convenience, and thereby formed a new standard, higher than any which existed in the world.

“The influence of Christianity in this respect began with the very earliest stage of human life. The practice of abortion was one to which few persons in antiquity attached any deep feeling of condemnation…. In Greece, Aristotle not only countenanced the practice, but even desired that it should be enforced by law when population had exceeded certain assigned limits. No law in Greece, or in the Roman Republic, or during the greater part of the Empire, condemned it…. A long chain of writers, both pagan and Christian, represent the practice as avowed and almost universal. They describe it as resulting, not simply from licentiousness or from poverty, but even from so slight a motive as vanity, which made mothers shrink from the disfigurement of childbirth…. They assure us that the frequency of the crime was such that it gave rise to a regular profession.

“If we pass to the next stage of human life, that of the new-born infant, we find ourselves in [the] presence of that practice of infanticide which was one of the deepest stains of the ancient civilization…. Infanticide…was almost universally admitted among the Greeks, being sanctioned, and in some cases enjoined, upon what we should now call ‘the greatest happiness principle,’ by the ideal legislations of Plato and Aristotle, and by the actual legislations of Lycurgus and Solon” (Lecky, II, 9-11).

But it was not only public violence that was condoned and encouraged at the time of Christ; suicide was also a virtue. “Suicide was accepted, even admired. The courage of the man who decides to end his suffering and accept eternal rest was extolled by the philosophers, for suicide proved the truth of the philosophical notion that what matters is the quality and not the quantity of time that one lives” (Murray, 229).

Law and Government

Rome is commonly supposed to have given us our system of justice, but the law of Rome at the time of Christ was quite unjust: “In a society as unequal and inegalitarian as the Roman, it is obvious that formal rights, however clear, had no reality, and that a weak man had little to gain by going to court.”(12)

Veyne gives this example of Roman law:

“Suppose that all I own in the world is a small farm…. A powerful neighbor covets my property. Leading an army of slaves, he invades my land, kills those of my slaves who try to defend me, beats me with clubs, drives me from my land, and seizes my farm. What can I do? A modern citizen might say, go to court…to obtain justice and persuade the authorities to restore my property….

“For one thing, the aggression against me by my powerful neighbor would have been considered a strictly civil offense; it would not have been covered by the penal code. It would have been up to me, as plaintiff, to see to it that the defendant appeared in court. In other words, I would have had to snatch the defendant from the midst of his private army, arrest him, and hold him in chains in my private prison until the day of judgment. Had this been beyond my power, the case would never have been heard….”

If, however, the victim somehow were to succeed in raising an army, capturing his enemy, bringing him to trial, and winning, “it then would have been up to me to enforce that judgment, if I could…. [A] judge could not sentence a defendant simply to restore what he had taken. Leaving my farm to its fate, the judge would authorize me to seize my adversary’s chattels real and personal and sell them at auction, keeping a sum equal to the value placed on my farm by the court…and returning the surplus to my enemy. Who would have considered recourse to a system of justice so little interested in punishing social transgressions?”

But the systemic injustice of the Roman legal system was compounded by its systematic corruption:

“A Roman noble (or even a mere notable) [had] more in common with [a] ‘godfather’ than with a modern technocrat. Getting rich through public service…never stood in the way of taking public service for one’s ideal….

“The honest functionary is a peculiarity of modern Western nations. In Rome every superior stole from his subordinates. The same was true in the Turkish and Chinese empires, where baksheesh was the general rule…. Every public function was a racket, those in charge ‘put the squeeze’ on their subordinates, and all together exploited the populace. This was true during the period of Rome’s greatness as well as during the period of its decline…. Even the least important public positions…, such as apparitor or clerk of the courts, were sold by their incumbents to aspiring candidates, because every position carried with it guaranteed income in the form of bribes…. Ancient bureaucracy was nothing like our bureaucracy. For millennia sovereigns relied on racketeers to extort taxes and control their subjects” (Veyne, 167, 97-98, 100).

Even the renowned Roman legions operated this way. The Roman historian Tacitus tells us that “Soldiers traditionally bribed their officers for exemption from service, and nearly a quarter of the personnel of every regiment could be found idling about the countryside or even lounging around the barracks, provided their officer had received his kickback…. Soldiers got the money they needed from theft and banditry or by doing the chores of slaves. If a soldier happened to be a little richer than the rest, his officer beat him and heaped duties upon him until he paid up and received dispensation.”

Cicero wrote that the “senatorial way to get rich” was to plunder the provinces under one’s jurisdiction. Cicero prided himself on his honesty: After governing a province for a year, he was making the equivalent of a million dollars per year, a sum considered quite small by his peers.

The World After Christ

Christ was born within this pagan culture. But his kingdom, as he explained, while it was in this world, was not of it (John 18:36). It found its source, its authority, and its principles elsewhere. Instead of the prevailing polytheism of Greece and Rome he taught monotheism: “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). Instead of the sinful and limited gods of paganism, Christ revealed the holy and transcendent God, creator of Heaven and Earth, ruler of all things. Instead of the pagan gods whose primary pastimes were violence, sexual immorality, and indolence, he taught a rational God who plans and works: “My Father works even until now, and I work” (John 5:17). He reiterated and explained the Ten Commandments with their condemnations of idolatry, of the use of images and statuary in worship, of profanity, of disrespect for parents and the Lord’s Day, of idleness, of murder, of sexual immorality, of theft, of lying, and of covetousness (Matthew 5-7). Even more important than the law, which he explained anew to correct all the misinterpretations of the Jewish lawyers, Christ revealed the Gospel of justification by faith in the righteousness of God alone, which alone could divinely transform men and societies. Instead of the pagan notion that if men are to have truth, they must discover it on their own power, he taught that God graciously reveals truth to men, and that the revealed truth is written so that all, not just the aristocratic few, might know.

Against the totalitarianism of the pagan world empires, Christ taught the limitation of state power and the separation of church and state: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Neither Caesar nor any other mere man was pontifex maximus. Christ himself was the way, the truth, and the life, the only mediator between God and man (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5). He explicitly denied the political theory and practice of the pagans: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise dominion over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26). Christ demanded that rulers—both civil and ecclesiastical—serve, not control, the people. He outlined a limited role for civil government, not as the shaper of souls, as in pagan philosophies, but simply as the punisher of criminals. He founded a church whose government was representative and republican, whose officers were elected by the people, and whose constitution—the Bible—was written. Inspired by his words, the American Founders made their plans for a new Republic, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.(13)

The early Christians, condemned by pagans such as Celsus and Porphyry(14) as stupid, foolish, and superstitious, were not killed for their stupidity, but because they rejected the highest value of pagan society: worship of the totalitarian state in the person of the Emperor. The Christians rejected Aristotle (“The state is the highest of all.… Citizens belong to the state.…”) and believed Christ. Christ, in dying for the salvation of individual men, exalted both the individual and God. God is eternal and men are immortal; nations and rulers come and go with surprising rapidity, but individual souls live forever. Rome is not an eternal city; only individual men enjoy everlasting life.

Christ taught that man was a creature of God and the lord of creation. Man’s ancestry was not animal, but divine, and the Earth was made for man. Individual men were immortal; what they believed and did on Earth would have eternal consequences. After death, they did not descend into some shadowland, but each was required to give an account of his life to his maker and judge. All men were equal before God and his law, and each man would be judged individually. The classes of ancient society—the nobles, the proletariat, the slaves, the citizens, the men, the women, the Jews, the barbarians—meant nothing to God. In the new Christian faith, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:8).

Christ’s kingdom grows only by persuasion, never by coercion(15)— it is a republic of knowledge, truth, and doctrine, not an empire of dominion, compulsion, or violence—and it has taken centuries for some Christian ideas to be understood and believed. Nevertheless, as the anguished wailing of Friedrich Nietzsche in the nineteenth century so clearly indicates, the absorption of Christian ideas has been widespread, though far from complete.

1. Ironically, these religious-experience-seeking churchgoers are also likely to deride fundamentalists for their emotional altar calls. They should remove the board from their own blinded eyes before trying to remove a speck from another’s.
2 . “The Roman Empire,” Volume 16, 380-381.
3 . The ancient world was one “in which a large part of the labor force worked under various forms of non-economic compulsion, in which for a long period and over wide stretches of territory gladiatorial combats to the death provided the most popular form of public entertainment for the elites and the masses alike, in which brigandage and piracy and reprisals were often encouraged and even practiced by ‘civilized’ governments” (M. l. Finley, Ancient History. New York, 1987, 70-71).
4 . Gordon J. Laing, Survivals of Roman Religion, 3-4.
5 . Lecky, History of European Morals. London (1869) 1946, II, 1.
6 . Robert Parker, “Greek Religion,” Oxford History of the Classical World, 1986, 261. This, of course, is contrary to the assertions one finds in some “Christian” theologians that the Greeks were uninterested in practice or in this world, but were focused on another world, the world of Plato’s Forms. These semi-educated writers compound their errors by contrasting the “otherworldliness” and “individualism” of the Greeks with the “earthy” and “communitarian” Hebrews. They might correct their errors by studying Hebrews 11 and related passages.
7 . Ramsey MacMullen and Eugene N. Lane, editors, Paganism and Christianity 100-425 C.E. Minneapolis, 1992, 164-165.
8 . Oswyn Murray, “Life and Society in Classical Greece,” The Oxford History of the Classical World. New York, 1986, 205.
9 . “The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the inner depths of his heart” (Proverbs 20:27) is one verse among many that teach this idea.
10 . E. G. Weltin, Athens and Jerusalem. Atlanta, 1987, 34.
11 . The Ancient City. 1901, 222-223.
12 . Paul Veyne, “The Roman Empire,” A History of Private Life. Cambridge, 1987, 166.
13 . The words, of course, are Lincoln’s, but he got them from John Wyclif, who wrote of his English translation of the Bible in the 14th century: “This Bible is for the government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” a daring rebuke of both civil and ecclesiastical autocrats.
14 . It is an odd fact that there are few references to Christianity among the extant writings of pagan scholars and philosophers. Perhaps those writings were lost or destroyed during the Middle Ages by a totalitarian church, or perhaps the learned pagans did not see the coming of Christianity, just as they seemed unaware of the coming of Christ. Since Christ was a Jew and the son of a carpenter, and Christianity was not a movement of the aristocratic classes, but of the scorned business, worker, and slave classes, it may not have received the notice and early opposition a movement of the upper classes might have. “He catches the wise in their own craftiness…” (Job 5:13).
15 . “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

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From: Judy Waitley
Subject: So thankful for your site
Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003

Dear Harvey and Laurie,

My husband and I have been homeschooling for 1 year now. Time sure flies when you are having fun! We began to use a classical approach to our studies about two months ago and we love it. Right now we only have one homeschooler, our 7 yr. old son, and I have a day care in our home.

I first learned about classical education last year, and I was really impressed with the way things were done. We started putting classical education to work in our home and saw a HUGE improvement in our son and his education. He was actually glad to go to school each day and looked forward to learning.

We read aloud everyday for about and hour and then again before bedtime for about and hour. I started reading an easy version of The Iliad to our son and after I read the first 6 pages I had the most awful feeling in my stomach. I didn’t know why I felt this way but I knew the Holy Spirit had put a check in my heart that I needed to look at. I put the book down and we went on to something else and I didn’t really think about it much more until bedtime. After the kids were in bed and I sat down at the computer I knew I needed to find out why I felt this way. I typed Christian Classical Education in and your site came up first.

I read all of the articles on your site and I think just about every link you had. I knew instantly why I had that check and what I needed to do about it. Needless to say, all of the Greek and Roman mythology books were returned to the library unread.

I told my husband later that night when I laid down that I had decided to put a little different spin our classical education and that I knew God was leading me in this direction. I told him about the check in my spirit and what I had found on your site. He totally agreed with me and asked me if I ordered your book. I ordered your book the next day and it should be here in a few days. I can’t wait to read it and find out what else you have to say.

I am so thankful that God led me to your site. If I wouldn’t have read what you had to say that night I would have taken our children’s education down a road which there may not have been a return. We appreciate the time and effort put into your site to help others. God has given you a gift that has blessed us in so many ways and we just want to thank you for that.

Homeschooling Mommy in Christ,
Judy Waitley
Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2003
From: Tim and Tori
Subject: RE: choosing historically accurate books


I’m wondering if you can guide me in how I can tell if a book is historically accurate. The latest example I can think of is a book we were reading last fall — Squanto. We have 2 books by the same title, different authors and both take quite a different view with almost a completely different story (the major events are similar, but the how and why differ greatly). How can I tell which one is historically accurate and how can I choose books in the future for my children that I know are historically accurate?

Thank you for your assistance!
The logic series Critical Thinking in US History will teach you how to discern the reliability of historical texts.

From: Mrs. Stacy McDonald
Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2003

Just to let you know, my children absolutely loved My Mommy, My Teacher. Even my six year old son sat patiently soaking up the beauty in each page and delighting in the story. He was quite thrilled over the fact that there was a boy learning to read (like he is), who was interested in The Hobbit (like he is) and who adores his baby sister (like he does!). My four-year-old daughter especially loved hearing about the Mommy. She loved the beautiful pictures and enjoyed hearing about another homeschooling family. You are very blessed to have such a talented daughter who obviously loves you so much!

Blessings to you and your family.
In His Service,
Stacy D. McDonald
Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2003
From: (SHARON)

city: bristol
state: CT
We were quite blessed to hear you speak at the TEACH convention in Connecticut in June 2000. We were just beginning to get into the water of homeschooling and now we are paddling nicely. We are using the 10 things to do before age 10 format and Charlotte Mason principles with our now 7 and 5yo dc. We are having trouble with first time obedience and also with the 5yo acting out for attention since baby sister 8mo was born. Any suggestions, tips, books you might offer would be appreciated.
Our favorite book on this subject is The Mother At Home by Abbott. You can obtain this book from Grace and Truth Books.

Hey there. I am new to visiting your site and I read with great interest your article on the Sabbath in the “correspondence” section for your web site. At the end of the article you invited comments detecting flaws in your logic. My question to you is this: How sure are you that Jesus, who was a Hebrew, would have used the Greek system of logic? In my understanding of the Hebraic mindset, it is far different from the Greek mindset. Wouldn’t it be more productive when examining the Hebrew Scriptures (both old and new testaments) to look at it from a Hebraic mindset?

Thank you for your time, Gail Heaton
Logic is neither “Greek” nor “Hebrew.” Polylogism [many logics] is an underlying presupposition of multiculturalism, which teaches that different cultures have different logics, and that all of these different logics are equally valid, which simply means that none of them are actually valid, which ultimately reduces to the assertion that there is no absolute truth, only relative cultural truth.

1+1=2 — and this formula is neither peculiarly Hebrew nor peculiarly Greek.
If A > B and B > C, then A > C — and this formula is neither peculiarly Hebrew nor peculiarly Greek.

“Syllogism” is simply a word which describes a logical process which God has inscribed into everyone’s mind — Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Chinese, Zulu.
Nobody invented the syllogism. Syllogisms have always been used and have always been observed. Many persons have described that logical process, and one of those persons happened to have assigned the name “syllogism” to it, and that name has happened to have “stuck.” That is a Greek name, but there is nothing about the logical process which is peculiarly Greek. The Scriptures are filled with syllogisms.

Another formulation of logic is called Propositional logic (a.k.a. Symbolic Logic).

If A is true then B is true.
A is true.
Therefore B is true.

Scripture is filled with this form also. Leibnitz did not invent it, he merely described what has always been around.

The real difference is not some kind of culturally specific logic (Hebrew logic, Greek logic, etc.), but culturally specific presuppositions — you call it “mindset.” Greek culture, Hebrew culture, Latin culture, Chinese culture, Zulu culture, American culture, Presbyterian culture, Baptist culture, Buddhist culture, Hindu culture, Feminist culture, Republican Party culture, Homeschool culture, Classical music culture — each has some culturally specific propositions which they simply presume to be true, but which may actually be false. But the propositions of Scripture are true, and each culture — including Hebrew and Greek culture — must be brought into conformity to Scripture. One step in this process is to show each culture its cultural sin by pointing out the logical contradiction within its own presuppositions. Another step is to point it to the only source of true propositions, which is God speaking through the Scriptures. Of course, no individual from that culture will listen unless he has a heart to seek the truth, which is the venue of logic.

It wouldn’t be “fair” to simply dismiss an argument by saying that syllogistic reasoning is false. (Can you “prove” it’s false?) If you deny syllogisms, I believe it can be demonstrated (probably syllogistically) that you will actually end up denying the ability to communicate on a meaningful level. You end up with nonsense like,

Syllogistic reasoning is not true.
You are using syllogistic reasoning.
Therefore you’re reasoning is not true.

This reasoning is syllogistically valid, and if the premises are true, then the conclusion is true. But if the conclusion is true, then the conclusion must be false because the argument uses syllogistic reasoning! The conclusion is both true and not true at the same time and in the same respect, which is absurd nonsense.

If you would disagree with a syllogistic conclusion, then you must show that either the premises are not true (one or all of the propositions inadequately represent what Scripture says), or else that the reasoning process is false (the premises are arranged into illogical relations or at least into relations unwarranted by Scripture).

From: Tricia Downey
Subject: Little House Sewing, and other cute books for teaching children skills
Date: Fri, 24 Jan 2003

Dear Laurie,

I thought I would share with you a book I found recently, that you and your other readers might enjoy using with their children. It is called, “The Mary Frances Sewing Book: Adventures Among the Thimble People”. It was written in the early 1900’s by Jane Eyre Fryer, and was used to teach young girls to sew. It is in story form, with an antique “sewing bird” giving the lessons to the little girl, in rhyme, while she spends the summer at her grandmother’s. It is very cute. I haven’t read all the way through it yet myself, but it does list the machine as one of the “thimble people” in the front, so it isn’t entirely hand sewing, only. It probably doesn’t cover zippers, due to when it was written, but it covers many stitches, cross stitching, and button holes, and so on. It comes with 33 patterns to make Titanic era doll clothes items for a 16 inch doll. (Even an old fashioned bathing suit, when it was a nearly fully clothed item!) You make them as you work your way through the book. It has nice illustrations, and good paper quality, just under 300 pages.

I also discovered it seems they are re-introducing these books by the same author in the near future: “The Mary Frances Cook Book: Adventures Among the Kitchen People”, and “The Mary Frances Knitting Book” (my guess would be, “Adventures among the yarn people” for the complete title).

Just something I thought people would be interested in.

As far as the “Little House Sewing Book” that I mentioned earlier in an e-mail, I have not been able to get a copy of my own, however, I have found it through the library system, and copied the pattern I wanted from it. I will probably do so again, as we decide to make the other items, unless someone on the loop would like to part with their copy?

Anyone may e-mail me personally about these things, so as not to clutter the loop with responses.

God bless, Tricia
From: Judy Waitley
Date: Thu, 23 Jan

Hello again to the Bluedorn family,

I wrote to you a few weeks ago about finding your site and what a blessing your family is. Well now I have finally gotten your book and I have read almost the entire thing and I am even more thankful than when I wrote to you last.

Your book is full of great information not just on homeschooling but on life period! Each time I pick up the book, I find something else that I look at in a “new way.” My poor husband is getting the “Hey, listen to this” version right now until he can read it for himself.

There are three things in your book that particularly made an impression on me. The first is the waiting until the kids are around 10 to start formal math. I knew after I read the Moore’s books that they definitely had something but I couldn’t stand the thought of not having “real” math books because that is what we have always had. I read the article in the appendix a few times and re-read the section in the chapter on it and it really made me think. Why beat myself up and frustrate my son with workbooks and curriculum that aren’t helping but hurting? I prayed that night that God would direct me in the way I should go and I knew my answer when I got up the next morning. Now we are just playing a few games with pick up sticks, dice, and manipulatives. I haven’t seen our son so relaxed about math in a long time.

One of the other suggestions that impressed upon my heart was family worship. I grew up a ministers daughter and my father was faithful every evening to sit down with us and do a family devotion. I can look back on this with fond memories and realize how much my father cared about us. He wanted us to know Jesus in a very personal way and he was equipping us to do that. We do bible in school everyday but Dad isn’t around for that because he is working. We use scriptures for copywork everyday but it still isn’t as a family. After reading your book and seeing family worship referred to often it started to bring back all of those memories of my childhood and it hit a sore spot because my children don’t have that. Again, I turned to God and asked him how I should approach my husband with this. I am so thankful that God always knows what we need before we even ask because my husband asked me a few days later when would be a good time for all of us to sit down each evening and worship together. We have musical instruments that we play so we have include this in our worship each evening. I don’t think that there is a greater gift that we can give our children.

Lastly I have been overwhelmed in prayer on implementing first time obedience with our children. I had always figured that “oh well, they are just kids and they will learn.” I was so wrong. We had to deal with a major issue of selfishness this week with our 7 year old and my husband and I realized how wrong we had been. God expects first time obedience from us. Of course we aren’t perfect and we don’t always do what we are told, but we also know that there are consequences for our actions. We began to realize that not expecting first time obedience from our children was giving them a major disadvantage in their growth in God. If they don’t have to obey their parents then why should they obey God? We have prayed for days on this issue and have finally come to some answers. We will continue to pray that God help us to be obedient in this new adventure also and not be lax.

Homeschooling Mommy in Christ,
Judy Waitley

From: Denise Wickline
Subject: Re: incorporating “new” info into history study
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003

Dear Laurie,

The issue I am uncertain about is how to bring in readings and other information on a certain time period that we have already studied in our sweep of world history. For example, I am walking (well, reading) my children through world history, and we have studied ancient history, just finishing the Punic Wars. If I buy your book or Truthquest history guides and find wonderful booklists that deal with ancient Rome or Greece (or uncover moral issues in those time periods that I should address), do I go back and delve into these times in history or go on? Perhaps the issue is that I feel that I may be leaving something out. If so, I’ll never move on. The younger two will go through the time line again, certainly. I wonder if I’ve given my 13-year-old daughter much of a foundation. Is this an exposure vs mastery issue?

That brings me to another question. I find myself running around, out of breath in my own home, just trying to keep the schedule going. That’s crazy! I have a sweet 9 month old baby that I want to enjoy, and I want her to enjoy her brother and sister, too. In trying to keep everyone on track (which means, trying to motivate my 7yr old son to do his written work and stick with chores), I’m losing sight of the long-term goals of children who love the Lord with all their heart, love others and love to learn. I want to use that “only so much time in the day” to the best advantage, with time also to garden, bake, sew and make paper gliders with my son. I value your insights and your experience, and appreciate your lovely family. You Bluedorns are a fine example in many areas, and I thank you all for allowing the rest of us to peek in to your lives. (I especially appreciate the fur and feather family photos!)

I wouldn’t be afraid of backtracking in history if something special should come up, such as a special book you only have access to temporarily or a seminar or special program scheduled on a particular topic you have already covered. In these cases you would want to take advantage of one-time opportunities as they arise. Also, if one of your children shows a particular interest in a certain time period, I would park there as long as the interest is there. One year we were in early French history for a loooong time. I wouldn’t be so worried about leaving out particular bits of the timeline as I would about developing in our children a love for history. I think studying history with biographies, timelines, projects, costumes, historical fiction, field trips, primary sources and art will produce history-lovers more than with textbooks.

Speaking of fur and feathers, I recently discovered that horse lovers are never satisfied with just one horse.

Thank you for your book and your ministry.  I came across your website through reading your recent book. I am a father of one (3 yr. old girl) and interested in homeschooling.  I think I am more interested in homeschooling than that of my wife. Do you have anything that you have written on the subject of father’s homeschooling their children? One more question: what are some ways in which a father could adjust his schedule so that he could support his family and homeschool children (in my case, a daughter, for the moment)?  If you could respond, it will be so helpful.

God bless, Joshua
Perhaps you could start with leading family worship in the mornings before you go to work or in the evenings. We have a pamphlet On Family Worship which could help you start this — I think it’s on our web page to download. Your child is so young that you have a few years before you need to think about formal schooling. I suggest taking time every day to read aloud to her, help her memorize some Bible passages or poetry, and start looking for a phonics curriculum to buy. The chapter on Ten Things to Do Before Age Ten in our book Teaching the Trivium might help you. Perhaps the Lord will soon make you and your wife in agreement on this subject.

A Review found in Homeschooling Today magazine: My Mommy My Teacher by Johannah Bluedorn

It has been said by a very wise man that “mothering is reformation”–a statement that would be met with deep skepticism by many in our generation. They know little of mothers, as they know little of all true beauties, and therefore cannot understand how the familiar career, home-juggler they know could be anything but an unfortunate necessity. She is certainly not the wonder-women their grandmothers remember with respect. Nor is she the inconsistent feminist their own mothers remember with affection. Instead, she is a changeable member of a world in which they cannot play a part. Home is a place to be when there is nothing else to do, and children are a burdensome responsibility draining valuable resources from today’s teetering economy. Yet some courageous women have chosen, over the last two decades, to deny the legitimacy of this worldview and invest their lives in a biblical vision. My Mommy, My Teacher, a self-published book written and illustrated by Johannah Bluedorn (Trivium Pursuit), is a tribute to one such woman–the author’s own mother–and all like her. It is the journal of a day in the life of a mother, with all its wonders and joyful toils, as seen through the eyes of her daughter. The Proverbs 31 employments of cooking, clothing, cleaning, training, teaching, encouraging and beautifying are all in evidence; the loving interactions between parents, children and siblings are commendable. Its greatest value is in its beautiful and encouraging portrayal of a homeschooling mothers’ life. The art, like its subject of motherhood, is distinctly timeless. One sees 1850’s fashions alongside the reading of the Hobbit (which was not published until 1937) and log cabins displayed on the same canvas as Peter Rabbit. Watercolor is the medium of choice, and the style is simple, antiquated and colorful. While this book is certainly no breathtaking thriller, there is something refreshingly beautiful in the truth of its assertions. With modernity’s almost constant attack upon the bastions of biblical motherhood, it is uplifting to see so pretty and charming a defender of her cause.

Reviewed by Kate Franklin

My Mommy, My Teacher, Written and illustrated by Johannah Bluedorn

My Mommy, My Teacher is the thoroughly enjoyable, full-color, children’s picture book story about a young girl who learns from her family and her mother how to work on a farm. The rich watercolor paintings, gentle tone, and love of life pervading this amenable story make My Mommy, My Teacher a warm and loving book ideal for reading aloud and sharing — especially between mothers and daughters.

Reviewed by Midwest Book Review
Heather Vermazen


We have just seen the life and death importance of first time obedience first hand in our family. Our 27mos old daughter, Grace, had a 6 hour surgery at UCSF on Tues. The doctors were amazed that Grace obeyed us. She took her medicine, allowed me to hold the mask to put her under. She had questions in her little mind but she trusted us and obeyed. What a difference for her! She went to sleep peacefully not struggling. After the surgery, she needed antibiotics and narcotics for pain. Nasty, vile tasting stuff. The nursing staff kept interfering with bribes, cajoling, trying to reason with a 2 year old. We now have a daughter that has to be retrained in her obedience. She gets so worked up when taking meds that yesterday she started throwing up. The corticol steroids released by her anxiety have irritated her stomach lining along with her meds. Since we are home and away from other people, today we have been firm, asking once and only once for her to take her meds. Much happier and healthier baby. Please continue to suggest reading The Mother at Home. It will help so many people and their children.
Date: Sun, 2 Feb 2003
From: naomi findley

Dear Harvey and Laurie,

We have received your book and I have been reading it every spare chance I can get. I really do like it, it makes so much sense. Already I have begun a new schedule with my boys, and I can see the difference already, though we are having trouble keeping that schedule, seems there is always some distraction. I am writing because we are about to move cross country, we are currently in Wa. state and will be heading out to Indiana in March. We are in a state of ‘transition.’ It seems there are so many distractions right now, I am wondering do I need to insist on keeping to a schedule or will it be okay to let things go until we are settled in our new place? My boys are ages 6, 4, and 1. I feel I ought to get started now and not waste anytime…but it seems so difficult right now, should I keep at it? I am completely new to homeschooling, and have always thought myself to be not very sharp so I was a bit nervous to homeschool…until I happened upon your website! So all this is new to me and I don’t know what I should be focusing on the most during this time. I thought maybe with your experience you could offer me some pointers. Thank you so much for your book! We also received your reading list; both my husband and I love to read so we are enjoying finding good books. Thank you for what you do, you have encouraged us tremendously! My family is sure homeschooling will make them social misfits…I will keep on and never go back! Thank you! You have helped this insecure, shakey mother do what I thought I was not able. I also purchased The Mother at Home book, which has been another great encouragement to us. I truly consider stumbling upon your website as an answer to prayer, just a few days before I found it I was overwhelmed and wondering where to start and had prayed for God to help somehow…then I found your site and was up till the wee hours ‘feeding’ on it!!! Thank you again!

Sincerely, Naomi Findley
Perhaps you could just concentrate on a couple of things during this transition time, such as reading aloud and memorization. Your children are so very young — babies, actually, that you can easily skip school for a few months.

Unfortunately, we neglected to add an important author to our new book, Ancient History from Primary Sources: A Literary Timeline. Please add him in when you receive the book. Here is the information:

Aelvinus Presslianus
FL. 50-60 B.C.

Though only fragments of his writings remain, Presslianus was most recognized for his ability to sway crowds with his oratorical skills. He was a veteran of the Pelvic Wars.

Extant works:
Solicitations to Avoid Truculent Behavior Ode to the Hound A Description of Personal Agitation On the Conveyance of Epistles to Their Original Dispatchers

From: carr
Subject: History Question
Date: Sat, 15 Feb 2003

Hello again,

My husband has been reading the Chronicles of Narnia, I am assuming this is what sparked his interest in old history books, and has asked me if I could find “old” History books, written by people around the time of Christ? Does that make sense? He mentioned Josephus (not sure on spelling). This, of course, has me baffled. I do not know where to look or exactly what I am looking for! I am assuming he is interested in the writings of Historians around the time of Christ. Any suggestions would be welcomed and, of course, much appreciated!

Yes, Josephus is an important ancient historian. He was an eyewitness of the war between the Jews and Rome, and of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple in A.D. 70. Josephus is our primary source for reconstructing history in the late second temple period, the time of Jesus, and the first century A.D. We list Josephus, along with all of the other ancient historians, in our book Ancient History from Primary Sources: A Literary Timeline, and the accompanying CDs hold the full text English translations of his works.

Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2003
Subject: Math decisions – Saxon Algebra II or Jacobs Geometry?
From: Barry White

Dear Fellow Pilgrims,

I have a question about a decision I need to make shortly concerning my thirteen year-old daughter’s math for next year. She is currently doing Saxon Algebra I, and doing well. We did have some rough spots, and some tears, but I encouraged her to slow down, and helped her through a few things that kept giving her trouble.

(As an aside: I had to figure it out myself as I taught Sarah. It is embarrassing sometimes, but my children know that I was a math dunce in school, and they are tickled – and I hope inspired – by my eagerness to grasp math now. I think it is good, too, for them to see and hear me work it through. “Oops, I’ve already forgotten what they mean by that term. Do you remember? No? O.K., we’ll just go back and look it up!” Take heart, math dunces everywhere! Just because you didn’t get it way back when, doesn’t mean that you can’t get it now.)

We plan to do Jacob’s Geometry, eliminating the Geometry section in Saxon’s Advanced Math when we get there, as per suggestions on this loop. My question is this. Is there any reason that my thirteen year-old should not do Geometry this coming year, and Algebra II the next? Or should we do Algebra II, and then Geometry? My husband sees both positives and negatives for either direction, and has left the decision up to me. I am leaning toward Geometry this year, but I’m concerned that this propensity stems from the fact that Geometry was the only thing I did well in in math, or that the other arguments I’ve run through in my mind are not valid – “It would be a good break for Sarah.” “It would encourage her through the transition time ahead as we move back to the US after five years in Cambodia.” “She’s excited about Geometry, so go for it.” etc.

Does anyone on the loop have any advice for us in this?

Yours in Christ,
Katherine, as yet still in Cambodia

P.S. When I stunned the private parochial school I attended by doing well in Geometry after doing so poorly in other math classes, they explained it to my parents by saying, “Apparently, she thinks backwards, so geometry is easy for her.” Hmmmm….. I’m sure the serious expression with which it was delivered went a long way in encouraging my parents to swallow that one!
When I was in high school we did algebra I first, then geometry, and then algebra II. For some reason which I’m not aware of, Saxon’s order is algebra I, algebra II, and then geometry (mixed with algebra III and trig). I don’t know why a student couldn’t do geometry before algebra II, and I would probably allow it especially if my child wanted to do it that way. Are there any math experts on this list who can educate us on this subject?

From: Don Potter
Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2003


I have a lot of information on education, Greek, and other topics of interest to homeschoolers. In my Greek section, I teach students the alphabet, consonants, vowels and have a recording of Mark 1:1-5 (all audio files). Of special interest to home schoolers are the free downloads of old textbooks of abiding value. There are numerous valuable links to sites I have discovered on the NET. Among them are several image and pdf files of Webster’s Blue-back Speller. The pre1828 editions are of particular value for several reasons: they present no sight-words, they use a coding system called figures (or “superiors” by late authors) which reflects a systems approach to phonemic analysis and instruction. The later Webster Spelling Books reflect a somewhat different approach. I pray that your handy, and very readable edition of Webster’s ELEMENTARY SPELLING BOOK finds its way into many American homes. The more I teach the more convinced I am of its supreme practical value for today’s students. This one book could transform American education. But don’t count on it making its way into any government schools, that would be too easy – too American.

There are basically three ways to mark words to assist with pronunciation: 1. superiors, 2. pre-1940’s coding with macros, breves etc., 3. post-1940’s respelling with liberal use of the schwa. The first and second method are best, the last is not so good. In fact, it is probably the present respelling method that has done more than anything to convince teachers that phonics will not work for English. Of the three methods, the first one best reveals the underlying system of English orthography in a logical manner compatible with the child’s mind. Frank Rogers’ TATRAS program is the best modern representative of the first method. It is quite easy to assign numbers to all the sounds of the phonograms and code the words consistently. Spalding made a start in this direction but unfortunately failed to follow the clear logic of the system. Her use of underlines was a wrong turn in the road. She should have used numbers exclusively and consistently. I use “0” over the silent letters. I might mention that I have been teaching some kindergartners to read with TATRAS. The results are astounding. The young children are quite able to master the system and read the 837 Core words. The first graders who have finished the TATRAS program this year are already reading books on second and third grade levels.

You will notice that the use of the schwa in coding words makes it impossible to mark pronunciation in an actual running text. The old Bibles had a superb method of indicating the pronunciation. It is very sad that the majority of people today have no idea how to read many of the words in the Old and New Testament because the knowledge of how to use the old pronunciation guides is forgotten. The best system I have seen is the 1901 ASV published today by Star Publishing. I can read any word in the OT as easily as the word “cat” with the use of the guide. I do not believe anyone should begin reading the Bible without a self-pronunciation text because it is virtually impossible to know how to pronounce many of the words. The overuse of silent reading has done great harm to the “public reading” of Sacred Scripture. It would be quite easy to mark a Bible for pronunciation by the use of Superiors (numbers).

I have become heavily involved in the Reading Wars. I do not court controversy, but the clash of fundamental principles was inevitable. I am working on a devastating exposé of the whole-word method of teaching reading so prevalent in our schools. Even though phonics has gained an upper hand recently, it is most unfortunately presented in a compromised form called Balanced Literacy and Guided Reading. The teaching of any whole-word (sight-words) to kindergartners and first graders can easily cause them to develop whole-word dyslexia (WWD). This is very hard to cure if allowed to persist. Students who are taught the phonograms FIRST will never develop “dyslexia.”

God be praised, who strengthens us to declare His Glory.

Donald Potter
Odessa, TX
From: Jodi Kiffmeyer
Subject: Schooling Myself
Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2003

I just finished reading Teaching the Trivium, and now I realize that I need to learn some things myself before I start teaching my 4-year-old son. Can you recommend any resources or starting points for adults in remedial learning? I’d especially like to work on history and English grammar at this point (my logic skills could use some work as well).

Thank you, Jodi Kiffmeyer, Rochester, Minnesota
Here are a few things you might start with:

How to Read a Book by Adler and Van Doren — read and outline this book

Start keeping a person journal to practice your writing skills (or to develop those skills)

The Modern Researcher by Barzun and Graff — read through this book to learn how to do research

Read The Classic Guide to Better Writing by Flesch and Lass, or On Writing Well by Zinsser for a brief review on how to write creatively

Get The Chicago Manual of Style for reference — this is the best book on style

Read lots of historical fiction to yourself and to your child, and get yourself a good history textbook such as Streams of Civilization to put the historical fiction books you read into context.

Work through The Fallacy Detective for an introduction to logic.

That’s enough for now, lest you get overwhelmed.

From: Grayson Long
Sent: Friday, February 28, 2003
Subject: Intensive phonics

Do you think that Hooked on Phonics is intensive enough? I was given the program, but want to be sure before using it.

Thanks! Cori
Frank Rogers
Subject: Re: Is HOP intensive?
Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2003

Tacoma, WA
Hi, Mrs Long,

I don’t think “intensive” is the most important quality you should be looking for in a phonics program. I don’t like to even use the term but I know many true phonics advocates do. I think that if you are starting to do something “intensive” with a preschooler, a kindergartner or a first-grader it somehow doesn’t sound right. I prefer the term “systematic.” So we say the TATRAS program provides “Gentle, comprehensive and systematic direct phonics instruction.” In the case of Hooked on Phonics I would say a better description would be “boring” although they are “systematic.” But I don’t think HOP should be used even if someone gave it to you. A more important quality to look for would be the type of phonics instruction used. HOP is a combination of linguistic and horizontal phonics method. See our website for a brief description of these or send me your mailing address and I’ll send you the TATRAS “tan sheet” which gives a fuller description of the four ways that phonics can be taught. One chart on that tan sheet is entitled, “Choose a phonics method; then a reading program.” Of course, we hope that by you reading this chart you will see the merits of vertical phonics over other phonics methods. There are, however, several vertical phonics program offered by different companies and you may choose one of the others. Thousands of children have probably been taught to read by HOP, and probably thousands of other mothers have the program sitting up in closet after it was presented to them by Grandma. But any child that learned to read by HOP would have been a better reader, quicker and a better speller by using the TATRAS Saltmine & Hifwip Package. And for one heck of a lot less $. But $ should not be a question when selecting a beginning reading program. (TATRAS advises Grandmothers NOT to buy our program to give to their sons or daughters. Give them our “tan sheet” and sales brochure and let the parents decide.) (I analyzed a version of HOP several years ago and there was one place where the student was supposed to read in sequence about 115 words ending in “ing.”) You may be in a position of starting to teach a child to read. Get the best beginning reading/spelling program available at any cost. What you teach in the first six months of a child’s beginning reading experience could well determine the course of his entire academic life through college. And the TATRAS program would be suitable whether you had a super bright child or one with a severe learning disability. And your own reading and spelling ability with probably improve just using our program. Call me or send another email if you have any more questions.

R’spy, Frank Rogers, TATRAS
Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2003
From: Tina Gibson

city: Spring Lake
state: NC
I find your website to be a delight. The information is helpful and useful but I also enjoy learning about your family and seeing the ‘result’ of your homeschool theories. You may not have time for my small question but…. I have a 6 year old daughter and she loves crafts and wishes to sew; however, I know nothing (only a slight exaggeration) about this area. I was not trained in a godly home and am just now getting a handle on being a woman who quietly, diligently keeps her home. Where should I start with her? I am hoping that this will be like teaching Latin, in that I learn along with her? Also, how much time in the day is required to develop these skills? Should it be a small part of the curriculum or just something we do in the evenings as we relax?

Thank you for any attention you might pay this matter, Tina Gibson
A good place to start is with counted cross-stitch using very large squares — I can’t remember the gauge, but it is much larger than 12 or 14 point. You can learn right along with her. Get a book from Hobby Lobby (get to know that store — it’s our favorite!) on cross-stitch. Set up a little corner in your house (shelf and table) where she can store her materials and work on projects. Don’t require her to put everything away at the end of the day when she’s in the middle of a project, but allow her to keep it out on the table. Buy her scraps of different kinds of fabric and ribbon and thread so she can experiment — making little doll clothes, doll blankets, etc. Allow her to experiment, making lots of mistakes, and lots of junk she’ll end up throwing away later. In other words, don’t start out by planning an elaborate perfected project. Start with experimenting with the materials. Get a good pair of large sewing scissors and a good pair of small snipping scissors (I’m not sure what they’re called, but they’re used for hand sewing and cross-stitch), and a magnet needle box (keeps her from loosing her needles). Find scraps of different textured fabric (silk, satin, linen, wool) so she can get her hands on them and learn to appreciate fabric. Give her plenty of time to develop her creativity in sewing — at least a couple hours a day if she likes.

Date: Thu, 6 Mar 2003
From: richard williams

“The final fallacy of this sort that we will consider is known as poisoning the well. In such arguments an attempt is made to place the opponent in a position from which he or she is unable to reply. This form of the fallacy received its name from John Henry Cardinal Newman, a nineteenth-century British churchman, in one of his frequent controversies with the clergyman and novelist Charles Kingsley. During the course of their dispute, Kingsley suggested that Newman, as a Roman Catholic priest, did not place the highest value on truth. Newman protested that such an accusation made it impossible for him, or for any other Catholic, to state his case. For how could he prove to Kingsley that he had more regard for truth than for anything else if Kingsley presupposed that he did not? Kingsley had automatically ruled out anything that Newman might offer in defense. Kingsley, in other words, had poisoned the well of discourse, making it
impossible for anyone to partake of it. … Anyone attempting to rebut these arguments would be hard pressed to do so, for anything he or she said would only seem to strengthen the accusation against the person saying it. The very attempt to reply succeeds only in placing someone in an even more impossible position. It is as if, being accused of talking too much, one cannot argue against the accusation without condemning one self; the more one talks the more one helps establish the truth of the accusation. And that is perhaps what such unfair tactics are ultimately designed to do: by discrediting in advance the only source from which evidence either for or against a particular position can arise, they seek to avoid opposition by precluding discussion.” (Engel S.M., “With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies,” St. Martin’s Press: New York, Fourth Edition, 1990, pp.195-196)
From: Rick and Kathy Weitz
Date: Sun, 9 Mar 2003


I read with interest the letter from the father who is “more interested in homeschooling” than his wife is. My husband and I were in that situation when my oldest two were 3 years old…I was simply overwhelmed at the prospect of spending all day every day with these two children, whom I couldn’t even seem to potty train! But my husband just kept quietly trusting God as we sent our children to a Christian preschool and kindergarten (he agreed with that, seeing that I wouldn’t be able to cope with homeschooling at that point). It was the right thing for us, and the preschool experience was very good, but as we began to think of the costs of private schooling, the Lord just gently and quietly changed my heart, using books and my own personal Bible Study. It was Susan Schaeffer Macauley’s “For the Children’s Sake” that really moved me forward. And my patient and sweet husband has been our biggest fan and cheerleader. So tell
that father not to despair, but to pray. God will work as He sees fit. I wouldn’t change any detail of our experience (except I ‘d like to learn MY character lessons more quickly!) We have now been homeschooling for 9 years, our oldest two are very pro-homeschool sophomores, and the other 4 are loving our homeschool as well. God has truly blessed our efforts and graciously given us all that we need. As for me, I can’t begin to think of any other method of education for our children at this point, but I know just as surely that I needed those few years of time for Him to work in my life and heart. I have no regrets, and am just thankful to God for His gentle and patient instruction.

Blessings, Kathy Weitz
From: Becca Beard
Date: Sun, 9 Mar 2003

Michele wrote:
>>I must confess that I am struggling greatly with what I feel is geared toward my child’s interest and what mainstream educational society seems to dictate (opposite order) is the better decision. What are other people’s views on this and why?


We are teaching our 7 year old son Greek. We just started this year. I too, have struggled when everyone looks at me as if I have lobsters coming out of my ears when I say we are teaching Greek, rather than something “useful” like Spanish. I just have to consistently remind myself that the reason my husband and I decided on Greek is so he will be able to read the Bible in the Greek translation, and not be dependent on others for an interpretation. How many times has your pastor said, “In the original Greek…” As you know, Jesus warned that in the end, “many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” (Matt. 24:11) We feel this is one way we can equip our son, and eventually our other 2 children, to be able to resist those who would seek to deceive them. But you already knew that…I can tell from your email.

God bless, Becca, Flower Mound, TX
From: Michael Bond
Date: Sun, 9 Mar 2003


I’ve taken Hebrew, Greek, and Latin and must say that Hebrew is by far the toughest. It is completely different than English when compared with Latin or Greek. After three classes (nine hours) of Hebrew at a conservative seminary, I, along with my classmates, were at place where we could read the OT, but only with a lexicon handy. The large problem is the huge vocabulary encountered in the OT as compared to the NT–I’ve heard as many as three times the number of words. Compare that with the nine hours of Greek I had where I was able to go through the NT somewhat easily with some help from Sakae Kubo (Greek book for NT)–the problem again being vocabulary.Going from Greek to Latin or Latin to Greek makes no difference. If you pick up one, the other comes quite easy. As for studying the language for help with Biblical studies, I would submit that Greek would be more helpful b/c most teaching, preaching, and personal reading occurs in the NT (Whether that’s right, you can decide.), which is why most pastors retain their Greek from seminary but let their Hebrew slide away.

As for teaching a seven-year-old, I would go with Greek or Latin. If that goes well and he’s still excited, challenge him with the Hebrew.

Michael Bond
A couple of comments about our “omitted” ancient author:

Date: Sat, 15 Mar 2003
From: David & Rita Holets

>>I’m a bit worried about something. I received no responses to Message 1 of e-letter #303. Maybe I should have put a smiley face after the message. : ) Laurie

OH, now I get it! I actually just skimmed the message, and thought to myself, “When I get my copy of the book, I’ll come back and print this out and put it inside. How funny! Now that I actually came back and read it, I get it!

Aelvinus Presslianus – Elvis Presley!

Though only fragments of his writings remain, Presslianus was most recognized for his ability to sway crowds with his oratorical skills. He was a veteran of the Pelvic Wars – Pelvic Wars – I get it – 🙂

Extant works:
Solicitations to Avoid Truculent Behavior – “Don’t Be Cruel”
Ode to the Hound – “Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog”
A Description of Personal Agitation – “All Shook Up”
On the Conveyance of Epistles to Their Original Dispatchers – “Return to Sender”

Just shows you that if you use a lot of big words, you sound like you know what you are talking about. You can really fool people!

Still very much blessed by your ministry, Rita Holets
From: Koff Family
Date: Sat, 15 Mar 2003

I’ll confess — I didn’t even try to “get it” the first time I read it! I remember thinking to myself, “Yeah, like I would notice if Harvey and Laurie left out an ancient author!”

However, after reading the comment about the smiley face, I went back and re-read your “omission.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I said the name “Aelvinus Presslianus” out loud to my husband, did he realize who you meant! Of course, then I had to do a web search of this “author’s” main “works” to see how important they were!
From: Hazel Burke
Date: Sun, 16 Mar 2003

I don’t know where my brain was when I read #303, but I went back and reread it — you folks are way too funny! I don’t know why I didn’t “get it” sooner. Then again, I never got your Pig Latin translation last year, either…I must be taking life much too seriously. Keep up the great work!

Lynda Dietz
From: Linda Trumbo
Date: Sun, 16 Mar 2003

Sorry no one responded via e-mail. Unfortunately, you couldn’t see me laughing then promptly forwarding that portion of the newsletter to my husband to read for his Latin class. I hope no one rushed to put “him” up on the timeline.

Linda T.
From: J
Subject: Independent learners
Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2003

I haven’t posted to you for quite a time – but when in need – I know which book to grab or to whom to post a question.

The age old q: is there a time or is it necessary for your child to do ALL work on his own?

An abstract from one of your answers: “must say, though, that for our family, the girls were more independent learners than the boys, at least through age 14 or so. I remember the boys wanted me to sit with them while they did math even up through age 14 or 15. It seemed they just liked having me sit with them. Maybe it gave them more confidence, I don’t know. So I would sit with them on the couch helping when necessary.”

I sit on the couch too.

I am talking about my son – turning 14 this year.

Today I mentioned to him that at some stage he must start doing some of his “intro” work on his own: eg his Saxon lessons (I go through the lesson with him (takes us 5 minutes) and then I’m off and he continues totally on his own). We do that in basically all his subjects – and I “feel” that I have to wean him from me. BUT, just after I mentioned it to him today – he didn’t say anything – but BIG teardrops were falling on his papers one by one …. I felt, well, overwhelmed….

Is it “wrong” to be a “teacher” for a little while and let him then continue? How do one do the weaning?

I think I should know the answers and I probably do… but maybe some similar shared experiences will help!

Thanks in advance for “helpful” advice. I can smell the bread in the oven – I’ll have to go and check it:-)
I would continue doing the introductory work with him, and let him know you love doing it. He’s still too young to be left totally on his own. It looks to me like he really likes having you help him. I would give my right arm (and leg, too) to have my boys be 13 again and want me to sit next to them and help. In a couple of years or maybe less this will all change and he’ll not need you to help as much. But for now, communicate to him how much you love helping him, and that lots of boys his age have just as much or even more help, and that he’s doing just fine.

He’ll let you know when he doesn’t need help anymore.

BIG teardrops are falling out of my eyes just thinking about this.

Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2003
From: Wendy Everett
Subject: Phonics for readers – For the loop


I pulled my kids from public school when they were in 2nd and 3rd grades. This is our third year of learning at home, they are doing famously, and we will never go back to the government system! I know it was Providence that led me to the Bluedorn’s and the joy of learning at home that has only grown deeper year after year. Weston and Kersti are in (approx.) 4th and 5th grades now. My question is: What about in-depth phonics? They received very little phonics in “school”, we did Phonics Pathways when they came home, both are reading VERY well today – but since they never really had any in-depth phonics instruction I am starting to wonder if it going to “catch up” with them as they progress into more and more challenging reading? So far I don’t really see indications of this, but I’m wondering what other people may have experienced. Should I look for a complete, but inexpensive phonics program that would work well for children (or adults, such as myself) who never learned all the phonograms etc., but who already read quite well? We do have the encoder/decoder. Should we just start memorizing those rules? Any advice would be appreciated.

Thank you,
Wendy Everett
San Jose, CA
If your children are reading well, I guess I don’t see the point in going through a phonics curriculum, but I am willing to be corrected on this. Any other opinions?

From: Kendra Fletcher
Subject: Preschoolers, Preparation, and Peace
Date: Sat, 15 Mar 2003

Dear Mr. McFarlane,

Yes! Your wife (and you) can successfully teach in a classical style with precious little ones running about your home. We do it everyday. When our eldest was 4, we made the choice to educate him at home. At that time, we also had a 2 year old and a newborn. Now that firstborn is 10, and his siblings are 8, 5, 3, and 2. I have never known homeschooling without the presence of preschoolers, toddlers, and nursing babes, and if the Lord tarries, I won’t for a long while to come.

My first piece of advice would be to forget the guilt trip. Your little ones only know life as it is in your home, and what occurs there is their normalcy. Certainly a child whose older siblings go off to school during the day gets more parental one-on-one time than the child in the big homeschooling family, but how would your little ones know the difference? Secondly, within that framework, they have the opportunity to have love and attention poured out over them by not just you and your wife, but by their older siblings as well. What a blessing!

Preparedness is the key. Establish a routine, and within that routine, whether it be loose and more like a flowchart or tightly maintained, pair up the little ones with the big ones for some one-on-one play and/or instruction. More on that later. Personally, there are subjects I don’t mind teaching or overseeing with little ones about me (such as grammar, math, and memory work) and subjects I prefer to tackle when the nappers are napping (reading aloud chapter books, science, history). Determine for yourself what you can do in the presence of toddlers and what you’d rather not do with them there. That’s the first step.

The next step would be to determine how to keep the littles busy when they’re not napping. For us, it goes something like this: while the 10yo and 8yo read independently the book from their first “Omnibus List”, I read aloud to the three littler ones. Currently we’re reading through The Children’s Illustrated Bible. Then I do TATRAS with the 5yo while the 10yo does a little preschool activity with the 3yo. This, by the way, has been fabulous. He has taught her the alphabet, developed a matching card game with her, and done some craft activities out of preschool books with her. At the same time this is going on, the 8yo plays with the 2yo in her room. When it is time to move on, I help the 10yo and 8yo with their copywork and grammar, while the 5yo, 3yo, and 2yo play together in the boys’ room. I could go on describing the morning in this fashion, but I risk losing you. Some other ideas to keep the little ones busy are: roomtime/cribtime where the child learns to entertain himself for a half hour or so (a perfect time to play memory tapes for them), a short video if you are so inclined, and table playtime when they can color, use WikkiStix, and the like. Intersperse these independent times with playtime with the older ones, and you have pretty near filled up the morning.

One other thing that has been precious in our schedule is what we call “Circle Time”. After the kitchen has been cleaned up from breakfast, we all gather in the family room for memory work, singing, and prayer. The baby sits on my lap while everyone else is around me a circle. I believe that beginning the school day with Circle Time helps to communicate to the littles that they are a part of our day and are not going to be pushed aside.

I would be happy to email a copy of our schedule to anyone who emails me. My hope would be that it would serve to encourage you and give you ideas about how to structure your day with little ones.

Finally, I am speaking at the Valley Home Educators conference in Modesto, CA on July 26th on this very topic. My session is entitled, “Preschoolers, Preparation, and Peace: How preschoolers and school-age children can peacefully co-exist in your home school.”

Kendra Fletcher
From: Katy
Date: Sat, 15 Mar 2003

<<A good place to start is with counted cross-stitch using very large squares — I can’t remember the gauge, but it is much larger than 12 or 14 point. >>

A child that age may enjoy making little dolls and other toys using plastic canvas and yarn. I believe there are kits available with all the materials you need plus instructions.

Katy in Cincinnati
Have a little fun, make a little mess!
From: Michelle Leichty
Date: Sat, 15 Mar 2003

I just wanted to add my endorsement of Mr. Rodgers TATRAS/Saltmine & Hifwip program. My son is 4 years old, and was showing signs of wanting to read. I bought another program (focused on horizontal phonics), but it didn’t make sense to me. I was having a hard time teaching it, and Nathaniel was having a hard time learning it (partly because he needed a couple more months of development behind him, and partly because the program didn’t make sense). After taking several months off from trying to teach phonics, I read recommendations on this e-mail list for TATRAS, checked out the website and decided to give it a try. Vertical phonics makes much more sense to me, so teaching it has not been difficult. Nathaniel, now almost 5, is even more ready to learn (I know – not a typical boy!). He asks to “do his letters” almost every day, and practices writing as often as he can. I am changing one thing about TATRAS in our house – we’re learning cursive writing from the beginning (instead of manuscript) – mostly because Nathaniel asked to learn cursive and he’s excited to practice it. He also is catching on to the phonograms very quickly. He knows exactly how many sounds each “letter” or “phonogram” make, and is reading and spelling many words. After watching her big brother, my 3 year old can’t wait to learn her letters and sounds, so we’re working on letter recognition. I recommend TATRAS to all my friends who are looking at phonics programs. It’s a wonderful program, and very cost-effective!
From: Lyn Carradine
Subject: time for little ones
Date: Sun, 16 Mar 2003

>I have one question. We have four children ages 6, 4, 2,and 7 months. We classically homeschool our children (the older >two right now). With the time it takes for the older two, how or is there any tips on how to give attention needed for the >younger two?

I can’t help wondering what is taking so much time with such little ones. Have you read the Bluedorn’s suggestions of things to do with children under ten? Our “school” at those ages consisted mostly of curling up with good books and then lots of follow up activities with everyone but the infant. Five in a Row was a great resource at this stage. Baby spent most of his time on mom’s lap while reading or being held which certainly didn’t leave him neglected.

From: Sheri Payne
Date: Sat, 15 Mar 2003

>>We have four children ages 6, 4, 2, and 7 months. We classically homeschool our children (the older two right now). With the time it takes for the older two, how or is there any tips on how to give attention needed for the younger two?

I must admit that it is very difficult to divide attention equally between 4 children. I am going to propose something to you which may shock you- you or your wife should *not* be dividing your attention equally. Bear with me while I suggest a different way to think about your children.

When your wife had your first child, that child (of course) received all the attention. Somewhere in the process of having additional children, your wife (and maybe you as well) began to feel as if the other children were being “cheated.” In the interest of fairness you are sensitive to the amount of time spent with the younger children.

If the father works out of the home, then the first child and the mom have an exclusive relationship during the day. But, additional children are not getting *less* attention – remember they have more people around to get attention from! During the day there are 4 people in your house for each of your children to interact with, not just mom.

If you are following the Bluedorn’s guidelines for children under 10, your wife should be spending most of the school time during the day reading aloud to ALL of the children together. If your 6 year old has additional seatwork with her, then the other 3 children should be interacting and helping each other. When I work with my 7 year old, my 5 year old will often entertain my 3 year old. He can also get her drinks and lt me know when she’s getting into trouble.

My 7 year old can do the same when I work on phonics with my 5 year old. Every day my 3 year old is getting plenty of attention and certainly doesn’t feel neglected. Quite the contrary – she will often retreat into her room to get away from the others and play by herself!

Of course, an infant needs much more adult attention than the other children, which leads me to another point. God gave you these children, at these ages, at this time. He designed your family just as it is, and he designed it to work. As long as you’re loving, caring parents, your children will blossom in their environment.

Sheri Payne
From: Steinlicht
Subject: What to do with younger kids response & what do you do about testing.
Date: Sun, 16 Mar 2003

I wanted to briefly respond to the family who recently posted wondering what to do with the younger kids. I found a wonderful program called “Five in a Row” which is literature based and great for multiple ages. We have enjoyed the wonderful references for quality stories and the inspired ideas for follow up activities based on the stories. I would encourage you to check out their website. You can pick up a volume at a used curriculum sale or new for about $25. I have enjoyed the snuggle time and reading with all of the kids together and then seeing what each one took away from the story at their own level. I found that often the kids surprised me by how much they retained from the stories.

I would also like to post a question regarding testing. When applying the what to do with your child before age 10 ideas, how do you address state laws for achievement testing? How do you best prepare your children for the testing format? I would appreciate your input.

Date: Sun, 16 Mar 2003
From: bygrace

>We have four children ages 6, 4, 2, and 7 months. We classically homeschool our children (the older two right now). >With the time it takes for the older two, how or is there any tips on how to give attention needed for the younger two?


I love your article that tells you what to do before age 10. I wish I had access to that when my children were younger.

We all have to decide what works for our family and try to formulate whatever that is around the ages of our children. Time together reading books and doing projects is what I wish we had done more of. You have plenty of time for more formal academics later. Now is the time to play and learn, also always working on character training. I am in my 40’s and that is still my favorite way to learn.

We have 4 children, ages almost 16, almost 14, almost 11, and 8, and have been home schooling since our first child was born. Time is precious and I find that I have been stressed out from time to time on our journey because I was trying to copy others. It is helpful to look at others for ideas, but generally not to follow or try to copy entirely something that works for someone else. My husband and I plan priorities together, and then follow that plan for our family.

As a couple it might be helpful for you to decide together what will work to meet the needs of your particular family. I truly believe that God never gives us more that we can handle, and our children need to be with us learning from us in the closeness of a family grouping, especially when they are young, in fact, when they are older they need that even more. It will seem like just yesterday that you held them in your arms and you will turn around and they will be young adults. We need to decide what we will wish we had more of when that time arrives and do those things. When we begin to feel stressed and like there isn’t enough of ourselves to go around to our children, it is time to step back, establish true priorities,( not those of others), and do whatever it is that will establish a sense of calm and closeness in our home, always working to glorify Christ with our lives.

I have rambled on quite a bit and hope this makes sense. I met with Laurie at a conference a couple of years ago, and she helped us revamp and discover the important things. What a blessing the Bluedorns have been to us. I pray that this helps.

Only by His grace,
From: AwwGee
Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2003

Sonlight I — Can Read It!  Greetings! Enjoying the loop SO much, am so grateful for your work. I had taught my 1st son to read with nothing more than the McGuffy readers, no system, no word lists, he just took to it. My daughter found it much more difficult, so I went to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and she just blocked it out completely. After a few months off I started again with Sonlight’s I Can Read It! She is plugging along nicely, and my question is, is this considered a vertical phonics method? Has anyone else used this to the end? I plan on moving back to McGuffy, since the content is SO rich, but only when she can read without sounding out. Also, I have a 4 yob who does NOT want me to read to him, does not want lessons, just wants to play (learning) games on the ‘puter and do manipulatives or tinker toys. When I try to make him sit through stories like the Wisdom and the Millers or Usborne books he runs off. Should I make him stay (as a rule?) or just let him do his thing? I feel like I don’t have time to spend engaging in each child’s playtime interests, as it’s not officially school yet, but I fear I’m letting opportunities slip away. I would like all of my (4) kids to listen to the same reading so I don’t have to read the same books over and over. Any wisdom here?

In Christ, Audrey Hussey
One thing I always required of my children was that if I’m going to expend the energy to read aloud, then everyone must benefit. A 4yo can sit on the floor and quietly play with toys, but everyone stays in the same room where I am reading.

Barbara Forney
Date: Tue, 18 Mar 2003

It is spring break and I actually have a moment to respond to you. I just want to say that I do enjoy your loop and appreciate yours and everyone’s opinions on things. This is in response to the question of what to do with the younger two children while teaching the older two. My thoughts are that given the ages of the older children (6yo and 4yo) that the amount of school that you are actually doing could easily be done in a couple of hours. I found that afternoon nap time was the best time for school when my children were those ages (babes as Laurie would call them). I would give the 4yo the choice to take a nap or do some school. School was always the winner. Reading can be done at various times throughout the day as the little ones are playing. Another thing we always had in the schedule was a playtime alone, two times a day for at least 30 minutes. When they are very little, this is in the playpen, and then in their room as they grow out of the playpen. At first, they may object to the playpen, but if you are firm and let them deal with their little challenge, I have always found that they are quite happy once they know your resolve and accept their circumstances. So with this play alone time and nap time, you should find yourself to have at least 2-4 hours of time to focus on the older ones. As the children get older, I recommend Managers of Their Home by the Maxwells. I have found this to be helpful in allowing me to apply the belief that God will supply all that I need to do whatever it is He wants me to do–especially in this area of homeschooling and feeling like I lack the most precious commodity–TIME! I am still struggling too. My children are 8,6,4 and 16 months so I am also eager to hear other people’s ideas! Hope this helps!

Date: Wed, 19 Mar
From: Bobbi Pledger

My six year old daughter has an insatiable appetite for the question, Why? My concern is that sometimes it is more of a challenge than a question. Will pre-logic and later logic possibly help her to find answers without defiance?
We all must learn to ask the question, Why? with grace and appropriateness. We all must likewise learn to answer the question, Why? with grace and appropriateness. Little children should be satisfied with, and probably would not understand anything more than a simple explanation, and they must be patient with their parents who have much responsibility on their minds. If you are busy, they must be satisfied with, Ask me that later when I have more time. If a satisfactory answer is given, but the child insists on more, or if the child is just plain insistent and demanding — as if the parent were accountable to the child for its every action — well, it’s time to teach the little urchin patience through your own example as you administer appropriate instruction and-or discipline. But recognize, some of the problem may be your own lack of consistently disciplining your children, or your own example to the children of impatience or insistence with others. What you sow, you reap. If lack of discipline is the problem, then that will show up in other ways besides asking demanding questions. The study of Logic will only hinder or complicate the matter.

Date: Sat, 22 Mar 2003
From: Kevin and Sara Shull

Dear Mr. And Mrs. McFarlane,

I see that one other Mom (at least) has responded to your questions and concerns about whether or not it is possible to educate in a classical style with little ones around. My note is very mother oriented, not because my husband is not an integral part of our home life and family/educational leadership (he is wonderful!), but because I think it is so common and understandable for us Moms in particular to worry about how to meet the needs of so many young children. It does indeed seem to be impossible! So I will give you my perspective on her concerns about meeting the needs of both the younger and older children. I want first to encourage you with an enthusiastic… Yes! It is quite possible to home educate classically and really enjoy yourself in the process, and by the grace of God, meet all the needs of your growing family! While I don’t have the energy to write a lengthy list of tips right now, I wanted to at least say that we have been very blessed by the experience of home education with our children who are 8, 5, 3, 23 months and a fifth child we are expecting literally any day now. My oldest daughter is a rather advanced third grader and is thriving working basically on Ten things to do before age ten while also pursuing many activities of interest independently as well as spending hours each day playing with and loving her siblings (not that our house is all peace and quiet – I’m talking about four very normal, active, energetic children). Also she has some chores to do each day…some of which she enjoys and some she endures. Our five year old daughter is generally geared towards school type learning in disposition but also is thriving as a part of the larger family enjoying play with older as well as younger siblings… She also is growing in her responsibilities around the house – I would say her education at this point is very relaxed although she absorbs everything I do with her older sister and I am teaching her (with TATRAS) to read right now because she wants to so badly.. As for the younger two, although I am not able to spend as much directed time with them, they are yet surrounded with more play and activity and attention than my older children were at their age. Personally I believe they have benefited greatly from being a part of a larger family and our activities of daily life, which have of necessity become more disciplined and orderly (in addition to being very full, loud, and bustling). Our younger children (a boy and girl) are extremely secure, happy, cheerful and a general delight to all of us, including their older sisters and each other. Honestly, I believe the younger kids have a better balance of my attention now that my daily work is more full as our family has grown. I must say that I think this is in part (at least) from not being over-parented by ME! Which I may have done inadvertently with my older kids when they were toddlers/preschoolers. In addition to being very intentional in regards to enriching and educating the children, I am a very motherly mother and I let my older children have too much of the control in the house until the Lord blessed me with many children at one time and strengthened me in my mothering and, I believe, gave me a more Godly perspective on the true needs of my kids. I continue to nurse the babies on cue and mother the toddlers to sleep — but realize now the difference between the NEEDS of babies and the wants of toddlers/ preschoolers, etc. It is now quite easy for me to notice when the kids are bossing me around! No kidding, I used to not notice — much to THEIR detriment. Nowadays, I do not have very many planned activities with the preschoolers, but they are with me in MY activities now. In former years, I would set aside my work to do child things (for most of the day). I think the children benefit from working with me in my daily chores or playing nearby rather than playing with me as it is now. Not having grown up with any large family models, my husband and I have been continually amazed by watching the many blessings for each child in each sibling position in the family as well as feeling the sanctifying work on us as parents as we rise to the challenge (with the Lord’s strength) as we are stretched beyond what we think is possible in having so many little ones, so close together, and educating them at home classically. There truly is more love (and responsibility) to go around as our family grows, not all of it flowing directly from my husband or myself, but some from the relationships among the siblings. ( I want to once again make the statement that my kids are normal, sinful, active children! I believe that God really intended for some children’s needs to be met in larger families, where the Mom is stretched to and beyond her limit!) One of the many things Laurie Bluedorn has said that has warmed my heart is her constant reminder that our young children are babies (even our oldest ones who seem so mature to us!) and that there is no immediate pressure to accomplish everything in one day, all at once, with our kids. Our time with them is precious, but adequate for the work the Lord has for us to do with them. The Lord knows what he is doing when he puts each child in each family in the position he enjoys among his siblings. God also knows what each mother can handle and he has a plan for what YOUR family with exactly YOUR gifts is to pass on to YOUR children during your years of being blessed with the opportunity of educating your children. He will strengthen us for the tasks he has appointed for us — even on days that it seems very, very hard! One of my very most assuring passages in the Bible is Isaiah 40:17…He will tend his flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in his arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. That is such good news! He is our shepherd, he carries us (and our children) in his arms…and he knows that those of us who are with young need to be LED and need Him to be GENTLE. He is not going to crush us, but carry us. To me, such joyful words to hear as a mother, especially in these last exhausting days of pregnancy while taking care of our four other lambs!  On a practical note, I must admit there are many days when our schedule is interrupted by the needs of one child or another, or that in my weakness and inability to do all that I might deem necessary we as a family must be flexible and perhaps concentrate on only half of what I would ideally like to do with school. Some days we only accomplish family worship, memory work and read-aloud time or my daughter’s own silent reading in addition to the work of daily living. Honestly, some days I must take a break entirely and let the children play while I regroup, call on the Lord, and wait on his strength. Even more seldom, I feel too weak to cry out to the Lord and I get absolutely nothing done! Yet in all this, it is amazing, we make incredible progress in the classical education of the kids and they continue to grow in the knowledge and love of God (me too)! All the kids are really benefiting from the lifestyle of our family being educated under the direction of the Lord. They love learning and pursue it themselves. It is a joy to them (and to us) to discover God and His world. Through all of this we have seen the needs of the children met and our entire family strengthened in ways God has specially prepared for larger families with siblings close in age. I do have tips that have gradually made classical home education easier and more effective as time goes on, but I believe you will find your own ways with the children God has blessed you with and with the gifts he has given to each of you. You are certainly on the right track in learning from the Bluedorns and also from the wonderful suggestions I read in the previous response to your question. I obviously have written too much already, I hope some of it is encouraging! If you really would like to know some of the things that our family has worked out, please have your wife e-mail me directly. After the baby is born and I am recovered a bit, I’d be happy to spell some of it out for you. May God Bless you as He leads you and your wife to His plan for your family. He is faithful!

Depending on Him. Sara Shull
Date: Fri, 21 Mar 2003
Subject: Starting out with my 9 year old
From: Samantha L Blythe

Greetings Bluedorns and fellow homeschoolers!

This will probably be long…please bear with me! I am looking for advice on how to ease into more formal academics after being very relaxed all these years with my 9 year old (10 in September).

My daughter has been a voracious reader in almost all subjects since she was about 7 – we have a pretty large library, and she reads history, science, poetry, Bible related, biography, etc. I did read out loud to her a lot until she was about 8, then she no longer liked me to do it – she preferred reading to herself. I occasionally have her do writing assignments (basically written narration of books she has read), and I am happy with how she does that, despite having had no “formal writing” training – I have been impressed at how much she has improved in spelling, etc., just through her reading. She knows how to add and subtract, I taught her last week to use the mult. and divis. charts, and sometimes she even sets math problems for herself to do. She knows the Westminster Shorter Catechism to question 15, and has always been good at memorization…she likes to embroider and is quite a good artist…when I look at all that, I say, “Where’s the Problem”?

I think the problem, really, is me. I think I have just skated along all these years taking advantage of the fact that she is naturally a learner. I am not a disciplined person by nature and would like to be more so, and would like for her to become a disciplined person. I know that she has probably gotten her love of reading and general interest in learning from me, but I have always found myself rebelling against plans and structures and I can see that she’s gotten *that* from me, as well…eeeek! I have tried before to implement “schedules”, etc. and have always failed and we go back to kind of drifting. Things do get “done”, like housework, etc. but there is no rhyme or reason to that, either, it just kind of flows somewhat naturally into the rhythm of the day…but I don’t think academic things tend to work that way! Praise the Lord that, in general, I have very little problem in the area of obedience with her, so I know that if I *were* able to get it together it would not be a problem for her, with her attitude; but she has seen me start and stop so many different schedules and plans, I think that’s what she expects from me.
How pathetic 🙁 !

How would you recommend that I begin changing myself practically in this area – besides praying? I would like to follow the ideas in TTT pretty closely for later knowledge level…should I just start a little at a time? Jump in with both feet? Should I have set times each day for schoolwork or just let it get done “whenever”, as long as it gets done? Does that kind of unscheduling mentality *ever* work? Are any of you like this naturally and have overcome it??

I will really look forward to and appreciate your thoughts and advice.
I’m wondering if perhaps you are a creative person. My observation has been that creative people tend to be less disciplined and organized. I’m very organized, and I also don’t have a creative bone in my body. It seems to me that people are born with certain talents, abilities, and ways of thinking, plus they develop certain habits as they grow up, and all this mixed together makes us what we are as an adult. I imagine that you wouldn’t want to trade your creative abilities for a Better Homes and Gardens house, but perhaps you can work a bit on bringing some order to a “free spirit” way of living. My suggestion is that you start out small and expand from there.

Having a regular private Bible study/devotions time for yourself is an important part of the day, so I suggest starting there. Pick a half hour period of time, early in the morning or whenever you feel will work, and devote that time to your Bible study. I’ve heard it said that two weeks can make something a habit, so try to stick with it for two weeks, and then another two weeks, and then, before you know it, you have made it a regular habit. And then you’ll be ready to tackle something else — such as a regular time for breakfast, or a regular time for bed, or a regular time for your daughter to do math. Take things a step at a time.

Date: Sat, 22 Mar 2003
From: Jodi Mrowiec
Subject: phonics instruction for readers

I took my two oldest children out of public school after 1st and 2nd grades. My oldest was an atrocious speller and I think part of it was because he was not properly trained in phonics back then. I remember being in the classroom one time and the emphasis on reading was in reading swiftly and with inflection. I began using the Writing Road to Reading program through the Riggs Institute. It was difficult to teach myself the program but in the end I learned so much that I highly recommend it. It was well worth the huge investment of time it took for me to finally gain an understanding of the program. I began using it when these children were around nine and ten, I think, but maybe eight and nine. I would find it very difficult to teach the program specifically as written to 5, 6 and 7 year old boys because of the small motor skills needed for handwriting and the focus required for implementation. I started my third child, a boy, on the program at about age nine. I use it basically to cement the understanding of the phonograms, and as a spelling program learning spelling rules. It is such a good basis. So much more than I ever learned. As Laurie and Harvey always state, home schooling is for parents. Because of working through the program, I have an understanding of our language that I previously did not even know was valuable to know. In teaching my third and fourth children to read (boys), I am able to apply so much of what I learned in helping them and can now understand why we had so many hurdles when I was teaching reading to the third child before I had learned the Riggs program. I understand that the current updated Riggs program to be streamlined and easier to follow. They have incorporated The Writing Road to Reading concepts directly into their manual and it is not a separate book any longer. It is now called The Rigg’s Institute’s Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking.

Other programs based on The Writing Road to Reading include Teaching Reading at Home by Wanda Sanseri and Phonics for Reading and Spelling by Bonnie Dettmer. I have read both of these also. They each have some points with which I differ and some which I think are very good ideas. The Sanseri program is less comprehensive.

Jodi Mrowiec
Date: Sat, 22 Mar 2003
From: bartman747

> I would like someone’s opinion on the Veritas Press History/Bible Studies/Flashcards

I have used the Veritas Press History Flashcards for 3 years now. My children are currently 8 and 10 and the cards have helped to give me a history outline to follow each year as we cover one card a week (more or less).

> I want to do their History/Bible Study because I don’t, at this time, feel confident in my ability to put something together on my own

I have not used the Bible Flashcards by Veritas but for teaching your children the Bible, I would HIGHLY recommend either “The Child’s Story Bible” by Catherine Vos or “Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible” by Dr. Jesse Lyman Hurlbut.

> daughters are 9 and 7 and I don’t want to get into “questionable content” of History books … I don’t know if these books are appropriate in content.

My kids have had me cover up some of the pictures in Kingfisher History Encyclopedia and The Usborne Book of World History (that we own) because the pictures frightened them. I found some of the books about ancient Egypt and mummies can be scary to kids. If at all possible, I would check out the books at the library before bringing them home. If you’re looking for a history textbook, you might consider “Streams of Civilization”. But I find textbooks very dry and uninteresting. I would much rather read living history books to my kids and have used the Veritas catalog to find some good books at our library (or through an interlibrary loan). Some of the books we did enjoy were “The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt” by Elizabeth Payne, “Adam and His Kin, The Lost History of Their Lives and Times” by Ruth Beechick, “The Cat of Bubastes” by G. A. Henty and “Tirzah” by Lucille Travis.

Sonja Knight
From: Kathy Craig
Subject: Re: counted cross stitch
Date: Sat, 22 Mar 2003

<A good place to start is with counted cross-stitch using very large squares — I can’t remember the gauge, but it is much larger than 12 or 14 point. >>

My girls learned to do counted cross stitch using gingham check fabric with 1/4 inch checks. It was simple and enjoyable and cute. Very easy to see with 1/4 inch squares. Just mark the pattern with x’s in pencil where they will sew. I think some people call it chicken scratch embroidery.

From: QuazyMama
Date: Sat, 29 Mar 2003
Subject: Necessary reading for Greece and Rome

My kids and I are studying the Ancient Greek civilization and we are hoping to get into the Romans before school ends. Can someone share with me what are the most important primary sources we should read before finishing up with the Greeks. I originally bought Thucydides “The Peloponnesian War”, but there is not way we can get through that now. I have Herodotus and I have had the kids read snippets that I have pulled out when we were studying the Egyptians, but it seems to be mostly about the Persians so is there anything in there that is important. I will have the boys read the prophets, but what do you think would be profitable for a high school Classical study of Greece and Rome? You know, the good stuff. I would so much appreciate any insight. Thanks so much.

In Christ,
Our new book Ancient History from Primary Sources: A Literary Timeline will take you through ancient history and show you which primary sources to read and when to read them. The accompanying CDs have the actual full version English translations of these primary sources.

Date: Fri, 28 Mar 2003
From: Carol Hodges

city: Warsaw
state: VA

I am homeschooling 4 of my 7 children. The oldest that I am schooling just turned 11 and the youngest just turned 6. I am facing a fence that seems too high to climb and there is no gate. I am longing to free myself from workbooks/textbooks, but don’t know how to start. Reading your book and reading about unit studies has created a longing in me to revamp my whole home environment. I am afraid that too much has been lost with the older children (8, 9 and 11.) If I started to teach my 11 yr son Latin, we would surely die!!! UGH!!! I am being facetious! It would be a struggle. I wouldn’t know how to start and I am very insecure as I am only educated through the 12th grade. I can sing O Come All Ye Faithful in Latin but to teach it???  In short… IS THERE HOPE? Can I start all over??

Can this homeschool be fixed? Sincerely ~ Carol Hodges
Yes, there is plenty of hope. Your children are still quite young, and you have plenty of time. We didn’t start with Latin till our oldest was thirteen. I learned it right along with him. If you do decide to do Latin, I suggest getting a self-teaching course like Artes Latinae. But perhaps you would rather do Greek instead. Probably one language would be enough for you right now. Most of your children are in the under 10 group, so I suggest just following the 10 things to do before age 10 chapter in our book. The 11 yo will need more of your help, unless he is an independent learner.  It won’t be a matter of starting over, but just making some adjustments. Do you like to read aloud? That will be an important part of your schedule.

Date: Thu, 3 Apr
From: probhita shew

Dear Bluedorns, My husband and I are missionaries in India. He is white American and I am Indian, We met in Bible School in America. He has served in India 8 years now and we have just this year moves to New Delhi to plant a church. We are parents of a delightful one year old daughter and by God’s grace plan to adopt a baby in another year or so. We have decided to homeschool our children – a concept entirely alien to Indian culture, and a rather formidable challenge to me, honestly speaking. We have been researching different homeschooling methods and curriculums and are very impressed with yours.  I had a very average, the usual operation cram and forget education. It was not until I was in Twelfth grade that I began to enjoy studying and wished I could go back to school all over again! My only saving grace was my mother, an avid reader, who instilled in me that same love and since we were not exposed to TV, (thank heavens) my imagination was salvaged. And my parents taught us to love the Lord Jesus Christ and cherish the Bible for which I am ever grateful. My husband went to public school and although he now loves to study and read and is an incredible student of the Bible, never read an entire book until he got saved! We both desire for our children to receive a REAL Christian education, unlike ourselves!  I am saying all this to explain that I have no clue where to begin! Latin and Greek is precisely that to me, although I took a basic course in Greek in Bible college. (Mrs Bluedorns testimony on this score was of particular consolation!) I am going to order ‘Teaching the Trivium’ this week and get busy reading as soon as it arrives. We will be in the US this summer for a month and a half and then back in New Delhi for the rest of the year. We usually try to make it back to the states once a year but this may not always be possible for practical financial reasons. Therefore I have to gather as many resources while there. Shipping is expensive and not always dependable.  I really desire to glorify the Lord in my role as wife and mother and do not want to buckle under this new challenge. I also understand that we are going to come under tremendous criticism in India from both family and friends and so this venture will be quite an undertaking and by His grace a great example. What would you suggest to put me on the right track? Where do I begin? Which is the best intensive phonetic curriculum? I was an awful student in Math, how can I help my daughter not follow my example? Will I be able to learn as I ‘go along’? Or must I first master these subjects before I attempt imparting them? Or does your book cover all these questions and should I wait until I first read your book?

A rather scared but ready to learn mother, Probhita Shew
You will relearn math as you teach her — it’s not necessary to learn it first, just learn it right along with her. The same for the other subjects. I suggest the husband do Greek and logic with the child. You will do fine — a willing heart is all that is needed.  Your biggest problem will be disapproving relatives and friends. Don’t allow peer pressure to sway you from what the Lord directs.

Date: Sun, 6 Apr 2003
Subject: Children Asking ‘Why?’
From: adorehymn


I have reason to claim more than average experience with this question, and have studied out reasonable, godly, and character building responses to this part of parenting/childhood. Still, I’d love more input on this, as one of my children has years to go with this in extreme. You see, children with Non-Verbal-Learning Disability (which is highly verbal, and no other modalities are strong) ask Why? an inordinate amount. I have two of these children, so have intense training, and a ways to go. I would second Harvey’s response, and add one little note that has been helpful for our family. When the question ‘Why?’ is growing out of healthy curiosity, it can be an excellent thing to remember to affirm the child’s curiosity (as seen fit by the parent) and then challenge the child to try to puzzle some things out for themselves…even if it is a challenge for the future: I’m so glad that you are/were watching/observing/curious-about that! 1) It will be really neat to discover that together!! -or- 2) Let’s see if you can take some time to figure that out before Daddy comes home!! , (possibly adding:) Can you think of any way you could explore that idea? -or- 3) You are watching something wonderful about God’s ways/creation/design in our life/world! When you know more about _____ then we will have a chance to see more about God’s ways by studying the answers to that very question. That’s just one of the great reasons to study _____. I’m sure that there are other good responses to healthy curiosity. These might give you room to brainstorm when you are tired of the ‘Why?’ stage, and ready to move on!!! It is a helpful stage not only for the child’s mind, but for the training of the heart (as Harvey pointed out), and of WorldView, and so much more.

Tender affection, Lorraine
Date: Mon, 07 Apr 2003
From: Barry White

Dear Friends, Some of you out there are still pouring over books, which reminded me of some of my own tenacious misconceptions, misspellings, and facts I should know that just plain don’t stick. It also gave me the mental image of liquefied homeschoolers, but that’s beside the point. I’d like to share a useful tool to attack such evasive and annoying stumbling blocks. I call it The Whupit Principle. The idea is that every learner is occasionally beset by a fact or an idea that somehow resists being taken in. Collect a few of these, and one begins to think that perhaps the whole subject is beyond one’s grasp. Not good. So, whup it! Decide that this is the day when you’ll make that little fact your own. You will master it; you will beat it into submission to your will once and for all. Write it out, read it out loud, sing it, dance it, bake it, explain it to someone else, whatever it takes to WHUP IT. I spelled occasion wrong for years until I finally decided that I was going to learn that little tidbit. Each one of my children has come across a recalcitrant fact or two. They feel discouraged until I explain the plan of attack, and they find out how effective a little focused mental energy is. Of course, this does NOT work for large bodies of information which are best learned in context. You wouldn’t want to say, for instance, today’s the day we’re going to whup the multiplication table! Seven times eight is fifty-six, however, is a whuppable whup-it. For anyone who’s game, here’s a possible whup-it to whup: According to _The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition_, to pour is to make stream or flow, or to stream or flow. To pore is to gaze steadily, or to read or study carefully and attentively. For example, Sarah poured herself into the work of poring over references for her research project. Happy whupping! Katherine in Cambodia P.S. You will not find the verb to whup in the dictionary, unless you have a distinctively Southern American one. You will find wallop, however, from which it seems to be derived.
Date: Mon, 7 Apr 2003
From: Matthew P Henry

This is a response to the question about getting the 4 yob enjoying reading aloud. We didn’t know about the Bluedorns or their great material eight years ago when our son was born, but from day one, I’ve always sat him in my lap and read to him. Now, we read an hour or more each day and he can’t get enough. Our 1 year old daughter, we prayed, and planned, would be the same way. However, when she was about 6 or 8 months old, she strongly didn’t want to sit in mommy or daddy’s lap. However, we gently, required her to do that, at least for short times each day. Well, as I mentioned, she’s about 1 year and four months now. And, honestly, her favorite thing in all the world is to sit in mommy or daddy’s lap and have us read to her. She brings us books to read. We have to literally make her play now, and tell her it’s not time to read! And, believe it or not, reading is chapter books, like Johnny Tremain, etc. If I stop, and she wants more, she begs for more. We do let her play on the floor as the Bluedorns mentioned many times too, but most of the time she wants up in daddy’s lap. You mentioned computer! Frankly, that sounds like the problem. We have not let any of our children watch TV or on the computer until they could write well, and that has just been in the last 1 or 2 years with our 8 year old. Our little one, no TV or computer. It’s so wonderful and so many great times without these things in their lives! It will probably be hard, but I would gently, require the sitting and playing time while you read and take away TV and computer time. I believe the Bluedorns have some wonderful resources as to what using computer or TV does to brain development. My two cents anyway 🙂 -Matthew Henry


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