Best of Homeschooling with the Trivium Newsletter Year 2005-Part 3

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From: Kari L. Shivvers
Date: Sun, 21 Aug 2005

Dear Laurie and Harvey,

This short article was sent down our homeschooling loop a few days ago, and I thought it was one interesting way to handle the socialization fallacy. Thank you for the additional information that you provided in your answer.
How to Answer the Socialization Question Once and for All
by Marsha Ransom

I am beginning to tire of the many articles, essays and responses I keep running across on what has become to be known as the socialization question.

Homeschooling families, please listen carefully: What people refer to as socialization is a non-issue! It has become a buzz-word among the Official Homeschool Nay Sayers Society. When someone asks you the question (What about SOCIALIZATION!?), I suggest you begin by asking them, What do you mean by socialization? They will more than likely proceed with some variation on the following theme: You know, having your kids spend time with other kids their age. Hanging out with their friends, stuff like that. At that point do not, under any circumstances respond with, Oh my little Susie gets plenty of socialization! She’s in 4-H and Awanas, and Sunday school and homeschool band and she volunteers at the nursing home etc.etc.etc. In fact she has so many opportunities for socialization that I hardly have time to teach her some days. YaDa YaDa YaDa. Why not? Because this is not what socialization really is!

Here is a more appropriate response: Oh, I think the word you are looking for is socializing. Socialization is actually defined as the process by which the norms and standards of our society are passed from one generation to the next. I’ve never really thought that a complete stranger’s six-year-old child would be a good source of information on the correct standards of behavior in our family and in society as a whole. As for socializing, I remember from my school days that it was something you weren’t supposed to be doing during class!

We do not have to defend homeschooling based on false assumptions, false accusations, and false information. Please stop telling others about all the opportunities your kids have for socialization and start gently exposing them to the real issue here — a lot of what kids learn from other kids in social situations is simply living according to The Law of the Jungle. In our family, we have a higher set of laws to follow and I bet your family does too. Next time, don’t be afraid to say so!
From: ohconsuelo
Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2005

Please permit me to run something by you.

I am on your email list, not because I am homeschooling, but because I wish I had had the wisdom to do so, and hold out hope that my children who now are having children will perhaps do so. Therefore I read about homeschooling to gather information.

Our children were sent to the government brain-laundries. I didn’t learn my lesson until our youngest was nearly out of high school. It was about that time that I became a believer. Then the LORD made me aware of the many evils going on in the govt. school system.  Our youngest, our daughter, had been recruited by the school employees to be in their gifted program. Being misled into believing it was academic enrichment, and being told specifically that there was NO VALUES CLARIFICATION involved, we agreed. They lied. She and the others were in this from the fourth grade through the eighth grade and specialized materials were used to do the values-clarifying. The Jr. Great Books and Philosophy for Children. Both use the Socratic Method. Both are carefully and cagily designed to lead children to pre-determined outcomes. The gifted at this school (and other schools) were/are having their opinions altered via these programs. Skip to now. There is a man named …. out in Washington State. He sells materials to homeschoolers. He sells and promotes the Jr. Great Books and Philosophy for Children and he also promotes the Socratic Method to homeschool parents by signing them up for computer/phone – Socratic discussions. Evidently, the kids can dialogue with other homeschooling kids around the country and around the world.  So now, not only are people like Bill Bennett trying to corral homeschoolers back into the government school system but people like this …. are selling the unwary the insidious values-changing materials that are used in government schools.  I would like you to know this.
Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2005

Dear Harvey and Laurie,

I just received your box of books today. They all look wonderful and I’m looking forward to reading through each one. I plan on reading through Johannah’s books each night with my youngest ones – they are already begging me to start NOW (what a great way to get them ready and IN bed on time, LOL!).

I have several questions though. First, my youngest daughter Kaitlyn is 12 and loves to draw. She is drawn to really bright colors like Johannah uses. My daughter is really gifted and I want to encourage her in her drawing – can I ask how you helped Johannah when she was young? I have an art tutor who gives classes nearby, but although it has helped my daughter a little, it also limits her to drawing to what the teacher wants her to do. And did you give your daughter the expensive drawing paper or regular printer paper when she was younger? My daughter seems to have outgrown the printer paper at this point and craves the bigger sketch pads and better quality paper (and I can see a definite difference in the finished artwork with better paper). So I’m curious to know how you managed to encourage your daughter. Kaitlyn has already looked through Johannah’s books and is so excited. She wants to do watercolor so badly too but I haven’t a clue how to teach her that… I guess I’m just looking for some encouragement myself in helping her along. You seem to have already done it and come out the other side
I’m not opposed to children taking art lessons — I’m sure it can help many. We didn’t do art lessons, though. Johannah took a few — two, I think — once long ago, but she didn’t like it, so we stopped. When the children were young, below age 10 or so, we went through lots of paper, so I used mostly junk paper. At that time we used lots of computer paper — the kind that came all attached together in one strip. As they got older and when they were working on a serious piece, then we would use more expensive paper. We often made our own paper using a blender or other means! There are books at the library which tell you how to make paper, and this can become for you a very valuable project. We also went through a time where we made things out of newspapers — very complicated objects — and then we displayed these objects at the library and other places. Again, there are books at the library to help you with this. Today, I love buying different types of paper. I have boxes and boxes of different types/textures of paper for the kids to experiment with. My favorite place right now is That’s where we get the paper for Johannah’s prints.

Concerning watercolor painting, Johannah taught herself using books from the library. She read about it and started experimenting. Be sure to use the watercolor paints in tubes, not those little hard cubes of watercolors you see at the discount stores. Use good brushes and teach the children how to care for the brushes.

Do a search of our archives on this subject. We have discussed it in length in the past.

Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2005

Bless the Lord
By Johannah Bluedorn

Snuggle up with someone you love as you slowly turn through these pages filled with not quite Victorian and not quite country – but a mixture of the two that creates a very down home sweetness that is simply irresistible. This is the perfect bedtime book if there ever was one! Young children, grandparents and all ages in between will be captivated by the sheer joy, love and intricate detail Johannah Bluedorn has placed in each illustration. Just when you are ready to turn the page, another intriguing image will catch your attention for yet another long, enjoyable study of a delightful scene.

Each page is graced with earthly beauty which is based on the scriptures found throughout the 103rd Psalm. Only Johannah has given it deeper meaning. She has taken to heart each and every word King David wrote and placed those words into our homes, our families, our very lives. She has done this in such a humble, simple way by creating vivid illustrations of home and daily life that reflects the wisdom in the verse she uses.

The beauty and exquisite detail found in each illustration captures the reader’s attention and continues to hold it indefinitely page after page. It is simply impossible to take in the entire illustration at one glace, or even within several minutes. While you meditate on the verses found in the 103rd Psalm, you gaze over exquisite detail, grace and beauty on each and every page. What a very unique and simple way to memorize this special Psalm.

Whether it is a full page illustration, the details of which are unsurpassed in a child’s picture book, or a beautiful array of foliage with a glancing vignette to highlight the meaning of a verse, the book is captivating and cries to be read again, and again, and again. Truly a memory maker for children and parents as they slowly work through each page and happily share little details they have found carefully tucked away.

And let’s not forget the simple song score at the back of the book, simple enough for even young children to play on the piano or violin. The song contains the treble cleft notes and the words to the entire 103rd Psalm to sing along with. As soon as my middle daughter saw the music, she took out her violin and began to play, filling our home with a worthy song to sing.

Definitely a keeper for this generation and the next.

Hardcover, 8.5×11″, full page color illustrations, 28 pages.

Rebekah Wilson
Hope Chest Legacy
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005
From: Bart W Knight

From Tonya:
“I would also appreciate any suggestions for books to use while studying the Civil War.”

Here are some books we read (my children were 9 and 11):

1. Shades of Gray by Carolyn Reader (a thoughtful book with minimal violence)
2. With Lee in Virginia by G. A. Henty (the typical Henty plot but still enjoyable – one gruesome episode)
3. Behind Rebel Lines by Seymour Reit
4. A Day That Changed America – Gettysburg by Shelley Tanaka (short but informative)
5. Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt (my favorite)
6. Gettysburg (Landmark series) by MacKinlay Kantor
7. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephan Crane (a well known book but I found it very dark)

Don’t forget I Want My Sunday, Stranger! by Patricia Beatty.
Online Rolfe Barnard Sermon Library
Date: Tue, 6 Sep 2005
From: Matthew P Henry

Dear Karen,

My 10 year old has enjoyed the original Sugar Creek Gang. They are hard to find, though, but can be found online for example at or They are the ones published before 1955. They are so good, have a group of boys having a gang to lead others to Christ! Everyone in the gang carries a pocket NT, my son asked for one and carries it with him where ever he goes! Although not complete fiction, he has also enjoyed the Ralph Moody series.
Date: Thu, 08 Sep 2005
From: Rogers Family

My son, who now loves Henty and can’t put him down, enjoyed The Freddy the Pig books and Jules Verne. He also loved the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis and Tolkien’s the Hobbit.

From: Kimberly Bunyard
Date: Sat, 10 Sep 2005
city: Euharlee
state: GA

I was wondering if you could recommend any board games that you have enjoyed. I have elementary aged children and was hoping for suggestions to enhance their learning. I was especially interested in geography games, and was wondering what you have found to be of value and worth the time and expense.
My daughter Helena wanted me to recommend to you On Assignment, a board game we got from the National Geographic people.
Date: Tue, 13 Sep 2005
From: Angela Dunmire
Subject: Delaying formal math until age 10: a success story

We found the Bluedorns at a convention a few years ago, where I decided to kill an hour by sitting in on one of their talks so I could dismiss this classical style once and for all. Well, the joke was on me, because in that hour I heard Laurie and Harvey’s talk entitled 10 Things to Do with Children Before Age 10. This will sound dramatic, but it changed our lives. Our home school was happy before, but it was happier after implementing the Bluedorns’ ideas. Selfishly, I loved getting permission for so much time devoted to reading aloud, something we were doing already, but not as much as we should have. Reading MORE books together was easy.

The biggest change we made was dropping the abacus-based math program we’d been using with our first born. It was a good, strong program and our daughter did well with it, but we decided to try the Bluedorns suggestions regarding holding off on formal math until age 10. We continued with informal math, for ex: lots of games and paying our children for small jobs (NOT chores) and having them tithe, and save a certain percentage for long-term savings, short-term savings, charity, etc. is great teaching tool too.

Now three years later I am happy to report that our 10 yr old child (who would be in 5th grade in the government school) opened up Saxon 65 (a sixth grade text) yesterday, the day we started a new school year, and has sailed through the first two lessons. (We may assign two lessons per day, but we don’t want to go overboard.) This success comes after THREE YEARS of no formal math. This summer we drilled the multiplication facts, but I still provided the addition/subtraction and multiplication/division charts that the Bluedorns suggest in their book Teaching the Trivium. Our daughter hasn’t used them yet.

Holding off on formal math WORKS! I am so glad we spent time reading and working together instead of laboring over math books or worksheets.

I just wanted to share our success (and joy!) and encourage those of you out there who may be skeptical or even afraid to delay formal math.

Date: Tue, 13 Sep 2005
From: Speedracer
Subject: Greetings from the great state of Maine


I thank you for your faithfulness to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I had no idea that Classical Homeschooling was even an option. We have a wonderful Classical school nearby, and it has been our prayer for our children to go there. But as you must already know, the cost is quite high. We have been praying on this and continue to do so, as our oldest will soon be 5, and we will need to make a decision soon. But in the interim, we are preparing for a year of home-pre-schooling I have been quite adamant from the beginning, that I am not homeschool teach material. I still feel this way. But instead of sending our son for another year of pre-school, two days a week, (and after praying long and hard) we decided I will try a go at it for at least this year, in hopes to put the money saved toward his upcoming education. Then, by God’s loving grace, I came across your site. And to my surprise, there were others! Well, this happened all last night, and I was up till 1 in the morning, reading, reading, reading! I was so excited! And I still am. My question to you is two-fold. Do you know, or can you suggest, and Pre-K Curriculum for Classical Education? I know I saw something last night, but as I said, it was quite late, and for the life of me, I cannot find the link again! Also, I saw you have the wonderful little book on how to teach young ones the Latin alphabet. And I am very interested in this. I thank you again. I truly am excited about what God is starting in my life, and in the life of my children.

God Bless,
Date: Thu, 15 Sep 2005
From: Jammie Payne
Subject: teaching primary ages to hand sew

Hello All,

I just wanted to share how I was teaching very young (ages 5-9) children to sew. I used an idea from a great book published by the Pearables called Home Economics for Homeschoolers. Basically, you give each student a pattern, 5×6 index card, metal yarn needle, and a length of crochet thread. I used a heart and tulip pattern for the girls, but you could choose any simple pattern. The child cuts out the pattern and traces it onto the card. After this, use the needle to punch holes (either you or the child depending on motor skills) evenly around the design. Erase all pencil marks, thread the needles and sew in and out of the holes. When finished it makes a lovely display. I’m going to frame my daughter’s because she loves it and the colors match her bedroom. This gives them great practice in cutting out a pattern, threading a needle and using small even stitches.   Also, it is simple enough that they can work on it while you read aloud. I had one mom say that her little girl has been sewing non-stop since class.

Jammie in TX
From: Don Potter;
Subject: 1954 Essay
Date: Sun, 18 Sep 2005

I just republished a 1954 essay — Why Don’t They Teach Them to Read by Howard Whitman.

I found it as a html file (obviously just a OCR of a scanned copy) and corrected some of the mis-scans, then converted it into a PDF document. It was written one year before Flesch published his Johnny. It gives valuable insights into reading instruction back then, and – sad to say – reading instruction today.

Don Potter
Odessa, TX
From: Melody Peterman
Date: Sun, 18 Sep 2005

re: I was wondering if you could recommend any board games?

This is not technically a game, but we have used it in the same way.  Highlights Magazine for Children publishes several series we have enjoyed.  Their Top Secret Adventures is a world geography/history puzzle game that comes in the form of a monthly magazine. A different country/culture is highlighted (no pun intended!) each month. Which Way USA is similar, but focuses on two states each month. They were not cheap, but my kids enjoyed them and learned a lot.

Melody Peterman
From: Teresa Stanton
Subject: Re: geography board game
Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2005

I would like to recommend a U.S. geography board game called Great States Jr. This is geared to ages 4-7 and my boys (5 & 8) really enjoy it and are learning to recognize the shapes, location, names, landmarks, and major products of each of the states. It’s for the younger ages because you don’t have to read to play but it’s a great refresher for the Mom who can’t quite place all those middle of the country states.

Teresa S. in GA
Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2005
From: Jammie Payne
Subject: more books to read


I am enjoying reading about what you all are reading to your kids. Our little community library has the book, Honey for a Child’s Heart. It is a book that gives all the facts so to speak in regards to books for the younger child (even as young as preschool). It has story summaries, etc. Currently, I am reading Understood Betsy to my kids by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. It is an old book, but is still published. One that I enjoyed reading aloud when I taught 4th grade was Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. It especially made an impact when I was able to visit the Holocaust museum a couple of years later. My daughter is currently working on group two words in TATRAS. She read a My First I Can Read book this past week. She did so well that she volunteered to read 3 more easy readers (a first with her). Her favorites are about a puppy named Biscuit. She also enjoys reading poetry as recommended by Frank Rogers of TATRAS. So far her favorite authors are Christina Rossetti, Robert Louis Stevenson and Annette Wynne. I usually type them in a larger font and double space them for easier reading. We keep them in a folder and refer to them often. A good source of poems with kid appeal is an old set of Childcraft Encyclopedias.   There is a volume just of poetry and prose.

Happy Reading,
Jammie in TX
Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2005
Subject: math and a quote

I am not quite understanding your delayed formal math instruction. Just for the sake of those of us who need it in plain black and white – what level of math book should we reasonably be able to open up around the 10-ish or 11 age if we have delayed formal math instruction up to that point? What processes should they already kind of have in their heads? To make it easier for me – say I want to open up an ABEKA math book around age 10 or so, which one would I use by then? Or let’s say I want to open up a Saxon math book, which one could I reasonably open up and use with that student by then? I did read your article on math by the way.

Jackie in TX

I recently read an interview in which the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison was asked why she had become a great writer, what books she had read, what method she had used to structure her practice. She laughed and said, Oh, no, that is not why I am a great writer. I am a great writer because when I was a little girl and walked into a room where my father was sitting, his eyes would light up. That is why I am a great writer. That is why. There isn’t any other reason. (from Searching for God Knows What – Donald Miller – author of Blue Like Jazz)
I’m only familiar with Saxon Math, which is the curriculum we used with our children. I started Ava and Helena on Saxon 65 at age 10, and Hans at age 11. If you do a search of the archives on our web site you will find numerous discussions on this topic, including other math curricula which have been used with this method.
Subject: re: Board Games
Date: Sun, 25 Sep 2005

This is not technically a game, but we have used it in the same way.

Highlights Magazine for Children publishes several series we have enjoyed.  Their Top Secret Adventures is a world geography/history puzzle game that comes in the form of a monthly magazine.  My children have enjoyed these Highlights puzzle books too. Highlights has made a board game called Top Secret Adventures that correlates with the puzzle books. It’s kind of pricey (19.95 I think) but we found it at a thrift store, practically unused, for 50 cents. God is good!! My sons have really enjoyed playing this geography whodunnit.

Rebecca Wright
From: Jason and Jennifer Churchill
Date: Mon, 26 Sep 2005
Subject: Re: Pre-K Curriculum Suggestion

Dear Pam,

When I read your email I felt compelled to answer. I know the Best Pre-K curriculum. It’s the 10 things to do with your child before the age of ten section in the Bluedorn’s book. It is the most complete curriculum I know of. I can’t tell you the freedom and absolute joy this little article has brought to our lives.

When my eldest was 4 we plunked down $400 plus for a classical curriculum for him. I was so excited to start school, and when we got the box in the mail, all I thought was…I paid over $400 dollars for this? Still I was not going to get discouraged and forged ahead to teach all I thought he was supposed to be learning at this age. Well, he didn’t follow the plan that I had read about in other classical books…he didn’t read at four….couldn’t sit still to save his life for us to go through the all important lessons. He wanted to draw and have me read to him and he loved memorizing scripture, books of the Bible, anything. But this wasn’t enough…or so I was lead to believe. I also didn’t like all the emphasis on pagan cultures and philosophies…all the pagan myths etc. I wanted my children to be drenched in the things of God not studying false ones at such a young age. I remembered being young and learning about all these pagan things. I remembered the fascination this knowledge had given me and the hunger for more of it it had caused. I remembered the mystique that surrounded all of it making it all the more compelling. I hadn’t heard any of these concerns expressed so I just kept them to myself. I had given up on the whole classical model until I checked out a copy of the Bluedorn’s book from my local library. It was really just on a whim that I checked it out…I had seen it advertised in the CBD catalog and the title had always intrigued me….Christian classical education. Well, when I read the book it was as if the Bluedorn’s were putting into words all the thoughts my husband and I had expressed to each other and the Lord.   I thought I could skip the first section because I was already convinced about homeschooling, but I found myself reading each part because the way it was written gave me so much confidence in being able to explain things to friends, family etc. Then when I came to the section on the Ten Things…WOW!!! How simple and yet true.  I have 4 blessings ages 8 to 2 and we have been enjoying our ten things for almost a year now. We love to spend our days together! We love to read the Word and hide it in our hearts by memorizing…my 4 year old knows more scripture than I did at 24! We love reading great books together! Right now we’re reading 2 books together and then they each have their own book that we spend one on one time reading together once the 2 year old is down for his nap. We love our timeline. We read together Mystery of History like a story book. And the kids take turns coloring little pictures for the timeline. They love being able to get their craft stuff out whenever they want and work on little projects. We have such a fun together! My husband is in charge of math but we don’t use any formal curriculum. He does such fun things with them and they don’t even realize that they’re learning boring math…it’s anything but boring to them and they are always adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing things without even realizing it.  This LONG letter is to say this…it works! You don’t need to buy curriculum at this age. Spend your money on great books to read aloud or arts and craft supplies. Establish regular Family worship, if you haven’t already. Read the Word to them, read great books to them. Love them and spend time with them coloring and walking and exploring the world with them. They have so much to learn from you. They learn just by being in your presence. God gave them to you to teach and raise for His glory. He gives us everything we need and He gives it when we need it. He has equipped you already because you are a parent. There is no one better to teach your children than you and your husband, you’ve been doing it since the day your children were born. God bless you and your family as you begin this exciting journey and learn even more of the awesome love of our wonderful Lord!

In His Hands,
Jennifer Churchill
Date: Mon, 26 Sep 2005

>>But in the interim, we are preparing for a year of home-pre-schooling. I have been quite adamant from the beginning that I am not homeschool teach material. I still feel this way. But instead of sending our son for another year of pre-school, two days a week, (and after praying long and hard) we decided I will try a go at it for at least this year, in hopes to put the money saved toward his upcoming education. >>

To Pam,

My husband was transferred to San Diego, CA when I was pregnant with third baby. Older two were (at the time) aged 3 and 5. I was adamant, also, that I was not homeschool teacher material but $$$ for private school seemed impossible. Lo and behold, we stumbled upon (what became) our home church, where the pastor was trying to establish a classical school. This is how I discovered the world of classical education, which was most intriguing and enticing. But how to pay tuition? The next year, our pastor made the bold announcement that he would offer free tuition for all tithing families of the church. My heart leapt with joy. No wonder God moved us to San Diego! Then I picked up the troublesome book, Better Late than Early written by Dr Raymond Moore (after Dr Dobson referenced it in his book, Bringing up Boys) and shockingly, I concluded that homeschooling was the Lord’s plan for my family despite the prospects of a free classical tuition! Very intimidating, scary, etc. Interestingly, several other church families who were initially intending to send their kids to the free school, also received the call to home education. We all jumped in with fear and trembling. My oldest is now 8 years old/3rd gr. and we are expecting Baby #5. I can say now, without reservation, that it is a JOY beyond measure to home school using the Trivium and I actually think myself capable of schooling all the children through 12th grade. However, the first two years were excruciating, painful, torturous, and ultimately the most humbling position God has ever given me as this job exposes all the weaknesses of a most sinful mom. You will never regret this year with your child. No matter how hard it might be! (p.s. the free tuition classical school shut down within the first year. Maybe it was just the tool that God used to get us all on the classical track.) Your cheerleader in California, a home schooling mom who has lived to tell of it!

Date: Mon, 26 Sep 2005
From: Jammie Payne
Subject: County Fair Entries

Hello All,

We are planning on entering the County Fair in October here in Central TX. I’m entering some sewing and baked goods. My hubbie is entering his pickled Jalapenos. The children are very excited and want to enter several different areas. One that appealed to my 8 yo is to make an insect collection. I’ve not done this since 8th grade science and am not sure what all should be included for a fair project in her age division. It is our first time to enter the fair.  Are there any tips that you all could offer on entering fairs or especially in regards to making a bug collection? Right now, I keep opening the freezer to find new bugs in ziplock snack bags…yuck! Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Curtis and Jammie in TX
Date: Tue, 27 Sep 2005
From: Rod and Karen Munsell
Subject: grammar for 3rd grader

Dear Fellow Homeschoolers,

I thoroughly enjoy the topics and discussions on these emails but have yet to write or respond as I am still learning the classical idea of teaching and it seems like I am spending more time trying to read up on everything than actually doing things with my children. There is so much to learn! In any case I am now and have been for a few weeks trying to find a better way to teaching grammar to my 3rd grader. The trouble I am having is finding a book that actually teaches the why of certain rules. It is very frustrating to me to have a definition of something and not have the why to it answered especially when the definitions are incomplete. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not want to teach my daughter every grammar rule and the why of it but I feel it is difficult for me to teach when I do not understand. As an example, when she was doing her Bible Reader (Rod and Staff) last year they would have questions and you would have to answer in a complete sentence. Often she would start her answer with the word ;because; and in trying to explain why that is not a complete sentence just because it has the word ;because; in front of it was not a easy task (almost as difficult as reading that last sentence). I think we just ended up saying you just can’t do that. I could not find anywhere that explained this ( I know it is a preposition but if you look up the definitions of a sentence it would seem to fit). Now maybe I just do not know where to look or have such a poor understanding of grammar that this should not be a problem to most people, but it would still be nice to be able to look up such things. I like the idea of Harvey’s English decoder and have just ordered it. Something along these lines for grammar would be great. Last year we used First Language Lessons which we really enjoyed but it does take a lot of teacher time and involvement and with 3 other children including one very active 3 yo it would be nice to have a workbook style program. She really enjoys the Rod and Staff but it is not a complete program for grammar. Also we have tried Winston Grammar but it is also not very thorough. I was wondering if any one could give an opinion on Simply Grammar or Easy Grammar or suggest anything else. Thanks for reading this long message.

God Bless and thank you all especially the Bluedorns for their continued work.

Karen Munsell
From: Ryan Family
Date: Fri, 7 Oct 2005

Review of Ancient History from Primary Sources: A Literary Timeline
Reviewed by Jay Ryan

There is perhaps no better way to make history come alive than to read the actual words of important historical figures. Study of the primary sources is a gratifying and mind-expanding approach to learning history.

Once upon a time, there was virtue and value in being a well read person who understood classical literary references such as crossing the Rubicon and the rosy-fingered dawn. In our era of Gameboys and dumbed-down public schools, not many college graduates have read Plato and Aristotle, or Cicero and Augustine. But classical education is making a comeback, in not a little part due to the labors of Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn, the authors of Ancient History from Primary Sources.

This wonderful resource begins with a timeline from Creation through the Fall of Rome (A.D. 476). This unique timeline is divided into five columns to indicate Hebrew & Christian, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek and Roman histories. Each column indicates the years of historical events and major literary works, so that one could see at a glance the contributions of each culture to western civilization.

After the timeline, an Author and Primary Source Index is provided which gives an outline of the content of each primary source, such as historical events recorded by Herodotus and Tacitus, philosophical works by Plato and Aristotle, and mathematical treatises by Euclid and Archimedes. The Author and Primary Source Index includes chapters on The Bible, Literature of Egypt, Literature of the Hebrew People, Literature of Mesopotamia, and Literature of Greece and Rome.

Appendices are provided for helping a contemporary reader begin a study of history from the sources, and for bringing a Biblical approach to studying pagan sources. In addition to young scholars of history and the classics, this book would also be helpful to parents seeking to belatedly acquire a well-educated mind.

The value of this magnum opus is further enhanced by the inclusion of a two-CD set, Primary Literary Sources for Ancient History, which includes the complete text of over 1200 ancient works by 80 classical authors. The sources on this disc include every important author from Arrian to Plutarch to Strabo. This CD set alone is worth much more than the asking price.

The Bluedorn’s sourcebook is an indispensable resource for every serious student of history and every student of the classics. And the value is inestimable for Christian Classical students of the Trivium approach, homeschooled or otherwise.
Subject: Bible translation?
Date: Sat, 1 Oct 2005

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Bluedorn,

I met Mrs. Bluedorn at the recent homeschooling conference in Phoenix and purchased your book, Trivium Pursuit. My daughter is five years old and we started homeschooling this last year. I have a question in reference to your Bible study and choosing a translation- please tell me your thoughts on the newest version, English standard version. I attend a church where Professor Wayne Grudem is a Sunday school teacher, but also on the committee for the revision of the ESV by Crossway Bibles. He is using it in our program and comes from a conservative reformed position…. he thinks that this is the best translation to use (as well as people like RC Sproul are supporting this translation). Since it has recently come out- I was wondering your thoughts on this as they claim to be very close to the King James Version, but a smoother version of the NASB. I look forward to your answer. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Blessings to you, Lori Gilstrap
I’ve written on the ESV in earlier issues, and have listed at the bottom of this message a few of the places where you might look. In brief, I can think of no particular reason to recommend the ESV above all of the other translations available other than it does have a great set of cross-references, formerly available only in old copies of the Revised Version of 1881. Since Wayne Grudem was on the translation oversight committee, and R.C. Sproul was on the advisory committee, we would expect them to endorse their own work — the ESV. The ESV bears little distinctive resemblance to the KJV, so I have no idea how anyone can claim it is very close to the King James Version. Perhaps you misunderstood. The NASB is a revision of the ASV, which is a slight revision of the RV. The ESV is a revision of the RSV, which is a revision of the ASV, from the RV. So the ESV is a sister or a niece to the NASB.

Date: Thu, 13 Oct 2005
Subject: Guidelines for Students of the Trivium

Grammar Stage: Don’t ask any logical questions.

Logic Stage: Don’t ask any wise questions.

Wisdom Stage: Don’t make any dumb jokes…

The Willis Family
Goodyear, AZ
From: Michael Knill
Subject: starting later with the trivium
Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2005

My name is Natalie. I wish to start with the trivium. I have two children which I have been homeschooling using a text book approach. My children are ages 8 and 10 years old. Where should start with the trivium. I have done very little narration and reading out loud with my children. Should I start on the 10-12 year old section with my 10 year old or should I back track. Could you please advise me? I am burnt out and ready to give up homeschooling altogether. Have I left it too late to start using Teaching the Trivium. Thank you for taking the time to respond.

Natalie Knill
Conder ACT
I was going to suggest that you call me and we can discuss this, but I see you are in Australia. You will do just fine if this year you keep both of them in the before age 10 category. Just do those 10 Things to Do Before Age 10. Did you print out that article from our web page? Take this year to revive your creativity and enthusiasm. Do lots of reading aloud. Your children are just babies and you have lots of time for the more formal academics later on.

I’m in big trouble today. We picked up the food co-op order this afternoon. I don’t know why they don’t put more descriptions on the items in their catalog. How was I supposed to know that the Soft Baked Double Chocolate Brownie Cookies are nut and gluten free made in a dedicated bakery, no trans fat, no artificial anything, made with sorghum flour. A case of those. Oh, well, they went down OK with a big swig of coffee, and I’ll have a good coffee break supply in for the winter, seeings as nobody else will probably eat them.

If something is labeled Chow Mein Noodles, wouldn’t you expect the normal crunchy brown Chow Mein Noodles like you buy at Wal-Mart and serve with your Oriental Chicken Salad? How is it I got some kind of uncooked noodles, sort of like spaghetti. A case of that. I’m giving it to Helena to put in her hope chest.

Nathan wanted some kind of hot cereal he could cook up easily in the morning, so I bought him something called Scottish Porridge Oats­ new in the catalog and the description sounded really different and tasty. It turns out to be plain old rolled oats in a fancy (and expensive) container. A case of those. Add on top of that a 25# bag of rolled oats which we needed.

How does this sound to you: Ryvita Fruit Crunch whole grain crispbread with fruit, oats and honey. It’s a very dry tasteless cracker with a raisin or two thrown in. A case of those.

Harvey likes beef jerky so I thought I’d get a good supply in for the winter. Turkey Jerky was on sale and I bought a case. In this case, a case wasn’t a case­ but a small envelope filled with 10 smaller envelopes of small pieces of something raised without antibiotics and free range. After all, Shelton’s Turkey Jerky is the stuff that serious snacks are made of! Five ounces of meat in all. I don’t think I want to look and see what that cost me.

OK, now I’m mad. I just opened the Sesmark Sesame Thins Cheddar, all natural ingredients. They must have gone way, way, way back into nature to make these. Sorry, but I had to eat one of my Soft Baked Double Chocolate Brownie Cookies, nut and gluten free made in a dedicated bakery, no trans fat, no artificial anything, made with sorghum flour to get the taste of that cracker out of my mouth. And I’m not a picky eater. A case of those.

The 25# bag of salt was good, as was the case of Shredded Wheat.

The Story of the Weeping Camel
I heard about “The Story of the Weeping Camel” on NPR radio. It won some awards as a documentary so I ordered it from Netflix.

This movie is cute. The camels are cute and gross and the Mongolian people are strange and similar to us. The desert is very dry and dusty and I wish I could ride a camel.

The story opens in the Gobi Desert among the Mongolian people. These people live in little huts and their life depends on goats and camels. It is a simple life. The film centers around one family – a grandmother and grandfather and their children and grandchildren who all live together – and the camels that give them transportation and clothing and lots of other things that are too gross to mention.

It is camel birthing season and the last camel to give birth is having trouble. It gives birth and the baby is a rare white camel. But the mother doesn’t want her child. So the desert farmer family tries to convince the mother to let her baby nurse. The story is basically the family’s struggle to save this baby. They finally resort to a folk remedy of bringing a musician from a distant city to play music and hypnotize the mother into letting the baby nurse and thereby accepting it. The mother camel cries at the end.

It is a very simple movie. The people speak only Mongolian. We read English subtitles. They live a simple life. They want very few things. Their life is primitive with the whole family living in one room of a hut and eating goat milk tea and rice, but with a few modern things like t-shirts and a battery-powered radio sprinkled in.

What makes this movie interesting is the simplicity and honesty of the presentation. I felt sorry for the family and for the mother camel and for the baby. When the movie was over, I felt like they could be me and their problems could be simplified versions of my own. At the same time, their life was very alien.

The only slightly objectionable scene is when the Mongolian mother gives her little boy a bath. My mother wanted to watch because it was cute, but we didn’t let her.

The whole movie was staged and the family was just a bunch of native actors. We were surprised to learn this at the end. It looked so real.

My whole family didn’t want to watch this movie at first because they thought it was going to be another of my eccentric movies, but they watched all the way to the end and said they liked it. So, I ordered “The March of the Penguins” for next time. We’ll see if they like that one.

Has anyone else seen this movie? What did you think of it?

I found Teaching the Trivium this summer after four years of homeschooling. I was so greatly relieved by the math recommendation because I have totally failed in that area. I used Miqioun only slightly as well as other oral math. My oldest turned 10 in August, and I really did not know what I was to do with math. I already had Ray’s Arithmetic so I was going to just use that. One day my dh came home with Saxon 65 that he found at Goodwill. I was really skeptical that my dd could do it but we went ahead and tried it. She is BREEZING through it. I am still shocked and amazed. I am so glad that we have not spent years struggling over getting math done. But seeing what Saxon does in 65 I will be able to lay a better path for my next children ( I have 7 all together). My 8 1/2 dd likes math and seems to get it, so I am going through Miqoun with her and my 7 yodd and 6 yods just making sure they have had a little of the four opperations through daily life. They love doing the workbook pages, but I am not stressed out about getting math done anymore. I know they will do just fine when they reach 10 starting with Saxon 65.

Dear Mr. Bluedorn,

What publisher has a good interlinear Greek/English Bible or which do you recommend?

Thanks for your time.
David, NM
­­­­ ———————
Dear David,

Some Greek-English interlinears available:

Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, by George Ricker Berry
(This is based on the text of Stephanus 1550 (the continental Textus Receptus) and has the KJV in the margin. Some editions have Strong’s Concordance numbers above each word.)

Interlinear Greek-English New Testament with KJV, by Jay Green
(This is based on the Greek Text underlying the King James Version ­ not exactly the same thing as Stephanus 1550. It has Strong’s Concordance numbers above each word, and has the both the King James and a Literal translation in the margins. It is now available in paperback and hardback.)

The NKJV Greek-English Interlinear New Testament, by Arthur L. Farstad, Zane C. Hodges
(This uses the Majority Greek Text of Hodges and Farstad with the NKJV in the Margin. It also has minority text and majority text readings in the margin.)

Word Study Greek-English New Testament, by Paul McReynolds
(This has Strong’s Concordance numbers above each word and uses the NRSV in the margin, and it includes an almost exhaustive Greek-English concordance of the New Testament. 1,785 pages –­ a big book.)

The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament, by Robert K. Brown, Philip W. Comfort
(This uses the NRSV in the margin and is a handy size.)

Interlinear NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, by Alfred Marshall
(This uses the NASB and the NIV in the margin.)

Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, by Alfred Marshall
(About the same as above, only using the KJV and the NIV in the margin.)

Available free on the internet:

The Emphatic Diaglott by Benjamin Wilson
(This may have been used later as the basis of the “Watchtower” interlinear.)

The Apostolic Bible Polyglot by Charles VanderPool and Terri Neimann
(Apparently a Greek-Orthodox work, contains the Old Testament and the New Testament in Greek.)
Harvey Bluedorn
Dear Laurie,

When your children were under 10 did you take breaks from schooling during the school year or in the summer?

Dear Julie,

Yes, we took off school for the summer as far as I can remember. We do a lot of gardening and animal work in the summer, plus we were in 4-H for many years so we needed extra time for projects. If we had lived in town and didn’t have as much work occupying us, we might not have taken the summer off.

During the school year we often took breaks from schooling, but then, we must define schooling. In my mind, schooling encompasses much more than books. When you go to the library, that is schooling because the children are learning how to categorize and organize; when you go to the nursing home, you are teaching them compassion and that is schooling; when you go to Hy-Vee Grocery Store, you teach them thrift and that is schooling; when you go to Crazy Girl Yarn Shop or The Cotton Shop to pick out materials for the next project, you teach them to love simple things and that is schooling.

In addition, we would often take off from formal schooling for days at a time if we were working on a science fair or history fair project. I think children can be more creative if they are given large chunks of time to think about and produce things, rather than small segments of time here and there.

It is winter in Illinois. We huddle tight in our warm house as we watch the parent penguin huddle his chick close to his tummy. It’s warm in here.

March of the Penguins is about the Emperor Penguins and how they choose a mate, lay an egg, leave to fetch food seventy miles away, all the while protecting their chicks from the Antarctic winter. These parents invest most of their lives raising a chick each year. We watch them march single file with their halting little steps, trudging on and on, never resting, never eating. When they return, they must find their chick among all the thousands of seemingly identical chicks. It seems impossible. But they do it.

Each shot is art. Mountains of ice curve and pierce the blue sky as white and black Emperor Penguins walk in long lines to and fro from their ancient brooding ground to the ocean. Chicks poke their little beady eyes from under their parent’s belly. Clouds of ice crystals slice across the frozen ground like fog blown by the wind. The sun is a small orange disk low on the horizon. Thousands of penguin fathers stand together with their backs to us and the wind, huddling to protect their eggs.  My family liked this movie as much as we liked The Story of the Weeping Camel. We have a new metaphor to describe survival in the face of impossible difficulties: penguins.

Dear Laurie,

My husband and I recently adopted my sixteen-year-old nephew. This is a likable young man who does not get into trouble, is easy-going, and has been raised as a Christian. He has, however, quite possibly the laziest mind I have ever seen. I suspect that when he was being raised, television and videos served as a convenient babysitter. He will, if left to his own devices, literally remain in front of the television watching programming or playing video games for four or five hours at a time. He puts an absolute minimum effort into his schoolwork, and is as fond of reading as a cat is of water. I have been troubled about this for quite some time.

Lately, however, things have come to a head. He is a junior, and, in the process of writing a paper, heavily plagiarized from the encyclopedia. Other than the plagiarized material, the paper had pitifully little content. When I realized what he had done, I confronted him about it. He freely admitted to doing so. Now obviously, this is a guileless young man, as there was not only no attempt made at deception in that he asked me to proofread his paper, but he freely admitted to doing what he did and acknowledged that he knew it was wrong.

I have no doubt that if in fact this young man does ever attain to a level of academics at which he would be able to attend college, that the resulting expectations will hit him like a fast-moving freight train. But what concerns me even more is the complete lack of connection between character, principles, and honesty in schoolwork as tenets of his Christian faith. John has what I have come to think of as a water-bug mentality: skimming along on the surface, exerting a minimum of effort in all that he does. If something demands effort, he will sooner or later lose interest.

So, it was as if the scales fell from my eyes today when I began surfing the web and discovered information about classical education. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry! How we have cheated ourselves over the last fifty or sixty years in the name of public education!  So having said all that, my question is this: is it too late for John? Are there in fact remedial approaches to the Trivium that I could try to apply in a belated attempt to salvage this young man’s mind?! I would be ever so grateful of any advice, books, curricula, or approaches you could recommend. Understand, I am not looking for a quick fix-but I figure anything is better than nothing. Please help me to help John!

Dear A.G.,

There seems to be some evidence that children who spend large amounts of time in front of a screen will have less time for parent-child interaction, reading, and playtime, which will, in turn, interfere with development of creativity, imagination, and intelligence. In addition, it’s not so much “what” the child watches, but “that” he watches. In other words, it’s the actual watching which interferes with the physiological development of the neural connections in his brain. It doesn’t so much matter what the content is, whether Mr. Rogers Neighborhood or one of the Star Wars movies.
Taken from

1. In “Effects of Preschool Television Watching on First-Grade Children,” the authors report: (a) that the more preschoolers watch TV, the less well they do academically in the first grade; (b) the more preschoolers watch TV, the less well-socialized they are in the first grade. (Burton, Sydney G., James M. Calonico and Dennis R. McSeveney, “Effects of Preschool Television Watching on First-Grade Children,” Journal of Communication, Summer 1979, pp. 164-170.)

2. Jerome L. Singer and Dorothy G. Singer conducted field studies on children to see if TV can stimulate imaginative play. They subjected four groups of children to different types of classroom situations; two incorporated TV into the sessions, one was a control with no TV, and the last had no TV but an adult present to stimulate imaginative play. The greatest increase in imaginative play occurred with the last group, no TV but an adult present to engage the children. (Singer, Jerome L. And Dorothy G. Singer, “Can TV Stimulate Imaginative Play?” Journal of Communication, Summer 1976, pp. 74-80.)

3. In “Turned-on Toddlers,” Halpern writes about the potential over-stimulation of young children that may result from watching TV. This over-stimulation may tax their still-developing neurological systems, and that may result in a short attention span and hyperactivity. (Halpern, Werner L., “Turned-on Toddlers,” Journal of Communication, Autumn 1975, pp. 66-70.)

The good news is that “…teens’ brains are still growing and changing. In fact, a key part of the brain that affects judgment may not be in place until men and women reach their early 20s… .” In other words, if the young man is willing to work and you are willing to help him, progress can be made to get his brain in shape. Perhaps a few of our suggestions will help you.

1. Read. Read to him and have him read to himself. Start with books which are easier to understand and progress from there. If he likes fiction, you could try I Want My Sunday, Stranger by Patricia Beatty, The 21 Balloons by William Pene DuBois, or Incident at Hawk’s Hill by Allan W. Eckert. Chances are, he will prefer nonfiction, in which case you can use the library to find books on the topics which interest him.
2. Help him develop a hobby or home business.
3. Learn logic. The Fallacy Detective is a good place to start.
4. Start doing a community service project such as visiting the local nursing home, shovel snow for the elderly, or pick up trash on the roadside. Help him turn his mind away from himself and on to others in need.
5. Require him to write something every day, even if it is only a paragraph or two. You might consider purchasing one of the many fine writing curricula which are available to homeschooling families.
6. Help him develop the habit of having regular private Bible study and prayer time.
7. Hard work and chores around the house will be a great benefit to him.
8. You will probably want to work out a program for limiting screen time.

This is only a start. After you have made some progress, you can add more academic subjects.

In summary, we suggest eliminating from your life those activities which do not promote good brain health and encouraging those activities which do.

TV rots the senses in the head!
It kills the imagination dead!
It clogs and clutters up the mind!
It makes a child so dull and blind.
He can no longer understand a fantasy,
A fairyland!
His brain becomes as soft as cheese!
His powers of thinking rust and freeze!
—- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Additional resources to consider:

Healy, Jane M. Endangered Minds: Why Our Children Don’t Think. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990.
Winn, Marie. The Plug-In Drug: Television, Computers and Family Life. New York: Penguin Putnam, Inc., 2002.
Mander, Jerry. Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television. New York: William Morrow and Co., 1978.



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