‘…thoughts–just mere thoughts–are as powerful as electric batteries–as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as l3etting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live.’ Frances Hodgson Bunett, The Secret Garden
Boy, what a blog break, huh? It wasn’t intentional. I’ve been here, there, and (mostly) everywhere, but I’d not slowed down to complete this post that I’ve been crafting for weeks. In the meantime,
I completed an online interview for Lyria’s website in celebration for Black History Month (link to come later).
I wrote an article for Heart of the Matter Online that will hopefully encourage anyone who’s struggling with staying the course.
I’m working hard on a partnership that has come my way with CurrClick.com. Please stay tuned—we (in conjunction will offer a free product give-away during the month of February!
Where I’ve been the most is in bed—sick, along with the kids. We are fighting with everything we’ve collectively got to stay well amidst weather that gives us a high of 60-70 on one day, with a high of 40 just a few days later. With the kids dancing and sweating, those quick in-and-out-of-doors trips are just enough to keep one or more kids coughing, sneezing, and/or blowing a runny nose.
When we’ve not been battling colds, we’ve been doing lots of reading. I’m reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil Frankweiler. Though we’ve had this title on our shelves for years, it’s a first time reading it for the family, and we all are appreciating a 12-year-old’s perspective on being treated so unfairly and deciding to run away. Our son is reading through The Flames of Rome as a part of his history of God’s kingdom curriculum. This is a masterfully told fictional novel of Christianity at its earliest stages, its impact on the Roman government, and the consequential persecution of both Jews and Gentiles. Yet, it is told with all the non-subtleties of any tale of ancient Rome, and I can’t help but think my son has probably gotten a full introduction to all those scenes I make him change the channel from when I see this same stuff on television.
Every now and then we must back up from the product and pay attention to process, asking ourselves the question “why,” as in “Why do we use this curriculum?” “Why are we reading this book?” “Why do we need to learn this?” Actually, some would argue that the latter question comes more from our children ( or does it? 🙂 )
The oldest and I recently found ourselves at the point of asking “why.” From the oldest’s perspective, ancient history is all about war, and medieval history is all about knights and monsters (Grendel, Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, etc.) Yes, oversimplification is sometimes a problem in our home as well, but I’ll get to it later.
The whole “why do we have to read about monsters” discussion originated when we opened, or rather, downloaded, “Beowulf.” I honestly believe that she’d passed by me while I was trying to watch the movie—unsuccessfully, I might add. I had one of those “never judge a book by the movie” moments. In a matter of a few minutes, the oldest passed by, decided that the movie was too gruesome for her, and blew off anything associated with the word Beowulf. Great discernment, but also a tad judgmental, perhaps?
Anyway, rather than feel unappreciated after pouring, blood, sweat, and tears into her syllabus, I answered her question with a question: why do you think we read these books? Her response was a regurgitated academic “feel good” statement that she’d heard from me, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I want her to know that she’s getting an education that, in traditional school systems, would only be afforded by the well-heeled or those that are considered gifted or talented. I pray that she does understand that there is a body of knowledge that comes from being well read, from the norms of our culture, to our sense of good and evil, from social class and structure, to language that gives us common understanding. As I’ve said to the older kids before, when you encounter phrases in the media like “Et tu, Brute?” or “ ‘tis a far, far better thing that I do…” or “a man apart,” “but if not,…” or even the more chronologically recent “hoodwinked and bamboozled,” they have historical significance. And though life doesn’t require you to be a walking reference book, it makes sense to understand language in its context. That beginning normally leads into my own thoughts about relationships with words and ideas, but I’ll spare you (smile). But after she shared her thoughts, we were able to look at all of our work from a different perspective.
The problem with oversimplication is that it allows us to dismiss ideas. We can diminish medieval history down to stories about knights and monsters. If we back up a bit past the story that modern-day media would present, we can read “Beowulf” for what it is—a story about what happens to a crude, warrior society that encounters the gospel of Jesus Christ. The tale has far more meaning when presented from that angle.
When I was younger, we had a saying that indicated that someone had said something you could relate to: I heard that. You had to swirl that “heard” around your tongue a bit and then hit the “that” hard, but it was a clear signal that you heard something that resonated with you. Now the kids say I feel you. Though I’m the first to sometimes question a classic, I do understand that a book—a good book—should make you feel something. Through Odysseus, we each begin to think about our own trials on the way to discovering who we are. Through Hrothgar we learn to represent Christ even when it means that we are indeed a peculiar people. I could think of others if it weren’t so late. However, I think you get the point. And like the quote above from The Secret Garden, a good book should leave us with something uplifting to think about, something that aligns itself with Philippians 4:8. After stepping back to have this whole “why” discussion with the oldest, I was re-energized about what we’re reading, with an even clearer understanding of why we’re reading it. Yeah, I feel that.