Monday, May 01, 2006

Read More - The Challenge

Susan Wise Bauer, author of The Well-Trained Mine, Story of the World, First Language Lessons, and similar Homeschooling books, was at the BC Christian Home Educators Conference we attended last week. Although I appreciated her practical information about homeschooling, the comments that most gripped my brain actually had less to do with my children and more to do with my own mind.

I went to school for more than 16 years and yet it's alarming how very little I know. I'm finding this even more disconcerting as I endeavor to teach my children. However, I am discovering that my learning did not end upon graduation of university, but has probably multiplied exponentially since the arrival of the boys. Thus, my lack of "knowledge" has led me to open books and learn more (most of all - the Bible:).

Susan encouraged us, particularly mothers, to make time to read everyday. She even suggested using classical books that strain our brain. Mrs.Bauer made a case for such reading:

1) For our children. Susan begin, "Some day our children may come to us as 15 year-olds, and ask us about the ideas set forth by authors such as Hitler in Mein Kampf. Rather than sending your child to someone else for such a discussion, wouldn't you like to be able to say, 'Well...' and engage in that conversation yourself with them?" I have to admit that such reading would probably paralyze my brain, but I do have a son that might have such an aptitude. Personally, I do want to be the one discussing such heavy topics, rather than sending him to "experts" in such literature, who probably don't have my perspective on life. This means I need to start exercising my brain already. Susan suggested starting with 15 minutes a day. She reminded us that the brain is a muscle and therefore needs to be worked up gently, but consistently and diligently.

2) For the mommies. Susan said we should read for ourselves, as well. She discussed how often we get bogged down with the daily tasks at hand, and don't allow ourselves the pleasure of reading.

Susan also made some suggestions about when to read, etc. She pointed out that our minds are freshest in the morning and therefore we should read then. She also told us how she keeps her children in their rooms until 8am, when she and her husband have finished their "reading time".

Now, I have to be honest that I struggled with some of the things she said in this session.

First, my time in God's Word must be the number one reading activity in my life! As part of a Berean Bible Study, this has meant a commitment to spend at least one hour a day in His Word and in prayer. At times this has been a struggle, but often, if I'm undisturbed (ie. I've gotten up before the boys:), this is truly food for me to help get through my day.

Considering more reading projects, therefore, is a stretch. However, I do agree with Susan's point that we need to be reading mothers: reading for our children, reading for ourselves. I enjoy reading, but have to admit that I generally read material that is below my reading level. (Susan discussed 3 reading levels: instructional (stretching); on level; and below level). My goal is to read "brain building material" 15 minutes 3 times a week. This may have to be in the evenings, contrary to Mrs. Bauer's suggestion, but in my life that's the only way I could consider it. Plus, this will mean that I've had the day to ponder God's Word and guide me as I encounter man's ideas, as written on the page.

I'll continue this topic tomorrow. Susan talked about reading books 3 times, which sounded impossible to me. I'd like to get your opinions on her ideas.


Kim said...


I have never seen Susan in person, but have listened to her tapes, read her books, and taught my children with her methods in mind. I love her. However, I found when I first began reading her stuff that I was overwhelmed with the prospect of all that study time. Where was it to come from? I can read three books at a time, but my children are all over the age of 12 years, and I have more free time. If I had read her books when I had small children, I would have felt very overhwhelmed, indeed.

I agree with her about the necessity of reading and keeping our minds fresh, but in recent years, as my children have come to be teens, I have also found value in nurturing other pursuits, like cooking for them, helping them decorate their rooms, listening to them as they talk about their interest, getting to know their friends, or just having time to go outside and play basketball with them.

To me, being a balanced parent is the goal. I think feeding our minds spiritually is definitely the number one goal. The chances are that my child needs to have counsel that is spirit-led is more likely than whether or not my 16 year old will read Mein Kempf. My daughter and I have spent a lot of time lately talking about The Great Gatsby because we both read it, but honestly in the last few days, I have had to spend more time talking about grace, forgiveness, charity and commitment than any other topic, and I'm glad I am regularly in God's word, or I wouldn't be able to touch those topics.

Like I said, I agree with Susan's thinking, but I do believe in balance.

Marlene S. said...

Thanks for the perspective from a mom to teenagers. Balance really is the key, isn't it? I just wish it were easier to keep in check, but I guess that's where Scripture comes into the picture. With God's perspective, we will always have balance, and consequently peace in our lives.

Homemanager said...

Hi Marlene,
After reading your post, and reading Kim's comments, I think the scriptures tell us that we will be wiser than our teachers by studying His word.
"Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation." Psalm 119:97-99

As far as stretching our brains, I have found that reading some of the older theologians has stretched my thinking greatly! :o)

And I would add, that the Lord says in James 1, to ask for wisdom and that He would give it to us liberally. When questions come, we will have the answers, but they will be from the perspective of truth and not based on a humanistic view.

Our children have grown in discernment because throughout the day, we are talking. I think Mrs. Bauers concern about the children going to an expert is unfounded, if we are taking every opportunity to talk. We must be deliberate and pray for wisdom and discernment ourselves.

On the practical side, like you, I get up before my children and spend my time in the word, prayer, meditation and writing my insights out in my notebook. After getting my husbands lunch and coffee ready, I join him upstairs where, as he is getting ready for work, we talk about pertinent things and pray together for the day. When he has left it is time to clean up from breakfast and then start school.
If I'm not specifically sitting with one of my children, I'm doing "house management"
In the evenings, after dinner, there is the "bedtime routine" for the little ones and clean up and talk time for the older girls (16 and 18).
I usually have time just before bed to pick up something like "morning and evening" by Spurgeon and read it to my husband before we crash! :o)

I think we need to be deliberate in our choices of reading material and be confident that the Lord will grant us what is lacking (or think we are lacking). :o)

opora said...

Thanks for sharing Marlene and I'm so glad your trip was a enjoyable in so many ways! Your sharing is a blessing to us all.

The Wise Bauer materials are wonderful, and I use them in the education of my children as well.

I do think, however, that her reasons behind WHY we need to read for our children's sake takes a defensive position rather than that of an offensive one.

What if our children come across Mein Kampf? What if our children see the news of senseless killings in Sudan? What if our children are subject to racism or moral depravity on the neighbourhood playground? These are not what ifs, but whens!

We can guarantee that our children will come upon literature and thinking that will be highly provocative, stunningly intellectual, and seriously void of any moral content.

We can follow the lists of must-reads in the Wise Bauer books or we can create a huge list of all the things we need to learn so that one day, maybe, when our children come to us with something, we have the answers. To me this is being on the defensive.

I say that we play offensively by showing leadership through example. As Kim was saying, we should concern ourselves with demonstrating a well-balanced joyful Christian life. We really don't need to arm ourselves or preoccupy ourselves with getting knowledge for the very reason that our own children want to enjoy learning for themselves. Will they still fall, yes, but we are not their Saviour. Oh, a mother's heart!

As a teacher, I can say that children learn best not when I am telling them the facts or spilling out the knowledge that I have, but when they are finding the answers along side me, possibily even leading me to some degree. I think having read Mein Kempf would still leave me with the resounding statement "there is evil in this world that I can not explain." You child armed with the facts, or even us as adults, are still left fumbling for answers unless we believe and set our sights on things of the Lord. Playing offensively means knowing and understanding the word of God then trying to live it. If that doesn't keep you busy enough, you must be a much better home manager than I am! Let's arm our children with the skill of knowing where to find real answers to tough questions.

Some say we are living in THE INFORMATION AGE. I think this is so misleading as information has been around from day one. After all, didn't this thirst for more knowledge start when we were created? Wasn't more information what God wanted to keep AWAY from us (the tree of KNOWLEDGE of good and evil)? still continues to lure us; to tempt us; to seduce us into thinking that knowledge gives us some sort of power to protect, provide or assist. More is not better and I see it as being a foothold that Satan has on our society...oh how cunning.

I find the more I know about things outside of God, the more I don't understand, so I choose to set my eyes on him and not worry so much about teaching my children all the worldly stuff.

God wants me to teach my children about him more than any other subject. He promises to equip them with all the skills they will need for the life he has planned for them and no matter what I do to take charge of their education, my son will either be a god-fearing/god-loving man or he won't. My sole efforts are in showing him who God is.

Is it not true that the majority of people who are outrageously successful are not considereed "knowledgeable" or "well-read?" They were people with gifts (from God, although not always knowing it which may have been their downfall later one) who figured out how to use them.

So yes, I am all for excercising one's brain!! Searching for knowledge is not as important as the understanding that comes from the learning to acquire knowledge, or being able to receiving the gift of knowledge and understanding and give credit to the source in which it comes. I am not saying that one should be ignorant of all that is around them. Trust in the word of God and he will show you the way. Remember that suit of armour? That was created so we can play offesively otherwise God would just have given us faster running shoes!

opora said...

geez....i am long winded...sorry about that!

Yummy Mommy said...

Hey Opora,

We miss you and your long winded rants! Just kidding. You know I adore you and love to hear your insights my friend! Enjoying your blog too.

Kelly said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kelly said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kelly said...

Hey Marlene,

I want to thankyou for continuely posting new posts that force me to ponder the woman I want to grow to be and the teacher I want to become.

Teaching children (in the home, school, church) is all the same, in that you are constantly learning along side them. If I allowed myself to get discouraged because I didn't know everything about a certain subject then I would not be teaching. I love the fact that I am learning WITH my students. In all honesty, if learning as you go was against the rules I would not be allowed to teach :)

And, as for repeated readings, what I have learned in University is that there are major benefits to reading the same material over and over. Something to do with the different things you retain (or pick up on) each time you read it. And for children (and adults I guess), it helps to build upon the skill of fluency. There are more benefits to repeated readings but those are the things I remember off the top of my head.

And finally your post made me think about why I continue to read for pleasure, on top of all the text readings??? The reason I keep up on reading for my personal pleasure is plain and simple...for my own sanity :) I love to read and I don't want to bog down my brain with educational reading exclusively. I always want to enjoy the act of reading.

Well Marlene, thanks again for the food for thought. See you sometime in June :)