Comradeship

Dear Reader,

[This is my post for the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival. Read the latest edition here.]

Comradeship. What is it? Do our kids need it? And if so, how do we get that for them? If you are a homeschooler, you may already have guessed that this is going to be yet another post dealing with the old socialization issue.

In her third volume, Charlotte Mason throws this word around. She has been discussing the affinities or intimacies that a child may acquire in the course of his education (see my earlier post here). She then turns to the need for “fellowship” and leading and taking an interest in one’s schoolmates (p. 202). These she says are a “sine qua non” — that is to say, they are essential. She goes on to compare Ruskin who was lacking companionship in his youth and Wordsworth who “lived the life of his school-fellows with entire abandon” (p. 202).

What difference, if any, did this make to the men? Ruskin, as quoted by Charlotte, says that he “had nothing to love” and “no companions to quarrel with neither; nobody to assist, and nobody to thank” (p. 202). Now it seems from this brief account that Ruskin lived a life surrounded by servants who did no more than their duty by him and that his parents might also have been distant, so perhaps a lack of friends was not his only issue. Nonetheless, his comments are instructive. He sums up his educational experience by saying,

“‘My present verdict, therefore, on the general tenor of my education at that time, must be, that it was at once too formal and too luxurious; leaving my character at the most important moment for its construction, cramped indeed, but not disciplined; and only by protection innocent, instead of by practice virtuous.'” (p. 202)

I find the last but here particularly intriguing — “only by protection innocent, instead of by practice virtuous.” It is easy to be good when one is not challenged, but other people, by their very differences, do challenge us. They require us to compromise, to see other points of view, to defer to another.

Charlotte offers us a little less on Wordsworth but does speak of his youth, with its many companions, as the shaping time of his life which remained with him and influenced his later work. I love the phrasing she uses — that he “lived the life of his school-fellows with entire abandon” (p. 202). I picture a group of boys free to roam the countryside together, getting muddy, having adventures, not thinking of adults the whole day long. It is an idyllic picture.

So what are the implication for us? My own children’s experience lies somewhere between these two extremes. They have friends whom they see regularly, usually weekly. But they are not unencumbered by the adult world. At our weekly park days, they go off on their own, play games that they invent and have to discuss and agree on, but there are always parents hanging around, within eyesight. They do not have absolute freedom. I do not think this is a bad compromise. The truth is children left completely to themselves can get in serious trouble. But I have also known homeschoolers who isolate their children to such an extent that they pretty much only socialize with their families. I am not willing to say this is wrong, but I will say that my children have learned a lot more about how  others approach the world from dealing with kids from other families. Our own choices are highlighted when we see that others do things differently and it has led to discussions about why we do things the way we do.

So, what about you? How do you draw the lines as a family? How do you decide how much free time with friends is appropriate?

Nebby

 

Need Baby or Holiday Gifts?

Dear Reader,

If you need baby shower gifts, Christmas gifts, stocking stuffers, etc., please consider checking out my daughter’s Etsy shop. She has lots of knit, crochet, and tie-dyed items and adds new ones regularly. Some of my favorites right now are two-layer gloves for ladies and kids and super soft, warm infinity scarves. The tie-dyed baby onesies are very cute too.

Two-layer gloves can be worn together or as fingerless gloves

Two-layer gloves can be worn together or as fingerless gloves

Tie-dyed baby onesie She can also do appliqued ones with hearts, footballs, and lots more.

Tie-dyed baby onesie
She can also do appliqued ones with hearts, footballs, and lots more.

Scarves, Infinity scarves and Cowls are made of really soft yarn. Seriously at a recent craft fair everyone walking by wanted to pet them.

Scarves, Infinity scarves and Cowls are made of really soft yarn. Seriously at a recent craft fair everyone walking by wanted to pet them.

Thank you!

Nebby

Creationism vs Evolution Links

Dear Reader,

I have a number of posts now on the whole creationism versus evolution thing (and more coming) so I wanted to provide a place to find them all at once. Here they are:

Creation and Environmentalism: A Book Review (Part 1)

Creationism

One Brief Thought on Evolution

Evolution, Creationism and the Direction of the World

Christian Views of Creation

How Did Creation Happen?

Why Evolution?

Human Evolution and an Update

Alternative Views of Evolution

The Genre of Genesis 1

Does “Day” Mean “Day” in Genesis 1?

I will update this page as I do more posts on this topic.

Nebby

 

Recipe: Calzones (S)

Dear Reader,

This recipe is a combination of my favorite pizza crust recipe and a recipe for rolls which I love from Maria Mind Body Health. As it currently stands, it uses a little millet flour which gives it some carbs. If you are on the Trim Healthy Mama plan and want to keep it an S meal, you should only eat 1/6-1/7 of the recipe and stick to no carb fillings. I would like to try it without the millet at some point and will let you know if I do and how it works. You could also try using egg whites instead of the whole eggs, leaving out the oil,  and substituting an extra 1/2 cup of coconut flour for the almond flour to try to make an E meal out of it. Of course, in that case, you’d have to keep the fillings fat-free. Again, if I try it, I’ll let you know how it holds up. Either way, the basic dough is both gluten and dairy free.

Calzones

Ingredients:

1/2 c millet flour

1 c blanched almond flour (must be blanched; almond meal is not the same)

1/2 c coconut flour

1/2 psyllium husk powder

1 tbsp xantham gum

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tbsp Italian seasoning

2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 c olive oil (optional — because I forgot to put it in this time and it worked just fine)

3 eggs

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 to 2 1/2 c boiling water

your choice of fillings

Directions:

1. Put some water on to boil in a kettle.

2. If you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven; if not, place a cookie sheet in the oven. Preheat to 450, allowing the stone or sheet to heat up.

3. In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (that’s the first 9 of them I believe). Mix well.

4. Add in the oil, eggs, and vinegar. Mix well. The dough will still be fairly dry at this point.

5. Add a cup of the boiling water. Stir. Add more water 1/2 c at a time until all the dry ingredients are well-moistened.

6. Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit on your pizza stone or cookie sheet. Divide the dough into 6 or 7 portions. Take one and flatten it out into a circle with your hands. Mine were about 6 inches in diameter. The dough should be easy to work with. If it is crumbly, add more water; if it is too sticky add a tiny bit more coconut flour (it absorbs a lot of moisture so don’t overdo it!).

7. Place your toppings in half of the dough circle. Fold the other half over them and press all around the edges with your fingers to seal them in. Place on the parchment. Repeat with remaining dough.

8. When your parchment is full, place it in the oven in the preheated stone or sheet and bake for 15 minutes. When done, the calzones should be a nice light brown and feel firm to the touch.

Pile on the filling -- I used pesto, ham and cheese on this one.

Pile on the filling — I used pesto, ham and cheese on this one.

 

Fold the dough over and press down the edges.

Fold the dough over and press down the edges.

Here is the finished product, ready to eat.

Here is the finished product, ready to eat.

 

And here's what the inside looks like . . . mmmm . . .

And here’s what the inside looks like . . . mmmm . . .

Nebby

A Confession

Dear Reader,

I have a confession: I have never found science museums particularly interesting. As  a homeschooler, I am a little afraid to admit this. We, as a group, tend to be thrilled with such things. Don’t they give real, hands-on experiences? Aren’t frequent field trips to such places just why we homeschool?

I was encouraged to admit this because of something I read recently. I am once again looking at Anthony’s Esolen’s book Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (see my review of it here). In it, Esolen speaks of the value of the natural world in building a child’s imagination (which he with his tongue-in-cheek approach ostensibly is trying not to do). In this context, he says:

“One way to neutralize this fascination with the natural world is to cordon it off in parks and zoos, and then act as if only the parks and zoos were worth seeing.” (p. 37)

And again later:

“Now the science museum, by contrast, won’t have anything you can actually do that might lead to things breaking (or bones breaking). But the science museum, like science classes in school generally, is not about the business of stirring the imagination. It is instead about persuading the child to Believe the Right Things about Science.” (p. 75)

Esolen goes on to talk of the specific things we are to believe, including controversial subjects like global warming and evolution but also more generall accepted ones like the need to recycle. However you feel about these topics, it is hard to ignore that many science museums do just that — reinforce these ideas to children.

My main problem with them is that for the most part they seem to involve children push a button which makes something light up. Maybe a few parts move, but almost always there is a pre-programmed response (and half the time the displays are broken as well). The signs usually do not interest children who have no desire to stop and read. But if they did, they would be given explanations along the lines of “when you do such-and-such, this reaction happens.” There is no real experimentation here. There is nothing that stimulates the brain. Everything functions just as it is designed to and nobody gets dirty.

We live about an hour from a big city with a well-respected science museum. My kids call it the boring science museum. The best part of it is the taxidermied animals on the lower level, followed perhaps by the rock specimens. These at least are, or were, real things, though there is not much one can do with them now other than look at them. There is also a room on the third floor with playground equipment designed to show physics principles. This room is not too bad though often so packed it is hard to see. But honestly, couldn’t we just go to a playground? Our local one has some wonderful old unbalanced see-saws that demonstrate how levers work really well because if you do it right, a lighter kid can easily raise and lower a heavier one (unfortunately, there is a committee to revitalize the playground, so these may be leaving soon).

There is also a “fun science museum.” It allows you to do things that are more than just pushing buttons though as an adult I find it pretty boring too. The best part of it (and my children agree) is a room where they have wood and tools and let you build whatever you like. It is best when we go when others are in school and they are allowed to create to their hearts’ delights. The good thing about this is that it is a real experience. And if there is the added bonus that the wood shavings are on someone else’s floor, all the better.

I guess the point of this post is that I am encouraged by Esolen’s remarks. It is also nice to know that one is not alone in one’s opinions. Science should be open-ended. When the answers are already there for us, there is no desire to know. It is in exploration, when the answers are not already given, that we really engage in science.

Nebby

Recipe: Low-Carb Strawberry-Rhubarb Shortcake (S)

Dear Reader,

This is not a completely unique recipe but it does combine a couple of recipes from other websites in new ways. I used a modified version of the strawberry-rhubarb filling from Food52 and an only slightly modified version of Maria Mind Body Health’s biscuit mix. If you are on the Trim Healthy Mama Diet, this is an S treat.

Low-Carb Strawberry-Rhubarb Shortcake

Filling:

Ingredients:

4 stalks rhubarb, washed and cut into 1/2″ pieces

1 lb strawberries, trimmed and cut into pieces

1-2 tbsp xylitol, depending on how sweet you like it

splash vanilla

optional: lemon and/or orange zest

optional: one small piece chopped candied ginger

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400. Combine all ingredients and spread on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. The original recipe said it would carmelize but mine didn’t, presumably because of the lack of real sugar. But the strawberries and rhubarb will get soft and bubbly and you will have a yummy, syrupy mess.

The filling ready to bake

The filling ready to bake

The cooked filling

The cooked filling

Biscuits

Ingredients:

2 1/2 c blanched almond flour (not the same as almond meal)

1/3 c protein powder (I use egg white protein because I have a dairy-allergic child; I suspect whey protein will work the same)

2 tbsp baking powder

2 tbsp xylitol

1 tsp salt

1 tsp xantham gum

1 tsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

1/2 c coconut oil, softened (or if it’s summer-time, it’s probably already pretty soft)

1 c almond milk

2-4 tbsp coconut flour

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 (or keep it on after making the filling) and line two cookie sheets with silicone liners or parchment paper (or grease them).

2. Ina  bowl combine the almond flour, protein powder, baking powder, xylitol, salt and xantham gum. Stir to combine.

3. Stir in vinegar and coconut oil.

4. Stir in almond milk until the mixture is smooth and uniform.

5. My biscuits have been too flat in the past so at this point I added 4 tbsp coconut flour, 1-2 tbsp at a time until it appeared thicket and more likely to keep its shape. It also seemed to produce a smoother dough.

6. With your hands, roll the dough into 10-12 balls and place them on the prepared cookie sheets. Press down with your hand.

7. Bake for 15 minutes.

Balls of dough

Balls of dough

The biscuits fresh out of the oven

The biscuits fresh out of the oven

To serve, slice the biscuits in half, top with the filling and whipped cream.

I have lots of pictures of the finished product because everyone wanted me to include theirs:

An open-faced version.

An open-faced version.

My youngest digs in. She can't eat dairy and this one is actually just a biscuit stuffed with her dairy-free ice cream.

My youngest digs in. She can’t eat dairy and this one is actually just a biscuit stuffed with her dairy-free ice cream.

Stacked up high.

Stacked up high.

Well  . . . some end up prettier than others.

Well . . . some end up prettier than others.

Yum!

Nebby

 

 

 

Views of Childhood

Dear Reader,

I promised you a few more posts based on my reading of Anthony Esolen’s Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. You can read my review of the book here. Though my review was not unequivocally good, there were a number of things in this book which made me think (and that is always a plus on a book, even if I disagree with it).

One thing I wondered about was what Esolen’s view of children is. Clearly he wants them to have the space, time, and freedom  to become creative individuals. But how does he view children themselves? Lumps to be molded? Unique individuals with their own innate personalities? Are they complete people as they are or must we train and teach them in many ways? I read a lot of books on children and education, and I think we can learn a lot about where a person or philosophy is coming from if we can tease out how it answers these questions (for an example, see my post on Dorothy Sayers’ “Lost Tools of Learning“; you could also look at my many posts on the different approaches to homeschooling).

While I found myself wondering as I read Esoloen’s book, what his views were, I only found a couple of passages to help me tease out the answers. Here they are:

“We know full well that you can’t transform lead into gold. You can only transform gold into lead.” (p. xi)

“If we loved children, we would have a few. If we had them, we would want them as children, and would love the wonder with which they behold the world, and would hope that some of it might open our own eyes a little.” (p. xii)

Part of me likes the first quote, but I think in the end I have to disagree with it. On one hand, it is a humbling reminder that we often do more harm than good in our efforts to shape our children. On the other hand, I don’t really think our children start out as gold, at least not pure gold. There is clearly a very exalted view of childhood here — a poor, innocent darlings view, of you will. I do believe children are made in the image of God and are inherently valuable, but they are also fallen people, like the rest of us. The picture the Bible gives of humans — and therefore also of children since they are people — is of a lump of metal in which there may be gold, and it is inly through the refining fire that we learn if there is anything solid and real in each one (cf. Zech. 13:9, I Peter 1:7).

While the first quote originally struck me as a good one and it was only on further reflection that I decided I disagreed with it, the second one rubbed me the wrong way from the start though I was initially hard pressed to say why. The end of the quote, the bit about children’s sense of wonder, taken in the context of the earlier one, seems to show Esolen’s exalting of childhood again. Children do tend to have many qualities which are good though often lost in adulthood. Jesus Himself says we must enter the Kingdom of Heaven as little children so clearly they are not without their merits. Still I am wary of anything which seems to elevate children too much or to speak of them with idealistic tones. But I think the part which most discomforts me is the middle bit: “we would want them as children.” Is this true? Do I want my children as children? I am not sure I do. Now, don’t get me wrong, like many a mother whose children are getting older, I am happy to hold others’ babies and can get a little nostalgic about the toddler years (age 18 months was always about my favorite with my kids), but I also rejoice in seeing them grow physically, intellectually, and spiritually. Perhaps I misunderstand how Esolen means this statement, but I do not think I want them as children. I am enjoying their childhood. I love them and I don’t particularly look forward to the day when they won’t be under my roof. But I also don’t want to keep them here as children. That would not be natural or right. And if I do appreciate them, it is as individual people. But then I have never been the sort to love children in a  general way. I love my children. I like some other children, but there are still others whom I don’t particularly like and certainly don’t love.

So I can’t help but feeling that there is something just a little bit off in Esoloen’s view of children. I may be thinking about this more than it deserves based on two short quotes. Part of the reason for that is that there is another thing I read recently which also gave me similar feelings. It was an e-mail from a  local homeschool group. It read in part:

We seek to honor, preserve, and respect childhood. It is truly a sacred time that informs their development as human beings.”

A bit earlier they speak of each child’s personhood which I usually consider a good thing. A a devotee of Charlotte Mason and her approach to education, I am big on treating children as people. But as they continue and get to the quote I have above, I begin to feel again that something is rubbing me the wrong way. Something is off from how I would say or view it. I feel again, as in Esolen’s book, that childhood here is being elevated beyond where it should be.

I wonder if part of this is a reaction against our culture (which Esolen at least is clearly critical of) which it is often said forces children to grow up too fast. By this I think people usually mean that it exposes them too early to sexual and violent situations, and I have to agree that this is the case. But at the same time, I think we also keep our children from growing up in other ways. We isolate them from the rest of society and keep them from doing meaningful work until they are at least 18. Then we lament the fact that they “fail to launch” and continue to want to be taken care of and to live off their parents. We give them adult themes in their entertainment but not adult responsibilities. This is exactly the opposite of what it should be.

So perhaps these people I criticize, Esolen and this homeschool group, are reacting against this trend on our society and the popular conception that “kids grow up too fast.” But I think in doing so, they go farther than I am comfortable with in idealizing childhood.

I have heard it said that we didn’t ever used to have teenagers, that adolescence is a creation of modern western society and that in other cultures or in our a couple of hundred years ago there was no such thing. Children maybe got an education till they were 12 or 14 or so (if that) and then they worked. They helped on the farm. They became apprentices. They had things to do. But somewhere along the way, this stopped. The end of child labor is not an entirely bad thing, of course, but I think there is also a downside that those kids who are in their teens, just at their peak of energy and creativeness, are wasting away without anything truly valuable to do. And so I wonder too if we misrepresent childhood when we speak of it as if it were a completely different thing, separate from the world of adults. I don’t want to send my 12-year-old to work in a  factory or my 9-year-old into the mines, but I also view my role as training them for real life, not as something that comes later and is apart from what they do now, but as something they are already growing into.

How then are we to view childhood? I think the most important thing is this: our children are made in the image of God, just as we are, and also, just as we are, they are fallen creatures. They share both our strengths and our weaknesses because we are of the same nature. When we emphasize either their innocence or their sinfulness too much, we end up erring on one side or the other.

Nebby

 

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