Wednesday, June 22, 2011

We've Moved!

We've moved!

Please wait - in 10 seconds you should be redirected to my new blog page, http://leighbortins.com/blogger. If your browser does not automatically redirect you, click the link to access the new site.

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Head Over to LeighBortins.com

Dear Readers,

I'm excited to announce that the site has moved! Head on over to www.leighbortins.com/blogger to keep up with the latest posts and updates. Leave a comment to let me know what you think of the new site! Here's a peek at what it has to offer:



Don't forget to update your subscriptions by email or on Google Reader! After today, you will be automatically redirected to the new site from this page, but you still need to update your subscriptions.

Go to google.com/reader, log in with your Gmail account, and from the home page, click "Add a subscription" in the upper left corner. (See image.)

Paste leighbortins.com/blogger in the box, and click "Add."

I hope you enjoy the new site.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Classical Dads

My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline
and do not resent his rebuke,
because the LORD disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
Proverbs 3:11-12
To conclude this week's fathers day theme, today I want to introduce you to two great articles from the CC Writers Circle by dads who are actively involved in their home schools.

Dads Who Dare is by Matt Bianco, a Classical Conversations dad who tutors in our local community and loves to spend time with his kids. Here's his call to fathers of families who homeschool:

"Fathers ... go to work for eight to ten hours a day and find that mother does a superb job of caring for the home and raising up godly children. That mothers do this is to be commended and celebrated. Indeed, it is not my intention to undo or change this. Rather, it is, my intention to call fathers to a deeper awareness of the awesomeness of this task and to call attention to their part in it." (...Keep Reading...)

Confessions of a Homeschooling Dad is by David Bailey, another Classical Conversations dad, who shares his initial reluctance, and growing joy, as a leader of his home school:

"My wife plugged in as a Challenge tutor and tapped into her passion for learning and teaching. Gradually I have come along, too. I am learning that the education of my children is not just my wife's responsibility - it's mine, too. In fact, it's mine primarily. God gives dads the role of spiritual leadership. He commands us to teach our children. That's a key concept of Deuteronomy 6 and in many other places through the Scriptures." (...Keep Reading...)

As we celebrate the fathers, grandfathers, uncles, surrogate fathers, and other mentoring men in our lives this weekend, let's be deliberate about looking for ways to affirm their commitment to educating their children, supporting their families (in whatever shape that takes), and seeking the Lord's guidance in their leadership.

Happy Fathers Day!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dad at Home (2)

There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.
Deuteronomy 1:31
What role do fathers play in their family's home school? As you think about celebrating Fathers Day this weekend, read more stories from Smart Dads who share in and lead their families' home schools. (Read the first post in the 1 Smart Mama father's day series.)

More stories from Smart Dads who share in and lead their family's home school.


We forget the size of the shadow we cast, and who it falls on. As fathers, our actions affect so much more than just ourselves. It ripples down to our children and our grandchildren. It’s not just a single act for good or ill. It’s a series, a pattern we imbue on our children. We can’t just show up at graduation and say, "I’m here. Good job, son." It’s being there, day after long and weary day, for each of our children. Fatherhood is less quality time and more quantity time with quality thrown it from time to time. Friendships, hobbies, and career goals die a quiet death as fathers decide that they will make time for their children. It is a noble calling to be a father, and it is worth everything you put in. (Read More...)



...God does things in me so he can do things in my son. Relationships run in two ways. When setting out to train a son, you begin with a very imperfect little boy. But that’s not the only problem. You also have a very imperfect little daddy in the equation. In this discipleing relationship, I have on many an occasion come face to face with a challenging question, “Do you really love this boy?. . . How much do you love him?” (Read More...)


In late August of 2008 I became the 2nd full time teacher in the history of the Izola Becker Home School. I have never felt more suited for a job in my life. I love the commute. My students are like members of my own family. I am far from perfect. I yelled at my children last semester more than I ever yelled at them in their entire lifetime before. Sometimes just getting through the day with the three of them is all I can handle. But with all that said, this is the best job I have ever had! (Read More...)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dad at Home (1)

He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers...
Malachi 4:6
(Read the first post in the 1 Smart Mama father's day series.)

Like every Smart Mama who homeschools, every Smart Dad has a different story. These blogs and websites offer a window into the wide range of experiences dads have with home schooling.

During a Classical Conversations retreat at Great Wolf Lodge, VA, five dads talked about the journeys that brought them into home schooling, and what it has done for their families.



Welcome to Dad’s Homeschool Blog. Yes, Dad’s Homeschool Blog and that does in fact mean that I, Dad will be the home schooling parent. I have been the stay at home Dad since the boys, now 7 and 8 were born. So how did I come to be the stay at home Dad and now the homeschool parent? (Read More...)


Japanese-American Dad who's home educating (and trying to avoid schooling) 2 boys with his beloved Japanese wife. Self-educating -- the essence of home education -- since 1980 starting with calculus and computer programming in my 10th grade. (Read More...)


While home schooling seems to be atypical as compared to public and private schooling, home schooling with the father as principle teacher is certainly atypical to the mom-as-teacher approach. When my wife tells people at her work that we home school our kids, many of them envision her leaving them unsupervised at home with assignments, before they are told that I am the one staying at home teaching them. The home school support group at our church has monthly mom meetings for the teachers. Suffice it to say I have never attended. (Read More...)

Stay tuned for more stories as we continue our celebration of homeschool dads. Want to share your own story? Leave a comment!

Monday, June 13, 2011

1 Smart...Dad?


Here at 1 Smart Mama, we spend a lot of time speaking to moms, because moms are at the forefront of so many home schools. This week, as we approach Fathers Day, I want to shift the focus and speak to the homeschool dads who are sometimes left out of the picture.

The National Fatherhood Initiative has done a study called "Pop's Culture," surveying dads across the country about their views on fathering. The survey produced some challenging results. According to NFI, "91 percent of respondents agreed there is a father absence crisis in America. Only slightly more than half of the fathers agreed that they felt adequately prepared for fatherhood. 'Work responsibilities' was named as the largest obstacle to being a good father, and over 50 percent of respondents agreed that fathers are replaceable by mothers and other men."

In another NFI study, "Mama Says," 1533 moms shared their views on fathering. The results were surprisingly similar. "Nine in ten mothers (93%) agree that there is a father absence crisis in America today. Mothers - even those that indicated that they were 'not at all religious' - indicated that 'churches or communities of faith' are the best places for fathers to learn about fatherhood."

The National Home Education Research Institute reported that in 2009, more than 97 percent of homeschoolers were in married-couple families, so it might be easy to conclude that the "father absence crisis" doesn't affect our community.

And yet, an article in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine pointed out that moms make up 99 percent of the primary teachers in home education.

Mom's ability to stay at home with the kids may depend on Dad's working long hours away from home. On the other hand, as the nature of work in America shifts, some families are blessed to have both parents working, at least part time, from home. Mom and Dad may share teaching responsibilities, or Dad may be the primary teacher, or Dad may not know how to get involved.

The question I think we have to ask in all of these situations is how parents, churches, and homeschool communities can support entire families.

One of the first steps is to ask a lot of questions: What is the biblical role of a father in his children's education? What practical limitations of work and money does our family have to work with? What small changes can we make to help dad fulfill his God-given role? As a larger community, how can we invite fathers into what can be a mom-centered conversation about homeschooling?

It's exciting and encouraging to see homeschool dads stepping out and exploring their role in their family's home schools, and this week, I want to share some of their stories with you.

Won't you join us?

You may find The Home Schooling Father, by Michael P. Farris, a good place to start the conversation.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Celebrity and the Home School


If you search for homeschooling on the national news media, one of the first stories that comes up this week is "Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt Snub Modern Education, Opt to Homeschool."

They're not the first celebrity couple to homeschool. Actors travel a lot, making it difficult to establish children in a regular school schedule. But every time one of these headlines appears, there's a predictable flurry of commentary calling the publicity good or bad for serious homeschooling families.

Instead of focusing on what this means for the future of homeschooling, I want to use the opportunity to take us back to a very important, very basic, (very challenging) question: why do we homeschool?

Ask any homeschool mom or dad, and they'll tell you that homeschooling is hard work. It demands the investment of time, money, and energy. It requires families to make hard choices that depart from the downstream pull of government-run education.

If the only reason we homeschool is a negative one (I don't want my child in a public school), then homeschooling can become drudgery, as enslaving to the mind as the school systems we've rejected.

If, on the other hand, we homeschool because we want to raise our children to be whole people who understand what it means to be free, if we homeschool because we want to nurture our children's souls along with their minds, then we have something to hold on to when Algebra seems impossible, when the 2-year-old won't obey, when the house is a mess, and when there are no celebrities on the news to make homeschooling look glamorous.

We can keep going at that moment because we know it's not about immediate results or the fads of the day. It's a life-long journey that we're taking along with our families as we seek to know God and to make Him known.

Even if that means we spend a lot of the journey on our knees instead of on TV.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

CiRCE Conference: Coming in July!

The theme of the 2011 CiRCE Institute Conference is "What is Man: A Contemplation of the Divine Image." It will be held this year in Arlington, Texas from July 20 to July 23.

According to C.S. Lewis, we live in “the world of post-humanity which, some knowingly, and some unknowingly, nearly all men in all nations are at present laboring to produce.” If he is right, then we must each face the disheartening fact that we could be helping construct this “post-human” world.

If this was the case more than fifty years ago, when Mr. Lewis wrote, how much more true is it today? And if Mr. Lewis is right, we must each face the troubling possibility that we could each be helping construct this “post-human” world.

Modern pedagogy builds its educational structures on the patterns of the modern age, in a way that removes the chests of our children. In fact, modern pedagogy does not believe there is such a thing as human nature and it teaches like it. Do you?

Or do you teach like you believe your students are made in the Image of God? Do we?
What a rewarding question to ponder this summer.

Speakers at this event will include author and literary critic Gregory Wolfe, Dr. Vigen Guroian, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, CiRCE's Andrew Kern, and Martin Cothran, author of Traditional Logic. On Friday, Classical Conversations' own Heather Shirley will be leading a workshop on "Cultivating the Ideal and Tending the Real."

If past conferences are any indication, this will be a rich and revitalizing event.

Register today online at www.circeinstitute.com/conference, or by phone at 704.786.9684. If you're a member of a Classical Conversations community, call or email before June 15th to ask about a special discounted price.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Spell F-r-e-e-d-o-m

This morning is the semi-final round, and tonight is the final round of the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee. You might have seen the photos from the preliminary rounds: faces showing elation, anxiety, despair. (Of course, such things make better copy for the media.)

Of the 50 semifinalists, 13-year-old Veronica Penny is a homeschooler from Ontario, Canada. Grace Remmer from Florida, age 12, is also home schooled. So are 13-year-old Gina Solomito from Indiana and 13-year-old Samuel Estep from Virginia.

They're spelling words like "febrifugal," "tchotchke," and "profligacy." Everyone can see how smart and dedicated these kids are, but not everyone thinks of advanced spelling as a valuable skill.

A blogger called "Geek Mom" has written an excellent post answering the question, "What is the value of the national spelling bee in the age of spell check and predictive text?" The whole piece is well-worth reading, but in particular, Geek Mom gives a great illustration of what it means to improve your vision through spelling mastery.
I was once given the word S-I-L-I-C-I-F-E-R-O-U-S in a spelling bee. I’d never heard the word before. I asked for the definition. Containing silicon. I asked for the etymology. Latin. I asked for the part of speech. Adjective. With this information, I was able to construct the word in its entirety. I knew about silicon, and thus had the S-I-L-I-C-I beginning. The Latin root told me that the middle part of the word would be F-E-R rather than P-H-O-R and the fact that it was an adjective, not a noun, told me that the word ended in O-U-S rather than U-S. Siliciferous. One word can encapsulate an entire education.
Last week, we focused on words and sentences. Isn't it amazing how much there is to see within individual words?

As learners, we start our examination of language with our naked eyes. We learn to speak and read simple words. Then we pull out a magnifying glass. We study basic grammar. We memorize common spelling words. Finally, we use a powerful microscope. We learn about word origins and study foreign languages. We compare the nuances of synonyms and contrast active and passive verbs. We use all of these tools to become good readers, writers, and speakers.

We don't forget about the big picture, but we learn how to appreciate and understand it more fully by celebrating the details.

It's the details like these help us become whole (inviolate, replete), free (untrammeled, emancipated) people.


For more information about teaching spelling classically, read chapter 4 in The Core. Another great resource is Spelling Plus, by Susan C. Anthony.