Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Why Should I Home School?

(The radio archive for this blog was too garbled so it has been deleted.)

Luann asks,

"Why should I home school? I already know I will, but help me articulate the answer for my family and friends who may disagree."

Before you begin the great adventure called parenthood, the one thing you have to remember is every parent home schools. We just all take a different level of responsibility when it comes to intentionally parenting our children. Even drug addicts laying on the couch all day are teaching the people around them a behavior pattern. The reason I prefer the term home-centered education better to home schooling is because my home acts as the base camp for a large array of global activities that will form my children's world view - intellectually, physically, and spiritually. As adults, our children may accept or reject how my husband and I guide them, but we recognize that all of our choices can impact them.

Also, the term home schooling has the connotation of sitting at home, alone, doing book work with mom standing by a dry erase board. Those of us who have successfully home schooled for decades find that our family rarely does this. Instead, we may have a formal looking school in our homes for small portions of some days, but we also engage in many, many educational endeavors, few of which are at home.

So, your choice of education for your children settles around some basic, logically structured questions. What is the definition of an education?

What is the purpose of your children's education? What tools are required to accomplish those goals? Who is in charge of providing their educational leadership? Where and when does education most effectively take place? How does a parent implement a plan to provide an education? What are the costs of this endeavor? And lastly, what happens if I, as the parent, fail to provide an education for my children?

These are big questions that are hard to address in a few sentences to someone who is skeptical about home schooling. Especially to a culture trained to think in emotive sound bites. So here are some smart, and some smart alec responses. Hopefully, you'll hear more as you continue on your search for intelligent life.

1. We just all take a different level of responsibility when it comes to intentionally parenting our children. We want to be very involved with our boys education.

2. We want our children civilized, not socialized.

3. If I'm smart enough to teach my baby to walk and talk, I'm smart enough to teach him to read, write and cipher.

4. We think it is important for children to be able to at least read.

5. We think it's an odd thought that God would prefer someone else to teach our child about Him instead of his (or her) parents.

5. I like my kids. We have a lot of fun learning together. (That should satisfy post-moderns.)

6. It'd be a crime to make some unsuspecting 24-year-old teacher put up with our Tommy. We think we better spare the school system.

7. We don't think the $10,000 a year public schools spend per child is adequate. We're richer than that.

I'm sure our audience can think of many more brief responses. But my dear Luann, my favorite reason is because God trusted Rob and I with our children. Our Lord will not fail to equip us to raise them for His glory.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Retreats and Advances

**To hear Leigh's radio show about this post, click this link or go to and click on the show titled "retreats and advances."**

**To join the conversation about this post, go to Leigh's radio show on BlogTalkRadio tomorrow (Wed., Dec. 31) at noon. See the link on the sidebar to go directly to the site!**

Parents who intentionally educate their children are concerned about what to teach and how to keep the task enjoyable. I keep up my enthusiam as a mom and a life-long learner by taking classes and meeting with my friends to discuss certain topics in-depth. This may seem obvious, but busy moms often forget to develop their own brain and reinvigorate their souls. We receive so much energy while engaging the minds of kindred spirits in lively discussions.

Here is a picture of the CC Retreat house where many of our trainings have been held.
Let me encourage you to attend a Classical Conversations Retreat. We really should call these times of fellowship and learning Advances as the purpose is to advance the kingdom of God through families that love Him with their whole minds. So, we offer opportunities for parents, women in particular, to advance their knowledge of subjects we love or are learning to love. As adults, we are dialectic thinkers and it is very enjoyable to merge new grammar into "Huh! I get it!" moments while thinking with a new friend. Iron sharpening iron doesn't always have to be hard.

It is very invigorating to discuss the great classical conversations of mankind on our porch. We are surrounded by trees and a golf course, so it is very quiet and peaceful.

Feasting of ideas must be accompanied by feasting on food. Here's the kitchen where lots of salads, casseroles, and deserts are prepared. The house has many dining areas inside and out. Meals are a great time for smaller groups to dig deeper.

So the Retreats we are offering in January through February are listed below. The March-April schedule is being developed. Feel free to post suggestions. We are also concerned that Friday-Sunday Retreats don't work for everyone. Also post if you'd be interested in attending a Sunday night to Tuesday afternoon Retreat. Retreats cost $200, which includes room, food, and facilitator's fees.

January 9 and February 6, Mock Murder Mystery Weekend - plan to prosecute or defend Widow Barbara. Did she murder her husband or did the maid really do it? Bring the Mock Trial Notebook purchased from our sponsor

January 16 and February 13, Logic in a Weekend - join Jody Harvey as she takes you through the logical Square of Opposition. This retreat will benefit our Practicum speakers as they prepare to lead 1000s of parents through logic this summer. Jody Harvey, long time CC tutor and diligent Latins student, enjoys teaching her three high school students Latin. She has been homeschooling for 15 years and is a great resource for anyone trying to understand how to teach classically.

January 23 and February 20, Latin in a Weekend - join Jody again as you figure out how to use declensions, conjugations, and a glossary to translate a whole lot of Latin.

January 30 and February 27, Reading Jane - all Austen fans are invited to indulge in 2 days of just Jane. Led by me, we'll improve our Socratic discussion skills while pouring over some of the best dialogue ever written.

The constant attention to my own learning keeps me constantly excited about my children's learning. Creation offers so much, and I don't want them to miss any of it!

(For more information about CC retreats, click on the title of this post.)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Logic - Truth Tables and Truth Trees

Be sure to listen to my 1SmartMama radio archive where I verbally explain this topic on Saturday, December 27, 2008 at 11am.

Over Christmas, Challenge B students are required to memorize the appendices from Nance's Intermediate Logic. My William and I took the tables and simplified them for easier memorization. Each morning over the holiday, he copied Appendix A and C.

Here is the original from the book for clarity. You may want to scroll back to it occasionally during this lesson.

To make it easier to remember, we just write the things that change. The things that are the same, are the same and easy. So we only filled in the letter F for false, since the T F table never changes and the empty boxes indicate T or True. Below are my notes. The words and, or, if/then and equal just remind us of the symbols meanings APPROXIMATELY. Also, we abbreviated the column labels to a rhyme: Neg, Con, Dis, Con, Bi.

Here is Appendix C from the book. I don't like how the printer made it look different than the Appendix A. We noticed that they used the same terms as A, so we made it into our form of a table. Even though memorizing is a grammatical process, notice it takes dialectic skills to reform someone else's info into your own tool.

We put C right under A, and now have reduced the two charts to one easy chart. Notice that both charts have a simple Negative column. So we write that first and it's easy to memorize. Then we just repeated the original p and q chart and wrote a check mark after each.

Then we write the exact same row in the Negated column, except we add parenthesis and a ~ before each pq relationship.

Now that the headings are listed, we have to fill in the chart. There are only 3 that have just a p over a q so we do them first. Then we draw the slants and the p and qs for the rest of the table, noticing that the Bi column is different too. So, they are either p over q, p before q, or pp over qq. We say these lind of things out loud to remind us.

Lastly we look at the negatives for patterns. We notice the p over q has no negative, both neagtives, and one negative. We notice the pp over qq has all right negative and split negative. The rest we just memorize. I know it is all memorization, but if you look for patterns and differences and say the story while you write it becomes easier.

Now that we've thought through the chart, we write it neatly, and proceed to copy it daily.

Here's William at the end of filling in a chart. Messy board and boy in PJs but that's the beauty of home centered ed. Logic is done before breakfast.

Now that we have A and B memorized, we will tackle Appendix B, which is the longest.
To spend a weekend with adults practicing your own logic skills, join my longtime Tutor, Jody Harvey, in Winston-Salem, NC for a Latin in a weekend retreat register at
Please comment on how this was or wasn't helpful.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Bailout?

Can you identify the stories’ fallacy? Are the author’s parallels accurate? What do you think of this story? Read it to your children. Who pays the cost of the political bailout? Who paid for our bailout from sin? Please post your families comments after you discuss this article. Challenge Tutors may want to discuss this post in seminar.

The star? It leads to the big bailout …
By Jody Seymour, Special to the Observer, Posted: Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008

   A long time ago and just beyond a galaxy really far, far away:
   “I have looked this deal over and it is not only an act of desperation, it is also foolish.” Gabriel was insistent as he usually was. He was the only one who could get away with speaking to God like this. The other members of the celestial court would not even think of approaching God in this manner.
   “I mean with the knowledge you have… remember you are all that omniscient, all-powerful, all knowing being that everyone is always talking about … you ought to know better. You've given them a place to live, a guide for living, and even sent them all those prophets and what did it get you? Now you offer them this bailout package. They'll waste it just like they've squandered everything you've given them before. They haven't learned much of anything. For God's sake…you know for ‘your' sake…let them fail. It is the only way they'll ever learn.”
   Forget payback
   “Gabe, why don't you take a pill or something. Go badger some angels and leave me to my thoughts.” God sort of liked going back and forth with his sidekick.
   “And look at this. Look at the cost. How will they ever pay you back? I know the answer to that. They won't. They'll misuse what you give them, just like they've done for…well…forever.”
   “Gabriel not only am I going to do this, you're going to be the one to tell them I'm going to do it.”
   “No way. I'm not going to be an accomplice in such a hare-brain scheme.” Gabriel said this even though he knew it was pointless to resist the divine mandate.
   “Hush up and get on with it. I've picked a young girl named Mary. Is she ever going to be surprised! No one is expecting me to do it this way, especially her. She will not understand but I'll bet she'll agree. I've watched her grow up. Mary is such a dear one and she'll go along with the impossible.”
   “Impossible is what you are. When are you ever going to get this creation thing right? Aren't you in charge? I told you all along that you gave those creatures of yours too much of the freedom thing. They can't manage it.”
   Poor morals!
   “Gabriel,” … God only used Gabe's full name when the conversation was about to be over and things were settled… “Go tell Mary she is going to have a baby.”
   “A baby, she's not even married, for heaven's sake. What will people think? This is a heck of way to start out. It is not even good morals.”
   “It's something I've never done before. I like novelty, remember. Besides, it makes for a really good story that I bet they'll tell over and over.”
   “It's nothing but a bailout. It's a waste. They don't deserve it and you know it.”
   “Of course I know it. Now go tell Mary. I can't wait to see the look on her face. And by the way as you go, ‘Merry Christmas, Gabe.'”
   “Merry what?…I thought you said her name was Mary.”
   “Well, I am getting ahead of myself but even I get excited once in a while. Just go do what I said and forget the Merry Christmas thing for now.”
   Wasting resources
   “I still think you're wasting your resources, but as you probably already know, Not my will but thine be done.”
   “Hey, that's a good line, Gabe. I'll save it for later…”
   God reached up and pulled close a distant star. “I think I'll use this one to help them find him.”
God laughed as Gabe's presence slipped beyond sight, “The star can be part of the bailout package.”

Jody Seymour is senior pastor at Davidson United Methodist Church in Davidson.

Cedar Hill Landing, Murrell's Inlet, SC Review

We enjoyed a lovely dinner in Murrell's Inlet, SC at the Cedar Hill Landing Restaurant.
Notice the beautiful view of the inlet...

...and the romance of the abandoned boats.

It appears to be a great view- a charming place to eat. By the way, My Mystery Man is in the center of the photo below. You won't see his face very often. John is in the ball cap and William is on the other side. David was enjoying some great sweet potatoe fries while I took this picture. Robert hadn't joined us yet as he had to work another day.

But something's foul in Denmark!

Could it be the piles and piles of oysters and dead sea life at our feet?

In spite of the smell, which actually only soured occasionally, the food was great! OH! OH! There is My Mystery Man's face only partially obscured by sunglasses.

One of my first jobs when I was 12 was to catch softshell crabs and sell them around my neighborhood. These were delicious! Brought back old memories of growing up on the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis, MD. I especially enjoyed the She Crab soup.

The company, the food, the service, the weather, and the view were wonderful. My gang of seafood lovers gave Cedar Hill Landing a 5/5 even though the women's room door was accidently locked and we smelled lots of dead fish. That means we all want to go back to eat there again. By the way, Huntingdon State Park is nearby with alligators and an old plantation to visit. Plus there are lots of bike paths among the marshes and creeks. Worth a day trip whenever you visit Myrtle Beach about 20 miles north of the Inlet.
Call 843.652.8706 to see if they are open as hours change seasonally.

Catching Flying Squirrels

It's Christmas Day and I've learned why parents pay $1000s so their son can get a BS in Building Sciences - to catch gliders (aka flying squirrels) that are trapped in your basement ceiling.

Here are the 3 Amigos contemplating how to catch a glider with a golf club. Together they weigh almost 400 pounds. I wonder how many ounces a glider weighs?

Here are the wires that held the bucket full of nuts under the escape hatch made in the ceiling tile.

Then General Confusion (aka John) led his troops into battle.

Now the beast has been conquered...

...and I probably have to buy a cage, and climbing facility, and food, and breastfeed the thing each night. Whose pet is this anyway? Today's Christmas. I bought you a mind numbing XBox. Can't you just play it and leave the squirrel and me alone? PTL!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Relational Giving - Art Auction for India

Our family is working on giving gifts that enhance and build our relationships with each other, the needy, and the body of Christ.

We went to the beach and sat at a sunny picnic table and made Kitty Kat greeting cards together. On February 13, Classical Conversations is having an ART AUCTION to raise donations for Christian house schools in northern India. $1000 pays for a teacher's salary, classroom, electricty, heat, food, uniforms, and educational materials for 28-30 students of children who would have no education otherwise for ONE YEAR!

These students' parents don't teach basic academic skills at home because they have not been taught to value education. Local pastors and their wives offer to educate these children, often at their own expense. Since Christian education is state controlled in most places, these families are really sacrificing to offer an explicitly Christian education. We want to join them as partners as they reach remote villages for Christ. So, create some art, send artauction@classicalconversations a 1000 x 1000 pixels (or about) photo and we'll pay to include it on Ebay for our art auction. Send a brief story to share your family's faith and how you created the art.

Children in schools all over America hold auctions where parents make donations for their own children's schools. We are carrying the auction to a national audience of bidders on Ebay, but will donate the money to the truly needy instead of our own families. So tell every one you know to type Classical Conversations into the Ebay search engine on Friday, February 13, 2009 and generously support the efforts of young children to give to other young children.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Make a Joyful Noise

Many of you have heard me say that I am deficient in music and I can’t wait to tackle that field of knowledge. I covet knowing how musicians meet God. He seems so intimate when I sing praises to Him, that I know there’s even more joy to come. 

Well, I have amazing friends. The moms in my CC Community have been good to invite me in their musical adventures this year and I have thoroughly enjoyed being included. They stuck their neck out and bought me a keyboard for Christmas, a good keyboard with all the pedal options and properly weighted keys. 

I even took a music seminar on chord reading with Jody Harvey. Jody is an amazingly talented woman who will be leading some of our Latin and Logic retreats this winter. She has been working with CC in many capacities for 6 years and really understands the classical model. 

Here's a (small) picture. My head is moving either because William is not a very good photographer yet, or because I was really into the music.

My boys already can play guitar, so they have joined me in practicing on our new keyboard each day. We’re just in the "pluck out the melody and play some accompanying chord stage," but it sure is fun. 

I remind myself of Lady De Bourg in Pride and Prejudice saying she would have been a prodigious pianist if she had just put her mind to it. I will be a prodigious musician if I can just put my mind to it. After Christmas.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Filling Busy Pre-Christmas Days

Last week was a very productive week. As you can see, here I’m sitting on my porch working on my doctoral thesis. It’s due by March and I’m trying to finish by Jan. 1.

Do you recognize any of the clutter on my desk? If you can name the orange and black book, I’ll send you an email identifying you officially as 1 Smart Detective.

Jen Greenholt is helping me with the technical aspects of formatting the thesis. Jen was in CC for 3 years of high school and her mom, Pam, continues to tutor Challenge I for us. 

Jen is helping CC as an editor as she prepares and applies for grad school. She loves literature and language; she is a tremendous help to all of CC. If you recognize Jen’s name, it may be because she wrote the Words Aptly Spoken series for Challenge.

William continues to work on his Warhammer movie and short story for 2nd semester Challenge B Short Stories seminar. He’s messing around with changing still photos into a motion picture. He’s spending as much time working on the editing credits as the movie itself. So far he has just over a minute of film and a lot of ending credits like:

A William Bortins Production
Directed by William Bortins
Animation by William Bortins
Scenery by William Bortins
Etc., etc.

If he gets his movie posted, I’ll send you a link. In the meantime, here is one of his sets and some of his figurines.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

*Update - In light of Chuck Colson's recently awarded Presidential Citizen's Medal and current events, see Colson's recent commentary on the scandal surrounding Illinois Governor Blagojevich.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Wars and Carpets

It’s Christmas break for our family, but since there are still 24 hours in a day to redeem, we manage to get math lessons completed, Latin declensions memorized, maps drawn, and music practiced most days.  Since it is dark early, the boys play flashlight tag with their school friends before dinner each night.  This is what it would look like if they were playing with Mel Gibson and the creepy emperor from the movie Gladiator instead of Pierce and Andrew from the neighborhood.
Our youngest son, David, plays basketball. Finding shoes for his very wide feet provides a monthly challenge now that he is in his growth spurt. I buy them from New Balance online store since they always have a sale on wide shoes that actually fit him. Now I get more emails from New Balance then from my grown children.

Warhammer figurines are designed and painted throughout the day. The boys’ attention to fine details like eyebrows and scars makes the expensive figurines worth it. When the weather turns cold like this week, I enjoy watching the boys and their friends design bridges and forts and various terrains for battle. If you have young children, you’ll probably not want to buy into this series. Fortunately, you can repaint the figurines many times.

David is fascinated with the webcam as you can see here. He looks like he’s going to shoot himself in the eye like the boy in the classic A Christmas Story. I don’t recommend the movie, but it seems like we laugh at it every year. It’s the kind of show you leave on in the background while painting Warhammer.

We are working on remodeling part of our warehouse into a film studio for training videos for Classical Conversations. So the boys spent a day painting and hauling furniture. William and I found a dumpster full of new clean commercial carpeting that had been cut into 3 foot strips. So we hauled it over to the warehouse. Though unlimited carpeting was a great gift, the better gift was working with William as we laughed about dumpster diving for treasure. I am so thankful I get full long days with my family.

- Leigh

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Lessons from Latin

I enjoy teaching my boys at our large dry erase board. We can all work on tasks at the same time and sometimes even as collaborators. William and I are still working on mastering Latin declensions. We use each other’s work to check our own and if one of us thinks of a good memory technique, we share it with our Challenge class.

Our memory tricks may not help you because they are ours. Our brains thought of them, so a mental path was forged that’s now easy to follow. You need to bushwhack your own brain-paths by looking for patterns in everything you learn.

For instance, this is one way we memorize Latin Conjugations. Our Challenge B class developed this together, so the students tend to remember it. We meet weekly for academics to share great thoughts and to make them our own. 

For singular verbs we write ‘lost’. The ‘l’ is actually the macron over the ‘o’ for first person singular, the ‘s’ is second person singular, and the ‘t’ is third person singular. For plural, we blended the words to sound like an awful negative: “mustisnt”. ‘Mus’ is the first person plural ending, ‘tis’ is the second person plural ending, and ‘nt’ is the third person plural ending.

Then after we write out our individual charts, we still open the Latin book and check our work. There are many endings to learn and instantly checking helps us to develop good learning habits.

Those of you in Foundations may be wondering why the Latin tricks when we memorize them in Foundations. Well, when I first learned vowels, I said AEIOU. Now I just know them because I’ve used them many, many ways. I learned the alphabet song long before I learned how to read and write. Now the song is basically useless – except when I’m looking up the fourth letter in a word in a dictionary to check spelling. Then the song is entirely useful.

The same holds with the Latin declensions and conjugations. Students should memorize and use them in many, many ways so that they no longer see the endings but see through them while translating and thinking in Latin. So we chant endings, write them in charts, make up stories and funny words for them, and look for patterns. 

Active learners do this for EVERYTHING they learn, often without knowing that is what they do. Active learners seem smart, but really, they know to look for patterns. Anyone can be shown to be a pattern finder and then they will begin to know they too are smart.

- Leigh

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What If...?

...this was all you needed to produce a great short story:

Wore gray suit and black hat. When she had learned about his past. Thinking he was someone else. The bus three blocks ahead. 

"Behold The Writeulator!" says The Core Knowledge Blog, discussing the idea of a writing version of the calculator, which would take the above fragments and produce a completed writing assignment. 

But, you might say, if students never practiced using verbs, grammar, and syntax, how would they ever speak properly, send a business letter, or be able to read a legal document?

It seems outlandish, doesn't it? So, why do we assume that children no longer need to learn basic math facts? - because they can just use a calculator!

It's as if we expected an architect to troubleshoot designs without knowing geometry or physics, or a composer to write a symphony without knowing how to read music. 

Without the grammar, the vocabulary and basic understanding of any subject, advanced tasks and creativity are nearly impossible.

As Paul, the original author at When Galaxies Collide, says, "Language is a hierarchy of document, chapter, paragraph, sentence, word, and alphabet. [...] Math is even more hierarchical than language [...] every single time I did anything in mathematics (sans caclulator) I was traipsing through the hierarchy, walking down the stairs back to counting."

Thanks to Alexander Russo at This Week in Education for bringing this post to my attention.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Just Keep Walking

The traditional school year is almost half over. The excitement of the holidays infects everyone; and just ahead are the long winter months. School can be the last thing on the kids' minds, and trying to keep them focused can seem impossible.

Centering your childrens' education at home is sometimes less about running than about getting up in the morning and putting one foot in front of the other. The good news is, we're not alone. Check out this excerpt from a recent post on R.C. Sproul's website, Ligonier Ministries, called "Enoch Kept Walking."
"What kept Enoch walking with God for three hundred years? He had an awareness of judgment coming. He had a sensitivity to the ungodliness of the age. And he drew closer to God as the reality of these things pressed in upon him."
In North Carolina, we are required to complete 180 days of instruction every school year. And that's a minimum, based on the assumption that learning does not need to happen all year round! But Enoch walked with God for 300 years! (See Genesis 5.)

So how do we keep our feet moving on the cold days when the wind tells us it would be simpler to go inside by the heater? 

Well, we have an awareness of the divine task we are called to undertake. We have a sensitivity to the challenges facing our families. But most of all, we draw closer to God as the reality of these things - and his promises - presses in upon us.

"For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe." 1 Timothy 4:10