Friday, May 29, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 1 (1)


Literacy rates in America have declined sharply, decreasing our ability to understand Scripture.
The first book of Kings tell us that [Solomon] studied biology (both animal and plant life), wrote over a thousand songs, and collected three thousand proverbs from sources in the ancient world. Ecclesiastes indicates that he weighed and studied these proverbs and arranged them in order. That he sought ‘pleasing words’ as well as words of truth indicates his concern about the aesthetic. Foreign rulers came to him for advice, and his decision making amazed them. He invested in international commerce and spurred the economic development of his country. […] Solomon’s name has stood through three millennia for wisdom, its importance, its social application, and its divine source.(1)
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only 15 percent of adults in the U.S. are proficient readers. The statistical results are captured well in To Read or Not To Read, edited by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2007. But from the 1600s through the early 1900s, the U.S. had literacy rates of over 90 percent. No other culture or group of people since the advent of the printing press has raised as literate a culture as the U.S. before the 1950s.

Today, policymakers distinguish between several levels of literacy. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) defines three basic categories: prose, document, and quantitative literacy. Prose literacy refers to the ability to search, comprehend, and use continuous texts like brochures, the news, books, and instructions.

In 2005, based on 2003 statistics, the NAAL estimated that 13 percent of Americans were proficient (able to use complex and challenging texts) in prose literacy. Forty-four percent were intermediate (handling moderately challenging texts), 29 percent were basic (handling simple and everyday tasks) and 14 percent were below basic (only comprehending simple and concrete texts).

Document literacy refers to the ability to comprehend non-continuous texts like job applications, payroll schedules, maps, and graphs. In document literacy, 13 percent were proficient, 53 percent were intermediate, 22 percent were basic, and 12 percent were below basic.

Quantitative literacy refers to the ability to identify and perform computations using numbers embedded in print, like balancing a checkbook, calculating tips, and using order forms. In quantitative literacy, 13 percent were proficient, 33 percent were intermediate, 33 percent were basic, and 22 percent were below basic.

I personally would be statistically labeled highly literate, and my parents assumed I was educated after sending me to school for sixteen years. But there is a big difference between “literacy” (or able to handle everyday words) and being “educated” (or able to evaluate political and economic philosophies in the context of great literature or even the voting booth).

In 1997, I couldn’t comprehend the French in Henry V, the Latin in National Review Magazine, or the large vocabulary of The Federalist Papers. Neither could I name a single constellation or an African or Australian province. I couldn’t identify the century when Charles Martel, Pepin the Short, and Charlemagne reigned nor what countries they ruled, nor explain how they were related to one another. I was highly literate, yet very uneducated.

If I am going to ensure that my children are effectively educated, I need to look at models that have been proven to work instead of repeating the ineffective methods I was taught.

The only time in recorded history that over 90 percent of a nation’s people were proficiently literate was in the U.S. from 1605 to the 1950s. All other cultures have been significantly less literate or purely oral cultures. So, I want to know what the average parent and teacher from that era did to raise the most literate nation ever, and I want to develop our family’s educational model in light of that knowledge.

(1) Arthur F. Holmes, Building the Christian Academy (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2001), 3.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Introduction (3)

Introduction (part 3)

Life is changing very quickly as we rocket out of the industrial era into the age of electronics and global technologies. The church has historically been a major support and resource for families disheveled by the loss of jobs in dying industries and the need to educate and prepare the next generation to love learning and living for Christ.

Unfortunately, during the twentieth century, Christendom has looked to the state, rather than to believers, to train up their children in the way they should go. The result has been a loss of Christian culture in America and the rise of many questions needing practical, biblical answers.

Christian leaders and educators grappling with church-based education in the context of 1) effective teaching methods, 2) emerging technology and globalism, and 3) equipping parents to model habitus through academics need concrete options that are practical to implement.

This paper proposes an inexpensive option for Christian churches and families trying to recover a biblical model for training and educating children. What is unique about this approach is that it recognizes that the church is the “family of families” and expects the parents to be highly involved in the academic education of their children.

The rise of home-centered education has shown that there are many parents who are eager to train their children in a Christian worldview through academics; however, they need training and accessible tools.

Instead of repeating the mantra “Parents are children’s best and first teachers” and then telling parents that only an expert can educate their children, Christian leaders should be providing educational options that support the biblical truth that parents can indeed be their children’s most effective teachers.

For most of U.S. history, teenagers taught children of all ages in one-room school houses, after the children’s parents had taught them to read, and raised the most literate culture ever seen on the face of the earth. They used very inexpensive and highly effective techniques.

The twenty-first century has its own issues, but good learning techniques never change. We should be able to recover our historical 90 percent literacy rate in this country using just a piece of chalk and a slate. Instead, all of our modern technologies have cost an enormous amount of money and have resulted in a less than 40 percent proficient literacy rate among adults in the U.S.

To recover a literate culture, Christian leaders need to give families the tools to teach an image-based culture to think about an abstract God.

This paper does not emphasize the poor state of education in the U.S., though it does give statistics that illustrate the current state of education. Rather than just defining the problem, it offers a concrete solution.

Consider that since the church relinquished education to the secularists, the quality of American education has declined.

We know that Satan wants our children to be unable to memorize Scripture, because when they hide God’s Word in their heart, they are able to resist sin (Ps 119:11). Is it any wonder that the state no longer teaches children to memorize in school?

Evil hopes we are without a defense for what we believe. Is it any wonder that logic or catechism is no longer taught in school?

The world rejects man as being made in God’s image. So, we let unbelievers neutralize math and science (the languages of creation) as markers of God’s glory.

The church knows that the Bible instructs parents to pass a Christian heritage to their children, yet we no longer equip parents with the academic tools to do so. This paper explains a classical model of rigorous, Christian academics that churches have been supporting since 2002.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Remembering Memorial Day


From visits to a historical monument to memorial flowers with a special message, visit this website (Memorial Day Activities For Your Homeschool Family) to pick up some fun ideas of ways to celebrate Memorial Day with your family. 

Happy Summer to all you 1 Smart Families and Friends out there!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Introduction (2)

Introduction (part 2)

Many parents have responded to the current malaise in public education by successfully home schooling their children. In the early 1980s, state legislatures began to confirm a family’s right to comply with compulsory education laws and college entrance requirements by educating their own children.

The families who pioneered home-centered learning were very committed to academic excellence and had much early success winning scholarships to selective universities. Now, less committed families have joined the movement, causing concern that they will dilute the previous achievements.

Christian leaders are sometimes at a loss to help these intentional parents. They see two areas of need: 1) Integrating these families into the “family of families,” the church, so all of the congregation can benefit from their commitment to strong family life; and 2) Promoting well-structured, rigorously academic learning for families who are doing the best they know how.

Many Christian leaders believe parents will not be involved in their child’s Christian education and would prefer to have someone else be in charge. They are right, and that is why we also need full-time Christian schools. But the main project of this thesis is to give pastors and church leaders educational tools that they can implement through their local church to address these concerns. The core materials are submitted as additional resources.

Currently, thousands of Christians, who intentionally work hard to model habitus, have helped to develop this model of classical, Christian education.

In our model, families meet once a week in churches to practice implementing the basic classical, Christian educational tools of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. The model described is not a drop-off program. Parents attend these classes with their children so they can be trained in effective teaching techniques. The model does not require hiring master teachers for academic subjects. The parents learn from a trained tutor to lead and teach the skills of learning at home.

This model requires minimal facilities since the local community is purposely kept small and meets only one day a week. A few classically trained tutors are paid by the attending families through a small tuition. The tutors receive free training through Classical Conversations, an educational services organization that provides training and academic support. Costs are purposely kept low for maximum accessibility. The educational material is grounded in biblical theology, and the training system for tutors and parents is free and already developed.

Pastors and church leaders interested in this model should understand the goals and basic procedures. If it meets the vision of their church, they can implement their own version of this model, or they can partner with Classical Conversations, where the logistics are already laid out.

The details of the academic program’s content and administration are the final project for this doctorate. Currently, thousands of families use this model successfully at their churches. The model develops community and support for the participating members, quality academics for the students, teacher training for home schooling parents, and an inexpensive way to bring academics back into the realm of the church.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Introduction (1)

Introduction (part 1)

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the data compiled in a report funded by the National Endowment for the Arts entitled To Read or Not to Read, in 2005, 30 percent of 17-year-olds in the U.S. were proficient readers, but only 15 percent of adults were proficient readers.

The loss of literacy with age is attributed to the fact that most adults never purchase a book, and few actually read a book after formal education is concluded. Therefore, they lose what proficiency they gained in school.

The problem of illiteracy or secondary orality in America crosses all ethnic groups. Additional NAEP data concludes that in 2005, 59 percent of whites, 85 percent of Hispanics, and 89 percent of blacks in the U.S. could not read well.

But from the 1600s through the early 1900s, America had literacy rates of over 90 percent including black slaves and white indentured servants. No other culture or group of people since the advent of the printing press has raised as literate a culture as America before the 1950s.

The difference in achievement between our early culture and current culture is examined in the Theological Framework and Literary Review chapters through three major premises.
  1. The biblical understanding of family as primary educational institution.
  2. The holistic view of education as knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.
  3. The idea of theology as habitus, an integration of all of learning with theology as its formative mistress.
These three principles are embodied in the Christian, classical skills of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric familiar to all teachers and students throughout academic history.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Classical Commas, Complete Sentences

Words are very important in my job as a writer and editor. I am still a novice, and I learn something new almost every day. Being an editor reminds me what it means to learn classically.

It starts with the basics. Like every job, editing has its own vocabulary (grammar). What is a dangling modifier? How do you conjugate the verb "to lie"? I have to know how parts of speech fit together to form sentences; sentences, paragraphs; and paragraphs, documents.

I also have to organize my knowledge (dialectic) into priorities as an editor: if there is a problem with the big idea, fixing commas can wait. Is it okay to start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction? An editor should know if there are exceptions to the rules. Asking "what if?" is a big part of the process.

Most editing assignments require more than technical knowledge. The editor must put the rules and the questions to work (rhetoric). How do I preserve personal style while making something readable and precise? How do I communicate with the author about strengths and weaknesses? If I'm working with a student, I need to explain the concept instead of simply making the change.

Along the way, I realize just how much I have to learn. We all need a dose of humility from time to time, right?

...because everyday adventures can be classical opportunities too...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Abstract





The problem of illiteracy in America crosses all ethnic groups. All of our modern technologies have cost an enormous amount of money yet have resulted in a less than 40 percent proficient literacy rate among adults in the U.S.

Many parents have responded to the current malaise in public education by successfully home schooling their children. The church has historically been a major support and resource for families; unfortunately, during the twentieth century, Christendom has looked to the state, rather than to believers, to train up their children in the way they should go.

Christian leaders grappling with church-based education need concrete options that are easy to implement. The main project of this thesis is to present Christian leaders and educators with a proven model of once-a-week academic programs for families meeting in churches to practice the basic classical, Christian educational tools of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

A Summer Idea Exchange:

For the last two years, I've been doing graduate work with Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. I completed my doctoral thesis this spring and am in the process of scheduling my defense.

This summer, I want to invite you to join me in pondering the big truths behind why we educate and why we parent the way we do. 

I'll post my thesis on this site a bit at a time, and then the comment section is open for business. There'll be an index of all the posts in the sidebar in "Categories" under "Leigh's Thesis *Index*," so you can go back and look at or comment on older sections you missed. Afterward, I'll try to make the whole thing available on the CC website (

I'd love for you to talk about stories that intersect with mine, or your perspective on these ideas, or just your questions and sticking points. You've probably heard me mention these views in one form or another over the years, but here's your chance to tell me what you think of them as a whole. 

Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mom Moments - Just for Fun

Here's to all you hardworking Moms in need of a bit of mid-week humor (Dads can read and enjoy as well... or make your own list!):

This weekend, I came across a fun timeline in honor of Mother's Day. It's called "92 Years of Amazing Mom Moments." Check it out! 

What big events did the writer leave out? What "most valuable" inventions, big names, and landmark events would go on your list?

Monday, May 11, 2009

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Mothers' Day Tribute

A very special Happy Mothers' Day! to all you 1 Smart Mamas out there.  

Take time to celebrate the woman in your life who makes those hard choices and sacrifices every day. Celebrate the businesswoman, the cook, the parent, the teacher, the household manager, the organizer, the housecleaner, the doctor, and the woman who manages to roll all of these things into one!

Feel free to share your own special mothers' day 'thank you' in the comments. Here's how some famous folks have paid tribute to mothers over the years. 

"The mother's heart is the child's schoolroom." ~Henry Ward Beecher

"Her children arise up, and call her blessed." 
~Proverbs 31:28

Women know
The way to rear up children (to be just)
They know a simple, merry, tender knack
Of tying sashes, fitting baby-shoes
And stringing pretty words that make no sense.
And kissing full sense into empty words. 
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a mother who read to me. 
~Strickland Gillilan.

"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when troubles thicken around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts." 
~Washington Irving

"All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother...I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life." ~Abraham Lincoln.

"My Mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my Mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her." 
~George Washington

Friday, May 8, 2009

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Where do you insert God?

Have you ever been working on a computer document, copied a chunk of text, tried to paste it, and had it disappear or show up in a completely different part of the document? 

Or... "That's not where I wanted to insert that picture in my blog post! Why don't you just go where I tell you?"

The computer isn't likely to have a good response, and maybe that can teach us something about patience and persistance. But, how often do we do the same thing to God?

I read an article this week with an intriguing title: Sued by Fontainebleu, banks could cite 'act of God' as defense for refusing funds:
Legal experts say the banks attempting to back out of their commitment to finance the Fontainebleau Las Vegas might defend their decision by arguing the economic downturn that has created doubts about the project’s future is an act of God.
This is a great example of someone trying to insert God into a society where He's been told often that He has no place.  God, we need to use You here, but that's it. Stick to Your corner. I can just imagine God chuckling when He sees us trying to put Him in such a tiny space and keep Him out of the rest at the same time.

Financial advisors aren't the only ones who try to [Insert (God) Here.] Don't we do the same thing? Okay Lord, here's my church: I'll come visit You there, but I'd really rather You didn't come home with me. All right, Lord, You can come home with me, but I really need You to stay out of the school room when I get angry at my kids. 

Remember, we don't serve a God of insertions and deletions. It's frustrating, but also such a relief when we realize that He doesn't fit in our boxes. Because when we get right down to it, would we want Him to?

"Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his? Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor. ...Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand. ...Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you." (Job 40:9-14)

Monday, May 4, 2009

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Friday, May 1, 2009