Monday, August 31, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 3 (12)


C.S. Lewis (cont'd)

In Letters to Children, Lewis defines the watchword for the development of all Christian curricula: “All schools, both here [in England] and in America, ought to teach far fewer subjects and teach them far better.”(1)

Instead of offering students survey courses on the history of movies, philosophy of gender neutrality, astronomy, or SAT Prep, Lewis suggests we teach students to read about any subject, research about any subject, write about any subject, and argue a point within a subject. Moderns exchanged practical academic skills for surveyed content.

Lewis would propose that Christian education raises plumbers who can read Aristotle. The point of a liberal education was to equip students to take their strengths and make the most of them in other areas as needed. Today’s rise in vocational education as evidenced by the growing numbers attending community colleges, whose prime purpose is to train employees for local companies, emphasizes immediate job placement over the ability to learn anything at any time.

This is becoming increasingly a problem as our industrial jobs go overseas and adults are bewildered by what to do next. Employees are trained (called a vocational track in high school) to be a ________ (fill in the blank) rather than a thinker who likes to meet a new challenge.

Dorothy Sayers Offers a Solution

Dorothy Sayers, a friend of Lewis, wrote an essay called “The Lost Tools of Learning” expounding on Lewis’s ideas.
When we think about the remarkably early age at which the young men went up to university in, let us say, Tudor times, and thereafter were held fit to assume responsibility for the conduct of their own affairs, are we altogether comfortable about that artificial prolongation of intellectual childhood and adolescence into the years of physical maturity which is so marked in our own day? To postpone the acceptance of responsibility to a late date brings with it a number of psychological complications which, while they may interest the psychiatrist, are scarcely beneficial either to the individual or to society. The stock argument in favor of postponing the school-leaving age and prolonging the period of education generally is there is now so much more to learn than there was in the Middle Ages. This is partly true, but not wholly. The modern boy and girl are certainly taught more subjects—but does that always mean that they actually know more?(2)
In other words, are they taught anything well?

(1) C.S. Lewis, Letters to Children, ed. Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie L. Mead (New York: Macmillan, 1985), 83.
(2) Dorothy L. Sayers, "The Lost Tools of Learning," Lecture. Oxford, 1947.

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

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Math & Black Checkers

By Chandy Greenholt
Challenge I Tutor, North Carolina

April 15 to August 15th--approximately 4 months, 120 days, 2880 hours (see, I knew math was good for something)--seems like an eternity of rest for a teacher at the beginning of that time period when the last class is done. It seems like it's been about a week at the end of that time period when it’s time for another group of students to appear.

Not that we’re not glad to see them; just, like anyone else, we enjoy having more free time, but at the same time, working with a new group of eager young minds every year helps to keep us young. Now, if Father Time just had the same idea in mind...

I have a shorter amount of time to work with the group than Pam does, since I only teach math. At the same time, probably it’s the most challenging time since (1) it’s at the end of the day, when bright young minds turn into zombies, and (2) it’s a subject which petrifies about half of the participants before we even get started.

Having spent a lot of time on the basketball court and tennis court, I know that the hardest thing to do is win your first game in a tennis match and make your first shot in a basketball game. Once you’ve accomplished those things, the butterflies seem to reverse their field and fly off to harass someone else.

I think the same thing is true for math students. I like to ask questions...lots of questions...and I think that for a new student , breathing resumes after he or she gets the first question correct. As an ice-breaker, I probably should go around the room asking everyone what 2 + 2 is...

Math is challenging, there's no doubt about it. We start the first class pulling checkers out of a bag: 9 red and 1 black. I'm trying to make the point that the black checker represents a standard mistake students make or a missed concept early in the year. When you’re working problems later in the year, you reach in the bag and pull out the black checker (the concept you didn’t get) and it messes you up on the problem you’re trying to do.

If there is one goal I seek in both classes, it is to get high school students to see math not as a group of formulas and tricks to learn, but as a logical and (is this too much to dream of?) exciting way to see some of the structure God has given to the universe.

That first week I asked students “How?” you do certain operations (i. e. adding fractions), and then when they had gone through all of the explanation of the techniques, I asked, “Why does this work?” The first response almost invariably was, “That’s how the teacher told us to do it.”

Can I reach the goal of getting the students to understand for themselves why things work? That's a topic for the next installment...

Are you a teacher or a tutor with Classical Conversations? If you would like to share your story, I want to hear it! What do you enjoy, fear, or look forward at the start of each year? Send your stories via email to 1 Smart Mama.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 3 (11)


C.S. Lewis (cont'd)

In God in the Dock, where Lewis addresses modernity’s desire to put the existence of God on trial, states, “A society which is predominantly Christian will propagate Christianity through its schools: one which is not will not.”(1) This is a warning for church leaders and parents to not expect Christian culture to be the fruit of pagan education.

In “De Descriptione Temporum,” Lewis addresses the decline in education. “We have lived to see the second death of ancient learning. In our time something which was once the possession of all educated men has shrunk to being the technical accomplishment of a few specialists…If one were looking for a man who could not read Virgil though his father could, he might be found more easily in the twentieth century than in the fifth.”(2)

By 1955, Lewis saw that the previous generation was no longer passing down the ability to think universally. Specialization and professionalization would replace integrated education.

In Rehabilitations, Lewis explains both Milton’s and Aristotle’s educational purposes:
…to produce the good man and the good citizen, though it must be remembered that we are not here using the word ‘good’ in any narrowly ethical sense. The ‘good’ man’ here remains the man of good taste and good feeling, the interesting and interested man, and almost the happy man…Vocational training, on the other hand prepares the pupil not for leisure, but for work; it aims at making not a good man but a good banker, a good electrician, a good scavenger, or a good surgeon. You see at once that education is essentially for freemen and vocational training for slaves.(3)
So in 1939, Lewis is prophetically attacking the philosophy espoused in the 1996 book Teaching the New Basic Skills: Principles for Educating Children to Thrive in a Changing Economy by Murnane and Levy.(4) Their entire premise is that the main role of modern schools is to prepare students for employment: not to brain train, not to think critically, but to follow directions.

(1) C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 116.
(2) C. S. Lewis, Selected Literary Essays, ed. Walter Hooper (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 4.
(3) C.S. Lewis, Rehabilitations and Other Essays (London, UK: Oxford University Press, 1939), 81-5.
(4) Richard J. Murnane and Frank Levy, Teaching the New Basic Skills: Principles for Educating Children to Thrive in a Changing Economy (New York: Free Press, 1996).

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

Get Ready - Get Set - Go!

Off to a good start!

Here's what a few of my fellow bloggers are sharing about the beginning of a new year with Classical Conversations. Leave a comment to add the link to your own account of the new school year adventures and dreams (non-CC families welcome too!).

@ Classical Conversations Botetourt Group: Orientation
We had a great evening getting to know each other and learning what to expect on September 3rd!
@Teaching Classically: Ancient Egypt: sites for children
As I am preparing for our Classical Conversations Cycle 1 year to begin, I have found some wonderful Ancient Egypt sites that will be a blast for the kids.
We had a terrific start, but we all came home and crashed- mostly me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Waiting for Light Bulbs

By Pam Greenholt
Challenge I Director, North Carolina

Well, our first week of Challenge I tutorials has come and gone. It is always what I expect--nervousness, excitement, and everything in between--for students, parents, and the tutor! It's a shame we can't bottle up all the energy that is present that first week and spread it out when the energy levels have a tendency to run a little low in the spring.

It would be interesting to be able to capture accurately and honestly what each person is anticipating for the year. However at this point I can only put down my thoughts as the tutor.

One of the things I look forward to most of all in working with students is the proverbial "light coming on" in their eyes when a new concept strikes them, or they suddenly understand something they have had trouble grasping. What a joy it is to see their expression when the moment of understanding occurs. Making those moments happen is what a teacher lives for.

Unfortunately there is no formula which produces those results on demand. It is a humbling reminder that we are our Creator's..."it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves..." (Psalm 100:3) He is the one who holds the keys to all knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

The second thing I long for during the course of each year is being a witness to the process of spiritual maturity in each student. I would love to have a time machine that would capture the essence of each student's character at the beginning of the year, and then play that side by side with their end-of-year person.

Most of the time the process is so gradual that it is barely noticeable, but every now and then there is a spurt of growth and we are privileged to see clearly the "self" growing less and the concern for others growing more. I am sure the angels in heaven are smiling with delight just as I am down here when those moments occur!

So the year has begun, and my prayers will be focusing on these two hopes and lots of others for each student who comes to our Challenge I tutorial.

An interesting thought occurred to me the other day. Do you suppose that God is wanting the same two things for us, His students, His children--that the light will come on and that we'll move from selfishness to selflessness?? Now if only that were as easy as learning a few verb conjugations!


Are you a teacher or a tutor with Classical Conversations? If you would like to share your story, I want to hear it! What do you enjoy, fear, or look forward at the start of each year? Send your stories via email to 1 Smart Mama.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 3 (10)


C.S. Lewis

Even though he came from the other side of the Atlantic, C.S. Lewis was concerned with education in general, and Christian education specifically. Oxford don, prolific writer and speaker, and major defender of orthodoxy versus modernity, Lewis made a point of referring to the degrading effects of modern education on the souls of the children in all of his Narnia books. He attacked headmasters, cliques, New Age religion, feminism, the separation of siblings, and illogical reasoning.

Professor Kirke’s famous line, “I wonder what they do teach them at these schools,”(1) comes from C.S. Lewis’s experience as a college don and is explained in his non-fictional book The Abolition of Man. His body of work is too voluminous to summarize each text in one paper, so below is a summary of his educational concerns from some of his more famous writings.

That Hideous Strength is Lewis’ popular novel where he made his misgivings about modern education eerily contemporary in their scientific applications. He was truly prophetic when he said we were raising “men without chests” since state education was purposing to disconnect man’s mind from his heart in direct violation of God’s commandment to love Him with our minds as well as our hearts, bodies, and souls.

Lewis’s villain says, “By real education, I mean one that has no ‘take it or leave it’ nonsense. A real education makes the patient what it wants infallibly; whatever he or his parents try to do about it. Of course, it’ll have to be mainly psychological at first. But we’ll get on to biochemical conditioning in the end and direct manipulation of the brain.”(2)

Lewis foresaw modern education’s end in the breakdown of parental authority, employment training emphasized over liberal education, and the use of behavioral modification drugs. This is similar to Huxley’s Brave New World.

(1) C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (New York: Collier Books, 1970), 47.
(2) C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (New York: Scribner, 1996), 42.

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

$$hopper: Free Food and Smart Coupons

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Who We Are

Advertising thrives by telling people that who they are is not good enough.

Today, I want to remind us who we are.

There was an article in the Washington Post this week called "Keeping Up Appearances," about a group of people in D.C. who have lost their jobs:
Even as the ranks of unemployed and underemployed have grown, career counselors, therapists and other experts say a certain segment is determined to suffer in silence, keeping details of job losses and financial pressure secret from all but close family and friends. The problem is particularly acute in affluent neighborhoods in the Washington region, experts say, where the self-worth of high-achieving professionals is deeply intertwined with their jobs. There might be 14 million unemployed people in this country, but in this town -- with its A-types and status seekers -- failure still is not an option.
One of the men featured in the article lived an elaborate charade, leaving the house every morning at the same time, and not coming home until after five. Others kept country club memberships they couldn't afford, just so their colleagues wouldn't know they were out of work.

Doesn't this scream how deeply our culture's message about worth and fear has permeated our minds?

Well, I want to remind us of a different message. It is not our jobs that give us worth, or purpose, or meaning. It is not our memberships, our cars, our clothes, or how many awards we (or our children) win. We seek excellence in all things because we know that we are cherished, not in order to win approval--God's or man's.

Hear what God says about His children in Isaiah 46:
“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
Who have been upheld by Me from birth,
Who have been carried from the womb:
Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.”
And from Isaiah 43:
“I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Since you were precious in My sight,
You have been honored,
And I have loved you;”
The Lord has not promised that our lives will be easy or free from trouble. But he has promised to walk with us through the hard places: we are His sons and daughters, who are precious to Him. We are called to joy in spite of life's difficulties, because in the end, His is the only opinion that matters.

John Locke speech now available

John Locke Foundation

In July, I spoke at a luncheon at the John Locke Foundation of Raleigh, N.C.

If you were unable to attend but would like to hear about The Classical Mind: A Political Revolution Within Education, a video recording of the speech is now available online from Carolina Journal TV. Click here to watch.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 3 (9)


Founding Fathers (cont'd)

Former Librarian of Congress, Daniel Boorstin wrote about early America. “[A reading culture] was diffuse. Its center was everywhere because it was nowhere. Every man was close to what printed matter talked about.”(1)

Amazingly, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense sold 100,000 copies within ninety days and up to 400,000 beyond March. According to Neil Postman, “The only communication event that could produce such a collective attention [in 1985] in today’s America is the Super Bowl.”(2) It would be like selling over twenty-four million copies today.

John Gatto points out that “20 percent of the purchasers were slaves and fifty percent were indentured servants.”(3) The average 12-year-old could and did read the following opening paragraphs of Common Sense:
Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least.(4)
Even today’s adult who enjoys reading would have a hard time with this style of writing and level of intellectualism. So when studying literacy rates, it’s important to acknowledge the proficiency level of the literate. Our most literate modern citizens are far less proficient than the average literate person of 250 years ago.

This literary feast did not end with the American Revolution. “[Harriet Beecher Stowe’s] Uncle Tom’s Cabin sold 350,000 copies in its first year, the equivalent of 4 million in today’s America.”(5) Remember, the cost of paper and transportation made books much more expensive than they are today. Between 1836 and 1890, 107 million copies of McGuffey Reader were distributed to schools. And Tocqueville and other European commentators were flabbergasted by the quantity of newspapers American purchased.

Parents acknowledged their responsibility when, according to John Gatto, “…the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod would not surrender its children until the 1880s, when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard.”(6) Today’s parents can’t wait to march their children to an institution.

“Yet it appears to me,” Gatto goes on, “as a school teacher [twice NY Teacher of the Year] that schools are already a major cause of weak families and weak communities. They separate parents and children from vital interaction with each other and from true curiosity about each other’s lives. Schools stifle family originality by appropriating the critical time needed for any idea of family to develop – then they blame the family for its failure to be a family.”(7)

I give these numbers and examples to dispel the myth that Americans are better educated than our early pioneers. It’s just not true. Universal literacy was normal in the United States before the 1950s. Christian leaders should expect believers to become proficient readers again.

(1) Daniel J. Boorstin, The Americans: The Colonial Experience (New York: Vintage Books, 1964), 315.
(2) Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, 35.
(3) John Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Public Schooling (Gabriola Island, B.C., Canada: New Society Publishers, 1992), 13.
(4) Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776 (accessed 4 June 2008).
(5) Gatto, Dumbing Us Down, 13.
(6) Gatto, Dumbing Us Down, 74.
(7) Gatto, Dumbing Us Down, 74.

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

Tax Free in TX & CT


It's here! Tax Free Week(end)s for Back-to-School shopping 2009. If you live in or near Texas or Connecticut, get ready to start shopping and saving.

Here's the scoop:

August 21 (Friday) to August 23 (Sunday)

In Texas: Shop sales tax free on clothing and shoes under $100, including backpacks under $100 (for elementary/secondary school) and layaway items.

Still going on through August 22 (Saturday),

In Connecticut: Shop sales tax free on clothing and shoes under $300.

Stay tuned to 1 Smart Mama for other upcoming tax free weekends between now and the end of August. Happy shopping!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Now Available: CiRCE Conference CDs

Did you miss the 2009 CiRCE Institute conference, A Contemplation of Nature: A Return to Sound Thinking? Actually, no, you haven't.

If you were unable to attend, or just want to go back and listen to your favorite sessions again, CD recordings of the entire conference are now available from CiRCE. Hear lectures, discussion, and conversations with Leigh, Andrew Pudewa, Andrew Kern, and others.

Click here to purchase, or visit their website to learn more.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 3 (8)


Founding Fathers

There are a lot of literary works pertinent to the history and philosophy of American education. Mark Beliles and Stephen K. McDowell’s America’s Providential History documents colonial education. Here are a variety of quotes from that reference. All of these quotes are derived from even longer pieces of literature on early American education.

“The Pilgrims arrived in America with books and in the first days of colonization, ministers were given ten pounds to begin libraries.”(1) (There were no worries about inappropriate expenditures of taxpayers’ money in these libraries as they were privately controlled by the church.)

According to James D. Hart, “Between 1640 and 1700 the literacy rate was between 89 and 95 percent, quite probably the highest concentration of literate males to be found anywhere in the world at that time.”(2)

“In the 1680s, the modern equivalents of 10 million non-religious books were bought from one English book dealer.”(3) In England, the comparable literacy rate never exceeded 40 percent in that century.

Benjamin Franklin said, “A nation of well informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins.”(4)

Educational scholar Rosalie Slater states, “At the time of the Declaration of Independence the quality of education had enabled the colonists to achieve a degree of literacy from 70% to virtually 100%. This was not education restricted to the few.”(5)

American literature historian Moses Coit Tyler said, “When the American State papers arrived in Europe, they surprised and astonished the ‘enlighten men.’ Americans had been dismissed as ‘illiterate back-woodsmen’ as, perhaps, law-defying revolutionists.’ But when these papers were read they found to contain ‘nearly every quality indicative of personal and national greatness.’”(6)

Ten year-old John Quincy Adams wrote in a letter to his father on June 2, 1777, “P.S. – Sir, If you will be so good as to favor me with a blank-book I will transcribe the most remarkable occurrences I meet with in my reading, which will serve to fix them on my mind.”(7)

Samuel L. Blumenfeld shares, “Of the 117 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the constitution, one out of three had only a few months of formal schooling, and only one in four had gone to college. Parents and neighbors assumed it was their responsibility to fulfill Deuteronomy 6:6-7 ‘And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons…’ and Ephesians 6:4, ‘Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.’”(8)

(1) Mark Beliles and Stephen K. McDowell, America’s Providential History (Charlottesville, VA: Providence Press, 1992), 93.
(2) James D. Hart, The Popular Book: A History of America’s Literary Taste (New York: Oxford, 1950), 8.
(3) Hart, The Popular Book, 15.
(4) Beliles and McDowell, America’s Providential History, 93.
(5) Beliles and McDowell, 95.
(6) Beliles and McDowell, 95.
(7) Beliles and McDowell, 101.
(8) Beliles and McDowell, 105.

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

$$hopper: Discounts, Computers, and Clothes

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Home Educator Discounts

Homeschooling on a Shoestring has a great list of discounts available for home educators (some are local, some national). Proof of homeschooling (e.g. state certification, membership) may be required. Visit the page to see where you could be saving.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why Classical Conversations? (3 of 3)

Many thanks to guest blogger Jeri Mazur, Shreveport Challenge B Director and 2009 Practicum speaker, for sharing these words of encouragement to challenge and inspire us for the upcoming year.

Why Classical Conversations? (part 3)
By Jeri Mazur

...continued from part 2...
(read part 1)

I cringe when I hear a parent say that their child needs to leave home in order to mature! Why not have them leave home already emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually mature? Surely that is a parent’s goal.

Besides that, this is life-more-abundantly—a life filled with God-given blessings means a life filled with God-given responsibilities.

Surely we will not get to the end of our lives and wish we had spent more hours at the gym, or that our house had been more House-Beautiful, or that we had made more Facebook friends.

Surely we will deeply regret it if we get to the end and find that we have wasted the precious few years we are given with our children (never mind how interminable they sometimes seem) and that we have squandered the opportunities that the Lord has given us to partner with Him in the molding and shaping of our families.

Surely we have not forgotten that we will one day stand before the Lord and give an account for our lives and for what we have done with the blessings entrusted to us.

I applaud you for being a part of a rigorous program like Classical Conversations. I am surely preaching to the choir here. However, we all need a reminder sometimes of the importance of the work we are doing.

Looking forward to a great year!

-Jeri Mazur

Classical Time Travel

Confession: I really like science fiction. Time travel fascinates me, more so as a fictional device, because the interplay of past, present, and future challenges the author to maintain a consistent storyline in a universe of infinite possibility, where each act affects everything else.

To my surprise, I have begun to notice similarities between classical education and science fiction.

Like time travel, classical education makes a difference both forward and backward.

It makes a difference backward, because as parents train their children to learn, they must undo the gaps and failings in their own education. They have to re-train their brains in order to model learning for their children.

It makes a difference forward, because when students discover how to learn, they begin to infiltrate a system of broken education and share the joy and challenge of learning with their classmates and professors, employers and coworkers.

Notice I included employers and professors in that description.

I recently read an article called When Computers Leave Classrooms, So Does Boredom. According to the author, professors also fall prey to low expectations, using technology like PowerPoint instead of teaching. As a dean at Southern Methodist University said, "Lively interactions are what teaching is all about...but those give-and-takes are discouraged by preset collections of slides."

Students in Classical Conversations learn early to lead and participate in discussion, share ideas, and wrestle through conflict-laden subjects as a community. Those skills are not just required for, but needed by higher education, because the ability to write, think, and speak is just as endangered there as it is in K-12 education.

Classical education makes a difference both backward and forward. Like time travel. See?

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 3 (7)


Puritan Fathers

The Puritan fathers embraced a view of family that is far more mature than today. Richard Baxter (1615-1691) wrote, “Christian families are called churches because they consist of holy persons that worship God, and learn, and love, and obey His word.”(1)

John Angell James (1785-1859) understood that we are raising children for eternity when he wrote, “It is of infinite importance that you should contemplate your children in their true character…they are immortal beings; the stamp of eternity is upon them; everlasting ages before them…creatures capable of attaining to glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life.”(2)

Ephesians 5:6 reminded the Puritans to make the most of our time for the days are evil.

In The Puritan Family by Edmund S. Morgan, the educational laws of Massachusetts of 1648 are extensively quoted. “…also that all masters of families doe once a week (at the least) catechize their children and servants in the grounds and principles of Religion…”(3)

John Cotton, Puritan father, said, “Learn them to read Scripture,”(4) because as Increase Mather declared, “Ignorance is the mother of heresy.”(5)

Thomas Cobbett explained “that the greatest love and faithfulness that parents as covenanters can show to God, and to their children, who in and with themselves are joint covenanters with God, is to educate them” so that they may educate their children and grandchildren. “The children born in our families are born unto God, and a strict account will one day be required of us…These children, God committeth unto us for education, He doth (to speak with Reverence) put them out to us, being therefore thus committed unto us, account concerning them may justly and will certainly be required of us, in the Great Day.”(6)

Famous Puritan poet Anne Bradstreet offered no delusion about the innocence of childhood when she wrote:
Stained from birth with Adams sinful fact,
Thence I began to sin as soon as act;
A perverse will, a love to what’s forbide,
A serpents sting in pleasing face lay hid;
A lying tongue as soon as it could speak,
And fifth Commandment do daily break.(7)
The Puritans saw no conflict between classical poetry and literature as they expected these inferior books to be other sources that verified what the catechism taught. “Puritan education was intelligently planned, and the relationship between parent and child which it envisaged was not one of harshness and severity but of tenderness and sympathy.”(8)

(1) Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory (Orlando, FL: Soli Deo Gloria, 1990), 422-3.
(2) John Angell James, “An Address to Christian Parents,” The Christian Father’s Present to His Children (1825), (accessed 12 January 2009).
(3) Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Family: Religious and Domestic Relations in 17th Century New England (New York: Harper Perennial, 1966).
(4) Morgan, The Puritan Family.
(5) Morgan.
(6) Deodat Lawson, The Duty and Property of a Religious Householder, sermon, (Boston, 1693); in Morgan, The Puritan Family, 31-2.
(7) Anne Bradstreet, “Of the Four Ages of Man: Childhood,” in The Poems of Mrs. Anne Bradstreet (1712-1762): Together With Her Prose Remains, ed. Norton and Hopkins (New York: Duodecimos, 1897), 64.
(8) Morgan, The Puritan Family, 108.

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

Tax Free in CT


It's here! Tax Free Week(end)s for Back-to-School shopping 2009. If you live in or near Connecticut, get ready to start shopping and saving.

Here's the scoop:

August 15 (Saturday) to August 22 (Saturday),

In Connecticut: Shop sales tax free on clothing and shoes under $300.

Stay tuned to 1 Smart Mama for other upcoming tax free weekends between now and the end of August. Happy shopping!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why Classical Conversations? (2 of 3)

Many thanks to guest blogger Jeri Mazur, Shreveport Challenge B Director and 2009 Practicum speaker, for sharing these words of encouragement to challenge and inspire us for the upcoming year.

Why Classical Conversations? (part 2)
By Jeri Mazur

...continued from part 1...

I recently received an email with the title “What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895.” While most people are just forwarding this around and shaking their heads at the deplorable state of education today, I was thrilled to realize that CC students who get several years of Foundations memory work and work through the content in Challenge A and B will be more than able to pass such a test.

Even more exciting to me is the fact that children who learn the Essentials grammar and writing method, who learn the research and logic in those early Challenge years, and do the hard work of learning to learn, speak, write, and persuade in Challenge I-IV will possess the skills and abilities to truly make a difference in our world.

I can only imagine what the Lord could do with those who are so equipped, who love Him, who know His Word, and who are willing to serve.

However, such an endeavor comes at a cost. I once read a piece by a mother who was asked how she turned out such wonderful children. I think the comment was, “I would give my life to have children like yours.” Without missing a beat, the wise mother responded by saying that was exactly what it would take.

Now that my children are older, I see so clearly that this giving of your life does not end after the toddler stage, or when your children are old enough to go to school, or even when they are finally old enough to stay by themselves.

Just because your child is finally old enough to stay at CC without you (Challenge A) does not mean that you can finally “get a life.” Your life is still not your own!

Your middle school and high school (dare I say college level) children still need your time and attention, maybe more now than ever. We may not have to be quite so diligent about their physical safety, but how much more so about their emotional and spiritual safety. These are the years that we should be guiding them to maturity. be continued...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 3 (6)


Arthur Holmes’ History of Christian Academies

Arthur Holmes’ Building the Christian Academy is a very approachable history of church philosophies and methods of education. Each chapter summarizes a different time period and the leaders, concerns, and methods of the time and how they impacted the next generation’s thoughts on learning.

Holmes opens with the soul of a university. Christian academies initially imparted wisdom in the tradition of Moses, Solomon, Jesus, and Paul. The school in third-century Alexandria began to formalize the academic processes or skills of grammar (recitation and memorization), dialectic (discussions with the purpose to discern truth), and rhetoric (the ability to take the grammar understood and teach it to others).

A single teacher would take a handful of youths and spend the time needed to develop a deep relationship. They would continue the discipleship their parents had begun. Early students wrote about loving their instructors.

Augustine helped establish the foundation of education in the fourth century as “finding God, the Truth, and the wisdom that comes from him.”(1)

The cathedral schools of Charlemagne’s time and later emphasized order and a desire to make Christian education more universal. In the twelfth century, some teachers began to establish universities apart from the church, but they still emphasized character, Christian culture, and the need to seek truth.

Then came the reformation, where man could learn apart from his priest and pursue God as an individual in a personal relationship. Luther, Erasmus, and Calvin were influential teachers of doctrine whose ideas were universally debated.

Francis Bacon and the Age of Enlightenment contributed to the idea of studying apart from God. The teachers of this era did pursue God, but they began to separate faith from science.

The era of secularization began to encourage a more specialized and utilitarian philosophy of education, endorsing job training outside of apprenticeship and mentoring. In the twentieth century, “mainline Protestantism settled for a dualistic approach rather than attempting to integrate faith and learning.”(2)

And so, we have come to the end of true education and have replaced it with man’s interpretation of truth. The early Americans wanted more for their families.

(1) Arthur F. Holmes, Building the Christian Academy (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2001), 25.
(2) Holmes, Building the Christian Academy, 104.

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

$$hopper: Books & Discounts

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Curriculum Cleanout - Last Week!

Ending August 15, a blog called Homeschool Creations is hosting The Big Curriculum Cleanout, a "blog carnival" for FREE used homeschool curriculum. HC will be the host site for all the permalinks to the various curriculum giveaways. Visit Homeschool Creations to find out more.

Home Educator Discounts

Homeschooling on a Shoestring has a great list of discounts available for home educators (some are local, some national). Proof of homeschooling (e.g. state certification, membership) may be required. Visit the page to see where you could be saving.

20%-off Coupon for Borders

Print this coupon for 20% off any one item at Borders stores in the U.S. Valid through August 18th.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why Classical Conversations? (1 of 3)

Many thanks to guest blogger Jeri Mazur, Shreveport Challenge B Director and 2009 Practicum speaker, for sharing these words of encouragement to challenge and inspire us for the upcoming year.

Why Classical Conversations?
By Jeri Mazur

It is hard to believe that the school year begins again so soon! I spent the early half of the summer traveling with Becky Logan for CC, speaking about the program and meeting some of the most inspiring families.

Just before the last practicum, as I was preparing for my talk, I was in awe again of the beauty of the mission, model, and method that is Classical Conversations.

Certainly, the importance of what we are doing was underscored by the fact that I sat in the lobby of our hotel, just under the television, which was blaring the news of the day.

Never before have we been more in need of a generation of intelligent, well-spoken young people who are able to see the world’s events in light of a biblical world-view and who are prepared to engage the culture while contending for the Christian faith.

I am convinced that what we are doing is so much bigger than just schooling! be continued...

CC Tax Free

It's tax-free weekend in North Carolina this Friday through Sunday. Take advantage of these two opportunities to shop CC tax free and buy all your curricula for the upcoming year.

At the CC Online Bookstore,

Tax-Free Sale

on all online orders only!

12:01 am Friday, August 7th, 2009 through

11:59 pm Sunday, August 9th, 2009

(Remember, FREE Media Mail shipping on orders over $150. On orders over $250, enter the DISCOUNT10 coupon code to receive an additional 10% off your entire order plus FREE shipping!)

OR...If you live in North Carolina, come by one of two Tax-Free Weekend Book Sales, at Grace Methodist Church in Charlotte (Friday and Saturday 10-3) and Elon Community Church near Burlington (Friday 10-4, Saturday 10-3), and buy all your CC curriculum in one stop.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 3 (5)


Children’s Literature (cont'd)

In Mary Emma and Company, 12-year-old Ralph Moody’s family moves in the 1910s from the Colorado frontier of one-room school houses to the public school system of Boston. He has to take a placement test so the principal knows which class to place him in.

The principal asks, “What is the result of twelve times twelve, divided by thirteen, times five, divided by three?” Ralph responds, “I got along all right until I came to fifty-five and five-thirteenths, then I got a little bit mixed up in trying to divide it by three […] I got mixed up when I got into the thirteenths.”(1)

And so, Ralph was placed in seventh grade. How many of today’s adults can hold that many numbers in their head? Yet it was commonly expected of all children as evidenced by Ray’s Higher Arithmetic published in 1880 by Van Antwerp, Bragg, & Co., which was the standard math text of that time period.

Modern American students are no longer required to memorize how to divide by four let alone by thirteen in their heads. Everyday Math, a popular math curriculum for elementary students across the U.S., states that learning math algorithms is no longer necessary due to calculators.

The goal of training brains to retain massive amounts of information during the era of the American grammar school is no longer deemed important. The connection between training the brain like any other muscle through rigorous repetition and the ability to think deeply and well has been severed by modern education.

An easy-to-read, true children’s story about the methods of education used by American colonists is portrayed in Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. This man’s navigational tables that he developed as a youth in the late 1700s are still used at the U.S. Naval Academy. His learning methodology can be summarized as reading, research, recording, and relating information until it is mastered.

(1) Ralph Moody, Mary Emma and Company (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994), 31.

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

Tax Free in 10 States


It's here! Tax Free Weekends for Back-to-School shopping 2009. If you live in or near Alabama, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Iowa, or Louisiana, get ready to start shopping and saving.

Here's the scoop:

August 7 (Friday) to August 9 (Sunday),

In Alabama: Shop sales tax free on clothing under $100, school supplies under $50, books under $30, and computers/accessories under $750.

In Missouri: In participating cities and counties, shop sales tax free on clothing under $100, school supplies under $50 computer software under $350, and computers/accessories under $3,500.

In New Mexico: Shop sales tax free on clothing and shoes under $100, school supplies under $15, computers under $1,000, and computer equipment under $500.

In North Carolina: Shop sales tax free on clothing, footware, and school supplies under $100, sports equipment under $50, computers under $3,500, and computer accessories under $250.

In Oklahoma: Shop sales tax free on clothing and shoes under $100.

In South Carolina: Shop sales tax free on clothing, accessories, shoes, school supplies, computers, and computer equipment.

In Tennessee: Shop sales tax free on clothing under $100, school supplies under $100, and computers under $1,500.

In Virginia: Shop sales tax free on clothing and footwear under $100, and school supplies under $20.

August 7 (Friday) to August 8 (Saturday),

In Iowa: Shop sales tax free on clothing under $100, and shoes under $100.

In Louisiana: Shop sales tax free on purchases under $2,500, excluding services, automobiles, and meals.

Stay tuned to 1 Smart Mama for other upcoming tax free weekends between now and the end of August. Happy shopping!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Conference Notes: Heather Shirley

My Contemplation of Nature
From Heather Shirley, CC Executive Director

A Contemplation of Nature…

The CiRCE annual conference title seemed frivolous if not a little “New Age-ey” or perhaps “green” sounding at my initial heed.

However, after the first morning session, or should I say correctly “colloquy” (Latin for conversation), I found the nature of the conference neither New Age-ey nor green, but rather soulish, if that is really a word.

A variety of educators, from a variety of environments, from a variety of Christian backgrounds met to contemplate the nature of things – things like society, man, education, freedom, student assessment, principles, etc…

Questions abounded, ideas were contemplated, presuppositions challenged, and principles apprehended.

Andrew Kern, founder of CiRCE, says, “The quality of the life you live is determined by the quality of your questions.”

The human soul was made for contemplation; the human soul feeds on ideas. In the age of modern education, questions are often neglected at best and discouraged at worst, and contemplation is viewed as anti-pragmatic, all of which results in the atrophying of the human soul.

With a renewed sense of the importance of good questions and of the contemplation of ideas with my family, I have committed to simplifying a few things in my life to ensure we have the margin to contemplate ideas – ideas that enlarge our souls.

May I recommend a good “idea” book to get you started? The Soul of Science by Nancy Pearcy and Charles B. Thaxton.



Visit Heather's blog, ( for more on The Soul of Science and the classical model.

**UPDATE: Conference CDs are now available for purchase from CiRCE.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 3 (4)


Neil Postman’s Challenge to Post-Modern Educators (cont'd)

Images can both reflect and change a culture – Bambi and Sex and the City are prime examples. But what do they do to equip the culture to intelligently understand the teachings of the church and to unwaveringly obey a God whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts?

Postman gives a myriad of both Christian, non-Christian, fictional, and non-fictional uses of image to make the case that an image-based culture robs us of the ability to think abstractly. Most of his other books, including The End of Education, challenge our cultural leaders to address similar topics.

Children’s Literature – History of American School Lessons

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about a grammar test she had to pass in the late 1800s when she was a teenager in order to teach in a one-room school house in her book Little Town on the Prairie.

She was asked to parse the sentence “I saw an eagle,” and she replied, “‘I’ is the personal pronoun, first person singular, here used as the subject of the verb ‘saw’, past tense of the transitive verb ‘to see.’ ‘Saw’ takes as its object the common generic noun, ‘eagle,’ modified by the singular article, ‘an.’”(1)

A similar passage comes from Rebecca of SunnyBrook Farm in a conversation between Miss Dearborn, a country schoolteacher, and Rebecca, who was in third grade.

Miss Dearborn begins, “Now let’s have our conjugations. Give me the verb ‘to be’, potential mood, past perfect tense.” Rebecca responds, “I might have been, Thou mightst have been, He might have been, We might have been, You might have been, They might have been.” The exchange continues:
‘Give me an example, please.’
‘I might have been glad. Thou mightst have been glad. He, she, or it might have been glad.’
‘“He” or “she” might have been glad because they are masculine and feminine, but could “it” have been glad?’ asked Miss Dearborn, who was very fond of splitting hairs.
‘Why not?’ asked Rebecca.
‘Because “it” is neuter gender.’
‘Couldn’t we say, “The kitten might have been glad if it had known it was not going to be drowned”?’(2)
Even though Rebecca is fictional, the author wrote the book with the expectation that nine-year-old girls would be able to appreciate Rebecca’s dilemma.

Modern nine year-old girls have never heard of conjugating. Modern American students are no longer taught how to parse an English sentence. The inability to parse in English makes one unable to discover author’s intent from the Greek or Hebrew in Bible studies.

(1) Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie (New York: Harper Trophy, 1971), 303-4.
(2) Kate Douglas Wiggin, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (New York: Tor Books, 1999), 42.

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

$$hopper: Open Box and Curriculum Cleanout

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Open Box Specials

At, purchase electronics that have been opened and returned for up to 55% off the original price. Be sure to read all notices and return policies before purchasing. Most items have been tested for function, but may have superficial damage or be missing accessories. Most have a 30-day return period for a refund.

Curriculum Cleanout - Don't Forget!

August 2-15, a blog called Homeschool Creations is hosting The Big Curriculum Cleanout, a "blog carnival" for FREE used homeschool curriculum. HC will be the host site for all the permalinks to the various curriculum giveaways. Visit Homeschool Creations to find out more.

You can do it! You're 1 Smart Shopper!