Saturday, September 26, 2009

Old Words with New Tunes

At chapel this year we are praying Matins (LSB pg 219) on Monday, Wednesday, Fridays, and using Service of Prayer and Preaching (LSB pg 260) on Tuesday, Thursdays. A couple of years ago, when Pastor began teaching us the canticles in Service of Prayer & Preaching, I liked 'em. We sang them for a few months. But when we stopped, I didn't miss them. It's nice to be singing/praying those Isaiah and Pauline passages again on a regular basis.

But you know what? I suspect that by the end of the year, I may have had my fill of them. (Not unlike how much I utterly adore garden tomatoes, but right now I'd rather see them go into the canning jars than into my mouth. Never thought I'd see the day that I didn't want to inhale tomatoes but would prefer to have a short break from them!) As much as I love these canticles, there's something about the Venite and the Benedictus and the Magnificat and the Te Deum (from TLH and now in LSB) that is transcendent. I can sing/pray those every day -- even multiple times a day -- and they grow more and more beautiful and precious.

And that's what got me to wondering. When I read about the new music being written for the church, good churchly music, I've wondered sometimes about the constant pursuit of new settings for hymns and liturgy. There's nothing wrong with the new things. Many of them are very good. Many of them become my new "fave" for a few months. But why the frequent desire for something new? Is it the difference between what's beautiful and what's exquisitely sublime? Do we eventually tire of the beautiful and well-written new church music, whereas the old (at least, the old that is still with us!!) never becomes tiresome?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Trip to California

Looking ahead to the day when Maggie will be grown-up and no longer covered by our health insurance, I have been looking into some options that other families use. If she were to apply for any government help for the disabled (or whatever the current PC term is), we have to show need and disability. Well, how do you do that when you've been homeschooling her in a safe environment? The government will want me to show them that she's failed at her schooling and needs special accommodations. Well, good grief, homeschooling IS the epitome of "special accommodations."

I have learned that we need to have some behavioral-developmental evaluations and at least one neuro-psych evaluation. They tell me that this is par-for-the-course for what the schools provide to special needs kids. But my kid isn't in school. Well, we need these evaluations, and they are mega-expensive. But .... ! There is a researcher at University of California who is studying VCFS and the way kids think. We've applied for Maggie to be a research guinea pig, and she's been accepted. The other vcfs families who've participated say that it's a fun experience.

So at the beginning of December, they will fly Maggie and me to Sacramento. For three nights, they'll put us up at the Kiwanis House (like a Ronald McDonald House) next to the hospital. Maggie will spend time with a psychiatrist and a behavioral evaluator. But mostly she'll be be playing video games and doing puzzles and things like that. They want to see which sections of her brain are busy while she's doing certain kinds of thinking tasks. Then they'll discuss the results with me and later send me the official reports.

Ahead of time, I have hours of evaluation forms to fill out. I've done quite a few already. I'm going to need to photocopy the long form which included all the history of Maggie's surgeries and hospitalizations and when she learned to walk and talk and dress herself; with all the work I put into gathering that information into one place, I want to keep a record of it myself. The only surprise to me on the forms was one aspect of Maggie's personality that I hadn't noticed until filling out the behavioral evaluation forms. I guess her obedience and cheerfulness and contentedness just kind of overshadowed that one aspect that I'd never before realized.

So Maggie is going to get her first plane ride. And I'm going to go west of the Rockies for the first time. It will be a short little girl-trip for us together. With lots of video games for Mag!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

VCFS Pictures

A lot of people who google "vcfs pictures" or "vcfs photos" end up coming to my blog, and that post unfortunately has no photographs; it has only what I learned one day about the face-shape of kids with velo-cardio-facial syndrome. What if we help folks out a bit? Maggie and Katie have facebook pictures that may illustrate one example of what the "f" in VCFS looks like.

So we have here two sisters who look a lot like each other. Katie, the older one, does not have vcfs. Maggie does. In this picture, Katie is the one not sticking out her tongue.

Here we have four pictures of Maggie. The vcfs experts tell us that the "look" to vcfs includes almond-shaped eyes, an elongated face (often heart-shaped), a wide nose bridge, and small ears.

For comparison, here's her sister from when she wasn't too much older than Maggie is now. (Katie is the one on the right. The one on the left isn't blood-family, though we'd love to claim her.)

And now we need a picture of Katie that shows off her deeper-set eyes and the bridge of her nose. (I'm sure she's just thrilled about Mom's comment here!) But, hey, for the sake of comparison...

The top one of this pair is Maggie handing out bulletins at her sister's wedding. The bottom one is Katie at her goddaughter's baptism.

And finally, a couple of pictures with Katie's daughter. The top picture is Maggie (who has vcfs) and the bottom one is Katie (who does not).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I Love the Law

Pr Petersen has a wonderful post on the law, and how it should and shouldn't be preached, and what it does. Amen to what he says, especially the middle paragraph. I find that the usual type of "law" in sermons does me no good; it doesn't kill my sinful flesh; it bolsters my self-righteousness. What I love and what I need is the law that isn't fun for either the preacher to preach or for me to hear. But it's what is true and good.

Homeschoolers Who Don't Do Anything

We occasionally hear complaints about homeschoolers who are goofing off, playing outdoors. And it crossed my mind today that the neighbors are seeing Andrew outside on a scooter. They don't know that he's doing schoolwork, memorizing chunks of the Augsburg Confession, rehearsing what he's learned. They don't know that Maggie, when she's out taking a walk or shooting hoops, is not just getting her exercising, but may be conjugating Greek verbs in her mind or making sense of the chapter of the story we read. A kid who's mowing during the schoolday is not being put to menial use as a child-slave, but may actually be writing a story while he's shoving the lawnmower around the yard. Just because it appears that a kid is "doing nothing" does not at all mean there's no schoolwork percolating in his head.

Graphic Content

You gotta wonder what's up with our society when a cooking show is doing a segment on barbecuing, including roasting a pig on a spit, and the show starts off with a parental advisory warning:

This program contains graphic content.

I thought Gary was joking when he told me about the warning. But he wasn't.
So, Erin, why didn't you have a warning on your Labor Day blogposts?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Education as a Means of Grace?

At a conference I attended last month, the Lutheran speaker told us that a classical education will better prepare the heart to receive Christ (or to be open to the gospel, or something on that order). Maybe EC has the exact quote jotted down somewhere?

So when Kerry commented here the other day, pointing out the CiRCE site on classical education, I was surprised to see a related statement there:
The classical Christian teacher asks God to use his teaching, dispositions, and actions as an instrument in His hand to cultivate the students' souls toward holiness. In this sense, learning can be a means of grace.
Thing is, the CiRCE site looks very Reformed.

If it is true that holiness is promoted by classical education, then classical education must not be about teaching Latin, or about grammar, logic, and rhetoric, or about a particular core curriculum, or about critical thinking, or about rigorous academics. Surely we would not say those things (good though they may be) are tools of the Holy Spirit to create and sustain faith.

So which is it? Is it wrong to say that classical education inculcates holiness and/or helps draw a person to Christ? Or is it that classical education isn't really about the things we usually speak of when we discuss the topic?

Drying Soap

In spring we noticed that the bars of my home-made soap lasted so much longer than store-bought soap. But when I made another batch in May and began using it in August, the soap was dissolving quicker than it had been. Eventually we noticed that a fresh bar of soap would lather and smell soapy, but as it was used and we worked our way further toward the middle of the bar, the soap wouldn't bubble so well, and it smelled more piggy from the lard. Apparently it hadn't had time enough to get good and dry all the way through the bar, but just on the outside.

The theory now is to rotate the bars. I can use the outside of all the bars, and then let them sit and dry some more. That should solve part of the problem.

The bigger problem, though, is making the soap far enough ahead of time that it can sit for at least half a year, preferably a year, drying thoroughly. That takes discipline. And forethought. And making something a priority even though you won't benefit from it for a full year. Yikesy!

In other words, I should be making another batch. Or two. Or three. I haven't yet found a place to buy tallow and lard (other than where I used to buy it, which is now an 80-minute drive one-way). So I tried making soap from Crisco. I used one bar to see if my skin had an adverse reaction ... and so far, so good. I guess I'd better head to Aldi for some more shortening.

Touching the Ark

Remember in the story (in 2 Samuel 6) about David bringing the ark to Jerusalem? I always felt so bad for Uzzah that he was struck dead for trying to stop the ark from falling. After all, it was tipping off the cart; he wanted to prevent an accident.

In our story yesterday, Pastor pointed out that the ark wasn't even supposed to be on a cart. It was to be transported by its poles, carried by the priests. So if they'd taken God's word seriously about how to move the ark, the potential for an accident wouldn't have been there in the first place. How 'bout that?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cinnamon Everywhere

Can a person have taste-bud hallucinations?

For the last year or so, I've been tasting cinnamon in Snickers. Never tasted it there before. Assumed they'd changed the recipe slightly.

Then I started tasting cinnamon in chocolate chip cookies. And I don't mean other people's choc-chip cookies, where somebody might've put a pinch in the dough. I mean my choc-chip cookies, that I baked, where I know there is no cinnamon.

And this morning I tasted cinnamon in the granola. The granola that I made. The granola that has no cinnamon.

At least I'm hallucinating cinnamon and not liver or kale.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Classical versus Progressive Education

Classical education seems to be a topic of interest to many people in the last decade or so. Try as I might, I cannot get a handle on what it is, though. Some say classical education is about the content of the curriculum. Some say it's about the methodology of teaching. Some say it's about teaching subjects such as Latin and logic and rhetoric. The one evaluation I heard consistently was that classical education is NOT progressive education.

Even this, though, I am beginning to wonder about. The self-proclaimed goals and methods of progressive educators seem to me to have a lot of similarities to the self-proclaimed goals and methods of classical educators.

Both camps say they value
  • critical thinking and problem solving,
  • de-emphasizing textbooks and instead using other resources,
  • educating children who will grow up to be of service to the neighbor,
  • life-long learning,
  • seeing the interconnectedness of academic subjects, and
  • evaluation methods that do not depend on standard testing procedures.

Even in some of the areas of greater difference, I still see similarities.
  • Progressive educators greatly value learning by doing, hands-on projects, and experience. Most classical educators recognize that much book-learning is cemented in the mind by projects or experiments or experiences.
  • Progressive educators value understanding over rote memory. Classical educators see great value in rote learning, but not for its own sake. Classical educators want children to use their rote learning to grow in understanding, to be able to reason with the information they have memorized.
  • Some classical educators see great value in doing unit studies and learning-through-literature, connecting different academic subjects in the one project or one book. Progressive educators often present information in integrated ways such as unit studies.

There are differences. Progressive education puts more value on group work than does classical education. Progressive education will often set aside rote work altogether instead of ensuring that rote work is explained and understood and used later. Progressive education is more concerned with figuring out what skills and information will be necessary and practical in the future, and concentrates on imparting those, whereas classical education spends more time on reading the great books from ages past.

What's hard to take seriously is when each side accuses the other of the same things. Some say that we should all do classical education so that our children will learn to think critically; progressive educators accuse classical educators of failing to teach critical thinking. Progressive educators throw stones at classical educators for teaching separate academic subjects so that the children never learn the interconnectedness of it all; classical educators promote their view by insisting that children need to see how the subjects interrelate instead of studying many disjointed topics. Sometimes the two sides sound more alike than different. But there is a difference. What I can't figure out is just those differences are.

If the same thing is done in two classrooms, but done for different reasons, arising out of different philosophies, will one way be right and the other wrong? Will those philosophies show through in hard-to-pin-down ways?

What I can't take seriously is "Listen to my side because we value thus-and-such" while the opposing philosophy is saying the exact same thing. Surely there must be a way to get down to what the real differences are, and how they play out, and how the different aspects mesh or conflict with Christian doctrine. (The unfortunate thing is that when I ask these questions, the conversation usually resorts to name-calling, guilt by association, or knocking down straw men. This is not attractive amongst those who say they value teaching logic.)