Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Time For a Short Break

I need to take a (hopefully short) hiatus from blogging. I have a quilt and bridesmaid dress that both really need to be done within the next 3 weeks, and recently my sewing time has turned into blogging time.

I love, love, love all the good conversations I get to engage in through blogging, and I do not see blogging, when properly used, as a waste of time. Far from it, in fact. I have grown so much as a result of the influence of people whom I have never met in person. It never ceases to amaze me how many different ways the Lord can work in my life :).

I am aware that at this present time my priorities need to be on other things that are more pressing. While away from blogging I will also doubtless be assessing the proper use of time spent blogging :). I can always use refinement in the area of time management and stewardship. By the way, anyone looking for a way to manage blogging, be sure to check out Adrian's post on a blogging tracker software. This software has been a huge help for me in the past few weeks.

Thus begins my hiatus from blogging. I will not be posting on my blog or anyone else's blog until that quilt and dress are finished! That will be a great motivator for me to hurry up with my projects :). I hope to return soon, probably in around 3 weeks, hopefully less. Until then, farewell!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

I've Been Double-Tagged

Okay, okay. I realize I am very tardy in responding to my tags, but Samara and Jessica both tagged me with a meme. I'm giving into peer pressure, I suppose. *sigh* :) This one had fun questions and wasn't too long, so I'll give in and complete it :). I actually enjoy filling out these types of things; I just try to restrict myself, given my past history of surveys, which I related here ;).

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Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place.
Then add your blog to the bottom slot, like so.

1) Ink and Incapability
2) The Happy Feminist
3) Space Station Samara
4) Everything Domestic
5) An Old-Fashioned Girl

Select Five People to Tag
- I think most people have already done this. . . I'll just go with "whoever wants to do this" :). That's always safe.

What were you doing ten years ago?
- Enduring our family's infamous "February Flu." It was an illness that will go down in the history of the Garrisons. . . As a bonus for me, it developed into pneumonia (my second of three cases so far). *ick*

What were you doing one year ago?
- Surviving student-teaching. 'Nuff said.

Five snacks you enjoy
- raw carrots
- chocolate!
- oranges
- apples
- crackers

Five songs to which you know all the lyrics
- My Jesus, I Love Thee (I want this played at my funeral)
- In Christ Alone (and this one too. . . )
- Most of the songs from The Sound of Music and many other musicals
- Faithfully
- The Faithful (Steve Green with Voice of the Martyrs)

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire
- "give" most of it to the government ;)
- tithe to my church
- donate to the Answers in Genesis Museum project and Gospel for Asia
- place in savings
- add to my book collection :)

Five Bad Habits
- being over-critical of others/assuming it's someone else's fault
- chocolate
- playing with my bangs and hair
- being overly organized (to the point of obsession)
- multi-tasking (to the detriment of the tasks)

Five things you like doing
- reading!
- blogging :)
- quilting
- baking
- math!

Five things you would never wear again (never is a rather strong word - how about "probably never" or "prefer to never". . . )
- pants (except to bed)
- shorts (except to swim)
- high-heels (after next month. . . )
- a bathing suit without a cover-up (people think 2-piece suits are cool, well I'm even cooler with a 3-piece suit!), hehe, ;)
- many assorted outfits in my past. . .

Five Favorite "Toys"
- the computer
- my sewing machine
- my serger
- the piano
- my hair

Friday, February 17, 2006

A few problem-solving exercises just for fun. . .

As an aside: I feel like I'm on a blog post marathon. I don't intend to keep posting things so close together, but I keep finding something new I want to post! Thankfully, my recent posts have been quick and easy to write - with a huge exception to my Under Grace, Part III post - so it hasn't eaten away my time. I'm not intending to keep up this rapid posting schedule indefinitely, in case anyone is wondering :). This weekend should be slow while I'm out of town.

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As one of my math education electives in college, I took a problem-solving course. It would have proved to be my favorite course in college had it been structured differently, but regardless, I loved working through different problem types and tweaking my thoughts until I reached a solution. It was pure fun. I kept my course folder for memories and to occasionally pull from for the classes I teach.

We had some extra time in geometry yesterday so we did some problem-solving exercises from the back of the book that were similar to the ones I did in my problem-solving course. They loved them! Of course, who wouldn't? It's like working a puzzle :). As part of the homework assignment, I told my students I would e-mail them a few problems from my folder. They're just so much fun, I thought I'd share them here, along with a bonus problem just for all of you. For a treasure trove of such problems, try my former professor's website. That should keep you busy for about a decade :).

Feel free to comment with answers. If you want to work the problems out on your own, don't look at the comments first! I'm especially interested to see if anyone can get the last one. The first ones are quite doable, but the last requires a bit more.

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What Color is my Hat?

Three people are sitting in a row, one behind the other, facing forward. The third person can see the two people in front of him, the second person can see the person in front of him, and the first person can see no one.

There are 5 hats: 3 red hats and 2 black hats. A 4th person places one hat on each of the three people's heads without each person knowing his own hat color.

The 3rd person says, "I cannot tell what color hat I have."
The 2nd person says, "I cannot tell what color hat I have."
The 1st person says, "I know for sure what color hat I have."

Is he telling the truth, and if so, what color hat does he have?

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Crime and Logic

Four suspects of a crime made the following statements to the police:

Andy: Carl did it.
Bob: I did not do it.
Carl: Dave did it.
Dave: Carl lied when he said I did it.

Given that one of them "did it" and that exactly one of them told the truth, who did it?


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Secret Whole Number

By using the answers to the following questions, Patrick determines Sam's secret whole number.

(1) Is it a factor of 30? --> yes
(2) Is it a prime number? --> no
(3) Is it a multiple of 3? --> no
(4) Is it less than 3? --> no

What is Sam's secret number?


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And just for my blog readers, here's a bonus problem! This was my favorite problem that I did in college, I think.

I'll bake chocolate chip cookies for anyone who figures this problem out correctly. (A coconut dessert would be more appropriate, but I don't cook with coconut.) The cookies are available for pickup at our home in Metro Atlanta :). And no doing a search on the internet for this problem; your solution has to be your own work. Happy problem solving!

The Coconut Problem

On a desert island, 5 men and a monkey gather coconuts all day. At nighfall the men go to sleep, leaving the monkey to guard the stash.

The first man wakes up during the night. He divides the stash into 5 equal shares and gives the remaining coconut to the monkey. He takes his share and puts the remaining 4 shares back together in a pile.

The 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th men each wake up separately in succession throughout the night and do the same as the 1st man, each unbeknownst to the others; they each divide the (remaining) pile of coconuts into 5 shares, giving the extra coconut to the monkey, take their share and return the rest of the coconuts to a big pile.

When they all awaken in the morning, the pile is a multiple of 5 coconuts. What is the minimum number of coconuts originally present?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Light-Hearted Confession

Years ago girls looked forward to getting their first pairs of high-heeled shoes when they turned 16 or 18. It was a "rite of passage" to womanhood, a much-anticipated event. As the years have passed, our girls have been pulled from girlhood to womanhood much more rapidly than before. We now have 8-year-olds dressing like teenie-boppers and 6-year-olds dressing like Brittney Spears. A girl's first pair of high-heeled shoes isn't as big a deal now. 14-year-olds started wearing high-heels, then 12-year-olds, now 8-year-olds. (This post has nothing to do with whether or not this is a problem.) The point is that all women (and girls) want high-heeled shoes, it seems.

Except me.

You see, I've always been tall for my age - which has its definite advantages, I might add! I'm not complaining about my height; in fact, I quite like it. I was thrilled when I passed my mom up in height - somersaults, fireworks, block party :).

The point being, I'm already tall enough. I stopped growing when I was about 15 after topping 5'9". I don't need extra height. I already feel like I dwarf other people; I'm taller than my mother, my sister, my grandmothers, my aunts, my cousins, and all my (female) friends. So when I buy shoes for my extra-large feet, I avoid heels like the plague.

Let's face it. Five feet and nine+ inches of towering klutz is just not a good mix with heels. I'm not as klutzy as I once was, but I'm no graceful ballerina, either. With heels, I would just get taller and clumsier. So I've resisted heels at all costs. I might add that it is exceptionally hard to find size 10 1/2 wide shoes that do not have heels. I hate shopping for shoes, but I digress. . .

Now for the confession: I just bought my first pair of high-heels.

I know, I know, I finally caved in and succumbed to peer pressure. Sort of. Well, not really.

Actually they're for my friend's wedding. Being a bridesmaid comes with certain responsibilities; one of them is evidently to wear high-heels. I write this good-naturedly :). Lydia is so wonderful not to require really tall high-heels; these ones are only about 1.5 or 2 inches and they are wider heels as opposed to "toothpick heels." All in all, not that bad; I just love to dramatize. . .

So today, for the sake of a long-time friendship, I participated in one "rite of passage" to womanhood that I have long been resisting. I bought high-heels. *sigh* It had to happen one day, I suppose.

I have already made a disclaimer to Lydia that if her maid-of-honor trips and falls flat on her face walking down the aisle, she has been forewarned :). Pray for me on March 18. All my attention is going to be on making it down that aisle and back without stumbling. And Lydia thinks she'll be nervous that day. Ha!

Meanwhile, I'm going to be doing a lot of practice around the house :). I've already been tottering around and I feel like Treebeard: tall and bumbling. I just need a few hobbits to sit on my shoulders. Volunteers, anyone?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

It Doesn't Take an Economic Genius. . .

I'm no economics expert. I did well in economics in high school and college, but hated both classes. It was boring; it was rote; it was so disconnected with reality. I usually can remember things because I find facts interesting; I didn't find economics interesting, so I didn't retain much of it. My high school economics was okay, but the book was dry. My college economics course. . . *shudder*

It was an evening class, which didn't help matters. The teacher had a thick accent that was hard to understand, and she had handwriting that resembled hieroglyphics; these two factors made the class hard to follow. The teacher told us that she would be 10 minutes late to class every day because she refused to leave her house more than an hour before start time, and she told us to just wait for her. Half way through our class we also had a smoking break since the teacher was an addicted chain smoker. It was kind of amusing, but sad. Take a 75 minute class, subtract 10 minutes off for starting late, then 5 minutes for a smoking break, and we have a 75 minute class that really only meets for 60 minutes. You would think an economics teacher would realize the problems with this, especially as relates to her pay scale.

Most notable, though, the class was just disconnected from real people and real life.

By the end of the semester I twitched if someone mentioned IBM, peanut butter, coke, or Kroger. Every "real-life" example given in lecture related to one or more of those four things. Did you know that the price of peanut butter at Kroger can rise from $2 to $8 in the course of a few days. Did you know that evidently everyone works an IBM computer job? We were actually told by the teacher that there shouldn't be any complaints about homework because we can just do it at work since we don't have anything else to do there anyway. So much for the waitresses, the cashiers, and those of us who don't have jobs. Oh, and since women entering the workforce stimulates our economy and raises our GNP, that is sufficient reasoning that all women should work. Glad we got that straight.

So, needless to say, I didn't relish my economics education a great deal, and what doesn't interest does not stick for long. All that to say, I'm not well-versed in economics, though I wish I was.

However, I am sharp enough to realize how utterly ridiculous this nonsense is. I realize the United States has long ceased to be a free market, but this is just plain stupid. Regardless of the moral implications of selling "emergency contraceptives," it just makes absolutely no sense to require a pharmacy to sell them. If you're unhappy with the offerings, go somewhere else. That's what competition is. It doesn't take an economic genius to figure that out.

A Valentine's Day Prayer from a Maiden-in-Waiting


Lord, today I count abundance, not drought. I may not have the romantic love of a man, but I have your unconditional love; I have the love of the Creator of the Universe! I have the love of my Savior. You didn't just tell me that you loved me, Lord; you showed me you did by dying for me.

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.

I thank you, Lord, for the great love of two godly parents, the love of a brother and sister, and the love of countless extended family and many friends.

I am blessed, Lord. My life is not absent of love; rather, it is overflowing with the love of many, many people. I do not deserve such love, but I thank you for it.

I pray that someday I will have an earthly bridegroom, but for now I am learning to cherish my Heavenly Bridegroom. Lord, draw me still closer to you.

Amen.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Under Grace, Part III

Read my first two posts on grace here and here.

I usually have many posts drafted in my blogger account and still more in the files of my brain. I have a lot of things which I would like to eventually write. I start a post, jot down a few thoughts, and then leave it to simmer until my thoughts are more clear or my time is more free. Right now I have drafted a post on caring for long hair, a post on one of my favorite L.M. Montgomery books, and a post on the negative effects of anti-male comments, just as a sampling. One post I have had drafted for several weeks is titled "Why I Want to Homeschool My Children Someday," but now that's not the post that I feel the need to write.

I have been so blessed though the pastor who has recently come to our church. Not blessed in a comfortable sense, since his sermons have made me far from comfortable; on the contrary, I am blessed in an uncomfortable sense. I have never had a string of sermons be so convicting as the last three he has given. I have a different perspective on the Christian life than I did a few weeks ago, as I have mentioned to an extent in previous posts. My sister and I were discussing yesterday the far-reaching applications of Mark 7:1-13, applications that continue to stretch farther and farther as I meditate on that passage.

Some of you may remember my posts on grace here and here, which I wrote a few weeks ago. My views on many seemingly unrelated issues have been affected just by the one sermon mentioned in the second post and still further affected by the two subsequent sermons, which tied together nicely with the first. I keep thinking that I've uncovered all the connections that relate to my life, but then I find another stone that has been left unturned. I have been (and continue to be) both an antinomian and a legalist.

The first post I wrote was a needed critique of the heresy of antinomianism. As Christians we are not slaves of sin, but we are slaves of righteousness. Martin Luther put it this way: "We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith." What I didn't know as I wrote my post on antinomianism was that the Lord was preparing to work on my heart in that area and in the area of legalism, hence my second post.

The second post, which was the harder and more convicting for me to write, dealt with the presence of both antinomianism and legalism in the lives of the Pharisees, though it mainly focused on the legalism aspect. It was a summary of a sermon given by my pastor on Mark 7:1-13. It was a hard-hitting sermon for me, as I realized that I had been living under the law to a large degree. I wasn't trusting in the law to save me, but I was seeing the law as soap to wash me clean before Jesus. I was trying to earn favor with both God and men by being a "good Christian." I was placing unneeded safeguards around my life to keep me pure before God, without realizing that my heart needed to change in order for my works to matter at all. I was focusing on the "doing" of things rather than the motivation behind them.

Last week's sermon talked about the tradition of the elders from Jesus' day. The tradition of the elders was a set of "extra-credit" rules and regulations of Judaism that were kept by the elders - special types of hand washing and the like. The common people did not generally keep the tradition of the elders, but those who wanted to be hyper-spiritual did. As my pastor talked about aspects of the tradition of the elders, I could not help but feel a twinge as I called to mind the tradition of Susan - areas in my life that I had structured to make me feel hyper-spiritual, even while denying this as I did it.

I have purposely lived my life in a radical way (even for a conservative Christian) so that I was different. I have been prideful of my difference, even as I denied that this was wrong; after all, I was concerned with not following the crowd, which is a very good thing. But in so doing, my heart was not in the right place. I latched onto many ideas that are good (and some Biblically mandated), but turned them into a way to paint myself as different than others. There I was leaping away from the pit of conformity, merely to fall into the pit of tradition and hierarchical living. I was proud to be different because I wore ankle-length skirts, I liked bluegrass music, I was ghostly pale from avoiding the sun, I was reformed in doctrine, I didn't dye or professionally style my hair, I "belonged" in the 19th century, I hated most modern music, I wanted a zillion kids, I rarely watched TV (and never reality shows), I didn't wear make-up, I cooked from scratch, I was home schooled, and I did this, this, and this that was different from our modern culture. I was proud of my distinction, and oh, so bigoted. (All of the above listings are still true for me, by the way, but my pespective has changed.)

This morning's sermon was about what it means to be clean (as were the other two) and about the barriers and distinctions we put up to keep us feeling special and distinctive. It fit perfectly with the previous sermon, which had exposed to me various aspects of the tradition of Susan. I have heard few sermons that include an illustration of race without sounding PC, but this was one of those rarities.

Racism is a consequence of fallen sinners trying to make themselves feel better. Racism builds a sense of superiority and cleanliness by demoting others. I'm white, so I'm okay. They're black, so they're dirty. If someone else is dirty, then in comparison, we're clean. Furthermore, our whiteness is something no one can ever take away from us (I'm ghostly pale, so I must get extra credit. . . ), so we're all the more secure in our superiority.

Now, I'm guessing that most of my readers do not struggle greatly with black-white racism, but if you're like me you have your own forms. My pastor gave many examples of other distinctions we give ourselves to make ourselves feel better. Your struggle may be race, or it may be gender, educational level, political views, or socioeconomic status. It may be the fact that you are physically fit, or generous in giving, or busy in work or ministry. My form of bigotry was type of education. I underscore it in this post because I have been continually prodded to do so over the past few weeks, though I have resisted it.

In my second post on grace I sketched three areas - clothing, entertainment, and education - that I had identified as ones that Christians (especially conservative Christians, and extra especially home schoolers) turn into a fencing of the law. Please see that post for a definition of the fencing of the law, which is related to the tradition of the elders and with self-cleansing bigotry. I chose the three aforementioned areas because they were areas which I recognized that I had weaknesses, either in the recent past or up to present. The rest of this post is devoted to my struggles in the third area, education.

As I took notes on each of the three previous sermons, the Holy Spirit was convicting me of something that had become a form of bigotry in my life, an aspect of the tradition of Susan, part of my own brand of legalism - home education. You may ask how home schooling could have been that in my life. I can only answer with this: home education held that role in my life because it was unnecessarily exalted and upheld by me as the answer to society's ills. You see, only Jesus is the answer to society's ills, though he may work through good, solidly Christian movements like home schooling. Only Jesus can do helpless sinners good.

The rest of my post will no doubt surprise most of my readers, but I write it as a broken Pharisee who has resisted the writing of this post for the past few weeks, though I felt it was needed. This morning's sermon was merely the straw that broke the camel's back as I have wrestled with this issue over the course of the last few weeks and even months. I am fully aware that most of my readers are avid supporters of the home school community, and before I continue I want to clarify that so am I!

I would like to make a disclaimer that the purpose of this portion of my post is in no way to bash the home education movement nor accuse others of falling into this same form of bigotry under which I was in bondage. Home schooling is something that was - and still is - very near and dear to my heart. I am so thankful to God for blessing me with parents who chose to educate me at home - and do it with excellence - and I will always cherish the close family bonds we formed as a result. I love home education, and think it is often the best choice for Christian parents. I am who I am to a large extent because of my background as a home schooler, and for that I am truly thankful.

The purpose of this portion of my post is to confess my own legalism and prejudice in this area, in the hopes that others will not make the same mistake. I am detailing my own shortcomings in this area, not others. My parents have, to some degree, recognized this problem in me for years, and have consistently worked to moderate me in this area. Sometime I feel that my parents are in my life if for no other reason than to make sure I don't leap off the cliff of the extreme right. I need their balance in my lives, as I am oft' reminded.

My problem was that I was putting my self-worth in the fact that I had been a homeschooler (and planned to homeschool my own children). I was "holier than thou" because I supported the "correct" method of education. I saw the problems with the vast majority of educational methods and latched onto home schooling as the solution. Homeschooling was the solution to negative influences, to peer pressure, to familial discord, to youthful rebellion. Because I was a homeschooler, I was more clean-cut, more straight-laced, more conservative, more focused, more educated, more this, this, and this. Let's face it, I was just better.

Now, granted, I denied that this was so. Of course I'm not saying that I'm better simply because I was homeschooled. . . , I would clarify if questioned, but I still thought it in my heart and lived it in my actions. Home schooling was the correct choice, and since I had chosen education as a "really important area" when I had played pick-and-choose with the law - see my second post on grace for more on this - then I was all the more convinced of the "rightness" of my views.

Another disclaimer is necessary here. I still consider education to be an important issue - a very important issue in fact. The training of the younger generation is pivotal to the survival and future condition of the church of Christ. Take a look at my post on the catechism just as one example of how I feel on this issue. The discipleship, training, and education of young ones is a very important issue! The purpose of this post is not to blur rightful distinctions between various forms of education. My purpose is only to confess that I have wrongly exalted home education to a "super-Christian" standing, and discredited other valid forms of Christian education. They are few and far between, but they do exist outside of the homeschooling community.

In my bigotry I was focusing on a specific method of education, rather than the mindset behind the education. The mindset behind most forms of education is wrong; I truly believe that to be so. The mindset behind (most) home schooling is very good, and solidly Biblical. Parents are responsible for the training of their children - amen! Family is important - amen! Negative influences should be carefully monitored - amen! Christ should be central to education - amen! The only way to do that is through homeschooling - say what?

You see, I had taken an important topic like education, correctly identified important aspects of education, and then safeguarded and exalted myself by forwarding a particular method that showcased those aspects as the answer to the problems of education. It was my own version of bigotry, my tradition of Susan, my brand of legalism. It was wrong.

Do I still consider home schooling to be an excellent form of education? Yes, if properly implemented. Do I still want to home school my own children someday? Yes; absolutely. Will I? I can't answer that. It is up to God, as He leads and directs me, and it is up to my (as yet, theoretical) future husband, who will be the covenant head of our home.

Today I am thankful for the gift of home education that God gave to me through my parents. I honor my parents for the sacrifice and excellence they put forth in the many years they trained me at home. Today, though, I no longer label myself a homeschooler in a bigoted sense, trying to make myself feel cleaner than others. I am still a homeschooler, but more importantly, I am a Christian. I am a sinner saved and sustained by the grace of God, and that is enough.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

John Piper on Training of the Mind

The headmaster of Heritage Classical Study Center - which is the school for which I teach math part-time - mentioned this article by John Piper at a meeting earlier this week. He obtained permission to republish it to HCSC's website. While short, I think it is a good basis for the rigorous training of the Christian mind. And of course, you gotta love John Piper.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Snow Can Be a Nuisance

Our good friend Erika is here for a two-day visit before she has to report back to her drama troupe tomorrow. Ashley is going to join us tonight to watch Anne of Green Gables performed by a local homeschool fine arts program. We've been looking forward to this particular production for a while :). I love all the Anne books!

Our plan for the weekend was to drop off Erika in Tennessee early tomorrow on our way up to my friend Lydia's bridal shower in Kentucky, but alas, a winter storm advisory for Kentucky has forced us to postpone the shower until next weekend :(.

But there's a silver lining to every snowstorm :). Now we get a little more time with Erika. Also I get more time to research wedding cake options before consulting with Lydia's sister who, it turns out, would not be able to be there this weekend but can be there next weekend. So, all in all, snow can be a blessing in disguise :).

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Chess, Factoring Quadratic Trinomials, and My Math Family

*sigh*

Playing chess is a very humbling experience. Always has been, probably always will be. I just don't get the strategy! It's one of those games that I wish I got, unlike football, which I wish no one got. . .

Chess is a very intricate game of strategy and great for building thinking skills. Unfortunately my poor widdle brain just can't handle it! Every time I play I end up just scratching my blond hairs in confusion. My strategy in chess is nonexistant, zilch, nada, nil. I had a 5 year old girl put me in stale mate a few months ago. Granted this was a smart 5 year old, but still!

Hannah and I just finished a game of chess (shock, she won), and I just feel like my brain oozed out of my head. It took so much mental effort. Maybe this is what most people feel when they do math.

Hehe. I got to teach factoring to my Algebra I class today. I love factoring! To me it's like a puzzle; you see the end result, you just move the pieces around until it fits. Factoring is therapeutic; seriously. Mother Dear was telling me that she remembers when she was taking Ben through Algebra I, and they got to the part on factoring; she hadn't factored in years, and she thought it was so fun that she sat down and did all 40 homework problems for fun :). Isn't my mother fun-loving?

My students were enjoying factoring until we got to the second or third example with a leading coefficient other than 1. They weren't fond of checking all the different possibilities, although they did lighten up after I explained why we only had to OI to check instead of FOIL to check :). One of my students came up with saying it that way, and I found it pretty amusing, so it stuck.

Anyway, so yes, they thought I was a bit strange for loving factoring so much. They really did understand how to factor, they just thought it was time-consuming, which of course it is when you first learn. But I had to explain to them that to me math is nostalgic. When I do math I think of my family, because that's a lot of what we did together growing up. We played math games, we talked about math, we laughed about math, we made conjectures about math. . . and contrary to what some may believe, we did have real lives too.

The headmaster of the homeschool program for which I teach seems to take a secret delight in introducing me to people at informational meetings. We've known him and his family for years, as we were in the same home school group, had many mutual friends, and went to sister churches for a while. At informational meetings for new people interested in Heritage, he introduces each of the staff in turn to the parents and gives a little background. With most of the staff he says: "And this is Mr./Mrs./Miss ______, who has taught ______ for us for Heritage for __ years. The kids love him/her, etc."

For me he says, "And this is Miss Garrison, who teaches Algebra I and Geometry. She comes from a math family." After a pause for emphasis, "Some of you may never have heard of such a thing; I hadn't either until I met her family." After another pause, still addressing the parents at the meeting, "Did you all used to tell your students bedtime stories when they were little?" Parents then nod heads. "Well, her parents told bedtime stories, but they also did bedtime math problems!" The reactions to this are truly hilarious :).

We really did have bedtime math problems, by the way. It was all in good fun, mind you! It wasn't like we weren't allowed to turn out the light until we had finished factoring our trinomials. Nothing like that. When we were preschool age or so, my dad would ask us simple, oral arithmetic problems. The most memorable were akin to this: "Okay, Hannah, if I have 20 bunnies and you take 5 of my bunnies, how many bunnies do I have left?" After our bedtime math problems, we would snuggle into bed thinking about math and bunny thieves. Sweet dreams.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Tea Party!

This weekend we had our good friends come and visit us from TN, and we 5 oldest girls had a tea party Saturday afternoon. We had fun preparing food for it and planning outfits, and of course actually having the tea party was the best part! Here are some of my favorite pictures from the event:


The kitchen staff busily prepared food for the event. Mary and I took charge of making the lemon bars; here Mary is cutting in shortening for Lemon Bars. We found an excellent recipe for these in the Hershey's Cocoa cookbook. Dee-licious!


Mary frosted "muffins" in preparation for the tea party. We decided to call them muffins instead of cupcakes; it made them sound healthier ;). Both the icing and the "muffins" were mixed from scratch of course :), orchestrated by Hannah with various assistants.

(The photographer seemed to be prejudice towards pictures of Mary, but we won't fault him/her for this oversight. . . Although not well-documented, other members of the kitchen staff also contributed).


We're all decked out in pretty clothes and ready for the festivities to begin. Sarah and I get extra points for wearing hats :); Pretty hats are so much fun, especially for tea parties.


Sarah and I pause for a picture.


Susan, Hannah and Mary smile for the camera.


Passing round the goodies and pouring the tea. We were on our best manners and used British accents, of course! Many of our feigned conversations were remarkably reminiscent of period dramas like Pride and Prejudice or Wives and Daughters :).


The "hired help" cleaned up after the tea guests were finished. Here the dish fairies pause to smile for the photographer.

All in all, it was a very fun and memorable event, and one that we hope can be repeated in the future :). What is it about tea parties that is so delightful?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Catechize your Children

Our shingles were replaced a few weeks ago, finally reversing the damage done by a hail storm early last year. The banging and clanging overhead was steady for a good bit of the day, starting at 7:30 (good thing I'm an early riser), and finally ending late afternoon. My mom, brother, and I were home for most of the day, enduring the noise. That morning, as I stepped out of the shower, I could hear, barely discernible above the noise of the roofing, my mom and brother conversing. They were in the living room sifting through my brother's things as he prepared to move to Seattle the next day (he's now living out there working for Evil Emperor Gates).

Because of the noise, I normally would not have been able to hear anything they were saying, except that it was something very familiar to me; I mentally zone in on familiar sayings or phrases even amid clamor. I have been known to discern the episode or scene - even the point in a conversation - of an Andy Griffith Show rerun from several rooms (or a floor) away, merely by the tones of voices and the background noises :).

My mom's voice: What befell our first parents when they had sinned?

I couldn't make out Ben's reply, as he was slightly farther away, but I mentally replied with him: Instead of being holy and happy, they became sinful and miserable.

When I emerged into the living room a few minutes later, I was in time for:

Q. Can any one go to heaven with this sinful nature?
A. No; our hearts must be changed before we can be fit for heaven.

"I thought I heard the catechism!" I exclaimed. Sure enough, my mom had pulled out my brother's old copy of The Catechism for Young Children and was testing his memory. Even after more than a decade, many of the questions were still fresh in his mind. I felt inspired to get out my own worn catechism, and I took a trip down memory lane as I reread the questions I had poured over and committed to memory so many years ago. I can still recall most of the answers, though the ones at the end of the catechism are a bit rusty.

My brother is only a year older than me, so we often had Sunday School together growing up. When we were respectively in 4th and 5th grade, we were together in Mrs. Thigpen's class (I also had Mrs. Thigpen in Kindergarten and then in 5th grade). Under the instruction of Mrs. Thigpen in Sunday School and my mother at home, Ben and I both memorized The Catechism for Young Children by the end of 5th grade, along with many memory verses that went along with the related Sunday School lesson. I still have my key chain full of colored, laminated memory verse cards, and I occasionally flip through them and recall them to my memory.

Let me stop here and say that catechetic instruction is rarely beneficial unless supported and propelled by parents in the home. I've mentioned before how important parental religious instruction is, and how sad it is that often Sunday Schools downplay parents' (particularly the father's) spiritual responsiblity to train their children. I believe that Sunday Schools and catechetic instruction should be in addition to (or impemented by) parents, particularly by fathers. The main reason the catechism proved beneficial for me was that my mom incorporated the catechism into homeschooling, as well as related activities. As one who has taught Sunday School, I can attest that it is very tough to have a lasting spiritual influence on children without the support and reinforcement of parents.

My old Sunday School teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Thigpen, founded Children's Ministry International a number of years ago; CMI is a non-profit organization that writes and publishes reformed children's curriculum based on The Catechism for Young Children and The Westminster Shorter Catechism; I recommend the CMI curriculum for anyone looking for a solid, Bible-based Sunday School or homeschool curriculum that is grounded in reformed principles, while presented at an introductory level. I learned the catechism in conjunction with the CMI curriculum.

Some of you may be scratching your heads at this point, as catechetic instruction is often associated with the Catholic church. The Catholics do not have a monopoly on the use of catechisms to train young children, however (and I do applaud their recognition of the importance of such instruction). Catechisms have been used for centuries, and continue to be used today, by protestants as well as Catholics to train the next generation in basic Biblical truths. Catechetic instruction is particularly favored in Catholic and reformed circles, although other groups also find such a method to be beneficial.

For those unfamiliar with catechetic instruction, perhaps a definition of a catechism would be helpful at this point. Here is the definition given by Webster's Dictionary:

CATECHISM, n.

1. A form of instruction by means of questions and answers, particularly in the principles of religion.

2. An elementary book containing a summary of principles in any science or art, but appropriately in religion, reduced to the form of questions and answers, and sometimes with notes, explanations, and references to authorities.

The catechism I learned, The Catechism for Young Children, is a simplified version of The Westminster Shorter Catechism, which was written centuries ago by the Westminster Assembly of Divines. After learning The Catechism for Young Children, I did begin The Shorter Catechism, but only barely. I have since regretted not taking the time to commit The Shorter Catechism and its scripture proofs to memory (many catechisms, including The Shorter Catechism, contain reference Bible verses, called "scripture proofs", which are memorized along with the catechism questions).

As my attention to The Shorter Catechism was brief, to this day I only remember the first (and perhaps the most important) question in The Shorter Catechism:

Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

I would be hard-pressed to find a more excellent summary of a Christian's purpose and duty here on earth than the one given above. The purpose of a catechism is to instruct and train minds to be more like Christ as they learn to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Young children are like young plants, eager to drink in whatever food you feed them. What better food to feed them than the truths of God? Rather than (or at least in addition to) filling their young, impressionable minds with Sponge Bob, Mario Brothers, and Barney and Friends, fill their minds with the truths of God. It will not be in vain.

Proverbs 13:14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.

Catechetic instruction is not about brainwashing children to become Christians, or brainwashing them to become reformed, Catholic, or any other ideology. No instruction can make someone become a Christian; only the Holy Spirit can quicken a person's heart at the direction of the Father. Catechetic instruction is about instructing children in the way they should go, in the faith that God will draw them to Him in His timing. Parents are responsible for planting and watering seeds, but the growth is up to the Lord, lest we become prideful of our success.

Brad Winsted, the current director of CMI explains it this way: We are wiring the house of the child's mind and are waiting for the Holy Spirit to flick the switch translating the head knowledge to heart knowledge.

Many wonder why the catechism? Why not just have children memorize scripture? Wouldn't that be better, since scripture is the very Word of God, and any catechism is a human interpretation of the Word and therefore open to error.

At this point, I would like to offer the necessary disclaimer: I do not hold any catechism to have the same authority as the Word of God; as such, all catechisms (and creeds and confessions) should be tested in light of Scripture. When evaluating any man-made document we should be as Bereans, diligently searching the scriptures "to see if these things are so."

I am not discounting the importance of memorizing scripture. I highly encourage the memorization of scripture. Children have an especially easy time memorizing things, so by all means feed them scripture when they are young! The best catechetic instruction is coupled with scriptural references and memorizations; I have already mentioned scripture proofs that are often included in the catechism. The catechism is a companion to and an interpretation of scripture, not on par with scripture.

Every Christian parent uses some form of human interpretation to religiously instruct his child, whether it be verbal instruction, Bible storybooks, sermons, or even spiritual songs that are not part of the inspired psalms. It is inevitable to teach and instruct based on our own understanding of scripture. The Word of God is meant to be discussed, disected, and explained. No parent would allow his child's entire knowledge of God be exclusively based on direct reading of scripture. Since such training is inevitable, it is right and good to organize and solidify training into something the child will internalize. The catechism is systematic and organized. When properly implemented, it gives a child a structured basis for belief and an organized system from which to learn - sort of a "My First Systematic Theology" book. What a child internalizes becomes part of him, and he will carry it with him the rest of his life.

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Brad Winsted, director of CMI:

Let me tell you a true story about a Presbyterian pastor who was asking a Catholic priest about why so many Catholics, when they are older and have been away from church so long, seem to want to come back. The Catholic priest's answer was immediate. "We catechize our little children and it is part of them, therefore, when they are seeking again the answers to life, their memorized catechism questions come back to them and they return again to the source of that learning.".
I still refer back to many things I learned as a young girl studying the catechism. The solid Biblical truths I learned come back to me unprompted because they are part of me. To me, sin will always be want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God. It was through the catechism that I first internalized the realization that sin has two aspects: not being and doing what God requires and doing what God forbids. That is something I will never, ever forget.

Now that I am older, I have the ability and desire to search out the truths I first learned at my parents' knees and between the covers of my catechism. At the time, I took what I was taught in faith, believing my parents and teachers. Now I can be a Berean, searching the scriptures to test what I was taught. By the grace of God I am continuing a journey that began at the feet of my parents, as they taught me the very basic truths of God.

For those further interested in catechetic instruction, I invite you to read the following articles on CMI's website:

Why Use the Children's Catechism Anyway?

A Personal Family Catechism

Why Bother Catechizing our Children?

It is worthwhile to be a Shorter Catechism boy. They grow to be men. And better than that, they are exceedingly apt to become men of God. - B.B. Warfield

Soli Deo Gloria