Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Why I Love This Photo of My Son Being Goofy

This may look like the simple picture of an 11yo boy who can clearly walk, but is being goofy while rolling around on the floor and pretending he has to crawl. And while that's certainly true, it represents so much more to me.

This child is an overcomer. He has had more thrown at him in his life than most people will ever know. I only tell a fraction of his story to most people, and even that goes over their heads pretty quickly. "Mold toxicity" is at least self-explanatory. But PANDAS? Nope, not a cuddly bear. Chronic Lyme is just plain misunderstood, but once you have that long-term party in your body yourself, you will understand a bit better.

And those are just some of the easier-to-explain experiences. His recovery has involved many false starts, dead-ends, misdiagnoses, unhelpful assumptions by well-meaning folks, and literally flying coast-to-coast to get treatments and answers. It has involved doctors who have been overly-cautious in their diagnoses, underly-cautious in the same, and many layers of recovery to peel back. We're still walking that road, but we're a good bit of the way there.

So why this particular picture? Because this is something he hasn't been able to do since he was about 6 or 7 years old. The intense mold and dust he was exposed to in TX seems to have triggered a severe dust allergy that meant that for years, playing with stuffed animals left him itchy, and sitting or playing on the floor left him scratching and running to the shower for relief. Upholstery at other people's houses always left him wild with itchy feelings, until we could go home and he could shower. We've carried his bedding with us for overnights. But as an active child, he would ALWAYS forget, and do these sorts of activities anyway, but then come running upstairs to me telling me he was itchy (the signs of his irritated eyes were visible too!). A few questions about what he was doing would make it obvious that Mommy's silly rules about no pillow fights once again had been proven to be for a reason. 

But that all stopped this summer. Because of trying a new treatment that I'd not been willing to try for years. I love my excellent doctors, and have also dabbled a good deal in various forms of "natural" treatments over the years for various ailments. I've used essential oils, herbs in many forms, targeted supplements, detox baths, elimination diets. All have helped with some things, mostly acute illnesses.

But there's one form of "natural" treatment that I avoided because it just sounded a bit weird. Not dangerous. Not illegal. Not immoral. Not expensive. Not hard. Just weird, and I couldn't wrap my brain around the "why" of it. I like a "why" answer.

But when a trusted medical professional (our amazing Physician's Assistant in NC) finally turned me onto homeopathy, after gaining my trust in other areas for her expertise, I was finally willing. Not convinced, but willing. You do weird things when you're desperate.

Folks, I still can't explain the "why" of homeopathy. I know how the preparations are made, and I know that no reputable homeopath is actually claiming anything contrary to Avogadro's number (which is the chief argument against homeopathy, and shows a misunderstanding of the claims of homeopathy). But how it works? Nope.

But I know that the Lyme and Epstein-Barr symptoms I suffered from for years receded 98% by taking these strange substances. And 2 years later, results have mostly maintained. (And please don't tell me I imagined I was sick. That's just ridiculous, uncharitable, and I had multiple lab tests confirm my illnesses, including one that the lab tech declared "the most highly-positive Lyme test" she'd ever read.)

And I also know that I didn't tell my son either WHAT he was taking, or for what SYMPTOMS he was taking them, and yet, his recurring mouth sores stopped in their tracks, and we have not had one incidence of him needing a shower for relief for dust, since this summer when he was given his homeopathic remedy. He now plays on the floor with siblings, and it's just weird. And wonderful.

And quite frankly, while I love statistics, used to teach it, think everyone should take it as a high school course, etc. . I don't need a double-blind study with 10,000 participants over a 10-year time frame to know that for my son, I want this remedy available for his use, when he needs a "tune-up." Health is way too individual to only ever seek treatments on what has been "statistically proven" to be effective. Seek moral options, legal options, safe options, by all means. But years of mystery diagnoses and symptoms lead people to try weird things. And today, I'm thankful for weird things.

And I'll close with this: we need these options left for people to try, when conventional treatment fails. But the FDA is currently trying to reclassify homeopathy and make it much harder, if not illegal, to obtain. For a Christmas present for me and Hans, will you take 1 minute to sign a pre-scripted request for the FDA to extend the deadline for this guideline 180 days, so the homeopathy community has adequate time to appeal this decision? You don't have to "believe" in homeopathy. You just have to believe in a mother and her son, and in the insanity of outlawing safe substances with a time-honored tradition.

All I want for Christmas is the FDA out of my hair. 

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Aborted Fetal Cells that the Pro-life Movement Would Rather Ignore

I find that every time I post (a few times a year - usually on FB, not here) on the use of aborted fetal cells in some of the common vaccines, this is completely new news for at least a few of my friends. This is why I keep posting about it. It breaks my heart that we use the body parts of murdered babies to create prophylactic treatments, and in the same breath, claim horror over Planned Parenthood selling body parts for profit.

This was a helpful, academic breakdown of which vaccines use aborted fetal cells, which cell line is used, and how endemic the disease is in the U.S. Definitely a starting point for discussion. For continued info, I recommend googling "Stanley Plotkin deposition" for a thoroughly godless and disgusting and lengthy admission of just how many babies were killed to produce these vaccines. Hint: many botched results produced a final product.

Aborted fetal cell research is also not just a thing of the past. This is the most recent article I can find about very recent fetal cell development for vaccines. What is not currently in your vaccines, may be in the next new development, the next new offering. 

And here is Ben Carson defending his research with aborted babies in recent years. 

The point is, this happens. It still happens. In vaccines, and probably in other drugs. Can we, as consistent pro-lifers, stand by, while we value our health or potential health (prophylactically) over standing up against an industry that has a monopoly on some of these vaccines, and has ignored the pro-life voice for so long over this issue? What better way to send a message that NO MORE will this happen on our watch, than to vote with our feet? Let them gain back our trust for these particular vaccines, by re-releasing them without human strains. Hold them accountable. They will continue to do research on human remains as long as we "wait" for non-fetal options to be available.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Of history, war, heroes, peace, and politics

History for this year's homeschool studies is the 20th and 21st centuries, definitely a colorful and favorite time in history for me, and I'm eager to share my favorites with my kids. There's a lot of good, bad, and ugly in those years, but that's really what history is about. It's not about only the pretty, but about the ugly too, and about God's sovereignty through the mess of this world.
Wars. Lots of wars in the 20th and 21st century. I would probably place World War II as the most interesting war for me, personally, to study, though some of my favorite books and stories (Rilla of Ingleside, anyone? Sergeant York?) hail from WWI as well.
But it doesn't mean I relish war. I'm not a pacifist, but war doesn't thrill me. A large part of the reason I savored and pondered The Hunger Games books was precisely because I appreciated the author's honesty about the messiness of war. A recognition that doing nothing is wrong in some cases, but doing "anything" isn't justifiable either. War tactics matter. The personal stories in the latter two books of the Hunger Games illustrated this poignantly and are potent to ponder.
There are plenty of Bible verses to pull out of context, to support either a belligerent war-mongering philosophy or a pacifist belief system. (My FB feed is littered with them!) We're not called to cherry pick Bible verses, taking them out of the time and context they were meant to be applied. But we are called to protect the weak and to promote peace, as far as is able. The best path to this isn't always as easy as laying down all arms or attacking all enemies.
We are called to love. We are called to defend. But we are called above all to fight the rulers, the authorities, and the powers of the spiritual realm. It doesn't mean we don't have true enemies here on earth, but it puts perspective on the struggles of this fallen earth, and reminds us of a higher calling and a sure victory at the end of time. Our greatest enemies are not even human beings!
My recognition that human life is sacred and that war and fighting should not be taken lightly (but that it is a right and just action at times!) is why I treasure the story of Sergeant York in WWI - his Christian conversion, and his wrestling through his own beliefs about war, as a former drunken rabble-rouser, turned pacifist, turned reluctant war hero. My kids have greatly enjoyed an audio rendition of his story via Adventures in Odyssey, and I'm in the process of securing access to the Sergeant York movie with Gary Cooper, which I remember fondly from my childhood.
We will also be reading my favorite biography, The Hiding Place. Not a story of fighting, but of courage in a war-torn country, in the face of oppression, genocide, and unspeakable horrors. The other side of war - the political prisoners - but in this case, a story of hope, not defeat.
We will be memorizing "In Flanders Field," a haunting reminder of the sacrifices of the fallen, and our debt to them. I salute those who have kept us safe from tyrants, past and present. I teach my children to do the same.
One of the war heroes in my life is my own grandfather, William Alfred Huber, who was drafted to serve in WWII. Watching the inspirational documentary series "Band of Brothers" last summer gave me a bit more of a glimpse into my own grandfather's experience, as he served in the Battle of the Bulge, like the men in the documentary.
My grandfather was no war-monger and spent much of his adult years as citizen and pastor promoting peace. But he also had one notable conversation in 1980 with one of his young pacifist parishioners (his future-son-in-law! - shared with permission), in which he explained his own justification for his participation in the Allied war effort.
He barely spoke of his war years through most of my mother's childhood, and only opened up slowly in his later years, as he reconnected with old army buddies and swapped stories. Like Alvin York, my grandfather struggled with that balance between Christian promotion of peace and defense of the helpless. And like Sergeant York, my grandfather had no aspirations to be known as a war hero. He was a faithful husband, dedicated pastor, and loving father to 6 children. But before he was any of those, he also served his country in defeating one of the greatest tyrants in human history.
The last time my grandfather spoke publicly, he reflected on mankind's "need" to attach labels to other human beings, and he opened up about some of his own wartime experiences.
I tried for some 60 years to forget them. But sometimes we shouldn't forget. And I'm convinced, finally, that God didn't mean for me to forget this one lesson, because there's a message in it for me, for you, and for all the world.
I've copied (with permission) my mom's summary of the rest of his message. ("Dad" in the passage is my grandfather):
When he left for the war, he didn't hate the Germans. After all, his dad was German and they still spoke German in his Grossmutter's home in Indiana. But his officers, especially, wanted the soldiers to learn to hate them. It didn't take Dad long to realize the Germans were the enemy because of some of the atrocities he saw and heard about.   
One night Dad was standing guard in the basement of a German house while the rest of his group got some sleep. Soon, a whole squad of German soldiers came storming towards the house. After a few bursts from Dad's machine gun, a few of them lay dead. His buddies came to see what had happened and thanked him for saving their lives. But then Dad realized the guy in front had looked like one of their own who had been recently captured. So someone went to check and brought back a photo he had found in the dead soldier's pocket. Dad was so relieved it wasn't his buddy.  
 Dad told us, "Well, all [choking with emotion] the guilt in the world fell from my shoulders. And I was myself again. I hadn't killed another human being. I had just killed another blankety-blank German."  
But, then, he looked at the photo. He said, "Sure enough, that wasn't Dempsey. It was a handsome, young German soldier [pause] and his beautiful wife [long pause, weeping] and two little kids. He was a family man, a husband, a father, who'd been trying to protect his little family and country from someone who had come 4,000 miles just to put an end to his dream of life."  
So what was that lesson my dad mentioned? It's so easy to label people. Those blankety-blank-blank Germans! Dad said, "Oh the power of labels! No wonder the infantry leaders wanted us to learn bad labels, because labels dehumanize a person in your mind, and they become just a statistic, a thing."
Yes, one can easily come back with quite a good explanation for WHY the American army did come 4,000 miles to put an end to this German soldier's dream of life, and on the one hand, I agree. My grandfather did too. And I will be explaining to my own children this year in history all of the reasons I truly believe that the Allies justly fought and defeated the tyranny of Hitler and his allies.
But along with my grandfather, I don't want my children to come away from our study of WWII or any other war thinking that human beings are labels, that the loss of human life is to be mocked or relished. I want them to realize there were human beings on the "other side" of the battle line. Not every German soldier even knew what their leader planned and executed - what he stood for. The fact that many Germans died giving their lives for a horrible, violent, racist madman is a tragedy. It's not something to smile or delight in. These weren't just blankety-blank Germans; they were people who had lives, hopes, dreams, family. I don't honor them as heroes, but I mourn them as fellow human beings.
And come to think of it, the same principle of labels applies well as we enter another nasty political season. By all means, have principles. Vote for those principles. Have discussions and debates. Know what you believe and why. I hold the unpopular modern belief that there is absolute truth, and I seek it in both my life and faith, and try to apply it in the voting booth. I am NOT advocating for equalizing all beliefs and political parties.
But don't reduce the opposite point of view to a strawman, mocking your opponents or those who support your opponents. Use respectful language, and remember that you can disagree with every fiber of a person's belief system, but still honor them as a human being created in the image of God. For our struggle is not ultimately against flesh and blood. And as God's people, we know the end of the story. Our guy wins! (And no, he's not a Republican or a Democrat, for His kingdom is not of this world.)
While we are citizens of this earth, we should care for it and care about it. We should strive and fight for what is true and right, with justice, love, mercy, and truth. And we can rest in the knowledge that we serve a sovereign God who is over history, time, and political squabbles. Amen?

Monday, March 04, 2019

This is about parental rights, not vaccines

This is a fight for parental choice and a recognition of who ultimately has a say in your child's care. This is NOT a debate on the benefits or drawbacks of vaccination. This is a war on religious freedom and parental rights, make no mistake. Kudos to Arizona.

Perhaps you have researched vaccines and found the argument against using aborted fetal cell line vaccines to be weak. That's your choice and I respect it. Truly. But please hear me out.

What if your friend's conscience decides differently? Can we honestly support a law that does not give a parent the right to object to vaccines that are derived this way? Do we honestly think that forcing a parent to inject a substance into their child's body that truly violates their religious beliefs is medical progress? Who has authority over a child's body? How is this religious freedom to not offer a religious exemption?

Who decides a "legitimate" moral conscientious objection when it comes to vaccines? What if your friend objects to vaccinating their child for an STD? Some Christians are comfortable with this and others are not. Can we recognize that our consciences vary in this, and that it is for the parent to seek out treatment, not for the State to mandate? Can we honor their choice and not mock it as a "lame excuse"?

Can we recognize that when we lose the choice to make that decision as parents, we have lost a right, even if we would choose the CDC-suggested path?

Perhaps as a society we have general comfort with mandatory vaccination for children. Why does mandatory vaccination for adults make us more squeamish? This is an honest question. If you are in favor of the former but not the latter, I would genuinely love your explanation to help understand.

Yes, children are more likely to harbor disease. But adults can carry and have these diseases too. If we honestly think our commitment to society is greater than our personal convictions and if we honestly say "the science is settled" and "vaccines are safe," then why do we pause at the idea of adult vaccination mandates, but not mandates for children? Adults have the right to privacy and autonomy in medical decisions. Yes. But who has the right to decide medical decisions for a child? The State? Not on my watch! We need a proper sphere of authority here.

When legislation comes up that restricts a parent's right to decide medical procedures and treatment for their child, every parent in America should see that as THEIR rights being threatened. This is not about vaccines. This is about parental rights and in some cases, about religious conviction. I support your right to vaccinate. But can you support my right to not inject substances derived from aborted fetal cells into my children, even if you land differently on that debate? Do you believe in my religious freedom? I believe in yours. 

Article quote: "Rep. Nancy Barto explains it perfectly when she states, “We are here to acknowledge vaccines have a place, but it’s every parent’s individual right to decide the vaccine’s place in the child’s life,” Barto told committee members."" 

I can get behind that.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

2018-2019 School Year

This year we tried out a few new curriculum options, and rather than give fantastic fawning reviews based on a few-hours perusal of the material and 5 days of implementation, I thought I'd wait and see if I *really* liked our new curriculum before laying out exactly what we're doing this school year.

(Alternate story: I started and stopped my school year summary several times last summer and fall, and never completed it until now. You pick.)

So what are we up to? Well, I have a 5th grader, 3rd grader, Kindergartener, and trouble maker this year. Heidi, our 3yo, is basically all the strong will of Hans combined with all the mischief of Martin. It's a powerful combination. She is a delightful mess. We love her to pieces, and she makes homeschool a frenetic dance instead of a gentle flow. LOL. Since we usually school July through May-ish, we have three-fourths of our school year under our belt, as we near the end of February. This is really really nice, as we prepare to move from NC to MN sometime in March.

So what are we studying and how are we studying it? We have a lot of sameness in curriculum this year, and actually several new additions.


We still love Singapore books, and have ever since Hans and I started the kindergarten level back in 2013. That same set of kindergarten books was just completed by Martin. Pretty fun to see the years and levels fly by and still beloved. I. love. Singapore. It does a fabulous job developing number sense, comfort with word problems, and pre-algebraic skills. Gretchen is working on level 4B and Martin just VERY casually started level 1A. And I mean VERY casual. My kindergarten approach is very chill.

My original plan was to have Hans complete level 6 A and B both this year, before moving on to either Pre-Algebra or Algebra (sequencing advice on this is mixed), but after completing level 6A this fall, I really felt the whole time like the fabulous challenging word problems that we sifted through could have been done SO much easier if we'd just get started on Algebra concepts and equation solving, and finally I realized we could just move on.

Since he's young and since we chose to only complete level 6A, we're starting Pre-Algebra first, using the same book I used over 20 years ago! (An Addison-Wesley text) I perused several different options, and while *I* liked Art of Problem Solving best and practically drooled over the text I got to thumb through, I realized that was MY dream, and looking through Addison-Wesley, the text just looked like a *great* fit for Hans' learning style, and a great intro to Algebra topics, and it was obvious he had all the prerequisites to dive in, which we did directly after Christmas break.


Hans and Gretchen are doing levels 5 and 3 in Shurley, respectively. We have been with Shurley since level 1, and I still love it (though interestingly, my tentative plan next year is to take a one-year detour from Shurley, but that's a whole other topic, perhaps to write on later). I think their way of teaching sentence parts and classifying sentences is just fun. My kids love it, I love it, and I think the concepts will "stick." Jingles make everything more fun!

Roundabout Shurley level 3 with Hans, though, I continued loving the grammar portion and started hating the writing portion (or, finally admitted I hated the writing portion). We have steadfastly ignored the writing portion for the last 2 years as I tried to decide what I did want to do for writing.

While we decided what TO do, we turned Shurley into something that works for us (grammar-only), which is the beauty of homeschooling. I don't consider writing composition to be super-important in the elementary years, so with minor writing assignments like composing letters to relatives, occasional fun poetry forms, etc., I was willing to wait it out as Hans matured and I decided what path I wanted to take.

This year, now in fifth grade, I felt like Hans was ready for some gentle intro to writing that was NOT Shurley, so we started Institute for Excellence in Writing. Honestly, I never ever considered before last spring that I'd end up doing IEW. I had never looked into it in detail, but had vaguely heard of it various times as a "really rigorous and difficult and structured" writing curriculum, and I really didn't want anything super-involved with writing at this age and stage, especially for Hans. But then I sat down with a lovely new friend, also a homeschool mom, whose oldest shares many personality similarities with Hans, and she started chatting with me and sharing what has worked for her, and she started explaining all the reasons IEW has worked well for her and it just all shouted "Hans."

What had NOT worked for Hans in Shurley was this strange fascination Shurley has with giving higher order topics to elementary students, that require levels of knowledge and understanding and thought process beyond their years. Like asking a 4th grader to explain "the ways computers have changed our lives." Now *I* could write a 3 or 5 paragraph essay on the topic in a heartbeat, but I lived through the 90's and remember life before a computer and life after a computer. My 4th grader had not. Computers always had been for him, and until he studies higher level science and modern history, this is not a meaningful topic for him.

Institute for Excellence in Writing is *very* aware of the stupidity of this sort of writing assignment. They DO teach great composition skills, how to take notes and summarize another person's essay in your own words, "dress-up" your own writing with more interesting words and phrasings, and the basics of story writing, etc. Hans now loves writing (and has made leaps and bounds in his abilities this year), and Gretchen, never wanting to be "left behind" by her older brother, has joined us for the IEW intro video series, and has really done well at it.

I further took to heart Andrew Pudewa's suggestion to parents to consider allowing a child to type compositions. This took some swallowing of pride and theory, as I'm really not a fan of children over-using the computer at an early age, but let. me. tell. you. This has been a wonderful way for my kids to focus on COMPOSING, not handwriting and cramping. I gave Hans and Gretchen the option last summer of learning to type, and told them if they did learn to type, they could type their compositions this school year, and what a motivation! Handwriting is super-important to me, so they do copywork several times a week in cursive, as well as do most of their spelling in cursive. But separating handwriting from composition has allowed both skills to blossom, especially for my oldest.

My plan for IEW is to use it for a few years to work on specific skills of composition, but not use all the books, all the grades. I want to expose my kids to different ways and styles of writing, and I think IEW is a great start. We will likely move onto other programs at some point, that are more humanities-specific, when we reach rhetoric level.


Hans is in Grade 5 level with Matt Whitling's Grammar of Spelling (Logos Press). After much time spent perusing reviews of various spelling curricula, I chose this for him in second grade, and we've been with it ever since. No frills, no drama, and it's worked well for Hans. What works, we stick with.

But honestly? I don't love it. I wouldn't repeat it. I don't "get" why it still is published. It's so vanilla, nothing worth writing home about. And so many of the lists are obviously specific to what Matt Whitling's classes are studying in science and history. Okay. Not horrible, but not great. But my son's spelling abilities have NOT suffered, and it's easily a no-drama subject for him.

But for Gretchen we've always used All About Spelling (just started level 5). I really do love this program. We just use the teacher manuals, not the magnet board, not the flash cards of various kinds, not the extra booklet supplements and charts, etc. Extra pieces are FAR too likely to be kidnapped by a curious toddler. Gretchen is a naturally good speller. If I have a child someday who needs more help with spelling, I might find the flashcards to be more helpful. And I really am hoping to own a tablet sometime soon, so I can purchase the tile app to use when Martin starts AAS in a year or so.

I do truly believe that not all children need a formal spelling curriculum, especially not for all of elementary, but I have seen with my own eyes my oldest children benefit greatly from using one. Hans went from a 1st grader insisting he couldn't spell ANY word and wanting help on spelling everything, to becoming a confident, blossoming speller in 2nd grade, when we started an actual curriculum. (And once his confidence picked up, his standardized annual scores on spelling have been off-the-charts.) Gretchen, also, really has wrapped around basic rules of spelling (AAS does such a great job at this!) and benefited from it. *I* have benefitted from AAS's clear explanations.

Foreign Language 

I cannot recommend SignItASL enough, if you're looking for a good program for American Sign Language. We have been so pleased with it, and also thankful to receive the first three units free, since we had a deaf/hh child under age 3. With Heidi now age 3, I can assure you that when new units are released, we will happily pay for them!

This is our first year having a few subjects for the kids that regularly utilize the computer (IEW DVD's, online ASL videos, and Latin DVD's), so Adrian set up a separate username on my computer with a whitelist of a few select websites the kids can access specifically for school. This has been such a huge help, and a great safe option. While I watch IEW and Latin with them, they do SignItASL themselves and also have a few regular websites (like that they periodically access for history, that I wanted them to use without me.

We also started Latin this school year, after delaying for 2 years while we got a bit of a handle on ASL first. We are using Classical Academic Press' Latin for Children series, and I'm enjoying it as much as I could enjoy Latin. Haha. Meaning, learning Latin is not my thing, but this is a very workable curriculum with plenty of options to help, and the kids have taken to it well. Hans and Gretchen are working together on Level A, and Martin listens in whenever he wants (he won't start Level A formally for another 3 years, ish).


I explained this year's science plans pretty clearly in this post, from a few months ago. It has been a fun year in science!


And now for probably the biggest curriculum change for us this year.

This has been a transition year for history. We used Veritas for 4 years and while I did love certain aspects of it, like the timeline cards, I found that sometimes I loved their book recommendations, and sometimes they really fell flat. Being a planner, while I intended to finish out the 5-year cycle for Veritas, starting a year ago I started seriously looking into middle school+ humanities option, to see what we wanted to do after the last year of Veritas, 18 months in the future at the time.

Veritas elementary is workable, but honestly, their middle-high school Omnibus option left no warm fuzzies in my heart, after perusal. THE DENSITY. Their questionable choices for some Greek myths. Nope, gonna search elsewhere. I also disagree so strongly with one of the main Omnibus authors on so many topics of a various nature, that I felt I was going to be doing some SERIOUS proof-reading for that curriculum, before handing it off to my young middle schooler.

Plus, while I think knowing his own culture first can help a person move out into later studying other people's cultures (and therefore, I don't think it's necessarily bad to start elementary history with learning a American-European-based history first, as long as it's not a racist one), I do think it's ridiculous to make an entire 2nd-12th grade curriculum pretty much entirely centered on the progression of European and American culture. Start there? Sure, I can see that option. But finish there? Graduate high school without ever really studying Latin America, Africa (outside of Ancient Egypt), Asia, or Australia? Nope.

So I started looking.

Back when Hans was four years old and I was thinking ahead to elementary history options, one of the many history curriculums I looked at for a LONG time (but didn't purchase) was Tapestry of Grace. I loved the philosophy of the curriculum, the multi-age set-up (designed with many kids in mind), the progression through time periods, and cycling back at a higher level each time. I loved the extra options for the older grades, like philosophy and government based on primary resources.

But it just looked like potential overkill for early elementary and I also was really not a fan of many of their rhetoric level books at the time. (I was thinking long-term, as Tapestry is definitely a multi-year, investment kind of purchase.) If I knew we'd use it for long-term, yes. But not knowing how long it would "fit" us. I wasn't sure if it was a good choice for our first time through elementary history.

But. Since then my kids have grown. And Tapestry has also redesigned many of their rhetoric book choices, and all the reviews have agreed it's for the better. More primary sources, etc. I'm now really excited about rhetoric options, should we continue with Tapestry. And I absolutely love love all the wonderful book options they suggest for the upper and lower grammar stages (which we are currently using). So many gorgeous books, so many options. Primary and secondary history options, poetry options that match the period, literature options, church history options.

For the record, Tapestry is for K-12 and can be used from the start! Don't get me wrong. Many people do. In fact, their recently-released Tapestry Primer is a gentle K-1st (ish) intro to the Tapestry philosophy and cycle of history, and were I have to have youngers-only again, it would probably be what I'd pick. As it is, all my kids can naturally cycle onto Tapestry with what I have. So I'm NOT trying to say Tapestry isn't for younger kids, just that my initial thoughts, when my oldest would be entering elementary was whether it was right for us, THEN. Especially with the availability of Primer as an option, I'd say yes, it's a great option.

I feel like Tapestry fills a balance in the Christian curriculum world. It is a gentle, story-based curriculum in the younger years, that rises to a crescendo of deeper thinking and discussions and rhetoric in the later grades. But also? A lot of Christian curriculum is just. . . trite. It gives the "city on a hill" America view. Or to over-compensate for that, many secular or "modern woke" Christian curricula are more pagan in perspective than Christian. I really like Tapestry's focus on God's sovereignty in history, but willingness to talk about the good, bad, and ugly of God's people.

The biggest criticism I see against Tapestry, from reviews, is that people feel overwhelmed and feel like they can't "do it all." But Tapestry makes it clear that NO ONE should do it all. They offer many options to fit different levels, different emphases, different learning styles, different family goals.

While I have a toddler in the house, we will not be doing many hands-on projects. Sorry. No can-do. Those will be an occasional. I'm also just not a worksheet-y person. About once a month I give one of the kids a Tapestry worksheet option for either history or literature, or we do it together. I use one if I particularly find it helpful to pull out some ideas, but am not tied to the idea that worksheets somehow make learning "more measurable."

Tapestry allows us to read, and read a lot. And read from many options. I purchased most of the primary history suggestions for the upper and lower grammar this year, along with the poetry options, geography options, and the art appreciation book. I purchased most of the church history books, as our library had none. Most of the secondary history options and the literature options, I was able to get from the library or we already owned (Hans actually has read many of the dialectic literature options too), and a few I have purchased. If I see a book at the library that is on a similar topic or seems a good replacement to a recommendation, I often sub.

Some of the books are a great level to assign to Hans (especially) and Gretchen to read independently, some we read aloud together, and others Adrian reads to the kids or we listen to an audio version on car rides. So many different options, and it has worked well. Each week and unit I assess what we can realistically cover. I do not believe doing all the choices benefits anyone. But we have done many, because they really are fantastic choices.

I have been impressed with the beauty and quality of the vast majority of Tapestry of Grace's books. Lovely literature, showcasing so many different cultures and value systems in a respectful way, but all drawing it back to a solid Christian worldview. They have taken tough topics like slavery and the Trail of Tears, and dealt with them respectfully, but at a child's level. As we hit each topic, I'm also excited to look ahead and see the choices for the dialectic and rhetoric levels, though we aren't in those stages yet.

Bible and Catechism 

We read through the Bible as a family slowly, day by day in family devotions, and when we finish, we start again. Our church does the same in worship. These are the backbone of our Bible exposure, along with weekly worship and sermons on Sundays.

We have also been enjoying slowly making our way through the Read Scripture series on YouTube, which is a really well-done overview of each of the books of the Bible. And the kids and I are sporadically making our way through Leading Little Ones to God. We kind of oscillate in homeschooling between using devotionals like this, and focusing more on memorization.

For catechism, we currently use First Catechism, in review for Hans and Gretchen (who have completed) and incremental memory for Martin.  We are using CMI Bible memory cards that correspond well with the catechism questions. Hans and Gretchen have mainly focused on their Sunday school memory verses and longer passages in scripture in recent years (Isaiah 53 was their most recent project), but one of my goals in the next year or so is for them to finish out the CMI cycle of memory verse cards that correspond with the catechism. I memorized the exact same set as a child, and they are really a lovely base for Christian life and doctrine. We will continue to mix them in with occasional longer passages.


And that about wraps up our school curriculum summary! Just in time for people considering curriculum choices for next school year (February 'tis the season). How thoughtful of me to keep forgetting to finish this post for over 6 months. Ha! But just think what a better perspective you get, after I've used my curriculum for longer. :-)

What were your favorite curriculum choices this year? What will you be changing next year? What will you be adapting? A friend recently published a fantastic blog post with cautions and inspiration for these sorts of choices. Highly recommend!

Monday, February 04, 2019

Measles Quiz, and a Plea for Sane Discussion

I am merely copying this here for reference, not for discussion. I no longer regularly inhabit this blog, so don't want to field discussion here. This originally was posted to my private FB page (on which I only accept friend requests from known people), for discussion there. Hopefully even without discussion, it can still generate some thoughts. Thanks. <3 nbsp="" p="">

"Between 1900 and 1963, death from measles declined by 98% in the U.S., due to advancements in living conditions, nutrition, and health care. This significant decline happened before the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963." 

Taking this quiz on measles, prepared by a group of physicians who merely want transparency and full information to the public, will cost nothing but 3 minutes of your time, and the chance to assess what you know about measles. What's to lose? 

Once again, I'm happy to engage in conversation, but only civil discussion that is on topic . I am greatly saddened by our culture's lack of ability to have civil discussions on vaccines, without name calling, red herring, straw man, and so many other basic logical fallacies. Laughing at the other side, making sweeping claims and assumptions - none of this adds to the discussion. 

There are doctors on both sides of this debate; there are parents on both sides of this debate. My family doctor (M.D.) does not administer the MMR vaccine, though he fully supports parents who choose to vaccinate, and helps them to find a place to do that. Where there is a risk, there should be a choice, which is why I fully support parents who do vaccinate and those who don't. I'm here to inform and challenge ideas, not judge parenting decisions.
To say that you choose to vaccinate is something I can respect, and I will not mock that. But saying that "the science is settled" does nothing to add to the discussion except confirm that you are not open to discussion or defense of your views, and possibly that you haven't actually done much reading on the CDC website, websites that house peer-reviewed medical journal articles, or sites like the Physicians for Informed Consent site that houses the measles quiz - nor have you listened to the millions of parents crying out that something is not right with this generation's children. 
For that matter, I question how widely-read and studied by the general populace the vaccine inserts are, that come with the vaccines themselves. Not the "cheat sheet" short version the doctor hands the parent, but the lengthy one that lists so much more info, like the human diploid cells (aka aborted fetal cells) that are in some vaccines, the cautions concerning pregnant women, miscarriage and the flu vaccine, the cautions about shedding of live virus vaccines and precautions necessary after vaccination, and all the other delightful tidbits that are written in extremely small font on ~30 pages of info, that most parents are never actually handed, but can be found for free on the FDA website.
I am not implying in any way, shape, or form that 
IF you spend hours on the CDC website and 
IF you read beaucoup articles on vaccines on medical journal sites and 
IF you listen to your "crazy anti-vax friends" and their sob stories about their chronically ill children and 
IF you read the vaccine inserts in full, 
That you will then become an "anti-vaxxer." I really don't even like that term, nor do I subscribe to it. Science requires interpretation of data, and different people react and interpret it differently, including scientists in white lab coats.
I do think it more likely that you will realize that scientists are fallible just like the rest of human beings, that there are arguments for and against vaccines that are held by intelligent people, including physicians, and that possibly, the science is not quite so settled in all areas, for all vaccines, as you originally thought. Possibly you will find the science convincing enough to continue to vaccinate yourself, or maybe you will rethink your own choices. But my prayer is that you will realize the diversity of info out there enough to respect those who disagree, and to work towards a continued conversation, instead of a shut-down of communication.
Peace in the name of the search for truth, folks. May we all find it.