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15 January 2019

Come Follow Me: The Nativity

 Ok, it feels... weird to be studying the Nativity in January. I'm all set to be working towards Easter, and here's Christmas again.

But we had this thought in our conversation about Zacharias and John the Baptist (our family's discussion sort of glossed over Elizabeth; not where the kids' attention was, this time around), and I'm still kind of mulling it over:

John the Baptist and Baby Jesus are just about the only baby stories we have in the scriptures. We don't know about Isaiah or Daniel or Nephi or Samuel the Lamanite as infants. Even modern prophets, even Joseph Smith where stories from his childhood are pretty common, they're not baby stories. Hannah's son Samuel, that story talks about the desire for a child, but then pretty quick it's right on to Samuel as a precocious child-prophet in the temple.

My kids love baby stories. They ask for their own all the time

So why are these stories in the Bible when nowhere else in scripture do we see the first moments of a prophet's life?

06 January 2019

Scheduling our Charlotte Mason Homeschool Day

I think that one of the things that's hardest for me to work out as we homeschool is: how much work will fit in a day? I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure this out over Christmas break as I worked up our new schedules. It's an important question: Hero is getting to the point where I need to start helping him to develop the skills to organize himself; he needs to start being a touch more independent about his school work.

But before I can hand him a schedule, I have to make one.

05 January 2019

Come Follow Me: Trust and Temples

The first time I sat down to do it with the kids, it was rough: changes to routine always are, and although we've done scripture study of various types, this was just a little different from them all, and there was some static over it. 

Honestly, I wasn't sure what to do with the first lesson.

I love that we're responsible for our own learning. And the quote from Brother Bednar is great:

"As learners, you and I are to act and be doers of the word and not simply hearers who are only acted upon. Are you and I agents who act and seek learning by faith, or are we waiting to be taught and acted upon? … A learner exercising agency by acting in accordance with correct principles opens his or her heart to the Holy Ghost and invites His teaching, testifying power, and confirming witness. Learning by faith requires spiritual, mental, and physical exertion and not just passive reception."
-David A. Bednar, quoted in Come Follow Me 2019, week 1

This is a better way of saying a what I've been trying to teach my kids for quite a while: there are more blessings, special blessings, that are only available to you when the scriptures become important enough that you read them all by yourself. Not because Mom said so. Not because the family is doing it and you're expected to come. There are blessings that come to us only when we make it happen on our own. Because making it happen, prioritizing it on our own time, is an act of Agency: it's an act of faith. And that action we take, when we open up the scriptures on our own, creates an opening like no other where the Lord's Spirit can work  in us and on us.

But I still found myself wishing for a nice chapter to read. Like we get in week 2, where we read about Mary. This week we're reading baby stories; what could be more lovely? I think we'll read a chunk of Luke 1 first, as I read these with the kids: that's all about John the Baptist, and then switch over into Matthew.

How do you suppose that Mary felt, as all this was happening to her?

I imagine she was stressed right out, personally. At least some of the time.

I'd guess that she didn't really understand. Not all of it. Not at first.

And a virgin pregnancy is impossible... everybody knows that.
And the penalty for fornication under the Mosaic Law was death.
That's why Joseph was going to put her away quietly: he didn't want to see her stoned.

Plus, she was pregnant: morning sickness, crazy emotions, exhaustion, all the excitement that pregnancy is, plus a lot that the rest of us don't have to cope with. 

So I'm guessing that this period is extremely stressful. Because, remember, at the tomb, on Resurrection Morning, the Apostles who spent so much time with Him, they still didn't understand what was going on. So here, at the beginning, when it's just a girl who sees and angel who tells her she will be miraculously, impossibly, pregnant --but not a whole lot more-- it makes me think of what Paul said: we see "through a glass, darkly". Here, at the beginning, it's apparent that something magnificent is underway, that God has a special role for her. But I wonder, at this early stage, how much she understood. In her shoes, I can easily imagine some long nights, struggling to figure it all out, if that was me.

But I also imagine that she'd be at peace, when she remembered Gabriel, and leaned into the Spirit, and remembered to trust God. It seems clear that she's pretty good at that: there are a ton of questions that could be asked if an angel shows up like Gabriel did with such unexpected news; hers are few and right to the heart of the matter --and then she trusts.

I need to learn to be like that.

It's interesting, too, how all the sudden I notice that these chapters point to the temple: Matthew 1 starts with family history, and Zachariah was a priest: a temple worker. And while, yes, the temple was different in those days, I recently had a fascinating conversation with a friend who pointed out a host of ways in which the temple then and the temple now are actually very much the same. Which makes sense, now that I think about it. It's changed the way that I see these verses.

One of the suggestions this week is to look at our own family history, and I think that we'll be doing that. I always feel a little awkward, planning to show family history to the kids: I struggle to know how to do it. But we keep looking at things, and we're slowly figuring out how to do it. It's one of those areas where practice helps. Stories help.

So that's our plan this week: read the chapters, narrate, and probably talk a little about someone from our own family history. Please, take a minute and share what your plans are in the comments.

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01 January 2019

Commonplace Book: late 2018

A sample from my commonplace book, and brief instructions for how to keep one.

A commonplace is a traditional self-education tool: as you read, grab a notebook. Write down things that embody Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Write down notable quotes, with or without your own thoughts about them. Write down the questions you have as a result of the text you are reading. You will find the book becomes a record of your own growth, and it becomes a touchstone for memory of things you have studied in the past. This is what Mother Culture is all about: self-directed, conscious self-education. 

Since the gospel embraces all truth, there can never be any genuine contradictions between true science and true religion. This doesn't preclude the need, however, of thinking through the interrelationships between religion and science as new and interesting discoveries are made. When properly done, the result is necessarily a deeper appreciation of divine goodness and of all the truths of the Gospel.
-Faith of a Scientist, Henry Eyring, 41

Thus, we are part of a grand scheme embracing all of creation, complicated and orderly beyond our most extravagant dreams. In it, there is the order of immutable law. Eclipses and certain atomic interactions can be calculated with any desired degree of accuracy. The universe has been likened to a fine watch, unexpectedly picked up in the desert. One might assume the watch was assembled by accident, but the only reasonable  assumption is that it had a creator who left it there. So it is with this magnificent universe. It is obviously more complicated  than a watch...
-The Faith of a Scientist, Henry Eyring, 44

 Communication of information involves both a sender and a receiver. The Gospel flows out from the Creator of the world who sees the end from the beginning. It flows out to all those who are able to receive it. Too many of those who are blind and deaf to this flow of information foolishly deny the existence of the Creator. How much wiser they would be if, like Helen Keller, they could overcome blindness and deafness and reach out and touch Him.
-The Faith of a Scientist, Henry Eyring, 48

Do not, therefore, attempt to obtain a perfect pronunciation at the first lesson. Talk yourself, talk continuously. At the commencement, let the pupil speak as little as possible; it is in his ear and not on his tongue that it is important to fix the word or the phrase. When the spring is abundant it will flow of itself, and the liquid supplied by it will have the advantage of being pure.

Let us not forget that the little child listens for two years before constructing a phrase, and that he has possession of both the sound and its idea, that is, the spoken word, long before attempting to produce it himself. ...

The spoken word must precede in everything and everywhere the word as read or written. ... Be certain of this, that it is only by thinking directly in the language studied that you will arrive at reading fluently a page of Virgil or a page of Homer.
-The Art of Teaching & Studying Languages, Gouin, p52

"Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything," he shouted, his thick, short arms making wide gestures of indignation, "for 'tis the only thing in this world that lasts, and don't you be forgetting it! Tis the only thing worth working for, worth fighting for --worth dying for."

"Oh, Pa," she said disgustedly, "you talk like an Irishman!"

"Have I ever been ashamed of it? No, 'tis proud I am. And don't be forgetting that you are half Irish, Miss! And to anyone with a drop of Irish blood in them the land they live on is like their mother. 'Tis ashamed of you I am this minute. I offer you the most beautiful land in the world --saving County Meath in the Old Country-- and what do you do? You sniff!"

Gerald had begun to work himself into a pleasurable shouting rage when something in Scarlett's woebegone face stopped him. "But there. You're young. 'Twill come to you, this love of the land. There's no getting away from it, if you're Irish. You're just a child and bothered about your beaux. When you're older, you'll be seeing how it is.
-Gone With the Wind, p49


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