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Teaching/mothering tips

Renee Ellison's tools for effective teaching, and inspirational thoughts about being a nurturing mother.

Spiritual profundities in Les Miserables

Sunday, 23. November 2014 by Renee Ellison


Victor Hugo’s nearly 1,500 page French tome, Les Miserables, may well have been the most profound novel ever written.  If you have a teenager or young adult, this is a good read.  Here are some thoughts to accompany that reading—to view it not only as a story, but as a parableThe novel is a full discourse of every nook and cranny the soul runs to, to understand itself.  It is saturated with spiritual verities.

Javert epitomizes the law, unbridled and metastasized into a cancerous fever on an insistent hunt for its prey—a universal “gotcha”.  When the law becomes a conundrum even to himself, his soul is confronted with an irresolvable complexity.  Choosing mercy is unthinkable.  Sadly, as seems the case with most people, he must die with his theology intact, even if it doesn’t “fit” and even if it was proven to be incorrect.  Suicide is the only way out of his rigidity.

Juxtaposed to this is a depiction of the very opposite, the low-life; lawLESSness run aground in its own bawdy insatiable flesh.  The flesh even pillages the dead for more stuff, totally blinded to the fact that this IS, in fact, eventually death for him, too—and then what will he live for?  The revolutionaries are the “arm of the flesh” trying to change the hearts of men from the outside in.  Without God as a reference point, without prayer, men are sure to strew the stage of life with death.  As in Hamlet, revenge eats up everything in its path; not a soul is alive on that stage at the end of that tragedy.

Eponine depicts for us the secular humanist who is hunting for salvation in a place where it will never be: a hand-picked lover, who himself is preoccupied with someone ELSE.  She dies in the arms of a transient fulfillment.  Desperate to be sure of her ground, she tells IT how to function, what to say and do, and she clings to it still.

And Jean Valjean?  His thieving habit, he thinks, needed to work his own salvation, still not cured after 19 years in prison (that it was done for a good purpose made no difference), so he tries it again.  He sees no other way to meet his needs—which are many.  But, alas, his trembling confidence is met again with the “lock-him-up”.  Life, for him, now, is a verified endless dead-end.  However, this time his thieving despair is unexpectedly met with the priest’s “Take my silver candlesticks, too”, and Valjean’s habituated impulsive world-view dissolves.  What is this?  Some mysterious abundance that goes beyond my needs? Mercy?  Not only has he now felt it, he also now realizes that he may be the agency of it, too.  His conversion is none other than Christ in the soul—the synthesis of law and mercy.  The halleluiahs break out over his wasteland and he quietly and maturely lives differently—Calvary bound, too.

The story has it all.  It even raises the great universal, cosmic question of “Who Am I?” Am I this thing or the other?  Where do I “come down?”  Where is my core?  What is my zip code, really?!  Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s famous poem from prison was titled the same: “Who Am I?”  “Am I caring and deferential, as my prison mates imagine me to be, or am I the wild man who thrashes around inside, full of questions?”  Shakespeare’s Hamlet adds to the body of literature, also asking this question.  “To be or not to be? that is THE question.”  And so, too, we see the Psalmist, King David, beg for integration even in his mature soul—far more advanced than most: “May the meditations of my heart be pleasing to thee, Oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”  May I not live in shadows.  Deliver me from splinteredness.  Make me “one” before thee, in my inward parts.  Show me to myself.

“Who am I” is a question that really none of us can answer.  Only He who made us really knows.  Self-discovery takes a lifetime; it is really only unveiled as we partake of God-discovery, and even then it is only mincingly understood.  With Bonhoeffer we end up saying, “I do not know, but what I do know is that “I am Thine!”

(For another believer’s more extended foray into this topic, see Bob Welch’s book of 52 Little Lessons from Les Miserables.)

Pros and cons of using the Charlotte Mason approach to elementary education

Monday, 17. November 2014 by Renee Ellison


Some homeschoolers are worried that if they were to use the Charlotte Mason approach, vital sequential skill development would get lost in the matrix of actually trying to DO her approach.  For example, if a child were to try to learn the violin or piano by “wandering and wondering,” he might not end up at the level of excellence of an Isaac Stern or an Arthur Rubenstein!  Indeed, sometimes it takes a ruthless sequential tutor to get you there.  A huge chasm begins to develop between Mason’s lofty ideals and what actually happens in the home.

On the other hand, some parents worry that following a course of sequential academic skill development will lose some of Mason’s “awe and wonder” development.  Certainly, no devoted homeschool mom wants to lose that aspect, if there is some way to achieve it along the way.  Bring ON the awe and wonder!

Considering the above two scenarios, let’s look objectively at the strengths and weaknesses of Mason’s method of elementary education, with an eye toward implementing what’s good and discarding what’s not so good.

By the way, interestingly, with only a little tweaking, “what’s good” in the Charlotte Mason approach can all be applied to A.C.E. (Accelerated Christian Education’s curriculum) with less than half the effort and cost. For one thing, right out of the shoot, the parent doesn’t have to spend the greater part of two decades hunting and shopping for the next “great book” (each child will need truckloads of those)—nor will she spend the exorbitant amounts of money to acquire that library.  A.C.E. has already compiled over 15,000 “greatly written” concepts, much of it in story form, FOR you, and there is no lid on what your child can read in the evenings and weekends in the larger great books—without the HAVE-TO pressure for also doing that during your core academia in the day. Keep in mind that you’ll be doing schooling for 12 looooooonnnnnggggg years in one form or another.  What happens when the parent “tires”—then what?  All theories look good on PAPER.  What happens on Thursday mornings after mommy has been up all night with the baby?  That is the “rub”.  What if we can’t FIND a “great book” that day?  And what of the daily development of math and writing skills?  There is a lot more implementation complexity here for a homeschooler than meets the eye.

The strengths and weaknesses of Mason’s core tenets:

Mason designed schools to implement her method.  Being unmarried herself, she, no doubt, did not realize the value of the sheer holy VOLTAGE of what having one’s own children at home produces over a lifetime.  These educational setting CHOICES are the difference between “home-centric” life and “peer-centric” life.  The potential for unity, bonding, and spiritual influence (as a FAMILY) in the world is staggering if homeschooling is done “right”.  It is what Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were achieving through their dynasties.

In schools—yes, even in good private schools—the “curriculum” may become far more than a parent bargains for, while the child rubs shoulders with peers from broken homes, media-addicted homes, spiritually defunct homes, emotionally abandoned and preoccupied homes, twisted homes.  The mandate in Deuteronomy 4-6 to educate one’s OWN offspring at home primarily by ADULTS is the most powerful means of discipling the next generation known to man.  Other third graders simply does not have the experience base to mentor YOUR third grade child—but mentor them on the playground and in the restrooms, they will.  The good can become the enemy of the best.  Where education takes place needs to be a concern for any spiritually responsible parent.

Mason recommends having children read REAL literature (instead of twaddle) from the get-go. Who could argue with this!  We absolutely agree!  Many nursery rhymes and fairy tales are straight from the pit of hell.  Only the devil could have designed them to terrorize children so well.  They cut their teeth on: “When the bough breaks the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all.”  How lovely.  And why we would ever teach that a fox eats your grandmother as per Little Red Riding Hood?  Just what a child needs, don’t you think?!  Every single one of those rhymes and children’s stories need to be evaluated BIBLICALLY.  What is to be DRAWN from this story anyway?  And Mason would roll over in her grave if she saw what the MEDIA now adds to this collection of garbage.  Even ADULTS couldn’t stand this parade of horror, grotesque creatures and violence that are now marketed to our children.  We all can be agreed with Mason: jettison the reading JUNK—all of it.

Mason’s phrase “real literature” or “classical literature”, however, is in great need of tweaking.  One has only to read Kevin Swanson’s book, Apostate: The men who destroyed the Christian West, to realize that classical literature can be from the pit of hell as well. Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, for example, leaves the adulteress with none of Christ’s blood to draw from, and no law to understand her guilt by.  There is no confession, and there is no redemption.  Who wants to put that hopelessness and ambiguity down deep in a young adult’s soul?  Aristotle, Plato and Socrates were avowed atheists.  Would we allow them through our front door in person, sitting our children at the feet of their long white robes, if given the choice?  So, what is the solution here?  We must hand-pick this “great” literature.  The Apostle Paul later despised his worldly education, as did Augustine, both of whom were thoroughly educated in the “classics.”  For ideas, especially for young daughters, get Melanie’s stellar highly screened list of favorite books off our website; she (being a librarian from birth smile ) already did decades of screening homework for you in this area; her book selections are superb.

Mason posits using narration (a verbal or written summary as a response to all verbal or written content shared with the child, as opposed to fill in the blanks).  This is an EXCELLENT strategy.  The brain works hard to cling to and refashion knowledge in order to make it one’s own, via this process.  But sometimes (oftentimes), Mom and Dad aren’t around, or are preoccupied and CAN’T listen to the sheer AMOUNT of narration that eight children would require to do EACH day to process ALL information this way.  Let us get some balance here.  Fill in the blanks isn’t akin to hell.  It, too, is a way of processing information smile.  It CAN get the child educated, too!  The solution? Use narration around the dinner table at night and every chance you get, but spare yourself the rest of it through the day if you have to ALSO get the laundry done and dinner fixed!  Using it as your highest trick in the bag, doesn’t mean you HAVE to use it unmitigatingly.  Use it as a marvelous educational tool on your teacher’s belt—one of many.

Mason puts forth having children take meandering nature walks, noting discoveries in a notebook, and drawing (and sometimes collecting what they see).  Go for it!  This is good stuff!  But this nature emphasis doesn’t have to limit or define the REST of one’s academics.  It makes sense that this would be a wonderful childhood activity—especially to replace hours of media.  But so is music practice—which builds virtuosos, and drawing skill—which builds real art ability (not the development of artistic abstractions), gymnastic skill, entrepreneurial endeavor (so your 13 year old can completely run your apple orchard BY HIMSELF, selling the produce, doing his own spreadsheets, etc., and your daughter can cook any gourmet meal to serve to 12 people, at the drop of a hat, no sweat! or vice/versa).  Any open-ended REAL LIFE activity will accomplish “awe and wonder growth”, sparing a child from hours and hours of childhood aimlessness.  The strategy?  Figure out what an ADULT is and incrementally get there, starting today while the person is a young child.

Mason recommends teaching grammar/writing skills off from the child’s own written works.  Yes and no.  Sequentially teaching a child the ideal way to do his penmanship and cursive writing is not awful.  In fact, for generations it has yielded LEGIBLE handwriting.  And teaching phonics sequentially will save you tons of academic heartache later.  However, if a child still guesses at what he is reading through using comprehension clues, his reading will stay dwarfed.  Wandering around in the alphabet might not “get you there”.  Reading doesn’t HAVE to be a hit or miss proposition.  There is a KNOWN way, tired and true, to get this job done that takes the guesswork out of it for a lifetime.

On the other hand, Mason’s dictation ideas are excellent.  In fact, historically, taking down daily dictation was used by the French in their schools, to very good advantage.  To see what actually makes it onto the child’s page is a wonderful way to frequently and casually “test” him or her. Mason’s focus here is great.  We agree, wholeheartedly—but that doesn’t preclude ALSO teaching him writing skills, line upon line, to get him there.

An EASY Solution? Have your cake and eat it, too ?! At very low financial cost to you?
Use A.C.E. as your track to ride on (very inexpensively) and have your child do narrations off THAT content, some days, if you wish.  The content is there all gathered FOR YOU.  You can just vary your teaching STYLE around those 15,000 concepts that are already provided FOR you.  THEN have your child read recreationally the “great books” from your pre-screened list of excellent REAL books—i.e. all spiritually non-compromised great literature.  Reading all of the available biographies of missionaries, for example, teaches your child selflessness like nothing else.  All biography inspires; it reminds us that we each just have one life to live, and it shows us the way some truly great individuals chose to live.  There.  We just saved you hours and hours of shopping, anxiety, and oversight trauma—and your child WILL get educated.  You can take that to the bank.

Finally: also teach your child the Bible by reading sequentially through Egermeier’s Children’s Bible Story EVERY NIGHT before bed.  Do not skip this input.  The years pass quickly, and what you didn’t put in their spirit may not ever get put there.  After a few times through the Egermeier edition you can switch to Arthur Maxwell’s 10-volume set, The Bible Story; the pictures are exquisite.  If you don’t teach your child the Bible, you might as well scratch your influence in the world, no matter how well educated your child becomes in all the other areas.  It IS sadly possible to educate an intelligent murderer, you know.  We must teach our children the WHY of life, not just the HOW.  Live in and through and under the BIBLE, thoroughly.  Then and only then will you have “educated” your child.  God-speed.

Steer your young girls out of “Magazine Anxiety”

Friday, 14. November 2014 by Renee Ellison


Faith cometh by hearing, worldliness by sight. Magazines mainline discontent into most every young girl in the country.  The polished pictures carry a world of impact.  Anxiety is what it sells—levels and levels of unmitigated anxiety.  Magazines set up a comparison between what she IS and what an airbrushed photo shoot makes all other reality SEEM to be.  The “loser image” thoughts overwhelm a young girl (and often her mother, by the way, via her own magazines).

Sight is often not reality; it can be 180 degrees from reality.  It can even be a downright lie.  Photo shoots and materialism make us focus on our trappings instead of essences in in all sorts of areas (for example, needing yet another set of dishes, rather than serving a better meal; needing the right image jacket, even though very uncomfortable; etc.).  We then live for the wrong things.  “He who dies with the most toys, wins.”  Thus, we hold on to the nebulous “win” as more and more images flood the soul from the action-packed noisy media, too.  Magazines and media are some of the devil’s chief agencies of getting the human to prefer the knowledge of the tree of good and evil to what we could have been and could have had, spiritually, over the course of a lifetime, if we had stuck to the tree of life.

In grocery store check-out aisles we see magazines that read “Celebrity Falls in Love,” marries, has baby, lives in mansion—but on the other side of the rack are all the magazines that tout the break-ups, the affairs, falling out of love, bankruptcy.  Train your daughters to skip the cruise through celebrities’ lives; that goes nowhere.  Those “realities” are nightmares of living in figure 8’s, perpetually.

We traveled to Panama once and while on a public bus noticed all of the scantily dressed, spiked heeled, tightly jeaned, overly made-up teenaged girls glued to a magazine in their lap—all of them, faces riveted there, yes, up and down the bus.  They learned what to do from the magazines, studied them religiously, and then enslaved themselves to carry it out in their lives.  When a few of them hopped off the bus, a gang of boys waited for them at the bus stop—ready to eat their dessert.  They had done it many times before, and had the routine down.  Virginity was a thing of the past.  The girls had been brainwashed to live for display, and paid the price for what the display brought them.  The magazines have one goal in mind: to make our daughters into sex slaves.  Whether it be in school or at church, makes no difference.  You can’t leave a young girl—in the bloom of youth—half-dressed and expect that she will be a servant of the Lord.  Shut off the propaganda machine.  Get it out of your home and their lives.  Begin when she is young.  Never let it in.  Dump the anxiety production.  Your daughter is flirting with visual cancer.  It is no gift to her.

Keeping a child academically motivated and on task

Tuesday, 04. November 2014 by Renee Ellison


Here is a peek into a discussion that involves all home school mothers, to one degree or another.  Thousands of mamas could ask the same!

A mom asked, “What do you do to keep your kiddos motivated during school time?  My son has a hard time focusing and staying on track periodically when I’m not sitting right next to him.  I try to make sure I can dedicate some time to sitting next to him reminding him to stay focused on his work but food needs to be made, dishes need done, laundry needs folded, etc.  Do you have any tips for me?”

Dear Mother,

In the beginning of all academic endeavor, children are far too new at the task to be left alone.  You must sit right with them, one child on your right and the other on your left, in the beginning stages.  The rule of thumb is that a parent doesn’t push the child away, the child will eventually push you away when they are ready to “go solo!”  That is how you will know when it is time.  The child will initiate it, and it will occur at different times for different skills.  The child will let you know when it is time to back off.  In the meantime you must stick right with them.

Think of Olympic trainers/coaches: they are “on it,” watching every stroke, even telling their “little charge” what to think during stress and competition.  These coaches wouldn’t think of letting their protégés figure it all out on their own.  It is too costly to let anything slide.

Academics don’t go on all day, but for two hours or so every morning you must be all theirs.  No phone calls, no errands, no appointments; this is sacred time to grow a child in “wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.”  Tutors of British royalty were right there with those children for several hours every day, raising up royalty.  Our children are no less regal or important, spiritually.  They are eternal people who go on forever.  There is absolutely nothing more important than investing in your child.  Focus.  (If you want to see what the odds really are all about, read The Power of a Focused Mother from our website.)

Now, you can do many things of your own while sitting next to your child while he is focused—but the second he veers off, your first priority is to gently and lovingly re-focus him.  A large part of your job is just tapping his paper with your pencil to re-focus him, when he strays or daydreams, but you will also have to answer questions and instruct).  Often you will be able to read your own book (have your own devotions, for instance), peel potatoes, write up menus, while sitting right next to him, if he is doing well for a few minutes, but you must keep your eye peeled and your heart riveted on the main agenda.

If your kitchen is a separate room, move a card table into your kitchen, during academic time, so that your children are right near you the whole time that they are doing academics, if you have to also meal prep during that same time.

A child never learns mental discipline by himself.  He learns to discipline his mind through many, many experiences of external discipline while he is sitting right next to his mother, his father, or a grandparent.  This helps him get “the hang of it.”  Even the Savior used the “with you” principle with His 12 disciples.  He kept them with Him, so they could observe and mimic everything.  Tossing a child into a corner with a workbook page (as teachers often do in the public schools) is academic abandonment.  Children don’t have an experience base that is strong enough for them to be able to cope with academic rigor.  They don’t know how to work on their own, or how to master new material.  They have never been down this road before; you have.  A tutor is a TUTOR, and so a parent who is tutoring must stay on task for as long as it takes.  If you do, the outcomes will be tremendous.  You will never regret it.  Sadly, there are many parents who later realize what kind of a ball they dropped too early—to their sorrow.

To get the housework done, have the children work with you, after they’ve tackled their academics or in the midst of it, to accomplish all the work that is needed to make the day run smoothly.  Teach them that work always comes before pleasure.  Think: is there something left undone?  We do that first!  Develop the work ethic in your children by requiring them to work, as long as there is still work to be done.  Abraham Lincoln built fences and he schooled; there was little to no entertainment in his childhood.  Responsibility and work build a man’s character, like nothing else.  Our culture is top heavy; we’re entertaining our children to death.  There is no life apart from work for any human being, at most any age, and to give the illusion otherwise is simply that—an illusion.  Idleness is the Devil’s playground.  Mothers by the scores with large families have learned this work principle, in spades.  They couldn’t survive without this teamwork.  They start with their two years olds, requiring them to carry their own diapers to deposit in the trash can.  So trained, a child will grow to think nothing of it.  Work will become a blessed habit, and the child will feel very good about himself, for good reason smile

Saddle in.

Two cautions for grandparents who want to grandparent with holiness

Tuesday, 28. October 2014 by Renee Ellison


Whenever we are loving other people’s children, there are two temptations that Satan often seems to hurl our way.  They are very subtle temptations, almost unperceivable to our own hearts, but, in fact, are seen by God and are felt by both the child and his parents.

The first temptation is crafted to entice us to love the child for our own sake, not the child’s sake.  The second is to pirate the child’s first love away from his own parents onto ourselves, because we somehow think that we love the child just a smidgeon better, with more skill, or acumen, than the parents do, given their youth and inexperience relative to ours.  This could be viewed as engaging in a kind of quiet ongoing emotional adultery.  It will be felt by the parents, even if it is never mentioned.

Let’s look at some examples of the manifestations of both temptations for grandparents.

The temptation of loving the child for our own sake, not the child’s sake

Because grandparents have a natural built-in fan club—a captive audience—with their own grandchildren, they can be tempted to share stories about themselves that are, in fact, not uplifting for the child.  A grandparent will often tell a story, with a twinkle in his eye, about something naughty that he did in his own childhood and got away with it.  These stories could be about some way that he tricked others, or how he cleverly didn’t tell the whole truth, or gained some advantage off a poor unsuspecting other child or adult relative or teacher, or did some wild adventure against his parent’s wishes that they never knew of, or duped someone, stole something little, won without fairness, or was worldly popular or the best one in the crowd, etc.  These stories, told with a hero’s confidence, give the child a double message.  They tear down the child’s desire to build his own character in holy directions, and they undermine what godly parents are trying to inculcate in their children.  But because the grandparent knows that he does not have to carry responsibility for how the child will ultimately turn out, he now feels free to “toy” with the child’s emotions, for his own ego-gain.  By telling these types of stories the grandparent walks away with a spring in his step, having gained more of “self” when the child says, “wow” or when the child’s eyes grow big, or when the child cheers.  But, sadly, the child walks away with a sanctioned desire to toy with mincing corruption in his own case.  His eyes dart in every corner to now make his own stories, so he can be like his grandparent someday, receiving the same adulation in the telling of his ill behavior.

So, what is the way out of this temptation?  When telling stories from our own lives, we should seek to always re-craft them to drive home some holy character trait. We can reinforce this message by saying things like: “That didn’t work out so well for me”, “I learned my lesson”, “My joys were only temporary”, “I was unkind”, “I wish I could do that over again and love the other person more than I loved myself”, etc.  We can drive home the idea that all ideas and actions have consequences, even if not felt immediately—they do have eventual fall-out.  Therefore we must strive to fashion all our interchanges with the child to grow a holy child, working with the parent in that endeavor, not against them, however small the foray into such talks may be.

Here’s another case: when holding a child, be mindful of when the child prefers to get down, do we keep the child past his own wishes simply because we are bigger and gaining satisfaction from the physical touch?  We can ask ourselves: do we hold the child for his sake, or for our own?  And further, do we playfully trick the child (having physical superiority over him) for our own laughter, or do we genuinely care about the child’s trust in us to do only good to him?  Do we dote on his cuteness for our sake, allowing the child self-indulgence for our own temporary pleasure, or do we keep a keen, holy, judicious eye upon the child for his own long-term ability to self-manage, self-deny and self-sacrifice?  Do we see ourselves hovering over the child for the formation of his own holy character, as God’s faithful steward over the child, even for just an afternoon, or do we view the child solely, for the moment, as our own possession?  A child is continually being formed, by the hour, in one direction or another.  Which prod are we?

Second case of examples:
The temptation of pirating the child’s emotions for our own.

The best way to ensure against falling into this temptation is to do endless good to the child while not drawing attention to ourselves.  Give him things for his sake; shower our gifts and attentions and focus upon him in a self-forgetting manner.  Keep the focus upon the child’s interests, ambitions, applause for his accomplishments, and aiding his goals while minimizing what it is that we just did for him.  Seek to draw no thought to ourselves.  Focus the child’s praise upon the Lord, not upon ourselves.  As the old hymn writer penned so well, “And may they forget the channel, seeing only Him.”  Be a benefactor/benefactress to the child in hidden ways as often as possible, making advantageous connections for him behind the scenes or giving money or widened opportunity for him without the child or parent’s knowing, as if it came from someone else.  Constantly wean the child off from us and onto the Lord in our speech with him.

The most important cultivation of our own holiness in this regard is to build up the child’s parents in front of the child in our own speech, whenever he is with us.  Remind him of how wonderful his parents are and all that they do for him.  Teach him to thank his parents; help him write the thank you notes; help him shape the grateful verbal phrases that he will use for when he walks back in the door of his parent’s home; teach him to be grateful for little things they do; help cultivate his awareness of his parents’ fatigue; and show him how to bless his parents with obedience and how to attack his work or project that he does with us with excellence, in order to show his parents later.  If we teach him to love his parents well, the self-serving temptation we often feel for the child will scamper away with its tail between its legs.  Let our lives be brimming with love for others—and their connectedness.  Let ours be the hidden life of self-sacrifice in regard to grandchildren and their parents, and then shall our sleep be “oh, so sweet” as we share in the secrets of his Christ-likeness—knowing what the effects of those secrets feel like in our own bosoms, in our own prayer closets.

For further reading on godly grandparenting, see How to Be Very Nearly Perfect Grandparents.

Solidly and swiftly ground your children in apologetics

Sunday, 19. October 2014 by Renee Ellison


Godless worldviews of all sorts currently rage in our culture.  Our children are relentlessly bombarded and profoundly affected by the cultural assumptions and presuppositions of these worldviews.  Children in godly families desperately need biblical apologetics clarified to them in easy terms to navigate this jungle of philosophies.  Ideas matterAll ideas eventually have consequences.  Teach your children these easy and well-aimed logical arguments against the absurdities of our day and these devious lies will lose their power over them.

We now know that creation actually began with information (codes), not lifeless matter flung about.  Codes and language cannot exist without intelligent design.  We’re told in Genesis that God created by fiat (the spoken word…language…code)—which is exactly what scientific studies now verify.  The DNA molecule and the microscopic life contained in a single cell all reveal vast complex information systems.  For proof, read: Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design by Stephen C. Meyer.  It’s a 624-page science-based tome that silences evolutionists’ every attempt at rationalism.

Communism vs. capitalism:
Regardless of the theory of how superior communism is, as asserted by ivory tower professors in most every college in America, who claim that it is preferable to capitalism, look at the results of communism.  450 million individuals have been slaughtered by communist regimes during the past century.  Wherever communism has dominated, it has produced not only death, but enslavement and poverty.  People who find themselves living under such a system seek to flee it.  Why would you need to fence people in, as in the case of the Berlin Wall, if communism is such a superior system?  Superior for whom?  The Bible indicates that industry and hard work merit the rewards of profit and private property.  Fiscal rewards fuel the entrepreneurial spirit in a man.  Take fiscal incentive out of the heart of a people and you’ll have malaise overnight—i.e., the welfare state.  Every corporate endeavor taken over by any government fails as a fiscal enterprise—they all swim in debt.

A human being has 23 pairs of chromosomes.  22 are the same in both sexes; the 23rd set determines sexuality.  Nothing else on the planet that contains chromosomes switches to something else when its size changes. A small baby oak tree is still an oak tree; it wasn’t at first a tulip.  If a person asserts that the fetus switches from something else to a baby at some point, ask…
1) at what moment did it switch?  Let your adversary set the moment of life…they can pick ANY moment—once stated, then ask:
2) what was it five minutes before that?”
And then 3) what overwhelming chemical event caused that to happened ?  is it scientifically verifiable?

God is interested in infinite variety.  Consider the profusion of color in a hillside of flowers, and the profusion of language, as evidenced in the multitude of differing words contained in the Bible and in great literature.  The devil apparently prefers one color (black), and three or four cuss words that are used over and over and over again.  Profanity is not diverse—it is narrow.

The Lord defines boundaries.  Eventually the sea must stop and dry land appears; somewhere a man stops and a woman begins; biology has definition and limitations on purpose.  The devil is interested in only blurring boundaries,  wants sameness.  Unisex and its derivative philosophies are his inventions.  The Lord is interested in abundant procreation, whereas the devil pushes for singleness and isolation (i.e., have sex by yourself or in ways that produce no children).  If everyone were homosexual, the human race would die out. 

The essence of the hedonistic worldview is that pleasure and entertainment are all there is and all that are worth pursuing.  But: what happens when your child or best friend falls ill?  Where do you fit that in such a worldview?  A person’s worldview should strive to address all of life’s possible circumstances better than any other worldview.

Live for experiences.  Experiences and activities are the validating conditions of life and happiness for a person who follows this worldview.  So, what happens when a person becomes injured and can’t walk, is what they think not important?

Life is meaningless.  Live for nothing.  The perfect state is nothingness.  All things are equal.  Most of the big name nihilistic writers committed suicide.  It fits.  Might not be the best way to “live.”

God is in everything.  The problem with this worldview is that, one cannot be IN the table or the stars and be lord OVER the table or the stars at the same time.  It is a logical impossibility.  The very definition of a god is that that God is pre-eminent over something.  Eastern religions tout that you are that god—so, that must mean “you made yourself?”  Read Death of a Guru for a short treatise on the howling wasteland of eastern religious worldviews.

This is the belief that we live in cycles and are re-born over and over again; you move up or down based upon what you did in the previous life.  This is why cows and monkeys are worshiped in India: they might be someone’s mother!  Ask a person who believes this, what would an ant have to DO to come back as a lizard?  And when would the ant know that his works were sufficient?  Conversely, the holy scriptures teach that “It is appointed unto man ONCE to die, and after that the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Assert something strongly enough and you can become it.  You are your own god, and by merely thinking it, you can defy the material order.  Really?  Does an Olympic athlete also become the world’s best chess player?  Do we have even one case of it?  How hard would a dwarf have to think to become a pole vaulter?  Can a woman give birth to a donkey?  Or a donkey give birth to a butterfly?  Can a person grow three arms?  …or pilot a plane if they are a three year old?  Come on—this is embracing an absurdity.  Colleges have become the high church of humanism.

“He who dies with the most toys wins.”  Wins what?  We’ve found, to our emptiness, that unbridled shopping results only in “licking the earth.”

Look at the expression of it in the world.  Name the great inventions and discoveries that have been contributed to the betterment of all mankind out of this philosophy.  Take a jihadist or a member of Isis home to dinner.

So, what’s better as a worldview?
The book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible helps us with this answer, which is summed up beautifully in the first question in the Westminster Catechism:
Q:  What is the chief end [purpose] of man?
A:  To glorify God and enjoy him forever!

Track saints throughout history who have done this and you find they lived lives in all manner of circumstances with inexpressible joy.  Fulfillment leaves tracks in the sands of history.

Bible art

Wednesday, 08. October 2014 by Renee Ellison


There are two delightful color experiences a child can have that are derived from and reinforce the great truths of the Bible.  They are:
    1. Color celebrations around seven magnificent colored displays in the Bible (taken one per day) and
    2. Creating a Wordless Gospel Booklet.

Color celebration
There are seven notable places in the Bible where a lavish display of color is described.  To a child’s delight, he finds that God spills splendor over His truths.  To blend a child’s passion for color AND Bible themes together decks those themes with glory for remarkable lifetime “remembering.”  By DRAWING the simple outlines of these forms for your child to fill in, you DRAW wonderful attention to God!

If you are not so keen on your own drawing ability, you can order these coloring pages from us for $5 (includes postage).  If you do sketch them out, yourself, use an entire page for each drawing, making them quite large.

Children may use paints, colored pencils, markers, or crayons to fill them in.  (For more on that, see our recent blog post on preschool painting and coloring tips.)

Each piece produces a masterpiece—even when the child has very little drawing skill.  All he is really doing is filling IN color stripes or color blocks, while his brain takes pictures subconsciously of the truths contained therein. 

These are the colorful seven:
+ A rainbow
+ Joseph’s coat
+ The tabernacle drapes
+ The High Priest’s breastplate
+ The foundation stones/layers of the New Jerusalem (see Revelation 21:8-21)
+ A crown
+ A gem

Lay them in front of your child, one per day, and watch how MUCH you can discuss WHILE the child fills them in!  You’ll have a captive audience. 

Wordless Gospel Booklet
You can also make a little book of full colored pages (with no text) to express the gospel stages in a person’s life.  When finished, these are adorable and the children love to feel them, repeatedly look at them, and carry them around in their hip pockets to show their relatives and friends. 

The ideal size is made using 3X5 cards.  Attach two together with a strip of electrician’s tape or masking tape between them, leaving a 1/8th inch space (so that it folds easily) and continue to add a card until you obtain four interior surfaces (two cards side by side), and the cover and back binding (of a single card, each). 

Once your skeleton booklet is constructed, cover each full page with only one color.  The child may paint the pages, or he may glue colored construction paper to them.  But the most spectacular rendering is to use sticky-backed colored vinyl.  The use of this materials makes the book flash and sparkle with VIVID color.  (Obtain it from a local sign shop by asking for scraps of sticky-backed colored vinyl from the owner’s trash can).  You only need 5 X 6 squares of each in these colors:
+ black
+ red
+ white
+ gold
+ primary bright green (emerald color).  Use this last color for both front and back covers by applying it all in one piece by turning the little booklet face down upon the table to expose both sides of the cover.

Teach the child to memorize and say this little poem AS he turns the pages to show his friends and relatives:

My sin is black as black can be.
It will spoil heaven, said He.

So He covered it up with His own blood red.
He took my place on a cross and bled.

He made me all so clean and white—
Like a star I’ll shine, forever bright.

And go to live where streets are gold—
I’ll be with him for days untold.

And now I grow all strong and green,
Believing in Him whom I’ve never seen.

I feed on his Word to learn what’s right,
and rest in His promises day and night.

A list of the BEST Bible resources for young children

Saturday, 04. October 2014 by Renee Ellison


Recommendations of the best Bible books for very young children

Before sharing my list with you, here some general comments about reading the Bible to very young children.

First:  You want to create a love of the Bible, not just knowledge of it.  To accomplish this, in the beginning, use the best illustrated children’s Bible versions that you can get your hands on.  Avoid scary or mean-looking versions or the other extreme of fantasy-type-Hollywood illustrations.  If you are deliberating between two versions, pick the one with the best pictures.  The pictures are educating the child’s right brain and hooking his emotions.  What those pictures portray is very important.

Second:  Do not be adverse to dividing the children’s Bible into four parts, and actually taking it apart at the spine and making it into four separate lighter book sections.  You would then take those loose pages to your local printer to have them spiral bind those four littler books with a little wire binding for each book.  This makes it easier to turn the pages, because they will now lay flat as you read them (the book doesn’t continue to flop shut) and enables you or the child to hold less weight in your/their lap.  It is worth it to do this to a book that you will use every day and perhaps over and over again with a number of different children.  If you buy the book used to begin with, the total cost of the book (including the added expense of the wire binding) is not much.

Third:  Consider finding and purchasing used children’s Bibles from thrift stores, second hand book stores, or or online (the links below are just to help you start your search).  If and when you do so and the book is in your hands, try to smell older Bibles to be sure they do not have mold on them from having been in a person’s basement, for example, which makes reading them unpleasant.  Whenever you find a good children’s version, consider purchasing it so that you have plenty of Bibles to give away to children who come across your path.

Fourth:  Read the Bible to your child until he/she is able to read well by himself/herself—i.e. the child has been thoroughly trained in phonics (we offer you excellent resources for that).  Then he can begin to read easy versions and gradually work into more difficult versions over the course of his youth.  Teach him to underline verses in his Bible that strike him, personally.  Eventually he can write down one thought or one verse from his daily devotions in a little notebook that he keeps alongside his Bible.

Here, now, is a list of some different versions, with a note as to the best suggested use for each version.  The first one described below is especially useful if you only have a small amount of time with youngsters (for instance, you get to teach your pagan neighbor’s children and their parents don’t care what you teach them, or you get to spend a week with visiting unbelieving relatives’ children or grandchildren whose parents will let you read anything to them, or you have the opportunity to influence other children for a short duration), pour as much Bible into these children as you can in the time that you have spiritual influence over them.

    + The Children’s Discovery Bible: Discovering God’s Word for the First Time (authors: Charlene Hiebert and Drew Rose; Chariot Victor Publishing, 1996) Your goal is to try to familiarize the child with all of the Bible stories as speedily as possible.  To do that, you have to find the easiest and most concise version you can.  In addition, you want to rivet the children’s attention upon what you are reading.  To accomplish all of this optimally, use this version.  Each page is 2/3rds picture and 1/3rd text.  You can cover all the Bible material speedily by dividing the book into the number of days you have with the child, making sure that you keep up with reading each day’s section each day, to finish the book in good time.
    + My Bible Friends (5 volumes; author: Etta B. Degering) This is a five-volume series with extraordinarily good illustrations.  The pictures are bold, very colorful, winsome, and old-fashioned.  Children love this introduction to the Bible.  They will beg you for more stories from it.  Beginnings are so important.  You couldn’t do better to begin introducing your children to the Bible than with this series.  It lays the best foundation possible. 
    + The New Panorama Bible Study Course  (author: Alfred Thompson Eade, 1947; look for a used copy of this one) This is a pictorial representation of the entire Bible that you can walk a child (or an adult) through in about five minutes.  It gives a wonderful survey as rapidly as possible, that one never forgets.
    + The Catechism for Young Children with Cartoons (2 volumes; Vic Lockman) This is an easy way to cover the 100 basic questions about Christian doctrine that need to be a part of every child’s spiritual training.  In the Puritan times instructors and fathers trained first graders with the questions from the Westminster Catechism, in not such a winsome fashion as this. Nevertheless, children learned them and recited them.  These little books simplify the process and are a real gift to modern families with young children who want to raise them solidly in the Christian life.
    + The Picture Bible (Chariot Books) This book is excellent for an older elementary student or a junior high student, on up in age.
    + The Bible Story (10 volumes; author: Arthur S. Maxwell) I have heard of a family who read through this series again and again for a total of eight years.  This special series beautifully shapes any home’s spiritual life.  Illustrators from over 11 different denominations contributed excellent artwork for the series.  The stories are captivatingly summarized.
    + Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories (5 volumes; author: Arthur S. Maxwell) Arthur Maxwell is a master story teller.  These stories are true, and point out some character challenge and victory in a little story the child can identify with.  His stories are gripping and keep the child’s interest at high levels.  They serve to shape the child’s own character in a happy way.

For further Bible reading:
Following all of this good biblical exposure, the child is ready to read a real translation of the scriptures himself, and continue into more and more difficult versions for the remainder of his life.  For an accurate translation, in good English that is accessible to most modern readers, you may want to consider the New American Standard Version.

Preschool painting and coloring tips

Sunday, 21. September 2014 by Renee Ellison


Want less mess?  Want more results from your children’s or grandchildren’s experiences with color?  Here are a series of helpful tips for the best coloring solutions for young children.

Overview of choices for colored markers:
For little tykes…
For the little, little tykes I’d go with the Jumbo crayons put out by Crayola (8 to a box).  These are not to be mistaken for the Large ones; they are one step up from those.  They are super easy to handle, don’t break as easily as smaller crayons, last a long time, and deliver nice color.  Both the larger grip and the extra-vivid color of Jumbo crayons are far more satisfying than standard crayons.  Empty them out onto a washcloth and they won’t roll or make noise while the child uses them at church or wherever.

The only problem is they can’t be sharpened—they are too big for even the double holed pencil sharpeners.  To sharpen them, use a knife or razor blade.  Grab an old magazine, set it on a scrap of board, and razor-blade the tip into a wedge (like an axe head edge), catching the scraps on the magazine.  Forget trying to carve a point.  When the child needs a point, teach him or her to tip the crayon onto the end of the edge of the wedge and “presto” they have a point.

Store them in a mug or a jar.

When coloring, have the child first trace just inside the object’s lines fairly firmly with their crayons—making a dark colored line around the edge of the object—and then color the picture itself, lightly.  This produces a pleasing two-tone affair.  This technique also teaches the child to bend line to create shape—which is the beginning step of sketching.  Coloring the object inside, is then the child’s reward for the sketching.  Children may also trace the object while holding a coloring page up to a window first, and then color it in afterwards.  The point is to get the child sketching as young as possible.  This teaches keen observation of the real world.

For older toddlers…
If you use markers, it is managing the lids of marking pens that creates the mess.  They just require too much dexterity for the average little child.  Sooooooo—for those times when you want mess-less drawing time, or for car trips to town, when you don’t want ink all over the place—go with Crayola’s brand of watercolor pencils (or a small set of the more expensive Prisma’s colored pencils); both of these products lay down a thicker line than standard colored pencils.  Forget trying to use the watercolored pencils with water—instead, use them as is.  Normal colored pencils don’t give you a rich enough line or rich enough color.  Add pencil grips around all of these, if needed, as they are thin.

Neither crayons nor coloring pencils necessitate the parental oversight that colored marking pens require.  Less mess.  Less “oops.”  You’ll have no parental anxiety, and won’t have to watch the young artists as closely as when they’re using markers.

Coloring books:
When choosing coloring books, look for the simplest ones you can find; the ideal is one object, or person, per page.  I look for older half-used coloring books at thrift stores; I buy them inexpensively and then come home and photocopy only the best pictures from each coloring book.  I may only find five coloring book pages that I really like that make it into my master notebook.  The pictures have to be cleanly drawn and simple, and they must make me like them.  If an adult doesn’t like them, chances are a child won’t, either.  Look for and collect the best of the best.  You’ll use them through the years with all manner of children and perhaps with your own grandchildren down the road.

Re: Painting:
Purchase poster board paint—only $3 or $4 for 12 colors in a tray.  Screw the lids on tight and turn the whole tray upside down and shake paint into the lids.  Then turn the tray back uprightly and remove the lids and give only the lids to the child to paint from.  This keeps the rest of the bottles clean—no colors accidentally get mixed from an unwashed brush.  When the paint bottles are open now with no lids, I cover a piece of cardboard the size of the tray with plastic wrap—plop it on top of the tray’s bottles of paint, while the lids are off, to keep them from evaporating, and place a book on top of that for a tight seal.  When the children are done, I wash out the lids, throw away the plastic wrap, and affix the lids back onto their bottles.  I wrap a new piece of plastic wrap on the cardboard for next time and plop it all in a plastic storage box, all ready and clean for next time.

Set a wide-bottomed jar of water or cup of water on the table, and a piece of paper towel, for the child to use when cleaning his brush between colors.  A narrow-bottomed jar of water or cup of water will tip over too easily.  Make sure the bottom is at least as large as the top—if not larger.  Forget having the child attempt to paint real pictures with these paints.  They are always a disappointment and end up in the trash, because the child lacks the skill and ability to paint with that level of sophistication.  Instead, have him/her color stripes across a page, or balloons, or rainbows, or boxes; all such exercises are a color celebration.  The child enjoys the color for its own sake and the task of applying brush to paper—and that is enough.  Making a picture or a scene doesn’t matter at this age.  He will be progressively learning how to sketch through his coloring with crayons and colored pencils.

Steps for the process of teaching your child how to read

Saturday, 23. August 2014 by Renee Ellison

Image As we plow into the start of the new school year here, a number of you moms are beginning the reading process with one child or another. Feel free to forward this protocol on to other overwhelmed moms who would appreciate knowing how to launch their children into reading faster than normal.

Remember that you can teach a child to read any number of ways, but the process described here will get you there sooner.

You will need three things:
1) Our Teach Phonics Faster booklet and Phonetic Sound Visuals packet,

2) Alpha-Phonics by Samuel Blumenfeld (far better than 100 Easy Lessons and less expensive than scores of inferior phonics programs that cost an arm and a leg and that sell because of their bells and whistles), and

3) ACE's first-grade word building and math (12 paces of each).

You may skip ACE's kindergarten program entirely (it was designed for use in a classroom and is bunglesome and tedious) and not order ACE's entire first grade program at this time. Only purchase the First Grade Word Building and First Grade Math (12 pace booklets for each: 1001-1012). Finish those first and then go back and order the rest of the first grade paces.

Steps to success:
Read Teach Phonics Faster and conquer the Phonetic Sound Visuals packet first. Do not move beyond this step until the child can do them backwards and forwards and upside down. This gives you faster overall delivery on the entire "word attack" business later, because the child is not endlessly halting and tripping over this fundamental stage; they know it, cold.

Then begin Alpha-Phonics (if you want one that costs less, look for a used copy on Refrain from teaching any long vowel sounds, or any alphabet names, until after lesson 15; don't go there yet. After lesson 15 it is okay to teach the other things. And the easiest way to do that is to let ACE Word Building do that for you.

Before you begin using ACE’s Word Building paces, you (the mom) go through all 12 paces and put a post-it note (i.e. red flag) to cover any page having anything to do with a long vowel sound. After you finish using all 12 Word Building paces in this limited way (doing only the short vowel sound pages), go back through them and do all of the pages that you red-flagged. By then you will be past lesson 15 in Alpha-Phonics and the remainder of your phonics tasks will be learned easily, step by step, built on this super-strong foundation.

So, in summary you can use ACE’s Word Building paces simultaneously with lessons 1-15 of Alpha-Phonics—by eliminating all the long vowel pages that you red-flag. But after lesson 15 of Alpha-Phonics you may go back to the beginning of ACE’s Word Building paces and do all of those pages as well. Continue with both Alpha-Phonics and the Word Building paces until you finish both.

ACE's math:
Full steam ahead—no prior prep needed. It'll do a great job for you. You can begin this simultaneously with our Phonics Sound Visuals packet—teaching reading and math right away, together, from the "get-go". If your child loves learning you can even do two sessions a day. Remember that teaching in short spurts is the key to early learning; always quit before the child wants to quit. You can always do another session later in the day, if the child is still eager.

General overview:
Here is the winning theory one more time: ACE will teach your children for you, and it will do it for you more easily than any other curriculum on the planet. On top of that you can waltz into your children’s academic world by teaching from any of your own passions at any time and in any way you so choose, on ideal days. On less than ideal days, however (when you don't have the energy or time—both are in short supply for typical moms), when you might be consumed with helping a sick child or prepping for company or simply getting dinner on the table and the laundry done in an orderly manner, instead of living in chaos, you want the children plowing ahead with self-discipline (“We do this every morning, whether mama is occupied with something else or not”). ACE will educate your children beautifully, but the more important thing is that ACE will train their character in subtle moral nooks and crannies all through the years—which is, after all, the grand prize for a Christian family smile. Further, if you'll read Arthur Maxwell's 10-volume Bible Story and 5-volume Bedtime Stories in the evenings, that will totally help to propel your child over into the Heavenly Father’s forever kingdom. These choice pieces of early literature shape the home like no other.