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Archives - November 2014

Book Review: Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung

November 24, 2014
By Tracey Carrin

Crazy Busy

A Fresh Perspective


 

I was too busy to read this book.  You know how it is — soccer practice, dance class, piano lessons, work, housework, just too busy.  I always feel behind, like I’m trying to catch up.  So I definitely did not have time to read this book. I told some other people to read it.  I thought about reading it.  But I was just too busy.

Can you relate?  Rush, rush, rush — always the next thing.  Life seems to be on fast forward.  So what made me actually stop to read it?  A podcast. I serendipitously heard Kevin DeYoung speaking on one of my favorite podcasts.  As I heard him talk, I was magnetized.  I just had to read it.

Since I know you are as busy as I am, I am going to give you the best things I gleaned from this book, Crazy Busy, by Kevin DeYoung.

Sit at the feet of Jesus.  Simple, right?  You already knew that, right?  Yes, but we forget.  We too easily become Marthas — worried and bothered about so many things.  We cannot do everything, and we cannot discern what to do and what to leave undone without seeking His wisdom.

We are finite.  We cannot do it all, and we weren’t designed to do it all.  God has a specific place for each of us and a specific sphere of influence.

Sleep and rest show us that we are dependent creatures.  Our God needs no sleep, but we must plan to have breaks.

This little volume was a refreshing breeze to my soul, pointing me to worship our great God who is boundless, limitless, infinite, and wise.  The ideas DeYoung shared caused me to take a deep breath and think about why I am so busy, and then to sit at Jesus’ feet and ask Him for wisdom and help.  Highly recommended!

 

If Jesus had to be deliberate about his priorities, so will we.  We will have to work hard to rest.  We will have to be dedicated to being disciplined.  We will have to make it our mission to stay on mission.”

—Kevin DeYoung

 

Why we study The Odyssey (and not contemporary fiction)

November 20, 2014
By Faith Acker
  • Why we study The Odyssey (and not contemporary teen fiction)

 

 

As I write this post, my ninth-grade English students are reading about the homecoming of weary Odysseus, whose hostility towards the son of Poseidon (the Greek god of the sea) has caused numerous complications and frustrations to delay our unhappy hero.

 

Our journey through the book is not without its own delays and frustrations.

 

“Why is Odysseus so mean to the Cyclops?” one student asked.

“I didn’t understand anything that happened on page 326,” another student journaled.

“Why does he have to sneak around in disguise?” my students demanded on several differing occasions.

 

 

Reading The Odyssey is, for many students, an odyssey in its own right. We read it for the better part of a school quarter, and it is one of the most detailed and dense books on the Cornerstone curriculum. Some students struggle with the line breaks and the elaborate poetical language; others are frustrated by the lack of proper nouns. A large percentage of them would prefer to read Divergent and The Hunger Games, with whose main characters they identify more strongly.

 

However, The Odyssey has one significant benefit: it provides a safe arena in which students can evaluate and critique the actions of other human beings.

 

In many first-person present-tense teen novels of today, the stream-of-consciousness monologues of the protagonist-narrators leave readers little room for literary interpretation. Towards the end of The Hunger Games, protagonist and narrator Katniss says,

 

“I can’t get caught out here. . . . Not only will I face death, it’s sure to be a long and painful one. . . . The thought of [my sister] having to watch . . . keeps me doggedly inching my way towards the hideout” (223).

 

  • Collins’ readers can have no doubts about Katniss’ motivations; she wants to protect her sister from any harm or suffering. Her explanation isn’t wrong, but it means that discussions of the book focus predominantly on facts and personal reactions. Readers are not encouraged to discuss and analyze Katniss’ motivations, because the author has already revealed the answers.

 

In contrast, consider The Odyssey:

 

“They sent their ravishing voices out across the air

and the heart inside me throbbed to listen longer.

I signaled the crew with frowns to set me free--

they flung themselves at the oars and rowed on harder . . .

But once we’d left the Sirens fading in our wake,

once we could hear the song no more, their urgent call--

my steadfast crew was quick to remove the wax I’d used

to seal their ears and loosed the bonds that lashed me” (277).

 

Like Katniss, Odysseus is in great peril and great agony. Although his statements, like those of Katniss, are in the first person, my students were quick to query:

 

“Why does he want to listen?”

“Why do only the sailors seal their ears?”

“Why is he so desperate to get free?”

 

Both The Odyssey and The Hunger Games can be used to answer important and meaningful questions, and many of the same questions can be applied to both. For instance:

 

How does this book present a hero, or a savior?

What is the source of the protagonist’s strength?

What does this book teach about friendship, loyalty, or truth?

 

When the discussions have faded, however, uncertainty about The Odyssey remains. We could discuss and debate The Odyssey for an entire year, or read it once every year, and at the end of that year, there would be more to discover and debate. For a few, the same could be true of the newest teen novel; for thousands, this has already been true of The Odyssey.

 

Citations:

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic, 2009 (2008).

Homer. The Odyssey. transl. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin, 1997 (1996).

Why "Waste Time" in School

November 20, 2014
By Dane Bundy

Why “Waste Time” in School

 

Two years ago I walked outside and stumbled upon a striking image. There, sprawled on the ground (no doubt a fire hazard), were a number of my students eagerly “wasting time” in conversation.

As I approached them, I noticed they were exchanging words with unusual vibrancy. They had books in their hands (philosophical books) by authors like Anselm and Lewis. They were dialoguing about the Trinity!

What have I done right, I thought. How can I patent it?

But, that’s the catch, I hadn’t really done anything. This “waste of time” was all their doing!

I only provided the opportunity. We cut “productive” time out of their busy school day to make room for “unproductive” time, or leisure. Or as James V. Schall puts it: “wasting time.”

As odd as it sounds, history, Scripture, and experience offer compelling reasons for why we should “waste time” in school.

 

Leisure in History

 

Leisure and learning have a rich history as close friends. The word “school” actually comes from the Greek word schole, which means “leisure.” Josef Pieper argues that the great Western thinkers saw leisure as the basis for culture.

The Greek and Roman thinkers drew stark distinctions between work and leisure. A slave who had to work could not afford time for leisure. The liberal arts (or the free arts) provided individuals with the tools and essential knowledge to live a life of learning and deep contemplation.

We can define leisure as time spent on things that are ends to themselves, such as friendship, conversation, and contemplation.

   

Leisure in Scripture

 

God has a word to say on this topic as well. God instituted the Sabbath for man on the seventh day after his own rest and leisure. As outlined for the Jews, the Sabbath was a day specifically marked for time away from work or productivity. It was “wasted time” in rest: the rejuvenation of the mind and body.  It was “wasted time” in leisure: prayer, contemplation, celebration, and worship.

To the modern Christian “wasted time” with God may take the form of Bible reading, meditation, Christian fellowship, and corporate worship. “Be still and know that I am God,” writes the Psalmist. What a much needed exhortation to stop, be silent, and consider the deep things of God!

 

Leisure and Experience

 

In leisure, a strange phenomenon takes place: learning can feel more like joy than work.  Leisure can spark a desire to learn for its own sake.

But, ironically, places of learning are often more characterized by work than leisure and by busyness than contemplation. Administrators, parents, teachers, and students all are busy.

Please don’t hear me say busyness or hard work is bad (God ordained the Jews six days of it). I’m also not saying leisure is easy. Contemplation demands sustained focus.

But what if our students are too busy and too overworked to stop and focus and contemplate? Would you not agree something is awry?

 

Leisure at Cornerstone

 

At Cornerstone, we have sought a number of ways to match leisure once again with learning.

Within the classroom, we discuss and debate ideas, and the students journal on a regular basis. I even designated a corner of my room (furnished with our theatre props) for leisure called Socrates’ Circle. We have it all planned out. When my students think an idea deserves debate or discussion, they shoot up their hands to give the signal. If the timing is right, I return the signal, we cry out “Socrates!”, and rush to the corner!

Parallel to the classroom, we’ve established the Contemplatorium. As the name implies, it is extended time for students and teachers to read, contemplate, and discuss. The students are assigned mentors (CA teachers) who match them with texts to interest and challenge them. There are no grades or exams for this time, and no competition or demand to produce anything. Most of the time it’s marked by silence, unless broken with the exchange of ideas.

 

As I write this post, my students are sprawled across the room. One is lying on the carpet in Socrates’ Circle and another sitting in the rocking chair. If all goes well, much time will be “wasted.”

 

One Man's Trash is a Kindergartener's Treasure: 5 ways to use trash as a tool for learning

November 13, 2014
By Megan Bundy

One Man’s Trash is a Kindergartner’s Treasure:

5 ways to use trash as a tool for learning

 

As I watched the kids pack up to go home, I could tell by their squirmy bodies and glazed-over eyes that it had been a long day. I inspected the tidy classroom and gave the okay to play until it was time to go home. I was certain they’d jump straight to the toys and bask in their freedom. However, to my surprise they chose to pull out empty food containers and recycled Wal-Mart bags and recreate the math lesson from earlier that day. Who would have thought one man’s trash could be a kindergartener’s treasure! Making learning fun for your kindergartener does not have to bust the bank account; here are five creative ways to use your trash as a tool for learning.  

1. Busting the Bubble Wrap

Hand over the bubble wrap and let your child destroy it! The key is using fingertips to pop the bubbles. This activity will build your child’s fine motor skills, giving them a stronger grip on their pencil and control as they write.  

 

2. No Way! A Use for Junk Mail

Finally there is a use for junk mail! Let your kindergartener tear it up, cut it into pieces, or role play as a mail carrier and then cut it into pieces.  Using scissors on thick packets and envelopes will make your child’s fingers stronger and cutting on the lines in school easier. Don’t forget to remind your kiddo that demolishing things with scissors should only be done with an adult’s permission. It would not be fun to see their next art project cut into pieces.

3. Pretend Grocery Store

Old boxes of cereal, pasta, and Little Debbie snack make a great pretend grocery stores. This activity encourages creative play and will enrich your child on several different levels. Using coins is a great way to review counting, addition, and coin values. Handling coins with finger tips will also develop fine motor skills.  A grocery store is a great platform to teach manners. It is important to teach your child how to play and act out the customer and cashier first and then watch them run with it!

 

4. Old Egg Carton

Use an old egg carton to sort or count small objects. Label the bottom 1-12 and have your kindergartener fill it with dry beans according to the number. When you’re finishe,d cut it up and make a caterpillar train or boat!

5. Creative Play

Create an art space in your home. Kids love making things out of “junk.”  Time and again I’ve watched my kindergarteners create crowns, walkie-talkies, and space ships out of scrap paper and old boxes. On a small table, set up scissors, glue, crayons, and a basket designated for scraps, containers, and junk mail. You will be amazed at what your child can come up with! Using trash for creative play teaches your kindergartener to be resourceful and think outside of the box, or should I say inside of the box!

 

Redeeming the Morning Commute

November 11, 2014
By Edie Wadsworth

 

It started before we ever got in the car.  She couldn't find her jacket or her permission slip and her socks were all dirty.  I never made it to the grocery store and the breakfast choices were slim to none.  It was Monday and we were running late, to make matters worse.  I was irritated with her shortcomings and she was irritated with mine.  So there we sat silent, each avoiding eye contact with the other, each wishing the ride to school were shorter.  I wheeled through the fog into the convenience store so she could get a nice healthy breakfast like pop-tarts or powdered donuts and she balked, saying she didn't have time to stop.  Great.  Now, I would have to feel guilty that she didn't eat.  I made an angry u-turn and an equally angry sigh.  She began to tear up.

When we got close to the school, I gave her my phone like every other day and asked her to read the Psalm for the day.  She read it in a broken voice.

"Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy! 

In your faithfulness, answer me.

Enter not into judgement with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.

For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground;  he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.

Therefore, my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all you have done;  

I ponder the work of your hands;  I stretch out my hands to you;

my soul thirsts for you like parched land.  

Answer me quickly, O lord, for my spirit fails.

Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down in the pit. 

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in You I trust."   (Psalm 143:1-8)

And then we said the Lord's prayer in unison like we always do,

Our Father, who art in heaven

Hallowed be Thy name,

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done

On earth as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory

Forever and ever, Amen.

And with the very words of God himself we are restored to fellowship with each other.  She wipes her eyes and I hug her tight before she gets out of the car.  

So simple, so powerful.  

Just a few life-giving words and the prayer that Jesus gave us to pray.  His Word creating faith where there is doubt, love where there is strife, forgiveness where there is sin—the morning commute and all its stress redeemed by better words than we would ever think to say.  

And tomorrow, we'll do it all over again.

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