Friday, September 25, 2009

To Teach Cursive or Not To Teach Cursive

I got this email from a mom friend asking for advice regarding her 9yo son. Here is her question and my response.

S. is struggling w/ his handwriting. It's ATROCIOUS! His printing is bad and, of course, his cursive is even worse. I feel like we spend a lot of time (too much time) on handwriting "practice." I read an article yesterday that said a lot of government schools are doing away w/ cursive because most students don't even use it beyond elementary school. I don't write in cursive (other than my signature) and am wondering if scrapping cursive (this would be our 2nd year of it) and focusing on nice legible printing would be a better use of our time, along w/ teaching him to type, which seems like something he will definitely have to use in the future.

Dear J,

Sounds like you’re on to a good plan. The one problem with not teaching cursive is that the next generation won’t be able to read cursive from prior generations. I have taught my children cursive because I use cursive in my journals and someday I want them to be able to read them. If it is not your habit to use cursive then the need is minimized, but there may be others in their lives who still use it.

If his printing is bad, then yes, first things first—teach him to print well. He will always need to be able to handle a pen or pencil to some degree and the dexterity is important for many things. I read recently that a company was having a hard time finding people capable of peeling potatoes anymore. That is sad!

My method to hit two birds with one stone is to have them copy Bible verses for daily penmanship and memory work. That helps them hide the word of God at the same time.

My boys were especially reticent to use cursive. Caleb complains every time I require him to use cursive. But I’m the boss :). It may be a gender thing; but in the end it pays off to outlast them and plug away.

Typing is a necessary skill to have too, and indeed may be more important than cursive writing in this day and age. I use a version of Typing Instructor (CD-ROM) that has the more obnoxious musical tracks removed. I think I got it from Timberdoodle years ago. Don’t know if they still sell it. Check also with Rainbow Resource. The kids like the games on it and it makes it easy on you.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Modesty = Humility Part III

My mother is a great lady. She taught me something that was very common-sense when I was a teenager, that has stuck with me all my life regarding the use of makeup. Her words were something along these lines:

"Wear just enough makeup that people will say, 'Oh, what a pretty girl!' Don't wear so much that they say, 'Oh, look at that makeup.' Makeup is intended to enhance your natural beauty, not cover it up. When you are old and wrinkled, you can use it to cover up the wrinkles. When you're young, you don't need it so much. A young girl is beautiful already!"

Wasn't that good advice? God has given young ladies a natural beauty that simply needs to show, with subtle touches here and there. Yes, the acne needs covering sometimes. But why cover up God's handiwork?

Usually when I see a young lady use a heavy hand with her makeup, I jump to the conclusion that she is insecure about her appearance and feels it necessary to improve upon it. Perhaps that is an unfair judgement; but "man looks on the outward appearance", and I am human.

Too much adornment and makeup has the appearance of evil. It sends the message that the young lady is advertising for male attention, and competing with other females for that attention.

I challenge you, young lady, to examine yourself with this question:
What is my motive? Is it
-to draw undue attention to myself?
-to compete with others?
-to attract male attention?
-to bolster my self-esteem?
OR is it
-to glorify God?
-to honor the King?
-to enhance my natural God-given gift of beauty?

I encourage you to ask an older woman who you consider to be godly, "What do you think about my appearance? Have I gone overboard?" We women need to help each other in this area. My own children have often let me know when I wore something too low-cut or short, and I appreciate their input. Likewise, my husband and I have tried diligently to coach and correct our daughters--and sons--in this regard.

We often think of modesty as referring only to the amount of flesh that is showing. A "modesty piece", according to Webster, was "A narrow lace worn by females over the bosom [read: cleavage]." But I hope I have shown that modesty is more than skin-deep; it involves the heart and character of the whole person.

Modesty means humility and discretion in appearance, in speech, and in spirit. Our tone of voice even displays a spirit we may be unconscious of. Women can have a high-pitched nasal whine that is so unpleasant, it's no wonder Solomon says a contentious woman can sound like "a constant dripping". We need to modulate our voices to be pleasant, not nagging or whiny. And we need to choose our words carefully, so as not to be frivolous or flirtatious.

The I Peter passage I previously quoted said, "...[do] not be frightened by any fear". This is directed at all women in regard to one's dress and submissive spirit. So, if you are not yet married, do not be frightened by the fear of never finding a good man to marry, or not attracting enough attention. Leave that in God's hands, and let him make you beautiful in that young man's eyes--that one man which God has intended for you. You need not play the field--God already has a wonderful future for you, if you obey His Word.

The spirit of modesty shows itself in how much we are willing to share the limelight with others and put their needs before our own. A woman's greatest asset is not her physical beauty but her heart condition. When her heart is humble, and the joy of the Lord is there, it naturally spills out unconsciously in her countenance. This is the type of beauty we should strive for.

If you've read this part first, read parts I and II below for a biblical view of modesty.

Modesty = Humility Part II

So how do we "clothe ourselves with humility", as Peter asks of young people (which we "elders" both male and female ought to model)?

On the one hand, we have freedom to dress as befitting daughters of the King. Beauty is a biblical value. I do not believe God calls me to be ugly for Jesus, or reserve my beauty only for my husband's eyes, as I have heard some plain-dressing advocates claim.

On the other hand, we are not to go overboard in bringing undue attention to ourselves. This is the essense of humility. "Let your adornment be...the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a quiet and gentle spirit". Our clothing choices should reflect this heart attitude. I Timothy 2:9-10 says,
9Likewise, I want (A)women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments,
10but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. NASB (italicized words added by translators)

Here Timothy is in agreement with Peter, that a woman's clothing reflects the inner heart attitude of modesty, discretion, and godliness.

I love Noah Webster's original 1828 dictionary. Here is his definition of modesty:

"MOD'ESTY, n. [L. modestia.] That lowly temper which accompanies a moderate estimate of one's own worth and importance. This temper when natural, springs in some measure from timidity, and in young and inexperienced persons, is allied to bashfulness and diffidence. In persons who have seen the world, and lost their natural timidity, modesty springs no less from principle than from feeling, and is manifested by retiring, unobtrusive manners, assuming less to itself than others are willing to yield, and conceding to others all due honor and respect, or even more than they expect or require.
2. Modesty, as an act or series of acts, consists in humble, unobtrusive deportment, as opposed to extreme boldness, forwardness, arrogance, presumption, audacity or impudence. Thus we say, the petitioner urged his claims with modesty; the speaker addressed the audience with modesty.
3. Moderation; decency.
4. In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy fortified by education and principle. Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor."
(emphasis mine) (taken from, which has a word search of the 1828 Webster's)

I can hardly hope to treat the topic any better than Webster has already done here ! I feel my spirit elevated and nourished by his words. Don't you?

In Part III, I will take us women further into how we can apply this to our own lives.

Modesty Equals Humility Part I

Last summer I wrote a devotional on the subject of modesty and shared it at Alexa's small birthday gathering of friends. I thought I would share it with you as well.

Modesty = Humility

1 Peter 5:5-6 says, "Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves therefore, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble'. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you." (emphasis mine). The phrase "clothe yourselves with humility" jumped out at me as I read this recently. I believe this verse can be taken literally as well as figuratively.

Some Christians may say, "Well, God cares more about our heart than He does about what we wear." This may be one way of interpreting the scripture, "Man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart" (I Sam 16:8). However, we must be careful to interpret Scripture with Scripture if we are to have a balanced view on any topic, including modesty. And there are several scriptures that indicate God does care about our clothing, for the way we dress and adorn ourselves speaks volumes about the condition of our hearts. And since man does look on the outward appearance, we should take heed all the more not to be a stumbling block to others with our garb and adornment. This is particularly true for women and young ladies. We should dress with regard to treating each man and boy as a "younger brother" who is vulnerable to stumbling.

Here is the balanced view from Scripture. On the one hand, we have freedom to adorn ourselves as befitting daughters of the King. Psalm 45 describes a wedding celebration (probably Solomon's).Verse 8 speaks of garments fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia, of the King desiring the bride's beauty.
Verse 13-15 says,
"The King's daughter is all glorious within;
Her clothing is interwoven with gold.
She will be led to the King in embroidered work,
The virgins, her companions who follow her,
Will be brought to Thee.
They will be led forth with gladness and rejoicing,
They will enter into the King's palace."

Notice the sumptuousness of the occasion: the embroidered clothing interwoven with gold, the perfume, etc. This prefigures the return of Christ the Bridegroom, where we who are clothed in robes of white will meet Him at the final wedding feast. How glorious it will be!

In the meantime, there is much to celebrate, and much joy alotted us in dressing to honor special occasions in our lives.

We should also dress appropriately for our station as daughters of the King of Kings. We can find other passages describing the adornment of godly young ladies such as Rebekah and Esther. There is no hint of condemnation for their adornment.

In counterpoint to that, we have I Peter 3 to wrestle with. My NASB reads thus:
"1(A)In the same way, you wives, (B)be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be (C)won without a word by the behavior of their wives,
2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
3(D)Your adornment must not be merely external--braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses;
4but let it be (E)the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.
5For in this way in former times the holy women also, (F)who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands;
6just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, (G)calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right (H)without being frightened by any fear." (Italicized words were added by the translators.)

Because the word merely is not present in other translations, I assume some Christians have read verse three to mean it prohibits the wearing of gold, braiding of hair, etc.--in other words, plain dressing is required. This is the tradition of such groups as the Amish, Mennonites, etc. While I have the utmost respect for these groups for their conscientious attempt to obey scripture with their plain, simple living, I believe they have elevated this passage over other passages, such as the psalm passage above. (As a side note, notice they do NOT take "the wearing of dresses" as a prohibition :).)

There is beautiful balance to be found in scripture. It does not contradict itself; it only limits and defines the meaning by its various passages on any given topic. It is a truly remarkable document, sufficient for every good work. It is, after all, God's word!

So how do we apply this to our every day choices regarding dress, apparel, and adornment? See Part II.

Beloved: thoughts on Psalm 108

"My heart is stedfast, O God...Be exalted O God, above the heavens...that Thy beloved may be delivered, Save with Thy right hand, and answer me! -Ps 108 NASB

BELOVED. What a beautiful word! "I am my beloved's, and He is mine,
His banner over me is love."
I love the thought of being beloved. Beloved by God, beloved by my husband. To be the undeserving recipient of such desire, such care, such attention--that is the source of my self-worth and confidence.

When I am grounded in this belovedness, then I have the strength and resources to let that love flow onto others.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Music in the Homeschool Curriculum

Since learning that I have a background in music education, a homeschool mom friend of mine asked me recently to help her figure out what to do with music. I felt a pang of guilt as I have not been very consistent about incorporating music into our homeschool at home, and used my poor health as an excuse. Yes, that's right, I have a master's degree in music, but I have taught my children music only sporadically. I am of the opinion that the three R's (reading, writing, arithmetic) come first, followed by history/geography, then science and fine arts, so when I have been short on energy it was enough just to get the three R's and history covered. The way around that has been to hire music teachers to teach the children instruments even though I was capable (but too sick) of teaching them myself. Sometimes I would ask God, "Why? What good is my music degree if I can't use it with my children?" but He has his purposes, and I have learned some measure of contentment.

This year, things are different already. We are not farming out our music instruction. With the Classical Conversations Curriculum Guide (only $25 if you buy an old edition from their website) and a tin whistle (also purchased from their website) I am teaching Caleb to play this simple wind instrument, made for the key of D, on a variety of songs, while Alexa plays along on her flute (she is already quite accomplished from past lessons and band involvement). We spend no more than 15 minutes a day on it, and will probably only need about 6 weeks before he masters the instrument. Then we will move on to other things, like reading aloud The Spiritual Lives of Great Composers by David Cavanaugh. I highly recommend this book. Even with my music degrees--one from a "Christian" university--I am almost completely ignorant of the degree to which the classical composers professed faith in Christ. My Christian college followed the same secularized curricula that has been dished out for a century by nonChristian colleges, so this book has been an eye-opener and a blessing. There is also a sequel, I believe, which I have not yet read.
I have also borrowed The Gift of Music from a friend and recommend it too. So just add to these some classical CDs, play them, name the tunes, and start reading to your kids. Don't be intimidated; you can do it without a music degree!