Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Making the Years Count

Following two months of rain and clouds, the oppressive heat of summer arrived this week. Our languishing yellow squash--a summer staple in this house--may not make it, but the pumpkins are doing well. The tomatoes look terrific; the sweet banana peppers, not so much.

We went back to school full time following our exhausting but terrific Vacation Bible School week, during which Peter and I worked (me assigned to the church kitchen with my new homeschooling friend, and Peter with outdoor games).

On the hottest day this week we took a break in the air conditioning to enjoy a 2006 non-animated version of Charlotte's Web. Did I ever tell you that Fern from Charlotte's Web is a clone of my Mary? They share the same childhood wonder of all things nature-oriented; the same passionate, tender heart. The same love of comfortable, functional, tomb-boy clothes, followed by a transformation in the form of dresses on Sunday; the same love of the fanciful over the realistic.

Every day Mary goes outside deliberately making her rounds, turning over rocks and logs and whatever she can muscle, to uncover the hidden treasures: pill bugs, frogs, toads, and the occasional surprise creatures. She scours every bush and vine looking for tree frogs and praying mantises and cicadas. She walks carefully over the grass, eyes pining for grasshoppers.

When I see her from the window, running like mad, making a beeline for the front door, I know she's bursting to show me an amazing specimen from God. She and Peter, two peas in a pod, recently found 8 praying mantises on our church grounds, which are surrounded by fields and woods.

I told her she reminds me of Fern and my Mary smiled from ear to ear, knowing it was true.

Charlotte's Web, if you must know, is one of the greatest children's books ever written--not that I'm an authority or anything, but I do love children. Some of us love just our own children, and some of us love and see every child as supremely beautiful and amazing--the very best of God's heart outside of the Cross.

Mark 9:42 "If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.

Matthew 18:1-3 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.

Charlotte's Web captures all that is sacred about childhood and bottles it. At the end when Charlotte dies, Mary and I cry buckets and it's a reminder to me that childhood passes as quickly as a spider's life. After we help them into their wedding veil and cumberbund and throw the rice--which seems about a month after they're born--it's an occasion of joy mixed with the bittersweet memories of bygone years.

"This is my egg sac, my magnum opus, my great work, the finest thing I have ever made." (Charlotte quote).

If you're a Momma, let that be your mantra. God gifts us with these precious, helpless, amazing wonders called children. No, they are not ours, but they are the work of our bodies, our hearts, our very lives. Each night when we go to bed and each morning upon waking, we must realize the miracle of their presence in our lives.

We can put nothing above their needs. We can put nothing unwholesome in front of them to corrupt their tender hearts. We can pursue not our personal dreams at their expense. We cannot be tempted by the world and its finery, chasing it at the expense of our children's salvation, which requires an incredible investment of time and heart.

Don't let the upcoming September busy season woo you--the season of running here and there, having our children trained by strangers in this and that endeavor so they'll shine for whatever Jones' we're trying to keep up with. 

Let me tell you a secret: The Jones' don't love Jesus and they don't love your child, eitherOur children are to shine for Him and Him only and the soccer, piano, and football teacher can't accomplish this holy endeavor. Schedule sparingly and wisely so you can speak life into your children's hearts. 

Do we want future family gatherings to be tense and full of dysfunction, or joyful and full of life abundant, shared with children who serve Him most of all? Things can still go wrong, but the quality of our remaining years and theirs will depend greatly on the number of hours we're willing to invest in their hearts right now. 

Be wooed not by a perfect house or by Facebook and Twitter. Don't concentrate on keeping up, but on keeping company with Him--the Bread of Life. Introduce your children to Him hour by hour, day by day, each moment building a legacy that will bless generations to come.
When you live for and make decisions that count for eternity, and have in your possession a dog-eared, well-read, marked-up Bible, you're blessed with all that God intended this side of Heaven.

Don't look for blessing in your health tests, your bank account, your clothing labels, your wheels, your furnishings, or your square footage. Look for it in the relationships you've invested in--with Him, and with your loved ones and neighbors.

Matthew 22:36-40 (source here)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

What are you going to do today to speak life into your children?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Christian Children's Literature

Finding good books to give our children can be so hard. Increasingly, I'm thinking more about Christian character development than I am about whether a book is on the recommended college-prep list. As a mom and a teacher, I'm still growing.

Today, I share character-building devotionals with you, as well as a list of Christian literature books for grades 1 - 8.

Over the past year I've read aloud consistently from character development devotional books. I see clearly now that my children were missing these in the prior years; I just didn't know all that was available. My children love our daily devotional time as we learn more about following God, together. They feel encouraged, uplifted, strong in the Lord, and full of love for their neighbor as we finish yet another wholesome story.

I've learned that the best use of these books is to read one story in the morning, and another in the evening, because we always need more Christian teaching and encouragement by the end of the day. I often print out related verses to supplement the verse from the story, making our lessons even meatier. And we always close in round-robin prayer, asking God, among other prayer items, to help us live the verse.

Here are some character-building devotionals:

The Miller Family Series

A Hive of Busy Bees

Another Hive of Bees

Vivian Gunderson Books

Grace and Truth Character Classics

A Child's Book of Character Building

Loving One Another: Beginner's Stories on Being a Good Friend

Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories Vol. 1 (some of these can be scary so preread each little story)

Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories Vol. 2

Reading Scripture is very important ( both to our children, and having them read it themselves), but so is reading stories that illustrate scriptural passages in ways children can understand. It's one thing to read "a harsh answer turns away wrath", but quite another to read a beautiful story illustrating this principle. As children recall the lessons from the stories, they remember the verses more readily, too. Having verses come alive is very effective character training.

In addition to devotional materials, there are many Christian books written for children to read themselves, that also illustrate specific Scriptural passages and overarching ideas from the Bible. These treasures really are honey for your child's heart. 

I've listed some Christian titles and book series to get you started, some of which were written long ago and are excellent history lessons as well (such as Elsie Dinsmore, written in the 1800's). Some are definitely for children to read alone, while others will work either way. I inserted links so you can check prices, find different editions, and read reviews. If you have a Kindle, you can definitely save money on some of these. We recently downloaded the Sugar Creek Gang series (several books to start) for less than $10 on our Kindle.

Some digital editions lack quality (especially some free ones), so check around and read reviews.

Happy Reading!

Grades 1 - 3

Cul-De-Sac Kids (a series) (First one deals with adoption of Korean boys into a Christian family--the boys having been sent by "mistake" (two Korean girls were expected). The family keeps the boys and they play a minor part later in this book series too. Some adoptive parents may take issue with the storyline of this first book. No child is a mistake, our course, so that word is an unfortunate choice. It could be edited out if a parent reads the first one aloud. This is a well-loved series and even older children enjoy them.)

Darcy J Doyle, Daring Detective (This link is the author page on Amazon. You will have to buy used it looks like, or find in Christian library.)

The Prodigal Cat (a series)

The 3 Cousins Detective Club

Mandie Mysteries (a series - a couple reviews out of many warn the message is a works-based one. I haven't started this series so I can't comment on that, but many Christian families love it--I know that.)

The Christian Heritage Series

Grades 4 - 6

The Mars Diaries (a series)

Mice of the Herring Bone (a series)

The Elsie Dinsmore Series - 28 books (Kindle Edition free)

The Complete Mildred Keith Series (Mildred is a relative of Elsie Dinsmore's, same author)

The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew

Horsefeathers (a series)

The Drummer Boy's Battle (part of Trailblazer series)

The Sugar Creek Gang (a series)

Viking Quest Series

The Fate of the Yellow Woodbee: Nate Saint (part of Trailblazer series)

Grades 7 - 8

The Cooper Family Adventure Series

The Warrior's Challenge: David Zeisberger (part of Trailblazer series)

Bonnets and Bugles (Civil War series with Christian content)

The Daystar Voyages (science fiction series)

Sierra Jensen Series (Christy Miller's friend)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On Being Your Child's Biggest Fan

Look in those eyes and see the wonder of Him.

Homeschooling is definitely on the rise, but still a minority choice. That means people are sometimes curious, sometimes nosy about how smart or not-so-smart my kids are. And always, the things they look for are: how about those math facts; can they read chapter books yet; have they written their first novel; do they know their state capitals and who their local Representative is?

Not really, but you get the picture.

So there we were at a dinner party with people we seldom see. After dinner I get handed a mid-first-grade Dick and Jane reader. My hostess wants my daughter Beth to read it--Beth being one week older than my hostess' granddaughter.

I knew six years ago when my hostess' daughter-in-law had her baby a week after I gave birth, that the girls would be compared to each other through the years. Beth walked at nine months, while the other girl walked at fourteen months. The other girl could read very early, and Beth, not much more than three-letter words at the same time.

I'm not worried about Beth's reading. She read the Dick and Jane with some help on the sight words, but it wasn't fluent and at first I struggled to feel comfortable, with my hostess listening intently.

But you know? Beth giggled through that book and really enjoyed the experience. The awkward language seemed to intrigue her, although if I gave her Dick and Jane regularly, she'd hate it I am sure. Good primers, which we use in All About Reading, are far more engaging and the language is natural, helping new readers make inferences. I don't hate the Dick and Jane books (I own five of them), but their usefulness is narrow and I haven't taken them off my shelf in the past 12 months. The sight words are too advanced for a beginning first grader, and yet the repetitiveness makes the book too boring.

Nevertheless, I settled into our little impromptu reading session and decided to enjoy my creative, engaging, beautiful daughter, who does like to cuddle with Momma and read. She likes to draw and create and make her own books rather than read others', but that's okay with me.

To love our children well, we have to drown out a lot of noise and focus on the precious gift that is each child. Yes, it's easier when kids learn everything fast and work ahead. It's a safe place to be, parenting wise. No matter how nosy they are, people would be hard pressed to come up with anything to hold against you, the homeschooling parent.

In case you're ever in the hot seat, so to speak, about how smart your kids are, take heart and remember these important truths:

~  Believe me, you'd rather have a godly child than a smart one. If your family devotional times are longer than your reading segments with your first grader, you're on track.

~ Believe me, you'd rather have a nice child than a smart one. If your character training sessions are longer than your daily math lessons, you're on track. Do you really want a kid who graduates Harvard, yet neglects his or her family?  A whole lot of training and prayer precedes an enduring marriage, and such a marriage pleases God exceedingly.

~ Intelligence is about more than math-fact retrieval or how soon you memorize the state capitals, and in the earliest years there's a lot of variation. Children who read earlier don't necessarily become better, or even avid, readers. The other kids catch up soon enough. And not everybody needs immediate fact retrieval.

In my daily life I've used only a small fraction of all the math I've ever been taught--all the way up to a year of calculus in college, passing with C's and a B minus. In fact, I don't even use the math my 7th grader is currently learning (and that I'm relearning).

~ Your goal should be a child who can solve problems confidently--whether they be interpersonal, academic, or spiritual. Flexible thinking is ideal and it isn't taught in books.

~ Every child is uniquely gifted and if you only see her through a report card, you're missing out. Go on a discovery mission about who your child is at her core. Be amazed and be flexible.

~ Is your child a reflection of you? Yes and no. Her ability to love and express compassion in most cases probably is. Her rate of learning new information? No.

Parents can get stuck on a lot of different things on this parenting journey. There's the youth sports cartel: "You mean, your child doesn't play organized sports? Really?" There's the dancing and piano-playing cartel. Of course it goes on and on and you get reeled in.

Don't give your child empty compliments, but do be his biggest fan. Watch your children unfold like the beautiful blossoms they are, perfectly formed by a loving Heavenly Father.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Your Teen and Pornography

Even in the church, it's hard to raise a teen unstained from the world. Our desire is to present our children to the Lord holy and righteous--not lovers of the world--ready and approved for a lifetime of service. When 80% of teens in youth group have an iPhone in his or her pocket, as well as teens at school and in the after-school sports world, it's excruciatingly hard to keep a child unstained. The "world" is all around them.

Today I present some sobering porn statistics, along with a long list of verses to present to tweens and teens before sending them off with their peers.

It seems every week now my son shares something about the youth group environment I don't like. All the comments and observations are excellent material for our devotional sessions, but it makes me sad nonetheless. Just yesterday he saw a group of guys in the youth room all looking at an iPhone screen, making fun of a girl's face. It didn't appear to be an inappropriate picture, but the boys were disrespecting the girl. 

The problem with youth group isn't the Bible lessons the leaders present, which are good. It's the influence of the kids already affected by iPhone and video game distractions, some to the point of addiction. 

And then there's the staggering pornography problem, which in part can be traced to kids having unsupervised access to the Internet (not in the family room with an adult present). Filters are not fool-proof.

I want my children to benefit from the youth group Bible teaching and be a light for Christ to the other teens, rather than emulate them--all in a non-judgmental manner. It's a delicate balance that can only be achieved through a whole lot of parent-lead Bible lessons. 

We need to be proactive, early, without also burdening our children with the weight of the world. It starts with Scripture and a non-worldly home. It starts with a positive relationship with parents wherein teens trust their parents' judgement, and accept their leadership. 

Below are the porn statistics followed by relevant verses about not being stained by the world.

Here are general pornography statistics from a 2015 Covenant Eyes report:

In 2012, Tru Research conducted 2,017 online interviews with teens, ages 13-17, and parents of teens:

71% of teens have done something to hide what they do online from their parents (this includes clearing browser history, minimizing a browser when in view, deleting inappropriate videos, lying about behavior, using a phone instead of a computer, blocking parents with social media privacy settings, using private browsing, disabling parental controls, or having e-mail or social media accounts unknown to parents). 

32% of teens admit to intentionally accessing nude or pornographic content online. Of these, 43% do so on a weekly basis.

Only 12% of parents knew their teens were accessing pornography. 

In 2001, a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation discovered among all online youth ages 15-17: 

70% say they have accidentally stumbled across pornography online. 9% say this happens very often. 14% somewhat often. 47% not too often. 

According to a report commissioned by Congress, in 2004 some 70 million individuals visit pornographic Web sites each week; about 11 million of them are younger than 18. 

Data from a 2004 study of nearly 1000 adolescents in Israel showed: 15% of Internet users said they frequently or very frequently used the Internet to search for pornography. The strongest predictor of using pornography was being male. 

Adolescents who reported using porn were more likely to; (1) attend a secular school vs. a religious school; (2) have a lower commitment to family; (3) have a lower support of pro-social attitudes; and (4) be a heavy Internet user. 

In a 2007 University of Alberta study, 429 students ages 13 and 14 from 17 schools across Alberta, Canada, were surveyed about how often they accessed sexually explicit media content: 

90% of boys and 70% of girls reported accessing sexually explicit media on at least one occasion. 

35% of boys said they had viewed pornographic videos “too many times to count.” 

In 2008, YouGov conducted a survey of 1,424 British youth (14-17 years old): 

58% said they have seen pornography. 

71% of sexually active teenagers have viewed pornography. 

42% of sexually active teenagers view pornography regularly. 

More than a quarter of boys use porn at least once a week (5% of them every day). 

In 2008, more than 560 college student responded to an online survey: 

93% of boys and 62% of girls were exposed to pornography before 18. 

14% of boys and 9% of girls were exposed to pornography before 13. 

69% of boys and 23% of girls have spent at least 30 consecutive minutes viewing Internet pornography on at least one occasion. 

63% of boys have done so more than once, and 35% of boys have done so on more than 10 occasions. 

83% of boys and 57% of girls have seen group sex online. 

69% of boys and 55% of girls have seen same-sex intercourse online. 

39% of boys and 23% of girls have seen sexual bondage online. 

32% of boys and 18% of girls have seen bestiality online. 

18% of boys and 10% of girls have seen rape or sexual violence online. 

15% of boys and 9% of girls have seen child pornography. 

According to an anonymous survey published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in August 2009: 

96% of teens interviewed had Internet access, and 55.4% reported that they had visited a sexually explicit website. 

Adolescents exposed to these sites are more likely to have multiple lifetime sexual partners, more likely to have had more than one sexual partner in the last 3 months, and more likely to have used alcohol or other substances at their last sexual encounter. 

According to a Symantec study, after analyzing 3.5 million online searches done between February 2008 and July 2009, “sex” was the 4th most used term; “porn” was the 6th. 

This reflects searches done by children in households that use Norton Family. 

In 2010, 14-16-year-olds from a north London secondary school were surveyed. They found: 

Nearly a third looked at sexual images online when they were 10 years old or younger. 

81% look at porn online at home. 

75% said their parents had never discussed Internet pornography with them. 

Other sobering stats from here, excerpted below:

Teenagers with frequent exposure to sexual content on TV have a substantially greater likelihood of teenage pregnancy; and the likelihood of teen pregnancy was twice as high when the quantity of sexual content exposure within the viewing episodes was high.

Pornography viewing by teens disorients them during the developmental phase when they have to learn how to handle their sexuality and when they are most vulnerable to uncertainty about their sexual beliefs and moral values.

A significant relationship also exists among teens between frequent pornography use and feelings of loneliness, including major depression.

Adolescents exposed to high levels of pornography have lower levels of sexual self-esteem.

1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Romans 12:2  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Colossians 2:8  See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

1 John 3:13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

Romans 14:1-23  As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. ...

1 John 2:16  For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Ephesians 5:11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

John 15:18-21  “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

John 12:46  I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 Abstain from every form of evil.

2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

1 John 2:17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

2 Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Matthew 7:13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Parenting Your Christian Teen Part 4: The Science of S E X

If you're reading these teen parenting posts and wondering if this is all about helicopter parenting, consider what that term really means. Helicopter parenting is more about pushing your children into life goals or pursuits you deem worthy and acceptable--such as pressuring them into Yale when they really want to go to art school; or pressuring them into a four-year university when they'd rather start with junior college or vocational training. It's about living through your kids in an unconscious effort to boost your own ego and self-worth.

It's also about fighting their battles for them at school and work and not allowing them to fail, and thus instilling a crippling fear of failure. The hovering also denies a child the thrill of discovering their God-given strengths and gifts, and what unique direction God has for them.

For example, when your child turns 16 it's great to encourage them into the teen workforce. Nothing teaches responsibility and work ethic like a job--whether paid or volunteer. But, do you also fill out the application for them for fear they won't write neatly enough? Do you act as their personal alarm clock so they won't ever be late? When they are late, do you call the school or employer and offer excuses--even blaming yourself rather than your child? When your child is in trouble at school, do you call and blame the teacher or another student? Do you do whatever it takes to get them a stellar grade, because a failing or mediocre student doesn't make you look good? Do you discourage their artistic abilities for fear they'll be poor all their lives?

Providing moral training and scaffolding is far different than being your child's personal alarm clock. How many adults look back at their own youth and wish their parents had provided more training, more boundaries, more scaffolding? We can never get those years back, and some people suffer the consequences for decades.

We can be a good moral role model; we can pray; we can love them and provide affection so they're not desperate for it; we can train; we can provide boundaries with consequences, but they still have free will. They have to take the consequences for their poor life decisions, but that doesn't negate our responsibility to be like a Holy Spirit to them in these transitional years. The Holy Spirit is always present, and so should parents be as brain maturity catches up with the passions of youth.

God loves us, he forgives us, he upholds us with his strength, he fills our deep emotional needs, he provides mercy and grace, and he provides a way out of temptation. We are called to gift our children with the same, as their earthly parents. And because we can't fill them as deeply as God can, we direct them to the foot of the Cross, so they'll be filled forevermore.

Don't be apologetic about being an involved, present Christian parent. Let other parents around you do what they will, but stand up for God and what he asks of the Christian parent whenever you have opportunity.

And as much as you're deeply disappointed when your child messes up, let him or her know that you have a capacity for love, mercy, and grace that is beyond whatever mistake they can make. But love, mercy, and grace don't mean permissiveness; make no mistake about that.

God designed the teen so that their bodies give them one signal, but their brains and emotional maturity are not up to par yet. In fact, even up to the mid-twenties their brains are still developing discernment and emotional maturity. While passion comes before the ability to control that passion, God didn't curse us with this design. He meant for parents to be involved. He meant for us to have their moral backs. 

A doctor had this experience: a mother brings in her 14-year-old daughter for an exam after finding out that she's sexually active. The mother assigned the doctor with this task: teach her how to do what she's doing safely. The doctor found out that the girl became sexually active at 12 years old, and had had 14 partners in two years. She felt that as long as the partner was her boyfriend at the time, than it was okay.

She writes about the science of sex and the importance of explaining all of it to teens, excerpted below:

The doctor's words (full article here): For example, when we do anything exciting, a hormone called dopamine is released in our brain that makes us feel like the world is good, that we have been a success. This hormone makes us want to repeat that activity.

Dopamine is necessary for us because it is what gives kids this excitement about leaving home and taking the huge risk of going out and being independent adults, which is a necessary part of growing up. But that hormone also can be negative because if a kid, for example, enjoys speeding at 100 miles an hour down a twisted road, he gets a dopamine kick for that, too. And the dopamine makes him want to repeat it.

When any of us have sexual intercourse, we have a huge outpouring of dopamine into our brains. It is released when a married couple has sex, which makes them want to repeat the sexual act which then allows them to get pregnant and have babies. But for the unmarried kid it makes him want to repeat that sexual act again and again. It is the same hormone that is secreted with addiction to drugs and nicotine.

Emotionally attached

Another thing teens may not understand is that even with one act of intercourse they will be emotionally attached to the person they are having intercourse with, and that these attachments can last a lifetime. During sexual intercourse, in the female brain there are more receptors for oxytocin, and in the male brain there are more receptors for vasopressin. Both hormones cause the person to feel emotionally attached to the other, even with just one act of intercourse.

So those in a relationship not only have the dopamine that rewards them for the repeating of the act, but also the oxytocin and the vasopressin that makes them feel attached. Thus, we have the name of our book Hooked. You become attached, addicted, bonded to each other.

In marriage, that is a good thing because you will stay attached to each other. Children are reproduced and you bond to those children, care for them, and help them grow up and our human race survives. But if you are 14 years old and have had 14 partners, and are still attached in some way to all 14 of them, you create problems.

All of this results in actual physical changes in the brain. When these hormones flow and send their impulses, they dramatically affect connections or synapses between the neurons in the brain. Those synapses actually are strengthened when we repeat a behavior or they are weakened when we stop. So, when you repeatedly attach and unattach with multiple sexual partners you actually weaken the ability to stay connected. Studies have shown that when people have had multiple sexual partners before marriage they are more likely to divorce because they actually weaken the pathways that are necessary to attach at the deep and necessary emotional level important for marriage.

The immature brain

One of the reasons parents are so important during their children’s adolescent years is because the Prefrontal Cortex – the part of the brain where we make rational decisions and where dopamine has its greatest influence – is not fully mature until the mid-twenties. Teenagers are not brain damaged. It’s just that they are not mature, and any parent of a teenager knows exactly what we are talking about. The growth of these synapses is increased before birth and again when they are in pre-puberty. Then, between puberty and the mid-twenties, the hardwiring is molded and “set” in its mature condition.

So, these adolescents need the judgment of parents to help them through those years with decisions about the future and to consider the consequences that they cannot fully see for themselves. Otherwise these mechanisms we have described as so important for marriage become a trap—an ambush of brain molding and a habit of behavior that can hurt them in ways they cannot imagine, not just for a few months but often for a lifetime.

We find that in every bit of this science we have looked at—the neuroscience, diseases, and so forth—that human beings are designed to be with one other person sexually and monogamously for life. The use of the term “design” calls to mind the intelligent design of God, but it is so amazing that even the secular reproductive anthropologists who would disagree with much of what we’ve said here use the word.

Based on the most modern neuroscience, sex is a whole body experience. The brain is the biggest and most important sex organ of the body. All these hormones in the brain and all these synapses that influence our habits and our patterns of living were designed by God so that we can be connected to one person for a lifetime in marriage.

As parents, that is our assignment: to guide our children so they can experience the very best thing that God has for them.

See Part 1 of my teen series here,
Part 2 here
Part 3 here

Further reading:
How do I teach my children about sex so that they will stay pure until they are married?
Passport to Purity Weekend Away Kit Introduction
Kids of Helicopter Parents Are Sputtering Out.

Have you felt pressured by other parents to give your kids more space?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Parenting Your Christian Teen, Part 3

A Look Back at My Own Youth (Class of 1984, and Class of 1989)

I don't remember being boy crazy as a teen. Looking back, time spent with my best friends was more of a highlight for me, especially since I wasn't close to my sister, brother, or to my parents. My best friends and I went out for a lot of girl-talk frozen yogurts, and boys didn't necessary monopolize our conversations.

I can still smell that frozen yogurt shop aroma like it was yesterday.

Life is so very short. Next March I'll be 50 and I can still feel the bench under me and I can still see my friends' faces as we sat there, eating our favorite dessert three to four times a week, from age 16 up to college.

All my friends went to San Diego State and I went to UCSD in La Jolla, CA, about 40 minutes away. There were still yogurt stops after that and we got together for dinners all through college, but never at that same shop near our high school.

The most daring thing we did in high school was participate in Senior Ditch Day, by going to Balboa Park in downtown San Diego. We visited the museums and toured the pretty grounds that day. I can still feel the giddy joy like it was yesterday.

Yes, life is short.

Today we went to the thrift store and Mary picked out a costume-style wedding veil. She put it on and danced around looking beautiful and my tears flowed because yes, the years pass so quickly and in a snap a real veil will be on her head.

While all my friends were very nice and lacked any rebelliousness, I think one steered me away from spiritual things without either of us realizing it. She rejected all religion, thinking it nonsensical, though she went to Catholic Church with her parents as long as they required it.

We were important in each other's weddings and were fairly close until I moved here in 2005 (though less so after I became a Christian at age 31 in 1997). To this day while she remains a good person, she's agnostic or atheist and we exchange Christmas cards and letters, not having anything in common now, other than each having four children.

My Worldview and How it Developed

The whole experience reminds me that even when our children's friends aren't dangerous, in terms of drinking, using drugs, or going to wild parties, they can still negatively influence our children. I adopted some of my friend's views, even if I didn't become another person entirely. The hours we spent together allowed her to influence my worldview more strongly than my own parents, with whom I scarcely spoke about anything serious.

My parents were ignorant of the importance of instilling a worldview, so I adopted one from the world, surmising that the majority view must be the right one. Though it was a whole lot tamer than today's version, my worldview was: Moral Relativism. Go with your conscious. If it feels right to you, it probably is. When I say a lot tamer, keep in mind that I didn't know of anyone having sex in high school. 85% of kids were still kids in the early 1980's.

I didn't receive much attention from boys as a teen, possibly due to shyness and acne I couldn't hide. My first date was the summer before my senior year, at age 17 and a half. I'm not sure what my parents were thinking, but the date was with a 23-year-old college student I'd met while working in a frozen yogurt shop. He wasn't unkind to me or anything, but I regret going to prom with someone who didn't even go to my high school. I broke up with him after my freshman year of college.

Thinking back to my high-school classes, there was one goofy boy I enjoyed sitting behind in Spanish. He was funny and nice. Then there was another nice, more serious boy who sat behind me in Algebra 2 and he did ask me out senior year, but I had to say no because of the college student. I still regret that to this day. That boy would have been a far healthier choice for a nearly 18-year-old girl.

The World is Different Now

Fast forward all these years, and things are drastically different. Girls are taught early from the media, from clothing outlets, from movies and shows that it's cute to be boy crazy. In fact, girls are aggressively pursuing boys, prompting me to buy the book Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys a couple years ago.

I think it behooves every Christian parenting couple to sit down and decide what kind of young lady (or young man) they want to raise (before the teen years), and also decide what boundaries will be put in place and why. Consult your Bible as you do this, and read from sites or books that write from a Christian worldview.

While all the groundwork for your child's growing faith (and for their positive relationship with you) were hopefully laid out in their earlier years, there's still much work to be done to prepare for the pivotal adolescent years. The stakes are very high and we cannot afford to stumble into these years as parents.

Keep a running journal and prayer list as you contemplate these questions. I put in links to helpful articles throughout this list.

1.  What will be done, if anything, to guard your daughter's (or son's) purity? Will your child know she (or he) can come to you if she does mess up, and still be loved and cherished by her parents?

2.  What kind of attire will be tolerated and how will it be enforced?

3. Will there be texts and phone calls from your daughter to teen boys? Or vice versa? Starting at what age?

See Real Women Don't Text Back at Christianity Today. And Real Men Don't Text.

4. Will there be a social media presence? At what age and for what purpose?

5.  Will you know your daughter's or son's friends well? How will it be accomplished and what types of friends will be acceptable?

See How Do I Teach My Kids to Handle Peer Pressure?

6. Will your daughter be allowed on dates, and if so, at what age? Dates alone, or with groups? And who will make an acceptable chaperon?

7. Will Dad interview the dates beforehand?

8. Will you teach sexuality from a biblical perspective, and with what materials, other than the Bible?

9. How will you grow your child's heart for God in the teen years? 

10. How much participation in youth group will there be, and how will the interactions be monitored? Can you make time to get involved?

My boys just went today to help build VBS props at church, along with other youth and the women involved. The youth director talked to the kids about Man Night, which is an all-nighter coming up at church for youth boys. He wanted to show PG-13 movies that have scary content, and so he asked Paul how old he was (11 years old). "Oh, that will be a problem", said the youth director. He said he still might show Gladiator, but not the others he was thinking about, considering my son's and other incoming middle schoolers' ages.

So, apparently, the youth director has much different ideas about movies than we do. We don't do PG-13 or R, and he talked about Gladiators, which I looked up and found to be R. The Christian review said it was very gory. My kids can't do anything remotely scary or there are sleep problems.

Ask me sometime about the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and how the cheese-touch thing in that movie freaked out my girls. Beth needed me in her bed for 3 nights after that. Yes, the cheese touch.

We haven't even been able to see the Narnia films because they are also scary. Everyone has a different tolerance for scary material, and I suppose if you never show them, the tolerance doesn't build up, even for good but scary movies. The age difference between our children also presents a problem. The boys didn't like Wimpy Kid much, but it certainly didn't affect their sleep.

I don't know whether my boys will actually go to Man Night or not, (still praying) but this is an example of how we all have to decide how much influence youth pastors and workers will have on our children. They won't necessarily share our philosophies and values. Discussions may have to follow or precede some events, and some events we might have to pass on.

How do you like your church youth group so far? How are you managing these parenting years?

See Part 1 of this series here,
Part 2 here
Part 4 here

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Parenting Your Christian Teen, Part 2

In a half year my eldest daughter will turn 9 years old. Our library considers her a tween come this fall and I'm not ready.

I love my daughter passionately and I want nothing other than God's best for her. I'm old and I've lived my glory years and I'm not interested in living through her, or molding her into a miniature of myself. I want to seek the face of God as I listen to and study my beautiful daughter. She is a gift and I want to know her as the woman God had in mind when he knit her in my womb.

I want to introduce her to that woman, one day at a time.

I'm comfortable in my own skin more than ever before, and also more than ever, I see myself as enough. I'm enough for God, enough for my family, enough for my fellow man.

For many years I wasn't sure I was enough, and I'd like to spare my daughter that angst and wasted time. I left home for a college dorm at age 18 and my cup was empty. When my own daughter leaves home, I want her cup overflowing...not just with my love, but with God's love, His grace, and His purpose.

I see a beautiful, energetic, imaginative young lady with a heart for the poor and the lost. A see a young person intent on doing good and right, but with a stubborn streak known to most mothers of girls.

I already know my girls need different things from me than do my sons. So far, we're good. Both girls love to cuddle up to me at bedtime, storytime, in the church pew, and during devotional time. There's no ongoing tension and it's easy being together. Our positive mother-daughter bond is the foundation upon which we will enter the tween years together.

I don't know much about tween girls; they're beyond my expertise or wisdom, so the first thing I'm going to do differently is spend more one-on-one time with my Mary, to listen, to observe, to study her, separately from her sister, who is 24 months younger, with different needs.

I'm also looking for resources and I trust the Lord to provide.

I'm going to pray specifically for her 9th year, and then for her 10th, and then for her 11th, and so on. We're going to take this one day at a time, one year at a time, for the glory of God.

Because why do we parent, ultimately? For the glory of God. It's all for Him.

Two books you might want to check out:

Synopsis: You are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

In a book based on her run-away blog post "Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls,” which garnered more than 2 million views in two weeks, Kate Conner calls us to action in Enough. We all have teenage girls in our lives who we love, whether it’s a sister, friend, or daughter. Kate has identified 10 things these girls need to hear today from someone who loves her.

Peppered with wit and laced with grace, Kate’s list tackles relevant issues like Facebook, emotions, drama, tanning beds, modesty, and flirtation. Woven into each chapter is a powerful message of worth that transcends age, and will touch the souls of women, young and old alike: You are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

A former youth-worker, wife to a college minister, and a young mom in her twenties, Conner stands squarely in generational gap, the perfect place from which to bridge it. Conner offers herself as a translator, helping you to speak your teenager’s language and equipping you with a fresh perspective from which to engage your teenage girl—one that may enable her to truly hear your heart (and your wisdom) for the first time since puberty.

Here are the ten things she wrote in that blog post, by the way (the book expounds on each one):

1. If you choose to wear shirts that show off your boobs, you will attract boys.

2. Don’t go to the tanning bed.

3. When you talk about your friends “anonymously” on Facebook, we know exactly who you’re talking about.

4. Newsflash: the number of times you say “I hate drama” is a pretty good indicator of how much you love drama.

5. “Follow your heart” is probably the worst advice ever.

6. Never let a man make you feel weak or inferior because you are an emotional being.

7. Smoking is not cool.

8. Stop saying things like, “I don’t care what anyone thinks about me.”

9. Don’t play coy or stupid or helpless to get attention.

10. You are beautiful. You are enough.

A companion book to give to your daughter.

About the Author:

Kate Elizabeth Conner is a 27-year-old writer, speaker, and first generation southerner who spends her days learning braille, counseling teenagers via text message, and adjusting to life in middle Georgia. She is married to a college pastor and has three impossibly beautiful children who only make her crazy 97% of the time. Kate authors a self-titled blog, which received more than three million views in two years, due in part to her viral post, 10 Things I Want To Tell Teenage Girls. Kate writes about surviving parenthood, teenagers, and her twenties with her faith and sense of humor intact. She believes in music, coffee, and prose – and in all the world, nothing has taken hold of her like Christ.

Another great resource is this article by a youth minister:

So, how are you doing Momma? Do you have a tween or teen girl in the house? Do you feel ready?

Part 1 of this teen series here.
Part 3 here
Part 4 here

Monday, July 13, 2015

Parenting Your Christian Teen, Part 1

After my teary flashback, I'm preparing myself spiritually, mentally, and emotionally for a new, challenging stage of parenting.

The teen years. 

My preparation actually began a while ago, with the Lord teaching me many things along the way. Peter is a half-year away from 14 years old, and Paul is two thirds of the way toward 12. We're in the thick of the hormones, the moods, and the unfinished portraits of manhood.

It's exciting but scary. It's a privilege but also a huge responsibility. Parents of teens need to have core beliefs identified, lined up and solid, and their own personal relationship with the Lord firmly in place and growing.

Yesterday when the church youth director told students that drivers were needed for a youth event and would they please invite their parents, there was a general groan from the teens. This was just one more reminder to Peter that he's different--different being something he's partly struggling with, partly grateful for.

He likes his parents. They are not his enemies, nor are his siblings--a group he's also heard the teens groan about.

He's seeing that in today's world, teens are a separate entity from family. They are their own tribe and this phenomena is certainly more true now then ever before, due to teen involvement in social media, which further isolates them from family. They can be in the same room as their family, but still not be with family.

I explained to him that today's teens spend a lot of hours in school, and in after-school activities, and then on the weekends, in church youth activities or with peers--a schedule that doesn't leave a lot of time for family relationships. Teens begin to see parents as their adversary, rather than their loving, firm foundation.

I told the boys that because they're homeschooled, they have the blessing of more time at home and thus more time to develop close relationships with family. That's why they actually like their parents and siblings. There's true relationship here, not just a shared dwelling. Relationships take hours and hours and they're intentional, not merely a byproduct of shared space.

You can certainly have rich relationships without homeschooling, but carving that time will be more of a battle. I think Kristen from We Are That Family does a good job of fighting for family time in the midst of a public school schedule.

My son Paul responded, "Wow. I hope my wife homeschools my children. You've really raised us well."

We were all at the lunch table together and my husband and I glanced at each other, grateful for this surprising, positive comment from our tween. Parenting kids with anxiety disorders is pretty much a recipe for constant stress, and this little morsel of praise renewed our strength.

The first thing every family needs to grapple with in the teen years is: How important will peers be to your teen? 

What do you think God wants from your teen's relationships with peers? And from your teen's relationship with parents? And with siblings?

As Christian parents we have to remember that we are separate from the world. We are supposed to be set apart, with different beliefs and goals.

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

God's goals for our children's teen years are not about them developing BFF's, social media followings, and engaging in every kind of fun and adventure. Teens have no special mandate from God to "live it up", but they do get this push from the world. 

In contrast, we want to rear holy young people after God's own heart--we want them closer to God then ever before, caring about what God cares about.

How should our children think about peers during the teen years? 

Well, rather than central to their image or their identity, peers should be on the receiving end of God's love, through our teen. 

A teen should ask: How can I reflect God's love to this peer, and build him or her up in Christ?

It's about Him, not about us. This is true for the teen years, as in any stage of life. Don't look to be served, but serve. Don't look to be exalted, but humbled before Him.

And as to the opposite sex? 

I want my teen boys to see girls as Daughters of the King, not as potential dates. 

As parents we have to teach them to manage their attractions by putting them under God's rule, rather than indulging them, as society encourages teens to do. 

You may be attracted to that girl, son, but remember: she belongs to God, not to you or any other teen boy. You can't touch her, possess her, or steal anything from her (i.e. her purity). If you want to have anything to do with her at all in your teen years, let it be to build her up in Christ.

We want our teen boys to know that until they can support a wife, at least with a roof and food, they really have no business getting involved emotionally with one girl. 

Why did God give teen boys such a strong sexual drive? If anything, I think the strong attractions are meant to help boys stay goal-oriented toward being able to support a wife. 

One of the main responsibilities of a Christian parent during the teen years is to provide boundaries that assist young people in giving God control over their sexual/emotional passions. Stay involved. Stay present. Make sure young people are not alone together, and are not talking incessantly on social media, developing emotional bonds that will only lead to frustration and sin. 

The teen years are not for stepping away and giving teens "space". Teen brains are hard-wired for a lot of risky behaviors, and they also have difficulty managing moods, anxiety, and stress. They need more support than ever, not less. They need more parenting than ever, not less.

Secular society will shame you, the parent, for your involvement and your boundaries. They will crucify you, as they've done to the Duggars, who advocate courting, not dating, and who don't allow young people to be alone together. Such practices are freakish, according to our world. Unrealistic, at best.

The difference is often in the amount of time a parent is willing to devote. Yes, this may all sound good to a sane minority of people, but how do you put it in practice?

We give up what we want, same as with all the other stages of parenting. Whether it be a flourishing career, a driving interest, or anything else that exalts us over God, or drives us away from family--we have to put it on the altar. 

A Christian parent's job is to serve God through our children

That doesn't mean that raising our children is the only thing we do for God. But it is the major thing. It is our primary responsibility and the reason we were gifted with these precious children, who really belong to Him. We were given the gift of years with them. The gift of watching them grow and discover and learn to love. We are to dedicate them to God, giving them right back to Him for his glory.

Just as the Lord treats us, we are to treat our children. Just as He sacrificed for us, we are to sacrifice for them. When our main job is done we should be able to present them to the Lord, holy and blameless.

Will we mess up? Yes. Will they mess up? Yes. Will God be there to pick up the pieces, ready to use the brokenness for his glory? Yes.

But it is also true that the closer we are to God, the closer they are to God, the less messy it will be.

The fact that we can never do it perfectly doesn't mean we shouldn't do it excellently

If we keep our eyes on God and not on our problems and challenges, we will get up that mountain by turning it into a hill.

The minute we look in the mirror, or at our pile of problems, is the minute it seems too hard and we stop trying.

The number one lesson is to look up at Him.

Yesterday was a pretty horrible parenting day for a variety of reasons, but when I went to bed I rested soundly. I looked up at Him and I found my way again.

Part 2 of this series, here. Part 3 here.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Looking Back at My Babies

It's good to look back at their childhood and take inventory. Our old pictures paint a portrait of a simple but rich childhood. 

Nine years of gardens.
A thousand visits to parks. 
4000 dinners together at home.
100's of frogs and insects caught. 
Dancing in the rain every spring and summer. 
The County Fair every August. 
The apple and pumpkin orchard every October.
Raking leaves into jump piles every October and November.
Sledding and snowmen every winter.
The library once a week.

Nothing remarkable, but their lives have a predictable, secure rhythm. The natural world entertains them. Always present was togetherness, laughter, joy...through the seasons, through the years, through the rough spots.

I don't think I'd change anything. Simple is good and rich

God is faithful.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Weekly Summer School Wrap-Up 7/10

Psalm 105:1 Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!

Giving Thanks For...

~ Sometimes I talk about the isolation of having special-needs children. It's a difficult component but in so many ways, to be isolated is a gift from God. When there's no one else there, you find yourself with God more often and you're more apt to regard Him as your strength and your song. 

Psalm 118:14 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. I say and feel this many times a week. It really helps and I understand what a privilege it is to have deep needs no one else can fill.

~ Children who appreciate God's glorious creation.

~ That Scripture is alive and always healing, strengthening, renewing.

~ My daughter Beth's eye muscle surgery (one week ago) appears to have been successful! Her eyes no longer wander. I will know more after the second post-op in six weeks.

~ Some of us have wanderlust. Some of us are homebodies putting down roots. Some of us need to have our hands in the earth. Some need to be outside. Some need a book or a pen in hand. Some need to keep moving. Whatever it is we need, it is beautiful to see how God provides. He will wrap us in purpose if we seek him, no matter our driving bent.

~ For the three evangelists here: my husband, my son Peter (age 13), and my daughter Mary (age 8). The rest of us can only imagine the courage it takes to evangelize face to face. I can write about God for hours and never tire of it, but face to face evangelism? Very hard for me, and my son Paul feels the same.

Mary has been wanting to speak to a 13-year-old neighbor girl about the Lord. She prayed about it and mentioned it to me, and I suggested that instead of using specific Bible verses, she first start out telling the story of her own walk with God, and then ask the neighbor if she had any questions. Two weeks went by with no opportunity, but then the neighbor girl knocked on the door and Mary was ready. She followed her God-given instincts. I'm not sure if evangelists truly have more courage, or just more of a burden on their hearts for the lost...maybe both.

We have taken this neighbor to AWANA in the past, had her over for Bible Studies, and done a few other things to help her spiritually, but there was never a true, life-changing commitment made. She and her brother are getting older and I let them over less and less often now as their choices deteriorate. A few times a month is enough--just enough for Mary to talk to the girl about the Lord, and Peter to talk to the brother about the Lord. 

We pray for the six neighbor families we know by name, faithfully. It can be very discouraging when nothing changes--just as with the extended family members we pray for, but it's a discipline. The outcome is the Lord's and we trust that God is just.

There is a time to "dust off our feet" and move on when our message isn't received well, but the prayer can go on, never ceasing. Matthew 10:14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.

~ Beth is now interested in writing words and sentences to go with her drawings. It's fun to see her develop. She is always creating something. Always.

Her surgery and the aftermath kept us running around several days, along with church, and when we finally had a full day at home, she told me: "I used to like to go places and take my stuffed animals with me, but now that I love to create, I'd rather be home and have time." 

School News
This summer the children have been doing the following each week:
2 to 4 days of math 
2 to 3 days of writing
4 to 5 days of novel reading
1 to 2 days of science reading

Peter is enjoying reading for the first time in a year, post concussion! He just finished The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald. We found the title in Honey for a Child's Heart and have since found that the series has quite a following. Peter is now reading More Adventures of the Great Brain.

SynopsisJ. D. idolizes his older brother Tom, a.k.a. The Great Brain, a silver-tongued con artist with a genius for making a profit. No matter what the situation, The Great Brain will always find a way to turn it to his advantage--usually, his financial advantage. As boys growing up at the beginning of the 1900s, J. D. and Tom have plenty of scope for their adventures. And while J. D.'s ingenuity may not equal his conniving brother's, as a narrator he is endearingly sympathetic and wildly entertaining. First published in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this classic series has been popular ever since. Now the first three books are again available in hardcover, complete with their original illustrations. Join the amazing Great Brain and his befuddled brother as they continue to captivate generations of young readers.

The following these books enjoy is primarily because of the humor and the depiction of small town America with historical references.  A great way to spend the summer. It's amazing to see my Peter so enamored with books again!

You can get the first 3 easily, but for the others you have to dig some. Here is an Amazon review which I think reflects what we feel:

I am surprised at the lack of attention the "Great Brain" series gets. There is a great charm to small town America which is represented in each book. Further, the interplay between the "kill or be killed" attitude of Tom and the sweetness of his brother John makes for great reading. As well, young children learn the benefits and drawbacks of both attitudes. Truly a great read for kids and a great re-read for adults.

SynopsisHas Tom Jenkins, a.k.a. the Great Brain, given up his con-artist ways for a bicycle? Not for long. Soon the Great Brain is back to his old tricks, swindling and trading, even convincing the whole town there's a prehistoric monster on the loose. But when someone robs the bank, even the police are stumped. Can the Great Brain solve the crime and put the crooks behind bars?

Paul just finished The Children of Green Knowe, (the first book of a seriesalso recommended in Honey for a Child's Heart. He is interested in the sequels, though right now he's reading The Great Brain after Peter spoke so highly of it. All of these are great summer escape books.

Reviews of The Children of Green Knowe:
This is not an easy book, and therein lies its charm. L.M. Boston's classic is a sophisticated mood piece disguised as a children's ghost story. As young Toseland goes to live with his grandmother in the family's ancestral home, the reader is plunged immediately into the world of Green Knowe. Like Toseland, who actually rows up to his new home in the midst of a flood, we have a hard time finding our bearings. Toseland discovers a funny kind of grandmother awaiting him--one who speaks elliptically of the children and animals she keeps around the house: they might be memories, they might be ghosts. It's never quite clear where real life leaves off and magic begins. Toseland admires a deer: "A deer seems more magic than a horse." His grandmother is quick to respond: "Very beautiful fairy-tale magic, but a horse that thinks the same thoughts that you do is like strong magic wine, a love philtre for boys."

With this meshing of the magical and the real, Boston evokes a childlike world of wonder. She compounds the effect by combining gorgeous images and eerily evocative writing. Toseland goes out on a snowy morning: "In front of him, the world was an unbroken dazzling cloud of crystal stars, except for the moat, which looked like a strip of night that had somehow sinned and had no stars in it." The loosely plotted story is given more resonance still through liberal use of biblical imagery and Anglo-Saxon mythology. For those willing to suspend their disbelief and read carefully, the world of Green Knowe offers a wondrous escape.

"This is a book . . . to own and read aloud and come back to over and over again. It is one of the best fantasies I have ever read."--Horn Book

"An uncommon tale . . . told with a gratifying blend of the eerie, the sinister, and the familiar."--New Yorker

I think the Green Knowe and the E. Nesbit British stories are a solid alternative to Harry Potter-type fantasy books for young children--more wholesome, little evil, not dabbling in the occult.

Synopsis of The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
In this much-loved children's classic first published in 1906, the comfortable lives of three well-mannered siblings are greatly altered when, one evening, two men arrive at the house and take their father away. With the family's fortunes considerably reduced in his absence, the children and their mother are forced to live in a simple country cottage near a railway station. There the young trio — Roberta, Peter, and young Phyllis — befriend the porter and station master.

The youngsters' days are filled with adventure and excitement, including their successful attempt to avert a horrible train disaster; but the mysterious disappearance of their father continues to haunt them.

The solution to that painful puzzle and many other details and events of the children's lives come to vivid life in this perennial favorite, a story that has captivated generations of readers and, more recently, delighted television and movie audiences. In this inexpensive, unabridged edition, it will charm a whole new audience of young readers with its warmth and appeal.

My comments about magic and fantasy:
We don't choose to read the Harry Potter books because of the content. Also, although they're highly successful financially, J.K. Rowlings is in fact not a very good writer. She is an adept storyteller, but her books will never be regarded as classics. There are better books that deal with the struggle between good and evil, and better "magical" fantasy books (and no murders!). While the first three Potters are not quite as dark as the newer ones, they're still not the best literature choices. As a former teacher, a book lover myself, and as a teaching parent, I say...when you get through all the truly good pieces of highly imaginative, fantasy/escape literature there probably won't be time left for Harry Potter and that's probably a good thing, although I know not a popular view.

For a clearer Christian view of the Harry Potter craze, read :INTERVIEW
Harry Potter: Harmless Christian Novel or Doorway to the Occult? In his book, Harry Potter, Narnia, and the Lord of the Rings: What You Need to Know About Fantasy Books and Movies, author Richard Abanes discusses why the J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is vastly different from the Christian-based works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The interview is a good read. Richard Abanes seems to feel that the Harry Potter books, if read at all, are probably better introduced to older teens or young adults, not children. 

Pictures the children took over the past couple weeks:

Peter entered this newly emerged cicada photo in the library photo contest (for grades 5 - 12). Both boys entered two photos (winners announced in August). I do hope Peter wins because he's tried several years with no triumph. Children vote on the photos and they aren't always the most discriminating photography folks.

The things I put up with around here!

A sampling of Beth's pictures.

Beth's sewing of a stuffed animal (not complete yet).

I'm still baking bread Mon - Fri and at least one weekend day. I thought with the heat of summer I would use the bread maker's full cycle, rather than just the dough cycle, but I've found having the oven on for 30 minutes a day actually decreases the humidity in our home. I use the AC less as a result. Plus, it just comes out so much better from the oven.

How was your week? Bless you this weekend and thank you for visiting here.

Weekly Wrap-Up