The Oldest Trick in the Book, by

In large states public education will always be mediocre, for the same reason that in large kitchens the cooking is usually bad.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German-Swiss philosopher and writer.

Apparently cafeteria food hasn’t improved over time. Education seems to be suffering the same fate – look at the history of education in our own country.

In pioneer days a school section (one square mile) was required by law.  An area six sections by six sections would define a township. Within this area, one section was designated as the school section. As the entire parcel would not be necessary for the school and its grounds, the balance of it was to be sold with the monies to go into the construction and upkeep of the school.  In those days a single teacher would typically have students in the first through eighth grades, and she taught them all. The number of students varied from six to forty or more. The youngest children sat in the front, while the oldest students sat in the back. The teacher usually taught reading, writing, arithmetic, history, and geography. Students memorized and recited their lessons. Sound like classical education? I think so too. Students educated in this way did not often go on to college, yet most ran businesses, farms, and households quite well.

“No, no,” Mr. Darling always said, “I am responsible for it all. I, George Darling, did it. MEA CULPA, MEA CULPA.”
He had had a classical education.”
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

We still fund public education in this country. We as taxpayers spend a lot of money, yet our nation’s children are behind most of the world academically. There are hundreds of studies trying to explain why and how to improve our situation. Some say we need more STEM; others say there is too much time in the classroom and the kids need more play; still others say the exact opposite. Let me proffer this idea:  that a new and improved classical method along with an age-appropriate workload is the answer.  While not every child will or should attend college, all our children need to be educated to become good, moral, responsible citizens.

Books are the bedrock of a classical education.  The oldest trick in the book is to actually forget the books.  As the popularity of homeschooling has increased more curriculum has become available. A good education does not require a kit or a set of workbooks. Classical education requires a teacher, a willing student, and time. You need only visit a homeschool convention for minutes before noticing the Thomas Jefferson was homeschooled t-shirts. The greatest minds of the ages were educated by reading books, learning to debate ideas, and discussing those ideas with teachers. None of the ancient Greeks ever had “box day.”

In our consumer-driven society it is easy to fall into a “needing the next new thing” mindset.  It all comes down to trusting ourselves. Do we know the nature of our children? Do we understand the nature of education? Are we willing to put in the time and effort to make it happen? A classical education is worth working toward, but it is work. Will a classical education benefit all of us? I don’t know anyone who would argue that a country of children educated to think logically and to know the history they do not wish to repeat would be a huge benefit to all of us.

We need more than just a syllabus.  Knowing the how’s and why’s of an education that most of us did not receive ourselves leaves us constantly running to catch up.  The idea of an education that only supplies a student with skills to get ahead in the world is not  an adequate preparation for even entry-level employment. An education rooted in the classics gives each student their own arsenal of information and experiences to draw from. This is where the non-classically educated teacher must accept the responsibility of continually self-educating.

If we accept the premise that classical education is the best that has been thought and said, then why wouldn’t that type of education be for everyone?

Photo by Thomas R Machnitzki

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Jen N. Jen has spent her time homeschooling her five children since 2001. She has read over 5,000 books aloud. A fan of all things geeky, she calls her children her horcruxes — each one has a talent for something she might have pursued herself. Jen and her husband have created a family of quirky, creative people that they are thrilled to launch out into the world. With the three oldest graduated, Jen now has time on her hands and has started a blog: www.recreationalscholar.wordpress.com

Classical Homeschooling: Not Just for Christians, by Lynne

If you Google “classical homeschooling”, you might think that classical homeschooling is a method of education exclusively for Christians, since many of the publishers of classical homeschooling materials are Christian companies that publish materials with a Christian focus.

If you Google “classical homeschooling statistics,” you won’t find much information to disabuse you of the notion that classical homeschooling is definitely a Christian thing.

Why is this?

Well, there are many reasons. Christianity has played an enormous role in shaping the history of Western Civilization. In the middle ages, the Church charged itself with preserving the great works of the past and carrying that knowledge into the future. So, for centuries, there has been a Christian tradition of preserving classical education. Although there were certainly secular roots to the modern homeschooling movement, a new group also emerged. A large number of Christian families decided to homeschool for religious reasons. The classical tradition was there waiting for them.

Since there aren’t many detailed statistics on homeschooling in general, I wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t find anything reliable about the number of non-Christian classical homeschoolers. Therefore, this article is anecdotal in nature, based on what I have experienced in my homeschooling circles, both in real life and online. I’m here to tell you that classical homeschooling is for everyone, regardless of religion.

My little family is a prime example. Our children receive religious instruction in my husband’s family’s non-Christian religious heritage (which is different from mine), but we are all basically agnostic and do not homeschool for religious reasons. Our homeschool has a secular focus.

I was fortunate to attend a small liberal arts college. At the time, I didn’t understand just how lucky I was. But as I read and researched on various homeschooling methods, I have come to realize just how well my education has served me in life and how much I want my children to have that advantage. I recently listened to The Modern Scholar: How to Think: The Liberal Arts and Their Enduring Value.  It renewed my conviction that I have chosen a sound path for my family.

See, a classical education is all about learning how to learn. It’s about learning to be a productive citizen. It’s about learning how to think for yourself and to work through problems using logic and reason. It’s about learning the steps to becoming an effective communicator. This is what the Greeks taught to their children. This is what the Romans thought their patrician class needed to know in order to run the empire. This is what my liberal arts college thought we needed to be well rounded individuals that could be successful in any direction life might take us.

Many of the Christian classical education enthusiasts like to say that the purpose of classical education is to discover what is good, true, and beautiful. That sounds good to me, too. Subjective, maybe, but nice.

I have met many, many families who feel as I do. They can see the benefits of training your brain with classical methodologies, regardless of materials. You need to learn how language works, how the parts of speech come together to form sentences. It doesn’t matter if you use the Bible to study language or if you use translations of Greek myths. The poetry of language is evident in both. You need to understand how history has affected literature, politics, art, and science. It’s all interconnected. You need to learn the mathematical principles that help us control and use our surroundings. To transmit human knowledge to future generations, you need to know how to put the information down in a logical way. To convince someone to agree with your ideas, you need to learn how to present your opinions in a clear and persuasive way. None of this necessarily has anything to do with religion, although it would definitely help to proselytize if you’ve learned the art of rhetoric.

As a secular homeschooler, I do wish there were more secular materials available. However, I have used materials from Christian publishers because they were excellent materials. And quite frankly, you can give yourself or your children a solid classical education just by utilizing what’s available at the library.

I’m not opposed to religion. In fact, I think learning religious stories, especially Christian stories, will help my children to understand cultural references in the literature and art of the Western World in which we live. Learning religious tenets of other faiths will help them understand where their fellow citizens come down on various issues regarding morality and politics.

While I don’t have numbers to give you, I do have personal experience, and I know many families of all creeds – and no creeds – who have chosen classical homeschooling. So, if you haven’t considered classical education for your homeschool because you think there is a religious bias to it, I invite you to reconsider and read some information about classical education with an open mind. For more information on what exactly is classical education, check out our Classical Ed. Glossary. For further discussion, join our Facebook group – everyone is welcome.

photo by Ian Barnard from freeimages.com

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Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for the past 4.5 years, after their brief stint in the local public school.  Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism who thrives in a home education environment.  Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio.  Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature.  She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables.  You can visit her soon-to-be revitalized blog at www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.

The Next Child in the Woods, by Angela Berkeley

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It’s common these days to lament the lack of direct experience with nature that children are growing up with. Other authors have elaborately made the case for why this is important. But how, just how exactly, can someone who has perhaps also been nature-deprived begin to introduce their children to wild nature? Actually, it’s easier than you might think and richer than you might imagine. Here is a great way to start.

1. Look for local natural history museums and parks that sponsor nature walks. Is that cheating? No, it’s a stepping stone. Go on one of those walks–try to pick one that is beautiful. Hear the wind in the trees and the water in the streams. Watch the birds. Learn something you didn’t know before about one plant and one animal.

2. Go back to that site a week later with a picnic lunch. Walk around by yourselves. Look for the plant and the animal you learned about last time. Enjoy your new special spot.

3. Repeat a week later.

4. Repeat a week later. Notice how you love the familiar sounds and smells. Is there anything new this time? Bring along a magnifying glass or a pair of binoculars so you can observe things more closely.

5. Repeat a week later. Notice the seasonal changes that are starting to happen by now.

6. Get curious about another animal or plant. Go on the same nature walk again. This time ask questions. What is that plant? What has it been used for? Are medicinal or edible plants in view?

7. Go back to the nature center and look up these plants in the field guides. Then try to find them on your next weekly visit.

8. Invest in simple rain gear–a tarp to sit on and one to hang from low tree branches for shelter. Have a picnic outside the next time it rains and notice how exciting that can be! Be sure to dress warmly in layers.

9. Time to branch out! Return to the nature center and ask about natural hazards in the area. Learn how to avoid local snakes or poisonous plants or predators. Then range more on your next visit to your special spot–hike about twice as far as the nature walk. Enjoy the solitude. Notice how much more birdsong there is once you get beyond the populated trails.

You are off to a great start in your own area! Don’t stop there – keep learning, keep exploring, keep returning, keep observing.  You will be so glad you did, and your child will be richer for it.

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Angela Berkeley–Although Angela Berkeley wanted to homeschool her daughter, she was unable to find others to partner with in this endeavor and felt that it was unfair to homeschool an only child; so she enrolled her in kindergarten. However, because the family was facing a mid-semester cross-country move during their daughter’s first grade year, she pulled her out to homeschool until they settled into their new home. This went so well, and her daughter liked it so much, that they ended up homeschooling through 8th grade.  Using an eclectic classical style, this was an extremely successful process, producing a confident, personable, and academically well-prepared entrant into a local high school.

Easy Earth Day Activities by Jen N.

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According to Earth Day Network, more than a billion people are involved in Earth Day activities, making it “the largest secular civic event in the world.” First off, I thought Earth Day was a recent thing. When I researched further, I found it began in 1970.

In 1970 there was no EPA, no clean air act, no clean water act, really nothing in place to protect our environment. Fast forward to 2015. Although we still have environmental issues both new and old, there has been progress. After being asked how we celebrate Earth Day in our homeschool I started thinking that maybe we should spend at least one day a year thinking about our planet, our home. In the spirit of the day, we brainstormed a few projects to complete this weekend.

Bird seed on toilet paper rolls – 30 minutes (not including dry time)

Materials:

toilet paper rolls, peanut butter, birdseed

Smear peanut butter all over the toilet paper roll, roll it in bird seed, let dry. Afterwards you can take it and slide it on any tree branch nearby for the birds.

Plant in a reclaimed container.

Dig through your recycling bin and find a old container. You could use a steel can, the bottom half of a 2 liter bottle, the bottom of a cat litter container, the plastic bottom of a milk jug. Wash it out and punch some holes for drainage.

Let the kids decorate it with pictures cut out from magazines or their own drawings. Use Modge Podge if you want a clear coating finish.

Plant either a seed or flower in the container with dirt from your yard or potting soil.

This would be a great Mothers Day gift! If you started with seed, it should be growing well in time to hand over to Grandma.

Deluxe Soda Bottle Terrarium

  • One 2-liter bottle of soda (with cap)
  • Potting Soil
  • A handful of small stones or pebbles
  • A Marker
  • Scissors
  • Seeds
  • Seedlings (small plants) this is optional if you want to start right out with plants in your terrarium
  • activated charcoal (optional)
  • Sphagnum moss (optional)

Rinse out the bottle thoroughly and take the cap off. Drop the ingredients in this order through the top of the bottle in layers.

  1. Pebbles
  2. Activated Charcoal
  3. Spaghnum or Spanish Moss
  4. Soil
  5. More moss
  6. Plants

You can also cut the bottle in half for ease of planting. When we did this project we used the optional moss, but not the activated charcoal. It was fairly quick to complete, and we hope that our plant will grow in our terrarium.

terrarium

We also used this time to start some vegetable seeds and made a chart to track their growth. We added a seed booster to one tray. We will track the growth and see if it makes a difference.

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If all of these projects sound too exhausting, just go outside and hang out. Talk about why we need to take care of the only planet we humans live on. If you are a internet family you can participate in this as well:

EPA and The Nature Conservancy are partnering on a photo project this April. We are encouraging everyone to show their love for nature by taking your very own #NatureSelfie photo. The goal of this project is to get people outside on Earth Day and connect with nature and share your love for our great Earth!

Read more: Go to the #NatureSelfie website for details on how to take and post your photos.

Nature Study: the Beginning of Loving Our Earth, by Briana Elizabeth

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Earth Day is approaching, and as I pondered what to write, I thought about the barrage of recycling projects public school children do each year and tried to remember what made me a natural conservationist from the time I was small.

img_0107 One of my very first memories is sitting in a meadow of violets and picking fistfuls of them for my Nana. Some were white with dappled purple, and others were solid purple. I was entranced at the beauty of those colors.

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These are slate falls that go straight up the side of the Appalachians – you can see the gorge cut as you drive. We had just hiked to the top, and as we came down, I told them the story of how I had fallen down at the top and my father had to slide down the mountain, catch me, and then grab a tree to stop us both.

I would spend hours flipping over rocks looking for Red-backed salamanders, and my favorite Red Efts. The Yellow-spotted salamanders were a prize to find also, but to this day I think the tiny feet of a Red Eft are pretty close to magical.

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He’s now 15 and still loves to be mucking about outside. This year he’s staffing at a Boy Scout camp and swimming in a lake all summer.

Nana had a beautiful flower garden. In the early spring I hunted for Lily of the Valley, and in the summer the garden would erupt in purple iris and scarlet poppies. We spent hours watching the birds that came to her feeders. The first photograph I ever took was of a black-capped chickadee in flight.

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a little fledgling we found on our lawn

Today the thought of frogs being disfigured from the polluted waters in is deeply troubling to me. The Colony Collapse Disorder that’s destroying the honeybees is impacting my family directly because the pollinators weren’t coming to my vegetable garden. A few years ago, I had to hand pollinate many rows of vegetables. Even with my intervention we didn’t get a good harvest that year.

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Have your children grow a garden and harvest their own veggies. Even a patio tomato plant is exciting when you get to eat the tomatoes. These are heirloom purple cherokee and brandywine. I had to save them from the deer.

 

Here on the east coast, we’re losing huge colonies of bats, and as a project this year my kids will be building bat houses like the ones we see in the woods on our hikes. (Did you know – one bat will eat 1200 mosquitoes every HOUR!). Thankfully I still have the one little bat that flies in a set pattern all over my backyard at night. I know that when I see him (or her) Spring has truly sprung!

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Every year we have a sac of mantis that hatches near our pool. All summer long we watch them grow.

The former owner of our house cared for his lawn with tons of chemicals. The first years living here we had so few fireflies, I could count them on one hand. Now on summer evenings, my yard is a firefly wonderland. Did you know that you can tell what kind of firefly it is by what height it flies at?

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In the summer we spend many afternoons fishing. Which turns into turtle catching, water strider spotting, frog catching, and dragonfly watching.

 

If you’ve been keeping up with any nature news, you might have learned that we’ve lost over 90% of the Monarch Butterflies due to unknown reasons. Scientists are asking people to plant milkweed to help feed them and give them places to lay eggs and attach their chrysalis.

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a monarch at Kittatiny State Park

 

We become conservationists by learning to love nature, and there is no better way to do this than what Charlotte Mason called Nature Study. In her books, she talks about taking a day trip to let the children spend the afternoon in a meadow, while mother sat and read a book. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a perfect afternoon to me. (Of course I’d probably flip over a few rocks; old habits die hard.)

One of the best books for nature study is Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study. It is huge. It looks imposing and intimidating. Don’t let it be. It’s broken up so it’s easily useable; it has relevant poetry and projects to do. Somewhere in a binder I have every subject broken up into season, and I will get that typed up and posted here for you all. It is SO much fun, truly.

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A swallowtail butterfly on butterfly bush in a neighbor’s lawn.

Another wonderful thing to do is to start your own Nature Notebooks. I picked up some cloth-bound blank notebooks at a big chain store and that is what we use.

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Children can color them; they can watercolor; they can just leave them as pencil drawings. It is their own space to record what they see!

 

Another delightful book is The View from the Oak. It is wonderful for explaining the environment of creatures through their senses, not our own. It might be hard to track down, but it’s a wonderful asset to the family library.

Cultivating a conservationist doesn’t start with knowing how to recycle. It starts with loving nature so much they couldn’t imagine not recycling.  Then we wouldn’t need one single Earth Day because we would be living earth day every day.

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Even dogs love nature study days!

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Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.

High School to College: A Gradual Transition, by Apryl

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For our family, the transition from high school to college student is a gradual process. We have taken several small steps along the way which has made the journey much easier.

One of the first things we did to ease the transition was to help our daughters develop time management skills. Starting in late middle school, I give weekly assignments, but they are in charge of when they work.  The kids work from a schedule for each subject that acts much like a syllabus you would get from a college course.  The weekly assignments are due by Saturday.

Once the girls are handling that aspect of time management well, I begin to give them even more flexibility by letting them have the entire syllabus for the year (still broken into manageable lessons) and letting them work on it at a pace that suits them.  At this point, they also have the answer keys to check their own work.  They still have to test regularly on things like math, so I know progress is being made.  I have to admit, this worked much better for my detailed-oriented kids than it did for my more flighty child.

Academic classes at our co-op have also stretched their self-management muscles.  These classes only meet once a week, so students have to do the rest of the work on their own time.  They have taken things like biology and Latin at co-op and have been completely responsible for getting the work done.  I have remained entirely hands off with these classes, other than checking on their grades.

Another way they prepare for college is simply by volunteering in their community.  Through volunteering they take on varied responsibilities and learn all sorts of things they wouldn’t learn at home.  I am also very hands off with their volunteering, other than being the transportation until they can drive.  They have to interact with the volunteer coordinators, keep track of their schedule, and make sure to keep up with the responsibilities given to them.  The girls have worked at a food bank, therapeutic horse stables, the library, and a rescue and rehabilitation center for birds of prey.

As high school juniors, they are able to take classes as dual enrollment students at our community college.  Taking one or two courses a semester gets them accustomed to the demands of professors and the college environment while still being on a smaller campus. They also get to explore different areas of study without the commitment of choosing a major.  Our state pays for two dual enrollment courses a semester for juniors and seniors, so they could potentially complete nearly half of an associates degree before graduating. My girls have taken or will take things such as Chinese, statistics, and video production.

My oldest begins college full time in the fall.  Since she has already been attending classes at the same college, the transition will be seamless. She knows exactly what to expect and is entirely comfortable in that environment.

It has been an interesting, albeit sometimes trying, process to make sure the girls are ready for college, but by doing what I can to prepare them for the transition, I feel like it hasn’t been as difficult as it could be.

What have you done, or plan to do, to prepare your kids for their transition to college, work, or trade school?

apryl 

Apryl–Born and raised in Tennessee, Apryl is a southern girl at heart.  She lives out in the country with her husband and her three daughters. She is an artist, photographer and a homeschooler.  After having an unfulfilling public school education herself, and struggling to find peace with the education her girls were receiving in the public school system, she made the choice to homeschool.  When they began their homeschool journey, the girls were in the third and sixth grades.  Now she is happily coaching three teenaged daughters through their high school years.  You can visit her blog at Almost a Farm Girl

Homeschooling as a Single Mom: An Interview, by Emma & Genevieve

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Sandbox to Socrates recently did a series on our biggest homeschooling challenges. Time constraints and self-discipline are surely hurdles which every homeschooling family must clear, but we can’t think of many things more challenging than homeschooling as a single parent.

Emma, one of our contributing writers, graciously agreed to be interviewed on this topic.

What kind of job do you have? 

I am a graphic designer and have my own freelancing business. I have also recently begun working for a publishing company as the creative director of two of their magazines.

What do the kids do while you are at work?

A friend and fellow homeschooler cares for and teaches my children in addition to hers while I’m at work.

What are your work hours?

It varies depending on workload. Freelancing is sink or swim: I either have five projects going at a time or no work at all. The magazines are similar. The weeks near deadline are busy, and I work three to four days a week for 7-8 hours. Otherwise, it is two to three days a week for a few hours.

When do you do school?

We school in the morning, except for Fridays when we have co-op in the afternoon.

If you share parenting, how does that affect your homeschooling?

It makes it complicated. Their father was not teaching them when he took them during the week, so we had to rearrange the schedule so that he only gets them on weekends and one evening.

Where do you do school?

We generally school in the dining room and kitchen.

What are your homeschooling hours?

We start around 8:30am and are usually done by lunch, unless they work slowly or there’s more work than usual.

Does your former spouse homeschool them as well? 

Their father does not participate in their schooling.

What is your biggest challenge as a single homeschooling parent?

My biggest challenge is how to fit everything in: work, housekeeping, schooling, personal life, time with the kids. It’s a lot of juggling.

What is one thing that friends and loved ones could do to help you?

I try not to ask friends and family for too much help. However, when one offers to help with the kids, babysit or even run an errand for me, thus taking one thing, even something small, off of my plate is a HUGE help.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. We hope this will be an inspiration to others wondering if they can still homeschool as a single parent.

Student Spotlight: The Progress of a Pilgrim, by Olivia

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The Progress of a Pilgrim:

The Worldview of John Bunyan as seen in Pilgrim’s Progress

John Bunyan’s worldview is eloquently depicted through his written works. The Pilgrim’s Progress tells the story of a man in search of spiritual redemption and eternal life. During his travels the protagonist, Christian, shares with others the Word of God, and invites them to accompany him to the Celestial City. Similarly John Bunyan became a minister, the Bishop Bunyan, and he too did his best to spread the Word. This is a brief insight into the worldview of Bunyan, and his belief about God, the universe, man, ethics and morality, the cause of evil and suffering, and of course, death and how to achieve the life thereafter.

Bunyan did not believe in predestination, as evidenced by Christian’s ability to transform himself. The journey of Christian, the pilgrim begins with the realization of a burden that weighed heavily upon him; the knowledge that his hometown was to be destroyed by fire from Heaven. He was deeply distressed by the knowledge that all who stayed in the City of Destruction would perish. Soon after this discovery he met a man named Evangelist, whom it is widely believed represents Bunyan’s local minister, John Gifford. Evangelist directed Christian towards the only one who could remove his burden, and thus Christian departs towards the light. This shows that although Christian, along with everyone who lived in the City of Destruction, were sinful. By leaving this behind and traveling to the Celestial City they were forgiven, for God is merciful and patient.

Soon after Christian departs on his journey he falls into The Slough of Despond, which he escapes only to be misled by one, Mr. Worldly Wiseman. He journeys through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and to Vanity Fair, then is held captive by the giant Despair in Doubting Castle. Throughout all of these adversities he faces, he looks to the grace of God and is given the answer. This shows that God not only created the world, but that he governs and maintains it as well.

Bunyan’s view of mankind is clearly seen through the names of his characters in Pilgrim’s Progress. Such people as Mr. Malice, Mr. Deception, and of course, Judge Hategood, should be avoided at all costs, while friends may be found in the likes of Faithful, Hopeful, Mercy, and Mr. Greatheart. These names are direct representations of the characters in this tale, but not a inevitable sentence. The protagonist Christian, explains to the Porter of the House Beautiful that his name had previously been Graceless, but that he was now Christian, showing that everyone has a chance to change themselves.

In the house of the Interpreter, Christian saw a defeated looking man in an iron cage and asked the Interpreter who the man was. The man replied that his name was Hopeless, and that once he too had been a pilgrim. To which Christian asked what he was now, and Hopeless replied that he was a man of despair, unable to escape his cage. Christian then asked how he came to be in this condition, and Hopeless answered “I ceased to watch and be sober. I allowed myself to doubt the Word of Life, and gave way to my passions. I sinned against the light of the Word and the goodness of God. I yielded to Satan’s arguments and he took possession of my soul. I have provoked God to anger, and He has left me. I have grieved the Spirit, and He has gone. I have hardened my heart, and now I cannot repent.” He continued to tell them that God has denied him repentance and shut him away in a cage of his own sin and disbelief. This shows us that there is time to repent for our sins, but that time is finite.

Also during his encounter with the Interpreter, Christian saw a fire burning against a wall and a man continually pouring water over it in an fruitless attempt to quench it. When Christian asked, the Interpreter told him that the fire was the grace of God in the heart, and he who cast the water was the devil. Then he was led to the other side of the wall where Christian saw another man secretly pouring oil onto the fire. He asked again what this meant, to which the Interpreter answered “This is Christ who continually, with the oils of His grace, maintains the work already begun in the heart; by the means of which, notwithstanding what the devil can do, the souls of His people prove gracious still.” Just as Christ continually maintains His grace in our hearts that it may never be extinguished by either circumstances or by our adversaries.

Throughout the journey of Christian from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, he is accompanied by several others seeking forgiveness. One of these companions, Faithful, joined Christian on his venture soon after Christian emerged from The Valley of the Shadow of Death, staying beside him until they reach the City of Vanity. There the two of them were put on trial by Judge Hategood for “disturbing the peace” and “persuading good, honest persons to embrace their poisonous and most dangerous doctrine.” To which Faithful openly opposed Judge Hategood, was found guilty by the jury, and was put to death. However Christian was only imprisoned, then released where he continued on his way, singing of Faithful’s ascent into the Celestial City.

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At the conclusion of our tale Christian, his wife, children, and many of his companions reached the Celestial City, where they were welcomed. John Bunyan teaches us through this allegorical tale that God mercifully governs the world with patience and love. Continually igniting our  hearts with His grace, but allowing us free will and the option to return to the path that leads to the light. In the words of the Interpreter “Well, keep [this] always in mind that they may warn you against the evil and goad you forward in the way you must go; and may the Comforter always be with you, to guide you in the way that leads to the Celestial City.”

By Olivia

Moving the Finish Line, by Genevieve

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I really loved Briana’s piece called The Seven Stages of a Relationship. The last line says,”Congratulations, you’re running the marathon.”

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint” has been my parenting mantra for the past twenty years. It has given me hope, consoled me, eased my fears, and guided my priorities and decisions.

It really didn’t matter what benchmarks my children reached early or which ones seemed to take forever to achieve. I kept my eyes on the prize and focused on preventing burnout so each child would be able to cross that finish line, where I’d be cheering and applauding.

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When my children were little, I thought we would reach the finish line when they turned eighteen. All of my hard work would pay off, and I could bask in the glory of a job well done.

How would I know if we had won the race? What were the final goals for my homeschooling graduates?

Well, I knew what I didn’t care about. I wasn’t going to base success on SAT scores or GPAs or getting into the “best” colleges.

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My goal was making sure they had the skills and the foundation, the character and the persistence, the optimism, the confidence and initiative to reach THEIR OWN goals.

I firmly believe that each of my children was born for a very specific purpose and to do an important job on this earth. I never tried to steer them in my own direction or change their natural inclinations because, who knows, maybe those qualities that seemed to be a disadvantage would become the very qualities that were needed to fulfill their own unique destinies.

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Now that I have children who have reached their eighteenth birthdays, I realize that we haven’t reached the finish line. We aren’t even halfway there. They are still running, but my role has changed.

I never thought I had the personality to be a cheerleader, but here I am, on the sidelines with my pompoms.

Maybe the finish line will be when they become middle aged themselves. Are they good employees? Are they faithful friends and devoted partners? Are they honest? Are they generous? Are they happy?

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Until then, I stay out of their way. I try not to offer unsolicited advice. I encourage them to look within to find their answers.

“You can do it.”

“I believe in you.”

“Go Team”

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Genevieve   

Genevieveis a former public and private school teacher who has five children and has been homeschooling for the past thirteen years. In her free time she provides slave labor to Dancing Dog Dairy, making goat milk soap and handspun yarn, which can be seen on Our Facebook Page and at Dancing Dog Dairy .