Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sparking the Imagination

Book club hostess, Cindy, of Dominion Family Fame, rightly is focusing on literature which fuels the imagination and is giving us the opportunity to make suggestions, submit a list.

There are several books on my shelf which address this topic, like Gladys Hunt's Honey for a Child's Heart, Elizabeth Wilson's Books Children Love, or Elizabeth McCalllum's The Book Tree.

Last year's book club selection, Norm's and Nobility's final chapter outlined an high school curriculum that Cindy still wants to discuss.

But here I share some upper-level suggestions, because

1)  there are already many good choices listed for preschoolers and elementary-aged children; and

2)  where there is no vision, the people will perish.  That is to say what you hope for your children may not happen, if you have trouble with expectations.

So, I reveal Dr. Kirk's list from his book Decadence and Renewal (Chapter 3 entitled Perishing for Want of Imagery) since many may not have immediate access to this book, but may have highschoolers on the premises.

In this case, Kirk states that these students between the ages of thirteen and eighteen ought to be treated as young adults (notice the non-use of the term *teenagers*- link to lecture on that issue) and actually or potentially capable of serious thought.

These books are calculated to wake the imagination and challenge the reason.  None ought to be too difficult for most young people to apprehend well enough -- provided that they are functionally literate.

Nineth-Grade Level

Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progess
Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream
Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables or The Marble Faun
Stevenson's Kidnapped
Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes or Dandelion Wine
Scott's Rob Roy or Old Mortality
Poems selected with an eye to the marvellous and the mysterious from Spenser, Burns, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley, Tennyson, Whittier, Longfellow, Chesterton, Kipling, Masefield, Yeats, Frost

Tenth-Grade Level

Defoe's Robinson Crusoe
Shakespeare's Macbeth or Julius Caesar
Parkman's The Oregon Trail or The Conspiracy of Pontiac
Twain's Huckleberry Finn or Life on the Mississippi
Franklin's Autobiography
Thackeray's The Virginians or Henry Esmond
Melville's Typee or Omoo or Whitejacket
Selected poetry of a biographical or historical cast.

Eleventh-Grade Level

Milton's Paradise Lost
Swift's Gulliver's Travels
Dickens' Great Expectations or David Copperfield
Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral
Orwell's Animal Farm
Shakespeare's As You Like It or The Merchant of Venice
Selected poems of a speculative cast

Twelfth-Grade Level

KJV Epistles of Paul
Johnson's Rasselas
M Aurelius' Meditations (Long's Translation)
Burke's Speech on Conciliation with the American Colonies
Lewis's The Screwtape Letters or The Great Divorce
Marlowe's Doctor Faustus
Santayana's The Last Puritan
Joseph Conrad short stories
Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Selected poems of Frost, Robinson, Masters, Eliot, Santayana, Chesterton and other 20th century poets

Well, there is no doubt that I have my own work cut out for me, as I have not read many of these.

That may account for my lack of imagination.

Which is why I'm reading a book about it with a bunch of people I dont know in real life.

I'm throwing a spark on that pile of dry wood in my head, hoping to light a fire that will keep me warm until the end of my days.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Top Ten:  Parenting Books

1)   The Bible
2)   The Example (my parents-book yet to be published )
3)   Withhold Not Correction by Bruce Ray
4)   Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children  by John Rosemond
5)   The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer
6)   Every Child Should Have a Chance by Leila Denmark
7)   Teach Them Diligently by Lou Priolo
8)   Ten Ways to Destroy Your Child's Imagination by Anthony Esolen
9)   It Takes Backbone to Raise Terrific Kids by Carol Demar
10) The Strong-Willed Child by James Dobson

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bookclub: Imagination Method #2

Idyllic is one way of describing the child's life being promoted by Anthony Esolen in his parenting manual, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child

By juxtaposing a variety of typical childhood experiences, the author demonstrates a superior method for rearing our charges and developing their imaginations, those valuable vaults of images, sensations, and concepts.

As I read through the details of uninterrupted play, spontaneous neighborhood baseball games, and nightime river exploration, I wanted to think that I could point to similar experiences.  I wanted to believe that my children could recall such times as well.

Unfortunately, we all know that growing up is not usually that charming.

I also found myself relating to Tormentaria, that planet populated with specimens ready and awaiting to be molded by The Visionaries, because more often my schedule resembled the structured over the looser one.

Unfortunately, I keep feeling a void in Esolen's premise, which I suspect he addresses in Method 10, the Transcendence.  Why does he wait so long to bring up this vital aspect?

I mean how do the boys in the baseball game know about forgiveness?

Or how do the river boys know to make a compact or the importance of sealing it with blood?

Or as in my case, how did we girls know how to structure our families when we played house?

We didnt just *make.them.up*

Some committee informed us.

It's called the Trinity.

That awesome threesome who authored the penultimate parenting how-to volume.

Make sure that downspout (gargoyle) is pouring out life-giving water over your child's head day in and day out.

Like Deuteronomy 6:7 ~

Impress them (commands, decress, laws) on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

2 Corinthians 10:5 (three translations)

casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; (American Standard Version)

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (New International Version)

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, (New American Standard)

As well as these wise words from a modern-day Godly ruler, Abraham Kuyper ~
"Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'"

Read more about it at our online bookclub.

Bonus Bits ~

Consider reading the chapter entitled Creativity in George Roche's excellent book, Education in America.  His information adds substance to Esolen's and is available free online.

Funny, pertinent story about committees at this link.

Photo Credit:
Gargoyle by Ed O'Keefe

Artwork Credit:
Stamp issued by gov't
of Liberia

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Oaths, Ethics, and Sanctity of Life

On this the 38th anniversary of Roe v Wade, allow me to relate a story showing how God gave opportunity for witness in an unlikely setting.

Standing firm in one's convictions is never an easy thing to do, especially if you dont know what you believe.

Thankfully, the Lord shined His Face upon me at an early age, informing my heart and mind of not only His Love, but also His Law.

In addition, God gave me a husband who knows and serves Him, too.

That means we know what we believe by reading Scripture with the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit.

But if you're not sure where to stand on this issue, we recommend R. C. Sproul's book, Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue, recently re-printed and distributed to every member of Congress.

Now for the story.

Early in medical school (1982), DH was in class when the professor interrupted his lecture to poll his students.  This was a little unusual, but it must have related to the topic.

The question concerned abortion ~

In the first scenario, the professor asked, "In general, would you as a medical doctor perform an abortion?"  And if so, he directed, move from your seat to a seat on the other side of the room.

A fair number of students moved.

In the second scenario, the professor queried, in the case of rape, would you perform the abortion?

A few more students moved to the other side of the room.

In the third scenario, the situation became more dire as the life of the mother is in danger:  would you perform an abortion?

The final few students moved to the other side of the room, leaving my husband seated alone.

He stood firm, upholding the Hippocratic Oath, not bowing to situational ethics, and demonstrating in a remarkable way the sanctity of life.

Sounds like a *Martin Luther* moment, dont ya think?

I was very proud of him when he told me that story over dinner that evening.

I still am.

PS  Here's a link to KSJ's talk recently delivered at a medical conference.  Take a listen and be informed about the ever-changing landscape of healthcare.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Club: Imagination Method #1

In contrast to the coal mines and dump yards where author Esolen grew up and developed his imagination, I was reared on a river and battleground (where the Yankees made their way into Atlanta).

Flooding finally destroyed the family homestead but not the sights, sounds, and symbols that fed the thoughts of mine.

Yards large enough for kickball or tag football, streets quiet and steep enough for bike-riding, woods replete with an assortment of flora and fauna, the Chattahoochee River (yes, we played in it), and Confederate bunkers (Johnny Reb to the core)  comprised our idyllic neighborhood.

Keeping children indoors was an impossibility.

Yet, sometimes we had to stay inside in order to be safe or finish our homework :-)

If I'd known that Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child was a parenting manual (unlike his Ironies of Faith), I don't think I'd have signed up for discussion (link to online bookclub).  But now that I'm here, let me say that I'm adding this how-to volume to my list of Top Five, despite the overwhelming number of literary references that I havent read completely.

Fortunately, my children are *grown* and it's easier for me to see the big picture.  That is, how the frustrating schools days and seemingly disorganized academic years do provide children with the ability to form the mental images, sensations, and concepts that comprise their imaginations.

It is the fundamental facility through which we make sense of the world.

It can be trained in a variety of ways.  See my homeschooling or leisure links.

So, be encouraged.

You are not drowning in the flood waters of the nasty river named *21st century American culture.*

This you will know when you read this fine article entitled, The Romance of Domesticity, by Professor Nathan Schlueter.  He pulls it all together for us ~
What is required is a truly realist imagination, one that captures and reveals the extraordinary quality of ordinary life.  Such an imagination would restore the “chest,” the locus of the imagination, to its rightful place as the mediator and integrating principle of intellect and appetite, soul and body, in the human person.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book Club: Imagination's Air

Everyone has one (imagination)   and everyone's needs a continual supply (air).

That's my premise.  And I'm sticking to it.

At least for the purpose of this online book club discussion.

Our dear professor is trying to make the case otherwise and I'm not convinced.  In fact, I'm usually supicious of an educator who talks more about the method(s) of teaching than the actual subject itself.

I mean discussing methodology gives those with NO ideas something to do, right?

Furthermore, I'm agreeing that a parent has to work harder to destroy a child's imagination and spend more money to deprive him/her of the outdoors.

It's been said before.

In John Rosemond's book Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children the author maintains that the job of a parent is all about *helping our children get OUT of our lives.*  It boils down to identifying the difference between needs and wants; and as that process unfolds (over the course of 20 years), so does a child's capacity for initiative, resourcefulness, creativity, self-sufficiency, achievement, and the like.

But Esolen comes highly recommended and his style is charming, so I keep reading How to Destroy.

While I may not have been the most imaginative child in my neighborhood nor the most imaginative adult in my circle of friends, I'm not buying into the idea that our culture is being destroyed by the lack of imagination.

There is always a chance to re-oxygenate and enliven the synapses.

Opportunities abound!

So, as I mentioned earlier, I believe we all have this imagination of which Esolen speaks....obviously in varying stages and degrees....

and our duty as stewards of this God-given talent is to:


2)recognize, and

3)realize, that it is there.

It's all about attitude and/or perspective.

Here's one example ~ When I was a very young mother, a friend (another very young mother) complimented my child's routine and lamented that hers had none.  After a quick thank-you reply, I pointed out that indeed her baby did have a schedule.  Perhaps she justed couldnt see it.  And to consider sitting back and watching. By sheer observation I promised her she would find it.

The same is true of one's imagination.

Now make sure yours is working.

Anthony Esolen's Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child will confirm that yours is properly informed.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Book Club: Imagination's Exordium

Capitalizing on Cindy's use of the very fine word exordium as she synopsizes the first 26 pages of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, I call to your attention its etymology.

Or is that too dull?

Is it too taxing to insist that one recall or retrieve from the recesses of memory some vestige of language or grammar skills that might afford opportunity to understand that the author herein is laying groundwork for his treatise.


May it never be!

But I will admit, Latin lover than I am, that I looked it up in the dictionary (online! wicked internet option!!) to make sure that I knew what I was talking about ;-)

Weaving back and forth with literary threads, Professor Esolen snared my attention in this first strike against the educational system like I was a unobservant guest at a cocktail party where an unknown (yet important) individual was dropping extremely important names, mentioning powerful and influential people.

My ears perked up.

It behooves me to know these characters, not like a list of Facebook friends, but really and truly be acquainted: to remember, recognize, and realize.  It will save me some embarrassing moments and add to my overall ability to apply book knowledge to every day living.  That's wisdom.  Something to which I aspire.

So, take heart, I tell myself.

Read on.

Trust the professor's parting words ~

A fact may not be much, by itself, but it points toward what is true,
and even the humblest truth may in time lead a mind
 to contemplate the beautiful and the good.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Book Club:Imagination

Knowing that it's not fair to judge a book by its cover, I am going to examine carefully this one gracing Anthony Esolen's newest publication.

At first glance, I see a charming youngster sitting on a crescent moon and looking down..... on the world, I suppose.

The gargoyle surfaces only after I'm enchanted by the prospect of sweet dreams of childhood.

I'm beginning to feel some tension.

So, I step back from opening the book and reading the table of contents.

I choose to learn more about the little boy.

Victor Charles Anderson (1882 - 1937) painted him and this rendition may have been the cover of a Life Magazine, but I cant find the year.

There were thousands of reprints made by Campbell Prints years ago with a wonderful Burges Johnson poem on the back.  Here's a link to the two verses.

Currently Laughing Elephant seems seems to own the rights to the image and has been selling it for use in the greeting card industry and as glicee prints.

Unfortunately, my eyes keep checking on that monster above the child's head.

Gargoyles have a reputation for scaring off and protecting from evil or harmful spirits.  In fact, many are useful downspouts directing water away from buildings. 

Be aware then that the jacket art is a combination of two separate and distinct images.  Kevin van der Leek is the graphic designer who pulled that out of his creative (read non-destroyed) imagination.

That totally piques my curiosity.

What is the relationship between the child and the gargoyle?

Stay tuned!

Because this intriguing book is the subject of our next book club, which starts soon.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Where Dreams Are Made

Dreams are made in the moon, my dear,

On her shining hillsides steep;

Pleasant and dreadful and gay and queer,
They're piled in a silver heap.

And many fairies with buzzing wings

Are busy with hammers and wheels and things,

Making the dreams that Night-time brings

To all little boys asleep.

And if a boy has been good till night,
     When snug in his bed he lies
The fairies come with a moonbeam bright
     And slide him up to the skies.
And there he sails as the Moon-king's guest,
And choses the dreams he likes best;
Then they slide him back to his nurs'ry nest
     And leave him rubbin his eyes.

by Burges Johnson (1877 - ??)
Youngsters:  Collected Poems of Childhood

Monday, January 03, 2011


How I love thee, let me count the ways ~

In the above photo, there are three pans, one 8", one 7", and one 5".   While we were only 7 at the table, we plan for leftover cornbread.

In seasoned cast iron skillets, add several tablespoons of safflower oil to each.  Place in cold ovens, turning it on for 425 degrees.  While skillets and ovens are preheating, prepare the batter.

In a large mixing bowl, add and whisk together ~

2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup safflower oil

Then add the following dry ingredients, stirring with a strong wooden spoon ~

3 1/2 cups white cornmeal
1/2 cups coarsely ground grits
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking SODA
1 1/2 tsp baking POWDER (optional)

Then add more buttermilk, close to a full quart. Stir to achieve a smoothness similar to cake batter.  Be careful not to overwork the batter.

Now check the ovens.  By this time, it should be good and preheated.  You will know for sure, if the oil in the skillets is smoking.

Remove the pans from the ovens.

Divide batter into pans.  It should sizzle and sound like frying as you pour batter into hot oil

Return pans to ovens.

Bake 25 minutes or until top becomes golden brown.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Traditional Fare

New Year's Day Menu

Collard Greens
w/pepper sauce

Roast Pork

Baked Sweet Potato

Black-eyed Peas
w/Chow Chow


Then dessert ~

(more) Cornbread, butter, and lots of sorghum syrup!

This year one dinner guest enjoyed sorghum for the first time.

Is there any sorghum at your house?