Come to the Quiet

    By Jennifer Marvin

It’s a noisy day in the neighborhood. Through the doors and windows, opened earlier to let in a rain-sweet breeze, the racket from landscape workers and their machines rattles my thoughts. Lawnmowers roar, weedeaters whine, leafblowers buzz, men shout and laugh, jackhammers clatter, engines clang…

I pace my apartment, sliding glass windows and doors shut, turning the outside volume down about 1/4. It’s not enough to let me think, and I begin to feel frantic. Maybe I should drive to the library? Should I complain to the management? Am I the only one in the building who feels assaulted by the sounds of lawn care?

The verse comes to mind “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10.) For about the thousandth time in my life, I wonder how to do that, how to be still. My parents taught me music, how to read, cook, do math in my head…they tried to teach me to be honest, to pay my debts, to respect the human dignity of each person…but I don’t remember them ever instructing me in how to be still. As far as that goes, did I teach my son how to be still? Like my parents before me, I taught my progeny to read – print and music – taught him basic piano, music theory, how to play a plethora of board and guessing games, how to cook; we read the Bible, prayed and sang and hiked and camped and dragged blankets out to the backyard at 2 a.m. to see meteor showers and identify constellations. But did we ever even talk about how to be still and know God? I asked him about this and, though he remembers doing yoga along with “Lilias” on educational TV, and “oming” along with the hippies at the Farm in Tennessee when he was eight, he assures me I didn’t talk to him about how those might help still the mind, and that until he learned to meditate from his own explorations of Buddhism and Tai Chi in his early 30’s, he lay awake till the wee hours with his mind racing.

As did I until my early 30’s.

The summer my son was nine he went to spend time with relatives in Wyoming, and I took time off from being mother and instructor to stay in a hut on the side of a mountain in a monastery where all kept a vow of silence. I discovered there that the constant barrage of aural stimuli from outside me was nothing compared to the noise between my own ears, where 17 radios of my mind, each tuned to a different station, muttered and nattered and waxed incoherent without let-up.

I learned a little bit that summer about quieting the internal racket. But I grieve that I imparted none of what I had learned to my son. Why did I not consider quieting the soul as important a skill as reading and making music? I had not yet heard John Michael Talbot’s soothing album of musical settings for many of the Psalms, “Come to the Quiet.” But I began reflecting on the Psalms. Psalm 4:4: “Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.” The word translated “still” there, Strong’s 1826, is translated in other places as rest (in Psa 37:7, “rest in the LORD”, cease, quieted (Psa 131:2 “Surely I have behaved and quieted myself/ my soul”), tarry, wait (Psalm 62:5, “My soul, wait thou only upon God”), forbear, and peace.

“Behold, I have stilled myself…” So this is not something that just happens, it’s something I can — must! — deliberately do, something that can be learned. I studied the Apostle Timothy’s counsel that women should “learn in silence 2271 with all subjection” and discovered that the Greek word translated “silence” there is not necessarily the same as “making no sound.” Another word — sigao 4601 — is used to mean “silence” in the sense of “holding peace” or making no sound. But 2271, hesuchia, is used to describe stillness, i.e. desisting from bustle and commotion. So it’s not that we should refrain from speaking in the congregation — it’s that we should refrain from being all stirred up, agitated, in the midst of worship, prayer, and the Word…

I discussed this recently with a homeschooling mom of 8 and 10-year-olds, and was excited to hear that she actually instructs them, explicitly, in quieting themselves. While reading Psalm 131 one morning, the youngest asked her “What does that mean?” After talking about being quiet within, as well as being noiseless, she put a 5-minute timer on, and invited her girls to be silent and “wait upon” God, with the expectation that when their own voices were stilled, their spirits would begin to be less “ruffled up” and they would hear God speaking to them. After the timer went off, her younger daughter reported that God had told her “Everything will be okay. You are God’s child and He will take care of you.”

Scientific studies have shown that just 5 to 10 minutes a day of meditation increases people’s happiness. Regardless of the specific faith in whose context the discipline of quieting the soul is practiced, a study in the journal Psychiatry Research suggests that meditating for just a few minutes a day for eight weeks can increase the density of gray matter in brain regions associated with memory, stress, happiness and empathy. This is an amazing idea: that we can do something that actually changes the structure of our brains and increases our capacity for compassion and happiness. “One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the delightfulness of Adonai, and to meditate in His temple.”

The paths we take in search of happiness often lead to frustration and suffering instead. We try to create outer conditions that we believe will make us happy. But it is the mind itself that translates outer conditions into happiness or suffering. This is why we can be deeply unhappy even though we “have it all”—wealth, power, health, a good family, etc.—and, conversely, we can remain strong and serene in the face of hardship.

Do you believe that happiness is a skill to be cultivated? Are you able to deliberately let go of agitation, to still your soul? Do you have a regular time of specifically teaching your children how to quiet their minds?

_____________

With a degree in Modern Languages and Bilingual Education, Jennifer has taught Spanish, Russian, Latin, and Bible, coordinated weekly chapel, and tutored Hebrew at The Garden School. She homeschooled her son before sending him to Sarasota Christian School, and is an avid advocate of home cooking, home remedies, home birth, and home death as well.

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Foundations for Learning

CollegeGraduation[1]

    By Dave Miller

[Dave’s note: What follows is a personal essay for a college application from a graduate of The Garden School. I hope it will encourage parents who have chosen private or homeschool education to “stay the course.”]

I’ve been blessed to be born into a wonderful family (in both the nuclear and extended sense) and to attend a quite extraordinary school from a very young age. My family has always cultivated my education and supported my quest for knowledge, but it was at The Garden School that I eventually understood what learning truly is. The Garden School is a classical Christian private school that students attend twice a week. The students work at home the other three days, following the instructors’ guidelines. The school is based on the idea that there is a Grammar stage, a Logic stage, and a Rhetoric stage. You learn facts, then you learn causes and meaning, and are finally able to communicate your ideas. The Garden School’s foundational principle is teaching students how to think, not what to think. And I thrived in this environment.

At The Garden School, I learned Philosophy from Plato, Chemistry from Lavoisier, Humor from Cervantes, and Poetry from Homer. I learned how science and music and art and government are intricately connected and cannot be separated without losing meaning. I learned to look at the stars and see Pegasus, to look at a snowy field and hear the poetry of Frost, to read a news story and recall a similar event our modern times have all but forgotten. I learned to love knowledge. I found I could dig deeper and understand, follow a path of logic and find a mistake, speak and have my opinions heard. The Garden School instilled in me a deep and passionate longing to know and understand.

[The essay goes on to talk about the writer’s decision to attend Colorado Mountain College to earn an Associate of Arts Degree as well as her desire to transfer to a four-year university. I hope you’ll agree that for this student, the years spent at The Garden School as well as the freedom of homeschooling provided a strong foundation for furthering her education.]

As a homeschool parent, what kinds of things do you do to help your child build a solid foundation for life-long learning?

    ___________________

    A professional educator since earning his teaching credentials at San Diego State in 1985, Dave’s 26-year teaching career has been both challenging and rewarding, often in the same day. He and wife Renee have lived and taught in San Diego, Germany, and Colorado, traveled to dozens of countries and are still raising six great kids. Along with his role as Guidance Counselor at The Garden School, Dave has been reinventing himself as a work-at-home dad and recently promoted to Vice President at Lightyear Wireless. Now he gets to teach people how to live the life of their dreams.

On Being in Community

Diversity

“Diversity”

    By Renee Miller

Over the years many unique and interesting families have been a part of our community: Christian, non-Christian, gifted children, special needs children, above average children, below average children, families with means, families who sacrifice to pay tuition–the list goes on. With so much diversity, how do we handle so many people as they come into our communities? How do we even create community? For those of us who feel passionately called to Christian education–both at home and in the private school setting–one of the most difficult areas in which to find balance is between family and community.

Where is the healthy balance? After many years of homeschooling and private schooling, I can assure you that I do not have the answer. However, I think a continuing dialogue is important.

As we cast about for a vision of Christian community and Christian education, it will likely emphasize rebuilding paradigms around healthy families, raising abysmally low educational standards, and promoting Christian ideals in dress, courtship, and basic civility. Creating this kind of culture is a full-scale battle. So how are families approaching this community-building?

On one extreme, I’ve observed families who focus entirely on their own children’s gifts and talents, and see the community as a threat to raising Godly progeny. These families can be quite critical of the areas where community falls short. Somehow, the community never measures up theologically, behaviorally, socially or otherwise. They tend to have unreachable and naïve expectations of what can be accomplished with a group of sinful, fallen people awash in the sewage of our generation. Jesus can transform us all in amazing ways, but it is hard work on everyone’s part.

In the other extreme, parents rely on and continually seek other people to do the job for them. These families hope that the parenting thing will not be too costly or time-consuming. They are often more consumer-oriented, on board as long as it is working well for their children. Their commitment can be short and fun, and like our general consumer culture they move quickly on to the next bigger or better thing. They’re glad to benefit from other people’s hard work and investment yet very reluctant to sacrifice for someone else.

All families need people who will come alongside them and help create safe havens of community where they can be challenged and nurtured. Families need for us to not simply say we don’t have the expertise, money, or experience to deal with their difficult situations. We are keenly aware of the millstone around the neck story and the incredible challenge to bless children and not irrevocably harm them. So we need to be careful to not whisk by in our minivans with fish on the back and leave families lying bruised by the roadside.

Working with people and being in community is hard but rewarding. It is the very practical side of learning to work with people we can’t stand, who are merely reflections back to us of all the miserable things we don’t like about ourselves. It is about modeling for our children how to resolve conflict and develop the discernment to know what is of eternal significance.

Fortunately, we are mercifully in possession of God’s Word, which has the wisdom to help us navigate the rocky roads of relationships creatively–and sometimes miraculously! It’s in the Word that we can find solutions to the problems that come to us.

Our triune God exists in community. He calls us into community. He calls us into families. When we get it right, however fleeting the moment, it reflects the character of God to the world in a way that few other things can.

You are Invited to Respond: What’s a situation you’ve been in where you’ve seen a true community at work?

    ____________________

    Renee is the founder and director of The Garden School and Cornerstone Classical School (as well as “The Miller Family School”). Though trained in the public school model–she has taught everything from first grade to junior high science–Renee’s first foray away from this system resulted in The Garden School. Renee holds a Master’s Degree in Teaching and Learning from Point Loma Nazarene College. She is a strong advocate for classical Christian education and an accomplished public speaker. The Millers currently live in a busy multi-generational household immersed in classical and Christian ideals and a whole lot of love.

Tell Us Your Story

talk-bubble_17-416124326[1]At this point, you know a lot about us. But we don’t know a whole lot about you.

So we decided to take a break from the usual this week to get to know you, our readers!

So tell us: what made you first decide an alternative education (such as The Garden School, homeschooling, etc.) fit the needs of your family? Was it a hard decision to make? What advice would you give to parents considering an alternative education for their children?

Guest Post: Feeding Good Behavior

fara_murata_307[1](For one of our first guest posts ever here at The Journal, we are pleased to present Fara Murata! Feel free to welcome her by leaving a comment or two, and make sure to read until the very end for a special bonus feature!)

    Feeding Good Behavior

      By Fara Murata

    We all know that eating right is important, but why is it so hard? When our children are infants we strive to give them the best–then life gets hectic.

    The day starts early and we’re rushed to get the children up and get breakfast. Who has time to make anything? Grabbing something from a box is easier and it can be eaten in the car. Let’s face it, quick food isn’t the healthiest, but it gets the job done. Look in your pantry and see how many things you serve out of a box. Every mom I talk to has good intentions. She buys the boxes that say “organic” or “no sugar added.” That’s good, right? Convenience food has become the norm of our society.

    What most people don’t understand is that what their children eat determines their moods and behaviors. Do they get protein, fruits, or vegetables for breakfast? What do they get for lunch? Are they irritable and fighting? When parents complain about afternoons being the worst time of day, they need to ask: when was the last time my child ate? And, what did she eat?

    Many children eat lunch around 11:00 a.m., so without a snack that means by 3:00 p.m. they will be driving you crazy. You might even feel irritable and crabby. You’ve been running all day, maybe forgot to eat lunch, you certainly didn’t have time for a snack, and now everyone is crabby. You’re all depleted–physically and emotionally. Adults should eat a little something every three to four hours and children every two to three hours.

    If you haven’t eaten in the last few hours your blood sugars are low and your brain is not being supported. Most of us know that food increases blood sugar levels that give us energy, but it also increases chemicals in the brain to support good mood.

    Serotonin is a feel good chemical that keeps us from being down; it also helps children have better behavior. Sugar and protein are foods that increase serotonin. Sugar, or simple carbohydrates, causes serotonin to increase quickly but it runs out quickly too. Protein sustains serotonin for a longer period of time. Sadly, we don’t eat enough protein and we certainly don’t choose it for snacks.

    Providing protein at every meal, and for snacks, is a great way to set your children up for success. Removing all sugary snacks and food is impossible, but decreasing them will help maintain the blood sugar and serotonin balance. Your children will have better behavior, will listen better, will be able to perform better on school tasks, and you will be happier. The extra time it takes will be worth it.

    Reading labels can be helpful in making good choices. Four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon, so if your cereal has 23 grams it is the same as putting six teaspoons of sugar on their food! The ingredients listed on the label are in order of how much is in the food, so if sugar or high fructose corn syrup is listed in the first five ingredients you’ll know that food is mostly sugar. Fruit, honey, and Agave will add to the sugar grams, but they are good sugars and won’t spike blood sugar levels, which can lead to poor behavior.

    Involving your children in preparing food for meals and snacks is fun and they will be more likely to eat what they help make. This can be a good way to transition your children into choosing better food. Some great snacks are breakfast burritos, egg muffins, cheese Quesadillas, and turkey rolled up with cheese. These are better choices for breakfast and snacks and children can help prepare them.

    Creating a snack drawer in the pantry and refrigerator with food that can be eaten without asking for permission will help create good habits for the whole family. Bagging your own snacks with nuts, fruit, and whole grain cereal are a must–the children will love it. Get out of the boxes and watch your children’s behavior improve. Are you willing to take the extra time and effort to improve your family’s health and mood? As parents, we can choose to feed good behavior with good food.

    Readers: Check out the “Freebies” tab up at the top of this page for a special Egg Muffin recipe from Fara!

      ________________

      Fara Murata is the mother of two and grandmother of three. She and her husband share a home with her disabled parents and often have the whole family of 20 over. Understanding and implementing nutrition in her family’s diet has been important to changing their health. Fara also uses nutrition counseling in her private practice as a Social Worker to help children and families make positive changes. Follow Fara Murata on Facebook or her website http://www.faramurata.com

Two Roads Diverged…

Two-Roads-Diverged[1]

    By Jennifer Marvin

Acclaimed anthropologist Margaret Mead once commented “My grandmother wanted me to have an education, so she kept me out of school.”

Several years ago, my niece announced her intention to homeschool. Annie and her husband were traveling the country from one renaissance fair to another, performing Celtic music for a living, so it made some kind of sense for them to plan to educate their daughter outside the geographical constraints of a single county public school district. They also had a concern about guarding their daughter from bullying and values discordant with their shared faith…they were Wiccans.

Since all the other homeschoolers I knew were Bible believers, this perspective was jarring to me. What kind of support groups for homeschooling witches had my niece found? What kind of world view were they so committed to perpetuating in their offspring that they were concerned would be threatened by public school’s secular bias? I mean, they would have plenty of support for Halloween observance, reading Harry Potter, and concerns about the ecological protection of Planet Gaia, so what were they worried about?

Even though a professor of education quoted in Penn State News observes that “Most people who choose homeschooling for religious reasons are Christian fundamentalists” who “typically want more control over their children’s curriculum and socialization,” the homeschooling movement attracts families from all religions, races, and socioeconomic classes, as my unusual niece illustrates. Like Margaret Mead’s grandmother, some people choose to teach their children at home because they feel that the public school “dumbs kids down” by pitching to the lowest common denominator, using a cookie-cutter or assembly line approach, despite college teacher preparation programs that stress “individualizing instruction” (as if somebody with a classroom of thirty children can individualize anything!) Teaching at home allows parents to tailor curriculum and pedagogical approaches to suit their children’s temperament, interests, and abilities.

Others want a stronger family unit, want to spend their days involved with and growing close to their progeny. Some parents choose home instruction in order to address special mental or physical needs, while many do so out of concern about the safety of the school environment, with its widespread drugs, violence, or negative peer pressure.

Although homeschooling is a trend that has been on the rise for the last 30 years, and is legal in all 50 states with varying standards and requirements, every state has some form of compulsory attendance law requiring children in a certain age range to spend a specific amount of time being educated. There are still widespread notions that children educated at home are academically and socially handicapped, despite statistics showing the superiority of homeschooled students’ results on various measures of achievement, from spelling bees to college entrance exams. As for socialization, when I first attended a Garden School function and met students who looked me in the eye and spoke articulately and engagingly, that issue was laid to rest for me, at least.

Yet homeschooling does take a commitment of resources, time, and energy way beyond volunteering in a public school room. Is it worth it? Are homeschooling spouses still losing custody battles to a divorcing parent who will place the children in public school? What about Infowars.com’s account of purported police training exercises in some states where an anti-terrorist scenario is acted out against ‘fanatical homeschoolers” rather than, say, right-wing political or radical Muslim extremists? Is parent-directed education a practice whose days are numbered? Is it a choice for which you are prepared to suffer? Has your family experienced benefits from parent-directed education? Are there also legitimate benefits from public school exposure? Are there students for whom, or circumstances in which homeschooling is not structured enough, or is inappropriate for some reason? What are your reasons for choosing the conventional, or the unconventional, learning path?

    ___________________

    With a degree in Modern Languages and Bilingual Education, Jennifer has taught Spanish, Russian, Latin, and Bible, coordinated weekly chapel, and tutored Hebrew at The Garden School. She homeschooled her son before sending him to Sarasota Christian School, and is an avid advocate of home cooking, home remedies, home birth, and home death as well.

The Garden

    By Shilo Bartlett

cover-gardening[1]We have just finished planting our first “official” garden this year. It includes the usual tomatoes, basil, watermelon, onions, parsley and peas. It has a small fence around the climbing tomatoes so they can have a nice sturdy fence to climb up. It has a ground cover to keep the weeds out. It also has a drip hose with an automatic timer so that the seedlings don’t dry out in the sun. It has all this, and we are ever so proud of it. Small as it may be, it contains months of planning, thought, and hard work.

This small garden contains everything essential to the learning process, in my opinion. I grew up watching (and sometimes helping 🙂 ) my mother plant an enviable garden every year. It was one of our favorite things to do as kids to run out and just eat as much as you could – sweet peas being the favorite. We would just pick and eat! I remember thinking, “What an amazing part of nature that we can just put a small seed in the ground, and voila! You have food!”

The lessons I learned from my mother while watching her dutifully plant, water, weed, and care for that garden has shaped the way I look at many things:

1) The dedication to a goal – that is essential in the gardening process.

2) The strict accountability to no one but the plants; to take care of something that will not respond or talk back, but will show you results if you are patient enough.

3) The ability to see the future. To not look at what is in front of you now, but look forward to what will come.

4) To plan for your family’s needs outside of what the world and society have provided.

5) To want to give your children the best food you can possibly provide.

These are all lessons that I strive to achieve in my own life today. I am devoted to the ideals that my mother and her garden gave me.

This is why my small little plot that my children have helped put together in these past few weeks is such an amazing part of our little lives. I am looking forward to the late summer and fall harvest when I’ll watch my children run out to eat those fresh tomatoes and peas, just like my mother before me.

Happy summer everyone!

Do you garden? If so, what is your favorite part of gardening?

    _______________________

    Shilo_BShilo Bartlett is a super organized, over reaching, strong-willed mother of three. She loves having the hands-on time with her kids that homeschooling and The Garden School have allowed her. She grew up in the Colorado River Valley, and went to public school until 6th grade. Her mother homeschooled her and her three siblings through high school, and then she attended CMC graduating with a degree in Applied Science in the Veterinary Field. She has always read voraciously, and written throughout her life for many publications. Her family is her passion. Her driving motivation is to encourage a love of learning.