Friday, December 30, 2011

Disciplining Future Men

     When I began this blog, I really wanted to avoid "deep thoughts" and simply use it as a way to share information.  So many others do deep thinking so much better than me, and I planned to leave all that to those who do it best.  However, lately, I've been mullin' over (couldn't resist) something that my dear husband read to me and that I later reread for myself.  First, some background. 

     Recently, at church, a dear friend of mine was introducing me to a friend of hers.  At that moment, this visitor's son ran up in tears, and I quickly discovered that my son was the cause.  Yep, my son decked the visitor's kid.  Why?  My son saw this strange boy chasing and "threatening" his friend, who was screaming, and without a lot of thought, ran up, and "rescued" his friend.  In reality, these two boys know each other and were goofing around.  I'd say that my son grossly misread the situation.  So what do you do?

     I was mortified.  I won't lie.  However, my approach to disciplining my son and thinking about this situation was very different due to something, as I said before, that my husband read to me from the book Future Men only a few days before this incident.  Pardon me for the length of this quote, but it's too good to paraphrase. (Highlighting is mine)

     Countless examples may be multiplied from any given day in the life of a small boy.  Say a boy breaks a chair because he was jumping on it from the bunk bed.  Unbelief sees the cost of replacing the chair.  Faith sees aggressiveness and courage, both of which obviously need to be directed and disciplined.  Suppose a boy gets into a fight protecting his sister.  Unbelief sees the lack of wisdom that created a situation that could have been easily avoided; faith sees an immature masculinity that is starting to assume the burden of manhood.
     Unbelief squashes; faith teaches.  Faith takes a boy aside, and tells him that this part of what he did was good, while that other part of what he did got in the way. "And this is how to do it better next time."
     This issue of fighting provides a good example of how necessary such distinctions are.  Of course parents do not want to encourage fighting in their sons.  But this is not the only item on the menu.  Neither do they want to encourage abdication and cowardice.  There are times when men have to fight.  It follows that there will be times when boys have to learn how to fight, how to walk away, how to turn the other cheek, when to turn the other cheek, and when to put up their dukes.  If boys don't learn, men won't know.  And boys will not learn unless their fathers teach.
     When Theodore Roosevelt was at Harvard, he taught Sunday school for a time at Christ Church, until he was dismissed. A boy showed up one Sunday with a black eye.  He admitted he had been fighting, and on a Sunday too.  He told the future president that a bigger boy had been pinching his sister, and so he fought him.  TR told him that he had done perfectly right and gave him a dollar.  The vestrymen thought this was a bit much, and so they let their exuberant Sunday school teacher go.
     Unbelief cannot look past the surface.  If there was any sin involved, unbelief sees only the sin.  Faith sees what was turned aside to the service of sin and seeks to turn it back again.  Sin is parasitic and cannot function without some good attributes that it seeks to corrupt.  Consequently, faith must distinguish that which must be preserved and developed and that which must be abandoned as sin.
     In addition, faith also sees the godliness in what many pietists, on their own authority, have come to call sin.  At the beginning of his life, a boy does not know what century he was born in, and consequently exhibits to many of his politically correct and aghast elders some of the same traits exhibited by the boyhood chums of Sennacherib and Charlemagne.  He doesn't know any better -- yet.  But in our day, many of these designed masculine traits are drilled or drugged out of him by the time he is ten.  Faith resists this ungodly process and defines sin by the Scriptures and not by pietistic traditions.
     So faith is central in bringing up boys, but it is important to remember that the object of faith is not the boy.  It is faith in God, faith in His promises, faith in His wisdom.  Faith concerns the boy, and the boy can see that it concerns him.  Parents are to believe God for their sons, which is a very different thing than believing their sons.   
                               ---- from  the Introduction of Future Men by Douglas Wilson

     So when a boy two years younger says he's smarter and stronger, what's a boy to do?  I think in this instance, you teach your son to walk away, to let it go.

     When your son sees other children teasing or worse, hurting, someone different or weaker, what do you teach your son to do, especially since most schools have a zero tolerance policy for fighting, regardless of the circumstances?

     And when your son thinks his friend is in danger by a strange boy he's never seen and goes after the offender, you praise the loyalty and courage there, but you teach your son that, in church, it is best to find out more facts and find an adult to help.

     Somewhere along the line, we've decided, as a culture, that all fighting is wrong, but is it?  Is it wrong to fight for the orphan, the abused, the rights of those who cannot speak for themselves?  Is it wrong to get involved when your son sees injustice?  When our boys fight, hit, jump off things way too high, climb trees, and act "wild," what do we see?  Do we have faith that God is working in our boys' lives, creating strong, godly future men or do we just see little hellions that need to be tamed?

     There are way too many glum statistics about the status of our young men in this country, so I think Douglas Wilson may be onto something.  "Unbelief squashes; faith teaches."  Let's have faith in our boys.

     Finally, Wilson states "And boys will not learn unless their fathers teach."  As a side note, this is really a book that fathers should read first because boys learn best how to be men from their dads. However, this one passage alone has given me much to think about in how I parent my boys so at some point, I'll read the book myself.

     So the next time one of my little hellions, um, boys attempts to climb to the tippy-top of the tree, I'll swallow my fear and the urge to yell, "Get out of that tree right now before you fall and break your arm and we have to go to the ER!" and instead, praise the bravery it takes to climb to the tippy-top and yell instead, "Please be careful you brave, courageous future man!"  OK, well, maybe not, but you get the idea!

     Thus ends my deep thinking....

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Writing a Book Report -- A Guideline

     A book report is a great way for children to learn the arts of reading, summarizing, analyzing, and writing.  However, when my oldest wrote his first one, I searched and searched for some sort of guideline or outline -- something that he could use to get started.  I finally found an outline on the internet that I liked, and then I changed it to suit our needs.  
     The idea is that you use the questions to help your child write six paragraphs.  If each question in a section is answered, the paragraph will be pretty solid.  However, do not use each question as one sentence. (I've never been a stickler for:  "Each paragraph must have five sentences.")  If you do, you will have a book report that sounds like this:  "I read Blah by John Doe.  I chose it because it had a great cover.  It was written in 2011.  It won the Bad Book Award.  The author is famous for writing Yuck and Boring.  There are 1,000 copies of this book in print."  The sentences will be too short and choppy!  First, print out the outline, then the student can write notes to the side of each question or write out his or her own outline before writing the actual book report.
     I'm including the outline with my changes and additions, followed by a book report my oldest finished today!  I asked his permission to use it because it's a great way to see how a book report should flow, and many students learn by example!  

Book Report Outline

Title of Book:  ________________________  Author:  _______________

_____Title (underlined), Author
_____If desired, why did you choose the book? 
_____When was it written? 
_____Has it won awards?  (check the back of the book)
_____ Is the author famous for writing another book?
_____ Are there millions of copies in print?  (check the back of the book)
_____ What else would you like to say?

I. Setting
_____ 1. What was the setting for this book?
(example: snow-covered wilderness)
_____ 2. Where did most of the action of the book take place?
(example: northern Alaska)
_____ 3. When did it take place?
(example: the 1880's)
_____ 4. Describe what was this place like.
(example: bitterly cold, desolate, lack of food)
_____ 5. Why do you think the author picked this setting for the story?
(example: to show how hard it was to survive in Alaska)

II. Main Character
_____ 1. Who or what was the main character of this book? (example: a wolf-dog named Butch)
_____ 2. What did this character look like?
(example: large head, thick body, heavy brown and black fur)
_____ 3. What kind of personality did the character have?
(example: fierce, fearless)
_____ 4. Give an example of one of his or her good traits.
(example: loyalty to his master)
_____ 5. Give an example of one of his or her faults.
(example: reckless, easily distracted)
_____ 6.  Are there other important characters?  Discuss them briefly. 

III. Plot
_____ 1. Briefly summarize the book’s plot in one sentence.
(example: a new dog fought for survival on a sled team)
_____ 2. What was the goal of the main character? (example: to become the lead dog on the sled team)
_____ 3. Why was he or she trying to accomplish this goal?
(example: he was tired of being abused)
_____ 4. Who or what was working against the main character?
(example: a large husky named Plato)
_____ 5. What was the climax of the book? How did things resolve or work out?
(example: when Butch fought to defend his master)
     Climax is the turning point in the book, the high point.  Everything in the book builds up to this point, the climax, and the conclusion usually follows soon after.

IV. Message/Theme
_____ 1. What was the message of this book?
(example: kindness will be repaid)
_____ 2. How did the author get his message across to the reader?
(example: he showed that an animal can sense and return love)
_____ 3. Give a specific example of this from the book.
(example: Butch slept near the man who showed him kindness)
_____ 4. Give another specific example of this from the book.
(example: Butch was given his freedom, but he chose to stay)
_____ 5. What do you think the author wanted you to learn or to feel after reading this story? (example: that love can be more powerful than physical strength)

V. Personal Review/Conclusion – Conclude by wrapping it all up.
_____ 1. Did this book hold your interest? 
_____ 2. Why or why not? (interesting, sad, boring, etc.)
_____ 3. What was the author’s writing style? 
_____ 4. Did you enjoy the author’s writing style? Why or why not?
_____ 5.  What were strengths or weaknesses of the book? 
_____ 6.  What was your favorite part?
_____ 7. Would you recommend this book to others? Why or why not?

A Book Report of A Single Shard
By Darius Mullin

     A Single Shard was written in 2001 by Linda Sue Park and has won the Newbery Award. Linda Sue Park is also the author of Seesaw Girl, The Kite Fighters, and When My Name Was Keoko. A Single Shard is great historical fiction.

     A Single Shard is staged in a small potter’s village, named Ch’ulp’o, off the west coast of mid-twelfth century Korea. The village is surrounded by forest and mountains and has a good view of the ocean. I think the author picked this setting because this is what a potter’s village was actually like.

     The main character of A Single Shard is a 12-year-old boy named Tree-ear who lives under a bridge with his mentor, foster parent, and friend, Crane-man. Tree-ear is eager, curious, loyal, polite, and enthusiastic; however, he is also sometimes foolish and does things without thinking. He works for Min, the best potter in the village who is often quick-tempered and grumpy.

     This book is the story of how Tree-ear worked for ‘The Honorable Potter,’ Min, and how he took two pots to the royal emissary in Songdo, that Min might become the royal potter. Tree-ear’s goal is to please Min enough that he would teach him to make a pot. Tree-ear admires pottery very much and wants to make a pot himself. The only thing in his way is Min himself, who is unwilling to teach him. The climax of the book is when, even though robbers ambush him on the way to Songdo, he takes one shard to the emissary… and gets his master the job!

     There are many messages in this book, but the most important is that good may come as long as you stay loyal to the end. Tree-ear is loyal even when times are tough, and, eventually, Min adopts him. For example, even when he is told by The Honorable Potter that he will never teach him to make a pot, he is still as loyal as ever. Another example is even when he is ambushed on the way to Songdo by robbers, he looks until he finds the remains of the pots and takes a shard to the emissary.

     When I finished the book I felt shocked, happy, and sad all at the same time. Because it was very well-written and entertaining, I found it hard to put down! My favorite part was Tree-ear’s journey. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to learn about Korea or just loves a good story.

(I assigned this book to my son because of his Korean heritage!)

I have searched and searched the internet to find the original source of the outline, but since I found it about two or three years ago, there are multiple copies of it on multiple sites.  In addition, I have changed it some to suit our needs.  Many thanks to the anonymous author.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bran Muffin Recipe

     When my dear missionary-friend came home from Germany on furlough, we traveled to Minnesota to visit.  Every morning, she made these delicious bran muffins.  I felt terrible that she was working so hard to make us delicious, home-made muffins every morning, so I told her that she should stop because we were perfectly happy with cold cereal.  That's when she told me about this recipe, and it's been a family favorite ever since.
     You basically mix up a huge batch of muffin mix, and it stays good in the refrigerator for six weeks.  Personally, I go with the date that the eggs expire.  However, now that my boys are older, we never have a batch last more than a week.  I think this makes about 4-5 dozen of muffins.
     After I dip out the batter into the muffin tin, I add in a few chocolate chips.  I put them on top and squish them down with a toothpick because you should not re-stir the batter.  My kids love finding the chocolate inside.  These are so good for you, and they make a wonderful snack.  However, don't let your little ones eat too many or, well, let's just say that they will have to go potty a lot!  :)
     The day after I got the recipe from her, via e-mail, a different friend sent me the Bran Muffin Joke!  Cracked me up!  Below you'll find the recipe and the joke.

Bran muffin recipe

Step 1:
2 c. 100% Bran
2 c. boiling water

Pour water over bran .  Set aside until cool.

Step 2:
5 c. flour
5 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt

Mix together in bowl.

Step 3:
3 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 1/4 c. oil
1 quart buttermilk
4 c. All Bran cereal

Cream sugar, eggs and oil.  Add buttermilk and All Bran and mix.  Add Step 2 to Step 3 and mix.  Add Step 1 to the mixture and mix well.  Store in fridge for up to 6 weeks.  DO NOT stir again.  Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

Bran Muffin Joke:

      An 85-year-old couple, having been married almost 60 years, had died in a car crash. They had been in good health the last ten years, mainly due to her interest in health food and exercise. When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion, which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen and master bath suite and Jacuzzi. As they "ooohed and aaahed" the old man asked Peter how much all this was going to cost. "It's free," Peter replied, "this is Heaven."

      Next they went out back to see the championship golf course that the home backed up to. They would have golfing privileges everyday and each week the course changed to a new one representing the great golf courses on earth. The old man asked, "What are the green fees?" Peter's reply, "This is heaven, you play for free."

      Next they went to the clubhouse and saw the lavish buffet lunch with the cuisines of the world laid out. "How much to eat?" asked the old man. "Don't you understand yet? This is heaven, it is free!" Peter replied. "Well, where are the low fat and low cholesterol foods?" the old man asked timidly. "That's the best can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never get fat and you never get sick. This is Heaven."

      The old man looked at his wife and said, "You and your bran muffins. I could have been here ten years ago!

Thanks so much Shelly K. for this yummy recipe!  Many thanks to Sherri A. for the funny joke!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

For Boys Only: The Biggest, Baddest Book Ever

     I am pleased to present to you a guest book review by Darius Mullin, age 12.   For Boys Only: The Biggest, Baddest Book Ever

     Did you know that there are more chances of becoming president than winning a jackpot in the state lottery? How ‘bout that America eats 350 slices of pizza a second?  For Boys Only: The Biggest, Baddest Book Ever by Marc Aronson and HP Newquest holds everything from when Pop-tarts were invented to THE scariest amusement park ride in America to spies to never-solved mysteries to the date of the first Super Bowl to the most successful movies in America to… well, you get the idea.

     “From ancient wonders to extreme sports, you’ll find all this-and much more- close to 200 pages of the biggest and baddest information on just about everything.”  --Back Cover of For Boys Only

     “How could you not love a book with monsters, treasures, disasters, weapons, and Lamborghinis- a must-have for every boy adventurer.”  --John Scieszka, author of The Time Warp Trio and founder of the GUYS READ Program.

     I would recommend this book for ages 10+.  Some of my favorite parts are ‘Odds are…’, ‘Mark Your Calendar!’, ‘Great Mysteries: Spooky’, and ‘Speeds… in Miles Per Hour.’

     So, if you’re looking for the perfect book for your son, this is it!

Thank you Darius for this awesome book review!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Learning through Lapbooks -- Scrapbooking Meets Education

     When my oldest was younger, I struggled with making certain subjects more hands-on and creative.  One day, a dear friend of mine pulled out her twins' lapbooks on the solar system.  After a quick scan through the pages of these fun, fold-out books, I knew I had found the answer that I was looking for.
     What is a lapbook?  A lapbook (or lap book)  is basically a cumulative project from a unit of study made out of a file folder, card stock, and imagination.  They include many different folds of paper and cut-outs fastened to the inside of the book.  When finished, the child has a record of work studied and an impressive, colorful, project to share with others.  Lap books are almost like scrapbooking with an educational bent.
     Our family has used lapbooks for science.  However, they can easily be used in all areas of study such as history, a book study (such as the Little House on the Prairie), or a country or state study.
     When complete, the student has a creative lapbook on a subject that he or she can be proud of.  I encourage my children to share them with as many people as possible -- friends, neighbors, relatives.  Each time they share their lapbook, they are reviewing the subject matter.  Like a photo album or scrapbook, children love to look back through their lapbooks, again reviewing the content. 

Websites and Books
     If you would like some guidance on how to begin lapbooking, the Big Book of Books and Activities by Dinah Zike is a good place to start.  Dinah Zike was a pioneer in this new concept of cumulative mini-"books" and foldables that later became known as the "lapbook."  She has since come out with a variety of lapbook courses.  We have used Great Science Adventures:  The World of Space by Dinah Zike and Susan Simpson in which she uses "3D graphic organizers" that she calls "books" -- half books, 3 tab books, pocket books, vocabulary books, layered look books, 4 door books, trifold books, accordian books, 10 top tab books, etc.  The Ultimate Lap Book Handbook by Cyndy Regeling and Tammy Duby is another source, although I have not used this one.  
     Fortunately, there are enough resources online that you do not have to buy anything to figure out how to incorporate lapbooking into a school project .

For lapbook templates try: or
Other sites with ideas or free lapbooks:
Free animal studies lapbooks  (these are favorites -- we've done Backyard Birds, Antarctica, and Chipmunks)


This is a lapbook that Darius did on the Deep Sea in 6th grade.  He chose the topic, and we used the free templates and ideas to make the "books" on the inside.  We used several library books and the internet for our research.

You use a file folder as your starting point.  I taped in two 8 1/2 x 11 pieces of cardstock on top and on the bottom (gray and orange.)  Then I added a green flip up piece on the right.  On each of these, front and back,  are vocabulary words, animals, information about underwater submarines used for exploration, etc.  Everything in the book opens or turns to reveal information (sort of like a pop-up book).  When you are finished, you fold everything back into the lapbook.

This is a lapbook that Titus did on Antarctica last year as a 2nd grader.  We used Mary Pope Osborne's Penguins and Antarctica (Magic Tree House Research Guide) as our main source of information.  Everything in this lapbook is from  I printed out their free lapbook pages from their animal studies section which correlated with the Osborne book chapter by chapter.  We also checked out several books from the library about penguins.
 When you first open the lapbook, this is what you see.  Then the gray pages open up to reveal more information.

This picture shows how the mini-books on the inside of the lapbook open out to reveal information.

My oldest made this Earth Science lapbook in the 2nd grade.  He's in the 7th grade now, but he still likes to look through it.
This lapbook was our first one.  I made all the folds and little books myself using the patterns in Dinah Zike's Big Book of Books and Activities.

      After we finish with the lapbooks, we take them to the Houston Zoo's Naturally Wild Swap Shop to share them with the naturalists there (if they are nature related).  I also encourage the boys to share them with Daddy, grandparents, and others.  
     Lapbooking allows my kids to be creative, enjoy a cumulative final project, share what they have learned with others, and review subject matter again and again.  It's a great way to learn!

Thanks to Sherri A. for introducing me to the wonderful world of lapbooking.