Only eighteen shopping days until Christmas! Yikes! And if you exclude the three Sundays, which all good Sabbath Keepers will do, that leaves only fifteen more shopping days. And so, in order to make your gift decisions easier and to encourage your family to read more books in the upcoming year, I am attaching my annual reading list: 2017 Book Recommendations. Each December for the past six years I have compiled a list of about ten books that I have enjoyed that year and recommend to our families. These are not anyone’s all-time favorites or the year’s absolute best, but they are all books that I propose reading. I try particularly to suggest books for folks who are not serious readers but might be looking for a good place to start. So, look over this year’s list (and past lists: 2012-2016 Book Recommendations) ,and veni, vidi, visa (I came, I saw, I bought it with my card), and then tolle lege! (Take up and read)
Finally, I want to direct you an excellent article from Matt Whitling, principle at Logos School in Moscow, Idaho. Logos School is generally viewed as the “mother school” of classical and Christian schools. Mr. Whitling speaks every year at the annual conference of the ACCS. This article, Eternity in a Span, is the transcript of his plenary session talk at this summer’s annual conference in Pittsburgh. The article is directed to teachers, all he says applies to teachers and parents alike. Here, in powerful and encouraging words, Matt Whitling calls us to a vision that sees God at work in all we do –even in the mundane little things –and sees God at work in our little world to do something with far reaching implications in His kingdom. [But] sometimes there’s a mom and she thinks, “I’m not changing the world, I’m changing diapers,” or “I’m changing laundry again.” It’s kind of the monotony. I believe that some of the most effective and profound ways that you change the world are pedestrian. It’s the little things. Love your kids well. And sometimes it’s hard because we’re short-sighted and we just see what’s in front of us, we just see the little picture. I was reading this morning in Genesis 22 where God says to Abraham, “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies.” (Gen. 22:17 ESV] It is one grain at a time. And in this passage God says, “Look up, you’re at the beach, look at the shore, count them.” And we say, “Okay, I see it.”
Teach, train, and love those little grains of sand as unto the Lord. You are laboring on God’s seashore.
Have a great week and a Blessed Thanksgiving!
I trust you are having a great week. It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving is next week. Everyone is looking forward to the break, to feasting with family, and to this season of special thankfulness for God’s goodness to us. We will hear much about gratitude in the next two weeks, much of it profound, but some of it clichéd, perhaps. I have often thought that God gives us particular holidays, holy-days, and special seasons so that for a few days we would reflect intently on the things for that we ought to be possessed by every day. We remember the incarnation at Christmas, because the gift of Christ should occupy our minds daily. We contemplate the cross and resurrection at Easter because the realities behind those events should own us moment by moment. God gave us Thanksgiving because most of us forget to praise and thank God for the thousands of gifts He gives us every hour. Most of us tend toward grumbling and complaining rather than thanking and praising. Hence, the apostle Paul challenges us to, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 5:19-20) and to give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess 5:18). I am grateful for the season of Thanksgiving to remind me to be thankful always and in all things.
In a recent post I encouraged you to read The Vanishing American Adult, by Ben Sasse. The book calls parents to be intentional, tough-minded, and forward looking in raising their kids. If we want our kids to grow up to be responsible and mature adults -who can climb life’s mountains –we must demand certain things of them when they are children -some things which run against the grain of what Sasse calls “soft parenting.” I ran across a short article at the business magazine, Inc.com, Science Says the Most Successful Kids Have Parents Who Do These 9 Things. While I am always a bit cautious about articles that claim “science says” and do not agree with every point in this article (i.e. #4), the article reinforces much of what Ben Sasse asserts. It is okay, in fact, it is wise and good, to make your children work hard, to allow them to fail, to limit screen-time, and delay gratification of their desires. The links in the article will take you to some fascinating articles and videos. (Every parent should read about the marshmallow study!)
I know many of you are avid podcast listeners. The ACCS has begun recording BaseCamp Live, a weekly 23-minute podcast on classical, Christian education and parenting. Our “greatest challenge is how to shape young people who will encounter a culture that is often working against them and equip them to become flourishing adults who love Jesus Christ, think with confidence, believe with courage and serve with compassion . . .BaseCamp Live will equip you, the parent, grandparent, educator, or mentor, to climb that biggest mountain.” You could start with the July 26, 2017 episode titled “I Was Robbed.” The interview with George Grant will be a great encouragement to you. You can listen to these podcasts directly from the website or you can subscribe to BaseCampLive in iTunes or from your Android podcast manager.
This summer I read a book that I desperately wish everyone, especially every Veritas parent, would read. The book is The Vanishing American Adult. Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska, a former college president with an Ivy League doctorate in history, and the father of three children in a classical Christian school (Veritas in Richmond, VA), has provided us with an accurate diagnosis and sound prescription for much of what ails our families and young adults. This book is not at all political and it is not a rant. It is a gentle exhortation to parents to stop and think about how they are raising their kids. You may not agree with every conclusion and you may not be able to implement every suggestion, but you must have the conversation and wrestle with these issues in your home. On some levels, Ben Sasse articulates so many of things we stand for at Veritas. As I read this book, I kept thinking, “This is what I’ve been trying to say to our parents, Sasse just says it so much better.” The first three chapters (87 pages) provide an easy to understand historical overview of how we got to where we are as parents -from Rousseau to Dewey to Dr. Spock. In the rest of the book, he outlines his prescription for raising mature, responsible, and wise adults. His stories and recommendations are very challenging and encouraging. Please get a copy of this book, read it, talk about it, and prayerfully live it. Some reviews and summaries can be found here, here, and here.
Parenting is Hard. Often, we feel alone in our struggles to raise our children rightly. Often, we look at others and falsely imagine that they’ve figured it out or that their children are easy. But biblical parenting is always hard for every parent of every child. Godly parenting requires a great deal of prayer, sweat, and tears. In 12 Spurgeon Quotes for When Parenting Feels Hard, we have some challenging words from a very godly couple who found parenting hard.
I hope you are enjoying a great summer. We are thankful for a wonderful 2016-17 school year. While the last few weeks are always a whirl of activity, they are also precious times together as a school community. The sports banquet, field trips, field day, headmaster’s dinner, graduation, class parties, and awards assembly were all special events. The year went by so fast. I often must stop to remind myself to cherish the days –for they are numbered –for all of us.
The same is true of our summer break. The next nine weeks will go by quickly. Get some rest. Take some time off. Let the children be children and enjoy carefree days. Enjoy a nice vacation or a few days at Tybee. Have a fun summer, but let me encourage you to cherish the days and be intentional with your family’s time this summer. A few weeks ago, there was a helpful article for students on the Gospel Coalition Blog, Students, Don’t Waste Your Summer. The principle applies to parents and families, as well as students. Set some summer goals for your family and children. Have a purposeful summer. Here are a few suggestions:
• Set reading goals for the family and/or children. Get a head start on the Veritas Reading Lists. Here is a great list of recommended books for summer reading (for parents and high schoolers) from Al Mohler. Maybe you can’t read 3-4 books per week like Dr. Mohler (He is incredible!), but you can be inspired by him to read 2-3 books over the summer.
• Take 20-30 minutes a day for 3-5 days/week and have your children learn keyboarding/typing. This is essential for students entering Logic School. Summer is a great time to knock this out. Donna and I did this one summer and had all three of ours typing well in no time. (Here are some recommended and inexpensive programs. My family used Mavis Beacon.)
• Visit area parks, nature centers, and historic sites. The Savannah area has many great places to see.
• If you have a rising third grader get a jump start on their insect collection (contact Mrs. Taylor, dtaylor@VeritasSavannah.org for details.) The critters will keep nicely in your freezer -woohoo!
• Have your rising 9th and 10th grader listen to this short story from Flannery O’Connor. She is an author they will study during the second semester in American Literature. This a rare audio of this author reading her own story. Great stuff!
• Have your children exchange letters (Letter? What’s that?) with far-away cousins, friends, or grandparents.
• Do several half-day service projects. Mow and clean-up an elderly neighbor’s yard. Help grandparents with a project. Ask your church for ideas and suggestions.
• Parents, please read these two articles. 1) A Theology of the Home is a fine discussion of the importance of home life. While we must not idolize our homes, we must also be careful not to underestimate the value of healthy home life. 2) You may not agree with all of the ideas in The Case for Free-Range Children, but I do think it will challenge some of your assumptions. There is much research that links healthy benefits for children who are not cooped up in the house all day or locked inside a fenced backyard. I often wonder if fear (often unfounded) has caused parents to be over protective and restrictive.