Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Getting a Constitutional Education – Free Homeschool Curriculum

As a homeschooling father, I am always looking for ways to teach my three kids a unique, but true, perspective of any subject. I take it as a personal challenge to ensure that I research topics and understand them thoroughly before attempting to pass on any learning. This does require quite a bit of time, and sometimes I wish I had more time to pursue other interests like golf or restoring an old car. But right now, at this stage of my life, nothing is more important than impressing true, meaningful knowledge and wisdom on these three children living in my house.

The Constitution of the United States is one of the most important documents ever created, and likely affects those of us who live in the United States more than any other single paper written entirely by men. It is one of the few mandatory subject requirements handed down by our state board of education. I wonder – how many people have read the Constitution? Do our public schools require the reading of the document, or do they only present the subjective interpretation of what the Constitution means? I have decided this: my children are going to read the Constitution and are going to understand what it means. And I intend to teach them how it can become distorted in our country and in our government so greatly that the principles contained within that document are almost unrecognizable today. Finally, I intend to instruct them on how they can have an effect to reverse this trend in their lifetime.

To this end, I am starting a nine-part series on the Constitution, what was meant in the words that the founding fathers laid out, and how it is interpreted today. I have read several books lately that have helped tremendously on this topic – most notably by David McCullough and Thomas J. DiLorenzo. In the coming weeks, you should expect to read the truth about topics such as (click on the highlighted text to go directly to the article):

1. Does the Constitution give the President as much power as we seem to think? What about the Supreme Court? Are the nine justices that sit on the court really invested with the ultimate authority to interpret the Constitution and how it applies to our freedoms?

2. What was the purpose of the Constitution in regards to states' rights versus central government rights? What did the framers intend in regard to this power struggle? Was the Constitution approved as a nation? How does the Seventeenth Amendment affect this?

3. Is government debt really okay? What are the pros and cons? Is it constitutional for the government to go into debt?

4. What happened to states' rights when the Sixteenth Amendment was ratified?

5. What are the concepts of secession and nullification about? And was Abraham Lincoln really a good president?

6. What are “enumerated powers” versus “implied powers” in the Constitution?

7. What happened to my money when the Federal Reserve Act became law in 1913?

8. What is the “General Welfare Clause” and should I like it?

9. What brought about the birth of “judicial activism”? Was this interpretation intended by the founding fathers?

Consider this to be curriculum suitable for using with your own children – all for free. Two installments per week will be posted, ending in early March. When the series is completed, I’ll put together an official question and answer key that homeschooling families can use. Until then, feel free to share these postings with your children and discuss the overall principles behind some very meaningful Constitutional principles. There will easily be enough material here to count as a quarter’s credit in government.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Weep With Me

In ancient Middle-Eastern times, certain cultures invoked the practice of sacrificing their children to the god Molech. The statue of Molech took many forms, depending on the culture, but a common configuration was to construct a red-hot brazier in the front of an idol, where the live child could be placed. While holding the screaming child down, and after making motions of an offering, the priests would release the child to roll down the sloped brazier and through a hole into the flaming interior of the bronze statue. Other priests would beat drums, partially to prevent the parents of the child from having a change of heart after hearing the screams of their own child. One Greek historian tells us that relatives were forbidden to weep during the process. The purpose for this horrific procedure was to satisfy the cravings of the god, and to restore blessings on the nation.

This is not fantasy. It really happened. Countless archaeological excavations confirm it, as do historical writings. The Bible makes mention of it in several places, most notably in Leviticus 18:21 – “Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God.” It seems a terrifying practice to us today – and would certainly be condemned by any rational group of people. And yet…

Our nation continues this practice. The procedure we call abortion is today’s equivalent of the sacrifice to Molech. Oh, there will be those who say they are not the same. They are wrong. Our nation is condoning, and even encouraging, the sacrifice of our own children at the altar of convenience. If a child in the womb is thought to be an inconvenience, or if the parents become fearful of any ailments the child may have, or even if there is no reason behind it, we are allowing parents to kill their own children. Politicians hide behind excuses involving the health of the mother, but ignore the fact that the vast majority of abortions are performed for other reasons. And far from prosecuting those who would go through with such an abomination, many in our nation advertise and rally for it. Government-funded clinics provide counseling in an effort to encourage mothers to terminate their children, and then government funds are made ready to pay for the procedure. My tax dollars are being used to fund a practice I find morally reprehensible – and there is nothing I can do to prevent it. Put simply – a part of my paycheck funds abortions. I cry out in protest.

Our new president made the claim that decisions regarding abortion were really “above his pay grade” during the election run-up. And yet, three days into his presidency, he signed back into law the funding of abortions in other countries, using American tax dollars. Forget the fact that this is an unconstitutional use of taxpayer money. Forget that we are already in the largest deficit spending situation in history. The bottom line is this – more babies will die because he put his signature on that piece of paper. And that is nothing short of an abomination. God told us in Leviticus – it profanes the name of God. And guess what? We are told that we should not weep over the process – it’s just a mass of cells. Is this sounding familiar?

My initial reaction was anger. That has passed, and all I’m left with is profound sorrow. We should be weeping over the murder of our children, and the pagan sacrifice that is being made in every city of our nation – every day. It is estimated that over 50 million babies have been killed in the United States alone since 1926. And over 950 million babies have lost their lives globally during that period. God save us! What is happening to our children?

The time to act is now. What can we do in the face of legalized practice and precedent in one of the most “civilized” nations on earth? I would suggest three things. First, drop to your knees right now, weep, and ask God for forgiveness and clarity of purpose for our nation and our world. Don’t wait – our first step should be toward God, because only He holds the future and has promised that righteous prayers are effective. Second, find the local pro-life pregnancy counseling center in your town and volunteer time and money to help with the fight. And third, do not ever cast another vote for an elected official who does not wholeheartedly support the reversal of the practice of abortion. One by one, we need to install leaders who understand the everlasting curse that is abortion – and the abiding blessing that children provide us. And by God’s grace, we will return to a world that sees the truth of this concept.

We can read ancient history, and be incensed at the pagan practices we see there. The parallels between sacrifices to Molech and our nation’s own abortion practices are striking. And none is more startling to me than the one that tells parents that they should not feel remorse over the loss. Weep with me over the lost children…and help change the world.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Kids' Latest Video

Here's the kids' latest production. It wasn't a school assignment or anything - they just did it because they wanted to, and because they had some extra time one afternoon. Another homeschooling advantage...

Note: No adults were harmed (or even participated) in the making of this video...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Plea for Something Greater Than More Government

I’ve discovered a new source of incredible reading material lately. The Federalist Papers were written in 1787 and 1788 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. Eighty-five articles were written on various topics, but the primary purpose was to encourage people to support the ratification of the United States Constitution by the thirteen states then in existence.

I would love to expound on each of these eighty-five at some point, but I fear I would quickly lose readers. An article on The Federalist Papers just doesn’t grab most people. That’s a little unfortunate, but also understandable. What I would like to point out is the incredible faith and ability to reason that these men had. They can write on a topic with such grace and beauty that I am left in awe. I intend to give one example here.

In Federalist #51, James Madison is discussing the idea of limited power of the government – a timely subject given the recent news headlines. His point is directed along the lines that government power must be limited, because government possesses the same flaws as man. His words on this topic specifically:

“It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

Madison’s treatment of this subject using the comparison of men and angels is brilliant. When put in this light, the concept becomes relatively simple. If men had the character of angels, they would not need government oversight because their lives would be pure and free from corruption. Since men are not angels, we require such oversight. But, unfortunately, the government is made up of men – who, once again, are not angels. One look at the day’s news will reveal the corruption that is rampant in our government officials. This flaw in government’s character means that the power of the government must also be limited, because left unchecked, the government will begin extorting the people it is supposed to serve – all for its own ends. Does that sound familiar?

And so we are left with the third choice – that is, a government of men watching over men. And this naturally implies that there will be imperfections and injustice along the way. If you are looking for the government to always do the right thing, or settle things fairly and impartially, you will be left wanting. It is a system which has distinct advantages and often serves very well but it is rooted in the imperfection of man, which means that it will go through periods of injustice and inequity.

What we need is an overseer that is fair, just, good, and who never changes. And for this, we have a solution. The Lord God is exactly who we need in times such as this. We can look to Him for wisdom and instruction – on secular topics such as politics, economics, philosophy, and ethics. If our political leaders would return to this fact, then our nation would once again live under God’s blessing and power. Even a casual observation of the founding fathers words reveals their great faith and belief in God as the Creator and Ruler of all. Patrick Henry said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.” And John Jay, one of the authors of The Federalist Papers and the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court said, “God has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” Imagine how our nation would be changed by leaders such as this today.

Is it too late to expect this to happen in our nation? No – with God, all things are possible. We should be frequently on our knees in prayer for our nation, our leaders, and our fallen world. That is one of my resolutions for 2009.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Get Out of My Wallet

$825 billion.

It’s staggering to imagine a number that high. The value is so large, that typing it out as $825,000,000,000 is too long for most printed articles, so we see it shortened into words. What other kind of everyday number creates that necessity? Think about “four”. Think about “twenty-two”. Nope – it’s far easier to type “4” or “22” than to write out the words – at least for numbers that have some meaning to the average person.

$825 billion is the amount the government is proposing for the next wave of bailout money. Add this to the $700 billion that seems to have been wasted in the first round. And add it, also, to the $1.2 trillion budget deficit that is forecast to occur this coming year. I’m going to ignore for the moment my revulsion for the leaders in Congress who truly think I will believe the idea that more government intervention is the answer to our economic woes. And I’ll set aside any arguments that I’m tempted to make about government waste and worthless spending programs – dropping billions on programs that not only are unconstitutional, but to which I am morally opposed. No, instead I want to think about one question – where does the government get $825 billion, anyway?

Three ideas come to mind. The first is that they got it from you and me, the American taxpayers. Governments are funded primarily by taxes, so to some degree, the source of this money came out of the pockets of every working American. Indeed, $275 billion of the total program is supposed to take the form of “temporary tax benefits” over the next two years. To me, this seems the same as if the government said, “Oops, we might have been taking too much money from you in taxes previously and it’s stifled your spending, so here – have some of it back.” And I have no illusions that the $275 billion that comes back started out as significantly more than that amount. The federal government isn’t known for being terribly efficient with our money.

The second place they could get such a staggering amount of money is that the government can borrow it from foreign nations. And they do. And it furthers a mounting debt obligation to those nations, putting the United States into a worsening position of weakness on the foreign markets. Will moves like this put the Chinese yuan into the position once enjoyed by the US dollar? However you view it, a foreign debt of this size weakens America in the long-term, regardless of the importance of fixing the problem right away.

The third place that our government could obtain this money is to get it the old-fashioned way – they print it. Our currency is no longer pegged to a gold standard, so the feds could print $825 billion in a matter of days if they wanted to. They could return some of those green bills to the taxpayer, and still go out and commission the construction of some new roads and bridges. But inflation would be the result – meaning that the money they send back to us would be worth significantly less than when they took it from us in the first place. Hey, government, what did you do with my money?

It’s time to stand up and say, “No more”. Government intervention has repeatedly caused economic downturns in the past. It’s the problem, not the solution. Let’s face it – would you trust the federal government to step in and run a private business more efficiently than the entrepreneurs who started it? Would Washington make a better (and less expensive) iPod every two years? Do we really think the feds will do a better job of overseeing innovations in automobiles than the free market can do?

A fourth source of the $825 billion just occurred to me – the government could steal it. But on second thought, that’s really not any different than the first source…

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Teaching The Sanctity of a Promise

I must admit that I am bothered when people don’t keep their promises to me. It may be something as important as honoring a debt, or something as small as the appliance repairman showing up when promised. But if someone gives me their word and then fails to keep it, I am not the most forgiving of people. I promise to work on that! Recently, I had the opportunity to reflect on the importance of keeping promises, and how critical it is that we teach our children about the sanctity of a marriage vow.

During a vacation where our family retreated to a desert condo for a week, we occasionally endured the banality of cable television and the constant assault of ridiculous commercials. I could write more about what I think of cable TV, but will reserve that for another time. While we spent very little time watching television during our vacation, there was one repetitive commercial worth noting. Specifically, this advertisement was encouraging people to trade in their gold jewelry to be melted down, in exchange for quick payment. One satisfied customer commented, “I traded in the wedding ring from my first marriage, and got cash the next day!”


That quote contains the essence of our society’s latest attitude toward the institution of marriage. It’s summed up in one succinct sound-bite, and it speaks volumes. I’m saddened at how the advertisers can cheapen marriage to this degree. I’m even more disappointed that society seems to think little or nothing about such a statement. Would this advertisement have caused an uproar if it had been released on television fifty years ago? I think it would have, and for all the right reasons.

I recognize that there are people out there who have been through divorce and re-marriage. And I genuinely appreciate that it is heart-wrenching for all parties involved. Even when people talk flippantly about their former marriages, I believe that they hurt deep down inside over the pain – because God made marriage to be something more than just “teaming up” with someone. It’s a very special union – intimate and sacred – because He wanted it to be that way. And so I want you to know that I don’t comment on the subject in judgment on anyone personally, but as a comment about our society and how we collectively are made to think that marriage is nothing special.

The best part of this story is how much this commercial bothered my eleven-year-old son. Every time we saw it, he became indignant. To him, the irreverence for a lasting marriage was more than distasteful. He actually appeared angry about the commercial and continued to talk about it for a long time afterward. I know that my wife and I have talked occasionally with our children about the institution of marriage, and how they should pick a spouse, but I did not know how much it had affected their views. I’m pleased to see my son so deeply cut when someone mentions marriage in a cheap and demeaning way. Could a vow to remain true for life ever be satisfied in exchange for cash money? Is it possible that people are hurting over failed marriages far more than they would admit?

Let me share one tip with anyone who is married and has children of an impressionable age. One thing that my wife and I have always done and remain faithful over is our treatment of the mere mention of divorce. While I have never even thought fleetingly about a divorce from by beloved bride, we maintain a strict policy in our house. We will never mention divorce even in a joking way – not in front of the kids and not to each other. To us, the sanctity of marriage is at work one-hundred-percent of the time. We never let our guard down on this topic. We never casually even mention the word in our house, and the few times that our kids have done so, we stop what we are doing and talk to them about our rule, and why we maintain it. Judging by our son’s response to the television ad, it seems to be working. I pray that his marriage will be blessed by this developing attitude. A marriage vow is far more than a casual promise.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Never Give Up!

Deciding to homeschool is a big step, requiring a mixture of faith, desire, and often a bit of the attitude that says, “We’re different. We’re committed. We’re a little crazy. Get over it.” For the vast majority of the time, our family and friends have been very accepting and supportive. Many of our friends have made the decision to home educate as well, and we are seeing the growth of a community of like-minded people - people with the desire to depart from state-funded education, and who are committed to the daily discipling of their children. Yes, it’s possible to teach your children to follow God while still participating in the local school district. My wife and I both spent all of our education years in public school. But our family is now going down a different path.

Twice a year, without fail, I get a certain feeling about the upcoming homeschooling activities. This feeling occurs about a week before school starts up again, either after summer or Christmas break. It’s best described as a feeling of trepidation mixed with a little bit of exhaustion. It comes over me when I start to think about the time and effort that will be required in the coming sixteen weeks or so. Make no mistake, my wife spends countless hours more than I do preparing, teaching, grading, and planning for our children’s activities. But for me, preparing for the two or three subjects that I teach our children consumes a great deal of the weekend and even the evenings when I come home from work during the week. And I have to admit to a little bit of weariness when the cycle gets ready to begin.

This feeling hit me last weekend as I was getting ready for the next two quarters. I’m teaching economics to two of our children, and boyhood/manhood topics and guitar to my son. It doesn’t sound like much when I write it down. But I have to admit that I had those weary feelings again, as I began to read and write out assignment topics for an economics book which I had not yet read. Sometimes I feel guilty that I have these feelings. But, at no time do I ever feel like we should put aside our commitment to home education. Homeschooling is not typically compared to washing dishes – except that you have to get to it at some point, and you don’t typically hire it out to get done. So, I spent the better part of a Sunday afternoon getting up to speed on economics principles, and preparing two weeks of assignments in the kid’s daily planners. At the end of it, I was tired, but began to get that feeling of satisfaction that accompanies the completion of an important task.

The reward came four days later. I generally come home from work in the late afternoon on Thursdays and the house is left up to me and my son (my wife takes the girls to dance class for a few hours that night). It’s our “guys night out” time, and we both look forward to it. After doing a couple of chores around the house, my eleven-year-old son and I started into the task of schooling. We spent time discussing the topic of completing meaningful work (how appropriate) and what it means to save up for hard times. He went through a Q&A sheet of his own creation in Excel and summed up the topic very well. Then, we moved on to the subject of economics where we had a great discussion. Our talk about the importance of living debt-free and how government bailouts might not work was far more than I had planned for. But he gets it, far more than I did when I was at his age. That gives me a lot of hope for his future – and mine.

Finally, we concluded by breaking out our bass guitar and drum kit in the basement and having a jam session, in preparation for both of us playing in the worship band on Sunday. It was loud, and fun – and loud. We had a great time just playing and singing and worshiping. Did I mention it was loud, too?

What’s my point here? I would hazard a guess that anyone involved as the primary educator of their children has these fearful, exhausted moments when it seems it would be easier to just stop and let things slide. Chances are, many people experienced this feeling in the last couple of weeks as they prepared to start a new semester at home. But this endeavor is not without an eventual reward. Proverbs 13:22 says “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children”. I see this happening in our household right now. My children have a deeper understanding about meaningful subjects – more than I ever did at twice their age. And even more, they are learning to pass these things on to their own children, perpetuating a cycle which I pray will remain unbroken until the end of time. If you are a homeschooling parent, and you have occasional feelings of despair, take heart. It’s all worth it in the end.

Now, I need to go set a reminder in my calendar to read these words next August 15th.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The 3rd Annual Carnival of Homeschooling

Today, I'd like to invite you to peruse The 3rd Annual Carnival of Homeschooling, a collection of blogs related to homeschooling, and those who make it their education system of choice. There are a variety of different approaches and experiences to read about. Just click on the picture below...

Carnival of Homeschooling

Sunday, January 4, 2009

How Much Does Your Soul Weigh?

In 1907, involved in a series of bizarre experiments, Duncan McDougall lifts a dying patient onto the special bed. It’s been attached to an assembly that allows him to weigh with accuracy the patient as he passes away. The goal of his experiment? To see if the weight of the patient changes measurably at the moment of death, as the spirit leaves the body, and thus determine if the human soul can be determined to have appreciable mass.

I know, this is an odd beginning to an installment. But this experiment actually took place, and it got me to thinking – how much do we really know about the soul? Perhaps even more importantly – how much do we think we know about it?

McDougall’s experiment was eventually proclaimed a failure, because he could not get a repeatable reading from patient to patient, and he only performed the experiment six times. Nevertheless, he published a paper declaring that he believed the human soul weighed three-quarters of an ounce (21 grams), as this concurred with some of his data. Curiously, he performed the same experiment on fifteen dogs as they passed away, and found that the scales did not change at all. He concluded that dogs must not have souls. My condolences go out to the dog-lovers out there.

The concept of the human soul can be very confusing. What does it look like? Does it exist in some physical way inside the body? Or is it more like a computer hardware/software analogy, where the body is the “hardware” and soul is the “software”? Can we prove the existence of the human soul? Who hasn’t reflected on the afterlife and how we will spend our time in heaven? But have we given much thought about the “form” that the spiritual body takes?

Our society reveres the topic of science more and more with each passing year. In humanist circles, people claim that science has replaced religion, because we have finally “arrived” and understand things in a more practical sense. While there is no denying that certain parts of science have allowed us to live longer and more secure lives, doesn’t the scientific community still change its mind rather frequently? The same crowd which uses bad scientific method to say that global warming is a fact were predicting a new Ice Age less than thirty years ago. One year we learn that butter is bad for us; the next year, we see a study that says it’s better than margarine. Does science really know as much as it thinks it does?

My point is that we don’t really understand the soul, though we may try desperately to grasp the concept. We attempt to explain things using the knowledge and methods available to us today, but there is a very real possibility that God’s design is much bigger than anything that we can test, prove, or even imagine. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Can anyone yet explain the difference between soul and spirit? God knows the difference, even if we are left wondering.

Man is naturally curious, and this explains experiments such as McDougall’s. Our efforts to learn more about God’s creation are good things. But we need to keep in mind that God is far more powerful and knowledgeable than we will ever be. His designs are intricate, elegant, and deliberate – ask any biochemist. And we should realize that there are certain things, such as the form of the human soul, which will likely stay beyond our comprehension – at least until we join God in heaven after the last judgment. At that point, I think it will be okay to ask Him a few questions.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My Resolutions For 2009

In an effort to gain some accountability, and because I won’t be able to misplace them, I’ve decided to post my New Year’s resolutions this year. I am striving for something a little different this time – I want these resolutions to be more meaningful than the typical desire to get more exercise. Here goes:

1) Read the Bible and pray every day (this remains the same as previous years)

2) Faithfully ask God to reveal my mission going forward – what should I do with the rest of my life? Do I remain at my current job? Take off with Banyan Concepts? Move to Haiti and be a missionary?

3) Develop a community of loyal, like-minded Christian friends who are anticipating the return of Christ. This circle of friends should share in a vision and seek God’s leading together. These people will be the type that will get on The Mayflower together and sail for new lands without looking back.

4) Ask God to give me a more tender and broken heart for the suffering, the lonely, and the lost of this world

5) Write at least two books and get at least one on track to be self-published

6) Go on a mission trip

7) Spend more direct time each week with my kids – playing games, going on walks, having coffee – without outside distractions

8) Honor and serve my wife in some way every day – continually focus on being the best husband possible – together refine our mutual vision for our family and our marriage

9) Get my kids involved with a group of children and teens who share our family ideals – kids who are well-behaved, respectful, God-fearing, and who treat each other with civility

May God bless all of you this year! Thanks for reading!