Saturday, February 13, 2010

Wow! Our Forefathers Cut Their Teeth on Ray's Arithmetic!

Looking at the sad state of public education today, it isn’t any wonder to those of us that homeschool WHY we chose to homeschool. Certainly the lack of quality and content with the rise of value-based education had some sort of influence on your decision to home educate, (although I don’t presume it is the only reason for that decision). The American school system was not always such a squandering, time-waster that prepared kids to feel good about themselves no matter how poorly they performed (everyone gets a trophy!!!).

There was a time when American’s had the best education in the world. Standards were high and morals were higher. From approximately 1865 to 1916 everyone used the same textbook for math, reading, grammar and science.

“So why did the United States stop using them? It is a sad story: After WWI, John Dewey, the head of the Teachers College at Columbia University launched an all-out campaign to "reform" education. Dewey was a humanist, a socialist, and an atheist. He saw the McGuffey Readers and the entire EES as threats - they emphasize patriotism, traditional values, and the Bible. Dewey believed, in his own words, that public schools should be the "State established church." Dewey viciously attacked the textbooks of the day as "antiquated" and he was able to successfully bring about their demise, as well as the demise of quality public education.”

The above quote is brought to you by Dollar Homeschool Company. They are enabling homeschoolers of today to have the textbooks of yesterday. They sent me a free copy of Ray’s Arithmetic to review from the original Eclectic Education Series that early American's used in their one room schoolhouses.

I have seen McGuffey's Readers, and even had a copy of one of the Readers at some point during my early homeschooling years. I remember how charming, how innocent, how “non-fluff” they were. Yet, also challenging! I had not heard of Ray’s Arithmetic, however, until I received my copy from Dollar Homeschool Company.

Here’s my dilemma: I see the benefit of this rigorous curriculum, I see the lack of intensity that is often present in modern day curricula, and I really appreciate the availability of this material once again. However, if you are not a math-minded sort (which I definitely am not!), I cannot imagine the structure of this math curricula giving you anything but stress.

I feel like the hunter that kills Bambi’s dad saying this; but there’s just no way I could use Ray’s Arithmetic. There are absolutely no visual cues, and it is written much like verses in the Bible. I have never seen math problems in paragraph form until now. Rather than problems separated by space, there are just problems written one after the other for the entire lesson. Although there are directions to use counters such as beans or marbles (in arithmetic, for example), there are not any examples for students to refer to. This would just drive me crazy, as a student or an adult!

I so appreciate what Dollar Homeschool Company is trying to do by bringing back Ray’s Arithmetic, but I also think they may be wise to consider a revised version, in which examples are added and space is provided to have a visual “rest” between problems. Being a visual learner, I would really struggle to do the curriculum as is.

That said, I realize that we are all not alike in our mental wiring. There are probably plenty of you that would see the great potential in this style of textbook and method of learning. After all, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” right? Well, the American education system certainly wasn’t broke before Mr. Dewey came along with his “bright” ideas. I guess I would have figured it out or flunked out as a child back in the day when Ray’s Arithmetic was the only way to do things! I know I would have just adapted in that time period, but I must say I am thankful that I have other choices now.

I will say that if you have a love for all things yesteryear, you should at least give a look to the charming material that Dollar Homeschool carries. The McGuffey’s series is easy to use and has beautiful, old fashioned illustrations as well as providing a solid English foundation. There’s grammar, history and science as well, all at exceptional prices. Ray’s Arithmetic is a phenomenal bargain, giving you the entire collection of textbooks: that’s 12 core textbooks, plus teacher’s manuals, as well as other interesting math texts, such as Surveying and Navigation and Bookkeeping all on one CD for just $59! You couldn’t touch that price for anything similar. Even if it is just for curiosities sake, to peek at what our forefathers used to learn their subjects, I hope you will take a look at the website by clicking here. It is always interesting, to me, to see how other people think and how different we all are in the way that we learn. It will at least give you an appreciation for all the wonderful curriculum choices we have today, and perhaps persuade you to take a stab at the curricula of yesterday, too!

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At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.