Is This Stuff Working?

“Might be a quarter-life crisis, or just a stirring in my soul.” – John Mayer, “Why Georgia”

OK, so my writing tonight will be through the prism of a melancholy kind of mood. Please forgive the emotional downturn and attribute it to the fatigue I’ve been feeling lately. Don’t know if it’s since I realized that I’m older than Donavan McNabb, who at 32 was being called ‘old’ by football pundits during the latest weekend of playoffs, or that I’m chasing the other QB, Kurt Warner, who is the fourth oldest to start a Super Bowl at 37, but I’ve been feeling like I’ve completed a marathon every evening.  It’s enough to make me want to do New Year’s resolutions all over and commit to the exercise and getting fit thing. That is, if I could count on not ending up like I did last time (selling the barbells and exercise equipment 1 year later.)

Trinity Fast Update

My momentary crisis also comes at a time that I should be heartened. Our fast is within 8 days of ending, we’ve seen great strides in several ministerial and family areas that we were praying about, including finally getting the roof repaired after several false starts, and overcoming some issues in reviving a praise team at the church. My Twitter reprieve has not killed me, and I must admit giving up fried fast food had benefits in my energy level after eating healthier meals, although I always felt tired in the middle of the day while fasting from lunch. I should be able to maintain my healthier choices now that I can go to McD’s without hitting up the #2 (most dads know what that is). Most of all I’ve been much more consistent with my prayer life, and I know that will reap benefits that are much more important than any physical effects of this month long fast.

Math Ups and Downs

Our family learning journey has seen some success this month, as well as some snafus.  Naomi has begun her new Saxon Math texts.  The series has her returning to addition and subtraction facts – in 4th/5th grade, no less. While I’m certainly a proponent of constant review, this was a bit much.  I don’t want to skip lessons only to find out that she has trouble with new concepts due to not having sufficient practice on the basic operations. After all, I had to fight her through each of the previous Math U See books dealing with basic math facts. My whole educational philosophy is built on not being pressured by the artificial constructs of the public school’s idea of what my child should know.  But I hope I’m not going to extremes. If she aces these first few lessons (which she hasn’t yet, due to her lack of reading directions), then I may skip ahead to division and fractions where we left off, but I’m hoping she catches a sudden desire to do 5 lessons at a time and motivates herself to move up to her current level.

Speaking of math, Christopher had the ultimate pushed-into-a-corner moment – either pass his Pre-Calculus midterm or end up failing the entire semester.  Again I was in a place where part of me  wanted to take over, making him study 5 hours a day, while the other side of me wanted him to learn from the experience and self-motivate – not to become a mathematician, but to prove he could overcome a serious obstacle to his collegiate plans on his own. So I played the middle. I bought tutoring programs, checked up on his habits, said no to some dates he had planned over the winter break. But I did not call the teacher or tell Christopher he was restricted from video games or otherwise eliminate all possible distractions.  Lo and behold, he ran in to the church office the day after midterms practically yelling “I did it!”  He had made a “B” which was enough to keep him out of the “F” column for 2008.  I tried my best to get him to remember the feeling – to connect the positive reinforcement he got from passing the test to the efforts and steps he took long before the test was administered.  I hope he got the message that that hard work was worth it because it showed he can excell even in subjects he knows are not his forte.

Such is the give and take of our learning lifestyle. At certain times it feels I’ve made big mistakes in guiding the children’s educational progress – at other times I feel validated and in control.  It helps to remember my final goal is not that they become geniuses in academia, but that they can overcome any challenges that they face in life, and will know how to approach them. I just have to keep working on finding the right balance in helping them do that.

More to say later…when I have more to say.

Looking unto the hills,



2 thoughts on “Is This Stuff Working?

  1. There is a big difference between “mastering” a mathematics concept and “memorizing” it. John Saxon’s math books were built upon a time tested concept of “automaticity.” That concept has two components, time and repitition and violation of either of them results in the student getting good grades, but failing to “remember” anything after a test, because they have not mastered the concepts.

    As John Saxon often said, “In order to learn how to drive an automobile, one has to get behind the wheel and drive it, rather than studying how the internal combustion engine works.”

    Student fail algebra because they have not mastered fractions, decimals and percents. They experience difficulty in calculus because they have not mastered the basics of algebra. The calculus is easy, it is their struggle with the algebra that defeats them.

    If you plan on continuing with John Saxon’s math books, please visit

    I wish your children success.

    Art Reed

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