Trivium Pursuit

Selling my beloved set of John Buchan

December 6th, 2016


I’m selling my beloved set of John Buchan on Ebay.

Hunting tower (pb)
The House of the Four Winds (pb)
The Island of Sheep (pb)
The Blanket of the Dark (pb)
John Macnab (pb)
Castle Gay (pb)
The Three Hostages (pb)
Greenmantle (pb)
Mr. Standfast (pb)
The 39 Steps (hardback)
Prester John (hardback and illustrated)


Free copies of all 3 volumes of our new art curriculum with purchase from Trivium Pursuit catalog

December 5th, 2016


This week, if you make a purchase of $40 or more from the Trivium Pursuit catalog, you will receive all three volumes of our new art curriculum ebooks What Do You See? A Child’s First Introduction to Art, upon request. After you place your order, be sure to email us and ask for the free ebooks. This art curriculum will be emailed to you in PDF format so you can print it out as you like.


The Brain, It’s Plain, Is Sprained If It Is Strained

December 5th, 2016


Taken from Endangered Minds, Why Children Don’t Think and What We Can Do About It
by Jane M. Healy

[Page 66] [T]he axons, or output parts of [brain] neurons, gradually develop a coating of a waxy substance called myelin, which insulates the wiring and facilitates rapid and clear transmission. At birth, only the most primitive systems, such as those needed for sucking, have been [page 67] coated with myelin . . . . The process of myelination in human brains is not completed at least until most of us are in our twenties. While animal studies have shown that total myelin may reflect levels of stimulation, scientists believe its order of development is mainly predetermined by a genetic program.

While the system, overall, is remarkably responsive to stimulation from the environment, the schedule of myelination appears to put some boundaries around “appropriate” forms of learning at any given age . . . . [W]e should stop for a moment to discuss some potential hazards in trying too hard to “make” intelligence or learning happen. Some of the skill deficits of today’s schoolchildren, in fact, may have resulted from academic demands that were wrong – either in content or in mode of presentation – for their level of development.

The same mentality that attempts to engineer stimulation for baby brains also tries to push learning into schoolchildren much like stuffing sausages. For example, some parents now wonder if their schools are any good if they don’t start formal reading instruction, complete with worksheets, in preschool . . . .

Before brain regions are myelinated, they do not operate efficiently. For this reason, trying to “make” children master academic skills for which they do not have the requisite maturation may result in mixed-up patterns of learning. As we have seen, the essence of functional plasticity is that any kind of learning – reading, math, spelling, handwriting, etc. – may be accomplished by any of several [brain] systems. Naturally, we want children to plug each piece of learning into the best system for that particular job. If the right one isn’t yet available or working smoothly, however, forcing may create a functional organization in which less adaptive, “lower” systems are trained to do the work.

[page 68] . . . As an example, let’s take the kind of reasoning needed for understanding (not just memorizing one’s way through) higher-level math. Perhaps some readers of this book shared a common experience when they took algebra: many of us functioned adequately until we reached Chicago, where two planes insisted on passing each other every day in class. When it wasn’t planes, it was trains or people digging wells or other situations that did not seem in any way related to graphs and [page 69] equations of X, Y, and Z. Personally, I found that the more I struggled, the more confused I became, until soon I was learning more confusion than algebra. Moreover, I began to believe I was pretty dumb. Was I developing what Herman Epstein calls “negative neural networks” (resistant circuitry) toward this worthy subject?

Having fled from math courses at the first available opportunity, I have since talked to other adults who confided that, after a similar experience, they also avoided math until forced years later to take a required course in graduate school. At this point, their grownup brains discovered they actually liked this sort of reasoning . . . .

In this personal example, it is very possible that the necessary neural equipment for algebra – taught in this particular manner – may not yet have been automatically available in my early-adolescent brain. The areas to receive the last dose of myelin are the association areas responsible for manipulating highly abstract concepts – such as symbols (X, Y, Z; graphs) that stand for other symbols (numerical relationships) that stand for real things (planes, trains, wells). Such learning is highly experience-dependent, and thus there are many potential neural routes by which it can be performed. Trying to drill higher-level learning into immature brains may force them to perform with lower-level systems and thus impair the skill in question . . . .

I would contend that much of today’s school failure results from academic expectations for which students’ brains were not prepared – but which were bulldozed into them anyway . . . .

The brain grows best when it is challenged, so high standards for children’s learning are important. Nevertheless, curriculum needs to be considered in terms of brain-appropriate challenge. Reorganizing synapses is much more difficult than having the patience to help them get arranged properly the first time around!

[page 289] Abstract rule systems for grammar and usage should be taught when most students are in high school. Then, if previously prepared, they may even enjoy the challenges of this kind of abstract, logical reasoning. Only, however, if the circuits are not already too cluttered up by bungled rule-teaching.

One ninth-grade student who came to me last year for help with grammar was hopelessly confused about the simplest parts of speech. Although she was intelligent and could, at her current age, have mastered this material in a week, she had been a victim of meaningless “grammar” drills since second grade. As Michelle and I struggled on the simple difference between adjectives and adverbs, I often wished I could take a neurological vacuum cleaner and just suck out all those mixed-up synapses that kept getting in our way. It took us six months . . . But finally one day the light dawned. “This is easy!” she exclaimed. It is, when brains are primed for the learning and the student has a reason to use it with real literary models.

[page 290] Immersing children in good language from books and tapes, modeling patterns for their own speech and writing, and letting them enjoy their proficiency in using words to manipulate ideas are valid ways to embed “grammar” in growing brains . . . . No amount of worksheets or rule learning will ever make up for deficits resulting from lack of experience with the structure of real, meaningful sentences.

It is folly to ignore the importance of oral storytelling, oral history, and public speaking in a world that will communicate increasingly without the mediation of print. These skills build language competence in grammar, memory, attention, and visualization, among many other abilities.

. . . I personally believe . . . that helping students at all grade levels memorize some pieces of good writing – narrative, expository, and poetic – on a regular basis would provide good practice for language, listening, and attention. I do not mean reverting to a rote-level curriculum, but simply taking a little time each week to celebrate the sounds of literate thought . . . .

At the same time, schools must get into the business of teaching children to listen effectively because no one else seems to be doing it.


Dinesh D’Souza is brilliant!

December 3rd, 2016


Watch this movie. You’ll be quite surprised at how much you like it.

And here is my new favorite song….


Use Movie Reviews as Teaching Tools for Reluctant Writers

December 3rd, 2016


From the Ron Paul Curriculum Weekly Newsletter

Do you remember how much you looked forward to writing book reports in your high school English classes?

What’s that? You didn’t look forward to this? You dreaded it?

You are not alone.

Students resist writing book reports. Yet they will talk endlessly about some movie they just saw. There is a way to put this enthusiasm to work academically.

How? Assign movie reviews.

Dr. Gary North, who teaches the history of literature for four years of high school in my curriculum, is a big fan of movie reviews as teaching tools. He explains why — and how — here.

This may work for your program.


Here’s the curriculum I would use if homeschooling today

November 22nd, 2016


The Ron Paul Curriculum has everything in it that I wanted to teach my children … and learn for myself.

26 Reasons to Adopt the Ron Paul Curriculum . . . and 4 Reasons Not To

by Ron Paul

Reason #1: This curriculum helps you pass on your most important inheritance: your worldview. It is the only video-based, self-taught, reading-intensive, writing-intensive, online homeschool program that provides a systematic defense of limited government and the free market economy. I call this the freedom philosophy….

Reason #7: Students read original sources in history and government courses….

Reason #11: The high school has two years of Western civilization — unique. (Most have only one year.)

Reason #12: The high school has two years of Western literature — unique. (They parallel the Western Civ courses for better understanding of both history and literature.)

Reason #13: The American history course and the American literature course are also parallel for better understanding of both — unique…

Reason #15: The high school has a full-year course on public speaking….

Reason #19: The curriculum teaches critical thinking….

See 26 Reasons to Adopt the Ron Paul Curriculum Today (Not Next Term) . . . and 4 Reasons Not To by Ron Paul for the rest of this article.


An introductory text on linear thinking and logical fallacies

November 17th, 2016


The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning

Reviewed by
Paul Wilson
2012 National Nobel Distinguished Science Educator
Former State Science Education Curriculum Advisor
Science Dept. Chair, Stratford High School

Woody Guthrie once said, “Any fool can make something complicated, but it takes a real genius to make it simple.” I couldn’t agree more. Simplifying a complex and often intimidating subject like logic and logical fallacies seems to be the specialty of the Bluedorn brothers, and they show some real genius in their methodology.

I’m a high school science teacher by trade, and part of that includes teaching a section each year on logic and reasoning. I took courses in logic, reasoning, and apologetics as part of my Master’s degree, and quickly realized the need that many of my students had for introductory logic and thinking skills. However, the obvious problem I was immediately faced with was how best to break down graduate-level concepts and rhetoric into a format that could be easily digested by high school students with no former training in the field. After months of reading different logic textbooks and perusing through multiple curricula, I stumbled upon The Thinking Toolbox by the Bluedorn brothers. I ordered it, read through it, and immediately realized it was exactly what I needed for my inexperienced 10th, 11th, and 12th graders. After finishing The Thinking Toolbox, I ordered The Fallacy Detective. Again I was pleasantly surprised. The workbook edition of The Fallacy Detective takes an already good work and makes it even better. Now the book is almost a stand-alone course on introductory thinking skills and logical fallacies. It is great both for a classroom setting and in the homeschool environment as well.

As I stated before, the tough part about teaching a subject as cognitively involved as logic is being able to simplify concepts into terms and illustrations easy enough that the novice learner can grasp it. The Bluedorn brothers have done this masterfully. I count The Thinking Toolbox and The Fallacy Detective books to be the best on the market for introducing young students to the difficult concepts of formal and informal fallacies. In fact, each year when I teach my “critical thinking” section I recommend the Bluedorn’s books to my students. This year I was able to create lesson plans using the information and quizzes in the new workbook edition, and then utilize them in class, which was extremely helpful and a time saver as well.

I think this book in particular (The Fallacy Detective, Workbook Edition) could be used for any young student without much trouble, especially now that it includes exercises to accompany the chapter lessons. I would heartily recommend it for any student (or classroom of students) anywhere from 5th through 12th grade. As an introductory text on linear thinking and logical fallacies, especially for younger learners, this book has no equal. I have been so impressed with the Bluedorn’s work that I bought their entire line for my own children (who are all very young) as well as a copy for a homeschool family that I go to church with. I even bought their DVD set (Logic in 100 Minutes) for my personal library. That should tell you how much I believe in the work these two brothers are doing!


Let it alone

November 13th, 2016

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. Romans 1:29

There is an old legend that tells of Hercules encountering a strange animal on a narrow road. He struck it with his club and passed along. Soon the animal overtook him, now three times as large as before. Hercules struck it fast and furiously, but the more he clubbed the beast, the larger it grew.

Then Pallas appeared to Hercules and warned him to stop. “The monster’s name is Strife,” he said. “Let it alone and it will soon become as little as at first.”

For where you have envy and strife, there you find disorder and every evil practice. James 3:16

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive, as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

Thomas Watson


Grandpa and Grammy helping

October 2nd, 2016

Grandpa and Grammy helping with this week’s Five In a Row book.

If you’re homeschooling young children, you might want to look at this curriculum. It wasn’t around when my kids were young — I would have loved using it.








A Prescription for Anxiety

October 2nd, 2016

Philippians 4:4-9: A Prescription for Anxiety

Translation and Comments by Harvey Bluedorn, from the Exegetical Translation (XT), a work in progress.

I. Rejoicing in the Lord (4:4-5a)

4 {Keep on} ‡ rejoicing in the Lord at all times. Again I will say, {keep on} ‡ rejoicing! 5 Cause ‡ your gentle-kindness toward all men to be known.

Keep on rejoicing in the Lord at all times. Again I will say, keep on rejoicing! Our joy should be uniform and constant, steady and habitual. Circumstances should not distract us from our joy in the Lord. The only genuine and lasting joy is in Him.

Cause your gentle-kindness toward all men to be known. Paul would never tell us to be a show off about our virtues. Instead, Paul is telling us that in every circumstance we should let the gentle-kindness which is in us (as part of our new nature) to come out. We should cause our kind and gentle spiritual nature to prevail over that nervous anxiety generated by our carnal nature – that anxiety which Paul is about to discuss.

II. Praying to the God of Peace Who is Near and Guards Our Hearts (4:5b-7)

[5…] The Lord {is} near. 6 Stop ‡ being {unduly} anxious regarding anything, but instead, in everything with prayer and entreaty along with thanksgiving, {keep} causing ‡ your requests to be made known to ▪God; 7 for only then will the peace {which comes} from ▪God – the {peace} which holds {protective authority} over every mind [/surpasses every understanding] – take custody of [/guard in restraint] ‡ your ▪hearts and ‡ your ▪minds in {union with} Christ Jesus.

The Lord is near. The words, “the Lord is near,” are commonly associated with the previous words and taken to mean that the Lord is near in a timely sense, about to return to earth as a Judge, which might be a motivation for our gentle-kindness while we allow the Lord to administer mercy and justice. But awareness of the Lord’s timely return is not otherwise to be found connected with the context.

It may be better to take this clause with the following verses and to understand that the Lord is close at hand to help. Paul is reminding us that the Lord is close by and we can rely upon Him in every circumstance because, in fact, the Lord is in every circumstance.

Stop being unduly anxious regarding anything … In Greek, there is a way to say “Don’t start being anxious,” and another way to say, “Stop (don’t continue) being anxious.” This verse is closer to the second, yet it is not quite the same. The idea here is as if we have buckets labeled “anxieties” and we are commanded to keep those buckets empty by doing the things which Paul is telling us.

… but instead, in everything with prayer and entreaty along with thanksgiving, keep causing your requests to be made known to God … Here is the first part of Paul’s “treatment” for anxieties, a formula or method of sorts. Of course, the whole matter of treating and curing anxieties cannot be reduced to a mere formula – do this and live (Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:12; Luke 10:28; Leviticus 18:5). Rather, it requires faith, and it exercises faith, and when faith is strengthened in this way it displaces anxieties – “live and do this” (Romans 1:17; 10:10; Galatians 2:16; 3:11; Philippians 3:9; Hebrews 10:38; Habakkuk 2:4).

1. Anxiety will rob us of our joy, hence Paul began with the command to rejoice in the Lord in every circumstance. There is no joy in trying to anticipate everything, to know more than one can know, to control what cannot be controlled. So we should cast our cares upon the Lord, (Matthew 6:25; 1 Peter 5:7), for there is nothing which we can need which He will not supply.

2. We should bring out our gentle-kindness in every circumstance, displacing the nervousness of anxiety.

3. We should be self-aware that the Lord is close by – He is in the circumstance, so we can rely upon Him in every circumstance.

4. We should keep our anxiety bucket empty by continually identifying our anxieties and bringing them before the Lord, talking to Lord about them in prayer, pleading with the Lord about them, thanking the Lord for them, and bringing specific requests directly to the Lord for help in them – in other words, laying our cares upon Him Who cares for us.

… for only then will the peace which comes from God – the peace which holds protective authority over every mind – take custody of your hearts and your minds in union with Christ Jesus. The imperative mood plus the future tense is a Hebrew idiom conveying the idea of a causative conditional clause: “(when this happens) … only then (does this happen).” The peace comes only when, in faith, we do these things.

What would otherwise be an anxiety-inducing circumstance – whatever it may be, whenever it may come, however it may appear to us – yet it is actually a blessing from the Lord, though it may come to us in disguise. The circumstance cannot dissolve our union with Christ, nor remove God’s forgiving love toward us, nor cancel our reservations in heaven. The circumstance will always work together with all other things for the good of those who are “the called” according to God’s eternal purpose. The peace which the world or the flesh gives may really amount to apathy, complacency, indifference, or stoicism; but this peace which Paul promises is tranquility which rests in God.

This peace will “take custody of your hearts and your minds.” This word for “take custody of” is used for the soldier standing on guard duty on the inside of the city gate controlling who goes out. The heart is the center of inner life from which thoughts flow. This peace keeps the heart and mind from straying outside of Christ Jesus, preserving the enjoyment of union with Christ, a union which itself secures this peace.

III. Putting Living Examples of Virtue into Regular Practice (4:8-9)

8 From now on, brethren,

as many {things} as are trustworthy,

as many {things} as {are} honorable,

as many {things} as {are} upright,

as many {things} as {are} pure,

as many {things} as {are} agreeable,

as many {things} as {are} commendable,

if {there is} any moral excellence

and if {there is} any praiseworthiness,

{then keep} ‡ taking an inventory of these {virtues}.

9 What {virtues} ‡ you have also learned by instruction and have taken in for your own and have heard and have seen in me personally, these {virtues keep} ‡ practicing, for only then will the God of ▫this peace be with ‡ you.

From now on, brethren … The remainder of the “treatment for anxiety” follows.

… as many things as are trustworthy, as many things as are honorable, as many things as are upright, as many things as are pure, as many things as are agreeable, as many things as are commendable … Six items are listed which may be divided into three pairs of virtues.

The first four items are examples of moral excellence, virtue, or merit:

trustworthy – in character: truthful, true, real, genuine, honest

honorable – in reputation: noble, dignified, worthy of respect

upright – in judgment: just and right

pure – in behavior: innocent and sincere

The last two items are examples of things praiseworthy or commendable:

agreeable – in demeanor: delightful, pleasing, amiable, lovely, acceptable, endearing

commendable – in conduct: admirable and of good reputation

… if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praiseworthiness … Moral excellence describes the first four items in his list, and praiseworthiness describes the last two items in his list. Hence Paul makes it clear that his list of virtues is merely suggestive, not exhaustive, implying that we should add items of moral excellence and praiseworthiness to our own personal lists.

… then keep taking an inventory of these virtues … In another context, the word translated “keep taking an inventory” might be translated “reckon, calculate, think, consider, ponder, meditate on,” but in this context – following this list of categories – the idea would be to take a full accounting or inventory, implying a self-examination. Are we multiplying and growing and refining such virtues in our lives?

What virtues you have also learned by instruction and have taken in for your own and have heard and have seen in me personally, these virtues keep practicing … Paul instructs the Philippians to follow him as a living example of these things, which suggests that we should look out other living examples – people in our lives – which “flesh out” such virtues as these. It often helps us to understand how to do something ourselves when we observe someone else doing it first. So the final installment of the treatment of building the kind of faith which will displace anxiety is to recognize and to put into constant practice the virtues which we recognize in others.

… for only then will the God of this peace be with you. Just as in verse 7 above, the imperative mood plus the future tense conveys the idea of: “(when this happens) … only then (does this happen).”

The Lord is near (verse 5), and the God of this peace shall be with us (verse 9). Good company.

Notice that the treatment for anxiety has nothing to do with analyzing problematic circumstances. Instead, the focus is upon maintaining a strong spiritual life. Anxiety attacks faith, so the treatment for anxiety is to do those things which nurture faithful living. If we stop to focus on the problem, then we take our eyes off of the solution. The solution is to move ahead in faith toward Christ.

Colossians 3:1-2

Therefore, if you have been raised together with Christ, {then keep} seeking what {things are} above, where Christ is {continually} seated at the right hand of God. Keep directing your mind toward what {things are} above, not on what {things are} upon the earth.

Hebrews 12:1-2

… having for ourselves laid aside every hindering weight, and the easily ensnaring sin, with steady endurance we should be making a full run of the contest which is being set before us, looking away toward the Architect and Finisher of {our} faith – namely, Jesus …