Trivium Pursuit

The dull, and the slow, and the stupid, and the doubting

June 21st, 2016

by J.C. Ryle, The Gospel of John

Then He said to Thomas: Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side. John 20:27

We see here, how kind and merciful Christ is to dull and slow believers. Nowhere, perhaps, in all the four Gospels, do we find this part of our Lord’s character so beautifully illustrated, as in the story before our eyes. It is hard to imagine anything more tiresome and provoking than the conduct of Thomas, when even the testimony of ten faithful brethren had no effect on him, and he doggedly declared, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side I will not believe.”

But it is impossible to imagine anything more patient and compassionate, than our Lord’s treatment of this weak disciple. He does not reject him, or dismiss him, or excommunicate him. He comes again at the end of a week, and apparently for the special benefit of Thomas. He deals with him according to his weakness, like a gentle mother dealing with a froward child, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side.” If nothing but the grossest, coarsest, most material evidence could satisfy Thomas — even that evidence was supplied. Surely this was a love which surpasses knowledge, and a patience which surpasses understanding.

A passage of Scripture like this, we need not doubt, was written for the special comfort of all true believers. The Holy Spirit knew well that the dull, and the slow, and the stupid, and the doubting, are by far the commonest type of disciples in this evil world. The Holy Spirit has taken care to supply abundant evidence that Jesus is rich in patience as well as compassion, and that He bears with the infirmities of all His people. Let us take care that we drink into our Lord’s spirit, and copy His example. Let us never set down men as godless because their faith is feeble, and their love is cold. Let us remember the case of Thomas, and be very compassionate and of tender mercy.

Our Lord has . . .
many weak children in His family,
many dull pupils in His school,
many raw soldiers in His army,
many lame sheep in His flock.

Yet He bears with them all, and casts none away.

Happy is that Christian who has learned to deal likewise with his brethren. There are many in the Church, who, like Thomas, are dull and slow, but for all that, like Thomas, are real and true believers.


Reading list for ages 7-12

June 21st, 2016

I’ve labeled this list for ages 7-12, but, reality is, all ages will enjoy reading these books or hearing them read aloud. Plus, there are many more important books I could list here, but, we’ll save the rest for another time.

The Matchlock Gun

The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds


The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Winnie-the-Pooh by A A Milne

Charlotte’s Web and other books by E B White

Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder


The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

Narnia series by C S Lewis

The Borrowers series by Mary Norton


Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome

Anne of Green Gables and other books by L.M. Montgomery


Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

The Secret Garden and other books by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Little Women and other books by Louisa May Alcott


Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter


Misty of Chincoteague and other books by Marguerite Henry

The Witch of Blackbird Pond and other books by Elizabeth George Speare

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

Sounder by William H. Armstrong


Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

The Door in the Wall and other books by Marguerite de Angeli

Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry

Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong


Strawberry Girl and other books by Lois Lenski


Hitty, Her First Hundred Years and other books by Rachel Field

All-of-a-Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor

Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith


I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño

The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly

Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes

Smoky the Cow Horse and other books by Will James


Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Gray Vining

The White Stag and other books by Kate Seedy

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis

The Dark Frigate by Charles Boardman Hawes


Gay Neck: The Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji

The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace


Mark him down as a proud man

June 13th, 2016

by Ashton Oxenden
The Touchstone of Humility, 1884

One way in which a really humble Christian shows himself, is by having a high opinion of others. Paul says, “In lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself.” “Honor one another above yourselves.”

Whenever you see a person who appears to take every opportunity of putting down others, mark him down as a proud man, and be sure that he does it in order to exalt himself.

On the other hand, whenever you see any one anxious to hide his brother’s failings, unwilling to expose his little defects, you will generally find that he is a humble man, and one who deeply feels the many faults of his own character.


Free Print of “Planning the Garden”

June 13th, 2016

Limited time offer. Download the free print of “Planning the Garden” from Johannah Bluedorn Stanford’s book, Bless the Lord: The 103rd Psalm.



Contests in Your Curriculum

May 29th, 2016

by Laurie Bluedorn

Contests are an educational experience especially suited for homeschooled students. What can contests do for your child academically? Consider:

Contests are great motivators. Envision a typical homeschool assignment. Mom asks Henry to write a composition on What Valentines Day Means to Me. Henry isn’t particularly interested in Valentines Day and knows his finished composition will go no further than Mom’s eyes and then into the three-ring binder on the schoolroom bookshelf. As a consequence, his motivation level is mediocre and his effort half-hearted. But suppose Mom tells Henry she wants him to draw a scene from intergalactic space and write a scientific narrative of that scene. Henry, who is the local expert on space exploration, lights up at this idea. When she tells him they will enter his drawing and narrative in the Intergalactic Art Competition (part of the Space Science Student Involvement Program), and he might win an all-expenses paid trip to the National Space Science Symposium in Washington, D.C….well, the fire is lit and look out world, Henry has a lot to say on that subject. It was a combination of good topic, competition, and reward that did the trick.

Contest participation develops research skills. Now, writing a scientific narrative on space exploration will take more than your 1952 Encyclopedia Britannica, so off to the library you go. Here is the perfect opportunity to teach the lad how to research. You will want to utilize a good college or university library along with your own local library. Arrange for personal interviews. And don’t forget to tap into the Internet. The Great Online Research Challenge is an interesting new contest for 11th and 12th grade students. Students are given a time limit to solve problems by researching Lexis/Nexis, which is a database of databases including massive full-text libraries. What is attractive about this contest is the prize: 2 years of Lexis/Nexis for your family. Now, that’s what I call a prize. Go, kids, go!

A contest can bring together all the skills you’ve taught your children into one exciting finale. To write this paper on space exploration, numerous subjects will be covered: grammar, spelling, punctuation, science, penmanship or typing skills, logic (construction of arguments), and rhetoric (expressing your point in an eloquent manner). So, actually, this one essay contest is not just another composition to write, but a whole unit study in itself, with the final product bringing, as Jessica Hulsey says, closure.

Contests develop character qualities. Many of these contests take a long time to complete. Some, such as a Science and Engineering Fair science project, will take an entire school year. It develops perseverance and diligence. Contests can seem overwhelming and unmanageable if looked at as a whole, but by planning and organization, the process can be broken down into bite-sized pieces. The student strives toward his goal, doing his best job, and in the end can obtain the satisfaction and pride of a job well done (as Ranger Bill would say). Some contests require teamwork. The National Written & Illustrated By…Awards Contest provided an opportunity for my oldest daughter Johannah to teach her younger sister Helena watercolor techniques.

Time wise, homeschooled students are at an advantage in contest participation. The first contest we ever entered was a local science fair. I learned about this competition only 2 weeks before it was held, so we devoted those 2 weeks full time to the contest. What an exciting experience! That was back in 1989, but all the kids remember the fun of those days. Two weeks of pure science, not to be distracted by Latin declensions.

Here are a few warnings about contests. Avoid politically correct contests. If the registration form requires you to list your race, then it is possible that winners will be chosen on the basis of race, not merit. Some contests require you to travel long distances or cost large sums of money. MathCounts, a very popular math competition, recently started charging $40 per school. Avoid contests that just want to sell or promote a product (some of the poetry contests will do this) or build a mailing list. Some of the Internet contests are sweepstakes and not really contests.

Which contest should you pick for your child? If your child is extra good at math, then any of the numerous math competitions will stretch his skills, and there are plenty of art contests for the artistically inclined. To integrate contests into your curriculum I suggest this plan. For the first year pick one of the fun contests that go along with the childs interest: Make It Yourself With Wool Contest; chess competitions; Tandy Leather Art Competition; Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee; Rocky Mountain Philatelic Exhibition; National Association of Rocketry contests; or one of the American Morgan Horse Association contests. Check out the deadline for the contest and make out a rough schedule for progress. Example: by October have the project topic decided, have outlines finished by November, rough drafts by December, etc. Break the process down into bite size pieces. The next year have the student enter one of the project contests (National History Day, science fairs, or invention projects). By the third year you will be considered a contest pro and can even make contests a major part of your curriculum. The student can enter a writing contest, a speech contest, and a project contest each year, making for a well rounded curriculum. You can also use contests to help your student work on areas he is weak in.

Contests let the student bring together and apply the skills he learns at home in his everyday schooling. Contests are the ultimate in practical homeschooling.

See Trivium Pursuit’s List of National Contests and Exams Open to Homeschoolers for contact information on numerous contests.



Anxiety makes us doubt God’s lovingkindness

May 29th, 2016

From Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

May 26, Morning

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee. –Psalm 55:22

Care, even though exercised upon legitimate objects, if carried to excess, has in it the nature of sin. The precept to avoid anxious care is earnestly inculcated by our Saviour, again and again; it is reiterated by the apostles; and it is one which cannot be neglected without involving transgression: for the very essence of anxious care is the imagining that we are wiser than God, and the thrusting ourselves into his place to do for him that which he has undertaken to do for us. We attempt to think of that which we fancy he will forget; we labour to take upon ourselves our weary burden, as if he were unable or unwilling to take it for us. Now this disobedience to his plain precept, this unbelief in his Word, this presumption in intruding upon his province, is all sinful. Yet more than this, anxious care often leads to acts of sin. He who cannot calmly leave his affairs in God’s hand, but will carry his own burden, is very likely to be tempted to use wrong means to help himself. This sin leads to a forsaking of God as our counsellor, and resorting instead to human wisdom. This is going to the “broken cistern” instead of to the “fountain;” a sin which was laid against Israel of old. Anxiety makes us doubt God’s lovingkindness, and thus our love to him grows cold; we feel mistrust, and thus grieve the Spirit of God, so that our prayers become hindered, our consistent example marred, and our life one of self-seeking. This want of confidence in God leads us to wander far from him; but if through simple faith in his promise, we cast each burden as it comes upon him, and are “careful for nothing” because he undertakes to care for us, it will keep us close to him, and strengthen us against much temptation. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.”



The Best Part of Homeschooling

May 22nd, 2016

Here is an excerpt from a seminar Harvey and I did many years ago. The best part of homeschooling — reading aloud to your children.



View all the products in the BYB Homeschool Curriculum Sale

May 22nd, 2016

This sale is over.


Analyze viewpoints, argue effectively, and test your beliefs and ideas

May 18th, 2016


Should Students be Taught to Argue Rationally?

by Annie Holmquist

“…Given the level of fallacious and emotional reasoning that takes place in discussions about elections or in everyday Facebook debates, it would seem that a lack of knowledge about reasoning skills is not limited to the current generation….Is it time we need to follow through and actually teach children what critical thinking entails?”

Read the rest of the article here.


Review of a near perfect history curriculum and some help for you

May 17th, 2016

A Review of The Mystery of History, Volumes I and II by Linda Hobar

Reviewed by Laurie Bluedorn

I wish The Mystery Of History had been written twenty years earlier so that my own family could have used it. It would have been perfect for our large, young family and would have relieved me of the job of putting together my own history curriculum. It is so much more thorough than anything we ever studied in our years of homeschooling.

I’m not going to describe how the texts are arranged or how they are supposed to be used — others have done that much better than I could. But I do want to list here my observations and respond to some comments which have been directed at the curriculum.


The cover of MOH Volume I tells us exactly what we’ll find inside the book. Within the title — The Mystery of History — the “T” is a cross dividing the word “History” into two sections, making the title seem to say “The Mystery of His Story” — meaning Christ’s story. Isn’t that what history is really all about? Under the title and in the center of the cover, taking up the largest portion of space is a picture of a stairway — an ancient, stone stairway — going up. Going up from a tomb and into the sunlight. Whose tomb would that be? Perhaps it is the tomb of Jesus, the Author of this “Story” we are about to begin. Jesus came up out of the tomb so that this “Story” would have a happy ending some day. But even more significant on this cover are two small pictures at the lower right corner, pictures which seem to be bowing to the larger stairway picture. One is a picture of Egyptian art and the other is of the Greek Parthenon. All history bows in submission to the Author of history.

I have listed here the comments which have been directed at MOH along with my responses.

****Doesn’t balance religious with secular; too heavy on religious.****

Some texts make a pretense of trying to balance the religious with secular, though the secular always seems to end up on the heavier side of the balance. “Secular” literally means “of the age, worldly.” We use the term to refer to indifference toward or exclusion from religion. All of time — past, present, and future — revolves around the Potter and how He deals with His vessels. All of history is religious. So if we want our history compartmentalized into separate secular and religious boxes, or if we like our religion thinly spread, then we really do not want history as it actually is, but only as secularists want it.

Here is one of my favorite quotes:

“… I concluded that one of the only reasons why we are here on earth is to know God and to make Him known. We are designed for relationship…. And I wanted this incredible story to be far more than the short-term accumulation of scattered dates and events. I wanted the living story of God and man to be one of our “long-term” core subjects……I believe history is the story of God revealing Himself to mankind and that He did it most perfectly through the person of Jesus Christ.” (from Volume II)


The author treats pagan gods and non-Christian topics respectfully and honestly, though always compared and contrasted with the truth. For example, separate lessons are dedicated to Buddha and Confucius. After discussing each — who they were and what they taught — we are shown how they differed from Christ — who He was and what He taught.

****Lessons too short; only 2-3 pages which includes the activity suggestions.****

Here are the statistics:

MOH I — 108 lessons of 600 words each
MOH II — 84 lessons of 700-1000 words each

Besides the lessons, the activities in both volumes vary in length, but there are about 2-3 paragraphs per activity with at least three activities per lesson, often more than three. Volume II has more activities per lesson than Volume I.

The shorter lessons allow flexibility for homeschoolers. When longer lessons fit the schedule, students can do two or three lessons at a time. On days when time seems scarce, the single lesson may be just the adjustment needed. Either way, each lesson is a thorough treatment of its subject.

****Lessons fluffy with little information; shallow.****

If this is true, then the Bluedorn family, including our grown children, must have fluffy, shallow minds, because even now, as adults, we have enjoyed reading through several of the lessons in both volumes. The lessons in both volumes are as thorough as you would find in any history curriculum on the market today. In my opinion, this curriculum would best fit children from ages 5 through 14, but could be adapted for older students.

I would consider The Mystery of History to be a narrative history, similar to the Helene Guerber histories, which were first published in the 19th century and recently republished by Nothing New Press. Next to historical fiction and biographies, narrative histories are the method of my choice for studying history. The first narrative history I ever read to my children was A Child’s History of England by Charles Dickens, and the history we learned from that book still sticks in our minds even though that was 20 years ago.

But not only is MOH a narrative history, it is also a history curriculum. The author adds all kinds of hands-on activities and projects, photos, timeline and mapping assignments, memory work, supplemental resources, and exercises and tests.

****Language and writing style dumbed down; modern and gushy — neat, cool, gosh.****

Yes, the author does, on occasion in Volume I, use “hip” words such as “neat” or “cool.” And I guess if I must have any complaint with MOH, this would be the only one. The author avoids those types of words in Volume II.

But as far as the overall language and writing style is concerned, there is variety and complexity in the vocabulary, and the sentence structure is pleasing and flows easily — the reader doesn’t have to struggle to understand. It is an enjoyable text to read aloud and doesn’t fall into that mind-tiring simple baby-language of some narrative histories.

****Activities silly and lame.****

There are a large number and a wide variety of activities which I found to be fascinating. One of the reasons writing this review has taken me so long is that every time I sit down to write, I am drawn into the text and the activities, planning which ones I would like to do someday with my grandchildren. No one family could possibly do all the activities, and there are plenty to choose from.

****Resource list disappointing; items impossible to find at any U.S. library or bookstores; too many videos and toys recommended.****

Volume I lists 8 pages of resources; Volume II lists 19 pages of resources. Recommended resources listed in Volume I includes 64 videos, 117 books, 17 toys, and numerous passages from the Bible. I calculated our family had in our own library at least one quarter of the books. But I wanted to find out what other people thought about the resource list, so I asked this question of a group of mothers who use MOH. Here are some of the responses:

“We don’t use the videos … but of the recommended books for the younger grades in the first 27 lessons of Volume I, about 75% of them were available through our library system.” S.

“I just looked up all the resources for the first 20 lessons of Volume I. I found at my library at least one resource for each lesson, often more than one. The rest I found on Amazon. The only one I had problems with is Lesson 11 — World Wise Series on Egypt.” Heather

“We have used the resource list and have not had much trouble locating the books and videos at our library when we want to explore further.” Christina D.

“…what my local library hasn’t had available, I’ve been able to find through interlibrary loan.” Debbie

“…25 of the recommended books in Volume I are found at our local county library. I have not tried interlibrary loans, but I’m sure many more could be found that way.” Cheri

Here’s a quote from Volume II of MOH concerning the resource list: “Please bear in mind that these are merely suggested books, movies, and other resources that could enhance your study of the Early Church and the Middle Ages through spice and variety — but they are not necessary to complete this course.” The MOH texts are really a stand alone curriculum — no outside books are necessary, but the resource lists were compiled for those who choose to add to the texts.

The author never claimed to create a comprehensive resource list. Through contact with the author, I learned that her resource list was created from her own collection and research — it is not a compilation of other lists of supplemental reading compiled by others. I so much appreciate this. Publishers complain that plagiarism of lists is widespread in homeschool circles.

****Table of contents incomplete.****

The Table of Contents for both volumes are about as complete as anyone could ask — nine pages of TOC in Volume I and eight pages in Volume II.

****Leaves out a lot of world history. Concentrates only on people, rather than on people and events.****

MOH approaches the study of history from a chronological standpoint, looking at events happening around the world near the same time. This approach gives us a sense of how God has been at work in every corner of the globe throughout all of history — He was not just working with the Israelites in their little part of the world. Indeed, MOH shows how the events happening in all corners of the world impacted the lives of the Israelites.

All of history is shown to be a continuum, not just a series of isolated events and famous people. For example, Volume I, Lesson 66 points out the connection between the history of Cyrus the Great with the prophesy in Isaiah 44. This lesson also clears up the confusion between Darius the Mede and Cyrus. Lessons on the Biblical prophets are inserted in their proper places, showing the who, what, and where of their importance.

With 108 lessons in Volume I (472 pages) and 84 lessons in Volume II (704 pages), MOH is about as complete a treatment of Ancient and Mediaeval history as any homeschooling family would desire at this level. In Volume I the standard ancient history topics are covered along with chapters on China, India, and American Indians. Volume II covers all points of the globe — north, south, east, and west.

And, yes, since history consists of people doing things — inventing, conquering, writing, speaking, ruling — the lessons of MOH deal with people AND the events surrounding them. In Volume I, approximately 60% of the lesson titles are of specific people, while 40% are of specific events.

****Author takes too long to get the volumes finished.****

It takes time to do a good job in researching, writing, testing on an audience, rewriting, formatting, printing, and publishing — particularly with a history curriculum. All good things come to those who wait. I’d much rather wait and allow the author to write a thorough, well researched world history than read something thrown together in a hurry just to please an editor.

We know Mrs. Hobar has a young family which requires her primary attention. We don’t want the writing of this curriculum to interfere with raising her family. The quality of her work makes us willing to wait.

If you are a Christian family looking for a thorough history curriculum you can confidently use with your children up through age 14, and is downright fun, you’ll want to look at The Mystery of History.

Our family has been involved in homeschooling for over thirty years. I have seen lots of curriculum come and go, but it seems like the very best is produced by homeschooling families themselves. They see a need and proceed to fill it. Linda Hobar has done this with her creation of The Mystery of History.