Trivium Pursuit

On Controversy

July 5th, 2015

A minister who was about to publish an article criticizing a fellow minister for errors in his theology, wrote to John Newton of his intention. Newton’s reply was meant to reference controversies in theology, but I find it to be helpful for many of life’s controversies.

Dear Sir,

As you are likely to be engaged in controversy, and your love of truth is joined with a natural warmth of temper, my friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf. You are of the strongest side; for truth is great, and must prevail; so that a person of abilities inferior to yours might take the field with a confidence of victory. I am not therefore anxious for the event of the battle…. Read the rest of the letter here.


…If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling blocks in the way of the blind or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their principles, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable….

…If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service of the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit. The weapons of our warfare, and which alone are powerful to break down the strongholds of error, are not carnal, but spiritual; arguments fairly drawn from Scripture and experience, and enforced by such a mild address, as may persuade our readers, that, whether we can convince them or not, we wish well to their souls, and contend only for the truth’s sake; if we can satisfy them that we act upon these motives, our point is half gained; they will be more disposed to consider calmly what we offer; and if they should still dissent from our opinions, they will be constrained to approve our intentions….

…There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only showing a becoming zeal in the cause of God….

…Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit….

…Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace. Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments. Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress his wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify. I hope your performance will savor of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others….

…Be upon your guard against admitting anything personal into the debate. If you think you have been ill treated, you will have an opportunity of showing that you are a disciple of Jesus, who “when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not.” This is our pattern, thus we are to speak and write for God, “not rendering railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing; knowing that hereunto we are called.” The wisdom that is from above is not only pure, but peaceable and gentle; and the want of these qualifications, like the dead fly in the pot of ointment, will spoil the savor and efficacy of our labors….

…If we act in a wrong spirit, we shall bring little glory to God, do little good to our fellow creatures, and procure neither honor nor comfort to ourselves. If you can be content with showing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task; but I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands. Go forth, therefore, in the name and strength of the Lord of hosts, speaking the truth in love; and may he give you a witness in many hearts that you are taught of God, and favored with the unction of his Holy Spirit.

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My Politics

July 4th, 2015

from Letters of John Newton, 1778

The whole system of my politics is summed up in this one verse, The Lord reigns. Let the nations tremble. –Psalm 99:1

The times look awfully dark indeed, and as the clouds grow thicker, the stupidity of the nation seems proportionally to increase. If the Lord had not a remnant here, I would have very formidable apprehensions. But He loves His redeemed children — some are sighing and mourning before Him, and I am sure He hears their sighs, and sees their tears. I trust there is mercy in store for us at the bottom, but I expect a shaking time before things get into a right channel — before we are humbled and are taught to give Him the glory.

The state of the nation, the state of the churches — both are deplorable. Those who should be praying are disputing and fighting among themselves. Alas! how many professors are more concerned for the mistakes of government than for their own sins.

Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns! Revelation 19:6



Teaching our children “empathetic assertiveness”

July 4th, 2015

By Lena Aburdene Derhally

“…I have seen anxious people do things that make them uncomfortable because of guilt. I have seen people let others push and bulldoze their boundaries because they felt bad about saying “no” to someone or didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Again, while it is of the utmost importance to be able to take the perspective of another and see where they are coming from, it should not go too far to the point that we can’t speak up for ourselves, say no, or set appropriate personal boundaries….”

Read the rest of the article here.

Le Tour Du Monde


How to Make Sure Everyone on Facebook Knows You’re the Perfect Christian Parent

July 4th, 2015

“This Christian parenting social media scorecard has everything you need to insure that YOU, yes YOU are the holiest parent on the social media scene. After all, how will people know unless you show them repeatedly? #Hilarious….”

Read the rest of the article here.



He deals in flour by day and in soot by night

June 25th, 2015

C.H. Spurgeon
Morning and Evening

June 23 Morning

Ephraim is a cake not turned. –Hosea 7:8

A cake not turned is uncooked on one side; and so Ephraim was, in many respects, untouched by divine grace: though there was some partial obedience, there was very much rebellion left. My soul, I charge thee, see whether this be your case. Are you thorough in the things of God? Has grace gone through the very centre of your being so as to be felt in its divine operations in all your powers, your actions, your words, and your thoughts? To be sanctified, spirit, soul, and body, should be your aim and prayer; and although sanctification may not be perfect in you anywhere in degree, yet it must be universal in its action; there must not be the appearance of holiness in one place and reigning sin in another, else you, too, will be a cake not turned.

A cake not turned is soon burnt on the side nearest the fire, and although no man can have too much religion, there are some who seem burnt black with bigoted zeal for that part of truth which they have received, or are charred to a cinder with a vainglorious Pharisaic ostentation of those religious performances which suit their humour. The assumed appearance of superior sanctity frequently accompanies a total absence of all vital godliness. The saint in public is a devil in private. He deals in flour by day and in soot by night. The cake which is burned on one side, is dough on the other.

If it be so with me, O Lord, turn me! Turn my unsanctified nature to the fire of thy love and let it feel the sacred glow, and let my burnt side cool a little while I learn my own weakness and want of heat when I am removed from your heavenly flame. Let me not be found a double-minded man, but one entirely under the powerful influence of reigning grace; for well I know if I am left like a cake unturned, and am not on both sides the subject of your grace, I must be consumed forever amid everlasting burnings.


Don’t Press the Technicalities Too Early

June 25th, 2015

Here is a Facebook conversation we recently had with a friend.

Debra: I have an 8-year-old and 7-year-old (along with three littles). Both are reading very well. We read aloud a lot and love it. They want to write letters and notes. I am simply noticing a lack of any good spelling. I’m wondering if I should start slowly in spelling and dictation with my 8-year-old third grader (she already does lots of copywork). She seems ready but I don’t want to push too early. Thoughts? Still wait another year or so? Or no harm in starting? We have pretty much followed every suggestion you’ve made in your book.

Me: Maybe you could start some dictation now — make it fun. Don’t make it a test, but make it a learning experience. If she doesn’t know how to spell a word or where the punctuation should go, show her. The goal is to help the child 1.) learn to love to write, and 2.) develop creativity. If we press the technicalities (spelling and punctuation) too early, creativity and the love of learning is stifled. This is especially true of children who lean toward perfectionism. Technicalities can be learned at any age, but creativity and the love of learning are developed at an early age.

Debra: I wish other people spoke the way you do on this subject!!!! You make it so easy. Should I just encourage her to write each day without me “checking it” or does it matter how much she writes on her own now? Thank you for the encouragement. A breath of fresh air.

Me: Yes, encourage her to write without worrying about technicalities. You’ll want to see it, though — to praise her and oouuu and ahhh over it. Buy her special paper and pencils and pens and all kinds of art and writing supplies to encourage her in this. Just to encourage you, here is a little essay our daughter Ava wrote long ago when she was 8-years-old.

how to take care of birds


How do you teach a person to think?

June 4th, 2015

Dear Laurie,

I recently took my 14-year-old stepson out of public school. He’s a mess — he hates school, isn’t learning anything, and doesn’t seem to have a very long attention span. What curriculum can I buy which will teach him how to think?

This is a likable young man who does not get into trouble, is easy-going, and has been raised as a Christian. He has, however, quite possibly the laziest mind I have ever seen. I suspect that when he was being raised, television and videos served as a convenient babysitter. He will, if left to his own devices, literally remain in front of the television watching programming or playing video games for four or five hours at a time. He puts an absolute minimum effort into his schoolwork, and is as fond of reading as a cat is of water. I have been troubled about this for quite some time.

John has what I have come to think of as a water-bug mentality: skimming along on the surface, exerting a minimum of effort in all that he does. If something demands effort, he will sooner or later lose interest.

Is it too late for John? Are there in fact remedial approaches to the Trivium that I could try to apply in a belated attempt to salvage this young man’s mind?! I would be ever so grateful of any advice, books, curricula, or approaches you could recommend. Understand, I am not looking for a quick fix, but I figure anything is better than nothing. Please help me to help John!

Janet from Ohio

Teaching thinking is not a curriculum, it is a way of life.

There seems to be some evidence that children who spend large amounts of time in front of a screen will have less time for parent-child interaction, reading, and playtime, which will, in turn, interfere with development of creativity, imagination, and intelligence.

In addition, it’s not so much WHAT the child watches, but THAT he watches. In other words, it’s the actual watching which interferes with the physiological development of the neural connections in his brain. It doesn’t so much matter what the content is, whether Mr. Rogers Neighborhood or one of the Star Wars movies.

1. In “Effects of Preschool Television Watching on First-Grade Children,” the authors report: (a) that the more preschoolers watch TV, the less well they do academically in the first grade; (b) the more preschoolers watch TV, the less well-socialized they are in the first grade. (Burton, Sydney G., James M. Calonico and Dennis R. McSeveney, “Effects of Preschool Television Watching on First-Grade Children,” Journal of Communication, Summer 1979, pp. 164-170.)
2. Jerome L. Singer and Dorothy G. Singer conducted field studies on children to see if TV can stimulate imaginative play. They subjected four groups of children to different types of classroom situations: two incorporated TV into the sessions, one was a control with no TV, and the last had no TV but an adult present to stimulate imaginative play. The greatest increase in imaginative play occurred with the last group, no TV but an adult present to engage the children. (Singer, Jerome L. And Dorothy G. Singer, “Can TV Stimulate Imaginative Play?” Journal of Communication, Summer 1976, pp. 74-80.)
3. In “Turned-on Toddlers,” Halpern writes about the potential over-stimulation of young children that may result from watching TV. This over-stimulation may tax their still-developing neurological systems, and that may result in a short attention span and hyperactivity. (Halpern, Werner L., “Turned-on Toddlers,” Journal of Communication, Autumn 1975, pp. 66-70.)

The good news is that teens’ brains are still growing and changing. In fact, a key part of the brain that affects judgment may not be in place until men and women reach their early 20s.

In other words, if the young man is willing to work and you are willing to help him, progress can be made to get his brain in shape. Perhaps a few of our suggestions will help you.

1. Read. Read to him and have him read to himself. Start with books which are easier to understand and progress from there. If he likes fiction, you could try I Want My Sunday, Stranger by Patricia Beatty, The 21 Balloons by William Pene DuBois, or Incident at Hawk’s Hill by Allan W. Eckert. Chances are, he will prefer nonfiction, in which case you can use the library to find books on the topics which interest him.
2. Help him develop a hobby or home business.
3. Learn logic. The Fallacy Detective is a good place to start.
4. Start doing a community service project such as visiting the local nursing home, shovel snow for the elderly, or pick up trash on the roadside. Help him turn his mind away from himself and on to others in need.
5. Require him to write something every day, even if it is only a paragraph or two. You might consider purchasing one of the many fine writing curricula which are available to homeschooling families.
6. Help him develop the habit of having regular private Bible study and prayer time.
7. Hard work and chores around the house will be a great benefit to him.
8. You will probably want to work out a program for limiting screen time.

This is only a start. After you have made some progress, you can add more academic subjects.

In summary, we suggest eliminating from your life those activities which do not promote good brain health and encouraging those activities which do.

TV rots the senses in the head!
It kills the imagination dead!
It clogs and clutters up the mind!
It makes a child so dull and blind.
He can no longer understand a fantasy,
A fairyland!
His brain becomes as soft as cheese!
His powers of thinking rust and freeze!

–from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Additional resources to consider:


Healy, Jane M. Endangered Minds: Why Our Children Don’t Think. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990.
Winn, Marie. The Plug-In Drug: Television, Computers and Family Life. New York: Penguin Putnam, Inc., 2002.
Mander, Jerry. Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television. New York: William Morrow and Co., 1978.


Essential Oils and Scent Receptors

June 4th, 2015

PBS Nova is reporting that “…Far from being confined to our noses, scientists are finding scent receptors throughout our bodies.”



Samuel L. Blumenfeld Died on Monday But He Continues to Speak

June 3rd, 2015

We were sorry to hear that Samuel L. Blumenfeld died this week.

Mr. Blumenfeld is known mainly for two things:

1. His work in encouraging homeschoolers during the very early days of homeschooling. He was a staunch defender of parents’ rights in education and was a pioneer, encouraging the pioneers. He supported homeschooling because “it is a very effective way of getting us away from government education, which I consider to be the cause of our present unending education crisis. Another reason why I favor homeschooling is because of the anti‑Christian philosophy that now permeates public education.” His books on education are:

How to Start Your Own Private School (1972)

Is Public Education Necessary (1981)

NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education (1984) — “Public school teachers, once loved and respected for their devotion to their profession, have become militantly politicized and are now the most active and powerful advocates of the political and social agendas of the radical left. The National Education Association, which represents 1.7 million teachers, has decided that its members are no longer satisfied with merely being public servants. They want to become political masters.”

Homeschooling: A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Children (1997)

Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians Are Using Government Schools to Destroy America’s Children (2015)

2. His vitally important work in the whole language/intensive phonics debate. Blumenfeld spent much of his career investigating the decline in American literacy, the reasons for the high rate of learning disabilities in American children and why so many children are labeled ADD and why the school system refuses to use intensive phonics in reading instruction. He was internationally recognized as a leader in this intensive, systematic phonics movement and lectured at workshops and homeschool conventions in every state and continent. Blumenfeld’s answer was always the same – intensive, systematic phonics. His books on the subject of reading are:

The New Illiterates and How You Can Keep Your Child from Becoming One (1973) (this book has been replaced and updated with The Whole Language/OBE Fraud) — Blumenfeld identifies the whole-word method of teaching reading as the cause of school-induced dyslexia

How to Tutor (1973) — walks parents through the best ways to teach children reading, arithmetic and cursive handwriting


Alpha‑Phonics: A Primer for Beginning Readers (1983) — a curriculum which provides parents with an easy way of teaching their own children to read at home, thus avoiding the reading disabilities that Blumenfeld believed were school-caused

First Readers Anthology: Samuel L. Blumenfeld’s Phonics Readers by Donald Potter — The First Readers Anthology is a collection of phonics readers (phonetically decodable texts) that were originally published in 1997 as eleven individually stapled booklets to be used with popular Blumenfeld’s Alpha-Phonics Reading Primer.

The Victims of Dick & Jane and Other Essays (2003)

Today, there is widespread and indiscriminate use among homeschooling families of the word “dyslexic.” Samuel Blumenfeld addresses this problem in articles here, here, here, and here. Before you jump on the bandwagon and adopt the term dyslexic for your child, study what Samuel Blumenfeld has to say on the topic.



Sneak Peak at an Art Curriculum and Last Day to Grab Fine Arts Bundle

June 1st, 2015


Excerpt from

What Do You See? — A Child’s First Introduction to Art, Volume 1 by Laurie Bluedorn

Belshazzar’s Feast

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) was Dutch and is considered one of the world’s greatest painters. He was most creative in his portraits and his illustrations of scenes from the Bible. This painting is called Belshazzar’s Feast and was painted around 1635. Today, you can find it in The National Gallery, London.

1) Read the account in the Bible of Belshazzar’s feast (Daniel 5:1-6, 25-28).
2) Does this painting accurately portray the Biblical account of Belshazzar’s feast?
3) How many people are in this painting?
4) Whose hand is writing the words on the wall?
5) Name two things in the painting which communicate movement?
6) Describe Belshazzar’s clothing.
7) What is the center of interest in this painting — is it Belshazzar’s face or the writing on the wall? *
8) Which of the ten paintings in this volume would you like to have for your own?

* A center of interest is the all-important part of a painting — that part of the picture where the artist wants you to look first and which attracts the mind. The center of interest often has the sharpest edges, the brightest colors, and the most detail. In addition, it often contains a color that doesn’t exist anywhere else on the painting. Keep in mind, though, not all paintings contain a center of interest, plus, unless the artist has told us what he intended his center of interest to be, there could be differences of opinion as to a painting’s center of interest.