Echo in Celebration by Leigh Bortins

IMG_7602I finished reading Echo in Celebration by Leigh Bortins and I want to tell you about the ways this book encouraged, challenged, inspired, and enlightened me.

I was encouraged to keep working hard at educating my kids.

The more I learn about education, the more I realize how poorly educated I was in school and the more I begin to desire for my children and for myself.  I want to strive to give them and myself the level of literacy and capability almost everybody in this country had two hundred years ago. So I have to educate them and myself as rigorously as people were educated them.  I feel inadequate for the task before me, but I want to begin and go along with the end in mind.

Bortins shared a quote by Theodore Roosevelt that I have heard before, but had never considered in the context of homeschooling.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

It is humorous to imagine Roosevelt giving this speech to a group of weary, frazzled homeschooling moms. He wasn’t talking to home educators, but nonetheless, the quote fits.  Bortins says, “Raising children necessitates sacrificial labor and an attitude of constant prayer. Nothing I suggest in this book is easy.”  While frank, these words actually really encouraged me.

I was challenged to get rid of even more media.

Bortins says, “Give away the TV and video games… if the screens in your life are stopping you from choosing the best activities with your family.” In the past, I have felt pretty good about how little my kids and I watch TV compared to average families. We don’t actually have television, we have DVDs and we have an old xbox someone gave us and a few games on our computer and tablets. But, like the Bible says, “When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12.  However little we might watch compared to average people, I still find that we sit and talk, read, pray, and play games together far too infrequently. At this point, I am seriously considering removing the computer and television and setting strict limits on the amount of time the girls play games on their tablets during this coming school year. I want to do this in order to make time for more worthwhile activities.  When I was a child, the television was on all day long.  I didn’t read much as a child.  My parents thought I wasn’t interested in reading because I preferred to watch television.  To this day, I believe I could have been a great reader as a child, if someone wiser than me had turned off the television long enough for me to get bored and wander over to the bookshelf.

I was inspired to hire another tutor.

Bortins talks about the importance of mentors in your child’s life.  She says, “Find teachers and tutors for your students and recognize you are not paying for the information that person has as much as for the time spent with someone who loves learning. I have a friend without a lot of money who pays to have her son study with one of the tutors in our… support group. She says she’d pay for her sons haul dirt just to be around this tutor because she knew all they would learn just from being near her.”

We are a part of a Classical Conversations community where my kids get to be tutored/ influenced by some of the most intelligent, virtuous men and women I have ever met. I don’t exaggerate when I say that, either. But, this quote, actually convinced me to sign my daughter up for another group that my friend is going to be hosting in her home. This friend of mine has several degrees including those in math, science, and music. She speaks several languages. She loves my daughter, and perhaps most importantly, she loves the Lord.  I was hesitant to sign my daughter up for anything else that would take her away from home for another day, especially since some of the subjects that will be covered in the group are already being covered in our home school in other ways. But by reading the quotes above, I realized that I would be missing an incredible opportunity for my daughter to simply be around this woman for a few hours every week. So how incredible it is that this woman was already offering to tutor my daughter!  God is truly at work in our lives!

I was enlightened about the idea of catechesis.

I have been in Classical Conversations for a year, so I am beginning to see the value of making my kids memorize and retain the basic facts or grammar for school subjects like math, history, geography, etc. Having facts about those subjects stored in their brain helps my kids understand, appreciate, and recognize those subjects when they see them outside of school and they have already been connect facts in one subjects to facts in other subjects.

But I had not considered how important it is for my kids to also memorize and retain the most basic facts or grammar about God.  We’re Protestant, so our kids aren’t going to be learning a catechism through church. But instead of hoping my kids are gathering and retaining the great truths about God through the random lessons at Sunday School or the random Bible verses I like enough to have them memorize, I plan to begin being much more deliberate about ensuring the girls are internalizing the most foundational truths that God has revealed to mankind through The Bible.  After many years of reading the Bible, I am not entirely sure I could retrieve all the basic truths in the Bible if the Bible were taken from me. Carrying those ideas with them will help them in much the same way carrying science, math, and history facts in their head will help them. They will be ready to connect the truths about God to things they encounter everywhere in everyday life.


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