Poisoning My Children's Well



The common assertion that Christians are narrow-minded, or anti-science is a logical fallacy called "Poisoning the Well". Well poisoning is a preempted ad hominem attack that attempts to pre-program, or especially in this case, to embed into society's thinking a predisposition against a particular point of view.

My first exposure to the effectiveness of this tactic-from the outside looking in-occurred during discussions in my home with Jehovah's Witnesses. It was here that I began to appreciate the persuasive power of this logical fallacy, and to develop a similar technique in teaching my own children in ways to help insulate them against this kind of mind poisoning by doing a little pre-poisoning of the well of their thinking myself. I hope to accomplish this by being the first to present the messages of our culture, except that I do so under the microscope of scripture, logic, and objective truth. In this way I am the one setting the table, so to speak, for the future discussions my children will encounter involving their worldview.

Not unlike the tactics used by the JW's and anti-Christ cultural apologist, as I teach my children I employ the key concept of "firsts." For example: when an institution or media is the first to present a cultural issue, and also the first to present my response to that issue as the closed-minded "Christian" caricatured stereotype, followed by pithy, high-browed, and cognitive dissonant response to that stereotype, then my children's Well becomes poisoned against my teaching. Everything I as parent subsequently espouse may then be seen through the lens of that stereotype. On the other hand, if I am the first to present the tenets of those opposing worldviews along with a logical and realistic explanation as to why they are flawed, then I will have been the one to achieved the objective of firsts.

Francis Schaeffer was attuned to this problem in the early sixties and had this to say in "Escape From Reason", published in 1968:

"The reason we often cannot speak to our children, let alone other people's, is because we have never taken time to understand how different their thought-forms are from ours. Through reading and education and the whole modern cultural bombardment of mass media, even today's middle-class children are becoming thoroughly twentieth-century in outlook. In crucial areas many Christian parents, ministers and teachers are as out of touch with many of the children of the church, and the majority of those outside, as though they were speaking a foreign language."
C.S. Lewis also, in "The Abolition Of Man", spoke of the school boy who had had the seed of indoctrination planted in his mind years earlier:

"It is not a theory they put into [the school boy's] mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all."
Parenting as a Christian in a culture hostile to Christianity requires that one be, among other things, proactive and intentional. If the Christian parent is not the first to introduce opposing views, later, the very act of articulating those views will augment the credibility of viewpoints opposed to that parent's by fulfilling the "prophesy" of what the child was foretold those views would be.

When my children are confronted with such opposition, my hope is three-fold. First, that the issue will already have been settled in their minds. Second, that their father's credibility will be enhanced by hearing the opposing viewpoints, as opposed to weakened. And third, that they will be critical thinkers.

It is naive to think that our children's well will not be poisoned if we do not take action to prevent it. Fallacious arguments against the Christian's worldview, and what he desires to teach his children, are very much an integral part of our culture. Unless something is done to prevent it, those arguments will take hold. The parents one day will simply find that their children have rejected their worldview.

To avoid the poisoning of the hearts and minds of our children consider a few thoughts:

  1. The younger our children are, the more open they are to an adult's teaching. As C.S. Lewis alluded, we must plant the seeds in our children early and be vigilant in guarding against the birds who desire to steal those seeds.
  2. Understand the tools and methods that will be used against your teaching, poisoning the well is but one. To learn how these tools are used, we ought to engage the world; think critically about its messages; and learn to refute the arguments if they are untrue. This will require work and critical thinking on our part. As someone once said, parenting is not for cowards.
  3. There is a temptation to wait until our children are older and will be better able to understand. Wisdom is in order here but do not wait too long. Develop the means early in simplistic forms while they are still open. God did not design them to always be under our protection and roof. They become their own persons much earlier than this culture and society would have us believe. The world knows this. Think the pro-homosexual parenting propaganda book, "Heather Has Two Moms".

  4. Avoid ad hominem attacks (that is attacks on the character of the opposition as opposed to the merit of their viewpoint) against those who hold differing views. While this is effective with anti-Christian forces (those attacks will be constantly reinforced by culture and society) it is antithetical to a Biblical world view. Moreover, if you are successful in teaching your children to think critically, it will only be a matter of time before they put your teaching under that same microscope. Don't discredit your own teaching in the future minds of your children.
  5. Immunize rather than isolate. Learn to find the hidden messages in entertainment, (Plugged In is an excellent resource for this.) and then teach your children to seek and find the good and bad hidden messages in popular media themselves. Remember one mistake does not determine your child's future, nor does one success. With this in mind, Teach your children to interpret movies and to think critically about propaganda/news stories themselves and to keep their guards up, then challenge them by openly playing devil's advocate.

  6. Bring in real life events and issues as they get older. I have found You Tube invaluable for this. A point can be made and examples can be shown and re shown.
  7. Have fun. Eventually picking out fallacious arguments and assertions can be like egg hunts, and the people who are making them begin to look ever more ridiculous, as they should to a thinking, as opposed to an emotional populace.
  8. The truth never hurts the truth. Keep in mind that anti-Christian forces are not the sole proprietors of fallacious arguments. Fallacy and truth are mutually exclusive no matter who engages in them. Truth should reign supreme.
  9. Teach and live scripture. This does not mean teach and live perfection. A common well poisoning tactic is to make a strawman attack on Christians as not living what they preach. The Christian knows that this is impossible because he preaches that everyone sins and falls short of the glory of God. So then, when parents fall short, we repent and apologize, including to our children, and according to how we teach. Point out that any time a standard exists, people who hold to that standard will fall short. Ask your children to consider what standard the person making an accusation may be falling short of.
  10. Above all, pray without ceasing that our Father in Heaven will guide the steps of our children into His service and into His glory. Pray that He will capture their hearts at an early age. Pray that they would always seek His face, and His will for their lives and that he would make it plain to them what that will and plan is. Pray for wisdom-as a parent-that the wiles and schemes of the Evil One would be plain. Pray for their salvation and for their eternal destiny.
It is my intention with our children to be the preemptive teacher with Jesus as our reference point. We look for teachable moments and object lessons in life, on television shows, and in books. We have discussions about evolution, objective truth, government, our purpose in life, who they are and why they are here, and many other topics in light of what the Bible teaches. It is in these discussions, and lessons, that I try to play Devil's advocate and give them the world's views and answers to these questions, and along with them, their associated problems.

More Renovations



There are more renovations to come at Field Notes. Special things like pictures have temporarily disappeared, but I'm working on it.

What do you think so far?

Organizational Ideas



I love sharing great ideas, and I think Jolanthe at Homeschool Creations has a good one up her sleeve for organizing the school year using folders. If some or part of this methadology works for you, grab it and run! {smile}

I appreciate the many Teacher Moms out there, like Jolanthe, like YOU, who are willing to let us take a peek inside their lives, both in madness and methodology. The two co-exist. It's amazing and hilarious and frustrating....and worth it! Carry on!

Our Fridays



This is what we do on Friday in our classroom:

Math & Reading. That simple. Friday is our Homeschool Park Day, so we don't attempt much. However, I have found that the hours before we leave at 10 have to be filled somehow with productive activity, so I pull out some handy math worksheets, and we get after it. Plus my planning book looks better with those check marks!

On days when we've had a morning field trip, and I know I cannot expect a lot of productivity out of them, I've also done this: I will put the names of 2 core subjects and then maybe 3 supplementary activities, and a couple of fun ideas (read a book with Mom, etc.) on paper, put it in a hat, and they each have to draw 2 pieces out. If they draw their two core subjects, then guess what. We do those. If they draw 30 minutes of reading & coloring with Mom, then they get to do that. Oh, they get to have one opportunity for a re-draw.

The times we've done this, it's been neat. Because then it's their drawing & not my insistance that they do a subject. I am blessed with children who love to learn, so this is one way I lighten the load a bit.

Just another idea I'm passing along!

Quickie Math



Quickie Math is the title of a folder that I keep in my planning box. (I use my planning box to hold my worksheets for the week.) Each subject has a folder and the box is divided into two sections, one for each child.

On a day like yesterday where I wouldn't be doing any topical teaching in their core subjects, I was able to have Bethany go to the Quickie Math folder (separate from her Math folder in the same box) and pull out a worksheet to complete. These worksheets are usually lessons we may skip because the content is more reviewing previously taught concepts. But we all know review has it's place. A graded math workbook would have the same effect in that it can be pulled out and taken on the go if necessary.
In fact, I recommend some sort of reader or graded topical workbook for most subjects on those days you do need to take learning on the road.

It's My Monday



Today is Wednesday, April 14, 2010, but it's my Monday.

I have spent the last two days leading worship at a regional Pastors & Church Staff conference at a beautiful retreat center in our area. A lot of prayer and planning went into the event, and in honesty, for whatever reason, the planning part was rather excruciating for me. (I can probably chock that up to my crash course in PowerPoint.) The actual event and enjoying the hand of the Lord from session to session was more than worth it all. But in honesty, Worship Leader and Homeschooling Mother Kathy is tired and feeling a bit forlorn. (I've heard it's normal, but I don't get it. I really don't understand why I can't just do something that I love to do without these kinds of after effects.)

Getting through my Monday means this for me:

Bethany is writing Thank-You letters today. Let's hear it for Grammar & punctuation, spelling, penmanship and composition!

Bethany is correcting her letters. Let's hear it for Editing skills.

Daniel is cleaning out the recycling tub: Extra chores has a way of curbing a less than desirable attitude about our scheduled morning chores. Let's hear it for Character Training.

Daniel is writing a Thank-You letter also, but struggling with content. Remedy: Let's talk about the why's behind Thank-You letters, and how it expresses appreciation. Creative Writing Discussion: Check!

Lunch time: A surprise picnic outside in the backyard complete with silly laughter and joy.

Dessert: A mandated 30-minute quiet time!

Later: 1 math worksheet & 1 chapter in reading per child.

As for me, that's how I'm handling my Monday.

Writing a Book: What a Novel Idea!



If there's an 8th grader or above in your home just dying to write a book, then here's the opportunity and the writing curriculum to go along with it! It's called the One Year Adventure Novel.

Here is their description:

The One Year Adventure Novel curriculum
... guides students (grades 8-12) through the process of writing a structured, compelling adventure novel over the course of one school year. The program's unique approach to writing begins where many writing course don't go at all, with an exploration of Story.
Here are a few of the lesson topics:

The Heroic Quest
Point of View
Context and Synopsis
The Five Elements of Story
The Supporting Cast
The Villain
The Synopsis, part 2
Acts and Scenes
The Four Defining Chapters
The Novel Outline: Formulas,
--Plots and Subplots
How to Write a Chapter
Creating Emotion
The Illusion of Reality
Narrative Order
Character Masks
The Character Interview
Unexpected Humor
Unexpected Tragedy
Unexpected Grace
Writing the Climax
Revision and Rewriting
Formatting Your Manuscript
Sharing & Publishing

By clicking here you can obtain sample pages. The lessons are taught on DVD by writer Daniel Schwabauer. (Personally I think it's cool that a writer's last name would have the word Schwa in it!)

By clicking here you can see all you'll get when you make your purchase. A bit pricey? Well, 78 Video Lessons on 7 DVDs, Textbook, Workbook, Teacher's Guide, Prisoner of Zenda novel, & a Resource Disk. All this for $199. Personally. I think it's fine. Pricey, but fine. The teaching looks excellent, it's self guided, extra student workbooks are available, and if I were a homeschooled 8th grader or above, I'd jump on it. There's also a special pricing if you want to set it up for co-op use.

I've posted additional information from the Publishers about the One Year Novel Adventure, including webinar info. and scholarship opportunities. Please see the comment section for their remarks. Thanks.

No Pictures, but We Had a Great Time



Last night, I sponsored a Curriculum Share Night at my house for our Homeschool Group Moms. The focus for the evening: anything Language Arts. We had about a dozen Moms bring their Language Arts curriculum, both what they're presently using and even some selections they're no longer using. I think we had a little bit of everything: Shurley English, Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Winston Grammar, Bob Jones, Abeka, First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind, Hooked on Phonics Master Reader (for struggling readers grades 3 & up), Language Lessons for the Very Young, Queen Homeschool Handwriting, Spelling Power, Handwriting Without Tears (almost spelled "with our tears"....how true that is!), Writing Strands, Writing with Ease, and others that I am not naming just because I've only had one cup of coffee.

What we did was set up a few tables, and then organized the tables by the following subjects: Reading, Spelling & Handwriting, Writing, English & Phonics, and supplemental material. It was like a mini-curriculum fair-somewhat like the one we'll be having in Phoenix in late July. We all just browsed for awhile, and then the conversations picked up, and people sat together and talked about why they liked a particular curriculum to whoever might be asking them about their choice.

The bottom line is: there is so much wonderful curriculum out there for homeschooling families. The choices are good, the curriculum is solid, and best of all, it's doable. (Did I mention we had coffee & tea, and lots of goodies brought by the Moms?) I've said it before: "Don't try this alone!", and last night was proof you don't have to.

Next up: Another curriculum share on the 20th of this month: History, Science, Math, Unit Studies, Bible, & everything we forgot to bring last night including the camera!

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