Friday, February 14, 2014

Students Who Don't Like Math

I can't even believe I'm writing this. Raised in a family of math geniuses, it is hard to admit that the words, "I hate math!" ever fell from my child's mouth. They did. I was shocked.

When my son was in kindergarten I remember working on math with him and how he would sometimes come to an answer really quickly. He wasn't guessing, but he knew the answer. I asked him how he got the answer and he couldn't tell me. This drove me nuts. I learned in college that children should grow up learning how to communicate about math, and here I was, his kindergarten teacher and I was a total failure! Why couldn't he tell me?!

Now my son is 12 and over the years I've realized that sometimes the "experts" were wrong. While I couldn't figure out my son's methods, I didn't necessarily have to understand it in order to teach him. At this point, he is figuring out the answers much quicker than me. And still, he does a LOT of it in his head.

Usually I heard, "I hate math," when something got a little hard and required extra brain power. Sometimes kids are lazy and just don't want to do math RIGHT NOW. Adults are the same way, aren't we? But what if your kid NEVER likes math? What do you do then?

First, don't ever tell your child that you were bad at or did not like math. They will grow up thinking they will be the same way. If you have already done this, undo it. Get excited about math and act like it's all the rage. If your kid looks at you funny or asks you what's wrong, just say you have discovered how much fun math is and work the problems with him. If you had mediocre math teachers, it's possible that looking at math from your adult perspective will make the work easier to understand. If you are still intimidated by the numbers and calculations, make sure to enlist some help in the math area. There are lots of videos online that can help you both. You don't have to know everything all the time, you just have to have a learning spirit and excitement about working with numbers.

Second, figure out what your child really doesn't like. It could be that he is really struggling with a certain concept. Just because addition was a piece of cake doesn't mean subtraction is going to come easy. Help him climb the obstacles rather than struggle, fall, and give up. Imagine coming to a difficult concept, realizing there are only more difficult concepts behind it in the future. Not fun. Most kids like riddles or puzzles. I've always viewed each math problem as a riddle to figure out. If you are excited, even if your child is struggling, he will plow through if he has your help. The benefit of schooling at home is you can spend as much time as you need to get the concept down. Don't rush it! Let him get comfortable with a concept before jumping to the next "obstacle."

Third, make math fun. Some things are just going to be work, like learning math facts. For this, we use Try to take something your child enjoys and incorporate it into math. Now that my son is older, we try to see who can come up with the answer first. There are some things I will never beat him on, but other things I can. He gets a kick out of the times he beats me, and works harder to beat me on the others. If you don't have a competitive kid, this won't work. But maybe he is very active and likes jumping on the rebounder, bouncing on a ball, or getting M&Ms. Yes, bribery works, too! You know your kid, figure out what works and make math the most fun subject of the day. If you are really creative, make a treasure hunt, lasting over the course of a week. Each day's assignment provides another clue. Each clue takes him to the next location of the "riddles" to solve, eventually leading to the treasure. I bet he will want to start with math each day!

Your child will learn to like math if you provide the environment that makes math exciting. That doesn't mean that he will be good at it, but it will be easier when he is willing to do the work. Although we have met our own obstacles, I don't think my son will ever say he hates math again. However, we are just in pre-algebra now and I've still got high school to go so I'm not going to hold my breath! Good luck teaching parents, and have fun!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Was Our Country Really Founded by Godly Men?

Today I had the pleasure of viewing the movie, Monumental:  In Search of America's National Treasure, a documentary hosted by Kirk Cameron. I am not writing about this movie, but about the thoughts that resulted from watching it (and also from recently watching the Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate).

Whenever the topic of our founding fathers arises, anti-Christians and atheists are quick to point out that our country was founded by atheists, agnostics, and non-believers, and we just need to “get over it.” Unfortunately, many of us, Christians and atheists alike, have been undereducated about this topic, because the whole truth has been removed from the public school system. So most Christians don’t really know how to respond, even if they have a good idea that they are right.

Monumental covered the Pilgrims and the difficulties they endured coming to America. They were clearly highly religious people, but atheists are quick to point out
1) there were already people settling in America before the Pilgrims arrived,
2) by the time our founding fathers established our country and government system the Pilgrims were long gone, and
3) the Salem Witch Trials, as if that is the ONLY thing the Pilgrims ever did. The Salem Witch Trials, while certainly religiously motivated, are more a testimony for mass hysteria rather than a point to make against Christianity. We have endured many other instances of mass hysteria in our country, but I’ll leave that for another day so I don’t lose you before I even get to my point. Right now, I’m going to focus on point 2.

The assertion that the original Pilgrims were long gone before the establishment of the United States is not incorrect. But the assumption made by that point is that by the time the founding fathers started their work, the country was made up of atheists or, at best, agnostics. I am going to examine nothing other than well known historical documents of our country to show why this assumption is NOT correct, no matter how many atheists tell you it is.

The book Words That Built a Nation by Marilyn Miller includes numerous historical documents and exactly what is stated in them (or parts of them). I will start with the Mayflower Compact, just in case there is any doubt about the Pilgrims’ beliefs. This document is said to be, “the first document of self-government for North America,” by author Marilyn Miller. It states in part,
In the name of God Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne Lord King James by the grace of God, of great Britaine, France, & Ireland king, defender of the faith, &c.
Having undertaken, for the glorie of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to plant the first colonie in the Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly & mutualy in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant & combine ourselves togeather into a civill body politick… (I tried to include all their errors, but I may have accidentally corrected some.)
As you can see, they were, as reported originally in history books, a religious group of people.
Let’s move on now to Benjamin Franklin, author (among many other things) of Poor Richard’s Almanack from 1733-1758. Included in his almanac were writings and popular sayings that reflected hard work and common sense. One included in the book was, “God helps them that help themselves.”  Marilyn Miller says about his proverbs, “He borrowed many from popular sayings and the Bible, often rewriting them. More colonists read Poor Richard’s Almanack than any other publication except the Bible.” This demonstrates that not only did Benjamin Franklin read and quote the Bible, the people during his time read the Bible as well!

Next up is Thomas Paine, with his well-known (well, I guess we should say “well mentioned”) pamphlet called Common Sense, published on January 10, 1776. This publication included…
As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensible duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith… For myself, I fully and conscientiously believe, that it is the will of the Almighty, that there should be diversity of religious opinions among us: It affords a larger field for our Christian kindness. Were we all of one way of thinking, our religious dispositions would want matter for probation; and on this liberal principle, I look on the various denominations among us, to be like children of the same family, differing only, in what is called, their Christian names.
Common Sense, which was very popular with colonists, included numerous biblical references apart from the quote provided above. There were WAY too many to list here. I do want to say that the book I am using only showed limited paragraphs of Paine’s fifty page pamphlet. It did include references to God, but it is similar to how students’ textbooks refer to historical documents- not mentioning the authors’ Christian roots or even displaying the entire document.

The next document, the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson, refers to “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them….”
It also states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The last paragraph starts, “We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions…” and it closes with, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

The Declaration of Independence was signed by fifty-six colonists who agreed with these sentiments. They were certainly not the words of atheists!

Moving on to 1789, we come to the most controversial document affecting present times, the Bill of Rights. As most people know, the first amendment states in part,“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

This one single statement provides so much controversy for present times, we could debate it for hours. Rather, I should say, atheists could debate it for hours just because they would need that long to exhaust their opponent who knows what this statement intended to mean. This statement is where “we” get “separation of church and state.” Surely by now you know the words “separation of church and state” appear nowhere in our Constitution, Bill of Rights, or any other historical document. They are buzzwords used to confuse the undereducated in our country into believing that God has to be removed from schools, from courts, and from any other public domain. If you put the words into their historical context, the intention was that the colonists would not allow the government to force the people to subscribe to any particular religion as they had endured in England. It was not intended to remove God from our daily lives.

Lastly, let’s look at the Declaration of Sentiments written by women at the Seneca Falls Convention on July 20, 1848. Modeled after the Declaration of Independence, there is similarity in the texts. Here are just a couple of parts of this document:
He allows her in Church as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.
He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and her God.
This document arising from a meeting a feminists, shows not only that church and God were important to these women, but also that feminists were NOT atheists!

There is a LOT more information regarding the founding fathers, the colonists, and the history of Christianity and God in our country, but I’m only including these texts here. In defense of our religious beginnings, you might hear atheists say, as mentioned earlier, “But what about the Salem Witch Trials?!” Or you might even hear, “The Pilgrims didn’t establish our country, no matter how religious they were.” And when provided with the facts, you might even be slapped with, “What does it matter?!” (Forget the fact that they are usually the ones who bring it up!)

Well, this is only one aspect showing the decline in our country resulting from the decline of our belief in God and the decline of morality. Many of our documents extolled liberty, and the colonists pursued it for themselves and their descendants. Where does one think liberty was born? It came from our Creator and that is what the founding fathers believed and assumed we would continue to believe. As our love of God has been replaced with dependence on government and loss of control of our lives, we are ending up exactly where England was when the Pilgrims found their escape. We are losing our liberty.

We must teach our children both sides of history. God and religion has been removed from secular science and history texts, and it has been done for a reason. I suggest reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine in its entirety and teaching it to your children. Our country was founded by men and women who worshipped God and Jesus Christ. The only question that remains about that is from the people who don’t want to see it. The next time you refer to our Christian roots and are met with an eye roll, I hope that you know how to respond to those doubters!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Just Another Junkie

At church this morning, our pastor covered Day 4 of Creation, “the heavenly bodies.” He cleverly demonstrated the comparable sizes of earth, the sun, and other stars, and then tied up the sermon with the connection between the sun and the Son. What if the sun just decided to stop shining? You know, sort of how we don't shine the light of Jesus? It really hit home, and I left church contemplating how I can share Jesus in my day to day life.

A few hours later, I saw the news that Philip Seymour Hoffman had passed away from a drug overdose. How sad! I don't know if others do this, but whenever someone famous dies (which seems to happen much more frequently these days) I find myself wondering where they are now. I mean, if you are an atheist, you're laughing right now. But I'm not...and I care about the souls of, yes, even those I never knew. It is ironic that Christians spend billions of dollars every year on movies to watch people that, in the end, we really have no concern for. We want them to entertain us, but other than that, we have no use for them, nor concern for them. (We are the same way with the people around us, so I don't know what I really expect...)

I read it in a comment to an article about Hoffman's death: “Just another junkie.”

Just another junkie.

Now, I don't know if that comment came from a Christian or non-Christian, but in any case, it's kind of cold! It's like saying of someone, “Just another sinner,” because the truth is, we all are. We all have bad habits, ill thoughts, and moments we regret. Some of us have addictions that take over our lives, that take our lives, and I don't think anyone wants to be remembered after death as “just” anything negative. Philip Seymour Hoffman was an excellent actor, and without going into the psychology behind actors and their addictions, he was still a person. A soul. A soul that was bound for an afterlife, and I have to wonder, did anyone ever discuss this with him?

I realize the hypocrisy. So for all of my friends who don't know Jesus or who gave up on Jesus, I hope that one day you will find yourself opening your heart to the possibility of a Holy Spirit working in your life for YOUR good, and the knowledge of a man who died for YOUR sins so that you might live forever with God in heaven. It is difficult to understand when you try to use your head. There are times I find myself culturing doubt, which is quickly extinguished when I hear a song, or the Word of God, which causes goose bumps, chills, or free-flowing tears. Then, I know. The heart knows. I'm sure all of my friends have made a decision at some point to open their hearts to Jesus, or not to. We don't only get one chance, but I'm asking you to soften your heart before you run out of chances.

To my non-believing friends, I pray for you daily. I pray that you will choose Jesus, because I know in my heart what that means for you and eternity.

Because I don't want to wonder if you will be known as, “Just another sinner.” You are much more than that. We all are, and so was Hoffman.

If you are interested in watching sermons on the Creation and book of Genesis, here are our sermon archives. You will also find a great sermon by Dr. Tom Sharp.