". . .the word of God is not bound." II Tim. 2:9b

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Unstructured Play Week, Day 4, Part 1: Every Child an Artist

"He has made everything beautiful in its time." Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV

Welcome back to Unstructured Play Week on Christian Teacher, Public School! Yesterday we rambled through the alfalfa field to a sandy beach in the middle of an Idaho creek. Today, we do art!

By my daughter, then three years old
My daughter's first artistic attempts came at age three, when she scribbled geometric shapes and named them like people. She loved birds, especially swans and ducks, so as her drawing skills developed, she often drew waterfowl. She went through reams of paper, usually leaving her work strewn about the house for her parents to gather up later. She was a living embodiment of the phrase "Practice makes perfect." Hundreds of papers, each with a single swan in black ball-point pen.

Blue Jay
When she was small, she didn't gravitate toward coloring books, which turned out fine because she learned to draw instead of learning to fill in predetermined forms. Now, she enjoys coloring books, too. The blue jay and Baltimore orioles at left are some of her recent coloring ventures from Dover Publications' Fifty Favorite Birds coloring book by Lisa Bonforte.

My middle son drawing
Today, all three of my children draw and paint. Two of them write and illustrate their own games, graphic novels and comics. Lest you think my children unusual, Picasso famously said that every child is an artist; the trick is for him to remain an artist when he grows up.

Baltimore Oriole
So what can we, as teachers and parents, do to fan the flames of the little artists in our lives? What I know on this subject has come to me through trial and error and through the never ending joy of having children who draw. The following tips will help you keep art unstructured and playful.

Twelve Suggestions for Grown-ups in the Lives of Young Artists:
  1. Don't criticize. (You might be thinking, "You mean 'Don't criticize much.'" No. I mean, "Don't criticize." Let the artist grow first. It doesn't mean you have to praise every effort highly. Simply nurture. You don't prune a sprout). 
  2. Nurture resilience: artists grow by failing and trying again.
  3. Be sincere.
  4. Find the good and engage with it. When a child presents you with a drawing of a clearly human yet ill-formed creature with scraggly hair and no nose, it's time to say "Now, I should recognize this person, shouldn't I? Look at that big smile!" instead of "Who is that supposed to be?" (Note, it might be a drawing of you, so be careful!)
  5. Teach children to observe. Simply seeing the world around them is the most important skill kids can learn if they wish to pursue art.
  6. Allow derivative work. A child draws a scene from My Little Pony or Angry Birds. Should you freak out because of copyright violation? No. The child is not going to sell the work. When it's time to go pro, then emphasize originality.
  7. Provide the tools. You are the one with the classroom supply budget (I hope you have a good
    By my son, age 9
    one!) or the wallet. Maybe you can't afford an array of glorious new art supplies, but you can buy a box of crayons or a tray of watercolor paints. If you are able to provide more, also make provision for storage.
  8. Help with the cleanup. This means training the child to clean up after him- or herself, and then stepping up to assist when needed. The training part is tedious, but neglect it to your peril.
  9. Be calm when some aspect of the art adventure gets out of hand. It sends a mixed message to kids when one minute you're praising their drawing and the next you're yelling at them for making a mess. Send one message all the time: "I love that you love art!" For Christians, it helps to keep in mind that God is the Creator; a child's creativity is a reflection of God's power and beauty. Be still.
  10. Help find display venues; supply hardware and help.
  11. Recognize talent. There may be that one student in a class of twenty-five who clearly needs to be an artist. Do your part to help ensure art stays in his or her life for the long haul.
  12. Refer to the child as an artist, not a child who "wants to be an artist."
By my daughter at age 11
Addendum to #5 above: Have you ever been to an indie art supply store? The sights! The smells! Take the artist-child and get thee to an art supply store!

If you know more ways parents and teachers can encourage children who are artists, please share them! 

And check back later today for Part 2 of Every Child an Artist, when we break out the finger paint!

Visit Brevity on Teachers Pay Teachers

Julius Caesar Wall Docs
Find lessons and activities to start the year right at Brevity, my store on Teachers Pay Teachers. I create teacher resources for character education, Shakespeare, writing, bullying prevention, and classroom management. There are several fun freebies to brighten your day. The shop's motto is "Short and sweet for busy teachers."

Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Homeschooler, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Unstructured Play Week, Day 3: A Hike Up the Creek

"The earth is full of Thy lovingkindness, O Lord; Teach me Thy statutes." Psalm 119:64

The creek runs along the edge of an alfalfa field near town. Photos by Amy Ballard.

Welcome to Day 3 of Unstructured Play Week! Yesterday we played in the kitchen. Today we hike up the creek in rural Idaho for endless, unscripted play in the water, sand, mud, trees, and sun. Hope you brought your sun glasses and water shoes!

Recently, stories have circulated on Facebook and elsewhere asserting that American schools think recess is a waste of time, while schools in Europe often send students outdoors for unstructured, hands-on play time in nature. The stories smack of propaganda, but they are still a springboard for discussion.

There is an undeniable body of evidence that kids need to get outdoors and to have free play. One source that eloquently argues for getting kids out into nature is the Child Mind Institute. Cited benefits of time outdoors include building confidence and creativity, providing different stimulation, getting kids moving, making them think, and reducing stress and fatigue. All of this can happen through play, without adult-imposed structure or set learning objectives.

Here in southern Idaho, there are many creeks that run down out of the mountains toward larger streams and eventually to the Snake River and the Pacific. They provide a glorious playground for fishing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, and other hobbies. But there are simpler ways to while away a sunny day at the creek, and kids know how to find them.

Makeshift minnow bucket
Recently, my children and I took two excursions up the creek near our home. We had so much fun the first time that we invited cousins on the second trip.

My daughter caught minnows in a bucket the first day, but when we forgot the bucket the next day, she had to make do with (ironically) a Swedish Fish bag. It worked just fine. She later released the little fishies back into the wild.

She and her cousins also made tiny houses out of rocks, mud, and decorative grass, moss, feathers, and flowers they found in the woods around our little beach. Each child expressed a different architectural bent and decorative flair.

Mud houses in the making
Meanwhile, the youngest two of our crew sat in a shady part of the creek and played with mud contentedly in their own private hot tub.

Cheeto the walking stick
Kids love playing creatively with sticks. On the first day at the creek, my youngest son adopted a walking stick and inexplicably named it "Cheeto." Later, he began digging for dinosaur bones (rocks) and identifying his finds. "This is a velociraptor tooth! Here's where it attaches to the gum, and here's where it cuts up the meat!"

We took time for simply enjoying nature, too. In the soft mud at the edge of the creek, duck and raccoon prints spoke of recent animal visits. The kids spotted birds in the air above us, including prairie falcons and yellow-headed blackbirds, and my daughter spied a duck hiding in a shady bend in the creek.

Wild flowers
There were wildflowers like yellow sweet-clover all around, and of course, the low, scrubby willows that are everywhere along Idaho's streams. What better place to spend a summer afternoon?

More wildflowers
Of course, not everyone lives in a rural area, so it can be more challenging to find a place for kids to play freely in nature. Chances are, you've already scouted out the local parks. Have you tried picnic areas beside rivers, streams, and lakes in or near your city?

Or maybe it's time to plan an outing just a few hours from home so the kids can sink their toes into the mud, hear the wind in the trees, and forget about technology for a while.

Fun by the creek
Although I'm not what you'd call a tree hugger or a hippie, I did grow up in the woods of Maine and can attest to the tranquility and happiness of time spent in the natural world. I hope that as parents and teachers and Christians we'll all head out into nature often, both to give children more and better opportunities for unstructured play and for our own reflection.

The Bible often speaks of the beauty of Creation and how everything that was made praises God. In just one example, Job 12:7-10 says,
“But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all these does not know That the hand of the Lord has done this, In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind?"
American naturalist John Burroughs reflected,
"I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order."
Today, kids and teachers alike are desperate for that kind of low-tech recharge.

Come back tomorrow for more on unstructured play, this time in the vivid world of art.

The Field and Forest Handy Book

Goodies in the Mail

When I checked the mail today, I was thrilled to find two books waiting for me.

The first was my own personal copy of River Rest, my mom's new inspirational historical novel. If you haven't had a chance to read last week's interview with Susan Page Davis, do check it out and pass it on.

The second book in my mailbox was Dalene Vickery Parker's Christian Teachers in Public Schools: 13 Essentials for the Classroom. Dalene has guest blogged here, and she was kind enough to send along a copy of her book to give as a door prize at my Faith and the Public School Teacher presentation in July. Thanks, Dalene!

I'll also be presenting Choose Your Own Adventure: Writing and Publishing Narratives Using Digital Technology. In this session, teachers will learn to apply choose-your-own-story structure to narrative fiction or nonfiction writing. Using Google Drive, teachers will learn to link story pages to form narratives with alternate endings.

Hope to see you in Twin Falls at the College of Southern Idaho on July 12!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Unstructured Play Week, Day 2: Kitchen Chemistry and Cooking Fun

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!" Psalm 34:8

It's another fun day for unstructured play resources and discussions. Yesterday we talked paper dolls, and today it's kids in the kitchen!

About a week ago, I had morning devotions and prayer with my three children, then randomly asked them, "What fun adventures are the Ballard children going to have today?" To my surprise, my youngest son, age four, piped up: "Chemistry experiments!"

No, we do not have a chemistry lab in our home. We make do with our humble kitchen. And before you think that I am some kind of super mom/teacher who goes online and tracks down intricate, mind-blowing science stuff to teach her kids in her free time, let me assure you. It's really not like that.

My Play Kitchen Sticker Activity Book
Usually, science in my kitchen begins with "Mom, I'm bored," or "What would happen if. . . ?" Most recently, my youngest got to play with a toy Minecraft torch at a friend's house. Any kind of flashlight entertains a child of four, but this was extra fun because it was a torch, albeit a battery-operated one. Naturally, he wanted me to buy one for him. I couldn't gratify his toy wish immediately, but we did the next best thing. We made a real torch in the kitchen.

Note: This torch is not a toy. Also, making the torch is not unstructured play. I'm just throwing this in here because it happened in my kitchen, the kids loved it, and I like to play with fire. Please supervise your kids carefully if trying this at home!

How to Make a Torch

The Ingredients:
1 stick from outside (a greener one won't be as likely to burn)
1 large cotton ball
1 wire twist-tie from a bread bag
Oil (we tested vegetable oil and olive oil)
Matches or lighter

Instructions: Over metal sink or in another safe, supervised place, attach cotton ball to tip of stick with twist-tie. Douse with enough oil to partially saturate the cotton ball. Carefully ignite the cotton ball with match or lighter. You now have a torch! How long does it burn? Does it stay burning longer than a cotton ball with no oil on it?

Another Note: Please do not allow children to carry torch around. This is a good time to have that talk with them about not playing with matches. . .or fire. . .or making torches. . .without an adult supervising.

Okay, as I said, that activity falls under "structured play," or at least "carefully supervised, adult-assisted play," and this week's focus is Unstructured Play. Let's get back to that stuff.

kids play

I often turn my kids loose in the kitchen with "chemistry stuff." Even my four-year-old knows that the really fun ingredients are baking soda and vinegar. One time we used those ingredients to make some home-made cleaning solution, and now he offers to make more just so he can see the volcano effect.

kitchen chemistry kids
Many TV shows, movies, and games show people using chemistry sets (Sherlock Holmes, anyone?), but how many parents think to put realistic chemistry equipment into their kids' hands? I'm not talking glass beakers and graduated cylinders. I'm talking plastic ones. Maybe even homespun versions made from yogurt containers, medicine dose cups, or pop bottles. The "chemicals" should of course be safe, and they don't have to be complicated. My kids love to play with food coloring, salt, water, lemon juice, and of course, baking soda and vinegar. Playing with these materials requires very little supervision, and kids will make discoveries all on their own. If they ask "Why does it do that?" or "How does it work?" all you really need to tell a preschooler is "It's science!" But if you can explain it, they'll probably never forget.

Color & Cook Activity Book
Besides chemistry, the kitchen is also the scene of many an edible concoction. Sure, you can buy a kids' cookbook, but it's also fun to simply move aside and let the magic happen. My middle son can be a picky eater, so he has developed a few recipes of his own. He's becoming known in the family as a quirky chef!

One of his favorites is hamburger tacos:

Hamburger Tacos
Make tacos according to your favorite family recipe, but substitute ketchup for salsa. Add sliced dill pickles and whatever else you like on a hamburger.

And his most recent invention, which covers dinner and dessert:

Brownie-Peanut Butter Sandwich
Generously spread one slice of bread with creamy peanut butter. Generously spread another slice with Nutella hazelnut spread. Place a chewy brownie on one slice and close up sandwich. For a healthier option, substitute slices of banana or strawberries for the brownie.

Kids don't come up with creative ideas like these if they're given the impression that only grown-ups are allowed in the kitchen, or that all food comes from a strictly-followed recipe (or from a box).

More Ideas for Unstructured Kitchen Play
  • Turn kids loose to create musical instruments from kitchen items
  • Let kids wash dishes the old-fashioned way with sudsy water in the sink (this is more fun if they don't often get to try this)
  • Let them give their water-safe dolls and toys a bath in the sink
  • Stockpile recycleables and challenge kids to build a robot from them (Credit for that idea goes to a teacher friend, Candice!)
  • Frosting cupcakes or decorating cookies requires little supervision if you don't care about posting the results on Pinterest
  • Preschoolers will love making a tower or fort out of pantry items like cans and boxes
My grandparents' house
My grandmother used to turn her grandchildren loose with kitchen items (slotted spoons, colanders, empty spice tins) and send us outside to the driveway to dig, scoop, sift, and pour to our hearts' content. It was the next best thing to a sand box.

I hope you enjoyed messing around in my kitchen today. Please leave a comment below to share your favorite kitchen play activities! And stop by throughout the week for more on Unstructured Play. Tomorrow we go outdoors and take a hike up the creek (or "crick," as it is sometimes called in rural Idaho). Carry your water shoes!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Unstructured Play Week, Day 1: Paper Doll Play

"God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."  Genesis 1:27 NASB

Experts emphasize that kids need unstructured play time in their day. This week on Christian Teacher, Public School, we focus on the joys and benefits of "open-ended play that has no specific learning objective," as verywell.com defines unstructured play. As youngsters learn about themselves and the world around them, they need times when they are allowed to self-direct their learning.

In unstructured play, adults may be present, but are not orchestrating play toward an objective. Kids choose what to play and how to play, and adults provide the time, space, and materials for that to happen.

Which brings us to one form of unstructured play that's close to my heart: paper dolls.

As with other play activities, when playing with paper dolls, kids will unknowingly meet some learning objectives their parents and teachers have in mind for them. kids have fun while honing their fine motor skills (cutting out, folding), social skills (especially verbal interaction), storytelling, and creativity. They think through scenarios like "Which outfit is best for this occasion?", "Do these clothes match?", "How will the doll react to another doll's behavior?", and "What goes into planning a ball or a dinner?" This is low-tech, open-ended play with no unnecessary frills. Girls and boys of nearly any age can play, and Grandmas love to get in on the game.

I've loved paper dolls since I was a little girl. It started with playing in the church basement during the evening worship service. One of the single ladies of the church had a ministry of caring for kids during one service per week. She brought in many types of activities for unstructured play, but the only one I remember was the paper dolls. My best friend and I were never happier than playing Barbie and Princess Di, both of whom had dozens of dresses and other outfits to choose from.

Grumpy Cat Paper Dolls
Later, in the homeschool group to which my family belonged, we were studying the Pilgrims, and my mother bought the first paper dolls I remember owning, Tom Tierney's American Family of the Pilgrim Period from Dover Publications. (Mom, incidentally, knew the magic of paper dolls, having played with Karen and Cubby from the Mousketeers and Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm from the Flintstones when she was a girl). She used the Pilgrim dolls along with other resources to teach us about life in early America. Meanwhile, I fell in love with paper dolls all over again. My collection had begun!

Paper dolls gave me an early passion for fashion history. They also taught me some basic principles of line, symmetry, proportion, and other elements of style that have helped me in many ways, not the least of which is in sewing clothing.

My daughter has inherited my love of paper dolls, and inherited many of my old paper doll sets, too. As a teacher and homeschool mom, I still love to scoop up coloring books, classic literature, and of course paper dolls from Dover.

There are countless classroom applications for these products (for which this blog is an affiliate), but they are also a natural fit for unstructured play at home. I love to see paper dolls all over my floor and my daughter's imagination at work. Since she is the only daughter among three children, she enlists my help with cutting out the dolls and their clothes (a nicely therapeutic activity) and, yes, playing with them. Last time, we used mostly Renaissance and Colonial-era sets. I was amazed at how many we had!

We started with the Christopher Columbus set (currently out of print) by Tom Tierney, my favorite paper doll artist. Then we rounded up dolls from other sets that (kind of) went with the time period. Okay, Princess Diana was an anachronism, but she has the best dresses! My favorite set of all time is Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy (OOP), and they got to play this time, too, despite their worn tab folds and missing hats. Their outfits from the movie New Moon and Naughty Marietta roughly fit our time period.

Another set we used for the first time was Colonial Fashions, which my husband had reserved for my daughter from his used book business. As it turned out, this set provided many eligible bachelors to attend our balls. The two female dolls come with many dresses, while the pre-clothed men are numerous. That way, even when Christopher Columbus and his crew were off sailing, there were plenty of men to dance with.

My daughter's Fashions of the Old South dolls might have been a bit ahead of their time for our game, but we still fit them in. Adding soldiers reminded me of the paper doll wars of my childhood, when my sisters and I would recruit every doll we owned for a reenactment of the Civil War. Even Jo March from Little Women joined up!

Paper doll sets are wonderful as educational aids, but can also be a natural arena for unstructured, imaginative play all year long. When kids get the hang of cutting them out and dressing them, they may even begin making their own from card stock, decorative papers, feathers, and fabric (some of the same materials you keep on hand for gift wrapping, card- and ornament-making, sewing, or scrapbooking).

I hope you enjoyed this journey into the world of paper dolls. Please leave a comment, and stop by throughout the week for more ideas for unstructured play! Tomorrow it's Kitchen Chemistry and Cooking Fun.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

And the Winner Is. . .

Congratulations, Joan A.! You have won a copy of River Rest by Susan Page Davis. You'll hear from us soon. I'd like to personally thank everyone who participated in our guest author week and in the contest. And thanks, Mom, for a great interview and a chance to meet some of your friends and fans! I hope you all have rest in your forecast.


"Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." James 1:17

Just a Few More Hours!

Susan Page Davis novel River Rest Tea Tin Press
River Rest by Susan Page Davis
In just a few hours, our book giveaway ends! Make sure that you have clicked on our Rafflecopter in the interview post and followed the directions.

In a hurry? Order your copy of River Rest by Susan Page Davis in paperback, or for Kindle or Nook.

Follow Susan @SusanPageDavis or on Facebook.

Giveaway winner will be announced on this blog shortly after the contest ends at midnight, EST. Thanks for joining us this week! It's been fun.

Friday, June 24, 2016

There's Still Time To Enter Our Free Book Giveaway!

It's been fun to see so many new faces at Christian Teacher, Public School this week! So many Christian book lovers! Don't forget, there's still time to enter our giveaway. Inspirational author Susan Page Davis has agreed to give away a copy of her new book, River Rest, the perfect summer read or gift for that encouraging Christian teacher in your life. I've made new friends and reconnected with some "old" ones just by having my mom as a guest this week. Thanks, Mom!

Giveaway ends at midnight EST on Saturday (despite the sometimes wrong time countdown on the Rafflecopter gadget. . .), so check back soon to see if you're the winner!

Follow Susan @SusanPageDavis or on Facebook.

Stop by next week for Unstructured Play Week on Christian Teacher, Public School!

Monday, June 20, 2016

An Interview with Susan Page Davis, Author of River Rest

Available now at Amazon.com
I'm thrilled to introduce my mother, inspirational author Susan Page Davis. Susan is the author of more than sixty books and has won her share of awards along the way. Her new book, River Rest, is available now from Tea Tin Press.

Before we get started, check out our contest! You can enter to win a copy of River Rest just by posting a comment below (required for entry) or by stopping by Susan's Facebook page (bonus entry!). Mention "Christian Teacher" when you post. Contest ends at midnight EST on Saturday, June 25th. We teachers love freebies!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winner chooses the format, either paperback (USA only) or ebook (available for Kindle or Nook).

Amy: Hi, Mom! Let's start out with some background on the book River Rest. What was your inspiration for the story?

Susan: River Rest is purely fiction, but many of the events in it were inspired by things that really happened in my family. My great-aunt Belle left a journal she wrote in the 1920s and ’30s. It gave such a vivid picture of life in rural Maine that I wanted to write a story in that setting. I decided to push it back to 1918, near the end of World War I, because of the added tension, and because my grandfather (Aunt Belle’s brother-in-law) served. I adapted some details of his story to fit my heroine’s brother.

Aunt Belle noted so many cultural things in her diary—who she voted for, the famous boxers of the day, the way the neighboring farm boys were building tractors out of truck chassis, and all the community events and gossip. She never had children of her own, but she doted on her nieces and nephews. I think I would have loved her.

Amy: Cool. I remember you sharing details from the old diary years ago when you first transcribed it. Tell us more about Judith, the main character inspired by great-aunt Belle.

Inspirational author Susan Page Davis
Susan: Judith has left her teaching job to help her family. In real life, my grandmother (Aunt Belle’s sister) was a schoolteacher before she married my grandfather. Judith has a lot in common with both my Nana and Aunt Belle. She loves her bird feeder, she learns to make quilts, and she cooks many of the same things my Nana served. Her life on the farm is a lot like theirs was.

Amy: I was looking at some of Nana's fudge recipes recently in the family cookbook. I don't think I have the knack for candy making that she had. Like your character Judith, you taught school, and then you homeschooled your six children.

Susan: Yes, I taught in a Christian school after graduating from college, and then I substitute taught for a short time. I later homeschooled for about 30 years with the six of you.

Amy: And a good job you did of it, in my humble opinion. Is there a certain Bible verse that is important to the story? What spiritual themes do you bring out?

Susan: Matthew 11:28-30 is at the front of the book. The last part of that is,
“...and ye shall find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The Christian theme is spiritual rest/peace. Judith feels inadequate. Her mother always seemed so serene and at peace, and she chose the farm’s name, River Rest. But Judith can’t seem to latch onto that restfulness. She also becomes very concerned about being an example to the younger children and especially keeping watch over her next-younger sister, Christina. She assumes the mother role and finds it challenging and sometimes wearisome.

Amy: I guess every Christian woman can relate to that! It sounds like this book will appeal to readers who are looking for clean historical romance. Who is the target readership for the book?

Susan: This book will appeal to a wide range of readers. Judith is young, about 21, and her brother who gets drafted is 19, so young people who like historicals should like it, but it will also appeal to older readers who remember doing things the old way. Some of the activities mentioned, like apple picking, making butter, cutting ice, and quilting, might bring back memories for older readers. The quilting bee, where Judith helps her female relatives make a quilt for an aging uncle, reminded me of times spent with my own mom, sisters, aunts, and cousins. Some of my most cherished memories are of times spent doing productive work with people I love.

Amy: I'm a beginning quilter myself, so I'm always glad to read about quilting in fiction. It's such an important tradition in rural America. The ninth-grade literature anthology I use contains the short story "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker, and I use it to springboard to a lot of other quilt-themed activities. Even the boys seem to enjoy it.

I'm looking forward to reading River Rest. Thanks so much for joining me, Mom!

Susan: I'd like to add that there are discussion questions in the back of the book for book clubs, etc. Thank you for having me.

Amy: And one more reminder to enter to win a copy of the book by leaving a comment for Susan below! Mention "Christian Teacher" when you post on Susan's Facebook page for a bonus entry.

Buy River Rest here. Don't forget to share Susan's interview and follow her on Twitter @SusanPageDavis!

May we all remember to take time for resting in the Lord.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Coming Soon: An Interview with Susan Page Davis

Coming Monday, stop by Christian Teacher Public School for a mother/daughter interview I'll be doing with my mom, inspirational author Susan Page Davis. You can enter to win a copy of her new book River Rest, available now from Tea Tin Press. Winner chooses paperback or ebook format.

Susan's books have won several awards including the Carol Award for her novel The Prisoners Wife; the Inspirational Readers' Choice Award for The Prisoner's Wife and The Lumberjack's Lady (Maine Brides series); and the 2012 Will Rogers Medallion Award for her novel Captive Trail (Texas Trails series). Visit her website at www.susanpagedavis.com or follow her @SusanPageDavis.

River Rest, Inspirational Fiction for a Teacher's Heart

Inspirational fiction author Susan Page Davis (my mother) has written over sixty books, but her newest, River Rest, is close to her heart. The story was inspired by the antique diary of a young woman in rural Maine.

"Unable to depend on her father to heal the crumbling family, Judith is afraid to trust the mysterious neighbor, Ben, who lives with his own grief.

"In rural Maine in 1918, Judith Chadbourne gives up her teaching job after her mother’s death to help her father with her five siblings. But when her father sinks into deep depression and her brother Joel is drafted, the household chores and farm work may overwhelm her. Neighbor Ben Thayer offers to buy their farm, shocking Judith and angering her father. An outsider from New York, Ben seems rich and mysterious, but his heart aches from his own loss. Judith accidentally breaks the antique crystal Christmas ornament her mother loved. The splintering star echoes her family’s shattering. Ben’s efforts to help make Judith suspicious, but when Joel falls critically ill at the army camp, Ben’s aid brings the beginnings of trust. After the armistice, the community and family start to recover from the strain of the war, but Judith learns independence is lonely. When Ben is injured, she is the only one who can help him. Can love take her beyond the frozen Maine winter?"

Available now in print or Kindle from Tea Tin Press.
Find Susan's other books here, or stop by her Web site to enter to win free books.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Mindfulness Rising

There's a liberal-approved alternative to school prayer on the rise in public schools. It's called by several different names, including "meditation" and "mindfulness." Studies cite benefits such as fewer absences and suspensions and improved health, attention, and test scores. Mindfulness programs such as San Francisco-based Headstand may have students practice yoga, concentrate on their breathing, and focus on character-building concepts such as kindness to others in order to fight toxic stress. The practices of yoga and transcendental meditation have their roots in Eastern religion, though a San Diego judge ruled in 2013 that yoga as taught in Encinatis schools was not religious.

Parents with concerns about mindfulness programs are characterized by proponents in extreme, often inaccurate ways. For example, the chief executive of Jois Yoga Corp. in Encinatis, Eugene Ruffin, said in an interview with the LA Times, "It's hard to know how to respond to someone who says if you touch your toes, you're inviting the devil into your soul."

But then, people who are not Christians often don't know how to respond to Christian viewpoints, period. We don't read the same books. We don't buy the same clothes. We don't speak the same language. For me as a Christian mother to be opposed to my son's being required to do yoga and transcendental meditation in school makes no sense to non-Christians. Neither does my belief that he ought to be able to read his Bible, meditate on God's goodness, and pray in school (which, within certain limits, he can). Christian meditation somehow violates everyone's free speech, but Eastern meditation is neutral and, increasingly, part of the curriculum.

Meditation is the part of Christian practice that is most expressly not allowed to be taught in public schools. You can use Bible passages to teach literature and culture and all manner of things, but you absolutely cannot urge students to meditate on those passages. How, then, is it any more acceptable to teach transcendental "mindfulness" in public schools?

  • It's tied to character ed. And the Bible isn't?
  • It improves concentration, reduces stress, and boosts test scores. So does adding recess or "free play" time to the day.
  • It's not religious. Except that it asks my child to clear his mind and then chant a mantra that probably isn't rooted in the Bible (that would invade others' free speech).

What does the Bible say about meditation? For starters, it's always focused on something specific. The Word of God. Things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good report. God's loving kindness. Beyond that, it does bring benefits to the practitioner, as explored in detail in Psalm 119.

What about the characterization that we fear we'll be inviting the devil into our soul? Ephesians 4:27 says, "Neither give place to the devil" (KJV). So in a sense, yes. It's there.

I know Christians who practice yoga. There's even a ministry called Holy Yoga, whose mission statement reads as follows:

"Holy Yoga is an experiential worship created to deepen people's connection to Christ. Our sole purpose is to facilitate a Christ honoring experience that offers an opportunity to believers and non-believers alike to authentically connect to God through His Word, worship, and wellness. Holy Yoga exists to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth through the modality of yoga."

How should the Christian respond? I am of this mind:

"John answered and said, 'Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us.' But Jesus said to him, 'Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.'" (Luke 9:49-50 NASB)

But Holy Yoga isn't going to find a place in public schools anytime soon. It's. . .religious in nature. I say, so is all transcendental meditation. It's focused on one message or on another.

So where does all of this leave me as a Christian parent? Could my child remain in his public school yoga session and meditate on the Bible verse we're learning as a family this week? It might benefit him in all the ways the studies claim. He could stand to take a moment to chill at school.

Sure. He could even chant the verse out loud as a mantra (Note: legal counsel I am not). The teacher couldn't require all kids to do that. That would infringe on their first amendment rights. I just hope the teacher's not asking him to chant a mantra from Buddhism. Because I don't count on the courts to side with me and my Christian son on religious freedom.

Your thoughts are welcome.

God-Size Victory

The Shepherd David by Elizabeth Gardner
In I Samuel 17:34-37, David declares to King Saul his worthiness to face the giant Goliath in battle:  
But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the LORD be with you.” (NASB)
I am praying for another David today. I'm praying that potential third-party Presidential candidate David French will not regard the giant, but the past victories God has given into his hands. Education is just one reason America needs an articulate conservative President. This is not just about someone to vote for in good conscience in November. Our religious liberties are at stake. We need a God-size victory.