Friday, December 11, 2009

"Christ Climbed Down" poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti -- and a High School Poetry Critique and Analysis Essay

“Christ Climbed Down” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Note on the poet: Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born on 24 March 1919, in Yonkers, NY, the youngest of five sons of Charles S. (an auctioneer) and Clemence. His father, an Italian immigrant, had shortened the family name upon arrival in America. Lawrence restored the family name in 1954. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve and was a commanding officer during the Normandy invasion in World War II. Known for his novels, short stories, plays, screenplays and poetry, Ferlinghetti won numerous awards for his writing, and there is a street in San Francisco named in his honor.

CHRIST climbed down
from His bare Tree this year
and ran away to where
there were no rootless Christmas trees
hung with candycanes and breakable stars

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree this year
and ran away to where
there were no gilded Christmas trees
and no tinsel Christmas trees
and no tinfoil Christmas trees
and no pink plastic Christmas trees
and no gold Christmas trees
and no black Christmas trees
and no powderblue Christmas trees
hung with electric candles
and encircled by tin electric trains
and clever cornball relatives

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree this year
and ran away to where
no intrepid Bible salesmen
covered the territory
in two-tone cadillacs
and where no Sears Roebuck creches
complete with plastic babe in manger
arrived by parcel post
the babe by special delivery
and where no televised Wise Men
praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree this year
and ran away to where
no fat handshaking stranger
in a red flannel suit
and a fake white beard
went around passing himself off
as some sort of North Pole saint
crossing the desert to Bethlehem
in a Volkswagen sled
drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer
with German names
and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts
from Saks Fifth Avenue
for everybody's imagined Christ child

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree this year
and ran away to where
no Bing Crosby carollers
groaned of a tight Christmas
and where no Radio City angels
iceskated wingless
thru a winter wonderland
into a jinglebell heaven
daily at 8:30
with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary's womb again
where in the darkest night
of everybody's anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest
of Second Comings

Critique and Analysis of “Christ Climbed Down”
By Virginia Quarrier for a 1979 High School English Assignment

The underlying theme of Ferlinghetti’s “Christ Climbed Down” is that the modern Christmas is too secular for Christ, and that he disdains it. Each verse delves into what Christmas has become with Santa Claus, artificial Christmas trees, plastic crèches (nativity scenes), plastic Bible salesmen, Bing Crosby carolers and Radio City angels. Christmas has become a commercial season instead of the worship of a newborn savior. In fact, the first official Christmas was only a substitute for Saturnalia, only now it had a Christian name because Emperor Constantine had declared Christianity the state religion. People still lived it up and got soused.

The day that Christ was born was much different from even that. He was born n a smelly old stable. The magi brought him gold, incense, and myrrh. Christ is calling believers today to bring their gold (symbolizing their lives), their incense (symbolizing Christ revealing himself through us), and myrrh (a balm symbolizing that we are to be a healing ointment to the broken people of the world).

In each verse, Ferlinghetti says that: “Christ climbed down from his bare tree this year and ran away (or softly stole away)…” The Bible clearly shows that Christ does not run away from the problems of the world. He faced our sins on the cross, and surely he can face a commercial Christmas. It must break his heart, though. Instead of running away, he calls believers to spread the good news of what Christmas really is – and that’s not just a good spirit, helping each other, and giving. Christ calls his believers to worship him and focus on him, and not to take so much thought about material gifts, but to concentrate on the greatest gift: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The cross is inseparable from the manger.

In the last verse, Ferlinghetti says, “Christ climbed down from His bare tree this year and softly sole away into some anonymous Mary’s womb again…” Again, I disagree. Christ did not steal softly away. He rose in glory, and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father in glory. He is awaiting the time appointed for him to come again and take up his believers. Signs show that this time is coming soon.

Ferlinghetti goes on to say: “where in the darkest night of everybody’s anonymous soul…” Christ does not await his coming in everybody’s anonymous soul, but only in those who have asked him into their hearts as told in Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him…” And if the believer is obeying the Word of God, his soul will not be anonymous. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…” commands Matthew 28:19. “For we are ambassadors for Christ…” declares 2 Corinthians 5:20. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to everyone that believeth…” announces Romans 1:16.

I do agree with Ferlinghetti when he says that Christ’s second coming will be “the very craziest of second comings.” How many people come again through the clouds with trumpets, clothed in glory? Who else comes so unexpectedly, “like a thief in the night”?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

SAT Time Again! Thoughts, Helps, and Ponderings

Last Saturday marked the first SAT testing date for the 2009-2010 school year. Students, mostly juniors and seniors numbering in the thousands, took the test. Some were confident. Some discouraged. Hopefully each student looked beyond the test and saw the gifts, talents, and unique personal qualities he or she has been given. Let's face it, the SAT will not be the first or the last challenge in the lives of our students. Success in life is not bound up in a test, and yet, the test for some, is an important tool. So how do we as parents find balance in this issue and then pass that balance on to our children? That is a question we all must ask and answer for ourselves. No matter what our answers, we can offer our students support, encouragement, resources, time, and a listening ear!

If you have a student working through the SAT process, walk along side. Here are a few helpful resources:
This listing is limited to print resources. On-line resources, including classes, are numerous. Check local resources (virtual schools, colleges, libraries) as well. Our sons completed an on-line class (Critical Thinking and Study Skills) through Florida Virtual School which was very beneficial. An out-of-state friend of mine attended a workshop on writing the SAT essay. You never know what helps are offered in your area, some free of charge. Ask trusted mentors in your circle of friends, they may be able to point you in the direction of tried-and-true resources.

Recently I picked up SAT Perfect Score: 7 Secrets to Raise Your Score by Tom Fischgrund, Ph.D. What an interesting read! I have not had a "perfect score student" and I am not sure I will, but I found the research thought-provoking. The author shares the results of his extensive study of "perfect score" students as well as what it took to ace the SAT. The results may surprise you. I blogged about it a few days ago at

For those who have students preparing for the SAT, keep in mind the deadline for the December sitting is just around the corner, October 31. Register at

Information about test dates and deadlines can be found at

"To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the approbation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To give of one's self;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived —
This is to have succeeded."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ancient World History and Literature

Not long ago I was asked how I designed classes for our high school young adults. We have taken several approaches to formulating classes based on the strengths, interests, and future plans of the individual. Our oldest son had a great interest and gift for history. This was, by my understanding, his favorite subject in high school. He read constantly, checking out books of interest at the library.

With his interest in history, we divided American History into Early American (to 1850) and Modern (from 1850 to present), and World History into Ancient (to the Reformation) and Modern (from the Reformation) so that we could allow time for him to dig deeper into his interest. His self-motivation led to a much more comprehensive course.

For readers who are interested in more detail as to what we constituted Ancient Word History, here is our reading list for the course, for that student. Remember, he was a self-motivated reader and we simply allowed him to use a textbook as a framework and then dig deeper into areas of interest. By the end of the school year, he did less textbook reading and more primary source or living history reading.

*Please do not use this as a comparison for what your student should or should not be doing. Comparing ourselves or our children to others leads to discouragement and discontent. It is in no way valuable. These examples are only intended as an encouragement, encouragement to think outside the textbook when designing courses for your student. My student might be a reader, but your student may have an opportunity to intern with a local businessman. Use what God has provided and pray about how He would be preparing your young adult for the plans He has, not the ones we best intention.

Our textbook was World History and Cultures, George Thompson and Jerry Combee, Abeka Books. God provided an opportunity for this student to tour many sites in Rome, including a day inside the ancient city wall. Though I could be discouraged that my other children may not have the same opportunity, I await the provision He has for each of them as they walk through their lives.

    • The Epic of Gilgamesh
    • Oedipus Rex, Sophocles
    • Oedipus at Colonus, Sophocles
    • Antigone, Sophocles
    • Mysteries of Ancient China, Rawson
    • Daily Life in Ancient Egypt, Sameh
    • Mythology, Hamilton
    • The Roman Way, Hamilton
    • The Greek Way, Hamilton
    • The Death of Socrates, Plato
    • For the Temple, Henty
    • The Riddle of the Rosetta Stone, Giblin
    • The Great Wall, Fisher
    • In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great, Wood
    • The Republic, Plato
    • The Young Carthaginian, Henty
    • The Eagle of the Ninth, Sutcliff
    • Anna of Byzantium, Barrett
    • City of God, Augustine
    • I, Claudius, Graves
    • Claudius the God, Graves
    • Don Quixote, Cervantes
    • Julius Caesar, Shakespeare

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It's SAT Time!

A new school year! Like me, you're probably working through your high school student's four-year plan. I noticed "Make a plan to take the SAT". Did you?

The day is upon us! It's time to make that plan as the deadline for regular registration for the first sitting of the test, nears. Here is a run through of what we need to do in the next week or so.

  1. Go to
  2. Click on "Register for the SAT" on the lower left-hand corner.
  3. From the left sidebar, select "Test Dates and Fees".
  4. Scroll down to "U.S. Registration Deadlines".
  5. You will see that the deadline for regular registration for the first sitting, October 10, is September 9.
  6. To register, click on "Registering" in the left side bar. Follow the instructions.
  7. If you are not registering for the first test, glance through the other test dates and deadlines. Write these in dates in your calendar or on your digital reminder.
The site has many helps and tools. If this is new territory for you, spend some time reading and familiarizing yourself with the information. If it is too much to digest in one sitting, bookmark the site and return frequently.

Areas we have found helpful include:
College entrance testing can be daunting, but with some planning and preparation, you can head off unnecessary anxiety. It truly does help to be prepared. Take those first steps this week.

Friday, July 31, 2009

High School 101: Plan Well to Finish Well (Part II)

Time for Part II. This will wrap up the remains of the notes from my first session.

There are many ways to obtain hours towards high school credit. I highlighted the most popular from the list in my book:
  • Traditional textbooks
  • Primary source documents
  • Literary works
  • Lab experiences
  • Independent study
  • CD/DVD supplemental material
  • Co-curricular activities
  • Travel opportunities
  • Hobbies
  • Tutors
  • Volunteer opportunities (cannot be also counted for community service hours)
  • Apprenticeships or internships
  • On-line classes (FLVS, Thomas Edison College)
  • On-line AP classes (PA Homeschoolers)
  • Dual enrollment (local community colleges)
  • CLEP testing (local testing centers)

In high school, we keep two notebooks: the current year's portfolio and the cumulative folder. In session one I focused on the current year's portfolio. At the beginning of the new school year, I give our high school students a four-inch, three-ring binder stocked with tab dividers and plastic document sleeves. Our students label the tabs with current course titles. As course work is completed, it is our student's responsibility to file papers behind the labeled dividers. Items which are not "three-ring friendly" are placed in protective sleeves. This method is similar to the portfolio I kept for my children in the lower grades. Our students keep their weekly logs (see page 15 in Celebrate High School) in the very front of the portfolio.

The purpose of the portfolio is to verify course content, record the progress of the student, and verify course hours. Work samples vary from course to course. Math samples might include problems from the lessons, scratch work, and tests. Science work samples may include lab reports, assignments, photos of dissections, and tests. Research papers, writing assignments, study guides, magazines articles, interviews, book critiques, theater tickets, and primary source documents are also important. If the student aspires to attend art school, an additional art portfolio may be required for admission.

At the end of the session I explained the similarities and differences of the most common college entrance exams.

The PSAT is a three-part test, offered once a year in October to prepare students for the SAT and determine qualification for National Merit Scholarship. It is not a college entrance exam. Students can sit for the PSAT in their sophomore and junior year, however, the score earned on the PSAT during the junior year determines qualification for National Merit.

The SAT is a three-part test measuring critical reading, mathematics, and writing. Scores on each test range from 200-800. All three parts are taken in the same sitting, however, scores from different sittings can be "mixed and matched" when determining the total score. It is offered seven times a year. Registration is through

SAT Subject Tests are also offered numerous times during the year, but not every test is offered at every sitting. Check the College Board website testing schedule for details. Colleges, especially highly selective universities, may require three to five subject tests in addition to the SAT and ACT. The SAT Subject Tests include: Literature, U.S. History, World History, Mathematics Level I, Mathematics Level II, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and various foreign languages. SAT Subject Tests are taken in eleventh or twelfth grade, but no later than December of the senior year.

The ACT, offered six times a year, is a four-part achievement test measuring knowledge in math, English, reading, and science with an optional timed writing component. Not all colleges require the writing component. Each of the four parts are scored from 1 to 36 and the scores are then averaged to obtain a composite score. The composite score is the score most colleges require.

The College-Level Placement Examination Program (CLEP) enables high school students to complete college-level independent study and earn college credit. Students use CLEP to earn dual enrollment credit for general education classes. Earning CLEP credit can also be a beneficial method of validating the student's ability to complete college-level course work. Students should inquire with their colleges of choice to be sure the credit will be honored. There are thrity-four possible exams. Each exam costs $70, a much cheaper alternative to earning college credit.

I had time for one or two questions at the end of my workshop and then we dismissed for session two. I will post the notes for that session, Getting It On Paper, soon! Check back!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

High School 101: Plan Well to Finish Well (Part I)

Hello fellow high school travelers! I wanted to post my notes for the first session I presented at Finish Well. I will do this in two blogs, to aid the digestion process :)

Several travelers mentioned they wanted to get to more than one workshop in the first session (physically impossible) or that they could not attend, but wanted to. So, whatever circumstances kept you from attending my first workshop, here's the material we covered, though I go into more detail in my book Celebrate High School: Finish with Excellence.

Plan well to finish well! For those on the high school journey, that means sitting down while in eighth grade (ideally) and working with your student to develop a four-year plan for high school. During the session, I walked through this process with the attendees. We covered all the major points on page 5 of my book.

The next step in developing the four-year plan is to consider important factors:
  • the student's career goals or plans after high school
  • the educational or experiential requirements for those career goals (two-year or four-year school, vocational training, apprenticeship, internships, travel)
  • the graduation requirements to meet the goals (selective college, highly selective college)
  • NCAA Collegiate sports requirements (for college athletes)
  • scholarship requirements (state merit, Presidential, private)
Once we considered the above factors, we compared the graduation requirements for each scenario, with the bottom line being to hone and to polish the student's talents and skills for use as God intends. The majority of students should consider taking (at a minimum):
  • 4 credits in English
  • 4 credits in Mathematics (generally Algebra I and higher)
  • 4 credits in Social Studies (including American History, World History, American Government and Economics)*
  • 3 credits in Science (two lab sciences)
  • 2 credits in Foreign Language (two years of the same language)
  • 1 credit in the Arts (Performing or Fine)
  • 1 credit in Physical Education
  • 1 credit in Computer Science/Business Education
  • 5-8 credits in additional electives (based on intended career or parental preference)
*I mentioned that our students took two years of World History: Ancient World History and Modern World History so that we could dig deeper and add more literature and primary source documents.

With ALL this in mind, I had the attendees fill in what they could on one of the four-year plans printed on pages 7 and 10 of my book.

I then presented the basics for determining credits, mentioning that there is not a standard formula for determining how many hours equal one credit. I explained the Carnegie Unit. Basically, a student earns one credit for working 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week for 36 weeks for a total of 120 hours. By adding just 5 minutes a day, the total hours becomes 150 hours. For a half-credit, simply divide the required hours in half, hence 60-75 hours. I did mention that one of our students worked on a traditional schedule (45 minutes to 1 hour per subject per day) and the other student used a block schedule (2 days of Physics, 2 days of Math and the other day for Literature~ fitting in writing and electives all five days). I cautioned parents to realize home education is a tutorial method of education (more concentrated) and mastery is more important that the hours worked. Mastery is the goal. If that takes 115 hours, it is still worth the one credit.
All of this material is covered in detail on pages 12-14 in Celebrate High School.

During the last fifteen minutes of the workshop I discussed documenting hours and organizing the high school portfolio (a three-ring binder with dividers and labeled tabs). Both methods must be student-friendly to encourage the recording and filing of important information. I also mentioned the major similarities and differences of the most commonly used college entrance exams. I will save those topics for part two of this blog.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bible Note Page using Read, Reflect & Respond Approach

Dear friends,

After a little twiddling with PDF uploads...

This is a Bible study note page that uses the Read, Reflect & Respond approach. I designed it based on one that someone gave me when I was in high school. I use it for my own devotional times. Sometimes it takes a few days to complete a passage of several verses, but it is worth the effort. On the back, I like to write out extra cross reference verses.

The file is PDF format. If you click on "More" and then save it as a file on your computer, then you can open it in full size and print it. If you try to print it without doing it, it will attempt to do it in Portrait layout rather than the necessary Landscape format.

Feel free to pass it along.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Grace and peace,

Read Reflect and Respond Bible Note Page

Joy & Success in Teaching High School -- PowerPoint by Meredith Curtis

Joy & Success in Teaching High School

Understanding the Times and Defending the Faith -- PowerPoint by Meredith Curtis

Understanding the Times & Defending the Faith by Meredith Curtis

Design Your Own Curriculum -- PowerPoint by Meredith Curtis

Design Your Own Curriculum

Recommended Reading Lists for Teens and Parents

from the outline of
"Read, Reflect & Respond" by Virginia Knowles

You can click on many of the titles to see the books listed at Christian Book Distributors. On this web site, you can click links to view the table of contents and sample chapters.


(by Mary, Julia, Rachel, Joanna, and Lydia Knowles)

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy– immediate top pick of 3 of the girls! It’s a historical adventure of the French Revolution

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – racism and law in the south – a high school classic!

  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis – ironic correspondence between two demons who are strategizing on how to deceive and distract Christians – get the Progeny Press study guide

  • The Hiding Place by Corrie TenBoom – true story of a Christian family hiding Jews in the holocaust at great personal cost – watch the DVD after you read the book!

  • Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes by Frank B. Gilbreth – true stories of a family with 12 kids (there may be some things unsuitable for younger readers – I can’t remember)

  • The Giver by Lois Lowry -- futuristic novel usually assigned for younger students but all of my girls listed it AND it addresses some issues that I think are more suitable for high school anyway

  • If I Perish by Esther Ahn Kim – true story of one Christian woman’s persecution in Korea

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – classic Brit lit, get the Progeny Press study guide

  • The House of Winslow series by Gilbert Morris – Christian historical fiction series of 50 books covering one family line from Mayflower to modern times, lighter reading

  • Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton – for mature readers, set in pre-apartheid South Africa, contains violence and some sexual references, also moves slowly. That said, it is an excellent, poetic, thought-provoking, classic book about a godly black pastor and his wayward son. This book made a huge difference in raising public awareness and bringing an end to apartheid. Watch movie!



BRIGHTLIGHT BOOKS is a great local place to buy or sell (for cash or double store credit) used home school curriculum, literature, and Christian books. Address: 1099 SR 436 in Casselberry Phone: 407-622-6657.

Three on-line Christian curriculum resources that have terrific selection and prices!





♥ “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx

♥ “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” Mark Twain

♥ “When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.” Erasmus

Web Sites for Teens and Parents -- Make an Impact!

Jane Pierce kindly sent the following web links and descriptions of organizations that are equipping teens to make an impact on culture.

Do Hard Things (Alex and Brett Harris)
This web site has lots of resources, book lists, etc. They also have a conference tour as well. (Alabama in August & DC in September) This is a YouTube clip from the Do Hard Things Conference.

Generation Joshua
Civic and political bent. They want to help parents train up the next generation of Christian leaders and citizens. There are meetings, on-line classes in a variety of subjects (that can be taken for credit), etc. Something that particularly interested me was that they have a book club. Students read the specified book and then about 1X month there is an on-line discussion. If you'll be using this for credit, the student can send in a short report and receive back a sort of 'certificate of completion' but their work is not actually graded. They also have scholarships (books and tuition only) that can be earned based on specified activities. This is very hands on, they encourage things like registering new voters, participating in campaigns, etc. Next week there is a national conference in Washington DC, where they'll be meeting a variety of leaders, having tours, classes and activities.

The Big Dig
An apologetics simulcast, sponsored by Focus on the Family. There may be something closer, but a couple of us are going to Plant City for the simulcast on August 8. The Big Dig is geared for teens and young adults.

Teen Pact
They teach the foundations of government with the legislative branch, beginning with one week at the state capitol. Their focus is on Biblical principles of government and family, and that God is the answer to America's problems, not politics. They also want to train the next generation of Christian leaders and citizens. There is optional 'homework' to do ahead of time (it's an important part of the process). This hands-on course makes 'civics' much more interesting.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Read, Reflect & Respond

These are part of the class notes for Virginia's session on high school literature:

Read, Reflect & Respond
(The Real 3R’s of High School Literature) &

Read, Reflect & Respond

  • Life has a purpose! Reading has a purpose! Down with ignorance and apathy!
  • Reflective reading feeds the spirit and inspires our souls. Readers become leaders!
  • Reading, reflecting and responding helps us learn to think more deeply and relate to others more wisely without being easily deceived. We will be prepared to meet life challenges and having something to say.
  • Reflecting and responding increases long-term retention of information, beyond the test.
    Our response often includes practical application and action to transform our lives and culture.
  • Reading improves comprehension, logical thinking, creativity, writing skills, grammar, spelling, etc.
  • The reading, reflecting and responding stages overlap and can be simultaneous.
  • Research the Charlotte Mason method of education for more inspiration.
  • Use the RR&R techniques for art, music, movies, nature study, sermons, and life experiences.

Mom Tip: You need this as much as your teens do! Are you feeding your mind and your spirit so you can keep up with the many overwhelming demands of life? Are you going deep or just trying to get through the surface stuff? Take time to read, reflect, and respond -- and set the example for your teenagers!


  • Choose carefully! Books can make a deep and lasting impression, so avoid exposure to much “twaddle” that dulls or pollutes the mind. Reading for amusement and relaxation is fine, but be careful. Be especially wary of Chick Lit (even Christian romances) and anything with occult or “dark” spiritual themes.
  • Make Scripture your priority! “The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think. No book in the world equals the Bible for that.” McCosh
  • Create a literature-rich environment with a well-stocked home library.
    Kinds of reading: academic, pleasure or personal interest, skills, devotional, etc.
    Formats: books, newspapers, magazines, web sites, blogs, books on CD or DVD
    Genres: Scripture, realistic modern fiction, historical fiction, fairy tale, sci-fi, romance, mystery, poetry, song lyrics, plays, art, biography, history, science, how to, self-improvement, essays, etc.
  • A variety of genres enhances and balances. When studying a historical period, read novels, biographies, key documents, and poetry. Listen to music and speeches. Watch a movie or documentary.
  • Help your teens select books or do it for them.
    Selecting good books takes a little research and a lot of discernment.
    Check high school book lists and ask for recommendations from people you trust.
    Click on “inside the book” at or to read a chapter.
    Do a web search on the author’s name or the book’s title to see what others say about it.
    Share your favorites with your teens! Introduce a book like a friend.
    Don’t be afraid to supplement with books at middle school or even elementary reading level. This can help a teen understand the basic information to better decode a harder book on the same subject.
  • Evaluate reading choices by pre-screening from front to back.
    Is it wholesome, age-appropriate, and highly recommended?
    Is it accurate and fair, without being too simplistic or overly biased?
    Is it interesting, well written, and thought provoking? What is quality of the illustrations, if any?
    Is the author reliable? (Your teens may want to read his/her other books later.)
    Is this the right book for right now? Is it worth the time it will take to read, reflect and respond?
  • Encourage pre-reading preparation. Before reading, encourage your teen to browse quickly, ask questions and make predictions. Preview any study guide questions before you read.
  • Give plenty of time to read, in a quiet and comfortable setting.
  • Read with pencil and paper handy!
  • Read with (or to) your teen once in a while!

Mom Tip: What books are you reading now? What do you want to read soon? Write a list! Since your teens will soon be adults, you can share what you are reading with them or assign it to them to read.


“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” Francis Bacon

Study questions should require critical thinking, not just factual recall. More advanced questions will require a synthesis (combining) of information from different parts of the book. Go beyond the questions in a text book!


  • What kind of book is this and why am I reading it right now?
  • What is the significance of the title or cover art?
  • What is the author’s life background and worldview? What did he or she want to communicate? What is the author’s tone in this book (upbeat, harsh, relaxed, urgently persuasive, funny, reverent, etc.)?
  • When and where was the book written, and under what life circumstances, such as war?

Character, Setting, Plot & Style:

  • What universal themes, such as courage, pride, justice, greed, honesty, or jealousy, are woven into this book? Which one is most prevalent? What can I learn that is applicable to my own life?
  • What perspective can I gain about these themes from this time period, culture, and worldview?
  • Which character reminds me most of myself? What would I have done if I were that character?
  • Which characters are dynamic (developing & maturing) or static (unchanging)? How do main characters learn/grow from events in the story? How do their values, fears, motives, or conflicts change?
  • Are the characters believable? What flaws do the “heroes” exhibit? What virtues do the “villains” exhibit? Real people exhibit a mix of positive and negative behaviors and attitudes. Books for teen readers should show the realistic nuances of authentic human behavior and attitudes.
  • How would the story be different if written from a different character’s perspective or in another setting?
  • Do the characters speak in the same manner as I do? Are any special accents, idioms or dialects used?
  • What are the main events in this story? How does the plot rise, fall and twist? Do this a chapter at a time, and then for the whole book at the end.
  • How is cause-and-effect used in this story, especially in consequences for actions?
    What symbolism is used? What does it mean? Is the symbolism effective, understandable & significant?
  • What other Biblical, literary or historical references are made in this book?
  • Are there any words that I don’t fully understand and need to look up in a dictionary?
    How does sensory detail (what I vicariously see, hear, smell, taste, and feel) put me “on the scene”?
  • Does this book use flashbacks or drop hints about what might happen in the future?
    Can I follow the clues and make predictions? Is the outcome too predictable or contrived?
  • Does the outcome give a sense of closure, or is it unsettling or confusing?


  • How does this information fit in with what I already know (or think I know)?
  • Humility is needed! We don’t know everything about the topic just because we’ve read a book or two.
  • Is what I am reading essentially true or in agreement with Scripture? (Obviously, no other book is perfect!)
  • Does this information contain logical fallacies or propaganda? Does it represent opinions as being hard facts?
  • Does this reading challenge my assumptions or stretch my perspective? Is this good or not?
  • What should I accept or reject from it? What do I need to fully absorb or apply?
  • Is this book what I expected? Did it answer any burning questions for me?

Aids in the reflection phase:

  • References: Bible, dictionary, encyclopedia, map, timeline, history/science text, commentaries, Google
  • Published study guides (Progeny or Total Language Plus) or parent-written study questions
  • Personal conversations, interviews with experts, discussion groups, literature classes, on-line forums
  • Journal to take notes, ask questions, and make comments as you read. I like a notebook or composition book.
  • Field trip related to story: art or history museum, zoo, bird sanctuary, horse riding, ethnic restaurant

Mom Tip: Are you truly thinking about what you are reading or putting your brain on auto-pilot? Does your reading motivate and inspire you? Does it make you draw in your breath or furrow your brow?


Communication Responses (Oral, Written & Artistic)

  • TOP TIP! START A READING JOURNAL! Copy key quotes into your journal, along with your reflective comments and questions. I highly recommend using a regular 3-ring notebook as a reading journal, especially if you are saving it with your academic records. You can also keep a chronological notebook journal with your diary entries, correspondence, quiet time notes, sermon notes, etc. Create a lifetime treasure!
  • Talk about it! This could be as you read or after you finish. You can do this as a parent and teen, as a whole family, or as a discussion group. Give a short “book talk” to introduce it to a friend or a group.
  • Read it aloud to someone, with expression, different character voices and sound effects.
    Recite or write a passage from memory. This is especially good for poetry, Scripture, and famous speeches.
  • Do an informal oral or written narration, telling it back in your own words.
  • Prepare a short formal presentation to teach to your siblings or friends using a poster or Powerpoint.
  • Copy poetry, Scripture or quotes in your best handwriting, illustrate it, and give it as a gift.
  • Summarize the main events or points either in a paragraph or a list.
  • Write a complete, unbiased pro/con list about an issue as if you are investigating a potential decision.
  • Rebut an argument or stage a full debate on an issue.
  • Do a character analysis or compare & contrast characters or events within the story.
    Write a journal entry for one of the characters telling an event or feelings from his/her perspective.
  • Write a short fable with a moral. Or, if you are reading a Bible passage, write a short story about it.
  • Pick a book that you think one of the characters might enjoy and tell why.
  • Give the story a different ending and/or write a sequel to the story.
  • Compare and contrast a theme in this book with the same one in another book.
  • Write an essay about the themes as they relate to Scripture.
  • Write a book review and design a book jacket.
  • Write a blog post or a personal letter to a friend about it. Include digital art or your own pictures.
  • Write an imaginary letter to a story character to share your advice or express admiration.
    Write a letter to the author with your comments.
  • Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper or magazine about how the issues in it relate to current events.
  • Give a speech about the themes in it.
  • Attempt to emulate the style of writing by writing a similar story or essay.
  • Write a poem, song, or creative story about the key themes.
  • Turn the story into a play. You can produce it, film it, and then edit it using Windows Moviemaker.
  • Write questions and answers for a trivia game (like Jeopardy) or design a board game.
  • Draw a picture, diagram, map, or illustrated timeline.
  • Make a 3D sculpture, diorama, mobile, or collage.
  • Make a costume that one of the characters may have worn.

Mom Tip: Practice your own speaking and writing skills! Start responding to what you read and then sharing it with your family and your friends. This is also an effective way to share your faith. What kind of person are you becoming in response to your reading? Start a reading journal today!

Application Responses

Decide on appropriate action in response to character’s example or author’s persuasion – then do it!

  • Reach out to someone who is lonely or give help to someone who is needy.
  • Make your voice heard about an important cause.
  • Ask forgiveness of someone you have offended or forgive someone who has offended you.
  • Break a bad habit and start new wholesome ones to replace it.
  • Work harder at doing what you already know to attain a personal goal.
  • Learn a new skill mentioned in the book, such as cooking, sewing, wood carving, nature collecting, camping. Find project instructions in library books or on Google.

“Committing a great truth to memory is admirable; committing it to life is wisdom.” William Ward

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Finish Well... Finished Well!

Meredith, Cheryl and I felt so privileged to present the Finish Well workshops yesterday! We didn't know how many people would show up, so we were so blessed when about 40 ladies arrived. Each of us treasures the opporunity to mentor other mothers through the journey of home educating their children. We will try to post our workshop notes, PowerPoints, and/or videos soon, as well as other resources that will help you along the way. Check back!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Praying for Our Teens -- Not Just a Workshop!

Dear friends,

"Praying for Our Teens" is not just a workshop title, it's something we mothers need to do every day!

I know that very few of you -- if any! -- will actually come to that session, and that's just fine with me. The real thrust of it is that I'm going to be there to pray for you, and so I know God will show up, too! If you want to request intercessory prayer for your teens, feel free to write it down and hand it to me at lunch. I'll be delighted to pray for you whether or not you come in the room for the prayer workshop.

When Cheryl asked me a few weeks ago if I would consider doing a second workshop session, I told her that I didn't think so since she and Meredith already have great ones during that time, but I would see what God laid on my heart. I prayed about it, that is what came to mind, and my husband Thad confirmed it when I mentioned it to him. When I brought it up to Meredith, she asked if Cheryl had already told me that they wanted to have a prayer room open during the day! Well no, but I have to say that so often "praying minds think alike" because we are trying to listen to the Lord's leading!

As the three of us prepare for Finish Well, our heart is for God to pour out his grace on your families, and that is not going to happen just by us telling you what we know about home schooling. We all need God's divine anointing! Let's all humble ourselves and ask for the guidance and strength to honor him in all we do. Please intercede for us, too, as we get ready for Saturday!
I will have handouts to give to anyone who wants them on Saturday. You can also find my tentative version on my web site at

Praying God's most abundant blessings on you and yours,

Virginia Knowles, for Cheryl and Meredith

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Getting Ready!

Less than a week away! I'm so excited to meet new people and see old friends again! Working on my powerpoint yesterday, I was reminded about how blessed we truly are to educate our children at home. My third daughter will be a senior this year and that means there will only be two left at home the following year. My heart is sad...I have loved these glorious years homeschooling for the Glory of God! I treasure every minute now as the "babies" are growing up! Looking forward to refreshing and encouraging you at "Finish Well"--see you there!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Finish Well! Encouragement for Home Educators Traveling the High School Journey

Dear friends,

Have you ever wondered how you will ever manage to home school your children through the high school years? Meredith Curtis, Cheryl Bastian, and Virginia Knowles would like to invite you to a free day of workshops to inspire and equip you!

Finish Well!
Encouragement for Home Educators
Traveling the High School Journey

Date: Saturday, July 25, 2009

Time: 9:00am - 2:00pm

Location: SafeHarbor Church at 730 Upsala Road, Sanford, FL
View Map

Contact: Meredith Curtis 407-302-7085 and


It is free!
Meredith, Cheryl and Virginia are all authors, so there will be books available for purchase.


9:00-9:15 AM Welcome by Pastor Mike Curtis (Meredith's husband)
9:15-9:45 AM Keynote by Meredith on "Joy and Success in Teaching High School"


10:00-11:00 AM Session 1 options
(Click on workshop titles for more information on them or scroll down through this blog.)


11:15-12:15 PM Session 2 options
(Click on workshop titles for more information on them or scroll down through this blog.)


12:15-1:00 PM Lunch -- bring your own!
1:00-2:00 PM Q & A with Presenters


If you are planning to attend, please post a comment below with your name, and tell us which specific workshops you are going to choose. This will help us plan for seating and materials. If you have trouble leaving a comment, just e-mail the information to Meredith at

After the workshops, we'll try to post workshop handouts, and maybe even some video clips! Stay tuned!

Virginia Knowles

Design Your Own Curriculum by Meredith Curtis

High school classes can be designed to meet both academic requirements and the needs of your children. Meredith Curtis shares how she weaves academic structure with delight-directed learning, using the EZ folder method to keep lesson plans and record keeping simple. Meredith has designed four years of high school classes using living books, customizing classes to her children and to other teenagers. She shares her experiences, offering practical tips to attendees who want to design classes for their high school teens.

This workshop will be offered during session 1 at 10 AM.

High School 101 by Cheryl Bastian

Credits. GPA's. Transcripts. Where do I start? Cheryl Bastian will explain the nuts and bolts of home educating through high school. Attendees will learn the high school lingo, how to establish goals and create a four-year plan, how to award credits, and how to organize records. Come hear practical tips for keeping a clear vision while on the high school journey.

This workshop will be offered during Session 1 at 10 AM.

The Three R’s of High School Literature: Read, Reflect and Respond by Virginia Knowles

"Read, Reflect, and Respond" is a simple yet powerful approach to making the most out of high school literature, whether it is novels, biographies, or non-fiction. Learn how to go beyond mere regurgitation of factoids to life-changing application. Why do we read what we read? How can we train ourselves to think through the plot lines, issues, and worldviews? Then what do we do with what we've learned? Don't let your reading go in one eye and out the other. Read. Reflect. Respond.

This workshop will be offered during Session 1 at 10 AM.

Understanding the Times and Defending the Faith by Meredith Curtis

Are your teens ready to enter the workplace or college and not be seduced by undermining "vain philosophies"? Meredith will present a way to pass the baton of faith in Jesus to the next generation by establishing the necessary evidence for our faith. She will give vital keys to teaching our teens the relevance of God's Word in politics, economics, science, philosophy, government, religion, and history, shaping their worldview to confront unbiblical views (humanism, socialism, post-modernism, and New Age) which presently face our world today. Our children can be world-changers!

This workshop will be presented during Session 2 at 11:15 AM.

Getting it On Paper by Cheryl Bastian

High school is not a one-size-fits-all experience. High school is a time to refine the skills needed to polish a student's God-given gifts and talents. But what does that look like on paper? How do you tailor courses which will prepare your child for what God has planned for their future? Cheryl Bastian will walk parents through the paperwork needed for employment and college entrance, explaining how to write course descriptions to highlight your student's strengths, how to develop a transcript people want to read, and how to write supporting documents to reflect your student's educational experiences and character.

This workshop will be presented during Session 2 at 11:15 AM.

Praying for Our Teens by Virginia Knowles

Home schooling through high school is not something we can successfully do in our own strength and wisdom. We need God's help! Raising teens for Christ in our "culture of compromise" requires spiritual warfare and divine guidance. During this session, Virginia will briefly encourage moms in how to pray for their teens according to the Scriptures. Then we will put this into immediate practice by interceding specifically for each others' families. Come be refreshed and strengthened in your spiritual foundation for home education and life.

This workshop will be presented during Session 2 at 11:15 AM.