Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Review: It Couldn't Just Happen by Lawrence O. Richards

I read It Couldn't Just Happen as a pre-read for my children -- especially this year for my 11/12 year-old son.  It is on Ambleside Online's booklist for Year 6.  I think that's a pretty good age for this book, though a little older or curious younger ones could enjoy and benefit from it, too.

This book presents some of the main points in the Creation versus Evolution question, and discusses them, with a very evident bias toward the Creation perspective and Christianity.

I thought it was an interesting book.  Although it presented subjects I was rather familiar with, I learned some things myself reading through it.

I do have a couple criticisms (as usual):

1) Sometimes there was a bit too much re-summarizing and repetition for my taste.  It might be because the chapters are fairly short, and the attempt to introduce and conclude each topic makes for some repetition on the same theme.  It may not be noticed too much if the chapters aren't read back-to-back as quickly as I read them toward the end of my reading, which is when I noticed it most.

2) This is my bigger criticism.  I wasn't thrilled with some of the way things were presented.  The author sometimes reduced arguments to an either-or scenario that wasn't quite accurate, or presented something as "the only possible explanation," when that isn't really the case.  For one of the more blatant instances, take the following quote from page 84, presented after a discussion of statistics demonstrating the extreme unlikelihood of life coming about by chance:

"Possible or impossible?  The answer is clear.  Life simply could not have come about by chance.  No matter how much time the evolutionist thinks passed from Earth's beginning until life evolved, it could not have happened.
"Since life could not have begun by chance, it must have been purposely created by God.  There is no other choice.  If one of only two possible choices could not have happened, the other one did!"

I realize that the author is trying to simplify for children here, but sometimes oversimplification can create problems of its own.  This quote just simply doesn't add up.  No matter how unlikely something may seem, it's impossible to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt how life began on earth, either toward the Creation side or toward Evolution.  None of us witnessed it, and no one can replicate the event.  Obviously, if the answer were so clear as the author states, there would be no debate at all, and no point to the book.  Also, to say that the only two options are the evolution of complete non-life into life and a purposeful creation by God is not quite accurate.  Other explanations could and have been offered before, although the debate usually comes down to these two because they are the most commonly adhered to.  

Yes, all that explanation would probably make for a cumbersome book for many grade-school children.  However, for a thinker, this sort of oversimplification may also be a problem, if the child sees the inconsistencies in logic and comes to feel that things just don't quite add up.  We should try to avoid underestimating children, as well as overstating our case, no matter who our audience.  I don't think the author is trying to be dishonest.  It's easy to overstate when arguing one side of something.  But that can backfire.  Perhaps just expressing things a little less dramatically would have been sufficient to alleviate the problem if he didn't want delve deeper. 

I just made note of these things in the book, and can discuss with my children.  I didn't consider it a big deal for them, as the topics presented aren't new to my children, and this author's perspective will be far from the only one they get.  We all sat down as a family and watched the recent Ken Ham/Bill Nye debate, for example, and for years we've tried to give the children other materials to help address some of these questions.  Evolution versus Creation is one of the key ongoing debates of our age.  As our children get older, we want to give them a more balanced perspective than we gave when they were younger, and present more from the other side as their understanding increases, since when they go out into the world at large that may be most of what they are presented with in many areas.  Plus, if one hopes to discuss the subject seriously with someone from a different perspective, especially with a view toward persuading them differently, it helps to be educated on it.  If I were an evolutionist, I would have trouble taking very seriously a creationist who came into a discussion making many such statements as I quoted above.

Overall, I liked but didn't love this book.  While not exceptional, it's a good resource to add to a balanced apologetics-oriented theme.  It will probably stay part of our curriculum, partly because I've read it already and marked it for discussion points.  There may be other resources that would be just as good or better, though, so if you're looking I wouldn't say this is a must-have.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book Review: The Story of the Romans by H. A. Guerber

Ideally, I'd write a little something at least about every book just after I finished it, when it's freshest in my mind.  But that doesn't happen.  However, I did just finish The Story of the Romans by H. A. Guerber, and happen to have a little time to write about it.

I enjoyed reading through this book, which is part of the Ambleside Online reading list for Year 6.  I think it's well-placed there.  Although the language is simple enough that it could be easily read and understood by younger children, the subject matter is such that it may even disturb them, and there is a lot that I think is worth discussing, so I think it's better for slightly older ones. While Guerber doesn't go into too many lurid details, the character of especially the later Roman emperors, and the events they instigated, are pretty gruesome and just outright evil.  In my opinion, this is a good book for introducing ancient Rome to children, but if I were covering the time period with children younger than say age 11/12 or so, I would most likely skip some things, as well as discussing a good many others. 

I am also reading and enjoying Augustus Caesar's World by Genevieve Foster right now.  While I'm not ready to review it, being less than halfway through, in the front of it I have made a list of some general topics to discuss.  Since both books are about the Roman world, many of these discussion topics are identical for both books.  Three prominent things are:

1)  False gods are mentioned quite a bit, as well as pagan practices, such as ceremonies they held.  The Story of the Romans will occasionally point out that these people were pagans and doesn't give things from the perspective that the Roman people might have had as much as Augustus Caesar's World does.  The Story of the Romans also points out the error of their ways at times, approaching topics with a "Christian" worldview. Guerber does generalize Christianity toward the end, and says toward the end that the "true" Christians began to be called Catholics, which is another discussion point in this home. 

2)  Murder makes many repeat appearances throughout the story of the Roman world.  While murder in itself is a sad topic, and some of the stories about people murdering others are quite awful, especially sad is the frequency of suicide.  Many, many leaders killed themselves rather than be conquered.  And as the Roman empire was in decline and became more wicked (this time period is covered in Guerber's book, but not Foster's, since hers is mostly limited to the time of Augustus' life), rulers would at times force people to commit suicide as well.  Not only just the fact that these things were done, but also methods, are sometimes mentioned -- not usually with much detail, but again, some things one might choose to skip for the younger, and discuss for even an older student.

3)  Adultery is another thing I wrote down.  The story of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, followed by  Antony and Cleopatra, is a big one in the story of Rome, so that's something to discuss.  Guerber manages not to bring out Caesar and Cleopatra's relationship, other than that they fought on the same side, but Antony and Cleopatra's story is dwelt on for at least a couple chapters.  There are also other instances mentioned where marriage is clearly not honored well among the Romans.

There are more things than these to discuss in the book, but these jumped out as major repeats. 

Overall, I'd say this is a good introduction to ancient Rome.  I learned quite a bit myself reading it.  While there's a lot to discuss in this time period, and while I haven't really done lots of other reading on that period to compare it to, I think The Story of the Romans handles it pretty tastefully, all things considered, as well as giving a good foundation to build on more later.

You can see this book for free online here.  I bought the Yesterday's Classics copy pictured above, because I prefer to have a hard copy.  It's a good edition.   

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ultrasound Photos

We had an ultrasound done on 3/24.  Here are some snips of pictures.  We are thankful that everything appears healthy.

The nose and lips are above the label -- do you see?  We didn't get any better look at the face than that.  I like that one, though -- so cute, and amazingly developed already (we're about 1/2 through the pregnancy).
This one is kind of funky, but do you see the little foot a little off-center?  You can see the feet are crossed.  If you're better at interpreting these things than I am you might even be able to tell other things from this one...
Ear in the center -- back of head a bit.


Another profile, wider view showing most of the body.

Such amazing technology that allows us to peek at the development of this little one.  We are so blessed!

I have another pic I could show, but I hesitate to show it here.  As we've done for our recent pregnancies, we found out the gender.  Before, we've always kept the gender a secret until the baby was born.  This time, we've decided to try something different and tell it ahead.  We wanted to let the little ones in on the news, and that way we don't have to be concerned about them keeping it secret.  We won't reveal the name until later, though, even if we decide what it is before the birth.

However, I still feel kind of funny stating the baby's gender before it's born... just habit, I guess.  Here goes...



BOY! :)

I think I won't post the picture that proves this clearly (he wasn't shy at all about that)... maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but in case he'd find it really embarrassing in several years, I'll refrain.  Anyway, while we didn't get to see much of his face, there wasn't any doubt about his gender.

We're excited.  This will be a new experience for us, since we've never had two boys in a row.   It also gives our family a little more balance in the male-female ratio.  And I think Abraham will enjoy having another boy close to him.  :)

"For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well."   Psalm 139:13-14

Monday, April 7, 2014

Raising Baby Chicks: 3 Weeks Old

I didn't get to taking photos of them at 3 weeks (and a day) in good time -- had a lot going on -- so it was dark by the time I got to it, and I just kept them in the basement.  So these won't be the best pictures we've had.  They were taken 3/13/14.  The ones we'd had earlier in the week were far better, I decided I'd make more effort for the 4-week pictures.

Cinnamon Queen and Barred Rock.  I thought I might just have them stand on the insulation sheet and pose in front of the bulletin board.

That didn't go so well.  Not because of what's pictured here, which I've gotten used to cleaning up on such occasions, but because they just wanted to wander so much, and then one of them discovered that the edge of the styrofoam sheeting could break off!  Ooh, excitement!  She acted like she was going to eat it.  I thought that was probably not the best dietary decision, so we relocated to the train table.

Since then I've learned that chickens are notorious for loving to eat styrofoam.  Go figure.

They were about as cooperative as they've always been for group photos.  Which is mostly not at all.

At least you can get an idea of how their feathering is coming along.

Left to right:  Silver-laced Wyandotte, Barred Rock, Cinnamon Queen.

Too much flash, sorry.  Someday I need to learn how to take pictures.

Silver-laced Wyandotte

Cinnamon Queen and Barred Rock.  

Why did the chicken cross the road?

In this case, it was to investigate the box on the other side.

They also liked the edge of the table for perching.

And stretching.

Their heads were starting to look different.  Eyes and ears getting different coloring around them, beaks and combs also gradually changing, along with their feathering.

The Rocks seem to be the boldest explorers so far. 

You can just about see her thinking, "Well, if she can do it, I can, too!"

And in what my grandma would say was "a jiffy," they were all three on the box.

I put them back down b/c I didn't want them making a mess of the cardboard box.  The train table is easy to clean.  They seemed kind of tired of pictures, though.  Or maybe that was me. :)

One last one.  Their feet are so interesting and odd at once, aren't they?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Raising Baby Chicks, Week 3: Ladies' Day Out

On March 10, we had an absolutely gorgeous day here -- around 70 degrees.  We decided to try taking some of the "young ladies" outside for the first time, to see how they liked the great big world.  We got out the baby play yard, and only took 5 at first, so we could see how they handled it.

 They seemed to like it okay.

As usual, they were cautious but curious.

This one even seems relaxed here.

Ah, but do they know that the also curious and potentially dangerous cat is nearby?  He came to investigate, but though we definitely kept a watch on him, he really doesn't seem a threat to them.  He actually acts like he's afraid of them.  And yet, cats aren't to be trusted.  Even ones without front claws (he came to us that way).

And then there are the dogs... especially the crazed-looking one on the left (Sunshine).  She really is about as bananas as she looks.   Or more.  She's my biggest concern for the chickens' safety at this point.  She is a bit territorial and barks insanely at many other animals.  The other one (Amadeus) pretty much only barks at adults (including my husband and me -- annoying!), because he's disturbed in a different kind of way (he's a rescue dog, was kept in a cage his whole first three years and not well-adjusted to people).  He's friendlier to animals and children, though he also defends his territory against other dogs he considers a threat.  He's less of a concern for the chickens, but still an unknown.  So we penned both the dogs while the ladies played.  We'd like to think both dogs could be nice guard and even maybe herd dogs for the chickens, but they really lack in the discipline and training department, and it seems rather doubtful.

 The little ladies seemed comfortable enough, so we brought more out.  Or rather, the children did, while I sat watched them and took pictures.

Bethany had them ride in a basket.

Someone wanted to show them the ball (it was lowered gently, not thrown in).  They weren't too impressed.

They did like the stick Zion put in for them to perch on, however.

I happened to catch one peeping.  I don't think it was alarmed, though it sort of looks it here.  They were acting alert/cautious, but not bothered.

Here's a puzzle for you.  Have a look at "the amazing" Mumford -- the one peeking up over the crowd there.  I still hope this name doesn't stick.  But I do have to admit it's a little more creative than some.

 And here -- looking just a little bit rooster-like in her/his demeanor?  The one standing very upright.

 Has always been lighter than the other Cinnamon Queens... and still is.
 Very light on the back.  So do tell me -- have we got a sex-linked cockerel on our hands here?  It is yet a mystery.

One last picture.  Bethany with a Barred Rock.