Tag Archives: teaching

Why I Ditched Religion – by Katharine Trauger

On Monday, I asked a sincere question, and I have received some really great, honest feedback from you all in return. You can check it out on my post Truth-Seekers? Are You There? Be sure to read the comment section, because that’s where you’ll be challenged and find the best conversations.

Today, I wish to share one of those answers with you.

Guest post by Katharine Trauger at Home’s Cool!

When I was twelve–I remember it clearly–I sat in church wondering. I knew I was looking. I felt I knew what I was looking for.
I knew there was truth somewhere in the Bible because I knew there was this basically unexplainable thing that the original 12 disciples had found and were completely willing to die for. And, sorry, but I also knew it wasn’t religion. Nope. There are tons of religions and religions are what make people willing to KILL, not willing to die.
I truly sat in church and realized what I was getting was what people were willing to kill for. I had not found anything I was willing to die for. I was pretty sure those who went before in the Believing tradition had found whatever that was. All the martyrs had had something, found something, and all the Crusaders had not.
I wondered what it was and wanted to find it, if possible.
I’m a sort of scary personality in that I usually just calmly watch and listen. And when I know that I know something, I teach. But if I get pushed, I might flare up. A little bit. Maybe. Heh heh.
So I just sat in church and waited and listened and watched. For all the love I had for the history/tradition, for all the artistic beauty inherent in the average formal church setting, and for all the comfort of repetition, I could not find anything that would be hard to walk away from. At all. But I felt pretty sure whatever it was that I could not find, it was still there to be found, but I could not find it.
Eventually I left for college and ditched it all for a disobedient lifestyle. I married an atheist/agnostic who was a brilliant thinker. (Oh, and he was in the same denomination, so my parents were pretty pleased. Snowed, more like it.)
The VietNam draft and the cost of college forced us to choose the military life for a short while. Then back to college and on to married parenthood and a real job. During this time came the movie “Jesus Christ, Superstar”. We did not view it, but did purchase the soundtrack, for which, for some reason, the product insert included a Bible reference, and we opened the Bible in our home for the first time, ever. And my mostly unchurched husband had questions which I could answer, from the storehouse of Bible memory work I’d spent my childhood learning.
Ironic, no?
Eventually I began feeling guilty about not attending church and since my husband was okay with it, I went a couple of times. You know how that can make you a member, sometimes? First thing I knew, I was teaching VBS. It was 1976, the bicentennial year. I remember that, because the VBS curriculum was all “God and Country” and having just exited the VietNam/college culture, I was really having trouble teaching little children something I did not believe. Really.
I remembered things from the childhood Bible memo work, still, and I remembered that if we ask for spiritual gifts, God always says “yes”. (Or so I was taught.)
Therefore, one night, still angry at the curriculum, and also angry at God, I prayed. “God, if you’re really up there, you’ve got to do one of two things: You either have to change my brain or else you have to get me out of teaching VBS, because I REALLY cannot teach things to little children as truth if I don’t believe them myself.”
Two choices. I actually had issued an ultimatum to God that He had two choices, if He wanted me to believe He exists.
Guess which one He chose.
I was so sure He could not change my brain (because He probably wasn’t really “up there”), and still so mad that He’d let me get into the predicament (because, although He does not exist, everything is His fault, right?), that I was fuming the next morning about what I was going to have to teach to little children.
My husband noticed my agitation and asked what was wrong. I began showing him all the propaganda in the teacher’s book that had made me so angry.
And I could not find it. I could find the book and no pages were missing. But I could not find the “opinions” that had so angered me. I could not find the untruths. I could not find a. single. thing. in that curriculum that was not reasonable, not conceivable, not plausible. I was dumbfounded. I had locked horns with God and lost.
Won, actually. Because overnight, He had instilled faith in my heart. Because I told Him He had to, then rolled over and went to sleep. And He did it.
And I want to tell you what I got was NOT religion. NOT. NOT. NOT.
What I got was life. It’s a whole different thing, entirely.
Even the Bible describes religion: looking after widows and orphans, and keeping yourself unspotted by the world.
That is admirable, yes, but also SO MUCH NOT what I got. I got life in Christ. I finally found what it was that the martyrs had. I’d actually seen God at work and no longer knew He was probably real. I KNEW HIM. His fingerprints were and always are on me.
Just not the same, at all.
Yes, I’ve looked back a bit. Trouble is, He’s got my back. He is always very near. Well, actually, He is in me. In me. The Living Water is not a parable. Nope. It is reality.
It is the only reality.
I used to say, and I think it is relevant, here, that there are 3 Kingdoms:
The Plant Kingdom, which we know for sure we are not a part of.
The Animal Kingdom, which many think they are part of because they think that is the only alternative.
And.
The Kingdom of God, a spiritual kingdom that invisibly coexists all around and among and within us, who belong to Him. A kingdom into which a person must be born. Again.
And that is where I am and where I have been for over forty years.
I have been young and now am old, and I’ve never seen anything I can regret about His lifting me from my slow death into this fractalesque explosion of true life.
Hope you didn’t think our answers would be short… 🙂

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Post from the Past: Creative Writing Supplement, Incorporating Objects

Yesterday, I posted my first lesson for Multi-Sensory Creative Writing. In addition to doing all of the things suggested in lesson one, I also gave each student a hand-out that listed several ways to incorporate objects into a story. The kids and I had a blast doing this lesson! Be sure to post any stories or comments regarding the list!

Seven ways in which you can incorporate objects into your writing.

  1. Character has a flashback after seeing an object.
  2. Ordinary object with an extraordinary purpose (clicking a ball-point pen stops time).
  3. Object is important somehow, but main character doesn’t realize it yet.
  4. Try mixing two or more unrelated objects (dissimilar elements).
  5. Character has an obsession with an object (or collection of objects).
  6. Plot revolves around the object.
  7. Follow an object through its lifetime.

For your convenience, I am uploading the list as a Word doc: Using Objects.

Post from the Past: Multi-Sensory Creative Writing, Lesson 1

Since our studio doesn’t give homeschool music classes through the summer, I joined a new co-op to keep my son busy these last three months. I’ve always wanted to teach a creative writing class, and the co-op members graciously allowed me to give it a whirl. I tried to create activities that would work across all age groups, and I left it to the parents to decide how much actual writing their children would be doing. (For instance, I only made my second-grader write three sentences per assignment, but some of the older children wrote much more.) Anyway, I think this lesson plan would work for any age, or any size group. Let me know how it goes if you try any of the activities. I know that we had a blast, but I would love your feedback as well!

Lesson 1

The first activity of the day should always be easy and short – an icebreaker to get their minds to switch into writing mode without putting a lot of pressure on them.

Activity #1

Take a bunch of random pictures (internet, magazines, photos) to class. Try to vary the content type. Have the class members each choose a picture that appeals to them or kindles an idea in their minds.

After choosing a picture, have them write a few sentences based on something that it suggests to them.

Note #1

To keep the pressure low, I remind them that we won’t be reading this assignment out loud. I only ever read assigned homework aloud, never anything they’ve written on the spot, unless they volunteer. And I never announce the authors unless they want to take credit for their work.

Note #2

Instruct the students to write as it comes into their heads, even if they think it is poorly worded. They can always edit later; the hard part for most people is getting words on paper. When they are finished writing, they can reread it with a particular focus on one editing issue at a time. For instance, read through the piece once checking for punctuation errors, then reread again with a focus on spelling errors, etc. Having a process helps keep them from sitting and staring at their papers, wondering where to start (in both the writing and editing stages).

Activity #2

Take a bunch of random objects from around your house to class. The reason they should use objects (or artifacts) to jump-start their writing is to give them ideas that they wouldn’t come up with on their own.

As a class, talk about some of the ideas that are triggered by pictures and objects. Write them on the chalkboard.

You can also get ideas from memories that are triggered by scents, feelings that you associate with certain types of music, etc. (I also took in some spices, candles, and colognes for this class.)

As a class, talk about some of the memories that are triggered by certain scents or feelings that are associated with music.

If you have time, have the class write for a few minutes, basing their stories on an object that they choose.

Homework Assignment #1

Choose an object, picture, scent, or any combination, and write a story based on your ideas. For this assignment, individual students can choose whatever they want and write about whatever they want. They may choose from what you brought to class or from their own homes.

Homework Assignment #2

As a class, choose one more topic to write about. For this assignment, all students will write a story based on the same object, picture, etc. The purpose of this exercise is to see how diverse the stories can be even while triggered by the same thing. For instance, the class may choose an ink pen or a picture of the Amazon. Everyone writes something that includes the element in their piece. Read aloud next week, and experience the variety!

Challenge

Choose more than one element on which to base a story. If the above assignment included both the ink pen and the picture of the Amazon, the students would have to be more creative in their creation of the story. The more dissimilar the elements, the more creative they will have to be.

For Fun

Have each student bring an object to class from their own rooms. In class, they can switch objects with each other and write a few sentences based on someone else’s belonging. This would be a great follow-up activity for your next class.

If you would prefer to download Lesson 1 as a Word file, here it is: Multi Sensory Creative Writing Lesson 1

Post from the Past: Ego Booster

Teaching the homeschool choir has been challenging for me, especially learning how to handle the high school girls. One day, attitudes were running wild – one group of girls acting superior to the rest, and another group whispering and glancing snidely toward the first group. I finally had to stop the class and give a little lecture before I felt we could go any further.

During the odd years that I attended Christian school, I must have had the idea that everybody loved me because I was so quick to show off how much I knew. Think about it – that’s the way parents act when they brag about their kids to others or when they look at homework to see how good it is. In high school, I hadn’t realized yet that the rest of the world couldn’t care less. Looking back on it, I actually think everyone despised me. It took me a really long time to start thinking about the world in terms of others instead of myself.

So, I decided to be painfully honest with my choir girls. I told them how I cringe when I think about those days. I told them how I don’t want anything in my life that reminds me of that era. My husband picked out a nice pair of shoes at a shoe store the other day, and I liked them, but I didn’t buy them. Can you guess why? They were in the same style that I would have worn 17 years ago, and I didn’t want to remind myself of my teenage years every time I put them on. I am ashamed of myself for having flaunted my knowledge.

So after I embarrassed myself in front of my class, explaining why they would hate me today if I were their age now, we had a little talk about always striving to make others feel good and comfortable. It isn’t about who’s the smartest, most well-raised homeschooler in the building. If you have been homeschooled, you probably have the self-esteem to handle boosting someone else’s ego (sometimes at the expense of your own). Go out of your way to make the other person feel valued, like his opinion counts for something, instead of always assuming that everyone is interested in what you have to say or how much you know. Homeschoolers get used to needing to prove that they are better than public-schoolers, and we take this attitude into life with us. Not only is this attitude going to make friend-finding difficult for you, it could totally impede your ability to be a successful witness.

Here’s a tip if you are heading off to college: on the first day of class, get to each class early and find a seat. Make eye contact with people as they come through the door and smile. Look for people who look scared, and make an effort to make them feel more comfortable. I once moved my bag closer to myself (freeing up more space at my table in the process) after seeing a woman come through the classroom door, looking for an unintimidating place to sit. She took the gesture as intended, and sat with me for the entire semester. We are still friends on Facebook to this day, even though I haven’t seen her since that semester seven years ago.

In general, nobody else will care about you except for you, at least until you form a relationship with someone. Be one of the few people on this earth to place the comfort of a stranger above that of yourself, and you will find yourself surrounded by friends.

Homeschool Empty Nest

Now what?

The other day, someone hit my blog by searching “homeschool empty nest.” I can’t say that I have any personal experience with this (my homeschooled son is only seven), but my heart went out to this searcher, and I thought I would brainstorm some things to help.

I do know a few people who have homeschooled their children, who are now empty nesters. My mother, for instance. Her life has always been all about her children. What does she do when they leave home? Why, she makes her life all about her grandchildren, of course! This week, she has been spending the evenings and nights with my brother and his family, and the days with my sister, who is a brand-new mother herself. She lives with my other sister and her family, and she will be visiting our home later this afternoon. She is very involved in the lives and happiness of her grandchildren, and you can tell how much they love her for it!

Another empty nester I know has opened a bowling alley. I can only assume that she had dreams of doing so before, but she has now found the time as well. Do you have any dreams of owning your own business? Perhaps now is the time!

Some homeschool moms have gone on to teach in private schools. This is something that I am seriously considering for myself. Others go to college and learn a new skill, or begin a new career.

What if you don’t have grandchildren yet? Or what if you wish to remain a keeper at home? What do you do with all of that free time?

I know what I would do: write like crazy! Homeschool moms everywhere could benefit from your knowledge and experience. You’ve already been there and know what the rest of us are facing. You could help us answer questions about routine, curriculum, and college.

If you don’t particularly enjoy writing, perhaps you could think back to your youth. What hobbies and projects did you enjoy as a child? A teenager? A young adult? Perhaps you could get started in photography or refinishing furniture.

What about volunteering? Nursing homes are lonely places and can always benefit from a happy face. What are you good at? Is there anyone who would benefit from your services?

Perhaps you could stay involved with a homeschool coop, and teach Spanish, creative writing, or advanced math. Or maybe they just need someone who will be content to entertain the littles while other classes are meeting.

At any rate, set some goals for yourself, and try to meet them. Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10?

Anyway, these are just a few ideas off the top of my head. Feel free to add your own ideas! If there’s an empty nester out there, please let us know what you did to keep your sanity!

 

Multi-Sensory Creative Writing: Scent

Scent-related exercise: Think of a scent that brings back strong memories. For me, the smell of waffle cones or funnel cakes always
remind me of Six Flags. Tall grass reminds me of my backyard in West Sullivan. Peppermint, my grandmother’s garden. Freshly baked bread, my grandmother’s kitchen. The smell of Bactine reminds me of the time I fell off my bike and scraped up my elbow. After you think of a scent that means something to you, use it to write a story. It could be your own story, or a story of your creation. You could use it as a flashback moment, or an initial moment in which the strong scent becomes forever etched in the memory of your character. Use the scent to reveal something about your character’s personality. Why is she the way she is? Does the story behind the scent reveal something about her history?

Next, find something in your house that has a scent. A candle, some Ben Gay, almond extract, honey mustard, anything you can find. Now take that scent, and drop it into one of your existing stories. Again, you should use this technique to reveal something about your character.

Homeschool Enrichment Magazine Subscription

If you don’t have a subscription to Homeschool Enrichment Magazine, I highly recommend getting one. It’s my favorite homeschooling mag! If you’d like to check it out, here is a direct link to their free digital subscription page: http://homeschoolenrichment.com/magazine/digital/

My latest article is in the Sep./Oct. issue: Asking Questions, Analyzing Answers. Hope you like it! (I also write the “Once Upon a Homeschool” piece in every issue.)