If one book could embody what Exodus is about—our goals, our ideals, our purpose—Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child would be it. A beautiful, well-bound hardcover, we think this is the best book about the imagination you are likely to read and the book itself is imaginative. Instead of droning on about the virtues of imagination, the author demonstrates them, along with his own deep love for it. Anthony Esolen may be pretending to encourage parents to destroy any flicker of imagination in their children but really he is presenting the unrestrained joy imagination brings. Below we have briefly summarized the first five of the ten "methods" and provided links to categories, authors, and books that you will want to keep out of your house if you are trying to destroy the imagination of your children. Look for the next five methods to come in April. Also well worth reading are the fuller summaries of each method on Amanda Evans's blog: Journey Chronicles.
Why Truth is Your Enemy, and the Benefits of the Vague
or, Grandgrind, without the Facts"
"A fact may not be much by itself, but it points toward what is true, and even the humblest truth may in time lead a mind to contemplate the beautiful and the good."
After an introduction called "A Bad Day for Grendel," Esolen begins by showing how the imagination can't flourish without a memory filled with facts learned and memorized in a structured, orderly way. Many people emphasize creativity and critical thinking to the neglect of rote memorization but after reading this chapter they might realize that they are in fact starving their children's imaginations. Inspiration that comes merely from within—without drawing on history, art, and literature—is self-centered and peculiar. Flattering this kind of "originality" will result in lazy minds full of silliness, monotony and vapidity. This is foundational to the rest of the concepts in the book. (read blog post)
Some structured facts with which to feed your children's imaginations:
Method One: Keep Your Children Indoors as Much as Possible
or, They Used to Call It "Air"
Most of contemporary life happens within walls where children who are snatched from woods and fields end up too often in front of the computer or the TV. Neon lights and smog (both physical and mental) fill their visual fields and cloud their minds. Even if they could see the wonders of the world around them, they would be too bored to be moved by them. In this day of Google Earth and movies filmed in exotic locales, one can travel and explore the world without leaving the comfort of the armchair. But is it real? Do we really grow and develop as we sit and stare at so many electronic blips? Outside the walls we erect around our bodies and our minds is a genuine world waiting to be experienced. From the ants marching in a line though they have no drill sergeant to the sky which "startles us out of our dreams of vanity, silences our pride, and stills the lust to get and spend," the created universe will push us beyond ourselves. (read blog post)
Method Two: Never Leave Children to Themselves
or, If Only We Had a Committee
“People who can organize themselves and accomplish something as devilishly complicated as a good ballgame are hard to herd around....They become men and women, not human resources. They can be free.”
Children will simply not develop their characters if everything is always kept perfectly safe and fair for them. When we adults insert ourselves into their activities we will often over-manage them, emphasizing fairness and fun for all. By removing the risks, we take the joy of discovery out of it, eliminating any chance they had to grow and mature. Instead of just following directions they will have to work things out on their own—whether it's a game or a conflict—and the way they work it out will reveal to their fellows whether they are "Good Sports" or "Sore Losers." (read blog post)
Method Three: Keep Children Away from Machines and Machinists
or, All Unauthorized Personnel Prohibited
Give kids time, space and equipment to experiment whether it’s in the backyard (with rope, wood and a tree), in the garage (with wires, batteries and screws), in the garden, the kitchen or the sewing room and watch them acquire inquisitiveness, observation and a probing mind. If they can learn about The Way Things Work from people who truly understand and delight in their craft, their imaginations will grow all the more. Don't try to limit them to what they can pull out of the arts and craft drawer and spread out on the kitchen table (though that might be a good start for toddlers). Don't restrict them to hobbies that might be the beginning of a career path. So much of what looks like pointless tinkering to parents is developing our children into creative, dominion-minded people. (read blog post)
Method Four: Replace the Fairy Tale with Political Cliches and Fads
or, Vote Early and Often
"When you starve your child of the folk tale, you not only cramp his imagination for the time being. You help render vast realms of human art (not to mention life) incomprehensible."
Fairy tales are full of characters that are recognizable for their types: the damsel in distress, the knight in shining armor, the evil step-mother... The world they inhabit is a moral world where good is good and evil is evil. The two are at war but we know that good will always triumph. These stories and the people in them may be exaggerated or simplified, but they are like a child’s palette of colors, you know, the ones that come in the Crayola eight pack of crayons. To a child the sky is blue and trees are green. As he grows he will learn that the sky is sometimes gray and trees turn vibrant red, orange and yellow in the fall. His understanding of the basics will be a firm foundation upon which to build a deep appreciation for the variety, richness and complexity of life. (read blog post)
Method Five: Cast Aspersions on the Heroic and Patriotic
or, We Are All Traitors Now
"Learn to despise the place where you were born, its customs, its glories and its shame. Then stick your head in a comic book. That done, you will be triple armored against the threat of a real thought, or the call of the transcendant."
The past is like a secret room in an old house filled with ancient armor, antiquated odd tools, and books recalling words and deeds of men and women who now lie in their graves. We come into the presence of those who once were as we are and are now as we will someday be. When children go into such a room they will bring those people—larger than life—into their own lives. The past is simply there, never to change, and this constancy reflects the eternity of God. “It presents to the young mind a vast field of fascination, of war and peace, loyalty and treason, invention and folly, bitter twists of fate and sweet poetic justice.” When that past is of one’s own people or country or church, then it makes claims upon our honor and allegiance and fires the imagination all the more. “A man with a past may be free; but a man without a past, never.” (read blog post)
Republishing classic books from "the golden age" of children's literature:
1880 to 1920.
Thirty-five reviews were submitted in February, and while we were disappointed by the number, we were really impressed with their quality. Keep it up!
Drawing #1 (Random) - $15 prize:
Mystie Winckler of WA: Quality, Not Quantity
Drawing #2 (Most reviews) - $25 prize:
AlbanyAloe (9 reviews in curriculum, literature and Bible materials—good diversity!)
Drawing #3 (Best review) - $25 prize:
There were some fantastic reviews this month—it was hard to pick a best, and it came down to a tie at the end. We wanted to list some honorable mentions:
I Serve: A Novel of the Black Prince by L.M. Shearer
Quality, Not Quantity (for Latin-Centered Curriculum) by Mystie Winckler of WA
Beginning A Classical Education (for Story of the World) by ReNae of ND
The prize goes to:
ReNae of ND for Yes, Botany Is Fun!
A review of Exploring Creation with Botany posted 2/24/2011
"I purchased all of the Exploring Creation Young Explorer Series, but I must admit at the time I was not looking forward to Botany. I couldn't wait to start Swimming Creatures and Astronomy, but the study of plants was not high on my list. And then we began the course and I was amazed! I don't know how it was accomplished, but my children and I had a blast and we (and yes WE) learned so much. The lessons and projects were both informative and enjoyable. By the end of this course your student will not only be able to discuss and even show adults the difference between a monocot and dicot (and so much more); but they will be able to articulate clearly why they as Christians believe in a young earth and will even have the facts to back up that belief.
One drawback I could foresee in this course is tackling this during the winter. Many lessons and projects require live plants, leaves, moss, lichen, ferns, flowers etc. and these may be hard to come by; also, the children learned so much more by being able to go outside and find what was being discussed in the book. Speaking from experience the book can be completed during the summer by just spending a 1/2 hour or so a few days per week.
I also believe this book can be used with children as young as kindergarten up through 6th grade. The information covered is engaging and fun, but an older student can delve further with the projects and can learn so much more. With all the information covered, projects, pictures, etc. I consider "Exploring Creation with Botany" to be the best book of the series. Please consider buying and have some fun studying plants - we did..."