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Rediscovering Unknown Talents

Tonight was the Stake Standard’s night and parents were invited. One young man spoke of his experience at Youth Conference and how the Spirit spoke to him at almost every junction at the Ropes Course and guided him to do what needed to be done. It was inspiring. It reminded me of one of our discussions in Humanities today. One of my students talked about Vasari’s account of Michelangelo and the stone-cutter working on the tomb of Julius II. Michelangelo guided him with these words, ‘Now, cut this away, smooth it out there, polish it here.’ In this way and without the man realizing it, Michelangelo made him carve a figure, and when it was finished the man stared at it in amazement, while Michelangelo asked: ‘What do you think of it?’

“The man answered: ‘I like it a lot, and I am very much in your debt.’

‘Why?’ enquired Michelangelo.

‘Because with your help I have rediscovered a talent that I never knew I had.’

Here was a simple man, a stone-cutter, put into the path of the Renaissance master, who quietly and lovingly mentored him to create something beautiful and profoundly significant to his learning and growth—a turning point of self-discovery and re-discovery.

Our discussion turned to the complex idea of rediscovering a talent we never thought we had. One student suggested this idea points to a knowledge of the pre-existence and the talents given to us before coming to earth.

If a simple stone-cutter can be guided so well by Michelangelo, how much more significant and powerful is the guidance of the Great Master from Galilee, who guides us with gentle whispers from the third member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost.

“The voice of the Spirit is described in the scriptures as being neither loud nor harsh, not a voice of thunder, neither a voice of great tumultuous noise,” says Boyd K. Packer, “but rather as still and small, of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it can pierce even the very soul and cause the heart to burn.”

The Spirit teaches, confirms, guides, pricks our heart when needed, and consoles us in our afflictions.

As I have reflected over my personal growth in these last couple of decades, I have come to know of the gentle guiding of the Spirit. To my great joy, I have become a mentor of Humanities to homeschool youth. I teach from my home and meet with my students using state of the art video conferencing software, where I can see each face of my students. Weekly, I bask in some of the greatest conversations about the deepest questions of the soul. I and my students stand on the shoulders of giants as the great masters of literature, history, science, and philosophy, help us see the Truths and Consequences. Moreover, we have the pleasure and great privilege to include Christ and his Gospel in our discussions. During and after each class, I come away feeling invigorated and inspired. How can I be so blessed?

If someone were to tell me ten years ago that I would be doing this, I would either laugh or choke. I never saw this in my future.

And yet as I look at my life and the many steps leading up to now, I see how the Spirit gently urged me, “Now, do this. Take this class, read this book, talk to these people, matriculate into that university, get involved in your community, help this neighbor, teach your children, etc., etc. and etc. 

Precisely like Michelangelo guiding the stone-cutter, Heavenly Father, through His Spirit, guided me every step of the way until I have re-discovered a talent I didn’t know that I had.

What more does the Lord have in store for me? What does he see for your future? How is he guiding you along your path? As we carefully listen to the Still Small Voice and choose to take each little step, we are carving out and rediscovering talents we never knew we had.

“Be still and know that I am God,” says Jehovah. May we let the Savior in our hearts and allow him to create in us his greatest masterpieces!

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Be Courageous: Fulfill Your Personal Mission

I cherish the opportunities to learn more about who I am and what God wants me to do. A couple of years ago, my family and I had one of those opportunities as we attended a gathering of youth and parents in our church about a new docudrama, written, directed and produced by our neighbor, Russell Holt.

His journey of research, discovery, writing and filming about the figure in question inspired us all and reminded us of who we are and what is our special purpose or mission in life.

Imagine a youth from a small hamlet, an untrained, unschooled, impoverished young person, who sees a resurrected heavenly being and who has received a call from God to do a great work on this earth. This youth forgoes the pleasure and security of a quiet life and pursues the divine call and completes the mission. Tragically, the youth is tried, pronounced a heretic and dies a martyr. Who might this be?

This youth became commander of the French army at age 17, was captured and imprisoned at the age of 18, and burned at the stake at the age of 19 in Rouen, France on May 30, 1431. Have you figured out who this youth is?

This courageous, virtuous youth was Joan of Arc. What moved her to take on such a daunting task? While at home in Domrémy, France she heard a Heavenly voice calling her and as she gazed toward the voice she saw a bright light wherein Heavenly Messengers bid her rise up and save France from the English domination and restore the Dauphin, Charles, to his rightful seat on the throne of France. Her faith and devotion to God and steady belief in this divine call prompted her to gather an army and eventually defeat the English.

Scrupulous trial records attest to her virtuous,  moral, character and to the praise she received by the men who served with her. She lived in a corrupt time in France, but she was fully committed to living the law of chastity. Her mission involved camping out with men and lying in the same tents. In the trial records it is stated that men desired to lie with her, but as they reached out, they were overcome with a strong restraint or felt like they could not touch such a pure, moral maiden. Joan never swore, prayed continually and required the men to pray twice daily. Joan had a thorough understanding of who she was and what God expected of her. Her army felt her powerful influence and leadership.

Many tales have been told of her courage and leadership. Scores of movies and tomes of literature have graced our theatres and libraries. Some depict her life well, some not. Many scholars and historians have not known what to do with her spiritual experiences and have played them down or changed them completely. I believe her experience was divinely appointed to prepare the world for greater things.

Richard John Maynes said of her mission, “Without Joan of Arc, there would have been no country of France. Without France and the French navy, George Washington could never have won at Yorktown, therefore there could have never been an America. Without America, there could not have been a successful restoration of the gospel. Joan of Arc was led by God to do what she did to guarantee the restoration.”

Jeffrey R. Holland turns our thoughts inward and inspires us, “A young girl could do that now in our day.” If God can lead and inspire an ordinary and simple young Joan of Arc, he can inspire each of you to carry out your purpose and mission. If you are to do it successfully, you must keep His commandments as Joan did. Be courageous and follow your personal revelation. Don’t be afraid to be different in our century.

Essays for Older Students in LTW

In a Yahoo Group on LTW, I saw this post about the tediousness of the essays for the older more experienced writers and wanted to share it.
It may be apparent that “the first essays can feel very tedious, particularly for older students, but, at this stage especially, simplicity is necessary. Each lesson of LTW teaches one more thing (ANI charts, common topics, similes, etc.); when focusing on each of those skills at a time, the essays will likely be awkward. And that’s ok.
“Andrew Pudewa once retold a story from a film in which a homeschooled boy wrote a paper for his father, and the father tells him to rewrite the paper “half as long”. So, the boy rewrites the paper half as long and gives it to his father, who tells his son to rewrite it half as long again. So, the boy rewrites the paper half as long a second time and gives the paper—now a quarter of its original length—to his father for the third time. His father reads it, says “Well done.” to his son, then orders him to “Throw it away.”
“Why would the father do this? because, as we often forget, the writing process is more important than the writing product. The boy had learned how to condense his writing; what he had condensed mattered very little compared to that learned skill. Likewise, learning the skills of LTW does not produce eloquent, or even complete, essays, at the beginning. Beginning with the skills moves student-writers toward compelling essays, but it does not start there.
“That said, older students may, or may not, be ready to move through the lessons more quickly. Some classes go through all three of the rudimentary lessons in an hour and a half class-time; some, however, take longer than four class-times. It depends.
“If students are itching to move ahead, I have let students write rudimentary essays in-class and taught them the next lesson in the same class-time. Again, it depends, and your judgment is the best guide since you are with your students.”
This post explains that it is the process that needs to be learned more than the writing of essays needs to be learned. I would have to agree because if the process is learned, one can write anything, wherefore, if the process is never learned well, writing will be a thorn in the side!
I am very excited to learn the process along with your students!

Class information for the Lost Tools of Writing

Class Time: Online Younger Class: M,W-8:30-9:15 AM,  Online Older Class: M,W-9:30-10:15 AM, Onsite Class: Tuesdays-10:00-11:30 AM (one day only)
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Class dates: September 11th to December 13th, and January 8th to April 13th.
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Class Cost: $260/semester or $65/monthly
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Writing Curriculum: I will be using the curriculum called Lost Tools of Writing. Each student will need to purchase the level 1 student workbook from the Circe Institute website.
Additionally, the student will be required to read one classic of their choosing to use a basis of their essay (see some choices below).
The online class will be taught in two 45-minute classes weekly (Mondays and Wednesdays) and will require daily assignments as explained in the book and on Canvas. The On-Site class will be at my home and only be taught one day a week for 90 minutes.
We will explore one essay in 9 lessons, with each lesson taking three weeks. By the end of the year, the student will have finished a polished essay on their topic. They will have expanded their minds, lengthened their writing abilities, and dispelled their fears of writing. For those who want a challenge, they are invited to write a new essay every lesson (9 lessons).
Choose one powerful classic to use as a foundation for the essay below (or you may choose your own):
  1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (this is the book which LTW uses as their example throughout the student workbook and may be a good choice for the younger students who need much more help)
  2. The Secret Garden
  3. The Scarlet Letter
  4. Hamlet, Shakespeare
  5. JRR Tolkien’s series
  6. Lord of the Flies
  7. Jane Eyre
  8. Les Miserables
  9. The Brothers Karamazov
  10. War and Peace
  11. Anna Karenina
  12. To Kill a Mockingbird
  13. Or choose any classic that has a deep and powerful moral lesson and begin reading as soon as possible.

Informational Video Presentation

American History Class Information

Class Time: Thursdays, 12:00-1:00 PM

Class Dates:  September 13th to December 6th, and January 10th to April 25th.

Class Cost: $200/semester or $50/monthly
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The curriculum will include a Video Series from Compass Classroom and a book list. Below is the book list for the American History year and the reading schedule. All of the books have links and do not cost an arm and a leg. If you have access to a library you could see if yours has any of these titles and save even more. However, you may want to keep these books for yourself as they are all good youth books on history. Here is the schedule and list:

American History
September
October
Witchcraft of Salem Village (Landmark Books)
November
Liberty: How the Revolutionary War Began (Landmark Books)
December
The American Revolution (Landmark Books)
January
Our Independence and the Constitution, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
February
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe
March
April
Gettysburg (Landmark Books)
Witchcraft of Salem Village (Landmark Books)
Liberty: How the Revolutionary War Began (Landmark Books)
The American Revolution (Landmark Books)
Our Independence and the Constitution, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Gettysburg (Landmark Books)
 
 
In addition to the monthly literature, we will be using Compass Classroom video curriculum. These are brief daily videos that last from 5-12 minutes each. There are many readings from original sources that come with the set. These readings are an excellent resource for more advanced students. They will not be required except a few which are essential to know, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address and other important writings. You will need to purchase the videos to access to the online streaming. Once you have it, it will be yours forever to view on any device with internet.
 
Here is a sample of our week:
 
Each day:
  1. The student will watch a 5-12 minute video and take notes
  2. The student will submit answers to a couple of questions that have to do with the videos.
  3. Once a week, they will create a page or two in their portfolio (this can be as simple as adding pictures to their note-taking or as complicated as making scrapbook pages, just be mindful that it should be their best work—best handwriting, etc.)
  4. Discuss the ideas from the videos and some of the student epiphanies from their reading—this is my favorite part!
 
Additionally, During each of the four terms there will be a project to complete, they will work on that particular term’s project during each school week, and on their own time.