Family History and the Lost Art of Cursive

While attending the recent 2018 Rootstech Conference in Salt Lake City, I heard one of the popular speakers discuss the long-term risks of not teaching cursive in our public schools. With the advance of technology, along with an army of indexers, and spending nearly 15 million hours in 2016 alone, full-time missionaries and volunteers indexed 274.8 million records.  The key to indexing is understanding how to read in cursive. For centuries the vital records have been filled out in cursive handwriting and anyone interested in their family history will encounter cursive in cards and letters, marriage licenses, birth certificates, draft records, pensions, diaries, etc. Even the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are written in cursive. How will they understand the documents if they never learned cursive?

While the conventional methods of printing or keyboarding are more popular in our schools today, children should first learn cursive handwriting because it is easier to learn than print, can be more legible than print, and especially, for the purpose of this article, they can eventually interpret and be inspired by centuries’ worth of historical documents to not only further the cause of family history, but gain a sense of family unity.

Schools and parents should be teaching their children the art of cursive from the beginning stages of education simply because it is far easier to learn than printing. Only three main strokes make up the letters, whereas print requires six.  Writing in cursive implements skills and patterns since each lowercase letter begins at the bottom line and moves upward while printing is more chaotic. In printing, one must start at different points depending on the letter.

Additionally, cursive writing can be more legible than print. In cursive, the pencil flows continuously and orderly and leaves less chance for errors, including too much spacing between letters or no distinction between the end of a word and the beginning of the next.

The most compelling reason for learning cursive, however, is to read, understand, and interpret historical documents, which lead to a deeper understanding of familial bonds. As family history research is becoming more popular among the millennials, they and subsequent generations will face cursive writing in the profusion of vital documents needed to verify their research. Researching family documents are an important part of gaining self-confidence. The youth in families who enjoy meals together and who research and discover their family stories have more confidence to face adversity and misfortune. A New York Times article stated, “The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.” Family stories give individuals a sense of being part of a larger family. Imagine the confidence gained in reading about both the joy and the sorrows in the journals of ancestors who crossed the Atlantic, served as indentured servants and crossed the plains to come west.

In a changing world that demands new methods and styles, and while it is necessary to keep up with the times, it is not a good idea to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Children ought to be learning the art of cursive at the beginning of their education. Contrary to popular opinion, cursive is easier to learn, can be more legible than print, but most importantly, is essential for reading, understanding, and connecting with family through historical documents.


Shakespeare’s Richard III Examined

Machiavelli, the father of Modernity, seems to think that if human nature is malleable, then he can shape the common mentality into any needful tool to sanction his decisions. Truth is not what he seeks, but “truth” that the prince may put in practice and call truth. Machiavelli seems to be removing the pillar of Christianity and the Ancient Aristotelian virtues in order to create a new ruler, who acquires state without the limiting influence of Christian principles and virtues.

Machiavelli on appearances, “Let a prince then win and maintain the state — the means will always be judged honorable and will be praised by everyone; for the vulgar are always taken in by the appearance and the outcome of a thing, and in this world, there is no one but the vulgar.” It sounds harsh, but Machiavelli may be the devil’s preacher. He has projected the power to turn good men bad and bad men worse still.

From the very start, we see the evil designs of Richard’s pretentious actions in Henry VI, “I can add colors to the chameleon, change shapes with Proteus for advantages.” (Part III, III, ii, 191) The audience witnesses his crooked twists and turns as he murders anyone in his path to the throne, but deceiving the rest. Before the people, Buckingham promotes Richard’s feigned appearance as he vocally observes Richard holding the Bible, “Two props of virtue for a Christian prince, to stay him from the fall of vanity; and see, a book of prayer in his hand—true ornaments to know a holy man.” (3.7.98) The Bible, a sign of religious instruction and inspiration and a hand, the sign of good action and leadership. The meaning, of which, never enlightens the limited intellect of the people. Maybe they are duped, but their cheers are forced and weak, but that without an alternative, they acquiesced. Meanwhile, Richard is elevated by his appearances.
Richard uses subtle, notorious and murderous schemes to destroy nations, whether completely or merely reduce the minds of whole nations to ignorance. Richard III is Shakespeare’s attempt to display the evil intrigue. As Machiavelli might say of him, he has “always led a wicked life at every stage,” (Prince, VIII, 51) and had a Machiavellian virtue of mind that he rose through the ranks and has been “determined to become prince and to hold with violence and without obligation to others,” (51) as he kills all in his way. Continuing to the end of the play, one witnesses how Richard III “maintains [his kingdom] with many spirited and dangerous decisions” (52) And yet, Machiavelli would say that Richard did not follow his advice. He did his treacherousness with “brutal cruelty and inhumanity and his infinite wickednesses do not allow that he be among the most excellent men.” (52)

Apparently, Richard ought to have studied more faithfully his master teacher, Machiavelli, for he did not surround himself with barons, rather, he killed everyone who surrounded himself…except for Buckingham. (IV, 25) Additionally and according to Machiavelli, Richard would have best attempted to do all the injuries together as to appease his observers. What “taste[s] less…offend[s] less” (VIII, 55)

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!

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!