Welcome to my homeschool blog, which offers insights into loving learning, loving your family, loving history, loving homeschooling, and enjoying your life! With your cup of coffee in hand, take a break to laugh with me, to have your heart refreshed, to be reminded of how cool your kids really are, and to consider the amazing adventure of being a homeschool mom. AND, if you are interested in the History Revealed curriculum, be sure to check out my Teaching Tips!

What's Right with Christmas?

What's Right with Christmas?

I know. There are a LOT of things wrong with the way Christmas is celebrated in our culture. . .

  • The Christmas merchandising season now begins the day after Halloween;
  • Gift giving is increasingly more harried, hurried, and expensive; . . .to name a few.
  • Santa Claus is more prominent that the Child born in Bethlehem;

And, then there are the folks in the church who are quick to point out that, perhaps:

Christmas was just the Christianized version of the Roman winter solstice celebration;

  • Our cherished traditions—like decorating Christmas trees and festive holiday lighting—come from non-Christian sources, and, are thus, suspect.
  • The birth of Jesus was not in December;

It’s enough to remove Christmas cheer from your heart, isn’t it?

Leaving behind all the crass commercialism and religious arguments, I’d like to share with you a few things that are absolutely RIGHT with Christmas—the first, historic, Jesus-born-in-a-stable Christmas. We’ll consider the historic moment, the location, and the way-beyond-normal occurrences.

To start, Galatians 4:4 speaks of God sending Jesus “in the fulness of time.”

What does that mean? Obviously, it is not referring to December 25, so what made the timing of His birth so absolutely perfect?

It’s a question so rich and complex that one could spend a lifetime digging into the answer, but the short version would include these points:

  • The Greeks, Romans, Gauls (of western Europe), Britons, Jews, Syrians, and Egyptians were all, for the first time, combined into one peaceful and seemingly permanent Roman empire, established in 27 B.C.;
  • East and West were able to freely mingle during the Roman Empire, which meant large cities became the meeting places for different languages and people groups who lived within the boundaries of the empire.
  • This Pax Romana,” or Roman Peace, allowed a more settled, peaceful environment in the Mediterranean region than had ever before been possible—and lasted for more than 200 years;

This was an utterly unique moment in ancient history. It was now possible to take news from one end of the Roman Empire to the other in a very short time, and the metropolitan mix of languages and cultures allowed people to learn of other places and ideas in ways not unlike our current globalism.

Then, consider the geographical dimension of where the birth of Jesus took place. We know it was in Bethlehem, the city of David. But if we zoom out a bit, we discover:

  • Bethlehem was only about six miles from Jerusalem, the metropolitan city of the Roman province of Judea;
  • This province was at the strategic intersection of Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Location, location, location. This was the perfect place—considering trade routes—from which to send out good news.

An utterly unique moment in a perfect location.

And, into this historic setting, we see supernatural events suddenly taking place:

  • Angelic announcements to Zachariah, Mary, Joseph, and shepherds in the fields with their sheep;
  • A heavenly warning to this family to escape to Egypt—with the incredible provision of gold, frankincense and myrrh at just the right moment.
  • Wise men from the East, led by a star, bringing kingly gifts to an impoverished family;
  • A baby born of a virgin.

The more we ponder the events of Jesus birth, the greater our awe will be at His entrance into our world. And, friends, that is what is right with Christmas

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Overcoming

Overcoming

Dear Friends,

Right now, do you feel like you are overcoming. . .or are you going under?

Whether struggling with illness, difficult relationships, lack of finances, unwanted changes, crushing disappointments, or numbing loss, many of us are in the midst of a storm.

In this place of overwhelming need, I have learned that someone else’s story of experiencing God’s faithfulness and goodness in great difficulties brings a spark of hope, a measure of courage, and an increased fervency in prayer.

My bookshelves are filled with those kinds of stories, of people like you and me who overcame through their faith in God. One of my favorites is the story of Gladys Aylward, a British serving girl who, just prior to WWII, went to China in obedience to God’s call.  As unlikely as it seems, this small woman experienced extraordinary help to do impossible things in life-and-death situations.

In the book, No Mountain Too High, the author described Gladys fleeing the Japanese army with one hundred children and with a price on her head for being a spy for the Chinese. Heading for the safety of southern China and a Christian orphanage, she and this huge group of children walked—many of them barefoot—for twelve days across the mountains, scrounging whatever food and shelter they could find along the way. They knew the Yellow River must be crossed before they would finally be free from the terrors of war raging just behind them.

But when they arrived at the river, there were no boats.

There were no people at the riverside village.

There was no food.

Gladys and the children kept waiting, praying, seeking the Lord, asking Him for deliverance. But this wasn't casual prayer. They weren’t facing a minor inconvenience. It didn't last for the few moments it takes to read in a book.

No. It was real life. The Japanese army could show up at any moment. And, since they had offered a huge price for Gladys' capture as a spy, it was a terrifying consideration. In exhaustion, hunger, and discouragement, her prayers were not lofty. They were nitty-gritty and real.

Amazingly, this group of refugees stayed right by the Yellow River, praying and waiting for deliverance for three days. Three days!! It seems almost impossible that one woman and one hundred children who were sick and hungry, helpless and tense, could hold on—when, at any moment, they could be taken. There was nothing else to be done but to wait and pray. There was no going back across the mountains and they could not cross the Yellow River without boats. There was no other path to safety. If God did not rescue them, they would die or be captured.

Her situation was as real, as fraught with difficulty and fear, as yours is today.

So, what happened? After the agonisingly long and difficult days of crossing the mountains and praying beside the river, help arrived from a totally unexpected source. Chinese soldiers, who had hidden a boat in the bushes, found these children and woman, and ferried them across the river.

Not one died, not one was captured.

Hope rises in our own heartThough Japanese aircraft patrolled the river and Japanese soldiers were watching the river, no one stopped or even challenged Gladys and her children from crossing. She was able to successfully deliver all of these precious children to the orphanage (another incredible part of her story) where they were safe and cared for.

It is easy, even exhilarating, to read about in a book, isn’t it? And, as we read, suddenly, hope rises in our own heart. We consider the character of God as seen in Gladys' story, and wonder if God might provide us with an equally impossible rescue.

I have learned in my own journey that His goodness is not limited to people in history. His compassionate love for us knows no bounds, and His power to save passes our comprehension.

Our times are in His hands.

He works all things together for our good.

He is utterly faithful.

Gladys’ story demonstrates so clearly that, though His ways are not our ways and His timing is seldom comfortable, yet, we can trust that He is in the process of answering our prayers, sending help, and providing an unexpected way to overcome.

Gratefully,

Diana

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A Child Who Survived the Holocaust

History is far more compelling than any novel

What does it mean to be a survivor?

We use it in many ways: those who beat cancer; those who pull through a life-threatening accident; those who overcome crippling abuse; and, those who go through war atrocities.

As we learn their stories, our hearts are gripped by the real-life drama, and we wonder—from a safe and comfortable distance—how they ever made it through. It can even read like an adventure novel or political thriller, where the author invents twists and turns to capture the audience.

But history is far more compelling than any novel.

Recently, Dr. Jay Wile (read his post here) and I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Inge Auerbacher, honored internationally for her work in reconciliation, and known for her books on her experience as a Jewish child in a Nazi concentration camp.  Her real life story has incredible twists and turns, from her father being a disabled veteran with an Iron Cross medal after WWI (which made a difference with the Gestapo, allowing this Jewish family to be together in a transit camp for three years rather than being sent to an extermination camp), to being hospitalized after arriving in America for TWO YEARS with tuberculosis as a teenager, to being accepted into medical school in Heidelberg but fleeing when she heard them singing Nazi songs, to becoming a chemist for thirty-eight years, to international renown as an author and human rights activist.

Dr. Wile and I sat, quietly stunned, as she shared personal anecdotes and memories of what every day life was like during the Holocaust, living at the Terezin transit camp. There is something so real about a hungry child’s game of imagining mountains of whipped cream to eat, and of sneaking a look at the infamous Eichmann when he visited the camp. (Inge told us that, as a prisoner, you were not allowed to look at the SS, you were required to bow your heads when they came.)  

Inge’s voice trembled a bit as she described that when you went to the camp, virtually everything you owned was taken from you. You had no money, no power, nothing with which to bribe officials. But, somehow, she was able to keep her doll, which survived the concentration camp along with her.  (It now resides at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.)  This blonde, blue-eyed doll, whom Inge named “Marlene,” was made for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and given to her when she was only two years old by her beloved grandmother (who would later die at the hands of the Nazis at Riga).  Her story of how she and her friend, Ruth, would play with their dolls was so typical of young girls.

WeStillHadHopeAnd, that was what struck me me the most. Some of what Inge described sounded as normal as the child next door: imagination, games, play.  She even told us that people in her camp put on actual theater productions from time to time!  And, yet, in the same breath, she talked about how few children her age were still living when the camp was liberated.  She described her best friend, Ruth, being sent on a train—which sounded so desirable to Inge—only to die at Auschwitz. When I asked her what it felt like, to be in the camp as a child, she said, "We still had hope." And that is, perhaps, the most critical component of surviving.

Life and death. Hope and helplessness. Family and forced separation. These were the real life experiences for a child who survived the Holocaust.

“I stand tall and proud, My voice shouts in silence loud: I am a real person still, No one can break my spirit or will: I am a star!” Inge Auberbacher, From her book, “I Am A Star” published by Penguin Putnam Inc.

Homeschoolers at the GHC conferences in Ft. Worth, Greenville, and Ontario will be able to hear her amazing story for themselves.  Don’t miss this incredible opportunity!

 

 

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The 5 senses bring history to life

Bringing history to life

My very first book in 1989 was all about bringing history to life. The premise was that American history could come to life—and be FUN—when a folk song and its history were connected to actual events. But there are lots of other fun, hands-on ways to play with history! You can learn ancient history, medieval history, modern history, ANY history through utilizing your five senses.

The 5 senses bring history to lifeHere are just a few "5 senses" suggestions to get you started:

Experience “living history” through planting a garden using heirloom seeds favored by Thomas Jefferson OR planting a dead fish underneath your corn seed, á la Squanto. Make a mouth-watering bite of the American frontier in a Laura Ingalls Wilder gingerbread, OR get a taste of Bible history with milk and honey. Create a cardboard medieval castle, OR fashion a Roman-arched bridge with sugar cubes. Let your puppets perform history from the other side of the couch, OR set the stage and costume your kids for their unique take on an event.

Touch, taste, see, hear, smell as much history as possible.

Then, to make it really stick, sing and dance, plant and eat, design and display, or write and read something fun of what has been learned.

Trust me on this one: they’re gonna love it!!

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What brings history to life?

HistorytoLifequoteWhat brings history to life?


A few weeks ago, I spoke to a customer on the phone.  She had ordered quite a few of my What in the World? history CDs—with some duplication—and we wanted to verify that she actually intended to order duplicates. What a delightful call that turned out to be!  The things Alicia had to say about the CDs was so encouraging that I asked if she would mind writing out her thoughts for me to share with you:

"I cannot say enough good things about Diana Waring’s What in the World? series. I am a homeschooling mom of two young children who are not quite old enough to listen to the CDs, but my husband and I listen to them ourselves for FUN. And every person I have shared them with all love them too! I have never before listened to history for the fun of it, but Diana has a captivating style that brings history to life and makes it applicable in a way that none of my school history classes ever did. I now have retained more history than I did in all of my school years combined!"

Which brings up this question, "Why does learning history in school seem so forgettable?"

To answer this, let's consider what normally happens in history class.

School deskWalk in.

Sit down.

Open the textbook, filled with forgettable names, dates, places.

Listen to the football coach drone on about something dry as dust—UNTIL someone asks a question about last night's game. With history easily pushed aside, football enthusiastically comes to center stage.

Take a test on how well you memorized the forgettable names, dates, places.

It doesn't connect to us personally when the information comes as sterile facts.

There is another way to do this, however.

Let's go back to 1975, to an African history college class to see what is possible.

Prior to the start of class, the prof required us to read a fast-paced spy novel set in Africa. Frankly, I LOVE spy novels, so that was not a hardship. A little surprising, yes, but not hard.

On the first day of class, this professor immediately began to weave an amazing story of events in pre-colonial Africa. Class after class, he would tell unbelievable stories of colonialism, independence, and current day events in Africa. . . Mesmerized by what we heard—and fifty-five minutes at a time—the history of Africa came to life for us. And though I do not remember all of the details forty years later, I still remember the gist of what he taught us.

But history is not all we learned in that class: he also taught us how to teach!  His example of how to bring history to life with sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat-in-suspense stories became a model for me when I created the What in the World? CDs.

Stories well told. Personal connections. Fascinating anecdotes. All of these bring history to life for students, regardless of age. . .and bring a lot of FUN to the process!!

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