What the Bible Says About Parenting, by John MacArthur

In a world full of books offering parenting advice, I have learned very quickly that not everybody who makes it to publication really knows what they are talking about. If you want 101 reasons why giving your kids purple Kool-aid will make them a great kid, you can find it out there. But since the Bible offers the best advice in any other aspect of life, why not check out what It has to say about raising little ones? John MacArthur is an incredible author, and this book will evoke strong feelings from parents, parents-to-be, grandparents, anybody who has small children in the family.

With some authors, I might dig one or two really note-worthy statements. With MacArthur, it's every other sentence that you'll want to highlight. Obviously, in my line of work, I am an advocate of using the full resources of your local school or public library. 99% of the time, I will tell you to check it out and save that $10 or $20 for something else. This one, however, needs to go on your "must purchase" list....and go ahead and get yourself a new highlighter while you're at it!

What the Bible Says About Parenting is organized very well, with each chapter building on the one before it. MacArthur makes some strong statements, some I agree with wholeheartedly and others maybe not so much, but he uses hundreds of Scripture references to demonstrate what the Bible truly teaches about raising children. He states in the very beginning of the book that he is not offering a contemporary psychological study on child-rearing; rather, he is just here to pass along the timeless Biblical perspectives of parenting.

Some of the most powerful statements in his book are listed below. (Some are direct quotes, but others are themes or major thoughts within the book.) It would be an injustice to the book for me to attempt to summarize these few sentences:

~"Success in parenting is measured by what the parents do, not what the child does."(pg. 17)

~"Extreme isolationsim ("spiritual quarrantine") costs parents valuable opportunities to teach their kids discernment." (pg.39)

~"Teach your children the law of God; teach them the gospel of divine grace; show them their need for a Savior; and point them to Jesus Christ as the only One who can save them." pg. 43

~"Think of leading your children to Christ as a long-term, full-time commitment - the most important duty God has given you as a parent." (pg.48)
Small steps to take:
*Teach them about God's holiness.
*Show them their sin.
*Instruct them about Christ and what He has done.
*Tell them what God demands of sinners.
*Advise them to count the cost thoughtfully.
*Urge them to trust Christ.

~Teach wisdom (Scripture and Bible stories)

~Teach them to fear God: reverence and fear of God's displeasure (makes fear of your discipline incidental)

~Teach obedience through discipline (not as payback, but an aid to growth; pain inflicted is intended to make the consequence of disobedience unforgettable; Scripture does NOT support discipline out of sheer fury or exasperation); be firm and consistent; spanking is only one of many acceptable disciplinary tools

~"To attach a clinical name to chronic misbehavior (ADD, ADHD, ODD, APD, bipolar, etc.) and use it for an excuse for sinful behavior is a serious mistake." (pg. 87) As an educator, I would definitely concur that these disorders are often over-diagnosed and drugs way too freely prescribed to suppress the behavior that will inevitably surface as soon as the drug is gone. However, I know that there are some people who truly suffer with these conditions, and would never condone dismissing an actual disorder as fictional, as is suggested here. (my interpretation)

~Teach them to select their companions

~Teach them to watch their words

~Teach them to pursue their work

~Teach them to manage their money

~Teach them to love their neighbors

~Above all, live life in a way that gives you authority in instructing them in the ways of the Lord.

~Within the family, the Bible teaches that we all have unique roles designed by God. The role of children is simply to obey. The role of parents is to "teach them about obedience without exasperating them in the process." This happens when parents permit their own sinful attitudes and actions to surface in parenting (ex: favoritism, overprotection, excessive permission/spoiling, overindulgence, unrealistic goals, condescension, discouragement, neglect, withdrawing love, and excessive discipline).

~There are quite a few unfavorable comments about mothers who work outside the home in one of the book's final chapters. It seems very much that MacArthur has an "all or none" mentality here when it comes to a woman fulfilling her duties as a mother OR pursuing a career. There are a few pages of very harsh criticism for mothers who have careers. However, when seeking what Scriptures MacArthur offered for his stance, there were only about 12 or so verses in this chapter, and all had to do with the submission of wives to their husbands. I was in this for Biblical perspective anyway, but it's good to know where you stand, Johnny Mac.

So, overall, WTBSAP is a great resource for studying how to best raise those sweet little ones whom God has entrusted to you!


I, Juan de Pareja, by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino

This book was just another notch on my "Newbery" belt until about a third of the way through it, when I became intrigued by such a unique story. Juan de Pareja is a black slave who is inherited by reknowned Spanish painter Diego Velazquez. Juan learns to be Diego's helper in the studio, and the two become very loyal and devoted friends. The book spans Juan's lifetime, most of which is spent in service to Diego.

My favorite scene in the book is when Diego gives Juan his freedom, and I was intrigued to learn in the "Afterward" that the whole story is loosely based on the real Diego and Juan. The story in its entirety is very moving, and the book is refreshingly clean and pure...more than any book that I have read in a while.
This book won the Newbery in the 60's, and I can really see why. Trevino speaks out in the "Foreword" about the prevalence yet injustice of slavery worldwide, and a major theme of the book is that slavery -even its most comfortable form (as was between these two friends)- is simply wrong.



The Cay, by Theodore Taylor

Set in the 1940's and in the middle of German submarine attacks, The Cay is about a family who lives on the island of Curacao (near Aruba). Phillip Enright is an 11 year old boy whose ship is torpedoed as he and his mother attempt to escape the violence to America. Separated from other survivors, Phillip is stranded on a life raft with a cat and Timothy, a black sailor from the West Indies. Thanks to Timothy's years of experience, they manage to survive drifting in the open sea and on a deserted island (the cay). Even when Phillip's head injury from the torpedo causes him to go blind, Timothy guards him carefully and even teaches Phillip to fend for himself on the island. Phillip has been taught all his life that black people are different from white people, but through his time with Timothy he learns that the only real difference is the color of their skin.
There are so many ironies in this book. The war is the cause of all the pain and suffering, yet rescue comes because of American planes searching for German U-boats. Phillip is at first terrified of Timothy, but it is Timothy who prevents any harm from coming to him. Phillip's blindness is a plague that makes a difficult situation even more so, but in the end his blindness protects him from the worst experience of all.
I absolutely loved this book. The depth of its themes makes it more suitable to older students, but even younger ones could appreciate the story of a little boy being stuck on a deserted island. I listened to the audio version of it, and when Timothy's Jamaican-style accent started up, I was glad! Just a word of caution, though...that Jamaican accent can become contagious! My husband was bewildered by all of my "Dis book be true outrageous, mon" until he listened to a clip with me!



Hurricane Song, by Paul Volponi

Like the rest of America, I watched the events of Hurricane Katrina unfold on television. Though I probably had a tad more insight than most- due to a friend (who is an RN) being stuck in a downtown New Orleans hospital-I was still safe and sound with my family hundreds of miles away from the action.
Reading this caused my personal memories of Katrina to resurface. I remember being glued to the TV, horrified by the things that were happening in the Superdome. I remember wondering why, with current technologies providing weeks of advance notice, there were still so many people stuck there. I remember seeing those people stranded in the Superdome scream out for help, and how they were blaming every person and agency imagineable for their pain and suffering. When my husband and I headed to Slidell and Mandeville (cities on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain) with my best friend and her extended family to do what little we could to help, I remember the unfathomable amount of devastation, the sweltering heat, the feeling of helplessness, and most vividly the disgusting stench of rotten food and human waste and death and disease.

This book transformed me (in the magic way that books do) into a 17 year old black teenager who took shelter with his family in the Superdome during Katrina. I experienced-through Miles- the terror of having to pay off gangs of thugs to prevent them from burning my things and beating up my family. I breathed the smell of 100+ degree heat saturated with feces and urine. I saw a man, so overcome with the heat and filth and hunger, commit suicide. I had to step over crack pipes in the bathroom, and eventually bought pills from a hussler to keep me from having to go to the bathroom at all. Providing the reader with a thorough experience of Katrina's Superdome is what this book did best. I was hypnotized by the story, and found myself hurting so deeply for the people who went through such a terrible ordeal. I thought that Volponi tripped and stumbled a tiny bit, though, when he gave these characters dialogue that insists the color of their skin was the reason they were there. Throughout the book I flip-flopped between wondering if he was just using those statements to make it more real, or whether he was trying to make a statement.

Hurricane Song also has another story about the relationship between Miles and his jazz musician father. A little cheesy, I'll fully admit, but a nice addition to the pressure and stress of the Superdome horror show.

I do wish that Volponi had included more about the history of New Orleans. It is an incredibly unique and significant city, and while Hurricane Song has the teen's attention (and it will), they might as well learn something! *Lots of harsh language in this one, people. Nothing that teenagers don't hear in the hallway at school, but it's enough for me to make a point about it.

This is Volponi's web site, and a fantastic resource to read more about his motivation for writing Hurricane Song.


Redwall, by Brian Jacques

This is SUCH a "boy book!" Redwall is the story of a war between the good mice (and other woodland creatures) of Redwall Abbey and the army of the evil rat "Cluny the Scourge." Matthias is the main character, and hero of the book, who is on a mission to decrypt several messages left behind by the Abbey's predecessors in order to uncover the great sword of Martin the Warrior, and therefore secure Redwall's victory. It's sort of like Indiana Jones meets The Mouse and the Motorcycle, with a little bit of Lord of the Rings (animal style) in there as well.

There are about a gajillion battles between the two sides, and several interesting side stories involving a huge snake, a band of warrior sparrows, and a vegetarian cat. I did love that one of the key characters was named Jess!

The books were jam-packed with action, and were relatively clean. There's about 5 unnecessary d's and h's here and there. Overall, though, I'd consider it a good choice for a 5th or 6th grade boy.

Even though this is the first in the author's series of many other Redwall books, I probably won't be partaking of the bounty. I'm glad to know more about the series, for the sake of my students, but one Redwall is enough for me!

For more about Redwall:

- Redwall wiki

-Official Redwall site

-Redwall encyclopedia



A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle

First in a series of 3, this book is the winner of several prestigious literary awards (Hans Christian Anderson, John Newbery, Lewis Carroll, and Sequoyah Book Awards) and is on the American Library Association's list of most challenged books. I finally got around to reading it this week, and I must say I was pretty surprised that it has ever been challenged. As a matter of fact, I had to do a little research to discover just why it was ever considered controversial in the first place. Before we go there, though, I better give a little plot synopsis...

A Wrinkle in Time is the story of three children's adventures through space and time travel. Meg and Charles Murry are looking to save their father from being entrapped by the Evil Black Thing, and Calvin is a friend who accompanies them. They meet three angels who help them on their journey (who give love and encouragement to the characters through Scripture quotations), and in the end are able to get themselves back safe and sound to planet Earth.

As far as the writing style goes, I'd have to say that it is a little too simplistic for the nature of the subject within. Of course, I'm reading this through eyes that have read Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia, as well, so maybe at the end of the day it is more about my personal preferences than it is about the quality of writing here. Regardless of what I think, though, this book was highly controversial in its initial years of publication (early 60's). Wrinkle was considered to be a book that was "too different" from other books in 1962, and was rejected by over 20 publishers for that very reason. When I began to research the cause of all the fuss, it was mainly because Jesus Christ was mentioned in the same list as Copernicus, Einstein, Euclid, etc. as people who were fighting the Evil Black Thing. Despite the prevalence of Biblical Scripture in the plot and themes of this tale, L'Engle was heavily criticized for her "liberal Christianity." Hmm.

But even though I don't love A Wrinkle in Time as deeply as I do other works of fantastical fiction, I can wholeheartedly appreciate its apparent groundbreaking in the public's acceptance of books that are "different." Who knows? Maybe L'Engle's Wrinkle was inspiration for contemporary works of fantasy.


A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

I feel as though my brain has been assaulted. The 394 pages of this monster were filled with the strangest, most obscure, most bizarre characters and events that I have ever encountered in a book. I am unsure that I have recovered enough to describe it, but here goes. Hold on tight.

Ignatius Jacques Reilly is a thirty year old, very well educated, egotistical, mentally deranged, idealistic yet diluded, morbidly obese man still living at home with his mother in New Orleans. He passes the days by writing insanely in his collection of notepads, watching movies at the local theater (but disrupting by screaming criticism at the screen), concocting plans to overthrow the government, and harassing everyone around him. It's pretty easy to see where Ignatius got his crazy, because his mother is just as bad...though I would concede that she is slightly more in touch with reality. (But only slightly.) Because of a debt owed by the Reilly duo, Ignatius is sent out to find a job. This leads to an absurdly ridiculous turn of events involving a riot in a pant-making factory, an underground pornography ring, and a comical attempt at hot dog vending.
The descriptive language used by this guy is hilarious. Rather than saying he was too fat to wear the former hot dog vendor's uniform, he says that "the costume, of course, had been made to fit the tuburcular and underdeveloped frame of the former vendor, and no amount of pulling and pushing, inhaling and squeezing would get it onto my muscular body." (page 228)

There are about 10 other minor characters that are sprinkled throughout. There is the flamboyantly gay Dorian Greene, who goes along with Ignatius's conspiracy for gay men to infiltrate the military and therefore take over the world solely because the "kickoff rally" will be a fantastic party. Then you have Darlene-the-Stripper whose act includes a cockatoo, policeman Mancuso who is forced to dress up in silly costumes while on patrol until he brings in a real criminal, and elderly and demented Miss Trixie working at the pants factory who makes daily demands for her Easter ham and turkey. Some of these people are inconsequential, some are vital to the plot of the story-even though you have to wade through Ignatius's spew to actually find it-and all are badly broken. They also have a heavy and distinctively New Orleans accent. I found myself rereading more than one page in attempt to figure out what the heck "Recor plain star at thirty a week" (page 218) really meant. (Translation: Record playing starts at thirty dollars a week.)
By the way, A Confederacy of Dunces was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1981.

I really had to work to read this bad boy. Its peculiarity wasn't endearing, its characters were confusing, and though its ending provided closure, it wasn't happy closure. I am glad to have read it, though, because a) It is an award winning book, b) It is renowned in the world o' books, and c) I can see it being valuable for study on the undergrad level or above. *There are some rather shocking and inappropriate manifestations of Ignatius's sexual delusions, which do fit in with his characterization but are still completely out of line for discussions in the high school setting. Kids should not, I repeat NOT, be reading this book. The truth is, though, with the way the whole situation is worded, they probably wouldn't understand it anyway.

It's over the top, this book. It is wild and shocking and completely unlike any other of its kind....I guess that is what makes it a perfect representation of New Orleans.