Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: teaching

In memory of Julia

Julia was 18 years old when I was born. We were cousins, but she seemed more like an aunt to me. She started teaching in a one room country school in the fall of that year, taught for two years, then married Ed. Their first child, Doreen, was born a year later.

Ed & Julia lived a few miles from us and we often got together. As a young lad I was painfully shy of girls, with the exception of Doreen. I guess we saw each other often enough that I felt no need to run and hide from her. Ed and Julia had four more children, incluidng another girl, Edith, born on my eighth birthday.

I suppose it was Julia’s teacher instincts that led her to encourage my early interest in reading. Most of my little books for beginning readers were gifts from her.

When I was nine, we moved a couple of hours away, but our contact with continued through frequent letters. We eagerly looked forward to the times that we could get together again.

Time went on, I grew up, got married and moved to Eastern Canada. My parents retired and moved into Moose Jaw. My father died, leaving Mom a widow. Ed and Julia retired and moved into Moose Jaw. As Mom grew older, Ed and Julia kept tabs on her and helped her in many ways. They were often the ones who took Mom to the train station or airport for her annual trips to visit us, then picked her up and took her home on her return.

Mom had always had difficulty walking and the time came that she used an electric scooter outside of her home. When Mom was almost 90, Julia phoned to say that she was concerned about Mom living alone. Mom’s eyesight wasn’t very good anymore either, and Julia had seen her crossing the busy street at full throttle on her scooter, and sometimes cars had to stop quickly to let her pass.

Chris and I began to talk about returning to Saskatchewan. We came back for Mom’s 90th birthday and Julia repeated her concerns and we could see for ourselves that the time had come that we would need to take a more active part in caring for my mother. Ed and Julia weren’t able to be as much involved with Mom anymore, as Ed had been diagnosed with cancer.

Five months after Mom’s birthday we were back living in Saskatchewan. We settled in Saskatoon and Mom lived with us for some time, then spent her last year in a nursing home. She was almost 99 when she died.

We saw Ed and Julia occasionally on visits to Moose Jaw. Several times Ed was declared free of cancer, but soon they would find another spot. He had numerous surgeries and treatments and bore it all patiently. We felt in him a readiness for it all to be over and to go and meet his Lord. That happened in 2004, shortly after Julia’s 80th birthday.

Our contacts with Julia since then have not been as frequent as they should have been. She continued living in her own home for a few years, then moved to a suite in a senior’s residence, then to a nursing home and then to another. We have visited her in all those places and often joined the family for birthday celebrations. The last time we saw her was on her birthday in February of 2017. I believe she knew who we were, but doubt that she remembered after we left.

Julia died yesterday at the age of 94. I was going to say that another piece of my life is gone, but that’s not at all true. All the contributions she made to my life in my growing up years and after are still there. Her warmth, her kindness, her care, are part of what shaped me.

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Taking the long view

The proof of a living faith is seen when it is passed on intact from generation to generation. It is true to say that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is evidence of faith: brotherly love, peace of mind and peace in word and action, joy, thankfulness, contentment, humility. But when this is not passed on from one generation to the next, it would appear that something was missing.

Tradition is important. The ancient landmarks of the faith were placed for a reason. But if the next generation doesn’t understand why they were placed or just what they mean, they are apt to get their bearings from the things that seem most important in their day.

The ancient landmarks may have been interpreted in a way that met the needs of the older generation, but no longer meets the needs of the younger. Yet the basic principles remain unchanged. These principles must be continually taught, always in a way that can be understood and will meet the needs of upcoming generations. A rigid adherence to a form of words or practice will not do that.

The new birth is important. There must be a genuine repentance for the sins of the past life and evidence that a new life has begun. This would include love for everyone, new priorities in life, carefulness to avoid things that have led to the sins of the past, and a desire to make right whatever harm may have been done to others.

The danger is to mistake the experience for the change that is needed. To tell a dramatic, heart-touching experience is not proof the heart has really been changed.

Knowledge of the Bible is important. But it needs to be studied to establish a foundation for my life, not to prove a point with somebody else. it is a danger sign when one has a proof text handy for most any discussion, but can’t explain what that text means in the language of everyday life.

A living faith does not have to be loud, but it should not be silent. A living faith will be modest, but should never run from a challenge. A living faith will make a difference at church, at home, at school, at work, on vacation, and especially in those times when no one is looking.

It is best for children to grow up in a home where parents are deeply committed Christians. But it is not enough and it is not a guarantee that the children will catch their parents faith. It is far better to grow up among a united group of believers who live out their faith in all aspects of everyday life. The spiritual heritage is much more important than the family heritage. This is what allows the upcoming generation to catch the faith of their elders and then to pass it on to the next generation.

Learning the wrong lesson

Nelson was born with the umbilical cord around his neck, causing oxygen starvation to his brain. He was slower in learning during the early years of childhood and his parents were encouraged to place him in a school for children with special needs.

The parents were disappointed with the results, or rather the lack of results, in this school. They believed Nelson was capable of doing better. They approached the school board of their congregation and they agreed to accept Nelson in the school. They placed him in a classroom with three children in another grade to give the teacher more time to work with Nelson.

The teacher of that class got a marriage proposal during the Christmas holidays and promptly resigned. That was when our daughter got a call. She had taken a break from teaching because of voice problems, but felt she was able to teach again. So off she went to a congregation a thousand miles away.

She noticed that Nelson would often let his eyes roll up, his head hang down, his mouth hang open and begin to drool on his desk. I don’t know just what she saw that told her it was an act, but she realized that Nelson was just acting stupid to get out of doing his schoolwork. She decided that if he was smart enough to put on an act like that, he was smart enough to learn.

She didn’t let him get away with acting stupid any more and he began to learn. He was a little slower than others his age, but he did go on to finish school. I heard later that he got converted and was baptized.

Nelson learned this little act in the special needs school and found that it got him out of having to do much work in school. I’m not intending to bash the teachers in that school, or to heap praise on my daughter. (Though I’ve often wondered how it came to be that I raised a daughter who was so much sharper than her Dad.)

I’m just telling this as a cautionary tale. Our children, whether it be at home or at school, learn a lot of other things than the things we are trying to teach them. Most of their learning is from example and observation, and that is completely normal. But we need to be alert enough to see when they are learning something that is the direct opposite of what we think we are teaching.

If that happens, it usually means that there is something that we haven’t learned as well as we thought we had. Raising children is quite a learning experience for the parents.

Somebody ought to do something

Just about every day the media presents new evidence of bullying, neglected and mistreated children, juvenile prostitution, verbal, physical and sexual abuse, youth gangs and all the other problems that seem to afflict the children and youth of our society. Cries of distress and outrage go up and there is a universal feeling that something needs to be done.

Most folks seem to think it is the government that should be doing something. However, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of agreement about what needs to be done.

Governments are already doing a lot, but is it working? Social service agencies have developed into huge bureaucracies and are given extensive authority to intervene in situations where children are deemed to be at risk. The number of children at risk continues to balloon. In the province where I live there is an ongoing investigation into problems in the foster parent system.

For anyone who does not have his eyes blinded by utopian fantasies it should be evident by now that governments are impotent when it comes to fixing these problems. In fact, the problems have been exacerbated by ongoing government interventions over the past 100 years. The thinkers behind the public school system made no secret of their goal to reduce the influence of parents. There has been an ongoing attempt, couched in idealistic terms, to set children free from their parents. I could have said ideological; however it seems that many of those involved in this nationwide sociological experiment did not have a clear vision of where they were going.

Now we see the results, but it has happened so gradually that most parents don’t have an inkling that things could, and should, be done differently. Yet parents are the only ones capable of making a difference. Top-down solutions do not work. Bottoms up, grass roots, solutions are presently making a difference for the children of those parents who have dropped out of the top-down, government run system.

If we want different results, we have to march to the sound of a different drummer. We should not harbour any utopian dreams, there never was an era where parents did all things in the best possible way and it’s not going to happen in our era, either. “Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity” (Psalm 39:5). We are fallen people in a fallen world, yet by the grace of God we can make a difference.

The Word of God has some essential guidelines for parents: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7); “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

There are many other such instructions. There are some Christians who seem to think that corporal punishment is the most essential part of child training. It is not. The essential part is patient, consistent teaching, by word and example, from the cradle to adulthood.

The thinking of the times in which we live has invaded the churches, causing them to fall short in encouraging and supporting parents in their responsibilities. It is important for Christian parents to raise their children in a community of believers who share their faith, their convictions, their goals. But it is not the responsibility of others to train our children, not the church, not the school, not the government. God has entrusted these tender children to the care of their parents and the Holy Spirit will guide parents in fulfilling that responsibility if they will ask.

It is parents who ought to be doing something more than what they are presently doing. They are the ones who have the potential, with God’s help, to turn back the tide and raise up a generation that is respectful, responsible and compassionate.

Where is Ottawa?

Judith Adler teaches a course on families and the cultural traditions of families the world over at Memorial University of Newfoundland.  A few years ago she began to suspect that her students had no idea where some of the places she was talking about actually were. So she gave them  a quiz.

The quiz consisted of a blank map and a series of questions. Questions like: label South America, Europe, Australia and Asia. Label the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. Three quarters of the students failed the test. Memorial University is located in St. Johns, Newfoundland, a port city on the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the students could not correctly identify the location of that ocean.

Ms. Adler gives this test every year now. She says the students are not dumb; when faced with the reality of their ignorance they get to work. When given a second opportunity to do the test they never flunk it the second time. They simply have never been taught the simplest elements of geography.

Classrooms used to have large maps that could be rolled down over the chalk board like a blind. There were probably large globes or atlases in every room. The world has become much smaller today. We are linked to the whole world via the internet and hear news from every corner of the globe. How are these students going to comprehend what is going on if they don’t even know where these places are?

My wife was only 17 when we married and had just finished Grade 11. She started Grade 12 that fall, but she was the only married lady on the bus or in the classroom, plus she had responsibilities at home, so she dropped out after a week or two. A few years ago she enrolled in a course to prepare for the GED exam. One evening the teacher began the class by giveing each student a list of 20 capital cities with a space beside them to write the name of the country. Chris thought there was probably a time limit so quickly ran through the list and wrote in the countries.

Then she looked up and realized the other students were completely at sea. The teacher then told them they could work together to find the answers. They came to Berlin, decided it was in China and proceeded to find equally astute answers for the other cities. Then they came to Ottawwa and were totally stumped. The teacher told them they could use the atlas. They found Ottawa and saw that it was in Ontario.

“But Ontario isn’t a country,” Chris protested.

“Well what country is it in then?”

“Ottawa is mentioned in the news every day,” hinted my wife.

“Oh, we never pay any attention to the news.”

These people were not immigrants, nor were they fresh off the northern trap lines, they were normal city folks, the product of our fine public education system. They had dropped out before finishing high school, but a Grade 6 student from years ago would have found that test a snap.

This is one of the reasons why we did not send our daughter to public school, and why our daughter does not send her children to public school.

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