Thought For Today

I am so glad that you have found this site and I hope you will find encouragement and joy as you read through my thoughts on God, family and life.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Opening the Door

Visitor to our meadow today.

What a wonderful afternoon we had this day.  The temperatures were in the low 50s and the sun felt so warm on my face while sitting on the porch with Anne.

For the last three days we hosted Anne’s relatives from Bismarck, North Dakota who came down for a visit.  We all had such a wonderful time with them.   Abby and Will slept in sleeping bags (which they loved) and Anne’s uncle and Aunt boys slept in Will and Abby’s beds.  During their visit at our home, other relatives came over to see them as well.  Last night we hosted 14 people for supper at our house.  I grilled hamburgers and hotdogs for while Anne made her homemade beans.  After supper many hands made the cleanup go very swiftly and that too was enjoyable.  Anne's relatives, (Bryan and Judy) are so kind, they are very thankful for everything that we had done for them and showed it by tackling all the clean up afterward.  We talked, joked, and hummed as well as bumping arms and shoulders while cleaning the supper dishes together.  Instead of being an arduous task, it was fun and very fulfilling as well.

I bet they don't taste good!
After Anne’s relatives left this morning, I stood and looked out at the forest while relaxing in the morning sun.  My thoughts went back to when Anne and I were first married.  We lived in a tiny apartment that was very crowded at times.  We would invite people over to our home and when they left, they walked out with joyful hearts and happy faces.  Even though we had nothing, and the apartment was tiny and crowded, we all enjoyed ourselves so very much.  That started me thinking on how much I loved having guests over to our humble home.  Now that we have built our own house, and it is somewhat larger than our apartment was, we still enjoy hosting friends and family at our home.  I have discovered that it is not the brick and mortar that makes a home inviting, it is in the hearts of those that welcome others to be a part of their lives.

The other day when getting our home ready for our guests, I was talking to my mother in law (Marji Gustafson) while cleaning and moving.  She at one point in our conversation looked at me and said, “Do you realize that you and Anne have the gift of hospitality?”  That thought has not left my mind since.  What a nice thing to say.  Too many times in life whether as a child growing up or as adult, we hear just the opposite.  Our image is molded on the negative, and that in itself formulates our thoughts and perceptions not only of others, but also of ourselves.  It makes me think how important it is to find ways to build others up, rather than look at their faults.  God slowly changes our outlook if we allow him to.

The different hues of autumn.
 Every diamond is ugly in its raw state.  It takes a trained eye to recognize the potential beauty of this stone long before it is on display.  God sees us in the same light, the potential of what we might become, not perhaps the unattractive stone of today.  I look back at the areas in my life where God has changed me, and I see the journey that he has chosen for my walk.  I see a very rough stone smoothed and polished with his gentle hands.  I also observe the areas in my life that still need the master’s hand, but I know that he controls my future, that is, if I chose to relinquish it to him.  I know that this is done on a daily basis and is also accomplished only when I let him in.  Some days I have to admit that I am not up to change, during those times I have to say, “Lord, I don’t want to change, but I know that it is for the better, please change me even though I wish to stay the same.”  At those moments I have to commit verbally and trust that Jesus will change my heart afterwards.  

I am reminded that when opening the door to our home, I first must commit to the act of inviting one in so that I can get to know them better.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Autumn Beauty of the Minnesota/Wisconsin Bluff Country

Winona, Minnesota  Sugar Loaf Mountain
Dakota, Minnesota  Transitions to Autumn
LaCresent, Minnesota  Scenic River View
Homer, Minnesota  Fall Splendor
Nelson, Wisconsin  The Barn  
Kellogg, Mn.  Autumn Breezes
Pickwick, Minnesota  Pickwick Mill Falls

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Eye on a Sparrow: Hidden Blessings

Eye on a Sparrow: Hidden Blessings: The beauty of Nature is all around us. Yesterday I had planned on going and enjoying an afternoon with my friend Gerry on the golf cour...

Hidden Blessings

The beauty of Nature is all around us.

Yesterday I had planned on going and enjoying an afternoon with my friend Gerry on the golf course.  It had been about a month since we had a chance to golf together, since the weather has not been agreeable to golf at sunrise.  We either faced rain or frost every Saturday morning, and so now it was our chance to enjoy the outdoors together.  Our tee time was set for 12:07 and since we were doing a full 9 holes, I rented a cart for us both.  Gerry now is 87 and I knew that a full round would be very taxing on him.  What I hadn’t realized in choosing this day was that everyone else had the same idea, to golf.  MEA was going on so young boys were also getting out on the golf course as well. 

Will and Gerry
It is the tradition of the course that when one or two are golfing, the manager can add one or two more to a small group to fill the slots and keep those that would otherwise have a long wait, a chance to play.  Today was one of those days, at the moment of Tee off, the manager came up to Gerry and I and asked if we would not mind if two young boys could golf with us.  I grudgingly accepted and so I resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to have the time to visit with Gerry alone.

Isn’t it funny sometimes how God has different plans than the ones we make?  As I started out on the course, I saw now how we had to visit with two young boys and wait for them to catch up with us on every turn, due to the fact that they were walking and we were on a cart.  I only saw what I was giving up and not what good was coming out of this opportunity to exercise my Christian faith.  As I was about to go to the green on hole one, a thought came to me, “Do you remember when you had your son out here and how some individuals behind you were not so patient with Will’s slowness due to his beginning skills?”  I was just like those individuals now, only thinking of myself.  I felt ashamed of my actions and at that moment, I decided to look at these boys as I would my son.  I introduced myself to each of them, (Austin and Jacob) and they in turn told us their names.  I could see that they felt uneasy golfing with two men that they did not know, but as we talked more with them, they became more relaxed.  I also learned as we traveled on the course, that they came from what appeared to be two stable homes with a parent/s that loved them very much.  One boy said that his uncle took him to school everyday from about 15 miles out in the country.  What commitment this uncle had in giving his nephew a ride everyday.  I realized at that moment that it was probably that same uncle or parent that brought him to the golf course today.  Here was a boy whose family loved their child so much that they would sacrifice their time so that their he could golf. 

Fouling the leader.
Both young boys were in 7th grade and went to school here in Winona, only blocks from where I live.  They liked their principal and seemed happy with their school.  Both Gerry and I had fun golfing with them and we enjoyed the afternoon visiting with them as well.  Gerry and I encouraged them to keep playing golf and not to take the game too seriously.  When leaving Jacob and Austin, I spoke to Jacob and told him that it is important not to look at winning in order to have fun.  I told him that if he did, he would never enjoy the game.  During the time that Gerry and I had with them, I felt like their surrogate dad when talking with them, and I have to say that I enjoyed the time we had playing golf with these young men more than I can say.

Hidden under the leaves.
Unfortunately, we had a group of 4 or 5 behind us that became anxious and wanted the game to speed up some.  I ignored their impatience and had fun in spite of their anxieties.  I looked back at those gentlemen and saw myself, not but two hours earlier.  I felt no judgment towards these men since I was in their shoes when first starting the game earlier in the day; it was only sadness that I experienced for them.  It was time to pray for these gentlemen in that God would give them a chance like he did for me.  God opened my eyes to patience and kindness by having two young boys walk into my life for a brief moment of time.   God does work in mysterious ways, and I am so thankful that he does.  Now God has given me the honor of being able to pray for two young souls.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Loving the Unloveable

What does the rainbow mean to you?

Today as a family we went shopping together.  It is always fun when we do this.  First when going to Target, we sit and enjoy our Icees and Coffee as a family at the Starbucks restaurant.  We sit and talk to one another and laugh at ourselves and the funny things we do at times.  We try to see the humor in many things, and share them with each other.  One such moment was when I observed a license plate on a Wisconsin truck going by the restaurant window.  The driver was searching for a parking spot and I noticed the plate on the back bumper which read, “GRRRRRR.”  At first I found myself laughing and within seconds I switched my laughter to concern.  I made a mental note, “Keep away from him when in my car!”  I tapped Anne on her shoulder and pointed in the direction of the truck, she noticed it and started to laugh right away.  I began to wonder if he wanted people to keep their distance from him, or was he just trying to be humorous?  I went on with my thoughts and pondered it further for a few moments.  How funny it seemed in the safety of the store to laugh at this, but I also thought how it just might be as scary to meet this truck on the road in heavy traffic with many stops and starts.  Was he the type that intimidates people so that they keep their distance from him?  Perhaps he was a person who is angry at the world and his vengeance within him can never be quenched by the goodness of others.

I find sustenance in you Father!
I came to realize at that moment, I was not going to let the bad disposition of another destroy the happiness of the moment for my family or myself.  Anger is a poison that cannot be quenched when it is constantly fueled by hate and bitterness.  When I encounter people like that in the past, I have found that it is hard at times to think nice thoughts about them.  I am reminded in the Bible (Matt. 5:44) and listening to God when in prayer, that Jesus would not find fault in them, he would love them.  I have told myself at times, “Well, that is what Jesus would do, but I am not Jesus.”  During those moments, I have felt Jesus’ gentle hand on my shoulder with him telling me to love them in spite of who they are.  I tell him, “I cannot love this person, he did this and this, and I don’t want to forgive him.  Besides, if I forgive this person and get close to him, he will do it again like he has in the past.” 

During those moments in prayer with God, Jesus helps me to realize that I am partly right, I can’t change this person from doing these things again, but God can change his heart.  Jesus gently reminds me that it is not my responsibility to change him, mine is only to love him.  I say to God, “But I can’t, this person is not lovable!”  I walk further with Jesus and he gently reminds me that I cannot hold this person accountable, that is Jesus’ responsibility, not mine.  Jesus then tells me, “I can change him through you, if you allow me to change your heart first.”  I have to think on this for a while, Jesus is right; I can’t love this person without his help.  I lift my sinking head, “Jesus, help me to love this person because I do not have anything in me that desires to do this.”  I then feel the burden is lifted from shoulders.

Cory Ten Boom when unexpectantly meeting an ex-Nazi guard on a train shortly after the war, through his confession to her, she found out that this man was one of those responsible for her sister’s death.  After his confession to Cory, he asked her to forgive him.  He said that he was a Christian now and realized what he did was wrong.  Cory at that moment could only feel murderous thoughts toward him.  With all her might, she asked God to give her the ability to love and forgive this man, for she realized that she could not.  At the moment she verbally said in obedience to God, “I forgive you!”  God then changed her heart and love and forgiveness welled up within her at that moment. 

You are my light when I cannot find my way Lord.
God asks us to love our enemies, but he does not leave us to do this alone, he will give us the strength to do so if we admit that we cannot on our own.  Jesus will not demand of us to forgive others without first helping us to do so, if we ask him .  As Christians, we are his ambassadors here on Earth, only we can show others of God’s grace and love.  Just like Peter (Matt: 14:30) when getting out of the boat to be with Jesus on the raging water, God will not abandon us when our humanity wanes.  Like Peter, all we have to do is call on his name. 

I found this wonderful sermon when just now searching for references in the Bible to forgiving people who are difficult to love.  It is very moving!  Here is the

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Change of the Seasons

Autumn Breeze
Today the wind is blowing very hard for this area.  When living in the Mississippi River Valley, we have relatively no wind most of the time.  Today though, we are experiencing the wind as those that live on the open prairie.  I came from southwestern Minnesota while Anne came from Fargo, North Dakota and in both places the wind never seems to let up.  We both grew up having the wind as a constant companion.  I remember as a child looking over the wheat fields and watching the grain gently sway to and fro as each new gust of wind would caress the wheat with its invisible fingers.  In some ways I do miss the breezes, and being on the open prairie as well.

Don't mind me, I can sleep anywhere!
My thoughts now go back to my childhood and to some of the snowstorms that we had back home.  I recall the windows rattling from the strong winds, and the drifts of snow gathering around the buildings and trees.  As a child it was a time of excitement when a blizzard would arrive during a school day.  My brothers, sisters and I would go out and make snow forts and tunnels in the new snow, all the while trying not to get wet so we would not have to go into the house early.  At the end of the day our appetites would be hardy, and it would not take long for any us to go to sleep.  The wind on these special snow days was our friend.  On the other side of the coin, my brothers and I would have to scoop our long driveway out by hand after each snowstorm.  Sometimes it would take more than half the day to complete the job, but again, we would sleep very well that night. 

My thoughts still go back to being a boy on the prairie.  As a child growing up, many of the children in the community would look for extra work during the course of the year.  In the winter, we would ask neighbors if we could scoop their driveways and sidewalks and in the summer we mowed our lawn and that of our neighbors as well. When the spring arrived, my brothers and I along with many other boys from my hometown would volunteer to pick rocks for farmers in the area.  We picked rocks in the spring, walked beans and detasseled corn in the summer, as well as picking rocks again in the fall.  This was our pocket money in which we could buy a bicycle or some item of clothing that we wanted.  Along with these jobs that we would do, many of us would deliver papers for the Minneapolis Star and the local Livewire in our hometown of Jackson, Minnesota. 

Today with the advent of computers, news is immediate on the World Wide Web, and newspapers are struggling to survive in our fast changing world.  Farmers are changing their practices as well, they are using more chemicals in controlling weeds, so for today, there is less need for young children to pull the weeds.  Today riding mowers replace push mowers, and snow blowers have replaced the snow scoop.  Sometimes I look back nostalgically and wonder whether progress is all good.  Children, when I was young had many avenues to be industrious, but now with the advent of technology, kids today are struggling with boredom and lack of inactivity. 

Autumn Moon
In many cases, with both parents working, it saddens my heart to think of children coming home to an empty house.  The question one might ask, is it possible to go back to the days when families were together more, and children all had chores to do to help out the family and others?  I believe that it can be that way again if adults look to find an approach that will allow for them to live on less.  I was talking with my wife Anne and she was relating to me how much families spend on eating out, and ordering and buying prepared foods.  Anne has now for a couple of years been getting farm produce (no chemicals added) from two local growers.  This has reduced our food bill considerably and has allowed for a much healthier diet.  We have found that Anne and I have lost weight since this food change.  Oddly enough, when we eat processed foods at times, we struggle again with weight gain.  Anne has analyzed the ingredients found within the preservatives in processed food and has realized that we consume chemicals that are not healthy for us, as well, many have fats and sugars within them that are excessive.  For instance, one day Anne was looking up the ingredients in shredded cheese that one buys from the grocery store.  She read to me an article from her computer which contained a startling discovery.  In this article it related that (powdered cellulose) or wood fiber in this case, an ingredient that helped the cheese from clumping together was found in large amounts.  My imagination ran wild after hearing that, I had thought, what if our excessive amounts of preservatives have anything to do with the high rate of cancer today?

Playing in the Autumn Forest
It is interesting to note that since the 1950s until today, that on the average, the house size has more than doubled and many households now have two or more cars whereas in the 1950s, it was limited to one car at best.  Larry Burkett, a Christian financial advisor, wrote about how with wise financial planning and conservative changes, we can make lifestyles that allow for  living on less to be very enjoyable and fulfilling.
In looking at the high cost of child care as well as eating processed foods more extensively, vehicle costs, the added expenses in having large homes, not to say the least, heating and cooling costs, insurance factors, health costs, and the general lack of family time, one must ask, have we advanced  since the 1950s or are we heading in the wrong direction completely? 

Winona in the Fall.
Today, more and more people are buying smaller homes, or moving to the country and purchasing small acreages where they can have large gardens to raise their own produce.  Some are even raising their own animals that will offer them the meat that we find is so expensive in the grocery store today.  Many of these animals are raised on pastures as opposed to being in a stall all their natural life as is done with most livestock today.  These families have children that are doing chores by working in the gardens, barns and kitchens to help out as a family unit.  More people are choosing to home school their children as well, so that they can raise their kids with Godly principles, and with the knowledge that is based on a Christian philosophy.  In many cases, at least one parent stays at home to work with the children in their education, and collectively parent and child do the farm chores together.  These people seem to be happier and feel that they have more control in their lives than ever before.  Today there are many blogs that relate to this lifestyle.  One such blog is:   I would encourage each reader to search blogs that relate to the above concerns, and to seek out the course that will take you and your family in the direction that God is leading you.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Bolt

Autumn Splendor

Today the weather was very nice for being outside.  I assisted my father in law in moving heavy items that required two of us to move.  He on the other hand was able to help me move an exercise machine to the church basement.  I have always wondered if one received as much exercise in moving these machines around as one gets from the actual workout on these devices. 

House snuggled into the Autumn bluffs.
Last Sunday I was working on one of our cars.  I was installing an alternator in the Honda Accord that we have.  The word frustration did not come close to describe what I felt when trying to put in the new alternator.  Getting to the bolts that removed it was very trying to say the least.  Just when I thought I had all the bolts out, I discovered that I had found yet another set of bolts that needed to be removed.  Those of you that have worked on cars know that some parts are placed in very difficult locations to get at.  This was one of those places!  I stopped at one point and looked at my skinned knuckles and hands and wondered what I was doing trying to be a mechanic.  On top of skinned hands, when I thought I had the alternator removed, I noticed that I was missing a vital bolt.  After looking for it for several hours, I became more than perplexed with my situation and myself.  My in laws were just arriving at that time to eat with us for supper, and John, my father in law noticed my frustration and volunteered to help me find the missing bolt.  It was to no avail that neither of us could find it.  I used magnets, two different sized mirrors, screwdrivers, two types and sizes of flashlights, a trouble light, a flexible claw clamp and many comments to myself in how I was not as wise as I thought I was.

Bluffs North of La Cresent, Minnesota
In the evening I resigned myself to letting the job go until the next morning.  Upon waking the next day, I went outside and began exploring the engine compartment once again.  I checked under every component and electrical gadget possible.  I looked into my operating manual as well.  Next, I checked into my manual for repairing the various parts of the car, thinking there was something that I was missing in discovering an unknown area of the car where my bolt could have gone.  I had learned more about my engine than I had ever wanted to know.  Needless to say, I became desperate.  This drove me to an automotive parts store looking for a replacement for my lost bolt.  If Rome would not come to me, I would go to Rome.  As I drove to the parts store, I got a little depressed in thinking how foolish I was in not getting a replacement bolt sooner.  I had wasted over 6 hours looking for this “stupid” bolt.  Sometimes I find some semblance of feeling better about myself when I can put some human characteristics to inanimate objects.  Then it becomes less my fault and more the cars; or looking at it another way, that car is just out to get me!  After belittling the car and its child, the bolt, I found that there was little satisfaction in trying to make the bolt feel guilty for hiding itself from me. 

Bluffs seen from our deck.
When walking into the parts store I was starting to feel more in control.  I found myself feeling rather smug in finally realizing that this was going to be easy, all I had to do was to get the bolt, head home and install the alternator.  I described the bolt to the parts man and he said that he did not have the exact bolt that I needed, but he could get one that was close.  About that time I became desperate again, in resignation I told him that would be fine.  After getting two sizes of replacement bolts (one was sure to work) I drove home to my enemy the car with my weapons on my final assault.  I was again regaining my confidence that this battle was once again, mine!

After approaching the car once more, I felt more confident than I had been for the last two days.  “This was going to work, I can beat this car, and it was not going to win!”  After dropping the first bolt into the alternator with much labor and added patience, I was ready for the second (substitute) bolt.  I had to use a flexible claw clamp to seat the bolt while at the same time using a mirror to slide it into place.  “This is going to work!”  I stopped, calmed my breathing, and slowly slid the bolt into place.  I was euphoric at this point.  Then all of sudden I realized that it would not work when attempting the next step.  The belt that I ordered online from a parts store was two inches to short.  What else could go wrong????  I next took the alternator out, again and proceeded to get even better acquainted with my friendly parts store.  In retrospect, the parts man whose name is Michael was very kind and patient with me.  He got the right belt and I was off again with the attitude that this was it; I was going to conquer this job and win finally.  I proceeded to put the alternator in again and when it was in place, I noticed that the replacement bolt that I got, would not work after all.  The locking head of the original bolt was designed for movement on a slide that allowed the alternator to tighten and loosen.  My new bolt did not have this locking head!  At that point I was beside myself.  (An interesting place to be, looking at an impatient man standing there about to bury his head in the fan compartment, and refusing to come out until someone smarter than he would come to his rescue.)

Abby and Will playing on their favorite tree, the Sumac.
At that point it dawned on me that I was not alone, God was standing beside me and wanted to help, that is if I would let him.  I started to pray in desperation, “Please God help me, please?”  Then I felt his gentle voice in my thoughts, “You do not have to beg for help my son.  I will gladly assist you if you first believe that I can!”  I then sat down and thought it through.  I was begging God to help me without believing he could.  It was if I were throwing dice up in air and wanting them to roll a lucky 7 in order to get the help I needed.  I then asked God to forgive me for not believing that he could or even wanted to help me, and for not seeking his help from the start.   I then knelt down and said, “Dear Lord, I believe you can help me to find this bolt.  I have tried everything without you and I have failed, now I come before you knowing that you want to help me, thank you!”

Large estate on Cass St. in LaCrosse, WI.
I then stood up and I looked down on the engine, and before me was the hidden bolt laying between two components on the engine block.  I had been through the whole area with magnets, mirrors and clamps to no avail, and now it lay before my eyes in easy reach of my hands.  This moment almost brought me to tears of joy and feeling ashamed at the same time.  At that moment I felt God’s presence.  I then listened to him through his Holy Spirit speaking to me.  “I wanted to help you from the beginning, for you see nothing is too small for me in desiring to help you.”  What came to mind next was the scripture verse (Matt: 10:29-30) where Jesus speaks about the most insignificant bird, the sparrow.  He says that even the sparrow does not fall without his notice?  My heart felt complete with joy and peace at that moment.  God was teaching me that I was also to depend on him and not just my own skills in everyday events.  He let me struggle until I came to the end of myself, so that I could finally see him, and through this, know him better. 

I have the tendency to look at the magnificence of great things around me.
Abby and Will brought this to my attention on our hike, a beautiful flower
from the wild clover in the forest.  It was at our feet.  I would not have seen
it because I was looking at the splendor of the great trees in our midst.
God uses children to teach us about the wonder of small things.
God wants to be in our lives each day.  He wants to be in even the small things that we do and say throughout the hours of the day.  I remember a man who went by the name of Brother Andrew, he smuggled Bibles into the Soviet Union and China.  If one was caught, it would mean imprisonment since communist countries do believe in God.  As Brother Andrew was passing through the guard posts one day heading into the Soviet Union, he prayed, “God you made blind eyes see, now make seeing eyes blind.”  He was praying this so that the guards would not see his Bibles in the box in the trunk of his car.  The guard looked right at the Bibles and did not see them; he waived Brother Andrew to go on ahead into the Soviet Union without delay.  

God made my eyes blind to this simple bolt, until I had learned the lesson that he wanted to teach me, and that was to trust in him, even in the small things. ` 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Educating Our Children

Window into the forest.  Taken this week by our home.
This evening I played with Abby and Will in a game called “Monopoly.”  Abby and I played on one side and Will on the other.  We played until bedtime with the intention of continuing the game the next morning.  When Anne and I play with the children, we stress not in winning, but just enjoying the game itself. Winning is ok, but the fun in seeing the joy of our children learning new ideas and ideals, brings Anne and I so much joy to see our children learn through discovery.  Our children want to interact with us as their parents, and playing games is one avenue that we all can have fun together. 

Having fun at "Lark Toys" near Kellogg, Mn.
Psychologists watch children play with each other and they write many papers on this topic.  When children are having fun, they are, at moments pretending to be adults.  The main difference between adults and children many times, is that children are having fun in what they do. 

Finding joy in discovery needs to be investigated more by professionals.  I remember reading longitudinal studies (that is research done on specific subjects over a lengthy period of time) of children as they grow and how their interactions change over the course of time.  When students reach their teen years, professionals have observed that they learn very differently than when they were young children.  Now as teens, when interacting with their peers, professionals today have often observed the lack of joy in the students’ learning process.  Projects are many times seen by teens as something that must be accomplished, and so it is understood by their peers, that the responsibility of each of the group is to pull their own weight.  The real problem is, what is it that has changed over the years for our children in the way they look at learning? 

Our small children enjoy playing the adult roles, but over time I have observed within our school systems that a passiveness, a reluctance to take risks, a lack of responsiveness to see the joy in discovery, is in fact not there.  Coupled with these things, I have observed that young teens in many cases, want only to do the amount of work that meets the standard for the grade required.  So again, what has changed that has taken the joy of discovery out of children’s lives?  Is it a natural process that all children go through, or is it something else?

I have noticed in working with children over the years that these vast changes that have taken place, are indeed areas of concern that must be addressed.  Is there something that has changed at home, perhaps at school, or is it in our society as a whole?  Might there be a common thread between all of the above.  Our society has gone through many transformations over the last 75 years.  After World War II, America was the leader in the world in most areas of education, research, technology, and the military as well.   Soon changes began to occur that would shatter that belief. 

Fun time with miniture golf at Lark Toys.
After World War II, the Soviet Union was steadily advancing across Europe, taking over many eastern block countries.  Not only did they expand militarily, they advanced scientifically with having the first man in space.  We as a nation panicked.  Math and science was now seen as lacking in our curriculum in educating our future space scientists.  We saw a great need to educate and train our children for the race to catch up with the Soviets in the space program.  Panic overcame us as a nation here in the U.S. at that time. Fear gripped our nation and we could not afford to see ourselves as one step behind everyone else.  If the Soviet Union could put an astronaut into space, they could just as easily drop a bomb on our soil from outerspace as well.  A rush was in progress and our education community was not seen as schooling our children as well as the “Russians in science and math.”

If the truth were known, after World War II, the Soviets managed to get most of the rocket scientists from the vanquished Germans.  We received far less of the German scientists because we had not seen the need to capture vital key rocket facilities and space laboratories at the time, thus ensuring that we did not get the best German rocket scientists.  Germany had been working on the V1 and V2 rockets and were many years advanced over the U.S. and the Soviet Union before and during World War II.  Unfortunately for Nazi Germany, it was looking at rocket science as a new means of better and more effective killing technology, rather than space advancement. 

There was much excitement later when a
 frog jumped out of the blue water.
So, what does that have to do with our children?  One must ask was it our education system that was at fault, because we did not produce the needed rocket scientists?  I believe that was a wrong assumption on the part of our experts at the time.  Our research science was traveling in other areas, and for the most part, was far more advanced than any country at the time.  

As far as the military and bombs go, the U.S. developed the first atomic bomb, which required the highest levels of science and technology.  Science and technology advancements in auto manufacturing were second to none.  Our advances in construction technology could not be matched, anywhere!  The truth be known, we were investing in peacetime technologies and not in wartime science before World War II.  Panic changed our education system in wanting to catch up to what was seen at the time, as the “Soviet Threat."  Cosequently, pressure was put on our education system to improve the teaching of our children by those individuals who were not educators. 
What appeared to be a weed all summer, had transformed this
fall into a beautiful flowering bush in my sister in law's
(Kaylee) flower garden.  Nurturing, insight, patience,
and belief of something beautiful to come.
Each character is hand carved wood and made at Lark Toys.
Except of course for our daughter Abby!

Seeing now how education has evolved since the post war era, and the worry of having to be first in science and education in order to ensure safety for our nation, schools now are now teaching to outside influences that demand that the curriculum be done a certain way.  Penalties are introduced as incentives to improve, for both teachers and students alike. Instructors today are evaluated in terms that force them to align their teaching practices to that of a canned curriculum. 

Are children seen as having fun in learning as they once did, or are they being pressured to excel in order to pass on to the next level?  Are teachers allowed to use different approaches in concert with their individual teaching styles, or are they now forced to conform to state and federal education standards?  One has to ask, where is the joy in teaching, and in learning today for our instructors and our children?  Are we so focused on the end product that we have forgotten the joys of discovery in learning?  If one were to ask any scientist about their job, they would say that thinking outside the box, using creativity in thought, and in practice, makes for the best environment for discovery and learning.  Perhaps we as professionals need to sit in the sandbox more with our children, and learn from them. 

When I began to homeschool my son Will, I used the approach that I was trained to do as a professional educator.  In a short time, I began to see my son wilt in the face of introducing new ideas and subjects to him.  I became confused as to what to do.  I sat down and spoke with my wife Anne, and her parents about the dilemma before me. Anne’s father John, like myself was a schoolteacher and an administrator at one time.  He also teaches education classes now at the university level since attaining his doctorate.  Marji, my mother in law has several master’s degrees in counseling, ministry,  and sociology.  Anne is presently working on her doctorate in education leadership and has a degree in history and a master's in English along with several minors.  She now teaches at several major colleges. 
God's beauty is all around us.

Together we talked extensively over the next several years about the approaches that were used in educating Anne and her siblings.  When Anne and her brother and sisters were home schooled, as it turned out, the practices used were not at all like that of public education.  Anne’s parents sought areas of interest that each of their children desired to pursue.  They then linked the different subjects into the curriculum that was in each of their children’s field of interest.  John and Marji discovered that for a child to want to learn, the child had to be interested in the subject first, much like that of what children do in adult role playing.  Alfie Kohn, a professional educator who desires to see education transformed, purports that education needs to be overhauled and made relevant to our children.  He believes that education needs to be seen as a pathway to discovery and not a system where everyone is fit into a prescribed mold to fit societies present needs.  

Autumn Breezes
Has things changed for Will today?  Needless to say, he is thriving.  For myself, I have changed considerably in my approach to instructing our children.  I have discovered that teaching can be a lot of fun.  Will and Abby are flourishing today in their individual learning, and they are not the only ones who are learning, I am as well.  I had never realized how much joy there is in education until I saw learning in this new light.