Book Review: Einstein Never Used Flash Cards

Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Moderate (written by academics, but for a popular audience), medium length (250+)

Summary
The basic thesis of the book is essentially the subtitle. Early education has become far too academic, with a focus on memorizing specific subsets of things (which doesn’t show actual knowledge or comprehension) and are not playing enough. The book is generally written about children under five, so the play is more of exploration and learning how things work. They use the example of teaching a kid to memorize 1+2=3, or having them understand, through play, that if they put one block on top of two blocks already stacked, there will now be three blocks stacked.

Chapter One, The Plight of the Modern Parent, lays out these play to memorization changes with fairly stark statistics, including the fact that in 1970 school age children (I believe that refers to 5-10 year olds) spent 40% of their time in play, but 1997 it was less than 25%; even worse 40% of districts no longer have recess. They also compare to how most other countries don’t bother learning to read until second grade or so, yet all (in the comparison) have better literacy rates and higher general levels of understanding.

The remaining chapters, 10 in total, explain how babies and children learn and then go through specific topics. Chapters two through 10 are – Brainchild: How Babies Are Wired to Learn; Playing the Numbers: How Children Learn about Quantity; Language: The Power of Babble; Literacy: Reading Between the Lines; Welcome to Lake Wobegon: The Quest to Define Intelligence; Who Am I? Developing a Sense of Self; Getting to Know You: How Children Develop Social Intelligence; Play: The Crucible of Learning; and The New Formula for Exceptional Parenting (the title is kind of play on the books that are out there, spoiler – they tell you to relax and let your children play and learn on their own, and to stop overscheduling them).

My Thoughts
I bought this book when my daughter was maybe around two years old, but didn’t read it until she had already turned four. I thought because the title referred to flashcards that perhaps the materials would be focused more on five years and older stages of life, but it is actually the opposite, the learning focuses on babies to about five (though some of the fiveish advice would carry you a few more years). So, don’t make my mistake, go ahead and buy this book as early as you can in your child’s life (or pregnancy).

I’ll als say that, at least in some circles, this book may be a bit dated. It was published in 2003 and I think the flashcard and Baby Einstein books (which they debunk, along with having your kids listen to classical music) have all fallen out of fashion. I think older Millennials, like myself, missed the flashcard memorization part. Though I didn’t get to play 40% of the time, I don’t remember using flash cards until I was in high school. This book was written just after I started college, and I wouldn’t have my first child for another decade. It seems the peak affected children were the second wave Millennials and early Gen Z. My daughter starts Kindergarten this year (assuming schools open again) and we certainly have never felt the need to force her to memorize anything and we never bought any kind of flashcards or other ‘learning’ devices. I’ve read maybe six or seven early childhood education books (I understand the irony of claiming not to be worried) and I think we have a basic understanding from the literature that memorization shouldn’t be the focus, so that could be at play. Also, school was always easy for us, so we assume (maybe incorrectly) that it will be for our children as well and we don’t need to worry too much. That aside, most of my friends have small children and I don’t know many that are concerned with most of the issues brought up in this book.

I’d say maybe the exception to that is the overscheduling, which is definitely true with sports. All that to say, while some of the issues in the book (they state the wrote the book to help correct these issues, and it appears to have helped) maybe be less of a concern, but the concepts and studies cited in this book still remain timeless and useful. That was probably the most interesting aspect of the book to me – all the little experiments or tests you can run on your children. As I mentioned, my daughter was already to old for most, but I read this right before my sons were born, so they have been little test subjects. I really wish the book had an appendix that listed the studies and test you can do with your children. You can see in my summary above, the book is laid out by topic, which has a rough chronology, but doesn’t move straight line with growing children.

Overall, this book is great and incredible interesting, especially if you have the opportunity to try out the subject matters they discuss in the book. For anyone interested in early developmental stages of children, or want to understand the basics of learning of your own small children, this book is a must read.

Book Review: Coronavirus and Christ

Book Image

You can get the book here, for free. 

I’m not doing to normal format today, just a quick review of a short book. You can get it free (digitally, at least) from Desiring God. There are multiple formats. I read it on my Kindle, but look at the PDF, ignoring all the notes and copyright/table of contents, you are looking at about 90 pages. Piper breaks the books in to two parts after an intro about what is happening and where we are (or were, the book was written mid March) – The God Who Reigns Over Coronavirus and What is God Doing Through the Coronavirus.

The first part is five short chapters, all on some aspect of God’s sovereignty. This shouldn’t be too surprising coming from Piper. As always, that sovereignty is both comforting and a little scary. We know that God is in control, but often we wish it was us instead. Likewise, there is a strong line of Christ’s Supremacy, and how He should be out focus. This part is saturated with Scripture, especially Paul.

The second part is what he calls ‘paths’, but I find that a little confusing, because they are not exclusive. Either way, the part heading is a little clearer in that these are things that God is/may be doing with Coronavirus. I don’t agree with all them, necessarily, and Piper even points out that people might; however he lays out what he things God is doing, and then explains why. The six ideas are – Picturing Moral Horror, Sending Specific Divine Judgement, Awakening Us for the Second Coming, Realigning Us with the Infinite Worth of Christ, Creating Good Works in Danger, and Loosening the Roots to Reach the Nations.

I found the first and third chapters to be interesting, but not sure it was the strongest case. I had the most disagreement with the second chapter. The second half were the strongest three, especially the calls to action he gives in the final two chapters.  Those are good reminders of our call in life as Christians and how we should be/act different(ly) than society as a whole. Our call to serve and reach people for Christ should be our highest priorities, even in the midst of tragedy.

He ends the book with a short prayer regarding Covid-19. In some ways the book could be a long sermon, especially the way he lays out the foundations of God’s reign over the world, followed by six ways God is acting. It is strongly Biblical and theologically sound. It is free and short, so if it is worth it for most people to read, even if you are one of those people (like me) who are trapped inside with a bunch of kids, while still trying to work remotely. As I mentioned, I don’t necessarily agree completely with all his points (in part two), but all are worth reading and pondering; the reminder of Who reigns (part one) over all is always a good thing to read and remember, especially in a time of great uncertainty, fear, and crisis.

Easter 2020

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Luke 24:1-12 (ESV)

The Resurrection

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Good Friday 2020

It is Good Friday today, just as a reminder to anyone out there, like me, who is struggling to keep up with which day it is. It doesn’t feel like Good Friday, mostly because nothing feels the way it should right now. Hopefully, your church is finding a way to record or broadcast something. If not, feel free to check out mine – Roswell Church (a bonus is, you’ll get to hear Mrs. MMT sing). More specifically, nothing feels right because of the quarantine (I guess it is officially shelter in place), and the pain that comes from that is the separation; separation from friends, family, activities, some of us are even missing work. I’ve been thinking a good bit about separation as it relates to Good Friday, and wanted to offer a few thoughts. It is a sad, lonely, frustrating, and hard time, but with apologies to John Piper – don’t waste your separation.

Remember that the Son was separated from the Father. For all of eternity, before the creation of time, and before the universe as we know it existed, there was the Triune communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This was the perfect existence of God, lacking nothing. However, the Son would empty Himself (not of his Divinity, but of His willingness to exercise authority) and take the form of a man, the man Jesus. At the end of His ministry, He was crucified, which is what we remember on Good Friday. While on the cross, He took our sin on to Himself, and in the eyes of the Father replaced our sin with His righteousness. However, the Father could not look upon the Son with this sin, and the Son experienced separation from the Trinity and the wrath of God. Separation from God is the definition of Hell. So the Son, who had spent an infinite amount of time with the Father, gave that up to bear our sins, to take our punishment, to experience Hell, so that we would not. Think about that separation today.

Remember that we are now no longer separated from the presence God. There was even more that happened on the cross. We are told that the veil in the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. In the temple, which already had requirements to enter, that was a veil that separated an area called the Holy of Holies, that only the High Priest could enter, and only once a year on the Day of Atonement to office a sacrifice. But now, the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus, was made. The veil (our separation from the presence) was taken away. We no longer need a High Priest, but through Christ, our Great High Priest, we can go directly to the Father. This is why we now have the opportunity to pray every day to God and ask forgiveness for our sins. We no longer need some intermediary, but can go directly to God. Think about the removal of that separation today.

Remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Thematically, you aren’t supposed to talk about the happy ending on Good Friday, that is supposed to wait until Easter (spoiler alert: Christ conquered death, rose again, that one day we shall do likewise), but I’m only pretend writer, so it is alright. But in remembering our current situation, our state of separation from society, it is important to remember that in some way it doesn’t matter. It is awful, but it is temporary. Thinking eternally,  we will be reunited with friends and family, and be in the perfect presence of God. For now, even as we wait, nothing can separate us from God’s love. Think about that today, and be reassured by these words from Romans 8:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Book Review: A Full Life

A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety

My Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – Easy, short (just over 200 pages), but a little slow

Summary
This isn’t a book about his presidency, he almost spends the least amount of time on that (his shortest chapter, by one page, is about his entire political career leading up the presidency). It is quite an autobiography either, because it isn’t comprehensive enough, though it is obviously written in the first person perspective. Mostly, it seems to be just a few thoughts on most of the major events in his life.

The book is broken into eight chapters – Archery & the Race Issue, this is the town in which he grew up, with additional thoughts on race at the time (and now to some extent); Navy Years, about his time in Annapolis and in the Navy including the first nuclear submarine, up until his father dies; Back to Georgia, leaving the Navy, taking over the family farm, foray in to politics; Atlanta to Washington, from running for Governor to running for President; Life in the White House; Issues Mostly Resolved, major political issues that he considered mostly complete/accomplished; Problems Still Pending, the issues that were not resolved; Back Home, post presidency, including his work with the Carter Center and Habitat for Humanity.

My Thoughts
I generally enjoyed this book. It is written well enough, but it can be a little slow. In some ways, it feels like talking with an old man, the stories are a little long winded, and some don’t seem to have a point. I didn’t mind this too much, it reminded me of talking with my granddads (both of which passed away last summer). They were from Georgia and South Alabama, both born a few months after Jimmy, and both served in the Navy. The one from Georgia, also named James, likewise taught Sunday School in a Southern Baptist Church for decades. So, for me, there was some very familiar about his life stories (except political office aspects).

Carter was out of office four years before I was born, and up until a few years ago, all I really knew about him was ‘stagflation’, ‘malaise’, and that yankees (especially Kennedys) didn’t like him. Granted, by his own admission, these are his views of events, but it does make me want to go find his official biography of his presidency. I didn’t know that he created the Departments of Energy and Education, that he was a proponent of Universal Healthcare, or supported decriminalizing weed. It is honestly a little depressing that we are still having these debates more than 40 years later with little to no progress.

The other thing everyone knows about Carter is that he is the ‘greatest ex-president ever.’ This certainly shows in the book, as he was in his early 50s when he was out of office, he felt he had a lot to do, and didn’t want to ‘just’ have a museum or library. That is why the Carter Center exists, he wanted a place to work, and it has done a great deal of good, especially as it pivoted to tropical diseases over the past few decades.

The two issues chapters were some of the most interesting, especially to see a politician state such clear positions, and to see how many are unfortunately still issues today. I don’t agree with all of his politics, but I appreciate his articulation and reasons behind it. If you have interest in Jimmy Carter, this alone probable makes the book worth it.  A little slow, but short and easy to read, he gives us something between a diary and an autobiography. Overall, I think it is one worth putting on your list.

We are all feeling this right now

A little old, but it has been making the rounds. Pretty accurate for what I’ve been experiencing recently. Prior to a month ago, I don’t think I had done a video conference. I’ve done some video chats with some family members, but never multiple people or groups at once. I saw this a few weeks ago, but didn’t quite get all of it. Now, having done multiple conferences over the past week weeks, this only gets more funny.

 

It is Still Lent

Believe it or not, it is still Lent. Everything seems to have gone to the wayside, due to Pandemic, but it is important to remember. Not necessarily Lent, as most people know it, but Good Friday next Friday and, of course, Easter Sunday. I’ve written some thoughts on Lent before, because it has always been a little odd to me. Some people hate it and don’t do it because the Bible doesn’t say we have to, others do it, because their Church says they have to. I don’t always participate, because I feel as if I am not ‘doing it right’. But it should at least be a reflective time. I time to think about our own brokenness and remember of what Christ experienced our punishment for us.

This included being separated from God. Right now, while we are all separated from most everyone and everything, and we are all too aware of the brokenness of the world, it is just that much more important to focus on the Cross and especially the Resurrection. It should point us to our future hope, when there will be no more pain and suffering, no more death, and no more separation. This is a good Lenten practice anyway, but with so much going on right on, I pray everyone is remembering where we can find hope and that that can bring come level of comfort during this time.

Thoughts on Covid-19, Quarantine, and Community

I suppose it was inevitable that I would write something about all that is going on. I wanted to get back to posting my reviews and some other thoughts, but it seems impossible to get Covid-19 off your mind, especially after having remote church service again yesterday.

Providentially, perhaps, I was reading part of Psalm 42 yesterday. Psalm 42 & 43 were likely originally one but were broken up at some point for an unknown reason. The psalm is a pretty well-known one, it is where we get the song ‘as the deer pant(eth) for the water.’ It is not written by David, but by the Sons of Korah (or Korathites), yet it is often attributed to David as a prayer and during a when he is away from the temple, possibly when he was hiding from Absalom. Some modern critics, of course, give no attribution to David, but what is not in dispute is we have a man who is not in Jerusalem, and is longing to be back so that he can worship God.

Because of the work of Christ on the cross, we no longer need a temple or priest or anything else to worship God. We can go directly to God with our prayers, songs, praise and lemants. However, when we are seperated from our community of worship, as we have been the past few weeks, there is a sense of loss. The psalm is in three stanzas, each ending with –

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

It struck me how I do long to praise him again, in community, with other believers and friends at our church home. Again, we can all sing and praise God on our own, in our homes, as we have been doing. But I think it is important to remember that it is still lacking, something is missing, it just isn’t the same. Pastors can ask their congregants to post pictures of their families singing and taking communion together, and that helps, but we must acknowledge the longing. We miss some aspects of God that He reveals to us in and through community and taking communion together. So, I feel that deeply right now, that as a deer longs for streams of water, I long to worship again in community.

This time of longing should also remind us of future hope. That one day in the new Earth we will have perfect communion, all believers worship together, before God himself. We need to remember, always, that one day perfection will come and all the feelings of missing and lacking will be no more.

While it isn’t as enjoyable, please remember we are all ‘social distancing’ for the good of others. This is loving your neighbor. It is important to remember that no matter how inconvenient it is to be stuck in your house, it is far less of a pain than being hospitalized or seeing a loved one on a ventilator. It is a sacrifice for us, but Christians should not be scared to love others in this way. Another thing to remember is that while you may be able to work from home (which, again, is quite inconvenient) others may have no work at all.

Ask your pastors or community group leaders if they know of someone in your community in need, someone who has not received a paycheck in a week or who may not receive one in the next few weeks. I’d challenge everyone to personally decide if the need all (or any) of the stimulus money they are receiving in a few weeks. Maybe you need to shore up your own emergency fund first, but if you are still receiving your regular paycheck, consider giving most or all of it to your Church to be distributed to those who really need it. This wouldn’t be the first time Christians did this (see Acts, Galatians, etc. in the New Testament) and is unlikely it will be the last.

Also, keep in touch with your community and your actual neighbors. Maybe some are old or immunocompromised and cannot go out to the grocery store or to the pharmacy. This should be a time of Christians being once again known for charity in the community.

Remember, too, that while it is annoying, staying at home will help. In a month or so when rates are (hopefully) dropping, let’s remember not to look back and see it was all for nothing, that not that many people were impacted. It will be because of the actions we took to slow the spread, that the rates will decline. As a population, it is hard to see counterfactuals, something that cannot be proven. It is easy to see rates drop and be flippant, but it is because they are actually effective measures that are taken. It is a good reminder that the original vaccine was for Cow Pox (vaccine roughly means ‘no cow’ in Latin) and it took only a single generation before we have the original anti-vaxxers, people who questions the use of vaccines (and this was over 300 years ago). Of course, we still have these problem today, such as the measles outbreak last fall, a disease that was eradicated in the US 20 years ago.

Finally, look for the good where you can. Sure, maybe your babies are crying during communion, but maybe you also have the opportunity to talk with your other children about the significance of communion or what it means to be baptised. Our daughter is too young to attend service at our church regularly, but now she watches it with us. And she loves to sing, whether she knows the words or not. If she doesn’t, sometimes we laugh as she pretends she does. Or yesterday, there was a song she did know – It is Well – which is quite significant to us and so she sings and you wish you had closed the windows because no the pollen is getting to you and making your eyes water. Maybe like us, you have tried to keep your community group going by video conference. It isn’t always the best, and soon all men will have only two hairstyle – buzz cut and hat – but it is good to see everyone and at least check in on each other.

So, keep connected, everyone, we will be together eventually. Admit that longing to be together again. Remember that we are in a fallen broken world, but will live on day perfectly, together. Hope in God.

Book Review: Jesus Skeptic

Jesus Skeptic

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Easy, moderate length (300ish)

Summary
The subtitle does a good job of laying out the premise of the book. As a trained skeptic (journalist) he looks into the impact of Christians and into the credibility of the claims for Christ. The latter is a kind of a classical apologetics for Christ, while the former is more of a modern defense and response to some of the attacks against Christians today.

The book is broken into three parts – Skeptics Welcome, Measuring Christianity’s Impact on Society, and The Most Influential Person – as well as preface, intro, conclusion, and three appendices. The first part is autobiographical and how he came to start exploring Christianity. As an aside for this section, I didn’t like his capitalization of ‘primary evidence’ or him treating the term like it was new or proprietary. The second part looks at things like scientist who were Christians during the scientific revolution, the early Christian efforts to care for people which led to the creation of hospitals, as well as the establishment of public education and Universities. The final part is mostly classic apologetics – did Jesus exist, what did he do, what did his followers believe about him.

My Thoughts
This is also a little nit-picky, but the subtitle doesn’t match the order of the next parts in the book. He explore impact first. Of course most early schools were started to train pastors, and public schools were established to teach literacy, so that people could read the Bible. He takes this to combat the attack that Christians are anti-intellectual today, and as general evidence of the goodness of Christianity (especially with hospitals). He is a little all or nothing in that approach, because there are certainly anti-intellectual Christians, and many of those are big in the home school movement and the general attack on public school that exists today (all with no trace of irony). He has a chapter on the scientific revolution, and the impact of Christians who were important scientist. The stories are good and the evidence of their belief is pretty clear, but I don’t think it will have the apologetic impact he seems to think it might. Similarly, he focuses on abolitionist and slaves that were Christian, but I think attacks on Christianity will only focus on defenders of slavery (which he does acknowledge) or generally doubt the validity of the slaves beliefs.

The final section is the best part of the book, and probably the most useful for young or new Christians. Proof that Jesus (the person) existed is overwhelming and not in dispute in academia, I think the only doubters are internet Atheists, but he does a good job displaying the information from sources outside of Christianity. A common attack against Christian beliefs is that the Resurrection and Deification of Christ were much later additions to the established Church (despite clear evidence to the contrary in the Bible). I think the Divinci Code makes this claim, so it is pretty popular now. Of course there is non-Christian written evidence by Jewish and Greek historians written a few decades (not centuries) after Christ that state that Christians claim Jesus was raised from the dead and that they worshiped him as a god.

The final chapter alone is worth the book. The middle section is good. It is important for Christians to know their history and the impact we’ve had on the world, but the apologetic aspect of the last part is of greater importance. As a church, we’ve done a poor job education our people and this is especially true in history and apologetcs. The books is really well written and very accessible. My hope would be that it would spark some interest in Christians knowing more about ourselves and better able to defend attacks. If you are starting this topic, or already interested, this is a book to add to your list.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Bible Tells Me So…

The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It

My Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – Medium length, easy read (Enns is an academic, but writes for a popular audience)

Summary
In some ways it is a little difficult to summarize this book. This is one of his few books that is written entirely for popular audiences, and he uses a unique form/structure, so it bounces around some. If you are familiar with Enns, there won’t be too much new here. For the most part you are getting some higher criticism, difficult passage in the Old Testament (as in, both things we just don’t like and unclear Hebrew), Jesus reinterpreting the Old Testament and changing the Law (because he is God), and Paul doing the same (in light of the resurrection).  The first chapter is autobiographical and touches on the subtitle of the book, but the following chapters mostly fit into the above outlines.

There are seven chapters – I’ll take door number three; God did what?!; God likes stories; Why doesn’t God make up his mind?; Jesus is bigger than the Bible; No one saw this coming; and The Bible, just as it is. The last chapter is a mostly summary and concluding remarks. Each chapter is broken into short (usually just under 5 pages) writings on anecdotes or individual passages form the Bible.

My Thoughts
If you never read any of Enns, this book could be a good places to start. If you have read most of his other books, maybe pass. Alternatively, if you want a summary of this book and response you could read Longmen’s Confronting Old Testament Controversies. You do get a little bit more of the his life story in the first chapter, but I was expecting more on the subtitle. I thought there were be more a thesis regarding our hyper focus on arguing/defending the Bible, and then the impact of that on how we read it. I agree with the former, and was really hoping on my insight on the later. However, often the subtitle and sometimes in the the title are written by the editors/publisher. I might have passed if I had know how small a part of the book this idea was.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I really like Enns as a writer, his style is short and funny. Everything is very readable, almost like a large compilation of blog posts (but better/more organized). There are points with which I disagree, and some of his translation seem a little too lose, making them lead more to the point he is trying to make than a stricter/better interpretation. It wouldn’t be a the top of my list, but if you’ve read a good bit about OT issues/problems/’contradictions’ or the way Jesus/Paul change/reinterpret them and you are still looking for something, this would be a good option. He has an appendix of notes and further reading from people who agree and disagree with him.