Monthly Archives: December 2018

{History Nibbles} Henry Knox

Henry Knox, better known as General Knox, was born July 25, 1750 in Boston. He was the 7th of 10 children, but 6 of his siblings did not survive to adulthood.  His father couldn’t make a living, so he left his family to work in the West Indies, forcing Henry to end his education at about a 5th grade level.  He worked at the Boston bookbindery to help support his family, and found a way to save money to eventually open his own bookshop called The London Book Shop.

While at the bookbindery, he became an avid reader, educating himself.  He taught himself French so that he could read books written only in French, and read extensively on artillery and ordinance.  He joined the local militia, and met his wife, Lucy Flicker, at his book store.  She set her sights on him, although she was educated and aristocratic and her family–Loyalists–weren’t happy about the courtship.

They married in June of 1774, and not long after the incident at Lexington and Concord led him to believe he needed to get involved.  He spent his own money travelling to join the “rabble in arms.” He and Nathaniel Greene were recruited by George Washington to lead, and stayed by his side for the eight-and-a-half years that would follow.

Henry Knox  (at age 25) successfully moved 59  cannons, equaling 119,900 pounds, from Ft. Ticonderoga, over 300 miles to a hill overlooking Boston Harbor, forcing British ships to evacuate without firing a single round.

He also commanded artillery at Trenton, Monmouth and Yorktown and was in charge of the entire artillery operation at the Delaware Crossing.

He was the first Secretary of War under George Washington.

Born into a poor family, forced to leave his education to support his family, he forged his own education, opened a bookstore (which he abandoned to looters when he joined the Revolution), stayed with the cause for 8 1/2 years, became Secretary of the War, and formed the Society of Cincinnati (still active today).

He retired to Montpelier, Maine with his wife, started businesses and employed townspeople, established a church, and died three days after a chicken bone lodged in his throat at age 56.  He and his wife had 13 children, 10 of which did not survive.

In 1794, the House of Reps voted 46-44 to authorize building a Navy.  Knox, Secretary of War, submitted proposals to the committee outlining the design and cost.  He advised it would likely cost more than the appropriation of the Naval Act, but Washington accepted the plans.    “Until this is done, we shall be liable to be ruled by an arbitrary and capricious armed tyranny, whose word and will must be law.”  --Henry Knox

~Dawn, home educating mom of 5


{Character} Traits of a Statesman: Courage

{Traits of Statesman} Courage is a muscle

originally posted April 28, 2012

Just a note, this article was written in early 2011. If you are not familiar with A Thomas Jefferson Education, the Traits of a Statesman are: virtue, wisdom, diplomacy, courage, inspires greatness in others and moves the cause of liberty.

“Courage is very important. Like a muscle it is strengthened by use.” ~ Ruth Gordon

In recent months, there have been several videos posted on YouTube and showcased on News Reports of brutal beatings and deaths occuring while people are watching, videotaping, and doing nothing about it. The most widely known is the transgender woman beaten in a McDonald’s while the employees did nothing. In fact, one employee warned the women perpetrators to leave before the police arrived.

The most horrific I’ve seen is a young father, about to become a father for the second time, in New York to visit relatives. As he is standing on the corner talking on the phone he is gunned down by a man so close, you can see him in the surveillance. It turns out, it was a case of “mistaken identity,” the reason for the murder. And yet, on the surveillance tape there are no less than five people interested in what happened, but for the first two minutes NOT ONE PERSON checks him, talks to him, calls 911, comforts him…he lays on the cold pavement, dying. His mother saw the video and could not believe that not one person helped him.

Is this who we are as a nation? Is this our level of courage? Compassion?

We all would like to think we can be courageous in the face of fear. What would you have done in that situation?

Courage IS a muscle that needs exercise. It takes a little courage, every day. The idea that you shouldn’t “get involved” is simply an excuse to bury your head and forget what we are responsible to LOVE our neighbor as we love ourselves.

I went downtown for a tax day “Tea Party” a year ago. As I was waiting by the Capitol building waiting for my ride, I heard an incredible crash. I looked over and two young men were climbing out of a car. I ran as fast as I could the 100 feet to help. One man who had exited the car kept walking, he was bleeding from the head and disoriented. I screamed to “call 911″ and another man started helping the second man while I attended to the first. He didn’t want to sit down, and I grabbed his arm and told him he has to sit down. I called another man over to help me. I whispered to the helper “He’s been drinking, he could have serious damage and is obviously in shock. Please help me sit him down.” About four of us finally sat the two men down and the police arrived, as did the ambulance.

I didn’t think about it at the time, I just knew I had to help. I didn’t notice who didn’t help, that wasn’t important to me. I also didn’t think about the fact I was almost five months pregnant.

Was it courageous? Not really. There wasn’t any real imminent danger, but I’d like to think that I exercised my muscle that day, and that if I need it in the future, it will be strong.

What courage will you display today?

~Dawn, home educating mom of 5

{Book Review} Alas, Babylon

{Classics} Alas, Babylon

Originally posted on April 28, 2012

There is nothing like the book Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank to evoke the feeling that if any large catastrophe happened, we would all be immensely unprepared.  We all assume that a catastrophe might cause a hiccup for a day or two, or maybe even a week, but we can’t fathom a hiccup for…a year?  two years?  A decade?

In the book, America is attacked by Russia with nuclear and atomic weapons.  A small town in Florida, Fort Repose, is spared while much of Florida is destroyed and contaminated.  Within 24 hours of the attacks, the dollar is worth nothing;  there is no gas left, no groceries, no essentials.  The run on the grocery markets and stations in the first day results in the individual small business rich in paper money, but poor in resources.  There are no shipments in and out.  There are two doctors, and one is killed within months.  Drug addicts steal the drugs in the clinic.  No running water.  No electricity.  Money means nothing, resources and products mean an ability to barter. And no hope for any of this to change any time soon.

  At the close of the book, a year has passed, and the first contact with someone outside of the town occurs.  A year.  And little is resolved or will be changed within the next year.

Just a big book of fear?  Something not possible to happen in our current day of technology and resources?

I spent much of my adult life believing such ideas were of the past.  We are America, with unlimited resources and so evolved that there’s no chance we’d end up back in primitive times.

And yet, this book really opened up the idea to me that though it’s unlikely, it is certainly not impossible.   We are seeing a massive uprising in the middle east that, if we are honest with ourselves, may not be as democratic as we believe.  Those who are not democratic, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Al Qaeda believe they must destroy America to bring on their second coming of their prophet, M0hammd.  We have people in our own country that believe capitalism is dead and the idea of revolution in America is a good one {watch a recent video of Bernadine Dohrn, wife to terrorist Bill Ayers and a part of the terrorist group Weather Underground, here}.  Is it unrealistic to believe we are an island protected by a magic force field and we will never see, in our lifetime, a change in our lifestyle?

If you study cycles of history, we are actually headed for another very big change, something equal to the first and second wars in America.  We believe we have escaped something similar to the Great Depression and World War II in recent years, but I believe we are headed into a Fourth Turning.  It is our own pride and narcissism as a country that leads us to believe things will not change.  And our individual lack of planning can decide whether we make it through adversity, or not.

She had small fear of death, and of man not at all, but the formlessness of what was to come overwhelmed her.  [Alice Cooksey, Alas, Babylon]

This is my favorite quote.   The “formlessness of what was to come” is one of my own biggest fears.  Out of adversity, we find strength and resourcefulness, but without the tools we need, we can easily fail.  Without the skills and education required to take care of not only ourselves, but our neighbors and community, we will fail to thrive. Driving through the mountains a few weeks ago, I saw a rock perched at the top of a cliff above the road, just a small amount of its own body in contact with the rock beneath.  It appeared as though it could tip and drop to the road at any moment, yet it could be there for years before the water and wind finally weather enough of the base to cause the rock to tumble.  As a driver on said road, do you press the pedal down just a little faster to plan for such a tumble, or do you drive the same speed with the assumption that it’s always been and will still be there in our lifetime?

The most intense lesson I learned from this novel was the speed of which our entire lives can change.  When you boil down our existence, subtracting electricity, oil and gas, and running water, what is left?  Basic survival.  Food, shelter, Water, protection, Family, education and for our family, God and Love.  It reinforced that I have to be sure those basic needs are met always.

~Dawn, Home educating mom of 5

{Classics} A Case Against Abridged Books

{Classics} A Case Against Abridged Books

Originally posted on April 28, 2012, post-script added 2013; updated again 12/1/2018

Several years back, I purchased a set of abridged children’s classics from Costco.  It was a set of 20 with titles such as Little Women, Treasure Island, Anne of Green Gables and Peter Pan.  They are rewritten and abridged, but keep the main story, with some deletions.  I started reading them with my oldest when she was 5 to spark her interest in the classics.

After my first Face to Face with Greatness seminar with Dr. Shanon Brooks, I remember calling a friend to ask if she thought the abridged classics for children were quality enough.  She said she didn’t see any problem with getting kids interested in the classics, and I didn’t see any problem myself.  After all, the main story remained the same.

My oldest is now nine and a voracious reader.  At last count, she’s read more than 80 books in 8 months (that we’ve remembered to log) and most of them rather meaty.  Some of her favorites are the Harry Potter Series, the CS Lewis Narnia Series, The Little House on the Prairie Series, the American Girl Books, The Happy Hollister Series….and the list goes on.  I’m so proud of how much she loves to read!

But I shot myself in the foot with the abridged classics.  She’s read most of them and feels as if “I’ve already read it” with those books, even though they are much more hollow than the full versions.   Inspiring her to read the unabridged versions has been tricky and not very successful.  I did manage to buy a “spin off” of Little Women called Birthday Wishes that has now inspired my daughter to read the unabridged version of Little Women.  I thought it would be a book she could relate to as she has four sisters and might understand the dynamics of the characters.

My advice:  skip the abridged versions.    If you don’t find the family will sit long enough for the full versions, just wait a little longer and try again. Eventually together, or on their own, they will read it!  Especially if it’s a new story, not the same story with more detail.

And I must add, be careful of the classics you purchase.  There is a new push to abridge the classics (removing certain language or violence), and it’s not obvious!  Orion books and Penguin Classics are an example.

From the Penguin website: “The series is to be composed of original translations from Greek, Latin and later European classics, and it is the editor’s intention to commission translators who can emulate his own example and present the general reader with readable and attractive versions of the great writers’ books in modern English, shorn of the unnecessary difficulties and erudition, the archaic flavour and the foreign idiom that renders so many existing translations repellent to modern taste”

 In the bookstore a week ago, I noticed the only notation of the change in a Robinson Crusoe book was a small blurb on one of the first few pages saying it was abridged, so please be aware!

 P.S.  The best way to inspire a child to read a classic is to read it yourself, tell little bits of the story that are exciting, and watch the curiosity in their eyes!

Update:  I wrote this article about a year ago for a different blog, and I wanted to include an update. Since this article, my now-ten-year-old is still a voracious reader and has, much to my delight, read many of the unabridged books she was introduced to as abridged stories.  It took effort convincing her she was missing a great deal of the story, and I still stick by my conclusion that abridged books can, in the long run, sabotage a child’s desire to read the unabridged version.

Update 2 (12/2018): My oldest child is now 16 and still a voracious reader.  She is working her way through a classics list, as are my 14 and 13 year old.  I have never introduced the abridged books to my younger children; I still don't believe they are necessarily counterproductive, but unnecessary to engage children in the classics.  Instead, we listen to them as a family, or I listen/read with my smaller children.  I have witnessed smaller children understand the story, learning a more complex language structure and vocabulary (versus the books that are geared more toward the age group currently).

~Dawn, Leadership Educating Mom of 5, ages 8-16