When it comes to homeschooling I like to put the bulk of our time, energy and resources into the fun subjects that we do all together like science, social studies and Bible. When it comes to the 3 R’s I’m pretty much a cheapskate and use simple essentials that get the job done. This means that math can sometimes get a bit boring. My solution to this has been, instead of switching to a glitzier, costlier math program, to let them take a 1 or 2 week long break from their usual math drudgery and work out of an alternative workbook or read from some fun math-based series like Life of Fred or Sir Cumference (Thank you again, Kristin C.) The same thing goes for grammar. We use Rod and Staff’s “Building Christian English” series which is notoriously dull and thorough to the point of being repetitive. But it is also cheap, has a long shelf life, and effectively gets the job done. Every now and then I get the sense that the natives are restless and about to revolt if forced to read one more chapter which means it’s time for a break. Lately, their grammar substitute of choice has been doing Mad Libs. These humorous fill-in-the-blank activity books were around when I was a kid and now come in every subject you can imagine. Titus just finished reading the entire 60+ book Hardy Boys series and is thus currently interested in all things forensic. Yes, there’s a Mad Libs book for that and yes, I let he and Joel do nothing but that as grammar for a week.
Here’s how Mad Libs work:
You’ve got a story with blank lines in every sentence and instructions to fill in each blank with a noun, verb, adjective etc… The reader asks the word-giver for someone’s name or a place or some descriptive term and writes it in the blank. Then he reads back the story with the word-giver’s answers and of course it always comes out very silly and confusing and not making any sense at all. Listening to my boys giggle over these non-sensical stories I couldn’t help but think of how many things in our post-modern society resemble Mad Libs in their philosophy. When there are no absolutes pretty much anything can be used to fill-in-the-blank.
Take Christmas for example. Sometimes I wonder if the inventors of this holiday didn’t use some kind of Mad Lib type format in it’s development.
Let’s make a holiday to celebrate Christ’s birth. We don’t know exactly what day he was born on so let’s choose (random date) . For his birthday we will always depict him as being (random infantile age) and not as the Exalted King of Glory and Eternal Judge that he is. We will also make (random store) rich by buying presents for (names of everyone you know) even though it’s not their Birthday. We will deck our homes, businesses, and public places out with (names of plants, animals, mythical characters, and particular weather patterns common to the Northern latitudes and not at all relevant to Christ’s actual place of birth) . We will feast on (random foods no one from Bethlehem ever tasted) and participate in parties, programs, and parades no Nazarite ever knew. All in all, this celebration will be as far removed from the Judean culture as the North Pole is from (random middle-eastern location) . Everyone from (random country) to (random country) will join in celebrating the birth of someone they either ignore, don’t believe in or downright hate the other 364 days of the year. We will call this celebration of his birth a Christ-Mass, which is actually a commemoration of his death, unless we’re a public figure in which case we will refer to the holiday as (some other secular seasonal greeting) .
Before you get up-in-arms and start shouting “Scrooge!” at me, I’m not attacking Christmas nor anyone’s particular methods of celebrating it. I’m just suggesting that as referenced in Joshua 4, when our children ask in times to come, “What do these [traditions] mean?” we better have something more substantive than the typical post-modern Mad-Lib-fill-in-the-blank response to answer them with. Especially when it comes to the worship of our King.