A Joyful Army of Six

We are Brian and Cara Bergeron. We currently live, homeschool, work, and play soccer in beautiful Southcentral Oregon. We are children of God, children of two marvelous sets of parents who are still happily married, children of the '80s, children who fell in love when we were but children, children who have inherited four unexpected and undeserved blessings from the Lord--Brandt, Gresham, Seth, and Evangeline. Together we are (as Eva will tell you with a shout) "in the Lord's army. Lethirrrr!"

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Temporal Blessing

This is a recent essay by Brandt, commemorating our First Amendment freedom of religion, given in the Bill of Rights. We're studying American history this year. It was a gratifying moment to see Brandt's knowledge of history, government, and his testimony of faith merge together. He's obviously listening and observing our lives all the time. What a humbling thought!

A Temporal Blessing
By Brandt Bergeron

During a 2007 survey, 42% of all Americans claimed to be “born-again” Christians. Of that dwindling number, a whopping 37% firmly stated that their personal belief was that their good works could get them into heaven (Barna Research Group)! Correspondingly, the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights grants Americans freedom the practice their unorthodox faith freely. Yet, according to the Bible, what is true religion?

I believe in a triune and perfect God, who created the universe. By his sovereign grace, He ordained that I would be His joyful servant. I believe that the three persons of this everlasting godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, exist in unchangeable unity of relationship. I hold it to be true that They desire to bring people into this relationship. I must praise God every moment of my life, because He commands, desires and owns this praise, for He created me. Because my praise is imperfect, by faith alone I must trust that Jesus makes the way for God to accept my worship. I pray each day to Jesus, who sacrificed His body for me on the cross like a meek lamb. I read the Bible, God’s holy word. I make it my aim not to be oppressed by servile trepidation of the Lord. On the contrary, I should bear nothing but filial affection and fear toward my Heavenly Father. God’s grace moves through me to bless others. His grace abounds incessantly. By dying on the cross, Jesus redeemed me from slavery to sin, in order to bring me and other sinners into eternal blessing. Undeniably, one of the temporal blessings He has given me, as an American, is my First Amendment freedom of faith. The numbers fight against biblical Christians. In fact, the whole world is licking its chops trying to catch Christians off-guard. However, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Nana's Famous O-Bone Roast

We have a pretty incredible selection of pasture-raised beef in our part of the world. The Prather Ranch isn't far away and several of my friends in the community raise cattle for beef, nearly all of it organic--though not certified. Right now, our family has a freezer full of beef. Although we all tend to think of roasts as a special occasion or a Sunday meal, I love them for their hands-off nature. Once you've dredged the meat and seared it to get a good crust, the oven does the rest of the work for you. You need a roast with the bone in. This increases nutrition (think bone broth) and taste considerably. You’ll probably have to ask your butcher for a bone-in roast. Ask for an O-bone or a 7-bone roast.

This recipe belongs to my Nana, one of the best cooks I know.

Salt the roast well and dredge it in flour.
Preheat oven to 325 (do NOT use convection setting).
In a large Dutch oven, heat about 2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil or coconut oil (both have a high smoke point so will not produce free radicals when heated to high) to high heat.
Sear roast 4 minutes per side or until a light crust forms. This takes some wrestling with hands, spatula, and cooking fork.
Remove from heat and set in a large roasting pan.
Turn heat off.
Skin 4 cloves garlic and slice in half.
Pierce crust of roast with a knife and insert garlic cloves evenly throughout.
Slice 2 onions in halves and place in the bottom of the pan.
Prepare several whole carrots (washed, scrubbed).
Prepare several whole potatoes (washed, scrubbed, halved).
Place roast back in Dutch oven on top of onions.
Fill in empty spaces with potatoes and carrots.
Fill pan with about 1 inch of water.
Salt and pepper vegetables well.
Pop on the lid and place in oven.
Check after 1 1/2 hours to see if water level is adequate.
Return to oven for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until roast is tender. Remove from oven.
Remove vegetables from pan to a platter.
Slice roast into serving size pieces. Add to platter.
Add onions to platter.
Pour pan juices over and salt to taste.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Our Resident Theologian

Seth, our third in line at age 6, is often inadvertently hilarious. It seems the only time the Bergerons are funny is when they aren't trying!

There's been a lot of fanfare in our home over the national championship; Seth likes Tim Tebow from the Florida Gators because he's a Christian. A couple days ago, Seth said to Brian (you have to imagine his high-pitched voice): "Dad, do you think Tim Tebow is a credobaptist or a paedobaptist?" Yes, seriously.

Fast forward about a week: Brian was preparing to send a copy of Given For You, Recovering Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper, to "Pastor Ryan" of Desert Springs Church, the church we attended with our friends in Albuquerque. Seth, reflecting upon our time in Albuquerque, quipped to Brian, "Daddy, Desert Springs Church was a good church. I liked Pastor Ryan, even if he did have a Zwinglian view of the Lord's Supper!"

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Story by Brandt

This is Brandt's version of the Boston Tea Party story. You can see many of the same ideas and word choices as they both took from the same source document. But the style is different. As are the metaphors, similes and word choices. My favorite metaphor in Brandt's is "pickled vengeance." He worked hard for that one!

The Boston Tea Party
a story by Brandt Bergeron

In December, 1773, a cool evening had developed in the congested streets of Boston. Abnormally, the regularly clamorous crowds seemed tense, as though waiting for something. People conversed in hushed tones. Ten-year-old Paul stood with his elder brother, who was a member of the impassioned Sons of Liberty, waiting. He wasn’t sure what was going to happen but he knew that it had to do with the three sleek British ships, bursting with tea, lying in the harbor like still and defiant rebels.

According to rumor, Paul’s father had told him that the Exasperating Roadblock, King George of England, had taxed the colonies greatly on items such as paper goods, ink, lead, and, most of all, tea. The governor enforced taxes cruelly. Fuming colonists despised it. They became indignant. Determinedly, they refused to buy highly taxed items and felt cheated and angry and demanded that the recent shipment of tea to the colonies be sent back to England at once. However, the unrelenting governor stated that, “The King’s orders are imperative to right living and that, to obey them properly, the tea must be completely unloaded by the night of December 16.” Tonight was that very night.

Suddenly, dozens of “indians” wove warily through the crowds. As they passed, Paul realized that the “indians,” who were carrying axes, weren’t Indians at all. They were the Sons of Liberty! They boarded the ships. Then came an ominous noise . . . “Whack! Crack! Split! Splash!” After a few moments, the pungent scent of tea and sea water filled the night air like pickled vengeance. A cry broke out and people began to chant wildly, “Rally Indians! Bring your axes, and tell King George we’ll pay no taxes!” Paul was certain that the disdainful King George would understand this bitter message.

A Story by Gresham

The following is one of the promised writing samples from Gresham, our 8 year old. This is a fictional story that he created using his first "decorations," some metaphor/similes and three short staccato sentences. There are three similes in the story and they're as easy to spot as a yellow polka dot bikini in a sea of Oregon corduroy (pardon my late night attempt at the same).

The Boston Tea Party
a story by Gresham Bergeron

It was December, 1773. Colonists roamed the streets. They fumed. Patiently, Paul sat transfixed on a lumpy bench watching the crowd walk past. His brother was one of the irate Sons of Liberty, and had told him something exciting was about to happen. Above the tumult, mischievous Paul dallied like a dejected street urchin. He guessed the hullabaloo had something to do with the three towering ships in the harbor, which were loaded with British tea. These were cargo ships.

King George taxed the tea. Colonists calmly refused to buy. King George raged. Colonists felt cheated and angry. Concerning the matter, they told the governor, who acted like a puppet, to take the loathed tea back to England. But foolishly the flimsy governor said, “The King’s orders must be obeyed,” and the tea had to be unloaded like an autumn tree taking off its leaves by December 16th. That was tonight.

About this time, the crowd started to stir and 100 queer “indians” broke through the crowd like grim gila monsters. Paul comprehended they were obviously carrying axes. Then in the moonlight, the Sons of Liberty boarded the ships. Whack, whack, whack! Openly the “indians” endeavored to chop open the chests of British tea and discard the boxes into the harbor. The scent of tea was in the air. The people started to chant, “Rally Indians! Bring your axes, and tell King George we’ll pay no taxes.” Paul knew King George would understand this message. Paul sensed conflict had begun.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Why This Mom Treasures a Writing Program

Institute for Excellence in Writing has been a Knight in Shining Armor to this mother of three boys! I know from experience being around other children that our three boys have what might even be termed "verbal gifts"--perhaps sometimes in excess. But they are still boys. Boys do not like to write. Or maybe I should say that boys do like writing but would prefer to do anything else except write, if given the opportunity. Baseball calls. The green golf course beckons. Pencils are a thrall around the neck of a boy's desire for wide open spaces and the free exercise of their Outside Voices. Or, as Andrew Pudewa, the Atascadero-based commander in chief of IEW would say, "Boys know that the Whole Point of Life is to build forts."

So how did I, one lone mother in a sea of requests for special non-writing dispensations and the doleful pleas of writing callouses, manage to pull off not one, but TWO, reports on colonial life in two short weeks? The answer is in the IEW curriculum's sequential checklist format, its practice-until-you-master-it mentality, and its refusal to go the open-ended blank page creative writing route of most curricula. In week one, both Brandt and Gresham checked out several sources from the library children's section (research skills too!) Then they read the sources to one another while I made dinner in an entirely different room! Please don't tell anyone that I left my homeschooled children unattended. In so doing, the boys each collected their own key word outline of useful and most interesting facts about their topics (colonial travel and colonial houses). From this key word outline, they wrote one sentence after another until they ran out of facts. Then the paragraph was done. Whew! Did I really expect them to write THREE paragraphs? And how!

Thus far we're in Week 9 of our Classical Conversations-based IEW program. The "dress-ups" introduced to the children are
1. A quality adjective
2. An -ly word (adverb)
3. A strong verb
4. A who/which clause (adjectival clause)

The sentence openers introduced to this point are
1. A very short sentence
2. An adverbial (-ly) opener
3. A prepositional phrase opener

My goodness, are we learning English grammar too? Why didn't I ever hear the word "adverbial" before I was 35?

Because these dress-ups and openers are introduced gradually and practiced in every single paragraph every single week, my boys are finally to the point where they know how to find the better word choices and the clearer clauses and phrases for themselves. In the first week, their assignments were twice the work for me as for them. We literally spent HOURS every day trying to write what I began to think of as "That Insufferable Poem About America." My husband taught the writing one morning while I was at the dentist and claimed it was "the hardest thing he'd ever done in his life (F-15 training notwithstanding)." I have to admit secretly that the dentist was a decent excuse for a break that week. But that front-loaded work of explaining over and over again is now paying dividends.

Another step we took from the beginning was to write in a notebook our own collection of quality adjectives, strong verbs, -ly words and rousing nouns. While the boys often fail to find the word they're needing in these collections, I find that the suggestions get their writing genes up and stretching. At this point, I still answer PLENTY of their questions--but they're along the following lines: "Is it okay to put a prepositional phrase here?" or "Is this an adjectival clause?" or "Do I put a 'who' or a 'which' after this noun?" Compare these questions to the statements of desolate boys facing a blank page of creative "leaders:" "I don't know what to write." "This is dumb." "I have a writing callous from that last baseball game." And now you see why I've been prompted to wax eloquent over the idea of a writing program.

Additionally, the boys have learned how to formulate a topic sentence and restate it at the end of the paragraph in a "clincher." You may notice some of the clumsier attempts in the writing samples I plan to publish here over the next week. You will probably chuckle at the dressiness of some of the dress-ups ("They tied the thrilled horse to the post." Yes, it was in fact a "strong adjective.") However, a 'tween girl never learns how to expertly apply her makeup without some initial clumsy attempts involving glitter and blue eyeshadow, right?

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Letter to a Friend: A Sermon and a Book

I received your e-mail a few weeks ago and I was thrilled to know that it encouraged you in some way. Our family has been reading a book about Mikhail Khorev, a Russian pastor who was imprisoned for years during the time of the Soviet communist regime in Russia. The book is called “A Small Price to Pay” and is published through Christian Light. It’s not particularly well-written but it’s so interesting, gripping and inspiring that you can get beyond the mundane writing style rather quickly. Brian will read us the last chapter tonight and I can’t wait to see what happens. . .

In a parallel fashion (often the way God works—two or more concurrent events/moments in our lives that reinforce His point), Dr. Richard Gaffin, recently retired from Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, preached a sermon on Matthew 6:24-45: “Do Not Worry.” In the sermon, Dr. Gaffin said that the antidote to anxiety is prayer and thankfulness (from Philippians where Paul exhorts us to take our requests to God with thanksgiving). Worry cannot live in an environment of prayer and thankfulness. Additionally, a pastor/counselor friend of ours at church suggested some very recent scientific research which reported that the emotions of anxiety and gratitude are so mutually exclusive that they cannot subsist concurrently in the human brain! I’m not sure how these scientists measure such a thing but it is always ironic when Science concludes to be true what God Word has asserted from eternity past.

I apprehended more of this Truth as I contemplated how long and how often Mikhail prayed, sang, and thanked God while in prison. He never had time to dwell on the possibility of being beaten (he was not), tortured (he was not), or shot in the head (he was not) because He was so busy thanking the Lord for the small comforts and asking God how he could be used of Him while in prison. Strangely enough, Mikhail never asked the Lord to be delivered from prison. Even on the night when he laid in solitary confinement (he was in “The Hole” 15 days at a time for over 100 days during the course of his imprisonment) forcing himself to stay awake because, if he did not, he would fall to floor and his skin would affix permanently to the frozen grate, killing him slowly—even on that night—he felt there were three choices left to him: he could pray to be back home with his wife and children, he could pray to die, or he could pray that God would work His will through him. He prayed for the latter. The next day he was taken from “The Hole” and allowed a warm shower.

I hope that the Lord heartens you again with this sermon and a story that has so inspired me of late. A similar day of reckoning for Christians in this country may be sooner than I think. Or perhaps not. Despite the circumstances, I want to be characterized by Christ’s peace in the midst of suffering and the serenity of uncompromised Truth. Yet even the possibility of a cold shower or a night in the open fills me with dread. How much more of Christ I must have to face the days ahead—even if they are as relatively peaceful and prosperous as the last 36 years of my life!

In Jesus’ love,

Friday, October 24, 2008

For Classical Homeschoolers: A Laugh

I absolutely had to share this hysterical moment with you. Perhaps it was the hour of the day and the fact that we’d been doing IEW for at least 90 minutes—but I laughed so hard I nearly cried.

A teeny bit of history: we’ve been looking at Latin derivatives and were discussing, just this week, that the most proper meaning for the word “vulgar” is the definition “common.” I think I probably did explain that it has come to mean “offensive, indecent, risque, etc.”--unfortunately a biting commentary upon American “common” culture. Nevertheless, I wanted them to understand that the word comes from the Latin word “vulgus”--for “common people.”

Given that history, the next part might now be funny to you: Brandt and I were working to finish his second paragraph for “Houses in Colonial America,” his Essentials oral report/writing assignment for this week and the next. He had written most of the sentence but needed my help finishing it.

“Rooms in colonial homes often served a dual purpose; when the colonists put their rooms ‘to rest’ by moving all of the furniture to the walls, then they could use them . . .”

I was playing teacher, trying to draw out some ideas: “Brandt, what types of things did the colonists do after they’d put their rooms ‘to rest?’”

Brandt: “Uh . . . Normal things?”

Me: “Like?”

Brandt: “by moving all of the furniture to the walls, then they could use them . . . for vulgar purposes.”

Perhaps the funniest part was the bewildered look on his face when I began to chuckle and then giggle and then choke with laughter. I’ll leave the funny rating to you. If you’ve had a long week of schooling—or if you are a grandparent who, by definition, thinks that everything is adorable, I hope it makes you smile!