You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

C. S. Lewis



Thursday, September 13, 2018

Backyard Ball

Years ago, when all we had were small children, a backyard game of baseball was a common occurrence. Hubs would do much of the pitching when he was home in the evenings, and sometimes the kids would play during the day without him. A bare patch of grass predictably sprung up where home plate was positioned. Grass did not grow there for years. It was kind of ugly, and it was directly off the patio, so it was clearly visible at all times. I accepted this as just a part of being a parent, and looked forward to grass eventually growing in.

Years went by, and baseball was not as popular with the next batch of kids as it had been with the first. The older ones had jobs and friends and activities. The grass grew back in thick and lush.

The 9 year old loves ball, and hubs would take the kids to the park to hit a few. I'm not sure why the change in location; we've lived in the same house all along, and the park has always been there. But the 21 year old moved out a year ago to get married, and comes by regularly. He eats, uses the printer, reads the paper and visits with me. And he goes in the  back yard to play ball with the 9 year old and anyone else who wants to join in.






I try to spend some time sitting and watching them, soaking it in. These days are slipping by, and the 21 year old will eventually move on in life with career and family and that could include a move. Who knows? So I make sure to enjoy this phase. I know the kids are- especially that 9 year old who adores his oldest brother.

And guess what sprung up again in the yard?


A bare spot. And I am so thankful for it. I wish it would always be there.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Manifesto

Some recent conversations, both in person and online, and a couple of books on education, both secular and faith-based, have got me thinking deeply. Why do I keep my kids out of school? These books and conversations made me realize I have become a bit complacent about my convictions.

I asked my kids old and young alike if they knew why they were/are home educated. The oldest was able to articulate some, but even then, she was not quite sure. She, being almost 23, can see the benefits and can see that she is better educated than her peers. But as to her parents' reasons, she could not say much other than we did it for religious reasons, which are correct, but that was as specific as she could get. The next oldest, 21 also figured it out on his own but was more specific. He believes we took the Biblical commands to teach our children in the way they should go and to teach them when we rise up, literally. He correctly assumed that we believe teaching our children was our responsibility, and ours alone. The rest of the kids, shrugged their shoulders, except the 6 year old, who surmised that I really like having my kids home and that I love to read aloud to them all. And of course, she is correct as well! Smart girl.

In neglecting to relay to my kids my reasons, I feel like I have failed them. I just expected them to know why they were at home, somehow. How could I have assumed that? Why would I assume that? We decided to keep them home more out of instinct than conviction at first; but as the convictions grew, I failed to share them with my kids.

The advantage of having lots of kids is you can learn from your mistakes you make with the first few kids, and correct yourself on the younger ones. For primarily my own benefit, and that of my kids (even the ones who have left home or are done with school), I want to attempt to articulate our reasons for this choice. And if it benefits someone contemplating home education, or a veteran, or someone in between, all the better. This is by no means an exhaustive list- just some of the more important reasons that I have for keeping them at home.

Note: the use of the pronoun "I" in no way excludes my husband from this; it was just easier to use "I" rather than "us" or "we" etc. He is completely and totally as committed to home education as I am and is my staunchest supporter.

1. Parents are responsible for their children's spiritual and academic learning and growth.

While the Bible does not explicitly prohibit or allow our kids to go to school, it does command parents to teach their kids.Since all knowledge and wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord, and parents are commanded to teach their kids, divorcing the fear of the Lord and academics seems at the least counterproductive, and at the most, very confusing to children. I chose to err on the side of caution, and see to their education myself. In Proverbs, we are told more than once that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom/knowledge. If this is true, as I believe it to be, then putting my children in school all day long would get in the way of that. Certainly, a child can be taught the fear of the Lord if he attends school, but then the parent must work around someone else's schedule and agenda to do so. I don't want to waste my child's time. Kids want answers to the big questions in life, and I want them to have ample opportunities to ask and learn. Deuteronomy 11:19 instructs us to teach our children throughout the day. School would interfere with that. Proverbs 22:6 tells parents to teach their children in the way they should go. School would interfere with that too. 

2. It's not good for kids to be around their peers all day long, every day.

Proverbs describes a fool as someone who does not believe in God and someone who despises wisdom and instruction. It also states that folly is bound up in the heart of a child. So, in a average classroom of 30 kids, there are 30 people whose hearts are full of foolishness. If the teacher does not believe in God, and/or despises wisdom and instruction, then the situation looks grim. It's like the blind leading the blind. And even if the teacher is a Christian, she is limited in what she can do to guide all 30 fools in being wise according to Scripture. For now, the only choice in education is public school, or Christian/Private school (which is based on the PS model). Perhaps in a Christian or private school, the dynamics are more conducive to a good education, but I believe it still falls short. Since I can't afford to send the kids to a Christian or Private school, I chose home education.  However, we could have schools that completely break the mold of the PS system- but the powers that be will likely never let that happen. (Other than Montessori schools, which are too few and too expensive, but which I believe we should use as a model). In any case, the current model, enforced by law, is to have kids around their peers way too much. 

3. Keeping kids home is much more natural for both the parent and the child.

The school environment seems wholly unnatural to me, and I suspect it does to many children as well, but they are powerless to change their circumstances, or unable to even articulate why they are frustrated or disillusioned with their lot in life. Kids are meant to move and talk and touch and get dirty and get lost in their imaginations. They want to learn in their own way, at their own pace, when they are ready to learn. Kids are wired with insatiable curiosity and require the time to satisfy that- and most often it takes way more time than a class-time period allows. These children were given to me, to teach them the fear of the Lord, and to teach them in the way they should go. In order to do that, I need to be with them. How can I teach them, if I don't know them really well? How can I know them if I am with them only while rushing them out the door, or when they are tired and grumpy from a long day at school, rushing them through their homework, driving them to their activities and rushing them off to bed? I know my kids because of the time I have spent with them. Quantity time is far more essential than quality time in raising kids and teaching them. This is not to say no one else can teach my kids things- there have been plenty of wonderful folks along the way who have taught my kids a wide variety of skills, and I am thankful to them. But even then, they did so with my permission and knowledge and some oversight.

4. I can do in far less time, effort, and money what the public schools attempt to do.

Home education is far more efficient and effective. It can cost as little as the individual family needs or wants. And really, I don't want to emulate public school anyway. I want my kids to have an education, not mere schooling. We have a very limited time with our kids. They grow up and leave way too quickly. And even if they stick around for a while after graduating, they are living their own lives! Again, I don't want to waste their time. Kids really don't need 12 years of sitting at a desk to learn the academics they need to move on in life. Remember hearing from your parents or grandparents that back in their day, 8th grade was the end of school and they were ready for whatever was next? Ever pick up an 8th grade textbook from 150 years ago and tried to figure out what in the world they were learning? Before compulsory schooling come on the scene, education was delivered far more efficiently and was far more advanced than today's! And we are spending more and more money to keep compulsory school in business. I want my kids to look back on their childhood and recall hours spent on the couch being read to, or reading to themselves. Of afternoons spent creek walking or climbing trees or tinkering. Of elaborate games of pretend- alone or with siblings. Of doing school work in the backyard in the sun and leisurely lunches or afternoon snacks. There's that quantity time again; I want a large quantity of their time spent being children, rather than part of a machine.

5. I want to direct my children's education personally, and enable them to learn on their own so that they own their education.

What, after the fear of the Lord, do I want my kids to learn? Do I want them to learn how to sit still for hours at a time? Stand in line? Raise their hands when they have a question? Lots of seemingly unrelated facts that must be memorized long enough to spit back out on a test, only to be forgotten? Do what they are told unquestioningly, when they are told to do it? Even if I did want those things, I don't think it would take 12 years to accomplish it. I think I'd rather have them learn to read their Bible and fine literature. There are subjects that I think are worth learning, but I also want to impart to them a love of learning that will last their entire lives. I want them to know that the world is their classroom, and as long as they are in this world, they are learning. Discovering music and science and math. Developing their bodies in sports. Working at a job for pay. I want them to see that all knowledge is related! But there is so much more than that. A particular joy of mine has been to observe my children and their hobbies and talents and interests, then help them find ways to develop those passions, ultimately educating themselves and deciding what to do with their lives.

6. I can tailor my kids' education to each of them, making the most of the precious few years I have with them.

My kids are unique learners. Some are primarily auditory. Some are kinesthetic. Some visual or verbal. Some of them are a bit of each, or they vary depending on the subject. So I can tailor my methods to fit the child. I can help them discover how they learn, and what they want to learn more of, to make goals and achieve them. School simply cannot accommodate all learning styles for all children at all times, and the kids that don't fit the mold fall behind, get bored, or are slapped with a learning disability label (and I am sure that more than one of my kids would have been subjected to such labels). I can use the same materials in different ways, depending on the ability and aptitude of each child. I can switch to a completely different curriculum or drop the subject completely to pick up later or perhaps not. I can let them sleep as late (within reason) as they need because they are pretty busy growing. When they are old enough to work independently (and that varies from child to child too) they can decide how and when and in what order to complete what I have laid out for them. And if they finish up early, they have lots of free time to pursue whatever they wish!

6. My baby is right. I really like my kids, and I like being around them, taking life a bit more slowly than the rest of the world does.

I love to hear them making music or having vigorous discussions with each other or simply playing. I love having deep conversations with them over lunch. I do love to read aloud to them, even the high schoolers. They are pretty nice people to be around most of the time. I wanted children because I wanted to be around them, not to surrender them to the state at age 5, for the rest of their childhood.  I purposely made life really simple for them- I wanted them to know how to not rush through life. Sure, there are seasons for being busy, and there should be. But the skill of being alone, perhaps bored, of thinking deeply, choosing to slow down, is an important skill. Long school days, hours of homework, time on the internet and participating in many activities leaves little to no time for a child to develop this skill. It leaves very little time for the child to develop as a whole human being, and I'd like to a part of that as much as possible.

7. I am a rebel at heart.

Sure, most of the time, my rebelliousness has gotten me in trouble. My stubbornness has irritated more than a few folks. So when it came to deciding whether to homeschool or not, I naturally chose to rebel. The state says my kids must go to their school? No thanks. The state says there are hoops to jump through to keep them home? OK. I will obey those laws to the letter and not one bit more. The state thinks that I can't educate my kids? Watch me. You think I don't know what I am doing? Just get out of my way, and we will see. This was an area where I could rebel to my heart's content. These kids have been loaned to me and no one else, and I don't care what the "experts" and educrats and relations or anyone else says. I like to buck the system and beat it at its own game.

8. I am protective.

Having been on the receiving end of a fair amount of bullying, shunning and snubbing, I wanted to protect my kids. Having been shocked at first, then influenced, by the language, attitudes and behaviors of my peers, I wanted to keep my kids from the same experiences. These things do nothing good for a child. Nothing. My job is not to toughen them up for the world, but to prepare them for it, bit by bit, as they seem ready. That's not to say none of my kids have been influenced by the world. They have. For the most part, they were ready for it, comfortable enough with themselves, and not too apt to be swayed by harmful or unhealthy behaviors and attitudes.

Is home education perfect or an iron-clad guarantee of anything good? No way. Nothing in this world is perfect, but I refused to settle for "good enough" and instead reached for something better. Will our kids turn out OK and stay on the straight and narrow if we educate them at home? Maybe. Some of that is up to us parents, and some of it is up to the child. 

Right now, my two oldest are gone, on their own. I see them frequently, but I miss them so much. I love it when they call or stop by and tell me what is going on in their lives. It has been a privilege (not just a duty) to be their mom and learn and live together while they are with me, then enjoying them as adults. Home learning is really just part of being a parent- just part of being a family. I sure don't regret the years I spent with them at home.

Not.one.bit.







Sunday, April 29, 2018

Payday

The last few months have been full of ruined plans, emptiness and frustration, to the point where I just don't plan anything anymore. Long story, and it's not the point here anyway.

But the Master Planner really pulled one off this week.

The 9 yr old had his adenoids out (OK, that was planned) and I had arranged for my older adult kids to help out around the house while my husband and I were away for several hours.

We left the house at 8:10 and the 21 year old arrived moments later. He plugged in his music to our stereo, cranked it, and proceeded to cook a big breakfast of pancakes, sausage and bacon. The kids awoke to a shaking house and delicious smells. Then he cleaned up the kitchen and helped his 6 year old sister with her math, while the rest of the kids did their schoolwork.

The 23 year old arrived later and settled in to wait to snuggle her baby brother. We got to the house to find the 15 year old cooking a lovely soup with the assistance of his 18 and 12 year old sisters. The 21 year old started a roaring fire for his little brother, who nestled up to the 23 year old on the couch for quite some time. I heated up some bread, and while it poured rain outside, we sat around the fire, listening to music and visiting. The two oldest were engaged in a lively discussion about EMS and police stuff. The other kids were lounging about the family room. The 23 year old took a few siblings to the store for gifts for the patient and to buy ingredients for a hot taco dip. She whipped that up and throughout the afternoon, everyone snacked.

It was like Christmas to me. All the months of uncertainty, anguish and sleepless nights were forgotten for the afternoon. My kids were all in the same room. Just being together. Feeding each other, keeping each other company. No one fought. No one seemed to mind anything. They were all just content with life for a moment- all at the same time.

It was payday. Payback for all the tears and new wrinkles. Payback for heartache.

It was a beautiful sight to behold. I didn't get a picture with my camera, but my heart did.

God cares that much. For me.

The 9 year old is on the mend, with a minor set-back of having the flu with a high fever. The 23 year old came over this morning as soon as she heard we were taking him to the ER to have him checked out. We came home to find her snuggling the 6 year old and the rest of the kids hanging out together. The 21 year old came over and we all had lunch while the three boys played video games and the rest of us chatted.

Twice in a week. Now, how awesome is that? How awesome is our God?  Plenty.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Caught in the Act

The days pass so quickly here at home. It seems I was just starting out with my oldest three kids just a couple of years ago, instead of being some 17 years into this journey of parenthood.

In an earlier post I discussed my distaste for the word "homeschooling" and so I may slip into it from time to time, for lack of a better word, or to be clearer to those reading this who are new to this way of life. But really, all I am doing is being a mom.

And for all its trials and messes and bad days, there are so many moments that I treasure up in my heart and mind, and, occasionally, on my camera.

I love catching the kids doing mundane things.  Average things. Quiet things. On their own, just being themselves.

The 6 year old reading her Calvin and Hobbes before getting up for a late breakfast. The 9 year old reading a book or building with Legos in his room. The 12 year old reading her Bible or listening to music and knitting, or playing dolls with her little sister. The 15 year old painting or writing or cooking. The 18 year old planning out her day, or singing or teaching herself some new music.

The list goes on. All day long, they are learning and growing (too quickly!!)

Catch them doing life. Catch them in the act. Catch them if you can, momma. Because soon enough, they will leave the nest. And you will have piles of memories!

And so will they.

  Trying out a new recipe.


 See? He even carries his Lego creations and books with him!


A quiet lunch spent bird watching.

Ahh, these days!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Factory Irony

Kids ask so many questions. Usually when I have not had a full cup of coffee or while I am reading the paper or doing chores. I so quickly forget that my kids ARE my primary job, until they start hammering me with their questions. And they aren't simple, easy ones, like "what's for dinner?"(look at the menu, please) or "have you seen my shoes?" (right where you left them, I would imagine). No, they're hard questions like "why does God let Satan tempt us?"(Um, let's wait for daddy to get home), or "how was Jesus born one day, but he also made the world long before that?" (let me have some coffee first, sweetie). And their timing is their own. They have a need for knowledge, and they ask for it immediately, rather than waiting for a good time. Because that's their job. My job is to stop what I am doing, if possible, and answer as best I can.

But sometimes they ask a question, and we talk, and a day later I am hit with an epiphany. Usually while blow drying my hair. There is something so relaxing and contemplative about putting white noise up to your ear. Somehow, it helps me process things.

The question in question, so to speak, was asked over the dinner table, after the dishes had been mostly cleaned off and pushed away. It ran along the lines of our schooling system and why we have it, and what would happen if it were suddenly gone. So that led to an explanation of the pre-industrialization era and education in those days, then into the industrialization era, and its effects on education. Which then led to explaining the original purpose of compulsory schooling laws.

To keep kids out of the factories, and in school, learning how to read and write.

I thought the conversation ended there, but it continued on in my head, while the hair dryer was blissfully blowing in my ear.

The irony of it made me gasp out loud and put the hair dryer down.

Schools quickly became factories themselves- seeking to mold our children into a desired likeness to each other and into useful citizens who could work where needed.

We took our kids out of a factory and put them into another one. Except instead of being the workers, they became the product.

I am greatly sobered and disturbed by this thought. It sobers me because I must endeavor to help my children become who and what God wants them to be, not what the State wants. I have to leave enough time in their lives, after the math and science and piano practice, for them to know and love God and to discover what His plans are for them. I am disturbed by this because our culture has, by and large, unquestioningly bought into this model for schooling. What started out as a seemingly good idea- protecting kids from the dangers of forced work- turned into forced schooling. And we ended up trading one problem for another.

It seems there is no turning back, no easy solution. But a starting place is a basic understanding of our current education system, and more importantly, its history. (I highly recommend John Taylor Gatto's  The Underground History of American Education for a comprehensive and lengthy, but fascinating history lesson, in which the "good" part of the idea becomes questionable). And from there, a questioning on the part of parents, and their kids.

Why do we do things the way we do them?
Is there a better way?
How can we change or at least challenge the status quo?
What is true education, especially for the Christian?

I can't make a sweeping suggestion to cure the ills of our education system. It's too big and complicated and too far-reaching for easy answers. My answer has been to simply not be a part of the problem, and educate my children myself (well, they are mostly self-educated) and to raise children that will question not just education, but all things in our society. My hope has been to contribute to a solution, one child at a time, by launching adults into the world that can think for themselves, teach themselves and make educated decisions. My starting point has been to send  my taxes to the State as a law abiding citizen, but to keep my kids at home, so that someday, they can make the State a better place to live in.





Monday, February 26, 2018

Beat Down

What do you do when you are blindsided by life?  When your world is thrown into chaos and your days are filled with phone calls, appointments and putting out fires? When your heart is broken beyond belief and you simply can't focus on getting through the day?

The circumstances are not relevant here- it could be anything. What is relevant is how to pick up the pieces and try to carry on as a homeschooler.

Putting the kids in school would seem a good idea at this point, since you are struggling to figure out what's for dinner or how you are going to get to the store. But the more you think about it, you realize that really won't solve anything. It won't heal your heart or restore order to your life.

So what do you do?

You.just.stop.

"Kids, we aren't going to do school for a while, and I'm not sure when we will pick back up."

This has been my school year. We have gotten back into a very pared down routine, but I have witnessed the following:

The 6 yr old figured out how to read and can read some simple books. She has learned to knit. She asks deep, philosophical and theological questions. She has learned to fix herself a simple breakfast and can clean up after herself, make her bed and take care of her laundry and her room. She loves to make my bed all by herself, and I let her even though it's not perfect. It's good enough.

The 9 yr old is reading through the Chronicles of Narnia. He makes elaborate Lego creations. He likes to write and illustrate stories. He also has learned to knit. He likes to play card and board games. He does his own laundry and can do quite a lot of chores around the house.

The 12 yr old has really gotten into knitting (explaining the younger two siblings' interest in it!). She has become an independent learner in almost all her subjects (earlier than I usually encourage it- but circumstances dictated it). She cleans the kitchen without being asked and she and her little sister are in charge of their room and their own laundry. She has figured out that she can usually finish her school work before lunch, and then has the day free to knit, write letters to her pen pals, listen to music or read.

The 15 yr old is completely on his own, and finished up history early. So, I gave him a stack of random books and he is devouring them. He is working on a beautiful mural in his room- a mountain scene reminiscent of Rivendell from the Lord of the Rings. He is writing a science fiction novel. He re-purposes trash into art. He figured out how to work the sewing machine. He even tried knitting! He is planning a flower garden and some renovations to his room.

The kids play games together, and are watching a variety of educational videos along with the entire run of Hogan's Heroes. (The 15 yr old looked up all the real life characters that are mentioned in the show and read up on them). They have learned to rely on each other more, and on me less.

This school year, from an outsider's perspective, might look like a total wash. It even seemed that way to me at first. But as I have had to take care of other things, I have watched them learn so much!

You may be in a similar place in life. I'm sorry that you are. It's just so wearying. I feel so weak and insufficient at times. I don't even have the energy to encourage you- I wrote this more as a reminder to myself what HAS actually happened here, lest I forget. And I'm sure I have forgotten things or don't even know all of the things they have learned to do or think about.

I guess someday, things will be better- more "normal." I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, nor do I have much hope-yet.

Life can beat you down. And sometimes people will join in and kick you while you are down (that, as well, has happened to me recently). But I do have the Lord- the one sure thing in my life. Sometimes things are so big, so beyond our control or comprehension, we can easily give it right back to God. That's where I'm at. I'm sorry if you are too. Just know you are not alone.

Peace.



Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Homeschooling is a Bad Name

I don't like telling people we homeschool.

Huh? Yes, you heard me correctly. A veteran, die-hard, you'd-have-to-pry-the-kids-from-my-cold-dead-hands kind of homeschooler just said that.

I just don't like the name. I love what I do, but the name? Well, it turns me off. And I bet it turns a lot of others off too. Folks who might consider it, but are put off by the name. Parents who want something better than what the public school can offer, but can't afford a private school, might do it, but the name scares them off.

Parents of pre-school age kids, especially, are pressured to make a decision. Everyone is looking at pre-schools for juuuust the right one. But some moms are not really feeling it, and would love to carry on without interrupting things with pre-school, but worry about their little one missing out or falling behind or not having friends. As if mom isn't enough.

So let me put to rest some concerns.

If you think your life will change the moment your child is "ready" for school, you are wrong. Nothing changes. Not your child. Not you. But our culture has most of us convinced that at the magic age of, say, 3-4, our kids suddenly need to be put in a classroom. And this is to ensure that at the next magic age of 5, they will be trained to be in a classroom already. And THAT is to ensure that at the really magic age of 6, they will be thoroughly conditioned for spending the next 12 years in a classroom.

That's just depressing.

But still, nothing has really changed with you or your child, except you have lost your courage.

So, take heart, homeschooling is really just continuing on your parenting journey without the interruptions of compulsory schooling. Homeschooling is just parenting. That's all!

Think you can't teach your child? Please. Think the brick and mortar schools have something you don't? I'll tell you the truth- it's YOU who have a lot more to offer.

People think that homeschooling must copy what goes on in a school. I'll tell you another truth- that kind of model only works in a factory. Not in the home. Try to copy a school environment in your home, and you will burn out, be discouraged, and likely feel like a failure, if not actually fail. Homeschooling and school are two entirely different things, and that is why I really dislike the word "school" in the word that is supposed to describe what kind of life I live.

But, because we live in a world so conditioned to compulsory education, I feel I have to use the word "homeschool" so that people won't be confused when I tell them where my kids "go to school." I'd rather just say they don't and leave it at that. Or say that I am their mom, and let folks figure it out. Because that's all I'm doing.

And that's all you have to do. Be a mom. Use common sense. Learn alongside your child and see the world through their eyes. Teach them how to read and tie their shoes. Teach them how to write and how to skip. Teach them some math and how to clean up their toys. Love them. Read to them. Hold their hand.

Mom, you are enough. Take courage.