Sunday, October 29, 2017

Secret? Or Private?

I have fielded some questions on HomeSchool that I would like to address. Is there anything secret about homeschool?
In an age where the details of our private lives are on FaceBook and Twitter and InstaGram, why not more transparency in homeschool? Why not share the details of children’s education with all the world?

Let me ‘splain- no there is too much, let me sum up.

I have many children, more than a few and not as many as many of you but I think we can say many without being incorrect. These children happen to be schooled at home. It didn’t actually just “happen “ that way but for all intents and purposes and my literary license I’m going with it.
  We live twenty five miles from the nearest town and forty from the town where I went to school and where my kids would be bussed should we have decided to send them to that school. We have some property and the blessing of having livestock, pets, four wheelers and plenty of chores. We grow a garden and attempt to spend some time outdoors instead of glued to our electronic devices. There are days where we are attentive to book work and online school programs, such as Khan ( love Khan). And there are also days when the vet comes and we all have school outside while the dog gets fixed and the colts are gelded and sometimes the weather is too gorgeous to do anything but run around like crazy people. At least that’s what the kids do and I can’t complain because they’re such cute crazy people.
   This method of learning is new to some and there have been times that it makes people uncomfortable to see a kid at home during the day when he isn’t sick or hasn’t been to the dentist. That’s okay, it isn’t something that everyone is familiar with - like me trying to operate an android phone or eyelash curler thingies. Yes, this “thingies” word is an all purpose word that is used in my homeschool and derided by some ( like my husband, who would use the more appropriate word “tool” until he realized what I was talking about and then he would likely just leave the room. It doesn’t do to look too deeply into the ways of women, you know.)
    When you undertake to do something differently you may encounter those who assume that because you choose to do something different than they that you are demeaning their choice, that you find them inferior in some way. And they do have a smallish point. You did find that you do value something about your choice over theirs, otherwise you would have made the same choice as they, right?  Be it breastfeeding versus formula, disposable versus cloth, trade school versus college, jeans versus leggings, crunchy versus ...uh, not crunchy ? Or any other choice that we as parents get to make, there is room to make someone else uncomfortable.  Perhaps your reasons for making your choice have more to do with circumstances and changing dynamics and less to do with fundamentals but perhaps not. This decision on schooling can make people uncomfortable and seeking to ease their discomfort. Sometimes the cure for the discomfort is to demean your choice back at ya. Citing studies of.....something negative, socialization (or the lack thereof) perhaps in an effort to prove something.
   Seeking to remove discomfort is natural and expected, we all do it. Identifying the cause of the discomfort can prove very helpful in a way that avoiding it or denying it’s existence cannot. I find that when someone calls my good judgement into question, I hear an echo of my own doubts and fears as a parent. I am reminded of my shortcomings as a teacher and parent and become defensive, so it is easy for me to imagine that other parents may feel the same way.
   Some parents may feel that you think they are inferior because they aren’t as committed to their children’s education as you (supposedly) are. Perhaps they think you feel “too good” for what they consider to be just fine for their kids. Whatever the case may be, our decisions as parents are a great trigger as other parents measure against our yardstick and we against theirs and everyone winds up feeling like they are found wanting.
   So here are some things to know about homeschool from my personal perspective. This is, alas, merely a personal perspective as I am just one and am not really interested in chasing the funding to conduct studies to see if I’m normal.
1- By nature, homeschool is a private affair. This is not because we are trying to hide some juicy tidbit about how we are trapping the kids in the basement and only slipping them food on days that begin with “T” or any other horrible and despicable secret. It is simply that we are not used to sharing every detail of our kids’ growth with a lot of outside persons. There are no parent teacher conferences ( just parent-parent ones) and actually, there aren’t usually grades to groan over several times a year. There may well be subjects that collect their fair share of groans but this is not a group think session outside of the family. There are not staff meetings about behavior issues and the schooling is not funded by a public tax which deserves a public accounting for performance. Simply put, there are no middle men. If the materials are insufficient, the CFO makes adjustments to the grocery budget and the Christmas budget and shops the curriculum sales to remedy the deficiency. Much like our counterparts whose children attend public or private schools, homeschool parents do not release private information about grades, performance, behavioral issues or any other personal information that would interfere with our children’s progress. It may be tempting at times for an outside party to see if a child is learning ( especially if you have your doubts about the chosen method of schooling)  by quizzing them about their progress, but I can tell you that, for any child to be quizzed about what they are learning is intrusive. They may well feel more like a Science Fair project or a social abnormality than was intended. Like their parents, they are not used to perfect strangers or even acquaintances asking them personal questions, having never having been trained that it’s normal for other children.  If you aren’t a parent, you have no reason to do anything except express friendly interest in what the child enjoys and let them lead in what they want to talk about. Though homeschooling is legal in all fifty states with varying requirements, there was a time when it was not and parents were threatened with removal of their children. Perhaps this history has affected the entire movement with a determined independent attitude as does the harassment that goes on in some school districts. Perhaps parents are too sensitive to criticism because of the past criticism they have experienced from family and friends who dislike their educational choices. Whatever the case may be, for those who school at home, their schooling is merely an extension of their private life. It cannot really be separated from the private details and is therefore a difficult topic to appropriately address unless the person asking  feels like a safe person that you want to know the personal intricacies of your life. Or they simply have the time and genuine interest to hear an hour long discussion of how you choose to homeschool and why its different than the common expectation and why it’s not a national emergency that your eight year old boy is just learning to read. If you have questions on that one and you have an hour, I’d be happy to discuss it with you! I have been on the receiving end of some very harsh language about homeschool, spewed by people who don’t know me, my kids and anything about our circumstances. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I’m entitled to ignore it if it is ill-informed and impertinent. Well, actually, I’m entitled to ignore it regardless, I hope I’m wise enough to listen if it is otherwise.
2- That kid honestly has no idea what to tell you when you ask what grade he is in.
  This does not mean that he is behind. This does not mean that he never learns anything. This does not mean that he is afraid to talk to you. This does not mean that he doesn’t know his age.
What it does mean is that he is learning all the time. Learning is not a separate event that takes place in a specific location and is measured by seasons and calendars. He does not graduate from one class, one teacher, one room, one building when he has made progress. He merely keeps breathing, living, experiencing and tucking away knowledge as he goes. He may hide his current “school” book under the covers and read with a flashlight because he is too excited to wait until tomorrow.  He continues gaining responsibility and opportunity as his skills improve and he may rarely take a test. In my  home, we do not have a “school year” per say, but rather a daily requirement for living that includes reading, being read to, visiting the library, completing some math and language programs on the computer, watching science videos and reading books about science, experiencing different types of art, sometimes with a teacher and sometimes on our own and Wednesday music lessons. We take days “off” when we go to the dentist but I have had to find a dentist that can listen and answer kids (and my) questions about everything he is doing and why. We love hygienists-they are a wealth of information. And quite often, I find the kids hauling along a backpack full of books to read while we are at  the dentist and insisting that we get home early because they have homework for their online writing class to finish and they don’t want to push their deadlines. Our days are for learning and that’s a lesson you don’t teach by force, you teach
by example.
3-  I am not more patient than any other semi patient parent. I have not been gifted by the magic homeschool patience God with an ability beyond what any normal parent could bear. I pray daily for patience and by the Grace of God I am making progress. Slow progress. I am certainly a product of much practice in living with the small humans to whom I gave birth. This does not mean that it is easy for me to not have time in which to catch up on cleaning and laundry, get a part (or full) time job and make some money, use the restroom alone or any other thing that a parent may do if their children leave in the morning and some other responsible adult assumes charge of them for a few or a lot of hours during the day. I have an advantage over some moms who are left home in the mornings with all the small children as the older ones take off for school. My little kids are used to playing quietly in sister’s room with her special horses while she works on her math homework and when that one gets tired of sitting quietly, he might go find me making lunch and help me for awhile or go outside with big brother for awhile as he works on the fence. If there is an emergency, we are blessed with family close by and a great supply of “Leapfrog Letter Factory”, “Signing Time” and a great driving instruction video or “Great Architecture”. It amazes me how interesting my kids seem to find anything and everything. They spent an afternoon watching the driving instruction video over and over. I personally thought it would be rather dry but apparently not so! When I hear other parents say,”I would like to homeschool but I could never do that, I’m not patient enough and my kids wouldn’t learn anything.” I want to give them a gift certificate for a full body massage and then when they’ve finished and are walking out of the building I would whisper in their ear, “It doesn’t require perfect parents, just crazy ones.”  The massage has nothing to do with the message- it’s just everyone needs a massage.
4- There is no one right way to raise a kid. There just isn’t. Their personality and interests are so different. There will be holes in their education, just like their friends. The purpose of schooling is to learn to think and problem solve. The ability to find the answers in life is a great thing and more desirable than getting perfect grades in every class- which is unlikely unless the student is very committed to a life time of extra credit and blessed enough to not get any really rotten teachers, and good tutors. There will be areas where kids struggle a bit more, regardless of where they do their learning.
5- I am deeply committed to doing the best I can for my children. I am certain that every parent feels the same. My best happens at home, if your best happens differently, good for you. There are times that I want to run away from home and eat a gallon of chocolate ice cream on a beach somewhere that has no math lessons, phonics lessons and no crying or whining or fighting. Maybe sometimes you do too.

As a mom and a human, I have a great number of interests and would love to discuss anything you know, any questions you have and anything I know/do that you might be interested in. I have a great amount of respect for the privacy of our homes and families and respect your way, your home and your family, may they be blessed.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

These Are The Times That Try Men's Souls

In the midst of the commotion of living in the middle of America in it's disintegration period, I find myself frequently shaking my head. When the news blares and the tears fall for strangers who were alive last week and dead now- that would be as strange still were it not for their famous and brutal demise, I wonder what my great grand parents would have thought. The tragedies of their day were all they knew, new to them as a Twin Tower or a Vegas are for me. Their tears fell and their hearts reached out from their chests in a wish to somehow comfort those who fell in their days. They too shook their heads and wondered what the world was coming to. They wondered how the world could get any worse and if there would be a world to wake up to for their children and grandchildren.
    I don't know what the future holds nor would I deign to ask anyone but God. So far, He doesn't seem to think to necessary to fret about, just prepare for. This I do know, that these are the times that try men's souls. So was it designed to be. The challenges of our time are perhaps unlike any other, but so too are the blessings unlike any other. The opportunity to reach out to God and allow His mercy in our lives has never been greater. We have at our fingertips a relationship with Jesus Christ that is unlike any other relationship that we have experienced. His grace is there for us at every moment. In the midst of commotion there is a sweet peace that can fill the heavens and and our hearts- one as easily as the other. There cannot be anyone else responsible for it but ourselves. This experience cannot be given by virtue of another's sincerity, dedication or determination- only our own soul can ask and receive. So please ask, please pray, please insist until the answers come that you seek. Get real and be serious with God- there is no substitute. And when He answers, accept it. There have been times that I asked sincerely and then was tempted to reject the answer because it was not what I expected, was harder than I anticipated and required more commitment than I thought I was capable of giving. There have been times I have been unsure where the answers were going, when I couldn't see the destination and I wondered which train I had boarded and if perhaps I had been standing in the wrong station to begin with. Take heart, God intends to give you more than you asked for. He cannot bless you enough- though at times we might feel stretched beyond what we feel is necessary, He intends to give you greater blessings than your imagination can conjure. There is hope in this world of darkness and pain and it doesn't come from legislation, social reform, news broadcasters or even a hurting people who come together in times of need. Those who come together in times of need are a symptom of the hope that is in us through Christ Jesus. We have brought with us to this Earth a love for our fellow man that Christ showed us is stronger than any force.
If you never have, take some time to quiet your mind and ask for God to speak to you, to give you peace, to fill your soul and answer your heart's questions. If you have before, perhaps many times before, take the time again to invite peace for yourself and in behalf of others. This world will be a better place.

Monday, March 6, 2017


Wallowing in despair,
  I cried.
My burden and my heart
 So heavy.
"There is only grief
  No rest for me
Oh help me, now,
 Oh Lord" I sighed.

My sister came
  Her lamp in hand
Her tender voice spoke
  Love and friendship.
She offered light,
  It warmed my heart
And filled my eyes with hope.

But she could not stay,
  She must away, to family and home
They called.
  And all too soon,
The light, it dimmed
 And left my rooms so cold.

My brother too, he came
  On errand from The Lord.
To share words,
  Of comfort , faith and love.
But with his parting,
  'Er his shadow left my door
The voice of darkness
  Spoke once more;

"The light, it cannot save you
     It leaves you hopeless, yearning..
I'm always here, you're not enough
Despair is all
 You have in store
Change is hopeless,
 Your efforts,
You'll always be alone."

"This Jesus
That they speak of,
  Who is he?
 Where is he now?
Oh? He can? But will he save you? How?"
  The voice drones on,
Together with
  My stomach churning.

I cried out
  "Liar! It can't  be true,
I've felt it in my heart
  The warmth, the light, the burning!"

The laughter from the darkness rang
  Rasping in my ears
The voice reviewed my sins
 And faults,
My weaknesses,
  My fears
And I , ashamed,
  Sat hopeless, lost
And all my thoughts just turning, turning,

Until a tiny voice,
 A thought
Swam upward from the pile.
It pushed gently to the front
 And said,
 Without pretense or guile
"What if, what if you tried?
       What if you asked and He replied?"
What if this bully in your mind
  Is only that? A bully and a cipher?
Disembodied and feeding on your flame, your fire?"

My confidence,
 It drew deep breath
And taking heart, I spoke.
I told Him all, as with a friend,
 My hardest, deepest
I told of childhood fears and monsters, haunting still,
  Of words I spoke and actions done ,
 in shame
   I emptied out deep wells of darkness

Looking on with kindness,
 His face so calm and still,
  He asked if I would give it all
I quickly said
    "I will....but how?"

"I cannot, will not steal from you,
     These things you've suffered through,
  You've learned and felt, through
 This darkness, chosen
    But freedom is my gift to you."

"There is no other way to learn,
         And yet,
     To choose to live
 You'll give me the burden and the guilt,
         I'll take them,
  Turn them light
               With this Gift I freely

I looked inside
   And in my heart
I saw the life, the lessons
        I had gained
The precious truths
   so hardly won,
 the pain and purpose now explained.

The laughter from the jeering
  dark had turned to gnashing teeth
       and anger stark
and yet,
        with my gratitude it calmed,
the storm no longer lingered on
   the gift erased my hatred,
all of my fears
  now gone.

There reigned in space and time
  amazement, love and joy-
 replacing darkness with the light
healing my soul with grace divine.

     *I feel humbled and very inadequate to try and describe the depth of love and gratitude I feel to Jesus Christ, my Savior. My efforts feel somewhat like a cross between Dr. Suess and a large Victorian lady who imagines herself a great poet and will prove it over tea and her relatives better judgement but express it I must, despite my shortcomings. I hope the feeling triumphs over the spelling and punctuation errors. Glory to God and the credit for the mistakes to me.

I've Got This Beautiful Friend

This wonderful friend of mine is sad, with haunted eyes. She lost a child and life will never be the same. Would she want it any different?
Let me explain. Of course I assume she wants it all back, the companionship of her family and the joy of his presence. She wants the sweetness of every good memory and she would maybe even take back the bad times, the hard times and the sadness just to have him, just to have the chance for things to get better, to allow time to swing the pendulum back to the good. If life were to be happy would that mean she didn't care, didn't miss him? Would that mean that he was really gone....if she weren't sad?
   Does her heart cry out to God, "Why do you hate me?! How could you do this to me."
"Why couldn't I love him enough? Enough to keep him safe?" Or maybe "Enough to give me peace, knowing that no matter what, he knew I loved him."
  Perhaps she walks alone in a world full of people who have no idea of the heartache and sorrow that she drags behind her like a Grand Canyon suitcase. She smiles at those she meets but it's always there, a chasm big enough to see from space. It's full of memories of the tiny boy who first held her heart and then her finger and then her every waking moment. Of the boy that held her breath as he rode his bike like he would never crash when she knew better. It's full of his crazy smile and great love of the outdoors and all the heartache when he struggled with math and choices and friends and girls and more choices. It's full of every time she wished she could take away the pain and agony and every time she wished you could still spank him even when he's taller than you.
  And maybe sometimes, for just a moment, when she opens her eyes in the morning after a beautiful dream she can still feel him there and she forgets that he's gone and the world feels right again.

I see you, my friend. I see that Canyon behind you. Some days it's hovering in the distance and some days it's under your feet. Some days you fear a misstep will allow it to swallow you. And I don't know what to say- it's a private canyon and sacred. I don't share it, I don't know it like you do. I don't really understand and I don't know how to tell you I can feel it and see it around you. And sometimes I'm afraid that if I say it aloud you'll think I'm crazy. But please know that you aren't really alone, the walls of pain and darkness that divide us from each other cloud our minds and we believe the lies that no one cares, no one understands. I may not fully understand but by dang, I sure want to try.

*i woke this morning with one particular friend on my mind and could not go back to sleep but as I contemplated on what I wished I could say to her I realized that the list of friends, family, loved ones and acquaintances who also carry this same burden of sorrow and worry for the living and the dead is too long to even comprehend. My love goes out to you in your own sorrow that the eye can't see.