Saturday, August 16, 2014

My Greatest Hope for You

Dear child of mine,
I’m not ashamed of you. I may be slightly disappointed but I’m not ashamed. My disappointment is not for my own renown but for my hopes for your future. I am not being prideful. I know there are MANY MANY  paths to success and although I value academia, I do not believe it is the only path.

My greatest hopes are not for WHAT you will be but for WHO you will be. I’m sorry my actions may not have reflected this philosophy. As you will find, it is very easy to THINK something but rather difficult to DO something. I am not a very good parent and I have tried to be humble about that.

It’s so easy to look back and see all the things you should have done. Getting a new hot water heater so you can take longer showers is NOT one of them. I should have moved more slowly through life. My now favorite author says “Hurry makes hurt.” She is right. I know it hurt you. I’m sorry.

I should have hugged you more and listened to your stories with fascination. I was always trying to get your head out of the clouds and into your math book. You always had a wonderment that I now envy. All those things you clinch your fist at. All those failings you  remember, I’m sorry for those things too.

I do not hope that you will be a lawyer or a welder or a craftsman. I hope and pray you will cherish justice and mercy. I hope you will stand up for the weak. I pray that you will be honest and trustworthy. Never take anything that doesn’t belong to you and that includes images on a screen and woman’s heart
I taught you, all those years, to love learning. That, I believe, I did well. So don’t ever stop learning. Whether you take a class or train under someone or research at the library, keep learning. When you have nothing left to learn, you have one foot in the grave.

Don’t pretend you know something you don’t. That is akin to lying. Pride will only bite you in the backside. Be humble and keep your mouth shut. “I don’t know” are some powerful words.

Your hopeful, positive outlook is your greatest quality. Your second is the ability to make something you imagined into a concrete reality. Keep that amazing outlook and place that hope in Christ. Nurture your talent and one day it may pay the bills. Don’t put life on hold until your talent makes you rich. That is a quick way to the poor house. Pay your bills and hone your skill. This is a recipe for success and happiness.

Be careful who you place your trust in, there is not a friend that is as loyal as a brother. Trust Christ alone when it really matters. We have raised you to follow Christ but you have to CHOOSE to follow him. It matters where your feet and your mind go… not merely your heart, but usually our actions follow what is IN our heart so… GUARD YOUR HEART.

When you stop guarding your heart, when you begin to agree with things contrary to the WORD remember that there is GRACE to come back again. Just remember no one ever said that grace would remove the scars. I would that you might never have ANY scars. I would that you may never HURT.

To hurt for a noble reason, like childbirth or defending the weak, is one thing but to hurt because you agreed with the world and then followed the traditions of man and then found yourself in a pit, that, my child, is another. But if you do fall into a pit and you do become scarred. I still love you and I still want what is best for you and there is a way to have the grace to live with the wounds.

I know a thing or two about being wounded. There were those who scarred me and then there was the damage I did to myself. Being in that pit, it wasn’t so much the broken path that troubled me. It was that there was absolutely NO peace of mind. I couldn’t stand to be alone with my own thoughts. I always had to have music playing or the television on. Reading was not even an escape because the silence always permitted my thoughts to interrupt. 

If you find that you are unable to be alone with your own thoughts, take pause. You may find you are in a pit. Don’t keep pushing forward in your bondage. Seek to escape it at all costs. There is a way that seems right to man but in the end leads to death. It may not be a literal death but a living hell.

THAT is what I hope to shield you from. I did not struggle and fight against the bondage of sin and addiction to simply sit back and watch my children bind themselves in the same chains I broke free of. But the awesome truth is that I did not loose my chains, Christ did and he who began a good work in you, will complete it... I believe that.

Don’t throw your dreams away for a girl and don’t let a girl BE your dream. You will only resent her for it. Let your girl be part of your dream and let your children come from that. Your dreams may change as you mature- that’s fine. You know I don’t buy into the “live-in –the-moment” philosophy of the world. But I do recommend that you don’t throw away these moments you have on things that are foolish and fleeting. Use the moments to do meaningful things. Use these moments, while you are young, to do things that matter. No one ever says “I wished I had partied more” or “slept with some perfect strangers more” when they are on their death bed.

Live your life in reverse. What do you want to matter most to you when you are dying? What would you WISH you had done?

Do THAT now…

I love you child,

Your mom

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Can a Homeschool Mom find Friends?

Dear homeschool mom I met at the park last week,
I’m sorry I didn’t call you back when you sent me that text. I’m not trying to be rude.  When we exchanged phone numbers, I truly wanted to try and be your friend, but now I’m not so sure. You see, I have been burned by friendships with other homeschool moms. I’m just barely making it through and I don’t think I can take any more judgmental attitudes. I’m sure you’re a nice person but I do things very differently and you might not approve. I can sincerely say: it’s not you, it’s me.
Maybe someday your friend,
Another Homeschool Mom

What about socialization? This question nags most homeschoolers. It is concerning the children and I think what people are trying to ask is, “How will your child have friends?”  The issue that I think is more of a challenge is, “How can a homeschool mom have homeschool mom friends?”

Homeschool moms find themselves looking for comradery and support from other homeschoolers and end up being rejected and criticized for how they choose to homeschool. In the state I live in, we are free to teach our own children in whatever style or method we choose. We can pick any curricula or no curricula. Here in lies the challenge for finding comradery. Homeschool moms have invested a good deal of energy trying to find the methods and supplies that fit their lives and most of us think what we are doing is best for our family. Now try to interface that unique blend of methods and materials with another unique person’s opinions.

Bottom line: it’s a problem.

To unpack this issue, I would like to first address the question, “Why do you homeschool?”

This is such a crucial question in regards to friends. For example, if you homeschool, for spiritual reasons you might not find support from someone who cares about academic excellence. Some parents believe keeping their children from the worldly influences in public school is so important that they are ok with covering the basics and not worrying about the rest. The “three Rs” is what they cover and their focus is on character training. The day begins with prayer and the bible is the primary textbook.

Let me stop there and point out that some of you reading this article have already begun to judge. You think it’s wrong for a parent to sacrifice academic excellence for spiritual reasons. Am I right? If you don’t homeschool and you are a Christian, you might be thinking that a family should be able to do BOTH. Can’t you have the best of both worlds? In an ideal, unrealistic world: sure. In reality: probably not all the time.

We all have a limited amount of time, money, and energy. We all have to choose what is most important and let the rest fall off the table for the dog to eat. We also have to examine our worldview and decide if we believe that academic excellence produces better Christians or citizens. Is academic education the solution to societal ills?  

I am not trying to cast my lot with those who most value the spiritual reasons. I am for parents choosing how they should raise their own children. Many parents believe that academic excellence is most important. Their children have been college prep from 1st grade.  The mom’s lesson planner is her bible. These parents believe that going to college is crucial in the society we live in. The parents are most-likely brilliant and were in “gifted” classes or they were perpetually bored in school as a child. These parents filled their extra time in high school teaching their friends how to work an equation or summarizing a novel for them.

Homeschooling for academic excellence is a good reason to home educate. Academic excellence is very important to me. I do want my children to go to college. I have opinions about Math-U-See, Notgrass, and Apologia. If you use them, you should not ask me- unless academic excellence is something you care strongly about. I just finished cutting up (literally) a pre-made (for convenience) lesson plan and making out my plan for the year. I AM THAT MOM.

Some of you who were enjoying my comments on limited energy are now beginning to bristle. The thought of maintaining a grade book or lesson planner makes you incredulous. If you’re going to homeschool, why bring “school” home? Some moms just feel defeated at the thought of a grade book or even a text book. You are just doing good to get through the spectrum math book you picked up at Walmart and the library books on your coffee table.

There are many, many, many other perfectly legitimate reasons to homeschool that I have not covered here. I know people who homeschool who are not even conservative Christians (a typical stereo-type.)
I am here to encourage you ALL.

Whatever reason you homeschool, you can find friends. Here are some tips:

1.      1. Step back and examine why you homeschool.

If you are not even sure what you value the most, then you may not even realize why a playdate with another mom left you feeling so defeated. Did she talk about her new organizational tools the whole time? Did she talk about the evil content in “Finding Nemo” and your ten-year old watched an R rated movie last night?

If you get side-swiped and you don’t know why, you need to sit down and make a top-ten list of what your homeschool goals are in order of importance. Then cut the bottom-half of the list off. Make a family mission statement (verbal or written.) This mission statement may change as your family grows and you mature but for this year, this month, this week your goals can be clearly defined in your mind

2.       Learn to be OK with someone homeschooling for other reasons

Just because you are friends with someone who has different goals, doesn’t mean you have to change your goals. I do not believe there is one perfect way to homeschool. I do not believe there is a perfect way to parent. Those of us who are extroverted probably struggle with this most. I begin to listen you another mom talk about her goals or methods and I begin to question my own.

Now I ask myself if the mom has similar goals to mine. If they are, I will examine if her methods might benefit me or my children. As your families grow, your goals might change and you may grow apart from some families who you once found fellowship with. Learn to be OK with growing apart. If a relationship becomes damaging to your goals, ask God for help in deciding to end the relationship. Most of the time, you can still maintain a casual relationship.

I can still love a person who isn’t exactly like me, but I won’t look for encouragement in the areas in which we don’t agree.

3.        Seek out other like-minded homeschoolers
If you have examined your goals and settled on a few points, it can be most discouraging to feel like you are alone in the world. You need someone who is like-minded to just walk through life with. Be courageous and seek someone out. Go to a ladies bible study or visit another church. Join a homeschool CoOp for a season or sign up on a virtual bulletin board.

These moms may have children who are much younger or older than yours. Your world REVOLVES around your children most of the time. It is OK for you to have a friend that is just a friend for you. Most of your children will make friends in the plethora of age-segregate activities they participate in sports or church but YOU need friends too.  

Leave the kids at home one evening and have coffee or tea. You can also take a day to have a playdate. When you meet another homeschooler, give the person a try but don’t put all your hope in this basket. This friend might be like-minded but after some time you might find out that you disagree on some point. Then refer to point number two.

4.       Be content with one or two like-minded friends
This is a hard point for me. I want this large group of friends to run with and I want them all to like me, but truly God did not plan for it to be this way for me. Our family is in a strange position. The only way I know to explain it is to compare ourselves to our friends (which is unwise.) We are more liberal than some of our friends in some of our media and fashion choices and more conservative than other friends in the events and activities we choose to participate in. We care more about academics then some friends and less than others.

When it comes to friends we have found it more valuable to have friends who are Christian conservatives. This choice was made based on our most important goals. In our community, there are not many conservative Christians with these same goals and so we don’t have many like-minded friends. We have a good deal of acquaintances who we love but these are not the friends I seek out intimate friendship with.  I have come to the place where I am happy with just a few close friends and that we get to share our struggles and victories from time to time.

5.       . Don’t compare yourself and don’t compete with others

When your friend shares a homeschooling experience with you, she may not be relating this so you can implement her strategies. She may just want to talk about it. If she had a revelation about something, you do not have to adopt her opinion. If she is good at one thing, don’t let that make you feel bad. You are good at lots of things.

Don’t be that person who thinks everyone does it better than you and don’t be the person who thinks you do it better than everyone else. I believe THIS is the primary homeschooler sin.

If your friend does something better then you and you have the same goals as this person, let her success encourage you. Maybe you can improve in that area but don’t let your friendship become a one-up game. You can destroy your friendship and your sweet children’s egos by playing this way.

Like-wise don’t look down on the person who does things worse or differently then you. This comes out in the things you say to the person AND behind their back. No matter how much you think your kids don’t hear you- THEY DO.  Don’t gossip , if not for the sake of your friendship, for the sake of your kids.

6.       . Love and be compassionate

This thing we are doing is HARD. We are swimming upstream. Don’t look at those who are swimming next to you and criticize the WAY they are swimming.

Love is the only way to have friends. Forgive people when they hurt you. Ask for forgiveness when you are wrong. When a friendship cracks, examine your part in the break. Most of us didn’t have positive friendship experiences when we were in school. Have compassion on the wounded person who is trying to take their kids through the world a little less wounded.  

Saturday, August 9, 2014

36 Weeks (of homeschooling)

Four hundred sixty eight weeks: that's how many weeks I have homeschooled. That's 2,340 days, but really it's been much much longer than that. Because when you're a homeschooler, you never stop teaching. You never stop being a teacher…. a homeschooler

For example: I always tell my kids to never start a sentence with "because." I can't even stop thinking like a teacher. There are so many hang-ups that I have. To be a grammar Nazi is one thing but there are other things I believe are unique to homeschoolers that are real problems.

There are also some things that are common among homeschoolers that are wonderfully exceptional. We are an amazing, diverse group of people who have chosen to teach our own children.  We have responded to the challenge and we are doing a good job.

I have had my “ups” and I have had many “downs.” I write about a good deal of topics, but I have never really written about homeschooling. I never really see blogs by homeschoolers who write about homeschooling. So this year, I made a decision. I am going to blog about homeschooling for 36 weeks. For one school year, I will write a weekly blog (or two) on the topic.

If you are a homeschooler, I hope to encourage you. If you are not, you may enjoy a peek into another way to parent. If you have questions for me or topics you would like me to address, email me.  I have homeschooled for 13 years. I have used a lot of curricula. I have done  a good deal of things well and a bunch of things badly.

I’m not trying to impart the best wisdom for homeschoolers. I’m just trying to work through things on paper for others to feel they are not alone in their struggles or their victories. Most of us don’t have someone patting us on the back. We don’t get a good (or bad) employee review. We certainly don’t get a paycheck!
I am promising to write something for every school week, so that I will do it. I always do better with deadlines and you can hold me to it. Send me an email if I slack off.

For now, here is week 36 blog: my gift to myself for completing the first week of school. Maybe something I write this year will be a gift to you. Maybe something will touch someone or help someone out. This thing we do is hard and we should spur one another on toward this good deed.

Blessings to you on your own 36 week journey, whether you homeschool or not.