Friday, August 31, 2007

About "Homeschooling Information You Don't Hear About"

A recent entry posted on "Flixya" was called "Homeschooling Information You Don't Hear About." As might be expected, the author assumed that the only information people hear about homeschooling is positive - quite a strange assumption considering how much criticism is levelled at homeschooling. Nevertheless, I did find the "information" mentioned interesting and, compared to many negative articles about homeschooling, relatively fair. Here are some of the most significant points, along with my thoughts about each.
The previous information about home schooling is what is so often published to try to sway you to home school your children, but are they being up front and honest, telling you everything that you need to know? Of course, many of you already know that the answer to that question is no. You need to be aware of the bad things that come along with home schooling, so that you can make the best decision for both you and your child.

While I can't argue that it's best to make an informed decision, considering both positives and negatives, I'm not convinced that those who support homeschooling are failing to be "up front and honest" or are not "telling you everything that you need to know." In most cases, parents considering homeschooling seem to be well aware of the downside of homeschooling, particularly the issues mentioned by the author. Still, let's give this person the benefit of the doubt.
You need to remember that your child’s academic success or failure will weigh solely on your shoulders, so if you slip, if you don’t assign homework, or if you don’t make him do his homework, or settle down long enough to learn, then you are to blame. You have to be certain that your child stays on the same academic level as his peers, and if he isn’t do whatever it takes to get and keep him there.

This is a very significant point. However, the assumption here is that it's difficult to "be certain that your child stays on the same academic level as his peers." In truth, there are few homeschoolers who don't accomplish at least that much. In many cases simply turning off the TV and video games and allowing the child to explore his or her world will allow that child to stay at the public school's academic level. Adding an hour or so of reading aloud to the child and some time interacting over grocery shopping or baking can provide what most children need in terms of math, science, and history during the first 4 to 6 years of their education. CAN you do more? Of course! Do you NEED to do more to keep your child up with their peers? Probably not.

On the other hand, homeschooling does require that parents make deliberate choices about whether kids need to "keep up with" their peers or not. It also does require that parents do whatever it takes to get the child to the parents' own minimum expectations. For us, that means I insist on reading and math, no matter how my children protest. Other families may establish other minimum goals, but the accomplishment of those goals obviously lies entirely on the determination of the parent and the student.
One of the good and possibly bad parts of home schooling is that you get to spend almost all of your time together with your children. This is good in that you develop a closer relationship, and you know what is going on, without having to rely on someone else to nurture and teach your child. The bad part of this is that when your child is having a bad day, or you are having a bad day, you can’t take him to school, go somewhere and relax, and then pick him up later. You have to deal with the tantrums and bad behavior all on your own, so you need to make sure that you have enough patience to do so.

This is one of the biggest things that keeps parents from choosing to homeschool. "Oh, I don't have the patience for that," is what I hear from so many, as if I, the homeschooling mother, had some sort of supernatural patience. In truth, it takes no more patience to homeschool than it does to live with a preschooler. Sure, there are many difficult moments; there are also many highly rewarding moments that help make it worth the cost. See my post on "Homeschooling Secrets" for more on the incredible rewards and benefits of homeschooling.

You also need to remember that teaching your child will become your full time job. Your husband will become the sole source of your family’s income, and you will have to learn how to cut corners to stretch your budget as far as possible. If you can’t live on that budget, or if it will cause undue stress and strain on your marriage, then home schooling may not be the best route to take at this time.

This is not entirely true. Homeschooling does not take up every spare minute of a parent's time. Yes, you may have to give up a full-time job in order to homeschool. But there are many hidden sources of savings in homeschooling, including the lower cost of clothing (both for Mom and for kids), significantly lower meal costs (since you eat out less and use fewer convenience foods), and generally lower transportation costs. Often parents are surprised to discover how much less it costs to live when one parent is home much of the time. In addition, there are many homeschooling parents who work at least part time. I work two part-time jobs (a total of about 15 hours/week) and bring in about $700/month to our home, almost entirely tax-free. And many of my friends work when Dad is home; some even work full-time and arrange homeschooling around that. The budget issue need not be a "deal-breaker" for homeschooling.
You can’t be a pushover for your child; you have to make him do his lessons and his homework, no matter how much he tries to convince you otherwise. No one loves your child like his parents, but you have to be strong enough to make him do the things that are best for him, even if he doesn’t realize it at the time.

Here I can't argue. Unless you're going to "unschool" and let your child run his or her own day, there are going to be times you will have to make your child do what is best for him or her. To me, that is well rewarded by the incredible joy of seeing my children learning, growing, and prospering, and knowing I've been a part of that.

Never underestimate the pride and the thrill you will experience when your child turns to you and says, "I did it! I read the whole book!," or when you hear someone else compliment you on how gentle your pre-teen is with younger children. Those rewards make all the difficulties worth it. And I think THAT'S the homeschooling information you don't hear about!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Turning the World Upside Down"

That's the title of yesterday's Breakpoint radio program (transcript here), given by Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley. And it's a great one!

We don't hear much about Christians in China these days. Their government continues to be hostile toward them, and news is often hard to come by. But the church in China is still growing, by leaps and bounds. According to Earley, 10,000 Chinese become believers every DAY - that adds up to 70,000 per week. There are now 111 million Christians in China, and "more Chinese worshipping in 'house churches' than belong to the Communist Party"!

And these believers are not content to hide out in China; they are turning their sights on winning the world for Jesus Christ. Take a look at this excerpt from the Breakpoint transcript:
The Asia Times columnist “Spengler” recently wrote that China may soon occupy the role that the United States has occupied for the past 200 years: “the natural ground for mass evangelization.” He adds that “if this occurs, the world will change beyond our capacity to recognize it.”

He foresees Chinese Christians, like their Korean counterparts, “[turning] their attention outward.” Only, with a Christian population fifteen times the size of Korea’s, and a Chinese Diaspora all over the world, the impact will be far greater. “Spengler” uses the word “earthquake” to describe it.

According to John Allen of the National Catholic Report, the most “audacious” Chinese Christians dream of taking the Gospel along the historic “Silk Road” into Muslim lands. As David Aikman has written, they believe it is their task to complete the mission of preaching the Gospel in every land. To that end, Chinese Christians are already secretly “training missionaries for deployment in Muslim countries.”

This is what “Spengler” means by an “earthquake.” As he puts it, “the greatest danger to Islam” comes from Chinese Christians looking westward toward Jerusalem.

I don't know if this news excites you, but it does me! Once again churches in countries where we once sent missionaries are sending missionaries themselves. The fruit of effort put in by people like Hudson Taylor, Gladys Aylward, and Eric Liddell, is finally being reaped.

The challenge is for those of us in American and European churches. Will we continue to lead the way in winning people to Christ? Or will we instead sit back and slowly become irrelevant, while the people in less developed and more restricted nations use what little they have to transform the world.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Time Management for Homeschooling Moms

Marianne over at recently posted an excellent article entitled, "Homeschooling - Making Priorities." Her post seriously challenged me. She starts off using the illustration of filling a bucket with rocks, pebbles, sand, and water. You've probably heard the illustration before - if you start with the little stuff, you'll never get the big stuff in. But if you start with the big rocks, then add the pebbles, then the sand, and finally the water, you can fit far more into the same bucket. (I use this principle almost every day in putting my second-grader's toys away!)

Marianne goes on to point out that our time is the same way. We can schedule everything in tiny, 15-minute blocks, and maybe we'll remember to get everything in. But if we really want to get in what's important (the "big stuff"), we have to put it into our schedules first, and fit the other things in around it.

Then comes the really convicting part.
So, what are the gemstones in your life? What is important to you? Here we are once again grappling with the goals you have - where are you headed and what is significant to you?

At a recent conference, I was challenged to prioritize my life according to roles. I had never thought of that before. The roles I have as a Christian, wife, mother, teacher, friend and so on, should determine my priorities in my life and these should play an important part in how I prioritize my life and days. I have considered three of my roles below.

Firstly, I am a child of God and therefore one of my large gemstones should be time set aside in communion with my Father, Creator, Saviour and Lord. We all know, and I am acutely aware of the shameful truth that if this time is not scheduled in my day and given priority, the sandy cares of life will smother my day and the most important rock of my life will not fit in the bucket anymore.

Secondly, I see my role as a wife. Is it not true as homeschoolers that our husbands can often feel short-changed in the whole process of homeschooling? Here, too I am guilty of spending an enormous amount of my time being devoted to programs, schedules, book orders and so on, working hard on what we see to be important, but at the same time - leaving out our spouse and forgetting what God has called us to do and be in that regard. How do we make our husbands a priority? By giving them quality time. Schedule in some special time together - it may be an outing, a walk around the block, or dinner together after the children are in bed. Whatever it may look like, or however fancy or commonplace it may seem, there needs to be intentional time set aside for relationship building and time-out with your husbands. Your children will be blessed by seeing their mum and dad enjoying a strong, vibrant, fun-loving relationship together. So, set aside time to make it happen!

Thirdly, I have the role to be a mother to my children. Even though I spend all day with my children, it does not necessarily mean that I am connecting with each of my children in their time of need. For some children that may mean a gentle, warm smile. Others may need time together - going for a walk, flying a kite, baking a cake.... spending special time. For other children, kind words of recognition or a thoughtful card would touch their hearts. Each of our children have different needs and one of our roles as mother is to communicate our love and acceptance. Also, as a mother, I want to teach and instruct my children. We want to encourage them to persevere in their difficulties and develop their areas of strength. We want them to grow more and more into the image of Jesus Christ and be the unique person which He has created them to be. What a wonderful blessing it is to walk beside our child, encouraging them and watching the work of God in them.

As we contemplate the enormous task of homeschooling and the limitations of a 24 hour day, we need to differentiate the "significant" from the "ordinary." If we do not deliberately make time for the "significant", our days and weeks and years will be filled up with the "ordinary." I'm not against schedules or day planners - not at all! What is important - is what you put in them! It isn't difficult to work out that our relationships - eternal and personal, are the gemstones in our bucket, so therefore the schedules and plans we make should reflect our priorities.

Homeschooling should be synonymous with relationship-building, since we share our lives so closely with our family members. But, the danger can overtake us so easily and we can fill our days with the sand and grit of the ordinary. Our challenge is not to forget the real gems in our lives and prize them close to our hearts.

Ouch! She has hit on something here that's been bothering me, at the edges of my mind, for quite a while - the feeling that my time is getting "filled up with the 'ordinary.'" If you're feeling that way, maybe you'll want to join me in looking again at what's really important in our lives, and making sure we get the gemstones in.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Time to End the Stem Cell Controversy

The time has come to put an end, once and for all, to the stem cell controversy. There is no doubt that adult stem cells actually work - in contrast to embryonic stem cells, which have so far produced no - that's right, NO - effective treatments. If we wanted proof of the efficacy of adult stem cells, the results are becoming more and more common. Chuck Colson, on today's Breakpoint radio program (transcript here), makes that clear in a broadcast entitled, "Your Own Stem Cells Work!"

Colson describes the case of Carron Morrow, who suffered from severe heart disease. Here's an excerpt from the transcript:
Carron, a 58-year-old Alabama mother, was in bad shape last year after suffering four heart attacks. The right side of her heart was functioning at less than 50 percent. Carron needed a new heart—but 100,000 people were ahead of her on the transplant list.

By fall, she told CitizenLink, “I couldn’t walk 20 feet without being on somebody’s arm.” Her church rallied round her in prayer.

Meanwhile, Carron’s nurse was researching adult stem-cell therapies and discovered a groundbreaking study at the Texas Heart Institute. Researchers agreed to include Carron in the study, which included surgery not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

In October, surgeons removed 500ccs of bone marrow from Carron’s left hip. The cells were cultivated, and four hours later, 30 million stem cells were injected into the right side of Carron’s heart.

Within two months, Carron relates, “I could sing a whole song at church,” and was back at work. Four months later, she had another CT scan to see how her heart was functioning. The news could not have been more—well, heart-stopping.

As Carron put it: “The doctor calls and says, ‘Ma’am, the right side of your heart is normal.’ I was in la-la land for several days.” The procedure cost just $600. Not a bad price for what amounts to a brand-new heart.

Wow - $600! That's absolutely amazing! So why are the politicians so busy debating the funding of stem cell research? Embryonic stem cells have produced no effective treatments; adult stem cells provide more promising results every day. Businesses are investing in adult stem cell research, because it works! It's time to tell our legislators to quit trying to destroy embryos and to fully fund adult stem cell research.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Homeschooling Ups and Downs

Why is that homeschooling is so full of ups and downs?

Our school year is fully five days old now, and already it's had more than its share of ups and downs. Yesterday Sweet Pea, age 11, was almost in tears because the ancient Egypt projects she was going to do turned out to involve a shoe box and construction paper. "I thought it was going to be something that would look GOOD!" she whined. Doodlebug, age 7, at almost the same time, was happy because she was making a salt map showing different landforms: mountains, island, plateau, and so on.

Then there were the maps. When I first mentioned labeling maps, Sweet Pea complained and made faces and stomped around; Doodlebug was thrilled. By the time the maps were done, though, Sweet Pea was having fun, and decided to keep going to finish the project, though she really didn't have to for another day or two.

Today we had royal riots over writing the answers to questions (Sweet Pea) and math (Doodlebug). But an hour later, Sweet Pea was excitedly doing an extra vocabulary lesson and more Latin, and Doodlebug was begging for more read-alouds.

What is the deal here? Why do we face complaining and whining one minute, excitement and enthusiasm the next? (And how do public school teachers do it with 30 kids at a time?!)

I think I have an answer: because homeschooling involves people, and people are inconsistent. We have ups and downs, we hate some things and love others, we get hormonal or just don't understand things. And when you throw three of us (or more) together in a house all day, every day, there are bound to be some peaks and valleys.

So what do we do? We learn to grow, each of us individually, through our challenges and struggles. We expect to have some rough moments - actually, lots of rough moments - and we try to be patient with each other. We listen to each other, we adjust where we can, and we try to become more mature through the ups and downs.

Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." In the New Homeschoolers Translation, it reads like this: "As iron sharpens iron, so a mom and her kids sharpen each other." :) If you're homeschooling, won't you join me for this adventure, as we all get "sharpened" together? And if you're not, won't you pray for us? Sharpening can be painful and wearing on both the sharpener and the "sharpenee."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

And You Thought Public Schools Were Free . . .

As we start a new school year, one of the big things that makes me wonder whether homeschooling is a good idea or not is the cost. I think I spent about $1200 on school for my two girls this year, between curriculum and school supplies. When I compare that to the free public schools, it seems like a lot.

Then I ran across this article, from Chicago's Daily Herald, by Burt Constable, who sends his kids to a public school in one of our major metropolitan areas. Take a look at how much this "free" public school is costing him.
My wife and I could buy a 42-inch plasma HDTV with the money we spend on fees required to send our three kids to public schools.

There’s the “instructional materials” fee of $205 for each of our middle-schoolers, the $76 grade-school version of that fee, the “lunch supervisor” fee of $84 and myriad charges for gym uniforms, musical instrument rentals, field trips and general whathaveyou.

Topping it all off, we are required to send our kids to school with treasure troves of school supplies that include glue, Scotch tape, soft soap, a 54-function scientific calculator, a 512 MB flash drive and more Crayons, markers, colored pencils, pens, binders, folders, notebooks, scissors, erasers, highlighters, correction fluid, paper and sharpened No. 2 pencils than our kids can carry in their humongo backpacks, which are of a weight usually associated with sherpas.

When I was a grade-schooler, I included a pencil and maybe even a back-up pencil in the Swisher Sweets cigar box that carried all my supplies to school. Now, in this age of computers and printers, our sixth-grade twins are required to cart a mind-numbing total of 18 dozen pencils, pens and markers to school.
Mr. Constable is trying to keep this cost in perspective by comparing it to a homeschooler near him. But the homeschooler he's comparing himself to spends $7000 to school six kids. That sounds like a lot to me! I have a book on my bookshelf entitled, How to Homeschool Your Child for Free. I'll grant you, I don't use that method much, and I do spend significant money homeschooling. But I use excellent quality materials, and every year's curriculum I buy contributes a significant number of great titles to our home library. I don't buy many textbooks or workbooks, and I certainly don't spend money on "instructional materials" or "lunch supervisors," nor on supplies to restock the teacher's closet! The majority of the money I spend on curriculum and supplies provides our family with long-lasting value - not just this year, but for many years to come.

And for those who have less to spend, there are many resources they can use to homeschool for much less than I spend. Libraries are full of excellent, interesting books that can be borrowed free. People with more than one child can combine some resources, especially in areas like literature, history, and science. Some of the best curricula out there expects you to combine your kids for everything except math and language arts, or to re-use materials for younger children, substantially reducing the cost.

Statistics say the average homeschooler spends $600 to $1000 per child. That includes those individuals like Mr. Constable's acquaintance who spend $1200 each for six kids, which means many families homeschool for much less. Mr. Constable is already spending somewhere around $1000 for his three kids; it wouldn't cost him much more to homeschool.

As for me, it's a real encouragement to know that homeschooling isn't all that expensive compared to public school.

Monday, August 20, 2007

I am so honored . . .

Dana over at Principled Discovery has nominated my blog for the Thinking Blogger award! I am surprised and thrilled. (You can see the award displayed on my sidebar.)

Now, the trick is figuring out five great blogs to pass it on to. Here are the ones I've come up with that make me think; I hope you enjoy them.

Thought-Provoking Homeschooling Blogs:

The Common Room - The Dear Head Mistress always has lots of valuable insights, on homeschooling but also on lots of other topics, and is a prolific writer. She writes generally from a Charlotte Mason/classical perspective, which fits our learning style well. I like reading the posts by her kids, too.

Dominion Family - Another great blog with a classical viewpoint. Her current post points out that teaching doesn't actually happen until students learn.

Buried Treasure Books - I never look at this blog that I don't end up thinking about something in a new way. (She doesn't just write about books, either!)

Thought-Provoking Christian Blogs:

Dave Burchett - Every time I read Dave's blog, I find myself motivated and convicted. He doesn't post about homeschooling, just about life; but he always has something I need to read. If you follow this link, be sure to scroll down to his post called "Don't Miss This Phony Baloney Holiday," from Thursday, August 16.

Mark D. Roberts - Sometimes on the deep side for this busy mom, I generally find it worth my time and effort to read what Mark writes. He is a senior pastor, teaches at Fuller Seminary, has written 5 books and numerous articles, and in between finds time to post thoughtful blogs pretty much every day.

So, to these great bloggers, I present the "Thinking Blogger Award," giving them the honor of posting the award on their website and of nominating 5 other bloggers for the same award.
Thanks, Dana, for thinking of me for this award, and congratulations to the new Thinking Bloggers!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Do Homeschooled Kids Have Wings?

In an editorial in today's USA Today, founder Al Neuharth wrote that "Parents should give school-age kids wings." (HT: Alasandra) Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Most of us are familiar with the old quote, ""There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings," and most of us agree with it.

But Neuharth takes the idea further. When he talks about "giving kids wings," he apparently believes homeschooling parents refuse to do that. Look at this quote from his editorial:
My concern about our educational system is for those who aren't part of it — these home-schooled:
* An estimated 1.7 million to 2.5 million will be taught at home by a parent this year.
* They are tied to their mother's apron strings or father's bootstraps.
Not letting kids try out their own wings after we've provided the right roots will disadvantage them later in life.

Wow! Does Mr. Neuharth really think the several million homeschooled kids throughout the country are ALL still "tied to their mother's apron strings or father's bootstraps"? Does he really believe we should send our 5- and 6-year-olds to spend 8 1/2 hours - 1/3 of their days - in an environment we rarely even witness, let alone are able to impact in any significant way? And can he actually think that if we don't think that's such a great idea, we will therefore keep them tied to our apron strings for the rest of their lives?

There are some of us who believe that the process of releasing our children ought to be gradual, to be done only when they have a solid foundation - "the right roots." There are some of us who believe the first five years of a child's life are a bit short to sink their roots deeply. Even for a tree, the process of building solid roots takes many years; it can't be accomplished overnight. How much more true is that for a child? There's a reason our country keeps parents accountable for their kids' actions until they are at least 18 - because we recognize children aren't adults until then. They need time to sink deep roots. Homeschooling facilitates that.

Once the roots are firmly established, THEN we encourage our children to fly. We give them opportunities, first with plenty of parental involvement, and then gradually weaning them to their own direction. Just like a gardener, we gradually release the stakes that support them, one at a time, not all at once. So when they do leave home (for swim team, for camp, or for college), we don't worry as much, because we know their roots have gone deep. These are not shallow-rooted trees that will tip over in the first big windstorm; they are solid, mature oak trees that will stand against the worst weather.

My older daughter is 11. I am even now giving her more and more control. She decides what she will wear and what she will have for lunch - and she has made her own lunches most of the time since she was about 8. (She can do that, you see, because she's at home all day. She's not limited to what I pack in her lunch or what the school serves that day.). She does her own laundry (at her request). She chooses most of her own clothes (with some guidance from me). She chooses her own friends (though I still exercise considerable guidance because this is a more difficult decision than what to have for lunch or what clothes to wear - as she gets older, she will have more control). She chooses her extracurricular activities, whether gymnastics or swimming or band or whatever, and has since she was 5 or 6. This school year, while I give her the assignments, she decides what her day will look like, as long as she gets her assignments done. (What school child has that kind of freedom?) She could go to school if she wanted to - she recognizes that homeschooling gives her far more freedom and more control over her day. In the meantime, I am confident in the decisions she's making, as I watch her continue to make wise choices. I believe by the time she's ready to leave home, she will not only have solid roots, but strong, fully developed wings as well. While I will miss her, I'm looking forward to that day, to watching her soar on her own.

I hate to disagree with you, Mr. Neuharth, but I'm convinced you are badly mistaken in this assessment of homeschoolers (how many homeschooling families do you know, anyway?). I very much want my children to fly. I just don't believe that pushing them out of the nest before they have their flight feathers is going to do anything but land them on the sidewalk for the neighbor's cat to feast on.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Art Through the Years

If you are a homeschooling parent, you're probably planning to try to teach both history and art at some point this year. Clearly the two topics are interrelated, since all art was created at some point in history, and almost all periods in history are characterized by art in one form or another. (There may be time frames from which we no longer have any preserved art, but as people created in the image of our Creator, it seems pretty much all of us value some kind of artistic/creative expression.)

Until today, though, I hadn't thought much about how art reflects the philosophies and mindset of the artist, and particularly how artistic styles reflect the philosophies and mindsets of the historical times in which the artists lived. But on his Breakpoint radio program today (click here for transcript), Chuck Colson points out the relationships, and he does so in a simple, easy-to-understand way. At the same time, he explains something I've been wondering about recently: Why do many people today think animals create art, and why does that idea seem so strange to me? Take a look:

Imagine we’re touring an imaginary art museum. Beginning in the medieval section, we see figures that are stiff and formal, set against gold backgrounds. This is art expressing an otherworldly philosophy of life.

Next comes the Reformation. Figures begin to look like real individuals instead of symbols. Reformation artists believed God could be represented not just by icons but by paintings of real human beings, who are made in His image.

Next we come to the Enlightenment. Paintings show respectable figures in fashionable dress. Landscapes consist of neat, orderly fields—nature under the dominion of reason.

But in the next room, the plowed fields give way to craggy mountains. Romanticism in art celebrates wild, untamed nature, the Noble Savage, ancient legends.

Finally we approach the room housing modern art, beginning with Impressionism, when art was taken over by subjectivist philosophies. Definitions of art shifted from the subject matter being portrayed to the way light strikes the artist's eye; from great themes of human drama to daubs of paint on canvas; from objective standards of beauty to the artist's psyche.

Expressionism and Surrealism probed deeper into subjective experience. Eventually art lost sight of any objective standards of form and beauty. Art became defined as whatever an artist does.

But without objective standards of form and beauty, even unformed, random marks on canvas—not unlike the dabblings of a dog—can be regarded as art.

Art used to be regarded as the expression of a civilization’s highest ideals. Great painters shared a communal vision of the good and beautiful. But today art has become so subjective that many people cannot tell the difference between works that have artistic merit and works that don’t. A museum might exhibit a paper plate next to a Rembrandt—who is to say which is art?

Christians ought to care about art because God calls us to lead the way in renewing our culture. Artistic talent is a gift of God, to be cultivated for the service of God and our neighbor.

So while we may regard the “work” of canine Picassos as amusing, we should spend our money supporting those humans who are called to create, as the Scripture puts it, “for the glory of God and for beauty.”

If nothing else, Colson's program here helps me understand how the philosophy of a given historical time period influenced the art of that period. I find it fascinating, for example, that as the concepts of right and wrong, good and bad, became more and more blurred in society, art became more and more subjective. "If I think it's good, what right do you have to say it's bad?" became as accepted in art as in morality and religion. As I teach my children history and philosophy, I can now show them how the culture of the time influenced its art.

But Colson also explains why I don't think a dog's creation (or an elephant's, or any other animal's) can be called art. True art can only be created by people, as an expression of the gift God has given them (whether they recognize it as being from Him or not). True art gives us a glimpse of "the good and the beautiful," to use Colson's words. And the best of true art is produced to glorify God and make the world a more beautiful place.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Difference Redemption Makes

I'm not really a sports fan. Oh, I like to know the score, and I cheer for the Rockies, the Broncos, the Nuggets, and the Avalanche; but truth be told, I don't really care all that much. My life is not significantly affected by what happens in professional sports. Until today, when I casually clicked on a link at called, "A Tale of Two Superstars."

In that post, Dave Burchett talks about two major sports figures: Barry Bonds, and Michael Irvin (former Dallas Cowboys player). He compares them, pointing out how Barry Bonds' attitude has made him difficult for many people to like, and reminding us how Michael Irvin was once just like him. Then he talks about the acceptance speech Irvin made as he was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame last weekend. (I didn't hear that speech, of course - I've already told you I pay little attention to sports - but I'm very glad Burchett commented on it.) Here's what he had to say.
Michael Irvin seems to be a changed man. On a day when he was being recognized as one of the best football players to ever take the field you would expect that Irvin would display more than a little pride in his athletic giftedness. He chose to humbly confess his sinfulness. I believe it took more courage to utter some of the words Irvin spoke Saturday than it took to catch a pass knowing that a linebacker was drawing a bead on his chest.

Irvin started with a prayer. He alluded to the success on the football field. But the comments that won my respect were his up front and honest confessions at a event that rarely sees such moments. This excerpt from The Dallas Morning News is a sample of Irwin's amazing speech.

Then came some very personal and emotional apologies for his failures off the field during the 1990s – the parties, the women, the drug arrests.

He spoke directly to his wife, Sand, bringing a tear to her eye.

"For better or worse – those are the vows we take before God in marriage," Irvin said. "It's easy to live with the 'for better,' but rarely can you find someone who sticks around and endures the 'for worse.'

"Sand, my wife, I have worked tirelessly to give you the 'for better.' But I also gave you the 'for worse' – and you didn't deserve it. You didn't deserve it."

Irvin broke down in tears about 21 minutes into his speech when he addressed his sons, Michael and Elijah.

"That's where my heart is," Irvin said of his sons. "I say to God, 'I have my struggles, and I made some bad decisions, but whatever you do, don't let me mess this up.' I say, 'Please help me raise them for some young lady so that they can be a better husband than I.' "

And suddenly a night dedicated to football had nothing to do with football at all.

I did not used to be a fan of Number 88. He is winning me over. Partly because he could play at the highest level of professional sports. But mainly because he was man enough to recognize his mistakes, humble himself before his Savior, realize what really matters, and confess all of that when he really did not need to.

Dave Burchett goes on to discuss the value of redemption, the impact it can make on a person's life, and the power of God to redeem anyone (even Barry Bonds). He concludes with this:
I never would have believed that Michael Irvin would move me so much while he was living his former life. That is what redemption is all about. A Savior who stands always ready to meet us at the moment we turn to Him. Michael Irvin did it. I did it. Barry Bonds is not a bigger sinner than me or Michael Irvin. We are all the same in the eyes of a Holy God . All of us, whether rich or poor, famous or anonymous, face the same question about how we can be reconciled to God. Paul summarizes it nicely in Romans.

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Paul goes on to say that we can not take credit for any of this.

Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith.

Redemption is available for all of us. Even super stars.
How badly I need this reminder! It's so easy for me to look critically at others, especially those "superstars," and blame them for the way they behave. But God is able to take those people, just as He took me, and redeem them. He can take lives that are worthless today, and give them eternal value. His redemption can change people forever.

And that's a good lesson to remember, whether we're interested in sports or not.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Too Much Excitement?

Dennis Prager has a must-read article over on entitled "Excitement Deprives Children of Happiness." If you've never heard of Dennis Prager, he is a conservative Jew who hosts a radio program on the Salem Radio Network. Every Friday he has what he calls "The Happiness Hour," when he focuses specifically on how people can be happy - and it's not what you think. He means REAL happiness, not the artificial kind caused by indulging our selfishness, so he spends this hour talking about how giving and sharing and focusing on others rather than yourself will make you happy.

In this article, Dennis talks to parents about how to help their children be happy people. His basic premise is found in the first two paragraphs:
If you want your children to be happy adults and even happy children -- and what parent does not? -- minimize the excitement in their lives. The more excitement, the less happy they are likely to be.

In both adults and children, one can either pursue excitement or pursue happiness, but one cannot do both. If you pursue excitement, you will not attain happiness. If you pursue happiness, you will still experience some moments of excitement, but you will attain happiness only if happiness, not excitement, is your goal.

He goes on to discuss how our children become so surrounded by excitement that they become jaded, so when something exciting isn't happening, they are bored. Then he offers this prescription:
The solutions are as simple to offer as they may be difficult to enforce. Limit the amount of excitement in your children's lives: the amount of video games, the amount of non-serious television, the amount of music whose only aim is to excite. If they are bored, they will have to remedy that boredom by playing with friends, finding a hobby, talking to a family member, walking the dog, doing chores, reading a book or magazine, learning a musical instrument or foreign language, memorizing state capitals, writing a story or just their thoughts, exercising or playing a sport, or just thinking.

The younger the age from which children are deprived of superficial excitement, the longer they will remain innocent -- i.e., not jaded -- and capable of real happiness. For as long as they live under your roof, and therefore (hopefully) under your control, you can implement excitement detox. If you do, they may hate you now, but they will thank you later, which is far superior to liking you now and hating you later. And in parenting, that is often the choice we must make.

As a homeschooling parent, I think this is tremendously valuable advice. I love the suggestions he makes about ways to help kids remedy their boredom. And I find my homeschooled kids, having more free time than the average child, end up doing many of these kinds of things. My older daughter (now 11), for example, spent a significant part of last year copying the Declaration of Independence onto parchment-type paper with a calligraphy pen; she has also taught herself to play the piano reasonably well, and has learned to amuse younger children easily. My younger, only 7, is still working on what she can do, but she likes to be alone and creates elaborate story lines for her Polly Pockets and Littlest Pet Shop animals.

This has been an interesting summer for us. I have rarely heard the complaint, "I'm bored," though we watch a movie less than once a day (and no TV). This afternoon we have a gymnastics class going on out on the back lawn for my two girls and two friends from the neighborhood (led, of course, by my natural-leader 11-year-old!). My girls are busy, and you know what? In spite of the lack of excitement sitting at home, they are happy. They create their own excitement by exercising their imaginations and their creativity - and that's a far better excitement than the cheap thrills they'd get from artificial excitement.

I appreciate Dennis' article. Even as a homeschooler, it's so easy to fall for the current idea that kids need excitement all the time - the TV, the video games, the zoo, the amusement park, the beach, the mall - and miss what will lead them to really be happy. Take a few minutes to read his whole article; it may well change the way you are parenting your children, and will certainly encourage you to consider the impact of excitement on their ultimate happiness.

Oh, and one more thing - maybe we ought to consider the impact of excitement on our own ultimate happiness. Can it be possible that too much excitement limits adult happiness as well?

Carnival of Homeschool #84 Is Up!

The most recent Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted this week by NerdFamily, is up tonight, and my post "What Are Homeschoolers Really Like?" is in it.

I especially liked the sections on organizing (be sure to read the post from All Info About Homeschooling entitled "Ideal Schedule vs. Real Schedule") and on the politics of homeschooling vs. the public school system. One of the best posts was from Why Homeschool? and is inconspicuously titled, "Response to a Comment," but all the posts highlighted in that paragraph are excellent.

There are many other good ones, including one called, "Adult Workers and Clones," by The Thinking Mother, and a funny comic strip entitled simply "Home Spun Comic Strip #119." (I'll have to check out these comic strips - they look good!)

This Carnival of Homeschooling is HUGE and there are lots of great articles, so be sure to click over and take a look.

Educating Christians - What It's All About

On Prison Fellowship's website today, from Breakpoint's "Worldview Magazine," T. M. Moore has an excellent article entitled "Educating for Christian Rulers." I found the article thought-provoking, especially on a couple of significant points.
American education is doing an excellent job at its stated objectives: creating economical and political men and women who will find their niche in the materialist economy and bow their knees to the system of political power, believing that every ill can be amended and every need addressed by economic and political means. The economy is growing. So is government. Politics has become a year-round sport. And the evening news reminds us, day after day, that, at the end of the day, the only things that matter are the bottom line and the opinions of those in power (including themselves). I disagree with the naysayers: American education is doing just fine.

However, I do agree with the opinion stated by Charles Silberman back in 1978, just before all this educational hand-wringing and faucet-fixing began to heat up in earnest. In his book, Crisis in the Classroom, Silberman wrote, “Almost everybody who wrote about education [in the past] took it for granted that it is the community and the culture—what the Greeks called paideia—that educates. The contemporary American is educated by his paideia no less than the Athenian was by his. The weakness of American education is not that the paideia does not educate, but that it educates to the wrong ends” (emphasis added).

Those of us who've been homeschooling for a while, especially those who are familiar with John Taylor Gatto's writings, have to agree with this. American education is creating exactly what our community and culture have asked it to create. But it's NOT creating what most of us want for our kids. More and more Americans (religious and nonreligious alike) are realizing that what the community and culture have asked education to create - slaves to the economic and political system - is not what we want for our kids.
The present paideia is likely to continue unfazed and unchanged by critics, at least in the short term. But if that paideia is ever to change, it will require the infusion of new thinking and courageous new leadership—political, educational, and familial—at every level of society. Those new leaders must be developed by a different paideia, with a perspective and worldview more like that of the founders and less like that which obtains today.

Mr. Moore goes on to prescribe what kind of education we need in order to create the kind of leaders we want.
Certainly education that seeks the kingdom of God must be rooted in Scripture and the grand tradition of the faith (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Thessalonians 2:15). It must be committed to wide learning, for the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it (Psalm 24:1; Ecclesiastes 1:12-13), and He is putting all things under His feet to advance His rule on earth as it is in heaven (Ephesians 1:22-23). The new paideia must focus, in all its expressions, on the formation of godly character—minds captive to Jesus Christ, hearts enthralled with God and His Law, consciences trained to wisdom, and lives progressing in godliness (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Psalm 119:97; 1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Corinthians 7:1). Such an educational program can be accomplished only through a curriculum established in loving discipline, in which all willingly submit to those spiritual exercises and regimens that train the soul and life for godliness. It must be a community undertaking, a conscious collaboration of home, church, and educational specialists at all levels.

Finally, education for the rule of Christ—education designed to nurture Christian rulers—must concentrate for the long term on the realization of a new spiritual order: the kingdom of God. Four general objectives must guide all our instruction and assessment: the achievement of divinely ordered lives, divinely ordered relationships, divinely ordered communities, and divinely ordered culture. If we keep these objectives in mind, and order all our instruction to achieve them, we will certainly come closer than at present to nurturing a generation who rules their own lives, and every sphere of their lives, according to the kingdom agenda of our Lord.

Is such an education possible? Past generations of the followers of Christ have realized more of it than we in our own generation have even dared to dream, often against the most impossible of odds, and in the least likely of settings. The martyrs of the first three centuries; the Celtic Christians; the generations nurtured by Alcuin and Rabanus during the Carolingian revival; sixteenth-century Lutherans in Germany and Calvinists in Geneva; Hollanders at every level of society under Abraham Kuyper; and many, many other examples from Church history stand ready to encourage and enlighten us . . . .

I find it interesting that Mr. Moore's terms for what a solid education would involve are met to a large extent in homeschooling. Consider the benefits of homeschooling when it comes to:

1) "Rooted in Scripture and the grand tradition of the faith." For Christian homeschoolers, this is an important part of our education, and perhaps for many of us one of the reasons our kids are not in the public schools.

2) "Committed to wide learning." Whether Christian or not, most homeschoolers recognize that homeschooling allows our kids far wider learning than a traditional school system. While we are deeply committed to being solidly grounded in Scripture, we are equally committed to exposing our kids to as much as possible of what life has to offer.

3) "Focus . . . on the formation of godly character." Again, for most Christian homeschoolers, godly character is a high priority. We don't just want our kids to excel academically; we are far more interested in their becoming people of great character and integrity, people who imitate Jesus.

4) "A curriculum established in loving discipline." I don't know about other homeschoolers, but without discipline my homeschool falls apart. Whether it's comfortable for me in the short run or not, I am forced to maintain discipline - both my own and my children's. I train my children to live godly, disciplined lives and to submit themselves to the Lord's direction.

5) "(Concentration) . . . on the realization of a new spiritual order." Secular education simply can't do this at all; but homeschooling provides a natural lead-in to it. When I look at Christian leaders, people like Jim Elliott, Mary Slessor, Eric Liddell, Amy Carmichael, George Mueller, and Gladys Aylward, I see people I want my children to model themselves after, people who made the Kingdom of God their #1 priority. Fortunately, in our homeschool, we are able to focus on that, too.

If you're up for some deep but thought-provoking reading, take a look at the full article. Mr. Moore never mentions homeschooling, but if you're thinking in that direction, you can't help seeing how well it meets exactly the criteria he's established.

In the meantime, let's keep our focus on just what it is we are trying to accomplish. It's not about the academics. We are here to build Christian leaders for the future, and to hopefully influence our culture toward godliness. That's what it's all about!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Homeschooling Secrets

Tammy, over at Just Enough, and Nothing More, has a great post entitled "5 Homeschooling Secrets." Take a look at this:

One of the best things about homeschooling stereotypes is that they keep our secrets. On the one hand, it’s frustrating when non-homeschoolers criticize this educational option. On the other, it’s a blessing in disguise: if they only knew these secrets, we’d have a nation-wide educational epidemic on our hands, with families falling left and right out of our school systems! Our society as we know it would collapse!

Thank goodness people don’t know our homeschooling secrets. Just in case you wondering what they are, and you want to be in on it, here’s what we homeschoolers aren’t telling you:

1) Homeschooling moms/parents/families have a LOT of free time. We have so much free time, that we are able to fill that time with our own personal projects, go places, visit friends, and balance our busy lives with rest and relaxation. Our time is ours, to do as we see fit. We don’t have to overextend ourselves and be super-families. And, even if we are doing the same amount of school work and the same number of classes as a non-homeschooling family, we STILL have tons of free time. We aren’t rushed and we don’t have to squeeze in family time.

2) Homeschooling is hyper-ultra-super efficient. I won’t even explain this one. Let me just say, that the time in active learning/amount learned is an amazing ratio.

3) Homeschoolers have a lot of fun. I mean a LOT. If you are a homeschooler that hasn’t been told this secret, consider yourself informed. Homeschooling is a fun and exhilirating and an exciting opportunity to take control of our lives and be our authentic selves. People who are their authentic selves have a great time in life. Homeschoolers are, overall, the most authentic people you’ll meet.

4) Homeschoolers are THE people to ask about what’s going on around town. If you aren’t a homeschooler, and you want to know about guitar teachers or the free museum days or anything - ask a homeschooler. They’ll either know, or they’ll know where to find the info. Homeschoolers are informed and have their pulse on the community. The whole socialization thing is a front to keep this secret from being public knowledge.

5) Fill in your secret here. What should be #5?

I love her point about homeschooling stereotypes. It never occurred to me that when people see us through the lens of their stereotype, they miss out on these great secrets! I always want to tell people who say, "I could never do that," that I'm not doing what they think I'm doing. I'm not some sort of "supermom"; I prefer homeschooling because it's better for my kids, but I've discovered over the years that it's also better for me.

Sure, homeschooling is hard at times; but so is sending kids to school. I discovered in the past few days, looking at the public school schedules, that if I sent my kids to public school I'd be having to take my 6th-grader to school at 7:30, then turn around and have my 2nd-grader at a different school (about 15 minutes from my 6th-grader's) at 8:30. Then in the afternoon, I'd have to pick up my 6th-grader at 2:30 and my 2nd-grader at 3:30, five days a week. Or they could take the bus - my 6th-grader leaving at 6:30 and my 2nd-grader at 7:45, each to a school only about 10 minutes away, and then returning at 3:30 and 4:15 respectively. Then since my 6th-grader swims four days a week, I'd have to take her to swim practices at 5:30 and pick her up at 7:30. And then homework - most likely at least a half-hour for my 2nd-grader and an hour or more for my 6th-grader, not counting special projects which come on someone else's schedule rather than our family's. And if they were going to school, I would certainly be working rather than sitting around all day waiting for them to get home - meaning when they were rushing around to get to school, I'd be rushing around to get to work, and all of us would spend our best hours apart. Ugh! And this is better because . . . ?

I much prefer homeschooling. I get up when Dad gets up to go to work and he and I have a quiet early morning together, or sometimes my 2nd-grader will come and snuggle with us in the morning. If the kids aren't up, Dad kisses them and wakes them when he leaves for work. After we all get around, get dressed, and have breakfast (which we sometimes do with Dad if the kids are up in time), we gather on the couch to read Bible. Then we tackle "schoolwork," the hardest stuff (like math, grammar, and phonics) first. After the hard stuff is done, we snuggle on the couch to read interesting books for history and science, and great kids' books (start to finish, not just a chapter or so) for literature. When the kids are hungry, we take a quick break for a snack or lunch, or maybe a Popsicle or hot chocolate if the weather is appropriate. If they are restless, we can go on a bike ride or walk to the park for a half-hour break before continuing. If they're focused, there are no bells to announce the time for that subject is up; we keep going as long as we choose. Sometimes we watch an educational video over lunchtime. We're often done by noon or within an hour after lunch, and then the kids have time to play, explore, rest, or read before we have to take my 6th-grader to swimming. When we get home, there's no homework, and we're not under pressure to get to bed since we can usually sleep in the next day if we need to. We have our best hours of the day together, building relationships with each other. Problems are met as they occur rather than having to wait to be discussed later.

So which is better for everyone?

And I haven't even gotten to my proposal for #5 on Tammy's list:

Homeschooling means I get to keep learning too! I have learned far more since I started homeschooling my kids than I ever learned in school myself, even in college. As we read those interesting books, I am able to make connections I never thought of before, and to see things from new perspectives. The "big picture" of how the world works comes together for me in a whole new way.

After having homeschooled my kids ever since my older daughter was born, I'd never trade it. Even if one or both of the girls eventually decides to go to school, I still feel this has been by far the best approach for these early years, and I'm in no hurry for it to end. Tammy's right about secrets - if everyone understood what I've learned in the last few years, the schools would be having a hard time keeping students!

Safely in Iraq

The following letter was posted on an online military moms group by a member who had "adopted" the author. This soldier had sent an email letting the poster know that he had arrived safely in Iraq. The posting member replied with a question: "Isn't "safely in Iraq" a contradiction in terms?" The Marine agreed to allow his reply to be shared with anyone.

"Safely in Iraq" is not a contradiction in terms here. It's pretty accurate. This is a very safe base.

When people ask about whether or not the job is getting done in Iraq, I think about this place now. 2 years ago, Fallujah and its "suburbs" were the worst place in the country. Now, statistically, it is the second safest in this entire province. I have more to worry about at home driving down the road than I do here... at least in regards to my own safety. I think about Haditha, where I was last year. We got hit with mortars every 3 or 4 days throughout the entire deployment. Apparently now it is a very safe place, with a large police force and a large civilian watch. It takes time, but we're getting the job done here, no matter what the media says.

It takes a couple years to really show the fruition of our work... but we're doing it. And if I have faith in this ----hole, everyone else should :)

The author of this letter, the soldier involved, was Corporal Daniel Redding, USMC, Fallujah, Iraq.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Journalist Gets It Right On Homeschooling

All too often, the journalists in our nation completely misunderstand homeschooling. But this morning Linda Whitlock, columnist for the Roanoke Times and adjunct English professor at Virginia Western University, has a wonderfully positive article entitled "The Best Deal on Schools." In fact, the article is so impressive I'm quoting the whole thing here:
Except for the long days and the chance to sit on my porch swing, I'm not a big fan of summer. Fall, with its crisp, clear days, blue, blue skies and Trix-colored foliage, is my season. But this particular time of summer does have an appeal for me beyond the long days, porch swing and, oh yeah, the end of the summer semester at Virginia Western -- cheap school supplies.

Yes, I must admit, I'm a sucker for pens, pencils, highlighters, whiteboard markers, notebooks, sticky pads, Wite-Out (especially Wite-Out), and the sundry other paraphernalia on sale virtually everywhere right now. Guess it's the writer and teacher in me. Or maybe just the kid who always got excited at the start of each new school year.

If you have school-age kids, you're probably even now scouring Wal-Mart and the malls for good deals on school supplies, backpacks and back-to-school clothes. But you may be overlooking the best school deal of all -- the one right in your living room, or dining room, or family room -- anywhere you have space to teach your kids at home.

Don't look so surprised. It's not that odd anymore. Lots of people are doing it. Chances are you already know someone who's taken that step. Despite the work
involved, most home schooling parents love it. Chances are the kids do, too. That's been the case at least with the home schooled kids I've come in contact with both at Virginia Western and as an online writing coach for home schoolers.

And why not? Home schooling has loads of benefits -- many of which I described a few columns back -- for both parents and kids.

Probably the most significant benefit of home schooling, though, is one I didn't mention in my previous column. Home schooling puts parents back in control of their children's education. That's not to knock the legions of dedicated public school teachers who do their best to educate kids. But when someone else is educating your child, it's that person's philosophy of education and his or her ideas about what's important -- not yours -- that govern what's taught. That and the SOLs, of course.

True, you can try to influence what happens in your kids' schools and what's taught in their classrooms. But it's hard work; it doesn't always, or even often, work; you
run the risk of being labeled a censor or troublemaker; and in the meantime, your kids aren't being educated the way you'd like. Why put yourself or your kids through all that when you can educate them at home?

I can hear all the objections now. But I don't have a college degree. But we can't do
without the second income. But curriculum and materials cost too much. But my kids won't want to leave their friends.

Valid concerns, all.

But you don't need a college degree to teach your kids. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, "Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents' level of formal education." And no matter where you think your academic deficiencies lie, abundant resources are available to assist you.

As for doing without that second income, maybe you should take a close look at what it's costing you to bring in that extra money. After factoring in child care expenses, fast-food runs and transportation and clothing costs, you might find it doesn't make as big a contribution to the family coffers as you thought.

Curriculum doesn't have to be expensive either. A public library and the Internet can provide most of what you need. Anything else you can more than likely pick up used at a reasonable price. Besides, it's not as if there aren't any costs associated with sending kids to public schools.

Your kids might surprise you, too. It's just possible they'll leap at the chance to escape the public school rat race. OK, maybe not. But once they figure out the benefits of home schooling for themselves, they'll come around.

Education, the home school license plate says, begins at home. If you decide that's what you want for your kids, it will require sacrifices on the part of the whole family. But achieving a worthwhile goal always does require sacrifice. And that's not a bad lesson for any of us to learn.

I appreciate Ms. Whitlock's article in particular because as a college professor, she sees our homeschooled kids right after they graduate, as they are adjusting to the "real world." So many critics of homeschooling express concerns about how our kids will manage when they get to college - when they have to deal with other kids and with professors like Linda Whitlock. It's a tremendous encouragement to see one of these professors speak out in favor of homeschooling.

Friday, August 03, 2007

What Are Homeschoolers Really Like?

Shawna over at The Homeschooling Experiment has a good post on "The Perception of Homeschoolers". She recently read a book by a group of unschoolers who believe public perception of homeschoolers is that they are of the wealthy upper class. She took issue with that, saying she thinks most people perceive homeschoolers as "minimally educated . . . lower to lower middle class socioeconomically, or maybe considered a bit 'crunchy.'"

This is an interesting issue - how do most people really perceive homeschooling families? And maybe more significant yet, what are homeschooling families really like? I've had the opportunity to know MANY homeschoolers over the 11 years I've been homeschooling my own daughters. My estimate would be that between the enrichment programs I've taught in, the co-op groups I've been a part of, and the online communities I've been involved in, I know at least 1000 homeschooling families and perhaps twice that many. (Of course, I don't remember all their NAMES . . . !)

In my experience, perceptions of homeschoolers come in almost as many varieties as the people who hold those perceptions. I know those who perceive homeschoolers as rural, religious, reclusive, somewhat controlling, with a large family. My social worker husband works with some who think homeschoolers are abusive for keeping their kids out of school, no matter how good the education they provide their children. I've read articles by those who think homeschoolers must be wealthy in order for Mom to stay at home from work to homeschool. Many of the people I meet think homeschooling parents must be saints or have some sort of superhuman powers - "I could never do that!"

In truth, I think homeschoolers come in every variety. I know of urban, suburban, and rural homeschoolers. Some homeschooling friends of ours have 8 or more kids, others homeschool only children (and everything in between). There are homeschooling families we know who are wealthy; homeschooling families who make great sacrifices so Mom can be at home; homeschooling families where Mom works part-time (LOTS of those!); homeschooling families where Mom works full-time and Dad homeschools; even homeschooling families with single, working parents (Moms and Dads). I know incredibly lax homeschooling parents, who let the kids decide what they're going to do each day (and in many cases the kids still turn out better educated than their peers), and very strict homeschooling parents who make their kids sit at a desk and fill out workbooks. Some homeschooling families use textbooks; some use workbooks; some use "real" books; some "unschool," and many do a combination. I know homeschooling families who had great experiences in school themselves, and those who had terrible ones; those whose kids have been to school and later been pulled out, those who never send their kids to school, and those who keep them at home a few years and then send them to school. My kids have homeschooled friends who are years ahead of their peers, some who are a little ahead, some who are about the same, and some who are behind and would be labelled "special ed." There are highly educated homeschooling parents (in some cases both have Ph.D.'s), and those with minimal education (no more than a high school diploma, and I've heard of some with even less). I know of religious homeschoolers (Christian, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Wiccan - I've even heard of Buddhist and Hindu homeschoolers) and strongly atheist homeschoolers.

If homeschooling families ever DID fit any kind of stereotype, they certainly don't today. The only similarities I've found between pretty much every homeschooling family are a profound love for their children, and the desire to provide their kids with a better education than they'd get in the public schools. And I'm convinced that the more you get to know homeschoolers, the more you'll be amazed at the tremendous variety of people who do it.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Value of True Education

It is rare for another person's blog entry to really make me pause and think, but Dominion Family's latest entry, Contemplating my Contemplation on the Contemplation of Rest, did just that. Despite its title, this particular post has less to do with rest and more to do with the value of what she calls, "linguistic education." There's much to ponder in her post; here's a small sample:
Recently I have been reading books that include chapters dealing with elderly people in nursing homes. It occurred to me that when my older boys were little I frequently said that we were memorizing things in case they were ever in prison and the rats were eating their toes. Now it has come to me with even more force that I am preparing my children not only for marriage and jobs and perhaps prison but I am also preparing them for their elderly years when much of the slough of their life will be gone. I believe much of what we have done in our Morning Times will remain.

My husband works with older folks in his everyday job. I never stopped to think that the work I am doing today, tomorrow, and next week is what my daughters will remember someday. When they don't know what day of the week it is, when they no longer remember who is the current President or what they had for breakfast an hour ago, the Scriptures, poems, hymns and songs they memorize now will still be with them.

The value of homeschooling is not primarily in how smart it makes my kids today; it is the lasting impact that what they learn will have on them throughout their lives, even down to the very last day. When homeschooling gets difficult, when I wonder why I put myself through it, this is what I have remember.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Fate of the Iraqi People

In all the discussions about Iraq, few people are discussing what will happen to the Iraqi people if America pulls out soon.

When America left Vietnam, John Kerry claimed in testimony before the Senate that there would be "perhaps 2,000, 3,000 people who might face . . . political assassination or something else." I had tremendous difficulty locating statistics on how many actually did face recrimination, but here's a small indication:
Between April 1975 and July 1982, approximately 1,218,000 were resettled in more than 16 countries. About 500,000, the so-called boat people, tried to flee Vietnam by sea; according to rough estimates, 10 to 15 percent of these died, and those who survived the great hardships of their voyages were eventually faced with entry ceilings in the countries that agreed to accept them for resettlement.

And after much searching, here's a reference to the actual number who died as a direct result of our withdrawal from Vietnam:
More than a half-million Vietnamese died at sea fleeing the grand peace Kennedy and his colleagues orchestrated. And more than 1.2 million Cambodians died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, thanks to the power vacuum created by our "humanitarian" withdrawal.

Now, back to Iraq. What will happen to the Iraqi people if Democrats get their way and we pull out of Iraq before we have accomplished the goal? Chuck Colson has some ideas:
One thing is for certain. If the U.S. pulls its troops out now, there will be a bloodbath. Many thousands of Iraqis will perish. I don’t know of any credible critic or supporter of the war who denies that fact. The lives of thousands—maybe hundreds of thousands—are at stake.

He goes on to discuss the political future of the Iraqi people, comparing their situation today with their situation under Saddam Hussein (which is certainly the most positive outcome they might encounter - it could be even worse).
Many thousands were tortured, beaten, even burned. Chemical attacks by his regime killed 30,000 Iraqis and anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 Kurds. To intimidate Saddam’s opponents, allegations of prostitution were used to justify barbaric beheadings. And most gruesome are the accounts of children tortured. The list of human rights violations goes on and on.

There is no doubting that life in Iraq for the average Iraqi is extraordinarily tough right now. But what do the Iraqis themselves think about life in Iraq now as compared to life under Saddam Hussein? Sharansky points to a recent poll: “by nearly 2 to 1 . . . the Iraqis said they preferred life under their new government to life under the old tyranny.”

As we listen to and watch the debating in political circles, we have to consider a lot more than just whether we want to continue to be at war. At the very least, we must remember to think about the fate of the people we've promised to protect. We betrayed the people of Vietnam. Let us make sure we don't betray the people of Iraq as well.