Sunday, July 27, 2008

Reduction, or Why Shouldn't Everyone Homeschool?

This is an article I wrote for my local homeschool group's newsletter. I post this after my last about being called to homeschool because if we end up answering that call, made by the Holy Spirit, and embrace the job that is before us, we all will come to this point. Either we will embrace it to His glory it or resist it, to ours and our children's detriment. These words are more true now than they were when I first wrote them.

I like to cook. Really, I do. Now, let’s face it, I don’t like to cook under pressure, when the family day has had too many things packed into it and my husband is heading home from work and I’m asking him, “what do you want for dinner?” knowing full well that it’s going to be a scrounge night.

The kind of cooking I like to do is leisurely—I’ve browsed through some cookbooks, been inspired, have a menu and a plan and an apron, and voila! Dinner is done, the family is happy, I’m the perfect mother, and God is smiling. How often does this happen? Probably about as often as it happens in your house, if you’re honest.

If you’ve ever made a reduction glaze, it’s rather simple...brown some chicken in a pan, take the chicken out, add some wine and allow the beautiful browned bits to simmer with the wine as it cooks away, add some seasoning and (to quote Emeril LaGasse) BAM!…you’re left with a beautiful sauce for your meal. Any food that requires reducing must be done over a low heat, and seasoned later in the cooking process to avoid over salting. It must be tended carefully to watch for the texture and thickness of the sauce. I see an analogy forming here…

I write this from a different perspective than most of the moms reading. I’m just starting out with homeschooling. I have a first grader and a toddler, and I’m in my late thirties. Most of the moms my age have at least one child who is in third or even fifth grade, or possibly even teenagers. They are what I’d call “seasoned” homeschoolers. I’m a keen observer, however, and have watched through the years as friends of mine, including family members have homeschooled well, but unfortunately I’ve also seen families crash and burn. It’s a strange dichotomy. One does not expect to see the children of Christian homeschooling families run away and get pregnant, have children out of wedlock, turn to blatant homosexual lifestyles, use drugs—but I’ve seen all of that. What far outweighs these results, however, are the kids who begin to pursue God at a very early age, assume positions of leadership, cooperate and relate with people of all ages, and display character traits that put most of us to shame.

Most of the moms who undertake the task of home educating have a myriad of noble reasons—they like the results they’ve seen in other families, (i.e. “her kids are practically PERFECT!”), or they don’t want the indoctrination of the public schools to prevail, or “my child should be raised by me—not a classroom of five-year-olds,” or they want the lifestyle, or they want to have devotions with the kids every day, morning and night. All of these are good and noble reasons for homeschooling and if you look back on your journals in the days before you made the decision, you’ll probably see many of these being examined in some fashion or another.

Proverbs 16:9 says “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” These reasons, intentions if you will call them that are the course that we plan, the menu for our children’s lives. The sauce is thin and watery with no seasoning, as yet. What I am discovering on my short journey into homeschooling, however, is that the steps that the Lord is determining for me are the process of reducing me to ONE THING…this homeschooling is not just about me. I’m not even sure how much of it is about my children. I’m becoming more and more convinced that this journey is about healing and drawing near to God’s very tender heart. His purposes are so much larger than our own we can’t begin to see how far out the ripples will extend when we drop that proverbial pebble, so the focus must be inward, on the “sauce,” and how it is to turn out. In order for that ONE THING to take place, I must be completely surrendered to the Lord, completely broken, and completely fulfilled in Him. I must allow him to come into my dark places and heal what is broken, bind up my wounds, and comfort my sorrows. It is a process that must be walked out every day, a simmering on low heat, a latent addition of salt and herbs.

The decision to homeschool does little for our children no matter how noble our intentions. It is the attitude of our spirits, our “broken and contrite hearts” that will ultimately be teaching them. It is from this place of brokenness and healing that we can protect and raise our kids. If we reduce our desires in homeschooling to that ONE THING, I believe that no matter what transpires in our day-to-day, the Lord will honor and redeem our efforts and bring our children into the place that we desire they go—a deeper relationship with him, and a journey of their own into eternity. May you be encouraged today to place yourself in his tender care, be reduced to ONE THING, and walk out your own journey of healing.

How do We Lose Flavor?

My family and I are attending a weekly small group this summer where we are discussing Ken Ham's parenting study called "Genesis of a Legacy." Now, before you get all excited one way or another that we are listening to Ken Ham, renowned defender of Creationism, considered a nut by some and a prophet by others, this is not about him or his organization or even my opinion of him. This is about something he said in one of his lectures that made me stop and think really hard. On the tail of my last post it is meant to call you to THINK about what you're doing with the gift of homeschooling that we've been given, and if you're not homeschooling, then ought you to be? Far be it from me to say that you should be is up to each of us to decide for our own families, but what he said served to drive the proverbial peg further down into the board, even more firmly establishing our own decision to educate our children ourselves.

Ken Ham is an interesting Aussie who is not afraid to be mocked by men because he knows his God and would rather face him having defended his faith with all his heart rather than worry about what men think of him. He talks about vegemite, a bizarre substance made from yeast and salt which tastes well--nasty for lack of a better word. Australians eat this on toast and they love it. They begin giving it to babies on the end of a spoon in infancy (proof that this culture has some brain-washing going on in it!) and the kids grow up loving the stuff. The point is that they are raised eating this black smarmy paste from tiny-hood and they love it—they have an appetite for it. When children are raised with excellence and an appreciation for it, they cultivate an appetite for it. When children are raised with the Word of God, they have an appetite for it. When they are raised with prayer and sincere godly living, they have an appetite for it. When they are raised with t.v. and computer games and relativism and shoddy attitudes and tolerance for others’ sin all around...I won’t finish the sentence. You get the point. An old poem my mom had on her wall while I was growing up was called “Children Learn What they Live.” But beyond that, they love what they learn—they internalize it, own it, act it out, become it.

The first time I ever had the thought that I might need to homeschool in order to be certain of giving my children the best chances for Godliness in an ungodly world, I had just read The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson. It still stands as one of my favorite books on parenting. My copy is underlined and marked, and the binding is starting to separate. In her chapter called The Teaching Mother, Sally says:
All of us have times when we're resistant to truth, and that includes children.
Faithful, repetetive teaching of the biblical principles of right and
wrong--plus a gentle but firm insistence that the children act on those
principles--is what helps to build familiar pathways in their minds so that
when they are mature, they will have a reliable basis for making decisions
about what is right and what is wrong (p. 168).
One page over she quotes Galatians 6:7-8
"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows from his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life."
When I think about this, I have to consider: what am I sowing in my children? Certainly my deepest desire is that they inherit eternal life and pass on a legacy of righteousness. But how? I only know one person that I can trust to provide that for them and that is the Lord Jesus Christ, and he has entrusted me with the job of guiding them to that end. Next I have to ask the following questions: are the people who produce programming for t.v. as concerned with reaping in my children as I am (see post? The answer is yes--they would like to harvest a consumerism mentality that will line their pockets, and the means justifies the end. Certainly the means justifies their end, and they will use any means possible, but the appeal is to the flesh and not to the Spirit, to be sure. Are the people who are running the public schools as interested in reaping in my children as I am? The answer is most certainly YES! Their objectives appear to be a bit loftier--they want to raise "good citizens" who are tolerant of diversity, good team players, able to be reliable workers and "do good"--by whose standards? I haven't heard that they are preaching a gospel that involves moral absolutes and high standards of conduct in the schools. On the contrary, all things Christian are being systematically removed and are being replaced with yoga, "world religions" and relativism. One of Sally Clarkson's famous lines is "In the absence of biblical conviction, people will go the way of the culture." The schools stand for nothing these days. I was told as a child "stand for something, or you'll fall for anything."

If I consider seriously what Sally Clarkson, not to mention God’s word says, how careful am I being to sow the maximum amount of good seed into fertile soil? The sowing of seed is only part of the equation—the working of the soil is the other, and it is up to me to do that, as well, to see that the Holy Spirit’s water has every opportunity to reach those precious seeds. If I allow t.v. to sow the seeds, I reap a greedy consumer who is absorbed in selfish desires. If I allow the culture to sow the seeds, I get someone who is unable to stand on anything for lack of absolutes and certainty because sin is subjective and people who say they know what sin is are hate-mongerers.

I choose to homeschool for a myriad of reasons, but the primary reason is that I want my husband and myself to be the primary seed-sowers in my child’s life. I recognize that friends and their families, life experiences, and other teachers who enter my kids’ lives are going to sow seeds as well. Some will be just as good as what we can sow, and some will be weeds. I know that we will sow some weeds ourselves, just by virtue of the fact that we are sinners. Nevertheless, the more our children are in this loving and nurturing environment, the more they will love that path of righteousness that we seek to put them on, by God’s grace. The quantity and the quality are of equal importance.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Called to Homeschool?

There seems to be in the homeschool movment extremes in either direction which give the reasonable majority a bad name. Of those I would suggest that there are those who believe that homeschooling is the be-all and end-all, the salvation for our futures and our nation; in essence those who "evangelize" others to homeschooling and believe that all Christians need to be doing so. In today's entry from Spunky of Spunky Homeschool, she acknowledges that there are these people out there, and homeschool conventions are a good place to find them. She recognizes the only salvation for any of us...Jesus. I love how she puts it:

Homeschooling is not the salvation of our culture. Jesus is. Homeschooling will not make a family successful. Jesus does. Homeschooling will not keep a child from rebellion. Jesus does. Homeschooling will not keep a marriage strong. Jesus does. And the minute I think that homeschooling will do any of these things is the day I begin the slide toward defeat. Homeschooling will not build a successful family any more than a hammer will build a successful house.
Classical Conversations has been a huge help to me in sorting out my homeschooling philosophy, and one of their recommended titles is Douglas Wilson's The Case for Classical Christian Education. While this book is not in itself a "homeschooling" book, it is heavy on the philosphy of why Christians need to be educating children in a particular way. It is very compelling, and I found myself riding the proverbial pedulum in the direction of "every Christian is called to homeschool" or at the very least, be highly selective about the environment in which they are educated, all "Christian"schools not being equal. So I tested this philosophy / new-to-me thinking out on a few of my more experienced homeschooling friends. I think all three of them were smiling inwardly at my naievety. One of them, however looked down at my kitchen floor and said, "no comment." I said, "Comment, please." She replied with, "I would never share that point of view with anyone." This being a friend that I deeply respect I felt an inward "uh-oh." She pointed out the legalistic pitfall that this point of view creates, and ultimately provides a platform for judgement and division amongst Christians. Touche. So simple--why didn't I see it?

So no, I do not fall under that extreme, and I hope by reading this you may be encouraged to give grace to your brothers and sisters who do not share your point of view. Successful Christian homeschooling families tend to be strong families and the world needs more and more of these. What we need to do is pray for the families within the body to be healed and to be strong, and possibly, as a natural byproduct, we may see more homeschoolers arise--but not necessarily.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Faith of our Fathers

Posted by PicasaOn this July 4th weekend, I found this photo in my library that I love. I took it at the Jefferson memorial in Washinton, D.C., one of my favorite sites in the city. "Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that justice cannot sleep forever."
--Thomas Jefferson