Thursday, June 18, 2015

Revisiting Our Vision: To High School or Home?

When I first would tell folks that I was choosing to homeschool my kids when they were 5 or 6, two inevitable questions arose: What are you going to do for socialization? (My somewhat sarcastic answer) "Teach them manners?" And, "What are you going to do for high school?"(Again, feeling sarcastic) "He / she is 6 (or 7, 8, 9, 10). It's a little soon to tell...but I'll see what happens."

The truth is, we have always had the vision to educate our kids through high school. We didn't want to start something that we would not finish. Somewhere down the line we became open to the idea of putting my son in school when he reached 9th grade, and became even more so as I saw friends whom I truly respected and had worked side-by-side with make that choice for their families. For some, that is the right path to take. On the other hand, I have always approached the education of my kids as spiritual assignment, a calling, not just for them, but also for me. Where I am called to do a job, I have to have the faith that God will equip me to complete the work according to the grace he provides for me.

We prayed about it, especially when my son began voicing the desire to go to school. I had to question sincerely if this was God's way of redirecting us. He had joined youth group, and being with a group of kids who mostly went to public school, he felt a strong curiosity about their experience. I did not want to minimize his desires and we considered them carefully. His dad and I prayed about what to do. It became very clear to me in my heart, however, as though the Lord was speaking again to me, "It is not what I called you to." Glen and I had a choice to make. I knew I was taking a risk--a growing young man who has the attitude that he wants something different than what we are providing has the potential to be a tinderbox. I was not certain that he would accept our decision. There have been many long conversations, but after a man-to-man talk with his dad, he came to the conclusion that he could obey us on this matter, and his heart has been at peace since. I don't know exactly what was said in that conversation, but I am glad for a husband who can speak to his son's heart with the result of obedience with understanding and peace.

So here we are on the threshold. My son, according to conventional school schedules, is a rising 9th grader. I think of him more as entering the rhetoric stage of learning. He is a young man, changing quickly in all of his thoughts and attitudes. His understanding of life and people is maturing and I see not a child, but man emerging. I love his sense of humor, the way he thinks, his work ethic. Truthfully, I'm so glad that we will be keeping him at home because I would hate to miss out on this wonderful stage of life! Keeping him at home for his education also gives us the opportunity to foster these positive qualities in him on a deeper level. He has found ways to earn money by cutting grass, running a small car detailing business, and doing odd jobs for people as they need. He is committed to physical training through CrossFit and olympic weightlifting, and he enjoys participating in church activities, and serves willingly. Yes, I'm biased, but what mom wouldn't want to see these things in a son? I'm humbled--I know that it is not because of what I have done, but what the Lord is doing in my son. I am honored to be a part of that, and it causes me to seek Him for guidance all the more in my parenting.

I go back periodically and look at the vision and mission statements that my husband and I composed when we first started using Tapestry of Grace as a curriculum. Through the years there have been subtle changes in curricula and intensity, co-ops and independence. The vision and mission, however have never changed. Our vision statement reads:

To raise and educate whole-hearted individuals who are life-long learners, who understand and carry out our purpose and obligation to the Almighty, from worship to the spread of the gospel, to the establishment of Godly generations until the return of Christ. (Psalm 145:1-8)

Our mission statement is:

Learn from the Past, Educate for the Future

It has been our desire to raise children who are emotionally healthy. I have always believed in sheltering them (which is not the same as overprotecting), and instructing them from the Word of God first and foremost. The study of history and literature and the development of scientific thought is also highly valued in our instruction. The preparation of the mind for the future by studying the victories and failures of the past will equip my children to understand the world as they navigate life in the future. It is also my hope that the decision to keep my son at home through high school will have the effect of keeping him emotionally and spiritually centered. It is my hope to provide him with ample opportunities for learning with others, socializing with his peers, competition, travel, and even proper rest and relaxation. I want him to have a balanced experience of life--one that is free and unencumbered by institutional instruction. That has always been my hope, and it has not changed.

The higher learning journey begins now. As I say in my sidebar, I write this for myself--If you have read to here, thank you, but this is a post in which I have taken the time to remind myself of our calling and purposes that we set out to fulfill when we began this journey. It is certainly not normal in our day and age. I do believe however that it is right. We will carry on. I feel excited. I have a fresh dose of inspiration after enduring a fairly long and dry season, and I cannot wait to see what happens!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Discipline in Our House (Or, Raising Men and Women, not Fools)

I had a rather stiff argument with my son the other day. His sister had made an inappropriate joke in a text to a friend using my phone, and I saw it. No one was offended except for me. Even the receiver of the joke found it funny. I was still very disappointed in my daughter's choice of words (and before your mind goes too far with this it was nothing serious--just base 10-year old humor) and I reprimanded her for them. I also had a conversation with her about using gracious words. I issued what I felt was an appropriate disciplinary action (she chose and copied a scripture verse several times about gracious words.) Forgiven, behind us. No worries.

The case that he put forth was that it wasn't serious, and she hadn't really said anything too bad, and kids think that kind of thing is funny, etc, and that we should let it go, but he agreed with me that she should have never used my phone to make that joke! (It's okay to make a crass joke, but not via Mom's phone...what?)

My argument in response was that it is not my job to condone childish, foolish behavior. What happens among the kids when I am not around is (blessedly) their domain. I encourage them to work out issues among themselves without adults, but if they can't we are happy to mediate--though they are seldom happy with the solutions we provide! (Funny, that!) However, when their speech, actions and behaviors come to my attention and they do not measure up to the standards we have set in our home, then I call them to account. 

My swift and firm reply to him was,

"I am not raising you to be children. I am raising you to be a man and a woman." 

I am a pretty lenient mother, I think. I'm somewhat of a pushover when the kids want to do things. I have trouble enforcing bedtimes and rigid procedures and rules, mainly because I don't like them myself. Nevertheless, there are a few immoveable lines that in my mind cannot be crossed, and when they are, that is when discipline results. It is these standards which I believe will make my children into strong people--a man and woman of character, integrity, and gentility.

Good manners and good grammar never go out of style. 

One cannot go wrong with genuine good manners. They are a standard which gets us through even the most detestable situations with the most offensive of company. One who observes good manners can always go home with a clean conscience and say, "That was awful, but at least I was kind." Good grammar is just...good grammar. Of course we must learn when to speak and when not to, but when one must speak, to be well spoken and articulate is akin to having good manners. It will take you far in life.

The older serves the younger and the younger respects the older.

This adage solves nearly every disagreement. I can come into any situation with my children and ask them if they have served and / or respected each other in the way they know is right. That means that the Godly standard of self-sacrifice is modeled by the older. He is to treat her gently and with kindness, even if she seems unreasonable. In turn, I can ask her if she has respected him. Has she been selfish, ignored his wishes, listened to his reason for wanting something or for acting in a certain way? It nearly always dispels the unreasonable or irrational thinking. A hang of the head from both of them and a genuine "sorry" is always the result. I don't need to pick through the details. I only need to remind them of the Godly standard that we have set, and ask them if they think they have met it.

If it makes you ugly, it's time to quit.

Computer, video games, board games, make-believe games with nebulous rules, projects or school work that is exceedingly frustrating, conversations or arguments that go nowhere--It doesn't matter what it is, but when the "ugly" starts showing, it's time to back down and retreat. Go to your room, change activities, take a shower, part company...but listening or watching the ugly will not be tolerated.

(Borrowed from a friend) When we're tired and hungry, we're apt to sin

I heard my dear friend and mentor say this to her daughter once years ago. Her daughter rolled her eyes and dutifully repeated the phrase as whatever correction was needed settled in and a situation was calmed. I thought, "Oh. That's good. I'm using that!" And I have! (Thanks, Sue!) It is SO true, and my baby girl has always been a hangry monster. When she is hungry she becomes so unreasonable that you can't always even convince her to eat. We finally had to teach her, when she wasn't hungry, that when we tell her to eat, she'd better eat or things would get bad. Okay, since I'm throwing my WHOLE family under the bus in this post, I'll just say--she gets this from her father.

Once when I had to remind my daughter of this wise adage, I had her repeat the phrase, just as my wise friend once did. She said in a lilting tone, "When we're tired and hungry we ought to sin."

Um, no, Baby Girl. something.

I read the book of Proverbs constantly. It is part of my daily reading, and every time I get to Proverbs 31 I cycle back and start at the beginning again. I cannot say how many times I have read this book, but believe me...It's ALL there. All the parenting wisdom anyone would ever need is in that book. It discusses the effects of discipline, the lack of it, and delineates the differences between wise folk and fools. Here's a hint--the fools are typically not the ones who are well-disciplined. Read it. Raise men and women--not fools.