Friday, April 30, 2010

Slow Homeschooling

The other morning, I read this post from this week's Carnival of Homeschooling, and it really got me thinking...

I did not have a slow childhood. Actually, that's an understatement. I have been a busy, overachieving perfectionist ever since I saw Mary Lou Retton get her "perfect 10" and told my first grade teacher that I was going to be an Olympic gymnast some day (and meant it). When I wasn't busy with gymnastics, there was always something else--swimming, ballet, tap, strength training.

Getting ready to compete in one of my first gymnastics meets ever. I think I was seven.


By the time I grew to be a 5'9" high school student (that's right, a full foot taller than Mary Lou) and put away my Olympic dream for good, gymnastics was replaced by a whole new list of busy endeavors--theater, swing choir, forensics, my own show on the high school radio station, and a job serving hamburgers at McDonald's.

Me, as a high school sophomore, in my Letter Jacket. My sister, on the right, was 12 years old, and would soon be even taller than I was.

Thankfully, by this time, the LORD was getting a chunk of my attention, but even this often amounted to "busyness"--leading the lunch hour Bible club, singing in the church youth choir, not to mention an endless stream of Campus Life and Youth Group activities. My idea of serving the LORD amounted to seeing just how busy I could be for Him.

A rare photo from my swing choir days. That's me on the far right (wearing a lot more make-up than you'd ever catch me in now!).

Reading this litany of activities may make you dizzy, and lead you to the belief that I was never home.

And, that's basically true.

I was home long enough to do my homework and sleep...and maybe eat, occasionally.

There were a couple of times when my schedule got the best of me, and I had to back out of an activity or two to keep myself sane--for example, the time when I discovered that I couldn't be on the high school swim team and in the fall musical at the same time. Slow down a bit? Maybe. Truly slow? Never.

It wasn't until I read the aforementioned blog post that I realized just how much slower of a childhood I have chosen for my children. I have several reasons for this:

--It makes life simpler and less stressful. I don't have to run around to fifteen different events per week, so I can spend more time actually being with my kids, instead of merely being their chauffeur.

--It's less expensive--in time, money, and resources. If I want to continue to be a homemaker and have a large family, something has to give. My little ones can run around and play outside. We can have a play date at a friend's house if we're bored. When my daughter does headstands or sommersaults on my living room couch I sometimes wonder if I'm not somehow depriving her by not sending her to gymnastics lessons. At the same time I know that if she had to choose between being in gymnastics and having me home with her and her brothers, I know which choice she would make.



--It nurtures creativity. Right now, my oldest is building a grain combine out of Legos. Because he can. He got the idea to build some farm equipment from something he was reading, drew a picture of it with pencil and paper, and then went upstairs to build it. As I type this, he periodically comes down to show me which part he just finished, and what he's going to add next. If we had every minute of our day scheduled, this kind of creative accomplishment would never happen.

--It allows for spontaneity. This week, we had the opportunity to visit a friend and her new baby in the hospital. There are other days when daddy will have an unexpected day off of work, and we enjoy an unplanned family field trip. Then there are the days when the weather is so gorgeous that it would be a shame to spend any of it inside "doing school". The kids run and play outside until their hair is windblown, their socks are full of sand, and there's another hole in one of Asher's jeans. Then, they come inside for a healthy snack, a snuggle with a good book, and a nap. Try pulling that off in a conventional 8-3 classroom!



--It helps to prevent mother burn-out. When I talk to mothers who have given up on homeschooling, they say the same kind of things over and over again:

          "I never felt like I was doing enough."


                             "I was tired of fighting with my kids over schoolwork."


                                              "I guess I'm not cut out to be a teacher."


                        "It was too much. I just don't have the energy for it anymore."

I think, for a lot of these women, if they slowed down, focused on enjoying their children, and allowed for a more natural learning process to occur (instead of trying to make their home into a conventional classroom), they would see the light at the end of the tunnel. A slower pace means that we can take a day off--or a week off!--when we need to. When we're having a "blah" day, we can spend it playing "Candy Land", "Go Fish", and "I Spy". We can play dress up. We can read every story in our Thomas the Tank Engine Collection. Twice. We can organize the toys in the basement and clear away the cobwebs. We can bake cookies.

I've found that, especially with young children, academic subjects can be handled in short, relatively painless spurts. Yes, there will be the days when we have to work harder than usual to master a concept, but, more often than not, learning is a pleasant, peaceful experience.

--It allows is to "major in the majors". We've all had times when our lives have been out of balance. We wake up in the morning realizing that we have more to-do list than day to do it in, and none of it seem particularly worthwhile. Ah, the tyranny of the urgent. While there will always be dishes to wash, clothes to launder, and bills to pay, I have come to the realization that many of these "must do's" I have brought upon myself. In the past year, I have dropped out of many outside activities, and I'm on the verge of cutting out most of what's left. I cannot do it all...and what's more, I don't want to. If I want to have any energy left for the things that are truly important, I need to make some space in my mind, heart, and calendar.

Now, don't get me wrong,  I value the opportunities given to me when I was younger, and they have helped to make me the person I am today. I can't help but wonder, though, if I wouldn't be struggling so much as a homemaker if I had been...well...home more often.

You see, there is this war within my soul. A war between Mary and Martha. Mary says I need to spend more time sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha says I'm lazy and a lousy housekeeper. Mary is proud of me for blogging right now. Martha keeps reminding me of the sink full of dishes and the kitchen floor that needs to be mopped.

There will always be the "mundane" tasks to do. But even then, there is something sacred in living a simple life, free from the endless deluge of attractive distractions. Perhaps it is my lust for attention, recognition, and importance that makes the basic daily tasks of this life seem mundane to begin with.

Maybe, after having lived a more simple childhood, my children will not be surprised by the fact that sometimes life is mundane. Maybe they won't see their basic responsibilities as drudgery.

I don't know all the answers, but I think I've learned at least one thing:

If I'm going to be able to "get it all done" and still have time to read, pray, think, learn, write, and grow,

I need to take...life...slow.
Thursday, April 22, 2010

Desperate for Discipleship

Below is an edited version of a message I wrote to the Above Rubies Yahoo Group several months ago. 


Can you relate?


"Do you ever wish you could just be a fly-on-the-wall in another woman's home? 


Someone who is clearly living her faith, is homeschooling a whole raft of well-behaved kids, honors her husband, and just seems to be living a life filled with grace? 


No, not perfect, but a whole lot further along this road than you are?

I want so badly to do this wife and mother thing "right"--yet, so often, I feel like I'm floundering. 



I wasn't raised to be a homemaker--In many ways, I was taught to think that homemaking was beneath me. Yet, here I am, married for 10 years. I'm happy to be able to love my husband, be home with my 3 small children, and to have a fourth on the way. I certainly know more about homemaking and raising children than I did 10 years ago, but I still have so far to go.

I do all the reading that I can, I listen to MP3 sermons as much as possible, I spend time with online resources and "friends", and ask questions of whomever will give me two minutes...



...but its not as though this world is swarming with Proverbs 31 women, and most of them are extremely busy with their own families. I desperately want one of them to take me under her wing and say, 


"Hey sweetie, bring your kids over to my house...I'll teach you what I know".

I don't need another ladies retreat, woman's ministries brunch, or small group Bible study with nursery provided. This is what the older women in my church seem to want and thrive on, but it is really the opposite of what I need. I need someone to teach me how to get my fingernails dirty down here in the trenches.



Please, if we're going to do a ladies Bible study or special social event, let me bring my kids along, and teach me how to teach them to behave if you think I'm messing it up. 


I'm so tired of having to try to figure this all out on my own."


Loneliness.


Self-doubt.


Feelings of inadequacy. 


Fear of failure.


These are all common emotions among homemakers, especially those of us who are "swimming upsteam" as it were.


We're making choices that are unpopular and misunderstood by many--not only in the "world", but also in the church.


Choosing to be homemakers in the first place can make us the object of ridicule. 


More that 2 children? You're weird.


Homeschooling? Yup, definitely weird.


Submitting to your husband? Now you're really nuts.


Add to that any other non-mainstream choices you might be making for your family. Can't you ever just be normal?


It makes you hungry for like-minded fellowship, doesn't it?


More than that, it makes us desperate for discipleship.


The problem is, who exactly is available to do this job? Who is supposed to be doing it? Are they?


Titus 2:3-5 tells us that this task falls on the shoulders of "older women":


Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good,
so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands,
to love their children,
to be sensible, pure, workers at home,
kind, being subject to their own husbands,
so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
Titus 2:3-5 (NASB)

Sadly, there are very few older Titus 2 women around to teach us. Those that do exist are very valuable indeed.

When I first decided that I would stay home with any children God would bless us with, I told myself and others that "being home" wouldn't last forever. When my children grew up and left home, I would find a job outside the home to occupy my time. I would probably go back to school and get a master's degree.

I've recently changed my mind about this. My value at home doesn't end when my children are grown. LORD willing, I'll be helping my own daughters and daughters-in-law in a Titus 2 way. There will be a new generation of young wives and mothers in my church, women who are desperate for discipleship, and I will be available to give it.

I may not be able to easily solve my current Titus 2 problem, but I can decide that I will not leave the young women who come after me in a similar place.
Thursday, April 15, 2010

Remembering Acacia's Birth


In honor of my daughter's 4th birthday, and in honor of Cesarean Awareness Month, I have decided to post the story of Acacia's birth--a home birth after cesarean (HBAC).

Acacia Lily, six weeks old, wearing her "Born at Home" T-Shirt

Some people question the wisdom and safety of homebirth in general, and of HBAC in particular. However, the data shows that, for most women, homebirth with a trained midwife is very safe. For me, homebirth has allowed me to avoid unnecessary major abdominal surgery, since my seeming incapability of having a baby come earlier than 41.5 weeks, combined with my less-than-textbook labor patterns, make it virtually impossible for me to VBAC in a hospital.

I have been told that I am brave for having my babies at home. I usually tell those folks that I think they are brave for having their babies in hospitals.

For more information, take a look at VBAC FACTs, particularly the "Why Homebirth?" page.

For those who have never had a c-section, but would like to avoid one, I recommend this file from Childbirth Connection, What Every Pregnant Woman Needs to Know About Cesarean Section. While I have been disappointed recently with Childbirth Connection's support for government-run healthcare, they still have some of the best evidence-based maternity care information available on the web.

So, here it is. This story is a long one, so if you're not into birth stories, I won't be offended if you decide not to read the whole thing.


Happy Birthday, Acacia!

Acacia Lily's Birth Story


Acacia Lily, hours old




On Tuesday evening, April 11th, I was eight days “overdue”. I had an appointment with my midwife scheduled for Wednesday evening, at which point we’d be discussing making an appointment with our unofficial back-up doctor for a non-stress test on the following Monday, if the baby had still not come. I decided to get out of the house for a meeting with some friends, rather than sit at home waiting for something to happen. On my way home, I thought about how “normal” I felt, and wondered if this baby would ever come. I went to bed at around 10pm.

I awoke at about 1am. “Was that a contraction?” I thought to myself. It certainly felt like one. No matter. It was the middle of the night and I certainly needed my sleep. Asher (21 months old) woke up at about 1:30 and asked to nurse. As I nursed him back to sleep, I felt my contractions getting stronger, although they were only about 15 minutes apart and maybe 30 seconds long. Nonetheless, I started to get excited about the prospect of this actually being “the real thing”. I tried to sleep on and off over the next couple of hours, but couldn’t get my brain to shut down. I was feeling hungry, so, at about 3:30, I decided that if I couldn’t sleep, I had better go downstairs and eat something. Two slices of peanut butter toast and a glass of orange juice later, my contractions had stopped. A little discouraged, I went back to bed and slept until morning.

On Wednesday, I went about my morning as usual. Every once in a while, I’d feel a contraction or two, but they were not regular at all. I had an appointment with my chiropractor at 11am. He was quite behind, so I didn’t end up seeing him until closer to noon. On my way home, at about 12:15pm, my contractions started up again. Asher was so tired from having waited at the chiropractor’s office for so long that he went down for his nap without eating any lunch.  I sat down to a light lunch by myself and started timing contractions. They were about 10 minutes apart and averaged 45 seconds long for the next several hours. When Asher woke up at 2:45pm, I realized that I was going to have a hard time keeping up with him by myself.  Thankfully, my husband, Chris, would be done with work in about 15 minutes. 

At exactly 3:01pm, I called his cell phone and told him to come home as soon as he could. He was a bit bewildered that I had waited to call him until after he was done with work, and that I had not yet called Ginnie, our midwife. He asked me to call her before he arrived home. He also reminded me to call my mom, as she would be caring for Asher for us during the birth. She was still at work, but would be able to leave at 3:30. I said that would be fine, and that she was free to go home and change before coming to get him. There was no rush.

I called Ginnie as soon as I had seated Asher at the table with his late lunch. I could not believe I was actually saying this, but I told her “I think this is it”. She asked me for some details, and then told me that it sounded like things were still pretty early. She would cancel our appointment for that evening, and call me in a couple hours, unless I called her first.

The next hours were a bit of a blur. I was quite excited, but still not completely convinced that this was real labor. My mom came to pick up Asher, and then I did my best to relax while also keeping up normal activity. Ginnie called at around 5pm, and asked for an update. Things were pretty much the same, so I doubted that she needed to come. Chris answered the phone, though, and told her that I was not sure whether or not this was really “it”, so maybe she should come so we would know for sure. She was already halfway to town anyway, so she decided to pay us a visit.

Ginnie arrived at our house somewhere between 5:30 and 6pm. My contractions slowed down quite a bit while she was there. We decided that she should check me, and I was only about 1cm dilated, but about 80% effaced. I felt embarrassed, but she was glad she had come. I had been “gearing up” to have a baby that night. I needed to start “gearing down”, because that was unlikely to happen. She instructed me to eat a good dinner, take a bubble bath, and get a good night’s sleep. We should leave Asher with my folks until it was just about his bedtime, so that he would be tired enough to go to sleep right away when he came home.

She also thought I should know that she did have another woman overdue at the same time as me. She did not say it to scare me, but only to prepare me for the possibility that Pam, her assistant, would not be with us. Since I was a VBAC, and this other woman was a grand-multipara (expecting her tenth baby), Ginnie would be with me if we went into labor at the same time.

During the night, contractions woke me up 2-3 times per hour, but I otherwise managed to sleep well. Thankfully, Asher slept well, too. It was now Thursday morning, and Chris took the day off of work to stay with me and help me take care of Asher. During the morning, they seemed to be forming a pattern again, and they were really starting to hurt. Then they slowed down for a while again. It was pretty much a start-stop pattern all day, and I was growing quite discouraged. I called Ginnie, and she suggested some fresh air and a walk, so we took Asher to the park. I labored on a park bench for about an hour while Chris chased him around the playground. As we walked home, I wondered how much longer I would have to wait. I told Chris that at least I had given this baby time to come on his or her own. Even if we ended up in the hospital with another c-section, I knew our baby was ready to be born.

 I tried to go about my day as usual, but I wasn’t doing a very good job of it. Asher seemed disturbed by seeing mommy in labor, and responded by asking to nurse more often. Nursing was very uncomfortable for me, and I would often get a very strong contraction which necessitated me putting him down, which only upset him more. I called Ginnie again sometime early in the afternoon to ask for some advice as to how to cope with the pain. We came to the conclusion that even though Chris was home, having Asher around was making it difficult for me relax and surrender to my labor. My mom came to get him right after she was done with work at 3:30pm. Chris made me some whole-wheat toast, and I retired to bed to try to get some sleep and listen to the CD of labor music I had made for myself. Chris sat with me for about an hour and started timing contractions again (we hadn’t timed them all day long). They were about 10 minutes apart and a minute long.

Almost as soon as we were done with our hour of timing, contractions completely stopped. Ginnie called soon thereafter (around 5pm, I think). She said, “Maybe this is the Lord’s way of giving you some rest.” I was feeling quite discouraged, but decided to trust that this was true. “Okay,” I said, “That’s the way I will choose to take this.” She responded, “That’s the way you have to take this. Everything happens for a reason.” 

What she didn’t tell me at the time was that, as we spoke, she was on her way to this other woman’s house, whom had just gone into active labor. God was clearly at work, just at the point when I felt like He wasn’t answering my prayers. I was tired, and I was starting to worry that my labor would never progress and that I would end up in the hospital with another c-section. I decided to send out an email, asking my friends and family who supported my desire to have this baby at home to pray for me.

Sometime around 6pm, Chris decided that, since nothing was happening at the moment, that he would get out of the house for a bit and pick up something to eat. I really wasn’t hungry, but he definitely was! As he was leaving, I got into the bathtub again, and called my best friend in Indiana. She had tried calling earlier in the day, at a time when I was definitely not up for talking. She asked me how things were going, and I told her the whole story. I asked her to pray that I would have my baby very soon. We hung up, and I sunk back into the tub and managed to get myself into a very relaxed state. I soon started to have regular contractions again.

Chris came home at around 7:15pm. I was feeling a bit light-headed, so I asked him to come upstairs and help me out of the tub. Upon getting out of the tub, I immediately lunged for the toilet and vomited. I now knew I was “really” in labor, since I had vomited through my entire labor with Asher. Chris ran downstairs to put his dinner (still uneaten) in the refrigerator and ran back up to be with me. Ginnie called, and Chris answered the phone. “Well, she’s vomiting right now,” I heard him say. She then told him how this other women had gone into active labor right when mine had stopped, and that she had just given birth to her baby. She was sending Pam over to our house right away, and she would be coming herself as soon as she could. 

I was quite excited to be having regular contractions that seemed to be making progress. I slipped into a favorite nightgown, sat on my birth ball and leaned over the bathroom counter. Chris rubbed my back, and I sipped Gatorade between contractions. Now, THIS was really “it”!

Pam arrived at 8pm, and not a minute too soon. I was starting to feel like I needed some help. She was so good! She knew exactly how to help me breathe and relax through the contractions. I kept thinking, “if only my nurse at the hospital knew what she knows, I wouldn’t have needed the Nubaine”. Pam suggested that I go downstairs and eat something, since I hadn’t eaten much all day. We went downstairs and Chris opened a can of peaches (the only thing I could think of in my kitchen that wouldn’t just immediately bounce). My contractions were getting stronger, so I didn’t eat much before I felt like I needed to lie down again. Pam and Chris helped me upstairs, and Pam decided to check me so she could call Ginnie and give her an idea of where we were at. I was three centimeters and almost completely effaced. I was thrilled to be actually getting somewhere! Pam also checked the baby’s position and determined that she was starting to turn posterior (just as Asher had done during my labor with him), so she had me lay on my left side with my right leg crossed over, and she and Chris applied counter-pressure to my lower back.  Eventually, she had me turn over to my right side, so that my cervix would dilate evenly.

It wasn’t long before I started feeling very sick again, and soon I was vomiting like crazy. The pain of the contractions was also starting to scare me. I was shaking, and feeling very hot. Fortunately, because I was home with people I trusted, I was able to vocalize and deal with my fear.  Ginnie called to say that she was now able to leave her other mother and come to us. Pam told Ginnie that I was showing signs of transition. That was so good to hear! Could the end really be in sight? I sucked on ice chips between contractions to stay hydrated, and did my best to stay relaxed despite the shaking.

Ginnie arrived at around 2am. It was hard to believe that so much time had past. We were all quite exhausted from all this hard work. I was still very nauseous and vomiting frequently. I needed to empty my bladder, so everyone helped me get out of bed and walk to the bathroom…fortunately it’s just across the hallway! I felt very weak and light-headed upon getting up from the toilet. Ginnie handed me some Pulsatilla to dissolve under my tongue, and then we headed back to bed.

We decided to do another vaginal exam at around 2:15am, because all other signs pointed toward pushing very soon. I was only 4.5 centimeters. My heart sank. It had taken my seven hours to dilate one and a half centimeters, and I didn’t know how much more I could take. Ginnie sent Pam and Chris downstairs to get some sleep. I didn’t want them to leave, but they were so tired from constantly rubbing my back. I lied down on my left side again, and did my best to take one contraction at a time.

My freezer was now completely out of ice, so we relied on an energy drink that Ginnie mixed with water. She had me take tiny sips to avoid nausea. As much as I didn’t like having Chris and Pam leave at first, Ginnie was very good at calming me down. I got very relaxed between contractions and even started to fall asleep. There was a loud and wonderful thunderstorm going on outside, which also helped me to relax. When I started to get scared again, she talked me through my fears. The pain from my back was now radiating down my thighs instead. This was a good thing, she told me. 

She kept saying, “You’re handling this perfectly.” “Perfectly?”, I thought, “I’m falling apart!” My thoughts started turning negative. Surely, I will never have another baby. I won’t do this ever again! During one particularly strong contraction, I started to panic. Ginnie very patiently talked me back down to a normal breathing pattern. When it was over I told her, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” She reassured me that I was doing great. I calmed down and relaxed through several more contractions. 

At the end of the next contraction, I felt something different that sent me into a panic again. I didn’t realize that the feeling I felt was the urge to push! More specifically, my uterus was pushing without me having much to say about it. Fortunately, Ginnie knew exactly what was going on. She checked me again…just a tiny lip of cervix. She had me turn on my right side and called for Pam to wake Chris up. It was
3:15am. I had gone from 4.5cm to complete in only an hour! 

Another contraction came and my body pushed instinctively again. I thought, “Oh my word! I’m wetting the bed!” only to quickly realize that my water had broken. Where was Chris? I blurted out, “I’m scared!” again. No, Ginnie assured me, there was no need to be scared. Say, “Thank-you, Lord!” So I did, and it became my mantra throughout second stage.

Chris finally showed up after what seemed like forever (I’m sure it was only a minute or two) and joined me on the bed. He and Ginnie helped me into a semi-sit position and propped me up with pillows. I needed a little coaching on effective pushing…I had never done this before! Sure, I tried to push with Asher, but he was posterior and stuck, and I was lying flat on my back, so he didn’t budge. This baby was on the move, though! It felt so good to be pushing her out! 

After only a couple pushes, Pam and Ginnie said that I would be holding my baby very soon. I thought, “Gee, that’s really sweet, but statistically speaking, first time through takes a good hour or two, and it has only been a few minutes”. I came to the conclusion that my brain was in some sort of a time warp and it probably had, indeed, been closer to a couple hours since I started pushing.

Pam held up the mirror and showed me that my bag of waters was still partially intact and over my baby’s head. She was crowning! In just a few more contractions, she was out. I had only pushed for fifteen minutes! I didn’t tear, either…just a little “skid mark”. I couldn’t believe that I had really done it! She was tiny and beautiful, with eyes wide open looking at me. At first, I thought she was a boy because her cord was between her legs, but I was told I should look again. “It’s a girl!” I exclaimed. 

Acacia Lily and Mommy, minutes after birth

Ginnie placed her on my chest and she nursed almost immediately. It took her a minute or two to “pink up”, so we thought we might have to take her to the hospital, but we rubbed her body with warm blankets and soon she was bright pink and hollering at us! What a beautiful sound! When the cord stopped pulsating, Chris cut it.

Within minutes, Chris’s mom, who lived in the other half of  the townhouse we lived in at the time, came to our door. Apparently, she had gotten up in the middle of the night and heard everything through the bathroom wall! She was completely ecstatic and gushing praise at my midwives. My mother-in-law, who had all of her babies by c-section and who had been concerned about me wanting a VBAC, declared that we had converted her. (She now tells her nurse-friends at the hospital where she works [the same hospital where I had my section] about how her granddaughter was born at home.)

So, Acacia Lily came to us at 3:30am Good Friday morning, April 14, 2006. After an hour or so we weighed and measured her. She was 6lbs, 6oz, and 19.75 inches long. (She was between 7 and 21 days “late” depending upon which method of calculation you rely on. If I had gone in to the hospital for the obligatory repeat c-section on my due date, she would have been quite tiny indeed, and probably would have spent the first few days of her life outside the womb in the NICU.) 

Being Weighed by Daddy and Ginnie-- 6lbs, 6oz

Third stage was a completely uneventful half hour. I paid very little attention to anything but my baby and felt almost no pain. We examined the placenta and there was only a tiny spot of calcification. Part of my bag of waters was still intact and attached to the placenta…Pam had cut it away with a scissors to get it away from Acacia’s face as she came out. They told me that this was unusual and could be attributed to good diet. I felt proud of how well I had fed my little girl en utero.

I called my parents to let them know that they had a granddaughter (and to check on my little boy, who had never spent the night away from me before). Then, Ginnie asked Chris to lead a prayer of blessing over our new baby.  It was such a wonderful moment for our family. Everyone helped to clean up and I changed my clothes. Then, with the sun slowly starting to rise, and the birds singing in the trees outside our window, we laid down to sleep with our beautiful baby girl between us.
Saturday, April 10, 2010

Through the Eye of a Needle

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Mark 10:25 (NASB)













Voddie Baucham once gave a painfully true definition of a successful American parent:

1. You must give your kids more stuff than you had when you were a kid (therefore, you shouldn't have too many children),

2. You must educate them to the point where they will be able to give their kids more stuff than you gave them!

For Christians, he added...

3. Oh, and pray at mealtimes.

OUCH.

As home educators, we often talk about how our educational goals are different from the government run educational system's goals. However, I think even the best of us fall into the education-for-prosperity trap from time to time.

It is tempting for us to try to "prove" the viability of homeschooling by quoting statistics about how many home educated students go on to prestigious universities and high-paying careers.

In fact, one could argue (as Seth Godin has in his latest book, Linchpin) that home educated children are actually better prepared for success in the business world because they are not trained to be cogs in the machine by the group-think, peer-culture conformity of the public school system.

These facts are interesting-- and may put to rest the fears that some folks have about homeschooled children not getting a high-quality education--but if we camp out on this stuff, we miss the point.

Now, once again, lest you get upset with me and assume I am against Christians having money, let me assure you that I am not. There are quite a few examples of godly men and women in the Bible who were also wealthy--people like Abraham, Job, Joseph of Arimathea, and Lydia.

However, when our lifestyle of prosperity becomes an idol, we risk putting our children in the position of the rich man trying to drive his camel through the eye of a needle.

"For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:10 (NASB)


This is a strong, sobering statement--one that we rarely take as seriously as we ought.

Dear friends, we must never give our children the impression that the purpose of their education is to prepare them to make lots of money. The purpose of our children's education must be to completely prepare them to serve God in whatever way He sees fit.

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB)

If we accomplish this, and God blesses our kids with wealth, too, fantastic!

If on the other hand, the LORD directs our children to walk paths that do not result in power, prestige, and piles of cash, we have still succeeded in providing them a God-honoring education if our children are walking with the LORD.

What is man's primary purpose?


To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Everything else is just stuff.

Let us be diligent to give our children no reason to think otherwise.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Enough Rope to Hang Myself




Some days, I can't win for losing.

When we made the decision to homeschool our kids, there was an attitude of skepticism among some folks that we know...an attitude that said, 

"We'll just give you enough rope to hang yourselves with. Pretty soon, you'll give up on this nonsense and send them to public school like every normal person in America." 

(Hee, hee...as if I've ever been normal!)

But, we took this all in stride, figuring that the day would come when we could "prove" to those around us that we are making the right choice.

For example, the fact that our 5 year old is reading at a 4th grade level seems like perfect "proof" that homeschooling is going wonderfully--so, please stop worrying that we don't really know what's best for our own kids.

Oh, if it were only that easy!

I have come to realize this week that some people will always choose to be uncomfortable with the idea of homeschooling, and therefore will always find a way to criticize it.

As a vocal advocate of home education, I find it pretty easy (most of the time) to answer objections to homeschooling. After all, there are only about 5 or 6 out there. Seriously! There are variations on those basic themes, of course, but at their root, there are really only 5 or 6!

This one, however, surprised me. This person (who shall remain nameless) actually used my son's high achievement in reading as a reason that he should probably be in school!

Because he's too smart for his age and that's not a good thing? Nope. That's one I've heard before...and frankly, I think it is silly and I just don't care.

No...because he's so very smart, that, surely, I cannot possibly devote enough time to him to really challenge him educationally. I mean, really, Tiana, you have two younger children, and you're pregnant, I don't see how you can keep up with him academically?

Deep Breath.

Alright...first of all...if I cannot keep up with my 5-year-old academically, it says really bad things about the public school education--not to mention the college degree!--I received. Let's not forget that I spent my work-outside-the-home years as a preschool teacher. But, even if I hadn't, accusing me of being unable to keep up with my own Kindergartener's academic ability is pretty demeaning.

More importantly, I think it is a great non sequitur to assume that, because our son is smarter than the average Kindergartener, that we therefore should stop homeschooling him and send him to an average Kindergarten! 

Nevertheless, I did my best to answer this objection calmly and respectfully, while at the same time making it clear that I am not going to change my mind on this subject.

As much as I hate to admit it, though, it did bother me. I had hoped that, once folks started to see the fruit of my labors as a homeschooling mom, that they would realize how right I am, and praise me.

Ouch.

For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10 (NASB)

When it comes down to it, my educational goals for my children are different. I don't want what the world wants for my kids. Sadly, I think most Christians do. They may want something that is a slightly different color or flavor of what the world wants, but ultimately, they want their kids to blend into the culture around them as much as possible. They want a comfortable, pleasant existence for their children, and to avoid the possibility of being labeled "weird" or "fanatical".

The real, honest objection to homeschooling that most people have is that it is different.

Are my kids well educated? Yes! But, not in the same way as other kids.


Do my kids socialize? Yes! But not in large groups of their peers for long periods of time, as other kids are.

My methods are different.

My materials are different.

My standards are different.

And that is because my goals are different

I am not trying to please people. I am trying to please Christ. I am trying to raise my children to be fully devoted followers of Him. Everything I do centers around that goal.

When all is said and done, I have only Him to answer to. 

May He say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

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I'm a Stay-at-Home, Christian, "crunchy" mama. I have been blessed with the calling to be a godly wife and mother. I am passionate about bringing up my children in the discipline and instruction of the LORD, through home education and discipleship. Helpmeet to my best friend and soulmate, Christopher since 1/29/2000, and mama to four little blessings, including a tiny, precious, newborn baby girl.

My Writing Elsewhere...

Fixing Your Heart on Titus 2

Did you pray for your
husband today?
Monday--His Work
Tuesday--His Integrity
Wednesday--His Mind
Thursday--His Purpose
Friday--His Health
Saturday--His Protection
Sunday--His Faith

Carnival of Homeschooling

Carnival of Homeschooling
Features God Made, Home Grown

Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival

2009 Nominee!

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My Wired Style

My Wired Style
Success is not learned. It is discovered and nurtured. What was your child born to do?

Our Curriculum 2010-2011

Bible--Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos, Apologia Biblical World View Book 1, "Who is God and Can I Really Know Him?"
Catechism-- "Training Hearts, Teaching Minds" by Starr Meade
Phonics--Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
(Kindergarten), Year 1 Booklist (1st Grade)
Handwriting--Bible Copywork, made using Educational Fontware
Spelling-- All About Spelling Level 1 (1st grade)
Math--Math-U-See Primer (Kindergarten) , Math-U-See Alpha (1st grade)
World History--Simply Charlotte Mason's Genesis Through Deuteronomy and Ancient Egypt
American History--The Light and The Glory For Children Series
Art--Interest-led projects and handicrafts
Geography and Missions-- "Hero Tales" by Dave and Neta Jackson, as well as various other missionary biographies, incorporating globe and map study
*We will be studying music and phy-ed., participating in a writing club and nature club, as well as attending various field trips, with our church's homeschool group.*

Disciple Like Jesus

Disciple Like Jesus

Raising Homemakers

Raising Homemakers

Quiverfull Family

The Modest Mom

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