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I Homeschool to Keep Christ in All We Do

I’m Christian. It shouldn’t be a surprise that our faith is a large part of why we homeschool.

Christian homeschooling

When I say I homeschool to keep Christ in all we do, I don’t mean that we pepper Scripture verses throughout the lessons. I mean that I try to keep my teaching spirit filled.I try to model love, patience, gentleness and grace. And for all the times I fail (in a day . . . in an hour!), I try to model humility as I apologize and try again. My goal is to take them alongside me and teach them, here a little, there a little, precept upon precept (Isaiah 28:10). It is a gentle approach that builds a little each day and focuses more on character than on worksheets.

I try to find books that are factual, that tell the story of our history, our literature and our world from a basis in truth. That doesn’t always mean that it is overtly Christian. But as we’re reading about Jamestown and they are getting caught up with the hero John Smith, I ask them now and again to stop and to think. He’s a hero because he helped save a colony that became a part of our national heritage and our family’s pesonal heritage. We have family buried there. Victims of a native attack. But these settlers were on their land and these settlers did not always behave in the most Christlike manner. I want them to know that side of history. Because not all of our heroes always acted heroic. And not all of the church always acted Christ-like.

When we read a novel, I do not hold myself to the classic list of great Christian books. We do not look for Christ where he isn’t. But we do look closely at the characters and their motivations. What does the author hold up as good? What is evil? Everyone has flaws, but do the characters work to improve or overcome their flaws or do they work to accept them? I view literature as the first opportunity to introduce the philosophies of our world, to analyze them and to compare them to Christ’s teaching. All their lives, they will be inundated with messages from our culture. I strive to protect them from some of it, to be sure. I strive even more to teach them to evaluate and discern.

For science, we now have a purchased textbook, largely because I needed a break from creating my own curriculum. But I still try to supplement that with quality books from the library and real life exploring in the woods, on the prairie, at the pond and under the majesty of the night sky. We roll over logs, dig in the dirt, follow tracks in the snow all to catch just a glimpse of the breadth of this creation we are all a part of.

I try to introduce them, a little at a time, to this God we worship. And then support them in their growth, challenging them, reassuring them, comforting them and helping them to grow as much as I can. But with each step of the way, I try to let go just a little more and let them take those first wobbly steps of faith, moving away from me and toward their Creator.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for Daydreaming
E is for Every day
F is for Failure

Also check out the Homeschool Nook Link Up!

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Parenting in the dark

My peonies have had buds for what seems like months, covered in ants looking for the sweet resin but never showing a single petal. I began to worry that something was wrong. I went to the internet and found that there were indeed things that would cause a peony to bud yet never bloom. I watched over them. Studied them every time I walked by on the way to or from the car. Wondered if I should do something . . .or simply wait. I waited. The peonies in town came into bloom. Those few that were as large as mine were so heavy with their blossoms they were leaning over and touching the ground. Still, I waited.

And just as I finally gave up, they burst forth in all their blossoming splendor.

I am reminded a bit of parenting. Of the time we put into our children. Cultivating interests, instilling character, watching for signs of growth. My son especially has been a challenge. He’s been removed from the Y, removed from nursery, removed from Sunday School, removed from AWANAs.

High praise from his teacher last year was,

“For him, he was good.”

Improvement is always good, but still not quite the report a mom wants to hear.

Two years ago, after a consultation with a Sunday School teacher, I confessed that his behavior was being evaluated by his pediatrician. No one thought he was to the point of needing medication, especially since he was homeschooled and we were able to control his environment a little better. Autism spectrum had been discussed but ruled out. Time and consistency were prescribed.

I walked away from the conversation torn. Part of me didn’t want to share the information. It was personal. Part of me wanted to hide behind some sort of professional diagnosis. Like some sort of proof that I wasn’t just a bad parent.

Between the biting, the pica, the hand licking . . . well, there has been a lot of prayers, a lot of tears and a lot of searching. Friends, acquaintances, strangers and even the internet all had suggestions. Some of them were good, others not so good. All of them assumed there was something we could do.

And we did try things. All sorts of things, it seems. But mostly, we waited.

The hardest part about parenting is that when you are in the middle of it, you have no real way of discerning who is right, or if anyone is right. When to “try harder,” or when to relax. When to change, or when to just wait. You’re parenting in the dark.

Now, he’s only seven. We do not yet know if he will fully blossom as we hope, nor even exactly what kind of blossom that might be. But I don’t worry about it as much. My stomach doesn’t knot up when I leave him in someone else’s care. I can bring him to a 4-H meeting and not wonder if I’m going to have to leave with him part way through. He may not exactly be “normal,” but he behaves well enough in his own high energy and determined sort of way that I finally feel like he is benefiting from group activities and not just a burden on teachers and other children.

I no longer feel like we are just treading water, trying to get through another day, fearing what the future holds for this boy I love so much.

Lord, I see many buds developing in this young man’s life. Look over them and help them to blossom.

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Every American boy needs a shed

When I first heard the John Williamson song, The Shed, I thought it an odd subject for a folk song. After all, when he sings “Every Australian boy needs a shed…” I couldn’t help but think about a woodshed and we all know what happens when you take a boy out to the woodshed. And it’s not a subject for folk songs.  But it isn’t at all what the song is about. It’s about needing a place to get away, be yourself and pursue your own projects even if the roof leaks and the whole thing sways on windy days.

A joint to learn to read an’ write, to work on his bike at night
To grow up as he likes, to grow anything under lights
A place to keep his tools, nuts and bolts and drills
To hang a hide, to hide the dry or hang to pay the bills

I think it is why children are drawn to building forts and clubhouses and tree houses. For as much as they like being underfoot, they also have a need to carve out their own space. Their own private space. It may be in the attic, under a stairwell or even under a blanket thrown over some chairs, but it is a place to get out from under the immediate influence of parents and be themselves.

My children have been busy claiming a closed off section of the hen house, a small room with the door boarded shut and a loft area that can only be accessed through a small window. The younger ones require a boost up and help down from the older ones and there is something so very touching watching the four of them work together to slip through. I don’t really know what goes on in there aside from a bit of hammering and occasional requests for scrap lumber, but it is their small space and they seem to get along much better when they escape there.

The next project is to clear a space for them in the barn to keep all their treasures. Snail shells, antler sheds, mouse skulls…all those delightful things children come across and cannot bear to part with despite the limited room for such things in the house.

So yeah, every boy (and girl) does need a shed. Or at least a small space they can carve out as their own if only for a little while.

Come to think of it, I think mom does, too.

Where do your children escape to? And how actively do you encourage that time to themselves?

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Raising all weather children in the country

For some reason, my children do not like playing in the snow.  They ignore me when I suggest they go outside and play.  They whine when the suggestions become stronger.  They grumble as they put on their snowsuits, and they do so only after being bribed with hot cocoa.  I think the problem is that our yard here in town just isn’t very interesting.  Uninterested in either snowmen or snow angels, mostly all they can do is trudge about, climb the drifts and try to toboggan down a drift with the bottom of an old guinea pig cage.

This has put a serious damper on my goal of raising all-weather children.  I don’t need a general practitioner to tell me that playing in the snow is good for you and getting a broken bone or two is all part of the fun of childhood. Apparently, I just needed five acres out in the country.

snow 1

Before I even have the house unlocked, they have dragged out the toboggan and begun working on making a trail down the hill.  Mouse challenges herself by standing up and they keep a running tally of who has gone the furthest.  Impatient for a turn at the hill, one of them commandeers a carton from the bottled water and uses the plastic wrapped cardboard as a secondary toboggan.

I go in to paint, listening to the noises of them coming in and out of the basement.  They come in just long enough to defrost their fingers and toes before the call of the great outdoors lures them out once again.  I smile as I listen to their screams of delight and think this is what childhood should be.

I finish my painting and grab the camera to take a picture of their rosy faces lit up by the thrill of play.  But this is all I find.

tracks

They’ve hiked down to their fort to see how it has stood up to the snow storms and escape the wind themselves.  I go back to my painting until the sun hangs low on the horizon.  They come in for a snack and are upset to find me getting ready to leave.

“Ten more minutes,” I tell them.

And they race outside.  Apparently, jumping off hills trumps dinner any day.

hill

In the morning, in our little house in town, I suggest they go out and play in the snow.

“Do we have to?” they complain.

No, my children do not like to play in the snow.  Such a shame.

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Line of risque T-shirts has family groups outraged

Somehow, there is a new level of risque attained when you slap sexual messages on a four month old. I’m still trying NOT to picture my sweet little cherubs kicking about in a T-shirt with “I’m living proof my mum is easy” slapped on the front. Even if he does have four siblings, it does not seem to be the place for opening that kind of cultural dialogue. After all, what is a T-shirt slogan, if not a sort of pre-Twitter medium for expressing your message quickly, succinctly and to a broad audience?

Katherine Hamnett, whose T-shirts The Guardian credits with becoming the cultural signposts of our times, says of the medium:

“I wanted to put a really large message on T-shirts that could be read from 20 or 30ft away,” she says now. “Slogans work on so many different levels; they’re almost subliminal. They’re also a way of people aligning themselves to a cause. They’re tribal. Wearing one is like branding yourself.” The Guardian

Aligning yourself to a cause. Connecting yourself to other people. Branding yourself. You have five seconds and the passing eye of a distracted stranger.

What do you want to tell the world about your cause and yourself?

Maybe “The Condom Broke”?  Or “I’m a t*** man.”  (Without the asterisks, of course.)  Or how about “I’m bringing sexy back”?  On an infant!

Julee Gale, director of Kids Free 2b Kids, bought some items at Cotton On Kids (I presume for education purposes) and is outraged by the messages carried by these shirts that may be conveyed to young people.

“I reckon there should be a penalty and there needs to be an awareness campaign with retailers about what’s appropriate and what’s actually harmful,” she said.

“They don’t get that it’s . . . harmful. It’s all part of a continuum of sexualisation of kids. It’s about the mental health of our children.” Herald Sun

But is it really the retailers that need education? What if, in response to this collection, Australia decides to regulate the messages that can be printed on t-shirts marketed to or for youth? Would anything really change? The items on the rack at your local department store are, after all, an effect of the culture we live in, not the cause of it. Certainly there is a bit of a circular relationship between marketers and the market, especially when the marketers are successful in attaching their products to other things already sought after (think High School Musical merchandising!).

But a T-shirt slogan? For this collection to become a colossal flop would speak loudly and clearly to Cotton On and other clothing manufacturers and retailers about the inappropriateness of both the message and the medium. Rallying family groups? Not so long as the collection is turning a profit.

The collection bothers me. That product designers, marketing directors and retailers wanted to design, advertise and sell this collection bothers me.

But really it is the fact that there are parents who are willing to buy them that bothers me most. Your child is not your vehicle for sexual-expression.