Archive for June 2010

So Talented?

June 29, 2010

After hearing about some of my hobbies, some of you might be thinking that I’m “so talented.”  I’ve heard that line before, from people who didn’t even know about all of the different things I do.  My reaction to that is, “I don’t have the corner on creativity.  Whether you choose to do all the crafts, etc., that I do or whether you do other things, you can use the creativity and skills that God has given you to make beautiful things.”  Besides, there are a lot of things that I have tried, and a lot more that I haven’t, at which I’m not talented at all.

For instance, I’ve dabbled in sculpture, beading, and floral arranging.  I liked some of them, but I never pursued them very far.  My sister sculpts, and she does paper twirling (also called quilling).  3G and my dad both like to carve scale models of airplanes.  My mother likes to design quilts (and yes, she’s good at making them too!).  Other people are good at baking, cooking, gardening, leather-work, building, fixing, tinkering, acting, or debating, among many other things.   Some people make a hobby of knowing everything there is to know about a particular subject, like World War 1, or architecture. 

I call to mind the parable Jesus told of the man who left his three servants and went on a trip.  He gave one servant five shares of his goods, a second servant he gave two, and to the third he gave one.  The master knew his servants well, so he gave them shares according to their abilities.  When he returned, the master called all the servants together to give an accounting.  You’ll remember how the story goes, the servants with five and two shares had each doubled their shares, but the servant who had been given only one share had done nothing with his.

The emphasis in the story is not on how much each was given, but what he did with it.  You may have only one talent, one thing that you are good at, but you can still use it to the best of your ability, you can still glorify God in the pursuit of that hobby or talent.  Maybe you have to think long and hard to come up with your talent, maybe you can dash off a list off the top of your head; the point is not the talent you have, but what you do with them.  Are you using your talents for your own benefit or pleasure?  For your own praise?  Or are you using them to help others and glorify God?

Maybe you are great at organizing things.  Perhaps you are good at seeing the big picture when others get caught up in the details.  Or maybe you are good with pets, children, or the elderly.  There are a host of different talents that each one of us has, many that we don’t necessarily recognize as such, but all of which we can be using to point others to God.

Now I’ll ask you, what’s your talent or hobby?  How are you putting that to good use in God’s kingdom?

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Ace Wonder: Message From A Dead Man

June 21, 2010

You’ll have noticed that I have a banner in my sidebar advertising “The Widow’s Might.”   I love this movie, and not just because it’s made by homeschoolers, but because it’s so well done.  In addition, it’s something I can recommend to anyone.

I’ve been very excited to see that HeuMoore Productions is at it again, following up “The Widow’s Might” with “Ace Wonder: Message from a Dead Man.”  I couldn’t find a banner that would fit my sidebar neatly, so here’s a post instead!

Homeschool Convention: Memories and Concerns

June 19, 2010

I attend our local homeschool convention every year.  It’s a wonderful time when people can get together with other homeschoolers, talk about what’s going on in their homeschool, look at curriculum for the coming year, and listen to speakers on a variety of subjects.  My mother has gone to our particular convention since before she began homeschooling me, and has only missed once or twice.

I remember when she used to go by herself to the convention.  It was held in our city, so she would come home every night, but she would be late, well past my bedtime.  She would always bring home something for each of us on the last day.  The “somethings” varied each year, but we were always surprised because we had very little concept of what the convention was in the first place (except we knew that she got school stuff there).

I went to the convention for the first time just before I started highschool.  Mom wanted me to look at a particular curricula and see whether I wanted to use it the next year. I was bewildered by the crowded vendor hall.  So many people everywhere, some of whom I knew from other places like church, most of whom I didn’t, and so many books and textbooks!

The following year the convention moved to a new venue, a fair grounds where they had more space to spread out.  By then, we had begun attending a new church and had met the people who were (then) the volunteer coordinators at the convention. Mom, 3G, and I decided to volunteer to help out with setting up the vendor hall.

I got a whole different perspective on the whole convention through helping set up.  I got to see and hear a lot of the behind-the-scenes workings of the convention, and I enjoyed helping answer vendors’ questions and getting them ready for the other convention-goers.  I made a few friends, some of which I only see at the convention and a few which I see sporadically during the year.

Ever since, Mom, 3G, and I have volunteered in some fashion.  We have done everything from running a speaker’s booth for the weekend to monitoring a floor of speaker sessions, opening and closing the doors, cleaning up between sessions, and directing people where to go to find their sessions.  Each year is a little different, and each year I have felt more confident in what I was doing.  The last few years, 3G has been able to help out with the sound crew, making sure everyone has the microphones, projectors, screens, etc. that they need.  This year, Mom and I were “question ladies,” officially called Exhibit Hall Guides.  We helped people find the answers to all kinds of questions, ranging from where a particular speaker’s session was being held to what curriculum to use for someone’s children (Mom fielded more of the latter type!).

But I learned something disturbing while at the convention this year.  I may have heard rumors of this before, but this time I took notice because I got an actual figure.  Attendance at our convention has been dropping by something like 10 percent each year.

Apparently the numbers have been dropping for the last few years, but this year I could actually see that we did not have as many people as usual.   As yet I haven’t heard anything indicating whether this drop in attendance has been observed in other places as well, or whether it’s just our convention, but I’m sure that our convention team is looking into that.  I did hear a few reasons aired as to why fewer people are coming, but no one is sure which ones are the real reasons. 

Our convention recently moved from one city to another, an hour and a half away, so some are wondering if that has affected the people who lived in the first location.  I know that we much preferred the first city because we were close enough to drive home every night, but the same should be true of the people who live in the current city.

Some people are wondering if the drop is due to the choices of speakers.  The convention team, and the speaker coordinator especially, tries to bring in speakers that people want to come hear.  I’ve only recognized a few of the speakers in the last few years, and while I’m not very familiar with many big names in homeschooling, my mother hasn’t always recognized them either.

But I think there may be a bigger reason why people aren’t coming to the convention.  Apart from speakers, one of the main draws to the convention is the vendor hall.  Many different companies send representatives to our convention to market their curricula.  Homeschoolers can then actually see the materials before buying them, and in some cases can purchase the books right there at the convention and save on shipping later.

This used to be very useful because the only other option was to look at catalogs and try to tell from the descriptions which kind of curriculum was going to fit your homeschool best.  Now, however, people have the internet.  Not only can you find several different reviews of a particular curriculum, in some cases you can also look at a few pages of it online.  The need to physically handle the books has decreased.

In addition, I think the general homeschooler mind-set may have changed.  Homeschooling used to be tough.  The pioneers of our movement fought to be able to teach their own children in their own homes.  They risked being jailed for “depriving their children” by not sending them to school (depriving them of what, I might ask, since homeschoolers have better average scores on tests than school kids do).  The pioneers challenged the idea that only a certified teacher could teach children – I and hundreds like me are proof that a mother can do just as well (or better).  Early homeschoolers also did not have the plethora of curriculum to choose from.  They used textbooks written for school settings or simply wrote their own.

Homeschoolers, at least in my area, seem to be becoming less dependent on each other.  Sure, we’ve got co-ops for this that and everything (which, by the way, is just a way to incorporate select pieces, and not necessarily good ones, of the school mind-set into homeschooling, in my not-so-humble opinion), but the support group that my mother attends has ten or twelve moms show up on a really good night.  Normally they have maybe six or seven. The membership list for the group has around seventy families.  Think about it; about six to ten, mostly the leaders of the group (and not all of those usually show), out of seventy!

Do homeschoolers really need each other less?  Somehow, I doubt it.  Just as in the human body where no individual part could survive without the rest, and just like the body of Christ where we cannot function well without each other, I think homeschoolers need to be connected to other homeschoolers, particularly in a family to family setting.  We all can benefit from someone who has been there, done that, who can offer us advice when we get in a quandary.  We need to be able to pass on the knowledge we have gained over the years to those who are just starting out.  I don’t think that blogs and chat rooms are enough.  We need the face-to-face time, we need to see each other’s families, and we need to help each other grow.

Even graduates like me can offer something, having been through the process from the other side. I know quite a bit from being the student that will help me when I eventually become a teacher, and someday that will make me even better able to help others be better teachers (I don’t think I could make it all relevant till I am able to use it myself).  We graduates also know how much homeschooling has benefitted us in making the transition to college or the workforce.

So whether it’s a convention, a support group, or just a bunch of families from the same area or church, I encourage you to get together with other homeschoolers.  If there is only one other homeschooling family that you know, get together to compare notes and share experiences.  The fellowship of other homeschoolers is vital, especially in today’s atmosphere where we are more acknowledged than in the past but still treated as just another educational choice, though an odd one.  We need to know why we homeschool and we need to have others around us who can help us through difficulty and challenge us to do better.

My Father’s Daughter

June 16, 2010

Many people will tell you their father is awesome.  I’m one of them.  My dad is not perfect, but he keeps trying, and he knows how to help me keep trying too.  I’m my father’s daughter in a lot of ways.  I’ve been told since I was small that I look like my dad; I have his (near-sighted) blue eyes, his curly hair, and his light build.  I’m like him in several personality points as well, but my favorite similarity is our musical talent.

I remember the first time I did special music with my father.  Dad did special music on a fairly regular basis at church (the same one where I was baptized), and one day when I was eight or nine, he asked me if I would like to sing with him.  Of course I wanted to.  I loved to watch him do specials, and I had dreamed of doing one too.

We decided to do “Amazing Grace.”  A very original song choice, I know, but it was my favorite song at the time, and one that I already had almost memorized.  We rehearsed for several weeks.  I remember being nervous in practice because I had difficulty picking out my cue to begin.  You see, Dad had me sing the first verse solo while he accompanied on his guitar.  Then he sang a second verse solo, and we both sang the last verse. 

But I couldn’t seem to figure out where to come in. 

I would start the first verse too early, or I would be late.  Finally, Dad began giving me a visible signal, dipping his guitar toward me just a little so that I would know when to start singing.

The day we did our special, I was pretty excited.  I don’t think I remembered much of the rest of the service that day.  I was too focused on being ready when it was our turn.  We had checked out the microphones before Sunday School, so that was all set, we just had to walk up, and Dad had to get his guitar ready, and then we could sing.  That was plenty of time for me to get nervous, however.

We weren’t going to a huge church, but it was big enough to be intimidating to me.  I looked at the congregation and was glad I wasn’t up there alone.  As it was, I suddenly developed nerves.  But Dad started his introduction, and I turned my head enough that I could see his signal when it came.  I certainly didn’t want to miss that in front of all those people!

I got through the song just fine, and I became more comfortable as we went on.  Once it was over, though, I think I felt like running back to my seat.  Several people said nice things to me afterward, but I was so shy and nervous that I could make little response.  I did want to know that people liked it, but I wasn’t sure how to respond.  After all, this was new territory for me.

I’ve done quite a few specials with my father since that first one.  Our specialties are hymns and some old choruses.  These days I usually have my guitar too.  Yes, I learned to play from my father, using his old guitar.  We’ll have a double duet, my father and myself, and Betsy and Marie.  I used to wonder why my sister got her tendency to name everything; I don’t wonder after I learned that my Dad named his guitars. 

My singing sounds much better now (especially since I’ve been taking singing lessons), and Dad sometimes will sing harmony beneath my melody.  I have to smile sometimes because I may carry the melody in the vocals, but Dad definitely has the cool guitar part.  I just keep the rhythm going.  Still, I know I’m contributing in both ways, and it sounds pretty good to me, even though I don’t hear it in the correct balance because I’m one of the performers.  For our latest special, I even sang solo with Dad accompanying on his guitar.  Singing solo has been a major hurdle for me, and I’m glad to have finally made it over.

I’m my father’s daughter in another way; I seem to have inherited his songwriting gene.  Dad has written a dozen or more songs, some of which I like to play with him and others which he sings alone.  I sometimes feel like I have a song simmering inside me, but as yet, only a few have come forth.  For every good song I’ve started at least three that I couldn’t get right.  I doubt that my songs will ever end up on the top 40 list, but they are one more way that I express my joy.

Some of my favorite times have been playing guitar with my father, learning new songs and coming up with different arrangements of old ones.  Thanks, Dad, for giving me a new outlet for the music in my heart.

Priorities vs. Perfection, Part 1 (via Whatever State I Am)

June 7, 2010

I recently found Lea Ann Garfias at Whatever State I Am, and I’ve been impressed with her blog so far. One of these days I’ll have the time to sit down and read over her archives, but for now, I’m enjoying (and being challenged by) her current posts.

I received an email last week that touched my heart.  A close, yet far-away friend is searching for answers to questions that I, too, wrestle with painfully.  The struggle is daily; the burden is enormous; the consequenses are eternal.  Every serious woman I know of at times cries with frustration or dispair and utters words like these: It has seemed as if you have everything together, and that everything runs smoothly in your life, giving you … Read More

via Whatever State I Am


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