Archive for January 2011

When I grow up, I want to be…

January 31, 2011

I often wondered as a child just what I would be when I grew up.  I had plenty of grandiose ideas, plans, and air castles, but I knew that none of them would come true unless that’s what God wanted for me.  During the last years of homeschooling, I became a little more insistent on knowing what God wanted me to do, because I was trying to plan what to do about college and a job.  By highschool I knew that I eventually wanted to be a stay-at-home homeschooling mom, but of course, that dream wasn’t going to materialize the minute I finished school.  So I needed something to do while I was single and before I began raising my share of arrows for the Lord (Psalm 127).

The closer I got to the end of highschool, the more important it became for me to know what God had for me, and I was beginning to get impatient.  It was time to plan, but I did not have a direction.  While I was a decent student, I did not excel in any particular subject enough to feel like I wanted to pursue it as a career, but I wasn’t even certain that God had a husband and family in my future.

In the end, I decided that I would pursue a bachelor’s degree because if I got a job, that would help, and because as a homeschooling mom, it might be helpful (for instance, my mom can administer our standardized tests because she has her bachelor’s degree, whereas other homeschoolers have to make other arrangements; I couldn’t know for sure what the regulations would be by the time I began homeschooling, nor could I be sure of what state(s) I might be homeschooling in).  During the last part of my senior year, I finally understood that my dream of homeschooling would someday come true.  But I still did not want to be idle until that day arrived.

I chose to pursue college online.  This was because I knew I wanted to stay at home with my family.  I’m very family oriented, which I count as a good thing, so the idea of living on a campus away from everything and everyone I’d ever known scared the 18-year-old I was then.  Although I’ve since reached the point where I would feel more comfortable with that situation, I am very thankful that I made the decision to stay home and learn more from my mother during my college years.  I love being at home and involved in all the family’s activities.

Mom and I did some research into online colleges, but at the time they were few and far between.  I got course catalogs from a couple, but the listings didn’t interest me.  When Mom wrote to one college, mentioning that I was homeschooled, they responded that their program was not what I was looking for.  We agreed with them — if they weren’t going to be accepting, we weren’t going to waste our time on them.  Eventually we found Empire State College, which seemed like a good fit.

Empire State College allows students, I could almost say requires students, to formulate their own degree programs, so I knew going in that I could tailor my college education very much like we had tailored my homeschool education.  My mother had finally suggested that I study small business publications because I had enjoyed the graphic design elements in my computer science course during my junior year.  I decided that appealed to me, so I gave it as my tentative plan.  It was better than a simple Liberal Arts degree, which was the other choice!

Then I began writing my applications.  My father’s employers offer a scholarship to children of employees, which was large enough to cover nearly all my expenses.  They wanted an essay which told why I deserved their money (okay, that’s not their words, but it’s the meaning anyway).  As I wrote and Mom helped edit, we finally realized that I was writing the essay about helping people.  I enjoyed going with my mother to help out the elderly ladies in our church, and anyone else who needed something done.

That scholarship essay helped define my entire degree.   I was able to plan my whole degree to prepare for a job in human services administration.  I included several courses on communications and on human development as well, which have complemented my major very well.  In the meantime,  through volunteering at a nursing home, homeless shelter, and senior day care facility, I have been able to find my niche in eldercare.  I really enjoy working with the elderly, so I was very excited when, just two weeks ago, the senior club decided to hire me.  It’s only a few hours a week, but it’s real experience and I welcomed the opportunity.

Now, I’m graduating this spring, and hopefully going to land a full-time job somewhere.  Does that mean I’ve lost my vision of being a homeschooling mom?  Not at all.  But I know full well that I am not ready to be a homeschooling mom.  I have to take a couple of other steps first!  In the mean time, I hope to glorify God through my work in eldercare (or a related branch of human services) as I wait for His timing.  My work in the human services field will ultimately prepare me to be very useful to my brothers and sisters in Christ, because I am learning the services that are available.  I won’t stop helping others when I get married any more than I’ve forgotten my dream of homeschooling just because I’ve gone ahead and gotten a college degree.

Helping others and homeschooling are two pieces of the puzzle that is my life, and I trust that God knows exactly where to put each piece, and when to put it in.  So long as He’s doing the driving, I’m just thankful to be along for the ride!  And ultimately, the goal is not to help others, or to homeschool.  My purpose here on earth and someday in heaven is to glorify God and fellowship with him.

When I grow up, I want to be more like Christ.

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Dreaming of a Full Homeschool

January 25, 2011

I’ve been surprised in following Lea Ann’s “Ask the Grad” series on her blog to note how many of the graduates did not necessarily graduate with the intention of homeschooling their own children. Perhaps this is a function of the very human tendency to judge others by ourselves — I am personally excited about homeschooling my own children someday and have no doubt in my mind that this is my future.

I wondered for several years whether I would even get married, let alone have children (a topic for a future post), but during my last year of highschool, I began to be able to turn the problem over to God, where it belonged.  As I did that, I finally got a sense of contentment.   But I still didn’t know what God’s plan was, and it was affecting my plans for college and a career.  Then, as my family was preparing for our state’s homeschool convention, God gave me the reason to hope for my homeschool.

It hit me that God has been preparing me all my life to homeschool.  Besides the fact that I’ve been homeschooled myself, I also have the benefit of being my mother’s daughter.  You see, my mom is a great homeschooling resource.  She likes to help new homeschoolers explore the options, and since we’ve used almost every kind of curriculum out there (and what we haven’t used, Mom has at least investigated), she’s able to make pretty good recommendations based on what she knows of the children being homeschooled.

Yep, Mom doesn’t recommend a “one-size-fits-all” curriculum anymore than she uses it.  Although we have our favorite curricula in each subject, not every student will be able to benefit from them like we did.  And at the same time, Mom always tries to make sure that she’s not recommending curriculum that requires too much from the homeschooling parent, which is one key to helping the homeschool succeed!

I have been blessed to listen in on a lot of conversations in which Mom was able to help homeschoolers at several stages in the process, with children at various ages, find their way through the maze of choosing curriculum and setting up their homeschool.  It’s great to be able to help out with my own input as one of the children who experienced Mom’s homeschool — quite the advertisement!

Knowing that I have been prepared in such a way to be a homeschooling mom, it became very clear to me where I was headed.  I’m not trying to say that I’m going to automatically know exactly what I’m doing when it comes to homeschooling and going to do a better job of it than most people.  I’m only saying that I’ve been blessed with a lot of preparation that will help me to do my very best as a homeschooling mom, and I am excited about the prospect.

Most little girls want to grow up to be like mommy, and I’m no different!

Fireproof

January 21, 2011

I won’t say this was the best movie I’ve ever seen (although I can’t just put my finger on which one that is right now), but I’ll give this one five stars!

I watched Fireproof for the first time last night, and I was impressed.  Although it deals with a tough concept for me since I don’t have much personal experience with divorce, I thought the overall movie was great.  I thought the screenwriting was good and the acting well done.  The only character who comes off a little bit flat is Caleb’s father, although if you understand that he hides plenty of emotion behind a front of quietness, he becomes more real.  He just gets overshadowed by the emotion in the other characters, especially in Caleb and his friend Michael.   Personally, I really liked Michael; almost as much as Caleb!

The stories from the actors, which I found today, are inspiring, so I would recommend checking them out in addition to seeing the movie.

Labels are for Envelopes

January 2, 2011

I’ve thought about including some of my schoolwork on this blog before, but this time I finally thought I had something worth sharing.  Most of the essays I’ve been writing currently have been about my chosen field of human services, which may not interest very many people.  This essay, however, was written for a course called Human Exceptionalities which covers both people with disabilities and people with special talents or gifts.  I wrote this as a position paper to be sent to a magazine or newspaper for publishing, but I figured I could put it here too.  Mind you, I had a word limit (which I exceeded as it was), so I couldn’t go into the full depth of the subject.  The paper was meant to stimulate your thinking process rather than provide a detailed argument.  So, what are you waiting for?  Put your thinking cap on and start reading!

Labels are for Envelopes

Americans are  a label happy people.  In what could seem like a major effort to categorize everything and everyone, we have labels for everyone from the rich to the poor, from the smart to the slow, from the old to the young.  In particular, we label anything that does not look like, talk like, walk like, or live like we do.  I’m talking about the labels we give people with disabilities.

In the medical community, labeling disabilities is useful to the point of necessity.  Until a person is labeled, the doctors cannot give treatment.  I compare it to addresses on letters to tell the postal service where a particular envelope is supposed to go.  Labeling a disability gives doctors a quick way to know what to do for the person and what referrals to make.  In society, however, these same labels too often distract us.

The address label on an envelope tells the post office where to send it.  But does the recipient think twice about what is on the outside of the envelope?  Of course not!  The recipient is much more concerned with what is inside.  The labels we give people with disabilities should be the same way.  Labels for disabilities tell us about the challenges the person is facing, but we should be more worried about what is inside the person than what their outside looks like.

Children especially notice differences in the people around them.  I remember the first time I saw someone who had lost their hand.  As a young girl, I almost couldn’t keep from staring across the restaurant at him.  The man acted completely normal, however, and I soon realized that the missing hand only made life a little more difficult for him; it didn’t affect who he was as a person.  This introduction to physical disabilities prepared me to accept people with all kinds of disabilities.

Over my twenty-odd-years of life, I have known several people on the Autism Spectrum, a girl who couldn’t walk due to spinal issues, her brother who is blind, a boy with cystic-fibrosis, and others who deal with another disability or disorder of some kind.  In my family, we did not define these friends by their disability.  We focused on the similarities rather than on the differences.  I wasn’t always comfortable with people with disabilities, but that could often be true of my relationships with completely normal people.  I could see the person as it shone from beneath the label.

Children learn to label disabilities from two sources, first from their parents and later from teachers and other students at school.  I learned to value people from my parents, and since I was homeschooled, I did not understand until much later about the labels people with disabilities have sometimes endured.  If parents could all teach their children to disregard the labels and look for the precious letter inside of individuals and if teachers would reinforce this, I think children would begin to get a new picture of disability, one that reflects reality.

In a culture insistent on teaching diversity, why don’t we take the chance to train our children to judge people by their character and not by their appearance?  Whether they are slow to comprehend academic work , use a wheelchair, have a different skin color, or talk with an accent does not really matter in friendships.  Friendships are about relationships with other people, and the important thing in relationships is choosing to have them with people who will help you be a better person.

People with disabilities have to overcome a lot of things, from the social realm (pity, mocking, or disgust) to the physical realm (buildings without ramps or elevators) to the academic realm (not being able to differentiate between letters, not being able to hear the teacher, etc).  When people, old or young, work hard to overcome an obstacle, it makes them better people and teaches them worthwhile lessons that they can pass on to the rest of us.  If we could only teach this to our children, we might see the revolutionizing of our society to be more friendly and accepting of people who are different.

Labels do make a difference.  Cass Irvin, editor for The Disability Rag, wrote in 1982, “the language that we use defines and shapes our perceptions of ourselves.  What is more important still is that our language shapes society’s perception of [people with disabilities]” (pp. xv-xvi).  Although Irvin wrote that almost thirty years ago, her words are still true today and provide a thought provoking mental bone – how can we define disability in such a way that our children will learn to value people and disregard the labels?

References
Hardman, M. L., Drew, C. J., & Egan, M. W. (2011). Human exceptionality: School, community, and family (10th ed.). Australia: Wadsworth.
Irvin, C. (1982). Preface. In B. Shaw (Ed.), (1994). The ragged edge: The disability experience from the pages of the first fifteen years of the disability rag (pp. xiv-xvi). Louisville, KY: Avocado Press.

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