Archive for the ‘Parents’ category

The In-Between and the Afterward

December 15, 2014

When my youngest brothers graduate from high school in two and a half years, they aren’t getting a graduation party.  They weren’t keen on the idea anyway, not being social butterflies or party people, but we had a better idea.  Instead, my mother is having a retirement party.

Someone recently asked her what she will do when she’s no longer overseeing their education.  The suggestion was that she might quickly become involved in homeschooling again – her grandchildren.  I was also part of the conversation, and I quickly assured the inquirers that I am planning to homeschool my own children, thank you.  That’s my responsibility and privilege; one which I have no intention of giving up.

This period between being homeschooled and the time when I can begin being the homeschool mom myself is an interesting in-between.  My mother has switched from educator to mentor for me, with the transition lines being very blurry on occasion but nevertheless present.  I am looking forward to homeschooling my children, even though I’m also a bit intimidated because I had such a great mom myself.  I keep thinking that I’ll never be as good as she was/is.  The point, however, is not that I’m as good as she is, but that I do the best I can, and I am trying to keep that in mind.

While my mom won’t be homeschooling my children, I do hope that she and my father can be involved to some extent.  I know of other families in which the children have benefited from taking a subject or two from a grandparent with expertise.  I want my children to know both sets of grandparents well, to respect who they are, and to love spending time with them.  That’s easier to do with my own parents right now, as we live in the same town versus my in-laws, who live 3 hours away.  I intend to give both sets of grandparents their chance to love my children despite any difficulties with time and proximity.

By now, you’re probably wondering if I’m ever going to go back and answer the initial question about my mother.  What is she going to do after she retires from active homeschooling.  I may have given away part of my answer just now.  She may retire from active homeschooling, but I believe she will remain a willing resource for new homeschooling moms like I hope to be in the not too distant future.  She has a library of materials I hope to borrow when my children become ready for them, and I know she will lend them to others as she feels led in the meantime.  She also has many insights into homeschooling approaches and techniques which I hope to discuss as I am making decisions someday.

Yes, we’ve suggested that she write a book about homeschooling.  She says all the books she would write have basically already been written, so that is probably unlikely.  Not impossible, however!  We joke that she may finally have time to finish all those sewing projects that she has had in the plans but never had the time to make.  We’ll see whether she finds enough other things to keep her busy.  Other things like caring for my grandparents, teaching one of our church’s ladies’ Bible studies, and helping my youngest siblings with their projects, studies, and other endeavors.

There is indeed a life after homeschooling, just as there is one in-between.  Both have a great opportunity for serving and blessing others.  We’re both enjoying the stages of life we find ourselves in right now, and looking forward to the next.  In the Lord’s perfect time, we will find out His will for the next stages of our lives, and I know because He planned them, that they will be amazing!

The Gift of Memory

January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!  The holiday season is just about over, except for cleaning up the confetti and pine needles, which could take months.  In my house, the only thing left to do is take down the Christmas tree, which will happen today at some point.

Christmas may be over, but I will carry many memories away from this year’s celebration of Christ’s birth.  Some of the stories from this Christmas season are only the prologue to longer tales, and one of these is what I’d like to share with you now.

Remember not so long ago I wrote about the lunch conversations my siblings and I have so enjoyed?  Well, one of my gifts this year consisted of two letters, written by my mother, each sharing some of the wisdom she has previously shared verbally.  Along with these letters was a promise that she is going to add to the collection, sometimes writing to one child, sometimes to another, but we’ll each get a copy to add to our binders.

I can’t begin to express how special this gift was to me.  The memories it conjures up alone are priceless, and when you add in all the counsel the value of this gift skyrockets.  I usually get one gift that makes me so teary-eyed that I cannot speak, and the letters were it this year.

But that’s not the end of the story.

I was not the only one given such a gift.  My sister also got the gift of memories, only in different form.  She has already been dubbed the Family Historian and is the official keeper of the family newsletters, so this year, Mom began writing out the family stories.  Beginning with the story of how our family got started – how she met my dad.

We’ve heard the story before, but it’s special to have it written down in her voice, and we can share it with our own families someday.  Again, the idea is that Mom will continue to write the stories, and we will all get copies of them.  She seems to have found a topic for that book we keep joking that she should write when she retires from homeschooling . . .

And the story is still not done.

3G also got a gift that will be treasured by each of us.  My father has been teaching, whether in a Sunday School setting or a Bible study, for as long as I can remember.  More recently, he began a practice of writing out his notes so that he could share them with our college siblings while they’re away.  So what was 3G’s gift?

3G’s binder was the fullest of the bunch, because he got the first copy of Dad’s notes from the Kingdom books (Samuel through Chronicles).  Once more the idea is that we’ll get installments as the years go by, and we are all excited about this gift too.  By the time he gets done, we may have a whole commentary!

I feel like the cup that is running over with blessings.  With all that blessing, however, comes responsibility.  It doesn’t matter so much how much you’ve been given, but what you do with it.  All these blessings will not do me much good if I do not turn around and use them, and share them.

So, I’d like to leave you with a thought.  As you’re going forward in this new year, what memories of this Christmas will you take with you?  What lessons from childhood?  What teaching that God gave you last year?  How are you different from the person who began 2012?

May God richly bless us in the coming year, and may we learn to appreciate His blessings more fully with each passing day.

Happy New Year!

Schoolmates

July 21, 2012

Next stop along memory lane: the schoolroom.  Having been blessed with a first floor office/sixth bedroom, we turned the space into learning central.  With two 18-month-olds in the house (when we moved here), we (the three school-aged older siblings at the time) needed to be able to shut the door and have relative quiet sometimes!

I say relative, because my memories of the schoolroom revolve around my schoolmates and the conversations we had in that room.  Hmm.  If my next memory also involves conversations someone is going to discover a pattern!

The office, as we have always called it, is big enough to hold four desks – one each for 3G, Sister, and me, and one for Mom, which held the desktop computer.  We weren’t required to do all our work at our desks, for instance if we were reading the couch was often a better place, but many assignments needed desk space.  Sister and I had desks next to each other, while 3G was against the opposite wall.  We were facing away from each other, but thanks to our swivel chairs, we could turn and talk quite easily.

Mom had laid out the guideline that we needed to be eating breakfast by 8, and doing school by 9.  Rarely did any of us fail in that.  In fact, I made a habit, starting in 8th grade, of coming down early to work on my math before breakfast.

By 9 o’ clock then, we were usually working steadily on whatever assignments we chose to do first.  Almost invariably, by the time we had reached the second or third subject, one or another of us had made some comment, often relating to our present schoolwork, which engaged all three of us in conversation.

We talked about everything from punctuation to geography, and we even branched into some of the same topics we covered in lunch conversations.  Sometimes we had differences of strong opinions, which led to minor clashes between at least two of us, but the third could sometimes diffuse the situation, at least partially.  When that happened, we always had our books to turn back to in order to settle our thoughts.  And usually that was enough for one or both to see that they were wrong.

We never had these conversations when Mom was in the room.  If we heard her coming down the stairs to check on us, the three of us immediately turned back to our work.  She never spoke about it, but I think she knew very well that we talked amongst ourselves, and I doubt she had a problem with it.  But I think she probably did come down whenever she thought the conversations sounded like they were becoming unprofitable or overly long.  We did have other work to be doing!

Sometimes the four year gap between Sister and me was enough that she had a hard time following what I was talking about, although 3G could almost always keep up with (or surpass) me.  As we grew older, this gap seemed to shrink, till we could talk pretty equally when I was in my last years of high school.

Conversations such as these built relationships between me and my siblings.  Sure, we shared other activities.  We did most everything together, either as a family or in twos or threes.  But conversations are what reveals someone’s thoughts, their inner-working, their heart.  And we shared that too.

Today, we still get into long conversations; sometimes it’s two, or another two, or all three of us.  Whether Sister and I talk while she perches on my bed and I sit at my desk, she and 3G discuss the way the world works over a game of Mastermind, or we’re all hanging around in the basement after playing a game, we still enjoy delving into all kinds of topics.  With 3G and Sister away at college for six months out of the year, the conversations have become more limited, and may include other family or friends, but we probably enjoy them about as much anyway.

It’s interesting to think about it, but I probably owe much of my knowledge of some subjects to these conversations.  I was never very good at music theory, for instance, which 3G excelled at, and I never studied writing techniques like the budding author in the family, Sister.  But from listening to them talk about their favorite subjects (these and others), I picked up quite a bit that I never would have remembered otherwise.  Sometimes the concepts were ones I studied long ago, but when I had little interest in them, and my siblings merely solidified things and made them real.  Other times the things they talked about were new, and I’m glad for those too.

For you homeschooling parents out there, I encourage you to allow or foster discussions amongst your students.  Sure, they may take longer to complete their assignments, but they are building relationships and sharing knowledge.  That is priceless, for it actually helps both listener and speaker to solidify the knowledge in their heads.  Don’t feel like your schoolroom has to be silent for learning to take place, or that your students are distracting each other.  They are building the bonds which will in time knit your children together into a tight family circle.

My siblings and I are very close, especially Sister, 3G and I, despite our many differences and the distance which now separates us for half of the year.  And I trace much of that back to the relationships we began in our play and built in conversations, whether in school or out.

Perceptions

July 17, 2012

“When I first met you guys, I thought you [my parents] must be strict because all your kids were standing so quietly.”  –approximate quote from a friend of my mother’s

Yep, we found out months later that a lady at church had at first thought my parents were strict. Just because all five of us were so well-behaved! So, quiet children equals strict parents?

I would have understood better if she had thought we were intimidating.  My family numbers seven, which can be intimidating all by itself, and then we are all tall – the twins are growing like weeds, but discounting them, five of us between 5’8″ and 6’2″ could appear intimidating to an outsider.

But strict?

We never had a list of rules in my house, and we didn’t have a chore schedule (although we all did help out with tasks like laundry and dishes), but what we did have was relationship and respect.  When Mom asked us to do something, we generally did it willingly because we wanted to help her.  When she told us not to do something, she usually explained why, and we followed her guidelines because we understood (to whatever extent we were then capable of) that she had our best interests in mind.  And no, we wouldn’t have used those words at the time!

One of the first things I remember about going to church as a young girl was being quiet.  While we weren’t told that children were to be seen and not heard, we did understand that when grown-ups were talking, we should be quiet.  For sermon time, Mom usually brought crayons or pencils and paper for us, and we busied ourselves quietly.

It helps that for the most part, all five of us got quiet genes from my engineer father.  We aren’t driven to make ourselves the center of attention, and we are perfectly comfortable with being quiet for minutes on end if necessary.  For some kids, this seems to be a harder concept, although a perfectly reasonable one to learn.

Why should quiet, respectful children (of any age) indicate to someone that the parents are strict?  I suppose this shouldn’t puzzle me, having observed other families, some of which have boisterous children and some of which do not.  The number of rules parents have and the way parents enforce them (or don’t) varies widely from family to family.  But it does make me wonder what other perceptions my family has raised in people’s minds, and whether we are living up to them or living them down!

Memories from the Kitchen

July 13, 2012

I know, you’re all expecting memories of my mother’s good cooking. Nope. Not even memories of making cookies, which is what the rest of you were thinking. (I’m not a mathematician, so don’t expect my all and rest of you to add up.) Guess again.

My memories from our kitchen are of conversations around the lunch table.

Yes, I remember the other things too, but when I think of the kitchen, I don’t think of what we did, but what we talked about.  Namely, everything under the sun!  I don’t remember how long ago it started, but by the time I was in highschool, we were well into a habit of hour or two-hour lunch conversations.

Typically, we wouldn’t all start eating at the same time.  Usually one of the highschoolers would still be finishing up a chapter or something before coming to lunch.  The conversations would generally start in one of two ways.  One of my siblings or I might simply ask Mom a question about something we were going to do/had read that morning.  Or my mother would ask what school we had left, and the recital of the subjects remaining for the day might spark some question for general discussion.

We talked about everything – stories from Mom’s childhood, the length of time it takes to pay off a mortgage, why other kids don’t act like us, public schools, current events, spiritual concepts, subjects for the next school year, the medicare system and what’s wrong with it, how to prepare for college, and of course, what was for dinner.  Usually, one of the siblings who had started early would get things started, but by the time we left the table, everyone was long finished.

I loved those conversations, even though I sometimes tore myself away before the conversation was finished because I wanted to finish my schoolwork before time to make dinner!  My mother made it a point to discuss things with us that we did and didn’t encounter in our textbooks.   Things we needed to know in order to be well rounded.  Things that we wanted to know.

These days, I am away from home during lunch times except on the weekends, when we don’t often have long conversations.  The conversations still happen, though perhaps their focus has shifted with the changing demographic (two of us are at work right now, and during the school year three siblings are missing from the lunch table).  I hear the discussions don’t get as lively, but I expect that to change as the twins enter highschool.

I think these lunch conversations were an integral part of our homeschooling lifestyle.  What other teacher gets to sit down with her students and talk about anything and everything for however long it takes, whatever day (or everyday) of the week?  I think I learned just as much from those conversations as I learned from any given textbook in school.

When I remember our kitchen in years to come, the strongest impression I will have is of my mother, sitting at the kitchen table or standing at the stove, asking the deep questions that caused us to probe into what we knew or believed about the world or ourselves.

Homeschooling and a New Baby (or two!)

January 28, 2012

Homeschooling is plenty of work for everyone involved, though I think most homeschooling moms and students would say it was worth the effort in the long run. But I have to think homeschooling is at its hardest when you are pregnant or have a new baby in the house. My mother knows all about that, having done it with not one new baby, but two.

I had just turned 10, 3G was nearly 8, and Sister was almost 6 when my youngest brothers were born in the middle of the school year.

Knowing that she was going to be due mid year, Mom and Dad had discussed sending 3G, Sister, and me to public school for a year because she wouldn’t be able to give us as much attention even during the first half of the year.  Dad’s final decision was, however, that whatever she was able to do for us was still going to be better than sending us among strangers in the public school system.

I, of course, was not part of the decision, although Mom did ask us what we thought.  None of us wanted to go to school for even a year.  We wanted to be home with Mom.

Was homeschooling different that year?  Sure!  We did a lot more of our subjects much more independently than we had in previous years.  And we started school sooner.  And we ended later.  But we got to have a week off when the twins arrived.  This, of course, was because Mom wasn’t ready to dive right back into schooling yet, but we looked on it much more as a chance to enjoy our new baby brothers.

Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing of what my parents did that year.  We all learned a lot, and much of it went beyond academics.  3G and I especially started helping out a lot more with household chores that Mom in her last three months did not have the energy or strength to do.  And we all put in a lot of hours with the twins.  Was it a lot of work to homeschool with two newborns in the house?  Sure.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely.

Thirteen years later, I look at my youngest brothers, now growing like a couple of teenage weeds, and smile to think how small they were when I first visited them in the hospital.  I’ve probably learned more about parenting from watching Mom and Dad with the twins than from my own experience as their child.  And that will be invaluable when I have my own “quiver full of arrows” to raise.  Would I have wanted to miss most of their first months by going to school away from home?  Not me!  I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Divided

August 15, 2011

I’d seen references to this movie before, but it wasn’t until a friend in my family’s Bible Study recommended it that my parents and I watched it.  Divided is a powerful film showing Philip Leclerc and his journey through the controversy over youth ministry.  I recommend that if you haven’t seen it yet, you watch it before reading the rest of this post.  Some of the things I say will probably come better after you’ve had a chance to hear the arguments Philip puts forth.

Okay, so you’ve seen the movie now?  Good.  Hopefully you’ve been challenged in your beliefs about the church.  I was, and as I’ll explain, I come from a family-focused family myself.  I knew some of the reasons why I never participated in a youth group and left Sunday School at an early age, but my family has been in integrated churches so long that I’d never really gone through all these arguments and weighed out where I stood.  I was just riding on my parents’ coattails.

I went to Sunday School for several years, but when I was about seven or so, I “graduated” to the adult class where my father was teaching.  As my younger siblings grew older, they did the same thing.  Even when my dad was no longer teaching the class.  Our church at the time was big on programs, and by the time I was about to turn thirteen and be old enough for youth group, my family was experiencing some pressure because we were not participating in those programs.  It wasn’t enough that we were one of only two or three homeschooling families in a large fellowship, my siblings and I did not go to Sunday School, Children’s Church, VBS, or anything, and it had become known that there was no intention of my going to youth group.  We weren’t supporting the church’s ministries to its children and youth, and at that point, my parents made the decision to move to a new fellowship where we could support the church policies.

After a year and a half in a church that we eventually realized was too radical, too extreme in their focus on homeschooling as the way, the truth, the lifestyle and all others can go elsewhere, we finally came to rest in a small country church.  This family oriented church had two, family integrated services.  A “Family” School where parents and children learned alongside each other, and a regular service with a sermon.  We were there six years, the better part of my girlhood.  For about five out of those six years, my father taught Family School.  He has the gift of teaching, and we all loved to participate.  Dad has a way of putting the cookies on the bottom shelf, so to speak, of explaining doctrines in ways that even young people can grasp and take hold of.  That didn’t hurt the older generations one bit, either.

But then we began attending a new church, a larger church where there was a Sunday school program, youth group, and AWANAs ministry.  The change in fellowships this time was spurred by the need for sound scriptural preaching from the pulpit, and we found that in the new place, but we’ve been walking a thin line on the program issue.  My youngest brothers participated in the AWANAs clubs for two years, but neither they nor Mom and Dad want them in it again this year.  They each did well, earning the top awards both years, but they weren’t enjoying it as much as they could wish.  Most of the other kids cited the game time as their favorite — my brothers were more enamored of the counsel time.

And if it’s counsel time they want, they can get that at home.  Which they do.  My father leads a home Bible Study on Sunday nights.  He reads aloud to them (and my other siblings and I when we were younger) most nights, and often the book has been a biography of some hero of our faith or a history of the church.  Both my parents talk to us all the time about spiritual issues as well as all kinds of current events and how those two interact.  Because we’re homeschoolers, we get to bring up all kinds of things at any time of the day and be assured that Mom or Dad will help us search out the answers to our questions.  No disrespect to my fellow believers at church, but I’d much rather talk about these things with my parents than with just about any of the youth leaders in my current fellowship or in previous churches.  While these leaders may be great Christians, great leaders, whatever, when I have questions, I turn to my parents first and foremost.

So you see, I have a background of family focus.  And yet, I was challenged by Divided.  I think it’s because I’ve been taking my views for granted.  The film made me think about why I don’t believe in Sunday School as the end all to beat all, why I was glad that Mom and Dad chose not to let me go to youth group, why these programs are not working and whether they are just second best, or flat-out wrong.  I’m not going to say that everyone who has participated in them, led them, or supported them is bad.  Far from it.  Still, I think that this system, like the world’s dating game (as shown by Josh Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye and this article at Latitude 821), is flawed, and in some senses, yes, flat-out wrong.  We need to stop trying to make over the world’s systems for the church.

We need something better for our kids.

Even as a thirteen year old, I didn’t really want to hang out with kids who were more interested in each other than in Jesus.  I liked being around my siblings and parents a whole lot better.  Now, I’m glad that my parents, who led youth group themselves for a couple of years while I was a toddler, were wise enough to keep me with them.  I’m also glad that their training had primed me to follow their lead without a fuss.  I’m not saying that I wasn’t disappointed at first, because my idea of what youth group was and what it signified was skewed, but after talking about it with Mom, I quickly saw that youth group wasn’t all I’d pictured it, and I didn’t really want to go.

I’ve been blessed in my family, I know.  I have an amazing set of parents who are leaders and teachers themselves, but that’s not because they started out that way.  To all the parents out there who are thinking “but I don’t have the training,” neither did my parents.  They didn’t grow up with parents who were bastions of the faith (Mom is still the only one of her family to come to Christ, though Dad’s family are nearly all Christians).  They didn’t go to seminary; they studied the scriptures themselves.  They surrounded themselves with good teachers.  They took the step of faith, and once they got walking, well, I can see where it has gotten them, and I’m eager to follow the same path.

So can you.

Now I challenge you, whether you’re a parent or a child, married or unmarried, in church leadership or participating in the program, young or old, what is the basic building block of society?  Family.  Where should we feel safest to be ourselves and ask the questions that trouble us?  In our Families.  Who are the people who care most about us and have the most invested in helping us grow?  Our Families.  Why is the picture of our Father God so beautiful?  Because it’s one of Family.  Where is the best place to teach children the things of the faith?  Again, the Family.  I don’t say this just because I’m a homeschooler who was blessed to be taught at home by my parents.  God set this pattern in our hearts, and I think many would wish for it if they weren’t indoctrinated into believing that state or church education is the end all to beat all.  Some people wish for it anyway.

I have friends from both sides of this issue.  People whose opinions I respect.  But when it comes to what I believe, I have taken my stand with the Word, and with my Family.  And in case you want to know, my family is united — not divided.


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