Reason #342,887 I’m Not God

Because when I come flying around a corner in the house and crash into a bookcase and fall on my side and start crying and crying, He does not come up to me and start lecturing on all the reasons why I’ve been told not to run in the house. No, I’m pretty sure He picks me up and lets me cry and says it’s going to be okay.

And for once, tonight, I also did that, but it wasn’t for lack of thinking of the lecture. I just made a choice not to say that this time…

Happy Valentine’s Day

I Heart You

I have always thought of these as seminary cookies because my friend Julie gave me the recipe when we visited her and Doug back in 1999 while they were still students at Covenant and we never in a quadzillion years thought we’d ever ever be here. Funny how that works. Here’s the recipe for you with very minor modifications:

The Best Sugar Cookies Ever
1 C soft butter (the real thing)
1 1/2 C powdered sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1/2 t almond extract
2 1/2 C flour
1 t baking soda
1 t cream of tarter

Mix together, roll out using powdered sugar instead of flour on the table to prevent sticking, cut out and bake at 350 for 7-8 minutes.

The Best Sugar Cookie Icing Ever
1 C butter (again, the real thing)
2 1/2 C powdered sugar
2 1/4ish T milk
3/4ish t almond extract

Cream it together, add your favorite colors and presto, yummy yummy icing. Note: I doubled the cookie recipe for the batch you see above which made those plus the (ahem) few that we ate already. The icing recipe is actually halved from the normal because the full round of it always makes way way too much.

I’m Sick

So I just checked my grades from my J-term class, Film & Theology, and discovered I got a 90/100 on the group project and a 95/100 on my paper. My response? “I wonder what it was he didn’t like about my paper.”

Please – you don’t have to counsel me out of this. I know I’ve got a problem. And I am happy for the A in the class. I guess I just really wanted to impress Denis Haack with my eloquent interacting with his teaching. 🙂 Maybe what I need is an eloquent kick in the head…

Now off to study for my first exam of this semester. Someone remind me I’m choosing to do this.

Paradigm Shift

While reading the Word this morning, Millie came in and asked me why I was reading the Bible. Any time in the past twenty years I would have answered that question like this: Because I’m supposed to to grow in my relationship with God, or something similar to the duty of a Christian.
Today here is the answer that came out of my mouth: Because God’s Word is truth and Mommy needs to hear that truth every single day.

That wasn’t a pre-planned answer or something I quoted from a catechism somewhere. It was my honest answer today. And it shocked me to the core.

I don’t read the Bible because I have to. I read it because I need to. And it has taken me 33 years to figure that out.

Preparing My Heart to Worship

“But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?” Galatians 4:9

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:25-26

“And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Galatians 6: 9-10

I woke up this morning with these thoughts flooding my head: I have a heart that by nature desires to worship anything but Jesus and I am defined more by my position in and desire to produce the best possible family than I am by the gospel. I have made an idol out of my family. I worship my family.

I’m wrestling with that now – knowing that I am still called to serve my family, knowing that desiring their best good is not a bad goal, but knowing that they are seeing me make them a priority over any kind of relationship with the living God. I count my homeschooling as a check on my good things chart. I count my staying home with them as another. I count giving up pretty much everything else for their sakes as my way to winning God’s good graces.

When will I learn that nothing, nothing, nothing else matters except the cross of Christ. His forgiveness of sins. His salvation for men, women, boys, girls.

Class Notes

I wanted to share from my class this weekend. I had grand plans to really engage with these notes tonight and post it for the world, but here’s all I’ve got for you. After ten hours of understanding what it means to be in relationships in God’s image (and realizing how far I am from that mark), I’m an emotional wreck. I’ve got a lot of things to deal with and consider, but most of that will be done in-house than at Half Pint House. But I’ll share these snippets I wrote down from my class this weekend and go to bed.

From Relationships in God’s Image, taught by Scotty Smith at Covenant Theological Seminary, February 9-10, 2007.

When something is more compelling in your life than Jesus, you will cling to worthless idols that will lead to the forfeiture of God’s good grace in your life.

Sin has perverted everything about us relationally.

You can micromanage sin for a season, but you will answer to God for that.
God gets no glory when we pretend.

Satan knows himself to be a defeated foe, but he will do everything he can to keep me from knowing that.

If he can keep my heart bound by fear and shame, he will count that as success because it will corrupt every relationship I’m in from here on.

The fear of man, our becoming “approval sucks,” can also be called people worship.
Shame and blame – if I can find someone else responsible for my issues, I can avoid dealing with them.

There are a lot of functional Christian atheists running round.

I have a heart that by nature worships anything but Jesus.

We are made for worship. When we stop worshiping the triune God, we don’t stop worshipping, we begin worshipping anything else.

What are significant wounds, the significant gaps that mark my story? How have I used those to give myself an excuse, to develop my current idols? What are the attempts I’ve made to be my own savior?

Anytime I’ve tried to deal with my own wounds, my own fallen heart, I’ve become my own savior and this is the essence of idolatry.

So much of life lived by my utter sense of fear of being exposed by how incompetent I really am.
I make my family my idol. And wonder why others don’t also bow down to their own families.

Grace has got to trouble you – to disrupt you, to bring you to healing and repentance.

Whoever made up that poem “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me” is an idiot. There is the power of life and death in the tongue.

The healing of our wounds is not something you just get over. You have to grow through it.

Jesus is committed not just to forgive me, but to change me.
My love for my family defines me more than the gospel does.

The gospel enables us to be courageous in the face of a situation in which there are no guarantees.

Follow-up Question

Divajean asked a good question in the post on homeschooling below. I’m going to post it here so that hopefully it will get seen (and answered) by more than just me. Here’s the question:

One question for all of you- when would you feel it appropriate to release your children into “the real world?”

I don’t mean to sound facetious- but when would it be easier? Now- when the issues are about who sits with who in the cafeteria- or when they are going off to college and having to navigate issues of s*xuality, drugs, drinking, etc all in one fell swoop?
I find that as my daughter goes thru the public schools, her issues sort of grow with her. Without the exposure and natural flow in my conversation with her, when would these discussions happen?

Here’s my response:

I think you are asking a good question, though I don’t think the answer is as cut and dried as saying one thing only happens in public school, the other thing only happens in homeschool.

I would be interested to hear what those who’ve homeschooled their children all the way through and have watched them enter the college arena have to say. Being as my oldest is only 8, I can speak only from my own experience and that being of a mom who has only homeschooled children up through 2nd grade.

Here’s my experience: we are not free of issues here. We do not (and I’m certainly not being facetious either) lock the girls in the house and never expose them to our culture. My children observe things as we interact with other people in the grocery store, as we’re driving, among their friends (ie: who gets invited to which birthday parties and who doesn’t and why). We’re not immune to either being sinned against by other people, or even ourselves sinning against others. The difference here, is that I’m usually around to process those things with them on the spot. So we get cut off by someone on the highway and I get audibly frustrated. My girls wonder what that’s all about and it’s a mini lesson in both driving manners and also in appropriate ways to respond (ie: I shouldn’t have responded the way I did). That’s a simple example, but I think it illustrates the point. The girls have gotten cut in front of in lines and had to learn to deal with it. They’ve had their stuff messed with by strangers and had to learn to deal with it and they’ve had their feelings hurt – sometimes tremendously, sometimes by friends, and yes, had to learn to deal with it. The difference is that I’ve been there each time to guide them through these situations. To ask them questions to help them figure out either how to respond or what a better way to respond could be. I know when to intervene and when to let them figure things out on their own, but the difference is that if they do need someone to intervene, I’m available. For my family, that’s a high value to me.
We encounter many tough life scenarios on the news, in movies, in books and magazines. We talk about those things as they come up. We’ve tackled the war, the poor, the homeless, single parenting, s*x before marriage, s*x after marriage, drinking and both the harm it can do as well as the appropriate uses of it (and ages for it), smoking, drugs, etc.

We’re dealing with the whole of life as we live it together. I’m certainly not saying that can’t be done if you choose to have your children educated in the public system, but I know that I would have a harder time seeing those teachable moments come to the surface if I weren’t with them for the majority of their days.

So, that my $0.02 x 2,000 for tonight. Anyone else care to chime in?
Thanks for asking the question!

I’d be interested in hearing from moms on either side of this. What say you?
Note: When transferring over from my other blog I could not bring comments, but this post needs the comments, so I’m pasting them all in here with the original:

Comment by Rocks in my Dryer

February 9 @ 6:58 pm

Wow, DivaJean, that’s a good question, and you’ve articulated better than I’ve ever been able to why we’re in the public school.

We’ve really seen this idea of issues “growing with” our kids firsthand. Our kids are encountering teachable moments daily, and they’re very open with us at home about what is going on. I almost see their public school experience as a “workshop” in life skills: going to school, then coming home and hashing it over with us under our careful guidance. This way when they’re in college, they will have “lived” these issues for so long that hopefully their decision-making skills will be especially honed.

And there’s my two cents, Megan! 😉 Great dialogue.


Comment by Anne

February 9 @ 7:37 pm

Megan, I (not surprisingly!) agree with you. Even though my children are homeschooled, they’re not isolated. And like you said, we’re not free from issues here. At various times my kids have been in a Department of Defense school, in private Christian schools, and homeschooled, so I’m familiar with all of those options. The difference here is time. We have the luxury of time together that we just did not get when they were in a traditional school. Now that they’re getting older (one in high school and the other in 7th grade), they’re doing more on their own, but we have plenty of “debrief” time. And I’ve found that more time together has encouraged them to speak freely with me and their dad. And, no, I’m not so naive to think they tell me everything, but they do tell me a lot.

We homeschool, but we live in the real world right smack dab in the middle of all kinds of people. We’re out and about just about every day, and we’ve come across all kinds of scenarios. Just yesterday, my 7th grader went to the Exchange here on base to buy some gum. She saw two girls making out. Yes. Girls. But she told me about it and we talked about it.

I think there’s a persisting mis-perception that homeschoolers are locked inside all day and only interact with other like-minded homeschoolers. In my experience, that’s just not true, and it’s not true of the other homeschoolers I know, either. The issues grow with our kids, too.

Comment by Rose Bexar

February 9 @ 10:33 pm |

Well, I’m not a mom, but I’ve seen all kinds at the college level, as a student, as a tutor, and as a teacher. And honestly, I think a lot depends on the child. I’ve seen homeschoolers thrive at college, and I’ve seen homeschoolers go off the deep end. Ditto private school, ditto public school. I’ve known life-long homeschoolers who adjust better to the size of my college (small compared to state schools, but large compared to many Christian colleges) than my small-town cousin who freaked out at the size of my school, went somewhere else for undergrad, and has been kicking himself for it ever since, even though he came here for grad school.

My own experience has been mixed–small private, big public, small public. Before we moved to a smaller town and a smaller school, I was (||) this close to begging to be homeschooled because I hated dealing with big-city-school problems and big-public-school curricula. My high school was exactly what I needed, even though it didn’t have the same variety of options I could have had at a larger school (like a Gifted and Talented program). Even so, there’s no way I’ll put my children in public school (when/if I have them); I’d rather have them at home so that I can control both the quality of the information and the quality of enrichment they get.
However, some cities have Christian schools that combine regular school and homeschool–three days a week on campus, two days a week at home, or vice versa, with a good selection of extracurricular activities like sports and fine arts. To me, that sounds like the best of both worlds, provided the curriculum is good and the teachers can really teach.
That’s my $0.02. 🙂

Comment by Michelle

February 10 @ 9:46 am |

You know, I’m always a little amazed that there are moms on both sides of the fence that want their children exposed to conflicts at the age that our broken society dictates. I recently blogged about just such a discussion a good friend (and homeschool mom) and I had.

I’ll just add this, my children are far from sheltered. We attend 2 different homeschool functions each week (which is full of other homeschool children of course). We also attend 2 different church youth functions that is mainly public school children, each week. We also are members of a GirlScout troop that is mainly public schoolers, every second week.

They are in 5th and 7th grade. My oldest went to public high school so I’ve seen both sides.
My girls have a cross section of friends to be sure. And they are exposed to life. But because I’m with my girls every day, *I* get to be their mentor. They bring their problems/inequities/thoughts to *me* and I get to guide them in the best way to handle things. I get to pull out the Bible and show them what is expected of us.

How often do you think that happens in public school?

My girls certainly live in “the real world”. And as for the question of when it would be easier to allow certain influences and conflicts in their life? That’s easy as well. 🙂 When they’re mature enough, when their relationship with Christ is strong enough, and when they have enough background and backbone to stand up for what’s right.

And from my many, many years of parenting, that doesn’t happen very often at 6.

Comment by TulipGirl

February 10 @ 9:50 am |

Like Megan, I’ve found the reality of processing things with our children as we confront them in daily life to be of great value. For us, that has included why our friend Zhenya doesn’t live with his parents (a street child/friend of ours), why Mommy has to inspect the playground first (drug needles, broken bottles), and how to behave in different cultures. I wish I could have shielded them from some of that when they were young, but since it was part of our life, I’m glad I could walk them through it.

Some things, like divajean mentioned “who sits with whom in the cafeteria,” daily relationship issues with other people we’ve addressed as well. To a degree, honestly, they have had less experience/opportunity until recently to work on those “working things out with peer relationships” problems. I’m glad they are getting more of that now that we are back in the States with neighbors than they did when we were in Ukraine. They were in school last year, and we did have some of those issues come up and it was hard for me not to be able to “coach” them through the new experiences.

We’re back to homeschooling, and a big factor, like Anne mentioned, is time. When they were in school, they were so tired and cranky when they got home, and so quick to fight with one another–it was just rough all around.

Comment by TulipGirl

February 10 @ 10:00 am |

Just wanted to add. . . I believe one of the great pluses the homeschooling movement has brought to our society is the empowerment of parents not to default to the local public or parochial school as it was a generation ago.

It seems parents *as a whole* are more active about their decision about their own children’s schooling, be it public, private, or home. I think this is a good thing for all families.
I believe schooling decisions are an extension of parental responsibility, and are best made each year, each child, each family.

And so I do respect my sisters in Christ who have their children in public school or private school, out of a decision that this is where their family and child are supposed to be at this time. And so when I talk about being able to “coach” through the new situations, I don’t want it to sound like I assume parents with public school students don’t do that–I assume you do! And that sounds exactly like what divajean is doing with the “small” issues now that are growing into “bigger” issues each year. Just for us, that scenario wouldn’t be the best for us “coaching” our kids.

Grace and peace,

Comment by Renae

February 10 @ 10:28 am |

A. I can’t figure out why issues like this divide people up into “our side” and “their side.” Especially among Christians, why aren’t we more gracious and merciful in our attitude toward each other, just as God is gracious and merciful toward us? God calls each of us uniquely, and his individual relationships with us do not fit into neat little, say, “homeschool” or “not homeschool” boxes that we create (and the resulting criticism and judgment) for ourselves.

B. That said, to address Megan’s question, a difference that has come up for us is that I have discussed what “IT” is with my oldest a year or two sooner than if I had homeschooled her. I think. I didn’t want her first contact with information about “IT” to come from her school friends, some of whom are raised in sexually dysfunctional homes, so I intentionally told her about “IT” starting when she was 6 so that her first information about it would be positive and Godly, not “ewww!” and negative.

I was pleased and slightly surprised that she actually didn’t know what “IT” was when we read through “Before I Was Born” (Book 2 of God’s Design for Sex). The book is for kids 5-8, so maybe many homeschoolers learn what “IT” is at 5, but I probably wouldn’t have had our first conversation until 7 or 8, given our oldest’s personality and needs, without the impact of her school friends.

Comment by Michelle

February 10 @ 10:32 am |

Ugh. I hope my above comment doesn’t sound like I think homeschooling is the only way. If it does, let me clarify, I certainly don’t.

I have a (20 year old) daughter just a year and ½ out of public school. There are *many* upsides to public and private school. I have my two younger girls “in line” for a great public (magnet) school here, that we may or may not accept if/when they get in, depending on how the Lord leads us.

I just happen to think that the above questions are some of the *positives* of homeschooling. And I’m always surprised when people see them as negatives.

But just to be totally clear, I think everyone should follow God’s direction in their lives. Including their schooling choices.

Comment by Renae

February 10 @ 10:48 am |

“You know, I’m always a little amazed that there are moms on both sides of the fence that want their children exposed to conflicts at the age that our broken society dictates.”
– a quote from Michelle, above

Perhaps I’m misinterpreting what you mean here, but for us, “exposing our children to conflicts …” comes along with our call to be “in” the world. If we are “in the world” of course this would happen, then! Our call to the school we’re at right now is part of our call to walk alongside people in our community who are broken and hurting (we send our kids to a church-based school that reaches out to inner city & refugee kids). Because of our intentional entry into broken lives, our family is sometimes exposed to their sin and brokenness… we therefore have to very intentionally guard our hearts against the hurt of these sins… hence the issue I raise in my above comment.

In other words, we intentionally come alongside children from broken homes, therefore I intentionally guard my daughter’s heart against learning about sexual brokenness by making sure I teach her at home about it first. (”Knowledge is power!”)

Cheers!

Comment by martha

February 10 @ 10:57 am |

from the sound of things, parenting whether of home-schoolers or out-of-home schoolers, is a full-time job. (i’ve done it too–3 girls.) we constantly have to have our mental,emotional and spiritual antennae up and on alert all the time. we have to be talking/listening to our kids and be aware of what is happening in our world and the culture around us. if they are schooled out of the home, we have to be aware of what “their” world is like as well. on top of that, we must be know God and His Word and how it applies to real life.

my kids are grown now…very grown! by the time i knew about home schooling options that would work for me (a non-teacher) they were beyond me academically…especially in math. at that time, homosexuality was not an accepted lifestyle in our culture, abortion was not ok among their group of friends or in their minds,(often discussed over dinner!) and many of the changes that are becoming more accepted in our culture now were not condoned then or at least not in their circles of friends with whom they shared common beliefs.

if i were starting over, i would (and do)recommend considering homeschooling. however, not as an easy shortcut (as i have heard done by some!)but only with the realization that it will take a LOT of commitment from both spouses. to do it well will not involve outside pressure from someone telling/guilting them into it, but rather their own conviction that at least for one year, this is a commitment they plan to make after looking into curriculum/talking to other homeschooling parents, etc. it is only when a person makes this decision as their own, that they will be able to handle the difficulty that comes with the decision. it is a decision loaded with reward…certainly in the long term…if done well. but from everything i’ve read/heard that first year or two can be quite rocky b/c it will show up every flaw in personal organization and child discipline to name two major ones.

the decision not to homeschool will give you a few hours in the middle of the day. if you don’t make good use of that time for bible study, becoming aware of what is happening in your culture, how to relate well to your children, how to have a good marriage, building a network of godly, wise friendships/prayer partners etc., you will be totally unprepared for those hours when your children are home. either way, it won’t leave a lot of time for career building, not in these days! how do you like my 2 cents? just call me opinionated:)

Comment by Michelle

February 10 @ 11:44 am |

Renae said:

“Perhaps I’m misinterpreting what you mean here, but for us, “exposing our children to conflicts …” comes along with our call to be “in” the world. If we are “in the world” of course this would happen, then!”

I’m not sure if you’re misinterpreting what I meant to get across or not. 🙂

Our children are certainly going to be exposed to conflict, whether we homeschool or not. But it is my experience that it is much easier to be swayed by poor behavior than to sway someone to good behavior. Especially at a younger age. This is why I added, “at the age that our broken society dictates”. Which seems to be younger and younger all the time.

We intentionally come alongside children from broken homes as well. Through some of our other functions, but mainly through our Church youth programs. Which I am much more comfortable with, as my girls have strong Christian leaders to support them in their outreach.
And it sounds like your children have that same kind of support in their school. Which is fabulous but not, from my experience, the norm.

Comment by Chelsea

February 10 @ 1:32 pm |

If we’re all seeking and trusting God as we make decisions regarding schooling for our kids, then why does everyone feel the need to defend their decisions?

Incidentally, there are biblical examples for every type of schooling.

Comment by sheri

February 10 @ 2:01 pm |

An interesting thought: “As your child approaches high school or is in high school a lot of their success (regarding their choices and faith) depends on who their friends are. This is independent of home schooled or public school.”

Someone brought this up to our high schoolers at a ministry meeting last night. Agree or Disagree?

Comment by Anne

February 10 @ 6:24 pm |

Chelsea, I think it’s because Divajean asked Megan a question about her decision, and Megan asked for the opinions of others on both sides of the issue.

Divajean’s question was a good one. All parents should think about the issue whether they put their children in a traditional school or not. Tulipgirl is right — the decision of where our children will be educated is a parental decision that requires lots of prayer and thought. I think that has been reflected in these posts.

Comment by Chelsea

February 11 @ 12:04 pm |

I wasn’t saying that Megan was trying to defend herself, because I think she’s done a great job expressing why she feels led to homeschool. I do think the schooling discussion, outside the walls of this blog, has become a highly divisive area among Christians. Even the choice of which private school to send your kids can cause schisms among friends. I was just trying to say that God speaks to our hearts, and we shouldn’t have to defend God’s voice.

Comment by caron

February 11 @ 3:18 pm |

your blog will now implode.
good words, martha.

Comment by Megan

February 11 @ 7:24 pm |

Wow, everyone! Sorry I checked out of this conversation just as soon as I posted it due to my weekend class. Looks like you handled everything well without me…

Comment by Divajean

February 12 @ 1:29 pm |

Wow! What an interesting and thoughtful dialog this has been!

Why I Homeschool My Children

The following is a repost of something I wrote down in May of 2005 in response to Rebecca and Haley’s request that I post my thoughts on this. Ashley now wonders too, so I’m hereby re-offering my first draft attempt at articulating my thoughts on this.

I used to say that I planned to homeschool my children because I have a degree in Early Childhood Education and I felt sufficiently qualified. I don’t say that anymore, because I don’t believe it to be true.

Yes, it’s true that I have the ECE degree, but the untruth is that holding said degree qualifies me. I have a piece of paper which says I completed all the appropriate coursework and practicums in this area, but if I were to walk into a 2nd grade classroom today, I would be barely treading water. I would be green and terrified and starting over, learning how to teach and what to teach, and I would be doing that every day.

So, as I don’t homeschool my children because of my qualifications, neither would I choose not to homeschool them because of my lack of them. I homeschool them because of my heart.
From the day each of the girls entered our family, certainly from the time we discovered they were each on their way, but more tangibly from the time they physically joined us, I have felt this fierce need (and desire) to provide the best for them that I possibly could in all possible areas.
This began by my not pursuing a career of my own after graduating from college. I had observed too many newlywed couples sharing an apartment, but not a life. I wanted to be purposeful about investing the majority of my resources (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) into my marriage. I don’t write this to say, “Wow, look at us. We had the perfect marriage.” We didn’t (don’t). But I do know myself well enough (and knew myself well enough then) to understand that seeking a teaching job would have divided my interests to a degree I wasn’t willing to do. I just tried to be very intentional about my goals for my marriage.

So it was (and is) with my parenting. I won’t go into all of my parenting philosophies and practices in this post, most of them are self-evident anyway. But when it came time to think about educating my children, I believed (and still do) that the best possible thing I could do for them was (is) to teach them at home.

Craig wasn’t necessarily on this same page with me regarding homeschooling right at first. Most of Craig’s experiences with homeschoolers were with those that give homeschooling the negative stereotypes that everyone who homeschools has to deal with.

Without trying to recommend husband manipulation (indeed, it is a sin) I did what I now refer to as “stealth” homeschooling. My thinking was that if I went ahead and started teaching them when they were too little to be expected to go to a “real” school, then he would see how wonderful and beneficial homeschooling actually was to our family. I also prayed like crazy that God would either move Craig’s heart to desire this for our children as well, or that he would move mine to decide to put them into Howbert (the elementary school in our neighborhood in Colorado Springs).

After many lengthy discussions between us about what we should do and what each decision would look like, I started crying one day and I said, “I can’t give you all the educational philosophies or scope and sequence charts or a logical debate on socialization (I have views on these now, but won’t go into that here either), I can just tell you that my heart burns to teach our girls at home. I feel called to do it.”

And there it was. The truth at that time was that I couldn’t give a dissertation on all the evils of public school (or any school) – I just wanted to do it. I still do.

One of our friends mentioned at one point during a year they were homeschooling their oldest (who was Kindergarten age at that time) that they felt like she hadn’t developed a grid for discernment yet. That really stuck with me. I look at Maddie and as sweet as she is, most of the time, I wonder how much of her heart we would lose if we said “good-bye” to her at 8:00 every morning and didn’t see her again until 3:00 in the afternoon.

The reality of that is that she would be tired from school and need some time to decompress. She would probably also have homework to complete. Then we would have dinner and the ritual of preparing for bed and for the next day would begin. How much true time would we get with her, especially in the context of a 6 member family? I don’t subscribe to the “quality time” over “quantity time” thinking. The majority of her time would be spent with another adult who may or may not share my worldview and even if he/she does, would not be at liberty to share that in the classroom.

Her time would also mostly be spent with 25 or so other same-age children. I have a hard time seeing how this is in her best interests. The goal-driven, creative 6 year-old we have now could very possibly give way to the “strongest personality in the pack” (this either came from Susan Bauer or Sproul Jr. – I can’t remember, but I agree with it). Whichever author who said it said something to the effect that when children are in a situation like that day after day after day, they either become odd or acquiesce to the strongest leader in the group (this is a serious paraphrase, but you get the idea). And what kind of a choice is that? Given the two, wouldn’t we rather that our children become the odd ones? But why should we have to choose one of those?

There is another way.

So, the short answer to this is that I homeschool my girls because I want to. I feel called to. I believe it is in their best interests by way of preserving their hearts, and developing their character and love of family. Incidentally, I also believe I can do a much better job educating them in a one-to-one situation where I have a vested interest in meeting them each where they are, as opposed to assessing a group as a whole and teaching to the lowest level in the class (a practice of Howbert elementary, according to “the tale of three witnesses,” er, parents).
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Ashley – thanks for asking. I’ve been having trouble staying focused this week and my defaults are always: put the girls in school and hire Merry Maids. The first I don’t want to do, the second I simply can’t do. I needed to go back and read through this again, so I’m glad you asked the question.

The Family Valentine’s Celebration

Our family does the Valentine’s thing together as a whole family. For one thing, going out without our kids is usually disruptive to our weekly nighttime routine. For another, going out at all on V-day is usually cost-prohibitive unless we go to, you know, McDonald’s (and if you know me at all you’d know I don’t dislike that idea one bit; however, it doesn’t sound very Valentinesy, does it?).

But for still another, finding a babysitter? Usually out of the question. And then there’s this other: I consider Valentine’s day to be a kid-holiday more than anything, so it wouldn’t really be that much fun if our evening observance of the day didn’t include a fair amount of construction paper and glue. But that’s just me.

Anyway, so here’s what we’ve settled on as tradition for our family. We don’t really do anything much until dinnertime. That’s when I pull out the big guns: my very own personal roll of table-width butcher paper. We roll off a section that will, of course, cover the table and then the girls go to work decorating it all up. They sometimes use stamps, or markers, or doily things, whatever strikes them at the time as pretty and fun. I don’t swoop in with any art direction, just let them do it. This celebrates our love for creating.

Next, I sprinkle pastel colored skittles on the table like confetti. This celebrates our love for candy.

By each person’s plate I put a brand new book that I think they are going to absolutely love. This celebrates our love for reading.

Then there is one wrapped gift I use as the centerpiece of the table. It’s always a game. The girls open it after dinner and we play it that night. This is to celebrate our love for doing things together.

This year I’m having everyone write notes to everyone else in the family saying one thing they really love about that person. This celebrates our love for each other.

And that’s it. It’s simple, it’s low-stress, and most importantly, it keeps this family of introverts inside on one of the biggest extrovert nights of the year. And we love that.

Mystery Shopping

Mystery Shopping Man

My friend Chelsea introduced me to mystery shopping last October and I’ve been hooked ever since. Craig and I have been able to go to some really great restaurants in town (nice, expensive ones where eating steak is required!) and we’ve also had several in which we can take the whole family. You have to pay up front, but 4-6 weeks later you get your money back. I wasn’t comfortable recommending this until I knew it was legit and I can comfortably say now that I’ve gotten back every dime I’ve put into it. Some shops even pay a little more than what you are buying, but most of the ones I’ve done are just reimbursement shops.

The catch is this: you have to do some work on the back end (and of course while you are there). You have to be discreet and time things and evaluate everything. The first month of doing this or so I was paranoid and so it was a free meal, but not a relaxing date. Now that I’ve got the hang of it, I still have to time everything and be observant, but I’ve relaxed a lot and we enjoy going out for free now. The reason I say it’s cheap but not free is this: I sometimes end up spending one or two hours filling out my report. But when we’ve gone to a $100 restaurant, I’m okay with that.

Here is the website I go to to sign up at the various Mystery Shopping companies – they just keep a running list of the providers. There are a whole ton of them and not all offer shopping in my state. Some of the applications are tedious and here’s a hint – when you do one write up of a sample shopping experience (like one question sometimes asks you to write a paragraph detailing a recent shopping experience), save it in a Word document so that you can use it multiple times. Some of the forms are fast and easy, some are more extensive and I can’t remember which ones were pains in the neck and which weren’t.

Also, this website has more information about the whole thing. You can get “certified” through their website. They have two levels, silver (which costs $15 and is a little tutorial and test you take online) and gold (which is significantly more both in cost and time – think you have to go somewhere to attend a meeting or something).

I didn’t get certified for about a month and honestly don’t know if it has helped me get jobs or not. I’m just at a silver level and have no plans to upgrade because I stay as busy as I want to at the silver level. I’m sure they probably offer better jobs to gold people, but I’m okay with what I have. I have never signed up to work for a mystery shopping company in which I had to pay to sign up. I have no knowledge on those. All the companies I work with are free to join.

So there you go! Hope this is helpful for some of you!