Archive for August, 2009

The death of a Princess.

It hardly seems possible that 12 years have already gone by since the death of Princess Diana. Nearly all of us remember where we were when we heard that tragic news bulletin. The fairy tale story of a beautiful young woman who had married a real life prince suddenly ended in a grinding crash in the middle of the night beneath the streets of Paris.

As the story unfolded in the months that followed, it turns out that the “fairy tale story” was more of a horror story than a fairy tale. A serially unfaithful husband, bulimia, depression, thoughts of suicide, loneliness, isolation, a controlling mother-in-law and much more we’ll never know about. What had appeared to those of us on the outside to be a dream-come-true had in fact been a nightmare that ultimately killed the beautiful princess.

A very wise man tells us this: “I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.” Proverbs 24:32. So what can we learn by observing the tragic life of Diana, Princess of Wales?

Galatians 5:26 says, “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

And Exodus 20:17 says “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Did you ever envy Diana for her beauty, her fairy tale romance or her storybook wedding. Did you ever secretly covet her wealth or her lifestyle?

I’m sure 99% of you are saying, “No, not really. I never doubted that she had a difficult life. There were always rumors.”

Good for you!

Now let me ask you something a little closer to home. Have you ever envied your sister’s kitchen? How about your neighbor’s shiny new Chevy Suburban? Have you envied the “perfect homeschool family’s” beautiful, dedicated homeschool classroom or your best friend’s fabulous homeschool vacations earned with her husband’s frequent flyer bonus miles from his business? Have you ever wished that your children behaved more like your brother’s children? Have you ever coveted your brother’s home with the five bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths? Have you ever coveted your dentist’s ‘hobby farm’ with 10 acres, a vegetable garden and two horses? Do you all still have a perfect score on today’s quiz? I thought not. Neither do I!!

Here’s the secret: You have absolutely NO IDEA what their lives are truly like- what troubles and suffering they’re experiencing behind the outward lifestyle that seems so perfect from afar. Like Princess Diana they may be suffering unimaginable pain about which you know absolutely nothing.

Jane and I work with troubled marriages regularly. These are Christian, homeschool marriages that by all outward appearances are often fairy tales; successful men, new mini-vans, beautiful homes with dedicated homeschool clasrooms and more. But their lives have become a living hell as their marriage becomes plagued with adultery, pornogrpahy, abuse, addiction, violent tempers, illness, overwhelming debt and financial pressures and more. There is no outward sign that the fairy tale has become a horror story.

We simply cannot know what goes on inside our neighbor’s home any more than we can know what goes on inside Buckingham Palace. For this reason, the Lord urges us to be content with what we have and to not envy or covet what others have.

Hebrews 13:5 tells us “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'”

1 Timothy 6:8 says “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

Philippians 11:13-16 tells us “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Did you ever think that Diana, Princess of Wales might have been envious of your life? Is it possible she would have given up everything to be home with her boys, live a “normal” life with a mortgage and a car payment and grocery budget? You might be surprised.

Remember Diana today, on the 12th anniversary of her tragic death; August 31, 1997. Show your children pictures of Diana and tell them the story of the fairy tale princess and her beautiful wedding. Perhaps your children would like to play dress up today and have a “wedding” fit for a prince and princess. They’ll learn about the darker side of Diana’s tragic life all too soon so there’s no need to trouble them with that part of the story today.

Now thank the Lord for the many blessings He has poured out in your life and ask Him to help you find more peace and to be more content in your circumstances than you’ve ever been before.

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Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. Do you?

46 years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream” speech to 200,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Dr. King’s passionate words are still remembered today. They inspired a generation to set right the racial inequalities that had existed for too long in this great nation.

Do you have a dream? Do you have a vision for your children and your homeschool experience? Or are you just slogging along one day at a time? Every undertaking needs a dream or vision. Positive thinkers are often heard to say, “If you can conceive it you can achieve it.” I’m not so sure I’d agree with those words, but I do believe that we need to have some conception of our goal- a dream or vision toward which we’re striving.

What is your dream for your homeschool ministry? Is it to produce little Einsteins that get a full scholarship to MIT and graduate with honors? Is it to produce little spiritual apostles that lead a great revival in our nation? Is it to produce the world’s most perfect children- the “Ken and Barbie” of their generation? Is it to have your children avoid the mistakes and failures that plagued you in high school or college?

I hope it’s not any of those.

Rather, I hope that your dream is centered around helping your children become precisely who the Lord created them to be; nothing more and nothing less. 1 Sam 15:22 tells us “But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord ? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”

An old friend many years ago would often say, “Whether you raise the dead, or take a nap today the pay is the same- as long as you’re doing what the Lord told you to do.”

Think about that. It’s profound. Doing great and mighty deeds such as raising the dead is no more “spiritual” than taking a nap as long as you’re doing what the Lord told you to do today. The “pay” of course is the satisfaction of hearing “well done good and faithful servant.” The reward is not from outdoing one another in sacrifice, achievement or “spirituality.” Rather it’s found in simple obedience.

So in terms of your homeschooling, whether your child turns out to be Einstein, a missionary or the President is no more significant than if they turn out to be a soldier, a carpenter or a kindergarten teacher- as long as they’re doing what the Lord created them to do. Your dream needs to line up with God’s vision.

So before you can have a dream, you need to figure out what the Lord is saying about each of your children. Some of that may be revealed in a quiet sense of His gentle voice, or through scripture or from simply observing your child’s gifts and talents. But step by step you need to be dreaming His dream for each of your children. The dream will be fuzzy at age 4; clearer at age 8 and coming into focus by age 16. Every important step you take in homeschool needs to be conceived and organized with a goal of helping each child step into his or her God-created purpose.

The point is simply this: Don’t homeschool the way your neighbor does it or the way the book said to do it. Homeschool the way the Lord shows you to do it- uniquely adapted to the dream He has for each of your children. Prayerfully consider that dream each morning and ask Him to help you unlock another piece of that dream.

Jesus put it this way in John 4:34 “‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.'”

Now THERE is a motto for your homeschool! The thing that should feed or sustain you is to do God’s will and finish what He has started when it comes to each of your children. THAT is a dream worth dreaming. Each child is different and His eternal purpose for each of those children is different. Your dream should be to slowly discover that purpose and participate with His will so that HIS work might be finished in each of your children.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. I hope you have one too.

46 years ago today Dr. King delivered his greatest speech- a speech which changed the face of a nation. Sit down with your children today and watch and listen to Dr. King’s words from August 28, 1963.

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Are you sitting on a fortune?

The good folks of Titusville, Pennsylvania had been. Since 1796 they had been sitting on a fortune and had no idea what sort of resources were available to them. It wasn’t until this date, August 27, 1869 that Edwin Drake discovered the fortune that had been just beneath the feet of the good citizens of Titusville for nearly 75 years.

Drake hired a well driller and began drilling in the small farm town of Titusville. 140 years ago today he struck oil. Now if you’re a fan of old television shows you immediately began singing “Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed; a poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed. Then one day he was shootin at some food, and up through the ground came a bubblin’ crude. Oil that is; black gold- Texas tea.”

Well that’s pretty much what happened to Edwin Drake. Drake’s drill produced what became the first producing oil well in America’s history. Within three years the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad had to be built just to haul all the oil out of the modest farm town of Titusville. And to think that citizens had all that wealth right under their feet; under their beds while they slept at night and under the schools where they taught their children and never even knew it.

Are you sitting on untapped resources right now? Do you have wealth beyond your wildest imagingings just beneath your feet? Is there an enormous reservoir of potential power beneath your homeschool classroom each day that you’ve been ignoring? There just might be!

From Genesis to Revelation, oil is a recurring theme in the Bible. Symbolically oil is generally considered to represent the Holy Spirit. Do you invite the Holy Spirit to be a part of your daily homeschool plan? I want to encourage you today to “drill deep” and ask for the Lord to pour out His Spirit over your homeschool classroom. In Him are hidden all truth and all knowledge and in Him resides all power and all strength.

The New Testament is filled with stories of people who believed, who knocked, who sought, who asked, who reminded God of His Word and whose requests were granted. He is faithful and He is waiting today to breathe Life into your homeschool classroom; to pour the oil of gladness over you and your children. The power has always been there- just waiting to be tapped.

Talk with your children today about Hebrews 1:9. Ask them about the oil of gladness. What do they think it means? Would they like to experience the “oil of gladness” in their homeschool today? Invite them to pray with you and ask the Lord to pour out that precious oil.

Today might be a fun day to have some fun learning about oil. Perhaps your children would like to build an oil well with popsickle sticks, Legos or Magnetix. Put some oil and water in a small jar. Let your children shake it and then watch how the oil floats to the top, separating itself from the water. Ask your husband to show the children some motor oil tonight when he gets home and explain to them where the oil is poured into the engine and why it’s important to have oil in the engine at all times.

Give thanks tonight before you fall asleep that you have unimaginable wealth just beneath your feet- yours for the asking from a God who loves you dearly.

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Women Get the Right to Vote!

That’s what the headlines proclaimed on this day 89 years ago. August 26th, 1920 saw the passing of the 19th amendment to the constitution giving women the right to vote. My, my- how far we’ve come in less than 100 years!

Economists project that sometime this month (August, 2009) women will make up the MAJORITY of workers in the workforce- for the first time in history! We had two women presidential candidates in last year’s election and three female secretaries of state in a row: Madeline Albright, Condoleeza Rice and now Hillary Clinton. Currently we have 17 female United States senators and 75 female United States Representatives. Nearly half of all US Governors are women- totaling 23 currently. We have 100’s of female mayors in all 50 states and yet another female Supreme Court Justice in recently appointed Sonia Sotomayor. And to think, less than 100 years ago women couldn’t even VOTE!

So with all of these amazing possibilites for women, why would any woman choose to be a stay-at-home homeschool mom? It can cause stigma among peers and family membes. It creates a measurable handicap to live on a single income in an increasingly two-income world.

Women do it because they’ve felt the divine tug- a heavenly invitation that defies ratonional explanation. One day they’re minding their own business and the next day they find themselves asking their husband, “What would you think about the idea of teaching our children at home?”

This isn’t just a “good idea” that occurs to hundreds of thousands of women each year. Rather, it is a divine invitation that pierces the chest and stirs the heart in a new and unexpected direction. It defies logic and opposes conventional cultural wisdom. But it is as real as the most basic urge to procreate- to have children, nurture them and raise them.

When doubts arise (and they WILL) just remember that this wasn’t just a “fun idea” that popped into your head one day. Rather, it was an invitation that crossed time, space and logic from a Heavenly Father who knows y, seeou better than you could possibly know yourself.

Today do some research and see if your state has a female Senator or representative or see if your city has a female mayor. Talk with your children about the remarkable changes that have taken place in our culture since 1920. Consider making a voting machine from a cardboard box and then make paper “ballots” and let your children (both boys AND girls) VOTE on one or more issues around the house.

Study Deuteronomy 11:18-21 and ask the Lord about ways to more effectively teach your children about these eternal truths. Then celebrate the fact that your gender has made so many wonderful strides in freedom that you are now free even to follow the Lord’s invitation to teach your own children!

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Paris a été libéré aujourd’hui! Say WHAT?

It translates, “Paris was liberated today!” and that’s what the world’s newspaper headlines shouted on this date in 1944. After more than four years of Nazi occupation Paris was liberated after an intense 6-day battle by a combination of French underground resistance fighters and their American allies- the United States 4th infantry.

That important event simultaneously marked the “end” of the Normandy invasion which began 2 1/2 months earlier on June 6th, and the beginning of the broad-based allied advance which resulted in Berlin’s unconditional surrender 8 1/2 months later on May 8, 1945.

By now you’re no doubt thinking, “What on earth does the liberation of Paris have to do with my homeschooling journey? Am I on the wrong blog!?” Good questions on both counts. Here are the answers.

1st- Yes, you ARE on the right blog!

2nd- There are three important lessons we can learn as homeschoolers.

The first is that while the French government gave Hitler their unconditional surrender on June 21, 1940 there always remained a determined underground French resistance movement. While many parents today have simply surrendered, giving up and allowing media and popular culture to define their childrens values, there have always been a few parents in the “resistance movement” who want to have meaningful input into the faith and values of their children.

Second- Like the French resistance fighters, you have allies! There are others who have also refused to surrender. You can gather strength from them by meeting for playgroups, praying together for your children, by using curriculum such as Five in a Row which have been lovingly created specifically by veteran “resistance fighters” for the benefit of a new generation of “resistance fighters,” and finally by getting daily encouragement for the fight from this blog and others with similar vision.

Third- you need to know that we WILL win in the end. The Bible assures us in 1 John 4:16-17 “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.” We need have no fear if we’re found as part of the Lord’s “resistance movement of love” when that day comes.

Today might be a fun day to celebrate the liberation of Paris with your children. Tell them that 65 years ago today there was much celebration in the beautiful city of Paris. Have some French toast for breakfast, some French fries with lunch and some French bread with dinner. Decorate your dining room with a French motif for dinner tonight. Have your children find France on the map and then locate Paris. Review “The Giraffe that Walked to Paris” or “Madeline” if you’ve already studied those wonderful Five in a Row stories. If you haven’t done the Madeline Fold&Learn™ today would be a wonderful day to let your children show off their creativity.

Let your children make their own French flag and wave it proudly- just as the flag was waved in streets all over Paris 65 years ago today. (Note- the French flag is EASY to make! The left 1/3 is blue, the middle 1/3 is white and the right 1/3 is red.) Make your flag out of construction paper or white paper colored with crayons. Or take a piece of fabric and color the red and blue portions with markers, fabric paint or a quick dye made of food-coloring or Jello. Let your flag dry and then thumb-tack the left edge of the flag to a broomstick, tomato stake or yardstick. Have your children wave their flag proudly since they too are a part of the underground resistance movement today!

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Take a lesson from Pliny the Elder today!

Today, on August 24 in 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted, destroying the cities of Pompeii, Hurculaneum and Stabiae. In a letter to Tacitus, Pliny the Younger described the events which led to his uncle’s death the following day.

But before we begin our story, who was Pliny the Elder? I’m guessing his friends all called him that because his real name was Gaius Plinius Secundus which you’ll have to admit was quite a mouthful. So Gaius Plinius Secundus became known as just plain “Pliny” to his friends; understandably.

Further- Pliny became known as “Pliny the Elder” to differentiate him from his young nephew Gaius Plinius Caecillus Secundus who of course became known as “Pliny the Younger” among family and friends. If there’s any moral in this paragraph it would appear to be not to name your children with 3 or 4 names which all end in “us” because eventually their friends will get tired of saying such long names and nickname them something like “Billy the balder” or “Sherry the shorter”

But I digress! So Pliny the Younger recounts the story of his namesake old uncle Pliny, who was variously an author, poet, lawyer, prosecutor, historian, a navy man and a naturalist. It was in this latter role that Pliny’s problems overtook him. On the day when Vesuvius (there’s that “us” ending again!) blew it’s top, Pliny was watching from across the bay when the scientist/naturalist in him decided to sail over for a closer look.

Arriving during mid-eruption, Pliny ran into an old friend and shared high fives all around, only to discover he couldn’t leave the area since the prevailing winds made it impossible to sail out of the harbor. Unable to set sail, Pliny decided tonight would be a great time for a party! After an evening of feasting and drinking, the group dragged themselves from their ash-covered beds the next morning and prepared to set sail. They were heading toward Pliny’s yacht amidst blowing smoke and falling ash when old Pliny suddenly fell over. Initially his friends thought he was just a bit hungover from a night of revelry but they quickly discovered old Pliny was in fact dead. Leaving him there to be covered by ash, his buddies set sail. Perhaps they weren’t thinking too clearly themselves after last night’s “Volcano Party”- or maybe they just left him lying there because old Pliny was described as “corpulent”- fat in other words. Maybe his pals decided old Pliny was just too darned heavy to drag to the boat so they just left him lying right where he fell.

So what does all this have to do with your homeschooling adventure? I’m so glad you asked!

There are perhaps several lessons. First, watch your weight, so in the event you have to run amidst smoke and ash you won’t have a heart attack and drop dead at age 56 as old Pliny did. Or at the very least in the event you do fall over dead, your friends will be able to drag you back to the yacht and take you home for a decent burial.

But it’s perhaps even more important NOT to rush toward an erupting volcano in order to get a closer look. There are lots of “disasters” that surround us every day and we would do well to remain focused on our own “ministry”- homeschooling. Right now, that’s the most important thing on our plate. The latest church split, or your current extended-family uproar or today’s national political firestorm must not distract us from the “call” the Lord has on our lives during this season. None of these distractions will benefit us- and instead will likely sap our emotional and physical strength so we cannot give our best to our children and spouse each day.

It’s so easy to allow ourselves to become distracted- embroiled in something of no eternal value. In Exodus 15:26 we learn “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.” In other words- STAY FOCUSED on what the Lord has told YOU TO BE DOING!

In the awe-inspiring 33rd chapter of Job, the Lord begins in verse 1- “But now, Job, listen to my words; pay attention to everything I say.” Did you catch that? Give your attention to what the Lord is telling YOU to focus on- not the latest disaster going on across the bay.

In baseball parlance- keep your eye on the ball. Or as someone said recently, “The main thing is the main thing!”

Old Pliny became distracted by a disaster going on clear across the bay and he just had to go take a closer look and get involved. It cost him his life.

Study the ways of Pliny the Elder, oh little grasshopper- and learn from him today!

Talk with your children about the importance of staying focused and paying attention to the things the Lord has spoken to us. Tell them to avoid getting distracted by the chaos that so often surrounds us. Now go OUTSIDE (note- this is VERY MESSY!) and let your children build their own volcano today… http://www.spartechsoftware.com/reeko/experiments/volcano.htm

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It’s Homeschool Pre-Season ~ Just Like the NFL!

Leave it to a man to think about homeschooling in football terminology! I’m a football kind of a guy and I follow the NFL training camps going on around the country right now, and of course the NFL pre-season where we get to see whether that training is producing any measurable results.

Depending on when you plan to start homeschooling this year, perhaps you’re in pre-season training camp right now too. The Bible has lots of wisdom on the topic. Did you know that? The NFL is in the Bible?!? NO- not the NFL!! Training camp for homeschoolers is in the Bible.

1 Cor. 9:25 reminds us “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Time to begin training our bodies for a productive homeschool year. Let’s not be distracted. Training camp means getting to bed early, eating three healthy meals each day and developing daily discipline.

2 Tim. 3:16  tells us that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

Another essential for homeschool training camp: Daily time in the word? Check!

1 Tim. 4:8 deals with two areas; “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

Our homeschool training camp checklist is getting full now: Some daily physical fitness or aerobic training is of “some value” since it reduces stress levels and helps us focus. But let’s not neglect Godly character which holds great promise. Let’s focus on developing the fruits of the Spirt too. If you missed yesterday’s entry about our Christmas shopping list NOW is a good time to read it!

So there you go- Some pre-season activities for homeschool training camp that will produce results when “the game” begins in the classroom all too soon. Develop disciplined daily habits in sleep, nutrition, prayer, worship, Bible study, exercise and character development and you’ll be AMAZED at how well you’ll “play” this season!

See ya at kickoff time!!

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