Archive for September, 2009

Iraq and Vietnam Speak to Homeschoolers

Without treading on dangerous political ground, I think it’s safe to say we all agree the war in Iraq has become a bit like the Vietnam war in this one sense: It’s difficult to know exactly to extricate ourselves gracefully from the situation. Or in military speak; it can be challenging to find an exit strategy.

It’s easy to become embroiled in a military conflict for a modern militarized nation. And in some wars an exit strategy is relatively simple: When the opposing nation-state signs an unconditional surrender you begin winding things down. But increasingly in modern warfare it’s difficult to know exactly what constitutes a “victory” or to define a “loss”. Even more challenging is to know how to gracefully uninvolve ourselves from an undertaking and carry on with “a normal life.”

Homeschooling is a bit like that, isn’t it? It’s relatively simple to become involved. You just purchase some curriculum, notify the school district of your intention to homeschool and you’re good to go. To be sure, homeschooling is a major undertaking and it will test all that you are over the years. But perhaps the most difficult part of homeschooling is knowing what to do when you’re finished.

For a homeschool mother, the act of homeschooling become all-encompassing. It defines the very boundaries of your life for many years. It’s your job. It’s your hobby. It’s your mission field. It’s your ministry. It’s your first waking thought each morning. It’s your last jumbled thought as you drift off to sleep. For many if not most women it becomes your identity. So today’s question: Do you have an exit strategy? Do you have a plan for “after” homeschooling?

Even if you have a large family and homeschool all the way through high school, odds are you’re going to need an exit strategy by your late fifties- a time when you likely have at least another 25-30 productive years ahead of you. If you have a smaller family and only homeschool through elementary or middle school you may well need an achievable exit strategy before the age of 40. That leaves you half a lifetime “after homeschooling.”

What’s going to become your job then? What will your hobby be? What will become your mission field; your ministry, your first and last thought each day? To suddenly find yourself with no place to go and nothing to do each day is a trainwreck looking for a place to happen. You NEED an exit strategy.

Who were you “before homescooling?” Do you even know who you were? Or were you married young and started a family when most friends were still in graduate school? What inspires you? What makes you tick? What ELSE were you created to do? What passion will make you want to get out of bed every morning for the rest of your life?

Even though time is precious and money is tight, I want to encourage you to BEGIN developing an exit strategy NOW! Don’t wait until your home is suddenly empty to work on a plan. Take time to pursue OTHER interests and explore other giftings. Take a class at the community center or local junior college in pottery or writing or stained glass. Volunteer one day each month at a homeless shelter or nursing home. Do SOMETHING to begin the discovery journey of finding out who you’re going to be AFTER homeschooling. Pray earnestly. Ask the Lord to help show you the hidden gardener or playwright within the homeschool mom. Give Him a chance to speak to you about the special needs tutor or abused women’s mentor that is waiting to emerge. Let Him stir your soul to discover the veiled poet or nurse that will star in the second half of your life.

For most of us, the first eight verses of Ecclesiastes 3 are familiar…

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

There is a time to homeschool, and a time to do something else. Beginning asking the Lord today to help you find an exit strategy; a purpose for the NEXT SEASON of your life. He is faithful.

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Bob Dylan and will.i.am Speak to Homeschoolers

Now, you may not be able to understand Bob Dylan, but he IS speaking to us! LOL! Dylan proves once and for all you don’t have to have a great voice to become a famous entertainer, doesn’t he? His fame is about lyrics, about passion and about soul. His voice has absolutely NOTHING to do with it- obviously.

On this day in 1961, Bob Dylan entered a recording studio for the first time ever. It wasn’t to sing or to perform one of his own songs. It was to play back-up harmonica for American folksinger Carolyn Hester. It was the beginning of an iconic career that saw Dylan write some of the most memorable songs in American history; songs that have spoken to three generations and counting.

Perhaps you’ve seen the Pepsi commercial that uses Dylan’s wonderful song Forever Young. It features Dylan himself and Black-Eyed Peas founding member will.i.am.

Pepsi Commercial

Dylan’s lyrics speak to the heart of most listeners- but they should speak especially to us as parents and as Christians. Read the words prayerfully…

May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

Lovely words, aren’t they? A parent’s blessing for every child. And the promise of eternal life where we remain forever young- never again to grow old or sick; never again to be weak or broken; never again to enter the grave.

I have no idea what Dylan was thinking when he penned those lyrics. I have a pretty good idea what Pepsi was thinking when they used them in their commercial. But I know what I’m thinking when I hear them. I hear a parent’s prayer for their child- and I hear the promise that Jesus made in John 10:27 when he said…

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;

Listen to His voice today, even as you listen to Bob Dylan’s peculiar, grating voice and the syncopated hip-hop vocal of will.i.am. But more than that, listen to the words of Life. Pray over your children this day and every day. Speak a blessing over their life; the blessing that only a parent can speak. The words we speak over our children matter- more than you can possibly understand.

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Homeschooling at Mach 10 With Your Hair on Fire

On this date, September 28, 1924 two US Army planes landed in Seattle, WA after completing a new around-the-world flying record- 175 days. This was unbelievably faster than the first circumnavigation of the globe by Magellan and his crew 400 years earlier. Though Magellan himself died on the trip, the 18 survivors of the original crew of 237 returned to Spain on September 6, 1522 after 36 months of sailing. So let’s see; in just under 400 years the round-the-world trip went from 1114 days to only 175 days. Pretty impressive!

Ahhh… but man had just begun to travel! In 1933 Wiley Post completed a single pilot record by flying around the world in only 7 days. In 1949 A B-50 SuperFortress flew around the world in 94 hours- less than four days. 25 years later the SR-71 Blackbird was flying at 2193 miles per hour, which would translate to an around-the-world flight of about 11 hours. Then NASA’s X-43 scramjet-powered flying surfboard flew at Mach 10, or about 7000 miles per hour. That could circle the globe in only 3.5 hours. Now the space shuttle non-chalantly circumnavigates the earth every 90 minutes for days at a time.

So what does all this have to do with homeschooling? Just this: We live in a world that is moving ever-faster. Since 1522 the time needed to circle the globe has decreased from 3 years to just 90 minutes. In every area of our lives we’ve seen a similar increase in speed- automobile travel, internet download speeds and so much more.

So logically we expect our children’s education to accelerate as well. If children USED to learn to read by the age of 6, surely they ought to be able to read before they turn 5 now, right? If children knew their numbers, letters and colors by 5 years ago, they ought to know all of that before they turn 3 now, shouldn’t they?

No.

Why not? Everything ELSE in life has accelerated! Why on earth shouldn’t education speed up too?

Because human beings aren’t like machines. We can’t increase their clock speeds, add more horsepower, reduce our drag coefficient and make ourselves more aerodynamic. We can’t add fiber-optics to increase throughput speed in human minds. As humans we’ve been created in God’s image- and that hasn’t changed since the beginning of time. He (and therefore we) are the same- yesterday, today and forever.

Don’t allow yourself to be sucked into the “Sooner is better” school of educational thought. Yes, a child CAN be taught to read at age 4 but it’s HARD; hard for him- and hard for you. What was HARD at age 4 is doable at age 5 and downright easy at age 6.

In America we assume that faster MUST be better. A BMW or Porsche goes WAY faster than a minivan so it MUST be better, right? Well- not if you need to transport 6 children and a lot of luggage. No- it’s not even a poor substitute if that’s what you need- no matter how fast it goes!

Your children NEED time to be children; time to discover, time to explore, time to wonder, time to play, time to ask questions and time to enjoy family. Homeschooling offers NO PRIZE for finishing first! None! Nada! Zilch! Those who start fastest and finished first will simply be more tired and have nothing to do later- period. End of story.

Talk with your children about Psalm 23. The Psalmist talks about “lying down” and “quiet waters”. He says he “walks” through the valley of the shadow of death. It says NOTHING about racing, sprinting, jogging or rushing. It’s filled with words that suggest slow, deliberate and measured movement. Lead your children while focusing on PEACE instead of PACE this week! Give thanks that there is ENOUGH time to enjoy this season and that the Lord isn’t pressing you to hurdle forward blindly like the world around you.

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When 2 + 2 = 5

Life’s a funny thing, isn’t it? Imagine a little girl who had the misfortune to be born just six months after the great stock market crash of October, 1929. Now imagine that she was born on a remote cattle ranch in Arizona. Imagine further that she had no running water or electricity until she was eight years old. Imagine further that she was an only child who lived miles from the nearest school. Imagine her with only adult cowboys for friends and wild animals for playmates. Picture her training a wild bobcat to become a pet. Imagine her sent away to live with her maternal grandmother in order to attend a real school. Imagine her so homesick that she has to return home for a year just to deal with her loneliness. Imagine growing up in one of the poorest states in the nation during the greatest depression our country has ever seen. Add up the pieces and the picture becomes pretty clear, doesn’t it?

Here was a little girl who was born with the deck stacked against her. And it should be obvious to everyone that she was unfairly sentenced to a life of poverty, probably an unwanted pregnancy in her teen years, several failed marriages and numerous other failed relationships and death at a young age the result of poor healthcare and hard living. Right?

Wrong! This was Sandra Day O’Conner who was sworn in on this date in 1991 as the first woman justice on the United States Supreme Court. O’Conner actually graduated from high school at age 16 and had a bachelor’s degree in economics magna cum laude at age 20. She went on to Stanford law school and graduated in only two years instead of the customary three while serving on the Stanford Law Review.

You see, our circumstances have so very little to do with our outcome. By rights, O’Conner should never have even entered college, let alone become the first female Supreme Court justice. All too often we allow ourselves to become discouraged because we live in the country, or we live in the city; because we don’t have a big homeschooling budget or because our kids have no friends. Perhaps we’re concerned because we have too many kids to give much individualized attention, or because we have only one child and they have no one to collaborate with on learning projects. The list of reasons why homeschooling might not work out is endless. And irrelevant.

Tell your children the story of America’s first woman Supreme Court justice today. Tell them about her beginnings- and her end. Tell them she was sworn in on September 25, 1991. Tell them that she changed history. And tell them that they can too. Regardless of your circumstances your children live in a country where they can do anything they put their mind to- just like Sandra Day O’Conner.

Thank God for that opportunity. Meditate on Proverbs 16:3 “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans  will succeed.” Our plans help shape our destiny. Now read Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you…” The Lord also has plans for us. Once we get our plans and His plans to align the possibilities are endless.

Talk with the Lord about your plans today. Then ask him about His plans. Then listen. Now remind your children that the Lord has a plan for them too and that together you’re going to begin figuring out God’s plan.

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Having done everything Horton, stand.

Today marks the 18th anniversary of the death of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Author of 46 children’s books, Geisel’s books have sold well over a quarter of a billion copies! Think of that- a quarter of a BILLION!

From foxes who wore socks to cats who wore hats, from wockets to whos, from red fish to blue fish, hardly anyone alive today isn’t familiar with at least a few of Geisel’s remarkably creative stories.

And do you know WHY the world knows Theodor Geisel’s works? Because Geisel refused to take “no” for an answer.

You see, Dr. Seuss was turned down by TWENTY-EIGHT different publishers before he walked into Random House. That’s right- TWENTY-EIGHT different publishers looked at Geisel’s manuscript of And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street and concluded nobody would ever want to read such a wacky, zany book.

Rejected TWENTY-EIGHT times in a row, Geisel persevered. He believed in what he was doing. He believed that children and adults alike would delight at the words he had put on paper. And he was right.

Random House publisher Bennett Cerf once said, “I’ve published any number of great writers, from William Faulkner to John O’Hara, but there’s only one genius on my authors list. His name is Ted Geisel.”

Have you been discouraged on your homeschool journey? Have you ever wondered if maybe this whole thing is a crazy idea? Have others told you this isn’t going to work? Two people? Five people? Twenty-eight people perhaps? Are you going to give up and quit? Or are you going to have another go at it tomorrow- like Theodor Seuss Geisel?

I would have given up after the first ten rejections I think. Certainly after twenty publisher’s rejections I would have concluded that I was never meant to be a writer. But not Geisel. He could see beyond today’s disappointments. But even Dr. Seuss never dreamed that his books would be in the hands of a QUARTER OF A BILLION readers someday.

We can never see the end when we’re in the middle. We have NO IDEA what the Lord wants to do with our lives or the lives of our children if we’ll just persist. Paul said in Ephesians 6:13 “… having done everything, stand.”

When it seems as if you’ve done everything in your power and it’s still not enough… stand. Don’t walk away. Don’t sit down. Don’t give up. Stand. Stand and watch what the Lord will do.

Gather your children today and read a Dr. Seuss book togther- and remember the extraordinary man who refused to take “no” for answer. Theodor Seuss Geisel died on September 24, 1991 at age 87.

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The homeschoolers APGAR test…

When your baby was born it was evaluated using the now-familiar APGAR test. Some people believe it was named APGAR for American Pediatric Gross Assessment Record. Not!

Others believe it was named for the five assessment areas: Appearance (skin color), Pulse (heart rate), Grimace (reflex irritability), Activity (muscle tone), and Respiration. Interestingly that acronym works in multiple languages: German ( Atmung, Puls, Grundtonus, Aussehen, Reflexe), Spanish (Apariencia, Pulso, Gesticulación, Actividad, Respiración) and French (Apparence, Pouls, Grimace, Activité, Respiration)

While those are all useful acronyms that’s STILL not where the APGAR test got it’s name. Actually it was named after the woman who came up with the test, anesthesiologist Dr. Virginia Apgar. Apgar wanted a standardized way to evaluate the health of a newborn child. A score of 3 or below indicated a serious problem. Scores of four to six are somewhat low and cause for moderate concern while scores of seven to ten are considered healthy.

So your school year is newborn. What’s your homeschool APGAR score in late September? Let’s find out.

A is for appearance or coloraiton. How is your color so far? Are you pale as a sheet? White as a ghost with terror? Are you purple; livid with anger and frustration? Neither extreme is good! Hopefully your color is somewhere in the normal range as you learn to deal with your own fears and insecurities and also to deal with the setbacks and frustrations that are a part of every homeschooler’s life.

P is for pulse rate. How are you doing there? Is your pulse barely ticking because the curriculum you’ve chosen is so boring even you can’t stay awake? Or is your pulse racing because of the frantic pace your chosen curriculum demands every day as you race against the clock to “get it all done?”

G is for Grimace or Reflex Irritability. Ruh-Roh! Are you grimacing and irritable? Are you having reflexive reactions to every frustration in the new teaching year? Or are you maintaining your composure and responding instead of reacting?

A is for Activity. Is your homeschool active with busy minds, lots of questions, filled with laughter and moving eagerly forward in new learning discoveries each day? Or is your homeschool dull and listless- even comatose as the drudgery of each day brings sighs of boredom from both students and teachers alike?

R is for Respiration or breathing. Are you panting with anxiety over each day’s task? Are you holding your breath wondering whether your child will ever get into college when they can’t do the simplest homeschool tasks without a teary-eyed meltdown or an angry outburst? Neither is a good sign. Relaxed, deep breathing is what we’re looking for here.

So how’s your homeschool APGAR score for the new school year? Are you in need of life support? Are you less than ideal? Are you in the healthy range?

I’m going to make an unabashed plug for Five in a Row curriculum at this point. Jane spent nearly 17 years homeschooling and she developed a program that works well academically but also allows you to keep your sanity as a homeschool mom.

She knows exactly what it takes to keep your coloring and your pulse rate in the normal range, your grimace/irritability reaction under control, to keep your homeschool day moving actively with joy and to keep you breathing regularly and evenly.

So few curriculums are able to do this because they were created by people who have never homeschooled successfully. The developers have absolutely no idea how to motivate children to love learning or how to manage the many responsibilities of a busy homeschool mother.

If your homeschool APGAR score doesn’t look promising by the 3rd week of September, what is it going to look like in April or May? There’s a good chance the curriculum you’re using was never created with the needs of a homeschool mother in mind. If that’s you- take a look at http://www.fiveinarow.com today. You can thank me later.

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The Emancipation Proclamation

… was signed on this date in 1862 by Abraham Lincoln. September 22, 1862 set in motion a series of events that would eventually change the condition of those who had formerly been slaves effective January 1, 1863.

The circumstances of those four million human beings didn’t change overnight. In fact it would be more than two and half years before the freedom that Lincoln declared would become a reality for most slaves. And in truth, even after the Civil War at least some slaves continued to live in virtual slavery for many years, unable to take advantage of the freedom that had been so long in coming.

Are you like those slaves? Are you still living in slavery? Paul tells us in Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

You’ve been freed from the yoke of slavery. Christ Jesus has made His own emancipation proclamation over you as a follower of His. Colossians 2:6 tells us “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”

Are you following this? God has declared that you’re free. You’re free from accusation, free from being a slave to sin and death, free from the slavery of religious leaders who lay upon you heavy burdens of duty and responsibility; a long list of do’s and don’ts if you’re to consider yourself a Christian.

Yet many of you are continuing to live as slaves to this very day. You labor under the pronouncements of homeschool “gurus” who would put upon you a long list of do’s and don’ts if you’re going to be successful. You live as slaves to the enemy’s accusations that you’re not doing enough or that you’re not doing it right.

Even though Abraham Lincoln made an announcement which would change the condition of the slaves on this day 147 years ago, the circumstances of those slaves didn’t change for a long time. Likewise, you’ve been declared free in Christ yet you continue to live as slaves despite the Lord’s gracious proclamation.

If He doesn’t condemn you then who else can? Only yourself. Only that inner monologue that constantly criticizes and relentlessly blames you for every failure, every slip-up and every blunder.

Talk with your children today about the Emancipation Proclamation and the way in which it changed America for the better. Talk with them about a president who ended his proclamation with these words: “I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.”

Lincoln asked for God’s favor over this important document. Show your children Lincoln’s own handwriting as you read the powerful words of his proclamation: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/emancipation_proclamation/

And finally, begin to walk in the freedom that was purchased for you at such great price. Say “no” to that inner voice of accusation and embrace the end to your own slavery. Ask for the gracious favor of Almighty God as you begin to walk in the truth and the reality of who you are in Christ.

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