Welcome to my musings...

After a 3 year hiatus from blogging (too busy parenting teens to have time to write about it!), I have decided to revive my blog. I look forward to sharing my perspective on mothering as I am at the tail end of my child-raising journey. Nothing could be more beautiful, more full of joy and pain and anguish, than the divine calling of motherhood. I pray my musings will bless you on your own journey, and that you will feel encouraged and equipped!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Homeschool Hints for Beginners - Part I

One of my passions is helping moms who are new to homeschooling. I well remember how intimidating that first year can be (and sometimes subsequent years, too!) and I was blessed by so many wonderful homeschool moms who were willing to share their wisdom with me. In my five years of homeschooling, I have met with countless women who were beginning their homeschool journey. It has been my joy to answer some of their many questions and give them some tips for a smoother transition. Beginning homeschooling is an awesome task, but one that will bring innumerable blessings to your family. So, if you are feeling overwhelmed, I offer these simple suggestions to make your life easier.

• Don’t take on too much. Keep it simple until you get your bearings. My first year, I tried to have too many different subjects, separate subjects for each child, and made way too much work for myself. I remember weeping in exhaustion after our first day (I think we spent 7 hours doing school, and then I spent another 3 or 4 grading and planning for the next day) and tearfully telling my husband I couldn’t possibly keep this up. While public school spent the first day unpacking their backpacks and sharpening their pencils, I was trying to teach the entire first month in one day! I soon learned how to do certain subjects with all of my children at once (such as history or science) and how to judge how much work was appropriate for one day (the legal requirement is an average of 4 hours a day). One of the best commitments we made that first year was to not JOIN anything. We were encouraged to join the local homeschool group, to form co-ops, and to participate in every homeschool activity available in our town. While none of those were bad things, it was just too much. We decided that we needed to spend that first year AT HOME, and not driving to multiple activities and commitments. We needed to transition into a homeschooling family by protecting our time at home and figuring out exactly what homeschooling looked like. While I am not saying you should reject all of these activities, it was the right choice for us.

• Godly character is the subject of first importance. When I became my children’s teacher, I quickly realized we had some character issues to work on. They had to respect my authority not only as “mom” but as “teacher”. My oldest had been in school for 5 years and had some adjusting to do. She was also unhappy about our decision to homeschool, and had to learn to accept our choice cheerfully and to trust that Mom and Dad knew what was best for her. I have had many moms tell me that their children would never listen to them or obey them as their teacher. I tell them that they have bigger problems than choosing how to educate their children. If we can’t teach our children because they are resistant to learning from us, we have failed to teach our children to respect our authority. Whether or not you homeschool, you ARE your child’s teacher. Sometimes, book learning must take second place to instilling godly character. And as an academically-minded person, that was a VERY hard lesson for me to learn.

• Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The homeschool community tends to be a very supportive group. Find a mom whose children you respect and ask her for advice. Take the time to look at curriculum choices from several people. There is so much material available and you have to find what works for you and your kids. I’ve known people who absolutely loved curriculum that I hated, and vice-versa. Read a book on learning styles and identify how your children learn (I have one visual, one auditory and one kinesthetic—lucky me!). Choose your curriculum carefully, and don’t buy too much at once. Other homeschool moms can be your best resources. Ask them where they buy their materials and what they have liked and why. My sister-in-law was my “homeschool angel”, even traveling to Colorado from Indiana to take me to my first homeschool conference and walk me through the overwhelming process of choosing curriculum. I don’t know what I would have done without her. This didn’t mean I had to choose all the same curriculum as she did, but having someone to help me evaluate the choices was priceless.

• Finally, understand that there is no one “right” way to homeschool. If I introduce you to a dozen different homeschool families, I will show you a dozen different ways to homeschool. How you teach your children and how you spend your day doesn’t have to mirror mine for it to be “right”. One of my favorite homeschool books is called “So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling” by Lisa Whelchel. In her delightful, conversational style, she eased my fears about being the perfect homeschool mom (what can I say, I’m an over-achiever!) and showed me that no two homeschooling households look alike. Rest assured that if God has called you to this amazing lifestyle, He will help you find the “right” way for your family.

More to come, including curriculum recommendations and practical tips…please check back soon!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Not To Be Taken Lightly

My ears are tired. They are tired of being assaulted everywhere I go, whether it is by the TV, the radio, people around me out in public, or yes, even at my own church. It seems that, these days, no matter where I am or who I am listening to, I hear an abundance of one thing—the misuse of the name of my Lord. Today, though, was the final straw. While sitting alone in my own kitchen, reading today’s newspaper ads, I came across an ad for a T-shirt marketed for young girls. This T-shirt was a “Bobby Jack” brand, popular for the cute monkey character pictured on their articles of clothing. On this particular shirt, there is a large monkey face with giant letters spelling out “OMG!”. Now, anyone who has even a rudimentary knowledge of texting (and mine is rudimentary at best!) knows what this means. It is the same vile phrase uttered by millions of people every day, taken lightly even by many Christians.

My family enjoys occasionally watching a television show on Sunday evenings called “Extreme Home Makeover”. The kids love seeing families in difficult circumstances blessed by a loving community and a design team who delights in making life better for these families. We quickly tired, however, of the prevalence of this phrase (OMG) uttered by the surprised people while viewing their new houses. We learned to watch this show with the volume turned down all the way when it came time for the families to tour their new homes. Hearing this phrase uttered over and over is equivalent to hearing fingernails scraping down a chalkboard. It raises the hairs on the back of my neck and makes me grit my teeth.

Whatever happened to the third commandment? In Exodus 20:7, God says, "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” Jeremiah 44:10-11 says, “To this day they have not humbled themselves or shown reverence, nor have they followed my law and the decrees I set before you and your fathers. Therefore, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am determined to bring disaster on you and to destroy all Judah.” Misusing the Lord’s name in an irreverent fashion is not something to be casual about, no matter how commonplace it has become in our society. Are we instilling this reverence in our children? Does this phrase crop up in their vocabulary? How about yours? Do we stand up for our Lord when we hear someone uttering this phrase? How long will we passively sit by while our Lord is treated with disrespect and irreverence?

Let’s raise a generation of children who won’t stand for this mockery of the name of our God. Let’s teach them to stand up for our faith and to fight back against the world’s cheapening of all that is holy. Let’s set them an example of pure speech, and hold them to a standard that is much different than that of the world. Let’s say “enough is enough” and draw a line in the sand, refusing to let our speech be tarnished by the world’s influence. “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). Our God is holiness personified and His name is not to be taken lightly.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Aspirin Age

Last weekend, I took my son on a date. While my husband escorted our daughters to the annual “Butterfly Kisses” Dance, Noah and I went to play indoor “glow golf” and feast on hamburgers at a new eating place we had discovered. The golf place was not crowded, so we were taking our time, enjoying our time together and chatting as we played. Pretty soon, another mom and son (whose father was also at the dance with his daughters) came along behind us and quickly caught up to us. We invited them to play through, as they seemed to be in a hurry and we did not wish to be rushed. The mom apologetically said to me, “Sorry, we don’t do anything slowly.” After a few more holes of golf, another family (this time a dad and kids) caught up to us and again, we stepped aside to let them go ahead of us. As soon as one of their party finished the hole, he or she would rush off to the next hole, leaving behind the rest of the family. They rushed from hole to hole in a frenzied race to complete the course. In the time it took my son and me to play the first 27 holes of mini-golf, the other families had finished all 54 holes and left the building. Noah looked at me and said, “We aren’t that slow, are we?”

We talked about how everyone seemed to be in such a hurry. The families who had come to play, ostensibly to spend time together, were rushing to finish without taking time to watch each other golf or to have a conversation. Noah and I were taking our time, but we weren’t dawdling…how could these other families have finished so much faster than we did? And why were they all in such a rush?

This morning in church, our minister talked about how we are living in what some have called “the Aspirin Age”. We are living in a time of tremendous pressures and anxieties, with stress brought on by economic difficulties, strained family relationships and over-packed schedules. He mentioned that the times of walking slowly by babbling brooks or living unhurried, peaceful lives are long gone. We’ve replaced these tranquil times with frenzied activity, rushing from one event to the next. We’ve forgotten how to relax, how to have a Sabbath, and how to spend unhurried time together as families.

Noah and I were saddened by what we saw that afternoon. It felt like watching the world rush by in fast-forward motion while we were playing at regular speed. I think it was eye-opening to both of us as we contemplated what was really important—that for just a couple of hours, we were slowing down and enjoying our time together as mother and son while the world marched on without us. Everything else could wait; for now, nothing was more important than spending time with my boy, who will all too soon be a man with little time for or interest in playing mini-golf with his mother. I refuse to miss out on these precious moments because the world says there are more important things to do…and I hope that my son will look back someday and cherish that afternoon spent slowly playing fifty-four holes of mini-golf.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Purposeful Parenting

Have you ever been driving somewhere and suddenly realized that you had arrived at your destination, but had no actual memory of getting there? Sometimes, we will drive a routine path and be so caught up in our thoughts or conversation that we don’t really pay attention to how we got there. Or maybe we are on auto-pilot and forget where we are going at all and end up in an entirely different place than we had originally purposed. I remember a few years back when my children were small and this happened to me quite frequently. I was in the midst of a three-year stretch without sleeping through the night more than a handful of times. I was so physically exhausted that I would fall asleep at stoplights, waiting for the light to turn green. Often I would be driving my oldest to school and realize that I was pulling into the parking lot without really remembering the drive at all. It was frightening and disconcerting to feel so out of control and my relief was great when sleep returned to my life and I returned to being a safe and conscious driver!

The path of parenting can often mimic this experience. We can become so caught up in the routine day-to-day activities that we go days without consciously thinking about the destination we are attempting to reach. The most fearful ending to our years of parenting will be to reach the end of our years with our children and realize that we missed the destination entirely. The years will have flown by and we will have squandered the opportunities God has given us to properly train our children and there will be no going back, no second chances. I can think of nothing more heartbreaking than to realize we’ve missed the boat and our children are ill prepared for life as adults in a world that is all too happy to provide them the training we’ve neglected, only with a far different result. Where we wanted to teach them righteousness, our world will delight in teaching them to love evil and pursue earthly pleasure.

As our children grow older, my husband and I are ever more cognizant of the shrinking number of years we have left with them. Every moment becomes precious, every day together an opportunity to pass on the things that are of utmost importance. If your children are small, I encourage you to start early. If your children are older, don’t waste another minute. Be purposeful in the things you choose to participate in as a family. Make daily family worship time a top priority. Choose activities wisely and don’t give away all your free time as a family. Guard your time together carefully and be wary of those time wasters such as television. Think about what you want your children to know and teach their children some day, and talk about those things with them. Be prayerful about your educational choices, whether they are in public or private school or are homeschooled. Be diligent about spending time with your children. Know their hearts and what motivates them. This can only be accomplished by purposefully planning time with them and talking to them and diligently teaching them God’s word. Do you know what your children’s dreams are? Do you know who their friends are? What vision do you have for your children and what are you doing to reach those goals?

One of our family’s touchstone verses is Proverbs 29:18 “Without vision, the people perish”. I believe this verse is very applicable to parenting. If we have no destination in mind for our children, Satan will choose one for us, and it won’t be a happy ending. Take some time today and dream a little…catch a godly vision for your family and then make a commitment to be purposeful in how you raise your children. Raising godly children won’t just happen…it takes purpose and vision and wholehearted commitment to following God’s instruction. If we devote ourselves to this, the rewards will be beyond anything we can imagine and we will impact the world and God’s kingdom for generations to come. What could be more important than this?