Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Welcome to the Newbies

I live in a small town and my major resource for glimpsing the larger world is the Internet. I don't know that I get an accurate or complete picture, but I do belong to a few homeschooling groups that include many families living primarily in the US and Canada.

From my limited point of view, there are a lot of families entering the world of homeschooling for the first time right now. It is neat to see a growing a diverse community of homeschoolers. I figure that the more there are, the more resources and acceptance will be available. It's a good thing.

One reason that I see for the booming growth is that the public schools are failing individuals. The burden to meet academic, social, physical and emotional needs of each child in over-crowded classrooms can be pressing even the best teachers to early burnout. So, as I see it, people are ditching the traditional school system not because they have heard glowing reviews of homeschooling, but because they only know they can’t continue public schooling.

I have noticed an intriguing trend in the new-to-Homeschooling crowd. A substantial percentage--easily more than half of those I've met in person and online--have children with special needs, namely autism or Asperger's. I would venture to say in my personal experience the numbers are nearer 3/4 than merely half.

This group of families have been essentially pushed out if the mainstream school experience. Homeschooling is a last result and the families are often in desperate situations. That is never a good place to be. Running *from* rather than *to* something often forces the runner into a survival mentality. They almost resemble scorned lovers on the rebound. Most of what they do is reactive.

I don't know the long-term prognosis for families who are homeschooling as a result of a last-ditch-effort attitude. Homeschooling is difficult and offers unique challenges. Families landing in homeschooling with no more research or planning beyond a cursory check to see if it’s legal may not be equipped to accept the mantle of home education.

But however they got here, it is a pretty good place to be. And the neighbors in the homeschooling community are pretty great, too. If they can let go the past, plug in for support and move forward, they may thrive in this brave new world.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Helpful or harmful?

The concept of forgiveness has come up over and over for me in the last few days.  We were even watching a TV show with the kids and my daughter asked why a character wouldn’t just forgive.  Earlier in the day, I had a picture of weights as a metaphor for forgiveness.  Then, in the show, the character who was so unforgiving was lifting weights!  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share my picture with my daughter after that!

So, if we react to injury by lifting weights, it makes sense.  Lifting weights makes us strong, tough, more able to handle what is to come.  Who hasn’t vowed to never allow hurt in again?  Toughening up those muscles is like gaining permanent armor.  It sounds great. 

The problem is that the world we live in and the lives we live are more fluid than we care to acknowledge. There is more water than solid ground.  Weights and water really don’t mix well.  Just watch a cliché mob movie.  Those weights that you thought would save you will, in fact, lead to your end!  The only way to save your life is to let go.  Or…you could just drown!

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I was having a conversation with a fellow homeschooler who is really struggling with the pressures of her charter.  She feels that she will one day go private, but is too afraid to take that leap just yet.  She gave me a lot to think about.  Fear is so disabling in homeschooling and in any other aspect of life.  My response to her was specific to homeschooling, but I think it applies across the board.


None of us is alone. And doing anything out of fear is just no way to live. It kills the spirit.

You know…by my house there is a little dirt bike trail with fun bumps, hills and curved banks. My kids have a lot of fun riding on them and catching some air. But can you imagine riding the trail with training wheels?? Even if you could manage the curves or pulled off an occasional jump, coming down on the wheels wrong would result in a messy crash!

Training wheels are a great tool for a week or two; but after that, they actually become the problem. Fear makes us use training wheels in life. We think that they will help us gain confidence. But riding with training wheels doesn’t actually prepare you for riding the way you were meant to ride. Your body doesn’t learn the nuances of maintaining balance as long as you are relying on the training wheels. But you are training your body to ride with limitations.

The same is true when you homeschool in fear. People think the charter will ‘keep them honest.’ But the truth is that the charters I have seen just add to the to-do list. The list has to be prioritized over the fun of learning, the core of homeschooling. Meetings, deadlines, testing all on another person’s schedule makes homeschooling a clumsy chore. I am not meaning to trash charters. I have seen them work, and I have seen private (independent) homeschoolers apply crushing pressure all by themselves.

My sister is one of the few people I have ever met who has used the charter as a back wheel on her homeschooling bike. She is still steering; she uses the charter for balance and to achieve higher leaps. It works. Most people that I have met use the charter out of fear—as training wheels. More than 50% of the people I have met (I am speaking very personally and have absolutely no knowledge regarding actual stats) end up putting their children back into public schools.

I think that is because they are led to believe that homeschooling is so hard. But it isn’t—or at least, it doesn’t have to be. Going off-roading (which is a pretty good analogy for homeschooling in general) on a tricycle or with training wheels IS hard. After fighting and struggling, many just go back to the paved road, wondering how those other riders are able to jump and do those cool tricks. Few suspect that if they had just ditched the ‘help,’ they would be out there with the best of them.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Substitutiary Atonement

That podcaster my husband likes is talking again!  I have always taught and believed that I should die for my sins.  Jesus died in MY place.

This podcaster says no.  He says that our death isn’t enough.  Jesus isn’t dying in our place, but in the lamb’s place.  I can’t die for anyone and make that person new or righteous.  Jesus is the new Adam—who messed everything up.  Adam sinned and left us to death and dirtiness. We are born inheriting the state of sin and death.

Jesus came to be the new Adam; He is the new First Man.  With Jesus, we are born again.  We are new creatures without the inheritance of death.  We are alive in Jesus.

As one who is dead and guilty, we are worthless sacrifices.  We cannot die for the forgiveness of our own sins because we are already dead!  How can a dead thing die again?  So, Jesus was the ONLY One who could have died to save us.  He is the ONLY One alive, the ONLY One with a life to give.  When we believe and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are born into life—our first lasting life.  Our bodies are dying all the time, it is just a matter of time before the body times out and ends in dust.

Friday, September 16, 2011


I am listening to my husband’s favorite podcaster, who is discussing the meanings of knowledge and experience and how the two relate to relationships.  Since we have just one word for information: knowledge.  When we know propositions and facts—basic and quantifiable—they suggest that there is still something missing in the element of relationship.  He read an evaluation of Facebook that shared the same ideas.  Knowing height, birthplace, favorites, aversions and daily activities isn’t actually what friendship is about.  True relationships (he sited David & Jonathan and Ruth & Naomi) happen when depth in engaged, which happens with experiences shared together.  The former description is knowledge OF; the latter is just knowledge.

Who do you know?  Does anyone know you?  Or has life been reduced to simple facts?  What about God?  Do you know Him or just about Him?  Do you spend time to maintain knowledge and relationship?

This is a good reminder for me.  Relationships are ridiculously important to me.  I have begun thinking that I need to end that.  It hurts too much, especially when others decide that they prefer the fact- and surface-level relationships.  To be shoved back is shocking.  Unpleasantly so.  It is easier to just pull in, joke and smile and never let anyone actually know me.

I have just recently been reading 1 Samuel and the relationship between David and Jonathan.  It is shocking in a different way.  These two men loved one another;  So much so that today it is an example of acceptable homosexuality in Scriptures by some who maintain that homosexuality is not a sin.  What this tells me is that close relationships are so rare these days that people can’t even comprehend or entertain the idea that two people could be so very close without the relationship becoming sexual.

I started to get lofty in evaluating the state of our society, being so go-go-go, that the art of relationships is lost.  It has been poorly but nearly completely replaced by the quick-bites of Twitter and Facebook—where there is an actual character limit in what you share—don’t go talking TOO much about yourself or your ideas!!  I don’t have time for that!

But I won’t go there.  Relationships are personal, so blaming society is a cop-out.  We each are responsible for our own choices and actions.  I have to choose if it is worth the hurt to open myself to be known by others.  I have to choose to know God more than I know about Him.  Or not.  Either way, these are my choices.  Societal trends may add challenges to achieving the goals that drive my choices, but cannot be used as a valid excuse for giving up our right and duty to choose.