Shouldn't You Be in School?

Question:

What do I say to people who ask my kids, “Shouldn’t you be in school?” What do I answer my neighbors, friends, and my own mother? I’m ill-prepared for the confrontation or even accusations that may come from some people, thinking me negligent for not sending my children to public school. How do I answer a stranger or a neighbor who might not really understand…or care? Or do I even bother trying?

Answer:

The question will certainly come to you as you are out and about with kids during the school day. Know that your children will soak up your attitude. I never try to hide the fact that I homeschool from anyone, from the librarian to the store clerk. I volunteer the information and follow it up with how blessed we feel! I am on my own one-person campaign to change the world’s perspective of homeschoolers!

When someone asks my kids why they aren’t in school, I jump in and answer for them (as I think it is unfair for others to impose their prejudice on my children) and I say, “We are so lucky because we homeschool, and have so much fun together! We love it and are learning so much!” and the kids look up and smile. Or, I say, “We homeschool and I feel so happy to be with my best friends learning—they are so smart! And they teach me so much!”

As my children have grown, I hear them answering in a similar way to those awkward questions, and expressing their enjoyment of being homeschooled. It is really hard for people to have a hurtful comeback to that kind of confidence and enthusiasm. Attitude really is everything!

Best success!

 

Excuse this House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some houses try to hide the fact
That children shelter there—
Ours boasts of it quite openly,
The signs are everywhere

For smears are on the windows,
Little smudges on the doors;
I should apologize, I guess,
For toys strewn on the floor.

But I sat down with the children
And we played and laughed and read;
And if the doorbell doesn’t shine,
Their eyes will shine instead.

For when at times I’m forced to choose
The one job or the other;
I want to be a housewife—
But first I’ll be a mother.

(Author Unknown)

 

A Child’s Self-Confidence: Handle with Care

 

Jennifer, a mom who reads my blog, wrote about what happened to her little boy:

My middle child went to kindergarten last year at what was supposed to the best public school in the best school district in Kansas, which is one of the top states in the country. He is a kinesthetic learner with incredible spatial skills, but is a slow learner when it comes to reading. Watching his classmates “get it” while he struggled, killed his self confidence. His teacher progressed through the curriculum according to plan, and my boy was left behind. Not only did he finish kindergarten not reading, but he did not believe himself to be capable of reading. His teacher NEVER raised with us any concerns about his reading—I’m not certain whether she even realized that he was struggling, because he is not the type to ask for help. Here we are now, homeschooling, half-way through 1st grade, and he is just now becoming confident enough in his reading ability to read to someone besides me. He still insists that he can’t read, but he’s reading cereal boxes, and he can answer for me when his little brother asks, “What does that say?”!  Yes, he is behind where other kids with his same manufacturing date range might be, but he is a unique little person who is learning and growing every day and I am proud of him and the progress he has made!

My heart sinks when I read comments like hers, because I have seen this happen too many times. And usually to boys, as they tend to be very hands-on and reading and writing comes later for them.  Just the thought of a kindergarten boy struggling to grip that pencil correctly and manipulate it to form legible letters is distressing—for some little boys, it is just so difficult!  And the girls their age often manage it easily, which only magnifies their deficit in their young heart. What pains me about Jennifer’s story is what happens to that little person’s feelings about himself—that wonderful self—and his feelings of capability.  Too sad!

I can remember when I was just a little girl, probably about 4th grade.  Our school pictures were coming up and I just wanted so much to have the “right smile”.  Back to that “norm” idea.  As if there is a “right” smile. I practiced in front of the mirror, trying to smile a movie star smile.  Is a 9-year-old girl even capable of a movie star smile?  No. “Too much television”, would be my diagnosis now, as a mother.  Too much of the world having an influence.  But I didn’t parent myself, so having that “right” smile was pretty crucial to me back then!  I practiced in front of the mirror, touching my face so I could memorize what it felt like to have that perfect smile.  When picture day came, and it was my turn to smile for the camera, I felt my face and made sure it was the “right” smile before the photographer snapped the picture.  Back in those days, you got one pose only—probably the same these days for school pictures.  When I got my pictures back, arrrrrrgh! They were AWFUL!  My pasted “right” smile was a facial contortion.  Plus, ALL my other classmates had a permanent record in their full sheet class picture!

The ache in this memory is the fact that a 9-year-old girl would even have the notion come into her head that she needed to try to be pretty, to have to try harder-than-possible to be acceptable.  I am sad that as a little child I had been trained early to worry about it!  It didn’t come from my mother, as she always had positive things to say about how beautiful we children were, and how we should be grateful that we even had a body that worked. So it must have come from the culture, the school environment, the early training out of ear shot of my mother.

One thing I have been surprised about in raising my homeschooled teenagers is that they never were afflicted with the self-depreciating attitude that children often display in the teen years (…my nose is too big, I’ll too tall, I’m too short, I’m too fat, I’m too busty, I’m not busty enough, I’m a wimp muscle-wise, I need to lift weights, etc.)

Actually I think it starts quite young, even back in kindergarten.  The teacher, wanting to make losing a tooth a fun and special experience for the children, inadvertently rewards those who lose a tooth by having them come up in front of the class, putting their name on the “Lost a Tooth” chart, taking their photo, giving them a special award, etc.  Seems like an innocent idea, but the seeds of peer comparison and self-depreciation are sown very early. I’ve heard more than one 5-year-old lament that they still had their baby teeth . . . as if it was a sin, or a reason to be sorry.

Children think they are fabulous—in the absence of negative peer review, and in the absence of being compared academically or skill-wise to classmates.  It is amazing to me to see the natural feelings of a growing child!  I used to worry a bit about it with when my first children came of age—to hear and watch them assess their bodies and make positive exclamations about how fabulous their bodies or their talents or their minds were!  It made me laugh nervously and feel embarrassed because in our culture it is not acceptable to mention how wonderful our body is!  And yet, viewing it from God’s perspective, it truly is amazing to see a child’s body transform into a teenage body, with all its resulting capacities.  Bigger muscles for boys means they can lift things and work like an adult and be truly useful to the family in that manner.  And it is natural for them to be excited and to make positive comments about what is happening to their body. “I’m so strong!  I lifted as many hay bales as Dad did!” Those type of remarks are often discouraged—we think they are un-Christian somehow, as if we are not being humble enough.  But truly, I think they spring from genuine awe and appreciation of the personal miracle that God has wrought in their lives.  And it follows that poise and confidence are the natural results of feeling secure and thinking well of oneself.

Self-depreciation is taught by our culture of critique as being appropriate.  Perhaps it sounds more humble, but it does a wicked work on self-esteem. When children repeatedly compare and criticize their body, their intelligence, their capabilities—it does irreparable damage. Better to gently teach your children to contain their expressions of delight in public, than to nullify their appreciation for the beautiful work of God in their growing minds and bodies.

One of my young teenage daughters used to lay on her bed and hold up her adult-looking leg for review.  “Look how perfect my leg is!”, she would exclaim.  It made me chuckle, as I am a product of this culture of self-depreciation, and it seems odd to delight in oneself.  But when I truly looked at her leg objectively, I was amazed too!  How God transforms a child into a beautiful adult is amazing!

I can guarantee you that my daughter wouldn’t have that attitude towards herself if she’d spent much time in the culture of the public school.  I know that for a fact.  I had been hospitalized and was forced to put my youngest at age 9 into school for a few months during this time.  The drastic change in her attitude towards herself was alarming to me, and to her siblings.  In just 3 months, she transformed and it was not for the better. One trait she quickly developed was “social awareness ” (gotta be cool!)  Long before she attended school, she had been given a soft, furry, white, full-length coat that was her very favorite!  She felt like a snow princess when she wore it.  It was beautiful! She came home from school, coat slung over her arm, on a very frigid winter day.  “Why aren’t you wearing your coat?”, I asked. Because it made her have “polar bear hips” she confessed.  She didn’t even have hips yet! Whoever put that cutesy little barb of criticism into her mind prevented her from wearing her very favorite coat that made her feel beautiful . . . ever again. Though she never would part with it. I finally took it out of her closet recently and packed it away, and the feelings rushed back to me. So sad! So wrong!

Moms, academic training is important, yes.  But a child’s confidence and recognition of their own self-worth is crucial to their happiness and well-being their whole life long!  Children are able to hear the truth, that they are a beloved child of God and hear His approval spoken quietly to their minds, UNLESS the negative voice of their peers and the practices of our society’s critique system is louder. Which it usually is.

It is a good time in history to homeschool . . . to protect our children’s faith, tenderness, and self-worth.  God times the growth of their body and mind perfectly in His wisdom. He loves them. He speaks approving words to their heart about their wonder and worth. Why shouldn’t everyone else?

A child’s self-confidence requires gentle, tender nurturing.  Handle with care!

 

My Child is Behind in School

Question:

I put my son James in public school for a short time and the teacher said he was “behind”.  I was so upset, I cried for days!  You said he is so young, I shouldn’t worry.  At what point should I worry?

Answer:

At what point should you worry?

NEVER!

Just pray and do your very best.  Children have their own growth path, their own maturation process.  Assisting them to learn what they are interested in, and providing fun ways to learn the things they have no interest in, but that are necessary life skills—is the best any mortal can do, including any public school teacher.  You are their very best teacher!  Your methods may vary, and you may explore and try new ones, but basically, it is YOU— your love, your caring concern, your energy to help them pursue their interests— not the academics, that makes a good education.

Your child is not “behind” or “ahead”.  He is James.  Period.  With all his varying skills and abilities—some areas higher and some areas lower than the “norm” (which doesn’t exist, of course).

I am so sorry that you felt bad and cried about the teacher’s opinion.  James is who he is. I wish you could see how it will work out—that James will grow up to become his own phenomenal person!

I think we underestimate the divine nature in our children.  They are progressing, opening like a blooming flower.  And their potential and final intelligence level is really not up to us, just as we cannot determine what color a blossoming flower will be.  We can assist, or retard their blooming efforts, but we can’t determine their talents, ability or intelligence level.

Make sure he has religious training. That is the biggest factor, because as kids get to be teens, their respect for God, and for you and others will make a huge difference.  Next, make sure he has the basics:  reading, writing and math—according to his time table—don’t put expectations on him to go faster, to be something he is not.   Make it fun, as I know you try to do!  Help him:  be his best aid in pursuing his interests.  Get books at the library, buy kits, find DVDs, travel with him, take him to science fairs, seek out mentors like the blacksmith at the county fair, that can answer his questions.  Kids are hungry to learn things that interest them. Feed him as fast as he can take it.  And don’t force feed him too much stuff that he has no interest in.

I used to stress, too. I think it is because I had the mistaken idea that I was the creator.  That how my children turned out  intelligence-wise, talent-wise was entirely up to me, somehow. I know that if you keep homeschooling the best you can, and you keep him out of public school and make sure he has religious training, you will be calling me in ten years to tell me what a fabulous, smart, achieving, amazing son James is.

Breathe deep.  He is God’s child first, yours second.  Do your best, and you’ll be amazed with the results!

 

I Want to Homeschool

Question:

I really have a passion for wanting to homeschool our 4 children, however my husband and other family members think it would be better for the children and I would be better off sending them to school. Am I showing respect to my husband by dropping the subject and teaching them what I can when they are out of school for sick days and vacations? How can I get my husband to understand how badly I want to do this?

Answer:

I believe that God inspires us, and if you feel a passion for wanting to homeschool, I think that feeling comes from God and you will be blessed if you follow it. It will take courage, but the results will be amazingly wonderful! I am so thankful—so very, very thankful that I homeschool!

How to convince your husband? Well, it depends on what type of a man he is. If you do the research, read things, find statistics for positive results of homeschooling (such as the fact that many of the National Spelling Bee winners were homeschooled, or that more homeschoolers per capita graduate from college and make more money, etc.), will he listen to reason? If you sincerely express your heartfelt feelings and do all you can to be a good, loving, attentive wife, will he want to honor your feelings and allow you your desire? Study out the best approach and patiently go about it, not trying to rush him, just trying to gently win him over. Discuss his concerns and fears and see if you can find a way to quell them. They are his children, too, and he wants them to have the best opportunity.

There is a lot of negative research that shows how awful public school is. I think mucking in the negative is not the right approach. I would rather emphasize the incredible results of homeschooling, the family unity, the smooth sailing during teen years, the love of learning that is ignited in homeschooled children. There is much that you can focus on that is excellent and uplifting.

“Dropping the subject and then trying to teach them when they are out of school for sick days and vacations” does not seem like a good way to honor your husband. It seems like a good way to make your children resent the fact that they have to go to school, plus spend their “time off” in school too! You will bring honor to your husband when your children grow upright, educated and respectful through your diligent teaching and mothering.

How to convince family members? I don’t think there is a need. Please God and be true to yourself. That is all anyone can do. You will never make everyone happy. Besides, even the most critical family members cannot ignore good results, and as your children grow into educated, sensitive, caring, good citizens, some of those critics will become your loyal supporters. The best way I have found to deal with family criticism is just to carry on, be loving with them, and debate it as little as possible. Understand that they care, and just want the best for you, and mean well. They speak out of love, generally. So take their remarks as if they had expressed love, and don’t discuss homeschooling pros and cons with them. Set your own boundary of self-respect—not allowing them to delve into the whys and wherefores. You won’t convince them with words, but “the proof is in the pudding” and when they see your children changing, becoming more mannerly, more respectful, and excited about learning, you won’t have to try to convince anyone.

And, above all, pray! There is a lot of power in consistent prayer.

I want to tell you about my friend. Her husband was dead set against homeschooling, and she yearned to do it so much. She left homeschooling articles on the coffee table. She dropped hints. She pleaded and begged. She cried. She was silent. She tried to do summer school and Christmas vacation school with her kids. Finally, she and I decided to pray every day consistently about softening her husband’s heart. She also determined to fast once a week asking God to touch her husband. Her husband did not know why she was fasting, nor did he know about our prayers. After 3 weeks, her husband was sitting in the living room reading the newspaper one evening while she fixed dinner. Suddenly, he folded the newspaper and said, “Okay, just go ahead and homeschool!”. He said it in a rather irritated tone, as if his conscience had been nagging him. She didn’t care what tone of voice he used—she was just thrilled to have his permission!

Be persistent in your prayers, and prepare yourself to homeschool. Get your school area set up, gather your books and supplies, decorate a bulletin board or a space on the wall. Make school look very fun!  If you intend to teach a science unit on lizards, decorate with a toy lizard and some pictures. Get library books on lizards and let the kids look through them. Go forth getting ready with enthusiasm. If your husband asks about it, say you are exercising faith. Put trust in the fact hat God loves you and your husband loves you and they both want you to have the desire of your heart. Be upbeat and positive about it. It is hard to stop a happy, energetic attempt at doing good.

Best success!

 

A Plea to Homeschoolers: Do it!

“I hear you are one who really does homeschool”, someone in my community told me in a casual conversation.

“Oh, really?”, I replied. “How do you know?”

“Because Vi told me you do it,” she returned.

“How does Vi know?” I asked.

“Because she’s your neighbor. She should know.”

“Well, I don’t know how”, I laughed. “She sure hasn’t come to sit in on my homeschool!”

This conversation left me disturbed and pondering. It brought to mind a similar conversation three years earlier when an acquaintance introduced me to her visiting mother. “She’s one who really does homeschool”, she had said to her mother in reference to me. When I asked her what she meant by that, she explained, “Everyone that I know that homeschools really doesn’t do it. They just take their kids out of school and then don’t teach them. I guess they use them for babysitters or to do their housework. Or maybe they think they will teach them but never get around to it.”

This woman was a very nonjudgmental person and it surprised me to hear her make such a statement. Of course, I felt defensive! I felt like coming to bat for all my fellow homeschoolers. Then I looked around and realized that her experience with other homeschoolers had certainly formed her opinion. She had seen homeschooled children at church, not able to read at eight, nine and ten years old.

Mothers, may I plead with you to do it! If you choose to homeschool, make the commitment to be devoted to making sure your children get a better education than they could get at public school. This type of devotion means that homeschooling must take priority over the phone, drop-in visitors, meetings, appointments, personal projects and housekeeping at least for a few hours everyday. My purpose in homeschooling is to ensure that my children are taught the truth. At the current moment, there is not a lot of truth being taught in the public school. If there were, it may be a good option. But if my own efforts to teach my children are so lacking priority that I cannot help them learn to read until it has become a burden and an embarrassment to them, then I will contribute to the bad name that homeschooling has become to many.

Yes, homeschooling is a tremendous task! It takes the best of what I have to give every single day. It keeps me from doing much shopping, cleaning house and socializing. But I feel so very blessed to be very good friends with my children and to be the one to give them the keys to understanding their life. Education is a marvelous liberator! When you teach a child to read or do math or in any other way to make sense of things, particularly with a Christian perspective, you give a precious gift. In the process, you become soul-mates. Enjoy that blessed opportunity!