Friday, June 21, 2013

3 Perspectives on Schooling: Homeschooling, Public School, Christian School

The calculator I had to buy in middle school. It's still ticking :)
One of my favorite websites, The Gospel Coalition, did a little series on how Christians how are choosing to educate their children: homeschool, public school, and Christian school. All 3 blog posts (written by 3 different moms) give gracious responses. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of holes I (and probably you) could blow in each of these posts, but I appreciate the gracious tone and the intentionality which is something that is missing in a lot of conversations of about schooling. I know some of you are young parents reading this and are trying to decide what schooling would be most appropriate to your family. Perhaps this will help aid in your discussion? 

If you know my family or have been following my blog, you know that I grew up in public school and my husband did both Christian school (K-8) and homeschool (9-12) and we are choosing to homeschool our children. In other words, we've got a hand in every one of these blog posts, but we definitely resonate more with the homeschool article. However, I would love to hear a response from YOU! Please read these short blog posts and share your thoughts (just keep them civil!). 

Homeward Bound

"A big question that is usually raised with homeschooling is, "What about socialization?" Our family has no desire to be isolationists "protecting" our children from the outside world, and our children enjoy plenty of social interaction. We participate in a co-op that meets for half a day, one time a week with kids all about the same age. We have a network of many families that keep each other informed of field trips, lake days, or time at the park with friends. We are also involved in swimming, flag football, Boy Scouts, music, and church.
There are so many opportunities for interaction outside our family that we really have to guard our time. Our six children have many opportunities to deal with each other's uniqueness and diversity, as well as that of many other families we interact with on a regular basis—families whose kids are schooled at home, privately, or publicly."

Going Public

"I should note that we did not send our children to public school to be "salt and light." We sent them to public school to receive an education. We did not try to strategically position our kids as miniature missionaries in their kindergarten class.
We believe children love to learn if their parents love to learn.
If the public school mom stereotype is unsavory, it pales in comparison to that of the public school student: a drug-marinated, Halo-playing, sailor-mouthed charmer clinging to a 2.0 in theater tech. That child does not live in our home. Though our children's formal education happens in a school building, it is enriched at home. Jeff and I are dorks who work crosswords together and read classic literature together and enjoy logic puzzles and the math of a card trick and the chemistry of baking and the physics of a game of pool and the biology of gardening. We became dorks because our parents were dorks. Our kids are dorks, too (sorry, kids). They are self-motivated and active learners, which has allowed them to flourish in public school regardless of whether they get the PhD or the PE coach for their language arts teacher. Parents set the educational climate for their children. If you are not the stereotypical public school parent, your child will probably not be the stereotypical public school student."

A Private Enterprise

"We, as parents, are ultimately responsible for the discipleship of our children. While it is good to employ help in this calling, the ownership remains on mom and dad. Most homeschooling families naturally assume this responsibility, and most Christian families who send their children to public school do so recognizing that a Christian worldview will only be learned at home and church. In a way, public school families are the most likely to have their "eyes wide open." Unfortunately, it can be tempting for Christian school parents to assume that Christian teachers and Christian peers will take care of discipling our children. If children are learning Bible and memorizing Scripture at school, this doesn't allow us as parents to neglect to read and study Scripture at home together as a family. I know that when I am feeling weary, I can be tempted to neglect these things with my children, justifying it because they are getting them at school."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On the Hook: Life's Real Education Through Parents

Ever since I started being a homeschool-mom-insurance-agent, I've been trying to look for more ways to present myself as a professional. One of the first places I started was joining LinkedIn. My thought was that people who know me or who are a least an acquaintance would now see that I could answer parenting and education questions while we waited for a homeowner's quote to load. I've actually had several moms call me about insurance, and us end up talking about kids and school for an hour or more.

Due to the nature of my LinkedIn profile and LinkedIn's inherent reason for existence, I get a lot of business and leadership articles in my e-mail box. About 3/4 of them never apply because I'm not trying to climb a corporate ladder (though the lint-covered one in our garage is very tall). However, today one headline caught my attention -- "Don't Work with Jerks". I agreed with the statement, so I clicked it.

What I found was an short, insightful article that mingled leadership skills, memoir, and the idea of respect. At the root of all those things? Being consistently present for our children in the big and little things in life. It was evident, as this was a Father's Day post, that she gleaned a lot from her father's strong, constant example.          

Here's a good snippet: 
"When I look back on my childhood and young adult years, in addition to all the tips and lessons my dad taught me, one of the things I remember so clearly is that he was always there. He showed his love for me and his appreciation for the things I did by showing up to support me. Even in the middle of a work day, if I had an important event, my dad was almost always there... 
When I reflect on it, I am struck by how present my dad has always been in my life. I think about this now with my own children and try hard to make sure they have the same feeling about me – that I care enough about them to be there for the events that have meaning for them. I, too, will often leave in the middle of a work day to be at their important events or even to take them to the orthodontist and other everyday activities, all so they know I am present."
When I read this it made me think of the scene in Hook where Jack's workaholic dad (played by Robin Williams) shows up for his big baseball game right as everyone's going home. Another broken promise. The emotional rift between Jack and Peter (after so many of those broken promises) sets up the main plot of the story showing a tough road for reconciliation. I know many moms and dads who don't fit the stereotype of the "gotta have success at any cost" but rather fall into the "everyone's depending on me" or "I can't delegate because it won't get done right"motif. No matter which way you slice it though, someone's paying the cost. Sadly, I've discovered this the hard way while trying to juggle the upstart part of training and executing insurance sales solo even when I only have a handful of policies to maintain.     

I know that many of you out there are like me, thinking many of education's problems could be solved by having more involved parents at home. This woman's article clearly showed that the most important part of her life's education came from her "atmosphere" -- that which was modeled by committed parents. 

Now, if you want to play devil's advocate... I am also aware that some parents (and grandparents) can take this idea to the extreme by pushing their kids too hard in their extracurricular activities instead of guarding their family time wisely or missing church and fellowship with other believers for a whole season so they can get in on the Little League action. I don't think that's at all what she's espousing, but it's good to remember any idea can go too far in either direction.

What examples have you seen that follow the author's idea of intentional parenting or perhaps that have gone too far the other directions (not involved or too involved)?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Video Interview: The Value of a Liberal Arts Degree

Here's an excellent interview from Uncommon Knowledge about the worth of a liberal arts degree. Both men being interviewed are writers for some of the top publications in the country as well as being prolific authors. Both men admit that their college transcripts were "monuments to mediocrity" and that had they chosen another degree they might be wealthier, but the the role their liberal arts degree played in their lives is unmistakable.

In an interesting turn, they say what passes for liberal arts now ain't your daddy's liberal arts -- it's been altered and changed so much since the 1970's, yet they believe there's hope.  

Great quote: 
"Real learning is not about the quick response, but almost all of education is..." 

He says real learning takes brooding, toying around with an idea, making mistakes, yet most of the time education is "give me a bullet list of reasons" right now! If you can't perform on command you're considered a dope.  

If you've got 30 minutes you ought to watch this interview on the value of liberal arts in a society like today's that undervalues it so much.     

If you have MORE than thirty minutes to kill, I suggest you go to the Hoover Institution and watch more of the interviews they have to offer.

Friday, June 7, 2013

One Generation to the Next: Reflections on Fatherhood

Editor's Note: It should go without saying that fathers and father-figures are a large part of our life's education. Be please be encouraged and challenged by Justin's Father's Day article for Disciple Magazine.    

Justin with his cameras and his girls
One Generation to the Next: Reflections on Fatherhood

             On Father’s Day next month, many churches will take time to honor dads with a few words of praise, maybe an exhortation to love their wives and children, and perhaps a small gift (our church has all the children come up to the front to get Little Debbie snack cakes to pass out to dads in the congregation). It’s traditional and fun, but often rings hollow in the face of the real challenges of fatherhood and the full-on cultural assault on dad’s role in the family.
            How many churches, I wonder, will spend any Sundays this year, even Father’s Day, speaking hard truths about the state of parenting in their congregations or urging fathers to joyfully fulfill their calling according to God’s Word?
            The world runs rampant with fatherlessness. Just look around to see the pain that causes in millions of homes, not to mention the social crises festering for want of dads to help children grow up into nobility and virtue. It is also possible—whether from working long hours, addiction to hobbies, or simply “checking out” through television, gaming, or social media—for children to be practical orphans even with a father in the home. As a friend of mine put it, what good is providing for your family if you don’t provide them with your presence? The film and sitcom stereotype of dad as a buffoonish overgrown child (or anything but a thoughtful provider and leader) has far too much cultural traction. If the Church is to effectively speak to these problems and work for healing, then we need to expand our vision of what it means to be a father and equip our men to rise to the challenge.
            Let me be the first to admit that I do not (and don’t expect to) have fatherhood figured out. This year’s Father’s Day is only the fourth observed on my watch, and I wrestle daily with how to be disciplinarian, disciple-maker, and dad to my two daughters. Even so, Scripture has a lot to say to fathers, and it goes far deeper than teaching them how to provide for one’s family or how to smile after receiving that seventeenth mismatched tie or “World’s Greatest Dad” mug. We need to rediscover and celebrate what it means to be a God-honoring father.

I. Father as Image-Bearer

            Nothing puts greater fear in my heart when thinking about being called “father” than the realization that I share that title with God Almighty. On good days, I rejoice at the privilege and responsibility of modeling for my children attributes of my Father and theirs: providing, protecting, disciplining, forgiving, and reflecting the wonder of the Trinity by loving their mother well. On bad days, I quake at the manifold blasphemies my bad example to them perpetrates. Most days, the struggle is on as I see the failures, but strive against them and long for the strength to do better.
            If that were the end of it, fatherhood would result in despair for even the best of dads. Mercifully, the Father who made us and entrusted our children to us has a Son of His own: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth…. No one has seen God at any time, the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:14, 18). When I fail to measure up to the Father’s standard, the best service I can offer my children is to bow before the Son in repentance, leaning wholly on His grace.
            Unless my children see me in as great need of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice as they are, even my “successes” as a parent will only condemn. After all, the writer of Hebrews points out that we as earthly fathers are but a shadow of the real One—we discipline “for a short time as [seems] best to [us], but He disciplines us for our Good so that we may share His holiness” (Heb. 12:10). We are always to point to Him, never stealing His glory, but magnifying it even in our frailty.

II. Father as Storyteller

            The bedtime story is a touchstone, perhaps because it evokes the key role that dads have as the “myth-makers” of a child’s world. The Lord entrusts us with the tremendous task of shaping their understanding of Himself and telling and re-telling the story of His work in the creation, fall, redemption, and consummation of the world.
            Twice in preparing His chosen people for their escape from Egypt, God gives instructions to fathers to explain the significance of the celebrations commemorating His mighty deliverance. “And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when he smote the Egyptians but spared our homes’” (Ex. 12:26-27). “You shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt’” (Ex. 13:8). The memory of the Lord’s work must be passed on to each generation. “We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord and His strength and the wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our Fathers that they should teach them to their children” (Ps. 78:4-5).
            You children are watching and listening to you to make sense of their world. The stories you tell, by your words and by your choices, will do more than any other influences to form their perceptions of reality. Are you telling the right ones?

A letter from our oldest daughter to our youngest daughter
III. Father as Educator

           In addition to myth-making, we are to be our children’s schoolmasters. This is another side of the same coin, the instructive counterpoint to the imaginative story. In Deuteronomy 6, after the Lord gave His commandments to Israel a second time (after the failure of the first generation to heed them), He charges parents to keep the next generation from forgetting. “You shall teach them diligently to your sons, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut. 6:7-9).
            Such an all-encompassing call the teach God’s truth in every circumstance is a necessary corrective to the allure of the world. Satan longs to snatch our children from God’s family, and the Lord entrusts fathers with defending them through what Paul calls “the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). He does not tell us to oversee or delegate this responsibility, but to carry it out ourselves. Whatever decisions you make for the education of your children, remember this: no teacher, counselor, or youth pastor can capture your child’s heart and mind like you do, and God has not given them the mandate to teach His Word and ways to your children. At the end of the day, this is your responsibility, and God will hold you accountable for it.
            Of course, how we teach matters as much as what we teach. In that same verse in Ephesians, Paul tells us not to “provoke [our] children to anger.” In a parallel passage, he writes, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart” (Col. 3:21). As we train up our children, we should shower them with love and encouragement, making certain to show them often that serve and discipline them from gratitude to our Father for His grace given to us.


            These passages all share the theme that being a dad is a high calling and a full-time job. Christian fatherhood is about so much more (though certainly not less) than showing up at ballgames, playing with your kids, or even keeping your family involved in church. As fathers, we need to see clearly the Lord’s design for us as His image-bearers, storytellers, and educators. This family vision should be the bedrock on which all the daily details of raising your children is built. It must be embraced by dads—if it comes from your church, your wife, your school, or even your parents without your buy-in, your family will struggle in its mission to glorify God and reflect His character.
            What about homes with no dad in the picture or families with a father whose sins have scarred and embittered them? The Lord’s plan doesn’t change in the face of sin; in fact, the reality of sin is what informs most of a father’s calling. These truths should never be reduced to greeting card boilerplate, but pursued in such a way that churches built on the foundation of godly husbands and fathers become the most natural place for hurting families to turn. The Church’s responsibility to the fatherless and the widow goes beyond providing for their physical needs, but lovingly restoring to them the spiritual leadership they’ve lost.
            What is the cost of losing sight of this vision, of putting other desires and plans above God’s design? Hear what the Israelites sang after returning to Jerusalem from exile. “For our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers have not kept Your law or paid attention to Your commandments and Your admonishments with which You have admonished them…. Behold we are slaves today, and as to the land which You gave to our fathers to eat of its fruit and its bounty, behold we are slaves in it. Its abundant produce is for the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins…” (Neh. 9:34, 36-37). Godly fathers equip their children obey the Lord and enjoy the freedom that comes from that. Abdication of that responsibility paves a rough road for children, opening wide the door to sin’s bondage. The stakes are high, but God’s grace is great. It is our joyful task to “man up” and prepare our children to praise His name, one generation to the next.

Justin Lonas is editor of Disciple Magazine for AMG International.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Talkin' 'Bout My Education: Natasha Buckler

We're taking a break from Europe this month and coming back to Tennessee. This month's post in my monthly series on personal experiences in education, comes from a Bryan College classmate, Natasha Buckler. The two of us had many English and education classes together and let me tell you, she is serious about her Brit Lit. I am very glad to offer you a post from her blog, titled "7 Steps To a Writer's Education". I know we can all point to books that have shaped our thinking, and for some of us wannabe writers, hopefully that have shaped the words coming out on our blogs! 

Enjoy Natasha's insights on the life of and musings of a writer:      
"The best way to learn to write is to read extensively. There’s something about words on a page, and reading how those words sound together, that is magical. I’m currently reading Matthew Pearl’s literary mystery The Dante Club, and I revel in the obvious appreciation that this writer has for not only Dante and his epic poem, but also for the Fireside Poets of American literature. Tenuous connections, indeed, but nevertheless vibrating with life and a resonating love of great literature. 
Confronted, then, with this particular author’s treatment of older literature, I desired to compile a list of those novels/short stories/poems that I have found most beneficial in my own literary journey. 
1. A Tale of Two Cities and Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens. Ok, so this may be cheating–counting two novels as one influence–but these are the only historical novels that Dickens produced. The subject matter (18th century revolutions/uprisings) bears directly upon my own novel-in-progress, but the stories themselves are colored by my emotional response to them. The characters have become friends; I know what to expect of them, and that solidity, that trustworthy quality, transcends the ever-changing quality of my own life. 
2. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. A simply stunning meditation on what it means to be a writer. Dillard creates magic with words, transforming a “how-to” book on writing into art itself. Dillard’s prose approaches the poetic, but she never fails to provide that encouragement which means so much to the solitary writer languishing over a draft or revision. 
3. Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and Manfred by Lord Byron. The penultimate bad-boy of literature, Byron proves instructive in the art of verbal seduction. Now, I don’t refer to sexual overtures or overtones–though those certainly come through in his poems–but instead to his profound ability to communicate human emotion in beautiful language. Isn’t this the essence of good writing? 
4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. The use of the first-person narrator makes this novel a spectacular study, not to mention it is a female bildungsroman–the development of a female soul. The Gothic/Romantic traits simply make it even more appealing. 
5. The Iliad by Homer. I admit that I enjoy The Iliad as much as, if not more than, The Odyssey. No, it’s not necessarily light or fun reading, but the issues of war, love, and loss still retain their hold upon our own society. Too bad there’s more Agamemnons than Hectors. . . 
6Shakespeare. The genius wrote so many plays and poems, how can I single one out as the most influential? His understanding of humanity, and the sins and virtues that plague us, make him essential to a writer’s understanding of character.
7. The Bible. Despite holding all of the facets of my beliefs, it contains some of the best plotlines in all of literature, not to mention poetry and stories. The Scriptures provide not only moral guidance and truth, but inspiration for the creative writer. 
So there you have it: seven pieces of literature that have influenced my own development as a writer. These works have contributed something to my own soul, but perhaps more importantly, they have cultivated the love for written words–for language–which must lie within the creative writer."
What books would you put on your list? 

To Kill a Mockingbird would make the top of the list. Every time I see a red geranium I always think of Mayella Ewell... Such a powerful analogy.