Thursday, February 20, 2014

what they didn't say: on teaching at home

It'll be fun, they said.

You'll get to be with them all day long, they said.

Shape their little minds, they said.

It'll be so rewarding, they said.

I field so many questions from my friends about homeschooling, mostly because we married and had kids really young and I have about five more years of parenting under my proverbial belt than most of my peers. 

How does it work? (It works as hard as you work)

What do you use? (every brain cell I possess)

When should I start? (you started teaching your child the day you birthed him)

Do you distrust public education? (um, no, I envy that option many days and admire people who pour their lives out, underpaid and overworked)

It is a privilege to teach our children and we love this opportunity.  For our family, the rewards and benefits far outweigh  the work load, the burden, the difficulties.  But shame on me if I sugar coat the reality of hanging out the school shingle on the front door of your little house.

It's a good thing I counted the cost before I started because if I were counting on the glowing promises of what they said I would have quit teaching on Jacob's third day of kindergarten.

Homeschooling proponents raise visions of cozy library corners, energizing, engaging science experiments over the kitchen counter, throwing some laundry in while your kids do math tests (ah! multitasking at its finest!), the freedom to instill character and values.  They tout flexibility and movement and room to breathe and time for the individual attention so necessary for a child to achieve success. 

With reviews like that, who wouldn't be interested?

And people are interested.  Dissatisfied with a mass production approach to education, many are intrigued by the success and seeming ease of choosing a curriculum and following an educational path at home.  With Monday-Friday, 9-5 workforce demographics rapidly changing as employers grow more flexible and employees work unconventional hours (and from home), homeschooling can seem like an apple ripe for the picking.

Count the cost before you pick the apple. 

It's not a light decision to take your children's education into your trembling hands. 

Teach them character?  That's a nice idea:  the main teacher of that will be you.  With your life.  You just signed up to be the major influence on their value system.  How's your value system?

Are you grumpy?

They will be crabby.

Are you unmotivated?

They'll be lazy.

Do you dislike and avoid art?

They'll never know what it is to create beauty with their own hands.

Who you are will be mirrored in your students.

What you love is what you'll emphasize.

When you teach those little people, their eyes see who you are on Saturday and Sunday, too, and after 3 pm, and before you start teaching in the morning.  They see all of you. 

That kind of transparency can be good. It can be bad.  It can be ugly and beautiful all in the space of an hour. 

So here's a little list of what they don't say.

They don't say:

You'll wake up every morning with the burden of your children's education resting in your hands.

You'll have to spend as much time sorting out disputes and arguments and attitudes as you do teaching.

You'll find any shred of flexibility you had stretched far beyond what you thought your limits were.

You won't be able to finish a sentence because your toddler will have a catastrophe or your washing machine starts overflowing: though you're teaching, you aren't in school.

When you hang up your teaching hat, exhausted, your mom hat is right there waiting and sometimes you feel utterly spent and too tired to put it on.

They don't tell you:

You'll be teaching about respiration and lungs and airways and the diaphragm and then you'll be interrupted with a howl because the two year old pulled the unsuspecting six year old's hair.  You'll hypothetically discipline the two year old, who will then proceed to throw his crayola marker, bright pink inky side down, into the cream colored carpet.  Then you'll deal with that and turn back to the diaphragm. But by then you'll feel like your own airway might be blocked.

You have to be okay with your home littered with crayons, paper shreds, art supplies, pencils, piles of books, in a constant treadmill of shelving and unshelving your little ones' education. 

They don't tell you how inadequate you'll feel, how little actual support you'll get, how lonely you can be as a woman: it's sometimes difficult to explain why you're working a full time job that generates zero dollars.

They don't tell you about the sheer work volume, how self motivated you need to be: you are the boss of you.  You decide your hours, you're as free as a breeze with one massive caveat:  your children's educational success or failure is your employee evaluation and that's a stunning burden to carry.  No one tells you how heavy that burden is.

Why would they?

The truth, the agony, the loneliness, the monotony- why would anyone want to sign up for that? No one would.

And as with many choices in life, the rewards outweigh the pain.

So we choose to remember sweaty hands grasping first pencils and warm little bodies snuggled up against us on the couch, lisping first words and then sentences and then books, the math reward lunches, the lack of homework in the evenings since we've already accomplished it, the joy of watching the lightbulb moments of our own children, the stretching of our own minds as we teach theirs.

But if you're considering reaping the rewards, it's important to count the cost.

It is not easy.

It is 3% fun and 97% labor.

It is surely the hardest and most demanding task of my life.

I am absolutely giving it my all.

Wherever you are, be all there.
Jim Elliot
. . .and while He gives me breath, I will tell only the truth.
Job 27: 3-4
Jesus said,
No procrastination.
No backward looks.
You can't put God's kingdom off till tomorrow.
Seize the day.
Luke 9:62 The Message

Monday, February 17, 2014

Notes From a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider

Any book with an entire appendix on how Dave Ramsey changed the author's life story will get some attention from me. 

Take a subject that I can't get enough of: the art of living intentionally in a chaotic world and add beautifully written brief - yet - deep chapters on things I struggle to keep simple: work, food, education, travel, entertainment, revival, and I'm definitely interested.

Tsh Oxenreider writes about how much is enough, why it's so hard to develop relationships in America, her longing for the slower pace of other cultures, and why boredom for children is so tragic and unnecessary.  She brings the unique perspective world travel gives to the frenetic American conundrum of full lives and empty spirits, with practical ways to avoid succumbing to the chaos.

My only hesitation with the simple living, fair trade chocolate, ride your bike everywhere movement is that sometimes it can isolate us from the people God calls us to reach here in our own weary, overworked and under-loved culture.  Sometimes living simply to me means not slow food, but  mixing up some refined white flour pancakes (dotted with chocolate chips from Aldi) for lunch + very fake maple syrup for a snow day with friends. 

Fair trade chocolate aside,  I appreciated the encouragement to be intentional and drink in life with my little ones.  Beautiful book!

I received this book for free from BookLook.  I was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

if i were to title memoirs. . .

that title would change from day to day.

On Monday:

It's Okay For Mommy to go Potty By Herself: and other things I'm surprised to hear myself say aloud

On Tuesday:

Missing My Daughter's Piano Lessons (thoughts on inadequacy)


If You Don't Want Messes, Don't Have Children

And definitely don't try discipleship.

Did you know that trying to disciple someone into a mini-me is a really destructive idea?  I am learning this always the hard way with my children, with others.  I am flawed, I am frail; Christ is not.   It's people we're talking about, souls, and it's just not that clean and neat.  I want results, He wants surrender.  I want tidy, clean, neat.  He isn't afraid to break the clay and start over again.

Before and After.

Then and Now.

Mess to Success.

This is a fine and preferred approach when conquering inanimate objects:  The dishes, my fourteen hundred laundry piles, a disaster zone, a 30k income property.  It is about me and my work ethic, what I want in return for my time, return on investment and ultimately making my life easier.

Result oriented, pressure driven, watch me and copy me spiritual discipling breaks down when working with people in the real world. 

If we don't see quick results, then there's assumed failure, leading to blame: is it my failure or yours?

If we pressure behavior change without caring about motives, we will see a wide spectrum of response: people pleasing (which will last while you are visible to please or while your mentee wants to please you), frustration (because behavior modification never solved the root of any problem), or sheer refusal to cooperate. 

And copy and paste me discipleship is one of the most disillusioning styles because we all are human, prone to wander and quick to stumble; it's only a matter of time before a protege sees the flaws of an instructor.

When I'm reaching for the heart and not results, my questions and expectations change.

How can I serve you now? 

How can we equip you to use your gifts?

What are your gifts?

What is your fear right now?

What does God want you to do?

Yes, I have time for you. . .

What's keeping you from following now?

And don't follow me, don't copy me. Oh no,  me with the quick tongue and regretted words and passionate debater, me with the endless string of failures and frustrating inadequacies. 

Follow Him, perfect, wise, sacrificial example of perfect love, humble, servant, compassionate, healer, friend, justice personified.   It's hard to fail copying that stuff.

Thoughts I'm loving on discipleship and loving people:

"Keep your eyes on Jesus, Who both began and finished this race we're in.  Study how He did it.
Because He never lost sight of where He was headed. . ."
Hebrews 12:2 the Message
"It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision."
Helen Keller
[wildly paraphrasing Tim Keller from his message "A Tale of Two Cities"]
good art is creating a culture that encourages life
One of the stunning lessons of the Bible is God's free use of fragile human beings
to accomplish His purpose.
Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus
The church  must pursue reconciliation as well. . . .[but] we are not the reconciler; Jesus is.
Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts
"You can measure the character of a man by the size of the things that make him angry."
Dr. Lynn Anderson, They Smell Like Sheep
[on positive reinforcement]
Make it meaningful.
Be specific.
Make it timely: catch 'em in the act.
Keep it free of criticism.
Mark Murphy, Hundred Percenters