Tuesday, October 28, 2014

According to the Pattern

“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.  Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.” (Exodus 25:8-9)

There is probably no better subject for sparking controversy these days than "art" as expressed in pictures and sculptures.  Even among Christians there seems to be serious disagreement about what true art is, what are the standards for art, and whether Christians should be involved in art at all.

It may be tempting for homeschooling parents to ignore the whole problem by either avoiding art altogether or simply doing the "exposure" thing — show your kids a lot of famous art and let them figure out the rest. 

But Christian parents are called to something higher than that.  God Himself commanded beautiful and skillful art for the tabernacle and temple. Art makes a major impact on our culture.  At least a rudimentary knowledge of the arts is desirable in training a child to be a person of godly influence when he grows up.  

First, let’s define our terms.  "The arts" refers collectively to things like pictures, movies, photography, music and sometimes architecture.  "Visual Art" usually refers more specifically to something illustrative or decorative, usually a painting, drawing, or sculpture.  In this article I will be focusing on visual art, rather than all of the arts. 

Visual art is more than simple creativity.  A true work of art requires some skill and talent. It usually conveys a message, however vague, that sparks emotions.  And generally, good art is understandable and therefore enduring.  A chair spattered with paint might be creative, but it requires little skill and no talent.  It conveys no understandable message (beyond a klutzy painter) and rarely sparks emotions other than confusion.  Furthermore, spattered chairs (and other modern examples of so-called "art") are hardly ever enduring.

So what are the biblical standards for art?  

Are there any? 

Yes, indeed!  Nearly every artist you talk to will tell you that they want their art to inspire their audience to think about something.  The Bible is very clear about what we should be thinking on.  "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things."  (Philippians 4:8)  That’s pretty comprehensive!

A painting of a hideous, unreal scene is neither true nor lovely.  Statues or paintings that are obscene or immodest are neither excellent nor praiseworthy.  When we start applying these biblical adverbs to art, it quickly becomes apparent what is good and what is not.

"But wait," someone will say.  "The Bible talks about sin and suffering too — that falls in the category of 'true.'  A painting of a naked person or a dead animal is true and conveys the fallenness of our world."

That is a valid point.  But we must keep something in mind.  While any unsaved person can see and convey the consequences of sin in our world, only a Christian can see the big picture of ultimate salvation and redemption for all who will trust in Christ.  We have been given the Great Commission to share this big picture.  Therefore, it is a Christian’s responsibility to show not only the hopelessness of sin, but also the hope of salvation.  When we create or immerse ourselves in art that only focuses on sin — a naked person — or only focuses on suffering — a dead animal — we are leaving out the punch line, the end of the story.  We are leaving out the gospel.

So let’s make this practical.  How does a Mom or Dad who knows little about art teach this important subject in a way that is godly?

First, children should be exposed to art that is good.  This means not only good content, but technical excellence as well.  In our city, the Bob Jones Museum and Gallery has many well-recognized, biblical and beautiful paintings.  Our city art museum also sometimes has displays of great works of art (though we have to use judgment as to which exhibits are appropriate).  Every area of the country has some good art museums and exhibits.  On your vacations, check out art museums in the areas you are visiting.  Let your children see the enduring, "the greats."

We also collected a few of those big beautiful picture books of art. Some were the works of one artist, others were compilations of an era or genre. This made it easy for us to look up questions we had about art in general or great artists in particular.

Teach your children how to discern good art based on biblical principles.  My parents never let us see obscene or disturbing art when we were young (and we still avoid it if possible), but they did let us see some of the silly and pointless modern "art."  They helped us to understand the futile thinking that prompted these so-called artists to chop up a block of wood and pompously name it "Lost."  They showed us the pointlessness of sticking up some slabs of metal to supposedly illustrate "dynamic spatial interaction."  And they also helped us to analyze famous works from good artists, pointing out techniques that show beauty and truth. 

We learned to think through questions like, how does the artist use this painting to make me sad about, say, the crucifixion of Christ? How does this sculpture of a soldier show action even though it is technically static and lifeless? What is the artist purposely leaving out - and leaving in - his message to us?

Help your children to become skillful in their artistic creativity.  Not everyone has artistic talent.  But everyone can attain some degree of technical excellence. If nothing else, the experience of trying to create good art will help your children appreciate the hard work and dedication of other artists.

Young children can simply be encouraged to have fun with finger paints, play dough, and paint-by-numbers.  As children grow up they can be taught to consider things like realism, perspective, and color combinations.  Basic art training can then be a jumping-off point for applications in "the arts" — things like calligraphy, stenciling, pottery, photography, painting and scrapbooking.

The world looks on art as a selfish pursuit.  "I’m just expressing myself!"  But a Christian knows better.  Nothing, not even art, should be done selfishly.

Instead, we are to do everything for the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31).  A picture is worth a thousand words. Parents would be wise to teach their children how to use these thousand-word statements to impact others for good.  When we create art that is according to the pattern of thinking God gives in His Word, it will glorify Him and bring people to know Him.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Samuel’s Sons

They brought the boy to Eli, and [Hannah] said to him, “As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord.  I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.  So now I give him to the Lord.  For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord…. When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel….But his sons did not walk in his ways.  They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.”   (I Samuel 1:25-28, 8:1,3)

We live in a short-sighted generation.  Just look at the signs—“Buy now, pay later!”—to see that modern Americans are experts at mortgaging the future to pay for the present.  Unfortunately, this attitude often spills over into the education of our children.

I have had many conversations with people about homeschooling versus institutional schooling.  A statement I often hear is, “Well, Jimmy has been in Christian school all his life and he was a straight-A student.  He just graduated from high school and he’s doing great!”  I do not doubt the fact that a person can be institutionally educated and still turn out to be a well-functioning, not to mention godly, individual.  But we must be careful to look not only at the short-term results, but the long-term effects of institutionalization as well.

Not Much Difference
Many studies show that rates of cultural problems such as divorce and immorality are virtually the same for the Christian community as they are for the rest of society.  If Christian schools have been doing such a wonderful job of turning out godly people, why the same rate of moral breakdown in the Christian community?  I submit to you that it is part of the long-term fruit of institutionalizing children.  When children are taken out of the home for significant periods of their childhood, they grow up with limited ideas of how a godly home operates.

The prophet Samuel gives us an illustration of this long-term cycle.  Samuel was without a doubt personally one of the most godly men in the Old Testament.  He remained a faithful prophet of God to the end of his life.  But we find that he evidently was a failure as a father.  His sons were wicked, accepting bribes and perverting justice.  Why was he a poor father?  What more godly atmosphere could you grow up in than the temple, among the priests? 

No Examples
In the pages of I Samuel we find our answer.  Samuel had no long-term example of a godly father.  Eli, though personally a good man, did an extremely poor job of raising his sons.  They were so wicked that the Bible says God put them to death.  So Samuel, growing up at the temple, had no opportunity as a child to see how a godly father operates.  Small wonder that he had trouble raising his own children.

I do not wish to say that a parent is a “victim” of how he was raised and cannot be more godly that his own parents were.  Samuel and Eli were both responsible to God for how they raised their sons.  But why purposely bring up our future fathers and mothers with a “handicap?”  All actions have consequences and we would be blind indeed if we failed to see the consequences to the family of 100 years of institutional schools.

So consider this: the local Christian school might provide good academics.  It might provide good extra-curricular activities.  It probably provides godly teachers.  It might even provide socialization with Christian children.  But does the institutional environment of a school give your children a daily, nitty-gritty, first-hand demonstration of how a godly family operates? 

God provided the family as the model educational system.  We only have to look at our Christian culture to see the fruits of tampering with His plan.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Finding Satisfaction

As I was watching our cat this morning, I suddenly had an epiphany (that means a cool new idea dawned on my feeble brain).

Our cat, Wednesday (so-named because she came into our lives on a Wednesday), had discovered a Nefarious Toothpick that had the nerve to be lying in the middle of the floor. Wednesday-Cat saw her clear duty and proceeded to trounce it. Besides jumping on it and slapping it around, Wednesday retreated around the corner so she could sneak up on the toothpick and presumably scare it out of its wooden wits. 

However, having accomplished her plan of ruthless justice upon the hapless toothpick, Wednesday did something that caused my epiphany: She flopped down beside the conquered sliver of wood with a vast sense of restful pleasure to enjoy her accomplishment.

Find satisfaction
Sometimes we forget to do this. We push and we labor and we strive and we tackle our goals with enthusiasm. But we forget that when we have reached a goal, it’s good to stop and appreciate the accomplishment. In the famous Ecclesiastes passage about how there is a time for everything, the writer says, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” (Ecc. 3:12-13) Sometimes we don’t remember to stop and “find satisfaction” in the hard work we’ve been doing.

This can be particularly true with parenting. Since parenting is a task that presumably will last for at least 18 years, it’s easy to get in the habit of always seeing the next thing to be done. Yes, Junior has learned to brush his teeth, but he’s still leaving his clothes on the floor. Later, Junior has learned to pick up his clothes, but he doesn’t remember to take out the trash. And still later, Junior takes out the trash, but doesn’t put any enthusiasm into learning his spelling words. And on it goes. Because we are all fallen human beings, there is always room for improvement. The Bible tells parents to train their children in the fear of the Lord, and there’s always more instruction that can be given.

But we need to remember the flip side of the coin. When Junior has made progress or accomplished something, he needs to hear praise and appreciation. I recently read an article by a homeschooling father who lamented the fact that his interaction with his son had always been negative – to the point where his son was surprised at his first job when his co-workers just liked him for who he was.

You can always find something
It can be a hard balance to keep, particularly if it seems that your son or daughter is currently making progress in nothing. But there are always things you can find to be encouraging about. There are always accomplishments you can “find satisfaction” in with your child. Trust me, as a music teacher who often gets to hear students struggle through music they apparently didn’t bother practicing even once, I can tell you that all you need is a little creativity to find something to praise them for!

Here are some ideas of ways you can help your child “find satisfaction” in accomplishment – and maybe even be motived to more accomplishment.

Praise them for trying hard, even if they failed. Yes, you can point out the lessons to be learned from failure, but start by praising them for giving it a try in the first place.

Thank them for showing a good character trait. 
You are kind to your sister.” 
“You are respectful to me.” 
“You have a helpful heart.” 
“You are good at organizing your art supplies.” 
“You put away your toys without being asked.”

Recognize an achievement without immediately pointing out the next hurdle. Sometimes a child just needs to be able to rest in the thought that he finished a chapter of history, not be told that he still has three more to go before the end of the week.

When pointing out flaws, note the parts of their behavior that are good. “Your handwriting is beautiful, Sally. You’ve improved it so much this year! Now let’s work on your spelling in this assignment.”

Publicly recognize their good behavior or achievements. It’s amazing how much encouragement it can be for a child to know his parents are pleased enough with him to actually talk about it to others. (And how discouraging it can be for them to hear you publicly criticizing them.)

Take time to tell them you love them and enjoy them and are proud of them. Just because. Don’t wait for golden opportunities or perfect moments. When you’re sitting in the car, when you’re at the dinner table, when you’re tucking them in bed, when you’re taking a break from unloading groceries. “Sweetie, I just want you to know I love you and am proud of you.”

Because God did
Taking the time to rest and enjoy an achievement is something that even God did when He created the earth at the dawn of time. In fact, He took a whole day out of the week to do it. So in the hustle and struggle of raising your kids this school year, don’t forget to take the time to – metaphorically speaking – flop down by your conquered toothpick! 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Institutionalized Butterflies

Our friends had two daughters.  Jane was homeschooled, but Kate was sent to Christian school.  We liked them both.  After they graduated we asked Jane why Kate had been institutionalized, rather than homeschooled like Jane.

“Oh,” she exclaimed, “Kate is such a social butterfly.  I can’t imagine her enjoying homeschooling!”

Whenever I think of that remark, I chuckle.  Having observed both girls at church, in our home, and at various social functions, I can tell you unquestionably which one was the most socially mature—homeschooled Jane!  Yep, the poor, deprived, stuck-with-her-parents girl was far more socially adept than her institutionalized sister.

Now, being a great fan of logic, I suggest we think through logically why this might be.

Kate was in an artificial, institutional setting with her same-age peers most of every week.  Her after-school activities were centered around the school or school peers.  Therefore, Kate spent most of her life between the ages of 5 and 18 with a gaggle of other kids her age who went to the same institution and did the same activities together.  The obvious consequence?

Kate only knew how to relate to peers her own age involved in her own activities!  She was a nice, friendly girl and responded when approached—but she could only talk about herself and her own little world.  She never sought out people who weren’t her peers.  The “social butterfly” just didn’t know how to relate to them.

On the other hand, Jane spent most of her life with such diverse people as her parents, her grandparents, their friends and children, her peers, and any other people you would encounter during a day spent outside an age-segregated institution.  Consequently, Jane could—and did—relate to anyone.  She was very mature for her age, could converse on many topics, and was always interested in other people—not just herself and her own world.  She made people feel special and appreciated. 

Doesn’t this make logical sense? 

Too often parents feel that their children are missing good social experiences by being homeschooled.  They don’t realize that their children are learning every day how to relate socially to the “real world,” unlike their age-segregated counterparts in artificial institutions.

I, the Humble Logician, would never dream of bragging, but I admit that during my childhood one of the comments our family often heard was how surprised people were by my sister’s and my social skills.  

“They stood there politely and talked with me!” 
“They were so articulate!”  
“I really appreciated them taking them time to talk with my little children!”

Were we incredibly gifted geniuses, born with the ability to socially relate to every person on the planet??  No, my friends.  We were simply brought up in a real-world, every-day setting where interacting with people in various walks of life, from infants to grandparents, was the norm. 

We see in the Bible that this was the way God planned children to be raised.  How better to train your children to be His emissaries to everyone around them—not just their peers?  Hmmm, I guess God must be into logic too….

Written by Heather Sheen

Monday, September 15, 2014

Items of Advice from the Oracle

Not every family is blessed by having a Great Oracle of Wisdom such as myself in their midst, but my family is lucky. I am always ready to dispense Advice and Instruction whenever I’m asked for it, and often when I’m not asked! (Isn’t that nice of me?) 

And although my Vast Talents occasionally go unappreciated by my thankless family, I have no doubt that you will appreciate the tips on homeschooling and childrearing that I, the Homeschooled Oracle, have to offer. I share these Fabulous Tidbits out of my store of Personal Experiences and Personal Observations, coupled with a Vast Stash of Truisms I learned from my Venerated Parents.

A-a-hem. Here we go.
  • Kids will be kids. But that doesn’t mean they can’t learn to act like well-behaved adults—usually at a younger age than parents give them credit for.
  • Just because an “expert” says something doesn’t automatically mean it is the only way—or even the best way—for your children to succeed. Don’t be afraid to think independently. You know your children better than the experts do.
  • Children are much more likely to remember the ice cream they had at the end of an Expensive Educational Field Trip than they are to remember anything else about it. (This pearl I share from my Personal Experience as a kid.) Unless you’re filthy rich (or you’re going on the field trip because you want to go), save the expensive field trips till the kids are old enough to truly appreciate them.
  • Your children are not you and may disagree with your opinions in many areas. But as long as they are in your home and living on your nickel, you have the right to require certain standards of dress and conduct from your children, even if they do squawk about it.
  • Just because a book is an incomprehensible “literary classic” doesn’t make your children ignorant morons forevermore if they don’t read it.
  • Kids need pets. You probably don’t need their pets, but they do.
  • Criticizing or making fun of your children in front of others is a great way to have a bad relationship. Unless you want a bad relationship, don’t do this.
  • It’s not the end of the world if your children spend the first couple weeks of school in September finishing up their books from the previous year. (Another gem from Personal Experience. Do you know how many times this happened to me? And look, I still turned out normal! Er, um, stop looking at me like that...)
  • It does no good to homeschool and shelter your children from the world if you invite the world back in through harmful books, movies, video games, TV shows, websites and bad peer influences.
  • Kids need dirt to play in. If you don’t have dirt that you’re able or willing to let them wallow in, let them grow some indoor plants from seed.
  • Include your children in your conversations with other adults. Your kids will learn a lot.
  • Homeschooling in and of itself doesn’t earn God’s special favor. What counts in God’s eyes is your heart and attitude.
  • If you value your own reputation, teach your children not to touch, taste, or handle things or explore the house uninvited when you take them into someone else’s home.
  • Kids need hugs. So do you.
  • Not every child who begs for a chemistry set is responsible enough to own one.
  • Your children’s overall behavior will usually conform to the level of your expectations. If you expect them to be rebellious little pills, they probably will be. Keep your expectations high.
  • Turn off the TV. Yes, turn it off. Really. It is possible.
  • Your children do not have to go to college immediately after high school. If they wait a year or two to and spend the time working and rounding themselves out with other valuable experiences, their lives aren’t going to come to a screeching halt.
  • Kids don’t need friends their own age nearly as much as they need to find their best friends in Mom and Dad.
  • Teach your children telephone etiquette. “Hellowhoozit?............ Hey, MOOOOOOOOOM! MOOOOOOOOM!” doesn’t cut the mustard. For safety reasons, don’t let young children answer the phone or have their voices on the voicemail recording.
  • My mom says that your life will get crazier the older your kids get. That’s a truism I trust her opinion on, even though I quite frankly don’t have any idea what she’s talking about. Do you?

  • Children do not have to grow up despising their siblings. Encourage and insist on siblings treating each other with love, kindness and respect.
  • Baking soda and vinegar experiments should take place outside.
  • If you’re indefinably uncomfortable with who your children hang out with, your gut instincts are probably right. Don’t be afraid to politely sever questionable relationships.
  • The old adage that “What you do in moderation, your children will do in excess” is usually true.
  • Take time for family fun now and then. Schedule it on the calendar if you have to.
  • Teach your sons to cook too.

And finally...
Once in awhile homeschooling is a lonely and difficult road. It’s still worth it. You’ll be glad you did it. 

I, the Oracle, hath spoken!

Written by Raquelle Sheen

Monday, September 8, 2014

Weapons From the Philistines

"Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, 'Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!' So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plowshares, mattocks, axes and sickles sharpened… So on the day of the battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand." (I Samuel 13:19-20, 22a)

This passage from Scripture tells about a time when Israel was fighting for its very existence. Nations on every side were attacking them and trying to wipe them out. So I find it quite odd that the Israelites submitted to having the Philistines be their blacksmiths. Especially when the day of battle came and the Israelites had plenty of plowshares, axes and sickles, but no swords and spears. A plowshare is a good implement for farm work, but in battle a sword is the most useful!

Why would you let your enemy be your weapons manufacturer?

That’s a question we ought to be asking ourselves today. Modern society is in a similar situation. Christians, engaged every day in spiritual warfare, think nothing of sending their children to the pagans for education. They even allow the pagans to set the standards for education. And so we are now finding ourselves in the same predicament as Israel was – no proper weapons in the day of battle. The pagans have done a good job of creating “worker bees” for the state (sort of like making axes and plowshares), but they are actively against training your children to be weapons of godly warfare.

“Wait a minute,” you might say. “That Scripture was talking about weapons. You’re talking about children. That’s two different subjects!”

Like Arrows
But I would like to remind you of another Scripture passage. “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth.” (Psalm 127:4) As you may have noticed, arrows are weapons. So God Himself says that one of our weapons against the devil’s tactics is the godly children we raise up. But how can we raise up such weapons of righteousness if we allow the enemy to be our “weapons manufacturer?”

At this point, you may be thinking, “Well, we already homeschool, so that admonition doesn’t apply to us.” If you have taken your children out of the pagan education system, good for you! But that’s just the first step.

What about your curriculum? Is it from a Christian worldview? People often think that if it’s in print, it must be right. Therefore, a non-Christian text can consciously or subconsciously influence your children’s thinking by the simple fact that it seems truthful because it’s in a book. It’s not hard to find good Christian textbooks. Go for the good stuff!

What about your entertainment? It doesn’t do much good to teach your children that lying, stealing, swearing and immorality are unbiblical if you let them read books or watch movies that are saturated with these activities. Entertainment is one of the most powerful methods of persuasion since it is often a subconscious influence. Make sure your children have plenty of good books to read. And when you do watch a movie, preview it first to check the content and worldview.

What about your friends? Your children’s peer group can have a powerful influence on their lives. A child lacks judgment to evaluate his friends’ actions. If mommy says one thing and his buddy says another, oftentimes the buddy’s view is considered the cool one. Why let your children get their value system from bad influences? Find good, godly friends of all ages for your children.

Remember, simply stopping the “Philistines” from being our “weapons manufacturer” does not solve the problem. It’s just the first step. The second step is to become proactive in manufacturing “weapons” ourselves. We can’t simply stop the bad books, friends, movies and academics. We need to actively replace these things with good books, friends, movies and academics. We need to talk with our children about how to lead godly lives. This takes a great deal of prayer for wisdom as our culture constantly bombards families with anti-Christianity.

As you fashion the arrows God has given you, think ahead to the spiritual battles they will be engaged in. Remember that the "Philistines" want us to be making axes and plowshares. But God intends for us to create weapons for His glory.

Written by Heather Sheen

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Peace In My Lifetime - Pick Your Battles?

"'The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,' Hezekiah replied.  For he thought, 'Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?'"  (II Kings 20:19)

In the long list of the kings of Judah, Hezekiah stands out as one of the few who did not do "evil in the sight of the Lord."  In fact, the story of his righteous life is quite refreshing.  I particularly like the incident of God healing him from terminal illness in response to Hezekiah’s earnest prayer.

But I have to admit, one aspect of Hezekiah’s life perplexes and disappoints me.  When King Hezekiah pridefully displayed the wealth of Judah to the envoys from Babylon, Isaiah prophesied God’s judgment on this action. "Hear the word of the Lord: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon.  Nothing will be left, says the Lord.  And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood, that will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon." (II Kings 20:16-18)

What was Hezekiah’s response to this prophecy?
What would your response be?  

If God told you your possessions and wealth would be taken by force and your children kidnapped — but not in your lifetime — what would you do?

If I had been Hezekiah, I think I would have remembered God’s mercy in performing my miraculous healing. I think I would have remembered how I humbled myself and God answered my prayer. And I think I would have once more humbled myself and asked for His mercy, this time for my children and grandchildren. Is this what Hezekiah did?

You know the story. Hezekiah replied, "The word of the Lord you have spoken is good"....For he thought, "Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?"  He cared more for a peaceful life than he did for his children and grandchildren’s future!

Okay, you say.  How does this apply to homeschoolers?  After all, if we cared more about "peace" than our children’s future, we wouldn’t be homeschooling!

That’s absolutely true.  And yet, I wonder if we don’t sometimes make Hezekiah’s mistake in a more subtle way.  Have you ever heard, or made, these remarks?

  • "I don’t really like Jimmy’s outfit either, but you have to pick your battles.  I let him do what he wants with his clothes as long as he doesn’t fight me about school work."  
  • "Sandy won’t clean her room, so I said, 'Fine! Live in a pig sty then!  Just keep your bedroom door closed!'"  
  • "My daughter just wouldn’t practice piano so I figured we might as well quit lessons."  
  • "If you two kids are going to fight all day, then go outside where I don’t have to hear it!"

Sound familiar?

Peace Now, Consequences Later
We are all busy and it is often so much easier to opt for peace now, and the heck with the consequences in our children’s future lives.  If we can just get through the day, make it to co-op on time, and have a passing score on the tests, we count it a minor victory.  But God has called us to do more than simply chauffeur, grade tests, and fix dinner.  We are to be actively, all the time, training our children in godly character. Sometimes we forfeit temporary "peace" during that process. Sometimes it seems like we’re always having to discipline. Sometimes we’d just rather doggone well do something besides train the kids.  

But that’s when we need to pray for God’s grace to carry on and His wisdom to do the job right.  He does not require us to do things that He will not help us do.  When we wholeheartedly follow His Word in training and praying for our children, He brings about a true peace in our families — the peace of godly people living together for His glory.

If we are ever tempted to slack off and let Johnny do his own thing for a while, or let Susie have her tantrum, then it would behoove us to look at the fruit of Hezekiah’s story.  II Kings 21:2 tells us about Hezekiah’s son. "He did evil in the eyes of the Lord."  For 17 verses we read of the evil things Manasseh did.

Of course, a dirty room, sloppy outfits, and unpracticed piano lessons do not compare with the evil King Manasseh came up with.  But a parent who lets "small" character issues slide will face "large" character issues when the child grows up.

Manasseh had one of the godliest kings in Judah for a father — but Manasseh knew that his father cared more about having immediate peace than he cared about how the next generation turned out. And Manasseh rejected everything his father stood for.

Written by Heather Sheen

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Top Ten Mistakes of New Homeschoolers

Okay, I’ll admit up front that I am unmarried and have no children. What could I possibly know about mistakes new homeschoolers make? I’m just a pipsqueak!

My list of credentials is short but Very Weighty. (Every pipsqueak thinks their credentials are Very Weighty.) I was homeschooled my entire life. My parents have helped run support groups and state homeschooling organizations in several states. I’ve watched many homeschooling families and seen some run very successful homeschools and others crash and burn. By dint of keeping my eyes and ears open and using my Acute and Intuitive Perception (pipsqueaks always think they have Acute and Intuitive Perception), I have compiled a reasonable list of common errors that trap new homeschoolers. Kindly be impressed!

Error #1: Viewing academics as primary. Actually, homeschooling is first and foremost about character education. Raising an intellectual genius is pointless if he is lazy, rebellious, thinks humanistically, and lacks integrity, right? Some of the world’s wickedest men were very smart. But so what? They were evil. You are not just training your children’s minds, you are training their whole lives. When any proposed activity or learning opportunity comes your way, first ask “What will this do for Johnny’s character?” Then, and only then, ask what it does for his intellect.

Error #2: Having unrealistic expectations. You know the rosy picture…crisp clean books, a spotless house, a never-violated schedule, and smiling children who like nothing better than dividing 34,867 by 253 and converting it from cubic centimeters to cubic miles. Better yet is the picture of you—the cheerful, patient parent who excels at communication and makes school delightfully fun at all times. Sure, that’s a great goal. You’ll probably have a few days like that. But you’ll have more days when you overslept and the house is cluttery and the baby is sick and you burned the toast and everyone is cranky, including (or especially) you. That happens to everyone! The point is not to have a perfect homeschool—the point is to persevere even when it’s NOT perfect.

Error #3: Creating a school-home. Many new homeschoolers set out to copy the traditional classroom exactly. They have desks, a chalkboard, a set period for each subject and a scheduled recess. They do report cards. They stand at the front of the classroom and lecture. They make their children raise their hands before asking questions. Some even make their children call them “Mr.” and “Mrs.” instead of Mom or Dad.

Many of these things are done in traditional classrooms primarily for crowd control. But you’re not in a traditional classroom anymore! You’re home! Use the kitchen table! Have recess based on the children’s needs, not the clock. Forget report cards—they are designed to tell parents how their child is doing and you already know how they’re doing! Instead of lecturing at the front of the classroom, sit on the couch and talk over the material together. Institute hand-raising only if you desperately need to. And for goodness sake, let your children call you Mom or Dad!

Be careful about asking professional teachers for advice about structuring your homeschool. Professional teachers typically only think in the paradigm of the formal classroom. But you don’t have a formal classroom, you have a home. So ask homemakers for advice—other seasoned homeschooling families.

Error #4: Doing every assignment and test in the books. There is no law, regulation, or tax shelter that requires you to make your children do every single assignment or test in the curriculum. Curriculum providers purposely provide lots of questions and tests and suggested assignments to give you as many options as possible. But they are just that—options. Feel free to pick and choose. Don’t burn yourself or your children out by giving them repeated or “duh” assignments on material they already know.

Error #5: Not trusting your judgment. Most new homeschoolers lack confidence and frequently second-guess themselves and feel obligated to do what the “experts” say. Remember, your children are unique individuals. You as a parent know them best. Stop worrying about methods and what Dr. So-and-So (or your neighbor) says. Pray for wisdom and trust your common sense. Sure, ask advice if you need it. But remember that you are the expert on your children.

Error #6: Copying everyone else. This goes hand-in-hand with Error #5. If your friend has a wonderful homeschool and uses XYZ curriculum, it does not automatically follow that your children will also thrive on that curriculum. They might, but they might not. Slow down and mentally assess your children’s needs, strengths and weaknesses and choose a curriculum that works for them.

Error #7: Assuming that co-ops and video/satellite schools are superior. Co-ops and video/satellite schools sound great to many hesitant first-time homeschoolers. However, these are rarely optimal choices. Co-ops intrude greatly on your time and remove the highly desirable 1-1 teacher-student ratio. Video/satellite schools can be very demanding, inflexible, and time wasting. Why make your children sit there and watch the ins and outs of someone else’s classroom (handing out papers, answering “duh” questions, etc.) when they could read the book and answer the questions themselves? Why let someone else disciple your children when you could do it yourself?

Error #8: Not reading books. There are countless book written by fellow homeschoolers who have been down the road you are on now. Don’t assume that because you read one book and attend support group meetings that you know everything there is to know. Read, read, read! Learn from the mistakes and advice of others! If you have to turn off your television or get off the computer to make time for this reading, do. You will find it more profitable.

Error #9: Looking back. Homeschooling requires commitment. Stop casting a wistful eye on other school choices and thinking about how much easier your neighbors have it. You chose to homeschool because you thought it was best for your child, right? Good. Then, having put your hand to the plow, don’t look back! Do your best and enjoy the journey. Too many homeschoolers develop a “woe-is-me” attitude and over-focus on aaaaaaaaall the sacrifices they’ve made and how much they’d love to “get away” from their kids and have some me time. These thoughts create immediate discontent. Put them from your mind and thank God for His blessings in giving you your children in the first place and using you to mold them and them to mold you. Then feed the kids a healthy snack (eat one yourself too!) and send them outside to play for ten minutes. You’ll probably feel much better!

Error #10: Too much peer time. Kids don’t need a peer group in order to become a mature, well-socialized adult. They need a family. They need interaction with all ages, especially adults. Too much time with their peers makes them peer-dependant (no kidding!), less likely to think for themselves, and much more susceptible to following foolish fads and opinions. Limit peer time and opt for family time!

I thought about adding an Error #11, that of not listening to the advice of Very Weightily-Credentialed homeschooled pipsque—uh, graduates. But my Acute and Intuitive Perception concluded that that would be considered presumptuous.

Written by Raquelle Sheen

Monday, August 18, 2014

Who Is The Grand Poobah of Your Homeschool?

As homeschoolers gear up once again for another school year, a question arises. It’s a question that arises for every homeschooler in every state. The question is (drum roll, please):

Who is going to be the Grand Poobah of your homeschool?

First, let’s start by looking at who is NOT the Grand Poobah.

Curriculum is not the Grand Poobah of your homeschool. You are the teacher – you make the decisions. Homeschooling is all about customizing your children’s educational experience. Even institutional teachers occasionally decide to skip material or slow down at certain parts. Why not do the same if your children need it? Remember that the goal of an academic education is that your children learn the material, not just check off a box saying they read so many books and answered so many quizzes.

Your children are not the Grand Poobah of your homeschool. Time after time, I’ve seen parents wring their hands over their children’s bad behavior, as if there’s nothing they can do about it. In your role as parent, you control the food, the internet, the play time, and other childish desirables. Therefore, you have plenty of ability to sway your children’s behavior. You do not have to helplessly watch as they act like little stinkers.

The schedule is not the Grand Poobah of your homeschool. Schedules are for institutions. A homeschool is a family affair. So skip the schedule and instead establish a routine. A schedule says the house must be cleaned by 10 am. A routine says the house must be cleaned before school work commences. This gives you much more flexibility in your day. Routines are necessary to keep order in your home. But don’t let them become a god that takes over your life.

Your friends are not the Grand Poobahs of your homeschool. It’s easy to feel the need to look good in the eyes of friends, family and acquaintances. After all, they seem so sure of themselves when they give you advice! But remember this: They don’t know your children like you do. Their advice may be helpful, or it may not. But you must make the ultimate decisions on what to do based on what is best for your family.

The state is not the Grand Poobah of your homeschool. You should fulfill the basic requirements of the law. But don’t let fear of the law cause you to make decisions that are overly onerous for your family. Read the law carefully and do what is required – and that’s it. I’ve seen families get exhausted and burned out because they were trying to be some kind of “witness” to the officials by running themselves into the ground. That doesn’t help your family (your first responsibility) and it doesn’t help the homeschoolers around you who may not be able to do as much as you. If you choose to join an excessively busy co-op, let it be for reasons that benefit your family, not from perceived legal requirements.

Your church is not the Grand Poobah of your homeschool. Many churches in our state offer services to homeschoolers, such as co-ops, use of church facilities, tutoring, and so on. This is a wonderful blessing, but only use it in ways that will benefit your family. The fact that every other homeschooling family in your church goes to co-op classes on science every week does not necessitate you doing so, especially if you have a better way of teaching that subject in your family. This principle also applies to churches that are not so helpful to homeschoolers. For instance, the fact that every other family in church sends their children out of the main service into children's church does not necessitate you doing so. Do what is best for your family. Your church is not answerable to God for your children – you are.

Who's Left?
So of course, after eliminating all these contestants for Grand Poobah, it’s becoming pretty clear who’s left, right? You’re thinking, sheesh, this is obvious – my spouse and I are the Grand Poobahs of our homeschool!

But that’s not quite right either. Rather, let us say you’re the Assistant Grand Poobahs. The real Grand Poobah, with no irreverence intended, is God. He is the One who laid down, millennia ago, the principles for training children. He is the One who set before us the goals of godliness and wisdom for which we strive. And He is the One Who gives strength and wisdom to all parents who ask for it.

God is a lot smarter than we are and He knows a lot more about training children! He has promised to help those who ask Him for wisdom (James 1). So as you begin another year of home education, think about Who your authority is when you make decisions. Are you letting friends, curriculum, the state or other outsiders be your homeschool’s Grand Poobah? Or are you asking God for wisdom in making every decision?

Written by Heather Sheen

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Schedule or a Routine?

The schoolwork is finally done! You wearily make some tea and flop on the couch. You don’t see the invisible enemy, the All-Demanding-Schedule, approach you, rubbing his hands gleefully. He begins a conversation.

“Do you realize,” he whispers, “you are FOUR hours behind schedule today?”

You wince. He’s right. How did it happen?

“You overslept this morning,” he accuses. “A good homeschooler wouldn’t let little things like the baby keeping you up all night be an issue. A good homeschooler would get up on time at 4:30 a.m. anyway.”

You sip your tea disconsolately and feel like a wretch.

“Furthermore,” hisses the All-Demanding-Schedule, “You spent way too much time housecleaning this morning. Good homeschoolers’ houses are always spick-and-span and don’t need much cleaning. Think about your friend Lisa’s house!”

“But Lisa has a cleaning lady!” you protest helplessly.

“That is irrelevant,” growls the All-Demanding-Schedule sternly. “As I was saying, among other things you are also off-schedule because it took you all afternoon to get through Johnny’s math with him.”

“He didn’t understand it,” you object feebly.

“Good homeschoolers never have children who don’t understand,” he insists severely. “But if they ever do, good homeschoolers know how to give clear and coherent explanations. If Johnny didn’t understand, then you used a bad explanation and that’s all there is to it. You’re a failure,” he heckles relentlessly. “You never stick to your schedule. You let these kinds of trivial things get in the way. Good homeschoolers never even have these kinds of interruptions, much less spend so much time on them.”

“Look,” you plead, “I’m exhausted. I got no sleep last night. We at least finished all the school work — can’t you leave me alone and let me take a short nap before supper?”

“Oh sure, take a nap!” jeers the All-Demanding-Schedule. “Then you can be FIVE hours behind!”

A tear drips off your nose and falls in your tea. The All-Demanding-Schedule slips away, satisfied.

Just then the kindly Ever-Satisfied-Routine happens along! “Now, now, what’s the matter?’ he asks cheerily, seeing your tears.

“I’m a failure!” you sob. “I can’t stick to my schedule. Things keep interrupting me and nothing goes as planned.”

“Aha! The All-Demanding-Schedule has been here, hasn’t he?” observes the Ever-Satisfied-Routine grimly. “Now listen! Where does Scripture command you to have a down-to-the-minute schedule?”

You ponder. “I don’t know. But I’m sure the Proverbs 31 woman had a schedule!”

“A routine,” he corrects.

“A what?”

“A routine. A general plan for the day, not one that details everything down to the minute. Controlled flexibility, you might say. After all, do you think the Proverbs 31 woman never had to be flexible—never had unexpected company…or got sick…or had children who misbehaved and needed extra attention?” he smiles. “God is a God of order. However, rigidity doesn’t automatically mean order. Sometimes it just means rigid chaos, and it nearly always means frustration and eventual burnout.”

You exhale slowly. “So, if Johnny’s math takes extra time, that’s okay. It’s more important that he learns it than he finishes by 1:37 on the dot, right?”

“Precisely!” he beams.

“I wish I’d know this before!” you exclaim. Then you smile smugly. “Do you suppose the Proverbs 31 woman built naps into her routine?”

Written by Raquelle Sheen

Monday, August 4, 2014

Answering the Questions

My family has been in the homeschooling arena for about 30 years and we have seen the changes in society as it has responded to homeschooling during this time. One way of measuring these changes is the questions we hear when people discover that we homeschooled.

Is It Legal?
Originally the question was, “Is that legal?” The first reaction of our society was to question our right to homeschool. Back then the legality wasn’t clear in every state so as fathers we had some tough decisions to make. But God granted us victories wherever homeschooling was challenged. Laws were changed and only a few families ever lost their children (temporarily) or went to jail for homeschooling. This was an important time for homeschooling.  The movement grew because parents decided to do what was right, even if it wasn’t easy.

How Will You Teach...?
Once it became well established that homeschooling was legal, the next set of questions focused on academics. “Who will teach them calculus? What about biology lab? How will they get into college?” Homeschoolers’ creativity found ways to deal with each of those questions. In fact, homeschoolers are doing so well academically that colleges are recruiting homeschoolers and many are offering homeschoolers generous scholarships. As we fathers and mothers have set our families up to follow the model that God established – parents directing all aspects of their children’s upbringing - we have been blessed with good fruit for our labors.

What About Socialization?
Since homeschoolers began demonstrating that they could meet the academic tests, the questions shifted to, “What about socialization?” This was a very easy question to respond to since one of the most anti-social beings in the world is the typical American child. By teaching our children their social habits in the family, rather than in their peer group, they have developed excellent social habits and are turning out to be leaders. God shows us the power of an upright and godly life on our part when we see mature parental behavior reflected back in the lives of their children. As Christ has given us the freedom and wisdom to be servant-leaders, we find our children stepping into the same roles.

Not For Me!
The next question was really a statement, “Well homeschooling isn’t for everyone.” My response was usually, “Why not? It may not be the favorite choice of all parents, but it certainly will deliver the best results for any child.” I would then get excuses like, “What about single moms, or two income families?” We homeschooled long enough that I have met at least one family in virtually every family structure and economic situation who is homeschooling quite successfully.

It is interesting to see that when confronted with truth, people will grasp at anything rather than apply it in their lives. Our experience has been that God honors His Word. When you order your life according to God’s directives or patterns, He will meet your needs. (Incidentally, He also promises persecution, hence all these questions.)

The "Real" World
Homeschooling has answered these questions and the comment I often hear now is a belligerent, “Well, I want my kids to grow up in the real world!” Dads, be ready to face this one head-on.  We don’t want our children to grow up confined to the “real world” of the present day American pop culture.  We want them to be able to discern what in this “real world” is good, just, and holy, and what is evil and immoral.  To do that they need training in righteousness.  Our society is unprepared, possibly even unable, to provide that training. We, as parents, have the ability and the mandate from God to ensure that our children are brought up to be straight and true arrows in the quiver. As such, when it is time for battle and they are released, they will strike a decisive blow.

The questions keep changing, but the underlying issue is the same. Generally speaking, our society is unwilling to accept the responsibility for raising its children. We would rather give them to the state (or village) and go off to play. However, God called us to something higher when he granted us the privilege of becoming parents.

Written by Ray Sheen

Curriculum: Tool or Tyrant?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. The end of another perfect homeschool day. This morning—like all mornings—all of the children jumped joyfully out of bed at the crack of dawn to meet the day. The hour of family worship set the tone for all—and it was so satisfying to hear the children reciting the Pentateuch. All of the chores were cheerfully accomplished, making the house a spotless and inviting center of learning. Each child applied himself to his assignments with alacrity and intensity of purpose. Now, dinner is simmering aromatically, awaiting the arrival of a happy Daddy from work.

What do you mean this doesn’t describe your homeschool?

Oh. I see. Instead, you are thinking: The end of another long homeschooling day has arrived. You are brain-dead. Your children are cranky. The house is a wreck. What in the world will you fix for dinner? Your long-suffering husband is getting tired of coming home to leftovers. In fact, you haven’t spent much time with your husband for weeks—you have been too busy homeschooling the children!

Wasn’t homeschooling supposed to be fun…or at least satisfying?

Didn’t people tell you that your children would enjoy learning? What could be wrong?

You stack up all of the school books. Look at all of those books! Why, you have diligently made sure that your children have read all of the chapters in the book, and have answered all of the questions at the end of those chapters.  They have completed a good stack of worksheets every day. You have given them every quiz in the test booklet. You had them write book reports for all of the books they have been reading. According to your record book, you are right on schedule—your almighty schedule!!

Still, nothing else is going right. Maybe you are giving them too much school work…but…on the other hand, those books were written by education experts. If they didn’t expect you to teach everything in the book, they would not have put those lessons in there. Right?

If you could only get your children to understand that! They keep complaining that they are bored and already know the material, but lots of repetition is a good thing, after all....isn’t it? If the children weren’t so grouchy and uncooperative, you could finish all of those books!

Maybe...maybe you just were not cut out to homeschool. (sniffle)

The Tyrant Attacks!
Guess what has happened to you?! (Sinister music builds in the background.)

You have been ensnared by.......The Curriculum Tyrant! (Dum da dump dum daaaa!)

Yes. The Curriculum Tyrant! The Curriculum Tyrant sneaks into your home under the guise of  “Good Books.” He begins to whisper to you that these books are the answer to all of your children’s needs. He then quietly, but persistently, begins to insist that you must not waste any of these Good Books, but must do all contained therein.

He virtuously points out, just for good measure, that you spent a fortune on these Good Books too. Certainly, you would not want to waste hard-earned money by not getting the most out of these Good Books. Before long you are feeling guilty and anxious for not having your children spend more and more of their time slaving away in the Good Books. It’s for their own good, after all!

You might be in the grip of The Curriculum Tyrant, but, hark! There is hope! To rescue you from the domain of The Curriculum Tyrant, we must step back to the beginning. First you must take the following pop quiz:

1. Who owns your children?
2. Who has God deputized to raise His children?
3. Does anyone on this earth know your children better than you?

1. God does. Of course He does. The magnificent Creator of the universe owns all things, including your precious children. You knew that, remember?
2. You. Yes, God has graciously allowed you, as a parent, to be a steward over the dear blessings He has given you. Imagine the influence God is allowing you to wield—influence with eternal consequences. Wow!
3. No! God has placed you in the unique position of having special knowledge about your children that no one else can ever completely have. No one will ever know them the way you do.

Now, an essay question. What is an “expert”? 

Dictionary definition: “a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field.” So, in the “particular field” of your children, the “expert” is you! Not The Curriculum Tyrant. You! Do the authors of Good Books really know more about your children than you do? Does Scripture exhort authors of Good Books concerning how to raise children, or does it exhort parents? God has given the job of “resident expert” to you, and not to a stack of Good Books.

More Dangers From the Tyrant
Now that we have established who the real experts are, let’s take another look at the ways of The Curriculum Tyrant. The Curriculum Tyrant is unbalanced and relentless. He wants to take over your entire family life. Should your children slog through school work just because it’s in the book? If your daughter readily knows her multiplication tables, why are you wasting time with endless drills? If your son excitedly rushes into give you a blow-by-blow description of the book he is reading, why are you saddling him with a laborious book report? If Mary is bored with a textbook-dictated writing assignment, why not let her write about something she likes? If the chemistry text is covering the same math as the math textbook, does Johnny really need to do the same material again?

Anxiety and chaos are the price you pay for obeying The Curriculum Tyrant. By contrast, God is always balanced, and He is the God of order. Obeying Him brings peace and orderliness as we allow Him to tame The Curriculum Tyrant.

Fighting the Tyrant
So, you have reviewed all of the symptoms and have decided that, indeed, you have been seduced by The Curriculum Tyrant. Now what?

Stop what you are doing. Put the Good Books back on the shelf. Pray for wisdom. James 1:5 says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (NIV)

Take some time and look at the skills each of your children has been demonstrating. Pay attention to what they are truly able to do, not just what the Good Books have been dictating. After you have taken an in-depth look at your children’s abilities, and have prayed for God’s leading, then you can pull the Good Books back off the shelf.

You are now ready for.....(happy music builds in the background) Curriculum Tools! (Tee de TEEEEEEEE!) That’s right. Curriculum Tools. Curriculum Tools are gifts God has given us to help raise our children properly. Good Books are wonderful Tools to be used, at your discretion, in teaching your children, but they need to be used wisely. Tools are used by the expert to create, build, and fix. The expert masters his tools and is not intimidated by them.

You do not necessarily need to throw out your curriculum and begin something new. I like the statement, “Any curriculum will work if the teacher does.” In other words, if you—and remember, you are the real expert!—take charge of what you have on hand, and regularly assess your children’s schoolwork and attitudes, you might not need to spend more money on new material. After evaluating what you have on the bookshelf, decide where your children should “plug in” to a book or a plan of study. What can they skip—yes, skip!—either because it is twaddle, or because they have already mastered it? What areas need more practice? Your answer will vary from subject to subject. New curriculum might be necessary, but be certain you make an informed decision and not a snap decision based on frustration.

You have made the transition! You are now using Curriculum Tools to meet the needs of your children, rather than following the demands of the despotic Curriculum Tyrant. Such freedom! Life returns to normal as you fit curriculum into its proper place along with housekeeping, family time, devotions, and other important responsibilities. The frazzled, brain-dead mother disappears, replaced by a calm, smiling mother. The neglected daddy and perpetually cranky children disappear too. Is life perfect? Well, no, but home should now be a more pleasant place and the daily routine should flow more smoothly. Learning can now be interesting instead of the draining drudgery it once was. Hurrah for homeschooling!

Just a word of caution, though. The Curriculum Tyrant is never defeated. He will try to return, and he is very sneaky. But you will know when he returns if you pay attention. Recall the anxiety? The chaos? You will know. Trust me. I’m an expert!

Written by Holly Sheen

Three Great Secrets to Organization

This article is about organization. Do not laugh at me, please. Just because I’m not organized doesn’t mean I don’t know how to be organized, does it?

After all, I have a Mother Who Knows. She has told me how. For me, it’s simply a matter of self-discipline and enforcing what I already know. Ouch.

Painful thought it might be, friends, isn’t this where our problem lies? Most of us know how to be organized — we are aware of calendars, file folders, and alarm clocks. We just can’t seem to make ourselves follow through. And at this point many homeschoolers become discouraged and consider placing their children in an institutional school, conveniently forgetting the disadvantages and simply admiring the structure and order the school provides.

Alas, such homeschoolers do not know the Three Great Secrets of Organization. I do. No, I am not all-wise — I have a Mother Who Knows, remember? And my wise Mother Who Knows has taught me these secrets and they have helped me, yea, even one who is as Haphazardly Dizzy-Headed as I.

Secret Number One
Clean your house first. “Ha!” you say. “If I had time to clean my house, I’d have time to organize it. Don’t be ridiculous.” No, no. I am not talking about scrubbing, mopping, and dusting. I am talking basics — wash the dishes, do some laundry, pick up clutter. These things should be done first, before you go anywhere or do anything else in the morning. Make it part of your daily routine.

In our family, my Mother Who Knows made this simple rule: Immediately after breakfast, everyone spends 1-2 hours doing chores. This means scrubbing and sweeping the kitchen, making beds, tidying all rooms, cleaning bathroom countertops, and folding laundry. Yes, every day. Before school. Before errands.

While we obviously make occasional exceptions in occasionally exceptional circumstances, this is our family practice to this day. And let me tell you, as a Haphazard Dizzy-Head, this is the only thing that has kept me from being swallowed by my own disorganization. It works for me. It can work for you.

Secret Number Two
Share the work. You’re not trying to tidy the whole house yourself, are you? Oh, don’t do that. How excruciating! Recruit your Little Chickies to be Little Helpers. This is Home Ec., after all. It takes skill and knowledge to run a household well and your Little Chickies should learn early and learn well.

By the time my sister and I were about nine, we were each assigned certain rooms to clean every day — our own room, a bathroom, and one extra room each. This meant, among other things, making beds, putting away all clutter, disinfecting bathrooms sinks and counters, and straightening or replacing towels. Tip: our Mother Who Knows inspected our work every day because she not only knows about housecleaning, she knows about lazy and careless young children.

“But in the time it takes me to teach Johnny the chore and check up on him every day, I could do it myself!” you groan. This is probably true. But cheer up! A few extra hours with Johnny for a few weeks will pay off in the long run. Not to mention that Johnny will learn some important life skills — housecleaning, being faithful to instructions, accountability, and being organized.

Secret Number Three
Stay home more. Isn’t it funny how homeschooling families forget the word “home” in “homeschool”? They run hither and thither, participating in co-ops, field trips, music lessons, sports, church activities, etc. These things are fine in moderation. But the home is very important. It is the nerve center of your family, the "home base" for everything you do.

How can you be organized if you never remain home to do so? Stay home, especially in the mornings. Get the housework and schoolwork done and save selected special activities for afternoon. Guard your time. No, do not check your phone right now. It will disrupt and derail you. No, do not get on your computer right now. Save it for down time this afternoon, not during morning chores or school time.

These Three Great Secrets are tried and true. They are truly useful to Haphazard Dizzy-Heads like myself. And believe me, if they can work for me, they can work for you. Give it a try!

Written by Raquelle Sheen

His Story - Why Teach History?

"These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come."  
(I Corinthians 10:11)

"Ideas have consequences."
"No man is an island."
"If we do not know where we have come from, we don’t know who we are or where we are going."

These famous remarks all point out the fact that history — the story of God’s work in creation from the dawn of time until now — is a vitally important topic to study.

Think of how much influence one man, or one idea, or one invention has had on the course of human events! History is the study of these men, ideas and inventions, and opens the door to every other topic of study. No one is too young to enjoy the stories of history!

Reasons to Learn History
Consider the fact that a large portion of the Bible is history.  Think of all the verses admonishing us to tell others of the works God has done — more history.  In fact, our entire salvation depends on events that God performed in literal history!

History teaches us to learn from mistakes.  We look at the fate of the Israelites who grumbled against God and are warned by their punishment not to grumble ourselves.  Perhaps you have used more recent history to teach your children a lesson.  “Julie, when I was your age I lied to my mother about stealing cookies.  This destroyed her trust in me (not to mention earning a spanking!).  So you see lying and stealing have bad consequences.”

History inspires us to work for our dreams.  Through the ages, people have scoffed at ideas like telephones, trains, airplanes and space travel.  But the men and women who had these dreams persevered in pursuing them and many were granted success.  When I become discouraged or tired of doing right, I like to read a good biography.  The example of a great person’s life is an enduring inspiration to those who come after them.

And finally, history shows us that failure is not final.  Theodore Roosevelt was a sickly child but through hard work he built a body so tough that he could stand before an audience and give a speech while bleeding from a gunshot wound in the chest.  Thomas Edison failed 8,000 times until he succeeded in finding the right filament material for the light bulb.  When called on by the British to surrender in the War for Independence, John Paul Jones of the brand new American navy stood on the deck of his sinking ship and called out, “I have just begun to fight!”

Hands-On History
A great way to bring history alive with your children is to visit historic places, reenactments, and museums. Watching a battle reenacted illustrates how noisy and confusing it can be and we can better understand why soldiers didn’t always follow orders properly.  Visiting the recreation of a 1700s home makes clear why servants were so necessary — it was hard work just to cook a meal or clean the house without modern conveniences like electricity and running water!  Seeing a real Egyptian mummy or a bed that George Washington slept in brings the people of the past into the reality of the present.  One of my fun museum discoveries was a genuine blunderbuss (that’s a gun, for my fellow unenlightened females) — I had no idea how ridiculous and yet threatening such a gun looked in real life!  I can see why wild west stagecoach guards favored them in scaring off would-be attackers.

Another fun way to study history is to check out your own genealogy.  I have relatives who fought in both World Wars and the Korean War.  I have ancestor soldiers who fought on both sides of the War Between the States.  We are also proud of our ancestors who fought for independence in the War for Independence. I have to admit my interest in Russian history was sparked by finding out our family line traces through the royal czars of Russia.  Growing cotton became a more interesting subject when I discovered that my Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather Roberts grew the first bale of cotton in Navarro County, Texas.  History is the story of ordinary people and it becomes even more exciting to find some of those people were your ancestors!

We Must Know History
God requires us to tell others of His marvelous acts.  How can we do so if we don’t know what His acts have been?  As we study history, let’s remember we are following the mandate in Psalm 78: “I will utter hidden things, things from of old—what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us.  We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done….so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.”

Written by Heather Sheen

Two Plus Two Equals Peace - Why Teach Math?

"For God is not a God of disorder but of peace."  (I Corinthians 14:33)

Language is the foundation for all learning; history is the lens through which we understand all learning.  But math is often the language through which we learn.

God makes it clear throughout His Word that He desires order, not chaos.  The most orderly school subject a child can study is mathematics.  God also makes it clear that truth and absolutes exist and are defined by Him, not us.  What better way to teach this to your child than to let him discover the hard fact that 2+2=4, regardless of his opinion!  Math is supremely dependable, which teaches us about God’s faithfulness and dependability.  To function well and bring glory to God in today’s culture, a basic knowledge of math is a requirement.

Of course, some people aren’t “wired” for math.  And other people just don’t like math, even though they may do well with it (that describes me).  If your child is like me, he might be saying, “Aw Mom, I’m not gonna NEED math when I grow up!  I’m gonna be an artist!”  Or a musician, or a writer, or an athlete, or whatever.  But if you’re like my parents, you can explain how a good understanding of mathematical principles will help him to bring greater glory to God, no matter what his vocation.

The Use of Math in Other Vocations
You can explain, for instance, that in the world of art, perspective, angles, depth and shading all require a basic knowledge of math.  A musician must know some math to understand timing, note values and rhythms. A professional writer gains logic and clarity of thought through the discipline of using math.  Any athletic sport requires at least some sort of measuring and/or time-keeping, if not more complex things like computing of averages.  Of course, any vocation that deals with computers, science, and money (like banking) will require math study.

The Use of Math in Daily Life
Help your children keep in mind that every person, regardless of his career, is required by God to be a good steward of his finances.  This requires keeping a balanced budget — more math!  Since computers and cash registers often break down, it is necessary to know some math so you can help the cashier at the store when the machine fails.  Math is necessary to paint a house (how much paint per square foot?), plant a garden (how many seed packets will fill your garden space?), cook and bake (how many tablespoons per cup?), gas your car (do you have enough money to fill the tank?), and perform many other daily tasks.

Practical Application
Perhaps if your child feels frustrated with math, some practical application would help him or her to understand its importance.  Tell Annie she can make new curtains for her bedroom, but first help her compute how many yards of fabric and trim are required to do so.  Let Sammy build a tree house in the back yard, but help him figure out square footage for boards and estimate the amount of nails and other materials he’ll need.  Let your children help you bake cookies and try doubling or halving the recipe — that takes some math!

Studying mathematics develops logical thinking skills, something that is terribly lacking in our culture today (maybe because true math is no longer taught in the government schools!).  Studying math reminds us that there are absolutes and we cannot ignore them without suffering consequences. Studying math helps us to keep our lives orderly and peaceful.  Studying math teaches us that we can depend on God, the Author of mathematics.

Frankly, when my day goes wrong, my project bombs or something bad unexpectedly happens, I find math to be comforting—because, doggone it, 2+2 will always equal 4!  I can count on it!

Written by Heather Sheen