Sunday, April 26, 2015

What Every Homeschool Grad Needs to Know

This week I’d like to address my column to the new homeschool graduates. You are probably receiving a lot of advice right now about your future. People may be giving you counsel about where you should attend college, what dreams you should be pursuing, and how to move into the realm of adulthood. 

Today I’d like to address how to deal with your past homeschooling experience, whether good or bad. Your homeschooling background is a part of you and has helped to shape you into who you are today. However, your experience can hold you back if you do not react to it properly as an adult.

Dealing With A Good Experience
Let’s say you had a fabulous experience being homeschooled. You had great relationships with your parents and siblings. You received an excellent academic education. You participated in many unique opportunities, thanks to the freedom that homeschooling offered you. That’s terrific! 

I hope that this will give you a deep appreciation for homeschooling and that it motivates you to repeat the experience with your own future children. However, with this appreciation comes a temptation to feel complacent and to assume that because you were homeschooled, you have a complete handle on life and have an easy road ahead of you. 

This is not automatically the case. The fact that you were homeschooled does not mean you know everything you will ever need to know as an adult. Just because you were homeschooled does not mean you have attained the utmost height of maturity. Just because you were homeschooled does not mean you will have preferential treatment in college, in the workforce, or in other areas of life. In other words, homeschooling gave you a great start towards adulthood, but you’re not there yet. Be humble and don’t rely solely on your past for your future.

Homeschoolers are not immune to the big fish/small pond syndrome. The homeschooling community is relatively small and very well-connected and it is easy to find a sense of identity based on who you know or what you (or your parents) have done within that community. However, as you move into the adult world, you’ll realize that most folks are probably not going to be impressed that you—yes you—did the puppet show every year for the children’s track at the state homeschool convention. People aren’t going to care what homeschool “big wigs” you rubbed shoulders with or that your mom founded your co-op or that your dad wrote a book about homeschooling that has sold a few thousand copies. 

Further, these are temporal and fleeting things. What really counts is who we are in Christ and what Christ has done for us, not what we have done for Him in our special circle of influence. The Apostle Paul listed off his credentials too—“[C]ircumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, in regard to the law a Pharisee, as for zeal, persecuting the church, as for legalistic righteousness, faultless” (Phil. 3:5-6). But he abhorred the idea of finding his eternal identity in his earthly credentials.

By all means, enjoy being part of the homeschooling community and appreciate whatever special place you have had there. I’m not advising you to turn your back or sneer at this unique part of your life. I personally cherish my homeschooled background and still strongly identify with the homeschooling community. However, we should resist the temptation to rest on the laurels of our homeschooling credentials.

Dealing With A Bad Experience
What if you feel like your homeschooling experience had strong negative elements? Perhaps you feel like you were not pushed as hard academically as you should have been. Perhaps you think that your parents did you a disservice by forbidding you to participate in certain social or extra-curricular activities that you think would have benefited you. Maybe you believe that your parents taught you to be legalistic, self-righteous, fearful, or elitist. Maybe the tension between your views and your parents’ views on life and homeschooling has fostered a bad relationship between you. What then?

First, realize that these problems are not unique to you or to homeschooling. Similar complaints can be found by graduates of government or private schools as well. These kinds of problems happen because people are human. They make mistakes. They have their own handicaps. They are sinful, just like you and me. 

You weren’t a victim of homeschooling. You were a victim of people—flawed people, who nonetheless loved you and were trying to do the best they could with what they had. Refocus your frustration by being thankful for what you did learn from your homeschooling experience—which is probably a lot more than you might think. Above all, do not let bitterness begin to overtake you. Anger and bitterness will poison your future far worse than a few missed extra-curricular opportunities will.

Second, keep the past in perspective and move on. If you’ve just graduated from high school, you statistically have at least three-fourths of your life left in front of you. The world lies before you. Your life can be what you make of it. 

Do you feel like you have gaps in your education? Besides the fact that you’re not alone—every graduate from every school has some kind of educational gap—you’re not helpless to remedy the problem. The Internet and the library are free and at your disposal. Go study and learn! 

Do you feel like you were badly prepared for the work force? Nothing like on-the-job training! Get a job—any job!—and ask all the questions you can of everyone you can think of. 

Do you feel like your interpersonal skills are inadequate? Start going to social events and practice the skills you think you lack. 

Do you feel like you were held captive mentally by legalistic trappings? Rejoice that God has shown you the light now and study the Scripture with renewed zeal to keep yourself from falling prey again.  

In other words, refuse to hold the future captive to the past. Keep in mind, if you can so much as read, you’re already much better off than many people in the world! Don’t fall prey to a victim mentality. Others have started from far less and achieved outstanding greatness. You can too.

You can either value the past or put the past behind you, depending on your experiences. But just remember: the past is in the past. You are responsible for the future.

Written by Raquelle Sheen

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Marxist Homeschooling?

For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.  Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.  (Romans 10:2-3)

Here’s a good stuffy, scholarly-sounding quote to throw around next time you get into a discussion about Karl Marx’s theory of economics: “The relative values of commodities are, therefore, determined by the respective quantities or amounts of labor, worked up, realized, fixed in them.”  When I first read that I thought, “What the clunge does that mean?”  Upon further study, I deduced that Karl Marx believed the value of a product is determined by the amount of labor involved in producing it.  If a wooden nickel took the carpenter ten hours to make and the going rate for carpentry is $10 an hour then the wooden nickel is “worth” $100, according to Marx—no more, no less. 

Of course, Marx reckoned without reality.  In the real world, if 25 people all want a wooden nickel, and there’s only one available, those people will be willing to pay a lot more than $100 to get it.  On the other hand, if there happen to be 40 wooden nickels available and only 2 people want to buy them, the nickels may end up being sold for a lot less than $100.  A stuffy, scholarly-sounding way of saying this would be, “Value is determined by market desire.”

“Okay, so Marx’s economic system is out of touch with the real world,” you’re probably thinking. “What the clunge does that have to do with homeschooling?”  Aha, my friends, that is the question I propose to answer.

It is just slightly possible that we use the same faulty, Marxist theory when we evaluate our homeschool progress.  We might say, for instance, “I’ve put hours and hours into lesson plans, fields trips, extra curricular activities, classroom time and grading papers.  Of course we’re doing a good job homeschooling!”  But perhaps, like Marx, we’re looking at the wrong end of the equation.  The amount of time and effort does not necessarily determine the value of the end product.  Remember, we said, “Value is determined by market desire.”  In other words, how badly does anyone want the end product?

Look at any overly busy homeschooling family and you will generally find this end product: the children are often tired and cranky, academics (good old reading, writing and ‘rythmetic) is done in a sloppy, undisciplined fashion, and the kids would rather be entertained by friends, activities and movies than enjoy a quiet day at home with their family.  Is this how we are laboring for our children to turn out?  Would God be pleased with these results?  Is there a “market desire” for this end product? 

As the Apostle Paul noted, zeal is fine but you have to know what you are zealous for—the righteousness of God.  When we calculate our homeschool’s progress solely on the amount of zeal we show, rather than on whether the end product meets God’s standards, we are substituting our own idea of righteousness instead of submitting to God. 

Rather than blindly putting more man-hours (or Mom-hours!) into homeschooling to make it “worth” more, we should instead strive to make our end product—the kids—meet the “market desire,” God’s standards.  This may mean more time and effort on your part, or it may mean a different kind of time and effort.  But the amount of effort is not the standard—God’s Word is.

So, the next time you feel that you should be “doing more,” ask yourself why you feel that way.  You may have succumbed to Marxist Homeschooling!