Sunday, October 18, 2015

Help Flooded Homeschoolers in South Carolina – Here’s How

We are all aware of the devastation caused by the recent flooding in South Carolina.  Homes and communities throughout the state were damaged, in particular those in the midlands and low country.  Many homes were destroyed and even lives lost during the recent events.  Many prayers are being lifted on behalf of all of the families affected.

Homeschooling families who have been displaced by the flooding face an added challenge.  In addition to their homes, their educational teaching materials like books, computers, and educational toys are damaged or destroyed. The school year is definitely disrupted.

Several organizations are stepping forward to help homeschoolers in South Carolina.  The South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools (SCAIHS) and the Home School Foundation (HSF) have set up funds and collection points for materials to help South Carolina homeschoolers.

SCAIHS, founded in 1990, is the oldest and one of the largest home school organization in South Carolina.  Based in the Columbia area, it serves members throughout the state.  SCAIHS provides curriculum and education counselling along with providing the accountability record keeping that is mandated by the state.  SCAIHS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

HSF is the charitable arm of the Home School Legal Defence Association (HSLDA), which is a national organization providing legal assistance, pro-homeschool lobbying, and homeschooling services to homeschoolers throughout the country.  The HSF is also a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.

Although the flood relief program is being administered by SCAIHS, a homeschool family does not need to be a SCAIHS member to receive help.  This flood relief program is to help all homeschoolers throughout the state of South Carolina.  If you know of any homeschoolers who have been impacted by the flooding, please have them contact SCAIHS via email or phone.

SCAIHS office phone number is 803-454-0427.  The office hours are Monday through Thursday from 9:30 to 5:00.  If calling after hours, just leave a message and contact information.

Donations can be sent to SCAIHS or HSF.  Cash donations can be made at the website of either organization. 

If donating on the SCAIHS page, select the box saying you would like to designate a donation and then select SC Homeschool Flood Relief Fund.

If donating to HSF, select the “Donate” button and then select the “Compassion/Emergency Response Fund.”

If you would like to donate materials for homeschoolers who have affected by the flooding, there is one collection location in the upstate.  The First Baptist Church in Taylors, 200 W Main St, Taylors, SC, will serve as a collection point on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:30 to 3:00 when the Upstate Homeschool Co-op is meeting there.

Donations can also be sent to the SCAIHS office:
930 Knox Abbott Drive
Cayce, SC  29033
As more information becomes available on the flood relief effort, it will be posted on the SCAIHS Facebook page.

Please pray for everyone affected by the flooding.  And if you are able, please help assist the homeschoolers in South Carolina whose home education has been disrupted.

Who Do They Hang Out With?

“Bad company corrupts good character.” (I Corinthians 15:33)

“I don’t want to clean my room! Get out and leave me alone!” The bratty 12-year-old girl slams the door of her room after yelling this remark to her mother.

“Give me a kiss, darling,” the woman whispers. “Your wife isn’t here and she’ll never know.”

“Fine,” hollers a frustrated father to his wife before stomping out of the room. “Do whatever you want. They’re your kids!”

Do these examples sound like the kind of people you want your children to hang out with? The kind you want your children to emulate? To admire? Of course not! But wait a minute, you might say. You don’t think we let our children go around with people like that?

Well, my friends, let me ask the forty dollar question: Do they watch movies?

The three examples listed above are regular fair in movies - even "family friendly" ones. Our family has only ever watched “good, clean” movies. But I can still say that I have never, ever seen a movie that didn’t have at least one, if not several objectionable characters in it. “Objectionable” means someone who habitually disobeys the Bible’s instruction. There were always at least one or two people that were rude or immoral or disrespectful or unkind or …. You fill in the blank. These characters’ actions were not portrayed graphically or overtly, but it was still clear that they were ungodly.

Okay, someone will admit, that’s true. But that’s real life. As long as the movie portrays those people as bad, what’s the harm of my child watching it? After all, we do want to teach our children about good and evil.

Children Aren't Equipped to Discern
Teaching your kids that evil people exist is a good thing. After all, if people were not basically ungodly, there would have been no need to for Christ to die on the cross for us.

However, the harm comes from the fact that, as the Bible says in James, children think like children. They do not have good judgment. When you are reading or telling a story, you can make it clear verbally that the “bad guy (or gal)” is bad. But in a movie, the viewer is usually expected to make that judgment call himself. And children, even teens, are not fully equipped to discern ungodliness, especially if it is subtle. In fact, kids often end up admiring a bad guy because he is good looking, dashing, courageous or cool.

Children have a fleshly nature just like adults and therefore they tend to gravitate toward the ungodly – just like adults do. I remember a friend being chagrined when her darling little 5-year-old ignored all the good songs in Veggie Tales and instead started singing in the grocery store the “Bunny Song” which states things like, “I don’t love my mommy, I don’t love my daddy, I just want a plate and a fork and a bunny…!” (Veggie Tales has since revised the song.)

Even if your kiddos have the discipline to resist emulating an ungodly movie character, they are still filling their minds with the rude remarks, bad language, or mocking gestures of the actors. These behaviors are often then exhibited when the child becomes angry or otherwise lets down his guard. At the least, they can disturb his thoughts and color his attitudes.

Our family can almost always tell the difference between kids who watch movies and kids who don’t. The kids who watch tend to have a sassy, smart-aleck attitude toward adults and expect to be entertained all the time rather than use their own creativity to entertain themselves. The children who don’t watch movies instead exhibit more of the behavior their parents require – politeness, good attitudes, and creativity. Perhaps you have seen the same contrast yourself.

No More Bad Company
So what is the answer? Can a family really completely avoid movies in today’s culture? How can you keep the kids quiet? Why should they miss out on a fun experience that everyone else in America gets to enjoy?

The answer to the first question is, yes. You can completely avoid movies. Our family never watched movies until Raquelle and I were in our mid-late teens. Even now we only watch movies 3-4 times a year. (Yes, I said 3 or 4, not 34!) Simply unplug your TV and DVD player, put them away in a back closet or the basement and don’t get them out.

Your family may go through symptoms of “withdrawal,” but here’s an important thing I’ve learned from my mom: If you take something bad away, replace it with something good. Get your children good books. Get them toys and games that force them to use their own creativity – Legos, dolls, sewing materials, building blocks, Fischer Technik, Lincoln Logs, Scrabble, Pictionary, etc. And give the kids household chores that help them realize they are a working part of the family, not simply a prince or princess on a visit to be entertained!

As for the third question, why should your kids miss a fun experience, let’s remember our priorities. Obeying the Bible’s instructions to avoid ungodly companions (on the screen or in person) is more important than “fun.” In fact, the Bible never, ever mentions fun as an objective. When we obey God’s commands with a good attitude, He gives us joy and peace. And sometimes we have fun doing so. But “fun” is not an entitlement for a Christian or anyone else.

So maybe it’s time for a quick check on your family. Who are your kids hanging out with? Godly companions at home, at church and in good books, or worldly companions on the screen?

Written by Heather Sheen

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Breeding the Entitlement Mentality at Home?

A common complaint that conservatives have about my generation and younger is that we have the "Entitlement Mentality." We vote for candidates who promise us "free" stuff (funded by the taxpayers, of course).  We get angry if a boss criticizes us (or even fires us!) for sloppy work. We appear to feel that society owes us whatever we want. 

The parents of this "entitlement" generation are blinking in astonishment. After all, we "entitled" 20- and 30-somethings were raised by parents who still had a sense of personal responsibility. Our parents worked for their living, saved money, and went without if they couldn’t afford something. They didn’t dream of demanding that the government fund the solutions to their problems. So what went wrong? Somewhere between my parents’ generation and my generation, there was a disconnect.

The Disconnect
Unfortunately, I see that disconnect continuing to happening not only in secular culture but also in conservative Christian families. We say that God requires personal responsibility for our actions, but we teach our kids a very different story. In a multitude of daily decisions, we too are raising our kids with the Entitlement Mentality. I see four areas in particular where this Entitlement Mentality is being inculcated.

You deserve to have fun – There's no problem with parents wanting their kids’ childhood to be pleasant. Kids have a large capacity for fun and enjoyment that will naturally diminish as they grow up and face the trials of adult life. But many parents seem to believe that their children deserve to have fun all the time. I see many foolish decisions made by moms and dads because they don’t want to curtail Johnny or Susie’s fun.

Chores, disappointments, working for what you want – these are all things that children will face in adulthood. Therefore they need training early in life to help teach perseverance and responsibility. None of that is much fun. But one way to avoid breeding the Entitlement Mentality is to teach your children that life is not merely about having fun. It’s not even about “following your dreams” (where is that in the Bible?).  It’s about joyfully working for God’s glory on the mundane tasks He gives you each day.

If we don’t teach this, it’s easy for those fun-expecting children to grow up into adults who see nothing wrong with wasting their lives in idleness, blowing their money unwisely, engaging in sexual promiscuity, or worse things, in the name of "fun."

You deserve to have everything paid for – I am often amazed at the expensive and unnecessary items that parents will buy for their children – even older children. Yes, it is a parent’s delight and privilege to buy wonderful gifts as well as daily necessities for his child. But when it comes to also funding your child’s car, college education, trip overseas, high-tech phone, expensive gaming system, and a closet-full of name-brand clothing, I can’t help thinking how much more they would appreciate those things if they were required to work for them themselves. 

You may point out that the cost of these items – especially vehicles and college education – is prohibitively expensive these days. To which I would point out that nowhere are we entitled to a top-of-the-line car or a name-brand education. There are creative ways to take care of big-ticket items in your life without paying top dollar and expecting Mom and Dad to fund most (or all) of it.

If kids are not taught to contribute to their own needs, it is too easy to grow up into adults with the Entitlement Mentality who expect society to pick up the tab for their own fiscal irresponsibility – just like their parents did when they were children.

You deserve to have your parents pick up the pieces – It is often frustrating to watch a young person take on a project and, instead of having the chance to learn from their own mistakes, his parents jump in and smooth over all the difficulties on his behalf. Your child decides to raise money for a cause, but you wind up doing most of the grunt work in collecting donations. Your child decides to start a small business, but you are the one who constantly nags him about deadlines and fulfilling orders. Your child is assigned a project by you, a tutor, or a boss, and you are the one who sits up late the night before getting it done. 

All of us need a helping hand occasionally, but a parent who never gives his child a chance to fail is breeding the Entitlement Mentality. These children grow up into adults with an Entitlement Mentality who think that government bailouts and subsidies are the norm, and free healthcare, unemployment compensation or job creation is simply owed them by society.

You deserve to be forgiven – No matter how stupid, obnoxious, or downright sinful a person is these days, the cultural mantra is "tolerance." The Christian version of "tolerance" is "forgiveness." We tell kids to just "come as you are," that we won’t be "judgmental," that we just want to "love on them." There’s nothing inherently wrong with these ideas as long as they are balanced with the biblical idea of consequences for wrongdoing. The story of the Gospel starts with judgment before it ends with grace.

God has said some things are objectively wrong, and that He will bring judgment on those things in the form of negative consequences. When a child is instead taught that Mom and Dad will let him get away with everything and just "forgive" no matter what, he forms the Entitlement Mentality towards sin: God (and everybody else) owes me love and forgiveness. This is a form of the Entitlement Mentality that can have awful eternal consequences, not to mention negative consequences in this life.

Though Christians are certainly required to forgive those who wrong us, society as a whole is never required by God to ignore sin in the name of being "non-judgmental." We do our children a grave disservice if we teach them that their sins and mistakes will simply be overlooked in the name of love. True love helps a sinner repent from his sin and learn to live righteously.

If you are upset at the Entitlement Mentality we see around us, you're not alone. But we need to be careful not to have a shallow perspective of the problem. It’s too easy to simply say that if "those people" would just pull their pants up and get a job, we could go back to a godly society.

The root problem is deeper than that. It’s in how we raise our own children to be citizens of both an earthly and a heavenly society. None of us are born with entitlements to have everything fun, free, and forgiven. We are all sinners who are debtors to God's grace. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The REAL Cost of Schooling

I often hear anti-homeschoolers trot out their favorite reasons for why they think homeschooling is bad. Unfortunately for them, most of them have been very publicly debunked by multiple studies - and the obvious results. 

Socialization? Homeschoolers are better adjusted that government schoolers. 
Academics? Homeschoolers out-perform government schoolers. 
Extra-curricular activities? Homeschoolers have just as many or more than government schoolers. 
College? Universities actively recruit homeschoolers because they are good students.

So what’s left? Well today I’m going to debunk the last, tired old argument against homeschooling: 
It costs too much.

“I wish we could afford to homeschool, but we really need both our incomes,” a dad sighs.

“I want my child to have the best educational experience possible, so I have to work to afford it,” a mother insists.

“You can’t tell families to homeschool in this economy – moms have to work just to make ends meet,” a friend lectures.

And I say… Facts are better than arguments. Let’s look at the numbers.

I did some extensive googling on the cost of institutional schooling. The numbers were very interesting. 

The Cost of Government Schooling
“Free” government school costs can include lunches, school supplies, tests, field trips, and school clothes (gym clothes, uniforms, etc.).  An average family can spend $500-$1500 a year on “free” government schooling necessities.

But we all know there are extras. Before and after school care, sports, tutoring, music lessons, it all adds up. Now we are looking at another $5000-$1500 per year.

On top of that, when both parents are working, the average family ends up eating out a lot more. Mom just doesn’t have time to cook every night. A typical family can spend $200-$500 a week on restaurant food alone. Restaurants are expensive - many studies have shown that home-cooked meals average one-half or even one-third of the price of restaurant meals.

There are other costs to consider too. When mom works every day along with dad, the gas costs go up. Not only does mom have to go to and from work, she and dad now have trips to pick up children from school, lessons, or daycare. Average gas costs for a family every year can be upwards of $2000-$3000.

Mom also needs more expensive clothes when she works. She may even need to buy a whole new wardrobe routinely. This can start around $1000 a year and go up to $3000-$4000 or more.

If mom is working full time, she probably doesn’t have time to deep clean the house. So now we can add in the costs of hiring a cleaning lady. This can be an additional $200-$300 per month, adding up to $2500-$3500 a year.

Then there are the things that are harder to add up. When there is no “general manager” at home every day, waste happens easily. Someone forgets to stock up on milk and bread, so dad grabs some at the convenience store on the way home – for a 30% higher price. With mom and dad too tired to supervise playtime, expensive toys get left outside in the weather or are neglected and broken.  It’s too much trouble to refill things like soap dispensers so new ones are bought every time. Clothes aren’t laundered or mended properly and must be thrown out due to stains or holes.

And finally, there’s the health costs associated with a family that is running all the time, stressed, eating poorly, and has improperly supervised children. A quick overview of this subject shows that when children grow up in a clean, peaceful, healthy home environment instead of being herded in a high-stress environment with a crowd of other germy children, they wind up much healthier and have less accidents. Medical costs for the average institutional schooled family can be $3000-$10,000 per year.

The lowest estimate of all these costs I came up with was about $10,000-$12,000 per year. That’s the bare-bones lowest, not the average. Average costs of a normal family can be $20,000-$30,000 a year or more. 

All so that mom can work and let the kids have “free” government schooling...or so the family can "afford" private schooling. 

DOES IT PAY? Let’s see…

Moms Making Big Bucks?
Let’s set all those costs against what mom will make in her job. An average woman in the U.S. has a salary of about $35,000 per year. Subtract out all taxes and social security and she’s left with around $25,000 per year to spend.

Did you notice those numbers? Average family costs for “free” government schooling while mom works are $20,000-$30,000. Average salaries for working moms are $25,000 after taxes. It’s entirely possible that a family using the “free” government schools could wind up losing money every year on the transaction.

And it's possible that a mom who is working so the family can "afford" private school will wind up losing money on the transaction.

Not just possible, but highly probable.

The Cost of Homeschooling
But wait,” you say. “Homeschooling costs a lot too – the government schools at least provide some things for ‘free.’ Homeschoolers have to pay for everything themselves, plus the taxes that support the local schools.”

Let’s take a look at that claim. To begin with, curriculum for homeschooling can be completely free. Yes, I said free – without quotation marks. There are free books, free downloads, free printables, free ideas, and of course, free books at the public library. Used curriculum abounds and you can often borrow or buy second-hand for just a few dollars. And these free curricula can work well - studies for years have shown that there is no correlation at all between how much is spent on curriculum and how well the student succeeds. What studies do show is that a loving, one-on-one tutorship situation always out-performs every other teaching scenario.

But that’s just the curriculum. Field trips can also be free or very low cost. Many parks and museums offer special passes or deals at certain times of the year.

Even lessons or special tutoring can be more cost-effective through homeschooling. Homeschooling parents tend to be much more engaged with their children in helping them regularly practice and fully benefit from the lessons. A homeschooled child can make as much progress in a year as an institutionally-schooled child might make in two or three years.

A homeschooled child can be a healthier child since mom is around to prepare healthy meals three times a day. Mom also has time and energy to disinfect bathrooms, do laundry regularly, make sure the children brush their teeth, take their vitamins and go to bed on time. And a peaceful, low-stress, and bully-free environment helps a child’s health and development, not to mention his or her safety.

Every study ever done comparing government schooling to homeschooling has shown that homeschoolers out-perform public schoolers. The only excuse anti-homeschoolers have left is that it’s too expensive for mom to stay home from work. And I just kaboshed that. Yay me!

And yay you if you choose to tap into the academic, social, health – and financial – benefits of staying home to teach your children!

Written by Heather Sheen