Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas

Life has a way of taking unexpected twists and turns, doesn't it? And the older I get (fast approaching the big five OH no!) the more I accept that fact and attempt to adjust accordingly. That adjusting has also left me with little extra time for blogging but for anyone who wants to keep up with small snippets I do post on Facebook and accept most friend requests.

But for now, I'd like to send a little Christmas love to all my friends near and far, and especially to my two boys in the Marine Corps. (Jason is in Afghanistan and won't be home this Christmas, Josh is still in training and will be able to spend the Christmas season with us.)




Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Motivation to Homeschool


When I began homeschooling in 1994 with four little ones under age 5, I knew that I was going to be at this for a long time. With each passing day and trial, the potential was there to grow weary and give up. I didn't want to quit. So I prayed and asked the Lord for a vision that would keep me motivated and going strong no matter what was ahead. God did not disappoint. He responded with a word, ART.


Three simple letters because He knew that, as a young mom, that's about all I'd remember. But they were powerful and packed with meaning.


A is for attitude,

R is for relationships

T is for teaching and training


Kept in the proper order, I had a vision for the "work of ART" God was creating in my family. But in the wrong order, they spelled disaster.


As a curriculum junkie, I was tempted to put the Teaching ahead of the attitudes or the relationships. Quickly, I learned that even the best curriculum cannot be taught when my attitude is wrong or when there are conflicts in the home. To put Teaching before Attitude or Relationships would be to create TAR, a sticky mess that would not be easy to work with. So Teaching had to go last.


As a mom, I knew I wanted our home to be an enjoyable one that fostered good relationships, but I didn't want it to be mom-centered or child-centered. I desired a home centered around Christ. If I put the Relationships ahead of a godly attitude, I would end up with a RAT. And Lord knows, I hate RATS!


No, if God promised a work of ART, then it must begin with me and my attitude.

"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant. . . . God is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. . . . Do all things without grumbling or complaining.

My Attitude must be like Christ. This is all for Him and His good pleasure. As a mom, I live a life of service but do I serve with the right attitude? Christ didn't grumble or complain . . . or quit.

ART has sustained me nearly 20 years and will keep me going strong until my sixth child graduates in 2021.


So if you're looking for motivation for the coming year (or decade), seek the Lord and His word for you. He will not disappoint, and at the end of your journey He will say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant, enter now into the joy of my rest.


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Thursday, August 04, 2011

What's a Parent To Do?

If there is a single image that defines this generation it is of a teenager with earplugs in his ears strutting down the street to his favorite music while intently texting his friends about the latest Facebook status of a mutual friend. And the friend may be someone he has never actually met IRL (in real life), but a virtual friend--that is a friend of another virtual friend. Eventually, he strolls in the door without hearing the greeting of his mom and plops down on a laptop to continue the chat.


The teen is in a virtual world and most parents are searching for what to do.


If you are like any parent, your first temptation is to grab his phone and drop it from the Golden Gate Bridge (after the teen has been detached, of course) and then praying afterward that your little darling doesn't jump in to retrieve it.


But taking away the technology or restricting its use rarely works. Why?


Because technology does not create character; it exposes it and builds upon it.


The problem is not the cell phone or Facebook; it's the condition of his heart. A foolish heart will act foolishly but a wise heart will act wisely.


"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child" Scripture says. So while your teen has the body of an adult, he may still carry within his heart some of the foolish tendencies of a child. That foolishness is often exposed when we place an adult device like a cell phone into his hands. As parents, we're surprised and increasingly frustrated because our child never acted this way until he got the phone. Don't be misled. He didn't actfoolishly because he didn't have the opportunity NOT because he didn't have foolish notions. But introduce an opportunity and the foolish notions have an outlet and the heart is exposed.


"When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things
" 1 Corinthians 13:11(NASB version)

Our desire as parents is to train our children to become self-regulating adults and that includes the responsible use of phones, computers, and whatever device is dreamed up next. But how?

This space doesn't permit a lengthy answer to that question, but I'll submit to you one idea--model the responsible use of technology in your home. Your teen may be just as frustrated with your "checking out" when they need you to be present for them. How many times since you sat at your computer today has one of your children asked you a question only to hear the "in a minute" for the fifteen thousandth time?


So before you throw your child's cell phone off the bridge; ask yourself, would your child like to do the same thing to your computer?


If you would like your child to be present for you, then become a parent who is present for your child.


For added thoughts please read Spunky's poem,
Mom's on the Computer.


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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Oh, Happy Day!

Did you ever notice that, as adults, when we reflect back on our childhood some of the memories that make us smile or laugh out loud are the ones that were NOT necessarily so happy when we were actually going through them?


I remember our first family trip in 1972. I was 9 years old and finally going to Disney World. My parents, four siblings and I packed the family station wagon (with paneling), hopped on Interstate 75, and headed south to a destination designed to make memories that last a lifetime. Unexpectedly, a terrible thunderstorm storm met us in Kentucky and hitched a ride on our bumper all the way to Orlando. The worst lightning bolt struck hit when we attempted to check into our hotel and we were informed that our “confirmed” room was given away. “Get a sleeping bag and sleep under the stars.” We were told. It was 2AM! Where were we going to buy seven sleeping bags?!? My dad sat outside our packed car and cried. Oh happy day!


But nearly forty years later, it’s not Mickey Mouse that we recall with a smile but the nameless clown that threatened to destroy our trip.


I’m even starting to see this with my own children. When they take a walk down memory lane, they laugh about the “organic years” and the time I accidentally made my young son drink a whole glass of fresh carrot juice with ginger because he felt sick. He held his nose the whole time he gulped it down. Oh, happy day!


We’re still not sure it cured his illness but he never again complained about being sick! And ten years later, that young son is now a US Marine and the taste of ginger puts a smile on his face.


Without a doubt, we have our share of fun birthdays and trips to the zoo that were designed to make happy memories and we succeeded. But for some reason the happiest memories are the times we overcame adversity and grew closer together as a family. Oh happy day!


This article was cross-posted in this week's Homeschool Minute newsletter published by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.


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Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Homeschool Minute w/Spunky

The Homeschool Minute asked me to write a brief answer to the following question for their e-newsletter:

"Will I ever get to homeschool the way that I want to?"

What a great question, an the answer is clear AFTER you answer one other question first:

"WHO is in charge of your homeschool?"

Thankfully, that's an easy multiple choice question with only four possible answers:

a. Christ-led homeschool

b. Father-led homeschool

c. Mother-led homeschool (assisted by every "perfect mother" on the internet)

d. Child-led homeschool

For the Christian homeschooler, the obvious answer is "a," but the challenge is to let go and let the Lord direct the plans.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plants t give you a hope and a future."

Once we submit ourselves to God and learn His plan, the answer to the original question is a resounding, "YES!"

You will get to homeschool the way you want IF and only IF you know and accept the Lord's plan as your own.

If you believe that the Lord's plan is for you to homeschool your children, then giving up will not be an option simply because you cannot afford a certain curriculum or your children are "less than perfect" or a family emergency takes time away from core subjects.

Instead, you will see each of these situations as an opportunity to seek the Lord and find out His plan to solve the issues and tackle the day.

Yes, the day...not tomorrow, not next week, next month, or next year.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry abut itself. Each day has enough trouble f its own. " Matthew 6:34 (NIV)

Seek the Lord today for His agenda and your plans will prosper.

(Brief update on Spunky: I have been busy trying to live the message of this note. I have a Marine about to be deployed to the Middle East and a daughter just arriving home from Bosnia after being away for nearly two months. I also have another Marine in Pensacola training to be a crew chief on a helicopter. Add to that three children still learning at home and learning to adjust to a "new normal" every day as "interruptions" come up. But the election is coming up and I'm not sure I can keep my fingers away from the keyboard for too much longer. This blog may once again become the "vacation" my brain needs.)

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Monday, January 17, 2011

One Thousand Gifts

Ann Voskamp's new book One Thousand Gifts is now available in print and climbing the Amazon Best Sellers list fast. Ann is a dedicated homeschooling mother of six, fellow blogger (A Holy Experience), and a gifted writer. When I began this post One Thousand Gifts was at #18 and now it's #16 now at #15. I'm not surprised and praying it hits the #1 spot. I'm reading it now and am touched by how she tenderly weaves a message of hope on every page.

Ann encourages all of us to live gratefully in the moment, in unhurried delight because all that we see and do is a gift from above. "Gratitude is the seed that plants the giant miracle in the midst of it all."


Thank you Ann for your testimony. YOU are a gift and I see Christ in you.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More on Homeschool Tax Credits

The response to the idea of tax-credits for homeschoolers has been largely unfavorable. It appears most of the "rank and file" homeschooler don't want them or the federal government any where near our home schools. But will our voices be heard? Thankfully, if this ever reaches the point of legislation our opposition will be given an extra boost by the attorneys at Homeschool Legal Advantage (HLA).

HLA attorney Christine Field sent me the following email expressing their opposition to federal tax-credits. She has agreed to let me repost it here....

Federal Tax Credits for Homeschoolers: Thanks, but No Thanks

Homeschoolers are abuzz with discussion over the suggestion that Republicans may be introducing legislation to give a federal tax credit to homeschoolers. While nothing has been proposed to date (do a search at http://thomas.loc.gov/), it is worthwhile to examine the pros and cons.

In this economy, who wouldn’t favor a tax break from a government that seeks to support and control virtually every aspect of modern life? Besides, the argument goes, we all pay taxes and we should be in line to be the beneficiaries of the unfunded largess of the lawmakers. Everyone else is doing it ….

From a larger perspective, it is a common ploy of the Federal government to dangle a carrot in front of states for funding. The states that comply, such as the recent Race to the Top campaign, receive huge sums of money from the government. But, the funds, as always, are tied to an expectation. In the Race to the Top, participating states had to agree to adopt Common Core Standards, an effort to have a common curriculum across the states.

But, you say, this isn’t really funding – it’s a return on taxes we have already paid.

True, just like every other deduction you take on your Income Taxes, such expenditures would have to be documented. In our view, this leaves the door open for inspection and approval. It is a foothold that we cannot allow the Federal government to establish.

For comparison, three states allow parents to take a deduction on their State income taxes for homeschool expenses. In my state (Illinois) I have taken the deduction and have been subject to questioning and requests for extra documentation each year I have sought it.

What the state allows, it can also regulate. Let’s examine another state benefit available to some homeschoolers. In a highly touted program, parents in Minnesota can seek a small textbook reimbursement for their homeschool expenses. The amount is paltry compared to the amounts most parents actually expend. Look at how the regulation is worded:

"Textbook" means any book or book substitute which a pupil uses as a text or text substitute in a particular class or program in the school regularly attended and a copy of which is expected to be available for the individual use of each pupil in this class or program. The term shall be limited to books, workbooks, or manuals, whether bound or in loose-leaf form, intended for use as a principal source of study material for a given class or a group of students. The term includes only such secular, neutral and nonideological textbooks as are available, used by, or of benefit to Minnesota public school pupils.

By statute and by definition, they only offer textbook assistance for secular, neutral and nonideological textbooks as are available, used by, or of benefit to Minnesota public school pupils. Some homeschoolers could qualify, but many would not.

We oppose Federal tax credits for homeschoolers based on our experience with all such programs. In sum:

1. Education has been and should remain a matter for the states, not the Federal government.

2. Funding (whether outright or in the form of tax credits) comes with expectations. Is it too far to imagine the accountability that might be required for such a tax credit? Common standards and standardized testing are two burdens which come directly to mind.

3. A tax credit would require documentation.

4. Documentation leads to scrutiny and the authority to deny or dismiss unless certain conditions are met, such as requiring only secular materials.

While we are all looking for a break in this economy, this break is too costly to the freedoms and individuality of homeschoolers. Thanks, but no thanks.

Christine Field
Attorney at Law
Homeschool Legal Advantage

Thanks Christine and HLA for helping to keep our homeschools free from intrusive federal regulation.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Homeschoolers and Tax Breaks

With the new Congress sworn in some conservatives are looking into whether or not homeschoolers should get a federal tax-break. (See previous post Tea Party -vs - Obama on Education)

The New York Times picked up the debate and wondered "Do Homeschool Schoolers Deserve a Tax Break?" They presented a variety of opinions from many of the major voices in education. I agree with the the sentiments of Neal P. McCluskey of the Cato Institute that tax breaks are an "Unconstitutional Instrusion."
If nothing else, Washington would need to ensure that credits weren’t being claimed fraudulently, requiring some “proof” of home schooling. Proof, however, could eventually be defined as, say, passing scores on federally prescribed tests – just the sort of dictate many home schoolers despise. And then there’s the matter of making worse a tax code already so complicated you need an army of accountants to figure it out.
Homeschoolers deserve some breaks. At the national level, that means adhering to the Constitution and getting the federal government out of education which would benefit not just homeschoolers, but all taxpayers.
And that "proof" is exactly what Chester Finn called for in his essay, "Yes, to a Tax Credit, but Tests are Necessary".

In return for the financial help, however, home-schooled students should be required to take state tests, just as they would do in regular school, charter school or virtual schools. And if they don’t pass those tests, either the subsidy vanishes or the kids must enroll in some sort of school with a decent academic track record
Professor Susan B. Neuman in her contribution stated,
"Home-schooling families are too smart and too savvy to buy into this half-baked plan. They know that tax credits are good for nothing but greater federal intrusion
Apparently not all homeschoolers are that savvy or smart, Professor Neuman.

William Estrada, director of HSLDA's federal relations department, argued in support of a tax-credit in his article, "No Extra Rules Required." Estrada included a definition for "qualifying educational expenses" for all parents -- no matter where they educate their children. And to avoid regulation and prevent abuse he suggests,
The I.R.S. could conduct an audit, and the parent or parent’s tax preparer could retain all the necessary documentation relating to the child’s education and the qualifying educational expense to show to the I.R.S. if necessary.
Wow! So not only will we be required to prove we're educating through testing, we'll be proving we're not tax cheats too! Because you know those homeschoolers and our tendency toward abuse! Please HSLDA you can do better than this!

Estrada's position appears to contradict a long held belief of HSLDA and many homeschoolers that the federal government should stay out of education. Here's what they wrote in 2000,
"The federal government's involvement in education represents everything that is wrong with so many of our government agencies; they are unconstitutional, wasteful, expensive, and out of touch. It is the duty of our congress to not only abolish the Department of Education, but the entire federal involvement in education.
Wouldn't this tax-credit be counter productive to that goal? HSLDA doesn't think so. In 2009, they wrote, "HSLDA will support tax credits that promote educational choice without threatening any regulation of homeschoolers."

But is promoting any educational choice a role of the federal government? NO!

It would be just like liberals to find this tax-break one they could vote for just for the benefit of finally getting homeschoolers into the federal fold and add the regulation later after homeschoolers have taken advantage of the credit. Please homeschoolers don't fall for this trojan horse and Mr. Estrada please pick up the phone and call Mr. McCluskey ASAP.

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