Thursday, August 25, 2011

Standing in the Gap: A Family Affair

He was just a fourteen-year-old boy.
He had arrived in the land of opportunity, alone, all the way from the village of Katowice, Poland, to make a new life for himself.

Could be that Lady Liberty was the first thing he saw.
Or it could be that he was so caught up in his own plight that he barely paid her any mind.
No matter.
It was a new start for this poor, young Pole.

Later, he would meet the love of his life, playing in a wedding band. They would marry and raise four children.
He was Dzadzi (Juj-ee), my great-grandfather.
And somewhere along the way, Dzadzi met THE Love of his life: Jesus.

My mom tells me stories of her visits to Dzadzi and Bapci (Bup-shee). And one of her vivid memories was him on his knees. Dzadzi was an intercessor, especially for his family. Specifically, he labored in prayer for years, burdened for the salvation o f the next four generations.

I am that fourth generation.

My own grandfather, Dzadzi's son, gave me similar memories. When I would spend the night with my grandparents, Grandma and I would stay up late playing games and consuming munchies.

But Grandpap would quietly excuse himself early.
And that's when he would go to his knees at his bedside in prayer.
Like his father before him, Grandpap was an intercessor, too.

Grandpap's daughter is my mother. And I have memories of her (from the time I was a child all the way into my adulthood) sitting on the porch with her Bible and her coffee, her eyebrows knit together, sometimes in fervent prayer with silently moving lips, sometimes in quiet meditation. And it was common to see my dad in the early morning hours pacing in the living room, conversing with the Lord. Unlike my great-grandfather and my grandfather, who were quiet and reverent on their knees, my father's prayers were upright, out loud, passionate and bold.

Even today, my parents still have 'the white board' kept in a discreet place where they keep their prayer requests for their children and grandchildren and close friends. They are not only intercessors; they are a team of intercessors.

So, it's probably not surprising that I, too, find myself drawn to intercession. I distinctly remember when I was twelve years old, asking my dad to start waking me up in the morning so that I could read and pray. And, over the years, the Lord has gradually added specific burdens, turning my prayer time largely to intercession.

Dad and Mom.
Seems that intercession has become a family calling...
one that the generations before me have walked in faithfully...
one that I hope the generations after me will walk in faithfully.

Prayer is labor.
It is a labor of the soul.
And whether on their knees or on their feet, my family demonstrated to me both the power of prayer and the privilege of coming before the Throne of Grace.

"I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one." Ezekiel 23:20

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Readin', Writin', and 'Rithmetic...Another Year Ahead

(with addendum in the comments section...)

Well, it's that time of year again. Summer wanes and autumn soon descends. Must be time to dust off the books and get ready for another glorious school year. I'm excited this year as I look at my plan for the kids.

Two are off to college. Z leaves Sunday, starting his junior year at LeTourneau University pursuing his B.S. in Air Traffic Control Management. A is delaying her sophomore year one semester to earn some money, but she'll be pursuing a B.A. in Biblical Studies at Criswell College.

Meanwhile, we'll have another graduation to plan for Prez, who's now a senior in high school, and E is doing her sophomore work. G is in seventh; J is in 5th; C is in 3rd; E is in 1st. And two more little people playing and getting underfoot and giggling and fighting...Life is good.

Some things stay the same...

Explode the Code
First Language Lessons
Rod and Staff grammar
Easy Grammar Ultimates
Singapore Math
Teaching Textbooks
Science: The Search
Latin for Kids
Greek for Kids
Logic by Wilson and Nance

And some things change...

G was our first student to use Singapore, and when she finished, we were at a crossroads as to what to do next. So, we'll be using that old homeschool math favorite, Saxon. This is a change from Teaching Textbooks, but I think it may be a better match for a Singapore student.

And those who are paying attention will also note the absence of Tapestry of Grace. I love TOG. And while I'm militantly opposed to classical education in younger grades, it has been an excellent high school curriculum. Lots of dear friends disagree with me, and that's okay. But I'm all for discovery and fun and projects in the elementary years. Rigor is good; rigor is its place and in its time.

So, speaking of rigor, I'm jumping ship from TOG this year to do a different kind of rigor. David Quine, founder of Cornerstone Curriculum, wrote World Views of the Western World a number of years ago to equip high-school students to see world view in everything from art to economics and trace the path of divergence from a Biblical worldview since ancient times. We use his Starting Points when each child hits eighth grade, and now we'll be doing WVWW for high-school. I am VERY excited about this change. I want to equip my students to go out into that big, bad world, taking dominion, and taking every thought captive.

Prez will be doing Year Two: The Grandeur of Christianity and The Age of Revolutions,
and E will be doing Year One: The Bible and Ancient Thought.

If I count from the year Z was in first grade, this is my fifteenth year of homeschooling. If I count from his birth, this is my 21st. Wow. God has carried us through many learning adventures. So, even though summer went faster than I wanted it to, I look forward to another school year.

And with a lot of prayer coverage, may this be a year that makes Him smile.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Wonder and Worship of Teaching

When I was in 9th grade, I attended a tiny school run by my church.
So tiny, in fact, that I was the only 9th grader.
And I was bogged down in Algebra I.
Seriously bogged down.

The school availed itself of church members who had talent to share with the kids, and they started appealing to math lovers to come rescue Noel from her pit of despair. Not even the math-major-turned-math-teacher could sufficiently explain to me the magic I was missing.

Summer came...and still I trudged on with x's and y's.
And still it continued to mystify me.
So when I took my annual month of vacation with my grandparents, I arrived with math books in hand...and gazed longingly at the golf course out back. sigh.

That's when the miracle the form of my Granddad. He sat down with me and my x's and y's and patiently explained the mysteries of algebra.
And suddenly--bing!--the light went on. Today, I love algebra.
Turns out, I didn't need that math major after all.
I needed Granddad.

But that didn't rescue me from geometry.
My family moved the year I started geometry. And I found myself in a regular private school similarly mystified by math, but this time involving theorems and postulates and givens and aaaahhhhhh!!!
This time, Granddad was 18 hours away.
And my geometry teacher was a bad communicator--no matter what letters he had after his name.
Here we go again...
I never did conquer geometry, though I at least managed to pass.

Fast forward 22 years.
I'd already had six years of homeschooling under my belt, but I was scared. This next year, like it or not, geometry was coming to my home.
So I did what any self-respecting homeschool mom would do (I thought). I learned geometry. I stayed a couple steps ahead of my son and...
I got it. Not only that. I loved it! Why hadn't someone told me how amazing geometry was? Why hadn't anyone ever explained to me how logical it was? how it always worked?

And I worshipped. I kid you not. I worshipped. I was in awe of my God who was the Mind Behind Math. I would stand at the white board and sing God's praises to my kids. Who can comprehend this inscrutable God? the only wise God? the King Eternal? Does this not amaze you, kids?

Well, I didn't exactly pass on the wonder. They still complained and still do complain about the proofs...and the Base Angle Theorem...and Oscar's Heap of Apples.

But one day they will find the wonder, too...
if they are homeschooling their own children.
That's what it looks like in a home where God gently leads those that are with young.
That's what it looks like when we sit at the feet of the Shepherd and trust him with our frailties and our fears and our ignorance. He equips us.

Homeschooling is the only approach to education that claims it disciples its students.
University model schools don't.
Parochial schools don't.
Government schools sure as heck don't.
The others don't make that claim because they can't make good on that claim.
And they know it, too.

Why can't they disciple our children?
Why? Because there is a theology behind every academic pursuit.
If we are to rightly pursue our academics, we must rightly pursue our Creator/Redeemer.

It makes a difference to a mom with math phobias when she knows that because there is a Mind behind math, math will always work.
Does your math teacher teach that?
It makes a difference when we explore science and we rightly repudiate evolution
and believe in a literal six-day Creation Week
and point to the order, much of it knowable, in every branch of science.
Does your science teacher teach that?
It makes a difference that we know the Lawgiver when we teach government.
It makes a difference that we know the Invisible Hand when we teach economics.
It makes a difference that we know Jesus, the Word made flesh, when we teach our children language arts and communications.

To teach a child any branch of knowledge is to teach theology.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Homeschool Heroes

We need heroes.
Our frail hearts need to know there is someone who has walked this path first.
We need the standard bearers who go before us and blaze the trail so that we have something to keep our eyes on when the road gets tough.
And the road always gets tough.
That's life.

Yes, it helps to have heroes.

I met Jessica Hulcy as a relatively green homeschooler.
For the first couple of years I would timidly approach her Konos booth and try to get a good look at the curriculum without letting Jessica get a good look at me. Frankly, the woman scared me. She was fanatical about discovery learning and insistent that everyone should do it.

But she didn't know me. She didn't know that I don't like messy things. I don't like projects. I don't like art. I don't like clutter. I really, really, really just wanted to hand my children nice clean workbooks and let them do nice clean schoolwork and put the workbooks away on my nice clean bookshelf when we were done.

No muss; no fuss.
And no learning, Jessica would say.
Crazy lady. Really.

But when child number three burst on the scene with his kinesthetic personality, I could see it would either be Konos...
or it would be war.
This child was not going to do workbooks well.
No, he was going to feel his schoolwork--literally.


So I met Jessica. I told her about myself.
And she told me, quite abruptly in fact, that I needed to change.


I bought Konos and did it for six wondrous years.
We sewed medieval banners...
(to the living room floor).
We made Queen cakes...
(with chunks of lemon rind floating in them).
We acted out Montezuma and Cortez
and the solar system
and made a map of the United States the size of our driveway
and went in search of metamorphic rock and algae.
We had an explorers' dinner and a pilgrims' feast
and a mountain man campfire complete with tall tales of our own making.
We studied Africa region by region.
We memorized military ranks and held bootcamp for a week.

And they learned, learned, learned.
Workbooks? What the heck was I thinking???!!!

Thank you, Jessica, for showing me that discovery learning is the best learning of all
and that the best thing Mom can just get out of the way. It's a lesson I have never forgotten.

A few years later, I met Dean and Karen Andreola.
Boisterous Dean. Proper Karen. Delightful people.
The Andreolas are responsible for reviving the work of English educator Charlotte Mason. And the crux of Charlotte Mason was that we need to get our learning from living books.
Again, put the workbooks away.
Bring out the real books. Do nature studies.
Discuss, discuss, discuss.

So we read good books. I am militant about twaddle-free bookshelves.
No Disney (well, okay, an occasional Disney until I can sneak it to the garbage); no Berenstain Bears; no babysitters clubs or goosebumps or Judy Blume.

And we narrate real books.
And we do copywork from real books.
And we draw backyard flora and fauna.
And we discuss, discuss, discuss.

My Charlotte Mason Companion is tattered and beloved.

Thank you, Dean and Karen, for bringing back the art of conversation. In so doing, you have increased the ability to keep discipleship in homeschooling.

When I picked up Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn from the airport for our summer conference, I was intimidated. These were classical people. Classical people are snobs.
I couldn't have been more mistaken. The Bluedorns are warm, wonderful people who are serious about home education and family but with a twinkle in their eyes. I wanted to adopt them!

Their Teaching the Trivium restored sanity to the classical craze. They kept the warmth of Charlotte Mason and her living books and added a dash of rigor and memorization. They taught me that I needed to focus on Biblical classics rather than pagan classics, especially at the younger stages. They taught me that, yes, it is possible to introduce the ancient languages to the children. And they taught me that, not only was it possible to teach logic, it was imperative for Christians.

Thank you, Harvey and Laurie, for showing the homeschooling world that a classical education does not have to be a pagan education. Most of all, thank you for showing me that moms and dads can tackle and teach the tough stuff.

David and Shirley Quine have come to Austin the past three summers. These are scary-smart people, and their focus is building a Biblical worldview in our children. But they are personable and humble and have all the time in the world for you.

I know; I spent two hours in their booth this summer.
I was intimidated. I felt inadequate to teach the material.
And they talked me down off my ledge.

David and Shirley's passion is to equip parents because parents are the best teachers. They don't shy away from heady stuff, and they don't pass it off to the 'experts' either. As far as discipleship of children go, parents ARE the experts.

Thank you, David and Shirley, for teaching me that I can wade into the worldview waters and that I can equip, that I can encourage, that I can walk alongside my children...because God gave my children to me. Thank you for showing me the difference between instruction and indoctrination. And thank you for being our cheerleaders!

Amazing people who blaze trails
Who confront the status quo
Who refuse to conform
Who accomplish genuinely good things for the genuine good of others.

Thank you, most of all, to the most amazing hero of all: my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ...
because there are still tough days in homeschooling when I am sure I have wasted my time or that the kids will never get it or that they will never get along. There are days when I daydream out the window and wonder what the non-homeschoolers are doing. There are days when I look down the road and realize the road is still very long.

It is on those days that I lean most heavily on my greatest hero.
Thank you, Jesus, for redeeming me from my depravity.
Thank you, Jesus, for being strong when I am weak.
Thank you, Jesus, for being the Author and Finisher of my faith.
Thank you, Jesus, for promising to bring what You started to completion.
Thank you, Jesus, for daily bearing my burdens.

Thank you, Jesus, for gently leading me with my young.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Look Ma! No Disciples (Part Four)

It all started innocently enough. I went out to the website to enroll my junior for one class that I thought would be an exceptional experience. And as I trolled around the site, the ground beneath my feet began to give way. I was standing on the edge of a slippery slope. A very slippery slope.

"Hey," I thought to myself. "I didn't know they offered this class! Or that class! Hey, I wouldn't have to teach that subject that doesn't move me or this subject which just plain old intimidates me..."

Suddenly, I was George Bailey, sitting in Potter's humiliating chair, smoking Potter's cigar, ready to make a deal with the devil. I was shaking Potter's hand. "Gee, thanks, Mr. Potter, I can't wai....


Back to my senses...

"No, doggone it! You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you...In the whole vast configuration of things, I'd say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider!"

Perhaps it would be helpful to point out the fundamental differences between government schools and once a week academies.

Parents have no control over the curriculum.
Govt school: check
Once a week academies: check

Parents have no control over the staff.
Govt schools: check
Once a week academies: check

Parents have no control over the other students.
Govt schools: check
Once a week academies: check

Students are primarily socialized by peers.
Govt school: check
Once a week academies: check

Students learn nothing at home; merely carry out homework there.
Govt schools: check
Once a week academies: check

There aren't (m)any differences.

Are you really going to make me say it?
Okay, I'll say it.
Once a week academies are just government schools for homeschoolers.
Sad state of affairs we find ourselves in, no?

But that one exceptional class I put my children in?
Here's how it went:

I sat in the back of the class to remain unobtrusive.
And I got an eyeful.
A student was wearing jeans so low, I could see her backside.
Where is your dad? I thought. And how in the world did you get past him out the front door?!
Sheep without a shepherd.
They were texting during class.
The instructor went on teaching.
And the kids went right on texting.
Sheep without a shepherd.
"Babel. The Tower of Babel," he repeated.
The student asked what that was again.
"Surely you jest," replied the instructor. Did I detect a hint of sarcasm?
No, the student was serious. He had no idea what the Tower of Babel was.
Must not have been on the statement of faith.
Sheep without a shepherd.

I'll say it again.
Once a week academies are just government schools for homeschoolers.

I appeal to you.
Bring your children home.
For real.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Look Ma! No Disciples (Part Three)

I was scanning the water vigilantly. Three of my kiddos were out there, and I wasn't about to take my eyes off of them. Yes, at least eight lifeguards lined the edges of the wave pool. But I'm not much of a lifeguard kind of gal. Never have been. So when the waves started, and a lifeguard blew his whistle, I was on my feet. I only had eyes for them.

To lifeguards, my kids are just a few in the crowd.
But to me, each one is a gift, a jewel with its own unique facets, that only I can see after countless hours of observation.
Trust my kids to a lifeguard?
Not a chance.

So I don't trust the kids to lifeguards...
or Sunday school staff...
or youth group leaders...
or teachers...

One day, we will give an account for our children to God...
Unlike lifeguards, who will never give an account.
Nor will Sunday school staff...
or youth group leaders...
or teachers.

I previously blogged that homeschooling is in trouble.
And I've gotten wonderful feedback.
And it has been forwarded to battle-weary co-ops in totally different regions where the homeschooling homeschoolers are finally gaining victory over the non-homeschooling homeschoolers!
And a new generation of homeschooled graduates is also taking up the cause!
That excites me. It excites me because I want to see us close the door on these Dark Ages of homeschooling and return to the Golden Age.

But there are more things to say.
Harder things to say.
Things that risk giving offense.
Things that still tug at my heart and weigh it down.
So, despite the opposition, Brett has urged me to continue the series.

Why do I care about your homeschool?
Because I care about discipleship.
No, there's no "thou shalt homeschool" in the Bible.
But Moses told us on that side of the Cross to disciple our children when we sit down, stand up, walk along the way.
And Jesus told us on this side of the Cross to make disciples of all men. Given the principle of moral proximity, I think our children are the first among all men. Judea comes before the uttermost ends of the earth.
No, there's no verse...
but, in my home, I don't know how to effectively accomplish those commands any other way.

Studies (Rainier Research and the Barna Group) say that Christians are failing at a rate of 80% to raise up the next generation of genuine believers.
That's why I care about homeschooling.
That's why I care about non-homeschooling homeschoolers watering down a genuinely good thing.
That's why I care about people who challenge us to "bring our children home" and then proceed to usurp and intimidate and manipulate.

We are parents.
We are the best Sunday school staff...
the best youth leaders...
the best teachers.

We are the ultimate lifeguards.

Yeah, I'd think we'd all be more concerned with discipleship.

More to come...
Much more.