Monday, August 26, 2013

Winging It--My Homeschool Plan for the Year

Today was the first day of school. And I totally winged it. (Wang it? Wung it? What is the past tense of the verb 'to wing' anyway?) My pregnant brain is seriously planning-challenged and distracted these days.

I've had school years when my goal was to teach them something in particular or to keep it cozy. This year? This year, I really just want to finish. I'm not even tacking on 'finish strong.' I really do just mean 'finish.'

We've got a few major things going on this year.
Our oldest will graduate in December with his B.S. in Air Traffic Control Management.
Our fourth will graduate in the spring from high school.
Just the prospect of having to do another graduation is daunting.
Dates, diplomas, invitations, speeches, locations....and on it goes...
I've got one seventh grader trying to finish Boy Scouts strong before we leave in December--you know, right before the Boy Scouts become the new Girl Scouts.
Throw in Teen Court, team policy debate, speech, ultimate frisbee and science club.

And we're swamped.

Did I mention that this little one, who still has no name, will arrive sometime in the fall? Not that that's an incredible impediment to homeschooling. It's not the Year of the Newborn that's challenging. It's the Year of the Climbing Eighteen Month Old Who Has Learned to Test Boundaries and Eat Pennies that is the challenge. And that, thankfully, will not come until later.

So. Here we are.
My books have come in. And up until last night, as in night before First Day of School, I had not distributed them to their permanent homes on each child's desk. But I did manage--somewhere in between all of us grieving over losing the two college guys this weekend and settling a rather emotional roommate squabble--to have the 'this is what's expected of you this year' conversation with each kid.

I've got a senior and a freshman on the docket, in addition to seventh, fifth, third, and first grader...
And an energetic four year old caboose who chooses to root through our 8,000 pieces of lego while I'm trying to do read-aloud.

We'll be doing the usual three r's. That's a given.
But the senior will be our first to complete the third year of World Views of the Western World in which she takes a critical look at the 20th and 21st centuries and reads such happy gems as The Plague and Walden Two. Can't wait. Nothing says cozy like Camus. The freshman will be embarking on her first world view voyage with Starting Points. And the rest will be starting our study of modern history in Sarajevo with Archduke Ferdinand.

The real gem this year, I think, will be The Art of Poetry by Christine Perrin. If you truly have a sick sense of humor, you'll put this somewhere obvious-but-not-so-obvious and just wait...At some point, each child will come to you in a panting sort of panic and will ask, as nonchalantly as possible, who is doing a poetry study this year. And you get to be Mom of the Year when you answer, "Not you." Muahahaha.

No, this is a study for high school. And I think it's going to be good, since I'm only slightly better at poetry than at art, and that's only because it is a linguistic art form.
Cubism I don't get.
(though, if you must watch a nude descending a staircase, cubism is the way to go. But I digress...)
Linguistics I get.
I'm even toying with the idea, in all my evil genius-ness, of ending with a Poetry Slam.

Yes, my rationalist bent gets seriously out of joint with all this romanticism. It's not that I don't enjoy beauty.
It's just that it has to be on my to-do list.

As in...
Stop and smell the flowers.

But what's truly romantic is the sounds and sights of books...
and kids curled up in chairs reading them...
and the coos of a newborn somewhere in the not-too-distant future.

Even winging it, it's going to be a good year.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Twisting Eden

I wish for dominion
without domination.

I wish for earth care
without environmentalism.

I wish we created
without corrupting.

I wish for submission
without manipulation.

I wish for headship
without superiority.

I wish for fruitfulness
without exasperation.

I wish for equality
without egalitarianism.

I wish for relating
without recoiling.

I wish for the Tree of life
without the knowledge of evil.

I wish for the respite of nighttime
without fear in the dark.

I wish for work
without murmuring.

I wish for Imago Dei
without the imprint of sin.

I wish we were good
without being god.

I wish...


Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I was born in a house in a town just like your own.
I was raised to believe in the power of the Unknown.

When Alex took a college class last fall called Family Dynamics, none of us had any idea that it would impact our family. But it did. Late one night, Brett and I, as well as her two brothers who were also away at school, got an email as part of her homework, in which she had to identify a family weakness that could be addressed. It was the good kind of confrontation that simply confirmed what we all knew to be true about us. True...and bad.

When the answers and the Truth take different sides,
Will you still find me, will you still lead me through smoke?

That launched a series of family discussions in which God, in His grace, revealed to us a toxic part of our family culture that was having negative impact on our family. It was painful to walk through, and we had to have hard discussions with our kids, in which we reviewed the past, confessed sin, and asked forgiveness. But the pain was worth the peace that followed.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. (John 14:27)

We know that the world preaches a peace that does not ruffle feathers, does not stir the pot, does not make anyone feel badly about their beliefs. The peace the world teaches is tolerance and coexistence. And, in the end, this peace leads to eternal destruction.

But the peace of God is far more radical than that. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10:34). The peace of God is aggressive. It is subversive to the world's agenda. It's an underground resistance movement.

Peacekeepers avoid the problem, not wanting to make waves. Live and let live. It's the kind of peace the world preaches.
Peacemakers head towards the problem, not bothered about making waves. It's the kind of peace Jesus preaches.
Peacekeepers keep their mouths shut, go quietly, and avoid conflict.
Peacemakers take ground for the cause of Christ.

We are not called to be peacekeepers; we are called to be peacemakers. 

That goes for all of us who name the name of Jesus. But, specifically here, I'm thinking parents. I've been heavy-hearted by all the stuff going on over at Homeschoolers Anonymous. These wounded rebels were raised by neither peacekeepers nor peacemakers. They were raised by warmongers...strong-willed parents who took a my-way-or-the-highway approach to parenting. And what we see over at HA is the bombed out, barren, gospel-deprived wasteland of a pointless war. They weren't parenting to the glory of God; they were parenting to the glory of Dad and Mom.

For shame.

As my three oldest children approached adulthood, I began to see a trend.
They all had to grapple with how they were raised...
because even the best-intentioned parent can help them see through the glass only dimly.
It takes the work of the Holy Spirit to bring the kind of clarity that helps them own their own pursuit of Truth.
It takes the work of the Holy Spirit to help them see through the gaps we leave or the mistakes we make or the sins we commit when we are raising our children.
It takes the work of the Holy Spirit to lead them through smoke.


They might arrive at adulthood having to navigate smoke as a result of our warmongering...
or they might arrive at adulthood having to navigate smoke as a result of our well-intentioned humanity.
But either way, there's still smoke.
Smoke is a fact of life.

Regarding the smoke on the road ahead of them, the Holy Spirit will take them the rest of the way.
But regarding the smoke of their past, we have a responsibility to lead them through. If we know we've left smoke in the wake of our parenting, we must--we must--become peacemakers with our children.

Who do you believe when you can't get through,
When everything you believe seems so untrue,
When I'm lost in a place that I thought I knew,
Give me some way that I might find You--through smoke.*

Give me some way that I might find You...
through smoke.

When it comes to our kids, that's the first job of our peacemaking: clearing any smoke that we left as a result of our own sin so they can see the Lord more clearly.
When we screw up, we can't deflect with a 'well, we did the best we could' shrug of the shoulders. Ouch. That might look like humility. But it's really an 'I'm not apologizing' arrogance. And you can be sure you'll hear their heart slam shut as a result.
It's a horrible, sick-to-your-stomach feeling to find you've done your children wrong, but peacemaking heads towards the problem, repents, and sees the result called Reconciliation.

The other part of peacemaking is going after their sin.
That's risky because it can so easily provoke defensiveness in the confronted party.
I admit it; I really dislike this part of peacemaking, and nothing makes me want to hide behind peacekeeping like the prospect of some kind of scene. I don't like emotion; I don't like tears; I don't like drama; I don't like my kids being mad at me. I admit I'd much rather avoid all of that and go quietly.
But choosing to be peacekeepers with our kids' sin is the same thing as choosing their destruction.

No, thanks.

peacemaking, in order to not be warmongering, has to be rooted in grace. The goal of peacemaking has to be the glory of God. Just look at the beatitudes. If I don't start by being poor in spirit, (that is, recognizing that I am spiritually impoverished and have nothing to offer God to make me right with Him, that any right standing I have with God is all a result of God's grace), if I don't grasp that, I will never succeed at peacemaking.

No one over at Homeschoolers Anonymous is beyond the grace of God:
not the rebel kids,
not the legalistic parents,
not the absentee elders.

But I'd rather not have to take the HA path to grace. And I'd rather not have my kids have to take the HA path to grace.

I'd rather be a peacemaker now.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9

*Through Smoke, Bear Rinehart and Bo Rinehart, 2009.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Series of Unfortunate Events

(Note: While I enjoy a good debate, I do not enjoy the prospect of offending. Please take this in the spirit it is offered: an appeal to avoid the cliffs off of which other parents before us have fallen. Thank you. Noel)

I'm not likely to forget her for a long time.
Doe-eyed little beauty.
Bright smile.
Gentle spirit.
She and my 8 year old had delightfully struck up a friendship, despite some obvious outward differences. My daughter introduced her to me with a grin, and then they skipped merrily off to play.

But my eyes blazed, indignant. She was from one of 'those' households.
My daughter never did find out her last name. And we will likely never see her again. But I think of her often.
She haunts me.
And I wonder what she will look like twenty years from now.
Will she look like all of those happy women from Russian or China or Cuba who are so beaten down by oppression that their only hope is someday Heaven?
Or will she look like Stevie Nicks, the smoky-voiced gypsy of Fleetwood Mac fame, who rejected her legalistic Pentecostal upbringing...only to find bondage somewhere else?

Stop dragging her heart around. 

I'm a long-time, ardent, vocal participant (and sometime critic) of homeschooling.
Both Brett and I have served in various leadership capacities within the homeschooling community.
Our ten children have blossomed in our homeschooling environment.
We've all made life-long, amazing, godly friends in homeschooling.
Big fan.


Homeschooling is largely responsible for a number of movements which, I fear, tend to live at the top of slippery slopes. These are popular movements among many of my dear friends. But I have some concerns. Let me explain.

Homeschooling is the movement which brought us Train Up a Child.
Not a fan.
This is the approach which advocates, for example, teaching an infant not to bite during breastfeeding by pulling her hair.
You are not Pavlov, and your children are not dogs.
Consider their frames. Psalm 103:14
Consider that there is a time before they know right from wrong. Isaiah 7:16
You are not grooming them for a dog show; you are shepherding their souls.

Training our children is not a rats-in-the-lab activity that focuses on reflexes or bells. Training our children requires addressing their souls, not their reflexes. It requires preaching the Gospel.
Good parenting communicates to the child and about the child, "I am a great sinner; Christ is a great Savior."
And it requires an "I need Jesus, too" attitude.
Ditch the dog-training. Find Gospel wisdom in Ted Tripp's Shepherding a Child's Heart or Doug Wilson's Standing on the Promises.
"The Pearls" (I just love how people refer to The Pearls like they're found in holy writ) turn the Train Them Up crank too far.

Homeschooling is also the movement that brought us the concept of daughter as Dad's Helper.
Not a fan.
This approach stems from a good and godly zeal to raise daughters to understand their task as keepers of the home.
But...consider that this is a very slippery slope, not to mention problematic.
Problematic? I think yes. First, the role of helper belongs to the wife, solely the wife. To place the daughter in that position is to usurp the wife's role. Second, the role of helper comes as part and parcel of the intimacy of the marriage covenant. You see where I'm going with this. And you can't--you.can.not--have one without the other. Third, where there is gender-specific training, that training is done by the same gender (Titus 2). In other words, daughters in the home should be Mom's helpers, not Dad's. One is scripturally defensible; one is...not. Finally, I venture to say that you would not let your son usurp the role of the husband by 'practicing being the head of the household.' You would not let him have authority over your wife (or else we've got another, far more serious issue...).
This approach turns the Titus 2 crank too far.

Homeschooling is the movement that brought us Hyper Modesty.
Not a fan.
Cover up, girls. Shame on you for your curves and your eyelashes and your silky hair. Here, you she-devil temptress, you, take this flour sack and this headcovering and get behind me, Satan.
But...isn't that immodest?  Immodesty, after all, is really letting something other than Christ in you attract attention. Black tights and sin-sifters stick out like neon signs in our culture. They attract, rather than deflect, attention.
It is no shame that our daughters have hips, legs, and breasts; it is a shame to pretend that they don't.
Making our daughters feel guilty for looking like women and liking it turns the modesty crank too far.

Is it sinful to train your kids like dogs? Technically, no.
Is it sinful to train your daughters to be Dad's helpers?
Is it sinful to cover your daughter in a burqa? Unfortunately, no.
None of these are reasons to send the elders in to do an intervention.
But, they are all slippery slopes which can have unintended consequences. And they can seriously backfire on earnest, God-fearing parents.
Worse, to teach something is Biblically correct when it is merely a house rule, is to be more pious than God. And it cheapens our claim to Sola Scriptura.

All this crank turning too far makes us off-plumb.
And off-plumb, even a little, is not plumb.
It's not okay, in an effort to avoid the ditch of lawlessness, to back into the ditch of legalism  .
Where does this land of Off-Plumb take us?
Where does all this risky insistence of parenting on top of the slippery slopes bring our children?

I give you Homeschoolers Anonymous.
(Note: There are other sites out there created solely to respond to homeschoooling off-plumb, too. Yes, I am keeping in mind that one man seems right until another states his case. But that wisdom works in both directions, and these sites are the other man stating his case.)

I've spent a good bit of time this week reading the posts over at Homeschoolers' Anonymous.
My heart is heavy.
These are kids who were raised in Off-Plumb.
They are angry. They are hurt. They have rejected the Gospel.
But, as my son Luke (who has been blogging with his friends about this issue over at Thinkers, Incorporated) so adeptly pointed out, there are no good guys over there.
Not the rebel kids.
Not the legalistic parents.
Not the absentee elders.
I'd venture to say that these kids don't even know what the Gospel is.

And I begin to wonder, parents, who of us is in danger of raising a future HA blogger?

I'm asking myself a few questions these days. Come ask them with me.

1. Am I putting obedience above relationship?
When my child fails--and he will fail--I need to bring him to the Cross. My goal should never, ever, ever be outward submission. That misses the point completely. Rather, my goal should be to get at that attitude in his heart that doesn't love God and His goodness. And getting him to please Mommy and Daddy also misses the mark. Put down your ego, for crying out loud. This is NOT about you. Getting your child to want to please the Lord is the goal. This sorely convicts me.

2. Am I recognizing that these children are fearfully and wonderfully made...and that they might be a whole lot different from me?
They have bents and gifts and talents which are uniquely theirs. Do I grant them, in the midst of our shepherding, a certain level of autonomy? Do I let him dream about the future, even if my kid is a romantic, and his ideas seriously yank my own rationalist chain? Or do I lay down the "Thou shalt run the family business" law? Do I let them see where their hearts lead them in searching for a mate? Or do I manipulate them into a romance not of their choosing? Do I grant them the freedom, for the sake of Romans 14, to raise households that might look different from mine?

3. How do I handle their sin?
Wow. I've been searching my heart on this one. If one of my children were to come to me and tell me that they struggled with same-sex attraction, do I have such a grasp of the Gospel that I am non-plussed? that I tell them that is evidence of their Adamic nature? that they must take every thought captive and fight the good fight? Or do I fly off the handle, take all their identification, and drive them to the middle of nowhere with $7 to their name (true HA story)? Where's the Cross in this picture? If the Cross is not dead-center in the story of my children's sin, then I am failing them utterly. If I am more concerned about my reputation among the Saints than about working and walking with them through every valley of the shadow of death, then I am failing them utterly.

4. Does my child have a biblical understanding of sex, gender, and roles?
Do I teach my child God's glorious plan for men and women, marriage, complementarianism, fathers and mothers, family, and child-rearing? Or do I swing to Biblically unsupportable extremes regarding both patriarchy and submission? Do I make sex and their bodies a taboo topic? Is fashion evil? Do I speak with harshness when I talk about their gender? Or do I speak confidently about all of these good gifts?

Bottom line:
If we tell our children we believe the Gospel, we jolly well better believe the Gospel.
If we want our children to approach us, we jolly well better be approachable.
If we want our children to know that we love them unconditionally, we jolly well better not set conditions on our love.

These tragic HA cases are tragic precisely because there is no Gospel to be found anywhere on that site. Like Stevie Nicks, they've jumped from a godless frying pan into a godless fire.
And they're good with that, they all say.
They're over there rationalizing about their sinful choices by saying that they are 'born that way,' And I agree; we are all 'born that way.' But that's bad news. And not a single soul over at HA is preaching the Good News. I think it's because their parents and their elders never preached the Gospel. What a shame. But then, the Gospel doesn't live in Off Plumb.

You want to see what it looks like for fathers to exasperate their children? It looks like Homeschoolers Anonymous.

We better be ready to be peacemakers in our home.
We better be ready to lead them Through Smoke...

Before the truth will come to fill our eyes,
The wool comes down in the form of lies.
When the answers and the truth have cut their ties
Will you still find me,
Will you still see me through smoke? *

which brings me to my next point...
More to come.

*Through Smoke, Needtobreathe, 2009

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Buon Giorno, Principessa! (or...Beautiful Headship)

(This music is just the right aesthetic for beautiful headship. Enjoy as you read.)

Headship is an incredible thing because God's design for the sexes is an incredible thing. When it is done badly, it is scarring. But when it is done Biblically, it is beautiful.

When our oldest child graduated from high school, Brett and I wanted to give him something meaningful, a memento he could take with him into adulthood which would remind him of who he is and where he came from and simultaneously encourage and sober him about where he was heading. We thought briefly about a purity ring, but that wasn't quite what we were after. We wanted something to remind him of who he is in Christ, and purity is merely one sub-category of maturity in Christ.

With that in mind, Brett came up with the idea of a headship ring. The concept behind this was that it would be something that would remind Zach that, no matter where he went,...
He is a sheep, and he is to be inspectable;
He will one day shepherd a household, and his job will be to inspect;
A fool spurns the covering of the local church, and a wise man treasures it;
Every choice he makes, he makes as a subject of the Great King.

When our daughter graduated, we got her a headship ring, as well. For our daughters, the concept of headship is only slightly altered.
She is a sheep, and her job is to be inspectable;
She will one day shepherd her children, even as she is shepherded by her husband;
A fool spurns the covering of her husband, and a wise woman treasures it;
Every choice she makes, she makes as a subject of the Great King.

Our third child got his ring when he graduated, too, and we hope to continue that tradition eight more times.

But something happened this summer that absolutely moved me. Brett and I were out on a date one evening, when he lamented that he did not have a headship ring. Why did that bother him? Because he didn't want his children to think that spiritual authority, inspectableness, subjection to Christ was just kid stuff...
that he, as the head of his household, was also to be under authority himself. 

That's beautiful headship.

Beautiful headship loves the local church.
He's not doing some ill-advised home-church thingy, avoiding accountability and the preaching of God's word and simply feeding his emotional, relational needs.
He shuns bad doctrine that says the church is simply where two or more believers are gathered.
He knows he is a sheep first, with failings and struggles and natural bents which dilute his impact in his family and in the kingdom.
Beautiful headship makes himself vulnerable and inspectable via human, spiritual authority. He craves the oversight of the local church and the growth it brings him.
Beautiful headship has this starting point: I am a sinner saved by grace.

Beautiful headship loves his sheep.
He invests the time it takes--and it takes a lot of time--to look at his sheep, to apply the rod and staff of God's Word. He eagerly speaks truth, coupled with a humble mercy that says, "I struggle, too" into his children's lives.
Sometimes, it looks like a conversation in the driveway after a men's meeting with the 22 year old.
Sometimes it looks like an hours-long, one-on-one dinner with the 19 year old.
Sometimes it looks like sitting on the grass by the garden with the 10 year old, instructing with plants.
Sometimes it looks like he and the 4 year old, wearing matching Crocodile Dundee hats, sitting on the back porch, and talking of the wonders of the coming baby.
Or sometimes, it looks like a stern, "You will not address my wife that way."
Or, "Go think about how loving your sister would look."
Or, "I'm taking this privilege away from you because it is dangerous for you."

Beautiful headship loves his wife and knows she is the weaker vessel.
He is not threatened by her input; he welcomes it.
He views her as his partner, not his project.
He sees her sin; he knows her back story. He exhorts her to resist responding to the imbalance of her past with imbalance in the present. And he lives with her in an understanding way.
He loves her when she is not lovable and washes her with the water of the Word.
It usually looks like, "Did I tell you I love you today?"

My favorite movie is Life is Beautiful. To me, it is the perfect illustration of beautiful headship. When a Jewish-Italian family is divided by the horror of the Holocaust, one heroic father struggles to keep them together. He protects his son, not from the Nazis, but from hating the Nazis, by hiding their hatred with a game. How interesting that the most important thing to this father was not that his son be spared evil, but that his son not return evil for evil. But he worries about his wife, who is separated from him in the women's barracks.

Then he stumbles upon a Victrola and a copy of their song. Risking Nazi retribution, he plays the song over the concentration camp loud speaker after greeting her with "Buon giorno, Principessa!" It is at once an intimate and public declaration of his commitment to his beloved. And from the women's barracks, his beloved hears and heeds his shepherding cry.

That is beautiful headship.
It is risky. It is vulnerable.
It is humbly serving and confidently leading.
It is intimate, and it is public.
It says, "I love the Lord too much, and I love you too much to not lead."

This Father's Day, we presented Brett with his own headship ring, one that looks just like the ones we give our sons. As they presented it, my 12 year old read this to him:
Dear Dad,
All of our lives, it has been made abundantly clear to us, your children, that we are always held accountable for our actions. Ideas have consequences: good ideas have good consequences and bad ideas have bad consequences. You have shown us that when we do something wrong, you are quick to discipline but then quick to forgive. Likewise, when we do something well, you are quick to encourage.
Headship is a firmly established office in our house. It is apparent to us, your children, that you model Christ well, representing His character with distinct clarity. Due to this, by training us to trust that you will do what you say, you have taught us to trust that God, our heavenly Father, will carry out what He says He will do, and this is what a good earthly father will do.
Matthew 8:1-10 declares the faith of the Roman centurion. A typical centurion is responsible for the care of anywhere from 80 to 1,000 men. He was a high-ranking official, with men who had to answer to him; however, he understood that he himself was not without accountability. He had to learn to trust that the official he answered to would take care of him and would take that responsibility seriously.  He had no choice other than to put his faith in such a man. Matthew 8:10 says, "When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, 'Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.' "
Dad, you have shown us the meaning of headship and what it looks like. You have shown us that you are going to take care of us, looking out for both our physical and spiritual needs.
Because of your exemplary representation of God the Father in our lives, we present to you your own headship ring as a reminder to both you and us, your children, of the One who we all really answer to.
I live in the house where Beautiful Headship lives.
The same man who cries "Buon giorno, Principessa!" over the loud speaker that everyone hears is the same man who whispers, "Did I tell you I love you today?" while I'm cooking dinner.
This is the man who told me, after he had his ring for a few days, "Man, this ring is heavy!"
"Does it bother you?" I asked.
He said, "The weight reminds me of this awesome responsibility I have to God and to my family. It is a heavy thing."

It is a heavy thing; I don't envy his responsibility.
That is the stuff of headship.
And soberly embracing that weight is beautiful headship.

Oh, that all women and children could know a headship that is beautiful.

But the centurion replied, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I, too, am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes and to another, 'Come,' and he comes and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who followed him, "Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith" Matthew 8:8-10