Thursday, November 7, 2013


"Truth does not change according to your ability to stomach it."  Flannery O'Connor

Maybe you would agree with me, that of all the things we endeavor to pass on to our children through teaching and mentoring, one of the most important is excellent character.
Perseverance.  Integrity.  Courage.  Responsibility.  Kindness.
I have a list of over 50 attributes I endeavor to cultivate in myself and in my children, but without equal in importance is the attribute of


Truthfulness is the foundation to a life of character.  A love of the truth not only leads us to ultimate, saving truth, but unlocks in us the freedom to live in truth.
The gospel, rightly understood, frees us from the fear of judgement and condemnation that makes self delusion an emotional necessity.  
Think fig leaves.  Adam, unwilling or unable to face the truth, dressed in foliage and pointed fingers, at the snake and then at his lady love.  The love of self trumped the love of another.  Self protection motivated the first self-delusion.
Fear of exposure caused Adam to hide.  He deflected the truth.  He distorted the truth.
He lied about the truth.
Fear of exposure caused Adam to hide behind those he was supposed to love and lead.
  Instead of directing the scalpel in the direction of the cancer where it could be extricated, it was fashioned into an arrow and flung deep into the heart of the nearest  weaker vessel. 
The result was that he modeled avoidance of responsibility to his bride.
Then Adam, in his shame, hid behind the serpent and the woman.

How would things have been different if Adam had copped to?
"Yep God.  I'm busted.  In a moment of weakness, my loyalty was divided, I forgot the sufficiency of Your great love and provision, and I lusted in my heart.  Please forgive me?"
Hard, right?
He would have been vulnerable.  Embarrassed.
Instead, he slaughtered the heart of his lady love and wussed out on God, essentially undermining his own respectability.
He murdered his own reputation.  He undermined the value of his partner.
He robbed Himself of the opportunity to glorify God by believing and trusting in His love.
 We must love the truth and hate being held captive to a lie and the consequences.
We must love truth to love others well, to bless and not curse them as Adam did.
We must love the gospel enough to trust it.
Trust in its protection, that Christ is our shield and that no more is necessary.
Lay down.  Have your heart filleted.  Have the cancer cut out, with or without anesthesia.
The great physician, is He not also the Great Healer?
I did not come to save the well, but I came to save the sick. 

When our children lie, it's not because they love lying.

It's simply because they have not yet cultivated a deep love of the truth.

That's where the parenting comes in:
1.  Do we model a love of truth? To do so means to lay down the idolatry of controlling how people see us.  How we are perceived.  We need to risk judgement, harsh treatment and rejection.  There will be those who are still stuck in the "Christian" caste system of "I'm more holy than you."
Paradoxically, it means comparing ourselves with one another to feel superior which makes us a better hider, shuck and jiver, deceiver, denier and  LIAR than anyone else.
We try to convince everyone our cup is clean.
But God sees the inside.
2.  Do we model a faith and trust in the Gospel and the freedom wrought at the cross?  Has this understanding resulted in the courage to be radical truth tellers and truth receivers ourselves?
The way we live flows out of what we believe.
A lack of radical truth reveals a lack of understanding of a radical cross.
3.  Excuses are not synonymous with grace.  Grace doesn't accompany a lie. 
If we lie about a situation, if we deceive ourselves, justify, deflect, rationalize...
by definition, we are avoiding grace.
Grace only arrives on the scene to show itself superior to the ugliness of the truth.
Receiving grace takes humility.  It takes practice.
It takes a radical love of seeing grace triumph over truth.
The superiority of Christ's forgiveness over our sin.
We can help it along by creating an environment of emotional safety and love.
4.  There is no condemnation for those in Christ.  Condemnation is not synonymous with consequences.  Consequences are a function of love. 
For consequences to full fill their rightful mission, they must be free of condemnation and judgement.
To mix these in the same bowl (punishment) results in frustration, anger, resentment and a hardened heart.
The wise will benefit greatly by natural consequences. 
We in the church encourage one another to feed orphans, be aware of the atrocities committed against children, homelessness, exploitation of the weak and various other humanitarian issues that matter much to God.  And that's good. 
.  I may spend time tutoring the under-privileged for a season.
 Go on a mission trip for a few weeks.  Serve in the church nursery or teach Sunday School once a week for a season.  But if I live daily denying the power of the gospel by failing to have a radical love of truth, am I not a double minded man witnessing to others about a gospel I don't  understand?
We need to be careful "doing for God" if we don't live a life that is the result of seeking Him and understanding Him.  Our words might proclaim Truth, but our lives deny it's power.
This inconsistency results in the charge of hypocrisy.
 I exist and remain to make much of God.
I can bring glory to God daily by living in the light of the truth that Christ is superior to my sin.
Every time I agree with truth and receive grace I make much of Him.
When I live this in front of my kids, I make it safe for them to lay down their fig leaves.
When they tell the truth, we can rejoice together in exulting Christ and His finished work on the cross.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I Could Never Homeschool. Sister, please.

"I could NEVER homeschool, I don't have the patience."
"I don't know how you do it, my kid would never listen to me."
"It would never work out for us, I'm not that organized."
"My kid would NEVER like homeschooling, they're too social."
"I don't have a teaching degree, I think we should leave it to the professionals."
"I could NEVER give up my 'ME' time."
If you've homeschooled for more than a month, you've probably heard some variation of the above from friends and/or family. 

Before I address these concerns,  I'd like to get something off my chest. 
When I share ME, I'm not judging YOU.
When I say that we're a homeschool family, that's about us.  It's about OUR decision.
I'm not implying, or suggesting that you should homeschool.
I'm not suggesting that we are more holy, more devoted or more sanctified than you.
Sometimes, the comments above come across as defensive as though because I reveal that I homeschool, somehow you have to defend yourself for choosing a different option.
Maybe the homeschool community is largely to blame.
In a well intentioned attempt to motivate and encourage homeschool families, especially new ones, the homeschool community has overstated their arguments and it has resulted in some facets of Pharisaical ideologies and judgementalism.
Convention speakers, Homeschool publications and our encouraging friends tell us:
No one knows and loves your child the way you do.
You're loving to protect them from evil influence and training them up in the way they should go.
You are providing them a better education, a better socialization, a better childhood.
You can tailor it, manage it, CONTROL it!
Homeschool mom, you're the bomb.
You know what?  Some new homeschool families need this kind of B12 shot in the arm because they show up to their first homeschool convention looking like they need Valium or just came out of an Alice in Wonderland trip.  They're scared.  They feel inadequate.  They fear they're not organized enough.  They're afraid they won't be able to teach their pre-schooler geometry...(some day).  They're afraid they won't have enough patience, stamina, courage or time to themselves. 
We veterans need to be on guard to not take this message too far. 
Parents who choose public education for their kids don't love them any less, are not necessarily any less devoted or less intentional about their child's education.
So now, I've said it.
Knock it off with all the "I'm better than you" parenting junk!  Hear me?
But you non-homeschoolers, don't be defensive.
If we're friends, at some point I might want to talk to you about homeschooling my kids without you feeling like I'm judging you. 
And while I'm purging my emotional closet, I have some things I'd like to say about the objections you have to homeschooling.  I want to share these with you, NOT because I want to convince you that you should homeschool, but because you try to paint me (and other homeschoolers) with some saint paint brush that we don't deserve.  And for real, it makes me giggle with the ridiculousness of it all.  So don't homeschool if you don't want to.  It makes no difference to me.  Even if it did, you shouldn't care.  It's your choice.

1.  I don't have enough PATIENCE. 

Sister, please.  I was in my 6th month of gestation with child numero uno when I was overwhelmed with the truth that I lack patience and burst forth in spontaneous prayer to not ruin my unborn child.
That's it.  He's faithful.  I've had midnight feedings, potty training accidents while stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, diaper diarrhea all over me on a cold winter day, "science experiments," plumbing issues involving hot wheel cars, permanent marker art, Polynesian sauce on car upholstery, sibling rivalry, adolescent WWE and Nerf darts to the forehead during dinner.
Patience is a learned art.  My guess is I'll always be a work in progress. Being with my kids is like private tutoring for me.  I just have to want to love them well, and God will help.
Do I still pop off at my kids.  Occasionally.  But I look them straight in the eye and say, "that was wrong.  I apologize.  Will you forgive me?" 
Best lesson I could ever teach them.
Really.  You don't get that in 3rd period.

2.  My kid would NEVER listen to me.

This could be one of two things.

#1.  You've got no control over your kid.  The tail is wagging the dog and you don't know how to fix it.  Have you even been exhausted, at your wits end and said, "well, maybe THEY can fix him" referring to the teacher?  You lack the skills to teach your kid to pay attention, obey, be respectful, accountable, kind, responsible, etc.  Whatever your school choice, you chose to become a mom and there's no shame in not having these skills, today.  But if you don't do the work to start getting them, starting today, and attempt to divert this responsibility elsewhere, well, that is a problem.  Please don't give yourself permission to delegate the training of your children to others who have them one subject, one school year at a time.  Not a great plan.
A better plan would be to do the work to gain the skills to be a great mom. 
Your child is your letter to the world.  You need to write intentionally, not just let passers by doodle on them. 
And another thing, don't blame the kid. If your kid didn't learn the meaning of the word "no" when he was 2 years old, you have still have difficult work to do.  He was doing exactly what 2 year olds are supposed to do.  But he was not required to learn the proper uses of his "NO."
It's never too late to learn "no,"  it's just harder, on you and the kid.
But it gets harder, not easier, the longer it goes on.
Love them enough to help them learn.  Make them learn.
Adults that haven't learned NO wind up unable to sustain a job, drug addicted, in jail or dead. They have long lines of broken relationships, broken/unfulfilled dreams, jacked up credit and unhappy lives.
Watch an episode of SuperNanny.
People who can't hear "NO" are the most unhappy people on the planet.
Don't passively delegate your parental authority to strangers.  You want your relationship with your kid to grow, deepen and blossom.  It needs to have a foundation of trust, respect and intimacy.
This will not happen if you delegate away your authority.
#2.  The other option is that you have a difficult time getting your kid to do their homework.  You just need to believe me by faith.  Homeschooling is NOTHING like getting your kid to do homework.  Homework is kind of like boring homeschooling....but just AFTER your 6 year old has been at work for 6-7 hours.  They're done.  They're pooped.  They've been sitting and listening.  Now?  Now you want them to sit down and do a packet of homework?
And by the way, kindergarten "homework" is insane!!
Sorry, I tried to say it nicer.  Just couldn't think of another way.
Stupid.  Ridiculous!  Silly.  Busy.  Mind destroying.
Most worksheets do little to further education.  They are, however, paper evidence of an attempt to look like we've done something important.
It's all about your kid's teacher and the school administration trying to convince you that they are educating your child.  If this method worked, our kids' test scores and reading percentages would be higher than ours were when we were kids and had no homework and half day kindergartens.
Glory be, I could do a whole post on this.  Perhaps I will.

Living a life of learning, fascination, exploration and experimentation earlier in the day without mind numbing, ridiculous busy work is fun.
And really, how long do you think a 5 year old needs to practice writing the word 'cat' per day?
They should be building up their handwriting muscles by playing play dough and Lite Brite.
10 minutes of math drills a day has my first grader doing multiplication.
Feeding the dog a cup of food using a 1/4 cup measure (because the cup measure was dirty) means he was learning fractions.
I just helped him solve the problem.  I didn't tell him he needed to wait until the 3rd grade to do some worksheets.  (?????)  Crazy.  Of course he'd roll his eyes at that.
Mixing 75% baking soda with 25% vinegar does not result in resistance to math.
And it's a two-fer.  Math AND Science and we didn't have to wait for a bell and change rooms.
Its fluid.  Not compartmentalized.
Second grade worksheets with pictures of piles of various coins and currency totally crack me up.
Give your kid an allowance and require them to budget and pay for the dollar store purchases.
Explain sales tax.  Give them a few minutes before they get to the register.
Trust me.  They'll learn to count money.   There's no bribing, manipulation or whining.
They're totally motivated to learn.
The best way to check "follow direction" skills is to have them find a recipe on and see if they can make a shopping list and work it all into something edible.
For extra credit and fraction practice, have them double the recipe.
And bonus:  no ridiculous 3rd grade ulcer inducing test stress.

We do use some worksheets to practice concepts already introduced.  However, they are just a reinforcement tool, not a primary source.

Learning is LEARNING.  SCHOOL?  Well, that's something else.  I don't know what.  But it's not a lot of learning.  It seems like a lot of academic bulimia.  Information binge and purge.
That's not learning. 

#3.  I'm not ORGANIZED enough.


I tried this year.  I mean I REALLY tried.  I had paper calendars with highlighters and my IOS with reminder alarms.  The first full week of school, I showed up on the wrong day for my middle kid's first day of a club and showed up to a science class that didn't start until the next week.
I have double booked, over booked, under booked and the good Lord knows I've bought curriculum I've never used.  My laundry room leaks into the hallway as the result of an over population situation in the dirty clothes community and my kids don't bat an eye when they run out of underwear.
I have last week's pancake batter in the molding of my cabinets and I've forgotten to buy ketchup three grocery trips in a row.  But I never forget to shower and I have an emergency stash of Tylenol and coffee creamer,  so net/net, I'm in the WIN column.
Who cares?  I do my best.  I'm getting better.  My kids learn grace, because I require grace.
They love me.  It works out.

P.S.  I'm not flighty and my house is not a dump.  It's just not as clean as it would be if my kids were out of the house during the day.    I'm not perfect and homeschooling is a lot to do on top of homemaker stuff.  If you have a perfection thing, well, your house will not be perfect.  Maybe you could pull it off, but you'd never sleep.  Mistakes happen.  It's ok. 

#4.  My kid is TOO social.

Dude.  Enough with the social thing already. 
My kids are wicked social.   I'm wicked social.
Together (and separately) we socialize.
This is a non-issue and the number one joke for homeschooling insiders.
But if you need more on this subject, check out:
What About Socialization? REAL talk.

A better question is, aren't homeschoolers weird.
The answer is, my kids are weird.
My kids like each other.  My kids like to learn and think and reason and figure things out.
My kids are resourceful, respectful and responsible.
My kids know how to sit in quietly with their own thoughts and daydream,"imaginate." (my 6 year old's word)  They like to read.  They like to read because I let them read things that interest them.  Calvin and Hobbes because it's funny.  Books with pirates cause they have swords and hooks and peg legs.   Books on how to make a catapult and potato cannon.  Because launching a spud 75 yards through a PVC pipe with nothing but hair spray and a spark is cool.  It never occurred to my kids to think that they don't like reading primarily because we don't read junk.
My library is filled with classics, rich with imagery, complex characters and story lines that have peaks and valleys.  Children's books today are junk and they're insulting to a child's intelligence.  Too much bratty dialog, too weak character development, a flat story line with a predictable, heavy handed, overly stated moral.  And it's usually girly.  Even the boy books are girly.  No wonder boys, most of all, are under the false impression they don't like to read.

My oldest Facebooks, Tweets and Texts.  But he visits.  He doesn't live there.
He does stand out in a crowd though.
Not because he wears overalls or has a bowl cut from his mom the resident barber.
Not because he's painfully shy and socially awkward.
In a crowd, you'll be able to pick out my kid as the weird one because he doesn't have a iPhone 5.
Apparently, that's weird. 

#5  Leave teaching to the professionals

Let's, shall we.
In my homeschool community, here are my current options:
Math help?  Classes and tutoring from a gal with a  masters degree in finance
Writing?  Instructional class and writing opportunities with our community newspaper editor
Science?  Classes and field work along side working biologist and marine biologists in the field
Photography?  Classes and photography field trips along side a professional photographer
T.J. Towers Photography
Foreign Language?  Writing?  Speech and Debate? 
Youth in Government.
All from people actively involved in these things as a profession.
Really working alongside professionals in their profession.
Not just listening to teachers talk about it.

That's live teaching in person.
There are thousands upon thousands of curricula resources, CD/DVD based courses, online real time classes, co-ops and online school options.  Quite literally, I could homeschool all of my children and NEVER personally teach a single thing.
I don't.  But I could.

Homeschooled kids finish their schoolwork in a fraction of the time it takes traditional schoolers.
This leaves more free time to be apprenticed or explore other interests, including starting and maintaining a small business, which many adolescent homeschoolers do.  OJT.
It's a fine thing to read a book about science and listen to a teacher talk about science.
It's a whole 'nutha thing to follow up the reading of the chapter with doing a snorkeling bio-diversity study in Tampa Bay, kayaking with the manatees and dissecting a spiny dog fish with a gal that has a degree in shark studies from the University of Hawaii.
But that's for high school.  How many credentials do you need to help your kid learn to count our $4.15?  Side snark, you don't even need worksheets.  You just need to live along side your kid.  You don't need to convince him that it's important to do his money worksheet or not get video game time.  If he wants to buy 3 candy bars and a bottle of Coke, he's motivated to learn how to count out $4.15.  You don't need a degree for that.   If you can identify a noun, verb, adjective and know how to use google, you can get your precious ones through elementary.  Really.  It's not rocket science.  Unless your kid asked for rocket science, like my first grader.  But even he knew we could find the answers online or at the library.  Hubble Telescope Site
Six years old and brilliant.  He doesn't scare me.
We can figure it out.
See?  Another great lesson you won't find in a textbook.

#6  Me time?

Yeah, that one's true.  
You don't get a lot of me time.
I figure that's what my 80's are for.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Five Minute Friday: BARE

Five Minute Friday is a 5 minute blogging challenge thrown down by a saucy little South African gal, Lisa Jo Baker.
She picks one word each week, then a bunch of bloggers give their best 5 minutes.
No proofing.  No spell checking.
No guts, no glory.
This week's word :  BARE

I'm guessing the Ed Robertson of Bare Naked Ladies had no idea he was writing

a Mommy Manifesto of sorts when he penned "One Week"

Here's what I mean:

"One Week"

It's been one week since you looked at me
Cocked your head to the side and said "I'm angry"
Always be honest (and kind)  Don't stuff your feelings. 
Choose friends who can hold the bucket for you and hold your hair back while you empty your feelings.  Then, work through them together.
Be THAT kind of friend. 

Five days since you laughed at me saying
"Get that together come back and see me"
(Yeah?  Don't do it like that.)

Three days since the living room
I realized it's all my fault, but couldn't tell you
(When you're at fault, suck it up buttercup and say so.  It'll sting a little.  The stinging is good for you.)

Yesterday you'd forgiven me
but it'll still be two days till I say I'm sorry
(stubborn=pride, see:  arrogance)

Hold it now and watch the hoodwink
As I make you stop, think
You'll think you're looking at Aquaman
(We do that instead of saying "I'm sorry"-distract, create a diversion.  It's whimpy.

I summon fish to the dish, although I like the Chalet Swiss
I like the sushi
'cause it's never touched a frying pan
(Read Dr. Suess to your kids, especially One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  Memorize it together.)

Hot like wasabe when I bust rhymes
Big like LeAnn Rimes
(Be careful, if you think you stand the fall may shortly follow...bost in Christ)

Because I'm all about value
Bert Kaempfert's got the mad hits
You try to match wits, you try to hold me but I bust through
(Don't stay ignorant.  If you don't know something, like who Bert Kaempfert is, look it up.  ALWAYS be learnin'.)

Gonna make a break and take a fake
I'd like a stinkin achin shake
I like vanilla, it's the finest of the flavours
(It's okay to be wrong, vanilla is NOT the best, chocolate is.  But I still like Ed even though he's wrong.  Agree to disagree.  It's okay.)

Gotta see the show, cause then you'll know
The vertigo is gonna grow
Cause it's so dangerous,
you'll have to sign a waiver
(If you choose to do really dangerous stuff, take pictures and tell your mother AFTER.  Have other people pray for you BEFORE)

How can I help it if I think you're funny when you're mad
Trying hard not to smile though I feel bad
I'm the kind of guy who laughs at a funeral
Can't understand what I mean?
(I want Fernando Ortega's music played at my funeral, especially "Give Me Jesus'
and make sure there's plenty of laughter. Be funny and celebrate.  I'll be home.)

Well, you soon will
I have a tendency to wear my mind on my sleeve
I have a history of taking off my shirt
(Ladies, this is gender specific.  Leave your shirt on, especially at Mardi Gras)

It's been one week since you looked at me
Threw your arms in the air
and said "You're crazy
(Direct communication is good.  But, put a little fabric softener on it.)

Five days since you tackled me
I've still got the rug burns on both my knees
(Children, never tolerate this kind of physical.  IMMEDIATE distance and counceling.
No if, ands or buts.)

It's been three days since the afternoon
You realized it's not my fault
not a moment too soon
Yesterday you'd forgiven me
And now I sit back and wait til you say you're sorry
(Endeavour to so thoroughly understand grace that this kind of stubborness if NEVER an option)

Chickity China the Chinese chicken
You have a drumstick and your brain stops tickin'
Watchin' X-Files with no lights on
We're dans la maison
I hope the Smoking Man's in this one
Like Harrison Ford I'm getting frantic
Like Sting I'm tantric
Like Snickers, guaranteed to satisfy
(Watch your MSG and candy intake)

Like Kurasawa I make mad films
Okay, I don't make films
But if I did they'd have a Samurai
Gonna get a set a' better clubs
Gonna find the kind with tiny nubs
Just so my irons aren't always flying off the back-swing
Gotta get in tune with Sailor Moon
'Cause the cartoon has got the boom anime babes
That make me think the wrong thing
(We're all Samurai!  Pick up your sword warrior.  Sorry for not taking you to putt putt)

How can I help it if I think you're funny when you're mad
Tryin' hard not to smile though I feel bad
I'm the kind of guy who laughs at a funeral
Can't understand what I mean?
Well, you soon will
I have a tendency to wear my mind on my sleeve
I have a history of losing my shirt

It's been one week since you looked at me
Dropped your arms to your sides
and said "I'm sorry"
(He who says 'sorry' first is the most courageous)

Five days since I laughed at you and said
"You just did just what I thought you were gonna do"
Three days since the living room
We realized we're both to blame,
but what could we do?
Yesterday you just smiled at me
Cause it'll still be two days till we say we're sorry
(Still stubborn?  GRACE!)

It'll still be two days till we say we're sorry
It'll still be two days till we say we're sorry
Birchmount Stadium, home of the Robbie
Time is up! 
But singing this song with my kids helps me to remember to have fun.
My time with them is so short.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

When They Want Designer Duds

One of the bloggers I follow asked the following questions on Facebook:   


Do you buy your children "name brand" clothing?

What age did your kids start asking for certain brands?

What great questions.  And they beg even more questions.
How important is outward appearance?  What are we willing to do to "fit in?"
How do we balance financial responsibility and social acceptance/status?
At what price:  quality vs value?
How do we be "in" the world but not "of" the world?
I remember the first time I was socially challenged with the perceived need for labels when I was 12 years old.  Sixth grade was (and I suspect still is) socially challenging for most kids. 
We all showed up on the first day of school, wearing our favorite first day of school outfits, on time, orthodontia brushed, hair flipped out like Farrah Fawcett and a curling iron burn on the neck.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, was wearing Nike tennis shoes with a dark or light blue stripe.  Leather or canvas?
 My mother did not work outside the home and we were on a tight budget.
Trying to be sensitive to my needs, my mom went to Payless Shoes and bought me a brand spanking new pair of Yvonne Goolagong vinyl tennis shoes and paid 50 cents extra for blue laces. 
(Blink.  Blink.  Blink).
This was 1980.  Just a few years later, Nike would sign Michael Jordan and sell gobs and gobs of shoes that people would pay big bucks for.  Maybe they got the idea from Payless?
If you don't know Yvonne Goolagong, well, this is her:
She was apparently  a tennis player.
And for all I knew, she could have been a great tennis player.
But what sixth grade girl in central Florida loved tennis enough to want a female tennis player's name on their shoe?
I do know this.  On the first day of school, amid the hugs and squeals and 'oh, I love your butterfly sleeve shirt, it's so cool' not once did anyone ask me where I got my great shoes.

I remember practicing the sin of covetousness. 
I remember feeling shamed over my shoes and being acutely aware of my family's financial status and the fact that foot ware effected my social game.

The next Christmas I received my first and only pair of designer jeans.  Not Jordache like my friends.  Not Sassoon.  But rather, Gloria Vanderbilt.  The designer jeans for older ladies that watched Knot's Landing.  They were wide legged and unfinished on the bottom.  Not because my parents knew that we would have to go back to the store and have them sewn to fit tightly around my leg from thigh to ankle (the forerunner to the skinny jean) but because my fashion challenged parents had no idea.
I was so grateful for the gift, I never told them.
They never knew that I sat in my room, staring at those jeans trying to decide whether or not I could withstand the social ramifications if I actually wore them outside my house.
I never did wear them and I lied to my parents, saying their gift was too special for me to waste on daily wear, but rather I would wait for a special occasion that never did come.

I learned a lot from this.   I learned that while I may not have run with the kids with the cool clothes, I did love the kids I was with.

   I developed my idea of what friendship should be based on and it's NOT clothing labels. 

To this day, I'm a frugal shopper.

I've explained marketing to my kids like this:
Most companies have to pay to have their logo displayed on billboards, coffee mugs and commercials.
The price of one Superbowl 30 second spot could feed a small third world country for a year.
If Tommy Hilfiger wants me to run around with his name on my shirt, he should pay me.
Heck, I don't even know Tommy Hilfiger.  What if he's a schmuck?
You know, like the Abercrombie and Fitch guy:
We only market to the cool kids! Click here.
Maybe Tommy should wear my club T-shirt with MY name on the back.
Then everyone would know we were friends.
Just seems dumb.
But I'm not thirteen.
I've already found my way and decided how I want to move through this life.
I've figured out what's important to me and what I value in friends.
My children are just beginning the process of deciding these things for themselves.
Whether to embrace my beliefs or come to different conclusions.

Here are a few things we teach and model:


1.  God will provide EVERYTHING we need, not necessarily everything we want.

We regularly reinforce the difference between these two and are careful in our speech.
We teach them about a budget. 
This amount of money is in this pot.
That's it!  We don't credit card.
The borrower is slave to the lender.  We teach FREEDOM and self control.

2.  God has provided His predetermined ENOUGH. 

 Our enough may not be the same as the neighbor's enough.  But it's mountains more enough than the vast majority of the people in the world.
We look at pictures.  We read books.  We serve.  We take trips.  We pray.
All focusing on gratitude for God's tailor made enough.
Credit cards with balances are most often an attempt to rebel against God's enough.


3.   We budget.  Not just dollars but also minutes. 

 We talk.  A lot. 
We shop together.  We learn math.   I am a social creature and like most moms, I really want my kids to have a great childhood.  If I don’t make time to have a plan, I’m constantly reacting, being lured into the trap of trying to take advantage of every good opportunity that comes along.  Maybe you’ve heard, good is often the enemy of the best.

  Teaching my kids to be financially responsible (and therefore, free) is not about the curriculum that I buy or the sermons that I preach as much as it is about the life I live and model for them. 

My kids most often help me shop.  Believe me when I tell you that this decision is born more out of commitment to their development than my love of my children's constant companionship and the thrill of hearing their sweet voices incessantly asking “hey mom, can we get candy?”  A cell phone calculator and price tags with number of ounces is a math and life lesson all in one.  “Hey, kid.  Find the best value shampoo in this section.  Which is cheaper, generic sour cream or sale brand on bogo?”  There are things though, that we value over saving 50 cents.  Brand Coke over generic.  Fresh, mostly organic, mostly local produce.  We do choose to spend extra money on farm eggs from chickens that eat bugs.
But that's my choice.   You'll make yours and our kids will make theirs.

4.  We give them CASH and FREEDOM.

Starting at 12, we give our kids their clothing budget and let them decide.  During the year between 11 and 12, I told  my oldest child the amount of money that my husband and I had budgeted for his clothing and shoes for the year and helped him make a “needs” not “wants” list. 

+Tennis shoes, dress shoes, hiking boots, shoes for the pool area
+Shorts, particular kind for camp
+Shirts, dress and T
+Set aside cash for sports and club shirts and cleats, as applicable

We live out that year together, studying seasonal sale patterns, compiling a list of coupon sources, checking out consignment shops.  We make adjustments and corrections to the best of our ability in preparation for the launch on their  12th birthday.   My first born is responsible and conservative, so it was an easy transition to add a twelfth of his clothing allotment to his monthly allowance.  He is also a boy.  With my daughter, there will be additional instruction.  Just because she has the freedom to spend does not give her the freedom to besmirch her dignity or our last name by spending too much on too little fabric with words like "call me" on the seat of a pair of booty shorts.  There will be conversations about her value and her responsibility to reflect well on herself, our family.    

   Too much responsibility, if they’re not yet ready,  can set them up for unnecessary failure.  It’s a dance, not a rule.  But the clock till “launch” time is ticking and you want them to have practice while they’re still under your roof where you have influence and can help manage, contain and coach.   Kids who launch without skills AND experience return home after 3 years of college having perfected the skills of hiding and lying, having secreted irresponsibility and the truth about their financial predicament.
They return home with debt.  And worse, a sense of failure, embarrassment, anger and shame.
In more severe cases, they return with wrecked credit that may negatively effect their options at a time when they are supposed to launch, find a spouse (for most), buy a house and start a life.

Being 22 years old, shackled down with 26,000 in debt (the current national average for graduating college seniors) is a very limiting way of kick starting your life.  Picture them, ready and primed for take off, mask down and cape flapping in the breeze....they take a 3 step running start, leap....and hit face down on the floor because debt has them tethered to the starting block.

It wont matter that the cape was purchased new from Abercrombie and Fitch.
No one is going to be impressed at your kid's bankruptcy hearing that you showed up with an Aeropastale bag for a briefcase.
Of course, many parents now days prefer to bail their kids out from their own savings and retirement accounts to rescue their grown children from the consequences of lessons not taught/learned.
I'd hate to launch into the adult relationship phase with my children with anger, resentment and shame as the foundation.
There you go, blessed child.  I have shared my values with you.  I have given you the tools to make the best choices.  I’ve walked beside you and made those choices with you for a year, discussing and talking.

You’re free now to make your own choices, within reason.  10 shirts from Target or 3 name brand new or 6 second hand.   Your choice.  Nikes off the sale rack, or the new ones with someone else’s name?  Your choice.   Two scout shirts because you tend to wad and shove.  Or just one, because you will decide to put it in the laundry to make sure it’s clean when you need it.  You will choose to carefully budget, or you will find something else to do during soccer season because you don’t have money for cleats.  Your choice. 


And instead of nagger, judger, controller, shamer mom, I will get to be loving mom. 

I will empathize with you, because I’ve made mistakes with consequences, too.  I will hug you because I know it’s hard sometimes to live within your enough.  

 You will not be whining, begging, manipulative, entitled, out of touch kid thinking your part time job is to lobby and guilt trip me into helping you "keep up with the Joneses."

Instead of resentment and anger between us, there is the potential for closeness and celebration, because you will be growing in maturity.   Our relationship will be closer because I'm not wagging my finger and expressing frustration and disappointment, but I'm a fellow traveler trying to figure it all out, same as you.  You will be gaining confidence.  You will see first hand how God’s enough truly is enough. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

At the cross, at the cross, when I first saw the light? Not really.

It wasn't at the cross, at the cross when I first saw the Light.
It was in the trunk of my boyfriend's car and it freaked me out.
It wasn't the Blood of the Lamb or the Mercy Seat or even the gospel well preached.
It wasn't a friend who invited me to church or the gospel tract left on the feminine hygiene depository in the public restroom.  (Really?)
My husband grew up
Mass every week with communion. 
CDC, catechism and catholic elementary school.
The kind taught by nuns.
The stereotypical kind with wrinkles, frustrations and rulers.
But not me.
I was baptized as an infant in my grandmother's church and I don't think I darkened a door of a church until my mother began taking me to a quaint little First Presbyterian number in our tiny town when I was in middle school.
I don't have any idea what precipitated this phase.
I have an Olan Mills church directory photo of my mom, two brothers and myself as evidence of this attempt at I have no idea what.
Maybe it's what people say about religion.
Maybe my mom was in a difficult place and needed a "crutch."
Maybe she wanted her children to have a dose of religion.
Maybe she thought my step dad would come and somehow that would fix something.
I honestly don't know.
I DO know that I don't remember ever hearing the GOSPEL.
I don't remember hearing the name JESUS.
They might have had a cross?
I'm not saying these things were not bouncing off the walls of that tiny building that had previously been sawed in half and moved and was then being held together by skinning rods running North and South overhead, wall to wall where a ceiling would be if it weren't a church with a steeple.

I remember being signed up for the handbell choir without my consent or even inquiry.
I remember recognizing a congregant as a teacher from my elementary school.
I remember volunteering to work in the nursery to get out of going to the boring service.
I felt loved by those little kids.
 (A theme that would run through much of my life)
But there was no salvation for my soul at that place.  No understanding of my need.
I didn't hate the experience.  I didn't love the experience.
I didn't see any use for that experience.
Just meh!  I've done it.  I don't get it.
Now in sharing "me," I do not aim to direct malice toward anyone else.
For some of us, it's difficult to share without disparaging another because of our history.
The details of my past wouldn't add to the story but would harm another, so I will refrain.
But shame operates in such a way as to  keep her victims locked in a oubliette of silent suffering.
Hidden behind the shuck and jive of a "good girl."
Even my closest high school friends had only faint shadows of what I was going through.
Heck, until a few years ago, I had only faint shadows of what I had gone through.
What I did have was some well developed, deeply ingrained faking, coping and survivor skills.
I also had a very deep longing and need for love and yet a deep seated fear of receiving it.
This emptiness in me made me a prime target for people with emptiness in them.
Somehow, we were drawn to each other.
For example, what was it about me that made that teacher decided she wanted to sign me out of school, give me the keys to her turbo 5-speed car and let me drive to the bank to make her deposit during school hours?
What was it about me that made that other teacher let me drive her (really cool) car while she confided to me about her "escapades" with my math teacher as though we were friends at a bar on a Saturday night?
Then there was the slimy, uncaring, selfish young men.
In the end, I always received what I had been conditioned to believe I deserved.
This thing.  This hole.  This emptiness I apparently and unknowingly put on display for the world to see and was scooped up and lured into the web of others' emptiness and neediness.
My distorted understanding of LOVE made these attractions feel like love.
Maybe you could understand how a 16 year old might feel special because her teacher trusted her to be responsible enough with her car on school time?
At my age now, with growing kids, I see this insatiable hunger for love has dictated many of my life choices and to say I have suffered from the consequences of my bad decisions is, well, it just doesn't cover it.
The real love that I rejected because of a fear of abandonment and intimacy.
The wrong treatment I accepted and endured out of my habituation to not being loved well.
I didn't know I deserved better.  It honestly never occurred to me that my thinking was wrong.
So, when I was  22, I put the keys into the ignition of my boyfriend's Oldsmobile beater of a car to exit the parking lot of the bar I was at to make a u-turn at the light and enter into the parking lot of the bar across the street to meet my boyfriend and some friends.
As I cut the curb a little short, the surge of blood rushed the alcohol I had previously drank but not yet registered to my brain in such a way that I realized I should not be driving.
I rounded the corner and pull into the parking lot with blue and red flashing in my rear view.
Apparently my driving didn't get their attention.  Rather I had failed to turn on the head lights.
In order to retrieve my identification from my wallet in the trunk of the car, I had to exit the vehicle and unlock the trunk.
I was very aware of my intoxicated, slow motion attempt to insert the key into the trunk lock and I knew I was in trouble.
I NEVER got in trouble!  NEVER.   The consequences of not being "good enough" or "disappointing" were too severe.  I just didn't do it.
That's what I grew up with.  The LAW. 
When you live up to the law, you feel pretty good about yourself.
But when you fail to live up to the law, you get judgement, condemnation, rejection, shame.
I did better then my brothers.  They were swallowed whole.
I tried to save them.
But I was tough. I knew how to please, posture and perform.
Until that moment.
At the time, on my own, no one to answer to and I was in trouble.
I heard the call  for a K-9 unit to "respond immediately" come over his radio.
He looked at me and I looked at him and I knew it before he said the words:
"Young lady, this is your lucky day."
And he was gone.
I was left.  Standing alone in bar parking lot beside an open trunk of a beater car.
I can remember feeling like I couldn't breathe.
Knowing I had not gotten what I deserved.
I can tell you now with tears in my eyes that that moment was the first time I met MERCY. (not getting what you deserve)
In my head, in a way that I can not describe except to tell you what it was not.
It was NOT audible.
But I heard,
"this is not what I have planned for you."
That was my introduction to GRACE.
(receiving what you do not deserve)
Still, I did not darken the door of a church or listen to sermons or hear any stories of what Christ had done in others.  I had no idea that that might be a logical response.
Five years later, I was one half of a marriage in deep, deep trouble.
I was trying to help someone at work and very unintentionally uncovered some very bad behavior by someone very high up in a company I was working for.
My co-worker was sophisticated enough to get paid off for her silence.
I was much more naive.
My reputation was trashed in an attempt to make me quit.
Each work day for over a year, I had to show up for work under a cloud of gossip and slander.
A few people (high up) knew, but I never defended myself.
I was never defended, either.
Because I made a moral stand, I was told I was naïve, idealistic and young, as though I was a helpless victim of my youth.
And that may be true.
But when push came to shove, these corporate starched shirts, these MBA's with corporate issued pagers and parking spaces were cowardly, self-protective fakers who couldn't knock "integrity" out of a piñata with 40 whacks with an aluminum bat.
So the illusion of being 'good enough,' well, when you put that in a blender and press 'puree' it never really turns out as good as you think it will.
Morality?  Good enough?
We're all looking for a hero.  Some of us may smugly think we ARE a hero.
But everyone has a puree point.
By God's grace, he dropped me in and pushed the button.
My mother had gone to Alabama to pack up my old, spinster of a great aunt and move her to Florida to spend her final years near her sister.
Aunt Ellie was in bed by 8:00 pm in her quiet, little house.  My mother pulled a book from a box and began to read.
When she came back to Florida, she handed me the book and said she thought I should read it.
I left it on the counter, without a thought, for a month.
On vacation, or home sick (I don't remember) I began reading "Not My Will."
I cried through much of it.
Crying on my pillow one night on the couch after a huge fight, afraid of the shame of failing at marriage, but really not having the energy to stay in it, I just spilled out the words...
"I don't know if You're there or You hear me, or even if You care.  But I don't have the strength to stay (in the marriage) and I don't have the courage to leave."
I just can't.  I can't take the shame or the failure.
I spent my whole life CAN.  Let me tell you, I have skills.
I have much more CAN in me than does the average person.
I can do CAN so automatically and so effortlessly that no one is the wiser.
But this, I CAN'T.  And damn it, I'm just tired of so much CAN.
If I had been going to church and had heard the gospel and responded to an alter call, I would have known to write down the date my life changed.
But I still hadn't heard about Jesus.  I didn't know about the cross He bore for me.
I didn't know about subsitutionary atonement, incarnation, resurrection, redemption or sanctification.
I didn't know about sacraments: communion and baptism, precepts or observances.
I was married to a catholic school graduate. I don't think he knew either.
That night on the couch, wrought with pain, guilt, shame and helplessness I just said
"I can't."
I "heard" (again, not audible) the words "I KNOW."
That's it. 
I said, "I can't."  and I heard the words, "I KNOW"
I felt, not physically, but I felt held, arms around me.
I felt a peace I can not describe.  A peace that in spite of my circumstances, I was calmed enough to fall asleep, held and comforted and calm.
When I woke the next morning, I faced the same wreck of a marriage, the same work environment the same challenges, but I was different.
I could not tell you how, but I was. 
It was probably another year before I went to church.  It was another 2 years before I attended my first bible study (on the way to which I received a speeding ticket)
I have spent the last 16 years or so trying to figure out what happened to me that day on my couch.
Desperate and alone, wounded and hurt.
Having done my share of wounding and hurting others.
Feeling shame.
My circumstances did not change that day, in fact, it got WAY worse before it got better.
For quite a long time.
But, instead of fighting, scrapping and clawing my way through this life,
I am working out my salvation with fear and trembling.
I am getting to know who my Savior is and who I am in Him.
He has shown me His sovereignty over my life's circumstances and my choices and truly amazes me how He can work all things for the good for those who know Him and are called according to his purpose.  He has shown me how He reaches into the cess pool, breathes new life and changes the course of history for me and my children and for their children.
I never found Christ.  Heck, I wasn't even looking.
I had been where you would think you would find Him and never saw Him.

All this to say, I get it.
Really, I do.
I get how someone thinks they can be good enough.  Smart enough.
I get that you've been to church and meh, its not for me.
Or it's stupid.  Or mean.  Or whatever.
I get it.

What I don't get is that you and I were the same and now we're not.
Not because I'm better than you.  Not because I'm smarter than you.
Not because I was indoctrinated, proselytized or searching.

It was because I said "I can't" and He said "I know."

Isaiah 61:1-3
Ephesians 1:3-14 

Friday, June 28, 2013

You Can't Put Cotton Balls in a Rock Tumbler and Expect a Polished Stone


Many times, Christians forget that salvation happens quite apart from any effort of our own, but is the free gift of God according to the pleasure of His good will.  It's because of who He is, not because of what we've done.  (I think there's a song about that)  Our response, too often, is to fall back into works theology, in spite of ourselves,

 trying to being good, do good and not cuss. 

God's primary objective for us, after redeeming us, is to conform us to the image of His Son.  He purposes to melt us down, skim off the dross of sin and the effects of sin, surgically remove the roots of bitterness that entangle our hearts and free us from the bondage of wrong thinking that enslaves our minds.  He wants to heal us and correct our wrong thinking and attitudes, the result of lies we have believed, and to bring us into a full understanding of the gospel and to enable us to live a new life in light of it.  We wrongfully reduce the gospel to being good by saying "yes" to volunteering in the nursery and being treasurer of the women's ministry or leading a bible study.

From a Chinese prison, Watchman Nee wrote a wonderful commentary on the book of Ephesians.  He insightfully identified a pattern of spiritual growth and made it the title of his work, Sit, Walk, Stand.

The first few chapters of Ephesians is the "sit part" where Paul reminds us who Christ is, what He has done, why He did what He did, for who's glory He did it and who He made us to be as a result.  Only after sitting in these truths can we know how to "walk" properly, in accordance with truth and with the right motivation.  The last chapter of Ephesians is the "Stand part."  Only when you have "sat" well will you "walk" and "stand" well.  Too often, we try to "walk" and "stand" without having first "sat" well, and it is not only a detriment to our own spiritual growth, but regrettably and unintentionally, to our witness for Christ.

There are at least three behaviors a Christian needs to cultivate in order to "sit" well before we walk and stand well.

1.  We need to cultivate a love of TRUTH: 

 Truth can be like rocks, bumping in a tumbler, knocking bits and pieces off our own jagged little lives.  Truth can hurt, primary because we're bumping into the truth that He's God and we're not.  We need to cultivate a love for His truth AND a willingness to hear and appreciate His truth applied to us.  This is the difficult gift/art of humility.   The repeated jostling, bumping, crashing and rubbing is what does the polishing.   This is a two pronged process, one vertical and one horizontal. This first part is often easier than the second.  We can pray for a hunger about His word.  We can study the bible in a group and learn how to study well.  We can dedicate ourselves to prayer.  We can all decide to make this a priority and by His grace we will gain understanding.  The second part requires godly wisdom, humility and intimacy which is in opposition to our natural man. 

I was in middle school in the early 80's when Farrah Fawcett hair was the rage.  Most of us young gals nailed the hairstyle in the front, but the back of our hair lay flat and uncurled.  Our neglect of the back of our hair was not obvious to us in the reflection in the mirror, but was painfully obvious to anyone who had a posterior view.  That's the way it is with sin and character flaws.  What may not be obvious, or may even seem healthy and normal because of our past, may seem glaringly unhealthy to someone(s) else.  We need horizontal relationships that will hold up a mirror to the parts of us we don't see in our own view of our own reflection.  This requires the wisdom to seek out relationships built on integrity and trust and to cultivate intimacy.

2.  Surround ourselves with truth tellers:

 If we take seriously the responsibility to grow in conformity to Christ-likeness it is imperative that we seek out and surround ourselves with truth-tellers and that we cultivate the courage to hear and develop an appreciation for hearing the truth about ourselves.  These truth tellers need to know truth, have the wisdom and maturity to apply truth and be motivated by our highest good in presenting the truth. 

It is very human to surround ourselves with like minded people.  Cotton balls.  People who agree with us and help reinforce and validate our own points of view and decisions. They allow us to feel comfortable and approved.  They conspire with our own mind to bump into us with soft, billowy approval which fails to reveal our sin and give us an alternative point of view.   To severe or fail to appreciate relationships based solely on differing views and opinions is a mistake, usually the result of our own insecurity.  Differing opinions can actually help us to solidify our conviction of the rightness of our stance or challenge us to reconsider.  Both are beneficial.  Additionally, creating a personal environment of only like-minded individuals leads us toward judgementalism and self-righteousness.  We fail to learn the art of disagreeing with an opinion without rejecting the person who holds it.  We limit our ongoing, long suffering relationship with that person and minimize the potential to be an influence on them or to have them be useful in cultivating humility and gospel appreciation in us. If we stay in our holy huddles, we become arrogant, useless and offensive.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.  Proverbs 27:6

3.  We need to cultivate a mentee heart and seek out a qualified mentor.

Paul was struck blind by the gospel of Christ.  After the reeling ceased and his vision restored, he was ready, not for ministry, but to prepare for ministry.  Remember the "sit part."  If you don't "sit" well, and therefore are not doing the "walk" and the "stand" in light of the gospel, you need to be discipled.  You are not yet ready to be a mentor.  Mentor qualification is not necessarily proportional to the number of years someone has known the Lord.  I've known people who have been churched for years that still have a need for pre-chewed food.  (by the way, so did the author of Hebrews)
But it is a serious matter in that we, as parents, are by definition called to disciple and mentor someone(s).  Attempts to talk the talk, without walking the walk will inevitably be found out and called by it's proper name, hypocrisy.

But there are some, by God's grace and for His purposes, who have been lit on fire. They have exercised due diligence in cultivating not only their understanding of the scriptures, but have been zealous for it's application in their own lives.  Their lives are characterized by integrity.  These folks, these are the ones we need to pursue as mentors.  You'll know them by their fruit.  Their lives will display the truth of God's redemption.  Their countenance will be confident and at peace.  Genuine humility, not false "look at me I'm so humble and use self deprecating comments" humility will be apparent.  They're courageous and live life "unmasked."  They love dangerously and selflessly.  They are gentle, but firm.  They seek to honor God, not the praises of man.  When you're near them, you feel comfortable telling your truth without fear of condemnation, judgement or gossip.  You don't fear hearing the truth from them because they'll shoot you strait and hold the box of tissue for you as you weep.  They'll pray with you and for you. They'll encourage you and stretch you.  They'll champion you to  stay focused, run intentionally and stretch for the ribbon that is the end of the race.  Pray for these kinds of people.  Pray for a teachable spirit to reap all the benefits of a mentor/mentee relationship. 

When we, by God's grace, decide to commit ourselves to doing our part in the process of sanctification, we must choose rocks, not cotton balls, to tumble with.  Get uncomfortable.  Choose to be challenged.  Choose to love truth over complacency and comfort.  Choose your relationships carefully as we are bound to become most like those we tumble with....polished stones or cotton balls.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What About Socialization? Real Talk.

I attended my first homeschool convention while my oldest was still drinking from a sippy cup and I was not yet committed to educating him at home.
We were doing fine.  I had successfully taught him to use the potty, pick up his toys, delay gratification and sit relatively still and quiet during church.
He could identify capital letters by the age of 2 and do basic addition by 3.
We did the preschool play dates, neighborhood and family get togethers and were active in church and volunteer activities, swim lessons, soccer team, etc.
He has always been intellectual and has never been 'classically athletic.'
The teaching I was confident I could pull off, but of course, I worried about 'socialization.'

Besides, I enjoyed school.
I enjoyed making macrame bracelets during English class and trading beads with my girlfriends.
I enjoyed watching James hold his pencil weird (four fingers on the top) and playing MasterMind on Fridays in 5th grade homeroom.
 Bloody Mary in the bathroom and being picked last for kickball not withstanding.
Plus, I learned that you can wet toilet paper and it will stick to the ceiling.
In middle and high school, I loved the extra curricular activities.
Clubs, TV production, talent shows, drama, band and cheerleading.
I loved the 25 minutes I could sit with my girlfriends, eat a Little Debbie cake from the ala carte stand and call it lunch while they (who actually read the books) helped me to spin my cliffs notes version into an acceptable "B" paper every Friday.
Now I'm not proud of this, and would agree that I robbed myself of experiencing some excellent literature. I was too busy spinning my extra curricular, work and social plates to actually do the required reading.  And not for nothing, I developed the finely tuned art of BS that did serve me well.
Isn't that it.  We are ALWAYS learning.  The question is WHAT are we learning?
I learned to look like a really good girl.  I learned that earns you approval and special "privileges."
I had 2 high school teachers who would initiate signing me out of class, give me their car keys and ask me to make their bank deposits for them.  Hello.  They both had sports cars.  I said 'yes.'
Both of these teachers apparently saw me as a confidant and would talk about their, ahem, "dating" life, which sometimes included other teachers at the same school.
I was completely ill equipped to know how to handle this information at 16 years old. 
Now I'm not a fear monger and God is on His throne.
He has Romans 8:28ed more significant violations in my life than this.
My ultimate decision to homeschool (along with my husband's willingness to lead a homeschool family) is based far more on principled metrics than on fear.
Fear is not of God.

What I am trying to point out is that the question "what about socialization?" has been thrown around so much it has become more of an accusation than a well thought out question that actually has a positive, well documented response.


So, let me flip the question back on the public school. 

 "What about socialization?"

While I understand that from a teacher's point of view, a class of same age students is advantageous I'm not at all convinced that this is the most advantageous scenario for the the students' social development.
Homeschoolers aren't segregated by age.  Their social exposure has breadth and depth.
Older kids have tolerance for little ones.  They lead, mentor, coach and bandage boo boos.
Younger kids have slightly older role models, tutors and under-leaders to look up to and aspire to be like.  There is no homeschool 'freshman' hazing.  No 5th grader bullying of younger kids, just because they're younger.  Socialization in the public school does often seem to lend credibility to the Darwinian Theory, particularly with regard to
'survival of the fittest.'
In homeschooling, socialization more closely resembles care, inclusiveness and belonging regardless of age, grade or socio-economic status.
This dynamic lends itself to cultivating a sense of familial and community responsibility for serving one another.  It's much less of a self focused, self survival environment.
(of course, I am not speaking of individual occurrences, just overall atmosphere and trends)

Please note that these dynamics also more closely resemble "real life." 

When I entered the corporate world, I was not surrounded by co-workers of similar age, in my own community and therefore similar social-economic circumstances.
I was not divided into groups based on remedial, average or above average intelligence and given a workload intented to maximize my talent, help me do an adequate job or just house me and hope I produce something.  Homeschooling socializes a normalcy in working a wider range of people and helps provide an opportunity to cultivate skills that will serve our young people well once they launch into the "real world."
While I was in elementary school, I found friends in my particular classes for that year.  I would rarely see any of them over the summer and then the classes would be shuffled the next year and I would have a different pool of students to become 'best friends' with for that year.
Of course, not all friends would change, but many as a result of the shuffle.
My best, most constant friends were the kids in my neighborhood because we were unaffected by the 'shuffle.'  We would commute to school together, see each other over the summer, etc.   There was more constancy in church or extra curricular activities such as sports or dance.
And that, of course, is where homeschoolers establish their friendships, too.
I was bused during the desegregation efforts of our county, and geez louise, we were all shuffled around in the middle school years.  Some of those kids I never saw again.
Now, high school was a little different.  Extra curricular activities were co-mingled with school activities and driving make constancy a greater possibility.
My point is this:  Doing the friend shuffle is not positive socialization,
although may appear social.

  But a large number of aquaintences we call "BFF's" which change from year to year only reinforces superficiality and lack of intimacy. 

While you may gain some beneficial life skills such as meeting new people, striking up conversation, moving out of your comfort zone (unless you're a shy kid, then it can be crushing and lonely), it doesn't lend itself to developing the skills necessary to maintain friendships.

In life, for the average person, it's more difficult to maintain relationships than to make new ones.

I offer divorce statistics as exhibit A.

Homeschooling scales are tipped away from the shuffle and more toward constancy.
These kids have greater opportunities to cultivate appropriate confrontation and problem resolution skills than the average same aged public schoolers in a classroom setting.
Additionally, there is more coaching, time, accountability and emphasis placed on the development of these skills.  Homeschool parents tend to be very intentional about coaching socialization.
Now I'm not saying public school parents don't value these skills and don't teach them.
What I am saying is that homeschool parents have more hours with their kids to do this kind of work.
In the homeschool community, there is great emphasis on character development.  We will stop what ever is going on to tend to character issues.  Unfortunately, that is not similarly possible for the public school teacher in a classroom with a lesson plan that can not stop.
Most kids with conflict must be sent to the dean/principal.  The message is, stop this behavior or there will be a consequence (or NOT, actually)  This can unintentionally create the impression that all conflict is bad and the kids don't have the opportunity to cultivate the relational skills to work through the problem.  These kids (all of us really) could benefit from learning better interpersonal and conflict resolution skills.  To learn and practice the disciplines of agape love and forgiveness and reconciliation.  Too often, we just stuff it in frustration and try to survive, resulting in misunderstanding, unresolved anger and ultimately feelings of rejection and bitterness and unnecessary loss of relationship.
We have become a culture numbed by the pain of relationship loss.
We have become transient, superficial and distant.
We are self protective against the pain of loss out of fear of abandonment and fear of intimacy.
We just don't know how anymore.
See my exhibit A again about divorce rates.

 "Socialization" has been reduced to meaning "are your kids surrounded by gobs and gobs of people?  Do they dress similarly to their peers? Do they blend in, or at least not stand out?  Do they value what their peers value?" 

I think the "what about socialization?" question is really just a more polite was of saying, "aren't homeschool kids weird and awkward socially as a result of being shut in their house studying all the time and having no friends?"

My response to this more honest question is in this post, Homeschooling, the WHERE of it all.
Compare that to being in age segregated classes in a concrete, fenced in building.
Now I'm not trying to compete in a better/best contest with public schoolers.
I'm simply trying to point out the fallacy of the argument that homeschoolers are shut in's that don't socialize.
One trend I'm seeing lately is people starting to homeschool for the first time their high school age kids.  Now I'm gonna shoot you straight.  If your kid is asking to be homeschooled, you're probably fine.  But if you're making an executive parental decision against the will of your kid, be understanding, but not fearful about the socialization thing.  And, they will still be fine.
I had a corporate job before I left to be an at home mom.
I had worked with literally hundreds of employees and many thousands of customers and so quitting and staying home was a transition for me.  At first, it was uncomfortably quiet (ha, I only had one kid at the time)  There was an adjustment period for me.  I had to get used to not being so frantic, self conscious, pressured, etc. I had to get accustomed to being accountable to myself for tasks that needed to be accomplished.  There was no crazy hustle, stupid social games, bells ringing beckoning me to report.  But I don't think anyone would accuse me of being 'unsocialized.'  I had more time to meet my neighbors and do things with them.  I had more time to volunteer in the church and the community.  I had more time to recreate and meet people with similar interests to mine.  I had time to sit and cultivate relationships with people, not just work alongside them.
It was a transition.  But once the cacophonous din was cut away, I could hear myself and the people around me.  I could learn, serve and get to know people more intimately.
It was more socialization than shuck and jive survival. 
Intimacy trumps social masquerades and desperate attempts at approval of people who ultimately don't have our best interests in mind.
The reality is, there has never been a better time to homeschool.  In the 70's and 80's, homeschooling families stayed home, behind drawn curtains to avoid intrusion and invasion of privacy.
But now, there are literally millions of homeschoolers in the United States and those numbers are climbing like crazy.

The opportunities for homeschoolers for curricular and extra-curricular activities has never been so abundant.  In fact, for the first time at a homeschooling convention, I heard lecturers begin to caution against losing balance and spending too much time outside the home.


This may not be true yet of smaller communities, but if you live near a big city, like Tampa, the opportunities available to homeschool families are huge and growing.
Museums, aquariums, zoos and theme parks offer homeschool classes and behind the scenes action.
Co-ops offer writing, math, science, history, foreign language, speech and debate classes.
Competitive sports like football, soccer, swim team, cross country, basketball, volleyball and wrestling are all offered in my community including games/meets against private and public high schools in the area.
Non competitive activities such as fencing, chess, dance, cheerleading are also offered.
Clubs such as science and technology, lego, cupcake baking, drama, glee club, book clubs, crafting and historic period clubs are also offered.

Even a string class and a marching band!  No joke.  I'm sure it's not going to be like FAMU.
But have you seen University of Florida's Pride of the Sunshine band?
It's small.   But you can 'na, na na na na, Go Gators! and We Are the Boys' to it.
Social get togethers, field trips, pool parties, concerts, mission trips, service opportunities.

Oh, and get this.  My kids know all about "Bloody Mary" (the bathroom kind and the real one), I'm still finding places on my ceiling and shower doors where my 6 year old has discovered the wet toilet paper wad thing.  My daughter crochets bracelets and trades beads with her girlfriends.  They even play kickball.  Many of them have the same friends they were in the church nursery with and many friends they've met in the last year. 

And while I'm a bonified gardening failure and I don't own a denim skirt, I do grind my own wheat and I'm trying to get my man and the homeowner's association to let me have some chickens.
But it is NOT a homeschooling requirement and I still belong to the club with or without farm animals. 
All I remember about my first convention is being overwhelmed by the number of curriculum choices and holding my husband's arm as I walked down the crowded hallways saying, "they look normal.  They look normal.  Normal.  Ok, they look a little weird.  Ok, they look normal."
You might say the same thing walking down the crowded hallways of a public school.
I told my husband that if everyone looked weird with long denim skirts, their kids dressed in matching curtain clothes like the Von Trapp Family Singers in Sound of Music, chess and violin lessons were a requirement, if I felt pressure to grind my own wheat and make homemade bread, have a garden and raise chickens, this homeschool thing wasn't going to happen.
I just needed to see some results.  Some family who had done it well.  Contented, well adjusted, ready for the world young people who had a good work ethic, skills, the ability to learn and lay hold of all kinds of possibilities for their life.  If it could be done, I believed I could do it.   I just needed to know it could be done.
The homeschool kids of the late 80's and early 90's are now adults, many of whom are homeschool their own kids
 (which in itself is a report card on homeschooling)
But if you need more, check out this Washington Times piece siting two studies about homeschool success
 Homeschooling: Socialization is not a problem

If you want to see how we do it, click here

If you want to see what colleges think of homeschoolers, HSLDA has some great articles and a google search will help you see that a growing number of colleges (even the likes of Harvard, Princeton and Yale) have created admissions processes specifically targeted to homeschoolers.  Homeschoolers have a reputation with colleges of having higher test scores on average and  better study and resourcefulness skills. They are known to be more self motivated and personally adjusted and are a better risk for staying the full 4 years and graduating (retention, which is, of course, financially beneficial to the college) 

Because this is real talk and I'm a straight shooter I will tell you that there is a consistent criticism about homeschoolers.  Homeschoolers need more practice taking timed tests and adhering to deadlines.  So yeah, it's hard to balance the mom's love and the teacher accountability thing.
So we need to step up and do better.  But if you just can't, make sure you outsource some of your kids' classes to an outside teacher that does "rigid."  Your kids need to know that college professors and employers don't have mom grace. 

And, hey.  We can do that.
If you once had socialization fears, but decided to homeschool anyway, would you consider posting a comment to be an encouragement to other parents considering homeschooling?