Friday, July 26, 2013

2013 Home School Survey

Hello Everyone!
 Normally on Fridays I have been posting more in my series '10 Reasons Not to Home School', but today instead I am announcing a survey I have created for those of you who have been home schooled.
  This is your chance to have a voice and express the positive and negative aspects of your homeschool experience.
  Home schooling is a rapidly growing method of education in the USA, and the largest percent of new homeschoolers are first generation, meaning they did not experience homeschooling as a student.
  Your honest answers give invaluable insight to what has worked well and what didn't.
 There are roughly 50 questions that fall into 6 general areas;
  Relationships and Family
  and Overall experience.

  Less than 10 minutes of your time will give us all rich insight into homeschooling and I urge you to participate and send this link to others.
  I do ask that only those homeschool graduates that have NOT lived in their parents home for at least a year or more respond.
  Thank you for your participation!!!

To find survey click HERE

Friday, July 19, 2013

10 Reasons Not to Home School #4

Ten Reasons Not to Home School #4

“ You should Home School because YOU are the best person to teach your child.”

  If you have ever read a book on home education, or attended a conference, you have no doubt heard the phrase, ‘You are your child’s parent. You care about them more than anyone else, and you are THE best person in the world to teach them."
    I think that this philosophy in part is a reaction to the other side of the spectrum.
We all know parents who enroll their child in school and feel their job is done. – I know wonderful school teachers who talk with extreme frustration about students who have no support at home, and how helpless they feel to help those kids with the limited time they have in class. I actually had a young home school mom tell me ‘If I had my kids in school, - I would be mad if they came home with tons of home work and I had to teach them anyway… I mean, after all, - that is what they (teachers) are getting paid for!”   

    On the other side of the spectrum is a growing number of parents who seem to have decided that homeschooling, and parent provided education is not just a means to an end – but THE end. Period. I recently had this posted as a friend’s Facebook status:

 “Educating a child is a natural process. Homeschooling is nothing more than an extension of parenting.” Sue Maakstad….
 Wow. That is a heavy statement. Let’s look at this for just a second, shall we?
Educating a child is a natural process…. Hmmmmm. Natural sounds wholesome, - instinctive, and easy. 
  And to some very small extent, - it is. After all, children make it easy for us; they are born curious. They are born asking questions, and testing boundaries. And despite lack of any real adequate preparation for the reality of 100% responsibility of parenting, most of us manage to teach our children to eat with utensils, to use a toilet instead of a diaper, to dress themselves, tie their shoes,  and to learn basic colors, shapes, etc.
   However, - I’d like to point out that those of us who have succeeded to teach these skills came to parenting as pretty much professionals when it comes to using forks, toilets, zippers, etc.
Which points to the obvious.
You can’t teach what you don’t know.
This is just common sense.
      I do not know how to swim. I have spent very little time in the water in my life. However, - this is a skill I am determine my children will learn. I want to have absolute confidence in their skill and ability in the water. My husband is a strong swimmer, but we don’t spend enough time in the water as a family for him to accomplish much with our kids. This summer I enrolled both my children in swimming lessons. I have been impressed - I love the job their teachers have done.
   It isn’t something I like to admit, - that at 32, I don’t know how to swim. It is downright embarrassing. But faced with that reality, - I had three choices. I could flounder around fearfully in the shallow end of the pool with my kids with no clue what to do, and getting them no closer to swimming.  I could decided that swimming isn’t that big a deal, - and if I keep them from all water sources for their whole life, - they probably will not drown. OR I could decide that as a parent I am going to provide them with the ability to exceed my limitations, and make sure they receive the best swimming lessons I can.
   Admitting I can’t teach my kids does not make me a failure as a parent. It does not mean I just don’t have enough faith. (This is often either spoken or implied and used as a hammer against others questioning their ability to home school their children. I may address this more fully later)
     Recognizing my own limitations, and finding a way to succeed in spite of them, - isn’t THAT what we want for our children? Don’t each of us hope and pray our children exceed us? That we are able to give the benefits of our strengths, and to help them surpass our weaknesses?

     In the debate of education, - I believe it is crucial to recognize that our first, and primary role is that of a parent. We provide for, - protect, and nourish our children’s souls. We are responsible for their health and well being. We know them, - how they think, what they love, and how they struggle.
    You are NOT the source of all knowledge for your child. You are just a parent. I repeat. YOU ARE JUST A PARENT. (Imagine this in my very best Woody to Buzz voice- ‘YOU ARE A TOY!)
  You are no more responsible for personally teaching them every piece of information that enters their brain than you are to hand plant, organically grow, and then make from scratch every bite of food they eat.  Any parent who tries to do either will absolutely burn out. It is a job you were never intended to do. A weight you were never meant to carry.
    Healthy home schooling is not about control. Control of you, or your children.  It is not about forcing you to become the well spring of all knowledge and learning. It is a chance for you to select the best and most effective ways and means of education for your child possible. It is recognizing in what ways your child best learns, and how they thrive. It means knowing in what surroundings and from what instructors they will learn the most, and be free to progress.
    You may have one child who thrives in a class room and another who does not. You may have a child who need lots of social interaction and activities, and a child who craves solitude. You may have a child who benefits from starting at home, then moving to a class room or vice versa. No one will know that better than you.
    A healthy home school parent recognizes that their first and most important role is one of nurture and training, - their goal is to see their child develop and thrive as a person first, who is healthy and balanced and loves their life.  (Yes, probably more on this later)
     A parent’s job is also to ensure their child receives the best possible education, whether that is in a home setting, taught by a parent, - a paid tutor,  as part of a home school coop, taking courses online,  a standard class room, or some other arrangement that the parent knows will work best for their child. Get creative! We live in a day of almost infinite options.
    Homeschooling, like parenting, is not easy. It requires commitment and hard work, and determination through days that just don’t go well. It is far too easy to get an all or nothing attitude.
  Let us not forget the goal. We are not home schooling for the sake of homeschooling. We are not trying to prove that we as parents are always right, and always the best, and always enough.
We aren’t. At least I sure know I am not!

    I know only too well the enormous pressure that home school mom’s face. They feel the scrutiny from observers, they are tempted to compare themselves to the newest ‘model family’, - and deep inside, - they are constantly fighting their own doubts and insecurities, and questions as to whether they can really do it.
    You know what? That is the wrong question. The question isn’t ‘can you do it’ – but, - HOW are you going to do it? You are your child’s parent. You know them inside out. You know where they need to learn and grow, and be stretched, and their strengths. You also know yourself. Deep down you know the difference between ‘today was awful, but tomorrow is a new day’ and ‘I will NEVER understand algebra let alone be able to teach it’.
    So don’t. There is no shame in recognizing our personal limitations and working around them. But there is no excuse for our children being held back because we aren’t brave enough to face the truth.  
Failure is not the fact that I cannot teach my child to read. Failure is not allowing my child to read well because I cannot teach it.
  What was supposed to be another option, - just another tool in the arsenal parents have to help them give their child and themselves the best functioning educational process possible- has in so many cases become an unrealistic and crushing ideal that causes parents to question their abilities, their identity and their faith, and often short changes children capable of more than their parents even realize.
     So I began this post by sharing comments that are often used to reassure overwhelmed Mom’s (and Dad’s).  I know what it is like to feel overwhelmed. Let’s be honest, - if you have kids, you have felt overwhelmed. If you have even thought about homeschooling you’ve probably nearly hyperventilated.  If you have homeschooled at all, -at some point you have cried and said you couldn’t do it.
    If that is you, I am not going to pat you on the back and tell you to pray for more faith. I am not going to tell you that you are the best person for the job. I am not going to tell you that it’s ok if your child is really, really struggling. I am not going to tell you that the child you clash with is just helping build your character. I am not going to reassure you that fractions don’t really matter. I am going to tell you the truth.
   You ARE fully capable of giving your child the best education possible. It may mean hours helping your child with homework; reviewing where others have laid strong foundations. It may mean teaching your child at home. It may be anything in between.
  It definitely means being their biggest cheerleader. It definitely means a lot of hard work, sweat and tears. It definitely is worth it.
   What more can we dream, than for our children to stand on our shoulders?
   What more can we ask, then to see them fully explore their potential?
   What more can we offer, - than to show by example that our weaknesses do not have to define us, - personal limitations can be overcome, and finally, - the beauty of a world where we need and appreciate others who excel where we lack.

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main…..”
John Donne

This is the fourth in a series of posts.

10 Reasons Not to Home School #1 "Because It's the RIGHT Thing to Do"

10 Reasons Not to Home School #2 "Because Your Protecting Your Kids"

10 Reasons Not to Home School #3  "To Give Them a 'Custom' Education"

10 Reasons Not to Home School#5 " To Be Part of Home School Culture"

10 Reasons Not to Home School #6 'To Avoid Sex Ed"

10 Reasons Not to Home School#7 'To Build Strong Family Relationships"

Linking up with

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Elephants on Birth Control

   Recently I heard a report that in South Africa, elephant populations have grown so fast, that there simply is not enough room for so many large animals in their game reserves. So they have put most the females on birth control. They allow a few births to occur so the elephants do not loose their herd instincts and baby raising abilities. However they are also dealing with sexually frustrated bulls of all ages who are kept away from females.


How do you administer birth control to an elephant?
Who is paying for it?
So. If you are an elephant on birth control, - do you gain weight?
Does anyone notice if you do?

 To read the full article which provides more questions than answers,   go here.
 To understand the logic behind our natural resources management in this current day, good luck.
 To always stay up to date on important information that affects you, - like elephants with the munchies, bloating, and pms, - stay right here at  thepresentMom. :) Your welcome.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Book Review: 4 Women, 4 Stories

   Today I am sharing a compilation of book reviews as one post, since I find that while the stories of these very real women varies drastically, and their experiences differ dramatically, - there is an underlying theme of courage that has shaped their lives.


 Escape,  written by Carolyn Jessup, with Laura Palmer
‘I was born into a radical polygamist cult. At eighteen I became the fourth wife of a fifty year old man. I had eight children in fifteen years. When our leader began preaching the apocalypse, I knew I had to get them out.” 

Stolen Innocence By Elissa Wall, with Lisa Pulitzer 
 ‘My story of growing up in a polygamous sect, becoming a teenage bride, and breaking free of Warren Jeffs.”

     These two books were written by women raised in the same sect, roughly a dozen years apart. Carolyn Jessup is the older of the two women, - raised in the LDS church in a time before the notorious Warren Jeffs came to power. She was raised in a  group that did believe in polygamy, but at a time when the church was relaxed and marriages were only beginning to be very loosely  arranged.

     She watched as her group became more rigid and radical over the years. I found it fascinating that controlling the education of children born to those in the church became of greater and greater importance as the power and leadership consolidated.

 Author of the second book, Elissa Wall, born and raised in the same group as the Carolyn, only over 10 years later. (Though not friends, they both knew and mention some of the same key people in their books) Elissa is raised in a time when a previous mild pulling away from the public schools had became a more rigidly controlled form of education which really amounted to indoctrination.

    Raising thinkers is dangerous to any group that relies on compliance to maintain power, and therefore the purpose of the education of their children was not to expose them to history, science, and reading  etc. so that they could enlarge their views.   Instead, much basic knowledge (such as American history, biology, and more) was purged from church run classrooms if it did not serve the purpose of creating good church members, and children were rigorously drilled in the history and beliefs of their church.

    The women in both books were keenly aware of this as adults, and in both cases, remembered loving school and their studies, as a sort of escape from difficulties in their lives. Both pushed hard to continue studying past high school. (Rare, and not encouraged for girls were expected to marry and raise children early) Both worked hard continue their education and to have a means to support themselves despite the fact that they had to obtain permission from husbands and fathers for every step along the way.

     I do not think it coincidence that the women, who had the courage, strength, and ability to leave dangerous situations in life, are those who had already fought to educate themselves.
Women mentioned in these books in far worse, far more life threatening and violent situations never even attempted to leave, and I can only assume it is because their wills were broken, their ability to reason atrophied, and confidence and courage to act based on their own behalf was carefully destroyed long before, in childhood.

   Of course, the most disconcerting aspect of these stories to me was the absolute conviction these women held that by perfect, blind obedience to their authorities they were pleasing God. The chains that held these women captive, binding their hearts and minds were forged one link at a time by their own beliefs, and their fear in loosing right standing or divine protection of an unsearchable, unmerciful God.

    It is hard for me to admit just how uncomfortable these observations made me feel. The thought that someone can fervently, whole heartedly believe, and live in a way that is self sacrificing, in an attempt to honor God, - and be completely, totally, wrong, is terrifying and heartbreaking.

   The book Banished, by Lauren Drain with Lisa Pulitzer

   Lauren's story, contrasts in many ways with the first two.
    The Westboro Baptist Church is a family cult run by highly intelligent and educated individuals, (most adult leaders are lawyers or have several degrees) They pride themselves on knowing each fine point of each law in our country. They encourage their children to be sharp, smart, and fearless. Their goal was to raise great debaters, who could out argue, and yell, and emotionally destroy anyone in their path.
  Lauren and the other children raised around her did go to public school, - where they excelled in their studies. They also did not seem to try to live differently than their ‘worldly’ classmates as much as I expected, - and while they did have some rules, - seemed to be trying to engage in the culture, insofar as it could advance their agenda.
  The Phelps family are experts at using their freedom to verbally assault and damage others in every possible way.  Because of their rigid doctrinal beliefs, they firmly believe that ‘sinners’ cannot and will not choose God, - therefore they see their job as one of spreading the message of hate and judgment, as unemotionally as a timer beeps when to tell you the time is up.
  It is not surprising then, that a group who holds their God’s hate as it’s most important dogma, is unable to love those in its own group who in any way fail to measure up to the strict standard of perfection they have decided is important to their God. They would rather cut off part of their own, than to give up their dark, crushing idea of perfection.
This book perfectly illustrated to me that the most fervent believer can be broken by one thing. Love.

 Finally, Kisses from Katie, by Katie J. Davis and Beth Clark
 This is the story of an average American teen, who went on a missions trip to Uganda to work in the orphanage there, and would never be the same.
  The book is a mixture of her diary and narration as she describes the life she left, so she could save children who had no one and nowhere to go. By age 22 she had personally adopted 14 little girls, and today lives and ministers in the country of Uganda healing and helping one moment, one bath and warm meal, one kiss at a time.
   This book was beautiful and poignant. It brought me to tears several times with her descriptions of the absolute poverty and conditions of the people of Uganda, especially the children.
     At a younger age I would have felt great guilt, because of my own beautiful life. I may have become obsessed with the idea of scooping orphans off the street, and adopting hoards of hungry babies, - until I read another book which would have filled me with a new passion and new need to worry over.
   This book certainly strengthened my resolve to support financially and in other ways those who are doing such important work.
But to an older me, - the most encouraging part of this book was the absolute certainty with which Katy knew her calling. Though not always easy, and definitely not always understood by others, - Katy knew and recognized her calling, her purpose, and her part in bringing God’s love to the world in a very real, tangible way.
   Katy was just an average American girl. In her own words,   For as long as I could remember, I had everything this world says is important. In high school, I was class president, homecoming queen, top of my class. I dated cute boys and wore cute shoes and drove a cute sports car. I had wonderful, supportive parents who so desired my success that they would have paid for me to go to college anywhere my heart desired. But I loved Jesus.”

Having read these four books in just a couple of months I cannot help but compare her childhood to the women in the other books.

   It is so ironic to me that the parents in both the LDS and Westboro Baptist Church both believed that they were in an exclusive group, - living the only way that would please God.

   These families lives were consumed by living in strict accordance with their ideal of how best to serve and please God, - down to the length of their skirt, the color clothes they wore, whether or not to cut their hair or wear make up, what books were ok to read, - what school subjects were necessary to teach home makers. And when they weren’t obsessing over what they should do and say, - they obsessed over the sinfulness of others, - whether it was inappropriate dress and flirting, or other’s sexual choices.
  I found it telling that in both groups, -individuality and personal achievement were not celebrated and encouraged, - but were seen as a threat to the stability and success of the group as a whole. One person’s needs, interests, passions, or desires were a disruption to the systematic advancement of the group to a more and more identical looking standard of ‘right’. Personal preference and taste was something to be overcome.
   I am amazed at how though God designed each person to be totally unique, groups that seem to be the most fervent in pursuing 'holy' or 'righteous' living go to extremes to destroy the very diversity he created and instead create a uniform, ‘one style fits all’ approach which disallows any display of the wide variety of personal taste God put in each person.

   Crushing the unique beauty and interests God created in a child is no more honoring to God than systematically going around spray painting all birds black.

   It was interesting to me to see that while one group eliminated virtually all real education to control their people, - the other group used education as a tool in their arsenal to spread hate. In both cases however, questioning and challenging those in authority was never acceptable. In both cases, God’s protection, guidance, and each individuals connection to God was directly related to them being in good standing with people deemed their ‘authorities’.
  In Katie’s case, - it is clear through her book that her desire to make her parents happy and follow the normal path of college and career was something with which she struggled. However, it is also easy to see that Katy was raised by her parents to be a strong, independent person, and as she relieved her parents fears for her safety and well being, - she and they both were happy to see her live out her passion and calling.
   Most significant of all to me, is the fact that three of these women were desperate to please God. They were willing to go to extremes to show the world, their families, and God that they would do whatever it took to live a 'righteous' life. In each case, - they subjected themselves to everything they believed would make them pleasing in God’s sight even when it meant letting little pieces of themselves die with every breathe they took.

  One of these women just knew that God loved her. That he adored and accepted her just as she was. And she wanted desperately to give that love to others. With a smile, a hug, and warm meal, because God loves you, I love you.

  Three women came to the breaking point. They came to the point where there was nothing left to give the harsh god they thought was demanding all that they were.  

One woman found that by pursing her passion and joy and basking in Gods love her life and love expanded to explode life and joy and healing to everyone around her.

The questions I asked myself after reading these books…..
Which kind of life am I living?  Is my life characterized by pious and noble sounding self sacrifice? Is my life an explosion of love? Am I honoring God by pursuing the passions and gifts he gave me? Am I living out loud?

    And then, as a parent, - I can not help but ask myself.

  How do teach my children just HOW MUCH God REALLY loves them? How do I raise them to know there is nothing they can do, - nothing they can say, - nothing they need worry about that can ever, ever, EVER separate them from the LOVE of God!  

  How can I teach my children that there is no sacrifice God is wanting from them, - no act of humility, - no special outfit, - no moral standard, - nothing that will make them more pleasing in his sight?  It is only the love of Jesus. Only the blood of Jesus.
 He did the dying so that we might live, and live life abundantly.

  How do I help them realize that THEY are a gift?
    Their passions, and talents and gifting, and interests, - these are not things to be slowly killed in some quest for Christian Club Conformity.       
  That those unique passions and personalities are the very  tools God has given us to change the world,  one painting, one speech, one dirt bike ride, one glorious dance, one touchdown, one hug, one smile at a time.
Meanwhile I long to live like Katie. To raise a daughter like Katie.
   A daughter free to become who God designed her to be, - a woman who is strong, and confident in herself and her abilities, a woman who knows how to question, and challenge, and fight for what she believes; THAT woman, - will never be bound.

  That woman will never be defined by what the test scores, the magazines, the press, or well meaning religious people tell her. That woman knows how much God loves her, and loves the life he gave her.
 That woman will change the world.

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