Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

It will be quiet here for awhile   Leave a comment

 I am taking a bit of a break from this blog to focus on a new 30 day blog that I started today. I will post about the everyday beauty that I see in my surroundings.   I hope you will check back and in the meantime please visit me at http://toseethebeauty.wordpress.com/

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Posted May 15, 2011 by The Nonconformist Mom in Uncategorized

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Time for Solitude   2 comments

 

I often enjoy walking after dark and being able to get a fleeting glimpse into the homes on the way.  This glimpse reveals a moment in the life of a stranger and tonight an elderly woman unknowingly shared a quiet slice of her evening with me and sparked thoughts for this post. 

She sat writing at a desk in a room lined with books on shelves from floor to ceiling. Her desk did not hold a computer, but instead, papers scattered the desktop and on the wall just above the desk was a bulletin board full of photos.  I thought about the solitude she was experiencing as she was writing.  A solitude that is without the temptations to check facebook or text as these things always keep us connected. 

We think that constant, on demand connection is a good thing – but maybe at times, it’s not.  Uninterrupted solitude helps us to have time for reflection in life, time for inspiration and time to think.  Our greatest creative geniuses wrote grand symphonies, timeless literature and sculpted or painted inspiring works of art.  These things were most likely done during long periods of solitude – would they have been as deeply inspired without it? 

Our children live in the greatest technical age ever seen by humanity and they will benefit from it.  It enables constant connection and instant communication. But will these coming generations ever sit alone in a room, writing – with a pen – at a desk without any connection to the outside world?  Will they ever be alone with their thoughts for long stretches of uninterrupted time?  Will they be inspired by a great idea – only to have it lost after being interrupted by a text? 

Only time will tell.

What are the messages we send to our children about their future?   2 comments

“You’ll never make it in college.” Those words were spoken to me as I sat in the guidance counselor’s office of my high school, in 1985, to meet with him about the recent SAT test I had taken.  I was an okay student in high school, probably around a 3.0 gpa, but I never really studied or applied myself.  I liked music and focused my energy on band, not academics.  I don’t even remember taking the SAT, but I vividly remember having that counselor, who didn’t even know me, tell me I’d never make it in college, and brush me aside.  This person based my potential for success on a test and what I heard was, “You are stupid.”  That was a very profound moment for me and it affected how I viewed myself for quite awhile.  He was right in the fact that I wasn’t ready for college at that time, but I wasn’t confident enough yet in myself and that lack of confidence allowed his words to have power over me.

I think about kids everywhere who are given messages like these at some point in their schooling, either subtly or outright.  Instead of encouragement to grow and do better, often kids are made to feel inept and not good enough.  Even private schools aren’t immune to having this affect on kids.  My oldest son, after being homeschooled, decided he wanted to go to high school and graduated from a small Christian school. He did very well academically, but struggled with messages he received there that he was not good enough morally.

What are the messages we send to our homeschooled kids about their future potential?  Do they over hear us talking with grandma about the fact that they can’t seem to grasp math or just aren’t ‘getting’ reading?  Do they hear us say that we can’t imagine them as college material?  As parents, we know our children well, and can often guess the type of career path that they may choose in life.  But sometimes I see a tendency in homeschoolers to keep such a focused eye on that one path that they do not prepare their children for other choices.  I’ve heard parents claim that they don’t envision their daughter going to college, so they aren’t going to worry about higher level high school – and their daughter is only 12.  Or that they envision their son going to go to a tech school so they are just going to have him take the GED.   

True – this may be the path these kids choose, or is it the other way around – that they get the message that’s what they should do?   Life has a way of changing us and where will this boy and girl find themselves in life in seven, eight or ten years?  The son whose parents told him his best bet was the GED may want to enter the military, only to find out that they take a very limited number of GED applicants.  He also has to live with the stigma that when he hands in a job application people assume he was a high school drop out.  Or the girl may decide, at age 20, that she wants to go to college, and finds that she needs to take many remedial courses for which she can’t receive credit.  Why put limitations on our children’s future, by sending them the message that ‘this’ way is the way for them or purposefully limiting their education?   

Teens look to the adults in their life to help build them up – whether they admit it or not – and to help them gain confidence that they can tackle whatever steps necessary to achieve their goals.  Instead of saying, “You’ll never make it in college,” that counselor could have said, “Okay – you have some work to do and these are the steps you can take to better your score.”  Instead of closing doors for our children by limiting their high school education or sending them the message that they’re not college material, or that they don’t measure up to some high moral standard, or will never join the military – we, as homeschooling parents, or the schools we send them to, should be equipping them with all they will need – academically, emotionally and spiritually to go through any door they choose.

Posted April 16, 2011 by The Nonconformist Mom in Uncategorized

In response to elaborate on independence   2 comments

This week a friend contacted me after reading my previous post last week on independence.  She said there was something missing from the post and suggested that I also talk about how I helped my kids (so far) to become independent.  So I will do my best to explain a little about what we do.

I’ve never been the kind of mom that cries about the fact that my kids are getting older.  When others are misty eyed because they cannot believe their child has reached a certain milestone or age, I’m ready to move forward with them and not wish for them to still be little.  This attitude is a part of my personality that keeps me from hanging on too tightly.

We do all the normal things families do; chores, money management, babysitting siblings and talking about safety and ‘what if’ situations.  We also experience our share of laziness and naughtiness – I won’t talk about remedying those situations today because there are a lot of great books out there on child rearing by respected authors.   But I think there are a couple of areas that I find aren’t talked about too often in books on child rearing that may stand out as being key to what has helped  my kids to experience a level of independence that is unusual for their age.

I have learned that there is risk involved in teaching them to be independent.  I began sending my children on walking errands when they were about seven years old.  When my oldest was seven, I had him walk to a small store called T-Mart a half a mile away to get an ingredient for dinner.  I gave him a quarter to be able call me from the payphone outside of the store (these were the days before everyone had cell phones) so I knew that he safely arrived there and then I could estimate how long before I could expect him home.   Just last week I gave my current seven year old a receipt that needed to be turned into our church office, so I gave her instructions on what to do with it and had her walk to church which is about four blocks away.  I could have easily given it to one of the older kids to do, but I want to make sure the younger ones also get opportunities to gain independence.

I have the kids ride their bikes or walk around town to the places they need to go such as piano lessons or the library.  They stay home alone when I determine they’re ready, not some agency that sets an across the board age for everyone.  When each child reaches around seven, they learn to start breakfast for the family, by getting eggs with cheese scrambled, muffins made and getting the table set or delegating it to someone.  Of course the person being asked to set the table must oblige, because the one cooking is in charge – even if the one cooking is seven and the one being asked is twelve. 

Is there risk involved in these things?  Of course, but life involves risk.  Sure, someone could point out all the red dots that represent those people charged with a sexual crime that reside near the route my kids will ride their bikes and ask how could I let them ride near there?  My response would be that sexual predators have been around – and in the same numbers- for generations.  The difference is we now have a way to track them and instantly look up their whereabouts at home on our computer – making us believe the world is more dangerous today.  Our parents and grandparents lived near these same kinds of people – but they just didn’t realize it because they didn’t live in an age of instant and abundant information.   This abundance of easily accessed information about crime and criminals adds to of our fear of ‘what ifs’.  With 24 hour news channels available, it is instantly broadcast across the nation when a child is abducted by a stranger – which is extremely rare.  This makes us believe that strangers are lurking around every corner to steal our children and our irrational fear keeps us from allowing them any freedom.

The area I think has been most important for gaining independence is that I make my kids feel needed in our home, not just wanted.  Most parents love their kids and make them feel wanted, but in today’s world the family doesn’t really need their kids as they did in the past.  There was a time where the literal survival of a pioneer or farm family depended on the work of every family member.  Children knew they were needed and that gave them a sense of purpose.   I let my kids know that the work they do is genuinely needed and not just a chore for the sake of a chore.  They have learned to climb ladders, clean gutters, and blacktop the driveway at around age 11.  Patch leaky roofs and chimneys at age 14.  In any work that is needed from housework to outside work, I have had them work with me and have let them know that their contribution is invaluable. 

I think their level of responsibility grows when they know they are being counted on and trusted to come through.  When my 15 year old stays alone at his grandparents’ cabin he knows his life could be in danger if he is careless – such as not leaving a note on the counter indicating on which trail he plans to 4 wheel.  If he got injured on the trails, no one would know where he is.  My parents count on him to be careful with the wood burning stove and outdoor fires – and because they count on him and entrust him with their property – he comes through for them.   Because he has been taught at a young age to handle himself (which involves risk) and that his contributions to the family are vital, he has now reached an age to be completely trusted with these things. 

So for me – I would say the ‘how’ in gaining independence for my kids has been stressing two main areas and the first is accepting that there is risk involved in allowing kids freedom and the second is letting them know they are needed in the family.   The way I see it, there is greater risk in being overprotective and hanging on too tightly – and that is resulting in having older children who are overly dependent on their parents for too long or ones who ‘bust out’ because they want independence but were never taught how to handle it and then they make poor choices.  Our culture sees the result of this much more often than we see kids being abducted by strangers.

Posted April 9, 2011 by The Nonconformist Mom in Uncategorized

Are you qualified to homeschool?   Leave a comment

I often hear it asked, “What makes homeschoolers qualified to teach their children?” This question reminds me that we live in a society that has professionalized every aspect of our lives from birth to death.  This was not always so.  Births happened at home and were tended by midwives or other women in the community.   The dead were prepared at home and often laid out for their wake on the dining room table.  Sicknesses that cause people today to flock to walk-in clinics or grab over the counter medication, were once cared for with varieties of herbs and salves mixed and prepared by women who were taught how to use them from the generations before her.  If parents were literate, learning to read and write often began at home.  I’m not saying there isn’t a place for birth centers, funeral homes, clinics and schools, but we have professionalized all these areas of our lives to an extent that we either don’t know how to do them on our own or that society does not allow it anymore.

Many years ago, a woman I know often asked me how our homeschooling was going.  She was a professional woman with children much older than mine and she always commented that she didn’t think she was smart enough to homeschool.   I always got the feeling she was really trying to say, “If I don’t think I’m smart enough, what makes you think you are?”   

I think people envision that homeschoolers are knowledgeable in every possible subject that their children study.  After all, teaching is a profession and education is a complex system run by professionals.  That is what happens when we professionalize our lives – it complexes life and we forget that there is beauty and ease in simplicity.  What is often happening in homeschooling is not a teaching/learning process between parent and child, but a co-learning process.  I learn alongside my children.  If my twelve year old is reading about the ancient Middle East, I’ll  sit with her and ask her to tell me about it or we may read some of it together.  I don’t have to teach it to her – the information is right there in the book. 

The main thing that I teach my children, is how to learn, not what to learn.  My 15 year old son is in the process of building a wind turbine to put on our roof to generate electricity and he is learning about how to make biodiesel.   I did not ‘assign’ him these projects, nor do I know anything about these topics.  But his childhood experience has not been him passively waiting for someone else to feed him information, but to pursue what he is interested in and how to go about gaining that information. 

So then, what makes a parent qualified to homeschool?  A couple of states say that a bachelor’s degree is required.  Let’s take a look at that.  Thirty-five year old, parent A wants to homeschool her children as does thirty-five year old, parent B.  Parent A went to four years of college paid for by mom and dad, saw dorm life as one big party and had barely passing grades.  Parent B joined the workforce after high school, saw the need for a higher education in their life and paid their own way through a tech school for an associates degree.  According to these states, parent A is the only one qualified to homeschool.  I would conclude that this requirement is not an accurate assessment of a ‘qualified’ homeschooler.

My opinion is that the qualifications to homeschool are much simpler.  The first is fairly obvious – parents need to be literate.  All other information can be obtained because of the ability to read.  I don’t need a degree to help my children learn middle school science, but I do need to be able to read so I can learn it myself and help them to understand it. 

The second qualification is not one that can be measured with a degree or exam.  It requires that a parent must enjoy spending large amounts of time with their children.  One can have obtained a PhD in smart-ology with honors high enough to make their nose bleed – but if they don’t enjoy spending day after day, year after year with their children – they are not qualified to homeschool.  Sure, homeschoolers have days that we are irritated with our children and need time alone, but for the most part we enjoy what we do.

When we look past the façade that childhood education must be handled by the so called ‘professionals’, we see that educating children can be done by any literate parent who enjoys being with their children and has the desire to take back a part of life that society has come to believe belongs in the hands of experts.

Posted March 26, 2011 by The Nonconformist Mom in Uncategorized

Proverbs 22:6 – is it the way ‘we’ think a child should go?   Leave a comment

One of the most well known verses in the Bible is Proverbs 22:6 which reads, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  We love the promise God has for us in this verse, but often the “train up… in the way he should go” part is confusing as each family and community of believers offers their own interpretation.

When thinking about the phrase, “…the way he should go…” we, as parents, often interpret that to mean the way we think they should go.  To some extent that is so, as in teaching them God’s word and learning the do’s and don’ts when it comes to proper behavior.  But if we look at that part of the text as also meaning, allowing children to grow according to their natural bent and drawing out their God given talents, we see that homeschooling has the potential to provide a great setting in which to carry out this scripture.  

If children are free from an environment that pushes them to perform at a predetermined academic level and conform to the masses, they will be more likely to blossom at their own pace without labels such as ‘delayed’ or ‘gifted’.  They have the time to pursue and nurture their natural gifts without having to live at the frenzied pace that many in our culture do. 

When too much “we” is added to the verse, it is often our own selfish desires coming out.  We want them to follow a certain career path or go to a certain college.  We fear how we may appear to others if they are not on the path on which we think they should be.  We want them to make certain life choices.  When the focus is on having our children meet our needs in this way, we can lose sight of the fact that each child has their own God given bent in which He has asked us to train them up.

Often, this verse is interpreted to mean train them up in a Christian bubble.  Christian friendships and tools, such as books and DVD’s, to help build them up in God’s word are great, but instead of leading them to God, they are often dragged along with vice grips.  There is fear that exposure to anything outside of the ‘bubble’ will keep them from a relationship with God.  This tight grip squeezes the life out of them, leaving them with little desire to want to experience God’s grace.  The result can be rebellious behavior, often times with serious consequences, and damaged relationships between parent and child.

Proverbs 22:6 will continue to keep parents on their toes, but if we keep one eye on God and the other on our children, minimizing the ‘we’ and bursting the bubble – hopefully we will someday see God’s promise that they will not depart from the way they should go.

Posted March 22, 2011 by The Nonconformist Mom in Uncategorized

“Planting Seeds in This Old House” 2nd place essay winner at school   Leave a comment

     Our house is not one that would catch your attention if you were to drive down our street. It does not stand grandly behind a beautifully landscaped yard. It is not cloaked in fashionable siding of the latest color combinations. Nor does it reside in the sought after suburbs of the upper middle class. It is a simple, humble house; plain, practical and nothing more.

     Careful inspection of the house, built in 1926, reveals evidence of eras gone by. A black stain on the hardwood, dining room floor left by a parlor stove from the 1920’s, reminds us of a time before the comforts of central heating.  A grate, cut into the floor of the upstairs bathroom, lets the heat of the kitchen rise up to help warm those taking a bath on cold Saturday nights. The lack of electrical outlets in the bathroom tells of a time before hair dryers and curling irons. The discovery of a well underneath the garage floor brings us back to a time in history when indoor plumbing was a novelty for the well to do and city dwellers, while those in rural areas and the working class pumped their water outside. Hidden layers of paint in the stylish colors that defined its decade and hardwood floors covered with vinyl, indicate the desire to have a home that appeared modern and fashionable.

     The simplicity does not just apply to the house itself, but also to those who have lived within its walls. In 1948, a man, who was to spend his life working for a concrete company, and his wife, a daughter of rural immigrants, bought this house and raised five children in it. While talking with her, she told me that this house seemed like a castle compared to the rural home in which she grew up.  The love this couple poured into their family is evident when their children and grandchildren have come by to visit their childhood home and share their fond memories with us.

     1993 was the year we made this house our home and like the family that preceded us, five children call this house, home. We made many improvements in those early years; a new roof, new windows, a new driveway are to name a few. But as more children grew to fill its rooms, money for home improvements grew less available. Decades old, dry rotted garage doors still need a strong pull to come rumbling closed. Weathered, rotting window trim and boards are replaced as needed, but hoping someday for a vinyl facelift.  A front porch, adorned with 1950’s wrought iron peppered with rust spots, aches to be redone in stylish, vinyl wrapped pillars and rails.

     Despite its need for update and repair, this old house still provides what is needed to make rich memories. The memories of summers spent with children playing matchbox cars on the front porch, or taking a welcome respite on the front porch swing on a hot, humid day. Memories of watching rain pour over the porch’s eaves on a warm, summer’s evening and listening to the deep tones of the copper wind chime, turned green with time, but ever faithful in its song. For over eighty years, adults and children alike, have enjoyed the deep clawfoot bathtub which now provides our family with relaxation and fun. These memories cannot be made better with home improvements.

     Along with memories being made, life lessons are being taught and learned in this house. Through homeschooling, we are learning to see education with new eyes and to think outside of the box. We have learned that family life can be difficult and that marriage boils down to commitment.

     As the children of this house make their way into the world and pursue their dreams, I hope they remember that the seeds of those dreams were planted here, in this plain, practical, simple house. Like a wise, old man, bent over and weathered by the passing of years and the experiences of life; this battered, worn house proudly stands to show its imperfections and scars that come with living a full life.

Posted February 14, 2011 by The Nonconformist Mom in Uncategorized

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