Monday, June 26, 2006

When there are many words.....

Ok, I realized after posting the link to Dawn and saying that I could have done that instead of making my previous post that further explanation was probably needed.

Here's the deal, when it comes to blog posts I prefer to talk about things in their basic form, leaving out all of the exception clauses, what ifs, bunny trails, etc. So I write my post, stating what is a general working theory of mine in rather black and white terms. I'm usually quite happy with my results. Until later that is. Then I realize that I probably didn't' give enough information to make people who don't know me realize that I am not trying to tell every Christian household what they need to do. But I don't like adding in the caveats every other sentence or apologizing that I boldly think my opinions are right. (Like I said before, that is the basic definition of an opinion).

So, when I read the article at Dawn's blog I thought, "yes, this is it. The things to keep in mind when living life, when educating, when making evaluations. This is good stuff. This is how I desire to always view my ideas, and instead hold the pursuit of God up as the first and best thing which there is." So I posted the link. Then I realized I left y'all out of my thought process and were probably a little confused. Sigh.

I console myself with the though that this is probably not the first time I've written something confusing and probably won't be the last and as such my dear reader are probably used to it by now. You may even expect it.

So know, that when it comes to posts I truly think it is best to say things simply and without all the addendums which I made for my education thoughts. When you are writing things down for your own edification and for a larger group to think about and discuss, I really do believe it works better to talk about the big universal picture first, and then when you are talking on a one on one level, address whatever individual situation you are in. Ok, it is time for me to be quiet now and stop worrying that I am going to be misunderstood. If I write something that seems wrong or offensive or anything else, make a comment and we can discuss the caveats there because it is too tiring to try and cover them all in any individual post. I will go batty. Some might say it will be a short trip.

One should always read other blogs first

Ok, I could have saved myself a fair bit of time if I had just read Dawn's blog first today. She talks about some great stuff (a summary of another article she links too). Basically it points to things to consider in homeschooling, and although I am not homeschooling yet I think they are very applicable to all ways of life that we hold and philosophies that we develop. So I could have just linked there and then said "yeah. I agree with all of that" and then there probably woulnd't have been need for me to list my exceptions to the rule because you would have known what I think of my rules. :) Anyway, go and read it here.

More Education Thoughts

There is an exception to every rule it seems. Of course there are exceptions to that rule as well :) And as such when writing my first thoughts on education many exceptions came to my mind, and defining circumstances that would change the way a situation might be handled. I didn't want to talk about them there though for fear the main point would be drug down too drastically. So here I'd thought I'd share some of my further thoughts in case you read the last post and had thoughts like "But what about....and she can't possible think that in a case like..." and so forth.

First I would like to say that I think it is important when trying to establish a general philosophy on something that you keep a few things in mind. One, is that a base working idea will do you more good to start out with than one filled with "what ifs" and second to not hold so tightly to the general philosophy that it can't be altered as you gain more wisdom or as the situation presents itself. So even though I do rather think the general ideas I laid out on education have broad application to most families (I believe towards the end I was so bold as to make such a statement) they are not the end all thoughts on the matter, they are not even my end all thoughts on the matter. And if another family believes they are being lead in another direction then more power to them. The thing about opinions is that we believe that ours are the right ones- if we didn't then we wouldn't have them. So keep that in mind that although I will use phrases that indicate I do think this has application to more people than those who live in my house, I also know that I could be wrong about that and am always happy to be shown that I am.

Ok, all that is out of the way...some of my personal exceptions to my "rules" of education:

1. Family distress. It is probably obvious from my previous post that I think that a woman should be at home instead of in an outside career. However, I know that can't always happen. A wonderful woman who I had the privlege of hearing speak at my old church (woman's gathering, not Sunday ;)) encountered such an event in her life. She was homeschooling her 7 children, classical education style, when her husband got very ill. In a beautiful and heavenly turn of events it was actually her who ended up diagnosing him when the doctors were unable to and when he almost died. He has a condition which leaves him unable to work, but she was able to find a good job in her former field of chemistry. She was actually hired by a woman who had a very similar circumstance as her and was very understanding to her lack of previous experience and yet great need for the work. It is just an amazing story of God's provision. Anyway, now her husband handles the homeschooling and has chosen to go in a different direction instead of classical. This is just one of many possible situations of family distress that could necessitate ones' home looking different than what might be considered "the general rule".

2. Period Of Preparation. There are many people who get married and have kids before being done with schooling or job training (I'm one of these). As such the work and schooling demands of the parents have to be worked in with the children's schooling. It might be a season where free schooling outside of the home is the only option.

3. Single Parent. If there is only one of you, your options become more narrow. Once again this could make public school or all day school the best choice for your family.

Ok...there are probably many more, but those are the first 3 that come to mind. A few other exceptions to some things that I said are probably worth stating as well. First, I made the argument that it is best for the family to not be separated all day, with further activities on top of school commitments, only giving you dinner time as time together as a family. I do hold pretty firmly to this. But, I think (and this is more conjecture on my part from interaction with friends who had this sort of up bringing) that if you have had a lot of time together as family when the children are younger and a very firm foundation is laid, then 8 hours away at school is likely to be just fine. And it is well worth noting that if the relationship is strained in the older years (speaking from a child's perspective here) it probably isn't going to be time together alone that will help to fix it. I do think time though is a good component to restoring a relationship. Also, I am certain I gave the impression I am again extra-curricular activities, which isn't entirely true. I am against one activity after another, after another, after another. Often school involvement tends to snow ball, and what starts out as music lessons and one sport for the year very easily turns into music lessons for two instruments, a sport for every season, youth group, etc. For example, when I was little I started out with piano lessons, and then during the summer I took swim lesson and did basketball camp. After a few years flute was added, then volleyball, then another basketball camp, and then martial arts, and then I started teaching music. Then high school hit and it was cheerleading, cross country, choir, pep band, drama, FFA, church choir, youth group, worship team, piano lesson, voice lessons, tennis, and a part time job. Oh, and I was working to graduate early and taking AP classes, so about 3-4 hours of homework every night. I was on pretty much every page of the year book. So pretty much all year I had school commitments and then after school practice, and then after practice homework, and then music, and before you know it I was only seeing my family at dinner, and not always then because basketball games start at 6:00. So, I'm all for activities like sports and the arts, but I do think it is extremely important for families to limit the snow ball effect.

I do know that in setting up my philosophy of education like this I am putting public school as an alternative choice when the situation calls for it and not an equal choice with homeschool or private school. This I stand by. Public school isn't always bad, but I don't think it can be considered as good to have children whose parents yearn for them to serve Christ to sit under the authority of someone who does not share that same goal and may even be antagonistic towards it. I don't think it is fair to the child to teach them respect for authority and then try and expect them to sift through what truth is coming from the teacher and what isn't. I'm certain good parents can combat this influence, but it is still going to be very hard on the children to have the split authority over them with two very different goals.

Alright, I'm sure I missed a few other exceptions, but overall I think the point is clear. I believe that the family having the majority of their time together is the best, and that an education which is Christ centered given by those who serve Christ is also best. And there are often exceptions that create different circumstances that God will use for great good in the life of the believer. We have that promise.

So, readers- what are your thoughts? Am I out in left field? Right field maybe? How are you/going to educate your children and more importantly why? What do you think the goal of education is?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Education Thoughts

I've been in two conversations recently where my thoughts on sending my children to public school came up. Both times, partly to my surprise, I responded "over my dead body." When I first reflected on this response I thought maybe that it was a bit too strong of a sentiment. After all, I could think of a few cases where I would consider public school. But as I thought through my exceptions to the rule I realized that for the most part there would be exceptions to those expectations and I can't truly think of one "for sure" case in which I would send my kids to public school. Perhaps if laws were enacted requiring it, but you better believe I would fight hard to make sure those laws were never passed in the first place.

I have many concerns about public school, but let me state from the beginning that very little of the concerns are on the individual school level. I know many people who are teachers, thought about being one myself, and I have encountered many great public schools. I went to public school and although I know there are same gaping holes in my education, for the most part I did very well and came out better for it. And although I know that there are probably many poor teachers out there, I have encountered very few in my time in school and overall consider my interaction with my teachers to be some of the greatest benefit I had while in school.

I do have concerns large enough however to keep my children from attending. The first is simply the time that is taken. The schools days are long, many elementary schools are cutting programs like art, music, PE, and recess in order to have more classroom time to get students ready to pass national tests. Which means for the most part we are taking children at around 6 or 7 years old and having them sit still and quiet for 5-8 hours a day (depending on how the classroom is run and what activities the school still has). That is too long if you ask me. Small children should no be holed up that long, period. Especially not little boys, it simply isn't how they are made. Before having children I taught at a school that met from 8-12, during that time there were two fifteen minute breaks and 45 min. PE 3 times a week. All students were taking at least 5 classes, some more, and all students were taking a foreign language. They were taught how to learn, how to think, and how to use their time wisely. Busy work wasn't given because we didn't need to fill up extra hours that we didn't have activities for. The school got more done with just 3.5 hours of work than most do with 8. After seeing that system I'm not sure how comfortable I'll ever be with sending my children to schools that meet all day and then send homework home on top of that, public or private.

Which is probably a good sage way to say that I don't necessarily think private schools are the answer either. There are often many problems with private schools, and generally all private schools run on the whole day model that public schools do, so while the overall education might be better, it is still a really long time for a little boy to sit at a desk.

Now, I also have some serious issues with Public School and how they are paid for, but those are thoughts on government more than education, so I shall save that for another post.

Overall, I fear the Public Schools try to teach to the median student. (Remember those math lessons on averages?) And granted, there are many students who will be served by this. But there are two categories who won't be and who I fear will not only have their education needs not met but will also have very wrong ideas about what is important in life. These are the "gifted" and "special education" categories. Don't get me wrong, it isn't the ranking so much that I am concerned about. It is of course a fact of life that some people are going to be better at some things, some people are going to be prettier, some more musical, some smarter, etc. That is simply how it is. My concern is that the gifted students will come to think that they are intrinsically better as a human than the ungifted students simply because they are better at math or history, while the special education students will come to believe that they are some how less as a human because they can't do long division. Our worth as people are not defined by our reading skills, or our ability to understand geometry. But when you take everyone of a certain age group and say "you should all be able to do this ______" you are creating a false model. Most every teacher or parent understands that each child is unique, and while a child may be way above grade level at math the same child can be way behind in reading. That child is neither gifted nor stupid- that child is simply that child. But the system is not set up to handle a 5th grader who can do Trig. but can't read Dr. Sues. One way or another I think the majority of student are short changed by the way the most schools are set up. There isn't any margin for the individual child. I'm not saying that a classroom needs to cater to every whim of every child, but if we want a student to be well educated I think the instruction has to start at the level they are actually at, not the level we want them to be.

And so I think that the ideal system is either a half day school where the subject levels are distinct from grade level (ie: you can be in 3rd grade but taking 9th grade english and 2nd grade math) or to homeschool. This is what I think will ultimately teach children the most about the subject and foster the best environment for teaching one how to think and learn and to desire to learn.

There is another thing to consider though in the subject of education- what is our ultimate end goal? What, at the end, will be defined as success and what will be defined as failure? Spunky at Spunky Homeschool asks "Why do we educate?". It is her premise that we must answer the why before we answer the how. I think there is great wisdom in this. When she was asks why she educates her children she gave this response:
"My children's success is not determined by a degree or a dollar. That a well educated child is one who knows and loves the Lord their God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength, and loves their neighbor as themselves."

I would put forth that this is ultimately the goal for all Christian parents. We mustn't define our success by the world's standard: a good job and lots of money. An education might produce those results, and that is well and good, but that is not success. When my children complete their "formal" education I will not care if they know that 1588 was the defeat of the Spanish Armada, that F=ma, or pi is 3.1415926.... I will consider their time spent in school successful only if they love the Lord, fear Him, serve Him, and desire wisdom from His hand. That's it. I don't care if they are Nobel Laureates or have their doctorates by 23, if they don't know God I failed in their education. Period. Everything is a waste of time if you don't know Christ and serve him. Read these thoughts for further clarification of this principle.

What other results would I like to see besides that? Once again, they have nothing to do with book knowledge. I want my children founded in a solid Biblical world view. One that is purposeful in comparing all things to God's standards. I want my children to have hearts that are turned towards home- to love and enjoy myself and their Abba and brothers and sisters. I want them to consider time spent with family time well spent, and that their siblings are the best friends they could ever ask for. Does this mean I intend to keep them locked up here 24/7? Absolutely not. For I also want them to love their fellow man, Christian as well as not, and to hunger to serve and share to God's Word. I want them to understand what the world is like and to have hearts which break over the lost. And I don't see how separating the family and siblings for 8 hours a day (longer if they do extra-curricular activities) will best accomplish these goals. Yes, students do come out of public school who serve Christ and love their family, but it is my observation that is the exception and not the rule. New recruits are not put on the front lines, nor are young plants without strong roots exposed to the elements. Yes, sometimes both would survive, but it isn't worth the risk.

Do I think I'll homeschool for all 18 years? That depends heavily on where we live as well as the individual child. I might have a son or daughter who is an amazing musician and homeschool suits them very well because it would give them ample time to practice. And I also might have a student who is incredibly gifted at science and would be better served at a school with a good lab, or perhaps just going to work with their father. We'll cross those bridges when we come to them. But I don't see having my kids get up at 7 and have breakfast, be in school from 8-3, after school activities from 3-6, dinner from 6-7, homework from 7-9 and then to bed just to get up all morning to do it again. That gives us maybe 2 hours a day as a family together and I don't think that is acceptable. I will go so far as to say that it probably isn't acceptable for any family. I know that will step on some toes, and I'm sorry for that. I too was a child who loved being involved in activities and had one for pretty much every season. The schedule above was my schedule. And as such I didn't have a heart that was inclined towards my home and family. Yes, I loved my parents, but really I preferred time with other people over them, and got out of the house to pursue my own interests at the earliest age I could manage. It has really only been since having children of my own and moving across the country that I have realized how much I missed by this attitude.

So what is your goal? Answer that question first and then make decisions about how to achieve it. Pray hard, seek God, live out the end result you hope to see in your children. Don't simply do it the way that the government says to, or your friends say to, or how your family did it. Seek the best, don't settle.

More thoughts are sure to come on this as I move closer to school age with my kids. I don't expect that in 18 years I'll do things exactly like I think I might do them now. But the goal still remains, God's call on our life still remains, and that must be the most important factor.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Chesterton on Housewives

There has beenmuch response in the blogosphere about this article and then this one as well. The basic gist of the original article is that feminism failed because women are choosing to forsake high paying careers in order to be housewives and raise their children. The author's basic premise is that it is detrimental to both individual women, and society as a whole, when women leave the workforce for the home. Go and read the articles and the responses to them, it is worth your time to understand what much of the popular sentiment is towards those who choose family over work.

I had thought about writing an article as well. After all, my blog is theoretically dedicated to my life as a housewife, so what better place to discuss one Professor of Womens Studies take on my life. However in reading some of the commentary on the web, I read the following quotes by G. K. Chesterton and truly he says it better than I ever could.

"Women were not kept at home in order to keep them narrow; on the contrary, they were kept at home in order to keep them broad. The world outside the home was one mass of narrowness, a maze of cramped paths, a madhouse of monomaniacs. It was only by partly limiting and protecting the woman that she was enabled to play at five or six professions and so come almost as near to God as the child when he plays at a hundred trades."

"When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give [the word]up; I do not know what the words mean. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness."

Monday, June 19, 2006

No posts

My children are happy until I sit down to blog. It's like some sixth sense or something. I have a bunch of things I want to write and hope too soon. I just have to wait until I have both hands free. Don't give up on me yet.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Basset

This past month I have discovered a new favorite thing. It is a PG Wodehouse novel. In the past few weeks I have read Damsel in Distress ,Carry On Jeeves , Right Ho Jeeves , Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit , and The Mating Season. All but one of the books feature the characters Wooster and Jeeves, and two of said titles include a character by the name of Madeline Basset.

A wise man once compared me to Madeline Basset. In my defense I am no longer like Madeline Basset, and even at the time the comparison wasn't entirely fair. However, not long prior to this point the resemblance was ridiculously accurate. Madeline Basset is the sort whom think of the stars as God's daisy chains, and that every time a fairy sneezes a baby is born. So while to compare someone to The Basset (as Wooster calls her) isn't exactly derogatory, it certainly isn't a compliment. Those of you who know Nolan will be amused by the fact that Madeline's fiance loves newts. Anyway....

Like I said, I am no longer much of the Madeline Basset persuasion. Hearing her description at first sounds a bit over the top, but sweet perhaps. And yes she is sweet, but sweet like saccharine, not like honey. It isn't the sort of sweetness that makes life good, but the sort that leaves a foul taste in ones mouth. Being like that, which by the by was actually brought on by Anne of Green Gables, was my way of ordering the world how I most desired it. I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that reality isn't always pleasant- so why not simply alter reality to make it more to your liking? Why not believe ideal things about days past, dress weird, pretend you can talk to dryads in the forest and that the trees are your friends? After all, believing that the stars are God's daisy chains is far more pleasant than believing you're alone in the world and that it is a scary and dark place.

Ultimately, we all want peace and order. For me for many years I tried to create it for myself on a storybook level. Some people try to do it with money or relationships or careers. All of these attempts fall flat however, for the only way to truly order your world is with God and to do so within the constraints of His reality. Yes, the world is a fallen and dark place, but it does not become less so by simply ignoring reality. It is dark, but we're not alone and it is in Christ that we truly find peace, and order, and meaning. Evan said all of this far better here and here and here.

All of that to say that I love PG Wodehouse, enjoy the character of Madeline Basset, and praise God that I'm no longer like her. Go read Wodehouse, you'll love it.