Monday, January 24, 2005

Our children's education

I honestly don't mind my friends who choose to educate their children differently than I do. It is a matter of democracy and personal freedom that we do not have to send our children to a church-run school, a government school or homeschool them. My husband and I choose public school. Sometimes that makes us "odd man out". And I admit that I can get a little defensive.

For instance, someone once assumed that we homeschooled because our children are good students, generally respectful and pleasant to be around. "I can tell your kids are homeschooled," she said. "They are just so nice!"

Once I explained that we did not homeschool, her jaw dropped and she stared at me. "Why would you do that to them?" she gasped. "It will ruin them!"

Before I give the whys and wherefores of why we are using public school, I need to give a caveat: we seriously re-evaluate and pray about where and how our kids will be educated each year. There is no lock on one way or place that they will go to school. This year, for these kids, the decision is made. However, I have to be humble enough to say that God can always change our direction... Having said all that, here goes:

  • We choose public education because it most accurately represents the world where our children will grow up, marry and minister. Our grandparents went to one-room schools, or lived in close proximity to extended family. The truth is, this close-knit family model does not exist, by and large, in 21st century America. Our closest family members live more than 400 miles away.

  • Our children are being exposed, gradually, to a worldview that does not "jive" with their parents'. In baby steps, they can explore, discuss and get support for standing out as being "different". They are able, at their level, in their terminology, to talk about what they believe.

  • We augment the reading material in the classroom with magazines, books and newspapers which present a different viewpoint to the story.

  • As parents in Montgomery County, Maryland, we monitor and carefully consider what parts of the curriculum we will allow our children to participate in. (Yes, you DO have a voice and a choice!) For instance, our children do not attend the human sexuality portion of the "Family Life" classes, held in Grades 5-9. We have a companion unit that we do with them instead of or in addition to classwork. And we have requested alternate assignments for literature we find objectionable. It does not make you popular with the faculty, but that was never our intent!

  • We show a different kind of lifestyle to parents who use the TV as a babysitter. Our kids don't know the latest commercial jingles (neither do I!) and they have limited time on-line.

  • As volunteers, we can help in the classrooms, and pray more accurately for the children and their teachers. We don't go around handing out Bibles. We don't invite them to every event at church. We do our best to parent our children. We listen to and respect the professionals who work with them.
From time to time, I've gotten criticism for choosing "the godless public schools". Realize that there are Christian teachers, parents and children who are continuing to have an influence on the public schools of America. Yes, we Christians could all choose to pull our children from public shcools. And the vast majority of children would then have no Godly influence in their lives...

These kids won't come to church (their parents won't or don't), they don't read Christian literature (not racey enough), they don't listen to Christian radio (not cool), they don't understand much about Christmas and Easter outside of Santa and bunnies (blame mass media for that one!)

These kids are growing up without moral absolutes. They are living in a world like that of Mr. Tumnus, who said that his world was "Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!"

I understand the polluting effect of modern culture on a person's attitudes and actions. I hear it and see it every day. We all do. (If you are not watching TV or reading secular newspapers, just take a gander at the tabloids where you buy your groceries! Why do you think they publish what they do?? Because people love to read it!)

And as Christians pull away from the public education arena, the rest of the members of our society are hearing less and less of our worldview. Doesn't that strike you as just a little sad?

Are there other options for educating our girls? Possibly. This year, this time, we have chosen public schools. Next year, next time? That's in God's Hands.

From our home to yours-

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Break it down

"I can't do this!!" I heard my daughter wailing from the next
room. "It's too hard!"

A quick trip to the piano revealed the problem. Her new music was complicated enough that she could not just sight-read it any more.

"Break it down, honey," I said. "Take little parts at a time, one
hand at a time."

She had to slowly work on one hand, then the other, until she could put it together. It was actually a good sign that she was progressing and playing harder music, but she didn't see it that way.

We worked out a new way to practice, which, to her disgust, took more time and repetitions than previous practice sessions. Over the course of a week, she was able to master the new music, but with great effort and tenacity on her part.

I began to ponder how I struggle in similar ways when I face new and difficult changes. I don't want to 'break it down'. I just want to DO. I don't want to practice or try again. I want to get it right 'the first time'. Or I don't want to do the same thing day after day. I get bored with the basics. In piano, it's scales, arpeggios and warm-up exercises. In my spiritual life, it's prayer, Bible study, Scripture memory, and self-discipline.


Yup. Time to break it down again...

From our home to yours,