How Much Time Does It Really Take? The Power of Fifteen Minutes

Focused attentive work in most cases, like writing this blog post for instance, typically does not take more than fifteen minutes. I have found that I work best in chunks of time of about fifteen to twenty minutes. Put a short checklist with that and I’m golden.

Why twenty minutes? Most people divide their tasks into thirty minutes. I remember school classes when I was a child used to be divided into thirty minutes. Then why twenty? One reason: it creates a sense of urgency. Watching the minutes tick by focuses my attention which otherwise would be frittered away checking Facebook all the while telling myself I was doing research.

The difference between a half hour and twenty minutes, even twenty-five minutes, is more than mere semantics. (Twenty minutes is also typically the time it takes for my children to eat breakfast. Another good reason for focused work.)

The other reason I like twenty minutes over thirty or an hour is because I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes thirty minutes seems like too long a time, so I tend to waste ten. Fifteen or twenty gives me the ideal amount of time to get one task accomplished.

What do you do if there’s more than one task? Simple. Take a five minute break, then tackle the next fifteen to twenty minute task. Pretty soon, you’ve accomplished an hour’s worth of work!

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To Teach Independence Leave Kids Alone

Seems obvious, but it’s harder than it seems.

In my day to day routine with the children, getting them ready for the day, feeding them, educating them, must I save time doing the tasks or do I need to organize the day in such a way that when I lay my head on my pillow at night I feel like I accomplished what I set out to do?

If the latter is my goal, I’m not trying to spend less time doing the things I need to do with them but instead make the time spent doing them more meaningful.There is a difference here, an important one.

Helicopter parenting (or even nit-picky parenting, if you are averse to the term “helicopter” – I know I am) is not only inherently stressful as a parent, it is also an incredible time waster. If I am constantly putting down the task at hand in order to teach the children how to “be nice!” or “don’t talk that way to your brother/sister/friend” or stopping them from climbing a tree because they could fall, the interruptions take away from getting anything completed.

As a result, at the end of the day, I am irritable and feel like I have been cheated out of my day.

Then why do it? Maybe because, at least anecdotally speaking, moms shuttle between wanting a break to do something for ourselves in a day where there are truly no boundaries, schedules, clearly delineated lunch/coffee/cigarette breaks or spaces  AND wanting our children to feel loved, protected, nurtured and educated. The result is a harried, haggard and annoyed mom left with no sense of completion.

I didn’t develop a cleaning fetish until after I had three children. Go figure. I had never been taught to do chores, earn an allowance or anything resembling practical responsible living as a child. And now, I have something akin to a minor panic attack if there are too many toys lying around the living room. I even have a word for it – visual noise. I like my clean floors, empty counter tops. It’s almost like my eyes have somewhere to rest if every inch of space is not covered with what looks like work.

But I am learning not to hold on too closely to a made bed.

Now, hear me out. I’m not saying not to make your bed in the morning; I’m saying it doesn’t have to stay made all day.

This is how I view it: I make the bed in the morning and close the bedroom off. The rest of the day is spent chasing after my three, five and under. We share a thousand square foot house and many a time, I am unable to read, write or get anything done because of the interruptions that are inevitable if we are all in the same space.

By separating myself and heading into the bedroom (and unmaking my perfectly made bed) I carve out a little space – and time! – for work other than focused parenting. Voila! I have just used space to create time. AND I have taught my children a little independence.

The made bed, and the desire to leave it made until night, cuts off my use of a large part of space and therefore time. It leaves me feeling worn and haggard, and as if I have done nothing but direct my children’s actions all day like a puppeteer.

Leaving for a stretch of time when they are occupied teaches them to control their own behavior while giving me some much needed time for focused work.

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Everything I’ve Always Wanted to Say about Homeschooling (But Was Afraid To)

I am a homeschooler. And I love homeschooling.

I love it in a no options, no excuses, no holds barred kind of way. I love it without reservation. I believe in it. I’m passionate about it. In my mind, there is no doubt that homeschooling is the single best option to educate children.

This is hard to say. It is unpopular; it offends too many people. It’s as if I have to add a disclaimer each time I speak of homeschooling, lest I appear negative, bigoted and insensitive or, heaven forbid, commit the ultimate sin of not being inclusive enough.

I’m expected to pay my respects to public school teachers, often listening to unsolicited advice from them in the oddest of places like the gym locker rooms, random strangers and whoever else is included in this village that is supposed to be raising my children.

Of course there are wonderful teachers out there and I know many good families that I would leave my children with in a heartbeat without any concern about their well being. But that would only be because they would care for them with an eye to my authority over the children and would not try to usurp it.

Oh, look. I’m doing it again. Disclaimer has apparently become my middle name.

So here it is. I’m a homeschooler and I (no disclaimers) love it.

When I say I love it, I don’t mean it’s easy or that I don’t wish for a break or even that I do it perfectly. I certainly don’t write only uplifting things about it.

Homeschooling isn’t the only way to teach children, for sure. But here’s my conviction: I do, wholeheartedly believe it is the best way. 

But… but… but…

I can already hear the slingshots loading.

“Surely you’re not saying you’re their best teacher? What training do you have?”

“Are they learning anything? How do you know they’re learning?”

“Homeschoolers are so insular! What do you do all day? Memorize Bible verses?”

“So you’re judging the rest of us who send our kids to public school?”

To which I’ll say just this: We’re not not part of the purity culture, the patriarchy movement, the radical unschooling culture or whatever other culture you think we might fit into.

We just happen to be passionate about homeschooling our children.

If I didn’t think homeschooling was indeed the best way to teach my children, why in the world would I give it my all? In a world that considers “me-time” so important, why would I choose to spend so much of my time, emotions, intellect and sheer will creating a curriculum, scheduling, explaining, reading? Why indeed?

Interestingly enough, even though I stand firmly on Christian ground as a homeschooler, my introduction to learning at home began in the secular world. The first books on education I read were by writers like John Taylor Gatto and John Holt. It was only after we had decided to homeschool that I became a Christian.

As a result, I have the unique experience of seeing from both worlds – secular and Christian – how homeschooling (and especially our specific brand of classical unschooling affords the best possible option for educating children.

So don’t assume that we are homeschooling for practical reasons which could change as soon as it doesn’t work any more or as soon as it gets difficult or until better prospects come along. As far as I’m concerned, we’re in this for the long haul.

Yes, homeschooling is all it’s cracked up to be. Even on days when it’s hard – indeed, especially on days when it’s hard.

I’m not asking for permission to be in love with homeschooling any more. I refuse to apologize for promoting it.

I’m going to be unabashedly supportive of other parents who choose this option. I’m not going to say it doesn’t matter what you choose. Because it does.

So I am not ashamed of homeschooling because it has the power to save families who feel powerless in the education of their children – in the many public schools and also the private.

I am a homeschooler and I love it.

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The Children Learn to Budget

 

School lasted two hours and a half today. It was a tough lesson for all of us, me included.

Some days are a breeze, while some others must be learned through gritted teeth. Today was one that made me wonder if all three of Bombie’s loose milk teeth would fall out right there in Target for all to see.

What’s that you say? You can’t count Target as school? Oh, I beg to differ. In fact, I’m willing to call it two days of school. Alas, tears and emotional scarring don’t buy educational credits for three, five and under, or I would make it much farther in my counting.

Counting, after all, is the easy part.

I remember starting the day with a bright idea. My husband had decided just this week to begin giving the older children an allowance of sorts. They had to learn to tithe some, save some and spend the rest. He called a family meeting and told them what they would earn for helping out around the house and I had the ability to take away their allowance for noncompliance. No other details were mentioned.

As a result, I have some extremely cheap labor around here. They require a fair amount of hand-holding and there’s tons of potty humor to deal with but you can’t beat the price and the way they hug me and say they love me.

To get back to our school day today: since we had already been working on math, we first sat around the dinner table counting quarters, understanding how they relate to pennies and dollars. The four year old skipped 13 and 15 while counting to 20, the five year old was distracted after about ten minutes by the baby trying to eat a quarter: you know, the usual. Except the money. You should have seen the smiles all around as their quarters jingled in Ziploc bags.

“We have money!” they were thinking, I’m pretty sure. “We’re going to buy the ENTIRE store! We’re going to buy ONE of EVERYTHING!”

I recognize that thought pattern, know the smile it brings. I recognize it because that’s pretty much in line with my own thinking before I head to Target, too. And then I remember to check the balance in our checking account. Ah, the cog in the wonderful wheel that is Target. The cog that, of course, was the real lesson today, the truth that would set them free but that would first make them sulk and pout and throw an all-out tantrum.

Ah, the cog, first encountered by Bombie.

This was the source of the tantrum, then, that ensued in the sparkly hairclips aisle with a ridiculous black and white cat face inches away from my face, my daughter’s hot tears wetting my hair. This was also the tantrum that met me in the candy aisle where inflation has clearly hit the hardest. Not a single bag of candy for under a dollar. She had three quarters left, or seventy-five pennies, as I explained.

How much more was I going to ask her to sacrifice? She seemed to cry. She had already put a shiny purple hairband back because she wouldn’t have been able to buy both that and candy but she would not, ever, not in a million years, give up her beloved Hello Kitty bracelet for sugar!

Money, after all, has to be appropriated carefully to fashion as well as food. I was tempted to cover the difference to make her happy, let her buy all she wanted.

“Why you only say one, mom?” she asked over and over, her tears angry, her face sad. She hugged me.

And there, in Target, I repeated for the umpteenth time that this was how we managed money, too.

Of course I had told them this before, told them how we have to pay to live in our house with the money my husband makes in exchange for all the time he’s gone away from us, how we have to make sure there’s enough for food, for clothes, entertainment and some luxuries. But perhaps this was the first time it truly stuck.

“It’s only a quarter more,” I thought more than once, half wanting to end the lesson right there. But I didn’t because the cost of giving in was much higher than a quarter. The cost, I reminded myself, was her future family’s future.

In less than two decades, she will be managing her family’s budget and, going by the prices in the candy aisle in Target, there will be way more than just a quarter at stake. These were important lessons in money and budgeting, issues I grapple with even as an adult, issues she will have to learn discipline to address when she grew up, so you, yes, you reader, and your children, won’t have to work to support her fashion and candy expenses. Yes, I know you’re thanking me. You’re welcome.

Her brother, on the other hand, was quite happy to pick out things and replace them when he found something better in an endless game of White Elephant. He came away with two bags of candy to beat her measly bag and bracelet. Baby Carver, still unable to help out with chores, was our economic dependent today. I bought him a ball and left him at the mercy of his older siblings to fight it out or beg for candy.

So in the end, I’m happy to report, it all worked itself out.

Both children shared with each other and Carver and not because I coerced them. All the candy is gone and Bombie has her beloved bracelet, whose cat’s magic spell on little girls I will never completely understand. And my resistance to bailing them out at Target ensures, at for now, at least in my own mind, that our retirement will not be spent paying their rent.

For a quarter dollar lesson in wisdom, this one came almost dirt-cheap.

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Five Things I Learned in my First Year of Homeschooling

Oh my! The school year is over. (By the way, we will probably school year-round with a lighter summer schedule.)  Really? I didn’t notice. Haha. That’s normal, right? For a homeschooler?

So, here are the highlights of the year:

1. It didn’t look how I thought it would.

Not for the most part anyway. And if I held on any longer to how it should look, I wouldn’t do it another year. I had a planned curriculum, written out, neat and tidy, text books lined up under subjects galore, ideas and pictures in my head, blah, blah, blah.

The year came and went. I forgot about the written curriculum, went by what I saw my kids needed and God’s grace. The other day, looking through some stuff, I find the curriculum. Would you believe it if I told you we had covered every. Last. Textbook? Yup. Did it all. But not the way I had planned. Homeschooling is messy. Messier than I had thought.

2. School happened in the midst of life.

I had a baby this year. I also had to get tested twice a week for high blood pressure for eight weeks while pregnant. The kids went with me. God knows better than I do what they need to learn. Looking back now, I recognize those moments as pivotal in my daughter learning the beginning steps of obedience.

3. My kids learned all the time. Not just during school hours.

That’s a scary thought. I love and hate schedules. I love that they seem so controllable and the kids find then predictable but I also hate being an automaton. So although I like them I feel the need to break them. Unfortunately, if I break them too often I feel like I’m not doing enough when sometimes I’m not required to do much at all!

They’re not learning just when I’m teaching, they’re learning even when they’re playing. I know because I get the odd question (while I’m harried and crazy making dinner! Why is it always while I’m making dinner?) that tells me something has clicked into place!

4. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist but it does take energy.

Tons of it. And I can’t pour it all out either at the gym or in my social life or even in supposedly planning the perfect curriculum. It needs to be available for them, for teaching when they’re ready to soak it in.

5. I’m the teacher and the student.

This has perhaps been the hardest year spiritually speaking for me so far. God has broken my pride, bent me in ways I never thought possible. But I have seen more blessings than I can number. He has shown me His faithfulness. I have learned more patience, more mercy, more grace than I thought I could muster. I have learned how much my husband loves me. I have found out how much more my children can learn about loving each other if it is expected of them.

Today, my daughter recited Philippians 2:14 to me: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” Yeah.That reminded me, as it does, every time I’ve said it to her that I’m definitely the teacher and the student. Definitely.

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Learning through Beading

Currently, we’re learning all the time but we’re typically schooling about two days a week.

It may not seem like a lot but then again the kids are only four and three (I have to keep reminding myself of this!) and I can fill the entire day pretty easily with activities to keep the them learning and having fun. (Thank you, Pinterest!)

On days we don’t officially school, we still begin the day with reading – typically, the Bible and then other books if there’s interest.

Anyway, I think I’ve mentioned our schedule before, so for now, I’ll just talk about how we incorporated math into another craft. The kids love beads, you know the kind, craft beads that are in gyms and preschools everywhere. They love stringing them, which is a fantastic fine motor skill but I thought to take it one step further. Why not teach them sequences? I thought.

R.C.Sproul Jr. as well as his late wife Denise Sproul have talked about how to teach math from a biblical perspective. Since sequences are pre-math work and my role as a Christian parent involves mainly teaching my children to love God, sequences helped me draw the connection between night and day, summer, fall, winter and spring and how reliable and faithful our God truly is.

And we ended up with a whole lot of fun toys for the baby!

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Our Preschool Schedule

A very wise woman whose name I now forget once told me that I shouldn’t get too attached to a schedule because as the children grow up it will change. Constantly. But you still need one, I think she added, hurriedly.

Well, it’s true. You still need one. So now that the baby is almost six months old and the older children are inching closer each day to (home)school age, we’re desperately working on one. Or changing our old one, depending on how you choose to look at it.

What amazes me (again!) is how blessed we have been in that God cares about our family and our homeschool infinitely more than I do. And I care a lot! However, you know you hear about it all the time – “Pray about it,” “He will provide,” and so on. In the last three weeks or so, I’ve personally experienced His care in terms of the smallest things of our homeschool and especially when it came to scheduling.

A few weeks ago, I met an amazing woman who has homeschooled TEN children and she directed me to reading this article. While it does not talk specifically about how to schedule the day, it did help me structure our day.

Also, I’m a firm believer in training the children in household cleaning activities. And I count that as part of school, at least at this level. In that, I learned a fair bit from another speaker at a group who is currently homeschooling six children ranging in ages from preschool to high school. She talked about making chore charts. As soon as she mentioned that, I knew my kids would just love that.

So, with all that said, what do our days look like currently?

Well, I really like the idea of teaching the three Rs and having everything else flow from that. So, we begin the day with chores and then read the Bible in the morning. Our chores include feeding the cat, sweeping and starting laundry. The kids help with these. I wash the breakfast dishes and then we head out if we’re going to the gym. (I’m currently debating if we should continue with this since we go with my husband three times a week in the evenings anyway.)

If we don’t go to the gym, Bible reading time then overflows into other reading time. On those days, Bob books are great. The pre-reading books deal with shapes and sequences. We also get lots and lots of story books from the library and the children love it when I read to them. Sometimes the baby joins us on my lap. But on most days, he naps through this morning session.

Then the kids get some free time to snack or run around in the backyard and at about 11, I plan for a small craft that focuses on math, like counting. The picture you see was the kids playing math bingo. Then it’s time for lunch and clean up. (And feeding the baby, who is turning into quite the fussy thing lately. Anything can set him off and then we have to listen to him complain. Loudly. Sigh. It’s a good thing he’s cute.)

After lunch, the baby goes down for a longer nap, so we have quiet time for an hour. I set the oven timer for this one. During quiet time, the children work on writing. At this point, it’s pre-writing, so they’ve been coloring, tracing letter worksheets for letters and cutting.

And hey, another homeschool preschool day is done! This schedule is workable, I think. It allows me time to make those necessary phone calls for dental and doctor appointments, keeps the home looking relatively clean, involves the children in housework and educates them as well. So far, so good.

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An Experiment In Unschooling

Everything I’ve been reading about homeschooling / unschooling has been making me think about motivation to learn. So last week, I tried an experiment on the kids.

On this journey toward a true philosophy of education, I hope to instill that in my children, or rather, hope that I don’t kill their natural curiosity and love of learning and finding out new things.

I have noticed, however, that my daughter seems to do things less out of a desire to learn and more out of a need for approval. The minute doing something gets hard, she gives up. I know, I know, she’s only four but this quality comes through loud and clear.

She is driven by a fear of failure way more than I’d like her to be. So for one day last week, I decided to take away (mostly) all approval and / or disapproval. I did not suggest any activities or crafts, I did not stop her from doing what she wanted to pursue (as long as it wasn’t potentially dangerous to herself or the others.) I wanted to see what she would do.

Answer? The results were mixed.

Two things happened. One, she actually did pursue something I wouldn’t have necessarily suggested in an area of potential difficulty for her (spatial reasoning) and was completely thrilled by it but, two, with the lack of response from me, the kids’ behavior was quite bad. They were completely driven by just having fun. Once I had spent most of the day not expecting better behavior from them beyond just not hurting themselves or others, that set the tone for the rest of the day.

So, in the end, I think, the experiment was successful. It showed me what I needed to see.

When Bombie was driven by her own motivation to put four magnets close to each other around a heart-shaped sticker without having them jump on top of each other (Talk about fine motor skills! These are strong magnets!) she worked so hard at it, continuing to try repeatedly after many failed attempts, far longer than I would have pushed her by encouraging or dissuading her.

I timed her; she was working on those magnets for close to fifteen minutes straight, lips pursed, frowning determination; it was quite amazing to watch.

Conclusion: hmmm. I don’t know yet. Do less with them, I think. Less is more. Pick my battles. Leave lots of time for free play but don’t sidestep parenting completely.

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“I Love Public School Because I Can’t Stand My Kids!!!”

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” “School begins! Yay!” So says my Facebook newsfeed. Yours too, huh?

That time of the year has arrived.

I cringe a little more each year. It is also constantly thrust in my face in no uncertain terms. It’s always said tongue in cheek but it carries with it deep significance: mothers it seems are doing the happy dance that their children are now away at school and they have some time away from them. Relief floods their voice.

Ever since we decided to homeschool, I try to steel myself against this day. And my children are not even close to school age yet. However, it still affects me.

This time reminds me of my choices, our choices as a family, that we are not mainstream, that we have made some unpopular decisions and the consequences of those decisions give me less time away from the children, less time to develop myself (whatever that means) and a more insular life focused entirely on my children, my husband and our three bedroom home with its laundry, its cobwebs and its perpetually unkempt bathroom.

I now get why one of the homeschooling groups I know in Sacramento throws a “Not Back to School” party. It’s a reminder that we are not alone, that we do have something to celebrate.

As my homeschooler friend Jackie Ehtesham put it, “‎Why shouldn’t the people who are subject to someone else’s schedule and an assembly line curriculum (both at school and at home), feel as if THEY are the ones missing out?” It’s true and yet I forget. They are the ones missing out – they’re missing out on time with each other, missing out on a Christian education in the home (schools are Humanist if anything); they are the ones missing out on being able to take vacations when they want and learning experientially, creatively, at a pace that works for them, in an educational environment that is focused on their children individually. It doesn’t get better than that. Not for my children and not, as a mother who wants the best for them, for me. “And yet,” Jackie says, intuitively, “even in the face of wildly successful statistics on the social contributions and academic accomplishments of homeschoolers, we can still succumb to the fear put upon us.” Fear that the children aren’t being “socialized” as if we’re going to put them in the basement and keep them on a strict diet of chicken bones and algebra.

“‎Why shouldn’t the people who are subject to someone else’s schedule and an assembly line curriculum (both at school and at home), feel as if THEY are the ones missing out? And yet, even in the face of wildly successful statistics on the social contributions and academic accomplishments of homeschoolers, we can still succumb to the fear put upon us.”

This fear however I think takes a back seat to the real fear most women (including me) have hidden in the back of their minds: the fear of a diminutive life, a life where no one notices what you do, a life where you do not matter. Feminism has done immense damage in this area, preying on this fear that is part of a normal person’s life – man or woman.

The only antidote to this existential fear is Biblical. I might matter to no one else, but I matter to God.

In the absence of God’s authority, however, and certainly in some circles in addition to God’s authority over us, feminism has convinced us that if a woman doesn’t have a job outside the home (or a home-based business) she isn’t really worth anything.

Fear-mongering of this kind is even blatant in supposed financial planning shows where women are told to keep a stash of money hidden away from their spouse and be aware, be aware of how much money they have as a family if they choose not to do so and never, ever quit your job because, hey, your husband could cheat on you, leave you or, well, he might just up and die on you.

I hope my sarcasm comes through because with all that is living in me, I reject this notion.

This is not my truth. This is not my reality and I refuse to accept anything that would shove its way between a union God has created – that between my husband and me. My truth is a man who cares enough for his family to accept a life of unending work, who cannot go to school to further his education and start a new career path because the drop in pay at the entry level position would be a hardship on us. So much for the male chauvinist holding down his woman, pregnant and barefoot.

This existential angst, this reaching for the stars on our own, this fear that I will never amount to anything in and of myself has its roots in the Fall of Man. Throughout Genesis 1 and 2, we see order placed where there was no form, order where there was chaos, words of blessing, natural divisions between light and dark. And then, in Genesis 3 begin the lies, the deception and eventually the Fall.

When Eve spoke to the serpent in the Garden of Eden she was subtly deceived into misquoting God. She was asked, “Did God really say…” Doubt was planted in her mind. She should have exercised authority immediately. After all, man(kind) had dominion over animals in Eden – the serpent had no business questioning God’s commands. But she did not stop him. She refused to exercise her authority over him and in arguing with him, she misquoted God. In one statement, “Eve disparaged the privileges, added to the prohibitions and weakened the penalty.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary edited by Walvoord and Zuck.) I can’t help but think that this is the way of all sin.

Each time I am tempted to sin, this is the trajectory my thoughts take and this exactly the thought process that is behind me so-called role of being a boring, frumpy stay-at-home mom who homeschools her children.

Thank goodness (and God!) for sending me friends who get what I’m saying, friends who I can turn to for support and direction, who have been there, done that, felt that and have chosen the right thing to do.

Kari Brautigam is one of them. I have never met her – she lives in Wisconsin and we have only “talked” through our blogs and Facebook pages. I complained to her about moms doing a happy dance this time of year and asked her how she felt about it.

These were her words, “To be honest I hear you… your little ones are so little and dependent, I know what that’s like! BUT (and here’s my big BUT) DON’T LISTEN TO THEM!!!! They won’t be dancing when their kids come back to them disrespectful and whiny, hurried and stressed. Don’t think that sending them away will be better for you. They won’t behave better if they get a break from you either, in fact, the opposite will probably happen. You are wonderful with your children. You have a grip on discipline that will be lost if you send them away. If you need to, set up play dates, trade childcare days with friend, make the time you spend with them fun… It’s true, you may have to give up some of the things you enjoy, but it’s only for a season!

“To be honest I hear you… your little ones are so little and dependent, I know what that’s like! BUT (and here’s my big BUT) DON’T LISTEN TO THEM!!!! They won’t be dancing when their kids come back to them disrespectful and whiny, hurried and stressed. Don’t think that sending them away will be better for you. They won’t behave better if they get a break from you either, in fact, the opposite will probably happen.”

Or in other words, according to Jackie, who I previously mentioned, “It’s really hard to break out of that mold of comparing ourselves to everyone else, instead of looking at our actions from an eternal perspective and using The Bible as our measuring stick (incidentally, the word “Canon” means “measuring stick”). The Apostle Paul talks a lot about “keeping our eyes on the prize” so as to “win.” We are never told to keep our eyes on the other runners.”

The Apostle Paul talks a lot about “keeping our eyes on the prize” so as to “win.” We are never told to keep our eyes on the other runners.”

In a world where nothing beyond today matters and the best life one can have involves having the most fun or the most stuff, it is important to remember quotes such as this from G. K. Chesterton:

“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 it 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.”

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.

So keep your dancing shoes on, those of you who are so thrilled to get rid of their children. But I will not be joining you this year or any other year when school begins. I will be rejoicing quietly in my work as a woman, a wife and a homeschooling mom in my three bedroom home with its laundry, its cobwebs and its perpetually unkempt bathroom.

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More Homeschooling / Unschooling Decisions

On St. Valentine’s Day this year, I’m grappling with decisions about homeschooling and / or unschooling the children. I really should say “we” are but my husband agrees that for the most part, I’ll be making the day to day decisions.

He simply feels strongly about the children not going to public school. Ever.

My mind, though, is also dwelling on St. Valentine who, as we all know now, was a priest who got couples married even when there was a national ban on marriage when King Claudius hoped to get more men to fight his wars in ancient Rome. For this, he was martyred. Married people don’t like to be away from their spouses, well, ban marriage!

What does this have to do with homeschooling? A lot, John Taylor Gatto would say.

My introduction to homeschooling has been different from the typical path. For whatever reason, I was drawn to it when the idea first entered my head when we left Pollock Pines. I was still pregnant with my second baby and Bombie was a year old.

I was picking up books at the local library when an unschooling mom stopped to chat with me because she saw the books I was buying. She had her totally unselfconscious and confident children with her. She encouraged me to read writers like John Holt and John Taylor Gatto and join an unschooling network.

I hadn’t the faintest idea what I was getting into. And here we are about a year and a half later and I’m now trying to decide between charter schools or “pure” homeschool.

Some places go as far as to say that if you’re using a charter, you’re not homeschooling, you’re doing “independent study.” I’m beginning to lean that way as well. Something inside me completely revolts at the idea of someone from a government agency walking into my house and “letting me” buy only what is according to certain guidelines.

While the money is nice to be able to buy curricula, if I can’t teach my children anything Christian unless it’s “over and above” their usual coursework, then what’s the point?

I also read while browsing various Charter School websites that the education specialist / teacher / state representative stops by to give you your ordered material and talk to your children about what they’re being taught. I know, I know. I’m sure it’s done in a completely non-threatening way and the representative is not personally the mean guy, so to speak, but the very idea of it gives me a visceral reaction.

So, I guess it makes me one of the others.

So we’re going to do it. We’re going to step out in faith and really, truly do it. We’re going to homeschool. The Christian way. The way God intended.

I can’t wait!

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