Judge Not, Less…

 

“So, where do your children go to school?”

If you’ve homeschooled a minute, you’re well aware of the whirlwind of emotions that swirl within you when you respond, “We homeschool.”     The moment in time almost freezes while you wait for that follow-up question, comment, or unsolicited advice.   I read an interesting article not too long ago about the responses of others when you make a decision to homeschool.     Though I like to think that I am past caring what others think–at least in that area, I can remember the days when approval mattered as much as any other homeschooling-related decision we made.   Coming from families of public school educators on both sides, our choice to educate our children at home was not taken lightly–by anyone.

I have often stated that one of the nuances about choosing to homeschool is that you must speak from a place of confidence long before you have it.   Moreover, once you do become confident, or have even feigned confidence long enough, it’s not a far jump to arrogance and/or judgment of others because they don’t homeschool.    I can remember that phase of my own homeschooling journey when I thought people who chose not to homeschool were just missing out.   I became particularly condescending when other parents would state very plainly that they lived in the la-te-da school district, and so they had no reason to homeschool.   Of course, my response was often prompted by a comment like, “Well, if I lived in your district I’d homeschool, too.”    This was the one time that I defended our local public school and its Texas-exemplary status.

To be sure, homeschooling is not for everyone, and we shouldn’t be too upset with those who will say, “Ooo, child, I just don’t have the patience for that,” or something similar.   Our decision to homeschool, for whatever reason, is our decision; it works for our household and family structure.   Returning rudeness with rudeness does not allow us to minister grace.   How do we steer clear of judgment?   How do we acknowledge our choice without belittling someone else’s?

1. Understand our own emotions.    We need to dig into that whirlwind and understand what those emotions are and why they are there.   Years ago, I heard a pastor make a statement that was very powerful for me at a time in my life when I was truly struggling with feeling cast out and rejected.   His comment was that people don’t actually hurt your feelings; they just brush against sensitive areas that you’ve not surrendered to Christ yet.   Wow.   I’d never thought about it that way!   Could it be that the hurt I was feeling was because another person stated aloud some subconscious pain I’d been dealing with all along?   Could it be that someone else’s comment of “How are you going to homeschool your children?” really stings because it’s occurred to you that you might not be able to homeschool?  Acknowledge their concern, regardless of how obnoxious it may be, with something like, “Yeah, that has occurred to me, but…” and then begin to minister in wisdom.

2. Learn the facts.   For you to minister in wisdom, you must grow in wisdom.   There are an overwhelming number of articles that point to the tangible and intangible facts about homeschooled children.   Reading some of this information not only helps you with the sister(s) or MIL who is put out that you think you can do what they were formally educated to do (that’d be me and my house), but knowing some facts will also give you the encouragement you need, especially in those days when the fruits of homeschooling are still germinating.

3. Understand the nature of people.    As sad as it is to say, human nature is to respond negatively to things with which we are unfamiliar.  Every now and then, you might receive genuine curiosity about homeschooling.   Caught on the wrong day, this can be aggravating for me because I don’t always feel like answering the typical questions about reporting, socialization, testing, etc.   But then again, when I’m aware of my own emotions, I recognize my mental fatigue and fight through it–you never know when you might be an angel unaware to another homeschooler-to-be!   Yet, I’m convinced that people sometimes respond negatively because they have little or no experience with homeschooling, and because it is not the status quo–always a source of mild anxiety for some.   When I consequently hear about their friend/ relative/ someone they knew who had a horror story of a homeschool journey, my simple response is, “Oh, well, that’s not been our experience.”

Also realize that we all want the best for our children; some of us just form different opinions about how to get there.   The parents that move to a certain area in order to place their child in a certain public school are doing this for the same reason that you have taken your child out of the public school system altogether.   Allow them the same freedom of choice that you would want for yourself.   

4. Give others–and yourself–time.    You will not slay every dragon that comes in the form of an unsolicited, unwelcomed response all at once.    If we are honest, some of the concerns might be legitimate, and we owe it to ourselves and our children to think about the question and do the homework required to be sure there is not a budding issue.   As a personal example, several years ago, one of my sisters, an English teacher by formal training, questioned our choices for literature, especially poetry.   As one whose love for poetry is still germinating (lol), I could have responded defensively.   But she was right; regardless of my own personal feelings, I owed it to the children to at least expose them to rhythm and rhyme and rhyme scheme and…ugh.     Just last week I was telling her and another sister that our oldest was accepted into the Honors program at our local community college.   And though I’ve homeschooled long enough now until the children’s development is pat on the back enough for me, it felt good to hear the two of them say, “You are doing a great job.”   People may question your methods all day long; what they cannot knock is your fruit.

How do you respond to people’s comments after saying “We’ homeschool”?    Hopefully with all the knowledge that you can muster in the moment, all the wisdom of someone who is ever hoping to improve, and all the grace and mercy of a child of God.   Blessings, dear friends.

A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle. (Proverbs 18:19 NJKV)

Current Events:1st Crack

In my last post, I shared my youngest’s desire to add current events to her course work, and, to a larger extent, to emulate her brother and sister.   She’s completed her current events for 2 weeks now, and her results are well worth capturing.    Here is a sample of her summary.

“Stitches of Hope”

 

 

‘There is a 30-foot flag that represents the country of America.   When our American flag got badly torn with holes almost everywhere, but our flag survived.  Seven years later our flag was sent to Greenburg, Kansas.  After a terrible tornado, member[s] of Kansas used flags from around the world to repair a flag from 9/11.   Then, the flag took a vacation and had more Americans help the poor little flag.   Even the local navy sewed the flag.’  

 

Definitely some work to do, but I love a child’s way of figuring life out.   My personal favorite is the flag’s decision to take a vacation–too funny!!

What We’re Reading–March 2011

 

Why would I sit and read individually with kids who already read?

There are numerous reasons, from helping with interpretation and larger vocabulary, to increasing comprehension through the right emphasis and inflection of voice, to monitoring pace and making sure the books are read, not skimmed through.   However, the real reason that, after 7 years of homeschooling, I still spend time reading with each child in addition to reading to them as a group is simple: it is the one academic time period spent one-on-one with each child doing something very non-academic—curling up with a good book and giving each one undivided attention.   

 

After lunch, everyone gathers together for Bible study and a group read-aloud.   My preference would be that this happened first thing in the morning, but the afternoon accommodates for everyone’s internal clock and associated time it takes to get to the table awake and alert.    We’ve wrapped up the book of Proverbs, and the kids are developing their own books of wisdom, based upon an idea in our youngest daughter’s Bible.    I can’t wait to see what they’ll come up with by next week.

Our group read-aloud is The Fellowship of the Rings, the last of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.   We are almost finished with this series, and I am very glad we read the books rather than relying solely on the movies to educate us.   In fact, our kids stated very plainly that they much preferred the books over the movie.    Our son has taken a real interest in author Rick Riordan (of Percy Jackson and the Olympians fame), even reading the books that Riordan listed as his boyhood favorites.     So it’s been a real treat to introduce him to the origins of many of the modern fantastical writers that he enjoys.    I have to say, though, that unless there’s going to be an unexpected surprise at the end of this tale, Tolkien could have stopped at the destruction of the ring for me (although the marriages were romantic).   I can’t figure out what purpose will be served by all of the restoration to be done to the Shire, but with 20 pages left, I guess we’ll know by next week’s end.   “Learning through History” magazine has a nice tie-in to Tolkien’s work and medieval history that I look forward to sharing with the oldest once we’ve finished.    From here, we’ll make a somewhat stark transition to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

 

The oldest finished Emma recently (a bit out of time sync with medieval history, I know), and we had fun watching “Clueless” and drawing the connection from a 15th century classic to the quirky Alicia Silverstone version we enjoyed.     Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was a great story, and a quick read for both of us.   As it was my first time reading this one, I stayed curious regarding the end all the way through, but I’m thinking I’ll go with The Once and Future King (or maybe use both titles) when our son covers this same period of history.    My plan was to spend our next time together reading novels about Japan and China, but our daughter lost two books!!    Once I could breathe again, we had to make adjustments, and since she and our son had a project associated with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, they’ll head there instead.

Again, our son is doing a lot of reading on his own, following the path of one of his favorite authors.   The Flames of Rome moved past the heathenish nature of ancient Rome and into the persecution of Christians—still graphic, but a different eye-gate.     We’re using a “No Fear Shakespeare” version of   Twelfth Night, and will wrap up with a project similar to the oldest’s classic vs. modern themes.     Amanda Bynes’ “She’s the Man” is based upon Twelfth Night, including the names of the main stars and the setting.   The advantage of this is that it is easy for him to do most of the comparison and contrast; the disadvantage of this is that it is easy for him to do most of the comparison and contrast.   He tried to argue his way out of writing his own one-act play—the harder, more creative side of the assignment.   What is this noise about shying away from hard work?   Does he not know that dog won’t hunt in this house?

The youngest and I are falling in love with Old Yeller.    Yeah, I know that for a kid who barely survived parts of Bambi, this probably wasn’t a good move.   Yet, I wanted her– and the others—to hear this moving tale, and as I often say to them, there are so many references to this classic in the stories they watch every day until they needed to be acquainted with the original sources.   In fact, when our son began to argue that he couldn’t possibly come up with an alternate setting for Illyria, we talked about how many renditions of The Prince and the Pauper, or A Christmas Carol, or Cinderella he’s seen on all of those silly sitcoms he likes to watch.  It was a nice try, though.   Because she didn’t get to read through the Chronicles of Narnia with the older two, I had a great idea to begin reading through them with her.   I have not done justice to these great books, skipping days between reading.   I sometimes wonder if she has been able to follow along with the plot of The Horse and His Boy at all.   I’d almost abandon this project until she’s older, but I keep recommitting to daily reading, thinking that she’ll pick it up if I just stay consistent.    Of course, I say that, and I missed reading it today as we quickly approached the time to head to dance practices.    Ugh.

Our time with books isn’t all fun and games.   I’m constantly after the older two to express themselves more fully through the characters.   I’ll stop them in the middle of their reading with an obnoxiously loud yawn and say, “I’m sooooooo boooooorrrrrrred!   Read it again, and this time, entertain me.”    They’re no actors—this I know for sure.    The youngest, a very expressive reader who is a joy to listen to, jumps up from the table quickly.   She knows that once she completes math and reads with me, then there’s a break.    I worry that she’s way too young to have such a negative attitude about school.   But, as I was reading some old notes from a homeschool conference, I came across some notes I took from a Sally Clarkson conference.   She talked about family ways, and how, as mothers, we can show our kids how to respond to life by our own responses.   I later reflected on an older post by Linda Fay, when she talked about why her children read Plutarch, and giving their minds something noble and courageous to feast upon.    This is what I hope the kids will realize in time, and while I wait, I enjoy a smile, a laugh, and even an occasional cry while we uncover increasingly more stories.