Sunday, April 11, 2010

On Being a Pit-Dweller, Pt.1

Do you know how easy it can be to dig a pit and fall into it -- sometimes without even knowing that you're doing it? It's never easy, or fun, to discover that you've fallen into a pit -- whether it's one you've dug yourself, or one that life has dug for you. The possibility of a becoming a pit-dweller is ever-present in the life of all believers. Let me share a little of my pit-dwelling experience with you.

It was four years ago this month that God regenerated my soul and gave me new life by the indwelling of His Spirit. The joy of being born again is still fresh in my heart and my mind, and I pray I will never lose it. Once I became a believer and my eyes were opened to God's Truth, I plunged headlong into discovering all I could about God's Word and the Christian worldview. There was so much to discover! The Bible, the church, creation science . . . many, many concepts and truths that had never been a part of my life.

God led me to a strong, uncompromising, Bible-believing church of which I am still a member. This church has been a fount of blessings. My spiritual growth in these four years has been tremendous -- largely, I believe, because of the teaching and discipleship I have received at my church. The love, encouragement and fellowship of my brothers and sisters in Christ have also been a huge factor in my growth.

As I voraciously studied and read the Word, as well as any book about the Word or Christianity that I could get my hands on, I didn't give much thought to pits or trials or tribulations. Surely, my life is not perfect, and there are constant stressors in my life (kids, money, health issues, etc.), but I didn't consider these to be trials and tribulations. So many of our brethren in other parts of the world truly suffer for Christ. How could I think that my petty problems were "suffering"? Even now, as I am being pulled out of the pit by my Lord, I hesitate to consider what I've been through as suffering.

And, yet, there is no doubt that my spiritual life suffered. As I dug my pit, each shovelful of dirt buried a little more of the Truth, until, finally, I had fallen in and could see only darkness. Thankfully, I hated my pit. I hated being separated from my Lord. I hated the darkness. I hated the lies.

This isn't always the case. Many people love their pits, or, perhaps worse, are completely ignorant of their pits. Those who love their pits have created a terrifying illusion of reality. They have "fancied up" their pits so that, for them, their pit is the only truly lovely place to be. It contains all that they want, all that their hearts desire. Since we know that our hearts are deceitful above all (Jeremiah 17:9), we can also know that those who love their pits are deceiving themselves.

Those who are ignorant of their pits are also deceived -- either by themselves or by their circumstances. There are many who, like Joseph, were thrown unwillingly into a pit. Unlike Joseph, however, they are unaware that they are in a pit. They don't understand and cannot perceive their own confinement. The darkness has blinded them and their reality becomes their truth.

How did I become aware of my pit? Through God's providential Hand. As I mentioned, I hated my pit. Because I hated it, I sought freedom. In the beginning, I didn't think of myself as a pit-dweller. The book that opened my eyes to this truth is Beth Moore's book "Get out of that Pit: Straight Talk About God's Deliverance from a Former Pit-Dweller." I thank God that He led me to find this book. I cannot possibly do justice to this great book in this little space, but I will try.

Beth Moore calls herself a former pit-dweller, and through her experiences as viewed through the lens of Scripture, she enlightens the reader on the types of pit-dwellers, how to stop being a pit-dweller and how to never be a pit-dweller again. She depends heavily upon Scripture throughout the book.

One of my favorite quotes from the book comes right out of Chapter One. Moore says that "[t]he close confinement of a pit exhausts us with the endless echo of self-absorption." (18) Ouch! The truth sure hurts, but, thankfully, it also convicts. Since, by its very nature, a pit is built for and inhabited by one person, it is impossible to deny the self-centeredness of a pit. Yet, it is still tough to admit that this is the case. Moore does not allow us an alternative.

Moore's writing is fun and personal, even on such a tough subject. She sprinkles her pages with personal experience and heartfelt prayers. She has the ability to make you, the reader, feel as if you, and you alone, are who she has written the book for. She thoroughly describes different types of pits and then goes on to give practical advice on how to get out of your pit.

Moore's book is not just another worldly self-help manual. It is a God-centered, God-glorifying book in which she emphasizes not self-help, but reliance upon God alone. As she states, "[k]nowing all we are, all we feel, and all we hide, God overflows with love and willingness to deliver us." (96) Just as in Isaiah 30 we read, "Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion." Only God has all of the strength, patience, grace and compassion that is necessary to pull us out of our pit.

If you are currently a pit-dweller, or feel you are on the slippery edge of a pit, reach out for God, and reach out for Beth Moore's book. God has gifted Moore with the ability to assist her brethren in Christ. He has brought her out of her own pit and has equipped her to help others find the Way out of their own. And, now that He has pulled me out of my pit, I intend to share my experience with others in the hopes that God will use me to help others, as well.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Workboxing Benefits

In a previous article on homeschool planning, I mentioned an organizational system that has become wildly popular with homeschoolers of all types. In this article, I will review this organizational system in more detail, both to enlighten those who may not have yet heard about this system, and to dispel some misinformation I have read about the system.

The Sue Patrick Workbox System is the organizational system to which I am referring. It has taken the homeschool world by storm the past few months – generating at least three new online discussion groups, working its way into the discussion groups of many different curriculums, and inspiring homeschool moms to devote several blog posts to their version of the system. For some, this overwhelming popularity is enough to turn them off. After all, most of us have tried, one too many times, the latest book, tool, software, etc., that’s just “guaranteed” to transform our homeschool into the most organized, most efficient, easiest-to-do homeschool ever.

If you already have an organizational system that works for you – great! Don’t change anything. If, however, you are struggling through your days, unorganized, failing to keep yourself and your kids on task, scrambling around to put together school work on a daily basis – this just might be the system for you.

The author of the system, Sue Patrick, developed it out of a desire to find an educational method attuned to the needs of her autistic son. She spent countless hours researching the best educational methods developed by professionals in the field of education for autistic children. Ms. Patrick took the best of each method she found and developed the Workbox Systemsm. Because she was teaching her son at home, she adapted the system specifically for homeschooling. Ms. Patrick shared the system with a few other moms who tried it, loved it, and then spread the word. Ms. Patrick began to get many inquiries from other homeschooling moms, so she decided to write a “user’s manual” for her system. She has also presented, and continues to present, her system at homeschool conventions.

When I first stumbled upon web posts regarding this system, I was intrigued. I am one of those moms who was finding it difficult to keep our school work organized, to keep us on task every day, to add in “fun” things to our school day like art and music, and to have the correct school work set up and ready to go each day. I had tried a couple of different methods to attempt to get us organized, but, ultimately, they (or I) failed. I ordered Ms. Patrick’s book and, after reading it, was inspired to try her system.

After two weeks of homeschooling with the Workbox Systemsm, I can tell you that it lives up to its testimonials. It has truly transformed our homeschool. It is keeping us organized, on task, and on schedule. For the first time, we are completing all of our work every day in less time. In addition, we are consistently able to do extra things like art, music, puzzles, and other hands-on learning activities that are fun for the kids. My children love the Workbox Systemsm, and so do I!

One complaint I’ve heard about the system is that it forces mom to micro-manage the homeschool, causing her to take too much time setting up each day. In my experience, I’ve found just the opposite to be true. As homeschool teachers, moms need to do some type of set up each day, anyways, to have school work ready to go for the child. What I’ve found with the Workbox Systemsm is that the daily set-up is more streamlined, organized, and efficient. In our school, each child has ten boxes. At night after the kids are in bed, I set up the boxes for the next day. It takes me about thirty minutes. The majority of the boxes hold school work; the rest are filled with extra activities. All of our school books, and all of the extra activities, are on bookshelves in our school room so that everything is immediately available to me as I fill the boxes. As I fill the boxes, I have to consult our chosen curriculum’s teacher guides, and so have no excuse for “forgetting” to get items ready for any extra activities, or science experiments, or special projects. This has been a blessing for my sometimes scattered brain!

Because my children are young, I have to micro-manage our school no matter what system of organization I choose to use. My children are not old enough to determine their workload for each day, nor are they old enough to set up their daily work. However, as they grow and mature, they will become more involved in the set-up of their school work, including the filling of their own workboxes. In fact, my nine year old already begs me to let her help set up the boxes each night. The set-up, itself, is a great learning tool as it teaches organization, planning, and responsibility. And, as the children move through the boxes during the school day, it teaches the importance of completing one task before moving on to the next. It allows the child to see just how far along they are in their school day, and gives them a sense of completion when the last work box is empty.

The Workbox Systemsm is here to stay at our house. Unlike other methods I’ve tried, it has actually worked. Our homeschool is more pleasant, and more fun, than it has been since we started homeschooling three years ago. More importantly, it has made our school more orderly so that we are more of a reflection of our orderly God. Our homeschool is still far from perfect, and always will be, but the Workbox Systemsm is a tool that is helping us be better at the way we do school.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why Public School?

Every time I come across the statistic that about 90% of Christian parents send their children to public school, I am freshly amazed. It is mind-boggling to me that so many Christian parents willingly hand over their children to an anti-God, humanistic, state-controlled institution for seven to eight hours per day, five days per week for about nine months of the year. Because of the way our American society has evolved, it is not hard to understand why the world sends their children to public school. Our society has become one that worships the god of personal pleasure and fulfillment. By abdicating their role in teaching and training their children to the state, parents of the world can be free to pursue worldly treasure and personal pleasure.

But why do so many Christian parents fall into the public school trap? Surely they’re not concerned with building worldly treasure, or the selfish pursuit of their own personal fulfillment. So, what is it? For three years now, I’ve been wrestling with this question, and have not found a satisfactory answer. I have yet to hear a godly, biblical justification for sending the children of Christian families to public school. Certainly, Christian parents who send their children to public school have many, and varied, excuses for doing so. I’ve heard plenty of them. And, yes, there may even be a valid reason or two among them – perhaps a spouse died or left, leaving the other spouse with several children to raise alone, or perhaps there are disabilities in the family. These cases are rare, though, and cannot justify 90% of Christian parents sending their children to public school.

Maybe Christians have been duped. After all, public schools didn’t start off in the same manner we find them today. The first American public schools were not godless, humanistic state-run institutions. Indeed, “. . . back in the very early days of this republic, education was a family affair closely connected to religious practice. A nation built on biblical principles had to be a highly literate one. In addition, all of this education was achieved without any government involvement, without any centralized educational bureaucracy, without any professors of education, or accrediting agencies or teacher certification. And, most significantly, without any compulsory attendance laws.”[1]

The transition from local, common schools supported by parents and based on the Bible to large, tax-supported government-run schools based on humanism was gradual. The progressive public education movement, led by Unitarians and liberal Protestants, pushed for state-controlled education for all children. The Unitarian-led movement for secular education was based on the Unitarian belief that salvation could be found through the state, not through Christ. They had abandoned belief in the divinity of Christ and the doctrine of original sin. Instead, they looked to the state, and secular education, to rid the world of poverty, ignorance and social injustice. Slowly but surely, their liberal ideas and beliefs seeped into, and poisoned, the American school system.

Less than 100 years later, the American school system is the complete opposite, in terms of worldview, of what it once was. Where once children were required to read the Bible, they are now told the Bible is a collection of man-made myths. Where once children were allowed to openly pray, they are now criminals if they do so. Where once children were taught that God created the heavens and the earth, they are now told that they are random accidents caused by a chaotic big bang. Where once children were taught morality and sin, they are now taught tolerance and acceptance of all beliefs (except Christianity).

So, I ask again – how can Christian parents justify sending their children to public schools? Have they been duped? Only if they are wearing blinders. The change in the American school system may have been gradual, but the change is glaringly apparent now for anyone to see. And, with studies showing that 80% of children from Christian homes leave the church, first mentally beginning in middle school, then physically once they leave home, how can Christian parents not see the damage that public schools are doing to their children?[2]

The biblical mandate for Christian parents concerning the education of their children is to impress upon them the commandments of the Lord and to “. . . talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut. 6:7) How can Christian parents do this if the state has their children for more of their waking hours than the parents do? Do Christian parents really believe that a ten-minute daily devotion and a couple hours of church on Sunday are enough to overcome the daily, hours-long onslaught of anti-God, humanistic teaching that their children receive in public school?

The growth of the homeschooling movement is encouraging. It needs to continue growing. The time for Christian parents to take back the education of their children is now – later will be too late. Yes, God is sovereign and He is in control, and He will work all things out for good and His glory. However, He expects us to do the work He has commanded us to do. If God has blessed you with children, your primary work for the Lord is to “. . . bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4) This is not to be done half-heartedly, but you are to “. . . work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” (Col. 3:23) There is no earthly pursuit that can ever compare in worth or reward to the heavenly pursuit of teaching and training our children for the Lord. Let us all be diligent in doing so that we may all hear our Lord tell us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

[1] Blumenfeld, Samuel. Are Compulsory School Attendance Laws Necessary? Part 1.

[2] Source: Ham, Ken. Already Gone.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Discipline of a Child

My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life . . . Prov 6:20-23

Did you ever notice that you do not have to teach your child how to sin? This shouldn’t be surprising. The Bible teaches that we are conceived in sin and born with a sinful nature. Thus, our children are naturals at being selfish, disobedient, whiny, complainers, liars, etc.; so much so, sometimes, that their sinfulness brings out our own. The process of teaching, training and disciplining can be tiresome and exasperating. Add in the conflicting advice of various child and parenting experts, and your head is soon spinning in confusion, as well.

The one method of discipline that causes the most angst is spanking. Historically, spanking was largely accepted as an effective form of discipline for children. With the progression of society, though, has come an evolution of thought regarding spanking. Now, most psychologists, and other parenting experts, decry the spanking of children. In fact, spanking a child by anyone, parent or otherwise, is illegal in twenty-four countries around the world. Spanking is now viewed by many as a form of physical violence against a child.

The picture is not much clearer within Christendom. Some Christian parents spank; some don’t. Some see a clear mandate from Scripture to spank; others contend that the Old Testament was fulfilled in Christ who taught a “higher level of spirituality and understanding: He stressed discipline and direction from within, rather than direction by force from without.” In my research on the subject, I even found a book based upon an in-depth study of the book of Proverbs which, according to the author, shows that the Proverbs passages that so many Christians use to defend spanking do not, in fact, pertain to young children. After reviewing the Focus on the Family website, I feel safe hazarding a guess that Dr. Dobson would not agree with this particular author.

So, what are good Christian parents to do? Without doubt, we all want our children to grow in the love, fear and admonition of the Lord. Also without doubt, children need discipline. Not disciplining your children is tantamount to not loving them. A child without discipline is a burden not only to his parents, but to others, as well. As with all other matters, the way you discipline your children will be based upon your personal convictions. However, there are some general guidelines that can be useful to all parents.
  • Love. In all discipline, love must be the motivating factor. Anger will accomplish nothing, and will only serve to anger your child and sow seeds of rebellion. If necessary, put distance between yourself and the child before disciplining. Take a minute or two to pray, breathe and calm down. Then, approach your child in love. Speak to him in the same manner you imagine Jesus would speak to him.
  • Time. Training and discipline take time. In our busy world, a lot of the important issues of life get pushed aside. Even we who stay home with our children can get caught up in the “tyranny of the urgent” to the detriment of our children. It is crucial that you set aside unimportant tasks for the moment in order to spend time training your child.
  • Wisdom. You must explain to your child why what she did was wrong. In order to reach her heart, you must convey the depth of her sin and how it affects her, as well as anyone she may have hurt. You must relate God’s Word to her in a practical manner. There are many great parenting tools available to help you do this. A good place to start looking is Doorposts.
  • Consistency. It is imperative that you are consistent in your discipline. Whether you choose to spank, or put a child on a time out, or send him to his room, or revoke privileges, you must always follow through. A child will quickly learn that your words mean nothing if you are not consistent.
  • Forgiveness. Just as you are forgiven by God, so too must your child understand that she is forgiven. In addition, if she has hurt another by her sin, she must be made to apologize and ask forgiveness. In our house, a quick and quiet “sorry” doesn’t cut it. We expect our children to use full sentences, and, thus, they have been taught to say, “I’m sorry, (name), for (hurtful behavior). Will you please forgive me?” They are then required to hug the offended person and say, “I love you.”
Teaching and training a child is not easy. No work worth doing ever is. The rewards, however, are immeasurable. A well-trained, disciplined child is a delight to his parents, and to others. The goal of a Christian parent is to raise a child who understands the deceitfulness of his own heart and the effects of his sin on himself and others. As we diligently work towards the achievement of this goal, we bring glory and honor to our God.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Educational Choices

Just this past week, I had an opportunity to discuss homeschooling versus other school options with a friend from my own high school days. Home School Legal Defense Association (“HSLDA”) recently published a study conducted by independent testing services which illustrates “that, as a group, homeschoolers consistently perform above-average academically.” (See study here.) I posted a link to the HSLDA article on my personal Facebook page. In response to my post, a couple of my friends commented about homeschooling in general.

One of the points brought up during the ensuing Facebook “debate” was that “. . . at some point the child has to have his/her say in the matter [i.e., the type of education they receive].” It was basically an accusation that homeschool parents force their children to be educated at home, whether the children like it or not. In fact, the comment ended with the declaration that “[i]f the child is not on board then the resentment can be hard to overcome later in life.” Because many other points were brought up during the discussion (starting with the typical socialization argument), this particular one was not dealt with at the time. However, I’ve since pondered those statements and have formed some thoughts regarding them.

My initial thought is this – on what issues do parents allow their children a say in the matter? I’m not talking about things like what flavor ice cream they’d like after dinner, or what pair of pants they want to wear today. All parents, of course, allow their children to make certain choices in order to teach them responsibility. And, generally, the older a child is, the more choices he is allowed to make.

However, when it comes to schooling, do any parents allow their children a choice in how they would like to be schooled? If a public-schooled child suddenly said to his parents one day, “Mom & Dad, I would like to be homeschooled now,” would those parents be willing to make the lifestyle changes necessary to homeschool their child? Before they start each school year, do parents generally have a discussion with their children about where, and how, they’d like to be schooled? If the answer to each of these questions is “no” (as I suspect in most cases it is), then why accuse homeschooling parents of not allowing their children “a say in the matter?”

Except for a brief interval in a private school, I was sent to public school from kindergarten until graduation from high school. Did I have a say in the matter? Absolutely not! There was no discussion in our household about how or where I would be schooled. My parents made the decision and I followed their orders.

Do our children have any say in the matter of whether or not they will be homeschooled? Of course not. Neither do our friends’ or relatives’ children have any say in whether or not they will be sent to public school. Children are not the best judge of what is right for them or their family. Parents are, and it is our right as parents to keep our children at home and educate them ourselves if we so choose. They are, after all, our children. They don’t belong to the state, or anyone else. And, it just so happens that our children are very happy with our decision to homeschool. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Homeschool Planning

Homeschool planning. Two seemingly innocent, non-emotive words. Yet, amongst homeschoolers, these two words can invite a gamut of emotions, from pure bliss to pure misery. Whether your homeschool is an “unschool” or is the exact replica of a standard school room, planning is a necessary evil – or, perhaps for you, like me, a necessary joy.

The planning bug usually bites me at the beginning of May each year. I’m more than ready to be done with the current school year, and I start to eagerly look forward to the next school year – dreaming of how I can do things differently and better than what we’ve done this year. I start doing my usual search of curriculums, which, as most homeschoolers know, can quickly become overwhelming. The choices available to homeschools for top-notch, quality curriculum are seemingly endless. In fact, I’ve tired of the game of trying to find something “better.” After three years of trial and error curriculum shopping, I’ve settled on the materials that are right for our family and I’m going to stop looking. Really.

Anyways, once the planning bug bites, I’m off and running. Old materials are re-sold or put away for our younger daughters; new materials are purchased. The glee of getting boxes of new books and teaching materials in the mail can only truly be understood by teachers. It’s hard to describe to those who don’t teach just how much fun it is to unpack boxes of new school materials. For me, it’s even better than birthday presents. (But, shhh, don’t tell my family that!)

With the new materials in hand, I start planning for the next school year. Before I start the process, I make sure to first stop and remind myself of our reasons for homeschooling our daughters. When we first started homeschooling, I made sure to write down the purposes and goals of our homeschool – great advice I found on countless websites. The main purpose of our homeschool is to glorify God by teaching and training our children for His purposes. Therefore, it is important to me that I submit my planning to God so that He will bless my efforts in educating our daughters. I take comfort in His Word that if I “commit [my] work to the Lord, [my] plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3

When I first began homeschooling, I tried to “keep up with the Joneses” by attempting to perfectly plan out every minute of our day using a very popular daily schedule program. Guess what? Utter failure. We are just not a schedule-friendly family. However, I did realize the need to make some sort of plan to get us through each day and keep us on task. Since I’m still fairly new to homeschooling – our family is only three years into it – there’s still a lot of tweaking going on. I haven’t quite found the perfect plan to fit our family, but I’m getting close.

This year, I’ve stumbled on a system that I’m very excited about. It’s the Sue Patrick Workbox System. This is one planning/organizing system worth checking out, even if you’re unschooling. Basically, the idea is that you set up a certain number of workboxes (twelve are recommended) for each child in which, each day, you put their school work and extra “fun” activities. Each child is given a schedule strip and they work through the boxes one by one, either independently or with mom depending on the work in the box. The system keeps you, and your child, on task. And, you can use the system with any curriculum. There are many, many ideas floating around in cyberspace concerning the workbox system. It can be fine-tuned to meet the specific needs of your homeschool.

Homeschool planning can be fun. Maybe it won’t ever be pure bliss for you, but it surely doesn’t have to be pure misery. Having the right focus and the right attitude is crucial. Before you begin, call to mind the purposes and goals of your homeschool. If you haven’t yet written them down, do so. Then, grab a piece of paper and pencil, or your computer keyboard, and start making a plan for the new school year. A plan that fits you and your family, a plan that you can live with, day in and day out, for the next 180 days. A plan submitted to the Lord that He may establish your steps.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fun at CVS

Well, here it is. My first blog post ever. And, just to be fun, I have to write my first post on the phenomenal money-saving shopping trip at CVS yesterday. Just take a look at the picture to see what I got (and there are even things missing. My husband & kids couldn't resist the box of Raisinets, three other candy bars and gum, so they are missing from this picture). And for how much, you ask? A whopping $17.14! Plus, I have $18.81 in extra bucks to use on my next trip.

Here's the list of all that I got:

-- 4 Arm & Hammer laundry detergent (32ld)
-- Schick razor for women
-- Schick razor for men
-- Herbal Essence shampoo + styler
-- Herbal Essence conditioner + styler
-- 2 Colgate Advanced toothpaste
-- 2 Palmolive dishwashing liquid
-- Charmin Ultra Strong (9pk)
-- CVS Tampons (10pk)
-- 2 composition notebooks
-- 1 pkg erasers
-- 1 pkg binder clips
-- 4 pkgs pens
-- 1 spiral notebook (my 9yo was with me and pleaded for this blue, sparkly notebook ;-)
-- 1 box Raisinets
-- 1 box Sno-Caps
-- 6 candy bars
-- 2 Dentyne gum
-- 4 Mentos gum
-- 2 pkgs Q-Tips

All in all, a great shopping day at CVS! I am so grateful to for sharing her know-how. Her website has been a great teacher to me. I have much to learn yet (sticking to a budget would be the big one!), but I am taking it one day (or one shopping trip!) at a time.