Thursday, July 3, 2014

What Friends Are For

Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. This is the one that started it all, so we can let it go, I guess. Then came others: Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks. Friends don’t let friends drink blush wines, or chardonnay, for that matter. People who offer you drugs are not your friends. Friends don’t let friends smoke or use bad grammar. Friends don’t let friends eat GMO foods or use Huggies. Friends don't feed friends gluten, friends don't let friends avoid gluten, friends don't let friends vaccinate or not vaccinate. Friends don't let friends miss daily Bible reading time, friends don't let friends allow their babies to ride face forward even though it's legal. Friends don’t let friends let their babies cry it out or not, or spank or coddle, or breastfeed or not breastfeed. Friends don’t let friends do anything with which they disagree. 

Apparently, friends don’t let friends do much of anything at all unless they are completely complicit. It must then follow that they’re not friends; they’re clones. But even that is tenuous at best. So what are they? Carbon copies? For someone who can barely live with the thoughts inside her own head on some days, that is a scary, downright terrifying thought. If my own internal monologue gets on my nerves, I certainly do not want carbon copies of me proclaiming the same thing I’m stating, repeated back to me, echoing down endless mirrors of sameness until Christ returns. I mean, seriously? Blech! Me too, me too, me too, me too, me too, me too, me too, we would nod and nod like Sylvia Plath’s disquieting muses until we finally fell asleep on our identical sheets on identical beds and wake up perfectly disheveled, with matching puffy eyes the next day because we both woke up to the sound of duplicate sprinklers on indistinguishable lawns because, well, we never let the other think otherwise, “let” being the operative word in all of this. (See, you were wrong there, reader. You thought it was “friend.” You wild goose chaser, you.)

So maybe it’s me who doesn’t get it. Then again, maybe it's you. 

My friends don’t let me do anything; they also don’t not let me do anything. They have opinions, some strong ones at that. And I have opinions, equally strong. And that is okay. (Even if they’re wrong.) (Yes, I said it. Get over it.) Because a friend can handle that. Neither one of us feels the need to curtail, edit, alter or otherwise revise our opinions because they do not reflect the other’s image. We are not friends because we agree on most things. In fact, often, we are friends in spite of the fact that we disagree. Lest you think this is tolerance, mind you. I’m not a tolerant person. I do not believe it to be a virtue. I reserve the right to judge, to discern, to weigh the spirits. I’m pugnacious, increasingly so as I grow older and things begin to matter more than they ever did when I was young and single. And yet, I have friends. Real, legal-right-to-one-phone-call friends even.  

We must be doing something wrong. If friendships rest on us handcuffing the other into submission to our point of view, my friends aren’t my friends at all. Yikes. Perhaps I’ll bring that up the next time we’re eating gluten and drinking wine and Starbucks as we read a book about cry it out sleep training. Then again, I wonder if they’ll let me?

Monday, June 23, 2014

What I've Always Wanted to Say about Homeschooling (But Was Afraid To)

I am a homeschooler. And I love it. 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. You should know this about me if we’re going to be friends. 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 seems to offend too many people. It’s almost as if I have to add a disclaimer each time I speak of homeschooling, lest I appear negative, bigoted and insensitive or, heaven forbid, not inclusive enough. I’m expected to pay my respects to public school teachers, listen to unsolicited advice from them in the oddest of places, (like the gym locker room!) salute the state, and whoever else is included in this village that it supposedly takes to raise my children. Don’t get me wrong. I know quite a few teachers and as far as I know they’re fine people but, if they work at a public school, they are working at an institution that is antagonistic to parental rights. Can you tell I’m not a fan of the Department of Education yet? Yes, I wholeheartedly love many wonderful families and I wouldn’t think twice before leaving my children with them but that’s only because they do it with an eye to my authority over my children and do not try to usurp it. Oh look. I’m doing it again.
Disclaimer has apparently become my middle name.
So here it is. I am a homeschooler and I (no disclaimers) love it.
When I say I love it, I don’t mean it’s easy. When I say I love it, I don’t mean only when it’s practical. When I say I love it, I don’t mean I love it every minute we’re settled around the dining table poring over worksheets and manipulatives. When I say I love it, I don’t even mean that I do it perfectly or that I never wish (or pay) for a break. When I say I love it, I don’t mean I’m going to only write about how wonderful it is and only post uplifting things. When I say I love it, I definitely don’t think it is the only way to educate my children, but let me be perfectly clear about this one thing: I do, whole-heartedly believe that 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?”
“Oh, what? You think we who send our kids to public school aren’t Christian enough? Are you looking down on us?”
“Have you read this?”
To which I say, Yes, I am, and, I’d like to understand your idea of being qualified to teach. Yes, I can see and hear and understand, I’d like to talk to you in person about this, and finally, yes.
We’re not part of the purity culture or the patriarchy movement or the unschooling culture or whatever other "culture" you think we might fit into. We just happen to be passionate about homeschooling. I’m not necessarily raising my daughter to be a homemaker and my son to work outside the home, although that might just be how things work out. And if they do, I would be overjoyed. Because you cannot be whatever you want to be and you cannot have it all. I teach life skills depending on their interests and abilities. Right now, my daughter wants to learn to cook, change diapers, do math, read, play with babies and is able to do so. Currently, my son wants to learn to fix things, listen to stories, watch television, do dishes, play video games and do math.  So that’s what we do.
And also, for the last time, I do indeed believe it is the best way to educate because if I didn’t, if I didn’t truly, whole heartedly believe that, why in the world would I give it my all? In a world where it’s considered so very important that I do something “just for me,” why would I choose to let go of other pursuits – professional and artistic – and spend so much of my energy, my time, my emotions, my intellect and sheer will in picking a curriculum, hand-holding, controlling my temper, teaching, making my children do things they do not want to do, catechizing, explaining, exhorting, disciplining? Why indeed? Because I take God’s call to disciple my children when at home and when in the way and when we wake up and go to sleep very seriously. Why else? And I just don’t see how I can do it if they’re gone all day long in a place with twenty or thirty other children and an authority figure who is NOT their parent. There are only so many hours in the day.
Interestingly enough, even though I firmly stand on Christian ground as a homeschooler, my introduction to homeschooling began in the secular world. The first books on education I read were by John Taylor Gatto. Even as a Christian, I believe you should read them. It was only later, after I had decided to homeschool that I read the Bible and became a Christian. As a result, I have quite the unique experience of seeing from both worlds, secular and Christian, how homeschooling affords the best possible option for educating children. Why else would we do it? God forbid, if we ever had to send them to school outside the home, I would, but I wouldn’t think that it was even close to the kind of education homeschooling would afford them.
If you think this is a case of semantics, let me assure you it’s not. Where children spend most of their time matters. Who they spend most of their time with matters. The kind of education they get matters. It matters a lot. I’m tired of saying we do it for practical reasons, which could change as soon as it doesn’t work anymore or as soon as it gets difficult or as soon as we can afford a Christian school. I’m sick of disclaimers. I’m really just tired of defending my family against people who either don’t like homeschoolers or homeschooling or feel judged by my conviction that homeschooling is the ideal way to educate children. I’m tired of offering an apology for my passion; I am tired of hearing it being called an agenda. 
If I have an agenda, it is this: to raise my children in freedom, to train them in a job well done, serving in excellence, knowing God and understanding how to relate to Him, His Creation, themselves and their neighbors in His image, which is what education is, after all. So maybe I do have a homeschool agenda.(Hey, you know what? Anyone who wants to get anything done has an agenda.)
Yes, homeschooling is all it’s cracked up to be. Even on days when it sucks. Even when it’s hard. I’m not asking for permission to be in love with homeschooling any more. I’m not going 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 that it doesn’t matter what you choose. Not any more. Because it does. 
I am a homeschooler. And I love it. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

I'm starting a new project! Go check it out!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

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.

Monday, May 13, 2013

How to clean polyester micro fiber couches

Guess what I did before I knew I was sick last weekend? Yup. I cleaned my couches. We've been through a few illnesses already this spring and I do after all have THREE kids. Under five. All this to say, Don't judge. Because you're going to see my dirty couches. See that shine in the before pics? That's grime and dirt and goodness knows what else. But... But... They're clean now! See the after pics?
I found the solution almost by chance. Or necessity. Well, I did tell you we had a stomach bug, right? Let's not get into those details. Let's focus on how the couch for so clean. You're going to love this! Because not only is it cheap and natural, it works far better than the job the professional carpet cleaners do, or at least mine did.
Okay, here's how to do it. Mix together baking soda, peroxide, laundry soap and water in a 1:2:1:4 ratio. Then smear all over the couch with a wash cloth. (Oh yeah. Test a small area if you're not sure your couch can handle it. Also, you might want to try this on a warm, sunny day so you can use your couch again sooner!) After you've smeared it all, get plain water in another large-ish container and use the same washcloth like a mop to wipe off the soap with water. Be sure to wring the washcloth often in the clean water and be aghast at how filthy your couch really was. And then, let it dry! Voilà! Not only are your couches cleaner, you did it yourself and saved yourself a nice bundle of money.
You're welcome.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Microwave peanut butter cookie in a cup

Yes, yes, I did make one. And it's soo good, you guys! Yum. Here's the recipe.
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup peanut butter
5 or 6 crumbled Graham crackers
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder

Mix well with a hand blender. Bake in microwave for about 45 seconds until fluffy. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sweet Potato Bread (Gluten-Free, Egg-Free)

I've been on a bit of a baking kick lately. So I thought I'd attempt to make some sweet potato bread. We had quite a few sweet potatoes lying around that would go bad soon. So I made sweet potato three ways, so to speak: regular sweet potato bread for the kids using this recipe, gluten-free, egg-free sweet potato bread for James (recipe follows) and sweet potato and oatmeal protein bars (recipe coming up in a different blog post) for me for a late night treat.

Surprising thing about the two breads? I like the gluten-free, egg-free version better. It's more moist and tender! Frustrated with the lack of recipes for good gluten free sweet potato bread, I made my own. So, here's the recipe:

1 cup almond meal
1 cup gluten-free flour (Bob's Red Mill All Purpose)
1 1/4 cups roasted and mashed sweet potato
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
Ener-g egg substitute (equivalent of 2 eggs)

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, adding egg substitute last. Bake at 350 in an oil lined bread pan for about 45 minutes to an hour until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Voila! I think he's going to like it. :)