Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Home schooling magazines

I am so unhappy with the choice of home schooling magazines available.

I know, I know, why don't I publish my own if I'm so unhappy, right? Well, how about I have no extra money, no extra time and no publishing experience. That's a start anyway. LOL I'm sure I could come up with more reasons if I tried.

My biggest beef with the home schooling magazines I know of out there is that they are not honest. Practical Homeschooling is not about home schooling, it's about legalistic Christian homeschooling. Why not be honest in the title? How about Practically All Religious Extremism Home Schooling? Yes, it is a little wordy, but at least people would know before they picked it up what they were getting into.

I just tried a new one, titled Home School Enrichment. Not. It is also written by and for legalistic Christian home schoolers. Yawn. That is hardly what I would call home school enrichment, though there is an excellent article on study skills by Ruth Beechick and a few other informative articles on obscure subjects that could be interesting. I think one is on the history of the metal can as a food storage method.

However I will applaud the magazine for this: They did touch on one taboo subject in the legalistic Christian home schooling community that really needs exposing. In my opinion the article wasn't all it could have been, since they chose to only explore two women's individual experiences and opinions about the what and why of their problem rather than the endemic proportions of the problem. The problem: crappy marriages, and in the Christian home school community there are a lot of them to go around.

I've been home schooling for 13 years now, and I have seen a lot of divorces and even more unhappy marriages. Unhappy marriages of course mean miserable home lives for the kids who are in that home 24/7 as well. The levels of hypocrisy on this subject are astounding!

Women who are exhausted, depressed, unloved and at the end of their ropes will insist they are happy and their lives are working well, even though one look and a few minutes conversation clearly exposes their misery. Why? Why do they insist they are happy when it is obvious they are not?

I believe it's because that's what the home school magazines say "godly Christian marriage" should be like. The magazines insist that it is normal to be overworked, under appreciated and tired all the time. The Christian home school magazines claim it is holy for a woman to suck it up with a "gentle and quiet spirit". The fact that they feel no real joy in their lives is seen as a temporary trial to be endured rather than as proof that their lifestyle is not bearing the fruit the magazine prophets promised.

Of course that is a recipe for crazy. Some women will eventually admit this is not working and decide to just chuck it all. For the wisest this means they get rid of oppressive religion and ditch the rigid gender role division and militant fecundity that is destroying them. For others it means ditching home schooling as well, and if they know of no other way to home school then they should ditch it. The children will be better off escaping from that unhappy home for a few hours a day.

Sadly in my point of view, for a few it means ditching Jesus as well. Honestly, since they truly believed all this legalistic home school mumbo-jumbo was "authentic Christianity", who can blame them? Tragic.

For those who don't come to their senses, there is only crazy left. The women who refuse to acknowledge the misery in which legalistic religion and strict gender roles in marriage have trapped them will just continue to live in denial. These women will have their unhappiness manifest in other ways: immune systems that buckle under the strain, minds that can't handle the daily stresses of life. It is also tragic, heart-wrenching and the logical end of living a lie.

Why do these magazines even exist? I submit that if this legalistic home school family paradigm actually worked, they wouldn't need to keep selling it in the magazines. Neighbors, friends and relatives would be knocking down their doors to find out the secret to these happy, healthy families. True love would result in fullness of joy like Jesus said, and joy is attractive. Joy gives us strength.

The magazines sell because guilt-ridden and unhappy women think the problem is with them, not the whole silly paradigm. The see the happy smiling innocent faces on the magazine cover and then look at their own bored and unhappy children, hair uncombed and house a mess because the baby was up all night and Dad doesn't help out with "woman's work". Instead of rightfully saying to themselves "Those magazine articles are full of crap!" they think something is wrong with them as women. Or worse, they come to believe something is wrong with their precious children.

No, no, no, dear sister. You are just fine. Your children are wonderful. The magazines are a scam. Don't let them suck you in!

Maybe someday someone will come up with a home school magazine that is about actual home education, rather than this wacko religious subset of home education. I would subscribe to that magazine. Please leave a comment if you know of one.

Love. Learning. Liberty.

Alliteration is fun, but especially so when it is also meaningful. In coming up with a title for my blog, I considered for a moment what is most important to me about home schooling as a Christian parent. It didn't take long, as I am pretty consistent in the values department.

Love of course is the greatest commandment. Jesus told us that all of the law and the prophets are summed up in this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. He said all men would know we were his disciples by the love we shared. He commanded more than once, "Love one another." He even went as far as to say that our love should be as real and as practical as his love for us! "As I have loved you, love one another." (John 13:34)

Lest we overly spiritualize what love really is (oh how many sermons/lectures I have read or sat through that were guilty of just that!) he told us the parable of the good Samaritan. Love is meeting the needs of the hurting. Period. Having right doctrine is not love. Putting religion first is not love. Love has nothing to do with wearing the right labels or belonging to the right group. Love, he plainly showed, is caring for someone other than yourself and taking the time and money to do something real to help meet their need.

As I am fond of telling new home school families, love is the most important thing. At the end of the day, you have to continue to live with these little people. Wouldn't it be great if you actually enjoyed each other's company?

Handwriting is not the most important thing. Math is not the most important thing. Devotions is not the most important thing, using religious curriculum is not the most important thing, having rigid gender roles is not the most important thing, a strong work ethic is not the most important thing. The greatest of these is LOVE. If you have all of the above and your children grow up believing they were not truly loved, you have FAILED! Epic fail, as my son would say!

The second word in my blog title is learning. Life should be about learning for all of us. When you agree to take on the responsibility for your child's education ( along with the emotional, spiritual and logistical support all Christian families should provide) you had better do your best to fulfill that responsibility! There is no free pass on academics.

Learning should be fun and rewarding. Even the rare parts that are tedious can be tolerated when the bigger part of "school" is enjoyable. I believe it is the home school parent's responsibility to make sure that there is a rich, pleasurable, inviting learning environment for their students. If you can't provide that, then by all means send your children out for a few hours a day to enjoy that somewhere else!

I write this in one sense to explain my desire for my home school, but also in response to this horrible article I just read in a home schooling magazine which came right out and said to parents not to worry about the academics as long as the students were getting a steady dose of religion! WRONG. WRONG. WRONG.

If your children graduate your home school without a rich love of learning, the ability to read for pleasure and learning and a good understanding of the world in which they live then again you have FAILED. It is NOT ENOUGH for them to have a thorough understanding of their parents religious beliefs!

Mostly this lie is told to home school moms whose conscience is bothering them because their children are falling behind academically and they are not thriving emotionally. They want to believe this lie because they do not see any way to do a better job given the legalistic demands that their religious beliefs have placed on them.

Here's a thought: maybe your religious beliefs are out of line with the teachings of Jesus!?! You know that He said that his yoke was easy and his burden was light. If you are unhappy, if your children are unhappy, if learning is a chore along with all the other unending tasks dumped on mom's back because of your patriarchal religious beliefs- then perhaps your religious beliefs need to fall in line with the teachings of Jesus! Go back and put love first, people! If you truly love one another then your joy will be full and your other priorities will fall in place.

The greatest commandment was love, not gender role enforcement. Duh.

The final word in my blog title is liberty. As in Galatians 5:1: 1It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Freedom. What a beautiful word! Freedom to learn, freedom to explore, freedom to fail and get back up again. Freedom to question honestly, freedom to disagree, freedom to admit when we're wrong, freedom to admit we don't have all the answers. Ah, sweet blessed freedom.

The only condition on our freedom is that we must not use our freedom selfishly, but in all of our freedom we must remember the first word in my blog title: Love. Galatians 5:13-14 13You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

And so I refuse to deny liberty to my students. How could I justify taking away from them what Christ died to provide? I am not talking about the liberty to be lazy and self-indulgent, but the liberty to have their own opinions. I am talking about the liberty to disagree. How about the liberty to fail once in a while and simply be met with grace rather than long lectures about what God's standards are? (Sorry for the times I flunked that one, kiddos.) Or even the liberty to choose their own music style, hair styles, clothing styles? What about the liberty to decide when to study what, or what to study at all?

And the biggie (drum roll please) what about the liberty to stand on their own two feet in the world? God certainly gave us that liberty. We chose to build a home school family with our freedom, but that was our choice. I see some home school parents these days who believe it is their privilege to make all of their children's choices for them, all the way through to adulthood.

If you have taken away your student's freedom in any way, even if your demands were noble, then you are a home school FAILURE. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. No one has the calling to take away another person's freedom, not even a parent.

You were not even called to demand that your children follow Jesus! It is the job of the Holy Spirit to convince a person of the gospel. The Spirit is in charge of regeneration. It is not a parents calling and we are not equipped to make it happen. We were called to nurture our children, avoid exasperating them while admonishing them to do what's right. We can take the spirit of Deuteronomy 6 to guide us that in all things we are to live for Jesus so openly that it is part of our daily experience and conversation. But beyond that, it's God's business and not ours. Me, I trust the Lord enough to give my children liberty.

Love. Learning. Liberty. A good place to start this blog.

And now in parting, a disclaimer. This is my blog. I will post on my blog when I feel like it. I don't know yet how often that will be, but hey, such is life. Full of surprises, and isn't that one of the great things about being alive?

Also, I will be moderating all comments, at least at the beginning. You have the freedom to say what you will; I retain the freedom to publish it in my blog or exile your comment to oblivion. You can always start your own blog if you want. LOL