Thursday, January 28, 2010

Christianity, home schooling and a funeral

Ezekiel 34:17-19
" 'As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? 19 Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?

I attended a funeral yesterday. It was a beautiful funeral for a ninety-three year old woman who had lived a full, seemingly happy life. It was my first Lutheran funeral, and I have got to say, it was a huge improvement over the many Baptist funerals I have attended. The service was a celebration of the decedent's life and faith, rather than just another chance to make a doctrinal proclamation. I liked it.

I was really proud of my son and his friends for asking to attend the funeral. Not very many teenagers will get dressed up and drive an hour and a half to attend an old person's funeral, not unless they are personally related or were personally close to the deceased. And yet none of the teenagers who attended had ever met the dear old saint so recently passed on into glory.

Compassion was their motivation however, and it was so heart-warming to be a part of their mission. Lest one get the idea compassion belongs to Christians only, of the three students only one, my son, is a Christian. The other two are not. One is a non-believer and one is Jewish. Kudos to all three teens. =)

They were there because of the church, though, and it grieves me to acknowledge this harsh truth. They were there to protect their fragile friend, granddaughter of the deceased, FROM the church. It was good that they were there. And that makes me very sad.

The young lady herself is so deeply wounded by the church. For reasons unknown to me (perhaps because her parents don't go to church?) this precious little girl was called the spawn of the devil by her Christian relatives and shunned. This small town full of Christians here in the buckle of the Bible belt reinforced this declaration. I have been told it was partially blamed on her long auburn locks, her active kinesthetic bent as a child and/or her dislike of wearing dresses. But I think it was mostly because her parents weren't church attenders, reason enough to exclude and ostracize for many fundamentalist Christians.

What a tragedy. Yet I have seen this happen over and over again, especially in the Christian home school community. Little Johnny's parents let him read Harry Potter? Yikes! Run away! Don't speak to Little Johnny ever again children!

I am even more embarrassed to admit that I myself once complied with this idiotic stance, that I couldn't trust non-believers and should automatically trust fellow Christians. Now I am smart enough that if this sentiment had ever been expressed out loud, I would have rejected it outright. But it was never expressed bluntly and comprehensively like that, it was more implied.

Here's how it works: new family shows up to Christian home school support group meeting. Polite handshakes are offered all around while the children go play. And then the questions begin.

Where do you go to church? Oh, you don't go to church. Oh well. The conversation may then turn to other subjects, but effectively it is over. After the new person leaves, perhaps with a few phone numbers of people who will never returns her calls, the analysis begins. Wasn't she nice? Well, yes, but I don't think we would click very well. We're just too different. Maybe I will let her children come over sometime, but my children won't be allowed at her house.

The implication is that bad things could happen outside of Christian homes and so, better safe than sorry. Plaster condescending smile here. Add a pat on the arm for emphasis. Raise eyebrows and nod head for full effect.

Well guess what world? Good things do happen inside of the homes of people who don't believe in Jesus. Maybe even better than what goes on inside of your home, as shocking as that may sound. Not saying your family is bad, but none of us is perfect. You might even be able to learn something from this family that could improve your own family life. Wouldn't that be way cool!

And there are some really bad things happening inside of some Christian homes. Honestly, I have many examples I could list, but then I would be typing all morning. Not that being a Christian means that you will definitely have bad things happening in your home. My experience is that, in the end, religion seems to have very little to do with the mental/emotional health of a family system. It can be a part of a healthy family as well as a part of an unhealthy family. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Doctrinal purity does not a healthy family make.

In this particular situation, where Christianity was the given reason behind the dysfunctional social behavior of shunning little girls, I can not keep silent. I am ashamed beyond words that I have been guilty of this grievous sin. I am deeply embarrassed that I was so easily influenced by group-think that I too probably cooperated in the pain and hurt of a child at some time.

The prophet Ezekiel nails us on this crime, fellow Christian home schoolers! Pushed and shoved around by God's fat sheep- that's what happened to this precious child. We had our needs met, why should we care whether or not the rejects get their needs met? I guarantee in most cases no one will give it a second thought. Shameful.

I repented of my evil ways and resolved to open my heart and my home to everyone God sends my way years ago. I hope you will too. I hope to never see any child again wounded by people proudly proclaiming the name of Christ. It so dishonors the name of Jesus!

I was very proud of the three amigos yesterday. The whole time they were there at the viewing and funeral, those three heroes formed a human shield around their young friend. Though the stench of rejection still hung in the air like a Southern belle's vapors, the love of true friends was an impenetrable barrier. I believe that inside that huddle of teens the scent was sweet and light with love, loyalty and acceptance.

Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them.
33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that.
34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full.
35But love (those you consider) your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

* italics in parenthesis my personal reading of that portion of the text

Monday, January 25, 2010

To Waneta

Waneta wrote:

Shadowspring, what motivated your husband to seek help? Most men are so satisfied with getting their way, they wouldn't THINK of changing anything.

The answer to that question is so long and convoluted that I started a blog to answer it! ;-)

People are so deeply multi-layered and complex. The best any writer can do is come up with a snapshot of a person. With a blog, I am hoping that many snapshots will give a clearer picture of the people involved, but let's face it. The best photograph is a poor device for understanding a living breathing person.

I shall give it a quick try, though.

My husband is a good man at heart. He loves God. He wants to do what's right. In fact, the plus side of his missionary kid upbringing is that he does love God.

I would wager to say that if the church had been teaching truth all along -that the responsibility of men to truly love their wives was a sacred calling and serious responsibility, and that no wife was ever called to submit to less- then my husband could have been helped to be the man God called him to be much earlier!

But alas, the church instead teaches things backwards- that woman (who by these teachings is given no authority or influence) carries all the responsibility, while man (who by these teachings are given all the authority and power) are free to indulge their sin nature whenever they choose, and the wife is just to "submit" to this and pray for change (but not work for change). And the sinful nature of man loves it so, and that is why this false teaching remains so prevalent.

So that's one reason. Another reason, is that I think my husband would do anything to avoid the stench of failure, and if we divorced, it would be the first divorce in his family on either side! Talk about pressure! Another time the whole missionary kid thing worked out in my favor.

And there is a third reason. There is a part of him that has always truly loved me. I am the best friend he has ever had, and all the reasons he married me in the first place (smart, cute and loves the Lord!) are all still in place. :)

After many years of seesawing back and forth between him trying to follow God and slipping back into complacency, between working on our marriage and resigning himself to a crappy relationship, the s*** hit the fan this past year.

Our daughter got involved in an abusive relationship. Now my husband is a smart man, and he knows the connection between father figures and to whom a daughter is attracted. That was a huge wake-up call for him!

And the second was that I was giving up on ever getting through to him permanently and preparing to leave him. His abusive behavior was getting worse. It went from passive hatred to open resentment, progressing from mere nastiness to actual physical intimidation.

He did not like this in himself. He knew it was wrong and yet he was blaming me for "making" him act this way.

And so I told my plans to leave to a dear friend of mine (beautiful Christian feminist) who asked me to try one more marriage ministry, simply because she did not want to see me plunged into poverty. I think she also believed that there might be hope for my husband as well. She has known us for many years. And so I decided what did I have to lose.

On the continued recommendation of yet another amazing friend of mine, we signed up for a Marriage Intensive by Joel and Kathy Davission. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS MINISTRY!!

Here my husband was confronted by a Christian man with the real truth about Christian marriage, a woman's role (as ally, not inferior), what abuse really is, and who is really to blame for problems in the marriage.

Joel and Kathy Davisson broke through the wall of denial.

But that is not the end of the story. (In fact, in some ways after this the abuse became worse- the passive of passive-aggressive was exposed, leaving only aggressive.) It is really the beginning of the end, if that makes sense.

Once my husband admitted his hatred and resentment, the next question is "where did THAT come from?" followed closely by "how can I get rid of it for good?".

Though we found some answer to the first question at Joel and Kathy Davissons Marriage Intensive, the answer to the second question remained elusive. And if that one wasn't answered, there would soon be no marriage left.

It became imperative to my husband to get help. Joel Davission freely admits that as a formerly abusive man, he was confronted with the truth and found help in Paul Hegstrom and his ministry Life Skills International.

After a local domestic violence counselor did nothing more for us than drain our bank account, in desperation I called the hotline number for Life Skills.

Happily for us, there is a 26 week course offered by Life Skills within an hour of our home. My husband has been attending faithfully since September. He is showing continued healing, continued spiritual growth and continued joy as a result of attending this Life Skills 26 week program. Life Skills International is giving my husband the insight and tools that he needs for lasting change.

So there it is in a nutshell. My husband is/was highly motivated to help our daughter; highly motivated to avoid divorce; did not want to lose me from his life and truly does want to live a life pleasing to God.

What can a wife do to end abuse? Take a stand against it! Be willing to leave rather than be abused. Leave if you have to in order to be safe, and I mean emotionally as well as physically. "Submission" to abuse is assent to be abused. I will say it again: refuse to accept abuse. That is the most powerful thing a wife can do to end the abuse. Indeed, I think it the only thing a wife CAN do to end the abuse.

If a man wants to save his marriage, I recommend both Joel and Kathy Davisson and Paul Hegstrom's Life Skills International. ( I can't get links to work for some strange reason.) Google them and if you like what you see, start recommending them!

If a man does not want to change, he does not want to save his marriage. My counsel to all women in this situation is the same: leave. Abuse never gets better with time, only worse.

I wish for every wife to be appreciated and loved. When a man chooses to be "the man of her dreams" he will find that he is married to "the woman of his"- taken from the title of one of Joel and Kathy Davission's books. :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The early years

The first years of being parents were pretty darn good. There was lots of love and lots of laughs to go around. My husband was an excellent father all through the early years: infancy, toddler-hood and the preschool years. He was so kind, patient, gentle and yet fun in the rough and tumble ways that good dads have.

He was also very good to me, very supportive. He was my best friend, and I was his best friend. We would confide in each other, though I was always more talkative in general. Life wasn't perfect; there were aspects of our marriage that were less than ideal even then. If I had known then what I know now, they were things we could have worked through. But it seemed easier to just overlook them as little things. And certainly, with all the joy and love we shared as a family there was no reason to suspect that they were only the tip of the iceberg.

Then about the same time that my son turned six, a subtle change occurred. My husband suddenly became unhappy at work. He had a new boss, a bulldozer of a man, who ran over anyone who got in his way and blew up at anyone who let him down. For some men this would be troubling but they would find a way to handle it. For my husband, it was devastating. He couldn't take up for himself. His only way of coping was to kick his passive aggressive resentment in high gear. This was not good.

He also began drinking a glass of red wine after work to relax. His fundamentalist parents would have had a cow if they knew! Although I didn't share a glass with him most nights, it didn't bother me much. At first he just bought a bottle of wine now and then. Soon it became a regular staple. Then came the day he brought him a gallon bottle of wine.

I became concerned and tried to talk to him about it. And for the first time (on anything I really cared about) he blew off my concerns. I just stuffed my feelings about that and kept praying. But then came the night he was drunk in front of the children. That was too much for me! I of course pointed out his condition to him that night, and took the kids and avoided him the rest of the evening.

The next morning he was very apologetic. He allowed me to pour out the rest of the wine and agreed to stop drinking. Then he finally told me how unhappy he was at work. I encouraged him to stand up for himself and/or look for another job. I encouraged him to think about what it was he really wanted to do, and start praying about that and taking steps to make it happen.

And so my husband decided that what he really wanted to do was become a traveling consultant. Though I was not sure I could handle being on my own all week, I agreed to give it a try. He promised me that he would do this for one year, and then if I felt like I needed him home, he would come home. So I agreed to give it a try, because I genuinely love my husband and I wanted him to be happy in his work.

However once he started traveling, there was always tension and a bad undercurrent in our family dynamics. We both thought it was the stress of traveling. Turns out the traveling was a symptom of bigger problems, problems planted in him by abandonment, neglect and dysfunctional religious fundamentalism in his family of origin. But that's his story and he didn't figure out that part for years to come.

My formerly loving and supportive husband had changed. He had become emotionally absent and passive aggressively abusive to me, but there always seemed to an environmental stressor to blame it on. His boss was a jerk, or he had a tough problem at work. Sometimes I just made excuses for him. Sometimes I would confront him and then he would apologize. But the pattern was being established and it never really stopped. In fact, it would wind up continuing for many years.

Of course that left me lonely and frustrated. But I could handle it for a year, I thought. And so handle it I did. At first I simply threw myself into my home school and volunteer work. This met my needs quite well. Life during the week, when my husband was gone, flowed pretty smoothly.

The weekends were something else. My husband was just as stressed at the new job, and he was just as unhappy when he came home on Friday nights as he had been on weeknights before. I wanted him to come home and love on me. He wanted to come home and watch television.

He did make a special effort at first to compensate with the kids for his time away. He would hide little gifts for them around the house, and call every night and give them clues. This was fun at first, but he began to feel like they only wanted him to call because they were going to "get stuff". So we dropped that idea.

We gave up our traditional date night, since he had so little time home. We both felt bad about how little time the children had with their dad, so it was a mutual decision. What I didn't know was that this change really signified that he was withdrawing from us as a couple. I was so eager to please the Lord by believing the best of my man. It was right in front of my face, but I did not see what was really happening.

Our time together was just not like it had been before. He was always irritated with me. He never yelled at me or pushed me around. Instead he just became more and more withdrawn into himself. I would try to get close and he would resist. He would shrug off my kisses, or giggle like a child and tell me to stop.

And so I prayed. I prayed some more. I swallowed my feelings, and gave up all "my rights". I tried my best to be understanding of his time constraints, but there was something else going on to, something I couldn't quite put my finger on.

I think if the word had occurred to me I would have recognized it as resentment. My husband seemed to resent me. He no longer listened to me trying to understand my heart. Listening to me was a chore that he did when he couldn't get out of it without looking bad. I am a very expressive person, in fact it's one of the reasons he was attracted to me in the first place. Vivacious was the word then. Emotional was the new term I heard to describe me, and it was not meant to be a compliment.

And so the change in our family dynamic began. But life was really very pleasant during the week. I absolutely loved home schooling, and our days were filled with story time, crafts, field trips, outings with the home school community. My children had such warm and loving hearts, and we were truly enjoying the learning adventure that home schooling had promised to be. I was happy most of the time, and though I longed for a loving relationship with my man, I told myself it was just around the corner. Next weekend would be better.

The cracks in our marriage were starting to show, though for many more years I would cleverly find ways to plaster over them. Neither I nor my husband realized that the foundation (my husband's heart) was the real problem. It would take many years and some truly shocking events to make that apparent.

crappy home school marriages

Taking a break from my own story, today I plan to post about some home school marriage disasters of which I have personal knowledge. As I freely admit, my own home school marriage was in deep trouble, and I fully intend to tell that story. I guess I'll give a brief synopsis of my story at the end of this little post, just to be fair.

Also before I begin my laundry list of half a dozen bad marriages, let me point out that I know dozens if not hundreds of home school families that have perfectly fine marriages as far as I can tell. No doubt some are even great! =)

I am not posting any real names. I know that some will accuse me of making these stories up since I will not post any verifying details. That is okay by me, accuse away. I know that these stories are all true, even though I will not reveal the details. Each story represents real flesh and blood people that I have seen in the flesh.

Please keep in mind that all the names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved, innocent or not. Also each of these families was very active in their church leadership during the time that I knew them. They are all Christians with a capital C.

The Founders were a family that proudly started the first home school support group in their area. To everyone's shock and dismay, their oldest son secretly married another home school girl as soon as he turned eighteen. So began the unraveling of their whole family.

I remember the Dad telling me puzzled that he did not understand how this could happen. He and his son and discussed it and his son agreed to wait until after college to marry. (Get the feeling Dad did all the talking and none of the listening? I do.)

Shortly after, Dad was arrested for sexual misconduct. Mom divorced dad, and the other children were enrolled in private school. Dad later confessed that there were marriage problems going on for a long time before the divorce.

But all this time the Founders were very involved in what was to become an exclusive Christian home school support group. Their son was prepared academically for any Ivy League school. I don't think he ever even made it to college, though. Last I heard he was working at an entry level job to support his wife and young child.

The Excluders were a very loud and opinionated family that was largely responsible for that home school support group's "statement of faith". Their idea was that we needed to protect our children from associating with other home school children that didn't share our Christian values. They won that battle, and so the only home school support group in that county became closed to all but Christians.

The father of the Excluders is now a registered sex offender. Seems while he was away on business he would chat online with young ladies in need of "spiritual guidance". A police officer, posing as a fourteen year old girl, agreed to meet him at his hotel to discuss this all in person. According the the prosecutors and law enforcement, he was guilty of soliciting a minor. His wife did not leave him. They are still married and I think still home schooling. But I don't for one minute believe that everything is fine in that marriage.

Then there is the Serial Adulterer family and the Refuses Work family. Incidentally in both of these families, friends of mine, the fathers fancy themselves preachers called by God. And preach they do, every chance they get. Though why anyone wants to hear anything either of them has to say, I could not tell you. They must keep their private lives hidden, or put on an amazing spin to it all.

Mr. Refuses Work is also an adulterer, though not as practiced at it as Mr. Serial Adulterer. Both claim their latest woman are finally God's true calling for their lives and now their ministries will really take off!

Mr. Refuses Work is now divorced. Believe it or not, his wife put up with him refusing to work for three years. Once he finally returned to work, he met his current girlfriend and left his wife. Yes, after she gave up home schooling and supported the family on her part-time wage for three years! Always the submissive wife, I don't think she would have ever left him (though she should have years ago!).

Mr. Serial Adulterer's wife is still praying and trusting God to heal her family, though as her long time friend, I wish she would divorce him and move on with her life. Her children have been in and out of public school/home school as mom has had to work off and on. She is a great teacher and loves to bless her children with the freedom to home school when possible, but Mr. Serial Adulterer is not the most reliable provider.

I promised you half a dozen families but I have deleted at least three of my examples because, even though there was moral failure and broken hearts galore, not every reader understands the connection between teens acting out and the state of their parents' marriage. I see it clearly, but it would take too much time and a lot of research and footnotes to make the connection plain to all. So I have only chosen to write about the crystal clear home school marriage failures.

Others I have left out because as best as I can tell the people in the marriages appear to be resigned to an unhappy life. I suppose if they are willing to accept a crappy marriage, that is a disaster in itself, since Jesus wanted our joy to be full. But they would claim they are okay, so I won't post their example.

Which brings me to my story in brief. I was also in leadership in the home school community. My husband has a perfect religious pedigree, though he never fancied himself a preacher or teacher. To the outside world he has always been a great guy, little shy maybe, but a great guy. He was friendly, knew a lot of Bible verses, held to the right doctrine plus he was a great provider.

The hidden reality? My husband was an abusive man. Not only abusive. He has many good qualities. Not always abusive. In the first ten years of our marriage I hardly noticed it at all. Abusive moments were rare and easily excused. It wasn't until our children were older that he really began to grow cold.

But he had hidden hatred and resentment in his heart that grew to poison our marriage and our family. And there is a reason Jesus told us that hating someone is akin to murdering them. Hatred leads to violence. It is inevitable.

I can't end this post without letting everyone know that my marriage is healing and growing stronger every day because my husband is healing and growing stronger every day. Once he admitted that he was an abusive man and started getting useful help, things began to turn around.

The ministry that helped him out of denial can be found at and the ministry that is helping him become the man of God he is called to be can be found at

I'll save the rest of the story for later.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hopeful beginnings

I remember when I first heard about home schooling. I was barely married, and certainly not pregnant yet.

(This was before American Christian intelligentsia decided that the Catholics were right after all- the way to win the world for Christ is to out-procreate everyone else. LOL At this point in time, evangelicals were still teaching that the way to win the world for Christ was to preach the gospel. How silly, right? ;-)

An old friend of mine, roommate actually, married before I did and had started her family right away. She was the one who discovered home schooling and was excitedly sharing all about it with me. She was planning on home schooling her young daughter, and was already getting plugged in to a local home school support group. I was immediately intrigued by the idea.

I had grown up in a family that was not at all close. My dad ran out on us when I was two, and though my mom remarried, that marriage didn't last either. We had been in and out of church the whole time I was growing up in our single parent home. I was very much aware that my mom would much rather have preferred I did not exist. I determined that if I ever had a family, we would be close and supportive of one another.

Also, like so many people, public school did not hold much in the way of fond memories for me. The very worst day of my life was my first day of school in fourth grade- and after I unveil more of my life, you'll know that's saying a lot. Nope, school was a social hell for me, at least until I started partying in junior high. That of course turned out to be one of those temporary solutions that brought greater long term problems. *sigh* But it did alleviate the social suffering of my poor unhappy heart for a season.

But aside from the social hell that most of my school career had been for me, it was also very boring for me intellectually. I was a gifted student and intitally I loved school. When my mom was married to my step-father we went to a great school in the affluent suburb of a large city. (I later found out it was a charter school, cutting edge stuff.) I loved school then, as I received lots of kudos for my intellect. After the divorce, my mom took us back to her hometown- a small town (population 1500) out in the middle of nowhere on the Great Plains. It was a different world. A different and very boring world.

So three things about home schooling appealed to me right off the bat. I intended to raise a close, loving family in which my children knew they were wanted, no, celebrated.

I also wanted them to avoid the cruelty of the chicken yard, which is the closest analogy I can find for what happens in peer group institutional education socially. (For those readers who like public school, keep in mind this blog is about my subjective experience and opinion. You are allowed to have a different experience and opinion. In fact, I encourage you too! LOL)

Plus I was so excited about the opportunity for my students to learn at their own pace, however fast or slow that might turn out to be. And the freedom to get up and go explore the world as a family on a learning adventure! What could be sweeter?

So when my husband got home I very excitedly shared with him all I had learned. He loved my enthusiasm, and said he wasn't necessarily against trying it if I really wanted to give it a go when the time came. He had some reservations, but for the most part, he just wanted me to be happy. And so my journey into the world of home schooling began!

I went to one home school support group meeting with my friend and found the people to be, well, a little weird. They all looked Pentecostal holiness, if you know what that looks like: dowdy and unfashionable. But they were nice enough people, and that didn't bother me so much. I am very much a live and let live kind of person.

I would up getting pregnant shortly thereafter, and my thoughts turned elsewhere. I was more interested in pregnancy and nutrition, natural childbirth and the radical idea of breast feeding! I read everything I get my hands on, attended all the birthing classes at the hospital, hired a doula, and read "What to Expect When You're Expecting". I even visited a real nursing mom from La Leche League who showed me how an infant latches on. How courageous was that, baring her breast to a stranger?

Keep in mind all of these was before the internet. Yes, there was life before the internet! Instead of web searches we had to go to the library and look things up in the card catalog. We could go to book stores and look for new books according to the sales categories. And we could get recommendations from friends and social clubs, like Mommy and Me swim classes at the community pool.

So I moved on to the more immediate challenges of being a first time mom. I am proud to say that although the natural childbirth thing didn't work out, my baby and I did make nursing work- in fact it is one of my greatest accomplishments! No one in my family had ever nursed a child. Even my grandmother had bottle fed her babies, and that was back in the 1920s! It made me feel I was all the things I wanted to be as a mother: close, nurturing, supportive. Good times.

When my daughter was two we moved to another state, and I lost touch with my former roommate. But before I left she lent me some books (I still have these books, which shows what a sucky friend I am. Warning: do not loan me books!). One was a book on learning styles by Cindy Tobias and another was a wonderful book called Family Matters:Why Home Schooling Makes Sense by Dave Guterson.

Those two books were my introduction to home schooling, and I LOVED what I was reading! These books were about EDUCATION, not religion. In the beginning that's what home education was about: education. A nurturing, gentle education that segued seamlessly into the natural experience of sharing life together as a family. *dreamy sigh*

It was not about religious indoctrination or how to raise perfect Christian children or how to be a perfect Christian family. *disgusted snort*

Those were good books. I still highly recommend them, especially Mr. Guterson's. They are some of the best books out there about home EDUCATION.

I was hooked after reading them, and I still am.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It's a secret, shhhh!

Well, it has certainly taken some prayer and a lot of thought to decide whether or not to open up this can of worms. I am concerned that there are probably a lot of people out there who would prefer that this secret remain secret. Certainly I don't think every Christian home school family has this secret to keep, but I am also quite sure that there are many out there that do!

In the past, no one has been willing to talk openly about any downside to home school. The fear is that any flaws might be used by our enemies to take away our freedoms. That still might be a valid concern (I don't think so) but the flaws will out themselves anyway. I think it will be best to discuss them ourselves and do a little problem-solving to mitigate the effects of our problems, rather than to deny problems exist.

Problems don't go away simply because one pretends they don't exist. And these problems are real.

I know because I have met families dealing with this secret and befriended them both online and in real life. In thirteen years of experience in the Christian home schooling community, I have met a lot of home schooling families!

Certainly a lot of other families who do not home school also keep the same secret, but it is a particularly damaging secret for Christian home school families for two main reasons.

The first is the home school community's pretension to having the perfect family life set-up. My public-schooling non-Christian neighbor may have the same little secret that I kept for a long time, but then no one is proclaiming that way of life as ideal or idyllic. At every home school convention you will hear someone loudly proclaiming that home schooling is the best option for a happy Christian family, and even claiming that a particular set of family dynamics is essential for a Christian home school.

The dichotomy between the claims of the Christian home school community and the reality of daily life for many of the families trying to live that lifestyle is stark. If for no other reason than to warn new Christian home school families of the dangers they will face, the secret needs to be told.

The second reason that this secret needs to be told is that keeping this secret is damaging to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Fellow disciples of all ages are being blind-sided by this reality, and then are either shamed and ostracized by a Christian home school community that doesn't want to deal with it, or self-condemned into silence because they wrongly think they are the only ones facing it. Our fellow disciples dealing with this awful secret need our help, not our silence.

On then to the big reveal! What is this secret? What is it that Christian home school families are dealing with in large numbers, yet afraid to admit as a community that the problem exists? What is so awful, that even though it pops up in every home school support group, and even community leaders have been taken down by it, no one wants to own?

Crappy marriages.

That's right, crappy marriages.

Oh, the stories I could tell! I know of unhappy marriages that end in divorce, and many more that just limp along wearing the mask of Christian perfection when one or more of the spouses is (are) depressed, lonely and angry. Problems range from short-term and temporary (because they are quickly recognized and addressed) to chronic and debilitating.

I personally know of marriages afflicted by adultery, sexual perversion and porn addictions. I know of marriages characterized by long-term psychological, emotional and spiritual abuse. I know of some marriages that are in recovery and others that have ended in divorce. I even know some Christian home school families that have always been happily thriving, but no one is keeping that a secret-LOL!

Christian home school families dealing with crappy marriages do exist. I propose that they exist in every home school community, sometimes in leadership. It is time to expose the secret and find some real solutions to the problem, because what is being done presently is not helping.

Bad marriages happen. It happens in all communities, not only the Christian home school community. But all communities are not claiming to have all the answers like the Christian home school community claims.

Bad marriages happen. It happens in all communities. However in families choosing institutional educational options, the children get escape from the crazy-making secret-keeping for a few hours a day, a couple of days a week.

In the less isolated home school families this is also true, with sports, lessons, co-ops, play dates and taking classes outside the home providing relief from being in the problem all the time. But in the extremely isolated home schools, where no one goes anywhere without the whole family tagging along, there is no relief.

Bad marriages happen in all communities. However in the world outside the Christian home school cloister, there is support for people dealing with problem marriages. In society as a whole there is support for people who are depressed, angry and lonely. In society at large, women are encouraged to get out of abusive situations, and there is help offered to people who want to stop being abusive but don't know how.

In the Christian home school community, crappy marriages are redefined as "biblical" as if that makes it all okay. Unhappy, depressed home school moms are shamed rather than helped. Articles and books are written chastising women who suffer from the lack of being loved, appreciated,and honored as being selfish and sinful. Those burdened by large families, scarce resources and failing health are condemned as lacking in faith, rather than offered real help and given the freedom to take better care of themselves and the children they already have.

Men who fall way short of the loving service to their families Christ commands are not offered help to overcome any abusive tendencies. What abusive tendencies? In some Christian home school circles the idea of even questioning a husband/fathers decisions or actions is strongly condemned. There is no hope of change where no need for change is acknowledged.

So there, I have spilled the secret. There are a lot of crappy marriages out there in home school land.

For those who fear that admitting our flaws will result in losing our home school freedoms, relax. It's no reason to limit the freedom to home school. There are a lot of crappy marriages in the world at large too. We don't need to pretend home schools are little oases of human perfection in order to retain the right to home school.

Home education is one method of educating children, and a darn good one at that! The academic fruit is good.

What we need to do is be open about the crappy marriages, and look for answers other than the ones being repeated over and over right now. Because the marriage fruit is looking rather poor, and is certainly no better than the marriage fruit the rest of society is enjoying.

So the secret is out. Now you know. What will you do? Kill the messenger? I hope not! =)

Reinforce the wall of denial? I hope not.

Feel a sense of relief that we don't have to keep secrets anymore? That is my wish.

And further I hope that crappy Christian home school marriages will overcome their problems and find healing and happiness for all. But the first step in solving any problem is admitting that it exists.

Maybe I should have titled this entry "step one"? =)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

One of life's sweet moments

I am at a coffee shop/internet cafe right now which also serves as the meeting place for our little congregation on Sundays and music studio for our worship leader, Ryan.

Ryan is teaching my son how to play the bass guitar. He has got to be the coolest guitar teacher ever. He write his own blog that I often find just hits the spot for me that day.

Anyway, I am not sure Ryan would like to be associated with me here on the world wide web, but sorry bro! That's just the risk we take when we put ourselves out in cyberspace. Or is that the risk you take when you associate with people like me? ;) Either way, LOL.

I am so proud of my daughter and son. They are really different people, but they both have so much to offer the world in their own unique ways. I really enjoy their company and getting to watch them grow and spread their wings.

It is hard to believe that we are all the same people we were this time last year. We have come through so much, and I think the story of what we went through to get here is worth telling.

When I started this blog I intended to do just that. But now that I know a few people are actually reading this, I am actually feeling some fear. That is not like me, but it's not necessarily a bad thing.

So I think I'll just go with it for right now. I think for today I'll just enjoy my coffee, the music and the peace we share as a family at this moment.

I'll save the storytelling for another day.


Yesterday I found out that the "new" blog I found was fictional.

I am not very happy about that. Here is a comment I left on another blog about that experience:

I have been deep in thought about the X-ATI blog.

I have known several families involved with ATI, but without exception I would never have gotten to know them if they hadn’t already left the movement.

(Those still in the movement don’t make friends with “outsiders”.)

The damage done to these precious hearts who have escaped is serious, painful and very real.

The damage done to children by any kind of abuse is not at all funny on any level. Even though I was never ATI, I was a dominated, abused child.

As such I know how important it is to be heard and believed when an abused person finally starts to tell their story. One can not approach a wounded person with skepticism and cynicism. It only compounds their pain.

One of the big woundings of child abuse is that people make light of your suffering.

I remember a particular counselor encouraging me to be honest with him (about the abuse), though I hesitated at first because I didn’t think he would believe me. His response, “Well, I find that hard to believe! Your mom seems like a nice person to me.”, worked in my abusers favor, shutting me down and reinforcing to me that my abuser really did control every aspect of my life. There would be no escape.

In light of my personal experience, I am inclined to believe those who claim abuse. I think it is righteous and godly to assume they are being honest, at least honest from their perspective.

Because of this, I will make the statement that parody blogs that are not clearly marked as such do more harm than good. I feel manipulated. The authors of that blog purposely lie, making humor out of something that is not in the least bit funny to me.

It is as distasteful to me as if someone wrote a fake blog claiming to be a victim of forced prostitution. Some things just aren’t funny.

Maybe if the authors of that blog clearly marked it as parody, some people might find it funny. But it would never be funny to me. And now I must confess I will doubt every new survivor’s blog out there.

That is all that this parody accomplishes that I can see. A few smug in-the-know people feeling smarter than everyone else, while readers who find out they have been deceived harden their hearts to future claims.

Personally, I don’t think breeding skepticism and cynicism toward claims of religious abuse is very helpful.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Today I am stunned, shocked, dumbfounded, amazed, incredulous.

I found another new blog today, written by yet another escapee from a strict control-freak religious home school environment. My heart is scraped raw. How many precious hurting people are out there?

How did this happen? This is not what home schooling was all about when I started. It is not what Christianity is all about as I understand it. It is certainly not healthy parenting as I understand it or ever saw it practiced.

I am angry.

I was merely irritated with the religious nutjobs who are ruining the reputation of home schooling. Now those stupid magazines are not just annoying, they are infuriating.

I know in a free country we will always have people that abuse that freedom. It's inevitable.

But these people are abusing more than just freedom. They are abusing their children. And that is just not acceptable.

Nope, that is not acceptable at all.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Multigenerational Faithfulness

Psalm 100
A psalm. For giving thanks.
1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and and not we ourselves;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations

When I hear the phrase "multigenerational faithfulness" lately, one question pops through my mind and won't go away. The question is:

Whose faithfulness?

Whose faithfulness?

The Lord is the only one capable of multigenerational faithfulness! His faithfulness continues through all generations.

People are not capable of multigenerational faithfulness for reasons which should be obvious to any thinking Christian. We are incapable of being faithful to the Lord on an hourly, daily basis as it is. And we have no true power over any other person other than ourselves anyway. We can influence people in our lives during our lifetime. But we cannot make choices for them. God has not given us that privilege.

We do not have to go farther than Numbers 5:6 to find proof of our daily unfaithfulness to God. Here God declares that any sin we commit against anyone in our lives is considered being unfaithful to the Lord.

Numbers 5: 6 "Say to the Israelites: 'When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD, that person is guilty."

Is there any one of us who can claim to be truly faithful to the Lord at all times? Any time we sin against another human being we are convicted of being unfaithful to the Lord? If this is true, no one can claim to be a truly faithful person.

Wow. No wonder Jesus said that what we have done or left undone for the "least of these brothers of mine, you have (not) done for me". (Matthew 25:31-46)

As much as I want to be faithful to the Lord each and every day, I know that I have failed him more times than I can count. If every time I have sinned against another person I am convicted of being unfaithful to the Lord, then I would be a liar to call myself a faithful person. I can only come off as a faithful person if I ignore the definition of faithfulness that Numbers 5:6 lays down for me and invent my own definition of faithfulness to God.

If I can define faithfulness for myself, then I can feel pretty good about myself. If I define faithfulness as attending church regularly, home schooling my children, having daily devotions, praying before meals, reading the Bible out loud to my family every day, avoiding bad movies and bad TV shows, and not going to bars, I can come off pretty well. Actually I can just keep adding to that list things that are easy for me to keep, and come off with a higher and higher opinion of my own faithfulness every day.

And isn't it human nature to do just that? We really are a sad mess. Our capacity for self-deception knows no bounds.

But let's say that God is okay with our homespun definitions of faithfulness (even though we know He's not going to buy it), how can a person possible perpetuate multigenerational faithfulness when the Bible makes clear that we are only responsible for our own souls? The entire 18th chapter of Ezekiel explains this concept at length, while verse four puts it in a nutshell:

Ezekiel 18:4 For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son—both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.

There is absolutely no way any human person can commit to multigenerational faithfulness. We are only single individual human people ultimately responsible only for our own personal individual choices during our one lifetime on earth. It is grandiose narcissism to pretend we can accomplish "multigenerational faithfulness". How embarrassing for the human race that people lay claim to having such power.

Do I want my children to know and love the Lord? Oh yes, more than almost anything. I want them to see how gracious and good the Lord truly is and to be enamored of the beauty of His holiness. I want that with all my heart.

So how can this home school mom make that happen? Not by holding up my "works of righteousness" and waving them around in their faces all day as evidence of my faithfulness. Nope, those filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) are not going to draw one person to the Lord.

Humility and the fear of the Lord in my own life is a good start. But even then, the focus would be on me and I am nobody's Saviour. Better by far is to lift up the Lord in praise because He is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

I can not make my children's choices for them, but I can influence them in a positive way when they see true gratitude for God's mercy spilling out of my mouth. I can influence them in a positive way when they see real joy animating my personality because of the great mercy God daily shows to me, unfaithful sinner that I am. When my daily life reflects Psalms 40:16 then I can know that I am doing all I can to influence not just my children, but everyone in my life for God's glory.

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, "The LORD be exalted!"

Amen. The Lord be exalted. He is good. His mercy endures forever. His faithfulness endures through all generations. Amen.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Moderating Comments

Lately I spend a lot of time in cyberspace following the blogs of home school graduates who have had poor experiences to strict patriarchal fundamentalist home school philosophies. My heart goes out to these brave young woman who have found the courage to take back the gift of life that is rightfully theirs to live. I am both proud of these women, and horrified at the damage done to them by an extremist Christian home school agenda.

That is the reason I announced at the beginning that I would be moderating comments. I feared that people might actually read my blog and be offended by my common sense and bias toward liberty. I really can't deal with haters in my life right now, so I though moderating comments would be the way to go.

Fortunately, no one is actually reading my blog! :)
Maybe that is a temporary thing yet, but maybe it will always be that way. Since I write to get my ideas out there for personal reasons, that is just fine with me. Maybe even best for me, who knows?

Additionally, I recently read one woman's blog wherein she wrote that comment moderation is a bad thing, akin to censorship. Censorship is all about controlling access to information, and is not at all promoting liberty. Since reading this woman's insights, I decided to stop moderating comments in honor of liberty.

So,comment moderation is off. Long live liberty!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Devoted things

Joshua 6:15-18
On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, "Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it.

I Samuel 15: 17-21
Samuel said, "Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, 'Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.' Why did you not obey the LORD ? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD ?" "But I did obey the LORD," Saul said. "I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal."

These passages fill me with a holy fear as a parent. I did not participate in a religious ceremony in front of the local church, like so many evangelical parents do, when I dedicated my children to the Lord. I prayed a personal prayer of dedication the moment I found out I was pregnant each time. My husband, also, laid his hands on my belly and we gave our children to the Lord, committing ourselves to doing our best to serve him as parents. We did this in holy fear, aware that putting a stumbling block in the life of one of His little ones is a serious crime. We did this reverently, aware that even the giving of a cup of cold water to a little one in the name of Jesus is noted in heaven and considered by God a worthy act.

No that it matters where you are when you dedicate your children to the Lord. I have no argument against having a ceremony about it in church if someone feels led to do that. We had our reasons for keeping it private, but that is not the topic of this blog post. Maybe someday, but probably not since it is so personal and not terribly important in the grand scheme of things. :)

What is so very important, extremely important, is that the dedicated things belong to the Lord! Once you dedicate a child to God, they belong to the Lord. You may not keep them to yourself. You may not keep them for righteous religious purposes. They are not yours anymore.

The devoted things belong to the Lord.

It is a grievous sin to hold on to devoted things. It is a grievous sin to take the devoted things and decide for yourself how they can be put to righteous use.

In the above passages, the devoted things were to be destroyed. I have often questioned why that is, and I think it is because the temptations to take the devoted things for ourselves is too great. Also perhaps in these instances of devoted things in war,it was to eliminate the temptation to take other people's things (lives?) and give them to the Lord in place of our own sacrifices. After all, Samuel wasn't upset that the people had grateful hearts and wanted to sacrifice to the Lord. He was upset that they were sacrificing the things devoted to God as if they were their own.

This speaks to me about parenting very strongly. The devoted things belong to the Lord.

The devoted things are not mine to keep.
My children do not belong to me. Whatever good I have done as a parent, whatever damage I have done as a parent, in all events I was only a steward for a season. I dare not attempt to keep my children under my "authority". They have been dedicated to the Lord from the first days of their lives. They are under His authority. They have always been under His authority. That's why I am accountable to God for the cups of cold water and the stumbling blocks both.

My children are devoted to the Lord. I take my hands off in holy fear and commend them to the Lord again today. He is able to care for His own. I submit to you, Lord. I do not dare attempt to keep the devoted things for myself.

The devoted things are not mine to use in religious devotion to the Lord.
I may not keep my children under my power in a misguided attempt to offer up their lives as a sacrifice to God. Their lives are not mine to offer. They already belong to the Lord.

No, any holy sacrifices I offer to the Lord will have to come from MY LIFE, not the lives of my children. I will have to bow MY heart to the Lord. I will have to sacrifice MY pride to the Lord. I will need to yield MY praises from MY lips, MY gratitude from MY heart. The only obedience I can offer up to the Lord is MY obedience.

It is no credit to me that I demand my children serve the Lord. In fact, it is taking the easy way out. It is offering up the already dedicated things as if it were a real sacrifice on my part. God forbid. The devoted things belong to the Lord.

When I hear or read of parents who demand their adult children's lives as their own- to make decisions for their children, order their children's lives as if those lives belonged to the parent, choosing their children's clothing, where their children will go, who their children can associate with- I am filled with holy fear. It would not suprise me at all if fire fell down from heaven and consumed such parents. They are keeping for themselves what is dedicated to the Lord.

These parents claim that since they are controlling their children's lives in order to offer those children up to the Lord, that their good religious intentions make it alright to keep the devoted things for themsleves. I tremble.

Seriously. I tremble. I fear God, and so I fear for these parents. It is a grievous sin they are committing against the Lord: keeping the devoted things for themselves.

If the above passages were truly written for our learning, then such parents can expect that they are bringing about their own destruction. Parents trying to offer up their children's lives as a sacrifice to God can expect to suffer loss.

Saul suffered the loss of his calling, Samuel told him that the Lord had rejected him as king. Saul suffered the loss of his peace of mind and became plaqued by evil spirits. Soothing Saul's troubled mind was a major reason that David was at the palace of Saul. Probably the greatest loss, though, was the loss of the promised legacy of kingship and annointing which should have belonged to Saul's children and grandchildren. Sad.

That is a lot of loss. I don't even want to guess how much would fall on my head if I kept the devoted things for myself. I will simply back away from the devoted things, rededicate MY life to God in prayer, and enjoy His presence as my life continues to unfold.

I think He can do a much better job with what belongs to Him than I ever could anyway. :)