Archive for April, 2012

This Kid-Raisin’ Thing…

…is tough!  More than anything on earth, I want my children to grow up to love the Lord, and not just in a surface way.  I want them to be IN love with God.  I want their lives to revolve around Him in the same way that I want my own life to revolve around Him.  And I know that they are individual souls who will have to make their own decision, but I want to do everything possible to portray the Kingdom of God to them in as accurate a way as possible.  As such, I have been thinking a lot about my own parents, and how they raised me.  They were amazing parents, and, though I’m not saying that they are perfect, they did a-LOT of things right.  The major ones that come to mind:

1.  They loved us beyond all reason.  I firmly believed growing up that my parents loved me far more than the average parents loved their children.

2.  You know that verse about teaching your kids as you walk along the road and as you lie down and wake up?  They did that.

We often reviewed the books of the Bible in the car.  My mom made it fun, like a game.  Also, I have clear memories of snuggling in bed with my mom and saying “chain prayers.”  Again, this was a fun treat.  “Hey, you wanna say a chain prayer?” my mom would ask, with the same tone she’d use to ask, “You wanna go out for ice cream?  We loved it.  As we got older, we would try to make our prayers long, like hers.  Her prayers were full of how much she loved us, and she would spend time talking to God about each of us, highlighting our strengths and special qualities.  We loved it.  And even though we played sports and had homework and my dad usually had to work late, my mom would valiantly succeed in getting us kids to Wednesday night church.  We’d always stop by Dairy Queen on the way home, b/c she said we all deserved ice cream for making it to church:).

3.  They loved church…and worked their butts off for it.

They were involved with everything.  My Dad has done announcements since before I was born, is a regular Sunday school teacher, and is basically the church maintenance man and landscaper.  All unpaid, of course.  He was always on this or that “logistics committee,” and had some role in almost every event.  And they both put all they had into it.  When my mom did the weekly newsletter (for ten years!), she made it so fun that people were lining up to get copies.  When she taught Sunday school and VBS (which she always did), she went all out with fun programs and prizes.  When she taught crafts for Camp Canaan or VBS (again, a long standing tradition), she made sure the kids had good crafts, even though this often meant she paid out of pocket for supplies, since the crafts were above the church’s budget.  And she did it for the right reasons.  I will never forget an instance when I was helping her prepare from some craft which involved painstakingly cutting out tons of maple leaves.  I was feeling a bit resentful for “always” being made to help out with craft preparation, and I was expressing to her the futility of our maple-leaf-cutting endeavor.  “Mom,” I said, “Don’t you know that kids are just going to go home and throw these crafts in the trash can?  In a day or two, they will forget they even made them!  What is the point of all this work??”  I will never forget her reply:  “Kim, I’m not doing this for the kids.”  Huh?  That was truly a shocker to me.  She followed that zinger up with, “I’m doing this for God.  People don’t know the half of what I do, and if they did, they wouldn’t care anyway.  But that’s okay.  I’m not doing it for them.  Everything I do, I do for God.”  That has got to rank in the top 5 most influential things anyone has ever said to me.  It rocked my world.

4.  They showed me that working for God (I was going to say the church, but then thought about my mom’s statement), is incredibly rewarding even by earthly standards.

Our church owns 57 acres of land, and my parents have literally put hundreds and hundreds of hours into that land.  Some of my best memories are out at “the property,” as we called it.  One of my all-time best memories is actually an amalgamation of several similar incidences.  Before we moved out there, my parents would take us there some evenings so they could work.  They would mow and fix and do whatever they were there to do, and my brother and I would ride 4-wheelers, pick scuppernongs,and cherry tomatoes, and have fun.  I love how, even though they would rightly make us help them sometimes, they never made us bitter against “church work” by forcing us to live out their passions.  So we played on those evenings while they worked.  They would work until it was too dark to work anymore, and then we’d turn the lights on in the pavilion and play ping-pong.  My dad is not much of a game player, so times when all four of us would play something really stand out in my mind.  Those nights were so happy for me.

5.  Their lifestyle was just “this short” of radical.

Or maybe it was radical.  I don’t know; it’s hard to judge when I grew up with it.  I do remember when I thought they had gone off the deep end.  When I was 12, they decided to sell our beautiful two story house that I LOVED, in a beautiful neighborhood that I LOVED…to move out to our church’s property so that they could better take care of it.  To do this, they bought the trailer that was located on the property, way back in the woods, at the end of a half-mile long gravel road.  When they announced that this was their plan, I thought that they had seriously lost their minds.  I thought they were on crack.  I cried and fought and fought and cried.  They were unmoved.  I remember wailing at one point, “But this is our HOME!!”  My Dad shot back, “Our HOME is where our family is.”  That also probably goes on the top 5 most influential things list.  You don’t forget moments like that.  At least, I don’t.  And of course, like everything you do for God, it ended up being a huge blessing.  I spent the next 6 years of my life–up until college–living at the property and coming to love it.  And all that time, My parents worked constantly to upkeep it.  At the time, I thought it was normal for people to mow everyday in the summer, normal to install headlights on your tractor so that you could mow the fields at night.  Now I see that to do all that–unpaid–is insane.  Insane!  But it opened my mind up to the idea that loving and obeying God is kind of insane.  Turning the other cheek is insane.  Giving everything to Him is insane.  It is a radical lifestyle.  It does not make sense in the eyes of the world.

I really, really hope, and I pray everyday, that Greg and I can walk with God, can keep in step with the Spirit, in a way that reflects the Kingdom to my kids.  Just like my own parents did to me.  I’ll tell you one thing.  They are a tough act to follow.  I haven’t touched on the half of what they did, the half of how they lived (my dad’s thoughts on giving still blow my mind).  But I have the benefit of their example.  And I have a God who for some reason has decided to live in me.  And I have an amazing husband, who has his own set of amazing parents.  So I’m hopeful.

And the praying everyday can’t hurt:).

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I originally published this post on my family blog on May 27, 2009.  I was reminded of it this week as I pondered the idea of living counter-culturally and what that might mean for my family at this time.  Whenever I think about how my goals and desires for my family, I’m naturally drawn to ruminate on my own upbringing and what my parents’ did to introduce my brother and me to the kingdom of God.  As the post suggests, I have a great example in my own parents (as well as in Greg’s parents).  That much, of course, is just as true today as it was in 2009.

Who Says?

Earlier today, my friend, Courtney, wrote this article about cultural rebellion.  At least, that’s how I would characterize the article, which I very much enjoyed reading.  My favorite part came toward the end of her post, when she asks a series of rhetorical questions about cultural expectations, all beginning with, “Who says”:

Who says …that my house has to be presentable at all times?
Who says …that my laundry has to be caught up every day …or that we couldn’t minimize it by letting every kid have 5 shirts and 3 pairs of shorts ONLY!
Who says …that I or my kids have to a have 52 different church outfits so we are wearing something different each week?
Who says …that I have to be running myself ragged from morning til night, dragging my kids behind me?
Who says …that my kids have to be involved in every extracurricular activity I can find for them to do?
Who says …that I have to wear a size less-than-12?
Who says  …that my toenails have to be perfectly manicured all summer?
Who says …that my clothes have to be from somewhere other than Walmart (or Old Navy …either one).
Who says  …that I HAVE to coupon to manage my pennies well?
Who says  …that I have drive a car that matches everyone else?
Who says …that I have to have a house that is perfectly decorated OR that it has to have a certain number of square feet?
Who says…that I have to have an updated blog at all times?
Who says ..that I have to compare myself to any of those chics on Pinterest? ..or better yet, have the creativity to do any of the stuff on there?!

The whole time I was reading this list, I was thinking, “Ooh, ooh–I wanna play!”  This exercise struck me as an immensely fun game, and I thought that maybe we could play it together.

Okay, now it’s my turn:

Who says…I have to wear makeup whenever I go out (especially when my husband seems to honestly think I’m beautiful without it)?

Who says…I need more than one pair of jeans?

Who says…that it is “normal” to take a vacation every year?

Who says…the plight of the global poor is none of my business?

Who says…people shouldn’t be weird?  I like weird people!

Who says…we can’t ask for (or accept) help?

Who says…Christmas should break the bank?

Who says…I shouldn’t have a chandelier in my dining room that suggests that I’m 85 years old?  New ones cost money, you know!

Who says…my kids need to simultaneously participate in 17 extracurricular activities in order to become self-actualized human beings?

Who says…I need to wear earrings…or have more than one purse?

Who says…we need cable?  Or more than one tv?  Or a tv at all?

Who says…I shouldn’t drink 4 cups of coffee a day?

Okay, okay…doctors say that last one.  Other than that, though, I stand by my questions.  I would love to know who makes these rules.  Well, actually, I guess I don’t really care at this point who makes them.

Because I’m tired of following them.

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Okay, now it’s your turn.  Do you have any “Who says?” questions to ask?

How Exactly Do You “Choose Life”?

For the life of me, I can’t remember the type of music that they usually play in a souvenir shop in Panama City.  Something poppy, I would imagine.  Breezy.  Upbeat.  I think they would play some light and happy tune to lift your mood as you milled around looking at shot glasses with beach scenes on them or snarky, inappropriate t-shirts.

I should remember the music, as I am no stranger to cheap souvenir shops in Panama City.  PC, after all, was my family’s #1 vacation spot while I was growing up, and we never met a roadside shop that we didn’t like.  As a child, I was mesmerized by the seashells, the beach toys, the brightly colored t-shirts that proliferated in these establishments.  I clearly remember once getting a little jewelry box, lined in red velvet, with little white seashells glued all over it.  I thought it was the epitome of class and sophistication.

The incident I’m thinking of didn’t occur when I was a child, though.  No, I think I was in college when the music in the gift shop stopped.  Maybe I was with my family, or maybe it was that time I had come down with some friends from school.  Perhaps this was the gift shop visit where I bought those shorts with the writing on the rear (speaking of the epitome of class and sophistication), or perhaps I just got a pair of sunglasses or some more sunscreen.  I can’t remember the details.  All I remember is that the song playing over the speakers ended, and suddenly, I heard only words coming out.  The words might have been put to some kind of beat, but all I recall was that I was immediately riveted.  I stood there, transfixed, in the middle of the aisle, holding whatever piece of kitsch I had been mentally mocking, as I listened to a very unlikely message to hear in a Panama City gift shop.  Here are the words I heard:

Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a —-ing big television, Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin can openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose a three piece suite on hire purchase in a range of —-ing fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the —- you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing —-ing junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing* your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, —-ed-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that?

That was it.  No prologue.  No explanation.  Just those words.  Clearly, the speaker’s cynicism reflected his belief that those things were not really life.  Clearly, he felt that these trappings of life were ultimately meaningless.  But…who was he?  Thankfully, I remembered the words clearly enough to relate them to Greg later, and have him identify them for me.  Apparently, those words were spoken by Ewan McGregor in the opening of the movie, Trainspotting, which goes on to give the viewer a grim and unflinching portrayal of drug use (clue:  the speaker doesn’t choose life; he chooses heroin).  For me, though, those disembodied words pouring out of the speaker served as an accidental indictment of the emporium of junk in which I was standing.  It made me think, “What am I doing here?”

That question was not just about me standing in a gift shop, either.  Ultimately, that moment served as a microcosm of many other times in my life where I have been suddenly awakened to the meaninglessness of my actions.  Inevitably, I will get myself all caught up in a situation–maybe the details of a big event, maybe some kind of relational drama, maybe just the minutiae of daily life–and I will let those circumstances take over my thoughts and emotions.  I will let that situation consume me, stress me out, and otherwise distract me from the greater purpose of living.

And then, something will come along to open my eyes and remind me that I’m getting consumed by something that doesn’t really matter.  Usually, though, my wake up call doesn’t come from a Scottish actor playing a heroin addict.

Usually, it comes from Scripture.

You see, when I read the Bible, I find “Choose Life” to be a major theme.  It is stated explicitly by Moses:

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed…

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life

The prophet, Haggai, elaborates on the theme in a different way, when he explains the feelings of frustration and futility felt by the Israelites after the exile:

Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it”  (Haggai 1:5-6).

The reason the people are so frustrated, according to Haggai, is because they are focusing on the wrong priorities; they are building up their own houses while neglecting the house of God.  They aren’t choosing life, and so they are haunted by feelings of futility and meaninglessness.

Jesus drives the point home when he asks rhetorically,

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36).

Jesus’ question reveals the stark and humbling truth that I can go through my whole life, and even be “successful”–and yet miss the entire point.  How sad would that be?

Paul continues this underlying  theme in such commands as,

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is yourlife, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4).

Together, these Scriptures form a chorus.  They tell me

Choose life.  Choose something better than what is all around you.  Choose to spend your precious minutes on things that matter.  Choose a higher path.  Choose eternal significance.  Choose meaning.  Choose purpose.  Choose love.  Choose God.

Choose life.

Every day, I try to choose life.  Often, I fail.  Often, I don’t even know what that means.  (Is doing laundry “choosing life”?  Well, I don’t know, but I do know that someone has to do laundry!)  But sometimes, I do see it.

I will look at my kids, really look at them, and be filled with love and awe.

I will try to help someone.

I will take two seconds to admire God’s creation and to thank Him for it.

I will work at something with all my heart, as working for the Lord and not for men.

And in those moments, I will think, This is life.  Surely, this is what Jesus meant when He said He had come to give “life to the full.”  Surely, life can’t get any more full, more satisfying than this.

In such moments, I am reminded that I don’t want to spend my life in the equivalent of a Panama City gift shop, thinking about useless junk that doesn’t even matter.  Life has so much more potential than that.  I want to choose life, and choose to live it to the full.

How do you choose life?

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I would edit that word, but I’m pretty sure that it means “drinking,” when used across the pond.

Top 2 on…Oh, Forget It

Alright, so apparently I don’t read as many blogs as I thought I did. Thus, I believe that this will be the last week of “Top 3 on Tuesday,” at least until I find another cool blog to share. Perhaps in the future, this will continue as a sporadic series. Really, though, who can tell at this point?

Since the purpose of this series was to share some good reads, I did want to share two articles I read this week that were very timely to me. Since our family has been spending a lot of time trying to preserve our cherished “family time,” I read with interest two articles that dealt with that very subject.

The first was from her.meneutics (say, that’s another blog I read, albeit not regularly). It was called, “Mourning the Death of Family-Friendly TV”, and to be honest, I started reading it thinking I was going to get on my high horse regarding the lack of quality broadcasting these days. Instead, I ended up on my high horse regarding the need for quality time as a family. I know, I know–I shouldn’t get on my high horse. It’s bad and prideful. I’m working on it.

(But it was a good read.)

Then, I was very surprised to read the latest entry in the “What I Want You to Know” series over at Rage Against the Minivan. It was written by a teenager who was mourning the fact that her mom went back to work three days a week (ahem). Much of what she wrote sounds, um, retro (read: backwards) by today’s standards, and so I was a little surprised it was posted on such a “forward thinking” blog. However, it was honest and heartfelt, even with all the solipsism that one would expect from a teenager. Plus, it really made me think about the way my employment decisions affect my kids.

I honestly did search for a third blog to fit this theme of “the counter-cultural preservation of the family structure,” but I came up short. Thus, you only get a “Top 2.” Sorry about that. If you find a third, I’d love to read it!

Have you read anything good this week?

The Surprising Ease of Selling my Soul

I had an experience last Tuesday.

I walked into Brilliant Sky for the first time.

And I stopped caring about poor kids.

You may not be aware of this, but we are planning on homeschooling Luke and Anna next year (that was a joke–not the homeschooling part, but the part about your awareness, after last week’s overwrought series on the subject).  Thus, I have spent way too much time researching homeschool curriculum, checking out the legal standards for homeschooling in Tennessee, and discussing with my husband (and my best friend and whomever will talk with me about it) the differences between Singapore math and Horizons math and the pros and cons of buying a multi-subject curriculum package versus a custom-built package.  Needless to say, then, I have been fairly education-oriented of late.

And that’s why, when I walked into Brilliant Sky, I died.  Right there, on the spot.  Dead.

It was so incredible.  So many resources.  And puzzles.  And workbooks.  And great, imaginative toys.  So many kits designed to spark creativity and discovery.  So many fun, intelligent games.  So many crafty items.  So much cuteness.  I could hardly bear it.  I wanted it all.

And in that moment, I just wished I had, like, a thousand dollar gift card for Brilliant Sky.  I didn’t want a thousand dollars to drill wells in Africa.  Or to pay for a child’s education who would not receive one otherwise, while my children will receive an excellent education (or at the very least, a crazy committed teacher) even without one single thing from Brilliant Sky.  Nope, I was so over the “caring for the world” thing.  I just wanted all these wonderful toys.

Because really, why save money to sponsor a Compassion child when you could use that money to buy a portable, magnetic puzzle of the fifty states??  We could keep it in the car for practice!  (I have a real blind spot when it comes to magnetic toys.  They always seem like a genius idea at the time, especially when I conveniently forget my kids’ propensity to lose magnets.  And seriously, fifty magnets in the car–what could go wrong?).  And why buy some much needed onesies for the baby of a young single mom when I can get a set of 26 bean bags with the letters of the alphabet on them?  Think of all the fun games we could play!  Well, actually, I’m trying, and I can’t really think of any right now…but I’m sure there are fun games to be played that would make it totally worth it to have twenty-six bean bags in my house.

As I walked through and admired all the learning tools the store had to offer, I found that it was surprisingly easy to totally forget about all my financial priorities.  Well, I guess I didn’t forget about them, as much as I bemoaned them.  I even had the thought, “I wish I was just really rich, and I could buy all of these things and help the poor.”  Ha!  What a saint I am!  What sacrifice!  “Yes, Lord, I would love to help those less fortunate…if only I don’t have to sacrifice anything to do it!  And in fact, instead of simply not sacrificing, can You also give me everything I want?  That would make it so much easier, trust me.”

Really, I think the store spoke to my deep, deep love for my children…which is not a bad thing.  What is a bad thing is my ongoing temptation to completely focus on them and never come out of my little bubble of “family.”  I realized as I walked through the store that while homeschooling is going to present us with some great opportunities, it is also going to magnify that temptation to turn my back on the world and live for “me and mine.”

I gave myself a good talking-to, and ended up walking out without buying anything.  Frankly, I just didn’t have the money to be spending on frivolous things that we honestly didn’t need.  The experience did make me think, though, about how hard it is to be a good steward sometimes.  

I thought about it again yesterday, when my children were playing with two of their friends in the backyard.  For the most part, they all played wonderfully together, but the green-eyed monster did come out sometimes when there weren’t enough toys to go around.  At one point, both Luke and Anna were highly jealous that their friends were playing with their butterfly nets, even though these nets had been laying around for the taking for most of the afternoon.  So while they pouted and begged their friends to hand them over, I called them each over separately for a talk.  Luke had the hardest time, so his was the longest.  It went something like this:

Me [totally in teacher mode]:  Hey buddy, let me ask you a question.  How many butterfly nets do you think your friends have at home?

Luke:  I don’t know–how many? [He actually seemed curious.]

Me:  Zero.  And that means that the only time they get to chase butterflies with nets is when they come over here.  But you and Anna, you get to use them every day whenever you want.  So do you think you can just let them enjoy using the nets for a few minutes?

[Luke’s answer reflected that he did not think he could do that.]

Me:  Well, let me ask you something else.  Why do you think God let you have a butterfly net?  Do you think He did it just for you?

Luke:  I don’t know.

Me:  Remember, everything God gives us is not just for ourselves, but for others.  So our nets should be as much for our friends as for ourselves.

[Luke started whining, still not buying it.]

Me:  I know, buddy.  It’s hard.  It’s hard to share.  I understand if you can’t do it.  So…if it is too hard, maybe we should just go ahead and give the nets to them?  If we can’t handle having them and sharing them, then maybe we should just go ahead and give them away.  Then it wouldn’t be a struggle anymore.

That last part just came to me, and maybe it is just me, but it made perfect sense in my mind.  All of a sudden, I saw that idea applying to more than just butterfly nets.  There’s no way to ever put it into a hard and fast rule, or even a consistent principle, but it did occur to me that one easy way of solving the problem of using my spare funds wisely was to give them away.  If it is that much of an internal struggle, then why not end it?  Why not just say, “Get behind me, Satan,” and put the money safely in God’s kingdom?

Hmmm…I am going to have to remember that…maybe even next time I’m in Brilliant Sky!

When are you most tempted to throw stewardship out the window?  And how do you keep your financial priorities in focus?

Three Signs that I am a Great Date

1.  When it’s my turn to pick the restaurant, I pick one with a name like, “The Silly Goose,” because I want to try their couscous and shrimp.  Only, I don’t check to see how far away it is, or if it is even open, which leads to events like a cross-town drive to a closed restaurant.  And then my second choice is a little vegetarian joint in the same building called, “The Wild Cow,” and only when that is firmly vetoed do I settle for the much-more-normal Mexican option across the street.

2.  Over dinner, I ask questions that need lots of prefacing, such as, “Pretend you have no presuppositions about either religion or science.  Wipe away all the things you believe.  Now look around this restaurant at all the people and clothes and behavior and answer this:  Would you say, based totally on present observation, that this species evolved accidentally or that they were created by a higher power?”  This is my idea of a conversation starter.

And like a good date, I stay off my recently-updated iPhone…until the very end of dinner, when I can’t resist playing the new game I got for the kids, Math BINGO.  After I inexplicably miss 7 X 1 twice (it’s not 8, Kim), I decide it will be fun to challenge my date with this rousing game.  As we exit the restaurant, I set it on the hardest setting and pepper him with incisive questions like, “What’s 15 X 19?” on the way to the car.  Since I have to plug his answers into the Bingo board, he gets several steps ahead of me (although, thinking back on it now, it’s possible that he actually might have been fleeing me), which causes me to have to call out the questions a bit louder.  It is only after I yell, “136 divided by 17!” followed by a triumphant, “BINGO!” that I look up to see everyone in Hipsterville staring at me through their thick, horn-rimmed glasses.  Oops.  I just smile and shrug, like, “What??  Doesn’t everyone play Math BINGO in their spare time?” before laughing all the way to the car.

3.  As much as I do appreciate the standard dinner-and-a-movie, movies today are too expensive (not to mention that most of them are not worth seeing.  Did you know that there is currently one out on Redbox called, The Evil Bong?  Not joking).  I’m not even a movie snob (the last three movies I saw in theaters were The Hunger Games, Sherlock Holmes, and Mission Impossible 4) but the combined price and stupidity of most movies make them a no-go for date nights.  For me, the next best thing is a bookstore.  Barnes and Noble is our basic stand-by, but tonight, my date opts to try out a huge used bookstore we’d heard about, and I’m all for it.  I spend most of my time perusing the children’s books and Christianity books, coming away with a few things for the kids’ Easter baskets.

So yeah, if vegetarian restaurants, Math BINGO, and used bookstores are your thing, I would make one awesome date.  For the other 99.9% of the population who are sighing in relief right now that you and I will never have to go on a date, I wish you all the happiness in your own dates with your significant other.  As for me and mine, we spent the drive home from the used bookstore singing Mumford and Sons songs with the windows rolled down and admiring all the greenery in Nashville.  At one point, I caught my date looking at me, and so I turned and smiled at him, and he told me I was pretty and declared that he “married up.”

And I realized that I am a great date…to the person who matters.

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So, um, where do normal people you like to go on dates?

Weird Homeschoolers: …and a Match

Don’t you hate it when parents complain that their child is just not challenged enough in class?  The kid might be failing, might be a bully, might be making paper airplanes when he should be working, and it seems like the knee-jerk parental assessment of the situation is that little Johnny is simply too smart, and that’s why he is having trouble.  Because, you know, every parent thinks their child is brilliant, me included.  And also, every parent is tempted to brag on every good thing their child does, me included.  I don’t think that this is necessarily bad; children need people who think they are amazing, after all.  I just think that it gets old quickly to the people who are not the parents of said child.

Thus, consider yourself warned:  this post might have some, um, facts that could be construed as “bragging.”  But to the nay-sayers, I say, “I’m not actually bragging; I’m complaining.”  Because that is so much better, right?

When we first talked to Luke’s new teacher back in November, I was one of “those moms” who fretted that her child might not be challenged in class.  To his teacher’s everlasting credit, she suppressed her eyerolls and said that she would do her best to see that he was challenged.  She was true to her word:  within a few weeks, she sent home a permission slip for him to be tested for gifted services.  I signed and returned it the Monday after Thanksgiving break.

On April 17, I have a meeting to discuss the results of that test.

That is almost five months later.  In the meantime, my child has been making troubling comments such as,

“I have not learned one thing in school this year.”

“We just do the same thing over and over every day.”

“What is the point of school?”

These comments vex me.

Thankfully, I am not alone in my concern and frustration; Luke’s teacher feels it, too.  In fact, the reason Greg’s and my homeschool conversations got cut off in February was because his teacher scheduled an S-Team meeting for Luke.  Apparently, the first wave of results from his testing had come back, and he was deemed by the out-of-school tester to be “brilliant.”  In reading, he scored in the 99.8th percentile for five-year-olds across the nation.  In math, he scored in the 95th.  He didn’t do as well in “academic knowledge” (78th percentile), but still, the tester said it had been a long time since she had seen scores that high.  His teacher, being wonderful, immediately kicked it into high gear and called a meeting with the principal, the school psychologist, and the school counselor.

The meeting really impressed me.  Even though there are hundreds of students at that school, many of whom are ELL students, everyone in the room seemed genuinely committed to giving Luke a quality education.  We brainstormed different ways to enrich his learning experience and came up with the following:  1) he would meet daily with a first-grade reading group, 2) he would work with both his teacher and the reading specialist to keep advancing in reading (the benchmark level for kindergarten is level 4, and he is working on level 28), 3) he would be given independent writing projects to work on, and 4) he and I would do special social studies projects on the different cultures in his class.

Part of the reasons we came up with all these ideas was because Luke still did not qualify as “gifted,” because the test was not complete.  Thus, he could not participate in the gifted program at school because there was not that piece of paper that deemed him eligible.  Furthermore, as I looked through the test results, I saw that there was a good chance that he might not qualify as gifted, despite his sky-high reading and math scores.  Those were just two elements in a variety of testing areas.  One area that he seemed not to do well in was called something like, “Observable Behaviors.”  I asked the psychologist about this and she explained that those were actions that the tester observed while the child took the test.  Unfortunately, some of them were tricky.  For example, one behavior that indicates giftedness is the unwillingness to move from one subject to the next since the gifted child tends to get engrossed in his tasks.  However, that behavior contradicts the norms of politeness, and the tester had said that Luke was extremely polite.  Thus, the psychologist concluded that Luke probably lost points if he quickly obeyed the tester when she said it was time for the next subject.

Seriously?

When I came away from that meeting, my one annoyance was how much depended on the results of this specific (and it seemed to me, highly subjective) test.  Otherwise, I was highly impressed.

Unfortunately, reality soon intervened, and much of our plan ended up falling by the wayside.  For example, Luke was not too keen on leaving the classroom for a first grade reading group, so when the first grade teacher had to take an extended leave of absence, Luke’s teacher didn’t think he was socially ready to go to another one.  I agreed with her decision, but that scrapped the reading group part of the plan, which was supposed to be a daily thing.  Then, he was too shy to present his story to the class, so we stopped getting those assignments.  She had also been sending him home advanced homework assignments, but those ended up falling by the wayside, as well, probably because she has nineteen other kids in her class.  I didn’t press the matter because I figured I’d been a big enough pain already.  Instead, I went to the library every week to get readers on his level, and we would read them together at night.  I would also remind his teacher to send home the higher level books so that he could keep progressing that way, and we practiced those, too.  In addition, we worked on our social studies projects, and also spent time each night practicing writing numbers at the teacher’s request…since apparently being brilliant does not include knowing which way your sixes go.

For me, the end result was that I felt we were spending way too much out-of-school time on schoolwork, and became increasingly frustrated that he still did not qualify for gifted services during school hours.  When I got a permission slip to have him tested for “talent,” in order to be invited to the gifted program next fall, it kind of pushed me over the edge.  Maybe it was because the night before Luke had cried in frustration about how bored he was all day at school.

One reason his frustration bothered me so much was because back before Luke even started school, before we even knew where we would send him, I had spent a lot of time thinking about what it meant to be truly “educated.”  After much consideration, I settled on three simple characteristics of an educated person.  The first and most important characteristic was

a love of learning.

Right now, my son has a love of learning.  He is full of questions, and we are always talking about what something is, or why a thing is so.  The other day, he was blown away by the idea that humans can only live on planet Earth, and not the other planets in our solar system.  Even though I explained it to him thoroughly, he would not give up hope that scientists have simply overlooked something:  “But have you seen how close Venus is to Earth?  I bet we could live there.”  “Or what about Saturn?  It’s so big!”

Already though, he is beginning to despise school.  And my fear is that one day soon, his dislike of school will begin to snuff out his love of learning.  And when he is on a third grade reading level and still learning basic alphabet sounds in class, I fear that day will come sooner rather than later.

That’s why, the morning after his breakdown, I started researching homeschool curriculum.

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And that, my friends, concludes our three-part, epic saga detailing why we are considering the homeschooling lifestyle.

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