Thursday, June 12, 2014

When It Is This Good, You Have to Share


          

  I, and several other families that I know, attend the FPEA homeschool convention in Orlando every Memorial Day weekend (I actually missed 2013 so I could be in NC for the birth of my second grandchild, but you get the idea). I have been homeschooling for 23 years. I have graduated 3 students who have all gone on to successfully attend college. Some people wonder why in the world I would take the time and pay the money to attend the convention. I will tell you why I do and why you should too.
          I think that one of the greatest needs in the homeschool community is for moms to connect with one another. We need to know that we are not out there all alone. We need to realize that there are actually an awful lot of us around who are eager to get together and support one another. There are a lot of moms out there who can encourage us to press on toward the goal. One of the best places to go to see that community is the FPEA convention. This convention was the largest homeschool convention in the world, ever. There were thousands of us there meeting together, building relationships, offering advice and encouragement. Don’t you want that?
          It is a great place to actually look through materials that you are considering using for your children. When I read through catalogs, I see that every company offers a third grade math book that teaches addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. It is only when I can look through the books that I can really get an idea about how it will fit our family. Even better, I can often talk with the authors or moms that have actually used the curriculum. I can ask questions about how to put certain things into practice. The advice that I get standing in front of a vendor booth is golden.


          The convention is a great place to find answers to the specific challenges my children and I face. Do I have a struggling reader? Are fractions eluding us? How am I going to handle dissection with my squeamish one? How in the world can I teach high school algebra, beginning reading and care for a toddler at once? What can I do to get my home organized and my budget under control? What about college? I have gotten answers to all of those questions and more at the FPEA convention. There are two full days of workshops offered every year on a variety of topics from people who have been there and done that. What? Experts offering advice on just what I need all in one place? How can I pass that up?
          It seems that every new homeschooler that I talk to starts out with a boxed curriculum. You know, the one where the publisher provides all of the books for each subject in the grade you are teaching. It also seems that after a year or two most of those people are ready to move out of that box and find some things that will fit their child a little better. Maybe they just want to add a little extra or maybe they want to piece together a whole curriculum on their own. Either way, the convention offers the opportunity to explore all kinds of options. I am always amazed at the new offerings each year for homeschoolers. As I walk through the exhibit hall, I realize that the only limits to what my child can learn are their interests and my budget.

          The last reason that I love to go to the convention is that I get recharged when I am there. We end our school year at the end of April, and I am ready for a break. I feel drained and wonder how I am going to get the energy and enthusiasm to start again in June (the beginning of our year). I worry that my youngest will end up skating by because I am out of energy or ideas. Yet, every year without fail, I come home from the convention on fire. I am ready to put new things into practice. I have ideas for how to handle the problems we faced the previous year. I am encouraged to finish well by the graduates I have met.



           Obviously, I love the FPEA convention. To me, the minimal registration amount is a bargain considering the number of benefits I receive. I have already started saving to attend again next year and have talked with three newbies who plan to join in the fun. I hope that many more of you will come to the convention. I know that this means the pool will be even more packed, but it will be worth it to share the time together with you. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Take Heart and Be Courageous

                Once again I had the amazing opportunity to serve at the FPEA convention in the Mentoring Moms booth. This is my very favorite part of the whole weekend. I love, love, love getting to speak with homeschooling moms who have questions and discussing options with them. I have to admit, though, that the second reason I volunteer for this is that I get to meet some incredible women who are so wise and gracious. It is a joy to sit and listen as they share and encourage other homeschoolers to move forward in their journey.

          This year I was fortunate enough to serve both days with Michelle. She and I could be great friends if only she lived a little closer; Dunedin is just too far for us to get together for morning coffee. Michelle has a lot of experience in areas that are foreign to me. She loves math (who knew those people really existed), is a certified teacher, and works from home. She has made different education and curriculum choices than I have and was able to share those with some of our seeking moms. She is a wise woman with the single greatest piece of advice that we can give to other homeschoolers or parents in general.

               Every mom went away from that booth hearing that, “we are a sinfully arrogant people to believe for one moment that we, by choosing one curriculum over another; deciding to delay teaching reading; picking chemistry over physics; or any other homeschooling choice, have the power to mess up God’s plan for our children.” God has known our children from before the foundations of the world. He has known their path and how to best prepare them to become the adults that He intends them to be. We cannot foil His plan. We are tools that He uses in order to mold those human beings. He has graciously allowed us to be a part of the process, but does not rest the burden on our shoulders.


          Moms (and dads) take a deep breath. Relax. Enjoy your children and continually point them to God. Teach them to enjoy Him and glorify Him. He will take care of the rest. Our Almighty God has a plan, and you CANNOT mess it up. Stop listening to the whispers of Satan and enjoy your freedom. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

286, 33, 12, 87, 8. These are the numbers from just a few of the homeschool graduations in Central Florida in the past couple of weeks. For those of you who are in the public school system, this may not seem like such a big deal. For those of you who are new homeschoolers, this may not seem like a big deal. Those of you who have been around the homeschooling block just might realize how great this is. For a frame of reference, you should know that the very first FPEA graduation in 1997 (a mere 17 years ago) had 8 graduates.

Why are these numbers such a big deal to me? I find them an encouragement. It is encouraging to see how homeschooling has grown in number over the years. When we started and my kids were questioned about what school they went to, no one knew what homeschooling was. Today, when we mention homeschooling, everyone knows someone who homeschools. Our students are part of drama groups, high school sports teams, science fairs, band, dance and more. Opportunities abound for homeschooled students.

These numbers are encouraging because it means that it is possible to homeschool all the way through high school. Sometimes we get discouraged when our child doesn’t seem to “get it”. We feel we have failed. We reconsider our choice, and we are ready to give up. These numbers tell us that we can make it through those difficult times. We can find ways to educate our children all the way through high school. BTW, although I don’t have the numbers, I am pretty sure that most of these students are already taking college level classes. I know of several who graduated high school after graduating college with their AA. You can do it.


I find these numbers encouraging because it means we are not in this alone. There are others out there just like us. They are not really looking to be radicals who buck the system as much as they are looking to do the best job they can raising their children. When little Susie is refusing to do her fractions workbook, know that there is another mom out there (actually a 100 or so) who have gone through the same thing. If you haven’t joined a support group, stop reading right now and find one. Join it. Start meeting together with those women who will help you. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Blessed by Brenda

I just finished year number 23 of homeschooling. As I look back, I am amazed at the changes I have seen in homeschooling over the years. Our first years included keeping careful track of hours and days. Students had to have four hours of education each day for 180 days. Do you know how MUCH your child can learn with one on one education for 720 hours a year? Several times the police stopped by the local park where our children were playing to question why they were not in school. Our teens ran into roadblocks when they tried to get a driver’s license, and high school sports were out of the question.

          Today, I marvel at all that is available to homeschoolers, especially those who are fortunate enough to live in Florida. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of a few (Senator Webster and Craig and Brenda Dickinson especially), Florida is a very easy place for us to homeschool. We not only have little intrusion from the government, we also enjoy many exciting opportunities.

          There are support groups and co-ops all over the state to aid and encourage homeschool parents. Students are able to take part in science fairs, spelling and geography bees and more. They are playing sports for their local high school or as a part of teams made up of homeschoolers exclusively. High school students are eligible for Bright Futures scholarships and can participate in dual enrollment, letting them earn both high school and college credit at the same time.

          Homeschoolers are no longer being harassed for truancy. They are able to get their driver’s license at 16. They are not excluded from the opportunity to earn sports, music or arts scholarships. Many of these advancements are thanks to the work of the Home Education Foundation and our homeschool lobbyist in Tallahassee, Brenda Dickinson. If we want to keep homeschooling in peace and comfort, we need to give our support to HEF and Brenda. If our budget doesn’t allow for financial support, we should be on our knees daily.

          Homeschooling is not an easy task, but it could be much, much harder than it is. God has provided for us in a very special way. Don’t ignore His provision. Check out , www.flhef.org and see what you can do to help keep Florida a wonderful place for homeschoolers in the future.

          

Monday, April 29, 2013

But For The Grace of God

     Anger, shock, pride, even fear. All of these have been connected to the bombing at the Boston marathon. All are predictable, legitimate responses to what happened two weeks ago. The thing that I don't hear mentioned is forgiveness. Maybe it is too early for many of you to even begin thinking about forgiveness, but I want to gently remind you that it is on the list. You have to get to it and sooner is better than later.

     I know that it isn't fair of me to talk about forgiving this young man who caused so much pain and destruction. His actions resulted in the deaths of friends, family, and neighbors. He changed the way you look at your city, the activities that you are involved in, the way you live your life day to day. He and others like him have forever changed our lives.

     Who am I to tell you to forgive him? He didn't kill anyone that I know personally. He didn't hurt my family. My children don't have nightmares because of what he did. Who am I? I am totally depraved human being. I am one who is just as guilty as this young man. I have caused as much pain and destruction as he has. I am one who has been forgiven much. Only because of that forgiveness am I able to love. Only because of the unfathomable love of the one who I hurt immeasurably am I made new.

    I am not what I once was. Forgiveness changed my life. For those of you who have experienced it, forgiveness has changed yours too. I know it is hard, but if we ask our merciful God for help, he will give it. Through Him, we can find the ability to forgive. Through Him, this man's life can be radically changed. Don't we want to see that? Don't we long to see a young man who has a heart full of hatred for Americans and the God of the Bible changed into a child of the King? It would bring me great joy to enter the gates of heaven and find him there singing the praises of our Heavenly Father. Because of that, I choose to forgive, and I choose to pray for him. Everyday. I know that God has the power to change the most vile of hearts into those who seek after Him. I know because I have seen Him do it in my life. I hope to see Him do it in this life too.

    

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hey Guys, The Ocean is Dirty

     This has been posted on my facebook page several times in the past couple of days.

"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty." Gandhi

    I get that so many are wanting us to remember that just because a few people in a group do something heinous, we shouldn't condemn the whole group. If these men who are suspected of planting the bombs at the Boston Marathon are actually Muslims, that doesn't make all Muslims terrorist. Just like the actions of a particular "Christian" church don't necessarily reflect the views of all Christians. I couldn't agree more with that sentiment, but I have a couple of real problems with the above statement.

     If the ocean is clean and a few dirty drops are introduced, then the ocean is no longer clean. It is only clean if no dirt is in it. Yes, it could be dirtier, much dirtier, but it is not clean. This kind of thinking is prevalent in our society today. Sadly, even in our churches. We have the idea in our heads that we are pretty good people. Once in a while we tell a little lie (only to protect someone's feelings, of course), drive a bit faster than the speed limit, fudge just a tad on our taxes, or pass along a juicy bit of gossip (in the guise of a prayer request), but for the most part, we are good people. We support our schools, are good neighbors, give to charity, and try to help out where we are needed. Somehow we think that that makes us clean. Ladies and gentlemen, if the standard is the subjective view of society, we are all in big trouble. Clean is going to get dirtier and dirtier. Just where will we draw the line? If, however, the standard is the purity of a thrice holy God, then we are so far from clean we might as well be a toxic waste dump. We are dirty. The ocean is dirty. Yes, even just one drop of dirt keeps it from being clean.

    My second problem here is with the first sentence. "We must not lose faith in humanity." I say we must not place our faith in humanity. If your faith is in the goodness of people, you are going to be sorely disappointed many times in your life. Yes, there are people who do heroic things, kind things, loving acts, but there are also people who do horrific actions that make us shudder. Eventually, even those wonderful heroes are going to do something that isn't quite up to your standard of goodness, then what? Put your faith in something solid, something that is always good and never lets you down. Our faith should be in God. He is always just, loving and merciful. He never changes. He is the anchor that will hold you steady when horrible things like Columbine, Aurora, Newton and Boston make the headlines. Faith in Him is what gets you through the pain, loss and suffering that goes with these tragedies. As much as I appreciate and applaud the actions of first responders and every day heroes in the midst of such terror, the only thing that will bring you real peace is faith in God, not humanity.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

What's It All About, Alfie

    Chik-fil-A Appreciation Day was Wednesday. Hundreds of thousands of people turned out to show their support to the president of the company. Why? Just what is it that made people stand in line for up to an hour to purchase a chicken sandwich? There is a lot of debate on that along with the question of whether or not Christians should have been there in the first place. I have heard three reasons given for going to the restaurant that day.

     1. We support the view of the Bible that establishes marriage in the first place. One man. One woman. It is important for our elected officials and people across America and around the world to see that there are many who hold to that view. Not everyone who is against same sex marriage is a Christian, and not all Christians are against same sex marriages. Some choose to ignore what the Bible says about homosexuality just as some choose to ignore what it says about gossip, adultery, and not honoring your parents. Believing that marriage is for a man and a woman does not mean hating anyone. "I disagree with you" should be acceptable and should not be interpreted as "I hate you". Gee, who among us agrees with anyone about everything? Does that mean we hate everyone else?

     2. We don't agree with the Biblical view of marriage, but we do support his right to say that is what he believes. We also support his right to give money to whichever organizations he chooses. Citizens of our country are granted the right to free speech and freedom of religion. If you do not like the view of a particular person, you can argue it with him, try to change his view, or ignore him. You shouldn't get to call him names, claim he is a hater or that he discriminates against you because he doesn't agree with you.

    3. We don't think government officials should get to decide which companies do business in their cities based on the religious views of the company's president. This should have had all of America turning out to Chik-fil-A Appreciation Day. Why would any official in America want to keep a growing business that supports families (both traditional and non traditional) and employs citizens? I am glad to hear that Boston is an inclusive city. I just wish that meant inclusive of everyone. I am not sure what values Chicago has as I don't believe a city can have values, although its citizens can and most likely do have values that run a full spectrum. No one should be happy that mayors of cities are saying Chik-fil-A can't open a store there. Just as no one should be happy if a conservative mayor decided that Ben and Jerry's wasn't welcome in their town because of the owners views on marriage. This is a serious issue, and we all need to be on our guard against such statements.

   Should Christians have turned out on Wednesday. Yes. We have a responsibility to support one another. A brother came under attack because he stood up for what is written in God's Word. He needs to know that his family stands behind him. Yes. We have an obligation to uphold the Constitution of our country which grants the rights of free speech and religion. Did our actions show the hate to the homosexual community? No. Did the homosexual community take our actions as hateful? Many did. Why? Most likely because they are in sin and know it. No one likes having their sin pointed out, especially publicly. Abortion doctors don't want picketers in their neighborhoods. Adulterers avoid places where they will be seen by someone they know. Gossips don't share their juicy tidbits with those they know will disapprove. Sinners hate the light that shines and reveals their sinfulness. That doesn't mean the light hates the sinners.