Archive for December, 2007

Optical Illusion

I’ve taken it on the chin alot during my adult life.  Mostly as a result of the stupid mistakes I’ve made.  But also as a result of no wrong doing on my part whatsoever.  The stupid mistakes have, thankfully, waned in number as I’ve gotten older (although I have been known to make a doozie now and again later in my life…crude reminders that no matter how I try I remain flawed).  Most recently I’ve come to learn that most of my hits the past few years have come as a result of what I believe to be an optical illusion:  the illusion that a person of perceived means has it easy and, therefore, judged to have no reason to struggle with righteousness.  It’s also my personal opinion that the more visible one becomes, such as a person in public or private leadership, or even celebrityhood, the greater the chance for the optical illusion to appear.

This optical illusion does not appear to discriminate to whom it would appear for these hits have not only come from some of my own family members but from those outside my family as well:  people in my church and (gasp!) even my homeschool support community.  Not by everyone but by enough that it’s terribly discouraging because the truth of the matter is that I struggle just as any other mom, whether she’s a working mom, or stay-at-home mom, or homeschooling mom, or single mom.  I struggle, too.  Means or no means.

The other day, a fellow homeschooling mom and I were discussing this dichotomy in the context of homeschooling with and without means and how the optical illusion of the former appears to the latter (although the optical illusion reaches well beyond the homeschool environment).  We both happen to be of perceived means.  I emphasize the word perceived because my husband and I don’t really have means.  It just appears that we do with owning a construction business, 30 acres of farmland, a big charming farmhouse with an inground pool and playground, some investment properties (including a vacation home in Lake Tahoe), a Lexus parked in a five car garage, and until 6 months ago having a mom who watched my youngest for me and helped me with my household duties so I could focus on homeschooling my youngest during our first year of homeschooling.  Looks and sounds like an easy life, all right, doesn’t it?

Except that it’s anything but an easy life.  Our construction company, while looking okay on paper, completely drains us financially month after month.  When all company credit cards are maxed (and we’re talking in the 6-figures) in order to make payroll week after week, we resort to using our savings and retirement accounts as well as our own personal credit cards until they, too, are shut down for non-payment.   Because of the 16-hour days my husband dedicates to our livelihood, we have precious few minutes to share with one another (and most of the time we share the worst of ourselves).  Our beautiful 30-acre farm doesn’t produce anything except weeds and mosquitos and we haven’t figured out yet how to generate an income off of either.  In fact, the farm is it’s own black-hole of an expense center.  Our big farmhouse?  It’s 250-years old with a crumbling and mold-infested dungeon for a basement that causes me great physical affliction (as I have a high allergy to dust and mold).  It doesn’t have central air and costs roughly $8,000 in fuel oil to heat it with our 30-year old furnace and boiler.  There isn’t a door or window that shuts completely and every wallpapered corner of the house has giant tears through it.  Why?  Because sometime in the last century one of the owners removed a critical bearing wall on the 1st floor causing the 2nd floor to cave in on it.  A few years ago, my 6’4″ tall, 70-some year old father-in-law, God bless him, a retired civil engineer, spent three weeks hunched over in our 5’6″ dungeon jacking the house up and installing an iron I-beam through the middle of the living room ceiling which, by the way, is still not boxed in.  Our unmatching furniture is old, stained, and in disrepair and the carpets are in even worse shape.  And let’s not even go into the leaky pipes, faucets and toilets.

Our large, refreshing pool is a drowning accident waiting to happen…which, during the wait, we constantly wage war against algae and pay hefty water bills for leaky pipes underneath the concrete deck. 

Properties we have purchased for the purposes of financial gain are now unsellable in today’s market and are a financial drain.  We will likely foreclose on some and flush what’s remaining of our credit down our leaky toilet in the process.  We have overwhelmingly more combined debt than we have income.  Donald Trump wrote in his book “How to Get Rich” that sometime in the late 80s/early 90s he remembers walking past a homeless person on the streets of NYC and reflecting that the homeless person was financially better off than he was because he was in debt to the banks to the tune of 90 billion dollars or some equally ridiculous figure and the homeless person had no debt.  But by all appearances, Trump was a man who had it all…who had it easy when in reality he was a vagrant dressed in rich man’s clothing.

My mom, God bless her, up until she was diagnosed with cancer this past June did help me with my youngest and my household duties while I focused on homeschooling and attending to other responsibilities (farm, rentals, construction biz, etc.).  But we paid her the same salary she was making at the customer service job she left in order to come work for us.  As much as she might have wanted to do it for free, we valued her time and worth and were only too happy to pay someone we could trust so completely with our family and home.  But I also had to suffer her critical commentary at every turn (don’t worry, Mom, my battered self esteem and I still love you!).

My Lexus is 7 years old, needs a jump every other week because the electronics drain the battery no matter how many times we replace the battery, and has just as many half-eaten lollipops, uneaten french fries and snot-filled tissues stuck to the seats or littered on the floor as the next mom’s car.

Regardless of whether a family of means is perceived or real, the notion that they are not without struggles is incorrect thinking.  We don’t like to put our struggles on display anymore than the next person.  And just like everyone else, we have marital problems, spiritual problems, family issues, health issues, psychological issues, social issues, academic issues, character and heart issues with our kids as well as with ourselves…and yes, even financial issues.  We struggle to manage time, priorities, interruptions and various crisises with the rest of the them.  These challenges do not discriminate according to income level nor are they resolved any easier.

I’ve accumulated callouses on my devastation tissue over the years so this is not so much devastating as it is disappointing and disheartening to be so harshly judged by certain persons in this way.  If I stumble because of my humanness, in the “grandeur” of my lifestyle, are not I entitled to the same grace and forgiveness as the homeless person?  Just because I am not homeless (yet), does that require that I am to be any more or any less righteous?  Sometimes I don’t even stumble yet am unfairly judged on things that they think I should be doing:  Do less!  Do more!  It changes with the hour.  I recognize that despite our challenges we are incredibly blessed. I’m not looking for pity. Just compassion.

Both DH and I desire the very best for our family as most parents do.  We share what we have, including our time and service, with others as much as we can.  Do we make mistakes?  Absolutely!  Can we do better?  Always!  But to be cast down because of the misconception that material blessings equates to perfectionism and righteousness?  I’d rather someone poke fun at my droopy nose (or droopy butt) instead.  At least I know there’s truth in that.  

Most people don’t recognize an optical illusion when they first see one. That’s not the real danger, however. The real danger with optical illusions is if you keep looking at one long and hard enough it can make you cross-eyed and prevent you from seeing the multiple layers in their entirety.

This is my final post for 2007.  Have a blessed New Year, everyone!!!  God willing, I’ll be back with more in 2008!

He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just,
Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.
– Proverbs 17:15


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5WsThe “Five W’s (and one H)”:  in order for a report to be considered complete it must answer a checklist of six questions, each of which comprises an interrogative word: Who? What? Where? When? Why?  How?

This post will be the launching pad to six other posts that will answer each of the questions above from the perspective of our homeschooling family.  This is a work in progress (WIP) so please keep checking back!

Who…do you homeschool? (WIP)

What…is your homeschool day like? (WIP)

Where…do you homeschool? (WIP)

When…did we first hear of homeschooling?  A Life-Altering Moment.

Why…do we homeschool?  Ask Me Why We Homeschool.

How…do we homeschool?  (WIP)

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highway to hell

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
-Samuel Johnson
-John Ray
-Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
(take your pick)

One of our dear friends (to protect his privacy I’ll refer to him as Darn Funny, or DF for short) has been having a bad few years with this teenage son.  The boy has been doing poorly in high school, left behind one year, was cutting class, getting detention, and this year transferred to a school for the “bad kids”.  The hardest blow to date was the boy was caught doing drugs in that school.  In complete exasperation, DF was lamenting to DH about the situation and asked the question “Why couldn’t my son be more like yours?”.  My DH’s first-born son, Aaron, from his first marriage is the same age (18) and a freshman at college.  Both he and his sister are good kids with good grades and good hearts and they’ve kept away from bad people and bad situations. 

But this is no sheer accident or a luck of the draw or a complete act of divine intervention.  It’s been the result of purposeful parenting by the part of their mother.  Oh, there may be some of the other three ingredients mixed in for good measure but by far the key ingredient of this recipe is the vigilant, downright militant focus their mother has placed on her children…sometimes at great expense to her own personal relationships with others.  She is their greatest protectors…and their biggest fans.  Despite having been a single working parent for most of their upbringing, she has lengthy conversations with each of them every day after work and school about anything and everything.  Not superficial conversations…but heart-to-heart conversations.  She counsels them, guides them, corrects them, loves them…and has lots of fun with them.  She builds up their self-esteem and encourages them to do great things.  She is up their butts making sure their homework is done, that their chores are completed, that they love one another and gives them no slack.  At one time she jokingly explained that the reason behind the kid’s good behavior is that she has instilled a sense of fear in them…not a fear of God…but of her!  But despite her tough love, her kids love her as fiercely as she loves them.  As is the case in many similar situations, this mother has done such a good job at parenting her children that in doing so, she has given her (ex)husband a free pass in that regard.  DH is a part of their lives as they only live half a mile down the street from us but he’s not involved in their day to day upbringing…the dirty, ugly stuff…the necessary, purposeful hard work of parenting.  He’s completely a shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy; the fun-loving, pal-around dad; the “can you give me a ride to school?” dad, the “How was your day? Fine? Great!” dad; no deep conversations (not even about sex) dad.  He makes parenting look easy when the truth is, all the real work is done half a mile down the street.  He loves them alright and cares about their welfare and has certainly contributed to their lives in a way only he can.  And they love him in return.  But they don’t stay out of trouble because of his involvement in their lives or out of honor and respect for him…they stay out of trouble because of their mom’s involvement and out of honor and respect for her.  And deservedly so.

Serving the best interests of a child requires purposeful parenting.  It can’t be accidental or well-intentioned.  It’s simply not enough.  I’m not judging DF on his parenting skills.  I’m simply stating that it’s by no accident that my stepkids have turned out the way that they did.  Thank God they did have such purposeful parenting from their mother.  Oh, to be sure…their mother is perfectly flawed as the rest of us are and has certainly made her share of mistakes.  But in this single regard, she has done a magnificent job.  So many children would be so much better off if only their parents would take a page out of this one mother’s book.

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chuckleheadIt’s 10:30pm Christmas Eve night.  We are all back from a Christmas Eve open house at one of our dear friend’s house which was cut short for me and DS2 because of his allergic reaction to their family German Shepherd.  The presents have long been wrapped and the kids are finally going to bed.  DS1 prefers to sleep in our room tonight and we oblige.  DS2 also prefers to sleep in our room but until he can go poopy on the potty he is sleeping in the guest bedroom (and has been for the last week).  I can hardly believe that I am able to go to bed before midnight on Christmas Eve!  Every last detail is attended to and I’m about to get 8, maybe 9 hours of sleep before Christmas Day arrives!  Yippee!  I mosey on to our guest bedroom where DH is tucking DS2 into bed.  I whisper very explicit instructions to him before I retire:  There are wrapped presents in a garbage bag in our pool storage room.  Put them under the tree, along with the stuffed stockings, before you go to bed tonight.  No problem, he whispers back.  I proceed to my comfy fluffy bed…elated that I do not have to lift another finger until tomorrow.

7:30am Christmas morning.  The only one sharing my bed is DS1 and he’s still sound asleep.  I don’t find anything strange about this as DH is often out of our bed and off to work long before I wake up.  I take the opportunity to do my morning devotionals then read from a book that’s been on my nightstand for the last month entitled “Celebrate Jesus at Christmas: Family Devotions for Advent Through Epiphany” by Kimberly Ingalls Reese.  It’s the first time since I’ve had it that I actually had the time to look through it and I quickly regret that I didn’t do it sooner.  I flip to Christmas Day and begin reading all the wonderful suggestions for celebrating this day (songs, bible verses, food for thought, etc.) and vow to use it for next year.  Then at that moment, inexplicably, I experienced my own epiphany:  This is not a work day.  DH should be in our bed.  I bet he fell asleep with DS2.  Go and check to make sure the presents are under the tree!  I jumped out of bed and ran down the stairs and took notice that there was not a single present or stocking underneath the tree!!!  I quickly scour the downstairs for DH and there is no sign of him but I know he’s still in the house because the house alarm is still activated.  I dash up the stairs and into the guest room and there he is…snoring away next to DS2.  In a split second I have visions of waking him from his deep sleep with a quick and effective punch to the face…but I remember it’s Christmas and violently shake him up instead.  His first glimpse upon opening his oh-so-sleepy eyes is a fire-breathing, fist-clenched wife with daggers shooting from her eyes…hovering an inch over his nose…speaking through clenched teeth in a slow, deliberate and loud whisper so as not to wake up DS2: “YOU…FORGOT…TO PUT…THE PRESENTS UNDER THE TREE!!!!!”  DH quickly realizes this is not a dream he’s having but a nightmare of the worst kind.  He dashes out of bed and down the stairs to complete the one task he had been assigned this entire Christmas season.  I begin taking big, sweeping deep breaths on my way back to my bedroom and am thankful the boys are still sleeping.  With the disaster now averted I climb into a hot, soothing shower in attempt to lower my blood pressure and ease my throbbing head…and begin singing Joy to the World…my attempt to keep the focus on Christ and not on my anger.

Upon drying off I notice that DH is back in our bed snuggling up with DS1 who is still sleeping.  How precious, I think to myself.  I whisper hopefully to him “Did you get all the presents under the tree?”  He nods confidently and with a smile which should have been sufficient to the average person but my woman’s intuition (or was it just being married to him for the last 8 years?) was instructing me to confirm the affirmative.  So down I go in my bath robe and wet head and sure enough I see that the stockings are, indeed, under the tree but there is only a SINGLE wrapped present!  ONE!  In complete exasperation I march to the pool room, grab the lawn & leaf trash bag FULL of wrapped presents and drag it to the tree then proceed back upstairs to breathe more fire onto my dear, clueless, seemingly innocent husband.  We proceed to have a heated exchange and begin playing the blame game: he blaming me for giving him confusing instructions (there were TWO garbage bags full of presents: one with wrapped gifts, the other with unwrapped gifts.  In my Christmas delirium I mistakenly put a single wrapped present into the bag of unwrapped gifts and THAT was the bag he came across first and so he put the SINGLE wrapped present under the tree.  How he thought one present labeled for DS2 would cover all the children is beyond me); and me blaming him for having done nothing to prepare for this day AND failing to execute on the one critical task that was assigned to him (well, okay, he did toil endlessly for financial provision so that I could go out and buy the presents…but my heart was no where near being soft enough to remember that fact much less give him credit for it).  I interrupt his poor attempts at defending himself and ask him (or did I order him?) to go downstairs and put the presents under the tree before the kids wake up!  It’s now 8:15am and I have lost that loving feeling.

While I’m blow drying my hair, DH informs me that while he was downstairs attending to his task, he noticed that the freezer door on our kitchen refrigerator was wide open and everything in it had either defrosted or melted.  The entire kitchen floor was wet…and he wanted to know what he should do.  Oh, just go handle it already.  I didn’t care if he threw everything into the trash at that point.

The children, God bless their souls, don’t wake up until after 9am.  While still in our bedroom, the children and I sing Joy to the World followed by Happy Birthday to Jesus.  I get them caught up on the Advent Christmas book we had been reading (but fell behind on) before heading downstairs.  The focus is back on Christ, the kitchen is all cleaned up, presents are now under the tree, and all is well at the Taschek Funny Farm.

Later that evening we attended a Christmas Day dinner at another dear friend’s house (to protect his privacy I’ll refer to him as Dear Friend, or DF for short).  At the dinner table I recounted the story to DF because he’s also our company’s finance manager and knows all too well the forgetful nature of DH.  He busted up with laughter not believing that DH could possibly have forgotten to put the presents under the tree…but then again, knowing him, could believe that “Chucklehead”, his pet name for DH, could have.  As he was shaking his head and still laughing, DF asked Chucklehead how in the world would he have responded to the kids had they gotten up at 6am like every other normal child and found that there were no presents under the tree!  Chucklehead just calmly shrugged his shoulders and responded that he would have told the kids that Santa had Old-Timers and must have mistakenly placed the presents in the wrong room of the house.  No worries!  And you know what?  My mini-Chuckleheads would have believed every word that came out of Papa Chucklehead’s mouth and there would not have been any worries.  Why is it that when I think my DH is being the all-time biggest dope, that it’s really me being the biggest dope of all? 

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.
– Psalm 37:8

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Being a self-professed idea thief is bittersweet.  On one hand, stealing people’s shared ideas often times enhances the lives of me and my family (the sweet part).  On the other hand, it really emphasizes how utterly boring my own ideas are that I have to resort to idea theft (the obvious bitter part)!!!  This particular project of mine, the Twelve Days of Christmas Calendar, is actually born out of not one, not two, but THREE stolen ideas.  The way I look at it, if you’re going to be an idea thief you might as well be a good one and go for the gusto.

Idea #1 was stolen from Mary Ann Eagleson’s article “Calendar Memories” in the November/December 2007 issue of Homeschooling Today magazine.   The concept of observing the Twelve Days of Christmas starting on December 26th was extremely appealing to me.  It’s true that there’s so much hype and expectation leading up to the day of Christmas…and then POOF! it’s all over with.  How depressing!  Observing the Twelve Days of Christmas serves to extend the focus, excitement and spirit of the holiday.  I love that idea!  So for the first time this year, our family will be doing just that…continuing to keep the focus on Christ…lighting candles and doing devotionals…and a 12 Days of Christmas unit study stolen from Just Call Me Jamin!’s blog (Idea #2).

Idea #3 was taken from Heather Johnson (an apparently very crafty lady) who shared her Christmas Advent project on her blog. I really loved her idea and wanted to implement it for our Advent countdown this year but I discovered her idea a day before Advent started and didn’t have enough time to make the project (or have enough toilet paper cardboard rolls saved up). But I did have enough toilet paper cardboard rolls to create a smaller Twelve Days of Christmas Calendar project! 

And thus, my Twelve Days of Christmas Calendar was created from these three stolen ideas (although I am not so arrogant as to think that someone, somewhere has already stolen these ideas to create a Twelve Days of Christmas Calendar for themselves and I simply haven’t seen it yet to steal their idea).  I thank Mary Ann Eagleson, Jamin and Heather Johnson for sharing their wonderful ideas with me and the world and hope one day I can share an equally wonderful idea in return.

So…without further adieu…I present my Twelve Days of Christmas Calendar!  It consists of:

  • 12 toilet paper cardboard rolls
  • each roll wrapped with Christmas scrapbook paper (applied with double sided scotch tape)
  • each roll trimmed with ribbon or fancy pipe cleaners (applied with hot glue)
  • each of the 12 rolls hot glued to each other (Heather stapled hers but my stapler was too big)
  • each roll with a foam shape glued on with numbers 1 through 12 stickers or rub-ons adhered to it
  • each roll adorned with as many emblishments as I could find (applied with hot glue)
  • a red ribbon threaded through the first roll and tied off for hanging
  • each roll stuffed with strips of 3″ wide tissue paper on each side

My plan is to put a note with directions or a map in each roll for of my kids to follow in order to find their single gift to open for that day.  They love scavenger hunts (they are currently obsessed with pirate treasure maps) so it should be met with lots of enthusiasm (at least that’s my hope!).  I’ll let you all know how it works out!

Here are some photos of my project.  Enjoy!

Twelve Days of Christmas - 1 of 4

Twelve Days of Christmas - 2 of 4

Twelve Days of Christmas - 3 of 4

Twelve Days of Christmas - 4 of 4

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Ask Me Why We Homeschool

Now that you know how it was that I first heard about the Homeschool buzz (see my A Life-Altering Moment post), I suppose it’s time to learn why we ended up choosing to go forward with it.  Most people of the non-homeschool community usually aren’t armed with all the facts about the benefits of homeschooling.  It’s a pretty safe bet that judgments are made pretty quickly once the term “homeschool” is uttered.  Most people have an immediate visualization of homeschooling to be complete isolation from the outside world…with a sub-standard education provided by inept mothers.  I’ve even had a doctor friend of mine who, along with her siblings, was homeschooled by her missionary parents…give me the most unexpected response to my decision to homeschool:  “NOOOOOOOOO!!!”.  Her homeschool experience was obviously not a pleasant one and didn’t care to perpetuate the experience onto her own children.  But forced homeschooling (because her parents were missionaries they traveled to and lived in foreign countries) from 35 years ago is much different than today’s homeschooling options.  Even as far as 20 years ago homeschooling was illegal in most US states.  Today, it’s legal in every state.  And the curriculum choices are so great now as opposed to 20, 15 even 5 years ago!  One’s head can spin from all the different choices!  There’s probably more curriculum choices available to homeschoolers than there are available to public and private schools!  The beauty in all this, of course, is having the luxury of being able to research and select the best curriculum for your child based on his learning style, his gifts & challenges, and the style of homeschooling right for your family (Oh yes!  There are about a dozen different styles of homeschooling from the traditional, out-of-the-box textbook style method to Charlotte Mason to Classical to Unschooling and lots more inbetween).

But that’s not the reason we chose to homeschool.  Initially, it was my desire to have as much time as possible with my first born.  The thought of having to put him on a bus and send him away for 7-8 hours a day was unbearable to me.  I didn’t want to miss out on any part of his development.  That was reason Numero Uno.

Reason Number Two was that I was vehemently opposed to putting my child in a social situation every day where he could potentially be subjected to ridicule, bullying, and be taught every imaginable curse word and inappropriate behavior (and response).   No sir-ee….if he was going to learn those things he would learn them from me and his father! 

But seriously, I was socially ostracized from my elementary school days throughout high school.  I was physically and emotionally beaten up by black, white, rich and poor kids.  It was an experience I would never want to repeat (had I known there was such an option as homeschooling I would have begged and pleaded with my parents to do it) and would certainly not want to expose my children to it.  And it’s not gotten any better.  My stepchildren have had extreme difficulties in public schools…especially my stepdaughter.  It was an extremely painful time for her as early as 5th grade.  Even last year, at the start of her 10th grade, she changed schools because of oppressive social situations.   And although my stepson didn’t have the same social issues as his sister, he was not without scars:  while in 6th grade this meek, mild & kind-hearted child was beat up on the bus by an oversized 8th grader…completely unprovoked.  And the daily exposure to drug usage and sex in the bathrooms….this is not what I wanted for my own children.  Not even close.

So at the start of my homeschool journey, these were initally the two driving forces behind the decision.  However, as the year progressed I came to realize that there were more reasons, perhaps greater reasons, for desiring to homeschool:  my DS’s kinesthetic learning style and ADHD brain was not something that would have been embraced in a public or private school setting.  Also, as his parent I wanted to be the one to call the shots on what subject matter he would be taught and when (eg. teaching diversity, tolerance, sex education, etc. when I deemed he was mature enough to handle it).  I also very much wanted to make sure that his education was biblically grounded…something he was sure not to get in public school.  Bible studies are the first order of the day.  If nothing else gets accomplished that day, I’m okay with it because I view my child’s spiritual welfare as of paramount importance.

Our decision to homeschool was met with passive resistance from our family members and friends.  No one outwardly objected but no one outwardly encouraged us, either.   I could feel people’s eyes focused on us…perhaps with curiosity, perhaps with skepticism and criticism.  It’s not easy being under the microscope!  Are people waiting to see if I fail my children?  Or are they quietly cheering me on from the sidelines?  One thing is certain:  no one is more in fear of failing their children than a homeschooling parent.  Regardless of whether, as parents, we decide to homeschool or send our kids to public or private schools none of our children will learn everything that they need to (and in many cases will learn things they don’t need to) nor will they grow up to be perfect citizens.  We all just try to do what we think is best for our children and try not judge ourselves or others.

Some people think that in order to homeschool one must have material means to do so.  This is incorrect thinking!  While I happen to have the luxury of being able to stay home with my children, that is more the exception than the rule.  Most homeschooling families are notoriously poor…on a single income by choice, not by design.  They make do with one car, with humble dwellings, stretching every dollar to its maximum (homeschooling is not cheap) all in the name of keeping their kids home where (they think) they belong.  It’s not a luxury.  It’s a chosen lifestyle

And it ain’t easy, either.  It’s hard work.  Darn hard work.  Every now and again my mom or dad will make the comment “Wouldn’t it be easier to just send him to school?”.  Well, yeah…it would be a heck of alot easier.  But that’s not the point.  I’m not looking for the easiest solution for myself.  I’m looking for the best solution for my children.  I believe that the education of my children is my responsibility…not the government’s.  I remember years ago, when my youngest brother was still in high school, my mother was complaining about how he was not doing well and it was because he wasn’t completing his homework assignments.  She was so angry at the school for not making sure he completed his homework!  His HOME-work.  I wasn’t married or had children at the time but even then I remember thinking “My goodness…it’s your job, PARENT, to make sure your kid does his homework!”  And I also remember thinking that sending kids off to school has really given some parents a “free pass” in being academically responsible to their children and has, in some cases, fostered the feeling of entitlement and unreasonable expectations.

I don’t judge anyone for sending their kids to school.  I believe the public school system does has value to a great majority of children.  It just doesn’t happen to have the value I seek for my children.

Every homeschooler has their own reasons for doing it.  They are not all the same.    Some do it for spiritual reasons,  others for academic reasons,  and yet others for social reasons or political reasons.  The reasons are all different.  Regardless of the reasons, the one thing we all have in common is having the best interests of our children served.  Homeschoolers are not superior to public/private schoolers and vice versa.  It’s simply a choice dictated by the needs of the particular family.

I recently read an article in the November issue of Homeschooling Today entitled “So Why Do You Homeschool?” by Brenda Murphy.  I wish I had been the one to write it and share with everyone I know and meet.  It paints a perfect picture of why we homeschool.

There’s only been one person from our circle of family and friends who has expressed genuine interest in knowing more about homeschooling…asking for articles to read more about the subject.  And this person doesn’t even have a spouse or kids!  I am willing to talk to anyone who is curious about homeschooling so if you’ve got questions….I’ve got answers (or at least some of them)!  There is also a TON of information available on the internet (just google “homeschool”) as well as hundreds and hundreds of books written about homeschooling.

So the next time you’re in the same room as a homeschooler…don’t be shy about asking questions!  Homeschoolers LOVE to talk about their homeschooling experience…the joys as well as the challenges.  Be forewarned, however….you may end up catch the homeschooling bug, too!  You never know!  🙂

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My Person Trumps Second Fiddle

I am often in awe of people that I meet who have a best friend from when they were in elementary school…sometimes even as far back as kindergarten!  I can barely remember the name of the person who I sat next to every day in my senior year homeroom class…much less keep in touch with anyone from that period of my life.  And I certainly don’t have a best friend from my school age years.  I was too poor to be accepted by the rich kids…and too rich to be accepted by the poor kids.  Completely stuck in the middle…plus I was one ugly geek! 

Things are different now, though.  I’m still not one of those people who are surrounded by dozens of best friends (you know the ones I’m talking about…who invite one another to be one of 15 bridesmaids in all their weddings).  I have a select few friends who I consider CLOSE FRIENDS.  People who I enjoy spending my time with more than anyone else in the world.  Less than five of them, I think.

There’s one such friend, who I’ll refer to as “Magnficiently Flawed” to protect her privacy (or MF for short), who especially stands out.  I would, for all intents and purposes, consider her to be my best friend except for one minor problem:  I’m not her best friend.  No…sadly, she already has a best friend…a special someone who was in her life long before I came along into hers.  And the laws of friendship dictate that in order to be considered best friends, it has to be mutual.  But that didn’t deter me.  It didn’t matter to me that we could never claim that coveted title of “Best Friends”.  I was perfectly happy playing Second Fiddle.  She was (and is) THAT awesome. 

I first met MF twenty-six years ago when I was 18 years old.   I took a part-time telemarketing position at a place where she had been working full time.  She was 4 years older than me and barely took notice of me at the time (the ugly geek that I was).  Not soon after I realized I wasn’t cut out for the cold calling business and quit.  I didn’t cross paths with her after that until four years later when I got another job at that same company as a part-time appointment secretary.  MF was still working there.  I must have gotten less geeky and less ugly (or more mouthier) because this time I got her attention.  Over a short period of time we discovered we were kindred spirits and became fast friends.  Since then, she has been my greatest confidante, my biggest fan, the one who would lecture me about making wrong decisions…and the one who would help me pick up the pieces and glue me back together when I didn’t heed her advice.  She’s been the one to patiently wait for me to communicate after years of deliberate isolation when I was involved in an unhealthy relationship…and the one to welcome me back with open arms without so much as blinking an eye.  She’s the one directing the delivery nurse to get me my epidural when my husband was unsuccessful…and the one videotaping the very special night of my DS’s birth.  She’s awed me with her ever-persistent faith in Christ and has an incredible talent for instantly pulling out the most fitting scripture to fit the circumstances.  She’s the one who can make me pee my pants from laughing so hard about the most stupidest of things…and she’s the one that can bring me to tears because she is so damn eloquent and genuine and makes me feel worthy and deserving when I least feel like it.  She is incredibly talented and I love to hear her sing and play her guitar.  She possesses a beauty that shines from within…with a gorgeous smile to match.  She is the one earthly being that makes me accountable for my actions…brutally yet lovingly so.  She is the one reminding me that we are made perfect in God’s image…that we are, indeed, “perfectly flawed”.  She’s the one that always, without fail,  makes me feel loved even when I am most unloveable .  She’s my very best friend in the whole wide world.  DOH!  But technically I can’t refer to her as that…because she already HAS a best friend.  (aaarrrrghhh….)

So what is she then?  Is she my dearest friend in the world?  A soul-mate?  Kindred spirit?  My chocolate buddy?  My very-significant-very-important-but-not-reciprocated person?  No, no, no (shaking head)…there has to be a better description than that.

Then one day last year, while watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, my ears caught on to a phrase that completely describes my relationship with MF:  She’s “My Person”.  MY PERSON.  Oh, I can hear the criticism already…“Your husband should be Your Person.”   Well, he isn’t.  He’s my husband and a darn good one.  But he hasn’t had the benefit (or is it rotten luck?) to have had to deal with my escapades for the past two decades.  But My Person has.  And you know what?  It doesn’t even matter that I’m not her person.  Nor does it matter that I’ve been Second Fiddle (which some people may consider highly derogatory) because having you as My Person trumps being Second Fiddle in the biggest way.

I’ve a had a life riddled with challenges and strife mixed with an abundance of blessings.  The blessings don’t come any greater than in the form of MF, My Person.  Thank you, MF, for taking a chance and being one of God’s greatest blessings in this ugly geek’s life.  Without you, I would not have come to this place in my life that I love and cherish so much.  And that is the truth.  I love growing old along side you…and continuing to make fun of our deficiencies.  We may not ever be able to claim BFF (Best Friends Forever) but we can confidently claim PFF (Perfectly Flawed Forever).  Love you!!!

Me & MF

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