Privilege and Education

The following post is shared from Lindsy Wallace’s blog Light Breaks Forth. Lindsy is a homeschool mom who happens to also be a missionary with InnerCHANGE. She and her family have recently moved in to a desperately impoverished (and violent) neighborhood in Miami, where they are beginning their new lives living “incarnationally” with the poor. I love this post about privilege and education. I would like to add one statistic to the mix, though: “2/3 of children who can not read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare.” Friends, if we want to help eliminate poverty and crime, we must be serious about working to ensure that marginalized children learn to read well.

Please click the link below to read Lindsy’s entire post:

My neighbor called today and asked if I would home school her. She’s 23. Sometimes my privilege smacks me upside the head. Today is one of those days. Alisha** dropped out of high school in the tenth grade. I don’t know what all has happened between now and then. I’m guessing …

Source: Privilege and Education

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson

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One of the glorious benefits of homeschooling is the freedom to set ones own academic course. This year, my sons (grades 5 and 7) and I are studying American history through the lens of the African American experience.

While I am not African American myself, I grew up in the deep South where I heard and saw enough to understand that thick threads of racism and racial injustice have been woven deeply into the fabric of our country’s history.

I want my children to know this side of history. I want them to grow into adults who recognize and fight against the injustices in their own generation.

In pulling together books for our study, I stumbled across Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson at my local library. This book is a true gem! Nelson combines his gorgeous artwork with a compelling first-person narrative (based on his own family’s history) of the African American experience from slavery through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (and all the way up to present day in the epilogue).

His narrator, an elderly female, tells her family’s tale with great dignity and personality. Her tone is generally factual, not bitter or sensationalizing, but she doesn’t shy away from hard topics and observations.

As a hybrid chapter/picture book, I believe Heart and Soul is appropriate for children ages 8 and above. While my own boys and I are delving into a number of darker, more detailed accounts of slavery and its aftermath (such as Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass), I appreciate the breadth of Nelson’s book. In two days’ reading, my sons were able to get an idea of the entire arc of African American history and an introduction to some important terms. Both boys found the book engaging and informative.

I recommend including Nelson’s book in any homeschool course on American history for older elementary and middle school students or as supplemental reading in non-homeschool households.

 

A Word for 2016

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Note: This post was written in response to a Compassion Bloggers writing prompt.

A new year is coming and I am yet again reminded how selfish I am….how much I want to be in control of my environment and the people in it.

I don’t like this part of myself, but there it is again.

December seems to be my tipping point into frazzled discontent. The month is spent racing to get my children ready for their various performances, preparing for and celebrating the FIVE family birthdays we have between Dec. 10 and Jan. 10, juggling work parties, family expectations, the heightened planning and activity at El Crucero, the out-of-town visitors, the unexpected trips to the hospital (3 out of the past 4 years some member of my household has had to go to the ER sometime during Christmas week), the extra traffic, extra sugar, extra chores……

It all adds up to one exhausted and stressed mama.

That is not who I want to be….it’s not who any of us want to be.

The sad truth is that I am not only like this in December. December may be the triathlon, but I spend much of the year training in stressful activity and frustrated inefficiency.

So what is my word for 2016? Perhaps reduction would make sense. Or organization. Or patience. Or peace…..or gratitude.

I think all of these words have a role in how I redirect our family life in the coming year. But none of these are the words I want to define my life this year.

JOY. Joy is the word I want to live by this year. I want to know the joy of walking closely with God, the joy of raising my children, the joy of connecting with and serving others, the joy of being a forgiven, forgiving, grace-filled, beauty-loving, compassionate and unselfish woman.

As with all fruits of the Spirit, joy is both a gift of God and a discipline to strive after, develop and practice.

I will not attain godly joy immediately, but I am going to begin taking steps this very day to release my worries, frustrations, and selfish expectations and to make more time in my day to worship my creator and to recognize his presence and activity all around me.

Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.

This will be my mantra this year.

I encourage you to hold me accountable! And I pray you find joy in your own walk with God this year.

Be encouraged! Let’s focus our hearts and minds on Jesus this year and experience his hope, his consolation, his strength, his salvation, his life-giving PRESENCE.

What’s your word for 2016?

Seeking joy, too? Here’s a helpful place to start: 25 Bible Verses about Joy.

My House is a Mess

IMG_1526[1]It is Thursday morning again. I am waiting for the piano teacher to show up, and, as usual, I am frantically cleaning the bathroom, throwing toys into bedrooms, vacuuming up dust bunnies. I’m a whirl of activity, tripping over children and their oh-so-slow questions about math and grammar and whether or not I think we’ll go to a Rays game again soon. I sweep aside a request to locate one child’s lost flashcards; and just as I am swooping down to pick up that lone wet washcloth someone dropped by the front door this morning on his way to laundry room, the doorbell rings.

The door is mostly glass, so I know my final frenzy has been fully visible. I have to choose to push aside my embarrassment, just as I did last week, and just as I’m likely to have to do next week. I’ve tired of making promises to myself that next time I’ll be better on top of things, that Thursday will arrive and the house will be spotless, my hair will be fixed (i.e. brushed) and I’ll even be wearing makeup (glory be!).

Many days I look around my house and struggle not to feel like a failure. I have an image in my head of how it should look, with everything in place, freshly polished furniture and countertops shiny enough to double as mirrors.

I love beauty, order and cleanliness. Instead, I live with unabated clutter, crumb-covered floors, and boy-dominated bathrooms (I shall not elaborate). My walls are covered with smudges. Legos and nerf darts can be found in almost every corner and crevice, and dried toothpaste has a way of showing up in the oddest places. My crafty children seem to shed paper clippings, origami creations, bits of yarn, broken pencil lead, and a hundred variations of the “self portrait” throughout the house. (I am still waiting for someone to invent a “paper/glitter/string/broken crayon/smushed Cheerio roller.” Anyone?)

Truly, the state of my house is mortifying.

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Every week I find a new colony of dust bunnies. Where do they come from? Certainly this is a science fair project in the making.

So why am I sharing this publicly? Why post such incriminating pictures? Because today I need to remind myself yet again that serving others is more important than maintaining a neat house.

Saying “yes” to homeschooling means that desks, tables and countertops are always full of books. It means that our kitchen hosts 3 meals and a snack time each day. It means that my dining room table is covered with eraser droppings. It means that no space in my house remains unused for any measurable length of time.

Saying “yes” to El Crucero means that my home is the storage place for crafts, snacks, bibles, t-shirts, games, prize box items, tutoring tools, the stereo system and anything else that is purchased or donated for the ministry. Here in southern Florida, we don’t have basements and homes are built with almost no closet space (as if a coat closet was only for coats), so various walls and corners inside my house have become the permanent holding place for all of these things.

Here is one of my El Crucero storage corners, recently rummaged and in full disarray. Notice also my nightstand area full of books-in-progress. What you don't see is the bed full of laundry.
Here is one of my El Crucero storage corners, recently rummaged and in full disarray. Notice also my nightstand area full of books-in-progress. What you don’t see is the bed full of laundry.

Every day that I choose to play dolls with my daughter, run my son up to the library to get that next book in the series he just can’t wait to read, give my other son my undivided attention while he explains his latest passion, I choose them over the myriad chores calling to be completed. Every time I answer the phone knowing my friend will need me to talk for the next half hour, volunteer to take someone dinner, or faithfully show up to tutor my El Crucero children, I am choosing people over housework

Blessedly, my husband is unconcerned by clutter. In fact, I fully believe he doesn’t even really see it. Early in my marriage, I viewed this as a real problem, but now I am grateful for his clutter-blindness. As for the children, I think they must actually like living in the midst of a mess. Why else do they so joyfully return a newly cleaned room to a state of chaos?

In the end, a beautifully maintained home is my dream, not theirs. One day, when the children are grown (and I convert one of their bedrooms into an El Crucero storage room), the dream will likely become a reality. I suspect, though, that I will miss the days of Legos and Cheerios underfoot. Or maybe God will open up new avenues of service that will fill my days and require me to occasionally turn a blind eye to the dust on the piano and the shower that needs a good scrubbing.

How about you? What dreams/activities have you decided are worth sacrificing for the sake of service to others? I would love to hear your stories (and see pictures of your dirty houses).

Why this Public School Advocating Mom is Homeschooling

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I have always been a loyal supporter of public schools. Even before I had school-aged children, I financially supported fundraisers, clipped Box Tops, consistently voted “yes” to educationally-motivated tax hikes, and volunteered at an after-school club.

My public school roots run deep. My mother spent 30 years teaching in public elementary schools. Other family members who taught or still teach at public schools include an uncle, 2 aunts, a cousin, one of my sisters and my sister-in-law. I personally attended public school all the way through high school (with the exception of a miserable 8th grade year spent at a private prep school).

When it came time to send my oldest son to kindergarten, we quite naturally placed him in public school. I immediately became a fixture there. I faithfully attended PTO meetings, volunteered weekly in the classroom, shelved books in the media center, spearheaded fundraisers, and chaperoned field trips…

When his school’s rating dropped and the demographic shifted, we stayed even as many, many others (including most of my neighbors) left. I took this as a sign to redouble my efforts on behalf of the school. I wasn’t just working for the benefit of my 2 sons, but for the sake of ALL the children. As a teacher’s child I knew how much parental support and involvement could encourage teachers and improve the climate of a school.

So what changed, you ask? Why did I decide to leave public school and become a homeschooling mom?

In contrast to many homeschoolers, my decision had very little to do with the quality, safety, ideologies or methodologies of our local public schools. Ultimately, the driving force behind my decision was TIME. Time for me to spend with my children and for them to spend with each other. Time for my sons to pursue their interests and still have a space in each day to run around and play and dream, unfettered.

We were entering a new season as a family. It was time for our oldest to begin middle school, yet we also had an upcoming 4th grader and a 3 year old. I began to envision what the next school year was going to look like:

With 2 rounds of school drop-offs and pick-ups each day, I knew my 3 year old was going to be living a big chunk of her life strapped in the car.

My middle child, stuck between a high-achieving older brother and an adorable baby sister, had had a rough year emotionally. I didn’t know how to help him and worried that the even more hectic schedule on the horizon would only aggravate his distress.

My oldest son, Gabriel, already a talented pianist who practiced an hour a day, had been begging for a year to be allowed to learn the cello (yes, he adores the Piano Guys). I knew the middle school orchestra would allow him to pursue this new dream, but adding another instrument into the mix was going to be a real problem. On his new school schedule, he wouldn’t be getting home until sometime after 4pm. According to my calculations, if he practiced the piano for an hour, spent another 15 or 20 minutes on the cello, and completed his middle school homework (which I suspected was going to take longer than the hour and a half he was already doing each night for 5th grade), he would have just enough time to eat dinner and shower to make it to bed by 9. He would have no time to spend with his siblings, no time to rest, no time to do anything other than music and school work.

I wasn’t ready for my 11 year old to disappear from family life.

As I fretted over the impending school year, a vision began to form. What if we skipped middle school? What if we took this brief hiatus from the school frenzy and spent some focused time as a family? What if we traded the awkward middle school years for a few years of amazing family memories? Why keep adding to the long list of “one day we wills” when we could begin saying “let’s do this now”? Now. Now before my children are swallowed up by the busyness of high school. Now, before they are grown and gone.

One year into homeschooling, I am delighted to report that it has been an even grander adventure than I imagined.

My boys have been able to participate in activities that we never would have had time for otherwise, such as performing with the Sarasota Youth Orchestra, making and maintaining friendships at a local nursing home and providing afterschool homework help one afternoon a week to the children on our El Crucero block.

I have enjoyed discovering the wide range of innovative curriculum available to homeschoolers and connecting with a surprisingly large homeschool community. For instance, last year we joined the local homeschool choir and found a fun group for bi-monthly field trips. This year, Gabriel is excited to be playing on the homeschool basketball team.

As a family, we have been able to learn together in creative and exciting ways. For example, in conjunction with our study of WWII last year, we managed to visit the National WWII museum in New Orleans, tour a WWII era battleship and submarine in Mobile, AL, see WWII era planes at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL, pay our respects at the WWII Memorial in DC, and (thanks to a Groupon) somberly explore a concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. Just as memorably, we have cried together over Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place, laughed together through Roald Dahl’s Going Solo, and engaged in deep discussion as we read through large excerpts of Anne Franks’ Diary of a Young Girl.

Perhaps most significantly, our time together has strengthened our family unit. Contrary to expectations, my children almost never fight anymore. They have become best friends. Unhealthy comparisons have largely disappeared and they’ve learned to play together and work together as a team.

In the process of homeschooling, I have learned worlds about my boys’ strengths and weaknesses; my boys have learned the joy and reward of self-motivated learning; and my youngest, Celia, has learned patience and how to play by herself when mommy is otherwise occupied.

Nevertheless, as wonderful as homeschooling has proven to be, I still plan to reemerge my boys into public high school. I don’t want to deprive them of such a universal American experience. I value the life lessons to be learned through interaction with teachers and students who are different than they are. I want them to learn how to be true to their own values and beliefs in the midst of a crowd. I want them to be immersed in a microcosm of American society, to recognize both the beautiful and the ugly, to experience both the fun and the pain.

But for now, we get to be together, growing as a family, developing our collective commitment to God, and making beautiful memories.

And, yes, I’m still clipping Box Tops.