Confessions of a Homeschool Mom – When RSV and Swine Flu Hit Our Family
A good friend of mine once said that the benefit to growing older is that you have more testimonies of God’s faithfulness as you walk this life journey. I have found that to be true and, as we face this new virus affecting every continent, folks are beginning to panic. Evidence of this panic is obvious when you walk into the local Wal Mart. As you may or may not know, FEC has monthly supply needs like toilet paper, paper towels, soap, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies. We order from Amazon or get our supplies from Wal Mart, but suddenly we are in a position where the costs have greatly increased and some of the supplies are not available. The same is true for other schools and medical facilities. Folks have cleaned out the supplies and we now have to spend time searching for these needed supplies.
Also, this same week, I have been alerted by my own doctor about staying home and working from home. If you do not know, I am an immune-compromised American citizen. I have had Type 1 Diabetes for 35 years and have to be cautious of various viruses.
If you listen to the news, every channel is highlighting how to avoid the virus, how to wash hands and even today, President Trump indicated that there may be a cut in payroll taxes in order to help the faulty economy.
So many of us have spent time worrying about this virus. But, if we are worrying, we are living contrary to what God intends for us. Worrying, according to scripture, will not yield anything productive. Instead, we should be actively pursuing our Heavenly Father, who is taking care of us.
In 1997, there was a particularly bad spread of RSV and my son, Seth, became very sick with this virus. Children can die from this virus and I really just thought that he had a bad cold. He ended up in the hospital for several days and for several months after this, it was recommended that he stay home and receive daily treatments to help him breathe. Then, in 2010, my oldest son, Wesley, came down with what seemed to be a cold. He was sick for over a month, during his senior year, in March and April. He ended up in the emergency room, very lethargic and completely dehydrated. We discovered that he had the Swine Flu. This strain began in 2009 and lasted until mid-2010. Various sources suggest that 50,000-150,000 were affected by this disease and over 14,000 died worldwide. If you research this disease, you could accidentally feel like you are reading TODAY’s news about Corona Virus. Wesley became sicker as the weeks went on – it seemed to be a bad cold and the stomach bug combined. He missed so many fun things during the spring of his senior year. His friends kept in touch, encouraged him and he continued to keep up with work as much as he could. He eventually received some treatment and, in time, recovered. Both boys went on to recover, receiving lots of TLC from mama. In addition, their immune systems, through these viruses and others, have become quite strong and they are usually very healthy.
My point in sharing this is that there is NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN (please read Ecclesiastes). These diseases are going to keep coming – the enemy is constantly shooting these arrows at the world. And while we cannot control what challenges come to the human race, what we can do is rest in our heavenly father.
Over the last few weeks, I have been asked what our ‘plan’ is for this illness. What will we do if other school systems close? How will we change our cleaning protocol? I have been ‘warned’ by people that they may not attend for a period of time. Others ask if we will charge tuition if we have to close for several weeks.
I want to encourage you on several fronts.
First, the disease in 2010 was JUST AS BAD, but not nearly as shared in the media. Ten years ago we were just starting to have this amazing social media phenomenon light up the airways. It seems worse now because we are hearing EVERY piece of news on the Corona virus. We know immediately when someone else dies. We know immediately when someone else contracts the virus. It is just the way that it is, so I would encourage you to ONLY listen to the news once a day. Or only check one website each day…I would recommend the CDC site.
Second, I would encourage you to spend MORE time in scripture. Read about our heavenly Father who split the Red Sea in half so the Israelites could cross. Read about the heavenly Father who sent His son from the heavens on high to a young girl named Mary. Read about the heavenly Father, who protected that little Jesus as they escaped to Egypt. Read about the heavenly Father, who defeated death after Jesus was brutally murdered. And there are so many other stories that we should ‘swim’ in when we are scared and nervous.
Third, pray that God would protect our little community and each family. Pray that He would protect our state, our county, our community. Pray also for our administration, that God would give wisdom as we make decisions about when we will meet. If you were with us last year, we had 7 snow days and still our students continued with their education. We have had only 1 real snow day and that was on the day of our Christmas Party. If we have to take off some ‘sick’ days, we will do so. But the learning will continue. Teachers will still post HAS forms, provide assistance, videos, etc. in order to keep your children learning. The school year will not fall apart!
When my children used to have terrible fear, I would ask them to consider the WORST thing that could happen. They would list the worse scenarios and we would talk through them. Unfortunately, folks are becoming sick, so we should expect that some among us will become sick. Most of us are healthy and will ‘weather’ this storm. I would ask that you pray for me and others in my ‘station’ in life. I am over 50 and not a terribly healthy person with the Diabetes. Play for protection for folks like me, but pray for our WHOLE community. Being prepared with healthy food, soup, some symptomatic medications and perhaps a stack of books and word puzzles to avoid boredom are good things to do. Think through an area of your home that you can use as a sick room to keep the germs somewhat contained. These are reasonable things that can help you be prepared. There is nothing wrong with preparation, but prepare with calm and confidence in Jesus.
As for school and closing, we will provide weekly updates. Tuition will continue so that we can pay our teachers, especially as they consider how to serve you at home (in the event of a closure).
This storm is just that – a storm. It has affected the economy, the health and wellbeing of everyone in this country. But let us remember WHO we serve and let us remember WHO is on the throne. Let us rest in Him, be confident in Him (even if the storm hits home and we suffer with illness) and let us remind each other of His tremendous faithfulness through the ages. Consider the Israelites standing on the beach of a huge sea. They could hear the gallop of the horses, the call of the enemy coming after them, the trumpets sounding in the distance. They were trapped between Pharaoh and the deep waters. What would they do? Their children would drown, they would suffer a horrible death. God had failed them. Pharaoh would win.
BUT GOD. A loud roar began, winds were whirling, something was happening. Hands seemed to appear and seemed to be scooping the waters aside. How was this possible? There was land that they could actually walk on and they began to walk. On the cavernous, bumpy ocean floor. They walked. As they passed, the hands that had scooped up the waters, began to put the waters back where they belonged. Soldiers drowned. Horses drowned. Pharaoh drowned. Let us remember these hands that separated those waters and remember that HE will be with us.
The first ‘home’ mentioned in the Bible was, of course, the perfect garden where Adam and Eve lived. We don’t know how long they were there, but we know that it was perfect because they walked and talked with God. They were able to do this because they were sinless and were able to communicate with their Holy God. What a place this must be. I’m sure there is beauty beyond what we can imagine. Consider flowers that radiate such beautiful color, trees that provide lovely canopies, the lion and the lamb together, the water dribbling perfectly over exquisite rocks and gems.
As we know, Adam and Eve were sent out of the garden and we won’t know that kind of perfection until we are in paradise with our God.
But, even with their expulsion, God went before them and took care of them. He clothed them and there was probably some sort of shelter provision, or He gifted them with the ability to create a shelter. Then, throughout the Old Testament, we become aware of Abraham and his family, and their nomadic lifestyle. Tents became a place of shelter for these people and eventually man learned how to build more permanent structures in which to live.
Most of us have homes, whether they are a cozy apartment, town house or single family home. And most of us have a ‘church home’…some of those churches meet in schools, some have a building, some have even used movie theatres to worship God. Sometimes I think we place too much emphasis on the ‘place’ we meet and not on WHO we are serving and worshipping. We sometimes lose sight of the fact that this world is NOT our home. Our homes, our church buildings, our work place buildings sometimes become the object of our praise…an idol, so to speak.
And I confess, that our ‘meeting place’ for Frederick East had become an ‘idol’ for me. We had this BIG, beautiful building, an amazing nursery and then all this NEW renovation that would also benefit us. For a moment, I lost sight of WHAT we were there to do and became wrapped up in loving the place where we were meeting too much. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a duty to be good stewards of the facility we use. But holding the building up as a primary ‘drawing factor’ to what we do at FEC is not what I should have been doing.
Over the last weeks and months, God has shown me that as long as HE wants FEC to keep opening her doors, HE will provide a ‘tent’ for us. Just that…a ‘tent.’ As we journey (and let’s face facts, we are homeless!), we may have multiple meeting places. For the last two years, He provided an amazing ‘tent’ in which we could meet. But it was NOT His plan to keep us in that ‘tent’ for more than this year. What is interesting, though, is that He was already at work preparing the new ‘tent.’
As we have met with the church ‘council’ at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church (a church that we had discounted early because initial reports were that they had 6 classrooms), we learned that about two years ago, they began a renovation process, largely to bring their building up to ‘code.’ This sweet group of folks is community minded and grasping for ways to become more visible in the community. Many classrooms in the building aren’t used on a regular basis and they desired to see this change. As I met with them, I was sensing that God was ‘breathing new life’ into this congregation and facility. And somehow, we fit into that.
As our meetings progressed, there was a sweetness in sensing the partnership that was developing. They were EXCITED about how the building had been fixed up and how we might be able to use it. The nursery and seven classrooms that have sat quiet and largely empty for so long were now getting fresh coats of paint, new floors and were being cleaned out. The fellowship hall and parish hall are also fresh and need some noisy children to fill the walls.
There is a beauty and charm to an old church building. Stained glass windows line the sanctuary and pondering the history of those that came before could easily distract us on school days! Many have been married there, baptized there and many have worshipped the one true God there. Now, students will learn there.
I find it uncanny that with the two sanctuary spaces, the 8 dedicated classroom spaces, the very large kitchen and the fellowship hall, PLUS the Parish Hall classroom space and a newly created room in the basement, we have 14 spaces (and a couple other nooks and crannies). Guess how many spaces we are currently using at Calvary? Yep…14. We will need one more than that next year with our growing high school, but remember, I mentioned some nooks and crannies!
And we weren’t just looking to ‘rent.’ We like to partner and ‘help’ promote the ministries of the church. There will be many opportunities…they do a Strawberry Festival, a German Dinner, host a ‘clothing bank’ in the basement (I am currently in negotiations to see if the bank can be opened twice a month for us to donate AND shop…the deals are AMAZING as Mrs. Danchik and Mrs. Jernigan can attest!).
So, we have a new ‘tent.’ The contract is being drawn up, we are all very like-minded in how things should proceed and plans are moving forward. I am humbled and overwhelmed at God’s provision. It may be for a year, it may be for ten. God doesn’t usually reveal that information and we must learn to trust day by day. As we met to discuss the contract, several of the council members shared that they had been praying for ‘something’ over the last two years. They didn’t really know what they were praying for…new ‘life,’ new ‘ministry,’ they weren’t really sure. When our e-mail arrived, they knew that God had answered. ‘It was a no-brainer….this is what we had been praying for,’ said one of the members.
Delight in knowing that not only were THEY an answer to our prayer, but WE were an answer to theirs. We serve an extremely creative God.
By all accounts, it has been a challenging weeks on many fronts. Just a week ago, I met with Kelli, our CAG liaison and worked to find some alternative classrooms for our littles at FEC. We actually found three REALLY great options and a fourth that is ‘so so,’ but will work for the time being. A rework of the schedule was in order, payroll was due and a weekend trip to Pittsburgh had been scheduled. When would things slow down?
But the challenges would continue…we successfully held school on Monday, but knew that some ‘minor’ weather was closing in for Tuesday. BUT, it brought polar temperatures and ice, causing schools to close on Wednesday. That meant a syllabus change for many as things get pushed to the next week for teaching and it meant a full building tear down with a few folks who were able to make it through the snow squall. The building is a mess (just in the designated construction areas), closets are being cleaned out, but we still have a warm spot to meet come next week. As Wednesday came to a close, I headed home, my car filled to the roof because I have NO IDEA where everything goes in the building and it ended up in my car. Rene Denny and her amazing breakdown staff have a great system and I TOTALLY messed it up. I headed home with a few sore muscles, a bruise where a table fell on me and a letter of apology already drafted to the nursery staff who would find things ALL OVER the place because I didn’t know where to put stuff (thanks Maria Danchik for fixing some of it!) My warm electric blanket and a promise of dog snuggles were calling me home! When would things slow down?
But the challenges would continue. A few minutes under the electric blanket would be ended when my daughter came home, not being able to walk on her ankle after a fall. We had already had several sprained ankles in this family, so I was all for ice, elevation, Motrin and staying inside in this weather. But, my husband sensed a little more urgency and headed to an urgent care. Hmmmm…a possible hairline fracture was the call. That would mean an orthopedic visit on Thursday. But wait!!! I work on Thursdays! YIKES!!! However, a sympathetic Lucy’s owner coupled with a slow week in retail meant that I could head to the orthopedic with Rachel, which we did, first thing on Thursday. Forget eating breakfast….I would eat a quick breakfast bar at the doctor’s while we waited for him. Ahhh….a few minutes to sit. But wait, what is that metal sensation in my mouth…another YIKES! One of my many crowns was swishing around in my mouth. When would things slow down?
A quick call to the dentist and guess what? They had just had a cancellation and I could come in. We thought it was the ‘cracked’ crown and the doc would take care of it, so we cancelled a future appointment set for several weeks out (for the cracked crown). OK…quick drive to the dentist and hopefully a quick pop back on. But no...this isn’t the cracked crown…this is another crown and ‘oh my…there is some serious decay underneath….we might need to do a root canal.’ Two hours later (and fortunately no root canal), new crown in place (yes, I have a dentist who can ‘mill’ the crowns right there while you wait – cool technology), I can head home, but still need to get the other crown fixed. When will things slow down?
Well, as best I can tell, ‘things’ won’t slow down. There will always be bad weather and especially bad weather when temperatures can create ice. There will always be change. New pastors and staff will pass through the doors at CAG and new teachers will come and go at FEC. New families will come this year and others will leave. And, because the earth and man are under a curse from sin, our bones will sometimes bend and sometimes break, our teeth will decay, our muscles will hurt.
Life is hard. We desire the peace and calm that was present in the garden when Adam and Eve walked and talked with God. Our souls SCREAM for that because we were created for this, but we live on this groaning earth, with aging bodies and become frustrated when it snows or ices, we cry when the bones break or muscles stretch (fortunately, it was just a bad spain and bruise), we cringe when the crown pops off and we taste metal.
A friend reminded me Wednesday (thanks April Danchik) that ALL days are created by God…’this is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.’ So my question? How do I rejoice as a drill penetrates my tooth? How do I rejoice as I sit in an orthopedic office for yet another time? How do I rejoice at 5:30 am as I look at an icy parking lot and try to figure out the best answer for whether to hold school that day or not? How do I rejoice when I walk in a 100,000 square foot building and realize that MUCH needs to be broken down and cleaned? I think the answer to that question is that we JUST DO! As the waves come crashing we remind ourselves that this IS the day that the Lord has made and we thank Him for walking ahead of us. To ask ‘why’ something is happening is pointless. To ask ‘why me’ is selfish…do you want it to happen to someone else?
God holds us in the palm of His hand and the FACT that we live on a cursed planet means that we will daily face the brokenness of humanity. We must learn to have an attitude of ‘joy’ in every circumstance. Our heavenly Father is shepherding and caring for us…and He is doing just fine! Trust that He has YOUR best interest in mind, even when you are feel that drill fire up in your mouth! Rejoice…again I say rejoice!
Over the past few weeks, I have been engaged in many conversations with families. Some are current FEC families and some are hoping to join us next year. But several things keep coming up… first, I have had discussions with MANY FEC families and some potential new families. The big question looming in the minds of everyone is ‘what if the work is too much?’ And a second question follows…’what if my child isn’t smart enough for this program?’
So, I went to one of the folks that I consider to be a mentor. I wasn’t always sure how to respond when someone was concerned about the amount of work. We try hard to monitor the amount of homework assigned and we try to keep the pace a reasonable one. But, obviously, we missed the mark several times this year. And, since the question is still coming up, I thought it was worth looking at again.
As I went to this friend, I shared the conversations I had had with her and the immediate response was ‘What are their goals for their children?’ Simple enough, but I hadn’t thought of asking that. What are your goals for your children? Not my goals, not the county’s goals and not the grandparent’s goals. What are your goals? So, I thought back over what I wanted for my own children (and these may be different from yours). Here are a few things I wanted for them:
Folks, we live in a tough and BIG world. A friend recently found statistics on the number of students applying to 4-year public universities (her daughter, a 4.4 GPA, AP test, Div. 1 potential soccer star was denied acceptance to several ACC schools) shows that of all the students that apply, 10-20% are accepted. At some of the schools they applied to, there was less than a 10% acceptance. Our population is growing and not only national, but international students are applying for these spaces. Community Colleges and apprenticeship programs are also more selective than ever before. At FCC last year, there were over 8,000 students. And just because you go to FCC, this does not guarantee your success. My daughter went through the nursing program there and had to maintain a 4.0 in ALL her classes to be accepted. She did just that because of the rigorous education she had received but of the 50 students who started out in the program, only 28 graduated.
So, I go back to the original question. What are your goals for your children? I know that we don’t have them for long…they grow up SO fast. But one way or another, through public, private or homeschool education, they need to be ready to meet the world when they are 18 or so. They WILL need to compete with the counterparts coming from all types of education and all walks of life and college admittance offices are NOT going to give any student a break. They are going to choose the most prepared students so that they will succeed in college. So pushing a little now can go a long way later.
The second question…’what if my child isn’t smart enough’ to complete this program? I actually just ignore this question. Any child can learn and can make progress with a classical education. Support from home, from teachers and from tutors will help this along, but remember, I have a child who eventually thrived on this education…don’t count your child out! The grades in the class are NOT everything.
So, as you consider your homeschooling, always ask ‘what are my goals for this child’ and ‘what will we do this year to work toward those goals?’
Over the past 25 years, I have noticed some trends in homeschooling that have become a bit unsettling. One of those trends has been a move to provide more ‘relaxed’ homeschooling or unschooling for boys because we see them as different learners and in some ways, handicapped from their girl counterparts. Many parents are pulling their boys out of public school classrooms so that they can spend their days exploring and not being restricted by a classroom.
However, as a veteran homeschooling mom, one of the benefits of being ‘old’ is that I have the advantage to have seen some of these experiments ‘play out’ over the last 20 years. Here are some of my thoughts.
First, I do realize that boys and girls learn differently. I also believe there are some things that we can do to help them learn. However, the college classroom (down the road) is NOT going to give much sympathy to boys if they have a different learning style. And, in this age of treating boys and girls equally, why would we give a more ‘relaxed’ education to our boys and not our girls? Shouldn’t girls and boys receive the same sort of education?
Secondly, let me say that I have had two VERY different boys and have experienced two VERY different learning styles. One of my sons was very academic and enjoyed book learning. However, the other son did NOT like the classroom or books at all. But I taught both of them in the SAME way. And today, the son that did not like learning, writing, reading, math or anything associated with education, is now sailing through college classes and has a work ethic that is ‘over the top.’ He also enjoys reading and admits that sometimes the push was too hard, but is glad that I didn’t stop pushing.
As I mentioned above, I began homeschooling over 20 years ago. I was part of several homeschool groups and have not only seen my own children grow up and move onto college and grad school, but have watched other friends’ children grow up and graduate. In my own experience and in my observations of friends’ homeschooling situations, I have to say that boys that were made to learn in a traditional way (at a desk, with homework, reading difficult books and textbooks) have BY FAR been more successful in their college educations and in their careers. Just a few examples:
It has been a pretty cut and dry experiment. For those boys who were pushed and MADE to sit and learn for a period of time each day, they have been quite successful in college and beyond. BUT, for those who allowed more child-directed learning or unschooling, there seems to be quite a bit of floundering and searching well into their twenties.
I have come to realize that we are not just homeschooling boys. We are homeschooling future men and I challenge you to consider what this means:
I am likely to take some slack for my staunch position on this. But I have watched women take over the world, demean men and try to turn boys and men into sniveling, cowardly creatures. This is not what God intended. He intended men to lead the family and the church, but women are often at the helm in many of our churches, homes, business and schools. Don’t get me wrong…I believe women can and should do just about everything that men do. But as I mentioned before, God had a different intention in the garden…He placed Adam over Eve in the general operation of things. And, when Eve was being tempted by the enemy, Adam was distracted…off doing something else or just hanging in the background. Whatever he was doing, he greatly failed his mate and we know that sin made an entrance into the world.
How will your men advance the kingdom? Will they follow or will they lead? Let’s work together to make sure that our boys are growing into men that will lead us well! Don’t be afraid to push them out of the tree or to pull the video game remote out of their hands so that they are forced to learn about this world that God created and how they can make it better for their own children.
We live in a country where sports have become a top priority. The NFL, MLB and NBA are all billion dollar industries. Young folks, barely out of the womb, are participating in community leagues, YMCA sports, travel teams public school teams and private club organizations. Every parent hopes (even for just a moment) that their child might be recognized and given a scholarship. However, most college recruiters are not even looking at public schools or even at club sports to find their new recruits. Instead, high schools, specializing in a particular sport, are becoming increasingly popular and families are relocating to get their children into these schools.
And homeschoolers are not immune to the sports industry. State education departments are being challenged to allow homeschool students to play on public school teams. That is a different discussion and different blog, but many homeschool parents who don’t want their children in public school classrooms realize that playing on public school teams is not going to be a positive experience either.
So in an effort to provide sports opportunities for homeschooled students, basketball, football and other sports teams are springing up exclusively for homeschooled students. While some are purely recreational, most are becoming increasingly competitive. That means more practices, more games and more tournaments. Parents can be on the road four or five nights a week since students can’t practice after school and be picked up later. The basketball season lasts from the end of November through early March and can be taxing on parents, especially those parents trying to make sure that their children are well educated. Co-ops become difficult, on-line classes become challenging and local community college classes can be compromised because of the practicing and games.
So, what is a family to do? Our family has done over 15 years of sports. We have been a gymnastics family, did the football thing for a year and have settled into being a basketball family. If I had it to do all over again, my children would not play sports OR we would just do community sports. WHY? Let me explain.
First, now that we are on the other side, we realize that we were poor nutritionists during this time of traveling. Fast food, quick sandwiches, and ‘eating on the run’ took us away from those regular family dinners where we would talk, recount our day and regroup. My husband and I are usually the only ones around the table today, since our children are grown and all work or are involved in activities. But that time came A LOT sooner because of sports. This ‘eating on the run’ also took a toll on our family budget. We would spend $100-$150 in fast food each month when we were doing sports. I’d like to say I’m better at this now, but I do try to plan a little more these days.
Second, I have continual knee and back problems that are worsened when I drive a lot. While I don’t have an official diagnosis, I just know that these problems escalate when I am in the car for an hour or two each day. Playtime, recreational time and just outdoor fresh air were traded for being in the car with artificial air and comfy bucket seats. My kids have also inherited some life-long conditions due to injuries on the court or in the gym.
Third, the homework suffered. My kids would rush through work or maybe not get it done at all. I wished for teachers that would give less during basketball season, but that wasn’t going to happen. One day I realized I had a problem when I became angry at the teacher for assigning work. Hmmmm….
Fourth, we spent WAY too much money on sports. My daughter’s competitive gymnastics lasted six years and we could have paid for a couple years of college with that money. We hoped that maybe she could get a scholarship, but she quit after 8th grade and was nowhere near the level she needed to be for college. Scholarships are few and far between.
And finally, with 3 children in or through college, we have come to realize that while sports scholarships are rare, academic scholarships are not. All of my children did well in school and went on to college, well prepared to study and learn. You see, we had PUSHED them. We didn’t give in and made them do the work, even if I wanted to curse at the teacher for giving extra. And, in the end, they knew how to study, they knew how to manage their time, and they knew how to talk to their teachers, asking questions and clarifying the homework. They excelled and made excellent grades and that is when the scholarships came. My oldest son had about 35% of his senior year covered by scholarships.
I’m not trying to be a ‘Debbie Downer’ and discourage parents from sports. Kids need that outlet, but perhaps community sports may be a better idea. Practices are limited to your local school and games are minimal each week. Or consider the YMCA for their participating leagues. And, if you do decide on a homeschool or more competitive league, consider the following:
Sports and sports teams are not going away. But, if we can learn to manage the load, we can save our sanity.
When I was in 3rd grade, I had to memorize my multiplication tables. But I had little confidence and decided that I would need to cheat in order to pass the quiz. I don’t know what got into me, but I had the answers written out and put the ‘cheat sheet’ in a ‘hidden place’ so that I could look if I needed help. Unfortunately, my teacher found it and I was caught. My teacher and my parents talked to me and convinced me that I could, indeed, learn those time tables. And you know what? I did. I worked hard, memorized them and received a 100% on the next quiz. That was my first ‘gentle’ push.
A second push occurred when I was in 5th or 6th grade. I had a wonderful teacher who gave spelling tests every week. We could sign a contract to learn 15, 20 or 25 words. I was happy with myself for choosing the 15 word contract and shared that contract with my parents. My dad looked at me and said that that was unacceptable. He expected nothing less than 25. And for the next year, I received 100% on all my 25-word spelling tests. I did get one word wrong at some point that year…I spelled Pennsylvania wrong. My dad’s expectation was my second gentle push.
That third push came from a family friend when I was in 9th grade. He was helping me with Algebra and challenged me to be the Valedictorian of my class. I never forgot that conversation and did go on to share the honor with two of my classmates after I had earned a 4.0 in high school.
I am just a normal, average person. I do not have genius status, was born into a family of hard workers (but not college educated), I did not go to an Ivy League school, I never played on Jeopardy, and when teams are formed for trivia games, I am not the first person chosen. I was also very quiet and shy as a child. Myers Brigg Personality Test clearly (and correctly) pegged me as the introvert in the room. In middle school, I had the huge, ugly glasses, braces and earned B’s and C’s. But the pushes in 3rd grade, 5th grade and 9th grade made a HUGE difference in my life. These people who pushed NEVER lowered their expectations for me. They kept the bar high and gave me the tools to succeed. More importantly, they believed in me and were my biggest cheerleaders.
Unfortunately, in today’s educational culture, instead of having a high bar and encouraging our students to reach for it, we have created a bunch of standards and a bunch of bars. Why? Because we are SO afraid of pushing our children. Somewhere along the way, we went from training, raising and challenging children, to walking around children like they are fragile, breakable pieces of glass. Most children are terribly resilient and want to please the adults in their lives. There is nothing that hurts me more than to see parents greatly lower their expectations for their children because they think their children are fragile to the point of breaking.
In my ponderings above, I left a few things out. I was extremely sickly as a child. I was sick ALL the time and hospitalized several times by the age of 6. I was also not terribly popular through elementary and middle school and dealt with bullying at school and on the bus. I preferred to be home, getting lost in books. My parents could have sheltered me through all this, but they did not…they pushed. Again and again and again. Their pushing sent me to college where I had another blow. Right before my junior year, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Talk about fragile…I had lost a weight, was dealing with blood glucose levels of over 400, could barely stay awake and was to leave for college in a week. My parents NEVER entertained the idea of allowing me stay home. As I wept at this devastating diagnosis, and went into immediate around the clock treatment in the hospital, my parents planned for how I would take care of myself in college. While I am sure they were terrified, they dropped me off a week later, fully armed to face this disease and my junior year of classes and activities. And you know what? I did it. With the help of my heavenly Father, tremendous support from family and friends, and another big push, I graduated 2 years later with honors.
So why do I share all this? I share it because I think we are doing our children an injustice when we don’t push. We all want our children to do well academically, to be able to further their education and to secure good jobs and be successful, contributing adults. But if we don’t push now, we handicap our children. Pushing now, in our safe, homeschool environments allows our children to begin to spread their wings. Don’t be afraid to gently push them out of the nest. Let them fly! You might be surprised at all the places they’ll go!
If you are old like me, then you have been a part of many weddings either as a guest, participant or as the actual bride or groom. Weddings are an amazing event of seeing two people come together to establish a new family unit. The young bride and groom are filled with expectation as they set out on this journey. They enjoy renting or buying a new home, setting it all up, decorating and just enjoy being in the presence of this special person.
The big day comes, often on the tails of a whirlwind of planning. The flowers are beautiful, the dresses are perfectly fitted to each bridesmaid, the catering company has arrived on time. The guests are assembled and the wedding goes off without incident. The bride and groom have an amazing time of celebration and the dancing goes on into the night. But, all good things must come to an end and it is time to go home. The bride and groom are off to a luxurious, tropical location and a week (or two!) of fun and rest from the long weeks of planning.
However, I have heard countless stories of honeymoons fraught with bickering! And even if the honeymoon was amazing, real life is just around the corner and guess what? The first week home, there is a ‘knock down, drag out’ fight, causing both the bride and groom to question the marriage. Celebrating the golden anniversary of 50 years seems like a dream at best!
Why does this happen? Well, we often set up expectations in our minds of how things SHOULD be and more often than not, those expectations are not met. That leads to our frustration and then to arguing because we are NOT getting what we want. I remember my first year of marriage and it was disheartening at times. I expected to be ‘adored’ by my husband, expected breakfast in bed, coffee made every weekend, exotic trips to cool places. However, those ‘daydreams’ were replaced with busy work schedules that left both of us exhausted, ‘on-call’ schedules that took me out on weekends and, if we were home on the weekends, my husband wanted to be up and doing ‘chores’ early on Saturdays. Forget breakfast in bed or even a few minutes of quiet ‘coffee time.’ And exotic travel destinations never materialized. Four children later and teacher salaries have not permitted much travel.
The problem is NOT my husband. The problem is my expectation. We often paint beautiful pictures of what things should look like. Perhaps that is a remnant of what is left from the ‘garden living’ that Adam and Eve experienced. Things as they SHOULD be (without hassle, focused on leisure, walking with the creator in beauty) are not possible in this now fallen world. CS Lewis said “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” I happen to agree with Lewis. We were created for more, but on this earth, those expectations may not be reached. And, if they are, they are glimpses only.
So, I bring up honeymoons because at FEC, we were in a ‘honeymoon’ period. We went through all the planning, preparing, setting up the ‘event,’ and, held the ‘wedding’ on September 6. That was fun, exciting and, for the most part, the honeymoon was great! Most of us have jumped right in and are settling into the routine. But for others, there have been challenges. Certain classes have had too much homework. Others have had too little. Some teachers are excited and having a great time. Others are struggling and need help. Most of us are afraid to open our e-mail box, expecting the gazillion e-mails.
The honeymoon is definitely over and we are now in ‘real living’ time. And how will we succeed in this ‘marriage?’ WE COMMUNICATE.
I promised you that there would be bumps, but if we are in for the long haul, we have to realize that even Frederick East Classical, this new, exciting homeschool option, is just that. A homeschool option. It will only be ‘new’ for a little longer. Many will come through the doors. Some will stay for a year, some will stay through graduation. Some will be happy. Some will not. The homework will be too much for some and too little for others.
I cannot offer you promises. I cannot give you guarantees.
I can assure you of a few things. Frederick East is important to me. I value the job that we do. To that end, you should communicate…with the department chair, the financial person, the teachers. If you don’t feel that you are communicating well and there are still problems, then speak to a board member. And, if you ever need to yell and scream at someone, I give you permission to yell and scream at me. I am a big girl and can handle it. Sometimes we just need to vent.
But, if you yell and scream at me, I won’t leave you there in that place. I will ask you questions, seek to focus the discussion and will pursue reconciliation and restoration. I am about pointing us to the person of Jesus in all that we do.
So yes, dear friends, we are home from the honeymoon and now the real living begins. I would encourage you to check the expectations. Some of you have been at similar programs, some not. Some of you have only experienced public school, some private. Either way, we all have files and files in our brains of what the other school did. But, instead of looking back, let’s look forward and seek to be part of the formation of Frederick East Classical. Very little is ‘in stone’ at this point and we want/need you to help us build the strong foundations. That is the exciting part...being in on the planning, adjusting, forming.
I ‘caught’ a glimpse the other day…I was walking the hallway upstairs and looked down on children at lunch, talking with each other, enjoying the treats. I heard a teacher teaching…being creative in communicating the concepts. Latin chants were drifting up the stairwell and I overheard another teacher giving instructions on making pyramids in class. And for that moment in time, I stopped and breathed in the realization that the dream became a reality.
WOW…It has been 234 days since that January meeting where we first presented this idea to about 40 families. From that day on, it has been a FAST moving train. I was recently interviewing a family who had their son along and I mentioned this ‘fast moving train.’ Being literal…he asked where the train was?
While figurative, that is the only way I can describe the last 9 months. And while it has been fast, uncertain and demanding, it has been invigorating.
Many have said that they are excited by my excitement. So what is ALL the excitement about?
Of course, we expect you to do homework, we expect you to come to FEC on school days, we expect that you work through difficulties to complete the year. But those are lesser to some other expectations that we should have for each other:
As we begin the final countdown, I would encourage you to remind yourself of the reasons for joining this endeavor. Keep those front and center so that when doubts and frustrations come (and they will) you will remember why you did this.
For those of you who know me, you know that I can be a ‘news junkie’ and I will often have the news running in the background. Sometimes it is just droning noise, but sometimes, I am truly interested in what is going on. Recently, I have been deeply affected by the shenanigans going on here on the east coast over the taking down of various statues related to the Civil War. I was never a GREAT student of history in high school or college (I learned the facts but didn’t really interact with them or learn the whole story), but as a homeschool mom, I have REALLY studied American History and have come to love the story of our country, with all her glory, bumps, bruises and outright devastating tales.
What has most concerned me is a move to ‘erase’ some of these bumps and bruises. Why? Because those bumps and bruises offend some. However, if those who are offended would take a moment to get to know ALL the folks that were around during that time, I think they would feel heartened and even grateful for men on BOTH sides of the Civil War, who actually stood up for their ancestors, cared for them and even educated them.
One of the problems, as I see it, is the teaching of History in this country. Public Schools and colleges teach portions of history, out of chronological order and even text books delete information for the sake of space (or for political correctness). However, in a classical education setting, we are going to teach everything…the good, the bad and the ugly. For example, one of my favorite units is John Brown. Most folks know a few things…here are some recent comments I have heard…’wasn’t he the one who was hung in Harper’s Ferry?, ‘he was the one who lived in Harper’s Ferry,’ ‘was he the one who was a western explorer?, and even ‘John Brown…didn’t he mine for gold?’ It disheartens me that folks don’t know his story. Just to clarify, John Brown (who had a difficult childhood and a rather strict upbringing) was a tormented man who was a ‘bit over the top’ when it came to cult-likd type religion. He hated slavery (good for him!) and tried to set up a small army that would head to Harper’s Ferry (did you know that the Union had a weapon’s depot there?) and begin a rebellion. However, things didn’t go as planned and he was eventually caught and put on trial, later hanged in Charles Town. John Brown’s raid is even considered to be one of the many reasons that the Civil War came to be. But all people really know about him is that there is a John Brown song.
In our nation, we have a rather ‘checkered’ past. The original folks that came to America were criminals, thieves and the dregs of society that were no longer wanted or needed in Britain. The Americas were a dumping ground. And later, it was a ‘refuge’ as things were going badly in other places. We became a melting pot. But some of those founding fathers recognized the need to organize this small nation. We grew, we changed, but there will always be ‘checkered.’ Slavery was one of those ‘dark’ periods in history. But folks, we are STILL CHECKERED in our country. We don’t always treat the environment as we should. There is still discrimination, there is a problem with how to handle immigration. The poor are still among is (hmmm….Jesus first predicted that dilemma). Unfortunately, while many have written about a perfect society, it will never come to be. Call me a pessimist, but I have read in the scriptures that this earth and all that is on the earth are under a curse. We have a sin problem…it all goes back to that. And, as long as there is the sin problem, there will be all this ‘checkered’ stuff going on.
So, that takes me to my next point. I’m sure all of us have a past. It is a fact. Some of our ‘pasts’ are sad, tragic, and yes, ‘checkered.’ We may try to hide it, keep the secrets of our youth, but do you REALLY want to get rid of it? It is part of your story. The story of how you rebelled, turned away from God, went out on your own and did what you wanted to do. But, the beautiful thing is that you had a Savior, a ‘knight in shining armor’ (so to speak) that rescued you. The WHOLE story is needed. Why should a rescuer come along if there is no one to be rescued?
Back to our national dilemma. I believe that the statues that stand on hallowed ground serve to remind us of the WHOLE story…all the bumps, bruises and devastation. We need that reminder. We need to see the ‘checkered,’ ugly past in order to understand where we are now. We have always gotten ourselves into trouble when we elevate people other than Jesus Christ. Robert E. Lee had it right when he disagreed, in the first place, with the erecting of statues. So perhaps all the statues of people (put on pedestals, literally!) should come down as we look beyond them to the Savior on the most despicable of statues, the cross. That is the only statue that should be in our ‘mind’s eye.’ All others are but rubbish.
And one final thought...as we begin a new community at Frederick East, DO NOT ever elevate the leaders, board members or teachers. We all have our issues, our pasts and our hang-ups. Help us by praying for us and interacting with us with good communication. We are all imperfect people in this imperfect world trying to walk the narrow Christian path. Christ is the one to elevate...He is our sure foundation.