Category Archives: Homeschooling

Dependence is Good: The Church

I’ve already written on why Submission Is Good. Surprise! I also think dependence is a good thing.

In the Body of Christ, we are absolutely made for dependence. We are simply not designed to be independent. Dependence vs. the entitlement of self-determination.  Can I put self-determination in real words?

You’re not the boss of me. You can’t tell me what to do.

I’m over 18; nobody tells me what to do.

Get off my back.

It’s my body. It’s my life. It’s my business.

I need to find myself.

I want to make a difference.

I’m just not being fed at this church anymore.

As long as I have Jesus and my Bible, I’m good.

We’re looking for a church which has a better youth group/ music which I can worship to/ is more welcoming/ has a better Sunday School/ where I like the pastor/ where I feel comfortable…

…which isn’t full of hypocrites.

I’m leaving this church because I can’t exercise my gifts here. I’m a second-class citizen.

Let me share something in my history. We started homeschooling not long after it became legal in our state, about 25 years ago. During some of those early years, we were immersed in a subculture which defined itself by its home orientation.

There was a strong pull toward the idea of home-centered everything: home education, home church, home birth, home business. Most of this is healthy and creative, though some people took it to more extreme places, raising families on remote farms and eschewing worldly things like store-bought soap and TV. After all, the family home was designed to be the hothouse for growing little people.

Endlessly discussed and promoted on email loops was the thought that we ought to be amongst like-minded others. We were encouraged to find a like-minded church, meaning a church where everybody else homeschooled, home birthed, home businessed, etc. Where everyone was on the same page.

Right there in the supposed pot o’ gold of independent thinking, I found the same old groupthink. Commenters were forever looking down on those who wandered unenlightened into their like-minded circle. I loved the home-centered life but I could see that, for some,  the community had become a fortress.

At this same time, we found a church home where there was only one other homeschooling family, where an overwhelming majority of families had two children, and where most of the women were professionals with substantial careers. Yet there was no question that this was the place for us.

And a surprising thing happened. God was able to speak to me through these people. I learned that like-mindedness isn’t superficial.

We share the one and only thing that matters: Jesus Christ. We are each a member of his Body. Our fellowship is in Him. We already share a foundation of like-mindedness:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2)

When God uses the instrument of someone who doesn’t look like me to teach me something He wants me to understand, I am not in a position to invalidate his message. Without the insights of other people God has put in my life, I would be much, much poorer.  Some of these insights were natural, drawn from a well of good sense born of  experience which cost something; some were given to me straight from God through people who were willing, though sometimes unwitting, conduits.

In God’s gentle irony, I who spent most of my adult life avoiding women’s ministry, am now helping to lead a women’s  ministry. I didn’t get the joke the first time: I swore my kids would never participate in youth group, and two years later I was among a group of parent-leaders.

In the process of helping to create a new ministry, I have learned a great deal about being part of a community. I am dependent on other imperfect human beings whose flaws I can plainly see, and I must trust that I can be lead by their wisdom. If I’m honest, the only  flaws I can’t see are mine.

In what my earlier email friends would call a like-minded church, where you feel comfortable, where most everyone is cool like you and is on the same page of the same book from the same library…you are unlikely to be stretched. You are unlikely to hear anything challenging, critical, instructive or helpful. You are likely to have your beliefs and opinions massaged but not questioned. You are unlikely to grow.

You are unlikely to place yourself under authority. You are unlikely to be humbled by becoming obedient, as even Christ was.

We are meant to see our lives in the context of others who share our lives. And God will place us among a diversity which matters: not the superficial diversity we tend to look for, but differences which include just what we need.

When I consider only myself, as our culture expects, I dismiss the complements, the diversity, the wisdom that God knows I need which comes from foreign views to mine. If I dismiss the wisdom from people who I don’t feel I relate to, I dismiss what Almighty God is trying to tell me. Yep, that person you thought was kinda boring and who (in your opinion) doesn’t have a clue fashion-wise and listens to lame music…did she just say something absolutely brilliant which was precisely what you needed to hear? I think God has a good-natured laugh when our pride gets whacked upside the head.

God places us in this family community, and asks us to submit to dependence on others,  so that we learn how to live among others with integrity. That’s easy when we’re babies but gets harder as we grow. By the time we reach some culturally arbitrary measure of adulthood, we are convinced that we don’t need no help from nobody.

We starve ourselves by cutting off the sources of wisdom he has prepared for us, by substituting internet fellowship for face-to-face, life-to-life, iron-to-iron human fellowship. We aren’t accountable to grow and change by anyone we meet by pixel. We become arrogant. It’s the Christian’s version know-it–all-ism.

God wants us in accountable relationships, all of us; honoring authority and submitting to teaching, exhortation and correction. He wants us supported by our real spiritual siblings, and he wants us to support in turn. How will we bear one another’s burdens if we never make it to church? How will we lay down our lives for one another if we’re off on our own island? How will we share our lives with people we only occasionally visit? God calls us to be part of community. We are never expected to be lone wolves or individuals.

God makes us part of the true Church universal, the Body of Christ, the second we choose relationship with him. That’s the big picture. But he also calls us to commit to a specific, local group of real people in continuous relationship. It’s almost impossible to live out the commands for growing within His Body without committing to that church experience.

Study all the one anothers in the New Testament. The picture you discover is one of an intimate, inter-dependent, loving family of (true) like-minded, fallible, needy people. The gates of hell will never prevail against this.

In the church, we are made for dependence.



To Whom Do Children Belong? How Same-Sex Marriage Threatens Parental Rights

Same-sex marriage further encourages the state to encroach on the domain of that indispensable pre-political community, the family. The first in a two-part series.

Source: To Whom Do Children Belong? How Same-Sex Marriage Threatens Parental Rights

Creative Homeschool High School Course Ideas

In high school, my kids have written novels, written and produced films about Korean history, studied the Japanese and Korean languages, examined the ethics of sampling in hip-hop music, written and designed web comics, and produced graphic novels. You will probably find similarly unusual courses in most homeschool high schools.

Encouraging your student to dive into the things which most interest him, to explore his strengths, is one of the beauty parts of homeschooling. One of the very best things about home educating the high school years is that  you and your teen have the freedom to pursue those interests which make his or her life meaningful.

As a home educating parent, one of the most important things to learn about homeschooling at the high school level is to teach your strengths and to delegate your weaknesses. It’s essential to be realistic about your weaknesses. Don’t beat your head against a wall or end up torturing both yourself and child with a frustrated attempt to handle something you aren’t really suited for. If you aren’t particularly strong, or even if you’re not especially interested in math, it’s a good idea to find someone else to tutor, or to find a text or DVD series.

It’s even more important to consider each student’s strengths and learning styles as well as her deficits. Be quick to recognize when something just doesn’t work for your kid. Each person is unique;  this student may not be able to work with this resource even though it may have been perfect for your other kids or her friends.

My strengths happen to fall on the arts/humanities/cultural studies side, and so do my husband’s.  We are both art school alums and he is a writer and musician. Art, music, writing, and cultural focus is in the kids’ genes. From their cradles we tried to warn them away from the arts but they were moths to the low-wage flame.

When you homeschool, your lifestyle is in large part informed by your homeschooling. We created a home and lifestyle, consciously and unconsciously, which taught the importance of understanding our culture, its influences, where it came from, and where it could go.

This has a downside. What were our seriously heated “discussions” over?  The Mycenaeans or the Trojans? Javert or Valjean? Is 2001:A Space Odyssey really meaningful or just a bore-fest? What did Bruce Willis’ Dunn in Unbreakable do after the end…remain a superhero or give it up? My kids wanted to die on these hills.

Admittedly, the ideas I offer here are rather humanities-oriented. If you have some ideas for creative ways to learn and present the maths, technologies and sciences, I am all ears.

So here are some ideas, along with our experiences with some of them.

Art History: My freshman daughter earned a credit on her transcript this year in this survey course. We happen to have about half a million art books so it wasn’t a stretch to find material.  But you can find lots of “coffee table books” at the library. Don’t only look at the pictures. Read the books too; you want your student to understand the history of the work, and its cultural and social context, as well as how it and its creator influenced the course of art. The painting is in the book because it did just that.

I recommend any art history book by anyone named Janson, especially History of Art for Young People by H.W Janson and Anthony F. Janson.  It’s pricey new but definitely worth it. It makes art history easily comprehensible.

There’s also a little thing called the internet. One caution. Looking at works of art on a little screen or in a book is an entirely different experience than seeing the work of art for real.

Granted, we have to settle for a picture of the Mona Lisa if we’re not traveling to Paris this year. But be aware that your experience with the works are fundamentally different than standing in front of the real thing in a cool room in a museum with marble floors, battling crowds to see or hearing the echo of your footsteps in a huge empty gallery. The real thing never looks the same close up and in person. Take note of the size of the work and take a few seconds to imagine how that really looks. It may have been created to be installed in a particular place–try to find a picture of it in its original setting.

This course will consist of getting familiar with the most important works and getting the gist of chronological art history, and trying to gain understanding of the context of the works in the times they were created. Tests can be given but don’t let the class degrade into identification quizzes only. I did not give tests or ask for memorization but I can see doing that. I wanted her to grok art history. I believe she did.

The final project was a formal analysis of a work. She had to see it in person and write a formal description according to specific guidelines.

Honors Art History/ Art History 2: Next year art history will be more intense. I will require at least 4 visits to at least two museums, 2 formal analyses, 2 comparison papers, tests on ID-ing works and genres  and essay questions on socio-cultural significance and history of works, an artist bio paper OR technical history paper, and a good bit of reading in art criticism/history sources.

Youtube Course: Young people are immersed in interactive media; they don’t see that involvement as an option but reality. As a result, your young people may already have a Youtube channel.  However, much of this is rather passive and one-event oriented.

But maybe it can be more. Combine reviews with interviews. Write scripts well. Interact with viewers.  Review real events: reviews must be goal-oriented, meet criteria, be substantive (not “we filmed ourselves being at this event”). Interview appropriate people at events and write your essay about what was said, then post in on your channel. These are ideas from an old person; your student will have better ones.

Graphic Novel: If your students are art AND writing oriented, they can write a story, then design and draw the graphic novel. Your student will exercise writing, drawing, and graphic design skills.

Write a novel: Two of my sons each wrote a novel as a senior course. They were pretty self-motivated and disciplined about it (because they love writing), but you may want to require some sort of writing schedule: write every weekday for one hour/ write at least a chapter per week to be turned in and critiqued/ etc.. If you feel unqualified, find someone who can give your student real feedback. This is very important. He will need to discuss writing ideas and goals, and get knowledgeable feedback from other experienced writers.

NaNoWriMo can be helpful for getting started and for staying motivated. Even if you fail to write a novel in a month, you can get a good start. Or November may be too late in the school year to begin writing a novel.

Courses That Just Happen: Look around and notice when your child is doing “extra-curricular” things because she has an interest in them.  You may be able to gather a few things together and consider it as a course. Example: my daughter sings, and plays guitar and uke. She was taking piano lessons, playing with our church’s youth ministry worship team, and starting to play gigs at local coffee houses and open mikes. That same year she was asked to lead the music component of the worship time at an inner-city VBS which one of our fellow church family was helping to run.

It dawned on me about mid-May that my daughter had actually put many, many hours, and a lot of passion, into a Music/ Music Ministry course. It only took me to recognize as a course what she was already self-motivated to do. Credit on the transcript!

Lesson: if your kid has interests, there is probably a way to add some academic substance to the hours of self-motivated involvement, and call it a course.

I will probably revisit this topic.  If you have ideas, please share them with everyone!

The Whole World is Delusional and Blind

It’s been a very bad week for popular culture in America. The two top pieces of interest: Josh Duggar and Bruce Jenner. Where do I catch the rocket to Mars?

In neither case is there anybody lookin’ pretty.  Sorry, Bruce.

To all of you saying things like, “You go girl! You look amazing!” I suggest finding the nearest sixty-five year old man and taking a good look. Then tell me honestly that you could jedi mind-trick yourself into believing he was now really, really a hot and glamorous lady.

For all the Photoshop, CG and surgery, you still need to force your mind to do the switch, like the rabbit/duck optical illusion. And that’s what millions are apparently doing.

I do not fault the Duggars for their many children. Having more than two children today in first-world culture requires a kind of actual bravery which few possess or even want. Nor do I criticize their desire to live a home-oriented, traditionally Biblical lifestyle.

But someone took a very bad road when they signed up for the sort of public scrutiny inherent in becoming reality show stars, and took their minor children along for the ride. I guess someone naïve to the point of a vegetative state might have thought that this would be good PR for Christianity.  Because a positive media image is definitely the only thing we need to bring those millions into the kingdom.

I think those parents were forgetting some fundamental apologetics. We are all sinners. The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?….There is none righteous, no, not one.

You may be sure that your sin will find you out.

Did they forget the depth of our depravity? Or did they think they and their children were immune?

All parents are commissioned to make their homes into a place which is safe, private, intimate; a place where loving ,learning, and discipling takes place naturally and un-self-consciously. That calling comes well before the responsibility to “be salt and light” in the questionable manner that the Duggars have chosen.

These children had no chance of a normal childhood. They were burdened with extraordinary pressures to be public representatives of Christianity in real time, in their own home. The world their parents invited in was undeniably hostile to their children, their way of life, their beliefs, their God.

The world was eagerly waiting for one of them to sin.

Yes, to sin, that retro word;  to break a code they themselves care nothing about. The world  wants Christians to sin, to fail to uphold our own beliefs, to violate our God’s commands. Then they can call faithfulness to God irrelevant.

Did the parents think it wouldn’t happen?

Did they forget that young people not yet in possession of self-control (even assuming adults attain such a state) would be under that scrutiny? Did they think they could cover up natural human depravity with cameras rolling? Or did they expect the world to forgive and forget?

The utter glee which greeted the news of Duggar’s history was palpable. Now the popular media and its devotees are going to expose and shame the victims for everyone’s entertainment.

It’s Biblical Christianity which teaches us that we are naturally self-seeking and prone to choosing exactly the wrong road. We cannot forget this, ever.

That the only remedy for our problem is in Christ: repentance, forgiveness, dying to self, reckoning ourselves dead to sin but alive in our identification with Christ.  He took the penalty for our sin; we owe him our lives. Our lives are hidden in His. It’s very humbling.

I think those parents forgot  who we are, who we represent, and especially who our lives belong to.

There is no one coming out of this pretty. The alternative Christian media culture is a ghetto, a separate subculture on the margin of the larger outrageous cesspool culture.  We promote our own media stars. There’s this phenomenon: the woman who’s written an inch-deep “book” (which is usually a paragraph of actual substance and a lot of padding) who we make into a fount of wisdom with a DVD study complete with 90’s style camera coolness.

The poor imitation that the “safe” Christian media dishes out operates in precisely the same way that the secular media does: manufacture stars and teachers who tickle our ears, hype and promote, sell and sell.  Shame on us for feeding at the trough.

But if we can just get the kids at the cool lunch table to notice us, maybe we can bring one person to Christ!!

And let’s be honest. Although one spectacle is supposedly cheered with words which approach worship, and the other spectacle is enduring the fire and brimstone of popular opinion, both are regarded as nothing more than  grotesque circus sideshows in the daily lives of most people.


The Crisis of Meaninglessness

Please bear with my rant.  I’m beginning to panic.

“Our society has set them up.  We raised them on self-esteem, Disney romances and anime.  There is virtually nothing in their popular culture which promotes adult-sized goals or grown-up relationships. We sent them to schools and colleges where they were taught to design a life of single self-determination, like perpetual teenagers. These schools taught them that there is no intrinsic value in anything, and that the family is a man-made construct which has outlived its destructive usefulness. Why are we surprised that they are uninspired to set goals and unmotivated to reach?” ~ Me: A Better Gateway

We need to wake up. Our young adults are failing, wandering aimlessly. Biding their time til the next self-gratifying experience drifts by. We have taught them that that is all there is to their meaningless lives. We’ve done our jobs well.

This is a crisis.  It’s a personal crisis because my husband and I raised our children in a home-centered, family-centered cultural context and expected to have a few grandchildren by now; and none of our kids are even married yet; and we’re getting old!  It’s a societal crisis because most of the couples we know with kids the same age are older than us and there are no grandchildren on their horizons either. Even the few offspring who are married aren’t having kids…at least yet.

Multiply that to encompass our whole postmodern first world culture, east and west, and you have a global crisis. It is an unacknowledged crisis because to say that our carefully planned and handled diva children ought to *gasp* get married, have children, and self-sacrifice to build and cultivate families…to become other-centered, to become submissive to one another, and above all, to eclipse their unique specialness in order to commit to mundane family life …is sociopolitical blasphemy.

Especially offensive is the thought that young women ought to seek their purpose and fulfillment in pouring out their lives for others.  Even worse is the suggestion that the highest and most noble expression of this pouring out would be their own families.

Sadly, the “Christian” subculture market has perpetrated exactly the same paradigm, offered our kids precisely the same self-image.  Sure, they’re earnest about serving, they go on short-term mission trips to  international, sometimes exotic, places. But their week-long look at a less-fortunate world may not lead them to the conclusions we had hoped.

Priority Number One is to complete your career preparation, get that degree. Find your unique special niche in some quasi-Christian-y field and make a difference! So do something safe with the potential for injecting a little Christian culture into it, pursue my expensive hobbies and live my life. Young women, set up your professional ministry life first, then think about looking for a husband, but wait until you’re at least 28! Maybe you should even get married, but your career…your ministry…must be considered before the careful micromanagement of childbearing.

The focus is still on ME.  I’m the center of that totally self-determined universe.  First I have to find out who I am, then I can arrange all the accessories around the circumference.

It’s a first world, upper-middle class, professional vision.  That is its context and origin.

Why don’t we look for the vision for our children’s lives in the Word of God? Don’t we believe that God can communicate with us? Or do we think we had better handle it? Don’t we think God’s model of family will work for us in our enlightened contemporary context?

Isn’t it arrogance of the first order to teach our children that the our present-day cultural context is the best guide for living their lives?  Are we ready for our kids to be truly different, unpopular, out-of-tune with today’s culture?  Do we teach from two opposing textbooks? Surely we preach to them that they should be willing to be different for Jesus…but do we mean it?

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Burying Your Gifts at Home

From about a year ago.

Messages from the Mythical

Are you a SAHM?  Are you wasting your abilities?

I recently heard a speaker on a very popular Christian radio program talking about her career/ministry hybrid.  She stated in passing that she would be burying her gifts if she stayed home.

Are your gifts being buried at home? Can I ask the question only slightly differently?

 Are your God-given gifts being wasted if you don’t have a career or a ministry outside your home?

What are you saying when you say that you have talents and gifts which would be wasted at home? Aren’t you saying:

    To be a wife and mother requires only a basic skill set which nearly every woman has. It’s the default.

     But you have some extra skills or talents which equip you to do something more than being a homemaker, wife and mother.

     That you have special talents that the world…

View original post 1,281 more words

My Kids Make Me Do Things I Don’t Want To

I have said for years that when our aging cat Tommy dies, we will be cat-free. No more pets that don’t live in a tank.

At our house, the rule has always been: no dogs, no snakes, no large bugs. This includes spiders and hermit crabs. Fool me once (the smelly hermit crab). Over the years, we’ve had parakeets, reptiles, fish, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, and cats. All these animals have at least one thing in common. They don’t use a toilet. It sounds terribly selfish, but I was looking forward to a pet-free home.

But now.

My youngest is left with me much of the day, while her five older siblings go out to work or to college, or worse yet (for me), to some fun activity that she’s too young for. There aren’t really many of those, but you’d think so.

So she wants a kitten. And I’m bending.

I do not want a kitten: twenty more years of fur everywhere, randomly deposited vomit, poop in a box, the possibility of poop not in a box…

If it (we) fails at being an “inside” cat…fleas every summer. So it must be an inside cat. We really failed at that before. Oh, and the vet costs, which are financially comparable to human medical costs. Shots, fixing, declawing, shots, shots. We can’t afford human medical bills.

If it (we) fails at being an inside cat, the bill for getting hit by a car and breaking its pelvis.

Or for being swung by its tail, a serious injury leaving the cat needing manual help to empty its bladder.

Or getting mauled by an unknown animal, having to spend six months quarantined in a cage. The medical bill for my husband when its teeth accidentally connect with my husband’s hand while in a biting frenzy to get out of the box while being hauled to the vet.

True stories, every one. Tommy and his mother Isabel. My husband needed a series of rabies shots.

So my vote is: no thanks.

But now.

My daughter is a mostly easygoing, compliant teenager. And that is one welcome quality in this family.

We have been homeschoolers all along. My other children had each other for company. They bounced off each other while I frequently redirected their attention back to the work. It was a tremendous amount of fun. It was an amazingly rich learning experience for us all. It bonded us all together in a way I did not know possible. We developed a unique culture of our own. The kids are very close, though not always harmonious, and will be close all their lives. They are real friends. This, by the way, is the real reason to home educate.

My youngest is five years younger than her next older sister. Though she is an equal emotionally, intellectually, maturity-wise, she is nevertheless just starting high school. So here she will be, with just me, a lot of the time. Just us two homeschooling.

She really is going to miss something great that they had, and I’m bending.

She misses her siblings during the day. To have a kitten would brighten her life.  And she will have the responsibility to take care of it. It would be a source of comfort and amusement every day.  I won’t be immune to the onslaught of cuteness either, once the blasted animal moves in.

My kids have done nothing but make me do things I don’t want to do. The things I do for them.

Update 12/14: The kitten has arrived.  She looks exactly like the ridiculously cute picture at the top of this post, except she seems incredibly tinier, and her mew is so small and high as to be almost inaudible. AWWWW!

A Choice We Don’t Want Americans to Make

The name of my blog has been validated once again. It seems some members of our society really are mythical. Reportedly, you need a fairy-wand if you want a stay-at-home mother, because they probably don’t exist. And we’ve recently been told that we don’t want them anyway.

I could believe what I heard. But to be fair, I played angel’s advocate for a few minutes and tried to imagine what he could really have meant which wasn’t as bad as it sounded.




Nope. There was no way to make what he said mean something innocuous.

With a potentially paradigm-shifting election days away, President Obama pandered in late October 2014,

“And too often, parents have no choice but to put their kids in cheaper daycare, that maybe doesn’t have the kinds of programming that makes a big difference in a child’s development. And then sometimes there just may not be any slots or the best programs may be too far away.
And sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. That’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”

Notice he did not say: “That’s not a choice we want Americans to have to make.” It was an interesting set of words: “That’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”

He presented this option at the end of a descending list of bad options.  As in: This is the worst possible option and only women who are desperate are forced to take it.

Speaking to the generic working woman, the President said that you want a great place to drop your kids off every day that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

And to that generic working woman, this all might sound good if she doesn’t think about it for too long. And a lot of those who’ve bought into the Oppressed First World Woman motif could find themselves feeling thankful that finally some Understanding Government Hero is going to right our slights.

But only in Magic Liberal World can you demand a service which requires highly specialized expertise, competent education and professional commitment which also costs very little. You want high-quality staff, programming that makes a difference in a child’s development…AND you believe you are entitled to have it for very low cost.

You are outraged that our government is not making this happen.

Would you want to be on the other end of that exchange?  Would you like to be the daycare worker who has spent money, time and energy in order to be qualified and then be expected to donate your services at low cost? Aren’t daycare workers entitled to be paid well?

Asking for the service while refusing to consider the reality of the cost is magical thinking. There is no getting around the cost. If someone performs a service, he or she is entitled to be paid for that service. And some one, or many someones, must pay. To deny the workers their compensation would be unfair and unethical, a social injustice of the highest order. How is it possible to imagine that the service ought to be provided but the cost ought not to be required?

Methinks your real estimation of childcare services is showing. It seems like you don’t think it takes a lot of anything to take care of the kids. You really just want to park them somewhere. And you don’t want to pay much for it. Your rhetoric talks the talk that it’s an important job, but your wallet walks the walk that it’s not worth much. We don’t want to pay highly for things we don’t value.

Be honest:  if you really thought the job was highly skilled, noble, cutting-edge, or important, you’d want to do it yourself. Or you would highly compensate those who did it for you–you would want to pay them well, out of your own resources.

I don’t think the President’s pandering to generic people hits its aim much. I don’t think that most women actually ascribe to this stuff. Mr. Obama seems not to have heard that most mothers say that they would a thousand times prefer to be home with their kids if they could only find a way to make the economics work.

Women who work and look hard for the best daycare that they can afford know very well that the tension between staying home with your kids and earning wages is real. Most of them know the real costs to any balancing act, and that compromise means there are costs to every gain. Having it all at the same time is the mythical motif. I don’t think that many women believe in the simple Faustian government solution.

The President is comparing apples and oranges. To equate the dedicated care that happens between a mother and her children with a job-for-hire is addled, manipulative, and shallow.

If caring for children is someone’s job, we should expect job-level care. Expect that the child is seen as a warm body to be maintained and handed back in comparable condition at the end of the work day. Expect the employee childcare worker to leave her job at work when she leaves for home.  Many childcare workers, to their credit, do much more than this. They really care about their charges and take real responsibility.  But that’s an unpaid bonus. You have no business expecting more than what you are paying for.

We expect all sorts of intangibles and ideal benefits and then we want to plunk down minimal wages. This is magical thinking.

Let’s tick down the list of demands for government sponsored childcare: high quality childcare, programming that makes a difference in a child’s development, low cost, government mandated.

Except for the last one, this happens every day in homes where there are mothers and children, working or stay-at-home. Let’s look at just a few of the things a mother does every day.

  • Takes full responsibility for all aspects of the child’s nurture, care, education, training
  • Raises the child with a focus on the long term: his/her future
  • Integrates highly specialized and customized teaching into everyday life from birth through adulthood
  • Does not consider caring for her children a job or a career, but a calling, a vitally important lifestyle of service to her family
  • Performs the service without expectation of actual wages
  • Knows that this calling is inestimably more important and more rewarding than a career, in spite of the fact that it’s also tiring, other-centered, and all-consuming
  • Sacrificially loves the child

I believe the requirements of daycare are met.

By the way, if sending them to daycare costs more than sending them to a public university, the obvious economic option is to skip the daycare and do your own childcare! Thus further validating the growing evidence that second incomes often cost more than they earn.

In our present economic climate, any mother who stays home to be with her children has already made an informed choice based on firmly-held convictions. There are very real sacrifices here. She has calculated the cost, compared it to the gain, and has chosen to be there. She understands the true value of what she’s doing.

The woman who works does all these same things while maintaining a career. When she is away from her children, someone else must be a substitute. She knows better than anyone that no sub can ever be Mom. No sub would be able to do the custom-designed, nuanced, organic care that Mom does. No one would be willing to pour as much interest, engagement, dedication or sacrifice into that task. It’s the living demonstration of a unique relationship between her and her child. She also understands the choice she is making, the losses and the gains, and she is not confusing daycare with mothering.

But I have experience with this confusion. I recently did some temporary childcare in my home for a friend.  I came to understand very quickly that this friend was expecting a lot more than babysitting. She wanted a place for her kids to spend the day…and a teacher to oversee lessons getting done and to time music practice, and a nurse to attend health conditions requiring frequent washing and application of ointment.  There were instructions for how much video was to be permissible for each of three children, requiring me to reinforce her discipline. There were dietary restrictions to follow, and we needed to make sure the youngest had a nap…all while keeping them entertained in an unfamiliar setting for approximately 10 hours.

This woman was expecting a Substitute Mom, but she paid me for child parking. It was nothing resembling enough. How could it be?

There’s a sentence in the President’s speech which puts this into perspective for me; it’s the Bizarro world view which makes it as clear as can be.

“Sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. That’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”

From Backwards World view, a woman who leaves the workforce to care for her children is earning lower wages for the rest of her life. Her career is damaged. She is taking an economic hit.

Like her proper and natural place is the workplace, and it’s unfair that she has to leave it to do something else (less important).

Take note: this is our government’s estimation of parenting.

We don’t want American women to stay home to raise their own children, because it means they will earn less for the rest of their lives. We don’t want people to choose between receiving guaranteed wages and raising their children full-time.

I’m afraid no government will ever possess the power to reconcile the two, but cynical social engineers will count on our hopes that magic wands are wielded by governments.










Vision vs. Seeing

I am on the local train toward my suburban home. I am with my adult son, my third child. I’m thinking about the days when I travelled this same route twice a day to go to my college classes at the art school. It simply cannot be as long ago as it was.
But it’s undeniable, because this son of mine was a far-off dream in those old days, and he’s 24.
My husband and I met in high school and, after some minor bumps in our road, we both knew we were meant to be together. We decided to attend art school together. We were impatient to get married.
We imagined our life together, and our flights of anticipation were based on a vision. All we wanted was to finally get married, eventually have a big old house like the one I grew up in, and have several children. I would probably be a stay-at-home mom. Oh, and we would be very cool artists.
(Notice what is missing from these plans: a solid idea about jobs or careers. But I digress.)

The vision for our future was rather specific. We wanted a house very much like the Victorian-era Arts and Crafts house I lived in as a child, even though it might be much lived-in and in need of a little work. And we wanted to fill that house with six children.

Our vision, our purpose in life, was to be married and raise a family. It seemed the perfect life. It was what was really important. It had everything we could ever want. The how would work itself out.

Vision is crystal clear and very fuzzy. It is specific and general. The important elements are chiseled in stone, but the less detailed variables are taken on faith. We were content to let a whole lot just happen, as long as we had each other, and we shared our vision.

On the train ride, I’m comparing the vision with the hindsight. Have I seen with my eyes what I saw in my vision?

It turns out that the vision we had was remarkably accurate. We graduated from college, we got married and we have had a blessedly successful marriage. We eventually bought a house on the same street as that house I grew up in, and it’s basically the same house.
We have six children, three boys and three girls.

I’m freshly struck with how close the outcome has been to our vision. Could we have made it happen, by hook or by crook?

We did not hold out for these exact specifications; this house fell into our lap at the right time. And the six kids? Believe me when I tell you that we deliberately didn’t micromanage that outcome. I really don’t think we could have arranged this life deliberately.

Could we have made that vision happen? No, but Someone could.

We saw the big things; we let the rest happen.  We learned on the curve as we went along. We saw the important things, and our pre-vision was clear as day. We never doubted and we are living our dream.

But there were things that we did not see in our innocent vision.

In our youthful optimism and energy, we did not see how hard the work would be. Our 20 to 22 year-old selves could not have conceived of the sheer work required to maintain this life, the perseverance required to steward this family.

I did not see how ill-prepared I was for the overwhelming role of motherhood, how badly I would handle those stresses. How I would struggle, vainly for awhile, with being a patient, even-tempered mother.

How that would impact my children.

We did not expect that I would be doing this job while managing a chronic illness.

We certainly could not expect to be given the children that we got.  Let me get the negative-sounding part out before I gush.  They are brilliant, but we live in a fallen world.  They struggle with genetic perfect storms of acronyms which are just debilitating enough to make life interesting, but not enough to make them dysfunctional. You could make the case that even the imperfections serve to make us better people than we’d be without them. Let’s just say they are not boring people, OK?

The house, though we love it, will never be as we’d like to see it.  If only we had the money, we often say, this place would be the most beautiful house ever. That will never be. It will always and forever be in dire need of repair or renovation somewhere. Or almost everywhere. The kids’ rooms will not be done until they are long gone.

The one part we could really have planned, even micromanaged, is the one part we blissfully ignored. We both graduated into adult life with degrees which were as useful as gladiator degrees.  We had no specific plans for how to make a living. To my undying gratitude and admiration, my husband has faithfully and conscientiously persevered at a career he did not plan to be in at all.

Our vision did not include great wealth and financial ease, and that part has been remarkably accurate as well.

There are yet more things our young vision could not predict.

We could not have planned for the truly awesome people that each one of our children are. I watch and believe for the things they will do.

We could not have known or imagined, in a million years, how good marriage can be, and has been.

We have lived enough life to begin to see God’s goodness.  How he really does work all things, not exactly in our personal favor in a superficial sense, but toward a pure unalloyed whole Good which we become participants within.  We receive good reflected back upon us from His perfect Good Work, and that good works its way into our broken lives and resolves things in ways we couldn’t have imagined. And if we are just this side of humble-enough-to-learn, we see that His Good is better than our “good.”

Projects, Pets, and Full Plates

If you are a woman with a child, don’t look for projects. You already have a project that requires all your attention and talent. You already have a built-in full-time career.

We all feel more comfy with tasks or jobs. They come with objective measures for how well the job is done.  The measures tell you when the job is completed and you can move on. These jobs are things to do which have a finishing point, about which we can feel a sense of accomplishment. Things which we can exert our power over and receive no willful resistance. Things for which we receive feedback about our performance from coworkers and superiors.

But if you have children, you have an ongoing task built into your life which calls for different methods. That person, or those people, require that you engage with them, act toward them, behave around them. They require that you constantly acquire wisdom about how to teach and guide them. You need to learn on the job.

This task is never done; it is life-long.

You will receive a lot of resistance to your work. You are struggling with an autonomous being who is your equal in will, and hasn’t yet learned to be master of himself.  He is still learning self-control, other-centeredness, and courtesy. You may have several of these beings to relate to, each different from the others.

There are only subjective and open-ended measures for your work; you can never know whether you are accomplishing your job well. Results are as permanent as sand beneath the waves. In fact, you will probably get the worst resistance and hostility when you are doing your job best.

I understand why women with children opt for careers rather than staying home full-time; in some ways it’s easier.

But I find a puzzling thing among women with and without careers.

Working women with demanding jobs and children find themselves stressed and obsessed with a third task.  It can be a ministry, a demanding pastime, or a demanding pet. The notable thing about these third tasks is that they are optional.

Women who believe that it is preferable to be full-time stay at home mothers, and even homeschool, because that lifestyle allows them to be engaged in their children’s lives…who have chosen to be the primary teachers and disciplers to their children…also find themselves engaged in a third task.  It might be a ministry, a family hobby, or just the need to be involved in the endless opportunities available to a woman who has complete prerogative over her schedule, and who has a car. With these optional tasks, these women are also adding stress and distraction to their already-full plates.

Any and all of those things will crowd out the real eternal task you have in front of you: raising your child. Loving your child takes everything you have.

Raising a child offers little reward in a material sense. Many times you will feel very alone.  You will not feel a sense of accomplishment so much as an awareness of how badly you have done the job compared to how it ought to have been done. You will not be paid or be treated to any system of job reviews. There is no system to provide you with feedback from co-workers or superiors. And you cannot quit this job, ever.

It’s relationship you are tasked with.  Building a relationship with each of the children you have is your responsibility. You are called to it the day your child is born. It’s open-ended, subjective, unpredictable, exhausting, and thankless. It’s humbling and absolutely necessary.

And please don’t mistake pet ownership for relationship. Pets are not eternal beings who will forever be influenced by the quality of your discipling. You are not answerable to Almighty God for how faithfully you lived out your calling to bend them toward a lifetime of faithfulness. Pets do not have an eternal destiny. Preferring pet training to the call of loving and shaping your child is so sad I don’t know where to go with it.