Children Really Need to be in Church!

I’ve posted before about the importance of bringing children to church, from pretty much the moment of their birth on. I was reminded of why this is so important this morning. Even I can be surprised once in a while!

Chickadee was being her normal toddler self in church this morning, while our pastor was preaching on the Gospel text of John 4 about Jesus and the Samaritan woman. She was coloring on the bulletin, climbing on the pew (and falling off of it), and turning pages in the hymnal. Basically, doing anything other than paying attention to the sermon.

Or so I thought.

Suddenly, she looked up and (embarrassingly) shouted, “Drink water!”

She was listening.

She heard our pastor preaching about the Living Water that only Jesus gives, heard him and repeated it. Now, I’m not saying she understood what he was saying. (Because I can’t fully understand how the Holy Spirit works, however, I’m also not willing to say she didn’t understand on some level.) But she was listening, in her own toddler way.

That’s why we bring children, even very young children, as young as possible, to church, instead of leaving them at home or in the nursery, or giving up on church ourselves until they’re older. Because they are hearing, even when it looks like they’re not, and we know, because the Bible tells us, that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

That’s why we’re there every Sunday, even when it’s hard and our children do embarrassing things and it seems like they’re never going to get anything out of the service. Because they are getting the very most important thing out of the service. They are hearing, and their faith is growing.

That’s why our children need to be in church!

Faith Like a Child

Tonight, at bedtime, Turkey looks a me in that very serious way he has and says “I have something important to tell you. It’s something that’s really true.”

Now, I wasn’t sure what to expect next (the use of the word true always makes my mommy radar go up!), so I was a little hesitant as I told him to go ahead.

“Mommy, even if we can’t understand what Moose is saying, there’s one person who always can. God. He knows everything, so he always understands Moose.”

His faith puts mine to shame. I spend a lot of my time worrying about Moose’s future, what he’ll be able to do, if he’ll make friends, and on on, and Turkey just comforts himself knowing that God always understands his little brother, even when Turkey can’t.

Sometimes, the six-year-old understands a lot more than the adult.

“Blue Like Play Dough” Blog Book Tour

blue like play dough

Blue Like Play Dough is a great book for mothers, because it really meets you where you’re at.  The author, Tricia Goyer, shares her experiences from the time she was a pregnant teen, to now, a more settled, yet still occasionally struggling, adult.

As she shared her joys and sorrows in parenting, I found that I could relate to much of what she was saying. Being a mother can be a lonely, demanding job. There are times when you feel like you are drowning, even though there are also times when you feel like you’re on top of the world. You often wonder if you’re doing things right, or if you’re screwing your kids up for life. I think every mother has dealt with these doubts, questions, and feelings of inadequacy at one time or another.

And yet, in the midst of all that, God is always there, guiding you, preparing you for great things. And even if you do make a mess of things, He is there to help you clean it up. And, if you finally let go of *your* plans, you can be open to the wonderful plans God has in store for you!

I found this to be a very uplifting, encouraging book that takes a real, honest look at motherhood, and how God can give us so much more joy in our job than we ever imagined!

My Problem With Santa

OK, to be honest, I have a few problems with the whole Santa thing (which is why we don’t “do” Santa around here). First, all of the qualities of God he’s given.  Omniscient (knows when you’re sleeping, knows if you’ve been good or bad), omnipresent (how else could he possibly deliver all those gifts all over the world in one night?!?), and darn well near omnipotent (how else can you explain the things he does–flying reindeer, world travel, eating all those cookies–sounds pretty close to all-powerful to me!).

Then there’s the fact that I don’t understand why the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior needs anything to be more special or more fun.  I feel this way even more at Easter with the whole Easter Bunny nonsense–because our Savior’s resurrection isn’t good enough on it’s own?  We need a candy and toy delivering bunny to make it better, somehow?  Church holidays should be able to stand on their own without our help, at least I think so.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem teaching my children about the real Saint Nicholas–about his faith in God, and about his generosity to others, which stemmed from that faith.  But, I can’t imagine that if the real Nicholas knew what kind of farce his kindness to children has morphed into, he would be very happy with it.  

But what really steams me is the way parents push the whole Santa thing, which makes me believe it’s really more for them than their children.  Take this quote, for example:

Q: What do you do when your kid asks if Santa is real?  A: Jacob is 7 and Connor is almost 6, so we’ve had this question a lot lately.  I remind them that we believe in some things even if we can’t see them–like how we believe in God.  There are so many heavy, serious things that kids today have to handle–they need a little magic too!”

Now, it’s one thing to play pretend with small children.  It’s not for us, but I (mostly) keep my opinions to myself, and I’m certainly not judging people who do Santa; my own parents did with me.  But the thing is, when I was about seven or so, and asked my mother if Santa was real, she didn’t lie to me, or try to convince me otherwise, she just asked me what I thought, and then I knew.  If you’re going to do Santa, I think that’s the best way to go about it–let your children figure it out on their own, and when they do, accept it, don’t try to convince them otherwise, or make the lie worse, like the mother in the quote above.  She crosses a serious boundry with her response to her children, because not only does she lie to them to try to get them to keep believing (and at an age when her oldest is probably ready and able to discern the truth), she makes a one-to-one comparison to God:  “We believe in some things even if we can’t see them–like how we believe in God.”

Warning!  Warning!  What serious Christian parent could possibly think this answer to a child’s question about the truth of Santa is appropriate or wise?  What happens to that child, when, at the age of eight or nine or whenever, he really does find out the truth about Santa?  Now, we’ve got not only the regular disappointment and potential disillusionment over finding out that your parents have been lying to you your whole life, but also a potential crisis of faith.  I can see it now:  “But mom, you said Santa is just like God; we can’t see either one of them, and I was supposed to still believe.  Now that I know Santa doesn’t exist, maybe God doesn’t either.  And since you lied to me about Santa, why should I believe you about God?”

Now, I’m not saying that every child is going to lose their faith, stop trusting their parents, etc., but if even one does, isn’t that too many?  (And just for the record, I did actually know someone who did have this crisis, and it took him a long time to work through.  That’s what first started me re-thinking the whole Santa thing back in high school.)  Is it really worth it to take that chance when we’re talking about something as serious as faith in the Almighty?  Since when did making Christmas “magical” become more important than nurturing a child’s faith in the One who created him?

I Have a Plan!

So, after spending the last several weeks going through homeschooling catalogs and websites of all kinds, as well as talking to people online, I think I have a plan for this year!

We’re going to start with Sonlight K, but not the newcomer package, because I decided to use A Reason for Handwriting instead of Handwriting Without Tears, which is what comes with the newcomer set. (And how much does all this agonizing I’ve done over handwriting curriculum even matter? Everybody is typing nowadays. But they still need to learn to write properly!) I realize that most people who have tried Handwriting Without Tears have loved it, but I really prefer the more traditional look that is taught in A Reason for Handwriting, and I also like that the practice is done with Bible verses (even it is selections from the Living Bible. *sigh* I’ll have to see how the lessons are presented, and how easy it would be to substitute with the ESV). So, my big challenge is going to be making sure I order everything else that would have come in the newcomer package, just switching out the handwriting materials, and also adding Ready, Set, Go for the Code for additional learning to read help.

I know some people would probably recommend starting with the P 4/5 curriculum, since I’m going to be working with a four and five year old. But I’ve been over both the K and the P 4/5 materials many times, and I really think they would both be bored with the 4/5 stuff. I don’t want to sound like the typical bragging parent, but both of my older children are pretty advanced, which was partly the reason we decided to homeschool, so they could be more challenged, and I think they know most of the stuff from the 4/5 curriculum. I guess at worst we end up stretching out or repeating the K curriculum, but I really don’t think it’s going to be an issue.

As long as homeschooling goes well this year, and I feel comfortable with what I’m doing, I may look into switching out other parts of the curriculum. Not the core, obviously, because that’s the best part of Sonlight–all of the reading, and the natural learning method as far as history, geography, etc., goes. In the future, though, especially if I actually get to a curriculum fair, I think I may want to try Apologia for science (maybe starting at grade two, so I can do the astronomy, botany, and three zoology texts before general science hits in seventh grade), because I always loved science in grade school (and high school and college for that matter, except for physics, but that’s a whole other story!) and the Apologia curriculum looks really cool!

I’m also hoping to get a chance to compare Saxon math to the Horizons curriculum that Sonlight recommends, because I know it’s a tried and true method, and a lot of homeschoolers use it, so I figure I should at least check it out. Hopefully I can make that decision before we start grade one next year–that way I won’t end up doubling up on manipulatives sets (I know I could put together my own, but that idea is still intimidating to a new homeschooler like me!).

Eventually I know I’m going to want to move away from the religion that Sonlight provides, as well. I’m already adding the Lutheran Children’s ESV to our materials for this year, to beef up the Bible curriculum that they provide, and maybe some Arch books, too. I’m OK with Sonlight’s offerings (supplemented by CPH material) up through about grade two or three, but then they A.) start using Bible translations I’m not fond of, and 2.) start teaching some stuff that could be contradictory to Lutheran theology, at least from what I can tell so far. I can always fall back on CPH’s dayschool religion curriculum or *gasp* prepare my own–I was a DCE before children, after all, so if there’s anything I should be able to create on my own, that would be it!

The reading, read-alouds and Language Arts all look good to me, so no worries about replacing those. The electives look pretty good, too–certainly more about music and art appreciation than I ever learned in the early elementary years. And while I’m not using Sonlight’s number one recommendation for handwriting, and I may decide on different math and science, all of those materials are still available to order through Sonlight (and I think still eligible for the member discount), so except for the religion materials, it appears I can keep all of my business in one place. Very convenient!

I’m most excited about Sonlight’s core, though–I can’t believe how much we’ll be reading! I think I’ve looked at the book lists for almost every grade, and there are so many familiar books from my childhood that I can’t wait to share with my children. And I love the way they use “real” books to teach history, instead of just dry textbooks. I know I remember much more from the stories I read as a child, whether they were true, or just entertaining fiction, than I do from any textbook I read. I know this isn’t the only way of learning, but it is the one that makes the most sense to me, so I’m especially happy Sonlight has put together such a nice curriculum for me–I wouldn’t even know where to start doing this on my own!

I can’t believe we’ve actually made the decision to homeschool. I certainly never saw myself as a homeschooling parent. Then again, our family has always been a little unorthodox, so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised that this seems to be such a good fit for us–we’re good at going against the grain! I’m especially grateful to my husband, because he was obviously listening to me, (at times when I didn’t even realize I was talking!), and was open minded enough not only to consider this, but to actually do a complete 180 on his opinions on homeschooling. I never even would have seriously considered homeschooling without his support, but I feel that with God calling me to do this, and Ryan’s encouragement, I’ve been set free to do something I always wanted to do, without even really knowing it at the time.

Homeschooling?!?

I never thought I’d be the type of parent to consider homeschooling. I’ve never had a problem with it, it’s fine for other families, just figured it was something that wouldn’t really work out for us. Ever since we registered our oldest for Kindergarten, though, I’ve felt this growing sense of trepidation. Not about him leaving me (although I’ve thought about the tears I will shed that first day of school!), but about what kind of things he’ll learn at school. And not just picking up stuff from the other children that I’d rather he not be exposed to. I’m worried about the stuff he would actually be taught.

First of all, I really don’t want my children being taught evolution. I don’t mind them knowing the theory is out there, but I don’t want them learning it as truth. I 100% believe in Creationism, and I fully intend to teach that to my children. But if the school system isn’t on board with that, I’m going to spend time that would be better used elsewhere trying to undo their teachings. And evolution will trickle down into other subjects besides science. Things like history and biology will also be affected.

Then there are “family life” units that I really have a heavy heart about. I feel that it is my responsibility to teach my children what a family is, based on the Biblical perspective. Again, I don’t want a public school curriculum mucking up what I’m trying to instill at home.

Sex ed is another concern along those lines. I really don’t think the school system needs to be teaching that. Now, I realize that schools teach it because so many parents are hesitant to, but I’m not other parents, and I want my children learning those things from their parents, not from people who may have very different ideas from me as to what is appropriate sexuality.

The general teaching of morality is also a concern in the public system. Again, I want to instill morals in my children, morals which are all traced back to my faith. I don’t need a school system to do that for me.

I don’t how many of these things are a concern right now where I live. But I have heard horror stories from school districts around the country, and I know it’s only a matter of time before that kind of mentality seeps in everywhere. Public schools have changed so much, even from the time I was a child (although I didn’t attend one), so I know they will continue to change, and probably not for the better.

The really weird part about all of this, is that while I was going through all of these arguments with myself in my head, I was apparently also talking about them at home, without even realizing it. And now, all of the sudden, my husband, who has always been pretty opposed to homeschooling, is also thinking that this may be the best solution for our family, as long as we don’t have a Lutheran dayschool in our area and/or that we can afford. I’m really getting the feeling that maybe this is what God wants us to be doing, because we sure didn’t come up with this plan on our own!

Here’s the other thing–I want my children to continue to be who they are. They love drawing pictures of church, talking about church, talking about Jesus, reading Bible stories. On the one hand, I know my children could be a good witness to the Gospel because they are so outspoken with their child-like faith. On the other hand, I don’t want their faith to be crushed when they’re told that they can’t talk about those things in class, maybe can’t even draw pictures relating to their faith (I just read a news story addressing this very issue–something else that contributed to my heavy heart).

And the issue of holidays. For example, we don’t do Halloween at all. We’ll celebrate fall with a trip to the pumpkin patch, but we don’t carve those pumpkins. No dressing up (we can do that other days), no trick or treating (what a great idea–go beg food off of strangers on a threat, and overdo it on sugary snacks!), etc. Public schools (and some Christian schools, I know) make a big deal out of this day. Or, on the other hand, Christmas. Public schools can’t focus at all on the true meaning of Christmas–no hymns, no Christmas story, no baby Jesus. But the secular stuff–songs, Santa, presents–that they’ll over-emphasize. Well, we don’t do Santa either, and I’ve already spent the last five years trying to make sure that the focus of our celebration is Jesus; I’d really rather no have to undo all my efforts when teachers and classmates talk about Santa all the month of December. And the same kind of thing goes for Easter and the ridiculous story of the Easter bunny. Let’s face it, we’re the kind of family that is going to have angry parents beating our door down because our child told their child that Santa isn’t real. (And no, I would never tell my children to do that–I try to be very respectful of that tradition, even though I disagree with it, but my children can be honest to a fault!)

My children just love Jesus so much–I just want to continue to encourage that in them and help it grow, and I really think the best way I can do that is by choosing what they learn, what curriculum they use, and teach it to them myself. Who has their best interest at heart more than I do? And wouldn’t the one on one time I could give them be much better than being lost in a classroom full of students, all with differing needs? And, I can personalize the lessons to them–help them learn more about the things they’re really interested in, help them work on the stuff that gives them trouble.

I know it won’t be easy. Part of me was looking forward to the oldest two being in Kindergarten and Pre-K half days this fall–being able to run errands during the day with only two children in tow had it’s appeal. And it’s going to be expensive. The curriculum I’m looking at right now will run about $800 for the year–that’s about a quarter of what a Lutheran dayschool tuition would cost, but still a lot more than public school. But looking at the curriculum, I can’t help but be excited. Our faith can be present in all of the subjects, from reading to science, to the Bible lessons we’ll do daily. We’ll be able to look at things from a Creationism perspective, read Bible stories, learn about the true meaning of Christian (and maybe Jewish) holidays. When we do calendar in the morning, we can do both the date and look at the liturgical calendar. It’s so exciting to think of all the ways we’ll be able to include God in our daily lessons!

On the other hand, the curriculum I’m looking at also uses secular material, which I’m happy about. I don’t want to isolate my children from the outside world, I just want to filter it a bit. We’d read books I remember reading as a child, have regular language arts, math, etc. Eventually, they’d also be introduced to the theory of evolution, which is fine by me, but it would not be presented as the truth.

I think I could do this successfully (do I sound like I’m trying to convince myself?). I was an early childhood ed major at one point, and had I the wisdom in college that I do now as an adult (well, at least I have a little more wisdom now than I did then!) I would have stood up for myself and would probably have my teaching degree. Hindsight is 20/20, and I didn’t have the courage to stand up for myself then, so I didn’t finish the education track, but as a DCE, I do still have some experience in that area. Teaching is not without it’s challenges, but I think that I am up to that challenge.

Despite my past reluctance, homeschooling is really beginning to look like a win-win situation (financial investments aside!). Hopefully, we’ll be able to make a decision for sure soon, and then I can start planning.