Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Lost Metaphors: Are you salty??

Today is a quick look at salt - not exhaustive.  Of course, something broke around here to help illustrate the point.  Normally, it breaks after my post, but this needed to break before so that I could understand just how important SALT is.  I am not going to cover all of the uses and value of salt - but here is one that you probably haven't thought about too much. 

A few weeks ago our water softener broke.  We have a bunch of salt on our garage floor (probably wearing it away) and hard water in our pipes now.  In south Texas we have HARD water.  The kind that clogs up lines, can break down machines, leaves remnants on everything so clean glasses look dirty.  It is obvious when the salt isn't there.  I honestly don't know what the salt does, but something magical apparently. 

 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.   Matthew 5:13 

So the question is, if you are the salt of the world, does your part of the world get gunked up when you aren't around?  Are you speaking truth and life so that people can have clear lines of communication with each other and God?  Are you helping people who are breaking down?  Are you with people in the mess of life? 

A little bit of salt does a lot of good for our pipes.  Without salty people in our lives we can tell something is wrong, but we can't always identify what it is.  We need people who speak truth, life, challenge and love to us.  We need those who comfort and are present with us in the midst of the junk or our lives.  No, you probably can't fix it.  That's not the point of the salt.  The point of the salt is to help keep further problems from happening.  Those that stem from guilt, fear, unforgiveness, disdain, distance.  Salt can help make sure that there aren't further breakdowns and a long lasting residue as a result of the trials and difficulties of life.  The salt helps clear out the lines, lend an ear, speak a prayer, encourage forgiveness and more instead of letting the residue of sin build up and break down. 

Salt will NEVER be able to fix the problem but without it problems get a lot worse.

Stay salty!!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Fortresses, not Bubbles, for our kids

Happy New Year!!! 

Last year my word was SHED and it happened -  let me tell you!   It wasn't easy to let go, but it was good. 

My word for this year is REFUGE.  

I honestly have no idea what to think about that.  Am I to be a refuge?  Will I need to take refuge?  I just don't know - we shall see.  This I do know - this verse is in my thoughts constantly:

Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress,
    and for their children it will be a refuge.   Proverbs 14:26 

It just hits me in so many ways.  I have walked in fear of the wrong thing- sometimes without realizing it - for long stretches of my life.  That was one thing God helped me shed last year.  It is easier to let go of something if you have a new thought pattern or habit to help you move forward.  This one tells me where to direct that fear - towards the Lord.  Not necessarily in an "angry God" kind of way, although sometimes we need that too; but in a putting God in his rightful place - awe, wonder, majesty, grace, love.  Be overwhelmed by that this year - for your sake and for your kids!   

Look back up at Proverbs, did you see what that fear does?  It builds a fortress!  You need a fortress when you are in a battle.  We are hoping that building a bubble around our kids will keep them safe.  People, bubbles burst - they need a fortress!!  The goal of parenting is to release them into the world.  Spoiler alert - the world is not safe - it is yucky, hard, unpredictable, and just tough.  It is wise to keep them safe for a time (apps, friends, limits, etc.); however, they are going to need more than that.  They are watching to see what to do when the bubble bursts. Where do you turn when yuck happens?  When the hard comes?  Do you go to Facebook? a real book? google the problem? drink, drugs? food? video games and TV shows? crafting? a friend or parent? ignore it and hope for the best? run away? anger? fear? offer platitudes? work harder? All of these (might) have their place, but if they don't see us crack a Bible, pray for help, cry a little, get a bit of righteous anger going on, read Psalms for comfort and strength, ask friends to pray with us - they will not know they can turn to God with the yuck.  They will find refuge in the WRONG things - not a secure fortress but shifting sand and unsteady waves.  They will lead bubble lives - ready to pop any second.  

Promises like this help: 

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.    Romans 8:38

As you read that, did you remember whose you are?  That's the kind of "fear" we want - the overwhelming grip of God's love on our kid's lives and our own.  This truth builds a fortress, not a bubble.  Let life come at you because you are part of the eternal story of the God of the universe and you are secure in him alone.  Here's the deal.  We need refuge; they will need refuge.  This world is not getting easier to live in.  However, when we live in the fear of the Lord, when (not if) we are afraid we will turn to him - because he is bigger than ALL of this mess! That's the hope we can hold out to our children.  That's the Gospel - the good news - Jesus lived this crazy life too - he gets it and HE OVERCAME IT ALL - yes that's what the resurrection means.  In fact, Jesus is interceding for them as their advocate at the right hand of the Father (Romans 8:34).  What better refuge is there????  There is an accuser - but it is not God. 

Are you building a secure fortress by showing them where to flee - into His word, into the fellowship of believers, to the throne of God?  

Where are you teaching them to run in times of trouble?  

In my house we have a print of this picture: 


It's Rembrandt's "The Return of the Prodigal Son".   That's what I want for my kids.  If they find themselves eating slop with the pigs, I want them to remember their good Father God who is WATCHING for them to return home and RUNS to welcome them back.  One shoe on and one shoe off - he embraces them and celebrates their return. If their friends end up in the slop - I hope that they can usher them back to a loving father as well.  I want to add, that the older brother isn't better.  He doesn't understand the love of the father in the story and maybe ever.  Kids who are dutiful but don't know their father well enough to ask for a fatted calf lack a refuge as well. They may look better, but they have built their own fortress - pride, judgement, disdain, achievement - it's a culturally acceptable bubble and it will burst. 

May we build ourselves up in the word this year, so that our fear of the Lord may serve as a refuge for our children.  Praying that this year we will be fortress builders, not bubble builders. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Lost Metaphors: The Word

I write this one with a bit of fear.  When I wrote about living water, we inexplicable lost our water for part of a day (honestly, first world problems).  Then, I wrote about light.  Well we had a SNOW storm in SAN ANTONIO and had 4 extra house guests and lost all our power - lights.  We learned we need to get some flashlights and hide them from our children.  So, as I write about the WORD who knows what will happen (we have already had laryngitis around here - so maybe??).

Earlier this year my husband brought home the book The Kingdom of Speech.   Tom Wolfe is not a "Christian author" and the lessons I drew from his writing are the opposite of his own conclusions.  It was exactly because it wasn't his intention to point to faith, but so clearly did, that made it so fascinating.

The first part of the book discusses the questionable tale and morality of Darwin as he published the Origin of the Species.  Why did it take almost 20 years?  Why did he publish it just as someone else out in the field "discovered" the same idea?  Then he moves into the difficulty that Darwin had in explaining the origin of speech and how it "evolved".  As he says, "The inexplicable power of the Word - speech, language - was driving him (Darwin) crazy."  The way Wolfe portrays it you get the impression that Darwin just guessed to fill in that blank - somehow our speech evolved from bird calls.  Wolfe continues showing that for decades no one could really explain this question. Evolutionists buried it.  Until, Noam Chomsky came along in the 1950s. 

Wolfe is not kind to Noam Chomsky and his thoughts about language development.  Chomsky introduced the nativist understanding that explained there is some innate language structure within all of us.  For five decades Chomsky's assumptions reigned.  He couldn't show you this structure or explain how it got there, but all languages fit certain patterns and criteria and so it has to be there.  Right??  Until . . .

there was a missionary in deepest Brazil at the end of the 20th century (crazy stories - I want to read his account in Don't Sleep, There are Snakes).  The missionary had been sent out to help translate the Bible into the native tongue- so he was a linguist.  However, the people group he met had a language that defied all the norms - including the norms that Noam Chomsky had explained were universal and innate to all people.  Their language was so primitive it didn't have future tense or numbers.  Professors came into study it and found it was true. Chomsky's explanation, that had reigned since the 1960s, was blown and really all of man's best thoughts about language.  So, a missionary upended the best thought about speech and language man had.  (Spoiler - the missionary loses his faith in this journey as well)

That brings us to the present day.  Last year, 2016, Wolfe found an article which he sums up this way: 
It seems that eight heavyweight Evolutionists - linguists, biologists, anthropologists, and computer scientists - had published an article announcing they were giving up , throwing in the towel, folding, crapping out when it came to the question of where speech - language - comes from and how it works. 
Harvard, Cambridge and MIT admit they have learned nothing about this issue.  In the past 150 years, since Darwin's work, we discovered DNA, rocketed to the moon and much more; yet, the best scientists still can't explain where language comes from!?  

This is the point where Wolfe and I walk different paths.  Wolfe explains how he believes that language is the first "kingdom" or a cultural construct.  It is the first thing humans made.  Honestly, his explanation was fairly far fetched for me because all I could think was
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1
and here
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.   John 1:14
and here

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. Genesis 1:3
God didn't think it - he spoke it.

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.

1 Corinthians 1:27
So, the question remains - where does speech and language come from?  Science clearly can't tell you.  You can take a leap of faith into cultural constructs, but I will trust in the word of God.   This coming year, may we be those who receive the word who became flesh, allow God to have ways and mysteries higher than ours, and speak his words of truth as his image bearers in the world.

Merry Christmas!!     

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Family PACE: Activities

I thought I could squish activities and academics together - but I can't.  I know, it feels like I am delaying on the "main thing" - academics.  However, your home atmosphere and activities provide a rich education and we often forget or downplay their role.

Activities can include hobbies, athletics, arts, music, dance, drama, etc.  Many of these things were part of a school curricula years ago but are no longer included.  Often, because they aren't a core function of the school we believe they are less important - but they are not.  For some children they will become their life focus, while others will always enjoy them as a hobby.  Helping your child find meaningful activities plays a crucial role in their development and social realm.   The role of these activities and their connection to the school change as students move from elementary school into middle and high school.  Today we will consider activities for your elementary aged student.

Typical we choose activities for one of two reasons:

1.  They develop a skill we want our children to have, enjoy and potentially master.  Any word that you can add the suffix -ing to is a skill.  Swimming, running, drawing, writing, acting, etc.  Skills need clear instruction, fun, time and practice to develop. 

2.  They provide a type of relationship - mentor/coach, group or team - that we want our child to grow from experiencing.

Crucially, they often help develop character.  Many of these experiences teach diligence, patience, perseverance, teamwork, how to win, how to lose, how to fail and more.  These lessons are often better taught through activities than their academic courses! 

Elementary Aged Children

Look at the picture of your child that you drew a few weeks ago.  What skills did you want them to develop?  What relationships did you want them to be involved in?  When is the child developmentally ready to learn this skill?  There is something to be said for exposure - but that doesn't always mean a 45 minute class.  For elementary aged kids exposure can look like:

   - listening to classical music in the car or getting a CD that talks about the life of a composer with some of his great works

   - drawing together from an art book a few times a week or trying different mediums (clay, paint, etc.)

   - playing catch or shooting baskets at your house (here is an article about the average age most kids can really feel successful in team sports)

   - letting a parent or friend share a hobby with a child - music, art, sewing, etc.

   - serving together at a local nursing home, food bank or other place

   - looking at famous pieces of art together and talking about them - even just 10 minutes a week

   - taking a nature walk and learning more about what you see. 

   - choosing fiction and non-fiction (science, history, math) books to read aloud or listen to as a family

You can't do it all - if you have practice 4 nights a week it will be difficult to have a regular family dinner.  What is more important at this age?  Look at that top priority.  Are your activities contributing to that?  How many activities are reasonable to include in your schedule?  In our attempt at exposure beware of over scheduling.  Children need creative play, without adult direction, to help them learn more about themselves and relationships with others.  If they are in school 7 to 8 hours a day - they have already had quite a bit of structured time in their day.  Reading, day dreaming, messing around with art supplies, making up silly games, building forts and being "bored" are legitimate activities for an elementary aged student.  Can you create a home atmosphere that encourages enough exposure for the age and skill level for your children?  Is it possible that the school you choose covers some of these areas for you? 

Once you've determined activities that do require outside coaching and support there are three main issues that pop up:

1.  Cost - Can you truly afford this?  Is this the time (season of life or developmental stage of your child) to invest in this skill to bring the growth that you want?  Will your child successfully learn from a mentor/ coach or team situation? Is this a long term investment or just a passing interest? 

2. Time - What could your child be doing instead of this activity?  How much time should your child invest in this activity?  Is this a life long skill or just a passion for a little while?   Is your child developmentally ready to participate well in this activity?  Is there time in the schedule (homework, chores, other commitments) to do this activity well? 

3.  Distance - Often the activity might last 45 minutes, but with traffic it becomes an hour and half of your evening (at least in a big city).   There are ways to redeem time in the car (conversation, what you listen to - music, stories or podcasts, who is in the car with you, etc.) but you might need to be intentional about that time.  How far are you willing to drive?  Will you do this over the long term or for a season?  Should you pick something more convenient to home (or work) even if it isn't as "high quality" as another place?

Hopefully, from your PURPOSE and PRIORITY you had an idea of the type of activities you want your child involved in to help them develop more fully.  You are now considering ways your home atmosphere can expose them to these areas.  If you want to take it to the next level you need to consider the cost, time and distance to gauge if this particular activity is a good fit for your family. 

There are a few different ways that people work around these issues in the elementary years:

1.  Everybody does the same thing.  The family picks an activity and EVERYBODY does it (swimming, tae kwon do, piano lessons, etc.).

2.  Just pick one.  Some families only allow their child to pick one activity a season (or semester).  That way the student is pursuing their interest but it isn't overwhelming the schedule.

3.  Wait.  Some families choose to wait until children are older (3rd grade or above) to involve them in outside activities.  They feel that they can meet most of the needs for their young child's exposure at home.

4.  Wear them Out.  Others decide that the want to keep their child as active as possible with as many choices as possible and that is their priority.  They try many things at once and see what the child enjoys.  

5.  Trade.  Other families find friends who have talents they don't have and trade.  I'll teach your child beginning piano if you can teach mine the fundamentals of basketball. 

Be creative about exposure and relationship building during these younger years.  You want to make sure your child has time to rest, relax and recharge, but also enjoys different activities to get a sense of their own interests and abilities.  We don't want kids to be worn out by the time they reach 10 years old.  We also only have a short season to develop what "home" means to them.  Be thoughtful about how you spend these first 10 or 11 years with your children.  In the middle of it, it can seem like FOREVER, but honestly, it passes quickly.  What activities will they grow from and develop life long lessons, skills and relationships through?  Invest in that!

Next time we will discuss activities in middle and high school.  

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Family PACE: Atmosphere

Last week we tackled PURPOSE and PRIORITY.  This created an ideal framework for your child's education. We made some tough decisions (uh oh - things had to die) as we developed a picture of what you hope your educated child will be like, a slogan/ motto or mission statement and a few priorities.   We can't have it all, but when we intentionally pursue what is most important; we might end up with more than we expected.  Today we are going to move from the ideal to the practical.

First, a little sociology.  Bowling Alone was an influential book that discussed social groups and their impact on us (full disclosure- I have not read this whole book).  In the book, the author argues  that we can only maintain 3 social networks at a time.  As adults, typically, this is our work, home and one other (athletics, church, Kiwanis, etc.).  For children the three areas are often: home, school and an activity.  Now, I have tried to maintain many more than this number, it doesn't work long term!  So, first thing, you can only handle so many activities and social groups- well - at once.     

From this, I think we can safely say we have three avenues to help us achieve our mission and fulfill our educational priorities:

Atmosphere - roughly your home and family life
Academics  - the schooling option your child participates in
Activities - that "3rd area" of life - whether it is an extracurricular at school, special lessons, your church, athletics, service club, etc.

Even if we are limited by location, jobs, school districts, etc. in our "educational" choices - we always have choices within our own home. I think once our child hits school age we think of the schools and activities providing the bulk of our child's education.  However, most of what they become is caught not taught and much of that is from you - their parents.  You are their educational manager.  How are you using these three areas to support your priorities and goals for them?

Today, I just want to focus on atmosphere in the home.    

Atmosphere is really about the feel, priorities and habits of your home.  Reality check - how is your home atmosphere contributing to your priorities and ultimate goals?  Do you give time, money, resources and invest in the things that you have identified as priorities?  I will use some ridiculous exaggerations to help you identify a mismatch of atmosphere and priorities.

  • Someone who claims bilingual education is a priority but never speaks, listens to or attempts to read the second language in the home.  Guess what really happens in that atmosphere?              
  • "Passing on your faith" might be your priority.  If you don't read, pray or follow many of the traditions of your faith; your atmosphere isn't supporting that pursuit.  Your third "community" might be your church, but your home life isn't instilling basics of the faith.   What are your children really being taught in this situation?         
  • Another family hopes to instill a "family first" feel in their children.  However, they rarely have dinner together, haven't taken a vacation together in years and generally allow children to choose and follow their own passions - even if that means no one is ever home together. You may be saying "family first" but your lifestyle screams "pursue your own dream". 
  • Maybe, you want your children to love reading.  However, by the end of the day it is easier for everyone to spend time in front of a screen.  You might read a book together to complete their homework; but, there aren't any family read alouds.  Your children rarely see you reading a book.  Are your actions promoting a love of reading?  

You get the point. Your home life - atmosphere - is the area you have the MOST control over.  Are you using it to help your child's education?

Another consideration is what things MUST be learned in the home?  Basic life skills like cooking, cleaning and mowing the lawn are part of family life.  Is your child learning these things?  Maybe you didn't even think about the everyday skills as a part of their education - but they aren't taking home ec and shop these days- that falls on you (or the activities you choose).  Are you giving them time to learn these skills?  

Okay, look back at those priorities from last week. Get out another sheet of paper and fold it into fourths.  Draw a capital letter T in each of the sections.  In the top left quadrant write your #1 priority above the line at the top of the T.  Now, on the left side of that line list the things that you are CURRENTLY doing in your family to support that goal.  On the right side, BRAINSTORM thoughts about what you could be doing to move towards that priority. Once you have worked through that priority, write your next priority in the T in the upper right hand quadrant and do the same.  Continue until you have covered all the priorities you want to consider.  You might want to add a "life skills" section for yourself - it wasn't a priority for a school based education - but if we are considering all of life - you need to include it.  Wow!! You have lots of ideas about how you already are supporting your priorities and ways you can be more intentional. 

I have no desire to create extra "to dos" in your day.  Honestly, my hope is to free you from the tyranny of suggestions. Instead of trying to chase after every good idea that comes your way, choosing some basic family habits and practices tied to your priorities and goals can multiply your time and impact. Celebrate the ways you are already being intentional and be thoughtful about what you add (or subtract) from your day.

Please remember that little by little lays a better foundation.  It is nice to have those great memorable experiences (vacations, special events, holidays), but I am talking more about daily living together.  We also start optimistic and want to do it all at once (at least I do). As you look at your T-charts you might be a bit overwhelmed.  I encourage you to pick ONE priority and ONE brainstorm idea and add it to your schedule this MONTH.  YES, that simple.  If you add one new habit, pattern or change a month you will have built 12 new ways of interacting directly tied to your educational goals in a year!   You can also build on your success and celebrate doing one thing well, instead of getting lost in too much change. Here are some quick thoughts:

  • Read a chapter a day (or even a week) of a book for fun 
  • Speak in a foreign language during dinner (or if your kids are young, during bath time)
  • Carve out a consistent time to practice athletic skills/ conditioning, instrument, writing, art, etc.
  • Pick a place to serve as a family once a month.  
  • Walk around the block as a family a few times a week. 
  • Make a "homework" space that serves your child's needs or that supports his interests/ hobbies
  • Commit to dinner together a certain number of times a week 
  • Create an "art" space in your house with supplies
  • Draw or color while listening to music one night a week before bed - everyone 
  • Cook one meal a week together
  • Turn off the radio or TV in the car and talk - even just one day a week 
  • Set up an interview with someone in a subject area she enjoys
  • Listen to an educational podcast or book on CD or streamed in the car  
  • Set up that "launch" pad area to help everyone get ready for school 
  • Teach your child how to use a calendar or day planner to schedule their life (11 yo and above) 
  • Find ways to host friends at your house regularly
  • Make it a habit to look up questions when they arise
  • Listen to questions and ask more questions in response 

Be creative as you consider ways to encourage your educational goals in the home.  Much of education is about formation - not just information.  The work, conversation and expectations in your home are formative and your child learns patterns of being from living in your home. Take this week to explore how your family habits and routines are supporting your priorities and goals.  Admittedly, your home can't do it all - so that's why we will talk about academics and activities next time. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Family PACE: Priority

On Tuesday we discussed PURPOSE and started drawing a picture of what we hope for our children.  Additionally, we thought about a slogan or mission statement to help keep that vision in front of us as we make choices about education. What is the big picture?  What is the destination we are heading towards? If you want an example of a slogan "Be Nice. Work Hard" is a slogan for a school in our area.

If purpose speaks to destination, priorities are the landmarks we hope to hit along the way.  They are the key areas that will help get us to the purpose we imagine.  Let's be honest - some of us try to travel as fast as possible to get to our destination; while others linger in every small town.  Both will get you there - but it is a different approach.  Priorities help you figure out your approach.

Start by brainstorming a list of all the things that are important for you in your child's education.  This might be a long list - what are the things you hope they experience, learn, grow from as they move along the education highway?  I think most of us realize that this is a lifelong journey. It shouldn't end when we stop getting grades. What will help ensure this is your child's experience of learning?  

Here are a few priorities to get you started:

community - faith based, neighborhood, activity group, team, band geek, orchestra, other
bilingual - from a young age, in high school
a passion or skill (some of them are found separately in this list)
STEM - engineering, medical, etc.
arts focus - music, fine arts, visual arts, other
faith based - passing on faith
finding mentors in a craft or skill
athletics - for fun, competitive, physical fitness
college bound - AP, IB, CLEP
philosophy driven - classical, Montessori, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, Problem Based Learning, unschooling, leadership education, etc.
family centered life
independent or group learning
environmental concern
play based
interest based - student led
nature and time outside
family dinner
heavy or light homework
special needs - academic, behavioral, physical
great literature - a book/ read aloud culture
better late than early
early academic focus
history emphasis 

This is clearly not exhaustive, but it gives you a start.  Add what is important to you and cross out the ones that aren't.  Now, the tough part.  Technically, we have done a disservice by creating the word priorities - you can only have one priority - it is a singular word.  Yes, I said it.  ONE!!  Do your best to pick the one overarching priority.  This is the essential thing that you want every child in your home to have once they have run the marathon of education.  In some ways, this is crucial to your family make up - EVERYONE needs to know this to be well educated in your family. This is the non-negotiable thing. What is it?

Okay, I'll cut you some slack - pick the 3 most important areas.  As you look at the list you might think some of these don't have much to do with school - but really we are talking about their whole education and schooling is only a piece.

If it is too difficult to pick just 3 - you can cheat.

Do it by age spans.  
What are your priorities when your child is K-3rd grade, 4th to 6th grade, 7th to 8th grade and then in high school?   Possibly the K-6th and 7th to 12th grade is sufficient. (Here are my priorities in K- 3rd grade).  It might be easier to do it that way because the focus does naturally shift over time.  

Do it by child.
All children are different and I get that. What are the key areas for each of your children?

I always like a visual.  These are the foundational pieces of what it means to be educated to your family. Create building blocks, a tower, pyramid, step ladder, stairs, etc. that helps you visualize this building process.  You might want to put your overarching priority at the top and the others underneath.  Maybe you want to add your slogan.  Make it meaningful to you.  Drawing does help you think differently!   
Whew!!  You now have a long term picture and slogan and a set of priorities for your family.  This is GOOD stuff.

I know it seems a little vague - did we step back too far?  We know we can't get our ideal so is it worth considering?  YES!   If you take a quick look at your priorities you can already start eliminating options.  It may just confirm decisions you have already made, choices that weren't even options for you - but celebrate that you are already making choices.

When you see the barrage of options - local school, in district transfer, in district charter or magnet, local charter, private school, philosophy driven private school, faith based school, coop, homeschool academy, university model school, home schooling, umbrella school, online schooling, unschooling and more - you have a map.  Does this type of education support our purpose?  Will it include at least some of our priorities?  Again, compromise will probably happen - but now you have a better idea of what can go and what is most important to keep. We can't have it all - especially at once - but we can make choices that bring us peace because they are in keeping with our purpose and priority. 

It is possible that what you feel is most important is NOT something that the school can provide or only certain schools can provide.  Schools are only part of the package of educating our child and this is where I remind you that you are your child's educational manager.  To expect one teacher or institution to provide ALL of these needs is ridiculous (even if you are homeschooling)!  That is the road to crazy town.  So, our next step is to consider the 3 A's - Academics, Activities and Atmosphere.  Now that you have a mission statement and some key priorities - how can we take these ambitions and dreams and use them to make short term decisions?  Join us next week.

Share your priorities below only if you promise NOT TO COMPARE!  Each family and child is different and there is not a right answer to this question.  We are looking for the best fit.  I look forward to hearing what is crucial to you all.  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Family PACE: Purpose

If we are going to run the marathon of raising and educating our kids - we need some type of map.  At one time the map was to go to the school near you.  If you wanted, you might have picked your district to get a better school. The landscape has significantly changed.  Many choices have been introduced - but how do we make the ones that are right for us and our family.  If you don't know where you are going then it doesn't matter which road you take.  However, having a purpose or goal (even if it is somewhat nebulous) can help set you on the right road, doing the best you can with what you know. 

Spoiler Alerts

1.  You can't see the end from the beginning - but you can set out in the best direction.  The high school I graduated from didn't exist when I started kindergarten (plus we moved).  You just don't know what will happen on the path of life.

2.  There are limitations.  Yes, sorry to say that finances, family situations, distance, moves and real life will limit you. I don't think it is a bad thing - but in the moment it can be frustrating.  It can also encourage some creativity.

3.  Things change.  Sometimes your purpose shifts as you learn more about yourself and your kids.  Life altering craziness happens!  At times it makes us stick to our guns and other times it causes us to totally rethink our path.  Either one is okay!   Our goal is to be reflective - not perfect. 

4.  Perfection doesn't exist.  There will be compromises and considerations to make.  These exercises help you find a best fit.

5.  This is hard.


First, I encourage you to get a few sheets of paper or some pages in a journal or something similar.  You want to keep what you are creating as a reference so that you can refine it as you think about it more.

Today, let's consider our purpose - that long term vision. Why are we even entering into the world of choice for our child's education?  What do we hope these choices will do for our children?  Why are we stressing?    

Brainstorming for Purpose 

Exercise 1 - The Graduation Speech

Imagine you are throwing a high school graduation party for your child.  You have the opportunity to speak about what he has accomplished and to invite those who have been important in his life.  What do you hope to be able to say about his educational experiences to this point?  What has it equipped him to do? Where do you hope he is heading next? Who do you want to be there celebrating with you (types of people are fine - mentor, teachers from school, coaches, friends,)?   This is a brainstorming list - there is no wrong answer and you should write everything down. Yes, write it down.  

If your kids are young, it can be hard to see all the way to graduation. That's fine. Instead, reflect on their 5th grade or 8th grade "graduation".  What do you hope they will have experienced, participated in, enjoyed at that stage? 

Exercise 2 - The 20 something reflection 

This is an exercise that I found in Sarah Mackenzie's Teaching From Rest book club video entitled "Curriculum is not something you buy".  Even if you aren't homeschooling, her perspective is helpful as we consider being educational managers - because we all manage our child's education - that's what school choice is all about.  Her suggestion is to imagine that you are a fly on the wall when your child is 20 something with her friends.  What do you want her to tell her friends about her educational experience?   What emotions, people, topics, experiences do you hope that she talks about?  What would sadden your heart to hear?  If you have younger kids you might try to think about them as high schoolers reflecting on what was most helpful in elementary and middle school - that might be a stretch but . . . Again, we are brainstorming here so anything that comes to mind is fair game and write it down.

These activities help you get to the heart of your hopes for education - this is the ideal end goal (we will deal with reality soon enough!).  Honestly, many of us are still in the early stages of this process and our kids won't remember the details of the decisions we make. They will more likely remember their emotions, friendships and maybe some key habits and skills they started building.  So our question is a bit more complicated as we figure out how to best equip our young ones because we are thinking what foundation will help our child the most. 

That's the long term vision.  You are entering into the world of school choice because you are aiming at something!  You now have a lot of words and emotions that help you think about what is really important to you (and your spouse) as you educate your child.  If your child is older you should ask them to share their thoughts about these issues as well. 

The Big Picture and the Slogan

Now comes the difficult part.  This is going to sound a little crazy - but bear with me.  Draw a person (stick figure is fine).  Now add details to your picture - symbols, words and phrases, colors, instruments, sports equipment, add other people to the picture, their dreams, etc - to help you imagine what they will have gained, learned and grown through their educational process.  You are creating your dream graduate; while considering your family and child's bent. It is fine if some of these things aren't even school related - include it. We aren't looking for artistic genius - just some creative juices flowing.  If your child is old enough, have them draw their own picture.  If you have multiple children you might want to create one picture for each child.  They are ALL different.  

If you have young children, you should draw a picture of what you hope they look like at 6th or 7th grade.  What fundamentals have they conquered by that time?  What kind of experiences have they had?  Do they have interests?  What role does that play in their life? In many situations, a whole new set of educational options open up between 7th and 9th grade.  What does their foundational education look like and equip them to do during the "second phase"? 

After you have made your picture, we can go to the next step.  (You did make a picture - right??  Seriously, drawing helps you think differently).   See if you can boil what you see down into a phrase or sentence that embodies what you really hope for.  If you are wordy it can be a bit longer but try to be short.  Basically you want to create a guiding slogan or phrase for your educational hopes.  It doesn't have to be original; but, it does have to fit your child and your family.  It might not be any one thing on the page- but just an overall idea or feeling. Are you willing to have a different slogan for each child or should your family have a unified slogan?  This is important to consider.   
Congrats - you have found your purpose. You have a picture of what you hope all of this educational choice will accomplish in your child's life.  Hopefully, you even have a catch phrase that can help you remember where you are really going.   

Closing Thoughts 

I made this process seem easy, but it can be tough.  For many of us, education is like our credit card statement - it reveals what is most important to our hearts. This is our child's future we are holding in our hands!!  It is not easy.  Often, we need to deal with our own past issues (failures and successes) with schooling so that we can see clearly for our children's future.  Take time, do it now.  We'll wait!! 

Please don't let your fear motivate your child's future.  Be the adult and deal with that!

Put your picture (even if it looks like a Picasso - ha ha) and your phrase somewhere that helps you think about it - maybe your journal or tape it to your mirror.  Sit with it for a while.  Change it if you realize something new.  This is a journey and a process but you have to start somewhere and now you have begun.

Our next post will discuss priority.  What are the key things we are looking for in education?  Our purpose focuses on the big picture and priorities help us think about some of those destinations on the road to our best hope.   Don't lose your brainstorm sheets, picture or phrase - you will need them!!  See you on Saturday.