Friday, June 24, 2011

Biblical Parenting, the next phase

When I was new to the internet and to mothering, the subject of parenting styles was a big topic of conversation, which is to say, the same kinds of conversations the US and the USSR had during the Cold War. The stakes were only upped when you brought faith into it. If you were a Christian (or knew one, or thought you knew how we thought...) the question came down to: "Will you be a Christian parent like the Pearls or the Ezzos, with the sleep and meal scheduling, the crying it out and the baby hitting, or will you be like the Sears, with the extended co sleeping, the child led breastfeeding, and the gentle discipline?" Of course it's not usually as black and white as all that, but when you're a new parent, cut off from family, desperately looking for direction, it SEEMS that simple.
The Bible says little about parenting; much less than most Biblical parenting pundits would like you to believe. But it has a lot to say about how we as Christians are to treat people- with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. What parenting philosophies bets express the fruit of the Spirit?
If you know me, you know I came to the latter conclusion; that God made us to parent with love and answer our baby's  cries. Sadly, I came to another conclusion; that most people who used the label "Biblical Parenting" were people I didn't want to be associated with.
 The years passed. My kids grew. The question of co sleeping and breastfeeding passed, as they gave up those things in their own time, and the new weird thing I was doing was homeschooling. And again, I was doing it differently than the other Christians- teaching my kids evolution, reading Harry Potter with them.... but more than that.
I was teaching my kids to question authority.
I always have to suppress a laugh when people feel compelled to point that out to me. If some one knows me, the fact that I teach my kids to question authority and to accord respect based on one EARNING it, not on the numbers of years or they position they have over them, should be obvious. That's how *I* roll and I would never be so hypocritical as to teach my kids to blindly follow when I refuse to.
A few months ago, a friend from church and I were talking about the challenges of raising kids with intellectual freedom. The hardest part, as they got older, is not that they will defy you. (kids will do that anyway). It's that, at a young age, they will form well considered opinions that are different from YOUR well considered opinions. My eldest son believes in the death penalty, a great departure from my consistent life ethic (I kind of blame my husband for that one). My daughter believes that yeah, Rob Bell probably IS a heretic. And my friend's son? Hanging out with us has given him a more liberal attitude toward gays than his parents (I am pleased to say, I think this is in part because my kids have called him on homophobic things he's said over the years. He says those things a lot less now).

Now let me be clear; I teach my kids to be courteous and to follow rules. Following rules (with a Sheldon Cooper-like intensity) is also how I roll. But not to follow rules blindly. As a kid, I hated being told "Because I said so!" and I have never done that to my kids. If I have a requirement for them, I share my reason (no, they don't have to agree with my reason). Remember, while the Bible tells children to honor their mother and father, it also exhorts parents not to exasperate their children.  And we should always be courteous to others; but because we are human beings, not because that person is older, or female, or...take your pick. I am often told at coffee shops and stores that my kids are "the most polite kids I've seen all day".( Of course, this is as much a negative commentary on society as it is a positive one on my kids.)
But unquestioning belief in what they're told? An inability to be civilly disobedient? Is this what the Christian parent of older children is to do? I would say no, and looking at history I'd say the opposite is true. I don't want nice little robots; I want to raise people who will gird themselves to fight for the justice the Old Testament prophets tell us to seek. I want to raise citizens with the courage of Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dorothy Day, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Raising kids who can defy an unjust society and speak truth to power is not easy. God knows. You have to be willing to be their educational experience. Are you up for it?

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The start of summer vacation

Yesterday, when it was actually sunny (!). Since it was the day of Andrew's show they washed off in the hose after painting.

Pictures and video from Andrew's dress rehearsal can be found here .

Friday, June 17, 2011

The end of the school year, and a milestone.

Today was the last day of our school year...and it marked a big milestone, for myself, and my oldest child. I have now successfully home schooled a child from kindergarten to the beginning of high school.
Nine years ago, when my oldest child was a newly minted 5 year old, I did all the requisite research into sending him to kindergarten. the reading readiness guidelines said that my 5 year old should be able to recognise the alphabet.
At the time, he was reading "The Hobbit".
(It should be noted, none of my other kids did that. Matthew was exceptional, and unfortunately for the younger two, my husband thought he was typical)
I consulted with a friend who knew my children well, and who taught in our district's gifted programme. She told me that our district "can't meet the needs of a gifted kindergartner". (See why I didn't name names?)  and that i should home school him until he could test into the gifted programme.
Needless to say, by the time the summer before his third grade year rolled around, I was sold on homeschooling for the long term. I had also recently discovered classical education, and was convinced an education lacking in Greek and Latin was, well, lacking. I also had to consider a middle child who was showing tendencies that would surely be labeled ADHD in the school setting. Having weaned myself off Ritalin at the age of 11 (without my mother's permission, and I waited a year to tell her. the fact that she never noticed a difference in my behaviour speaks volumes about either her, my diagnosis, or both), I was determined not to go down the medication road with any "ADHD" kids of my own. Keeping any kids in danger of that label seemed like the best course to me.
In the nine years since, I have refined my methods as I go. A few years ago we signed up with a virtual charter, which has been a godsend, paying for all our secular curriculum (our only religious subject in ecclesiastical Greek) and swim and dance lessons. I've discovered curricula that I love only to have kids out grow it. Next year will be a new experience in that both Matthew and Liv will be doing part of their coursework online. This will be the first year I'm not teaching everything and while I know it's the right thing to do, it feels strange.
 And of course, I have seen my kids surpass me, which is the best reward.
I will never claim homeschooling is for everyone. I will admit there have been many many times I have wanted to give up and send some kid or other to school just so they would stop bugging the shit out of me. (yes, homeschooling parents feel that way). But yesterday, on the eve of the last day of my 9th year of homeschooling, I had a dream that my youngest child had gone to school part way through this, his third grade year. In the dream, I felt there was no going back and I would* have* to send him back to school next year. The sadness this thought gave me made me realise, that yes, we're still on the right path for us.

Monday, June 13, 2011

And on the subject of speaking a language the other can understand...

Last Friday was the anniversary of The Boy's best friend's dad and step mom. This is my best guy friend, the older brother I never had. We hosted his son overnight so they could enjoy their evening with no worries. When he picked up Saturday, he told us about the time they had, including the rather expensive flowers he had delivered to her office. Sunday, we were all talking before the service. It seems it was The Girlfriend's birthday ( The Boy's girlfriend, that is) and I asked him what he had gotten her. He said that her sister told him just to make her a card. Incredulous looks. Really, son? This got the step mom and I talking about what gifts we do and don't like. Some of you know that earlier this year I told my husband to stop wasting money on flowers for me and get me things that are if not practical, at least something I can eat or knit up (I got $40 of Theo chocolate for Valentine's Day so...score) . She was saying that she wished she could get her husband to stop wasting money on flowers also, and start buying her kitchen tools.  It was at this point of our conversation that my guy friend wandered back over, and asked for a recap.
Guy "But she loves flowers! She works in an office so those big bouquets give her bragging rights! All her office mates know what a thoughtful and generous husband she has!"
Me "But, were you listening? that's not what she just said. Maybe you should have a Kitchen Aid delivered to her office."
Guy "But then everyone will think she has a  demanding husband that expects her to cook."
Me "Are these flowers for her, or to make you look good?"
No answer.
He really didn't believe me when I told him the best Valentine's Day present the Dungeon Master ever got me was a set of 10 pound hand weights. I use them almost every day, and I can't say that about any other V day present.
Today, I suggested to The Boy he look for presents for The Girlfriend. he thought all the ides his sister and I came up with - nail polish, earrings, a cute bracelet...were stupid. After being told that no, buying her present at the comic store was not a good idea, he decided on...some Theo. I guess he's still young enough to learn.

Now, I think it's kind of funny that this happened before I heard Pastor John's message about speaking to the world in a language in a language it can understand. I think couples may need to master that first.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Speaking the language of God's love to the world.

Today is Pentecost, the birthday of the church. In our church, Grace Lutheran Church , we celebrate by reading in different languages, a "re-enactment" of the first Pentecost. Today Pastor John gave a wonderful sermon about speaking God's word, in words and actions, in a language the world can understand.  God's language is the language of love, justice, mercy and acceptance. We speak this language very well at Grace.
There are those who would say that the church at large is not doing a very good job of speaking God's love. I can see, viewing the news, how it's easy to take that view. But as a lifelong active Christian, I can't agree with that view. My grandmother had a saying, often quoted while watching the news "The only airplanes you hear about are the ones that crash". In other words, just like an airplane that leaves on time and reaches it's destination safely is not headline news, people going about their lives being good citizens isn't either. The same goes for people of any, or no, spiritual path. I don't think ( as some Christians do ) that there is a liberal media conspiracy that wants to make Christians look bad. I think the news outlets just care about what sells. Christians doing what Jesus told us to do is not best selling news. Christians behaving badly is.
It saddens me that non Christians see people like Fred Phelps and Pat Robertson and think they are somehow representative of the faith.  I'd love to see an article that says "Church helps food pantry process 2 1/2 tons of food in one morning, assists elderly in city who cannot do their own yard work and allow them to avoid a citation,  sends team to Haiti to rebuild after earthquake, hosts AA, NA, and Al-anon meetings, provides free tutoring to at risk children and free dental check up and referrals to locals without medical insurance " . And that would be a  slow week at Grace. Those are much better words than "Self proclaimed pastor pickets soldier's funeral because he claims acceptance of homosexuals is causing God to punish us with a war". These are the true words, the words the vast majority of Christians are speaking quietly, every day, all around you.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

In which Ayla and Jondalar finish inventing everything (spoilers)

I just finished The Land of Painted Caves : the sixth and purportedly last in Jean M Auel's Earth's children series. I first began reading this series in high school, with The Clan of the Cave Bear , picking each new book up as it came out and rereading the whole series every few years. I've always been fascinated with Paleolithic humans, and these books have always scratched my itch. Keeping that in mind, on to the review.
Painted Caves suffered from the same issue that every book since the first has suffered from- repetition. Not just in the form of repeated recaps from previous books, but recaps from earlier parts of the same book. Not the best way to keep a reader engaged. Auel could have cut 1/4 from each of these books if she left out repeated recaps and reminders of what had happened in the last chapter . It's almost like she was getting paid by the word. As always, Ayla and Jondalar serve us ultra perfect archetypes to encapsulate what was probably centuries of human discovery.  The tedious descriptions of the main characters' perfect bodies grinding together perfectly have mostly been replaced by tedious descriptions of cave art (Ayla was too busy looking at caves and preparing to become a spiritual leader  to get it on with Jondalar, which will cause serious problems for them). By the end of the book, our Paleolithic ancestors have discovered how babies are really made, and the almost inevitable concept of monogamy which must follow.
While I did find much of the book tedious, I also greatly enjoyed it. Auel's research is extensive and I have not found better pre-historic fiction. I found myself skipping some parts, including the times when we once  again have to sit through the Mother's Song or the recitation of someones ties. Once per book is enough, please.
Interesting side note- after discussing with my husband the repetitiveness of these books, he suggested that it was possible he could read only the last book ( never having read the others, but having seen the movie  ) and not have to read the whole series. Not sure of he'll do that, but could be an interesting experiment.

Monday, June 06, 2011

First snake of the year

My kids and their friends love to catch snakes. They usually let them loose in our backyard, where we will see them from time to time, sunning after providing some ecological garden pest control. Matthew and his friend J caught a bigger than usual specimen today. I love the fact that at 14, they are out catching snakes rather than playing video games. Matthew learnt that even non- venomous snakes bite- yes, we are keeping it well disinfected. Now he knows how not to pick up a snake.