About Me

I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Professionals home educating

A friend sent me this webpage, discussing 18 reasons why doctors and lawyers in the USA are turning to home education. I thought it was fascinating. It was interesting to me, because I also haven't exactly 'owned up' to home educating to many people (although as my eldest reaches 'school age' it will become more apparent). It is interesting to me to see the arguments written like this.

We do fall into the quoted 36% who home educate partly for spiritual and moral reasons; but the other reasons are there also. I am often encouraged by articles by those who do not share my worldview as I can see just how wide-ranging the benefits of home education actually are.

I hope you enjoy this one.

Kondwani

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Family Integrated Church Again

In my discussions about Family Integrated Church as a concept, a friend recommended I watch this video on that topic. It is about 55 minutes long, and easy to watch. I found it quite compelling; there was nothing new to me in the film, but many different voices all reaching the same conclusions that the primary responsibility for the spiritual growth and discipleship of children rests with fathers, and this is something which has been sadly neglected in the last few generations of the modern church.

What I would have liked to hear more about would be the extension of these arguments into practical reality. Many pastors and leaders spoke of their integrated congregations, and discussed the reasons why they did not segregate into different programmes based on age. But they didn't really fill the gap for me by talking about what they actually do. I would be fascinated to see one of these churches in operation, to see what different models could be put into place, to see whether it was really accepted by the congregation. But I am sure if I look around I will be able to find some resources which go into more detail here too.

If you know of any that I might find helpful, or would like to share from your own experiences, I would be delighted! Otherwise, watch this space, and I'll post more as my investigations proceed!

Monday, 25 March 2013

TV?

I came across this well-balanced article written by a homeschooling mother about why she chooses not to have a television. I thought the arguments were clear, and it was well-referenced and might be of interest to readers of this blog.

As it happens, we also do not have a television. My husband has never had regular access to one. I had one in the family home where I grew up until age 15, but we were always encouraged to select one or two programmes per week that interested us from the Radio Times; background TV or channel hopping were things that we never knew.

I don't think I consciously decided that we would not have a television once children arrived on the scene; it was more that it had never been a part of our adult lives and therefore we saw no need. It is now, as I consider some of the issues such as those outlined in the referenced blog post, that I am grateful for these choices. I have also seen how easy it is to use television as a babysitter (or should that be 'Beebie-sitter'), and have seen many friends abandon their previously proclaimed principles in the name of survival. 'I don't often do this, but.....' 'She is ill, and television is the only thing that settles her'.... 'How else can you possibly cook a meal?' etc. For us, it is not an option, and we can stop the slippery slope before it starts. Perhaps others are better-disciplined, but for us, it is easier to avoid.

What do other readers do? Do you see advantages in having a television? Disadvantages? Is it a neutral thing? Do you think our children are missing out on anything through not being exposed to television?

Habit is Ten Natures



Again, Charlotte Mason has brought some encouragement to my slightly weary soul. Lately, I have written a bit about competing worldviews which force themselves upon us, and make me question whether it really is worthwhile. Is it REALLY worthwhile to sacrifice much in order to provide your children with the holistic and rounded education that you believe to be right and best? Is it worth personal cost and sacrifice? Is it really a good use of time to spend many days repeating the same simple activities, the same routines and patterns, having similar conversations and praying the same prayers? Really?

Well, according to Charlotte Mason as she discourses on how ‘Habit is Ten Natures’, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’, and with almost every word I found myself in agreement, reminded of some of the most fundamental reasons for choosing to home educate our family. She starts by discussing some of her initial frustrations as she embarked on her teaching career, realising that many basic characteristics of individuals are not easy to change. She saw a conflict between the teaching she heard at church about the need for personal habit and discipline (perhaps no longer popular teaching in many churches!) and that which she experienced in her professional life. She began to recognise that fundamental habits are formed easily, formed young, and without focussed and diligent effort to change bad habits and replace these with something better, some of the best educational intentions in the world will come to nothing. She describes how all human beings are made with similar fundamental desires and weaknesses – again, something which might be unpopular teaching in the world today. She then illustrates habit to be like the rails that the ‘train’ of a child’s future will ride along; she elegantly describes how diligent attention to detail in the small matters of habit in a young child will set him up for a better start in life than to ignore these details, expending a lot of wasted effort in trying to build upon a shaky foundation. ‘For just as it is on the whole easier for the locomotive to pursue its way on the rails than to take a disastrous run off them, so it is easier for the child to follow lines of habit carefully laid down than to run off these lines at his peril. It follows that this business of laying down lines towards the unexplored country of the child’s future is a very serious and responsible one for the parent’.

As previously in her writings, I am amazed at just how practical and relevant her advice is today. She speaks of how even Christian parents will allow their children to ‘grow free as the wild bramble, putting forth unchecked whatever is in him, thorn, coarse flower, insipid fruit – trusting, they will tell you, that the grace of God will prune and dig and prop the wayward branches lying prone’. She speaks of how we teach habit whether by intention or neglect; that much of a child’s behaviour is influenced by behaviours that they witness in those with whom they spend time, whether that be their peers, those charged with looking after them, other family members, siblings etc. She moves on to demonstrate how much of thinking is shaped by habit – that in any one day, the majority of our actions, thoughts and words will be the product of habit which has formed in us whilst young. 

She then moves on to give some practical examples (such as a boy who would not close a door when entering a room, and strategies that could be put into place to help him replace this with the better habit of automatically closing the door), and to discuss some of the currently understood physiology by which habits become easier with time. These examples are not trivial, but rather reminded me just how important diligence and attention to detail in the small, day-to-day occurrencesis; it is at this point that the world around me will tell me I am crazy and wasting my time, but the clear voice of reason comforted me as I read Charlotte Mason’s writings. 

She cautions against parents who say things like, ‘He’ll grow out of it’, or ‘She’s only two, give her a chance’. Instead she points out the importance of getting good habits into play from the youngest infancy. She describes how even a child aged two should be taught to tidy up after themselves, and to see this component as essential to the play itself. It makes sense. Without wishing to sound smug, I have been delighted at how our three year old boys ask us at the end of a meal, ‘How may I help?’ and take great pride in carefully carrying things out to the kitchen. We insist on tidying up after one activity before commencing another, and I know other parents have considered us extreme for this. But why should it be such a difficulty? Yet if it is not expected of the child, if the parent leaves tidying up until the end of the day when the child is in bed, then does this not also set up a habit, but this time one of laziness and an expectation to be waited upon? All these are things that have crossed my mind, but it was refreshing for me to hear them clearly stated!

I read this chapter during a train journey on a busy morning at the start of a busy week. It was a God-given voice of reason, of encouragement, of common sense and prioritisation and I hope my synopsis of what I read also brings you encouragement!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Family Integrated Church?

I've been wondering what the prevailing attitude towards children is in the church you attend? I'm talking about below the surface; in most churches, people would be able to reel off the important Bible verses where Jesus talked about the importance of little children, of having respect from them, and learning from their innocent faith. But really, in practice, what is the place of children in your congregation? In corporate worship? In house-groups or mid week meetings? In the general life and service of the church?

For me, children and church are an uncomfortable mix. There is a feeling of tension, sideways glances, anxious smiles, hushing and bribery with sweets or books until the moment of release when 'the children may now leave for their classes'. Until that point, there isn't much of an expectation of anything from the children, yet you can see that many families are unable to relax until that point has passed. And if you choose to keep your children in the main church service (removing them when necessary to quieten them down or administer discipline), you risk verbal abuse after the service for being selfish and allowing a distraction to occur. (You may think I am jesting!) Rather than being a time of joyful worship together as a family, church can increasingly seem a painful chore to be endured.

I wasn't aware that there was anything different to what I had experienced until I read some of the work of Voddie Baucham, such as his most well known book, 'Family Driven Faith'; as well as writing on the issues of faith and family, he is also a well known speaker. What he describes is a place where children are valued as an essential part of church and family life, and are included in activities without them being 'dumbed down' to their level. Explained simply and compellingly, I found myself longing for a similar, like-minded congregation near my home!

Of course, there are frustrations with proponents of this style of congregation. These are well summarised by a couple of cautionary articles. A summary from the Grace Reformed Baptist Church highlights these concerns, which basically surround elevating a relatively minor outworking of Christian life into a fundamental doctrine, failure to adhere to which is considered heretical. I have known Christians who have done this, who have failed to see that whilst they may sincerely believe a certain model of family life best encompasses the privileges and responsibilities of Christian parenthood, that one cannot consider that some of these views be normative. Whilst there are choices I would prefer not to make for my own family, I would not want to condemn as a sinner, another believer who equally sincerely makes other choices.

I accept the need for caution, and I get frustrated by the few utterly narrow minded individuals who give family-centred worship a bad name. I do not think we are close to running into difficulties here in this country at the present time! One thing that makes me particularly sad is the feeling that I have more empathy and relationship with friends who have utterly different ideologies and worldview (often verging on new-age or pagan in spirituality) than those within the church, for the simple reason that we value children highly and are asking questions about how best to live out all elements of life in an intentional, rather than default, manner.

Have any readers got experiences of church life with their family? Both positive and negative experiences are welcome!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

What are your sources of encouragement?

Dear Reader,

I enjoy seeing how many people read this blog, and how many different countries you come from. I hope you find some things interesting/ inspiring/ encouraging here, as that is one of the main aims of the site.

Tonight, I have a question for you! Do you generally feel encouraged as you pursue home education? (Or if you are not yet home educating but considering it, do you recieve encouragement or otherwise when you discuss ideas?). I am aware of the dangers of seeking 'approval of men'. I know that the 'masses are often wrong'. I also know that the only One to whom we ultimately give an account for how we raise our families is to the God who knows all things perfectly, and knows the attitudes and motives of every heart.

But right now, I feel faced with many different worldviews/ parenting styles (or whatever you would choose to call it). During a recent trip overseas, which I have posted about, I felt extremely encouraged as we continued to live in much the same way as we do here in the UK. Somehow, there was a greater sense of community and children were respected and valued as part of that. Furthermore, spending time investing in our children was not considered a waste of time or an unnecessary indulgence, but rather an important priority. Some of the prevailing attitudes among those close to me could be summarised as:

1) Default parents - who try to do everything the same as everybody else within a community. My blood relatives cannot understand why we do not fit into this bracket. There is an expectation that we should be spending more on material possessions, and trying hard to make sure nothing sets our children apart as in any way different to others in case they are bullied. There is no point in having much of a discussion about our priorities as parents with these, because they see that we are deliberately making things difficult for ourselves, or that perhaps we are almost verging on abusive towards our children for not giving them what everybody around them might seem to have.

2) Survival parents - who cannot understand how we have the energy or personal resources to spend long periods of time with our children, and who abandon most of their principles in attempt to obtain a quiet life. I have quite a few good Christian friends here - and the problem is, they can get quite defensive and see the way we are living as a criticism of them, even if we say nothing. If I was to talk to such a friend whilst tired or discouraged, they would probably tell me I should just put the children in daycare and have some 'me time'.

3) Workaholics, who may start a conversation about 'life-work balance' but who in fact are looking for a way that enables them to work full time and have somebody else do the bulk of the childcare. I was at a meeting at work last week where I came across this type of attitude a lot. An ideal arrangement would be a creche on-site at one's workplace which opened at 7am and closed at 8pm. I don't see that as a balance.

There are probably others, but these are the three I am struggling with right now.

I have several sources of support too:

1) A husband with whom I am completely united in our goals for our family;
2) Writing this blog, to enable me to reflect and process
3) A couple of women I see as mentors (although they are not geographically close)
4) A local Christian home education group which has just started, for purposes of encouragement
5) A wider local home education network

But the problem is, with young children who need a lot of attention and input, having any kind of meaningful conversation has been difficult for the past couple of years. Unless you join in with us, walk alongside us, are willing to have frequent interruptions and an occasional raincheck, it really is not easy at all. Overseas, we lived in community, and this happened seamlessly. In the UK, nobody really has time to live alongside others, or our culture is not set up to do so, or maybe it isn't a priority. People in general are too busy, rushing from one activity to the next, often paradoxically with the aim of increasing the socialisation (or other development) of their children. I don't have close family, and again often feel unsupported and misunderstood there.

What are your experiences? Where do you turn for encouragement? What do you do on the tiring, lonely days? I'd love to hear from you!

Kondwani



Friday, 8 March 2013

News: UK childhood 'ends at 12'

I think a common theme among those who home educate is that we want to allow our children to be children. We want them to have a 'real childhood', not to feel the pressures of society, not to lose their enthusiasm and excitement for life, not to quash their imagination. My own childhood was less than ideal in several ways, and I hope and pray that my children have a different experience.

I was slightly taken aback the other day when a relative criticised me for not allowing my children to be children. My three year old had just described how you catch, slaughter and prepare a duck for the oven. I think it was the detail about the oesophagus and liver that was taken objection to. 'There is enough time in the future to learn about anatomy'. Yes, but you should have seen his face light up as he described the snail that was trapped in the oesophagus, or the one in the gizzard. We did not force our boys to learn dry anatomical facts to regale visitors with. Instead, we simply included them in our daily activities, which on the occasion referred to, involved catching, slaughtering and cooking a duck (which had been aptly christened Christmas Dinner some weeks prior).

In contrast, consider this article from the BBC website, describing how many parents consider that childhood is over by the age of 12. Pressures include the need to conform, to fit in, to have a particular appearance, to have certain possessions - yes, exactly the kind of childhood that this relative of mine would much prefer over what we are trying to offer because it is 'normal'. Fitting in, being normal, that is all that seems to matter, even if the person is destroyed in the process.

What can I conclude? I suppose simply that there will always be diametrically opposed views. To perhaps paraphrase the final words of Joshua, 'Choose for yourselves today who you will serve. But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord' - and that will involve all the outworkings that shape our choices in family life and education.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Random encouragements and challenges

These past few weeks have had several encouraging and several challenging moments. I am sure that most of you who read this blog could say something similar!

1) Encouragement Number 1: The recent start-up of a Christian Home Education group in our area. There has actually been a group, or perhaps two distinct groups, of Christian homeschoolers around for some time. However, one group focusses on a very specific curriculum, and the other group has 'grown up' quite a bit to the extent that they have less time and flexibility for meeting as a group. However, over the past year or so, there have been several families similar to our own - with a few young children aged four and under who are discovering the whole area of home education. We wished to start a group with the primary aim of encouraging one another, perhaps along the theme of Hebrews 10, 'Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds...'. We all can feel isolated in our families, and at times also isolated in our churches as people seem unwilling to consider that what we are doing is a valid alternative to 'mainstream'

2) Encouragement Number 2: An evening spent with two friends who are part of this group, with the ability to spend longer talking about what we are doing, and having a focussed time of prayer together. 'Where two or three are gathered' then Christ truly is in our midst. One of the challenges we share is the lack of uninterrupted adult conversation; whilst we would not change our choices for a moment, it is good once in a while, to be able to talk for longer when the children are asleep!

3) Hearing my boys describing things in detail - we've been inspired by some of Charlotte Mason's methods which require careful attention and close observation followed by what she termed a 'narration' of what has been heard or observed. This goes a little against much of today's culture which is expected to be immediate, rapidly changing, flashy and 'entertaining'. I more frequently observe children becoming overstimulated with colours, noise, multiple books and toys and somehow not benefitting from any of the intended gains (dare I draw an association between this type of thing and rising rates of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and similar?). What is recommended by Charlotte Mason is quite the opposite, really teaching children to slow down, to focus, to discover the minute details of the incredible world that surrounds us, and to come to a fuller understanding of their place in the world which has been incredibly created. It is not a technique which comes easily, especially to my middle son (now aged three and a quarter). But with time, there are sometimes quite astonishing evidences of his attention and concentration.

4) The solemn questions of my oldest son (aged three and three quarters). 'Mummy, why did Jesus shed His blood?'. 'Why was the Samaritan woman drawing water from the well at noon? You should go to the well in the morning or evening so that the sun doesn't burn you....' etc. OK, then he will ask a completely random question such as, 'Is trifle good for your bones?'

5) Being able to consider short-term moves as a family (such as our recent one to west Africa, one in the next month or so to the next city, and one next year to east Africa) because we are reasonbly self-sufficient as a family, and have a schedule for the boys which embraces whatever surrounds us rather than being dependent on specific external activities or people.

6) Simply a continued joy at being able to embrace all these small steps, to see the changes which occur week by week, sometimes even daily. Being grateful that God has provided me with a husband who shares these views entirely, and who is completley consistent in his parenting, who leads our family well. Most days, I feel confident to face whatever challenges may arise.

But sometimes, there are still challenges. They seem to reduce in size having spent a little time reflecting on the encouragements, but so that you can share some of our walk, I'll make some notes here too.

1) Unsupportive family. I don't think anybody in our family really gets what we are doing, and I am sure they all have unspoken concerns. The Christians tend to worry most about old chestnuts like 'socialisation', but it is the non-Christians who frustrate me most. It is a clash of worldviews - the one which I was brought up to hold (you must blend in as much as possible, you must avoid any conflict, you must never express an opinion, you must be as 'good as you can be' but not stand out in any way, the ultimate aim would be to live in comfort and peace. Default parenting might be a good description of what they practice) and the one which has been shaped by my faith in Christ. I hate it when the two collide, because whilst I know the truth (and the truth has set me free!), there are still rumbling unsettled undercurrents which bother me after spending time with certain people.

2) Fatigue and illness in all of us. It is not easy to get much rest, and not easy to get to appointments when you have several young children in tow. Sometimes I can find it difficult to ask for help, as I feel the attitude of, 'If you would just put them in preschool like everybody else, then you wouldn't have this problem'. OK, that is not exactly spoken, but there are hints of it. Also, simply through moving around quite a bit as a family, and having friends who are also quite mobile, there just aren't that many people around we can lean on. This is something which does bring many great encouragements, and we have recently been blessed to see how we can serve God together as a family; however, there can be associated challenges.

It's funny how the same challenges go round and round - and that is one way in which writing this blog helps me, as I see that they only last a short time. It is good to remember what our highest aim for our children is. Have you encountered any encouragements or challenges lately?