the parable of the blue snow

I am not a graphic artist. In fact, I am a bit stickmen-challenged when it comes to drawing. But that fact certainly didn’t stop me from approaching a 6th grade art project with all the gusto of Renoir. Our class had returned after Christmas break to discover the bulletin boards covered in blank white paper and several new 64-count boxes of crayons placed around the room.

“Children, this will be our art project this month,” Mrs. Elliott announced. “We will work together to make a winter scene mural. Be thinking about what you most like to do during January and what you would like to draw. This afternoon we will begin.”

All 30 pairs of eyes turned to the 40 or so feet of empty paper, some of us already envisioning the finished work as we tried to concentrate on fractions and spelling.

Lunchtime found several of the girls excitedly talking about their ideas, describing ice skaters on a pond and children building an enormous snowman. Janet, a tall, willowy girl, had a natural talent for drawing and her own sketchbook in her desk. While everyone watched, she used her recess time to plan her part of the mural. Her friends “oohed” and “aahed,” pronouncing her the best artist in the 6th grade.

Two o’clock finally arrived and Mrs. Elliott told us to each find a spot around the room where we would like to draw. I chose my place next to a large window overlooking the playground and downtown streets beyond. Tall trees cast their afternoon shadows across the landscape; smoke curled from chimneys above the snow-covered rooftops of our little town.

I picked up a few crayons and turned back to the board to sketch. With a clumsy hand, I outlined the black and gray limbs that stretched across the schoolyard. I filled in the lines of the tree and added a golden squirrel peeking out of a cozy nest in the hollow of one tree. Once satisfied with my scene, I unwrapped the Cornflower Blue crayon from it fresh wrapper and, laying it on its side, proceeded to cover the page with blue rolls and waves. Stepping back to admire my picture, comparing it to what I saw from the window, I sighed with pleasure.

“Mrs. Elliott!! Mrs. Elliott!” I heard Janet exclaiming. “Just look! Karen Allen has ruined our mural! She made all the snow blue!!!” Suddenly feeling small and dumb, I looked at all our friends, shaking their heads and pointing as I waited for Mrs. Elliott to rip my drawing from the board and agree that I should not ever again be allowed near a piece of white paper or a crayon.

“Come here class!” she motioned toward the window. In unison we stared at the yard below as she asked, “Tell me, what colors do you see?”

“White!” Janet barked, looking over her shoulder at a group of girls nodding their approval.

“Black and gray!” shouted Bobby. “All the trees are black and gray but the mud is brown.”

“The school building is red and the bus is bright yellow,” added Crystal.

“But the snow is white!” Janet repeated, making sure everyone understood her official position.

“Is it?” Mrs. Elliott asked. “What do the rest of you see when you look at the snow?”

“It IS blue!” said Debbie. “And sparkly when the sunlight hits it.”

One by one the students saw the blue in the snow where the shadows crossed the lawn.

“Yes,” Mrs. Elliott agreed. “It IS blue.” Then turning to me she sweetly smiled and said, “Karen, what a lovely picture. Thank you for helping us all see the blue in the snow!”

I learned two very important lessons that day.

First, I am an outside-of-the-box thinker. When most people see white snow, I see blue snow. It is just the way I am. Rather than accepting what is expected to be the right answer, I often observe things in the shadows.

There are many children like this. In fact, there are many adults who, by the time they reach adulthood, are silenced or even shamed into giving the “correct” answer, the one society has labeled the right one, even when further research might prove them wrong. Institutions rarely accommodate those who play by different rules and are quick to label such children as “rebels.”

My guess is that all children would fall into this category if given the chance to pursue learning according to their God-given bent. Imagine if filling in worksheets or choosing from endless multiple-choice answers were exchanged for the opportunity to explore the world with gusto and joy!

I also learned another valuable truth that snowy afternoon in Mrs. Elliott’s 6th grade classroom. A teacher who looks for the outside-the-box thinkers and not only accommodates them but encourages them in ways that help them stand against the tide of public opinion, is a rare jewel. She can change a life forever!

Homeschooling moms and dads have the unique opportunity to step into this teaching role with confidence and leadership not afforded to others. We don’t need to design our days or lesson plans around someone else’s goals for their children. We will be the most satisfied as homeschooling parents when we embrace the unique gifts and talents under our own roofs, remembering this important truth: true homeschooling success is found at the intersection of these gifts and the needs of the culture in which we are placed!

“True education means more than the perusal of a certain course of study. It means more than a preparation for the life that now is. It has to do with the whole being, and with the whole period of existence possible to man. It is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers. It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come.” 

from Education, The Moore Foundation

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daisy chains and rabbit trails: priorities for the coming year

“Mrs. Guest, ma’am, would you be willing to lead our next Bible study for young mothers?”

The words nearly stuck in my throat as I approached the sweet lady sitting across from me. It was a beautiful morning as we sipped tea and nibbled sugar cookies, the peaks of the alpine mountain range looming over her house and the grassland beyond. I was a bit intimidated by what were, to the wife of an enlisted man, lavish and elegant surroundings. She was the post commander’s wife, dressed in a neatly pressed floral skirt and matching pumps, a sharp contrast to my jeans and t-shirt.

I waited for her response. Surely this older and well-respected woman would have sage advise for me and I couldn’t wait to learn all I could from her.

“Darlin’,” she answered in a gentle Texan drawl, “I don’t think I will be able to do that this time. You see, I am spendin’ the summer makin’ daisy chains in the grass with my children.”

“Daisy chains,” I thought, a bit bewildered. Mothering’s best moments, she assured me, took place under a sunny sky surrounded by wildflowers and with no pressing schedule to follow. I did not realize it then, but this dear woman was painting a relationship picture for me that I would one day need for homeschooling success.

I am continually amazed at the growing number of activities available for homeschooling families and often hear moms exclaim how exhausted they are at the end of a typical day. In the midst of sporting events, co-op classes, church commitments, music lessons, and a plethora of options for socialization, true relationship building between children and parents often gets put on the back burner. The result is that days, weeks, and even months can go by without any time left for real, organic conversation. And yet, all of the recent Barna research shows that moms and dads spending lots of quality, one-on-one time with their children is the single greatest factor in a child’s spiritual growth! How important it is for homeschooling families to recognize the value of the mentoring relationship we have with our children over everything else and make it a priority by not being too busy.

So, before you begin filling in those blank pages of your new lesson planner for this year, let me encourage you to consider these thoughts:

What are the areas of your life as a homeschooling family that are the most important to you? Brainstorm, making a list and narrowing it down to your top five priorities, placing the building of solid mentoring relationships at the center of your schedule! Remember these will look different for every family and may change from year to year and even season to season. Consider how the curriculum, programs, activities, and learning methods you now use either enhance or detract from your goals. Evaluate what percentage of your awake time is spent with your own children and don’t discount the fact that teenagers need nearly as much of your attention as your little ones do!

Begin to eliminate those things that are not beneficial or that take time away from accomplishing your five goals. Ask yourself if those goals can be better met at home rather than somewhere else and be honest. If, for example, your toddlers and preschoolers are spending hours in their car seats during the week as you transport older children from one activity to another, its time to reexamine your priorities. If you find yourself eating fast food several times each week, consider whether or not this is the healthy lifestyle you want in your home. Remember that life is short and life with our children at home is even shorter. Imagine yourself, 25 years from now, talking with your adult children who are raising your grandchildren. How can you spend your time today that will best prepare them for that task? Delete the rest!

Also say “no” to new things that won’t help you accomplish your goals for your family. Ask yourself which options are the best choices for you as they come along. Remember that every time you say “yes” to something, you are saying “no” to something else; be sure you are saying yes to things that matter. Don’t sign up for a single activity that will not help you accomplish one or more of your five goals.

Reject anything that is in opposition to your personal ideals. Don’t jump on any homeschooling lifestyle bandwagon without evaluating it according to your own beliefs and convictions. Just because another family embraces a certain belief or way of doing things doesn’t mean you must!

Purposefully make time for those things that are important. Never allow yourself to say “I don’t have time” if it is something that will help you attain your goal. For example, if you want to develop a new family habit, wrap that activity around something you do every single day. For years we tried to begin the day as a family with Bible reading and prayer but found it difficult to keep as a routine because of Clay’s work schedule. When we decided to include it as part of something we already regularly did together and incorporated it into our evening meal, we had immediate success!

Never underestimate the importance of having plenty of sleep, relaxation, and nutritious meals. Crankiness and disobedience can often be traced to failure in any or all of these areas. So can mom burn out! And aside from the health benefits, the time spent preparing and eating meals together can provide the opportunities needed for family members to sort through the issues of life and to do so out loud with trusted companions.

Do not succumb to the latest homeschooling fad just because it is popular; remember that you can become a slave to many things, including your curriculum choices, unless you choose to use the material in ways that suit your own children. Many people measure the success of their school year by the number of pages completed in their textbooks or how well their children perform on a standardized test. The truth is that true education usually occurs when children are allowed to follow rabbit trails along the way, causing them to think critically and research more thoroughly. The common principle of spiral learning, that is, repeating basic information in textbooks, adding a little more each year as the grades progress, can bore and frustrate both students and teachers. By slowing down your journey through basic texts and allowing time for discussion and expanded research according to personal interests, your children will blossom.

Throw yourself into accomplishing those five goals. Read, study, and learn everything you possibly can about things related to your goals and see how it changes your life! If there is something you do not know how to do, learn alongside your children! Build a library of resources around your priorities and encourage your children to pour over them, adding books and DVD’s that are of high interest to them, too. Encourage them as they acquire new interests; study and pursue them together.

Remember that the eternal always trumps the temporal. This will be a continual battle as long as we are in this world but purposing to live each day with this belief at the core of your life will bring great contentment, satisfaction, and fruit, some you may not even live to experience.

Abigail Adams once said “Great learning and superior abilities, should you ever possess them, will be of little value and small estimation, unless virtue, honor, truth, and integrity are added to them,” and she determined to raise her children with these goals in mind. Together they melted the family’s heirloom silver to make bullets during the Revolutionary War and served many statesmen around their dining table, the children listening intently as the great thoughts of the day were birthed. She declared, “When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.”

One morning as her children studied, Abigail heard the roar of cannon fire miles away in Boston. Instructing young John Quincy to close his books, she led him through the pasture to a spot high enough above Bunker Hill to safely watch the now famous battle. She showed him in real life the cost of patriotism. What an impression it left on the young man who would one day become the 6th president of the United States and a devoted Christian who was committed to justice and freedom! Though Abigail did not live to see all that her son would accomplish, we still enjoy the fruits of her labors today!

What are your five goals and how do you plan to achieve them this year? And, most importantly, how will you make the mentoring of your children the cornerstone of family life?

(originally published in Home Educating Family Magazine)

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Christmas Eve Cookies


This is by far the most delicious decorated cookie I have tried. I had originally used royal icing but wanted the cookies to taste as wonderful as they looked. If you allow them to dry at least 24 hours, they will set up well.


6 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 cups (4 sticks) butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
4 tsp. almond extract
Whisk together flour and salt; set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Add in flour and salt. Divide dough and roll out on cookie sheet between 2 sheets of waxed paper. (about ¼ inch thick) Place cookie sheet in refrigerator for 2-3 hours or overnight. Cut out shapes and place on another cookie sheet lined with a piece of parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes, depending on size of cookie cutters and your oven. (If baking two sheets, switch them on shelves half way through.) Be sure to take out before they are browned. Cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes and finish cooling on rack. Decorate as desired. Can be frozen and decorated later. You will not be disappointed in the results; they maintain the cutout shape because there is no baking powder in the recipe. Our grandchildren love spending an afternoon with icing “paint” and sprinkles and I used the large cookie cutters because it was easier for their small hands to hold. Makes several dozen cookies, depending on size of cutters.

For the piping icing:
2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbs. almond extract
3-4 tablespoons milk
Food coloring

For the flood icing:
2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbs. almond extract
5-6 tablespoons milk
Food coloring, optional

Test icing on parchment or wax paper. Add milk or powdered sugar as needed to get it the right consistency. Weather can affect this. Piping icing should leave a line that does not run. Fill squeeze bottles with piping icing and outline cookies. Allow to firm up for 20 minutes or so. Fill other bottles with flooding icing which should flow freely. Squirt in center of cookie, coax to piping line with toothpick if needed.  Allow to dry for 24 hours before applying details. If sugaring cookie, sprinkle after flooding two or three and shake off excess after they dry.


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Merry Christmas!!!

“Who can add to Christmas?
The perfect motive is that God so loved the world.
The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son.
The only requirement is to believe in Him.
The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.”
~ Corrie Ten Boom

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2016 Homeschooling Mom’s Retreat in Central Illinois


“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” ~ Psalm 107:1

Homeschooling Mom’s Retreat

November 12, 2016

9:00am to 2:00pm

Fiatt Independent Christian Church

Route 9 Fiatt, Illinois


Come and join us for a wonderful day of refreshment, fellowship, and inspiration as we celebrate the joy of being homeschooling moms! And we are so excited that our featured speaker for the day is Fran Eaton!



Fran and her husband, Joe, heard Dr. Dobson interview Dr. Raymond Moore in 1984 that caused them to change course as parents. The next fall they began teaching their three children at home and continued until the youngest finished high school 14 years later. During that time, Fran and her husband were active in the Christian Home Educators of the South Suburbs and the statewide legislative organization Christian Home Educators Coalition. After the youngest finished home schooling, Fran because the state president of Eagle Forum of Illinois and soon after starting writing a political column for the Sun Times News Group’s Southtown Star. She also co-founded a political news source about Illinois politics called Illinois Review, which continues today. She’s the proud mother of three adult children, nine grandchildren, and she and her husband Joe just celebrated their 43 wedding anniversary.


To register, send your information along with a check for $20.00 to: Susan Tuttle, 18725 W. Farmington Rd., Trivoli, Il. 61569 Make checks payable to Karen Campbell. All registrations must be received by November 5th. Nursing babies are welcome but we cannot accommodate other children at this time.


Registration form:





Choose one for your old-fashioned box lunch! All options include fruit salad, veggies, and bottled water.

_____Roast beef on wheat bread   _____Turkey on wheat bread

_____Chicken salad on croissant   _____Vegetarian on wheat bread

_____Gluten-free roast or turkey


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the beauty of the valley


“Though hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights!” *

One fall afternoon, my daughter and I drove down a gravel back road we had never before taken. Enjoying the red and orange trees and swaying grasses of the prairie flatland, as we navigated a sharp turn, we were amazed at what we saw. In front of us was a steep path disappearing into a valley below, surrounded by hills and woods. A large creek, flanked by purple and yellow wildflowers, ran through it, and no manmade building could be seen in any direction. Against an intense blue sky, every leaf, every blade of grass seemed to reflect the gold of the brilliant sun above. We stopped the car to soak it all in; neither of us had ever been in such a beautiful, restful place! After that day, we often took the extra time to drive through what we named the Golden Valley, enjoying the changes from season to season and the perfect peacefulness it gave us.

Often in literature, and even in the context of our culture, valleys are used to represent the difficult times in our lives, the low points that are a far cry from the mountain top experiences that bring us great happiness. Disappointments, loss, pain, and horrible situations can plunge us into deep and often lonely valleys. But, if we stop to take in everything that is going on around us and pause to reflect on the difficult circumstances, we can often find beauty and even joy in the valleys.

Here are some thoughts to ponder:

We must recognize that losses will come but are for our good. We may not be able to see the purposes right away. In fact, we may never be able to understand them in this life, but we must believe that even loss comes from God’s gracious hand. We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28

In God’s design, there is no plan B, only a plan A. Too often we are tempted to believe that when we experience disappointments, we are forced to move on to some second-best plan that God has for our lives. But the truth is that life, in its entirety, is all part of God’s Plan A, that there is no Plan B! For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

We may not choose our disappointments but we do choose how we respond to them. We live in a fallen world that is marred by both our own sins and the fallout from the sins of others. It is so important that we learn to take responsibility for those things that are of our own doing but learn to respond in a Christ like manner to those who sin against us. We also struggle with those things we just don’t like but must live with and must continually adjust our thinking, if not our lives, around these events. By God’s grace, all things are possible! “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” ~ Philippians 4:13

 We must really know God and who He is in order to understand His ways.

We will be prepared to face every day, the good and bad, the incredibly sad and the amazingly joyous, if we prepare by being women with proper theology! Scripture is full of examples of women who were honored by God simply for their commitment to knowing Him and to knowing sound doctrine:

Timothy’s mother and grandmother taught him spiritual truth as he was growing up!

The first evangelists who spread the Good News of the Resurrection were the two Marys who first discovered the stone had been rolled away!

Jesus praised Mary over her sister Martha because she chose “the better way” by sitting at the feet of Jesus to learn truth rather than being consumed by temporal circumstances!

As we know and understand God through knowing His word, we are able to appreciate and even welcome the valleys of life! “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” ~ James 1:12

* from The Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett, Banner of Truth Publishing

This article was written by me and first appeared in Dear Magazine, 2016.

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5 random myths of homeschooling

grant kids


I am always amused by the mythological proportions homeschooling families have taken on within the culture through the years!

When we first began homeschooling 28 years ago, there was only one other family we knew of in our entire county who homeschooled….and within a few months, they moved away! The clerks at the local Hy-Vee grocery store would ask us really interesting questions…..”is that legal?” assuming, I suppose, that an armed police officer would arrive at any moment and snatch my children away while we browsed through the cornflakes aisle!

There were the well-meaning moms at church who asked us about “socialization” while their own teenagers stared at me blankly and mumbled incoherently!

There was my husband’s boss who was quite concerned because he had seen a special on Nightline about para-military families in the backwoods who were forgoing academics and instead were training their children to use weapons and start a militia in their homeschool support group.

And then there was the neighbor who wanted to know how much the government was paying me to homeschool my own kids. I got a kick out of that one…if she only could grasp that there wasn’t enough money in the world to convince a mom to do such a thing, it had to be done by conviction alone!

I imagine that over the years, and now decades, we have heard just about every single myth that comes along with the choice to teach our children at home. Those outside of our homeschooling circles have funny ideas about us, especially as moms. One older woman I know swears I am Wonder Woman, twirling and snapping my way through the day, that I am a pillar of patience, and that I am producing genius children. Obviously she has never seen my laundry pile that looks like a unit study project on Mount Olympus gone bad!

Today I thought we should talk about some myths that are common and are sometimes even being perpetuated from within the homeschooling community, not from the outside.

Myth #1

Getting through the whole book or the entire curriculum means your child will be educated, brilliant and headed for greatness, that they will be successful.

If I listen between the lines to first time homeschoolers or those who are thinking of homeschooling their children as they make their plans, one of the first things I hear are these questions: “What curriculum are you using?” or “What curriculum should I use?” After they are convinced they have chosen the perfect materials, moms start looking through the teacher’s guides and begin to fill out detailed lesson plans. They divide the number of pages of each textbook by the required number of school days that their local school system or state requires, and they figure out just how much material needs to be covered to complete each book. It is the curriculum drives the typical homeschooling teacher and child.

This whole approach was really confirmed to me a while back when I chatted with a mother of pre-schoolers who was intent on purchasing a curriculum package for her very lively little boys. As I asked her about their interests and about the type of learners they were and as I was encouraging her to not push an intense reading program on boys at too early of an age, it became obvious to me that her agenda was to purchase and proceed through a curriculum rather than to assess each of her children individually for what would be best for each of them. I smiled and nodded, but any suggestions of reading a book by the Moores were rebuffed and I was told “Oh, I have heard of the Moores and we would NEVER be interested in what they have to say. We believe in early childhood education so we need to buy textbooks for them!

This is exactly why I think following a tight curriculum schedule can often be counterproductive. We assume that learning and education are somehow equated with formal school and seatwork and doing everything in and from a textbook. And you will always find someone who will promote doing public school in your home, assuming that all children learn in the same manner and that it must come from textbooks and worksheets. There is the assumption that if a book is completed during the school year, learning and education have occurred. This is the reason both moms and children, especially boys, often burn out in the early years.

Instead, the goal should be to raise a life-long learner who knows how to find information and apply it in a variety of contexts and this usually happens along the rabbit trails you take each day!

As you work your way through a textbook, I can guarantee there will be an abundance of questions and thoughts your children will have about various topics. Textbooks by their very nature take an enormous amount of material and condense it down into bite size and simple parts. Your job as a teacher is to expand that material back out and if you are wise, to follow the lead of your children as they want to know more about particular material.

One way I have done, for example, is this is to take a particular history book and rather than use it for one year for one student, I have worked through it in 3 or 4 years with several children, adding in field trips, documentaries, detailed studies of all sorts of related topics, and particularly adding in biographies because children love real stories of real people and that is, after all, what history is! If you listen to what your children want to learn you will soon see them learning everything you think they need to know and then some! (On a side note: this brings up the myth of “grade level” but we will save that for another day!)

One of the common concerns often expressed to us over the years about homeschooling is whether or not we could possibly teach our children everything. My answer is always “no” followed by the correct observation that there is no teacher or institution or family who could possibly teach everything. And that shouldn’t even be a goal! The vast amount of information, especially technological information, that is generated increases exponentially each year.

Rather than worrying about knowing it all, our goal as homeschoolers ought to be to raise and to become, ourselves, lifelong learners. This is accomplished first by providing an environment rich in life experiences and then giving our children an introduction to ideas and concepts outside of those experiences. By teaching and training in research skills and not simply uploading them with information and allowing them plenty of space to study things they are curious about and that delight them, we have given them the tools to be successful no matter where the Lord takes them!

Let me encourage you to consider using real books from the library, a tub of art supplies, read stories rich in vocabulary, provide a variety of good music, the daily discussion of God’s Word and how it relates to the world around him, and give your kids the attention of a loving parent who includes him in all the activities of real life…these are the secrets to a great learning experience for children. Winston Churchill once lamented, “My education was interrupted only by my schooling” and how very true that can be, even for homeschooled children, especially if we think completing curriculum packages is the secret to success!

Myth #2

Old ways are best, old ways are worst.

One of my most vivid memories of the early days of homeschooling our children was how excited I was to have my children home with me and the picture I had in my mind of what I wanted that to look like! I can remember picturing myself being Ma Ingalls, children around the table learning, or playing outside and exploring as though we had our own Plum Creek, soup bubbling on the store, fresh baked bread in the oven, and that is really actually how most of our days looked as my children grew up. It was in the midst of this that someone gave me a stack of textbooks that had belonged to my grandpa who had been born in 1890 and had attended a little one room schoolhouse in a small country community. I remember being amazed at the material he was expected to know in order to graduate from 8th grade and as I looked through the McGuffy readers and the Civics books, it suddenly occurred to me that, though he had a great education for his day and it even exceeded in some ways what most young people learn today at that age, if we were to follow his path, our children would be miserably prepared for the future, for the year 2040 and beyond! There is often a tendency to take the admonition from Jeremiah 6:16: “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls” and then somehow apply it to how we educate our children today, often eschewing newer ways or contemporary as wrong.

Instead, the goal is to educate children for the future, not for the past and not for the present!

We must realize that in order for our children to be prepared believers who can teach and live a Biblical worldview far into the 21st century, they will need to be able to interact with and understand our current culture and how Scripture applies to it in all areas of life. I once had some homeschooled children in a co-op class I taught who were not learning any keyboard skills because their parents just didn’t see a need for it and somehow saw it as trendy or associated with things they didn’t like about the teen culture today like texting. We need to encourage our children to not only know how to use technology but also how to excel at using it and even consider how to creatively improve on it.

On the other hand, with all the amazing opportunities we have today to use this same technology via apps and online courses etc., we must also not fall for the myth that everything new is always best. Listening to music via our ipods is great but going to live concerts should also be an experience our kids have. Enjoying and understanding the worldviews taught in contemporary music and film is important but so is reading the timeless truths taught in great works of literature and drama. Finding the balance means that we cannot declare one generation or their ways better than another’s!

Myth #3

All methods of teaching and learning are equal.

A number of years ago, Clay and I were invited to spend an evening with some homeschooling couples for dinner and fellowship. Each of us were asked to bring along our favorite curriculum and to tell why we liked it and what method we would be using to teach it. We had a great time and were amazed by the incredible differences we saw around the table among the 20 or so people who shared that night. There were no duplicate books or materials and interestingly, each family had chosen materials that reflected things that were important to them as they began their homeschooling journey. The nurse and her husband, the science teacher, brought their favorite biology-related materials, evern showing us a science-based phonics program! The musicians and artists brought along biographies of famous composers, while the socially aware families brought worldview documentaries and magazines!

I enjoy listening to moms talk about their favorite teachings styles and methods of learning for their kids and often I am amazed at how willing moms are to lump all their kids together when it comes to choosing how they will teach and how their kids will learn. While this is not unusual, I think we need to be careful not to expect all of our children to learn in the same ways or to be interested in the same things that interest us.

Instead, the goal is to find the learning method that inspires, incites, and delights each child you are teaching and still get your laundry done! And we have to recognize that all methods of teaching and learning are not equal for all children.

Though we will not be able to prevent having some bias and our personal interests will obviously shine through in what we teach, we need to be aware that not only will the subjects of interest vary with our kids but so will the ways they learn those subjects.

Some of your children will never enjoy the intensity of reading the Great Books. Some will never like mathematics the way other children in your home may like it. Others will be drawn to anything artistic and others will find art projects something to barely endure. Some will be inclined to take apart every single mechanical item in your home and others will prefer to spend their days reading about the inventors of those mechanical objects! One of your roles as a homeschooling mom is to identify what your children love and then use it to teach all the other things they need to know!

I know some of you are thinking “well, how in the world do I accommodate the differences in my household?” and I think the secret to this is to not teach all subjects in all the same way but to vary them from year to year and even from course to course, even offering options for each child in to how they will approach the material. Here is one example: Together, read aloud the chapter on Westward Expansion in your textbook. Assign your researcher child a paper on the Oregon Trail and give your artist child the assignment of reading about Frederic Remington and painting a mural in his style. When both are finished, have an oral presentation from both of them for the whole family. If your personal love is current events, share with your children how what happened during that time affects us today. By finding what interests everyone and which methods are best for each of you, school time will be both more enjoyable and profitable!

Myth #4

Love, peace, and family harmony are the natural by-product of a homeschooling paradigm.

 One of the greatest joys for me is to meet and listen to young homeschooling moms. It is so fun to hear them talk with such enthusiasm about their children, about the thrill they have at watching the light bulbs come on as they teach something to their little ones for the first time! I love hearing them tell me about their husbands and how the Lord is using homeschooling to draw them close together and is giving them a tremendous life purpose as a couple.

But one thing that saddens me is to hear so many of them tell me how they attended a homeschooling workshop or conference where certain lifestyles or paradigms are promoted as being “the godly way” to raise children or that there are “the normative, non-optional roles” for all men and all women. These moms are discouraged…they have been guaranteed perfect, harmonious families where brothers and sisters don’t fight, in spite of the fact that Proverbs 17:17 tells us that a brother is born for adversity! Or they have been told that there is no higher calling than to have many babies and yet they became parents through adoption. Or they have been told that girls should only be trained to be some conference speaker’s definition of a keeper at home and yet they have daughters who are academically gifted and believe the Lord is calling them to missions or medicine. And, incredulously, some of them are even being told that they are not obeying Scripture by not going to certain churches! They are asking if these are things they should practice in their own homes and should teach to their children. After all, they heard these ideas at a homeschooling conference!  And why are these paradigms so illusive to me? What am I doing wrong? Am I sinning because I don’t fit into these lifestyles? Some are even second generation homeschoolers whose families don’t approve of the “way” they are homeschooling and they wonder how they can restore relationships that have been so damaged by these lifestyle teachings. They want to know if their commitment to their children and homeschooling must include these things. You see, they are being beaten down by legalistic lifestyle messages and are looking for hope and a genuine relationship with Christ for themselves and for their children!

We all know what being committed to our children looks like. In caring for them physically, we make sure they have well-balanced meals, see the dentist and doctor regularly, wear weather-appropriate clothing, and always buckle-up in the car. Spiritually, we teach them from their earliest days to love God completely, confess their sins, and trust Christ alone for their salvation. Emotionally, we let them know how much we love them and we hug them every day. Mentally, we challenge them with good books and creative activities.

All of these things express our commitment to our children, however, I think that too often, some homeschooling parents are committed to a paradigm, rather than to their children as unique individuals, young men and women who are image-bearers of the living God. They tend to catch a vision that a particular homeschooling guru has for homeschooling families and adopt it as their own, not taking into consideration their own unique calling as a family and as individuals within that family. They establish goals and objectives that don’t even fit their own children. They become frustrated when a child questions what he is being taught or cannot or does not want to comply with it. Then they have no choice but to renounce their sons and daughters as “rebellious,” sometimes just for asking questions. In some cases, parents completely cut off a relationship with a grown child who makes choices that aren’t what the paradigm requires, even though those choices aren’t necessarily unbiblical.

Not long ago, a wonderful godly young man who was homeschooled and is now the father of 5 amazing kids shared this with me: He said “It is difficult to be the skeptical child” and I winced when I heard him say it. You see, once you climb inside the paradigm, you are bound to embrace all of it and you begin to believe that anything that falls outside the paradigm is sinful and that is the message sent to our children!
When we first began homeschooling, we fell into this very trap. We had attended several homeschooling conferences and heard a number of men talk about their families and watched, as they listed on an overhead projector (we are old, there were no laptops back then!), the “principles” for having a perfect homeschooling family. If we were only to follow steps one through seven, we, too, would have a family that looked like the (fill in the blank) family. And then the (fill in the blank) family would come on stage and be all dressed alike and would sing in perfect harmony. (We were not family singers but I felt perhaps we should be.) And the mother would address the women and the father would address the men and we would all go home with notebooks full of formulas for success.

But, do you know what I learned? There was no room for individuality in those notebooks. There was no place for an artistic child. There was no place for a special needs child. In fact, there was no place for ordinary, average children. There was only room for a programmed child. These people told us that every normal problem that came along, problems that are the result of living in a fallen world, were really the result of some unconfessed sin or spiritual warfare that was upon us because of some root problem we hadn’t looked at! I spent too much time trying to figure out what sin I needed to confess so all my light bulbs didn’t burn out at the same time or what scriptural principle I had violated that caused my six year old to have trouble reading. I scurried around the house getting rid of things like Cabbage Patch dolls because I was told that they could open the door to demons in my home and thus attack my children. (You may think this is too weird, but, believe me, it is true!) I spent no time delighting in the goodness of God, in the wonder of childhood, in the tremendous unique gifts that were given to me in the form of creative children! I had to repent of my commitment to the paradigm rather than the commitment to my children.
I am so thankful that the Lord, in his mercy and grace, taught us a better way. He allowed us to see that paradigms are idols, calling us to worship at their feet, replacing faith and hope in God with a sure fire formula for success. He taught us that He has a plan for our family that doesn’t look exactly like His plan for another family. He taught us to really look at what is passed off as “Biblical truth” and to examine it with the spirit of the Bereans. He taught us that legalism is alive and well and often comes from the hands of those who have a scary agendas.

Instead, the goal is to build solid relationships in your own families through practicing the one anothers of Scripture…love one another, serve one another, submit to one another, forgive one another, exhort one another, etc, by God’s grace and not by following any manmade paradigm. Our children are precious treasures from the Lord. Let’s value them as such and trust that God will bless us as we commit our ways of raising them to Him alone.”

Myth #5 

Scheduling lots of activities provides lots of opportunities for learning.Filling days and nights with activities outside the home is now equated with a “well-rounded” homeschooling experience.

How often I have heard homeschooling moms lament how busy their weeks are and how much time they spend in the car rather than at home. One mom told me how their family gives one day each week to her co-op and that it takes her several days prior to their class day to help her children prepare and this on top of other subjects she hopes to cover. Other moms have 4 or 5 children to taxi to various lessons and practices each week and when added to church activities, family meal time and free time to just live in the world around them are often compromised.

Having older children who desire fellowship and friendship can be a good reason to get involved in occasional outside events and classes where particular skills can be honed is often a great idea. But the subtle pressure to provide “enrichment” for our children can often turn into an endless list of outside pursuits that steal away the hours of family living.

Instead, the goal is to say “yes” to those activities that will help you meet your overall goals and “no” to everything else!

Any time spent away from home should be measured by the benefits. Does it leave time to explore and learn new things on our own? Does it inspire creativity and further study? Does it promote a healthy lifestyle or does time outside the home mean that McDonalds and Burger King provide frequent meals for your family? Does it mean that younger children spend endless hours strapped into car seats while older children are taken to one event after another? Do you find yourself looking for ways to offer your children all the amenities of the public school system or are your children having time to serve others? Do your children spend most of their time with people who are a variety of ages or mostly with peers? Are you the one providing most of their Bible instruction and discipleship or is it done by your church? Do your children know that you always have time to listen to them and pray with them every single day? Here are some great questions to ask yourself as you decide how to schedule your time!

What are the areas of your life as a homeschooling family that are the most important to you? Brainstorm, making a list and narrowing it down to your top five priorities. Consider how the curriculum, programs, activities, and learning methods you now enjoy either enhance or detract from these goals.

Begin to eliminate those things that are not beneficial or that take time away from accomplishing these five goals. Ask yourself if those goals can be better met at home rather than outside the home and be honest. Remember that life is short and life with our children at home is even shorter. Imagine yourself, 25 years from now, talking with your adult children who are raising your grandchildren. How can you spend your time today that will best prepare them for that task?

Say “no” to new things that come along that also won’t help you accomplish your goals for your family. There is a plethora of opportunity for homeschooling families but ask yourself which options are the best choices for yours. Don’t succumb to the latest curriculum fad just because it is popular and appealing. Don’t jump on any homeschooling lifestyle bandwagon without evaluating it according to your goals. Don’t sign up for a single thing that will not help you accomplish one or more of your five goals.

Make time for those things that are important. Never allow yourself to say “I don’t have time” if it is something that will help you attain your goal. For example, if you want to develop a new family habit, wrap that activity around something you do every single day. For years we began the day as a family with Bible reading and prayer but found it difficult to keep as a routine because of Clay’s work schedule. So we decided to include it as part of something we do together every single day by incorporating it into our evening meal. We have had tremendous success!

Throw yourself into accomplishing those five goals. Read, study, and learn everything you possibly can about things related to those five goals and see how it changes your life!

Remember that the eternal always trumps the temporal. This will be a continual battle as long as we live in this world but purposing to live each day with this agenda at the core of your life will be worth it all.

I hope looking at 5 of the myths we find within the homeschooling culture has given you many things to think about and has been an encouragement to you as you anticipate your homeschool year!

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