Friday, September 30, 2005

Selling Our Birthright

Esau came home from hunting starved. Jacob was cooking lentil soup. Esau demanded some and Jacob countered with a proposed trade: your birthright for instant gratification. Esau agreed!

While many in the homeschool community have felt that our counterparts in public schools have made the same exchange with the government, perhaps it is time to admit that many in the ranks of the home-schooled have also done that deal. Virtual academies, public-school "enrichment" and "outreach" programs are multiplying across the educational landscape - because homeschoolers are buying into the idea that the government ought to have a role in raising our children. And because it is easy, immediate and someone else pays for it.

Inge Cannon, homeschool pioneer and author of countless resources for homeschoolers, writes to homeschool leaders:
What Ron and I are finding as we have worked with the twenty- and thirty-somethings over the past 15-20 years at conferences and over our Education PLUS telephone lines is often a completely different worldview perspective than was prevalent in the earlier days of our ministry to home schoolers. The changes for many in the next generation (if we figure a generation to be about 18-20 years) exhibit some or most of these characteristics:

[1] They tend to be focused on sound bites-often unwilling or unable to focus concentration on a full training session such as we offer them at our conventions and seminars. Witness the fact that they often come into the speaking sessions twenty minutes late and leave twenty minutes early—easily distracted and far more interested in coming to conventions to shop. Witness how difficult it is to get them to commit to regional seminars on the very topics about which they say they need help.

[2] They tend to function much like the rest of society in terms of an entitlement mentality. This characteristic is exhibited in several ways: they feel they have paid their taxes and therefore the government owes them something in return; they feel they are sacrificing much (and they are) by being single-income families, so leaders, businesses, suppliers, speakers, etc. should provide their needs on a gratis or marginal break-even basis (reflecting a bit of the “class envy” philosophy that liberal politicians consistently promote); they often misunderstand basic economics to the point of not taking responsibility to support what they say they believe in, so that it can be available. (And more often than I wish, resenting those who would make a profit or a living at providing the services and materials they need).

[3] They welcome government controls because they are very frightened that they might jeopardize their children’s future by not completely duplicating the curriculum design and perceived requirements of the public school (this is particularly true of the parents who are approaching the high school years with their teens). In their minds the presence of government involvement somehow sanctions what they are doing and provides them with a sense of legitimate credentialing—hence, they duplicate “school” without understanding that the definition of Christian home education is a tutorial lifestyle focused upon Biblical discipleship. This is made even more difficult when they come to home education as products of the public school themselves and have not had the opportunity to learn the Scriptures well.

[4] They welcome co-ops, entire video programs, etc.—anything that will do the teaching job for them because they are too busy to do it themselves. (Please note that I do not oppose these methods as tools, but reject the total family program being saturated by these tools in lieu of personal discipleship in teaching and interaction.)

At least once a week, I return a call to a home school mother at work in a full time job away from home. Her children are usually at home educating themselves (so I’m told when I ask).
[5] They often have no clue as to what it means to reject certain real conveniences, financial or equipment grants, reimbursement of curriculum and/or supplies at significant cost to themselves—whether financial, sacrifices of time and energy, or the pressures of swimming upstream in the face of disapproval from their peers, parents and in-laws, authorities, or the like. The logic of paying for something yourself to maintain your freedom rather than accepting the handout that comes with just a few strings can be difficult to swallow—let alone defend. Choosing what is right at cost to yourself is very hard."

"Ideas have consequences", as Francis Schaeffer would remind us. Opting to invite the government to participate in our home schooling not only damages the homeschooling movement in the long run, but exposes those homes to direct government intervention. World Magazine, in its Sept 3 article, "Here Come the Strings", details this progress in Alaska, where parents once trusted government to provide funds and parent-determined access to curricula and services, now find their entire home- life legally defined by the state as a public school, subject to all the restrictions of a secular government.

"Assistant attorney general Kathleen Starsbaugh confirmed EED's interpretive broadening of the law, labeling private homes as public schools: "While it uses terminology more easily applied to the traditional classroom, it applies to public schooling however delivered." She added that dispensing public money to parents who rely heavily on religious-themed curricula also violates the Alaska Constitution and the First Amendment's establishment clause."

What seemed like a free lunch turns out to be selling our birthright for a bowl of beans. For me, it's too much to pay.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

High-Flying Homeschoolers Part 2

An Interview with Natalie and Petra
Real Grown-ups

When Petra and Natalie take a break from their extraordinary feats of academics and service, they can be found laughing over their pie-baking, entertaining the dishwashers with their violins or color-coordinating their outfits for the next concert or speech. The last time they got together, they and their friends treated our assembled guests to a hilarious double-concerto, in which two musicians each played the same instrument at the same time, one fingering, one bowing; one fingering, one blowing…

They agreed to share some of their secrets of becoming real grown-ups:

Mother-Lode: What are your family’s goals in homeschooling you through high school?

Natalie: To understand my faith so that I can stand firm in it. To reason well. To develop the skills needed to change my world. To pursue excellence in academics. These four things, though they seem easy enough, demand every waking hour. Around my house we work, think, read, and discuss all day long in order to accomplish them.

Petra: In our family, the key ideas are: scholarship, stewardship and service. We work with an eye toward being good stewards of the gifts God has given us. That means pursuing the highest education I am capable of absorbing. We also work to connect our studies to real life as we go along. For instance, I applied my study of the Constitution by becoming a Teen Court Attorney and working in real court sentencing hearings to restore troubled teens to the community.

Mother-Lode: What projects in your high school career have seized your imagination?

Natalie: I know it sounds far-fetched, but really, everything I do seizes my imagination. My parents instilled in me a love of learning. Whether I’m at an orchestra rehearsal, giving a speech, or studying Advanced Placement Biology, I am fascinated.

Petra: Like Natalie, I like to take every opportunity and give it my full attention; I work hard at enjoying all the studies and projects God has put before me. I don’t know what work God has prepared for me and I don’t have time to waste, in the future I will need everything God is preparing me with now.
But specifically, the most important project so far has been my involvement in speech and debate. It has prepared me for communication with my peers and elders on a daily basis. If you want to be successful it is necessary to communicate well. A rephrasing of a quote from the movie The Emperors Men puts it in perspective “If you can not say what you mean then you can not mean what you say and everyone should always mean what they say.”

Mother-Lode: What ambitions do you have beyond high school and what has most shaped those ambitions?

Petra: I intend on pursuing an advanced degree so that if/when there are things I need to do/say in the public arena I will be credible in the eyes of the secular world. While I do not need the affirmation of the secular world, I can not minister unto them unless they can hear me. In addition, a degree will give me the background to help my husband in his endeavors and to educate my children well, while allowing me the freedom to work at home, in businesses of my own design. In line with the principles of my family’s homeschool, my two main aspirations are to exercise dominion as I serve in motherhood and politics. (Emphasis on motherhood)

Natalie: My short-term aspirations are to continue honing my public speaking skills through both live presentations and radio broadcasts. The goals of these presentations being to excite a love of learning, challenge opinions, and defy apathy.
My long-term aspirations are to pursue higher education and have a short career before settling down to raise a family. I plan to continue a lifelong pursuit of reading, learning, playing the violin, being involved in politics, and impacting my community.

Mother-Lode: What difficulties have been important for you to overcome in your school career?

Petra: Like many families we are not rich. My parents have become experts at stretching the budget. My mother has devoted her talents and income to making sure we have the educational opportunities we need. But an environment of scarcity has taught us to be creative, industrious and resourceful.
When my aunt and uncle offered to take me with them for a three month tour of Europe, there was no money in the family budget for such a thing. So my sister and I marketed the pre-school music curriculum developed by my mother, to a local Montessori school. God prospered the four-week music camp we taught there, and I had money for Europe! Now, in our third year teaching there, we have financed all sorts of extras from traveling to speech tournaments to taking music lessons.

Natalie: My family lives out in the middle of nowhere. This limits the number of outside activities in which we can participate. This made my parents very nervous! They knew that homeschooling was the right thing to do, but didn’t want us to have gaping holes in our education. But this weakness was turned into strength.
When I was five Mom started as speech club for all of the local homeschoolers. We moved to Colorado for a year when I was in the eighth grade and found a thriving speech and debate community. When we moved back home finances limited us from participating in debate. So Petra Anderson and I started the International Debate Society Network for myself and other rural homeschoolers.
Mom found resources for my brother and I to study advanced math on our own and college-level science with one or two online classes.
Living in the country has forced us to work hard, be original, creative, and independent. What we thought was a weakness has shaped us into who we are.

Mother-Lode: Do you plan to pursue higher education? Why or why not?

Natalie: I do plan to pursue higher education as an extension, if you will, of the skills being developed in our homeschool. College is a time of learning unlike any other. My mom sharpened her talents with a double-major, a minor, and a master’s degree. Without those skills, my brother and I wouldn’t be who we are today.
Currently I am planning on pursuing a bachelor’s degree and going on to get professional training as a physical therapist. This would allow me to work part time if need be, work on the missions field, and help people in my family in a practical way.

Petra: Like I said earlier, in order to communicate in the secular world often it is necessary to have a degree. As Christians we are called to restore the old waste places this means interacting with the secular world. Also, as a mother I will be better equipped to train my own children if I have a higher education, Mrs. Webb (Natalie’s mom) is a very good example of this.

Mother-Lode: Do you feel a tension between the careerism that pursuing a college degree usually implies, and your desire to be a wife and mother?

Natalie: No, I do not. I plan to get a degree that would allow for a very flexible, part-time job that would allow me to be a full-time wife and mother. I have reviewed many, many degree options and professional school programs to find training that allows for that kind of flexibility.

Petra: At the moment, no. I do see it could be a temptation in the future. But I am not so concerned about it affecting me, because of the closeness and support I get from the older women in my family, who have not pursued a career for the sake of a career. Also I have surrounded myself with friends who will keep me accountable to the goals we commonly share.

Mother-Lode: What advice would you give to someone who is trying to decide whether to homeschool in high school?

Petra: In high school, the choices you make, the friends you choose, and your relationship with your parents are all ground-shaking. Whatever precedents you set up in high school will follow you to college and to the rest of your life. Over-all the homeschool environment is a better place to find wholesome friends. It is much easier to have a close relationship with parents, who can guide you in crucial choices.

Natalie: High school is the time that you form the way you view the world. It is a time to learn and develop so that during the rest of life you are firmly grounded. Don’t get me wrong, homeschooling through high school isn’t easy. It takes lots of work both from parent and child. However, the rewards are worth it. They present themselves, not necessarily in the form of trophies and medals, but in an active mind and a heart eager to serve God and change the world.

Do you know any Real Grown-ups, who have not yet reached age 20? Tell us their story!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

High-Flying Homeschoolers

Real Grown-ups, Part 1

Alex & Brett Harris make a good point in their blog, the Rebelution, that it isn’t good enough just to best our culture’s current expectation of teenagers. They argue that the whole system of definitions and standards are hopelessly off-kilter. Every expectation drawn from allowances made for “adolescence” needs to be tossed off and replaced by another standard. Gentlemen, I couldn’t agree more!
Still it is difficult for people, who have been steeped in the notion that “adolescence” is a necessary stage of development, to imagine what young “non-adolescents” would look like. I have found a number of wonderful teenagers, who seem to define themselves completely outside the accepted norms. They are people upon whom I can depend to come through with creativity, energy, discretion, self-control and courage beyond even most adults I know.
They are the sort of people one needs if one is interested in serious cultural renewal. They are not yet the masters of their respective crafts, but unlike most adults, they are not people who “know only the limits of the possible” (Terry Pratchet, The Last Hero).
Over the next few days, I’d like to introduce you to a few, starting with a dynamic duo of devoted friends separated by hundreds of miles.
Natalie and Petra met through their participation in the homeschool speech and debate league, NCFCA, in Colorado. Accomplished musicians, both run music studios from their homes. Both have been nationally-ranked speakers. And both have a dedication to serving others, between them racking up a jaw-dropping 650 hours of community service, facilitating hands-on exhibits at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, teaching speech and debate, running speech tournaments for elementary school children, volunteering for local-to-national political campaigns, serving on municipal youth courts which administer restorative justice to other teens, touching literally thousands of people – and still counting. The two have a deep connection that cannot be shaken by distance or difficulty.
When Natalie’s father took a job in Oklahoma, the girls were distressed, as most friends would be, about the separation. But instead of wringing their hands, they embarked upon a project that would not only bring them closer together, but would also benefit other homeschoolers who live on the mission field or in remote rural areas. They launched the International Debate Society Network.
The IDS (pronounced “Ideas”) Network allows students to debate in real time over the internet. Petra and Natalie have lined up experienced and award-winning peer mentors, and well-respected coaches to provide teaching and training for students who have no debate experience. They will provide a series of fresh scrimmage match-ups for beginners and experienced debaters each week. Students can affiliate with the national homeschool forensics association (NCFCA), and compete in NCFCA tournaments, arriving with experience similar to that of students who can attend a debate club meeting every week. In fact, they will BE a club with all the camaraderie and personal connectedness that implies.
Incidentally, as of this writing, neither Petra nor Natalie are yet 16 years old.
There are a few spaces still available in this year’s IDS Network, which will begin its virtual meetings in October. Contact IDS Network for applications and information at .
Next time: An interview with Natalie & Petra

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Aiming Arrows

“My kids are turning out OK!” say many parents I meet. Maybe. But is that what you’ve been sacrificing your time, treasure and talent for? Kids who are merely OK?

Not I. I’m aiming higher. I want children who have been trained and challenged to the limit of their abilities; children who have been polished to keen-edged beauty and usefulness. I want children who are prepared to recognize and to seize every opportunity that Providence offers; children whose vision and education enable them to make something extraordinary of the ordinary offices of life.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to a resource which will assist you to gain college entrance and scholarship funding for your homeschooled student. This is a service BY homeschoolers FOR homeschoolers. And it is so exciting that I am not even going to wait and see the final results in my own family, before I pass the recommendation on to you!

Already, by applying the principles in which this resource family will train you, my high school children (ages 15 and 18) are financing 20 credit hours at the local community college with private scholarship funds this semester alone! Their prospects for large scholarships at four-year colleges from state universities to Ivy Leagues are promising!

Meet the Webb family and their newest enterprise: Aiming Higher Consultants

Homeschoolers and Harvard
While many homeschoolers have never considered attending an Ivy League college, institute of technology, or other elite school, the benefits of doing so should be considered. A degree from a top college can put you on the fast track to influential positions in law, finance, business, engineering, science, academia, medicine, or government.
There are great personal benefits as well. A degree from an elite college can make you a more valuable employee and a more competitive candidate for professional and graduate schools. While still in college, you will have many opportunities for top internships, undergraduate research, networking, and other kinds of learning outside the classroom. Thanks to huge endowments, top colleges tend to be very generous with scholarships and/or need-based financial aid. For lower income families, an Ivy League college may be even more affordable than a local community college.
However, the process can be daunting. Last year, Harvard had a record number of applicants (22,796). They only selected 9.1% of the pool or 2,074 students. Homeschooler Austin Webb was one of those students. He was also accepted at MIT, Caltech, the University of Chicago, Rice, and Duke. He was offered approximately $200,000 in scholarships and grants at the various schools for his freshman year alone.
To help other homeschoolers take advantage of the incredible opportunities offered by elite colleges, Austin and his mother, Jeannette Webb, have founded Aiming Higher Consultants. This firm will provide professional assistance with the college application process, including application strategy, letters of recommendation, interview skills, essay editing, school documents (transcripts, course descriptions, etc.), résumés, and scholarships. To inquire about their services, email:

Next time: High-Flying Homeschoolers

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Flying Under the Hood

My mother got her pilot’s license before her high school diploma. She describes in glowing terms the wild freedom of soaring over the fields and curling into the embrace of the mountains that ring her childhood home in Wyoming. She reminisces about the wonder of seeing her whole dear world in one bright panorama, and the thrill of landing tight and neat on her father’s backyard airstrip, steering her father’s little Taylor-craft like an extension of herself by just leaning.

More recently, I watched my brother working toward his fixed-wing instrument rating. While it was thrilling, it was not – ever – exhilarating. To receive an instrument rating, the pilot has to spend weeks flying blind except for those instruments. The cockpit is literally shrouded from take-off to touchdown. Pilots call it ‘flying under the hood’.

They never eat before going under the hood, because the body’s entire vestibular system is horribly, nauseously confused the whole time. If you look at the instruments, they will tell you precisely where you are and whether you are banking or diving. But your mind can’t reconcile your visual record with your inner ear’s readings. There are no visual cues to tell you how the wind is catching you or whether you have overshot the runway. In fact, the only thing between you and instant death is your absolute certainty that the instruments don’t lie.

By mid-life, most of us have weathered our initial flying lessons. We’ve had our share of the power and sweep of visual flight. We’ve rescued the stranded, skirted the sudden thunderhead, landed on makeshift airstrips in strange places – at night. And we think we know flying.

So out of the blue, God slips on the hood. Nothing you can see makes any sense. Everything you feel is panic and nausea. In fact, the only thing between you and instant, eternal death is your certainty that the Scriptures don’t lie.

My husband has been taking our teenagers through the Westminster Confession of Faith. Last Sunday afternoon, we were discussing “The holy Scriptures are the only rule of faith and practice,” a theme I’ve been over dozens of times. This is the first time I’ve understood it’s a life-and-death issue. By mid-life, neither reason nor emotion are sufficient to assert, “God is good.” Certainly not in events like Hurricane Katrina or the bombings of 9-11, which many commemorated today.

Tres Shoemaker, a pilot with the Experimental Aircraft Association who helped our eldest daughter with her flying expedition for her Congressional Award, advised, “Don’t marry a pilot who doesn’t have his instrument rating.” “Why?” she asked. “Because,” Tres answered, “if you get into real trouble, only a guy who can block out the sensory and emotional distractions, using his instruments and the VOR beacons, can bring you through alive.”

Sooo, fasten your seatbelts and pass the airsick bag.

Have you been ‘under the hood?’ Click on “Comments” to tell us about it.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Unnatural Disaster

I thought you all might be interested to read this insightful commentary on the Hurricane Katrina disaster by a non-Christian, libertarian journalist from the Intellectual Activist.

I'm taking a poll:
What do you think plays the greatest role in the destruction of New Orleans?
A. The hurricane's winds and water.
B. The Federal government's inefficiency.
C. The New Orleans/Louisiana failure to plan.
D. The entitlement mentality.

Just click on "Comments" to post your opinion.

Tree of Life

Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath provide critical opportunities to our nation; opportunities to assess not only the physical and economic devastation, but also to assess deeper devastations. We have an impetus to ask “what is the seed of the human violence added to the violence of nature?” and “Where can we look for the Tree of Life that will heal us?”

Just a few short years ago, in the wake of 9-11, the hard-boiled residents of New York City pulled together to support and encourage each other, and to laud the brave, loving souls who poured in from all over the country to help. The crime rate fell significantly. We heard story after story of courage, self-sacrifice, hope and gratitude.

Compare this to the reports we have coming out of New Orleans: looting, blaming, unspeakable crimes against fellow-refugees in the shelters provided, violence against the very people who have sacrificed to bring relief…What a contrast! The fact that there are still generous heroes who are willing not only to give time and treasure, but are also willing to brave the vicious ingratitude of those they have come to help, is evidence of a root of virtue in America that is still unshaken.

So what makes the difference? The sheer numbers of people affected? Race? Money? Government inefficiency? One of the 1,000 Katrina refugees which are being housed not 3 miles from my home wonders “why the ‘most powerful military on Earth’ couldn't subdue the armed thugs of New Orleans.”

Surely it is because, ultimately, no army on earth can subdue an idea.

The traditional American response to disaster is to look around for ways to help those less fortunate than myself – even if I, too, am a victim of that disaster. Mostly what we hear from those caught by Katrina in New Orleans is, “I deserve better than this!” “Why doesn’t somebody help me?” This kind of entitlement mentality, the idea that the world owes me a nice life, is as shocking to me as the scenes of natural devastation in the Mississippi delta.

The fruit of this idea is bitter indeed! It justifies shooting at the helicopters bringing food and water, because they “should have been here sooner”. It excuses those who actually stayed behind, hoping to profit from the rich looting after the storm. It explains away the monstrousness of violence against fellow-refugees. For if we are owed a nice life, then we have every right to be angry and impatient, even violent, when a nice life is not what is served up.

Yet is this idea operative only in New Orleans? How do I react when Providence serves up adversity? Do I succumb to the temptation to think of myself only as a victim? Do I vent my frustrations on others or excuse my own bad behavior?

Certainly, New Orleans shows us the extreme version of the entitlement mentality, but it serves as a sobering warning of things to come elsewhere, if we fail to examine our own reactions to difficulty. New Orleans will not heal on the hard rage of entitlement. Only the tears of repentance water the Tree of Life.


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