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It’s hard to believe, but Brendan is nearly done with 3rd grade. Realistically, it’s not that hard to believe, because we’ve been plowing through 3rd grade material since … last July, but it’s gone by in a heartbeat.

We’ve been doing odd-books for read-alouds (him to me) here, mostly working in the Little House on the Prairie series.  I’ve been doing an assortment of read-alouds as well (me to him), including The Chronicles of Narnia.  We’ll continue to go through the Little House series until he’s done, and the move on to the books we didn’t finish last year.

History is almost done too, which is odd, because last year we slogged through our history material.  I’m using Story of the World, and the 2nd book was a beast.  I thought we were making good time, but everything else in our core was done long before it was.  This year, the 3rd book has chugged along well – I was surprised to realize we have fewer than 20 days left until we’re done.

Math has gone really well this year, with Teaching Textbooks at the helm.  We had been using Alpha Omega’s math Horizons, not realizing that it was the “accelerated curriculum” from AO.  While it was fine to “spiral” the new concepts, there was no space to go back and review, and we found that one lesson on each concept wasn’t enough.  Brendan worked his way through it for three years, but when I showed the 2nd grade book to some friends who have older kids, they were amazed at how advanced it was.  I knew that pushing him further was going to be counter-productive, and so I began the hunt for a more workable math program.  Enter Teaching Textbooks.  It’s a computer-based program, complete with lectures and interactive work.  We also purchased the workbook, which allowed him to work the math on paper without having to write the problems down.  It allows for answers, corrections, and even provides hints – Brendan loves it.  Their website also has placement tests, which was a great thing for us.  I’ll be purchasing Math 5 shortly – Brendan informs me that he has about 10 more days left of work.  Yikes!

Science has been largely in the co-op this year, but we won’t be partaking in that next year.  I’m not thrilled with Apologia’s Botany program and the group wants to continue in the Apologia series, but I’m also going to be teaching drama, so I can’t teach two co-op classes simultaneously.  I think we’ll go back to Building Foundations in Scientific Understanding (BFSU) by Bernie Nebel for next year’s science – we weren’t able to finish it all in 2nd grade, and it’s easy enough to pick up and do on our own next year.  Dr. Nebel also has Book 2 out and Book 3 is slated for publication by June, 2011.  I’m hopeful that we can pair with another family like we did in Michigan, but that’s hinged on finding a house that is close to one of our friends.  :)

Handwriting will continue with Handwriting Without Tears, although it’s not as tear-less as promised.  At least not for my kid.  We’ll work on cursive this year, as Brendan now has the fine motor skills to manage it.  Happily, that book is already procured and I just ordered a huge stack of their lined paper, so we’re good to go.  :)

We’ll continue with Sequential Spelling, which has been a massive success for us.  Before we started this, I was really hoping that Brendan would absorb spelling like I did – through reading.  Unfortunately, he could read at a much higher grade level than he was in, but couldn’t spell crap.  Literally. C-R-A-P was a challenge for him.  This program is teaching him basic rules of spelling, word families, and is great.  :)

We might pick up grammar again next year – this past year, I bought Grammar Ace, but it became quickly apparent that the concepts were far too advanced for a 3rd grader.  I love the fact that it works in conjuction with “Schoolhouse Rock” (the DVDs I bought for myself, not for my kid!), but there are a multitude of topics that were not covered in Grammar Rock.  I probably should have purchased the instructional guide too, but I honestly thought it wouldn’t be bad.  I’m a writer and I know grammar.  But when it comes to subjunctives, participles, and more, I’m at a loss for explaining them.  I use them correctly, but ….  I will most likely end up buying the teacher’s guide and trying this one again.  :)

So that’s the report for the end of 3rd grade – clearly, I have some procurement to do.  And I’ll be selling Math4 in Teaching Textbooks – all four DVDs that work on Mac or PC.  If you’re interested in the latter, hit me up – it will be discounted from the $100 pricetag.  :)

 

I’m feeling rather philosophic this morning and was contemplating some of the reasons why I homeschool DSC_0077photo © 2007 sue | more info (via: Wylio)
Brendan, but moreover, why I believe it’s the right thing for this stage in my life.  I’ve got friends who don’t homeschool, and that’s cool for them – but I couldn’t do it.  I read their statuses on Facebook about having a quiet house or time to themselves and I realize:  I could have all of that, too.  Time to do laundry unencumbered.  Quiet in the mornings instead of hearing babbling over LEGO pieces.  A peaceful lunch by myself or time to go hang with girlfriends in the middle of the day.  Grocery shopping alone.

The thing is, I don’t want any of that stuff.  I will have time in my life for them – when I’m done raising Brendan.  I had that time before I had him – 7 years of infertility:  longing, wanting, and waiting for the noisiness and activity of a kid.  I will have those things once he’s grown and on his own.  I don’t want them now.  I can wait, because I know I will miss the discussions at the washer and dryer, the chattering over LEGO, the noise (sometimes intensity, if he’s tired) in the mornings.  Grocery shopping will be a solo activity again in a mere 9+ years.

I can wait for those things again.

I homeschool because I feel called to this lifestyle.  I homeschool because I want to be involved in my kid’s education.  I want to learn with him, to see the lightbulbs go off in his head when he understands a new concept.  To hear him develop in his vocabulary, to see his handwriting improve. To hear him say, “Multiplication?! Oh, that’s EASY” when he hits a new section in his math program.

I homeschool because life is so much learning that doesn’t take place in a formalized classroom with standardized tests. Brendan learns fractions in math, yes, but also in the kitchen we we make bread or baked oatmeal or granola.  He learns science when we combine ingredients in cooking and use raw honey that has pieces of honeycomb and other hive-bits in it and talk about what an amazing thing it is that these little insects produce such an incredible product.

I homeschool because I don’t want to farm out his learning to someone else.  I know that not everyone feels equipped to do this and that’s perfectly okay.  But I am equipped – and even if I’m not fully ready in some subjects, there is fantastic curriculum out there to help make me more prepared.

I homeschool because I want to enhance my relationship with my kid and be The Main Influencer in his life for as long as possible.  Kids learn from other kids and develop values from where they spend the most time.  Parents who don’t homeschool have 3000 (discretionary) hours per year to influence their kids; I figure homeschooling at least doubles the available time I have to influence my son with the values that we find important.  And just for the record, churches have about 45 hours (generally) in a year to influence kids.  So taking my kid to church faithfully isn’t going to impart values that I want in him if I neglect my part of the equation.

I also homeschool because although there are great teachers out there (and I’m blessed to be friends with many of them), the educational system in the US is broken right now.  Kids are learning to take tests and states like Michigan are lowering the curve so that more kids are ‘doing fantastic!’.  I want Brendan to learn ancient and modern history, to learn an appreciation for music and art, and to learn to love learning – and none of those can be done within the context of teaching to the test.  As my (wise) friend Jenny says, “The pendulum in education will eventually swing back to something healthier than this, but we are on the far-side of that pendulum swing right now.”  For better or worse, it’s where education in our country stands right now.

I was reading over at That Mom‘s blog and happened across her concept of Relationship Homeschooling.  It’s geared toward the Christ-follower who homeschools, but it’s really where I want to live.  I want the relationship my kid has with God and with us to be as strong as possible, and homeschooling allows me to do that.  I wouldn’t feel guilty if something drastic happened and we had to go to an institutional school setting, but for this time and space in my life, I’m doing what I’ve been called to do.

And that’s why I homeschool.

I have been studying, reading, and contemplating this series for a few weeks now, and despite my nervousness at publishing it, I think it’s an important topic.  I include it on my blog because this group is infiltrating homeschooling communities across the country and not representing themselves accurately Biblically.  Please feel free to comment; if you disagree with me, that’s fine – but keep your comments clean, polite, and respectful.  Those who don’t will find their comments deleted at my discretion.  –Sue

If you’re new here and want to start at the beginning of this series, start reading here.

So Is VF a Christian Group?

The jury is still out on this one.  There are tenets of Christian faith (it is a Calvinist-based Dominionist offshoot), but the majority of Biblical scholars consider the group to be heretical.  The preponderance of emphasis placed on Old Testament living, laws, and ideas that are specific to the group (in some ways, almost secretive) not supported/refuted by New Testament scripture places it squarely in the “gnostic-type” heretical category.  Gnostics, just as a refresher, were an offshoot in the early first century who said (among other things) that they had a “special knowledge” that set them apart and made them “more Christian” than other Christ-followers.

What is appealing about joining a group like this?  I’ve pondered this one for some time now and can come up with one of three scenarios:

  1. The husband in the relationship is a control-freak who, based on his past and the baggage he brings to the relationship, needs absolute control over all circumstances in his life in order to feel secure.  The wife he marries will either marry him unknowingly (i.e., he keeps the control-side hidden during courtship) or comes from a chatoic background and sees his ability to be controlling as a “calming influence” in her life, one that’s a welcomed-change.
  2. The husband in the situation has an inferiority-complex and is drawn to the Patriarchal idea that the husband is always right, is never wrong, and can have absolute control over his family.  He might have abuse in his background that led him to feel this way, or have grown up with authoritarian parents who stripped him of all ability to make wise choices in his life, leaving him feeling as though he will never measure up.  His wife might play in to his inferiority complex by being particularly strong (or even abusive), and he sees this as an opportunity to “take control of his life.”
  3. The couple is drawn in, incrementally, to the structure and comfort of “old world values” that VF/IBLP seems to provide.  The catalogs and seminars are rife with imagery of pre-Industrial-Revolution America; a time when rebellion in teenagers and families falling apart was less-common (and/or less-publicized).  The husband might not have any baggage and this might be a joint-decision for he and his wife.  They may not have a huge amount of Biblical knowledge and put themselves at the mercy of the Bill Gothards and Doug Phillips of the movement, not understanding how things are being twisted out of context and warped beyond what God intended.  Like many groups that seek to promote a “counter-culture existence,” there’s a strong sense of camaraderie and belonging, and if in the group long enough, evidence of “shunning” for those who choose to leave.  This is oftentimes powerful motivation to “stay within the folds” and continue in this lifestyle, even if it’s not working for the family unit.

There are probably other extenuating circumstances and ways people get involved in VF/IBLP, but I think these are the major reasons.  Is abuse at the heart of every man who chooses to lead his family in patriarchial theology?  I don’t think it’s quite that dastardly.  But sometimes pride is a big stumbling block to admitting that one has gone down a wrong path, and someone without a desire to be abusive will continue on the path simply because it’s embarrassing or too humbling to make a U-turn.

So why did I spend all of this time writing about this?  Why did I focus so much on this heretical sect?  Partially because their words about debt, children, and values is so enticing.  Partially because their influence is hitting the homeschooling community hard right now.  And partially because my heart absolutely aches for women in this type of group.  They have little hope, little joy, and many burdens.  Their men are “faultless,” and they bear the brunt for everything wrong in their marriages and families.  I want them to know, even if it’s through words of a friend who might read this:  this isn’t all there is to life with God.  He has SO much more for you than this. If even one woman glimpses hope and finds strength to leave this sect, it’s worth it to me.  If even one person reads this and is dissuaded from getting further involved in VF and their political agenda, it’s worth it.

The things of God are not as burdensome as the things of man.  Ever.  If you doubt me, that’s fine – but give benefit of doubt to the Man Who said it (oh yeah, and He rose from the dead, so go with Him anyhow):

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

I have been studying, reading, and contemplating this series for a few weeks now, and despite my nervousness at publishing it, I think it’s an important topic.  I include it on my blog because this group is infiltrating homeschooling communities across the country and not representing themselves accurately Biblically.  Please feel free to comment; if you disagree with me, that’s fine – but keep your comments clean, polite, and respectful.  Those who don’t will find their comments deleted at my discretion.  –Sue

If you’re new here and want to start at the beginning of this series, start reading here.

Patriarchy

Patriarchy is a model which says the man (husband) is the head of the household to the exclusion of all other family members.  It takes the Biblical concept of “headship” and expands on it to Old Testament levels, saying that the husband is worthy of being called “lord” and that his wife and children exist to serve him.  Not that the family unit is designed to work together for love and commitment and to serve God, but that they are to serve him.  It’s Selfishness 101, justified with an Old Testament framework that refuses to consider Philippians 2 as the model of serving each other in love.

Additionally, VF theology demands that women not have any spiritual authority – they are permitted to teach each other and young children, but even as their boys “age out” and become young men, the mothers aren’t considered “worthy” to teach spiritual principles or correct their growing sons.  I cannot imagine being so constrained that I didn’t have authority to teach my son as he grew – and yet, this is common.

Within this framework, women are definitely second-class citizens, and the lack of interest in educating girls/women takes on a whole new significance.

Marriage

No one gets married with the idea that it’s going to be a limited-time engagement.  No one actively lobbies for divorce or harbours the idea that divorce is easy, fun, or emotionally-edifying.  I firmly believe that the divorce rate is what it is today because the majority of us are woefully under-educated in how to keep a marriage together through the tough times.  In the good times, it’s hard to maintain real-life relationships that can steady us through rough waters; without those relationships in place, it’s particularly tough to find strength or anchor in the choppy seas of marital conflict.  Life isn’t meant to be lived alone – in a community, we can support each other and learn from each other on how to make our marriages work.

However, as a future marriage-therapist, I will say that no one worth his or her salt in marriage & family therapy would EVER suggest that marital problems are entirely the fault of one party.

And yet, VF/IBLP (like the FLDS) say that it’s always the fault of the wife.  Always.

This rankles me more than I can rightly express.  Pieces of my life have come back in to focus as I’ve studied and talked about this group.  There was a point in my past when I did an online study with a woman who purported to be my “mentor,” and we worked through The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace.  The book had many of these principles in it – every problem in my marriage was my fault, despite the fact that most of the things we were dealing with were issues LONG before I even met my husband.  One friend asked me why I was continuing the study if it bothered me so much, and my only answer was, “I’m not a quitter.  Maybe the book gets better…?”  It didn’t and I should’ve had the guts to quit the program and move on long before it was over.

Was I completely faultless in our marriage?  No, but my reactions were to things that were far beyond the scope of “just be a submissive wife and let your husband do what he wants.”  I don’t really believe than any marriage is ever fixed with those words – it just sweeps the issues under the rug and the couple then gets to dance on the edge of rug as the nameless lump in the middle gets larger through the years.

According to this theology, it doesn’t matter if the husband in the patriarchal marriage comes with tons of baggage, a history of abuse (sexual, emotional, verbal, or physical), it’s ALWAYS the wife’s fault for tension in the relationship.  It doesn’t matter if the husband demands that his wife be pregnant and raise 12 children and then doesn’t lift a finger to help with the family’s needs or chores around the house – it’s her fault for not being able to maintain the household, absorb the stress, and then be a willing and coy sexual partner.

the last installment in this series is here

I have been studying, reading, and contemplating this series for a few weeks now, and despite my nervousness at publishing it, I think it’s an important topic.  I include it on my blog because this group is infiltrating homeschooling communities across the country and not representing themselves accurately Biblically.  Please feel free to comment; if you disagree with me, that’s fine – but keep your comments clean, polite, and respectful.  Those who don’t will find their comments deleted at my discretion.  –Sue

If you’re new here and want to start at the beginning of this series, start reading here.

Politics

There is much more to VF beliefs than just their strange use of Bible verses to mandate things that God never mandated; much of it is rooted in political belief that they are creating an “army for God.”  As a conservative (Libertarian), this makes my skin crawl.  I don’t want an army of people fighting culture “for God” and muddying the waters.  For if they consider any woman who disagrees with their twisted theology “white washed feminists,” what will they call political opponents who disagree with them?

Additionally, I genuinely don’t believe that God NEEDS them to make an army for Him.  Jesus Himself said in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Don’t you know that I could ask My Father and He would send thousands of angels to protect us, instantly?” (Matthew 26:53)  God is fully capable of raising His own army – I sincerely doubt that He needs our “help” in this arena, seeing as we humans tend to misunderstand, misinterpret, and misapply so many of His actual commands to us.  Some things are better left in His hands than taken in to ours.

Because we’re talking about child-rearing, I’ll include the idea that children (and wives) need to be perfectly obedient according to Gothard and VF.  If children are “out of control” or “rebellious,” it is seen as a reflection on the husband that he doesn’t have his home “in control.”  And because in patriarchy (which I’ll talk about more tomorrow) there is an extreme amount of pressure put on all members of the family, a patriarchal man cannot risk being seen by his community as “out of control.”  Although not part of the patriarchy movement per se, there is much written about Michael & Debi Pearl, who have written books about how to bring your children in to “perfect submission” with plumbing line (for beatings that don’t leave a mark), and more.  Fear is the main tool used in child-rearing in this particular group – children are taught to fear their fathers (lest they receive a beating) and they’re taught to fear God, Who comes across ogre-ish through the eyes of a child (or under-educated woman) and simply wants perfect obedience.  There is no space for grace in this belief system.

But between the mandate to have many (perfectly obedient) children and the discouragement to educate them, this begins to make more sense to me:  if you’re raising an “army,” you don’t want an army that will question leadership.  You want an army that will take commands and do them without thinking.  You don’t want to foster independent-thinking or critical thinking skills; you want foot-soldiers who are easy to control.  Plus, it becomes unmanageable to consider educating (properly) all of those children when you’re encouraged/told/forced to have a dozen or so, unless one is incredibly independently wealthy.  So by removing the education-aspect of raising children, you’ve just removed one of the major objections many have to having 10 or more children.  And you’ve just insured that your lifestyle and theology will likely be passed along, because the children will grow in to adults with little-to-no critical-thinking ability.  They won’t need it – they’ll simply form “God’s army” and mow down their opponents with force and sheer numbers, right?  No reason to spread the Gospel – heathen are heathen; white-washed feminists are lost and going to Hell if they disagree with you.

Convenient, eh?

the next installment is here

I have been studying, reading, and contemplating this series for a few weeks now, and despite my nervousness at publishing it, I think it’s an important topic.  I include it on my blog because this group is infiltrating homeschooling communities across the country and not representing themselves accurately Biblically.  Please feel free to comment; if you disagree with me, that’s fine – but keep your comments clean, polite, and respectful.  Those who don’t will find their comments deleted at my discretion.  –Sue

If you’re new here and want to start at the beginning of this series, start reading here.

Reproduction / Quiverful

Another principle that is mandated by VF/IBLP is that women must have as many children as humanly possible.  It’s called the principle of being “quiverful,” which is based on Psalm 127:3-5.  These verses are a statement of fact – saying that children are a blessing.  I have no qualms with this.  I also have no problems with people having as many children as they wish and as they can support.  To each couple:  blessings, happy sex, and joyous returns in the form of little ones.

But is this verse a mandate to have as many children as possible?  Biblical scholars say no.  If it was a command, it wouldn’t appear in Psalms, which is a book of poetry; it would have appeared in one of the books of the law (i.e., Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy), as God would have instructed the Israelites to fulfill it as part of the Mosaic Law.  Hmmm.  This seems to be glossed over by the VF/IBLP people.

What happens when you make something law that isn’t really God’s law?  Innocent people get caught in the cross-fire.  What does this do to women (like me) who have multiple miscarriages and for whom conceiving is not only a major miracle, but also life-threatening?  Mark nearly lost me and Brendan when I was 25 weeks pregnant – this is not something we wanted to do again, not because I think I’m so valuable, but because our son is that valuable and to leave him without a mother is an unacceptable risk.

To complicate matters, many people in this particular camp don’t believe in/practice adoption.  They have fear-based beliefs about “spiritual baggage that comes with adoption” and so they won’t consider giving a home to a child who has none.  To me, it’s not only the height of arrogance to attempt to put people under this yoke of bondage, but also to refuse to help those who need it most – orphans.  James 1:27a has some really strong things to say about this, but this verse seems to be overlooked by the VF/IBLP people.  They’ll focus on one set of verses out of Psalms and make it law, but they won’t consider these words:  Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress…

What happens when you mix the mandate for as many children as possible with women who may not feel equipped to have a gaggle of kids (oh, and homeschool all of them, too!)?  Situations where women might struggle with postpartum depression, exhaustion, overwhelm, and more.  But within this system, there is virtually no assistance for a mother who might find herself “failing” at the standards set before her.  The FLDS justify polygamy by saying that “sister wives” can help raise each other’s children and help each other with house chores (which escapees from this lifestyle roundly deny as reality).  Women who are subjected to this particular lifestyle and religious system are simply told to maintain their quiet and gentle spirits (1 Peter 3:4).  To me, that’s awfully close-sounding to the phrase “keep sweet!” that the FLDS use to indicate that they shouldn’t complain about mistreatment, abuse, or anything else.  Hmmm.

the next installment is here

I have been studying, reading, and contemplating this series for a few weeks now, and despite my nervousness at publishing it, I think it’s an important topic.  I include it on my blog because this group is infiltrating homeschooling communities across the country and not representing themselves accurately Biblically.  Please feel free to comment; if you disagree with me, that’s fine – but keep your comments clean, polite, and respectful.  Those who don’t will find their comments deleted at my discretion.  –Sue

If you’re new here and want to start at the beginning of this series, start reading here.

In the interest of making it easier to read, I’m breaking down the categories with which I have issues with VF:

Clothing / Modesty

Some things of the VF seem rather harmless on the surface.  Who doesn’t want to dress their daughters modestly and be modest themselves?  Who wants to put their little girls in “prosti-tot” clothes and hyper-sexualize them?  Most of us wish to let our children be children for as long as possible without unduly sexualizing them or letting society do it for us.

But does modesty have to equal one particular style of dress?  The FLDS says it does – and their women wear baggy, formless dresses in the prairie-style of the late 1800s.  The Taliban says it does – and they insist that their women wear burquas – a black covering from head-to-toe that disguises the shape and features of a woman.  VF also proscribes its own form of “modest clothing,” although somewhat less severe than the other two groups.  Their style is more in line with the FLDS for young girls (jumpers, pinafores, dresses) and for older girls and women, very long (floor-length) skirts and jumpers.  The idea appears to be “hide every ounce of skin so as not to cause your brother to stumble and look at you with lust.”  I can appreciate that – partly.  Do I have an obligation to not cause my fellow believer to stumble?  Yes I do – according to Romans 14:13, I’m not to be a “stumbling block” to a fellow believer.  Cool.

But if the issue is lust, is the obligation ALL mine, or does the person struggling with lust have some obligation as well?  I believe it’s the latter.  I can dress like Queen Victoria (who insisted that the legs of a piano be covered, lest a man see a piano leg and begin lusting over a woman’s leg – no, that is not a joke) and if someone I attend church with has problems with lust, it won’t matter HOW I’m dressed.  A perfect example of this for me is found in Turkey.  Muslim women there wear hijab, the traditional head-coverings.  They are appropriately covered as a woman is expected to be there, but there is pornography in the daily newspaper.  The prevailing attitude seems to be:  Don’t look at MY woman, but feel free to ogle OTHER women in a degrading way.  This blows my mind – and says that lustful thoughts have very little to do with how women dress and far more to do with what’s in the heart and mind of the person with the lustful thoughts.

More confession:  I prefer skirts to pants and wear skirts and/or dresses daily.  My husband doesn’t ask me to, I just do it on my own.  I have no religious compunction about it, I just like being a girl and dressing this way.  Yet my clothes are “too flashy” for most at VF – the skirts are either too short (knee-length), too patterned (floral prints), or something else would be deemed immodest.

So where is the problem with dressing modestly?  There really isn’t one – unless it’s taken to an extreme.  Modest clothing is not seen as wearing pants and a top that doesn’t expose too much skin, it’s about wearing the right skirt – long, typically denim, and fitting a particular style or expectation.  It’s another load added on to the already-heavy yoke of perfect-submission for girls and women.  It fails to account for the Spirit of God directing and guiding individuals – and says instead that man will direct and guide individuals.  The trouble is, when God does it, it’s not burdensome.  When man does it, it is – and it lacks joy, peace, and other hallmarks of the Spirit.

the next installment is here

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