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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 fast forward several months to November, 2010.  The VF catalog shows up in my mailbox and I realize that getting the “free book” from them means that I’m on their mailing list.  I have no desire to be on their list, and throw the catalog away, summarily.

Then, as life is wont to do, I end up having a random discussion with a friend in Kentucky about VF.  As I start putting two-and-two together (inevitably arriving at four), I realize why it is that VF rubs me the wrong way.  It’s not just because it’s patriarchal and sets up situations that are ripe for (and with) abuse, it’s not even that they twist Scripture passages to suit their needs.  It’s that they are oddly reminiscent of Bill Gothard (of Basic Life Principles fame).

Gothard enjoyed something of a “fad status” in the 60s and 70s (I was too young to know this at the time), and had some really strange ideas about music (stating that the beat of the music can be “good” or “evil” – huh?), about why the flood took place when Noah was on earth (it was because people were dating.  Yeah, not because “the wickedness of man was great on the earth” (Genesis 6:5, NASB), but because they went on dates. <insert raised eyebrow here>), and more.

What I object to the most is that Gothard (along with his followers) tends to take one or two passages out of the Bible and apply them hard-and-fast across life.  Sometimes this is ok – there’s no Christ-follower who would deny the validity of Romans 3:23 (“for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”) across the board.  But on other issues such as infant circumcision, medical care, homeschooling, even having a plethora of children… caution must be exercised.  What Gothard and others end up doing is creating an enormously large, legalistic burden for those who take the message seriously.  There is only ONE way, and if you don’t do it THIS way, you are doomed.  Contrast that to the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:29-30:  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Such a difference!

Additionally, I dislike the lack of accountability Gothard has built in to his organization, but that’s neither here nor there.  It’s simply a personal dislike because I really do believe that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

So how does this link back to VF and patriarchy?  Gothard has morphed his material over the years and is now teaching things about “perfect obedience” for children and their mothers (both have to obey both God and the father/husband in the family perfectly) that dovetails with VF.  Doug Phillips has been speaking at Gothard events (a seminar called Advanced Training Institute or ATI) and is closely linked to Bill Gothard himself.

find the next installment 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.

Might it be that girls also learn of their personal worth in college and graduate school?  HOLY COW this one made me mad.  What sets them apart from the Taliban, which says that educating girls is a “waste”?  Do we or do we not value each and every soul God has put on this earth and believe that education is the way to learn of Him, of His love, who we are, and how we fit in to His plan?

Additionally, not educating girls is a hallmark of the FLDS.  Yes, the polygamous group in Colorado City, AZ, in Bountiful, Canada, and at the YFZ Ranch in Texas believe that educating girls is a waste – girls are born to be ‘breeders’ and have no means to enter eternity without a husband and a bevy of children.

What does education do?  It allows people to think – or rather, to learn critical thinking skills.  What is at risk in situations where girls are educated?  Control.  Power.  Dominance.  Someone who is interested in promulgating his own belief system and controlling others eschews education because the more his “subjects” learn, the less he can control them.  True with the Taliban.  True with the FLDS.  True with VF?  We’ll see.

The authors go on to say that if you reject their Westernized theology in any way, you are a “white washed feminist.”  Huh.  That’s really funny, because I’m not.  But I am a critical thinker and a non-Calvinist, non-Dominionist Christ-follower who, like the group of believers Paul encouraged in Acts (the Bereans) has the ability to “examine the Scriptures every day to see if … [it] was true.” (Acts 17:11)  But somehow, doing this puts me staunchly in the camp of “white washed feminist” in the eyes of the authors.  It seems to me that if your belief system can’t stand up to scrutiny without lobbing insults, it’s not really much of a belief system.

Additionally, westernizing Bible verses that are universal isn’t really a sound anthropological practice, either.  The authors profess that a woman should NEVER work outside the home (or inside the home, other than housework, homeschooling, and caring for her family) – ever.  So for the widow in Guatemala…?  Yeah, nope.  She can’t provide for her family, according to these authors; at least, not without blaspheming the Word of God and being a “white-washed feminist.”  What about the woman whose husband is severely disabled and unable to work?  Unh-unh.  No grace here, ladies.  What about the woman who feels called to missions – serving people in another part of the country or world?  Another >BUZZ!< sound comes from the judges’ booth.  Nope, not permissible, either.  What about the woman who chooses instead to remain unmarried?  Surely there’s an exemption for her!  Ummm, no.  There’s not.  Their model of belief only works for two-parent families (sorry, widows and never-marrieds!) where the husband is able-bodied and willing to provide for his family in a way that permits the wife to stay at home.  This sounds more like FLDS practice and/or the Taliban than anything we find here in “Christian America.”

One might argue that one book sold by the VF might not be completely within the vision of the VF; it might just be a book sold on their site, much like Amazon.com.  Except that the book in question was published by VF’s own publishing house and one of the authors (Jennie Chancey) is married to a man who some consider to be Doug Phillips’ “right hand man.”  The book seems to be a pretty accurate portrayal of the beliefs of VF and made me certain that I wouldn’t be partaking in VF-anything.

read the next installment 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

I was recently discussing Vision Forum with a friend of mine; the group has rubbed me the wrong way for some time now, but after doing more research, I felt more confident in expressing how they rub me the wrong way.  And then I kept reading.  And reading.  And researching.  I came to some pretty startling conclusions and in an effort to keep others aware and informed, I decided to write about it.

But first, I feel compelled to define myself, just so there are no questions about where I stand:

  • I am a Christ-follower
  • I am a Libertarian who leans towards Jeffersonian Constitutionalism
  • I am not a feminist nor an egalitarian, but see the beauty in the creation of the sexes as different, but worthy of the same Saviour, education, & respect
  • I am an educated woman (last degree, MA; future degree, MA)
  • I am well-educated in Scripture
  • I desire to be known by the way I’ve loved:  generously, like Jesus, and without prejudice

Those things out of the way….

My first foray in to Vision Forum was with a quote by Doug Philips.  It was tagged to someone’s signature block and said, “The Bible calls debt a curse and children a blessing.  But in our culture we apply for a curse and reject blessings.  Something is wrong with this picture.” Honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with this statement.  Children ARE a blessing.  Debt IS a curse.  And yet too often, our society values how many credit cards one has to one’s name and fails to value one’s own family and progeny.  And so, with that introduction, I went on my merry way.  I wasn’t interested enough to read further.

My next exposure to VF was through a “free!” book.  I looked at the title and realized that although it wasn’t something I would likely read on my own, for free, it wouldn’t hurt to read it.  I was dismayed to see that “shipping” for the “free book” was upwards of $7.50, but figured they might be shipping FedEx or some other more-costly carrier.  The book came in Media Mail (USPS’s cheapest form of shipping) about two weeks later, with postage that read $2.23.  I was ticked, but Mark said, “It wasn’t a FREE book; you paid for the book with their overpriced shipping, sweetheart.”  Yeah, whatever.  It did seem underhanded, but lots of places pad their shipping charges.  I saved the book to read on the plane on the way to a conference in Texas earlier this year and it was probably a good thing I did:  being on a plane restrained me from throwing the book across the cabin and knocking someone in the noggin with it.  Yes, it was that bad.  Not poorly written, but poorly exegeted (remember, my Masters is from a seminary) and the basic message of the book was “Stay Home.  Don’t Work.  Not Even From Home.  Have a Happy Heart No Matter What.  And (oh yeah), Do As I Say, Not As I Do,” because the book was written by two at-home moms.

More confession time:  I am an at-home mom.  I enjoy what I do here to make a home, bless, and serve my family.  But not all women have the luxury that I do to stay home.  I scrimp, pinch, save, and do nearly everything from scratch; not all women have the desire to do this.  I also home-educate; some of my compatriots don’t have the knowledge, energy, or desire to do this – that’s okay.

The over-arching tone of the book is what hacked me off – well, that and the insistence that a) there is “no such thing as a conservative feminist” and b) providing higher education (beyond high school) for our girls is a waste.  As to a) – ummm, yes there is.  “Conservative feminist” would be women who believe that women and men are equal (a Biblical concept, by the way – see also, Galatians 3:28), but reject the liberal politics that come along with traditional feminism.  As far as b) WHAT IN THE WORLD?!  And yet, the authors are serious.  They believe that providing a higher education to girls will simply corrupt them and plant crazy ideas in their heads that they need to work, not be family-oriented, and other “undesirable” things.  It’s almost as if this group, which purports to be “Christian” has completely negated the role of the Holy Spirit in a woman’s life.  So absent the Spirit of God Who can mold hearts and minds and lovingly urge people to change their lives, this group has to rely on a lack of education in order to accomplish their goals.  Doesn’t say much for the group, does it?  o.O

read the next installment here

This summer begins our fourth year of homeschooling and will find us back at lessons, revamping our previous plans for a leisurely time-off and romping in the summer sun.  Our previous plans, of course, were contingent upon staying in MI, included expanding our garden to twice its normal size, canning vegetables, and building a chicken coop.

But we’re not in Michigan anymore, Auntie Em.

Before we moved to Arizona, I investigated the important parts of family life:  homeschooling laws down here and the availability of raw dairy.  I know – corny, right?  But these are things that were important enough to us that we went out of our way to make them a reality in our day-to-day lives in Michigan.  As it turns out, raw dairy is legal here, but hard to come by (the laws involve so much red tape that it’s not cost effective for dairies to comply and most still sell privately “for pet consumption”).  Homeschooling laws are almost as lenient as Michigan – I have to provide an “affidavit of intent” to the principal of the high school Brendan would attend and nothing else.  I also discovered that many families down here school through the crazy-hot summer months (when they hibernate inside anyhow) and take a “summer break” in the late fall/early winter months when the temperatures are beautiful and playing outside makes much more sense.

Image credit: Michael R. Swigart

And so we’ll be doing that this summer.  Brendan thought about it for a bit and decided that it wasn’t too traitorous an idea (if we were still in Michigan, he’d balk at it), as long as we did cool family-things in his “off-time.”  And so we’ll plow through this summer and in to fall, taking our “summer break” from December to the end of February.  We’ll do fun things like visit The Painted Desert, Sedona, the Petrified Forest, Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, and eventually, the Grand Canyon.  We’ll study our surroundings and tie them in with history lessons about the native tribes and how they were forced on to reservations, as well as study the desert art that exists in these parts.

We’re also changing up our math program.  For 3 years, Brendan has done Horizons Math, which is the accelerated math arm of Alpha Omega publications.  It’s been a challenge for him, but one that was not too hard so as to discourage him.  I heard about Teaching Textbooks from Sonlight, and when I gave my kid a chance to play with the program online, he was hooked.  The lessons are done both on computer and on paper, and it seems as though it will be a good fit for him.  I have two different tests – 3rd and 4th grade – to see where he will fall.  Horizons 2nd grade program is the equivalent of 3rd grade math in other programs, so I want to see if the next level (4th grade) is better for him or if doing a review-year of 3rd grade makes more sense.

Our studies will continue to use a classical approach to history (working on year 3 of the 4 year cycle), using Story of the World‘s Early Modern Times, continuing on with read-alouds and silent reading, improving handwriting & grammar via copywork, and incorporating art as it applies to the Early Modern Times history lessons.  And of course, starting with Teaching Textbooks math program.

I’d say we’re adapting to our new environment relatively well; at least, for having been here 2 weeks today.  We’ll join the local homeschool group in our area this month and mix in some fun with lessons at the same time, but the changes our summer encompasses are proving to be interesting as well as fun.

19
Jan

A while ago I wrote about my job and how I was learning to balance work, home, and fun.

I’ve learned the lesson, except it’s not quite the way I envisioned learning it:  I quit my job.

I’m not in any way suggesting that everyone has to do what I ended up doing in order to find balance; heck, given a different job, I’m not sure that *I* had to do what I did in order to find balance.  But life is what it is and honestly, I’m not sure I would do it differently if given the chance for a do-over.

The job was always interesting, always busy.  I never (ever) stopped from the time I logged in until I signed off for the day – most days I never took lunch, either.  A bad precedent, I’m aware, but such is life.  I wanted to make a good impression and give my all for the company.  I did that – and for the first several months, all was well in the work-world.

However, all was not well in my home.  I was getting sick (weakened immunity from constant stress) and I was finding that I was becoming someone that I simply didn’t want to be around.  I was grouchy, stressed-out, and I didn’t find joy in the normal things I do for my family – like experimenting with cuisine, chores & organization, and having fun with them spontaneously.  I dreaded the start of the work-week and began to resent homeschooling – and the latter really, really bothered me.

Through a confluence of events, I got sick, took 1-½ sick-days, and heard God clearly tell me that I was neglecting my first responsibility and priority:  my family.  The second sick day, I found myself homeschooling our son (because unless I’m dying, school must go on) and actually *enjoying* it.  Which meant that I had begun to resent it because it encroached on my work-day, not because the actual educating of my child was untenable to me.  This was GOOD news.

And so I told my husband what I needed to do:  quit.  And I did.

I achieved a goal for us as a family during the few months I worked – I paid off one entire credit card.  I was pretty stinkin’ happy and proud of myself with this accomplishment, and the debt-snowball continues.  I didn’t want to lose steam on our debt chunk-down, but I also realized that my family couldn’t be sacrificed in the process of achieving my goal.  And so when people asked me “What are you going to do?”  I was able to answer honestly:  I don’t know.  But I wasn’t worried.  I truly believed that God honours the desire to get out of debt and that He would bring opportunities my way in the meantime.

Just like clockwork, opportunities have been coming my way.  I’m writing for a few other outlets and clients now (you can also find me at The English Tea Store Blog and The Taste of English Tea).  I’m also in the process of setting up my photography studio and working on my business site at the same time and have enjoyed shooting at every opportunity.  I’m content to let these opportunities come as they will and am enjoying my renewed existence here at home.

It took working my heart and soul out for a company to remind me what I really enjoy doing and how blessed I really am.  We’ve made huge sacrifices to allow me to be at home, to homeschool, and to have time to experiment with gardening, sewing, baking, canning, etc.  I don’t want to minimize those sacrifices or try to sell a bill of goods that says it’s “easy” or “not a big deal.”  It IS a big deal, but it’s also one that I took for granted and it took working full-time to allow me to remember exactly how much I like following my heart and being at home.

Dorothy was right:  there really *is* no place like home.  But I’ll skip the sequined shoes.

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RSS readers – hop on over – the pictures on the site are unlike any you’ll see anyplace else.  This is momentous stuff!  :)dsc_0040-1

dsc_0037So while our Big Boy is eating (why I assume a male gender for these caterpillars, I don’t know) … and eating … and eating, our Little Boy is getting big.  You can see Mark’s thumbnail (it’s not a giant thumb, just a regular sized one) as a point of comparison.

Big Boy is eating the heads of the flower-buds, which we’ve not provided for lunch before this.  It’s an interesting thing and seems to have produced some of his massive growth.  In past years, we simply cut leaves and put them in the container with the caterpillars.  There are always circumstances that change and things you cannot control (heat, humidity, etc.) which might affect a growth trajectory, but my hunch is that the flower buds make a difference.

dsc_0044And then it happened.  Yesterday morning, Mark said, “Oh, we’re headed to chrysalis!”  I came over and looked – sure enough!  Monarch caterpillars only hit this “J”-shape for one reason – to rest and begin chrysalis.  I couldn’t remember how long it took our last batch to form their chrysalis, just that it happened when we weren’t watching – or couldn’t watch (i.e., overnight).dsc_0046

Later yesterday morning, I went to the kitchen (where this science experiment lives) to make Brendan’s lunch.  I looked at the container to see the strangest thing … our Big Boy had a blob of green on him.  I grabbed the camera to document, and lo & behold … he formed his chrysalis right before our eyes.  I hollered for Brendan and this is what we saw – shot at about 10 second intervals.

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from left to right, you can see the chrysalis forming and climbing up its body, ring by ring.

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A little more now ….

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Almost there….

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As the chrysalis closed in over his body, Big Boy looked a little uncomfortable to me.  I wasn’t quite sure how he would get his legs and antennae in the chrysalis as he finished making it, but then I realized ….

dsc_0055dsc_0057… it wasn’t his legs & antennae, it was a skin that he shed.  I’d forgotten that as they grow, monarch caterpillars shed their skins.  Apparently, Big Boy decided that he could do that once & for all when he formed his chrysalis, and so as it fell off (when the chrysalis closed at the top), I realized what was going on.

dsc_0058It’s cramped quarters in there and even now, his chrysalis is undergoing changes.  But this is, by far, one of the coolest things I’ve ever witnessed.  Amazing.

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This is another post that is better read on the site than in an RSS reader – the photos will not show up in RSS.  So, c’mon over!dsc_0004

Wow, this caterpillar just keeps on growing!  Two years ago when we hatched them and took photos, the whole process took about 3.5 weeks.  The growth was incremental, but this little guy’s growth has been astronomical in terms of rate & comparison.

dsc_0007Brendan’s favourite thing to point out is the caterpillar poo – they are known to “eat and poo” as a matter of course.  And of course, as they get bigger, their poo increases in size.  Which, for whatever unfathomable reason, is fascinating to a 7 y/o boy. :roll:

These shots were taken with my Nikon D70s and a 70-300mm lens with macro setting.  So honestly, although he looks huge here, Mr. Caterpillar isn’t *that* big.  But it was the best way to show off his details and cool body. 😉

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We also found a new baby caterpillar at the same time – Karen said that she’d found some inadvertently when bringing in the budded stalks, and so did we.  This little guy is about the size of a dsc_0014grain of rice in this picture (again, shot in macro).

The big guy gave me some cool angles to shoot him – instead of placing him in a jar, we maintained the stalk-setup (which I prefer), partially because it was easy, and partially because it mimics what they would do in nature, if not already eaten by a predator.dsc_0015 So popping over the top of a leaf to munch was pretty fun to grab on camera.

dsc_0033Apparently, having multiple sets of legs also makes Mr. Caterpillar quite agile & having a long, segmented body makes him quite flexible.  I’m not sure it would help my perpetual clumsiness or not – it would probably magnify the fact that I cannot maintain vertical presence. 😉

So watching and waiting – the growth is unprecedented in this guy, and our newest hatchling is doing quite well, also.  Stay tuned!

Oh, and all of these shots and more are over at my Flickr account – check out the badge to the right and go take a look in full size & high res! :)

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