October 18, 2016

Yes, No, Wait

As I’ve studied the Bible, I’ve learned that God always answers every prayer, though not every answer is yes. Of course, He sometimes does say yes in short order, and the provision is undeniably clear. But sometimes He must say no, and sometimes we don’t see an answer right away, which means He’s telling us to wait. If we accept Romans 8.28 – “that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him” – we can eventually understand the necessity of the no and wait answers even if we wish things could be different.

If we’re doing our job as parents, we’ll seek to communicate with our kids as He does. That means we must discern which answer – yes, no, or wait – to provide in various situations, and our motivation in every case must be for our kids’ ultimate good. We can’t always say yes, because we must protect them from physical, emotional, or spiritual harm they may be unable to discern for themselves. But when we say no or wait, we must have a legitimate reason fueled by a desire to provide for their long-term well-being.

I recently found myself in a situation like this with one of my daughters. She was offered an unexpected babysitting job and desperately wanted me to say yes because she loves caring for children and had been told the family “really needed” a sitter right away. But we’d never met anyone in the family. I considered saying yes because my daughter’s been babysitting for several church friends for about a year, and I trust her abilities. But I didn’t have peace about allowing her to go, sight unseen, to a stranger’s home, and my husband agreed with my concerns. So we ultimately decided to wait – reserving the right to ultimately say no if necessary – until we could meet and vet the family.

My daughter was disappointed and frustrated. Just as when God must tell any of us no or wait, she didn’t fully understand our reasons and didn’t necessarily agree with us. I could have said, “No means no,” which is sometimes appropriate (if delivered in a loving tone) with a young child, and left it at that. But my daughter is a teen, so I felt she deserved to hear the logical reasons even though she (understandably) wanted to refute them. Then we used the situation as an opportunity to provide guidance and instruction by helping her create a resume as well as a list of questions to ask the family. She and I will meet with them soon and use our impressions – as well as their feelings about her appropriateness for their family’s needs – to decide on our final answer.

We can’t always say
yes. Our kids won’t always be happy with our decisions. But if we keep the lines of communication open – if we explain and guide rather than simply mandate – our relationships with them will remain strong over time. Then they’ll be able to accept the no or wait – and they’ll eventually understand the reasons, too.


Photo Credit: Greens MPs

October 4, 2016

Be Circumspect and Judicious

A few times a year, I run across “shaming videos” on social media. You know them, too: videos posted after a parent becomes so angry with a child’s bad behavior that he or she plans a deliberate means of humiliating the child, tapes the event, and then shares it on Facebook and Instagram, begging others to make it “go viral” with the supposed goal of “reforming” the child via public abasement. Tragically, those videos usually garner several hundred thousand “likes” and hundreds of positive comments.

Much more regularly – at least a handful of times every week – I read posts in which a parent publicly rants about his or her child’s bad behavior. The child is often referenced by name or other personally identifiable information, and the parent displays very little restraint in detailing the extent of the child’s shameful acts. Often included in these diatribes are phrases like, “He drives me crazy,” or even, “She makes me sick.”

Parenting is hard; I know that. I’ve been blessed with generally compliant children – but they’re human and we’ve had our fair share of challenges over the years…with more to come, I’m sure. And I’ve listened to – and counseled when appropriate – dozens and dozens of other parents with deep concerns over wayward or otherwise struggling children. Sometimes kids’ behavior drives us to justifiable frustration and even anger. Sometimes we reach our limit and feel we must vent. And we can feel so stuck that we’re desperate for the opinion of someone – anyone – else.

But we must be very careful. It’s one thing to vent to a dear friend – offline and out of earshot of one’s children or anyone else; it’s another thing entirely to broadcast a child’s misdeeds publicly. And make no mistake about it: just as we wisely counsel our kids to be careful about what they put on social media because nothing there is really private, so, too, the same guidelines apply to our own posts – no matter how tight our settings or “secret” a group. Likewise, it’s one thing to post a general parenting question, even a desperate one – social media can be a big help in that regard; it’s another thing entirely to lambast and excoriate a child in the public setting of social media, no matter how terrible his behavior may have been.

If we want our kids to maintain open communication with us throughout their lives – and I hope that’s our goal, because it’s through openness that we grow and maintain the relationships that will enable us to guide them through the travails of growing up – they have to trust us. But if they discover we’ve betrayed their privacy by maligning them on social media – and they will find out, either by seeing the posts, hearing someone talk about them, or simply via our attitudes that will seep into our real life interactions with them – we’ll kill that trust. And open communication dies with it.

Get wise counsel when needed. But be circumspect and judicious. And think before you share on social media. Would you want someone airing
your dirty laundry all over Facebook without your consent? Of course not. And our children deserve from their parents the same common decency we expect others to give us.

Photo Credit: ellyn.

September 20, 2016

Front-Loading the Effort

My two daughters have always talked a lot. In fact, from the time each “found” words as a baby, it’s seemed as if the only time one or the other isn’t talking is when they’re asleep…and at least one of them occasionally talks then too! Whether it was wondering about some aspect of the morning’s Bible reading, narrating the detailed plotline of a Barbie game they’d taken hours to design, racing in from the yard to describe the antics of the squirrel family inhabiting our big tree, or getting off on some meandering rabbit trail during a read-aloud time, the questions and exclamations seemed to fly non-stop. And now that they’re teens, they’re actually still talking; in fact, we sometimes get so deeply engaged in conversation that we almost lose track of a day’s to-do list or go well past “lights out” time in the evening.

I am not an indulgent parent; I don’t let my kids interrupt my conversations with others, and after they’d given up afternoon naps, I instituted a daily “rest time” in which they were required to silently watch one of our age-appropriate DVDs so I could have an hour of quiet. And even now, I will say, “Girls, my ears are tired; can I have some time?” But I’m not a saint. I have my fair share of moments when a child is talking to me while my mind is elsewhere. And I’ve also found myself occasionally hollering, “Would you just be quiet for five minutes?!”

Thankfully, though, I’d latched on from the very beginning of my kids’ lives to one key point various writers and speakers counsel about communication in the parent-child relationship – namely, that kids need and want the security of knowing they’re actually heard by their parents.

Setting boundaries is entirely appropriate; a child must know he cannot always be the center of attention and that his parents are not at his beck and call. But even in the exhaustion of raising young children, we must be careful to distinguish between boundaries and self-centeredness. Training my child to wait quietly while I finish a conversation in the church lobby is appropriate, but putting him off for half an hour while I play a Candy Crush on Facebook is not. Expecting a child to entertain herself for age-appropriate periods of time is healthy, but keeping her at bay all day is not, even if the cause of my busyness is a need to complete legitimate household chores; instead of brushing the child away, I need to include her in the work and talk with her during the process.

Choosing to be engaged in the communication process with our kids – actively listening often, knowing when and how to set boundaries – is hard work. It requires patience and perseverance beyond our own strength. But remember that kids – of all ages – need and want their parents in this regard. And front-loading the effort when they’re young really does pay the dividends you’ll want later on: teens who remain open with you. Your ears will still tire then, but you’ll be thankful for it.


September 6, 2016

It’s Time for a Cease-Fire

Education is a hot-button issue.

In fact, it’s exceedingly rare to find a person who doesn’t have an opinion about what’s “best” in terms of kids’ learning. Some insist that public school offers the best opportunities and should be mandatory for all, and others maintain that homeschooling is the only way to go. Still others assert that private school provides the best of both worlds. And when we add the voices supporting each of the vast, almost infinite, variety of options within “the big three” – charter, virtual, voucher, Charlotte Mason, unit studies, classical, unschooling, Christian, Montessori, alternative…just to name a few – we find ourselves surrounded by an ear-splitting cacophony of aggressive activism.

That said, opinions in and of themselves are not bad. And children’s education is so important that the existence of strong opinions is understandable. In fact, anyone who knows me personally is familiar with my background as a classroom teacher in “at-risk” schools, the pride I now take in being a homeschool mom, and my particular, deeply held convictions about educational theory and practice.

But it’s time to poke our heads up out of the trenches and get some perspective.

First, we must each realize that we don't have a right to an opinion about what's best for anyone else's child. My husband and I fully considered every educational option, have taken into account the ramifications of each, and have come to a conclusion about what's best for our children. We cannot be swayed...and we shouldn't have to endure unsolicited lectures - or "helpful suggestions" - from proponents of other options. But neither do we have a right to push our views onto parents who have chosen differently. In fact, unless we’re asked, we have no standing from which to state an opinion. Out of respect for parental authority, we must assume that all parents have fully researched the matter for their own children and have come to their conclusions in good faith. We might not agree, but it's simply not our place to butt in.

Conversely, we must also decide to stop being offended by others’ choices. My friend’s decision to enroll her children in the local private school is not an indictment of my homeschooling. My meme celebrating homeschooling is not an attack on a fellow church member’s decision to send her children to the public school down the street. And my relative’s announcement that his daughter made all-state for the public school’s volleyball team is not a jab at schooling options that offer different benefits. It’s possible that a rude, immature person might actually intend to offend in such a way, but why do we let ourselves assume the worst?

The “school wars” have grown tiresome. And no one will ever win if we insist on continuing to usurp others’ parental authority over their own children. But if we can choose to agree that the widest possible variety of options should always be available and that each child’s parents have the right to decide for their own kids, we can reach détente. It's time for a cease-fire.


August 23, 2016

The First Thing First

“…[Jesus] is the head of the body,
the church;
He is the beginning
and the firstborn from among the dead,
so that in all things
He may have preeminence.”

~ Colossians 1.18

Thinking about how to address this week’s topic – getting off to a great start in the new school year – has been a challenge. After all, a “great start” can mean so many different things depending entirely on the people and circumstances involved.

Most who use public or private institutional schools are launching a “new school year” right about now – but some have already started and some won’t begin for another two or three weeks. Additionally, each school’s “culture” and learning environment is unique to itself. And then there are the homeschoolers. Though many home-educating families follow a traditional calendar and are, thus, starting a “new year” right now as well, some have designed other types of schedules so that they might be in the middle of a “school year” this month. And still others literally go continuously and year-round with no discernible “new start” at all.

A “great start” also means very different things for different people within those educational settings. For example, the expectations held by a five-year old and her parents look nothing like what a 17-year old and his parents are aiming for over the next several months. A “great start” for a classroom teacher varies, depending on what age children he serves. And what teachers want to emphasize can be markedly different from what students and their parents are thinking about, and are, perhaps, as different as night and day from what homeschooling families are considering.

However, I was recently reminded via a series of lessons through which I led my daughters that – at least for those who claim Christ as Savior and Lord – there is actually ever only one ultimate goal in every endeavor of life. Namely, as Colossians 1.18 states, “that in all things [Jesus] may have preeminence,” or first place.

With that in mind, there’s one question we can each ask of ourselves – whether we’re a student, parent or teacher, whether we’re at home or in a huge urban school, and whether we’re thinking about the start of a whole “new school year” or, simply, the beginning of a new day: What would it look like – in terms of my heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10.27) – to put Jesus Christ first in my life?

You can use that question within your position and stage of life to set goals for yourself – short-term goals for today and long-term goals to aim for over the next several months; goals for your attitude and words (Matthew 15.18); for the friendships you continue and begin…or, perhaps, choose to end; for spiritual priorities like spending time in the Word and in fellowship with other believers; for what you choose to do (and not do) with your body; for the nature of the content you decide to teach or study.

To some extent, of course, the answers to such questions will be as unique as each individual. However, the desire to give Jesus preeminence really is the best “great start” each of us could ever have. So if you want a great start, put the First Thing first.

Photo Credit: Celestial Meeker

August 2, 2016

Who’s the Boss?

“[It] dawned on me [recently] that I need to really get a handle on my children's activities. I do not want to be managed by their activities; I want to manage them. I need to say no to some stuff. They will survive without [doing ‘everything’].”

These are the words of a wise woman I met via a homeschool moms’ support group – but, of course, her sentiment applies just as well to all moms. It’s also true that this is the perfect time of year to ponder our intentions for our kids’ activities – because, whether our children attend typical public or private school (i.e., following a September-to-May calendar) or we home-educate all year round, most extracurriculars operate on that typical school schedule. As such, everything is “ramping up” – either in the planning stages or actually beginning – right now. Thus, making decisions right now will ease our transition into this coming fall and beyond.

When kids are young, it’s wise – for the sake of awakening their “smarts” and genius qualities – to encourage them to try a wide variety of activities as interests dictate. However, that doesn’t mean doing “everything” all at one time. I have friends who allow each child just one away-from-home extracurricular activity per week for each “season” or semester. Near the end of each season/semester, they talk with each child to determine who would like to continue in the same activity and who would like to try something different. The children don’t clamor to do more because they realize they’ll have opportunities to try new things soon; in fact, they’re relaxed and peaceful – as are the parents – because they’re not constantly running from one activity to the next, and they have time and energy to grow their creativity, imagination, and – very importantly – family unity at home.

As children mature, they often begin to hone in on a particular activity or two, desiring to “go deep” rather than broad. And – assuming we’ve given them measured opportunities to explore a wide variety of options when they were younger – it’s perfectly appropriate to allow them to “specialize.” In fact, if a grounded teenager expresses a strong interest for a particular activity, we do her no favors by forcing her to be “well-rounded” - i.e., compelling her to join in on myriad activities just for the sake of being involved. After all, current passions might indicate potential career paths, and colleges prefer those with deep interest in one area to those who flit from club to club, trying to pad an application. And, even if a strong interest eventually changes, the teen will not have wasted his time because the perseverance he develops via delving into one passion can transfer to something else later on.

As you ponder how God has wired each of your kids and their particular ages and stages, how can you – like my friend – manage their activities this “school year” rather than allowing the activities to manage you? Who will be the boss over your calendar this year?


Photo Credit: Marathons & Dog Tags

July 26, 2016

Growing a Summer Crop of Genius Qualities: Part 2

Last time we talked about how summer might be a good season in which to be especially mindful of helping our kids develop their inherent genius qualities. I described then a few ways in which we might facilitate curiosity, playfulness, and imagination, and I’ll share ideas about the other nine qualities now:

Creativity & Inventiveness: My younger daughter has developed a keen interest in sewing over the last couple of years, but she doesn’t like using patterns. Instead, she prefers brainstorming her own ideas, and trying her hand at cutting, pinning, and sewing her very own designs. When she’s experimenting, she buys heavily discounted fabric to avoid waste, and it’s been a process of trial and error – one dress required extensive alterations and a few t-shirts were unsalvageable. But she’s already created several beautiful pieces and has simultaneously stretched her perseverance and self-confidence right along with growing her creativity and inventiveness. What would spark such passion in your child?

Wonder & Vitality: Summer is the perfect time to engage kids’ innate astonishment about the natural world, as well as their ability to use their senses in response to it. In and around the small metro area in which I live, I can list in just minutes at least half a dozen easily accessible places where my kids can interact with all sorts of animals – everything from chickens to lions – and several others where they can hike nature trails or study plants in more depth. A simple internet search would yield even more venues, and I’m confident you can do the same. Why not arrange for your kids to interact with nature just once a week for the rest of the summer?

Sensitivity & Wisdom: Earlier this year, my girls and their friends baked several dozen cookies, most of which we subsequently delivered to a local homeless shelter. One of my daughters volunteered at a kids’ camp last week, and friends’ kids have organized Good News Clubs for neighborhood children. In fact, service is probably the best way to help kids of all ages develop openness to and understanding of others – absent preconceived notions and clichés. In what ways would your children like to serve? Ask them.

Flexibility & Humor: It goes without saying that breaking out of our usual routine enables us to see things differently, yielding an “aliveness” that facilitates humor as well as an ability to make out-of-the-ordinary associations and connections. In fact, that’s probably why we idealize summer, since we tend to alter our usual routines at least part of the time. But we must consciously choose to really “get away” instead of bringing “regular life” with us. So what about arranging a technology-free vacation? Bring one family phone for emergencies, and take a few pictures to commemorate each day. But you really can decide to keep individual phones at home, eschew social media and web browsing, and wait to post photos until you return. The more you internally balk at this notion, the more likely you really need it.

Joy: Joy naturally resonates anytime a person gains new insight or masters a skill. Thus, we can’t really help our kids “practice” joy the way we can the other genius qualities; instead, it bubbles up on its own when the other qualities thrive. So, since we all wish joy for our kids, why not consciously endeavor to aid and abet the growth of curiosity, playfulness, imagination, creativity and imagination, wonder and vitality, sensitivity and wisdom, and flexibility and humor over the next weeks? Planting and nurturing those seeds will surely yield a rich, long-term harvest.

Photo Credit: TumblingRun

July 13, 2016

Growing a Summer Crop of Genius Qualities: Part 1

If we understand that each and every person has been imbued with 12 inherent genius qualities, we as parents will ideally desire to encourage the growth and development of those qualities in our kids each and every day. We’ll actively seek ways for our kids to “exercise” the qualities and will aim to minimize – and undo if necessary – any paralysis of them. As with identifying and developing our kids’ manifestations of the eight great smarts, seeing the opportunities almost becomes second nature if we do it regularly enough.

And it really goes without saying that growing kids’ genius qualities can’t be a seasonal event. It would, in fact, be wrong to relegate them to a mental/emotional shelf from September through May, thinking kids must forgo them in order to trudge through schoolwork – and, frankly, if we see that happening, we owe it to our kids to step in and take strong action. But summer – even for those who don’t follow the typical “school schedule” – often feels different. Summer seems looser, more carefree, and less rigid by design, so this might be the perfect time to more consciously choose to watch for ways to promote the genius qualities.

With that in mind, I thought I’d take this issue and the next to provide a few thoughts about each quality, hoping that you’ll choose to turn a couple of scattered seeds into opportunities specifically meaningful to your own children:

Curiosity: Trips to the beach, camping excursions, and even treks up to the corner ice cream shop provide obvious fodder for encouraging kids’ curiosity, which we define as “asking questions others judge as irrelevant.” While we may not know every answer and/or may choose to encourage a child’s personal initiative in researching a matter on his own, let’s choose to avoid shutting down the questions. If a child is asking – why the sky is blue, why moss grows only on one side of the tree – it’s relevant to his mind and heart, and it’s our job to nurture that.

Playfulness: Playfulness develops when kids have unstructured time. Unfortunately, though, current realities often necessitate too much structure for today’s kids; many attend daycare all summer long and parents are (understandably) wary of allowing them to roam the neighborhood. But for the sake of playfulness, let’s challenge ourselves into allowing as much freedom as possible. When our kids are home, let’s avoid regimenting every moment; instead, let’s give them the choice they don’t get in daycare. And let’s at least give them free reign of our fenced yards, allowing them decide on their own what to do there each day, unencumbered by our continuous suggestions about “organized games.”

Imagination: Allowing kids to express their curiosity and giving them time for open-ended playfulness undoubtedly spur imagination. So will reading aloud – something we should do every day of each child’s life, even during the teen years – as well as setting aside a portion of each day (all year round) for independent readers to do so on their own, and limiting screen time. Simply put, we make room for kids’ brains to nurture imagination when we guard against providing too many pre-fabricated images for them.

Are you curious now about the other nine seeds? We’ll see about planting them in our next issue!

Photo Credit: TumblingRun

June 28, 2016

You Can Do That

My daughters recently turned 14 and 15, and my family and I will mark Independence Day in a couple of weeks as we have every year since they were one and two: at my husband’s parents’ home.

It’s a tradition we started after we’d determined that the celebration in our hometown was too big and not sufficiently family-friendly. Yet we wanted to mark our country’s birthday somehow, so my in-laws suggested we join them. And we had such a good time that we readily decided to make the trip an annual event.

We generally spend one or two overnights and enjoy low-key but fun activities during the day. We frequented a nearby playground during the first few years, and one year we visited an observation tower with an amazing marsh view. Lately, the girls have enjoyed the local aquatic center as well as helping my mother-in-law with the cooking and baking. And on the evening of the fourth, we always go to the same beautiful amphitheater-style park in a nearby town for an impressive concert and fireworks display, an event made extra-special for years because my father-in-law was the band’s bass drummer.

The tradition changed five years ago, though, when, after 45 years of dedicated service, Dad reluctantly retired from the band. Dictated by health concerns rather than an actual desire to hang up his drumsticks, the decision was understandably hard. He did enjoy attending as a spectator that first year, but his health continued to decline and he was never again able to join us in the park.

And now this year’s visit will be different again because he passed away last fall.

As the entire family has walked through a series of “firsts” without him for several months now, we’ll manage this one, too. I expect we’ll experience a fair amount of awkward melancholy and even some tears – most especially when the band launches into his favorite song, Invincible Fidelity, which they also played at his funeral. But we’ll smile as we remember him doing crossword puzzles at the breakfast table, telling funny stories about his childhood, and swinging his bass drum mallet at the back of the bandstand.

As you plan summer events this year, maybe you, too, are in a season of change. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one. Or perhaps some old traditions are morphing – or even fading away. I encourage you to accept the inevitable sadness that accompanies such circumstances, because denying it only prolongs grief. But purpose as well to avoid getting stuck in bitterness and angst. 

My father-in-law loved seeing us come through the door for our Independence Day visit, and I know he’d want us to continue the tradition even though it won’t be quite the same. I’ll encourage my mother-in-law, husband, and children to honor the joy our tradition brought him by adding new experiences and memories to the occasion.

You can do that, too.


June 20, 2016

What to Do When Your Homeschool High School Student is Behind

I joined Ann Karako's Facebook group, It's Not That Hard to Homeschool High School, a few months ago, and it quickly became clear that she and I are on the same page when it comes to our ideas about home education. Thus, I was honored when she asked if I'd write a guest post on her blog, Annie and Everything. And, as it turns out, mine was her first-ever guest post...and my one post actually turned into two - the second of which appeared here


In my introductory article, I lamented that so many homeschooling parents needlessly fear their kids being “behind.” Some manage to avoid falling prey to the lie in their kids’ elementary years…but the monster often rears its very ugly head all over again once a child approaches high school. We become petrified that he “isn’t keeping up” in math or “won’t have enough” science. We give ourselves ulcers over AP classes, dual enrollment, and early graduation. And we fall into the trap of thinking we should use public school requirements as our guide.

Though I don’t like to advertise it, I spent nine years before my kids were born teaching at the secondary level in the fourth largest school district in my state – first at a middle school and then at one of the city’s four public high schools. My state has a very good reputation when it comes to public schooling; its students consistently earn SAT/ACT scores among the highest in the nation. But it’s precisely because of my experience inside the system that I’m so passionate about assuring home-educating parents that we have absolutely nothing to worry about.

Instead of perseverating about “keeping up” with the system, we must choose to grab hold of reality by forcing ourselves to remember that we have absolutely no legitimate reason to use the government school system as our measuring stick. We must understand our actual legal obligation – i.e., to follow the homeschool law in our state of residence, which is always distinct from that which governs public/government schools. And we must grasp the moral truth of our real, foundational obligation, which is to meet the actual needs of each of our individual children, regardless of what bureaucrats might say on paper.

Additionally, we can hold onto a couple of homeschool truths: First – as I learned from having spent the last three-and-a-half years surveying more than 2,800 resource providers for The Homeschool Resource Roadmap – public school textbooks can’t hold a candle to any material written for homeschoolers. That was true before common core, and it probably goes double (for non-common core homeschool material) now. Second, the typical lecture-style classroom cannot begin to approach the effectiveness of the one-on-one tutoring and self-directed learning approaches inherent in home education. In fact, a quick Google-search will reveal plenty of stories about the most out-of-the-box “radical unschoolers” who excel at Ivy League colleges despite never having cracked an algebra book. Thus, it’s basically inevitable that any homeschooled child with diligent parents will receive a better education than his schooled peers without having to imitate the system at all.

What does that mean for high school planning? First, it means choosing to flat-out reject the entire notion of “being behind” and deciding instead to accept each child where he really is as an individual today – whatever that means in each subject area. Second, it means developing a plan to help her learn at her pace – whatever that is and wherever it eventually leads – with neither overwhelming her nor letting her slide. It does mean taking college admissions expectations (but not public high school requirements) into account if it seems best for a child to go directly into a four-year college. But is also means knowing that four-year college isn’t always necessary or wise – right away or ever – and that colleges don’t expect us to mirror the system; in fact, they understand that homeschoolers are different, readily accept them, and even recruit them. Finally, it means trusting our intuition (and our kids’ preferences) enough to stop feeling inferior and get on with thinking outside the box.

On a practical level, how that plays out for each child’s high school experience will be distinct; in fact, each of us should be able to tell a unique story about each of our children’s journeys. But perhaps just a few examples will inspire you:

·       Andy isn’t particularly “math-y,” nor is he interested in a STEM-oriented career. Thus, his parents are unapologetically counting Pre-Algebra as his first high school-level math course. And then he’ll do Algebra 1 and Geometry before choosing either Statistics or Practical Math for a fourth credit. Alternately, he’ll take his time – no law exists saying one “must” complete one credit in nine or 12 months – and eschew a fourth credit entirely, choosing mastery of three credits’ worth of material over racing through more. The university he’s considering if he pursues a history major prefers three math credits for admissions, but doesn’t specify a minimum competency for non-STEM majors; the art school he may attend instead doesn’t even have a math requirement. Thus, skipping Algebra 2, Trigonometry, and Calculus doesn’t put him “behind.” It simply acknowledges how he’s wired and gives him more time for his actual interests;

·       Kelly doesn’t like to read, perhaps due to mild (but undiagnosed) dyslexia. Her parents know their homeschool law requires her to take “English” every year, and the law specifies the inclusion of literature and composition at the high school level. But they won’t throw her into the intensive multi-year, “college-prep” program they used with her older brother, who was interested in writing novels from an early age. Instead, they continue to work on Kelly’s spelling and grammar skills – legitimately counting her time as a portion of the 140 hours per year they’ve learned will constitute one “English” credit – and they’ll rely on a resource called Movies as Literature (http://www.designastudy.com/products/1891975099.html) to complete her first two English credits. Then, using her progress and the knowledge they purposed to gain about specific reading and writing skills Kelly should master before taking the English 101 course at their local community college, they’ll determine the best course of action for her remaining two credits later on;

·       Paul has Downs Syndrome. He loves to learn, but at age 14 his functional skill level is currently at about “third grade.” His parents understand from their state’s homeschool law that Paul needs to somehow address content in math, reading, language arts, science, and social studies each year, and that they’re free to incorporate a wide variety of elective credits in any other areas according to Paul’s needs and interests. They also learned that working through at least 75% of a textbook or spending roughly 120-150 hours of study time constitutes “one credit.” They were initially concerned about the legitimacy of their documents, given that Paul will never be able to tackle “higher math,” read Shakespeare, or write a research paper. But a family friend who works in special education explained that schooled kids with special needs earn recognized diplomas the same as anyone else, and encouraged them to simply use materials that match Paul’s actual ability and aim toward maximizing his potential before graduating him;

·       Savannah began taking classical ballet lessons at the age of four and was being cast in significant roles by the time she was eight. Her parents knew she was also intellectually gifted – they’d had her IQ tested and it came out at 160 – but she became increasingly disenchanted with formal academic subjects; she simply didn’t want to spend hours of each day on math, science, history, and literature. When she was 13, a professional dance company offered her an internship that would eventually enable her to become its principal dancer. But traditional academics would get in the way, so her mother devised a personalized study plan using prep-books for the GED and several CLEP tests. She didn’t take any official tests; instead, she devoted time to studying through the books and then took the practice tests in the books. By doing so, she demonstrated clear mastery of every typical high school subject as well as a handful of college-level courses. And, coupled with all the elective credits she could legitimately be awarded in dance, choreography, and costuming, Savannah’s mother developed an impressive transcript that enabled Savannah to graduate high school and begin her internship at age 15.

I could go on and on, describing myriad other ways in which families can choose to be different by setting aside inaccurate, mechanistic labels in favor of truly meaningful learning for their kids; in fact, homeschool mom Sue Patterson has compiled a book – Homeschooled Teens (http://www.suepatterson.com/2016/01/22/homeschooled-teens/) - that details the experiences of 75 kids. But what ultimately matters for your children is what you decide to do with and for them. Will you continue to let yourselves be bullied by an irrelevant public school system and false notions of “being behind?” Or will you peek out of the box and even consider tearing it open so you can customize your child’s education for his or her ultimate, lifelong good?

Read Part 1 of this two-part series here.

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