Protection of My Own Making

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Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

Thick cocoon of imagined safety

Muffled wrapping of contrived comfort

Lowered into warm world of nothingness

Quiet leaving of chaos and noise

Separating real from not

Carried into singular calm

Where can I go for solace?

Where can I linger without fear

Beside this shroud of clouded unreality?

None can enter in until

It is known what it is to need

Protection of your own making.

Punishing Love

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Longing ache drives on t’ward

Simple pleasures’ web-like traps.

See how easily ensnared

Are those who love?

Directionless “guidance” –

Predators lurk, jaws dripping,

Devouring th’innocence

Of vulnerable love.

Wherefore this longing cometh?

How endureth such pleasant desire?

Doth pain imbibe all comers?

Or only some who love?

Normal, natural, yearning

Heart-etched human hunger

Punishing few, but wholly

Who must be brave to love.

Child of My Childhood

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                                                                                                                                                                               Photo by Aleyna Rentz on Unsplash

Child of my childhood

Child of my childhood – weak, confused, afraid.

Ever-present substance formed of shifting shadows,

Shapeless encumbrance, choking without warning.

 

Child of my childhood – who are you?

Myself yet so unknown.

Who formed you thus, without voice or claim, yet so loud within?

 

Little one so fearfully fearsome –

Wounded animal caged, restrained, enduring.

Clawing, demanding, unrelenting, yet pain betrays your strength.

 

Child, where are you?

There yet here – then yet now – present yet far removed.

Lingering memories. Embodied amalgamation of yesterday, today.

 

Why are you beast yet burden-bearer?

Pain yet comforter, casualty yet warrior?

Does the force that shaped you keep you?

 

Where will you run?

Your frantic craze to escape, pointless effort producing

Weariness for us both.

 

Little child, so furious and frenzied – what do you want

That I have not offered?

Tell me so we can both be free.

To Forget

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To Forget

Tears have ceased to run blood red,

Words come smoother, softer

You feel better

Believing I am whole.

 

Sighed relief has eased your strain,

Calmly giving way to

Your assurance

That all will now be well.

 

To cease to remember is

Luxury only you

Can now afford.

Its payment costs me, dear.

 

Memories lived continue.

Reality living

In arrested

Confinement long repressed.

 

To remember is to be

Imprisoned by the past.

To forget is

Oath to live it again.

Somewhere Tonight

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Somewhere Tonight

Somewhere tonight a child’s reality becomes her nightmares.

Her tiny, neglected frame forced upon it hauntings that will never leave.

She learns how tickles turn to torment and

Breathless laughter wide-eyed pain.

 

Somewhere tonight probing fingers and greedy mouths penetrate her soul

Words of shame and degradation sear deeply into forming self

Twisting, distorting her un-lived life into invisible disability.

Limping forevermore from wrestling with Evil presented as trusted foe.

 

Somewhere tonight her malleable mind does the sensible –

Escapes the inescapable – trades wholeness for humanity, soundness for stability.

Somewhere tonight division, though protective, becomes her greatest vulnerability,

And the leaving in her mind a soothing, but self-imposed prison.

 

Somewhere tonight this child-turned-victim falls asleep uncomforted.

She will wake, and no one will believe the permanent damage done.

Tiny sticking panties prove she is the vile, filthy one, unseen, unknown, alone –

Clinging shame absorbing lies from deceitful un- truth tellers.

 

It is for her that I press on, this nameless, precious child.

It is for knowing, seeing, and hearing her silent cries.

It is for her I speak till she whispers free her story.

To her I speak from my own:

 

          Though you may search, precious one, a long life-time from now,

          For meaning, sense, or reason.  None will come save one –

          Evil persists until the end.

 

          But you, trusted, beloved little child

          You will bring Light into that dark, forsaken pit.

                    For you know the way to rescue, redeem, lift up.

                    Because Mercy endures forever.

Poetry & Verse

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Photo credit: Faye Cornish, Unsplash

                                                                                                                                                                   Photo courtesy of Faye Cornish, Unsplash

In the coming days I plan to post some poetry I’ve written.  For a writer of (mostly) commentary, observation, or philosophical musings, this is out of my “comfort zone.”  I rarely, if ever share these kinds of things.  As a trauma survivor, this is both vulnerability and victory of inestimable proportions.  As an advocate, I realize I must be willing to share both knowledge and experience – they are both my credentials for speaking at all.

Why poetry?

I believe it is, when done reasonably well, a kind of music combining the concerts of heart and mind.  Rhythm, tempo, cadence – all of these can be carefully crafted by structure, syllables, punctuation. It is a way to paint with words as we work to express the perception of senses, the breadth of human emotion, and the heights or depths of human thought.  It can also serve, as it does in Lamenatations 3, as a way of creating order in the very midst of the chaos that can birth beauty and/or despair within a perceiving mind.

When shared, poetry is about both the author and the audience – a dance, if you will, where one invites the other to know and feel the ache of the heart, the jubilation of the spirit, the victory or decimation of the soul or mind.  And all is done in a hopeful knowing – even when it is a last-ditch effort – that we can each be known – that we are human.

The poetry I’ve written has been my attempt to express what I have borne witness to – to let someone – anyone – know what I have seen, experienced, felt.  It is limited in scope because I am limited, but it also connects with the vastness of common human experiences.  In sharing, I believe – I hope, at least – we both become the richer.

I would love for this to be a place where others will be willing and able to contribute to this collection.  The expression of one’s self has been stolen from many.  Some have been quite literally silenced into never speaking of their experiences.  Others have been silenced into only telling “approved” portions or versions of their stories.  And still others have been silenced through the constant storm of the distorting, warping, and prevailing confusion of it all.  Poetry – both the writing and the reading of it – helps us clear the fog that seeks to obscure truth.  It is a precious gift to be able to speak, for in doing so, we say with our Creator, “I am.”  It is at least a taste of knowing and be known.

I welcome your feedback and responses be they challenges or affirmations.  We grow through both.

A Response to Mr. Piper’s clip – I cannot keep silent

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A Response to Mr. Piper’s clip – I cannot keep silent

Recently, a video clip surfaced on social media of John Piper hotly defending “complementarianism,” against allegations that it “feeds” abuse.  Piper has hotly defended this view before.  This is a response to that clip.  I encourage you to watch it – not because I concur with him, but so you can hear his words and see for yourself the vigor with which he speaks them.

He is partially right, of course.  Complementarianism does not teach men to abuse nor does it condone it.  Many of the ideas behind complementarianism are pure and noble.  We must be honest about that.  Men lovingly protecting and defending their wives to the point where they would willingly lay down their lives for them, is Christ-like, and this is a central understanding of the framework.  The research bears this claim out, too.  There has been no study (though they have tried) which proves that a patriarchal, male-dominated, “traditional” or “conservative” religious ideology causes abuse, teaches abuse, or promotes abuse.  At least, none that I could find – and I’ve looked.  It is also true, that interpersonal violence of all sorts is equally represented across all religious faiths, denominations, and non-faith-practicing sectors.  No one group has the corner on the abuse market.  So, it is unfair to lay abuse at the feet of complementarianism and leave it there.

But there is cause for alarm.  While the evidence does not indicate that complementarian ideology causes abuse, it does show that it does not prevent it either.  And there is a growing body of evidence that indicates that those churches which hold to a very traditional, patriarchal, yes, complementarian theology represent both the best and the worst- case scenarios regarding abuse in faith communities.  (It is believed that this has been hidden in the general statistics which consistently produce an overall “average” that is consistent with the general population, but a trend is emerging that shows the most conservative faith communities represent those with the highest rates of domestic violence acceptance scores and the lowest scores of all groups studied.  More research is needed, but at best we have the same level of problem as the rest of the population.  At worst, we have a serious problem with the way things are being taught and internalized by abusers, their victims, and the congregants which keep silent.)  So, let’s be honest about that, too.  Abuse in the church – two things which ought to be about as incongruous as anyone could imagine, is a topic which is repeatedly placed on the altar in defending complementarianism.  That is a problem.

Piper is also wrong in asserting that complementarianism does not feed abuse.  It does because it creates an environment where abuse can hide and flourish.  Piper argues that complementarianism stands in the gap between “dominating patriarchalism and egalitarianism.”  What he doesn’t seem to understand is that at least for those who are outside of complementarianism and for those who have been abused within it, complementarianism is dominating patriarchalism.   It is not unusual for men in complementarian cultures to be unable to see this problem, which, honestly serves to underscore the point.  It is true in any setting that abuse occurs because it is in the heart of the abuser to abuse.  This is why it is safe to say that complementarianism (or any other -ism, for that matter) does not cause abuse.  But it is also true that abuse is tolerated and even encouraged in some environments much more so than it is in others, in large measure because of the power dynamics at work within those environments.

Nazism is an easy example because it shows the extremes (I am not equating complementarianism with Nazism – but the example is straightforward).  Men and women who might have previously thought about abusing others were given carte blanche to do so with the impunity from the powers in place.  Even more striking, men and women who might have never considered acting on abusive impulses, were convinced it was permissible (or even good) to do so based on the things being said and encouraged by the authorities in the environment. Men and women were easily convinced to do things that they were previously prevented from doing because the environment changed, the teaching changed, and the preventative forces that kept them from acting on those thoughts or desires now, instead, encouraged them.  (Those who know the human heart at all know that any one of us is capable of these things.)  The point is, through the speaking of words that appealed to their hearts’ desires, the lifting of prohibitive restrictions, and the explicit or implicit approval of authorities, abuse became rampant in an environment where it had not been.

This is often true when abusers sit in churches where complementarianism is taught, too.  Too often (not always) an environment is created where complementarianism is not constrained to biblical boundaries, whether by what is said or what remains unsaid.  The framework (primarily gender role definitions) becomes the standard, the practice, and the governing principles by which decisions are made and life is lived out.  Once complementarianism is established, it becomes as scripture in practice.  Challenges to it become akin to challenging the veracity of scripture itself.  And the very act of a woman challenging this framework from within the framework, is an almost guarantee for her to be labeled as a troublemaker at best or a usurper, or rebel who needs church discipline at worst.  Jesus had much fewer problems with women asking questions, leading, or preaching the Good News than staunch proponents of complementarianism have.

The Bible does call women to submit to their husbands, but it is a voluntary act of love and self-giving, sandwiched in between two passages that clearly express that this is a mutual submission in all human relationships, not just one.  Submission is not about hierarchical dominance or control – it is exactly the opposite.  Submission is something one willingly does, not something that can be demanded.  (The irony of that is striking – if it is demanded or coerced, can it be biblical submission?)  The Bible calls both men and women to grow in their gifts and abilities, doing everything as unto, and out of reverence for, Christ.  It calls each of us to honor and defend the image-bearing quality and nature of every man, woman, and child regardless of their ethnicity, status, or gender, for in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male or female.  The ethos of complementarianism might be argued to be for the good and protection of the vulnerable, but it is very easily abused when its boundaries and limits are not also taught at every turn.  They seldom are unless the teacher has come face to face with the harsh realities of the kinds of abuse that takes full advantage of the absence of those boundaries.

Piper’s criticism that “all” egalitarians can say to “husbands who tend to be abusive,” (which is itself a problematic statement) is, “‘Christians shouldn’t do that!  You don’t treat other people that way!” is, well, odd.  There are many things Christians shouldn’t do based solely on their claiming the name of Christ and submitting to the authority of scripture.  Identifying one’s self as a Christian means that we are saying, “I am following Jesus and desire to be like him.”  Therefore, there are myriad things Christians shouldn’t do.  Christians shouldn’t kill.  Christians shouldn’t steal or deceive.  Christians shouldn’t be racists, slanderers, or gossips.  Christians shouldn’t act in ways that degrade or dehumanize others in any way whatsoever, because the very essence of being human is to bear the image of God, and defacing one another defaces him.  We do not need to appeal to extra-biblical constructs to say this or that thing is right or wrong.  Abuse is wrong.  Period.  The coercion, manipulation, exploitation, battering, and/or crushing of a human being is wrong – whether the abuser is male or female, old or young, drunk or sober, angry or calculatingly calm.  It is sufficient to say, “You can’t treat other people that way!” on the grounds that the Bible speaks clearly, and frequently, against it.   But Piper is so offended by anyone criticizing his construct – his institution of gender-based roles – has become more valuable to him than the people who are supposedly protected in that institution.  He cannot see that his appeal to the “unique call of manhood to be protective,” or the essence of maleness as a “better” reason for saying that abuse is wrong is not only ludicrous, it is the extra biblical argument he would decry. Jesus cleared the temple when the religious rulers were trying to protect the institution of it rather than the people for whom the temple was made as a sanctuary.

What’s wrong with this framework is not the teaching of lovingly laying one’s life down for one another.  It is teaching women that they need men to speak for them, protect them, defend them.  They don’t.  They especially don’t need that in order to be truly godly women.   They might at times, and it would be at these times that loving Christian brothers or sisters ought to protect, defend, and speak up for them.  But complementarianism puts women in this de facto position at all times and in all situations.  The Bible does not.

It is also placing a false responsibility on women that says men need women to need them like this in order for them to be real men.  Men can be real men whether they are in the presence of a needy woman or not.  I hope the concept of that is as insulting to men as it is to women, but I fear that the insult is not recognized by them frequently enough.  Their response to vulnerability reveals how genuine their godly manhood is, it doesn’t create it.  The vulnerability can come from many places – women, children, and other men.  But men can be “real men” whether they are in the presence of vulnerability or not. The character of a man is frankly, neither gender dependent, nor is it vulnerability dependent.

Perhaps saddest of all, however, this framework leaves both men and women the poorer for being so separated by it.  It creates fear among men against encouraging women other than their wives to flourish (and sometimes they are afraid of that!), it creates intense and irreconcilable frustration for talented and capable women who long to serve the church well according to their gifts, and it leaves both sides bereft of the enhanced growth and maturing that happens when we do all of that together.  We ought not be encouraged to fear the presence of one another, but we are.

While the above is sad, there is real danger when mutuality is left unstated – and it often is.  It is common for example, for women to be told that submission to their husbands will be hard, it will go against their natural, sinful hearts, therefore it is their duty to God and their husbands to submit no matter what.  When things get really hard, women are told they need to work harder at purifying their wicked hearts even if it means suffering – and that, in fact, the suffering involved will aid in the purification process.  This might be true for a woman whose struggle really is within her own heart.  But what does she do when it is not?  What does she hear when the struggle is actually against the sin of her husband?  What recourse does she have when the struggle for safety and security is against the one who is supposed to protect and defend her?  How does she faithfully respond when her husband is not laying his life down for her, but is laying down her life on the altar of his own selfishness and greed?  In a different video Mr. Piper suggests that abused women appeal to their husbands sense of decency by telling them they “really want to submit to (them).”  He advises they “take being abused for a season, even if they get smacked,” in order to continue lovingly and sweetly submitting to her husband.  It is painfully clear that Mr. Piper does not understand the nature, dynamics, or impact of abuse at all.  And he is leading many pastors in the same dangerous ignorance.

But even if we allow for Piper’s claim that complementarians have the “higher ground” by not only saying “humans don’t treat humans that way, but men don’t treat women that way,” he is not being consistent.

We do need one another – to encourage, sharpen, strengthen.  Men and women, whether married or not, as co-heirs, need each other.  We should always be looking for ways to encourage one another and build each other up in love and good deeds.  Complimentarians would likely agree – to a point.  The Bible indicates that those ways ought also to be complementary, but this complementarity is based on gifts and abilities, not gender.  No scripture talks about the make-up or essence of manhood (the “unique call,” “deeply rooted,” “written on the soul” of men) the way Piper has.  Perhaps it is based on what his own experience has been, I don’t know.  But the call of Christ is for everyone to use the power and influence they have to bless, protect, rescue, redeem.  We are called – each of us – to protect the vulnerable, the weak, the small.  That is not a gender-defined calling.

To be clear, I am not referring to the gender-specific role debate (that of pastors, elders, teachers, etc.)  Regardless of where one lands on that specific topic, calling men to protect and defend their wives, is Christ-like, but the calling to be like Jesus does not stop or start there.  If men protecting their wives is “manhood” it leaves a lot of men out of picture.  What of men who never marry?  What of men who are not mentally or physically capable to carry out the “soul cry” he speaks of?  The same error occurs when women are only viewed through the lens of “wife and mother.”  The “woman-ness” of single and/or childless women is dismissed altogether, and neither of these views is biblical.  In theological terms, if something is not true in the tough situations – if it can’t stand up to suffering and trial and hard circumstances – it’s not true.  Piper’s claims are simply not true.

We cannot be so wed to a construct which has been created to try to explain the bible that we refuse to see damage that the construct does to understanding the bible.  And while I will agree that this construct does not teach men to abuse their wives and children, I will also fiercely argue that it creates an environment where abuse can flourish.  It is easier to abuse the vulnerable if the community is giving someone the fuel they crave to feed their lust for power and control.  It is easier to abuse the vulnerable when the vulnerable are taught – implicitly and explicitly – that their duty to God is to submit to that authority “in all things.”  It is easier to abuse in an environment where the vulnerable are silenced and instructed to take any issues they have up with the ones who have already violated them.  It is easier to abuse when the congregation is also taught the same things.  And it is especially easy to abuse when the ones the vulnerable might hope to appeal to – those who ostensibly have authority over their abusers – neither understand, nor care to understand the nature, dynamics, and impact of abuse, causing them in turn to say to the abused, “go in peace, be warm and well fed.”  Piper, perhaps unintentionally, but harmfully nonetheless, is advocating for a system that fosters an environment which promotes the ongoing perpetuation of the abuse of the vulnerable which is worse than faith without works which is dead.  It is the unforgivable sin – calling that which is evil, good.

 

(This blog post was edited for grammatical errors on 8-19-20)

Encouragement for the Suddenly Homeschooling: Reading to Your Children Might be the Best Thing You Do

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Reading to your kids may be the best thing you do

During one of the early years of my homeschooling journey when my plans had to be surrendered to the realities of life, a dear friend gave me a copy of For the Children’s Sake, by Susan Schaeffer Macauly.  To be honest, I don’t remember many of the details of what was written in that book, but the kindness contained in it has echoed in my memories through the decades.  I’ve long since passed that copy along to another mom in need of encouragement, but the biggest lesson I learned was to focus on what really matters and the rest will take care of itself.  (Wasn’t this at least some of what Jesus meant when he told the religious rulers to wash the inside of the cup and the outside would get cleaned in the process?)

The author (daughter of Francis and Edith Schaeffer of L’Abri Foundation) wrote that if it were really necessary, due to extreme circumstances, that you found you had to take two full years away from normal academics and simply read good books to your children, you will have spent those two years very well indeed.  We are not looking at years of needing to change plans.  We are talking about a few months at most.  Don’t be afraid.

I remember thinking, “can this really be true?” but at the same time also being desperate enough to trust in the wise words of someone who had walked a road less traveled ahead of me.  Friends, I can tell you now, it is true. It is SO TRUE.  The richness of good literature will feed your children’s hearts and minds in ways that you cannot imagine.  (It will feed yours as well!)  Good books will greatly expand their vocabularies and language comprehension.  They will increase their capacities to imagine and therefore, their abilities to problem-solve.  Reading good literature will inform them of other places and make history come alive for them.  It will expose them to customs and worldviews that challenge them and encourage them to think deeply.  Reading to your children will provide intimate, soothing, lovely times for you to be together where the well-written wonder of someone else’s imagination transports you together to a different existence as a shared experience.  If you are finding the assignments and schedule and chaos of suddenly homeschooling overwhelming, read good books to your kids.  If you can do nothing else, read to them and you will have actually given them a great deal.

It’s at this part in the conversation (I’ve had this conversation many times) where people, wanting to give this a go (whether out of desperation or curiosity), sometimes look at me with a puzzled look and finally ask – but, what should I read to them? Where do I even start?  I know the feeling – I didn’t know where to start, either.  I don’t remember having a single book read to me outside of one sixth grade teacher who recorded herself reading a book which she then replayed to the class.  Many of us have to rediscover the value in wading through words, and truthfully, that is a process.  You don’t have to have a rich history in this to try it, but I know it can be daunting to start. When you are able to dive into this a little deeper, I recommend Karen Swallow Prior’s book, On Reading Well.  It will give you a much better understanding of and appreciation for the value of reading really good works than I can possibly do in a few lines, here.  I know that if you find yourself suddenly homeschooling, you’re likely looking for solutions and tips that can be implemented quickly.  However, this is one “quick tip” that will have lasting rewards for you and your kids, and the longer you engage, the more it will offer you.  When you have time, think of this one as the beginning of a new way of living in the world – it’s that good.

Following are a few resources I have used again and again to find good books to read that are age appropriate and/or line up with what we were studying (see this post for how to use literature to ground your studies), but the best advice I can give you is start with whatever books you have now.  I’d love to believe that everyone could jump straight into the classics, but I know that isn’t always realistic.  Many parents haven’t had someone help them plumb the depths of the pleasures found in reading the classics – it would be difficult to convince your kids that they are good if you’re not convinced yourself! It can take some effort to get used to reading (or listening) to descriptions of scenes and characters when we’ve become so accustomed to seeing them, but it is well worth the effort.

I highly recommend beginning with something you think your kids will enjoy.  Begin with what delights them, engages them, holds their interest (and don’t be afraid to inform them that their interests will be expanded as you expect they sit and listen for a little longer each time).  Even books written for younger audiences to read can be incredibly engaging for a much older crowd to listen to.  Charlotte’s Web, or Stuart Little, for example are pretty easy to read, but have beautiful stories and themes in them.  Honey For a Child’s Heart and Books Children Love are books I depended on as a young mom to know what to read to my kids.  Both books offer excellent lists and descriptions of quality books to read to your kids (or have them read), and both are organized in ways that help you select appropriate books for your children.  I especially appreciated these books for the authors’ insights into and descriptions of the literature they recommend.  Internet searches will produce many lists of books organized in different ways – just be discerning in who it is who making the recommendations.

A caution and a cheer

Unfortunately, it can often be the case that those who love literature can (intentionally, or un) make others feel badly about their book choices (or even their ability to choose books in the first place!).  This is no time for snobbery about books (not that I think there is ever a time for that), so please don’t let it shut you down.  If you find that your children (or you) can only manage to make it through a children’s book or a few pages from a chapter in a longer book, read the children’s book to them or the few pages.  Ask them some questions about what you’ve just read – who are the characters? What is happening in the story?  Can you tell me the story again in your own words?  What do you think this character was thinking when this happened or that happened?  Why do you think they responded to this event the way they did?  What do you think might happen next?  What do you think you would do in that situation?  And so on.

You will be teaching your children so much in the way of reading comprehension through this process, but you will also be teaching them empathy, thoughtfulness, and critical thinking.  You will help them to consider challenging ideas that come up in the stories of others, and gain the abilities to see things from another’s point of view.  You will give them a hunger to see and experience in real life the things you discover in real life.  As a personal example, we lived in England for a short while.  I cannot express to you how delightful it was to cross the River Thames each day and shop in the town where Frog and Toad came to life, or visit the places where William Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, or Jane Austen (among many others) lived and wrote, not to mention the thousands of historical moments which became more real to us for having read about them first.  Sherwood Forest, Canterbury, the Tower of London – they’re all still there, but being able to visit them was richer for having imagined them first.  This time of quarantine will not last forever, but the memories and lessons you teach just might.  Make them worthwhile.

It might feel dangerous and risky to close some (or all) of your children’s school books to make the load manageable and soften the extent of the anxiety that is being produced by the increasing weight of demands being put on you right now.  But I promise you, it’s not only “ok” to do that, it is good.

Photo above by Kovah on Unsplash

Encouragement for the Suddenly Homeschooling: Consolidate

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Consolidate

In previous posts I have addressed the thoroughly confident (by all means, carry on) and the entirely overwhelmed (close the books and read to your kids), but most of you will be somewhere in between those two ends of the suddenly homeschooling spectrum.  You might be able to do some of the things being requested of you but are finding that keeping up with everything is just not working.  Here are a few practical tips for you.

Consolidation is key to keeping your sanity in homeschooling.  It is true whether you are suddenly homeschooling a bunch of kids or a bunch of subjects.  It is also true if you are suddenly homeschooling one child while also working, caring for someone else, or any number of outside demands that are now being compounded by the sudden responsibility of homeschooling.  When I finally learned the beauty and wisdom of consolidating much of what I was doing with my kids’ schooling, everything got better!  Consolidation was the key to me being able to manage all that needed to be managed.

There are a variety of ways to consolidate.  If you have a number of children, you can consolidate by subject.  I realize that in school kids will likely all be in entirely different places in each and every subject.  But I don’t need to remind you that they’re not in school, and you need to do what can actually be done given the circumstances – not what someone else thinks you need to do.

Here is a very simple, effective way to consolidate teaching several children in different grades at the same time:  teach to the oldest child’s plan.  Here’s what I mean.  If the oldest child is studying the history of Ancient Times (Ancient Greece, Rome, etc), then everyone is now studying ancient times.  It doesn’t matter what it is – American History, the Renaissance, the Cold War – whatever it is, use that as your anchor.  The job of covering history then becomes easier because the whole family is looking into and reading about the same thing.  It’s easy enough to find engaging info for every age level on the internet even if you don’t have resources at home (if you have a child old enough to do an internet search for you, have him or her do that and find appropriate things for the younger ones on a given subject).  If you’re not sure what would be an age-appropriate activity in a certain area, the internet will be your friend here, too.  Lucky for you, homeschoolers have been putting vast amounts of info on the internet for years now and have made many resources available for free.  You can find things organized by grade level, age level, topic, etc.  But schools, teachers, and university education programs have been doing this, too.  The problem is more likely that you will find more things than you can possibly want, rather than not find what you need.  Pick one or two things and focus on them.  You do not need to plan for masterpieces or thesis submissions (well, maybe that’s what your child is needing, but if your child is at that level they can be doing these things on their own).  You may be pleasantly surprised at the creativity that your children come up with when engaging with any given subject this way, but your goal does not need to be that which will “wow” someone else.  Your goal is to meaningfully engage your children’s hearts and minds.  This is all that is really necessary right now.

You can further consolidate multiple kids doing multiple grade levels by choosing the time period they are studying in history to guide your choices in books to read aloud.  Again, read to the comprehension level of the oldest child (you will be amazed at how much younger children can actually pick up and learn from listening to something “above” their comprehension level).  You can use these good books as reading comprehension (ask questions of your kids –  youngest to oldest  – who is talking? Who is in the story? What just happened?  What do you think is going to happen?  Why do you think ____ character did that?  What do you think they were thinking?  What else was happening that might have influenced ________? and so on).  You can generate spelling lists from the vocabulary words you had to explain or ask them to write about some aspect of the story to help them with age-appropriate writing skills if you want to and feel it will add value to this time (these things can be helpful but are not necessities).  All of this can be accomplished while consolidating what all of your kids are doing into a single point in history for everyone!

I found that using good historical fiction as read-alouds an excellent way to help my kids “enter into” the periods of history we were studying.  Hearing about the lives of people in a given setting helped them retain the facts and figures of the setting much better than memorizing names and dates.  G. A. Henty wrote some very engaging, historical fiction set in a wide range of historical time periods that were especially appealing to my boys (who were not particularly interested in reading) but my girls liked them, too.  There are many, many good books that will help you with this that will fit into your family’s “personality.”  This may also change the way your kids view history!

Another acceptable way to consolidate right now is to focus on fewer subjects and use their strengths to build up weaknesses.  If your child struggles with math and reading – focus on keeping up with those skills and let the other things go.  If they need to be moving more than sitting still, focus on activities that will expend lots of energy.  If your kids seem to learn best by doing rather than by observing, let them do as many of the things that need doing around the house, looking for ways to expand learning, vocabulary, understanding, etc.  If you have a child who can be trusted around the stove or oven, let them experiment with recipes, making lunches or dinners.  These things that need to be done can be used to serve their education as well.  For example, doubling or halving recipes is good practical application of math, planning meals according to portion sizes and nutritional health guidelines is an incredibly valuable skill to build, or learning to make meals for a week to minimize waste and maximize time spent on other things contributes a great deal to time management skills, applied science and math, and creative problem solving.  If you have a child who doesn’t handle money well, work on budgeting and home economics.  Have him make a meal plan and grocery list – and show him how to stay within the budget for food.  Or, if you’re comfortable, show him the family budget and have him work on paying the bills with you.  Many families are finding themselves without jobs right now.  How can you enlist the skills that your kids need to learn anyway into working together to generate some income?  Now is a great time to learn how to build things and use tools properly (planning, measuring, and assembling builds skills as well as birdhouses or planters).  Plan a vegetable garden (even if you can’t plant one this year) using biointensive gardening principles (it’s fascinating!) or research beekeeping or some other “far-fetched” ideas.  You never know when this stuff will come in handy!  My point here is to encourage you to identify the strengths that your kids already have and use them to generate enthusiasm for building up the areas in which they are weak.

Helping a child grow, according to the strengths that he or she already possesses is not only incredibly effective in helping them strengthen their weaknesses, it is one of the kindest gifts you will ever give to that child.  God put them together with unique qualities.  It’s our job as their guardians to figure out what those qualities are and work with them.  When you say to a child, “you are especially good at that!” what they hear, in addition to your words is, “I love you so much!  I can’t believe I get to be your parent!  You amaze me all the time.  I’m so thankful for the way that God put you together!”

It’s ok to let some things go right now.  Focus on what is really important.

Encouragement for the Suddenly Homeschooling: It’s the routine

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It’s not what’s in the routine that is the most important – it’s the routine itself

I understand where the appeals for “normalcy” come from.  Routine is good for just about everyone – it is critical for kids.  I think that what many mean when they use the word, “normal” is really routine.  The unpredictability of the current scenario is destabilizing, and children are the most vulnerable to the negative effects of that.  But routine can be maintained in a wide variety of ways, without pretending that nothing is happening.  Routine doesn’t have to be a succession of classes, tests, quizzes, or readings.  The obvious truth is that families who normally send their kids to school each day are going to have to significantly modify their normal routines in order to manage all that needs to be managed at home – especially when they are not accustomed to managing them.  Work on routine, but don’t stress about what others insist must be included in the routine.  They’re not living in your house with your kids or your capacity.  You are.

Here are a few ways to either establish or build on the routines you already have:

  • get up at the same time each morning (it’s ok for that time to change, but then stick with it)
  • have a breakfast routine
  • get dressed early in the day (doing schoolwork in your jammies is certainly fun once in a while, but the stability that is created by getting dressed and starting your day ought not to be easily dismissed)
  • schedule break times and durations (a 5-10 minute break each hour is probably a minimum necessity)
  • establish regular meal times
  • establish and order of your day – math first? English? History?  It doesn’t matter which it is, just keep it regular so that your kids know what to expect
  • schedule play time (they are children, right?)
  • establish chores and chore times
  • schedule free time
  • establish meal routines – many families find that reading and sharing with one another right after dinner works really well, but do what works for you.
  • establish after dinner routines and bedtime routines
  • schedule regular weekly activities, too – Friday night movie?, Soup Saturdays or chili Thursdays?  Video call grandparents or friends on Sunday afternoons?  Whatever recurring things you can plan for will help your kids feel like they can trust the routine.

Remember – you will be giving your children an enormous give by providing calm stability in the face of what might feel chaotic to them.  Routine is enormously helpful in establishing that sense of being able to trust that you are taking care of them.

 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash