Friday, September 30, 2011

Dear Steve Cuckovich

Dude, you decided to deduct points from your student’s grades for extending the common courtesy of saying “bless you” to another student who sneezes in your classroom. That’s fierce, man! Your Will C. Wood High School health students must be bummin’. So what if the original meaning of the phrase is outdated? Over time, its meaning has changed to a common courtesy extended between members of a decent, caring society. Don’t be such a square, man. You’re trying to nip the practice in the bud. You should be encouraging it.

I cannot help but wonder how saying “bless you” after someone sneezes is disrespectful and disruptive in the classroom. That is SO Gay! You claim that this has nothing to do with religion. You have a problem with just this one phrase. It sounds to me like you have an axe to grind. Is “gesundheit” verboten, too?

Your students and their parents are not happy campers. They probably think that grades should be based on academic performance and not on a student’s ability to conform to the whims of an individual teacher. Psyche! But what’s more disruptive to a learning environment, a sneeze followed by a blessing, or a teacher making a big deal over the use of a phrase that is not vulgar and wishes another student good health? Your behavior, and the righteous indignation it evokes in your students, is far more of a distraction to learning. You need to learn to chill, dude. Don’t have a cow.

Stevo, you’ve rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. You’ve brought national attention to yourself, and not the good kind. You made Drudge!You’ve brought unneeded attention to your Vacaville, California, high school. I bet your principal just loves that. It’s time to read the writing on the wall. Rather than promising to find another way to punish your students for blessing one another other than deducting points from a grade, it might be time to throw in the towel. Make like a tree and leave. More and more, people find attitudes like yours grody to the max. It’s one of the reasons why the number of homeschoolers in this nation is growing.

10-4 good buddy,


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wake Up, Homeschoolers! Socialization Isn’t Just Important. It’s Everything!

If you think that “socialization” is important for the development of your homeschooled children, think again. It’s not just important. It’s everything! So says a retired Canadian public school teacher in a letter-to-the-editor of the Edmonton Journal. While discussing the recent Concordia University and Mount Allison University study that revealed Canadian homeschoolers academically outperformed their public school counterparts, Donna Martyn wrote, “Succeeding academically is probably less than 15 per cent of the value of public schooling. It is, however, a desirable byproduct.”

It’s a desirable byproduct. Like Spam.

So, what is important in Canadian education? It isn’t academics and it isn’t “the moral benefits of homeschooling.” The value of a Canadian public school education is that “when children come together at an early age, they are to be taught to learn, work, share, play (and otherwise cope) - in groups. Not just any group, but a microcosmic group of their fellow children - products of the society of which they are to become a part.” According to Ms. Martyn, “Home-schooling deprives children of the chance to do just that.”

A “microcosmic group.” They must have small class sizes.

Maybe Americans just don’t understand our cousins to the north. Maybe Canadians don’t interact inter-generationally. It is possible that peer groups remain intact for the life of the Canadian citizen with very little contact with Canadians outside of their age group. That’s why it is so important that “children must learn to get along with people of their own peer group.” It “is essential if they are to become functioning members of Canadian society.” Homeschoolers have a different understanding of what it means to prepare our children to participate in the greater world outside of the home.

If Donna Martyn is correct, I have to wonder about the curriculum content in Canadian public schools. Are they wasting valuable resources on reading, writing, and arithmetic if academics are only a 15% byproduct of a K-12 education? Is reading and math just a clever ploy to distract young children while they really learn to stand in line or share toys?

“No, Johnny, we are not carrying a one to the tens column when we add nine plus six. We are sharing the one with the tens column. Learning to share is important.”

The absurdity of Donna Martyn’s educational philosophy is clear. Her philosophy is the polar opposite of the “whole child” concerns Linda wrote about in yesterday’s post. Ms. Martyn doesn’t appear to be concerned about the intellectual development of children at all. It is a dangerous approach to education that reduces a human being to a simple cog in a societal wheel, depriving children of the ability (and quite possibly the desire) to become dynamic, well-rounded, moral, and successful adults. Her goal is for children to cope.

Maybe it’s a Canadian thing. I’ll take homeschooling.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Paying Attention to the "Whole Child"--Something Homeschoolers Already Knew

Homeschooling is successful for a boatload of reasons. And some of its success may have something to do with a homeschooler's understanding of this: Testing is often a poor measure of academic success. A child's success as a student simply cannot be quantified by a grade received on a test. Yet in an academic culture that values test scores above all other measures, children who possess strengths and skills that cannot be measured by a test are at a distinct disadvantage. Marilyn Price-Mitchell, the sociologist who recently wrote The Fallacy of Good Grades was right on the money when she drew these conclusions in her article:

"Parents can make a difference by paying attention to the "whole child," - not just the child who attends school each day but to the child who participants in family life, reaches out to others, thinks creatively, acts wisely, collaborates, and shows respect. Parents have the capacity to nurture these qualities in children, to let them know they are more than a test score.

"We may be living in an age that is obsessed with numbers, but that doesn't mean we have to teach our children to measure their self-worth by grades or test scores alone. In fact, parents are in a position to nurture psychological literacy and help develop the internal strengths that determine a meaningful life." (emphasis mine)

Sadly, in an article that focuses heavily on parental influence in instilling necessary skills into children, the inherent strength of the homeschool environment to accomplish what the public school environment cannot (even with all its self-awarded superiority) is never mentioned. Homeschooling, by nature, provides an academic and emotional environment that is, at its very core, all about "paying attention to the 'whole child'." Parents who spend every day teaching their children are naturally in a position to nurture those qualities that matter...helping their children know that "they are more than a test score."

"To succeed in the 21st Century, students need a multitude of abilities that go beyond internal character and reading, math, and science skills. Today's young adults must be able to adapt to change, problem-solve, innovate, and manage large quantities of knowledge. To do so, they must learn to think critically about complex issues. How do we test critical thinking in schools? We don't. In fact, most schools don't even teach critical thinking skills, the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a goal of improving it."

Isn't it strange that a system that fails to instill the most valuable skills and qualities is esteemed as superior to a system that has been proven to be better equipped to instill those same qualities? Stranger still is the illogical reality that critics of homeschooling (did you read Arby's recent post) often bypass questions concerning academic development, and instead choose to raise questions of social development when addressing the effectiveness of homeschooling. And strangest of all is the ludicrous line of thinking that insists that the most valuable function of the public school system is raising socially capable people, when in fact, that very system seems to find its greatest "success" in instilling the most negative social values that children could ever acquire.

I am continually baffled that in the face of a growing body of evidence that public schools are failing in every way, people still seem to think that homeschooled children are missing out on something of critical importance in their development into capable members of society.

Does any of this make sense to you?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hey, Homeschoolers! Where Do You Send Your Children To Learn To Be Bullied?

I’ve always been staunchly opposed to homeschooling because I think schools, public or private, teach kids how to function in society as much as anything else.
-Kara Moore

Author Kara Moore listed her reasons for preferring a public school education over homeschooling in a benign essay titled “Is homeschooling the wave of the future?” on the Charleston Daily Mail’s Mommyhood Blog page. There’s nothing in her writing that is particularly troublesome for the homeschooling community. She isn’t an activist bent on outlawing home education. Mrs. Moore stated that her children are in a “quality” public school, and that if they lived in an area of the country like “Memphis or Washington, D.C.,” she might be more aware of a need to homeschool. She invested no time defining what makes a “quality” school or why Memphis and D.C. area schools fail to meet that standard. Her ultimate concern is whether or not public schools are simply a baby-sitting service while maintaining that (wait for it) “there’s an important socialization aspect of school.” Then, in the comments section of her post, she revealed the value of a public school education based on her memories of school life and the lessons she learned. None of them are academic.

She wrote:

I mean things that happen outside of lesson plans. I mean getting up at 6:30 to wait for the bus and sitting in pep assemblies and dealing with mean girl cliques and learning to eat school lunches when you’ve always been a picky eater, learning to take standardized tests in freezing cold classrooms, dealing with teachers who seem to have it out for you, or worse, who bore you. When I list them, they sound like the worst parts of school, but those are things that really prepare you for living in society with others. IMHO.

She added:

Though I want to be clear that I think there’s an excellent chance you’re right and I’m wrong.

I’m always fascinated by the “learn to deal with bullies” concept as expressed above. Where do people think members of “mean girl cliques” go to at night? Do they head home to sit and wait for the dawning of a new day in order to return to school and be a mean girl? Most bullies don’t leave their meanness in their school locker when they leave school at the end of the day. They participate in society outside of school, bringing their meanness to Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, church youth groups, athletic teams, the local park, etc. Homeschoolers get to learn to deal with jerks after school, where it isn’t a distraction to learning.

Most of the things that Kara Moore described as being valuable learning experiences are, in fact, simply distractions that prevent meaningful learning from taking place. Pep assemblies? Teachers who bore you? Teachers who dislike you? If that’s what people remember the most from attending 13 years worth of public schooling, then there is something seriously wrong with public education. Most students mentally tune out of classrooms where they dislike a teacher, or where they know a teacher dislikes them. And if taking tests in a cold classroom is critical to the academic and emotional development of my children, I will gladly turn off the furnace this February when my kids take their Iowa tests.

I educate my children at home because I want them to receive a high quality academic education. I want them to learn history without the political biases many public school teachers bring to the classroom. I want my children to master the skills they are being taught. I want them to learn critical thinking skills. Their education is tailored to their areas of interest as well as their overall ability levels and discipline specific ability levels. Why would I send my children to school for any reason other than receiving the best possible education? Preparing them to interact with society once they leave home? That’s a parent’s job.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Needs of the One Cannot Define the Needs of the Many

A writer by the name of Libby Anne wrote an excellent essay on growing up as a homeschooled child in a Christian patriarchal family. The title of her essay is “My Life as a Daughter of Christian Patriarchy.” It is a well written, refreshingly (and painfully) honest, and enlightening piece of writing that you can find here. Libby Anne explained and discussed the issues she faced growing up in a Quiverfull family. While explaining the challenges she faces as a young woman who disagrees with the religious tenants of her childhood, she made a startling and dangerous statement when she blamed homeschooling for the lifestyle in which she was raised.

The Quiverfull movement is a branch of the evangelical Christian community that strictly adheres to the standard of raising daughters to be helpmates for, and subjugated to, husbands and fathers. Boys are raised to become the head of the household and providers for a family. There are stringent rules for behavior in this movement that clash with modern sensibilities concerning life in a free and democratic society. Unsurprisingly, Quiverfull children are not allowed to interact with modern society in the same manner of the average American child. Frequently, Quiverfull girls are denied a college education, the rationale being that they don’t need one since they don’t need a career outside of the home.

Libby Anne wrote:

“By now, you may be wondering, how is this possible? How can parents indoctrinate their children in this way? The answer, I would argue, is simple: homeschooling. By homeschooling, these parents can control every interaction their children have and every piece of information their children come upon.

“By homeschooling us, my parents could completely control what we learned.”

But, homeschooling is not the issue here. The responsibility for Libby Anne’s childhood and the problems she faces as a young adult rest solely on her parents and their spiritual and lifestyle choices.

It doesn’t take a homeschooler to be a rigid and controlling parent. Many of us know of children who were or are raised by strict, domineering mothers and fathers. Two of my public high school classmates lived in such a household. Judy and Teresa were very smart girls. They graduated near the top of our class. Their every movement was also controlled by a father who demanded that if school dismissed at 3:15 they should be at home by 3:30. Boys were not allowed to call their house for any reason whatsoever. The girls were allowed out with groups of other girls once in awhile, but with a very early curfew. Dating was forbidden. They were not allowed to attend school dances, including prom, and other activities where boys were present. Weekly attendance at mass was mandatory. The church youth group was their only approved, non-school, coed activity. Would it be a surprise to learn that one of the girls rebelled at age 18? She left home, moved out of state, and got pregnant with her boy friend. Would it be a surprise to learn that she struggled with her self-image, lacked self-confidence, and had weight problems? Would it be a surprise to learn that she was estranged from her parents? Children who are raised in controlling, patriarchal families come from all educational backgrounds.

Libby Anne was raised in a patriarchal, Quiverfull family because her parents made a conscious choice to raise their children in such a manner, not because they chose to teach their children at home. Homeschooling was a tool they used to achieve their ends. It was an instrument for achieving a desired result. Can homeschooling be used to lock children away from the modern world while simultaneously indoctrinating them into an extreme religious lifestyle? Unfortunately, yes it can; but, it is irresponsible to lay the blame on homeschooling. Doing so errantly feeds the arguments of home education critics who believe that all homeschoolers are attempting to indoctrinate their children in radical Christianity while sheltering them from the real world. It ignores the thousands of secular homeschoolers who simply wish to provide their children with a better education than the one provided by their local public school. It ignores the needs of parents who choose homeschooling to address their children’s special needs, needs that the local school cannot or will not meet. Homeschooling is not Christianity, Christianity is not homeschooling, and allowing the two to become intricately intertwined in the public eye serves neither the homeschooling movement nor Christ. Libby Anne’s story will become the example du jour for those people who wish to outlaw home education for everyone. Her story cannot be allowed to become another arrow in the homeschooling critic’s quiver.

My heart goes out to Libby Anne. I am grateful that she shared her story. It is an important story. I know that regaining one’s voice and speaking out is a necessary step in the recovery process when one person feels like their voice has been silenced. Libby Anne did so eloquently and powerfully. I hope and pray that she finds peace with her past and her parents.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Hate These Kinds Of Dilemmas

If anyone lives in the greater Kansas City area they will be familiar with KMBZ radio at 980 on the AM dial. It’s one of two local news and talk radio stations. The 9-11 morning slot is currently filled by a guy named Chris Merrill. Being that I am a talk radio junkie, I tune in to his show when I can, which depends entirely on where my children have decided to complete their school work. If they are in the kitchen, the radio is off. This morning, I was washing dishes and cooking French toast BY MYSELF when Merrill started his show by talking about the new book on Sarah Palin. Stick with me here. This is not a blog about politics.

Joe McGinniss is the author who moved to Wasila, Alaska, and took up residence in a house right next door to the Palins. It was a creepy thing to do: legal but borderline stalking. While he spent his days researching the topic of his book, the Palins erected a privacy fence between the two properties and went about their lives. Mr. McGinniss’ book will go on sale on September 20th, but details about the contents have been leaked. Allegedly, the former Alaskan governor used cocaine in the past, had a pre-marital fling with then college basketball player Glen Rice, is attracted to black men, and had affairs on Todd Palin. I know, I know. Who cares?

In Merrill’s casual, “I’m just an average guy in a bar” style, he expounded on how this publicity, true or not, will only help Sarah Palin with the public. Snorted cocaine? Attracted to black men? A pre-marriage fling with a black man out behind the woodshed? Merrill thinks these are all pluses to the average guy who might think that Palin is “bootylicious.” He went on to explain the great PR black men get due to their reputation for having bigger…well, you probably know what he meant. And he explained the value of having a wood shed behind which two people can sneak off for some private time. And you’re asking, “Arby, where are you going with this?” I’m getting there.

Normally, I can hear my children coming long before they get to the kitchen, with enough time to change stations or turn off the radio before they arrive. Neither the seven nor the eight year old is quiet. The ninja teenager is entirely different. I turned around from flipping a slice of French toast right about the time Merrill was dropping the “bootylicious” line only to find the 14 year old sitting quietly at the kitchen table with a shocked expression on his face. And it was at this moment that I thought,

“Whoever said that you had to go to a public school to be socialized?”

I told you to trust me. I brought this back to homeschooling. And now I’m wondering, should I leave the radio off between 9-11 in the morning or should I assign two hour's worth of listening as a part of a social studies class?

I hate these kinds of dilemmas.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Let's Hear from the Homeschooled

I stumbled across this video while conducting research on homeschooling. It’s a funny video well worth the five minutes it takes to watch. So, grab your favorite beverage, lock the kids in another room (give ‘em a worksheet – that’s what “real” teachers do), relax and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Ignorant Among Us

“A lot of them [homeschooled children]are demented when they're homeschooled. They are afraid of children. They learn to be scared of other children. It’s all about mommy and daddy telling us everything.” 
- Joy Behar, The View
November 2008

One possible response:

Your thoughts?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Ignorable Pale Blue Dot

My online friend Kid, who writes at Diary of a Right Wing Peace Loving Pussycat, loves to post pictures of space. His latest picture is a fantastic picture of Saturn, with earth in the background.

Underneath the picture is a caption written by someone from NASA.

"Explanation: In the shadow of Saturn, unexpected wonders appear. The robotic Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn drifted in giant planet's shadow for about 12 hours in 2006 and looked back toward the eclipsed Sun. Cassini saw a view unlike any other. First, the night side of Saturn is seen to be partly lit by light reflected from its own majestic ring system. Next, the rings themselves appear dark when silhouetted against Saturn, but quite bright when viewed away from Saturn, slightly scattering sunlight, in this exaggerated color image. Saturn's rings light up so much that new rings were discovered, although they are hard to see in the image. Seen in spectacular detail, however, is Saturn's E ring, the ring created by the newly discovered ice-fountains of the moon Enceladus and the outermost ring visible above. Far in the distance, at the left, just above the bright main rings, is the almost ignorable pale blue dot of Earth."

Click on the picture to see a better view. The last line of the caption caught my attention. “Far in the distance, at the left, just above the bright main rings, is the almost ignorable pale blue dot of Earth.”

“Almost ignorable.”

Earth is almost ignorable. Except for that pesky created by God thing. That tiny “pale blue dot” is the most important spot in the universe.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1

See you on Monday.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Do You Trust Your Instincts?

The biggest challenge in raising a special needs kiddo is deciding when to intervene with extra help and when to let a kid be a kid. I err (by choice) on the latter. The Boss is excellent at stepping in when a little extra help is needed. Our decisions are made with lots of discussion, prayerfully considered. I trust my wife’s instincts, which is why I agreed to her wishes over the last couple of years where our daughter’s education was concerned. The end result was that Captain Chaos spent far more time than I was comfortable with in our local elementary school. This year I decided to trust my instincts. We scaled back our time at the local school to only speech and occupational therapy. That made our daughter our third fulltime homeschooler.

I’m in my eighth year of homeschooling, but in some ways it feels like my first. Those same concerns (Can I do this?) that I experienced in my first year resurfaced when I realized that I was solely responsible for the education of my special needs daughter. I don’t usually define the Captain as “special needs.” She’s simply my daughter in the same way that my sons are my sons. She’s my child. I adore her. Where her education is concerned, there are other issues that must be addressed. Teaching her is not as easy as was teaching General Mayhem. I learned very quickly in this young school year that having three children with three distinctly different learning styles makes for quite the instructional juggling act. Of the three, the Captain needs the highest level of one-on-one instruction. Ultimately, the biggest question we had was whether or not we would be able to use the same curriculum with Captain Chaos that we used with her brothers. My gut told me the answer to that question was, “Yes.” I’m glad that I trusted my instincts.

Yesterday, Captain Chaos took her first math test. After spending the first nine days of the school year sitting by her side while she completed her math lessons, I spent most of lesson ten in another room while she completed the test on her own. We’ve suspected for a while that the Captain likes to keep her intelligence a closely guarded secret. She let that secret slip with this:

We are thrilled!

I learned two things about teaching my daughter from this test. The Captain caught her own mistake on the first tower. She corrected her mistake by writing X’s on the boxes that she should not have colored. Later on, she told her mother that her mistake bothered her a great deal. The Captain possesses a level of self-awareness about the accuracy of her work that she does not demonstrate on a daily basis. The second point of interest came from the third tower. At first glance, it appears that she sloppily colored two squares when she should have colored three. If you take a second look you will see that she colored four, put an X through the fourth box, and then decided to erase it. For reasons too silly to explain here, Dad hasn’t allowed her to use the block eraser very often. She doesn’t have much practice. She doesn’t have much control over the eraser, either. Lesson learned. Let the girl erase.

Captain Chaos will take her first grammar test tomorrow. It's the same curriculum we used with the boys. I’m hoping for similar results. Good instincts, prayerfully considered. Trust them.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fighting the Good Fight

It is a spectacularly poor piece of writing. A Mr. Brent Applegath of Vernon sent a letter to the editor of the to express his views concerning the benefits of a public school education over homeschooling. No new ground was covered in the arguments against homeschooling. The author believes that classroom teachers have special training, are passionate about providing only the best opportunities for their students, and provide opportunities that homeschoolers cannot provide. “Obvious pluses such as learning with friends, sharing in discussions where many varied opinions are offered, diversity of subject matter, resources, technology and working to make a school a community are aspects of public education that are not as readily available to homeschooled children.” I’ve seen this line of reasoning before. The thing that bothers me about his letter, and kept me revisiting it over the course of the weekend, is the author’s complete lack of desire to share his interests with his children.

“As a parent, I think the instruction of my children is better left to others who are qualified. I have found this when providing opportunities for music lessons, skiing and snow boarding instruction and driver training. These activities are all things which I am proficient at yet lack the proper qualifications to deliver the instruction. In short, I am not passionate about teaching my children old how to play guitar, drive or ski. The amount of whining and arguing is not worth the effort.” (Emphasis mine)

I wonder how many homeschooling critics share Mr. Applegath’s lack of passion concerning their children’s education, whether the subject is music, ski lessons, and snowboarding or math, history, and science. He appears to be saying that since his children can be difficult, they’re not worth the effort. It’s simply easier to let someone else do the hard work. It is easier to send a child to school and let someone else influence them than it is to wage a war for the child’s heart, mind, and soul. The cover story for that position is, “I am not qualified to teach my children.”

Several years ago, I came across an explanation for anti-homeschooling criticism that appears uncannily accurate in light of Mr. Applegath’s statement. Author Sonny Scott, writing in a Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal article titled, “Home-schoolers Threaten Our Cultural Comfort,” offered an excellent reason why homeschooling is disliked.

Why do we hate (or at least distrust) these people so much? Their very existence represents a rejection of our values, and an indictment of our lifestyles. Those families are willing to render unto Caesar the things that Caesar’s be, but they draw the line at their children. Those of us who have put our trust in the secular state (and effectively surrendered our children to it) recognize this act of defiance as a rejection of our values, and we reject them in return.

I am not sitting in judgment of Mr. Applegath. I am not going to waste a moment’s time wondering about whether or not he loves his children. That would be silly. I am completely incapable of relating to Mr. Applegath’s statements about participating in his children’s education. His lack of passion for teaching his children is as foreign to me as is Mandarin Chinese. Passion. That's a powerful word. If I am anything, I am passionate about my children and their education. What concerns me is that if the expressed sentiments about child rearing are as common as are the weak arguments for preferring a public school classroom over a homeschool, what does that say about the world in which we live? What does that say about the society in which we are raising our children?

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Kids Think It's Cool: Dad Has A Tattoo

For the record, getting a tattoo does not feel like you are putting your arm through a sewing machine; although, Cristina, that was a funny line. I’ve had injuries that hurt far worse. Getting a tooth drilled hurts worse than does getting a tattoo. It feels like I have a sun burn. The only truly difficult part was inking Ada’s name. I’ll have to talk to her about the size of her letters. They are BIG. They hurt.

I sat last night looking at my arm with amusement. I actually did it. I have a tattoo. It’s pretty cool. The coolest part is that I don’t just have my children’s names on my arm. I have their signatures. I’ve captured their names as they write them at their current ages: 14, 8, and 7.

Aesthetically, this tattoo could be better. It probably would have been, too, if the first tattoo artist I spoke with was the guy who did the work. I don’t think I could have gotten a better tattoo to match my personality. I am not flashy. I have a blue collar approach to life. That’s why when the tattoo artist finished placing the stencils on my arm, I looked at it thinking, “It’s not exactly what I envisioned.” Then I said, “Eh, works for me.”

My choice of scripture verses was very personal. They were made with a lot of thought. Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4 remind me of how I should parent my children. The Boss discovered 1 Samuel 1:27 while we were searching for another verse. It comes from the story of Hannah. When she went to Eli to present her son to the Lord, she said, “I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.” While my use of the quote is out of context, I cannot think of a better reminder of how God answered my prayers when Ada was sick besides her gentle kisses on my cheek each morning. So, I placed that scripture below her name. The fact that the writing is not decorative fits my over all concern for this tattoo. I did not want the artwork to be the focus of attention. The scripture should be the focus of attention. That’s why my arm looks like it went through a typewriter.

Tattooing scripture on my arm raised a series of questions that caught me completely by surprise. I looked at my arm and thought, “What are you going to do with this arm? Are you going to use it in a way that is pleasing to God?” The answer is that I’d better. I permanently emblazoned His Word in my flesh. Can I use that arm to steal? Can I raise it in anger? I have a constant visual reminder of His presence in my life. It’s…humbling. Those questions and the answers to them are the biggest surprises of this process.

Eventually, I will have a little work added to this tattoo to fill the white space between words, but I waited a long time to get this tattoo. I can wait longer to complete it. I think the kids like it. They were all smiles when I took off the bandage, and again the following morning. Ultimately, I am glad that I did it.

Melissa, thank you for this fifteenth anniversary gift.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Communication 101

My daughter is a slob: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Just look at her room.

Her books are scattered across the floor, adorned with underwear, shoes, a Mr. Microphone, and toys of every sort. My in-laws have a favored picture from The Boss’ childhood. It’s a pair of nylons draped across a football. My daughter is headed in that direction. You can see a baseball cleat a short distance from the girl’s polka dotted Minnie Mouse dress. There’s a reason our daughter is called “Mini-Me.” So, I wasn’t surprised that her room was trashed when I entered it yesterday. She was playing on her bed when I stood in the doorway.

“Hey, Captain, why did you throw all your books on the floor?”

“Because mommy told me to,” she replied.

“Your mother told you to? I don’t think so.”

“Yeah, she did.” The Captain jumped off her bed and walked to the pile of books. Pointing at them, she said, “Mommy told me to put all my books on the floor right here.”

The problem was that she was so earnest in her delivery that I doubted she was lying, not that my daughter isn’t capable of looking me straight in the eye and denying something I watched her do. Her survival instinct is well developed.

“That’s kind of strange,” I told her. “We’ll have to talk to mommy, because you have a perfectly good book shelf right here with empty shelves where your books should be.”

“You do that!” she sang, before returning to her bed.

Now, the reason she was so confident in her mother’s instructions was because her mother did indeed tell her to stack all of her books on the floor in front of the book shelf. They were cleaning the room together while the boys and I were camping. My wife told our daughter to pick up all of the books that were already on the floor and stack them in front of the book shelf. The Captain missed that critical portion of the directions, “that were already on the floor.” Confidently believing that she understood her mother, Captain Chaos happily pulled all of the books off of the book shelf and dumped them on the floor where they remained until I cleaned her room today. I needed to do something while waiting for my tattoo appointment.

So, today’s homeschooling lesson comes from Communication 101. Make your directions perfectly clear the first time, or your husband will be stuck cleaning up the child’s understanding of what you meant.