Homeschool Life

From Your Mom: A Letter to Homeschool Students

Before we embark on another homeschool year, I want to clear up a couple of misunderstandings we had last year. Truth is, some school days I felt like a gladiator. You probably did too. Let’s start fresh, and agree on the following… shall we?

1. Mom is not the enemy. Most homeschool students unconsciously operate under the paradigm error that mom (and by extension anybody who doles out tasks) is the enemy. Don’t shoot the messenger applies distinctly to homeschool moms, who are the innocent messengers of academic tasks, household chores, the number of wrong questions in algebra, poor test grades, and sundry other pieces of  “news” all day every day during the homeschool year. So don’t shoot the educator. She’s doing her job, her God-given job, and you make it loathsome when you complain and whine. Shooting the educator is predecessor to ticking off your boss, not a useful life skill no matter how you slice it. No, contrary to what you may believe, mom is not the enemy. She’s working her tail off to give you the gift of a solid, God-focused education, having set aside a career of her own to do it. Mom is not only your friend; she’s your biggest fan.

2. Education is not the enemy. Alas, your generation has stepped onto a culture train that believes education is a concubine, that it’s something shameful and nerdy and you keep it hidden in a closet until you take your ACT. Or that it’s something educators need to shove into your pursed lips like so much bad-tasting medicine. You’ve been handed a worldview that simultaneously loves money and hates the mechanism that acquires it: knowledge. This culture lie has become tsunamical, dragging intelligence down to its deepest depths since the dark ages. It screams at you from every form of social media. Don’t believe it. Education and knowledge are power. Just ask any IT guy.

3. Discipline is not the enemy. It’s a vital life skill, and we homeschoolers must be especially vigilant not to let it slip through the holes in our pajamas. A habit of self-discipline translates into success in just about any venue. People without self-discipline will pay big bucks for someone else’s. Think Tony Robbins, WeightWatchers, Team Beachbody, or Dave Ramsey. And what about all the businesses who promise results without the need for discipline? Take this pill and watch the fat melt off your body effortlessly…  So when mom tells you to set your own alarm clock and get your subjects done by 2 PM, don’t pout and ask to be public schooled (see #4). Remind yourself  that discipline is your friend, and your mom is teaching you to cultivate it while you’re young and it’s still free.

4. Public school is not the enemy, but neither is it a friend of God. Don’t demand to be public schooled every time you have a rough patch. That is insulting and disrespectful and ridiculous. Public school is not the hero coming to save you from the evil clutches of mom. It is work and stress and scary lunch food. Oh, and no pajamas, either. Public school is almost the same as homeschool, except you do your work in a great big building on hard chairs and desks with a bunch of other disgruntled students. God is the author of every subject, and shouldn’t be relegated to an elective or after-school activity. God is why we are here. On planet earth, yes, but also why we school at home. If you have a problem with it, see Him.

5. Excellence is not the enemy. If the subjects belong to God, then we have a holy duty to handle them with diligence and excellence. Excellence can only be achieved through hard work and in some cases, pain and sacrifice. Long after you’ve forgotten the hard times, your friend Excellence will stick by you. In fact, when you neglect to invite Excellence to the party, that will also stick by you. Or on you. Or on your reputation. Excellence is the friend who stands with you in a moment of glory and crawls with you in the hours of sacrifice. Learn about God’s creations: science, history, and algebra, as acts of worship, even and especially when you find it painful. Embrace excellence and dedicate your work to God.

6. Satan IS the enemy.  And he’s wily. He dresses up like your annoying little sister, your overbearing mother, your needy high-maintenance friend, your impossible calculus, dreadful chores, etc. Satan wears any and every mask that will get you to break. If that doesn’t work, he can be a charmer, too, beckoning you to throw your workday down in favor of twitter, snap chat, facebook, and youtube. He is the ultimate interrupter, rude and brazen. He even interrupts your thoughts while your mother is trying to impart critical information to you. So turn off your device(s) and devote yourself entirely to something. It will feel unnerving at first, but you’ll get used to it. Satan can only interrupt you if you let him. Open the door of your mind an inch, and he’ll come through with a semi-truck. That is just his way. Know thy enemy. Recognize Satan when he comes knocking.

7. Love is your enemy’s enemy. Which makes it your friend. If you have all knowledge and have not love, you have become a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. The way of the Christian is to love. Without it, we do not know God; for God is love. In your school day, when frustration sets in, when monotony threatens to put you to sleep, when every other grass seems greener, remember to love God and the people He’s placed around you. Love them by keeping your mouth shut, if that is what love would look like. Or love them by picking your socks up off the floor. Love them by gritting your teeth and throwing all you have at your chemistry problems and then, when you think you don’t have an atom of patience left, love by smiling at your mom when she asks you to fix your grammar mistakes. Anything you do with love in mind, is worship to God. No act is too small.

Glad we got that settled. We are all friends here: you, me, education, discipline, excellence, LOVE.

On behalf of homeschool moms everywhere– your friend, Mom.


Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. – Ephesians 6:10-13

Homeschool Life

Smoking The Core

photo (10)Did you know I’m a principal? It’s true, according to the Ohio Department of Education. By way of explanation, there are two ways to legally home educate in Ohio. One of them is to become your own school, so to speak. We mavericks are called 08 schools:  non-chartered, non-tax supported schools, which are granted autonomy for truly-held religious beliefs. Before home education became a right in and of itself, 08 schools were the only way to legally home educate in Ohio. Now there are other options, but I still prefer to be an 08 school. The letter to the right is a mass-mailing to all private schools, and the greeting was made to suit the majority– which reminds me of another initiative that aims to pull into the galaxial fold of public education, the myriads of divergent  learners in the spectrum: The Common Core.

The Common Core… the Miley Cyrus of the education scene.  “What’s so bad about the common core?” my son asked one day when it sallied into his awareness through a facebook post. Why on earth would the well-intentioned efforts of the educational establishment garner such a cold– nay, shall I say, violent– reception? Thankfully, my local district mailed out a newsletter to clear things up.

The first claim the newsletter makes is this: [By way of definition,] the Common Core State Standards set clear, consistent goals that build upon each other at each grade level… [and] provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn… Note the words  clear and consistent. With those, I have no argument. I’m sure they’ll be clear and consistent… and less academically rigorous than what we now have in place, which is less academically rigorous than what we had in place previous to those… previous to those… etc.

The newsletter claims Standards do not equal curriculum or lesson plans!  so emphatically as to use an exclamation mark to convey strong emotions about these standards. Red flag. Actually, that statement is absolutely, completely, emphatically, exclamation-marks-all-around false. Standards directly affect a student’s education at the atomic level.  Make no mistake about it, these new, higher (snort) standards for education will make their way into your living room. And why does that even matter? Why does my local district feel the need to spend precious dollars on propaganda to stroke me and croon there…. there... over the Common Core? Red flag number two.

The example given is Algebra I. The standard is an expectation that students will know and be able to apply the concepts in Algebra I to real life situations. The curriculum used to teach Algebra I are up to the teacher– lesson plans and curriculum are not set by the standards. Really? Lesson plans and curriculum are not set by the standards? The truth is, national standards like the Common Core spawn scads of new curriculum. They have to. To say that curriculum is not set by the standards is to say, Hey, we’ve thought up these new goals, but no worries. We won’t be teaching them. They won’t affect things. As you were…

What does Algebra I encompass, as far as math skills go? That’s a variable, if you’ll forgive the pun. What constitutes Algebra I (in practice as opposed to theory) is ultimately decided by the standards because the measurement of whether or not we’ve hit the mark set by the standards is the assessment. Simply, the creators of the assessment tests have the power to decide what will be taught in the classroom.  Even I, small-time 08 principal that I am, will feel the effects of the Common Core, as the private curricula does homage to the new standards (it always does, eventually).

What happens when new standards are rolled out is that new tests must be developed to determine who attains these standards. As the results of standardized tests carry more and more weight in defining student, teacher, and school district adequacy, more focus must be on the limited content of these ever-narrowing, one-size-fits-all tests. The stakes are high.


American students are already the most tested students on earth. [1] If testing were the answer, we’d be churning out the brightest and best minds the globe over.  Clearly, Captain Obviously, it’s not.  So what to do? Our only recourse (until Common Core is common trash) is to teach more than what’s common, to go beyond the core.  Smoke the standards… go above and beyond… apply diligence… demand excellence. Rocky Balboa-academic-rigor is the core… of a consummate education.

Lewis and ClarkParents, whether you homeschool or help with homework, you are the trump card in your child’s education. No test, no bill, no local mandate or school board can take the place of a committed, on-fire-for-education parent who is willing to smoke the core. Initiatives like the Common Core come and go. (Go, please go. The sooner, the better.) Until then, parents can take this simple action to ensure an uncommon education for everyone: Read. Together. Every day. Check out this reading list. Read the source documents on history, i.e., don’t limit your study to a biography on Lewis & Clark; read the journals they kept as they slogged across our country. That’s where you’ll get the whole truth and the bonus of some juicy details left out by conservative texts. Read. Everything. You. Can.

Parents, if you make their high bar your footstool, you can’t go wrong.

The Broadest Road to Great Writing... Reading



Homeschool Life, Personal Journey

National Dictionary Day

dictionaryI say this in love: Noah Webster was a total geek.  He knew 26 languages.  Not letters.  Languages.  Don’t you find it odd that he knew exactly the same number of languages as letters in the English alphabet? I wonder if it was a personal goal of his to know that many languages.  When did he find time to speak in them all?

I am convicted of the crime of not using nearly enough of my brain. So are we all.

In honor of Noah Webster and his overachieving ways, why not learn a new word today?  My favorite word, learned in the course of a writing game played with my class, is mordant.  It fits me like a sausage casing.  I’d tell you the definition, but then you wouldn’t go use a dictionary on National Dictionary Day.  Unless you already know the definition.  In that case, may I have your autograph? And can we be friends?

There should be a National Thesaurus Day.  Thesaurusing is a verb I’ve created to describe the process of trashing generic and overused descriptors, verbs, and even nouns, and replacing them with better, more vivid, more academically-mature words.  I’ve gotten some doozies in the process of this exercise.  When students don’t understand the flavor of certain words (or parts of speech), I get things like: I did a ravishing job on the dishes.  Or: Her pulchritudinous lips were too much for me to bear; I had to osculate them.

I tell them I’d rather see a grammar misstep than nostep.  It would be more a shame for them never to have broadened their brood vocabularies.  There.  See?  I thesaurused “young” to describe their vocabularies. The noun young came up, and its synonym, brood, also a noun.  See how easy it is to make a complete fool of yourself with a thesaurus?  One who would write must be willing to write badly.  I am willing. I’ve proven it.  Now go and have a look in Webster’s Compendious English Dictionary (published in 1806).  Today people run from words like compendious.  Perhaps they’re afraid to show their broodness.  Perhaps that’s the beginning of what’s wrong with America.  To be a student I must be teachable; to be teachable I must be willing to not know something.


I’m Shutting Down

government-shutdownAn acquaintance of mine works for our government in one of the “essential” areas. Lucky for him.  At least he receives a percentage of his pay and gets the benefit of continuing to wake up early, face rush hour, and go into a present, but “demoralized” office.  He mentioned defaulting on his mortgage as an option if things don’t turn around soon.  Although it was said in jest, it made me think about what Americans *learn* from situations like this: our government, the currency standard of the world, the uh-em, leader of the free world, hated, feared, respected– can shut down? Ok, let me get this straight?  I’m having a rough week. Going on seems difficult.  I’m tired and overwhelmed… so I’m going to do what any superhero-country would do: shut down.  I’m not going to pay my bills, mow my lawn, feed my kids.  Alright, kids are essential, but I’m not going to do the dishes.  And bathing is totally out.

Because our pillar, Uncle Sam, can be so irresponsible, (even if the end hopefully justifies the means) why should my friend feel the slightest duty to pay that mortgage of his?  Why should kids get off their butts and get a real job when they can get health care covereage under mommy and daddy until they’re 26?  How smart would it be to work for your money, when our sugar daddy government loves to dole it out for free?  On the red-white-and-blue credit card, of course.  Credit we’re about to extend ourselves more of… Our grandparents had scads of kids and were working to hold up the economy at 26 years old.  Now the greatest acheivement of a 26-year-old lifetime college student is his ability to play the ocarina on The Legend of Zelda– that’s helpful to our national security and prosperity.

This responsibility freefall is the beginning of the end for this country.  A system that routinely encourages laziness, apathy, and irresponsibility will produce that bitter fruit.  And we get to eat it.

Homeschool Life

Knowledge is Power

My children enjoy making “forts” to sleep in or read on, whatever.  It’s becoming clear to me that my children hate to use items in the manner for which they were intended.  Whether it’s playground equipment, stairs, dowel rods, couches, beds (that’s a big one), they would rather create a new use for it because that’s more challenging and usually results in the object breaking much sooner than would be customary.    This is my youngest reading on the “couch.”  He feels more powerful up there.  And that’s fine.  I tell my kids knowledge is power all the time.  And whenever our knowledge manifests itself in ways like more money or time savings, I don’t hesitate to point that out to my kids.  In fact, the root of all our blessing is knowledge… of God.  Without Him, we wouldn’t know over what we stumble or which way to go.  So, knowledge– the pursuit of it, the respect of it, and the sharing of it– is the foundation of all I do as a home educator.   Knowledge truly is power.  It’s not nerdy.  It’s not shameful.  It’s not boring.  It’s powerful.  That’s the koolaid I give my kids every day of our school year.  Knowledge is awesome, and it begins with God.

If I do no better than to teach my children that learning isn’t a chore, that it’s a gift and a privilege, then I’ve done well.   My job is to provide an atmosphere of safety, freedom, and encouragement; sometimes that means a couch with cushions all askew when I’d much rather it were tidy.   It means allowing the kids to use things in unconventional ways, eg.  breaking perfectly good stuff.  I’m still learning how to leave books scattered all around the living room so that, in a moment of boredom, they’ll pick one up and begin to read.  And just so I don’t forget about it, I left the radio experiment on the living room floor, like roadkill with its circuits splayed all around the purple plastic casing.  I’m not ready to give up on figuring out how to tune in the airport channel.  The signal comes in and then gets scrambled.   Our minds are that way too:  the signal comes in and then gets scrambled.  I need a clear signal. 🙂

A caved-in couch cushion fort that needs the laws of physics applied to it or a forgotten bowl of cereal to which the laws of nature have been applied for too many days– even my radio carcass– these are not just messes.   These are the trail markers we leave behind as we blaze through a wonderful life.

Knowledge is power.   Make sure your children believe that.