Safari Boots is not used to sharing his big brother at all, much less with a boy who holds the glamour of nine whole years of life experience, and a remote control car.
But he has had to make the adjustment. There is a little boy next door, two years older than Encyclopedia Boots. And suddenly, everything is about Felix. Felix is my best friend after my brother. Felix says I am his best friend, too. I can see Felix out the window. Can Felix come over to play in the backyard? Felix has a remote control car. Felix, Felix, Felix.
I had a talk with Encyclopedia about how his brother is the most important friend he has, since he will be in his life forever. If I find that he and Felix aren’t getting along nicely with Safari, Felix will have to go home, while Encyclopedia learns to appreciate his brother. And Encyclopedia seems to be doing a pretty good job of including Safari.
This is a whole new world for me. Encyclopedia has had friends before, but they were mostly playdates arranged because I was friends with the child’s mother. This is the first friend who hasn’t been handpicked, and although Felix seems like a nice boy, he represents something of a loss of control on my part — a letting go of sorts.
Today, I ushered the children outside. “I don’t want you playing in the basement until I’m unpacked,” I told them. “Everybody into the backyard.” I saw Encyclopedia looking from me to Felix to see how my stance was being interpreted by his friend. It was like he was seeing me through the eyes of his friend, looking at me for the first time with a certain impartiality of gaze.
What would Felix think of Mama? Would he be offended by being thus ushered out of the house? Encyclopedia felt the need to explain me to his friend: “It’s just because we’re not unpacked yet. Mama doesn’t want a big mess when she’s still unpacking boxes and doesn’t know where everything goes.” His friend shrugged agreeably, and they headed outside.
It was a nothing-moment, one I could have so easily missed, had I not seen that look in Encyclopedia’s face. And yet it was so significant. Up to now, Farmer Boots and I have had almost 100% control over his impressions of us and the world. Today marked a shift. We’re down to 90%. His peer relationships can have some impact on his impressions of the world — and on his impressions of me.
Somebody, I can’t remember who, said that parenting is about learning to let go. I guess my little boy is leaving the baby stage and entering into the next stage of childhood — one which I have reduced power to shape for him.
God grant me wisdom in learning how to let go, and how much, and when and how to hold on. God grant me wisdom and peace in guiding this precious little soul, and indeed, all of the precious little souls in my care.
In this era of ultrasound technology, it seems an incredible feat of cognitive dissonance that it is still possible to consider abortion a morally viable option.
We will ooh and ahh over a pregnant woman’s 3-d ultrasound picture, marveling at the baby’s features, determining that he has Daddy’s nose and Mama’s mouth. At the same time, we uphold her right to kill the babe inside her womb, because it is no more than a collection of fetal cells, not a person.
Of course a baby, born or unborn, is human. Simians produce simians, canines produce canines, felines produce felines. And humans can only produce humans. Certainly these fetal procurement companies are not interested in simian or canine organs, but in human organs. It is not humanity that is denied the unborn child, but personhood.
We take our personhood so for granted that we think of it as a real, biological fact, like our humanness. But it is not. Personhood is a legal construction, and can be bestowed or taken away by an act of legislation. Consider that women became persons in Canada in 1929.
In 1927, the Famous Five petitioned the government about the meaning of the word ‘persons’ and asked the Supreme Court of Canada to examine the word.
The following year the Supreme Court ruled that women are not included in the definition of ‘persons’. The Famous Five appealed the decision to Canada’s highest appeal court at the time, the Judicial Committee of England’s Privy Council.
On [October 18, 1929] the lords on the judicial committee came to a consensus that the word ‘persons’ did indeed include the female gender.
Since the unborn are not persons, the rights of the mother to “reproductive freedom” supersede the child’s right to life. As we can see in the videos of abortion doctors discussing the buying and selling of their organs, the unborn are human chattel — kind of reminiscent of slavery, isn’t it?
I know that on the feminist left there are women who really don’t care whether the fetus is a child or a bunch of tissue. But surely these are extremists, not representative of the mainstream. And yet, the mainstream has become inured to the daily murder of millions of children, simply because it chooses to blind itself to the unpleasant.
No one likes to struggle against the current of popular opinion. We fear being branded anti-feminist, anti-woman, religious extremists. Or perhaps we know a woman — or several women — who have had abortions, and we don’t wish to offend. It’s a touchy subject. We see the pro-life protesters outside the hospital each week on “abortion day,” and we don’t want to be identified with those who would parade such gruesome imagery on the public streets. We look away, annoyed as if it were the pro-lifers themselves who originate these horrible pictures. We don’t want to think that they are merely showing an apathetic public the terrible truth.
One day, I am sure that children will read about our society in their history textbooks, and they will be shocked by the atrocities that we so apathetically allowed to happen.
We have this idea that institutional school is normative, and that homeschool is an aberration from that norm. We sometimes feel that to be successful homeschoolers, we must have our children sitting at the kitchen table doing seatwork all day, with regularly scheduled breaks. Perhaps even with a kitchen timer for a recess bell!
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that timer, nor is there anything wrong with sitting at a desk or table for school. If that works for your homeschool, more power to you and your egg timer.
Indeed, there is nothing wrong with raising our hands to speak, and wearing a school uniform. But these things are part of classroom management, developed to assist a teacher in maintaining discipline and control over 25 same-aged charges. You have two or three (or four or five or more) students, of varying ages, and a baby or toddler or two thrown in, just to keep things interesting. There is no need to rigidly adhere to a formal way of doing school that was intended to help a teacher in a very different situation. You’re at home, after all. So make yourself at home.
Let’s stop homeschooling on the defensive, as if we have something to prove:
some feel a need to prove how much like school we are;
others feel a need to prove how much better than school we are; and
still others are out to see how unlike school we can be!
The problem is that all of these are measuring their outcomes by the institutional yardstick, with the presupposition that school is normative.
What if we backed up a step or two? What if we started from the realization that there is nothing more normal than you, as a parent, educating your own child. After all, you teach your children to walk and talk, and to recognize their colours, letters and numbers. You don’t need send them to experts for that, do you?
Of course not. You are an expert walker and talker yourself. You know as many colours as the average adult needs to. You know the whole alphabet, and to top it all off, you can even count. So why send your children to “experts” for preschool?
It is also completely natural to continue along that arc. Just as you are an expert in preschool skills, consider that you are an expert in childhood skills as well. You can add, subtract, multiply and divide. You can ride a bike, throw a ball. You can write, spell, and diagram a sentence with the best of them. (And, if you can’t, you can certainly read a lesson ahead of your child in any textbook.) As for history and science, if you don’t remember the material from your own school days, well, what does that say about the long-term success of institutional education? If you don’t remember it, let’s discover it together, parent and child, learning side by side.
Let’s put away the guilty feelings, that perhaps, in this busy season of diapers and breastfeeding, we aren’t doing it as well as that other homeschool mom, or even as well as we did last year, before the baby was born. Let’s put away the feelings of inadequacy, and just rediscover the joy of learning.
Step away from the paradigm, and find out how your family best does school. I guarantee you it won’t be the same as your neighbourhood institutional school — it won’t even be the same as the homeschool family next door (or next blog over).
In my imagination, I am the perfect teacher: knowledgeable, patient, fun. My children are the perfect students: eager to learn, capable, never have to be told twice. We sit together at our backyard table (for some reason, my idealized homeschool vision always has us outside in perfect weather), and we are joyfully engaged in whole-family learning.
Everyone — even the baby — is hanging avidly to every well-chosen word that drops from my smiling (always smiling) mouth. I give a well-received lecture or reading, and then we act out some major historical event. I am secure in the knowledge that my children will always remember everything we’ve learned, because of all the fun we had learning and acting it out.
In reality, it is never (NEVER) like this. We do homeschool outside sometimes, but the wind blows our papers
around (somehow, there is no wind in my imagination). In reality, I am juggling the baby on one hip, struggling (and usually failing) to capture the attention of my middles, and never able to go far enough, fast enough for my eldest.
The reality is that it is a real challenge to homeschool with little ones. A grueling battle, engaged in daily — with results that are barely discernable in the day-to-day, but which, over time, really do come to fruition. These are the three most important things that I have discovered over the past few years of homeschooling.
1. Plan for Short Terms
Forget the year plan, the semester plan, and even the term plan. Think shorter. Little ones go through different stages quickly — and you need to readjust your schedules and plans accordingly.
The newborn who sleeps and nurses all day actually gives you a lot of time to focus on sit-down school with your bigger ones. Learning to read, for example, can take place cuddled on the couch together while you breastfeed the baby. More active work can be saved for those long naptimes.
But within a couple of months, that newborn has turned into a big baby who may have his own opinion about naptime — and you may find that you need to adjust your schedule around baby. Similarly, there is a time when a toddler begins to take shorter or less consistent naps, and you may need to do some tweaking of the schedule to accommodate this.
Plan for short terms, maybe monthly or bimonthly. It is much less discouraging when you’ve planned to adjust for a change in baby-schedule. If you’ve planned for it, it is not a failure in your schedule, but something you have expected to happen.
2. Plan Classes for Your Big Ones to Teach the Little Ones
Do you have a certain class that’s hard to get done with the little ones around? Perhaps your eldest child really needs some help — and quiet — during Math. Or maybe the middlest needs some extra quiet during spelling. This is a great way to get your older children to help you with the younger — happily!
Go to the dollar store and buy all kinds of fun little projects: wooden 3-D puzzles; paint-by-numbers; ceramic figurines and wooden ornaments for painting; little square artist’s canvases; construction paper, markers, glue and a Things To Make book; the messier the better. Choose things that will appeal to your children, things that will be novel, that they haven’t done before — and choose LOTS!
Take a big ol’ box and fill it up with all of these treasures. Show the children — but it’s look, don’t touch! The more anticipation you can build up, the better.
Tell the children what these treasures are for — it’s for their special time with their big/little brother/sister. Special, one-on-one time. Tell the older child that they will be teaching art class to their little sibling.
Schedule a time for each younger child to be kept busy by an older child — your older child will keep the little one busy while you are working on that Math work with your eldest, or tutoring your middlest in spelling.
Don’t let this session go on for too long. It has to stay fresh for it to work. Twenty minutes to half an hour, depending on the attention spans of your children.
Be sure they are set up outdoors, or in a room where you don’t mind the inevitable paint spills.
Keep it fresh — fill up the treasure box regularly, and don’t let your children into it other than during this special art class!
3. Don’t Try to Accomplish too Much
You need to be flexible in your goal-setting. Homeschooling is most frustrating when you feel that you aren’t accomplishing what you’ve intended. Sometimes, you just have to adjust those expectations. What is most important for each child? If you get that done, you are getting somewhere, day by day, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
We do Math daily, but the other subjects vary from term to term. Reading is important to keep up with, especially with new readers, but once they are reading independently, you have some more flexibility with how you incorporate it into other subjects.
Attempting perfection only leads to burnout. Decide what’s most important, and stick with that.
What tips do you have for keeping school going while you have a houseful of little ones? I would love to hear!
If you have been homeschooling for any period of time, you have certainly encountered questions about socialization. Friends and neighbors furrow their brows in consternation and ask: But how do you socialize them? Less tactful friends and neighbors go so far as to ask: Aren’t you afraid that they’ll grow up weird?
To answer this question, consider the dictionary.com definition of socialization:
A continuing process by which an individual:
acquires a personal identity; and
learns the norms, values, behavior and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.
1. Is school the best place to acquire a personal identity?
At school, your child will be one of 25 students in a class of peers, selected to be together based on their year of birth. They will all be taught the same content, based on standards set by the government. And the teacher will get to know them as well as possible for 180 days, after which they will move on to another teacher.
At home, your child is taught by a teacher with all the passion and commitment of the mother — or father — who has given life to that child. You choose the curriculum; you control the method of instruction, based on your child’s own skills, abilities, strengths and weaknesses. You tailor your content and methods to suit your child – and you have a much smaller classroom to manage. Even if you’re a Duggar, your homeschool class squeezes in below the average school class size!
Which environment would you say offers the best opportunity to a child for the development of his or her personal identity?
2. Is school the best place to learn norms, values, behavior and social skills?
School sets up an environment of peers who are all exactly the same age, and generally from a similar socio-economic demographic. This is probably the only time in their lives that their entire peer group will consist of such a homogeneous sample. Homeschooled children, who have the opportunity to interact in broader society (while their schooled peers are cooped up in the classroom), actually have the advantage as far as being able to develop appropriate behavior for their later social position.
Furthermore, at school, you are entrusting the social skills training of your precious little nose-picking, emotionally immature 6-year-old, to a group of twenty-five other nose-picking, emotionally immature 6-year-olds, with only one adult to supervise. Safe to say you can do at least as good a job of teaching social skills, with their siblings at home, and in the broader community.
So how do you socialize your homeschooled child?
First, by keeping them out of a classroom that stifles their personal identity. Second, by keeping them from developing the norms, values, behavior and social skills of that artificial classroom world.
Perhaps you should turn the tables on those who ask you this question: How do you socialize your institutionally-schooled child?
Have I ever mentioned that I don’t like cooking? When I was working, Farmer Boots and I shared cooking duties equally. I took over more cooking when I was on my first and second maternity leaves, but by the time we had three children and I was home full-time, I felt that homeschooling and raising children was quite enough of a dayjob for me, thank you very much. Farmer would come in from work at 5pm and one or the other of us would make a quick dinner. We were fine with that.
Enter a certain Bible study with a group of homeschooling mothers who were striving to be true keepers at home. At first, I ignored the talk about canning and cooking and meal planning. Not for me. But slowly, I can’t tell just when, my heart was changed. I began to see that my responsibility toward my family included nurturing their bodies as surely as it included nurturing their little minds.
And now, I’ve been struggling to keep up with too many tasks for too long. Today, I decided to try another way. Freezer Crockpot Cooking!
I gathered my small labour force, and we organized our materials:
Tasks were delegated:
1. Safari – distract the baby with food
2. Encyclopedia – peel
3. Mama – chop
4. Shiny – fill freezer bags
Strangely enough, Shiny Boots is unfazed by onions. While Encyclopedia & Safari were rubbing their eyes, and tears were flowing freely down my cheeks, little Shiny carried on, unperturbed.
Once we finished with the onions, all went very well, until the recipe called for celery. What? That wasn’t on the ingredients list. Never mind, we’ll just chop up some extra green pepper. But what’s next? Teriyaki sauce? Brown sugar? Worcestershire sauce? None of this was on the ingredients list!
Never mind. By this time it was almost 5pm anyway. Hank was on his way in from work, and he didn’t mind stepping out to the grocery store for me — he even took three children with him!
Now it was back to work…
It took 2 trips to the grocery store and just over 4 hours of preparing food, but I now have 14 meals prepared and ready to go into the crockpot any given morning.
We used recipes from The Test Kitchen of Melissa Fallis. The recipes were simple and easy to follow. My only problem was, as mentioned above, that the shopping list was missing a few ingredients.
Oh, one other problem, but I can’t blame anyone else for this one. I mistakenly poured Worcestershire sauce instead of Teriyaki sauce on the Teriyaki chicken! So, no teriyaki chicken, I guess. We’ll be eating our own little variation that night!
I had a lot of vegetables left over, so I chopped them up into a few more freezer bags — some with chicken and seasoning, and some just as frozen veggies to be used as needed.
Maybe I’ll come back and post my family’s ratings after we’ve tried the recipes.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the apostle Peter was the first Pope, and was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven by Jesus Himself. When he speaks ex cathedra, he is infallible, as is each Pope in the apostolic succession. And how does the Catholic Church substantiate this extraordinary claim? With Matthew 16:18:
And I tell you that you are Peter (petros),and on this rock (petra) I will build my church (ecclesia), and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
In this moment, Peter’s name was changed from Simon to Petros. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Peter himself is the rock, or petros, on which their church was established.
But can Peter be the rock to which Jesus is referring? The name Jesus gives to Peter is Petros, which in the Greek refers to a stone, of a size that could be picked up and thrown. Peter is a pebble.
What then is this petra, this boulder, this huge mass of rock, on which Christ established his ecclesia (his assembly of called-out ones)?
To find out, let’s pan out from this Bible text, to look at it not in isolation, but taking into account what comes directly before it:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:13-15
This is the most important question one can ever be asked, and it is asked of each of us: Who do you say that Jesus is? Jesus Himself gives us the answer to this question. He declares that He is the ONLY way to the Father:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
Jesus also declares that it is through our faith in Him and His resurrection that we are saved to eternal life:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26
So, if our salvation rests on Him, it is imperative that we answer correctly the question of who He is. To pick up where we left off in Matthew 16, Jesus asks Peter that all important question:
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:15-17
That’s it! Go Peter! He has put his faith in Jesus as God and Messiah (Saviour) It is this profession of faith in Christ which earns Peter his name:
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, (petros) and on this rock (petra) I will build my church (ecclesia), and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:18
Lest we be tempted to elevate Peter too high in our congratulations to him at his answering this question correctly, Jesus reminds us that it was not Peter’s own flesh and blood self that came to this answer, but the Father in heaven who revealed this to him, just as it is only God who can reveal the Truth to us.
Peter’s declaration of faith can be our declaration of faith, too. Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God. Jesus is the petra, the large boulder, on which his ecclesia will be built.
Remember the man who builds his house upon a rock? That can be you, if you place your faith in Christ:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock (petra). And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27 (emphasis mine).
So not just Peter, special, infallible Pope Peter, but everyone who hears Jesus’ Word and obeys it is building his house upon that Rock of Salvation. I want to build my house upon the Rock of Ages, the Lord Himself, and certainly not upon Peter, who is merely a little pebble in the ecclesia, as am I myself.
If Peter (petros) is a pebble, then apostolic succession must be a tower of pebbles. I would rather build my house upon the petra (great Rock) than upon the pile of petros (pebbles).
My interpretation is certainly not a new one. Augustine, considered by Christians and Catholics alike to be one of the most important fathers of the church, clarified his belief in Christ as the Rock:
In a passage in this book, I said about the Apostle Peter: ‘On him as on a rock the Church was built’…But … I so explained what the Lord said: ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,’ that it be understood as built upon Him whom Peter confessed saying: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ and so Peter, called after this rock, represented the person of the Church which is built upon this rock, and has received ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’ For, ‘Thou art Peter’ and not ‘Thou art the rock’ was said to him. But ‘the rock was Christ,’ in confessing whom, as also the whole Church confesses, Simon was called Peter. But let the reader decide which of these two opinions is the more probable (The Fathers of the Church (Washington D.C., Catholic University, 1968), Saint Augustine, The Retractations Chapter 20.1).
Augustine, by the way, is not only considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, but also a Doctor of the Church. This is a special title conferred by the Catholic Church upon those who are considered particularly orthodox in their understanding of doctrine, and whose writings are declared useful as instruction for all Catholics throughout the ages. St. Augustine himself teaches that the Rock refers not to Peter, nor to the papacy, nor to the Catholic Church, but only to Christ Himself, as the One on whom our faith rests.
Now, back to our text:
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19a)
The Catholic Church declares itself to be the keeper of these keys to heaven. I believe the keys to belong to the believer, through his faith in Jesus to bestow them. Peter was granted access to the same keys that each believer has received through his or her faith. Matthew 7:7-8:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Notice that everyone who asks, receives. Not just Peter, or the Apostolic succession. You can have the keys to heaven, too, if only you place your faith in the Rock, Jesus Christ.
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19b)
The Catholic Church believes that this refers to the power of the Church, through the papacy, to forgive and absolve sins, and to declare infallible doctrine. But we can see that Peter did not have this power, for Paul, an apostle who was outside this Apostolic Succession (see Galatians 1:1) rebuked Peter for his belief that Gentiles had to follow Jewish law in order to be saved, (see Galatians 2:11) and Peter was convinced enough to later speak on Paul’s side of the debate. (Acts 15:7-11)
If you need further proof that Jesus was not referring to Peter as the Rock but to Christ, let’s go back to that passage in Matthew 16, and see what came directly after, for it goes on to show Jesus referring to Peter as Satan!
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:21-23
Clearly, we cannot derive a doctrine of Peter’s papal infallibility from Matthew 16:18, when he was so obviously fallible in Matthew 16:21, just three verses later.
But don’t take my interpretation of Scripture. Don’t even take Augustine’s. Instead, let Scripture itself show you exactly who is the Rock:
For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God?Psalm 18:31
He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. Deuteronomy 32:4
…then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. Deuteronomy 32:15
There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 1 Sam 2:2
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. 2 Samuel 22:3
The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior! 2 Samuel 22:47
The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God 2 Samuel 23:3
The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. Psalm 18:2
To you, LORD, I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit. Psalm 28:1
For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me. Psalm 31:3
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.Psalm 62:7
Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Psalm 71:3
They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. Psalm 78:35
But the LORD is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge. Psalm 94:22
Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Psalm 95:1
For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge.Isaiah 17:10
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.