Thursday, September 18, 2008

Homeschool Moms Are Heroes

I am a supervising teacher that travels around and visits my homeschool families. Homeschool moms work so hard and sacrifice so much to do the home education opportunity well. I know it is a contraversial subject. I don't think I'd homeschool if we had kids. But all the same these moms and even some dads are an amazing bunch. If homeschooling is right for the parents and the kids, it can work really well. Here is a funny video that expresses the sense of being overwhelmed that often comes with this role, especially in September.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Consumer Pressure Part V

My dear 84-year-young mom is cleaning out years of stuff to simplify life. I jokingly told her that if she left all that for me to sort through, I'd kill her (joking!). So, she is really hustling to get down to what she loves and what she uses, letting the rest go. It has been a hard journey for her. She has said she felt like she is letting her life go. There is some grieving.

I am challenged to remember that our stuff is not our life. Enjoying our stuff in life shared with others is wonderful, but it is not the stuff that gives life. Stuff gives you more to care about, more to clean, more to store, less to give to God's work (in time and money), often less time for others, often less time for who and what you love.

I say, if I have to dust it, sell it! OK, not quite, but sometimes I feel that way.

My mom wrote in a recent e-mail something like advice to you is don't buy anything ever! I loved that! My mom teaches me many lessons and this is a big one. Go, Mom!

Consumer Pressure Part IV

So, I do feel a little peer consumer pressure to own a "modern" TV, and a flat screen does appeal for the lack of space needed to display it. There is a little voice that says, "Oh, be like everyone else...go pick out something shiny and new, and then you'll be truly happy." But we have an "old fashioned TV" that works. Our den is a small room where we watch it, so we don't need a large screen. This is even nice for watching movies, because the sound is so good -- thanks to my husband setting that up. So we are content. Not because of what we own, but because of who we are and simplicity aids serenity.

Now when this one breaks, we will have to make a decision. But for now, people who visit us may have to step back in time to watch TV or a movie, but that is OK.

Consumer Pressure Part III

This morning I was dusting in the bedroom. As I wiped off the TV, I remembered buying that TV. It was a big deal. It's a 14" color TV with a remote from Montgomery Ward. Anyone, remember Montgomery Ward, our 5th president? Just kidding. I think it was a national chain at one point.

I bought the TV in 1985. I had just moved into an apartment by myself and had always watched a roommate's TV, so I wanted one of my own. I needed it to watch Monday Night Football, of course. Really. That provided real urgency. So, I got a decent one that I could afford.

And you know what? It is 2008 and we still watch it, the remote still works. It works with cable or dish TV. And it has a "Sleep" feature, so it can shut off after we do, sometimes. And we can wake up to it instead of an alarm, though the value of waking up to local news is a disturbing way to start the day sometimes. It is good enough.

Am I unpatriotic because I haven't supported my country's economy in TV purchases and upgrades? Am I leaving a smaller footprint because for 23 years I haven't sent a TV to a waste disposal sight? Am I still watching TV with satisfaction. No. Yes. Yes.

Consumer Pressure Part II

Consumer pressure continued...Spending impacts education. Those crazy bottom-line driven (they are profit driven, so that is a good business plan) curriculum companies publish new textbooks constantly, of course. They know that unless they jazz it up, change the cover, and edit slightly to release a new edition, their sales will stagnate once a school has books on their shelves.

Consider history textbooks. How much history happens that needs to be added so soon after we invested in classroom sets? And science. Technology affords us scientific innovations and breakthroughs at lightning speed. But really now, at the elementary level, at least, the broadstroke science concepts and scientific method and reasoning remain the same and need to be grasped. And math. Is there new math we can't live without? Or is it a matter of better graphic design and more up-to-date children in photos?

As a homeschool supervising teacher for the state of California, we prefer to reuse curriculum. Yet, often we cannot. If the text has a newer edition and we want the student workbook to match the one already in our library -- good luck. Easier to just spend and get the whole new set.

And what happens to the "out-of-date" books? Storage space throughout the land holds tons of these "obsolete" items. We talk about getting them to schools that lost everything in hurricanes and floods for temporary use. We talk about getting them to third-world schools that want books in English. Not sure who that would be, really. There are shipping costs and other obstacles. So what happens to these books? Landfill?

Education budgets have been slashed again this year. So, stop buying new textbooks and test the kids every other year and pay teachers with the money saved. What would we lose?

Consumer Pressure Part I

Growth in our country's economy is greatly dependent on consumer spending -- shopping. Some statistics say it's about two-thirds of our economy rests on buying services and stuff. More stuff. Just about the time you get some new stuff that you are thrilled to have for your very own, a newer, brighter, faster, ultimate for a moment new thing arrives on the market. Some parents evaluate their effectiveness at being a loving parent by measuring how many days and for how many hours they are willing to stand in line with hopes of the UPS truck bringing just enough nuggets of happiness to get one into their eager hands to surprise a child.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Someone's Daughter

I passed one of those people yesterday. You know. Well, if you live in a big city you probably know. Those people. The first clue is they are pushing a grocery cart filled with things that probably go in a suitcase or moving van if it were me. And they are not in a grocery store parking lot.

She pushed the cart past me as I exited the building. She was pleasant and talking. Naturally, I listened to see if she was greeting me in order to look her in the eyes and be nice in response, as my mother taught me to do. It takes a split second to conclude I am not a part of the conversation though no one else is nearby. She was messy and the hair had that look to it. I just kept walking on out of the building and out of her life.

As I passed her, I heard her say, "I gotta call my mom." She wasn't coherent, but that phrase grabbed my heart. The reality hit me between the eyes. This is someone's daughter. A person of value, if not to herself or her family -- to God. I then saw her differently. Not with my eyes, but with my heart. A humility settled over me and an openess to care about her. Even if just for a moment in prayer. I am just as feeble at figuring out life at times, but the Lord loves me and cares for me. Sounds like a children's Bible song. But the truth can be profound at moments of clarity when I pause to notice the moment.