Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Go Black Raiders

Well, the decision's been made. Sioux City rejected our request to be released for open enrollment because we were past the deadline. So, the girls are going to Sioux City schools this fall: Eastin full-time at Sunnyside Elementary, and Leslie for two morning classes at East Middle School (then homeschooled the rest of the day). Then the next year, Leslie will go to East High full-time. Home of the Black Raiders. School colors are orange and black. My old Creative Memories customers will appreciate the irony of that.

I was disappointed. Actually, when I got the call, I felt like I'd been kicked in the gut. But I'm OK, now. None of them are bad schools. They'll be fine.

Next week, we have to do three mornings of standardized testing to satisfy our requirements to the state of Iowa for homeschooling. The girls are nervous, because they've never done anything like this before. I'm not nervous, but I'm anxious to see how they do, just for my own curiosity. Unfortunately, the lady in charge of the testing told me they've changed procedures this year and it may take until June to get the results in. How ridiculous! Whatever.

I remember how moms in our Friday School group would come up to me (because I'm a former teacher) and talk to me about how their kids were doing -- am I covering enough? Should I be worried about their progress? I always reassured them they were doing fine. Barring unusual learning disabilities or such, almost any parent who cares that much about their kids' education and who has knowledge of and access to the plethora of homeschooling resources available is going to do fine -- at least, good enough.

Our problem as homeschooling parents is we insist on perfection, on getting the exact right curriculum, the exact right schedule, the exact right everything. Not that we should settle for less than the best we can do. Cindy, my first homeschooling friend in Springfield, used to remind us that when God calls us to do something, he calls us to excellence and not to mediocrity.

On the other hand, excellence does not require perfection. I had Creative Memories customers who would spend a couple hours at a workshop playing around with their pictures, different papers, different stickers, different arrangements, etc. etc. . . trying to find the perfect layout -- for one page. And then they went home with a still-mostly-empty album and a box still full of photos to be inserted. "Done is better than perfect," I told them. Sometimes good enough is truly good enough.

I'm not worried about how my girls' test results come out next week, because I know I've done my best -- and good enough is good enough. I'm not worried about which schools they go to next year -- because good enough is good enough. So, I'll start looking for orange clothes I can live with (gotta show school spirit). Go Black Raiders. Go orange and black. (Orange. Ugh.)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Comments to Ona, part 5

Those of you who have been paying any attention to my Ona commentary may have noticed a pattern in all of my musings. If so, you're a better thinker than I. LOL! Personally, I feel like I'm wandering a lot, and I apologize if you feel the same way and find that frustrating . .

In any case, I want to take a left turn and talk about sin. Let's look at a pivotal story in the Bible: the "Fall" in the Garden of Eden. I'm not going to reiterate the story, because I assume that most of my friends who would be reading this already know it. (If I assume incorrectly, it's in Genesis 3. Check it out -- it's good potty reading.)

My friend is always encouraging me to forget for the moment whether a Biblical passage is factual or not -- it can be true without being factual, she says. (Just like the parables Jesus told -- just like other literature we read.) Whether or not it really happened, what is the truth in the passage? So, OK -- I'm going to try really hard to do it her way and not read into it the "fundamentalist" beliefs I was raised with. Just read it like a piece of literature . . . like one of the Greek myths I used to teach in English class . . not evaluating the veracity of the truths yet, just identifying them. So, looking at the story, what truths can we see there? I find a few:

1) Humanity is easily deceived. These two people were the first of God's creation, and they actually walked and talked with God. If anyone had reason to be solid on and certain of what was true -- and if anyone had access to the ultimate source of truth to check it out -- it was Adam and Eve. Humanity didn't get gullible as time went by -- we were so from the beginning.

2) What exactly was it they did that was wrong? They didn't believe God. God told them, "Don't eat from this tree." He didn't tell them why, but did he need to? Obviously, his word wasn't good enough for them. Instead, they listened to this serpent dude, whoever that is.

3) Why, ultimately, did they choose to eat the fruit? Beyond the fact that it was "pleasing to the eye" (was the rest of the garden's fruit ugly? why are the forbidden things always prettier?), they were told, "You will be like God." They saw that it was "desirable for gaining wisdom", that is God's wisdom. They wanted to be their own Gods.

4) Adam and Eve apparently had no issues with being naked until after they ate the fruit. Then they were ashamed of themselves and hid. Two possible takes on this -- their new knowledge of good and evil helped them see their nakedness was evil, or their new knowledge of good and evil helped them see their disobedience was evil and they couldn't bear being so open and vulnerable before God anymore. Seeing how their nakedness was not evil when God created them naked and pronounced everything "very good", I'd say the latter "truth" is a better interpretation.

5) Humanity apparently has an automatic reflex to blame someone else when they've done something wrong. To all parents out there, this is one for the "duh" file.

6) There were serious consequences to their actions. They were banned from the garden -- and no human ever went back. Life was now going to get HARD. God had given them an easy, blessed, fulfilling life, and they now had pain and toil and sweat and frustration. Not to mention death (many possibilities for what kind of death we're talking about here--no time to get into that right now).

7) Living forever in their current state would be a bad thing (which is the reason God gave for banishing them from the Garden and from access to the Tree of Life. Interesting that they were not forbidden to eat of this tree before now--was living forever part of the original plan, perhaps?).

In all, what truths do I get from this story that the reader would be expected to apply to life? I am not God . . . and I am not created to be one or become one. I am meant to be in an open, vulnerable, trusting, submissive relationship to God. That requires paying close attention to what God tells me and obeying even if it doesn't make sense. Failing to do so does irreparable damage to that relationship and sacrifices the life that God had in mind for me, a life He says was GOOD. And as far as this story goes, there is nothing I can do about it once the damage is done.

What "truths" do I find antithetical to this story? That we can trust our reasoning apart from God's revelation (we are easily deceived). That God's greatest desire for us is that we gain wisdom and understanding and are able to handle life on our own (he didn't want them to eat of the tree and gain the knowledge of good and evil-- he wanted them to depend on him). That we can make it all better after we screw up by repenting and promising to do better (there's no word in this story at all of things being made better -- they're banned from the Garden forever and their lives are never the same).

Now, I haven't read every Biblical story in this manner. This is one story out of the plethora in the Bible. And admittedly, the truths here fall short of "The Baptist Doctrine of Faith" from my parent's bookshelf. However, they certainly fall further on the conservative, traditional side of the spectrum than on the more liberal side. And I would expect that were I to examine the rest of the Bible this way, the consensus of "truths" therein would still lean my direction.

My point is, with all due respect, I think there is more behind the liberal take on Christianity than a "serious but non-literal" reading of the Bible. I don't know how you get to a radically liberal Christian belief system strictly from the Bible, without starting from a worldview that is already antagonistic to traditional beliefs.

Yep, there's more coming . . .

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Just Doing It

My dad's brother, Uncle Jim, told me a great story once about my dad. They grew up on a farm in a small town in Western Kansas. One month into his first year of college, Uncle Jim got a visit from his older brother, my dad, who asked him how things were going. Jim told him he hated school and he was going to quit.

My dad told him bluntly, "It doesn't matter if you hate it. It's just like plowing a field. You don't think about if you hate it or like it -- you don't think about how you feel about it at all. It has to be done -- so you just do it." (I wonder if our family could sue Nike . . )

I think about that story and my father's words of wisdom when I'm swimming laps at the Y. Because I hate swimming laps at the Y. Well, the actual swimming of the laps isn't really that bad. But I hate packing up the towels and suits and what-all, driving to the Y, getting changed (and getting the girls changed), adjusting to the shock of the cold water (OH, how I hate that!!), walking around cold in a wet swimsuit afterwards, changing everyone back into street clothes, drying the hair (since it's so cold out still), washing out the suits, showering, hanging up the wet stuff at home . . . it's the hassle I hate. And it's really a hassle.

Nevertheless, I need the exercise. And the membership is paid for. And when we're at the Y, there's something (the play pool) to keep the girls occupied while I exercise. And swimming is at least better than the treadmill or bikes or something awful like that. Right now, (other than my dance class, which only meets once a week) this is my best option for getting some physical activity into my life.

But I've noticed that once I set a trip to the Y in my schedule, I have to kind of go into auto-mode. If I think too much about what I'm doing and what I'm about to do, I'll talk myself out of it.

What I ponder, as I swim my laps, is how exactly I taught myself to do this -- to stop thinking about how much I hate something and just do it anyway. Because it's something my kids really need to learn to do. Yes, I know some of that just comes with maturity. But it is obviously a learned skill, because we all know people who never learned it. I want to be sure my kids don't fall into that number someday.

I also need to figure out how to apply that skill in other times of my life. I hate walking away from dessert after a meal . . but I need to just do it. I hate to make my kids pick up after themselves when I know how they're going to whine about it . . but I need to just do it. I hate to turn off the computer and go to bed when I know Facebook is there calling to me . . but . .

OK. OK. I'm doing it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Out Of My Hands

Terrifying words for a control freak.

I turned in the paperwork yesterday to Sioux City School District requesting they release our girls for open enrollment in the Sergeant Bluff School District. After a week and a half of frantic school visits, discussions, and praying (frantic because we didn't know that the deadline for applying for open enrollment was March 1st), Keith and I decided that the smaller district (particularly the smaller high school) with the more modern facilities and which seems more accustomed to accommodating homeschoolers and dual enrollers was the better choice for our girls.

But, as I said, we're after the deadline. All the schools involved -- both in Sioux City and in Sergeant Bluff -- seemed to think that as long as we got our paperwork in soon, there shouldn't be much of a problem.

But the lady at the main office who actually took the paperwork from my hands yesterday didn't seem as optimistic. Not necessarily pessimistic. Maybe she just had to make sure I was prepared for a denial if it came.

In a way, I suppose this is good. This leaves the whole situation truly in God's hands. If the girls are supposed to be in Sergeant Bluff, He can move the heart of the superintendent to give us grace (we didn't know there was such an early deadline, after all!). If the girls are supposed to be in Sioux City, He won't.

I'm afraid I'll be disappointed, though. And I hate the wait. Some people would say I should be able to relax now, because I've done all I can do. But I'll probably still kick myself about something --should have checked about deadlines sooner . . should have attached a note about our circumstances . . there's always a should-have.

And, really, it wouldn't be a terrible thing for them to be in Sioux City schools. There's nothing wrong with them. They have their advantages, too. The girls would be fine there. They just aren't our preference.

Anyway -- it's out of my hands. We should know by the end of the week or the beginning of next. Then I'm sure I'll find something else to stress out about.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Comments to Ona, part 4

Is everyone bored with my bizarre musings with friend Ona yet? That's alright. Skim and move on.

Now, you all are going to have to give me some grace here. :) I'm going to shift gears and move from my own experiences into the realm of the hypothetical. I'm a simple woman. When I think about how it is that I know what I know, I come up with "four ways of knowing":

1) Through observation (I saw it myself, or it's a phenomenon I see on a regular basis -- this is essentially "scientific", or "empirical", because science can only deal with what is observable and repeatable).

2) Through reasoning (that is, it logically makes sense when I reason it out with my God-given ability to reason. My dog had babies -- only female dogs have babies -- so my old buddy Duke is actually a Duchess.)

3) Through feelings or intuition (not a reliable source to be sure, but not one to be discounted altogether. One to be used mainly when the others don't seem to give a conclusive answer.).

4) Through revelation (that is, someone told it to me. This is how most of us know most of the things we know in life. This is how I know that Australia exists, that my old boyfriend Shawn married Cherice from high school, that fish eat worms and that Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown.)

Four ways of knowing. OK? Good. Now, let me apply them to a scenario here. I come home from the grocery store and see that there is an elephant standing on the roof of my house. Now, there would be a lot of aspects of this situation that would concern me, but the first would probably be . . HOW did an elephant get on the roof of my house????

My personal observations can't help me figure it out. I wasn't around to see how it got there. And I've never seen anything like this before, so past observations don't help me either.

My reasoning? I suppose I could dream up some possible scenarios to explain how that elephant got there, but none of them would seem very likely or reasonable.

My gut instincts don't help me here either. Other than to warn me to stay out of the building until the elephant is removed.

My best hope here is revelation -- that there is someone else who saw what happened and can tell me. So I see our neighbor Mike standing in his yard looking at my new pet and ask him if he knows how it got there. Oh, yes, he says -- a huge crane came slowly into the cul de sac carrying Dumbo here and hoisted him onto my house before it left. Agreed, that's a bizarre story. But since observation, reasoning and intuition aren't getting me anywhere, I'll buy it.

Let's suppose, however, that neighbor Mike tells me that the elephant wandered up the cul de sac on his own, grew a set of wings, and flew onto my roof. Wings with purple and yellow feathers. I will probably not accept this revelation from neighbor Mike. His story conflicts with my prior knowledge of and experience with elephants; it rankles with my sense of logic; and my gut tells me neighbor Mike belongs in a psych ward.

But if neighbor Pam told me the same story, I might only wonder if she'd been working too hard. If my husband told that story to me, I'd think he was just pulling my leg. If my husband and neighbor Pam and neighbor Mike and a couple hundred other innocent bystanders told me the same story about the elephant sprouting wings . . . well, frankly, I'd start looking for the hidden camera and Ashton Kutcher (or Peter Funt, for you older fogies).

But if they seemed to be really serious about this . . if their stories were relatively consistent . . if I looked seriously into any other possible explanations and found them improbable . . well, I'd probably have to start believing in the flight of the elephant. Lacking any reason for that many people to lie to me about such an event -- especially people who I know to be generally reasonable, sober and trustworthy -- I would reluctantly have to admit that the miraculous seems to be the best explanation for the situation.

As I said, most of what we know, we know by revelation -- somebody else told us it was true. Usually, they are just confirming or adding to knowledge we already have. But when what we hear from someone else provides a major challenge to our prior assumptions (existing knowledge, logic or gut feelings), we have two choices: question the messenger, or question the prior assumptions.

I propose that perhaps, in some situations, we are too reluctant to question the prior assumptions. Sometimes, we have an unhealthy attachment to those assumptions -- they are, in a sense, a part of us. And I'm not pointing fingers at anyone -- I'm as likely to do this as anyone. But it's a necessary step to grow in maturity and faith. To be continued . . .

My Radical Side

In my never-ending quest to sort through the junk in our basement, I've come upon the many boxes of stuff I kept from my teaching years. I honestly didn't realize how much I'd saved thinking I'd want it again someday--or just for sentiment's sake (like my "Pot Pass", an ugly, heavy orange pot that students had to carry with them if they needed to use the restroom during class--it discouraged unnecessary trips and made good use of a kitchen utensil that would have ended up in the trash otherwise).

Some interesting observations based on my reveries through these boxes:

- I was a good teacher. Really. Not to sound immodest, but I was. I had good ideas (found a whole legal pad full of notes to myself about units I did or wanted to do), I was well-organized. I got excellent evaluations from my principal and usually good ones from my students, too. I found several binders full of teacher inservice information that I realized at a glance I never needed. Things like breaking down a skill you want to teach into its component parts, having clear objectives and assessing what you teach, circulating the room . . all these things were instinctive to me.

- Although I was a good teacher, I was a bad salesperson. My career as a Creative Memories consultant confirmed this to me. I LOVED teaching the classes and workshops; I HATED selling the products, or even selling people on the idea. The same with teaching high school English. I have several copies of my beginning of the year handout, and I basically had two rules each year: 1) you take responsibility for your own learning, and 2) don't do anything that keeps others from learning or me from teaching. If you want to learn, I will get you there. If you don't, I'd just as soon send you to the library for the hour so you're out of the way for the rest of us. I don't suppose that's a good quality in a public school teacher where a primary part of the job is to motivate the students to want to learn.

- I worked really, really hard at teaching. I would spend hours preparing my lessons (actually the preparation was my favorite part of the job). I would often wear myself out with the energy of the presentation. Keith saw a quote the other day that teaching is 10% preparation and 90% theater. I'd adjust the percentages there, but otherwise, that's pretty accurate in my case.

- When I taught high school English, I was basically preparing for one (or two) hours of teaching time every day, which got repeated over and over. And it still took hours of my time (although some of those hours were also spent in grading . . but the grading always pointed out skills that I then needed to teach--it was actually a form of assessing or diagnosing). Now, in homeschooling, I am preparing four or more hours worth of teaching time every day, covering 6-8 subject matters at a time, at two different grade levels. No wonder I'm burnt out!!!!!

- School districts back then (and I'm pessimistic enough to assume this hasn't changed) spent a ridiculous amount of time in meaningless and unproductive meetings . . . spent an obscene amount of money on paper and printing for memos, messages, handouts, mission statements, objectives, rules, standards, oh good heavens -- I had binders FULL of paperwork and articles that someone thought was pertinent to the topic at hand that I'm sure I NEVER read. Wow.

- My writing style hasn't changed a whole lot over the last twenty years. I found old handouts I had used in classes and they sounded like something I could have written yesterday. In an assignment I did for, I believe, one of my last classes in college before I graduated, I had commented that many people told me that they liked my writing because I had a distinctive voice -- my writing sounded like me. That's a comment I still hear. And that's one of my favorite comments to hear.

- Since I kind of expect I will eventually end up back in public education at some point, it will be really interesting to see what that looks like. I am such a different person than I was then. I have learned so much more about teaching and learning from homeschooling. And I'm afraid I'll be a bit less of an accommodating employee than I was before. I'll probably go into an interview saying, "This is who I am, this is how I teach, this is what I'm good at and what I'm not . . take me or leave me." I may be lucky to get a job at all.

As it stands now, I don't see myself being interested in playing the typical school game to keep a job. If I go back into public education, my goal will be to ensure that my students -- and any other students I can have an influence on -- get the best education they can, even if that's despite the school system. I'll probably be a radical. And we all know how popular they are.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Comments to Ona, part 3

I apologize for the scatter-brainedness of this discussion. As I said, I think I just need to talk (write) and find the threads between all these thoughts as I go. You all are kind of seeing my writing process in progress here. Scary, eh?

Another incident from my life . . . many years ago, a good friend was griping to me about her husband. He needed to find a different job, she thought. He needs to do this . . why won't he do that . . I don't understand why he doesn't . . yada yada. (Sorry if the "yada yadas" are getting old. Keeping my NJ ties -- and it's a fitting phrase for many a situation.)

As I listened to her, I had this radical revelation. I say, "revelation" rather than "thought", because it wasn't something I would have thought up myself; weird and mystical as it may sound to some of you, I felt very strongly that this was revealed to me.

I realized that what my friend needed to do was submit to her husband.

Now, you can only appreciate how radical this was if you knew how I'd struggled with the whole submission thing over the years. I had always hung my hat on the fact that God tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church -- and nobody assumes that husbands do all the loving in a relationship -- so why do they assume that wives do all the submitting? (I still do believe that, by the way.)

Yet I couldn't deny the fact that God gave specific submission instructions to wives . . and I hadn't figured out yet what to do with that.

But at that moment, with my friend, it all became abundantly clear. Her lack of trust and faith in him was keeping him from acting--was castrating him, so to speak, keeping him from leading the family. I told her, "You know what? I think it's time to do the submission thing. I think you need to tell him that you trust him to do the right thing for the family and that you will stand behind him no matter what he decides."

"I can't do that," she said. "I don't trust him. I think he'll mess up our family."

"Well, then that's when you need to trust God. He's the one who told you to submit."

Again, I have to classify all of these remarks of mine as revelations, or inspiration, because I had no idea really where they were coming from even while I said them -- but the truth of them was clear to me the moment they left my mouth.

My point here has to do with how I came to understand and believe the "wives submit to your husbands" principle. It's not that I read that principle in the Bible, recognized the truth in it, and then chose to put my faith in the God who said it. I first put my faith in God and his word -- and only after that did the truth of the principle become clear to me.

Faith involves our emotions, our thoughts, and our will. But perhaps not necessarily in any particular order. More later . . .

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We So Smart

I'm going through a box of old teaching stuff and found a file of student writings I saved to use as examples. This is a poem written by a bright debate student I had:

We So Smart

We so smart. We
Push cart. We

Cut and block. We
Aren't jock. We

Can talk. We
Will mock. We

Make fuss. We

By Rachel Kammerer

LOVE it!

Comments to Ona, part 2

Continuing on this theme of yakking my way to an articulate response to my friend. New topic. Creation vs. evolution. Can't accuse me of avoiding the hot-buttons here.

When I teach the girls in school about "the beginning of time", I basically present to them that there are about four prominent theories on the matter that I want them to be familiar with:

1) Naturalistic evolution. Everything started with a bang, gazillions of years ago, life sprung forth from primordial ooze and evolved over the millenia from amoeba to amphibian to Arthur Conan Doyle, all occurring completely by random chance. [This is a theory I personally reject flat out. Not because of the lack of divine involvement, although that would do it for me, too -- but because the likelihood of all this happening by random chance is just insane. That takes FAR more faith to believe than the most fundamentalist Christian belief you could come up with.]

2) Theistic evolution. Everything started with a bang . . yada yada . . but God was in control of it all, making it happen. [I could accept this as a possibility if it weren't for the fact that macro-evolution itself is so implausible. It was a conceivable notion in Darwin's time, but scientific discoveries since then have proven the complexity of the human cell to be far beyond what he could conceive . . and have found no legitimate evidence of any kind of any species in transition. Even many atheistic scientists have had the intellectual honesty to admit that the scientific community needs to let go of its dogmatic adherence to this dead theory. The only reason scientists haven't is because it IS their religion now.]

3) "Old Earth Creationism". In the form basically taught to me by Dave Evans at Hope--often known as the "Day-Age Theory". Creation happened over gazillions of years, but the order of events can be conformed to the poetic description given in Genesis 1, if you consider each of the six "days" to be actually more of an "age" (as in, "back in my day . . "). And evolution was not part of the process -- all things were created in an instant at the word of God. [My general reaction to this one is, "Well, yeah . . maybe."]

4) "Young Earth Creationism". Creation happened exactly as described in Genesis: six literal days, at the command of God. [And there is actually more scientific evidence for this than most people realize. But of course, very few people know that because the scientific community is so afraid of anyone hearing any of that evidence that they ridicule and gag the mouths of anyone trying to share it.]

So, a few points to make about this subject . . .

- As I said, naturalistic evolution is really just inconceivably ridiculous. It's not bad religion -- it's bad science. The only possible reason for the scientific community to cling to this idea is because they refuse to acknowledge that some things may exist that are beyond the "natural" realm. Now, agreed, science by definition is the study of natural phenomena. But an intellectually honest scientist will be able to admit when a natural answer to a question cannot be found -- they can acknowledge the possible presence of the spiritual or supernatural, even while they contend that subject to be "above their pay grade". The problem with the general scientific community about this topic is that they refuse, from the very beginning, to acknowledge the possible existence of the spiritual or supernatural. If you do not even allow the supernatural into your paradigm, you will never see it in evidence.

- Although I concede the possible factuality of theories 2 and 3, I also believe that an awful lot of the Christian community who believe these theories do so merely because they don't have the time or inclination to look into the subject very much or because they are afraid of being perceived as small-minded, gullible idiots for believing number 4. Again, because the powers-that-be in the scientific world have refused to allow the questions to even be addressed (and the press has gone googly-eyed along with them, tails wagging, tongues hanging . . .).

- If I had to stake my eternal destiny on the issue (and thank the Lord in heaven, I do NOT), I would go with Door Number Four. I would believe the Word of God over the Word of Science. Partly, this is because science has proven itself to be very arrogant and very wrong about a lot of things over the centuries, so why would I ever stake my eternal destiny on it? But I'll admit that some of it just boils down to pure faith. I believe that the Bible is the Word of God; I believe God knows and always tells the truth; and I believe he wrote his Word for the masses, which means the intellectual and the idiot, so you don't have to be a theologian or a scientist to get the important ideas. I believe that "evening and morning, the first day" sounds an awful lot like an actual day, not an "age". I believe that God is capable of creating celestial bodies with their light already in the process of traveling to earth (that is, with an appearance of age they do not have, like the fish and loaves he made when feeding the five thousand) -- especially since the scripture specifically states that the purpose of these celestial bodies was to allow humans to mark the passage of time, and stars whose light wouldn't reach the earth for millions of years would hardly fulfill that purpose. I believe that God is capable of doing exactly what He said He did -- and more than that, I believe He is likely to have done it as well.

Again, the relevance of these points to the grand-Ona-discussion will hopefully become more clear later. To be continued . . .

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Teenage Boys: Our Future Nemesis

Gotta share this. The girls and I visited their respective prospective schools in Sergeant Bluff this morning. As we were walking through the middle school, we passed by a large window to a computer lab. A couple boys sitting right by the window nudged each other and stared at Leslie as she passed by.

And it begins.

For those of you who haven't ever seen her, my almost-13-year-old daughter Leslie is downright beautiful, and that's not a momma bragging. She really is. Eastin is a cutie, too, but she's too young yet to hit the stage of this kind of beautiful. Leslie's someone I would have been incredibly jealous of if I'd gone to school with her.

She's also shy, and not really sure yet how to initiate new friendships if the other person isn't being really forward about it.

And I've noticed, from situations we've had with boys in the past, that although she seems to be generally wise about the idea of putting off serious relationships, she is also terribly flattered by the idea of any boy being interested in her. And, of course, she has to be nice to everybody.

So, in all, it should be interesting to watch how the whole boy-girl thing happens with Leslie in the next few years. Interesting, and headache-producing.

Now, Eastin . . . Lord help us. She's been boy-crazy since she was five. We'll put the ibuprofen makers out of business when she hits puberty . .

Comments to Ona, part 1

I've hinted here often of my online discussions with "Ona", my radically liberal friend (who wears that title as a badge of honor!). It's been a frustrating discussion for me, because some of what I want to say, I can't find words for. It's stuff I know in my gut, but can't articulate. But I always feel like, if I can't articulate it, I don't really know it yet.

Our central issue, as I've said, seems to boil down to how we know what is true -- or real -- or factual. (Defining those words itself often seems to get in the way of the discussion!) Anyway, I've decided I need to just start talking (writing) and maybe what I want to say will become clear to both of us as I go. And I also decided that this may be a discussion that some other of my friends might be interested in as well. (If I'm wrong in your particular case, do as I've advised before -- skim and move on!)

This will be in several parts, I imagine. And I think I have to start by explaining some past situations in my life (the relevance of which may become more clear later on).

OK, I'm going to start with our decision to homeschool. As you know, I used to teach in public schools, and I have always been big on education and at that time, a big supporter of public education. The only families I knew who sent their kids to private schools sent them there either because they'd gotten into the wrong crowds in the public schools and they wanted to get them away from that (but they failed), or because they wanted to avoid their kids getting into the wrong crowds to begin with (and they either failed again, or they ended up with wimpy kids who couldn't stand up to any significant challenge in their faith). I didn't know any homeschoolers, but what I heard of them, I thought they were wacko.

After meeting some homeschoolers in Springfield, I found out they could actually be very sincere and very called to do what they're doing -- and that they were often very successful. I had a lot more respect for them, and found the whole idea fascinating. But I still never considered the idea for myself.

When Leslie turned 5, I put her on the schoolbus to kindergarten -- because that's what you do. I didn't even really think about it. It wasn't until her 1st grade year, when I was feeling stressed out by the public school system in general and frustrated by specific issues with Leslie there, that I noticed that several of my good friends had their children in private Christian schools. It occurred to me that I never really considered that option. And I decided that my daughter's education was a big enough deal that I shouldn't just go with the default mode -- I should seriously examine all the options and make an objective decision.

So, being the thorough scholar that I am, I looked into homeschooling while I looked at the private schools in the area. And amazingly, I discovered that homeschooling was by far the best option for my kids. They got to learn at their own pace, in their own learning style, and from a Biblical point of view as I wanted. School could be adjusted around our family's schedule instead of vice versa. I could employ a lot of resources and techniques in their learning that the classroom teacher can't use. Etc. etc. etc. I began to wonder why in the world I hadn't seen all this before.

The fact was that I was biased against the idea before, and partly because, frankly, I wasn't really interested in doing what it would take to homeschool the girls -- too much work. Only when I humbled myself and became willing to do whatever God's will was for our family . . and only when I set homeschooling up beside the other options as an equally viable option to the rest . . did it become abundantly clear that this was exactly where we were supposed to be. As long as I came to the question with the pre-conceived notion (the "worldview") that real education had to happen in a classroom in a school building, the way I had been taught, it was impossible to see homeschooling as a reasonable possibility at all, much less as the best possibility.

(Now, some of you may be wondering why we're considering school for the girls next year if I'm so gung ho on homeschooling. What I'm gung ho on is good education, however it gets accomplished. Homeschooling is a great way to get a great education for a lot of kids in a lot of situations. But every child has different needs at different stages of their lives. Our girls have grown and changed and have different needs right now -- and their needs will change again in a year or two and we will consider the whole question again then.)

To be continued . . .

Sunday, March 15, 2009

This is the Place to Get Sick

This week, I was remembering when I had my ultrasound in NJ when I was pregnant with Eastin. Afterwards, the technician asked me something about my previous pregnancy (I don't remember specifically what), and I answered her question, adding that that pregnancy had been in Missouri.

A subtle sneer came to her face. "Oh. Well, we're much more advanced out here," she replied. The little snit. I debated whether I should tell her that my ultrasound in Missouri was five times more clear than hers had been . . and that they gave me my own video copy of it to keep . . and that the ultrasound technician in Missouri had, in her 8 years of doing ultrasounds, never been wrong yet about the sex of the child she was looking at. Oh, but they are so backwards in Missouri.

I didn't get too many of these kinds of comments while we lived out there (at least not to my face), but there is definitely an attitude in a good number of East Coasters (and probably West Coasters, too) about "Flyover Country" and how undeveloped we are. I remember my mother-in-law telling me that when she visited the East Coast many years ago, a woman sincerely told her that she would be afraid to live in Kansas with all the Indians. Seriously.

I thought of all this Friday night when I was at the After Hours Urgent Care Clinic trying to get some meds to relieve me of this hacking cough. I thought of it because I don't believe I ever heard of an after hours urgent care clinic-type place in NJ -- and if there'd been one nearby, surely you'd think I would have heard about it in 10 years. It is a GREAT thing to be able to walk into a place without an appointment and see a PA for an injury or illness that is not bad enough for an emergency room but too troublesome to wait until the doctor is back in the office on Monday. There are plenty of these kinds of places in the Midwest, and have been for years. You would think such an advanced civilization as New Jersey would have come up with this concept by now.

Also, when Keith went in for his appointment with the family doctor this week, he was able to get his bloodwork done at the office while he was there. No getting paperwork to take in to "LabCorp" or one of those miserable places where you wait in line forever to get your labwork done and then sent back to your doctor, with whom you then have to make (and pay for) another appointment for him to evaluate it all. I remember the first time my doctor's office tried to explain that whole process to me; I thought, "You're kidding, right?" They also do x-rays at the doctor's office here. And MRIs. One stop medical care. It's fabulous.

Not to knock New Jersey. :) You all know I love you and miss being there with you. But that East Coast attitude has got to go.

However, I do have to admit that I still have this hacking cough . . .

Another One for the "You'll Never See This in Jersey" File

Keith and I found a brochure at church this morning promoting a Sportsmen's Retreat in April. It's happening at a camp and retreat center called "Inspiration Hills", north of Sioux City a ways, and a pastor who's seriously into hunting and fly fishing is the main speaker. There's a Buy/Sell/Trade Room for getting rid of used equipment. They have workshops on Turkey Hunting . . . Walleye Tips . . . Deer Food Plots, Scents and Calling . . . DNR Regulations . . . Taxidermy . . .

On the list of What To Bring:

- Bedding, towels, personal items.
- Guns, ammo, bows, arrows, fishing rods, lures . . .
- Pictures of your last hunt to share with your friends.
- Favorite hunting videos and DVDs (people watch hunting videos and DVDs??)

Personally, if I went to any kind of spiritual retreat in NJ and someone showed up with guns and ammo, I'd be outa there before they could ask, "So, where do youse throw your bodies around heah?"

Friday, March 13, 2009

How Do We Know Anything?

My head hurts.

Eastin and I were reading about the battles at Lexington and Concord this morning. and suddenly she hops up and says, "I just don't believe it. How do we know this happened?" Sigh. Leslie has always been my philosopher. I'm not used to getting these kind of comments from Eastin.

When I taught high school English, I always had some kids (and they always seemed to surface about this time of the year, too) who would question everything I said, every literary interpretation discussed. They drove me nuts. Because they seemed to be just trying to challenge authority, to make a fuss, to be a smartass. My immediate reaction was, I wanted to just send them to the office so I could go on teaching. No office to send Eastin to (unless it's Keith's, and that's a 30 minute drive). Plus, I'm not convinced she's being a smartass. I think that questioning the legitimacy of history is just a new idea for her -- she's playing with it.

But, again, it's piggybacking on the discussions I'm having with my friend about the factuality of the Bible. And my head hurts. I grow weary of my basic conceptions of reality being questioned. Nobody's asking me to defend them, necessarily, but I'm a thinker, and I can't hear the questions without trying to come up with answers. Whether it's "How do we know the Boston Massacre happened?" or "How do we know Jesus walked on water?"

At some point, it all boils down to, how do we know anything? Seriously -- anything at all?? Eastin proudly proclaimed this morning that she doesn't believe anything she can't see with her own eyes (I'm not concerned yet -- she's smart enough to realize the idiocy of that as she matures). But let's be honest -- when it comes down to it, even our "own eyes" often deceive us. One of my favorite lines from A Christmas Carol: Marley's ghost asks, "What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses . . why do you doubt your senses?"

Scrooge replies, "Because a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheat. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you!"

Thus, my frustration with people who insist on relying on their feelings about a matter to determine truth for them. "It can't be wrong when it feels so right!" Baloney. What arrogance.

But that means there has to be another way to determine what's real, what's factual, what's true. I'm sure there's a term for this particular branch of philosophy -- I never studied philosophy, so I don't know it. Feel free to increase my vocabulary, if you can, anyone.

Normally, I love to think about and study this kind of stuff. But on my own terms. When I want to do it, not when it's forced upon me. It's fine for me to question my own beliefs; when others do it, and I'm not up to the discussion, I just want to tell them, "Go to the office, and stop being a smartass!"

But as I said . . no office in the homeschool. So, I have an intellectually rebellious daughter, a radically liberal friend, and a horrible, hacking cough. And it ALL makes my head hurt.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

When "Patriot" Meant Something

I struggle sometimes with what to write about here because I'm not sure what anyone would care to read. I'm still amazed that anyone cares to read any of this at all! But since you do (at least people keep telling me that), I guess I'll just continue to write about what's on my mind and what's happening in our family.

And what's on my mind . . and what's happening in our family these days . . is THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION!!!

Love this history unit! This is our favorite historical period to study and so we're prolonging it as much as I can justify (including a 2 1/2 week "field trip" to the east coast to see all the pertinent sites -- and a few friends while we're at it!). The American Girl "Felicity" books. Plus several "Sisters in Time" books from the time period. Every relevant biography I could find at the library.

I purchased the DVDs of the "Liberty's Kids" series that was on PBS when Leslie was younger -- she LOVED it and it does an awesome job of giving the big picture and getting kids excited about the period. And one of the things I like best about it is that it shows all sides of the issues. The patriot rebels were wrong in what they did sometimes -- the Redcoats weren't all evil -- it was a complicated time. (I wish all children's entertainment was this good.)

Leslie and I are also going through a Critical Thinking curriculum focused on the time period -- examining and evaluating different interpretations of the Boston Massacre, the Lexington Green battle, the primary cause of the Revolution, etc. We're also going to be talking a lot about the principles involved in the fight for independence and in the writing of the Constitution later. (This is why I homeschool!)

But Eastin asked a fascinating question this morning as we read about the Boston Massacre. "How do we know this happened? What if someone just wanted to make up a good story?" Hmmm. Given the discussions I'm having lately with a friend about the factuality of the Bible, I thought it a rather timely question.

So, how do we know the Boston Massacre really happened? Well, there are lots of written historical documents about it -- from many different sources, with many points of view. Which means, of course, that we don't know for certain all the details about what happened at the Boston Massacre . . various people would have had various reasons to lie about various details of the event. But the idea that that many people lied about the fact that the event took place, that it was just a good story someone wanted to make up -- well, I supposed that's possible, but . . . nah, I'm not even sure I'll acquiesce to that being a possibility. The Boston Massacre happened. End of story.

(Now, my friend's going to read this and want to hear how I relate this to our Bible discussions. I said it was a timely question -- I didn't say I was ready to answer it yet.)

Right now, I'm just glorying in George Washington . . Benjamin Franklin . . "Give me liberty or give me death" . . and "We hold these truths to be self-evident." We're an imperfect nation and always have been, but we have had our moments of glory and I intend to celebrate them with my daughters!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


The girls and I are fighting colds. (Keith never seems to be sick -- would that we all had his immune system). Nothing really serious . . . runny noses, stuffy heads, minor sore throats, a few coughs, general lethargy. Put that together with the cold, wet, foggy and unbearably DREARY weather out, and we're having a hard time motivating ourselves to keep going today. And (although it may just be rationalization on my part) I'm wondering why we bother.

I remember my first appointment with my beloved ObGyn, Dr. Benson, when I was pregnant with Leslie. He gave me some sage advice that I have harbored in my heart ever since. He told me, "Now, this is very important. If you feel hungry, it's because your body needs food. So eat something. If you feel tired, it's because your body needs rest. So lie down."

In other words, my body will tell me what it needs! What a concept!

What is it that doctors tell people to do when they have a cold? Drink plenty of liquids and get lots of rest. Now, how many people do you know who actually rest when they have a cold? I know none, including myself (despite Dr. Benson's sage advice harbored in my heart).

When we have colds, we continue pushing ourselves to do everything we do when we're healthy. "It's JUST a cold," we tell ourselves. We see it as a sign of weakness, or laziness, if we slack off at all on our daily output. We keep cooking -- despite the germs coursing through our bodies. We continue to drive -- despite the droopy eyelids and lack of concentration that puts our fellow drivers at risk. We go to work, and meetings, and ball games, and everything else that's on our schedule -- despite the fact that we are spreading our germs wherever we go. After all, it's JUST a cold. And we're not wimps. We're tough. Woot, woot. Cough, cough.

Who knows -- maybe if we actually followed the doctor's advice, our colds would go away sooner and we'd be back to our productive selves. Instead, we prolong the recovery process and accept the poor output we produce in the meantime.

I'm remembering a blog I wrote earlier . . . about productivity becoming an idol. Why do I let my to-do list become more important than my own health? Or my daughters'? Honestly? Because I don't want other people to think I'm a lazy wimp. Harumph.

So, we're doing school today, and going to voice lessons, and cleaning, and doing errands, and going to small group tonight. Because I'm an approval junkie. Sorry, Dr. Benson.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Gotta Dance!

I think mentioned earlier that I found an adult dance class. And I was very excited. Then I attended for a couple of weeks, and I wasn't so thrilled anymore.

The class is taught by high-school-age advanced dance students at the school, and it is kind of designed for out-of-shape middle-aged women who don't really know how to dance to get exercise and have some fun. OK, yes, I realize that I am now middle-aged . . and I'm also out of shape . . and I'm mainly doing this to get exercise and have fun. But, I DO know how to dance -- and creative, challenging and meaningful choreography is my favorite part of dancing.

Unfortunately, the choreography was really lacking in this class. In fact, when I started the class in January, they said they'd been working on the same combination since the class started in the fall. Ugh. So they started teaching me this combination, which I picked up in one lesson. And we did it for the next three or four weeks. Ugh. This was especially frustrating because I was the only one attending the class regularly (which perhaps explains why the other women took four months to learn the same combination).

Well, for the last couple weeks, I've been the only one attending the class at all. I'm sure the dance school is not thrilled about that . . . but it's been an awesome deal for me! Because now the teachers just teach me the choreography from their own classes -- and it's GREAT! It's challenging -- I have to really concentrate to pick up the new steps. It's new and fresh every week -- we've done some hip-hop, some lyrical, and tonight, one girl tried to teach me to "pop and lock".

And I get all sorts of ego-boosting. They keep telling me how quick I am at picking up the steps and remembering the choreography. And last week, when I told one of them that I was 40, her eyes popped open wide and she said, "No WAY!!!!" And not in a fake way, either -- I think she really meant it!

And none of them do much ballet, which is my area of dance expertise. So last week, they actually had me come up with a ballet combination and teach it to them! It's been so fun!

However, I'm sure it won't last. Either some other women are going to start coming again and they won't be able to keep up, so we'll have to go back to learning the same combination for weeks at a time . . . or if it's only me for much longer, I bet the school cancels the class. I wouldn't blame them.

So, now I have to fly out Jo Robinson out to go to plays with me AND fly out Karen Heyt to teach me a dance class every week. Maybe we can just move the whole Voorhees area inland a few thousand miles . . just for me. Because it is all about me, right?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Another One to Make You Go Hmmmmm

My father died in 2001 after a 21-year battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was in a nursing home for the last 12 of those years. It was like a long funeral. I remember my mother remarking frequently during those years, "There are worse fates than death for a Christian . . "

I was recalling that this morning during my reading-through-the-Bible reading, which just progressed out of the book of Joshua. Yes, more annihilations at the command of God: " . . totally destroyed everyone in it . . he left no survivors there . . they totally destroyed it and everyone in it . . until no survivors were left . . "

I've heard people rant about these passages who are upset about the righteous people who they assume were probably killed in those divinely-ordered rampages -- particularly, the innocent women and children. But there were righteous people who were spared . . Rahab and her family, and I read of a few others. God promised Abraham he wouldn't destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if 10 righteous people were found there (he found less, but he still spared those few). If I take on faith that my God is just, I have to believe that he found a way to save any truly innocent folks in those communities before the Israelite killing machine came.

And about the "innocent women", let's be honest: if the men were not innocent, the women likely weren't either. In fact, that was God's problem with the first round of these annihilations when they spared the Midianite women -- these were the women who had specifically set out to seduce and conquer the Israelite men. No innocence there.

Now, the children ... sigh. Yeah, they are a tougher case to account for.

Someone once told me a story about her pastor. The man and his wife had lost a young child, very suddenly, and the whole faith community was grieving with them. When the pastor returned to the pulpit, now childless, he told the congregation how God had given him peace about it all. He said, he and his wife had prayed unceasingly since the son was born for him to come to know Christ, for him to be protected from falling away from the faith as they had seen in so many others. And it occurred to him that, perhaps God had answered that prayer. Perhaps God, in his infinite wisdom, knew the direction that child's life would take as he grew older and chose to bring him home before he had a chance to fall away.

It was certainly an interesting thought.

As a general rule, I think we believers have a bad attitude about death. Not that we should seek it out, but we certainly shouldn't be afraid of it. And while it's understandable to grieve over the holes in our lives left by our loved ones, we don't have to see their deaths as tragic events. Wasn't it Paul that said, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain"?

Life is a precious gift -- don't get me wrong. But I think God has even more precious gifts in store for us. And while we shouldn't be so "heavenly-minded" that we miss out on all God has for us here, we also shouldn't be so "earthly-minded" that we begrudge the end of one party for the beginning of another. Especially when we don't know how this earthly party was really going to work out for us if it kept going.

"So, Gwen, are you saying that God was being good to those innocent Canaanite children who got murdered by the Israelites? That their early deaths were maybe a better fate than their growing up and coming to participate in the sins and guilt of their fathers?"

I don't know. Maybe I am. There are worse fates than death for the one whom God declares as righteous . .

Thursday, March 5, 2009

To Train Up a Child -- Or a Parent

I'm listening to some old tapes I've picked up from speakers at homeschool conventions (I love homeschool conventions!). I just have piles of them, and don't need them all anymore -- I'm making notes of stuff I want to remember and then going to give the tapes away. The last one I listened to was about 10 things you need to teach your kids for them to be "spiritually educated", or something to that effect. Hmm.

They started with, the Bible is the Word of God. Then, check everything you hear by the Word of God. Then, we must modify our behavior by the Word of God . . we must give immediate obedience to God's commands . .

Now, mind you, I don't disagree with any of this. But I'm listening to it thinking, "Is this all they need to know for their spiritual education? To be obedient?" Somehow, that seems quite unbalanced.

I mentioned in a post in October ("Obedience-Focused") about my revelation that discipleship should be relationship-focused, and not obedience-focused. The thing is, it should be both. It's not an either-or situation . . . it's both-and.

God is complex beyond our understanding, and so is the relationship he wants to have with us. That's why he uses so many metaphors to describe it: he's our Father, he's the bridegroom, he's our friend, he's our shepherd . . there are many dimensions to it. And because it's so hard for our measly little brains to get wrapped around all of that, we end up focusing on one aspect or another. Thus, the myriad of denominations. Thus, the constantly swinging pendulum between the Puritan-types and the Emergent-types.

I've thought about this a lot in regards to how we "train up" children in the church--in Sunday School and such. It's a tough job. We say, "God loves you!!" . . and then we say, "Here's how he tells you to live." An immature concrete thinker can't quite grasp that one is not dependent on the other (that's difficult enough for most adults to grasp). No wonder the church of my youth produced a lot of rule-checking Pharisees who are never certain of God's love. And today's church is producing a lot of pleasure-seeking adultescents praising Jesus and banking on cheap grace.

I'm not sure what the answer is -- that is, to how we should teach children in the church setting. I'm still trying to figure out how to teach my own kids at home. I want them to understand that discipleship is multi-dimensional. It is about knowledge -- you have to know what's true, which requires a lifetime of study. It is about submission -- knowing that you're not God and willingly obeying the one who is. It is about service -- being God's hands and feet to the world around you. And, by all means, it is about relationship -- knowing God, one-on-one, intimately in a passionate, growing love affair. Of all of them, that's the piece that was missing in my growing up years. But they are all necessary and inter-related.

What a formidable challenge -- communicating all that to little ones. Oh, but wait -- I just remembered! That's not actually my job . . . it's the Holy Spirit's! He's responsible for making it all click. Whew! What a relief. I just live it in my own life, in front of their faces, and the Spirit will make it all clear to them in due time.

Live it in my own life . . . oh yeah. There's the formidable challenge.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Home of the Corn Palace -- For Real

The girls and I went to the Sioux City Public Museum yesterday (hope they didn't pay anyone for their time coming up with that name). It's located in The Peirce Mansion, a huge beautiful house built by a rich real estate developer in 1893. I was pleased to hear that they are in the process of moving the actual museum to a new building downtown and refurbishing the mansion to its turn-of-the-century glory. This place was really gorgeous.

Anyway, there's some interesting stuff in the museum: a Native American exhibit, a Pioneer "house" for kids to play in, scads of dinosaur bones (mostly, apparently, found in the area around here). But I most enjoyed the stuff about Sioux City history. I haven't been terribly curious about the local history before, but then I saw the pictures of the Corn Palaces.

In the mid-1880s, Sioux City was kind of struggling along as a Western city and hoping to attract new businesses and new folks. But then a local minister known for his crusades against liquor was murdered, supposedly by some local saloon owners (although the crime was never really solved). That news went national and gave Sioux City a terrible reputation, it seems. Everyone thought this must be a violent place that allowed all sorts of questionable immoral behavior to flourish.

So the city fathers decided it was time to get proactive and give the town a new image. There happened to be a great harvest in 1887, so they decided to celebrate that with a big corn festival. The crowning event -- they built an 18,000 square foot Corn Palace, a wooden structure covered with corn and grain (think the Rose Bowl Parade with less color . . and bigger . . and stationary). They advertised all over the country for people to come visit the Sioux City Corn Festival and see this monstrosity.

Apparently, the whole thing was a huge success. They built a new Corn Palace every year for five years, each one bigger and more incredible than the last. Click here to see some photos:


They're really pretty amazing. But the popularity of the event started to wane, and a big flood in 1892 kept the Festival from happening at all that year. That started a big economic decline in the area . . and I didn't read the rest yet.

But seriously. A Corn Palace. Where else but in Iowa? Do look at the pictures though. And as you enjoy their spendor, you can sing the "Corn Palace Hymn", from 1890:

Arise! Proud palace of the western plain.
Clad in thy gilded garbs of golden grain.
A fairer temple than the king of old,
Arrayed in precious pearls and gems of gold.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Calling All Pray-ers

I know many of my friends who read this are pray-ers. So I'm asking for your prayers. Keith and I have some decisions to make about the girls' school for the fall.

First, Leslie. We have planned for quite a while that she would go to high school (that's the year after next). We're still confident that's the right decision, for a lot of reasons. The question is: which high school? Sioux City's East High is close, and it seems to be her preference. But it's big. She could also go to Sergeant Bluff High School, which is smaller, but I might have to drive her. Or there's the Christian school -- but it would be VERY small (like a handful of kids in her grade), more costly, and I'd definitely have to drive her.

And in preparation for this, we're planning on enrolling her in a class or two at the middle school next year (an option we have in Iowa). Two questions there: what classes and which middle school? Obviously, the school choice will depend on which high school she's going to. As far as the classes . . . I'm thinking science for one (because that's probably the subject I'm weakest in), but I don't know what else.

The Eastin questions are more troublesome. We've talked about putting her in school full-time next year, for 4th grade and possibly for 5th grade after that. Again, there's the issue then of which school -- Sioux City Public, Sergeant Bluff public, or the private Christian school? But more important than that is whether or not we should be putting her in school at all.

She wants to go. She's never been in a "real" school before and wants the experience. Which is understandable. We think there are some social skills that she needs that she can best learn in a classroom environment. However, she is still a very impulsive and peer-oriented child. Get her in a mix with the wrong kids and we could have serious problems. But if it's only for one year . . maybe two . . .

OK, here's the real truth of the matter: I WANT to put her in school. I'm a bit burnt out on homeschooling. Eastin's a good student, but she's high maintenance. Being with her all day is tiring, and meeting her social needs is a challenge. The older Leslie gets, the more intensive her work is for me. I want to be able to really focus on her next year, my last year home with her. And having another year after that, with both girls in school and me getting a year off, sounds SO inviting. I miss having regular alone time. I want to be able to focus on me for a while. It would be so easy to be able to put the girls on a bus every morning and spend my days doing my thing again.

But since when did I make decisions about my children's education based on what's easy?

When we pulled Leslie out of school and started homeschooling, I was certain about it. I felt called to do homeschool. I was open to other options, and ready to submit if Keith disagreed. But in my gut, I knew this was God's will for my daughter.

I have no such certainty about any option now. Neither does Keith. And we need to know. We've asked the girls to pray with us. I just feel so burdened about this. I don't want to default to what meets my needs and desires. I need to do what's best for my kids, and I genuinely don't know what that is.

Fortunately, I know that God does. I just need him to fill us in. And I think I need to be willing to accept whatever his will is before he's going to let us know. So, any prayers on our behalf would be greatly appreciated. I feel like I need to be showered in them right now.