April 30, 2009
I was having a conversation with a fellow mother recently, as we sat at the park supervising our children’s play. Like many others before, she noticed that JR looked old enough to be in school and so she asked about it. I mentioned that he is homeschooled. As it turned out, she had an older child that attended the local public school, having outgrown her Christian pre-school. The mother began telling me about how wonderful the preschool was, how I really needed to consider putting JR into their kindergarten program, and so on. I mostly listened, and when I felt it necessary, I did finally explain that he was in preschool at one time, a wonderful Christian one, no less, but that I had been very disheartened by the negative influences that had affected him. I briefly told her a few of the reasons I loved homeschooling, and I caught myself concluding with the statement that, for now at least, we wanted to shelter our children. We all had to leave shortly thereafter, but I have since reflected a bit on that statement (I seem to be doing a lot of reflecting lately. Oh well…) NOTE: I write these thoughts simply to share what I feel God has called me to do in our personal situation. I firmly believe whether or not you feel the need to homeschool is a personal matter between God and your family, and no one should make you feel guilty about doing what you feel prayerfully led to do. This post is not intended to make anyone feel guilty about choosing to NOT homeschool, but will hopefully be uplifting for anyone currently homeschooling (or considering it).
Growing up, I was homeschooled for a time, attended Christian, private school for several years, and attended public school for a while. Now, as a mom, I have sent my oldest 2 children to preschool, and have homeschooled for almost a year. As a result of those school experiences, I am very familiar with the stigmas associated with homeschooling. I have also seen and experienced how the idea of a parent “sheltering” their children is often frowned upon.
One of the major stigmas of homeschooling is that we are sheltering our children too much from the “real world.” Furthermore, by sheltering, we are raising children to not be open-minded to others’ way of life. That we are, in essence, raising our children to be bigots. I have heard countless times how important it is to allow my kids to be exposed to the “real world” so they will know how to handle it when they are older and out on their own, and so they will be open minded to all things. For a while, I debated the wisdom of homeschooling and wondered how to not be overly protective. Through my studies however, I have recently taken on a much different viewpoint. I have realized there is a balance. Just turn on the news and you can hear what is in the real world today. Murder, theft, rape, violence, child abduction, pornography, you name it. Pure evil. Having experienced the public school system, I know that there is a movement to introduce alternative lifestyles like gay marriage to elementary school students, with no requirement to inform parents before such a topic is introduced. Classes also teach safe-sex instead of abstinence. Having grown up with my parents fostering troubled youth, and having adopted a baby from a teenage birthmother, I know that pre-marital sex is rampant. Having lived in a city that uses sex and beautiful women to sell everything, I know how easy it is to desensitize an entire society to such things. And frankly, I do not want my children desensitized to such things. I want them to be well aware of sin when they see it. This world is the devil’s kingdom. Do I want to protect my children from exposure to such concepts entering their little minds? YOU BET!! My goal is to teach my children that people are not “bad” or “good” based on a past sin or current lifestyle choice. Rather, we are commanded by Christ to love others no matter what. Christ himself dined with the sinners instead of the religious, yet hypocritical Pharisees. For some, a sin is commited because of a true lack of Biblical education. For others, it is a one-time mistake. And for others, it is a blatant choice to abandon the Word of God and commit a sinful act to fulfill a selfish desire. But, whatever the reason, we are to embrace people, but not embrace their sinful natures.
Yet another stigma attached to homeschoolers being sheltered is their “lack of a social life.” Our society puts a great deal of influence on exposing children to peers their own age in order to teach them “social skills.” Yet, I have realized that when you look down the road to young-adult hood, the end result of this peer influence is seldom positive. Innocent T-ball games have resulted in violence between fathers with children on opposing teams. I do not want our children to learn to be selfishly competitive, and forget that playing a game is about teamwork, building up another, and putting others first. I do not want my sons’ sex education to come from a fellow third-grader who hardly has an accurate idea himself. I do not want my daughter’s view of herself to be influenced by fellow tween-agers who believe a girl must be overly thin, flirt, and dress provocatively in order to be loved. Why does our society believe that similiarly-aged peers are so important in training our children? When did the importance of parental training fall by the wayside? Furthermore, relationships with similarly-aged peers have become valued, while relationships with other generations have become completely neglected and devalued. And that is accepted as OK. Do I want to protect our kids from negative peer-pressures? ABSOLUTELY!
Finally, another idea that has been brought up by others to discourage sheltering is that, as Christians, we are called to be a light in a dark world. People have told us that since their children are being brought up in a godly home, they are called to send them into the schools to be the light. I will not argue that fact for someone who truly feels called to do so. In fact, I prayerfully sought the wisdom of that idea. Then, during my recent devotion, I came across the passage in Luke 3:23, that “Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.” When I read that, it really hit me that if Christ himself, the perfect son of God wasn’t ready for his official earthly ministry until He was around 30, then why should I expect my elementary and pre-school aged children to be ready for such a responsibility? Now, mind you, that is not to say we should never minister or discourage our children from doing so. But I realized that perhaps I would be wrong to put such a responsibility on my children when they haven’t had the time to be properly trained first. Christ was being prepared for all those years, and then, when the time was right, the Spirit led him into the desert to fast and pray for 40 days! As if that wasn’t enough, Luke 1:80 is speaking of John the Baptist when it tells us, “And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.” They needed that spiritual preparation before officially going out into the “real world.” And, in regards to John, what better way to shelter a child from the world than to live isolated from it while he was being prepared for the ministry in which God would one day use him? We send children to school for 12 years of grade school, and then follow that with a number of years of college in order for them to be qualified to be teachers in a public school (in most cases). Why would I expect less in ministry?
When I first began homeschooling, if I told someone I homeschooled, I often felt a need to explain that I had plans for my kids to be adequately educated, exposed to the world, and socialized. Not anymore. According to a study by A.C. Nielsen Co., thanks to television, video games, and other influences today, by the time a child finishes elementary school, he has witnessed over 8,000 murders! Average statistics show that just under 1/3 of teenage girls will become pregnant at least once before age 20. As a mother, I feel God has blessed me with the responsibility to raise and protect our children. Mark 9:42 states, “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9 says, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Proverbs 22:6 commands, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” After a great deal of prayer, S and I felt we could influence and train our children best by being physically with them as much as possible through homeschooling. So, as I prayed and studied these points, I realized that if I spent their most formative years raising them, loving them, training them in the Bible, training them to weigh everything they hear against scripture, teaching them what God calls righteousness and what He calls sin, and encouraging them love others as they love themselves, then, when they are older, they will have no problem handling the real world. It may be a shock to them, but that is good. If I have used God’s principles correctly to teach them that children are a blessing directly from God, then if a friend comes to them when they are teens and asks for advice about getting an abortion, my hope is that they would be able to confidently and lovingly help her see how big a mistake that would be, and that you can’t “right a wrong with another wrong.” Or, if I have properly trained them that God commands us to love our bodies, which are created by Him, and that we are to care for those bodies as God’s temple, then if they encounter an offer to smoke a cigarette or take an illegal drug one day, my hope is that there would be no temptation because scripture has been cemented so deeply within them that their conscience would never allow them to do such.
I am now proud to say, “I shelter my children.” There is absolutely no good reason for my young children to know the evil that abounds out there. I pray I can shelter them for many years. I pray that God will give me the wisdom and discernment to not only shelter them, but to use these years to educate them according to scripture, and to live my own life in such a way that I can be an example to them. I pray that they will grow up with a Christ-like love and forgiveness for everyone, but a hatred for sin and evil. I pray that they will learn to build solid relationships with people from all generations, 0-100. I pray that they will develop the heart of a servant, willing to help another in need. And most importantly, I pray that they will be followers of Christ.
April 28, 2009
For some time now, I have wanted to try growing some fruits and veggies for the family. Because we have a rental home, we are very limited with what we can do. Then I heard about container gardening. Apparently, you can grow almost anything in a pot that you would normally grow in the ground, just on a smaller scale. I figured it could serve several purposes in our case: First, seeing as how I have never had success at keeping any plant alive, I could learn a bit about gardening prior to planting a larger garden on the homestead. Secondly, it would be a great homeschool project, and highly educational for the kids to learn where some of their food comes from. Thirdly, it would just be a fun experiment that would hopefully have the added benefit of producing something edible. Thus began our container garden experiment.
Now, mind you, I was dealing with several limitations. We determined we wouldn’t invest anything beyond basic soil and seed if possible. I didn’t want to invest several hundred dollars in fancy supplies to learn that I would just forget to water. Additionally, we will only live in this house for another year before moving again, so I am basically only dealing with one, maybe 2 growing seasons. The owners left a bunch of pots in the side yard, so I decided to put them to use instead of buying anything fancy. I was also very limited on available space to put my pots.
We started our project several months ago with the purchase of an indoor seed starter kit and several types of veggie seeds. We have a relatively early growing season here if plants are started indoors. So, for our homeschool activity one day, JR helped me plant the seeds, water, and label everything.
We religiously watered, and when the seedling emerged, we put them outside every day for a few hours of direct sunlight. JR was so excited to see them growing, and would report to me almost every day on how they were doing. Finally, when the risk of frost was passed and the seedlings were large enough, I thinned them out and put them in pots.
My biggest limitation was the space available for my pots. I had no area to actually grow a garden, I couldn’t group my pots anywhere that would risk killing the grass, and the few areas that had no grass also got no sun. I had a sidewalk, but I had to leave a path open for the kids to walk by. This left me only one option which was to place the pots in a row down my sidewalk.
My row of vegetables.
This is certainly not an ideal set up, as it seems like crops are supposed to be grouped together in clusters, or at least in multiple side-by-side rows to help with fruit fertilization. That is not an option for us though, so the best I could do was plant multiples of each plant, place them side-by-side, and see what happens. In order to better utilize my limited number of pots, I also attempted symbiotic planting of different vegetables. For example, beans and corn love each other, tomatoes and carrots love each other, and squash and corn also do very well together.
The corn/squash is on the right, then a corn, then a corn/pole bean, then a pole bean. Notice how the 2 pots that have multiple plants are thriving and the other 2 are not. I don't know if this is because of the relationship they have, because they simply have a bigger pot, or something else, but I do find it very interesting.
Tomatoes and carrots are in the 2 center pots, and just tomatoes are in both end pots. Again, interestingly, the plants in mixed pots are thriving, while the other 2 are just doing OK. The tomato plants in the end pots are about 1/2 the size of the one in the 2 middle pots.
As of now, my celery all died after transplant to the larger pots. My strawberries did ok and even gave us some deliciously sweet berries for a couple of weeks, but have since stopped fruiting, and are now growing new, healthy looking green foliage. I have spotted a few flowers, so hopefully we will have more strawberries soon. The squash that are with the corn are thriving and are currently growing about 6 straight-neck yellow summer squash, but only one of the plants that is in a pot alone is growing, but has yet to produce a fruit. Likewise, the pole beans that are growing with the corn are thriving, large, and have started flowering, while the bean that is alone is slowly dying off. The corn with the other veggies is thriving, and interestingly enough, one of the the stalks has actually branched off into 4 different stalks. I did not know that was possible, but one article I read said not to prune it. Rather, it said it may possibly produce more corn fruits, and will likely help with fertilization (and I need all the help I can get there!). The corn growing alone is growing, but is yellow and about 1/2 the size of the other 2, so I don’t know if will do anything. My carrots, which are all planted with tomatoes, are thriving. Out of curiousity, when we thinned the other day, there was a very small diameter purple root on one, and we tasted it just for kicks. It actually had the flavor of a carrot already! The tomatoes with the carrots are thriving, big, and bushy, and I am hoping for fruit soon, while the other 2 lone plants are doing ok. At least they seem to be healthy, if not as lush. 1/2 my broccoli is doing well, while the other 1/2 is either dead or barely hanging on. One in particularly seems to be thriving, and I hope to get broccoli from it. I also have letttuce and a few melons which were planted later, so it is yet to be determined how they are doing.
This is no doubt a learning experience, and even if we aren’t able to get much out of it, it has been and is incredibly educational. The kids are learning an appreciation already for the time and effort it takes to produce just one meal, and that is a priceless lesson in this modern age of instant supermarkets and out-of-season veggies!
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you , nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brother, never tire of doing what is right.
2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13
April 27, 2009
Posted by redgatefarm under Family Adventures
We decided to go camping this past weekend. We have a big camping trip coming up, and wanted to get our feet “wet” for family camping this season. We knew that camping with 4 kids 4 and under would be a bit of a challenge, so I am very thankful we decided to do this little trial run before we jumped in and did a bigger trip.
I spent Thursday and Friday packing and preparing. We drove about 45 minutes to the campsite, near a beautiful lake, surrounded by mountains. We got out of the car to discover 35 mile per hour sustained winds, with higher gusts. Setting up our new 6 man tent was a challenge to say the least!
The tents (a friend stayed in the little one, and ours was the big one)
M happened to be standing beside the tent at one point when a wind gust picked it up and flipped it onto its side (before we got it staked into the ground). We didn’t realize how traumatized she was until later, when we discovered she couldn’t sleep due to an inconsolable fear that the wind would pick the tent up with her in it and blow it away.
The kids just played while we set up camp.
M had a great time playing on the boulders surrounding the campsite
Our first night was a long one. Between the howling wind, flapping tent, airmattresses all going flat, and M scared to go to sleep, S and I didn’t sleep at all until after 1 or so in the morning. S had the bright idea to give M earplugs to help silence the sound of the wind. This helped tremendously, and although a large gust would shake the tent enough to wake her, as long as I kept my hand on her, she would fall back asleep. JR and A slept soundly throughout this whole ordeal. N slept well until about 4:30, when he hit a light sleep phase and made lots of little noises in his sleep such that S and I were again unable to sleep. Then, around 5:30, A woke with the rising of the sun. Having had a wonderful nights sleep, he was raring to go. We made the mistake of just having him sleep on a pallette on the floor rather than containing him somehow, which meant, once he was awake, he could crawl around the tent and ensure everyone else was awake too!
The next morning was still pretty windy, so breakfast was a bit difficult to prepare. We were trying to figure activity we could do with all the kids since the cold wind had ruined our plans, and decided to go feed some ducks down at the lake. While there, someone told us about a program going on nearby where kids could become “Jr. Park Rangers.” This sounded perfect, so we went.
JR and M learning about desert wildlife.
I couldn't believe JR was actually willing to let this gopher snake crawl up his arm! He used to be afraid of such things.
Learning about (and recreating) desert wildlife sounds.
JR and M got to actually control the fire hose, learning how to adjust the spray, turn it on and off, and aim. They also got to try on the fire gear, pretend to drive the truck, and JR was taken back to the control panel and got to help control the flow of water through the fire hoses.
They got to explore the Park Ranger patrol truck, talk on the loudspeaker, learn about water conservation, and do many other activities. Finally, they earned their Jr. Park Ranger badges! We then returned to camp to find the winds had died down to a calm breeze. After lunch and a good nap for all of us, S and the kids went down to the lake and actually played in the water. Considering the water was probably around 65 degrees, I was very surprised that they stayed as long as they did. I guess the desire to play in water can overcome the cold and discomfort! Even Will got in on the action, playing frisbee and swimming until he was ready to collapse!
After swimming, we went back to the campsite, and the kids played while we adults worked on dinner.
A had his own fun playing with the bucket. Now that he is learning to walk, he is developing a reputation for hitting his head on everything, so perhaps he is trying out head protection here?
What do get when 2 kids wet from recently swimming decide to play in an unused, ashy firepit? 2 unrecognizably dirty kids! And no, our campground did not have showers, so they got a spongebath in the faucet!
After a delicious campfire burger dinner, smore roast, and clean up, the kids went to bed, and S and I got to take a moment to ourselves.
Relaxing with the baby after an exhausting day.
We had a wonderful night’s sleep that night, although A woke up around 5:45 raring to go again! S was kind enough to let me sleep in a bit, so he started breakfast until I came out around 6:30.
M waking up on our last morning. She loved those sleeping bags!
So there you have it. An adventurous weekend of family camping with 4 young kids and a few unexpected surprises. We had a great time, made some memories, took lots of photos, and are looking forward to our next trip (along with a few extra preparations and supplies)!
April 22, 2009
Posted by redgatefarm under Finance
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Did you know the Bible refers to finances 2,350 times? It is referred to more than almost any other topic in the Bible. God knew that financial management would be a struggle for many, so He filled His Holy Word with tips and instructions to handle it correctly. The sad thing is that, as obvious with today’s economic crisis, few people study or heed these instructions. Many people have a tendency to say, “OK, God, I will turn my whole life over to you….EXCEPT the finance part. I want to handle that on my own!”
S and I became involved as volunteers for Crown Ministries several years ago. He has been financially savvy his whole life, and he has taught me a lot. When we saw others struggling in this area, we were convicted to become involved and help. This year, we took an additional step, and are just completing a course that will allow us to become “Money Map Coaches” to help people develop a plan to get out of debt, use money Biblically, and stay out of debt. The course has been such an eye-opening experience for me. I wrote a post a while back containing tips for good financial management. This course has taught me so much more than those basic tips, though. We have had to reference scripture after scripture, studying, breaking it down, and discovering biblical truths regarding money.
Did you know that taking a loan or going into debt is not a sin? Sin develops when a person becomes so controlled by their debt that they become a slave to it. Proverbs 22:7 tells us, “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.” God follows this up in Matthew 6:24 with the idea that, “No one can serve two masters…You cannot serve both God and money.” He goes on with a message directed to His followers in 1 Corinthians 7:23, “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.”
Despite these cautions, our society is so deeply built on debt that this practice has been accepted as the norm. As a result, a vast majority of our population is in debt. Debt is not only accepted, but encouraged. Have you ever heard someone say they are debt free, when in fact, they have a $200,000 mortgage? This is a classic example that shows how the enemy convinces us that what is “necessary” (like a car and a home) is not really debt, but “investments.” In fact, just the other day, I was a guy who owns a little home with some property offered me a great deal to rent his place because he had decided to go “invest” in one of the foreclosures around here. Nothing wrong with that itself, mind you, but the problem is that this guy already works 3 jobs to try to stay afloat, and he can hardly afford a second mortgage. So how do we know? Go to scripture. 1 Timothy 6:8 specifically states, “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to say, “Oh, if I only had _____, it would be easy to be content!” I’ve caught myself saying it a few times! Have you also ever noticed that ______ didn’t make you content beyond the short term. In fact, it may have been directly responsible for you “needing” a few other things. For example, S recently read a book authored by a guy who grew up in a little hut in India. He eventually moved to America, bought a car and a house, and was working in ministry. Pretty big improvement, right? He realized, however, that once he left his little hut and moved into the American house, he needed insurance for it. Then he needed furnishings for his Americanized guests. He got a good car and needed insurance. His great job required expensive suits. And the list goes on. Think about your home. You want carpet? Now you need a vacuum and a carpet shampooer. Want a large wardrobe? Now you need a washer and dryer (and detergent, and water, etc.), iron, and ironing board. Perhaps you even need to add a dresser, seasonal storage boxes, and lots of hangers to the list. In my area, people want nice green lawns. But since that is not natural here, they then have to install expensive sprinkler systems, run thousands and thousands of gallons of water throughout the year to keep it green, and all this costs money. The point is buying things will never make a person happy. I LOVE a recent statement I heard stating, “Money will not solve financial problems!” Think about that for a moment.
Like debt, buying things is not wrong. We just have to be careful that we do not become so consumed in things (aka materialism) that we allow the things and/or the debt to affect our relationship with Christ. A good rule of thumb I once heard was to add up the expenses in your checkbook (and credit cards, if applicable). The categories you spend on will show where your heart is. Do you spend more on tithe, charities, giving to the poor, and investing in a Biblical manner, or do we focus our $$ on restaurants and new clothing? This can be a very enlightening exercise for you to try!
That’s it for today. Gotta move on with my schedule. I may write a bit more on this topic in the near future.
April 20, 2009
Posted by redgatefarm under Uncategorized
I am thrilled you decided to follow my blog to its new location! I decided to try wordpress out for a while, as it appears to have better features than blogspot. Except for the few comments that didn’t carryover, I am liking it so far. So take a moment, peruse my pages, add it to your reading list (FYI, click on the upper right corner “Blog info” and you will see a drop down box giving directions to either subscribe to the blog and/or add to your blogroll), and have fun. Feel free to leave a comment or two while you’re here.
April 20, 2009
Posted by redgatefarm under Kids
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What happens when little girls wearing skirts want to be like their brothers and play on the woodpile?
They wind up with little legs covered in red bumps and microscopic splinters that Mommy has to find a way to remove! I have to say, though, that, despite her tears, she did very well, sitting very still while I worked.
April 20, 2009
Posted by redgatefarm under Animals
Isn’t it funny how God arranges things for us? I decided to part with a few more horse things and placed an ad on craigslist. Long story, but the lady who wound up purchasing the equipment was trying to start a horse rescue. She had 7 horses at the time, including 3 pregnant mares. She was having some difficulty though, as a horse had kicked her in February and broken her leg. So she was still accepting rescues, but was unable to do any training with them. She was desperate for help, but had been unable to find anyone with any training experience. After we conversed for a while, she invited us to join her family for Easter lunch and get to know each other, which we did. Yesterday, my wonderful husband offered to take over my household tasks and to watch the kids while I went out to help her.
I couldn’t believe how nervous I was. It has been 2 years since I trained a horse! It was somewhat hard to believe, but once I got to training some skittish, frightened mares she had, it all came back to me. I was embarrassed, however, to find how completely out of shape I was! I used to thoroughly groom 5 or 6 six horses in one shot, and after a basic grooming on my first mare yesterday, my arms felt like they were going to fall off! I am just thankful she had 20×20 stalls for me to work in instead of having to use her 80-foot pen. There is no way I would have had the endurance for that! Despite my workouts here at home, I re-discovered muscles I had forgotten existed! So humbling.
It turned out to be such a great situation, as, I was free to train the way I feel comfortable, using the gentle techniques I have found work best and fastest, and have the owner just trust me to do whatever I felt necessary. After doing some training with 2 of her horses and helping out with a few other tasks, I got to go play with this little 4-day old filly:
I cannot express to you how much fun I had yesterday! Today, my face and neck are sunburned, my back and arms are so sore I can hardly lift my babies, and I was so exhausted that I overslept this morning. But it is all so worth it! There are few things as thrilling to me as walking into a pen with a horse that is so scared of me that I can’t even walk up and touch it, and, after working for a bit, being able to walk out of that same pen after not only approaching and petting the horse, but also being able to groom, lift her feet, have her follow me around without a halter or lead rope, and generally have her comfortable with my presence.
It was a wonderful experience and I thank God for the opportunity to refresh my skills. I look forward to returning in the future.
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