on “being evaluated”

March 23, 2010

The girls had their annual home school evaluations last week. All went well. The results were what I expected. They passed and are progressing as they should. Which means, as any honest home school parent will tell you, the teacher passed too!  Whew! 😉

Evaluations are funny things aren’t they? Be it a test, job performance review or any informal evaluation…their sole purpose is to measure and assign some kind of value. That fact alone has all kinds of implications on various levels. Especially given that everyone wants to measure up.

Now a single test here and there or job evaluation may not have weighty implications for you. Though for some it might.  For most of us it’s the cumulative formal and informal evaluations we’ve undergone (and put ourselves through daily) that carry greater significance.  

At the very core of our being is a need to know we’re valuable, significant and worthy to be loved. It’s written in our DNA. It’s there because God made us in his image and his image is the picture of perfect love. After all, God is Love!

We know things got screwed up in the Garden. And it’s more than just a black and white, good vs. evil thing. When sin became part of our spiritual DNA it sure did a number on us.  

The enemy was able to get Eve to question her significance. He tempted her to believe she needed to be more than who she was, that God hadn’t made her complete and was holding out on her. She took the bait, ate the fruit and tried to become like God.

Ever since, we’ve been trying to measure up, striving to find our significance and value. Most often we try to do this a part from God. And oh the places that has taken some of us.

For some of us it’s lead to dark and scary places while others found bright and appealing places that proved to be  full of the empty promises of human praise and esteem.  I know the places it took me and they’re places I don’t want my girls to go.

That’s why I see this home school journey as so much more than providing an academic education for my girls. Although at times I worry if I’m doing enough, if I “measure up” as a teacher, deep in my heart I know my girls are going to learn.

I know that more important than passing these annual evaluations, than excelling at math, reading and writing, is instilling in them an understanding of God’s immense love for them and an understanding of who they are in Christ.

I know that if they trust in God’s love they will never have a reason to look for love where true love can’t be found. If they know their dignity and worth as a child of God, which was made possible through Jesus’ sacrifice, then they won’t need to chase after human praise and approval which seems to always lead to sin and greater selfishness.

That’s why I daily remind them they’re precious daughters of God; His Spirit lives in them and they are His. Sometimes I whisper it in Ella’s ear when she’s sitting on my lap in the morning. Or, I remind Claire when she’s sitting close to me in the pew at church. 

I try to tell them often and in simple ways that their worth and value is not based on whether they’re smart, cute, talented, accepted by others etc… 

I want them to learn that our Father’s love can not be earned; their adoption into His family at their baptism was a free gift of grace given when they were helpless babies, unable to even approach Him on their own. Now, there’s a picture of unmerited favor and love!

There’ll be countless evaluations to come in Claire and Ella’s lives. Just like you and me they’ll find they’re being evaluated by others and they’ll constantly be tempted to evaluate themselves. At times they may feel humiliated and even defeated by these evaluations. And in some evaluations they may find confidence and take great pride.

But, my prayer is that not one of these will compare to the evaluation our Father made of their worth when He asked Jesus to die for them on the cross. It’s in this evaluation alone they will find both true humility and their greatest confidence.

92 Valentines Later…

February 10, 2010

No, that’s not how many Valentine’s dates I’ve had. 🙂

And it’s not the number of Valentine’s Days I’ve celebrated either. Despite all the old age jokes I heard last week, I’m not that old — of course, I’d be looking darn good for my age if I were 92.  

92 is the number of Valentine’s cards Claire and Ella are making for their friends who attend our home school park day (46 cards each).  Tomorrow is our Valentine’s Day celebration so I bet you can guess what we did for school today. Yep, we were up to our eyeballs in Valentine’s Day Cards.

Now I know what some of you are thinking — Those home school families. They do a craft for an hour or two and call it a school day. Who do they think they’re fooling?

Before you make any judgments and determine we home school moms are slackers let me share the vast educational experience in making 92 homemade Valentine’s cards. Ok, maybe it’s not vast but the beauty of home schooling is that you start to see everything in life as having educational value so that learning isn’t limited to the four walls of a classroom or a homework assignment. 

Math, Economics and Home Economics: First we went looking for store bought, pre-made Valentines –we aren’t all Martha Stuart moms, you know. During this process we added up the cost of several boxes of cards and determined that the cost of buying 92 pre-made cards was more than making our own. This decision was made easier by the fact that the Hannah Montana cards were the only ones my girls wanted and well, I’m sorry but as far as I’m concerned Miley and Disney have enough money as it is! This meant shopping for some materials and comparing prices per unit so we could get the best deal.

Note: Ella, of course, could care less about the cost. Claire on the other hand was calculating how many kids in Africa she could feed if she bought the cheaper construction paper. 🙂

Religion, History and Reading: Being a Catholic family we of course talked about St. Valentine. And I, being a former “Bible alone” Protestant, had them read Bible verses that tell us about God’s love. 

A little more Math: While cutting out hearts for Ella, I had Claire determine how many sheets of paper I’d need if  I could get three hearts out of each piece of paper. That covered multiplication and division for the day and moved into a little exercise of counting by threes for Claire. Ella kept track of the number of hearts by counting by twos.

Spelling and Handwriting:  I made each one figure out what they wanted to say on the cards and write it out for me. Then I printed out their message on labels for their cards and had them sign each one–Claire practiced her cursive and Ella, well, I’m not sure how many she actually signed.

Finally, the character building portion of this crafty home school project….Patience and perseverance. By card #20 the girls were over this project (this non-crafty mom was over it well before that). At card #21 we discussed the importance of finishing the job with a good attitude (my own included).

Here’s to a fun-filled Valentine’s Park Day tomorrow. Oh, did I mention the high is supposed to 50 degrees with a wind-chill factor of God knows what? (That’s cold for us Floridians.)

Oh, well. Happy Valentine’s Day!

A much needed reminder

August 18, 2009


As we start another year of home schooling I find myself both grateful and humbled. I’m grateful that I can stay home with my girls and not have to work outside the home to earn a second income in order to survive. I know that not every mom who would like to stay home has that option. 

I’m also humbled by this choice. When I say humbled I mean my flesh is truly put in its place as I die to my selfish ambition and fleshly tendency to turn this temporal life into an idol.  

Staying home, teaching and raising my girls, is part of my “hidden life” with Jesus. In the eyes of the world, and sometimes in my own eyes, it’s not the most spectacular of vocations.  It’s  a simple vocation without glory in this world. Deep within I know the eternal worth and value of this hidden life but I can easily forget this truth which is why  these words by Henri Nouwen on the hidden life of Jesus are a much needed reminder…

The largest part of Jesus’ life was hidden.  Jesus lived with his parents in Nazareth, “under their authority” (Luke 2:51), and there “increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and with people” (Luke 2:52).  When we think about Jesus we mostly think about his words and miracles, his passion, death, and resurrection, but we should never forget that before all of that Jesus lived a simple, hidden life in a small town, far away from all the great people, great cities, and great events.  Jesus’ hidden life is very important for our own spiritual journeys.  If we want to follow Jesus by words and deeds in the service of his Kingdom, we must first of all strive to follow Jesus in his simple, unspectacular, and very ordinary hidden life.

The world beckons us to pursue fame, glory and “self”-fulfillment but what is God asking you to seek first? Your vocation will look different than mine but is it possible that Jesus is calling you, in your own way, to live a “simple, unspectacular and very ordinary hidden life” for the sake of His Kingdom?

Car-Schooling, Claire and Childlike Faith

March 25, 2009


I haven’t posted much this month. March has been busy.

This week we’re back to schooling and making the most of the last few weeks of Lent 2009. We’re counting down the days with our family friend, “Miss Jessica, ” as she waits to be baptized, confirmed and receive her first Communion at the Easter Vigil.  We’re also trying to make it to daily Mass more often. Of course that always results in interesting conversations  with the girls. Here’s a scene from the drive home from daily Mass last Thursday.

Scene: I’m behind the wheel patiently 🙂 navigating the snowbird traffic our county is so well-known for at this time of the year (in case you’re wondering I was going the speed limit). The girls are watching an educational DVD on volcanoes. “Car time” is social studies and science time (a.k.a.  car-schooling).

Claire: Mom, can you turn down the volume? I have a question.

[Anticipating another question about volcanoes–one  to which I probably won’t have the answer–I stop myself before saying we’ll look that up on the internet too.]

Me: Yes Claire, what is it?

[Long pause]

Claire: Jesus is in heaven right?

Me: (Ok, I can answer that one) Yes.

[Another long pause]

Claire: So if you die and you get to go to heaven then you’ll see Jesus right?

Me: (Wondering where she’s going with this line of thought) Yes.

[Third long pause. Smoke is rising like a volcano from Claire’s brain because she’s thinking so hard]

Claire: Mom, I think I’d like to die now so that I could go and be with Jesus forever.

[My turn to pause. So, this is childlike faith: No worldly attachments, ambitions, desires or fears–just faith and a longing to be with Jesus.

Me: You know what Claire, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be than with Him.


Jesus, give me the grace to mature and have childlike faith: To believe and trust without reservation and to desire eternity with you more than anything else. Amen

The Procrastinating Prophet

January 21, 2009

Scene: After spending the morning at the airport on a field trip with our co-op we returned home to finish our school work. We’re sitting at our big kitchen/living room island — the hub of our home where we do most of our schoolwork, eat most of our meals, create works of art with crayons and socialize with our friends.

Ella is working on her handwriting. I’m at my computer doing something really important like reading a blog or checking out status updates on Facebook (which is what I do when I’m procrastinating some unpleasant chore I need to accomplish). Claire is sitting with her math book open while she stares at the ceiling and daydreams.

Me: Claire, you need to finish those two pages before you can go out and skate with your sister.

Claire: I know.

[Ten minutes pass. Ella is done with her handwriting. I’m still reading that blog and Claire is still procrastinating. I don’t know where she gets it from.]

Me: Claire, you’ve done two problems in the last ten minutes. Do you think you can finish before dinner tonight?

Claire: Uh, huh.

Ella: Come on Claire, finish so we can play.

Me: Sounds like a good suggestion Ella. 

[Ten more minutes pass. I’m finally done procrastinating and I’m in the kitchen prepping dinner. Claire is still procrastinating.]

Me: Claire…

Claire: I know, I know. I need to finish my math.

[Long pause that includes some very dramatic sighs from Claire. Not sure where that dramatic gene comes from. Must be from her expressive father.]

Claire: Mom?

Me: Yes Claire.

Claire (in her most serious of voices): God told me that you shouldn’t make me do math anymore.



 My seven year old daughter is now a prophet. I can only imagine the things God is going to tell her when she hits her teens.

The Joy of Spelling

January 14, 2009



When you home school and your kid finally learns to read and begins spelling there’s a certain pleasure you take in hearing them read a book and watching them write sentences on their own. The “experts” tell you how great it is when your child starts to become an independent reader. But, there’s something they don’t tell you about the joy of spelling…

Claire has hit that stage in her schooling where she is excited about her new found ability to spell. So excited, in fact, that she’s going through this phase of spelling everything. And I do mean everything. We’re not just talking about reading a word on a sign and repeating the letters. No, we’re talking about spelling out full sentences in every conversation.  You may be thinking, well, what’s so bad about that? Ha, let me show you…

Claire: M………o………..m………w……….h………a……….t………a……..r…..e…………..y……..o……………u……m……….a……….k………i….n…..g……f…..o….r…..d…..i….n…..n…e…..r….t….o….n….i….g….h……t?

Me: (Standing at the stove listening carefully, trying to decipher exactly what she is asking because there are long pauses between letters in the middle of her words): I’m making shrimp corn chowder Claire.

Claire: c…..a……..n……..I ………h…a…v…e……..s….o……m…….e……b………….r………e………a…..d…….w….i…..


Me: Yes (I think?  She asked for bread, right?).

Claire: c…………a……………….n………..I……………h……………..a………..v……..e………….s………..o…………….m…………


Get the picture? 

You think it’s painful to read a few sentences like that? Imagine having a conversation with a 7 year old and listening to the painfully slow process of her spelling out each and every word.  Yes, the first few times it was cute and she garnered much praise for her new found spelling skills.  But now. Well, now I’m just hoping this phase willl end soon.

I…….a…………m……..n……..o…………t……….s………u………..r……..e………I……c…….a……….n………t……..a…….k…….e……..m…….u…….c……h……m….o….r…e…..o……f…..i….t! :-).

My Poor Unsocialized Kids

September 12, 2008

It doesn’t take long for people to ask the question. It’s usually the first one they pose after finding out my kids are home-schooled. Sometimes it’s more of a statement disguised as a question. My internal response to this question varies; sometimes I shake my head, roll my eyes, sigh or laugh. Now remember, I said those were my internal responses. Of course I am more careful when choosing my external responses.

So here’s the infamous question every home-school parent deals with on a regular basis: 

“What about socialization? I mean the girls need to interact with other kids and people right? They don’t really get that when they’re home schooled.”

Just writing the words makes me want to roll my eyes!  There are times when I hear this question that I feel like saying oh no, my husband and I don’t believe children should interact with anyone until they turn 18. In fact we don’t even talk to them when we’re at home. Or… Why yes, socialization is very important to us, that’s why we make sure they watch lots of TV. They learn a lot from the afternoon soap operas.

Sarcasm aside…

The reason why this question always make me laugh is because having to find time and ways to intentionally “socialize” my girls is the least of my worries as a home-school parent. And, because it was the social versitility of many of my teenage home schooled students at the college that made me first consider some of the benefits of home-schooling. 

I realize however that many people just can’t imagine that the socialization of a little human being is not limited to sitting in a classroom with 20 other little human beings. For some people this is the only way a child will learn to function properly in the real world. What I find interesting is these people think we home-schoolers somehow failed to consider how very important social skills are when we decided to teach our kids at home. I guess that’s why they always ask about it and feel the need to remind us that we’re somehow neglecting our kids.

Of course not everyone who asks about socialization is implying that home-schooled kids are at a disadvantage. But for all those who think that somehow home-schooled kids are being neglected let me tell you about the lack of socialization my kids received this week.  


Sunday: After attending mass as a family the girls went to their religious education classes (that’s Catholic speak for Sunday school) where they sat in a classroom setting with other children and learned about their faith. That afternoon Scott took them to a birthday party. Yes, home-schoolers do have friends and they even get invited to the birthday parties of their friends who “go to school .” (Oops, there goes that sarcasm again. Sorry!) This happened to be the second birthday party they attended that weekend. After the party they hit the beach with Connor, a young boy who lives in our neighborhood.

Monday: After schooling in the morning I took what I call my home-school mom sanity break at the gym.  They spent an hour and half in the wellness center’s childcare facility interacting with children of all different ages, races and abilities. Later that day they headed over to their grandparents house for a visit.

Tuesday: After schooling in the morning we had a play-date in the afternoon with two girls who just moved here from Korea. After that we headed to the gym where they “socialized” with their friends at the childcare facility. In the evening they practiced sitting quietly, learning self-control and patience while I rehearsed music at church for an hour. If it’s not music rehearsal on Tuesday night, then they sit quietly while Scott and I teach the Baptism class at church.

Wednesday: After schooling in the morning we went to the park to meet with a large home-school co-op group. The ages of the kids range from infants to teenagers. [Note: Some of those teens are simultaneously completing their last two years of high school and their AA degrees at the local college. Two years of college under their belt by the age of 18 and its free… not a bad deal!]  That night they headed back to the gym with their dad where they saw a different set of friends at the childcare facility.

Thursday: After schooling in the morning we went to church for a special 9/11 mass. The girls sat quietly (well, Ella tried to sit quietly) in the choir pews with me while I served as cantor. While at mass they’re learning how to respectfully interact in an inter-generational group setting. This diverse community teaches my children many differnt things about respecting authority and their elders. They learn self-control as well as how to be courteous and respectful of the needs of others in a formal group setting. And most importantly they are sharing their faith in a community setting and learning a lot about giving and receiving love to and from people of all ages and ethnic groups.

Friday: Assuming we’ve finished all our schooling Monday-Thursday, we’ll take the day off from school. Friday morning they’ll hang out with their cousin and grandparents. We’ll go to mass at 11:00. We have a play-date in the afternoon and they’ll probably hang out with their friends at the gym while I work out later that day.

Saturday: We’ll have our weekly family breakfast at the local bagel place where the girls will greet and talk with an eclectic group of adults who meet there for coffee each morning. Mr. Jim, a local businessman and community philanthropist, Miss Joyce the retired college professor, Ms. Debbie the elementary school teacher and several others engage my little ones in various conversations. After that we’ll probably head to the gym where once again they meet up with their friends.

This is an average week for us and it doesn’t even include the most important social factor of all, family life!  Nor does it include all the typical fall activities that haven’t kicked into gear yet. I know, it’s sad isn’t it? You’re probably feeling sorry for my poor unsocialized kids.

What I find funny about even having to explain my children’s socialization to someone (besides the fact that in this day and age people believe the absurd notion that home-schooling means you never let your children outside of the house) is that nothing that we do is because I feel an urgent need to socialize my kids. We’re just “doing life.” 

Of course, I can’t possibly explain all we do in a typical week when someone poses this question about home-schooling and socialization. And the truth is, most people don’t really want to know or change their perspective on the matter. I think for some people, it’s easier to just assume there is only one way to educate and socialize children and it’s in a formal classroom setting. Challenging that assumption tends to make some people uncomfortable. And so, whenever I’m faced with a question about my kids and their socialization I put aside my internal reactions and sarcastic responses and respectfully let the other person know we’re in touch with the social needs of our kids. But what I really want to say is:  Socialization? What does that word mean? Hmmm, I guess I should look that up and make sure I learn it so I can teach it to my kids. 🙂