Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Kids' Social Club

Have you ever listened to or been part of a conversation where a parent has been considering homeschooling?  Concerned individuals of the motion usually aren't concerned about the quality of education the child will receive, although whether their education will later be valid is a good concern that will come up.  The most common question is this: How will your kids learn to socialize?

I tire of hearing this lame question.  Since when is school about socializing?  Unfortunately that's become a very important, if not the most important aspect in today's system, but it shouldn't be.  There are many reasons why parents choose to homeschool, but shouldn't the quality of their education be a primary concern, rather than their social life?

I personally spent 11 mostly miserable years in the public school system and spent two years at home studying through an individual study program.  For the most part, I don't have a lot of good school memories.  Yes, I liked learning and my grades were good, but I was always struggling to fit in.  I often felt like I was near the bottom of the pecking order and many days I just wanted to play sick.  Being smart didn't help either.  Unless you're popular, you're better off being a loser and sitting in the principal's office every week than being a "teacher's pet."  I was more than happy to leave when I did.

How will they learn to socialize?  How do children learn to socialize in public schools?  They learn to form cliques, to shun others, to bite, chew, tear down, and drive the outsiders to depression and thoughts of suicide.  Oh yes, the students listen to countless anti-bullying speeches, but they often seemed pretty fruitless.  Kids learn to stay in touch with the latest trends in our culture, to discover and experiment with drugs, talk dirty and how to have "safe sex" or not so safe. Is that really how you want them to learn to socialize?

The funny this is, as many homeschooled friends as I have, I can't say any of them are anti-social or ill-mannered.  Many of them are much more socially competent than the high school students I knew.  I'm sure there's plenty of bad homeschooled examples.  The fault lies not in the method, but in the parents.  It's up to the parents to teach their children how to socialize and conduct themselves in public.  By getting them involved in church activities, homeschool groups, sports teams, other extracurricular activities and spending time with other young families, they'll get plenty of time with kids their own age.  They don't need a school.

I like how Oliver DeMille examines this issue in A Thomas Jefferson Education.  Although it's not a book about homeschooling, it definitely favours the method over what he calls the conveyor belt method, if done properly.  And according to DeMille, socialization is a lot more than what children are learning in schools.  "The highest level of socialization, the ideal, means the ability to effectively work with people of all backgrounds, stations, and positions, of really caring for them and being able to build and maintain long term, nurturing relationships."

After 11 years on the belt, I never learned to do that.  Let's face it.  The kids' social club doesn't produce good social skills.  Stop giving me that lame objection.  You'll have to come up with something else.  And judging from how many of conversations I've heard, I already have a good idea what it is.  I don't want to hear it anymore.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Let's Not Talk About That

Have you ever been in a Christian meeting or study where the leader has asked if anyone has input or questions and the silence is so thick you're afraid to breathe?  It's hard to believe after what you've just heard nobody has anything to say.  Were they even listening?

They're all doing the same thing you are.  Listening to their heart pound as they turn around that one thought they wouldn't dare ever say out loud.  Everybody's afraid.  Scared about what other people will think.  Embarrassed. Ashamed.

I've noticed something as of late.  I've read or looked at books and endless resources for Christian youth and singles and there are certain issues that are evidently big problems within the church, but I have rarely, if ever, heard them spoken of in person, face to face.  Why is this?

One thing I do know is that we are all humans born with very much the same tendencies.  No problems are new, unique, or limited to certain groups of people.  But there are certain things we shrink away from, avoid and simply hope for the best. 

We all know these problems exist in the world and in the church, but we don't talk about them.  Do we simply hope that our teens or youth don't have problems with these things?  Do we think that our church or group is better than all the rest?  Are we afraid simply because it's uncomfortable and you might have to say words you nearly blush to think about?  Why do we stay quiet about certain issues? 

All people, not just young people, have questions about a whole host of subjects but everyone's afraid.  Afraid to stand out.  Afraid of what people think.  Afraid of being vulnerable.  Afraid of what would happen if anyone knew.  So we protect our questions and secrets, bind them up with chains of steel and ache alone.

I love Tenth Avenue North's song Healing Begins.  But it also often makes me uncomfortable because it's so true and frightening.  In this video journal of the song, lead singer Mike Donehey talks about how confessing something to God is easy, but having to tell someone else freaks us out.  People scare us a lot more than God does. 

The truth is though, keeping things quiet doesn't fix anything.  Knowing something you're doing is wrong doesn't fix anything.  It's only when you start talking about downright scary stuff though that people can find freedom and healing.  And nobody's ready for that.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Christians and Secular Books

Charles Finny once said "I cannot believe that a person who has ever known the love of God can relish a secular novel" and denounced many great writers.  I'm sure many Christians, past and present, share this view.  Charles Colson, however, provides and excellent response to that statement in his book The One Year Devotions for People of Purpose

Many writers of secular books weave profound Christian themes into their works, and interestingly enough, these works have brought people to Christ when the Bible didn't.  This was the case with Louise Cowan, coauthor of Invitation to the Classics.  After reading numerous theological works and the Bible, she did not return to the faith.  It was eventually the works of Shakespeare and The Brothers Karamazov  by Fyodor Dostoyevsky that allowed her to see the truth of the Gospel.  Colson shares another story of a Russian girl who was converted by reading literature when she was not allowed to read the Bible. 

Is it possible that we as Christians have put God in a box, thinking that he only speaks through His Word and His children?  Although this is very often the case, by the above stories we can also see that God works way outside of that.  He can reach the lost through the work of unbelievers, who may not have intended to bring glory to Him whatsoever.  I have found no indication that Dostoyevsky was a Christian, (although he may have been) and God used him to bring souls to Himself.

There is power in story.  I have often found that novels can teach me just as much as a book out of the Spiritual Growth section.  Jesus Himself often used parables to teach people spiritual ideas.  Louise Cowan explained how literature brought her to where she is. "Not until a literary work of art awakened my imaginative faculties could the possibility of a larger context and reason alone engage my mind. . . . I had to be transformed in the way that literature transforms--by story, image, symbol--before I could see the simple truths of the Gospel."

Don't underestimate the power of story and literary works.  They can teach us much about our world and lead others to their Creator.

Friday, 15 July 2011

You're a Genius!

"Greatness isn't the work of a few geniuses, it is the purpose of each of us.  It is why we were born.  Every person you have ever met is a genius.  Every one.  Some of us have chosen not to develop it, but it is there.  It is in us.  All of us.  It is in your spouse.  It is in each of your children.  You live in a world of geniuses.  How can we settle for anything less than the best education?  How can we tell our children that mediocre education will do, when greatness is available?" --Oliver DeMille, A Thomas Jefferson Education

Saturday, 9 July 2011

A New Focus

Yes, I have a new look and a new title!  It's crazy, I know.  I've been thinking of making a change for awhile.  I might still play around with the look yet.  What I wanted was to change my title to better describe the content and focus of this blog.  I would have changed the URL, but wanted my readers to still be able to find me.  Why "Desiring Something Greater"?  What is "something greater"? I don't know exactly.  That's what I'm setting out to find out.

What I do know is that we live in a world satisfied with mediocrity while there is a lot more to be had.  When I say I desire something greater, I'm not talking about the world's definition of great, or even that of many Christians.  I'm not talking about any career, degree, salary or social position.  I'm talking about seeking and living out God's purpose for my life.  He has a great plan for my life, if I yield to it and sacrifice my own plans.  I have desires that others may scoff at, but I believe God has placed them within me.

My biggest fear about this change is that I won't live up to what I write about or what people expect to see in my life.  When I say I desire or seek something greater, I don't claim to know what greatness is, to be great, and I can't even promise that I will one day achieve what I'm after.  I am reminded of Phillippians 3:12 where Paul says "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ has made me his own." (ESV) My desire is simply that I will not settle for what I have or this world's expectations for my life, but to strive after a fulfilled life, even if that means nothing more than living a content and simple life that blesses others.

Some people may look down at my lack of goals or long-term plans.  To those I say I have been unsuccessful in planning my life thus far.  I can't even see a single day transpire the way I plan it.  It's in those times I'm reminded my life is not my own and I'm not in charge.

I have no idea where this blog will go from here or whether this new direction will even be successful.  I will continue to share my thoughts on life, God, books, writing and whatever else I discover.  I believe there's a lot of beauty to discover and much to learn from writers of the past and I intend to make the study of their works a part of my life.  It's what continues to inspire me, something I truly get excited over.  I don't want to shy away from difficult questions but to face them boldly and wrestle with them even if I never receive solid answers.  The apostle Paul told us to be mature in our thinking (1 Cor. 14:20) and to think on whatever is true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8). This is what I desire to do.

If I never do anything significant with my life, if I never make an notable difference, it will not be for lack of desire.  It will only be because I allowed giants of fear, failure and unbelief rule over me.  This is my stand against them.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Jane Eyre: Turning the Bent of Nature

"It is hard work to control the working of inclination, and turn the bent of nature: but that it may be done, I know from experience. God has given us, in a measure, the power to make our own fate; and when out energies seem to demand a sustenance they cannot get--when our will strains after a path we may not follow--we need neither starve from inanition, nor stand still in despair: we have but to seek another nourishment for the mind, as strong as the forbidden food it longed to taste--and perhaps purer; and to hew out for the adventurous foot a road as direct and broad as the one Fortune has blocked up against us, if rougher than it." --St. John Rivers, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte