Dealing With Daughters: On College and Careers

As I contemplated the next post in this series, in which I wanted to discuss whether college or careers is a valid path for young women, I remembered that I already covered this topic a couple of years ago. My opinion on the matter hasn’t changed, and neither has my husbands, so I decided to simply update and re-run my original thoughts.

A thoughtful commenter once asked for my thoughts on college for girls given the expense incurred on what is often a poor return on the investment. Her question is one we think about often as we have four daughters who will be college-aged in the space of one short year. Actually, we haven’t thought about it in terms of agonizing over if they’ll attend college or not. We have deliberated about what obtaining a college degree will look like for them; the fact that they will live at home, that we won’t go into debt, etc.  We have always agreed that a college education is a good decision, so long as it’s done in a  wise and discerning way.

Being the parents of all girls changes the way you approach the parenting task at hand. If my husband dies at a relatively young age, there are no brothers on whom our daughters can depend. Any brothers that may come from this point will certainly not be available to help our daughters who are already very near womanhood. Our extended families are not those where adults of either gender would be tolerated to live without producing an income and I don’t know of very many churches that bother to take on the responsibility of caring for women who are capable of providing an income for themselves. My husband is emphatic on this point, and I agree: we want our girls to be self-sufficient. Not Independent free agents; we are teaching them their help comes from the Lord. Ideally, they will be entrepreneurs as we have taught them that this is the best way to help their husbands generate more income if it is needed, and is also the best way to avoid the drudgery and bondage of corporate life if they don’t marry.

I work diligently to try and impart to them the skills they’ll need and the attitude required to be good wives to their future husbands, able homemakers, and excellent mothers.  We teach them to be open to marriage at a young age, and not waste time pursuing a career during their most fertile and energetic years. We raise them to understand that should the Lord bless them with a family, their first and most important calling is to be present and not outsource the training of their children to third-party hirelings. It is the norm for women to become wives and mothers and it is a sad indictment of our society, and especially the church that we cranking out young adults less able in this arena with each successive generation.

One reality of the 21st century that is often overlooked in the conservative Christian blogosphere, but one we have to contend with nonetheless, is that it is becoming increasingly uncommon for marriage and family to be the norm for many women (and not always by choice), and certainly for most black women. I was blessed last week to be able to catch up and converse with an old family friend that I hadn’t spoken to in a couple of years. 51 years old and still very attractive, she has never been married. Unlike the average never married black woman, my friend is childless, has been walking with the Lord for 30 years, and has been open to the prospect of marriage and family for every day of the past 30 years. She is not a rarity. This further underscores the need for parents of daughters to raise feminine, grounded, capable women rather than  princesses languishing as they wait for a prince who may never come.

Even as I type this, I am aware of how faithless and worldly it must sound to some. Particularly to those who have invested fully in the “truth” that woman was created for marriage and the home is her sole sphere of influence.  It is not that I don’t believe in the ideal. It’s  that I know the prospect of an ideal world this side of heaven died in the garden of Eden. Anyone who has read here for even a short while knows my passion for homemaking and the zeal I feel for women to leave the rat race and come home to their families. It is not that I don’t have the faith that God will send husbands for my daughters. Besides, as one eloquent young sister so aptly pointed out in a recent post, these statistics become far less daunting when viewed in light of the fact for every woman, all that is needed is for the one right guy to come along,  and the rest don’t matter. It’s not that I am training my daughters to hedge their bets. It’s that I am an optimistic realist.

There are reasons directly related to their futures as homemakers that are incentive for my girls to obtain college degrees as well. One reason I think a college degree is possibly a good investment is that I foresee a future when the option to home school, should my daughters choose it, will be highly regulated on a national level and a college degree will most certainly be a minimum requirement for families who would educate their children at home. I also want to give them the opportunity to cultivate their interests,  and hear different points of view. I had a grand time defending my positions in a few of my college classes as I finished my degree a bit in later in life than I originally planned. It was refreshing to have the Lord put the words in my mouth or translate them to a page in ways that quickly put to death the notion that faith is inherently illogical.

We want our daughters to be open to the direction of the Lord in their lives, and whatever that might look like.  While I hope that it means a dedication to home and family, I realize there is possibility that for at least one of them, it may not. However that need not mean a life less than full. It need not mean a life devoid of ministry, as the Bible record includes women who walked with Jesus and were sent by the apostles on missionary journeys.  As much as I desire for my daughters to be wives and mothers, it is incumbent upon me to remember that God’s plan for their lives is not about my desires, but His will, and our job as parents is to prepare them for whatever the future may hold. If it becomes clear that His will for any of them is to NOT earn a  college degree, we are truly open to that as well. We simply do not believe that shunning a college degree is a Biblical principle.

Ultimately, our position is one of openness. Openness to wherever the Lord leads and awareness that while we are to guide our children, they are to follow after Him.

Edited to add: It has been brought to my attention by an astute reader that I bungled the most important responsibility of a wife and mother. I said this:

We raise them to understand that should the Lord bless them with a family, their first and most important calling is to be present and not outsource the training of their children to third-party hirelings.

And this was wrong. Those of you who have been reading this blog for years know that I am adamant on the issue of wifely submission, but for those who stumble upon this post, it could be easily misconstrued to believe that I prize the role of mother over that of being a submissive wife. Nothing is more powerful in demonstrating the power of Christ in a marriage than when each party fulfills the role God commanded. For the wife, this is to submit. Full stop. Everything else is secondary.

Parents Just Don’t Understand

Educational elitists, feeling the squeeze of parental awakening, budget cuts and conservative governors, are tipping their hand. Representatives from two state teachers’ unions are on the record: They know better than parents, particularly lower-income parents, what’s best for their kids. First from Michigan, that bastion of educational success:

During a Michigan House Education Committee hearing earlier this month, Debbie Squires, director of the Michigan Elementary and Middle Schools Principals Association, told members that while parents may have have the best intentions, they may not know what‘s best for their children’s education.

“[Educators] are the people who know best about how to serve children, that’s not necessarily true of an individual resident,” Squires said. “I‘m not saying they don’t want the best for their children, but they may not know what actually is best from an education standpoint.”

That prompted a retort from Chairman Thomas McMillin: “Wow, parents don‘t know what’s best for their child…”

Squires responded by saying again that parents might want what’s best for their children, but might not have the capability to know.

And then in Louisiana where Governor Bobby Jindal is working hard to give parents greater educational choice:

According to Dr. Michael Walker Jones of the Louisiana Association of Educators, low-income parents “don’t have a clue” when it comes to making decisions about their children’s education. Last week, in an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune, he stated: “If I’m a parent in poverty, I have no clue because I’m trying to struggle and live day-to-day.”

There you have it. The profession that boasts the least competent, literate, or rigorous major of almost any college’s program offerings knows better than you and I what’s in the best interest of our children. This goes double if you don’t make enough money to be considered respectable. The worst part about this is that most Americans, poor or not, have fully given in to the soft tyranny of the experts. We are our own worst enemies, and our children’s too. The teachers say it, so it must be true.

Take it from them, parents just don’t understand.

FCAT Fiasco

Kids in the fourth grade can’t write a decent sentence, and their test scores reflect that. What is Florida’s solution to the problem? Lower the threshold for a passing score:

Amid suggestions that Florida schools did not receive adequate information about changing scoring standards for the FCAT writing, the Florida Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously reduced its passing score on the test from 4.0 to 3.0 for purposes of assigning school grades.

I know a little about this test, as you might have guessed. Each of my three older children took the test every year from grades three through ten.  Passing the test your tenth grade year qualifies you for graduation in conjunction with the minimum GPA required. I’ll let the readers ponder the logic of that.

The writing test has always been something of a joke, especially at the fourth grade level. For years, my children battled conflicting information from me and their teachers.

They were taught that conventions don’t matter as much as descriptive, flowery wording. In other words, focus on using exciting vocabulary, and disregard proper punctuation and sentence structure, and you will pass the FCAT. Kids who followed those instruction did indeed pass the FCAT, and children being human beings after all, appreciated this path of least resistance.

This year, the state decided to do what they should have been doing all along, and raised the standard for acceptable writing. The kids bombed the test, and the parents and school administrators caused a public ruckus:

During more than an hour of public input, parents and teachers criticized the amount of testing that occurs in Florida. “This is one indication where teaching to the test has become a problem,” Miami-Dade parent Donna March said. “It is doing harm to my kids.”

They also made clear that they did not have enough information to understand the changes put into effect for the FCAT writing this year. “We were a little out of touch, obviously, with what the expectations were,” writing teacher Holly Wallace told the board.

The Florida Department of Education plans to release the full FCAT writing results by the end of the week, if possible. Robinson said the department intends to improve its level of teacher training on writing expectations and standards. In response to a teacher’s comments, he said the department also is considering giving students more time to take the test in order to meet the higher expectations.

Now whether or not there is too much testing and too much teaching to the test is open for debate. I think there is certainly something worth discussing. However, the answer to the current “crisis” isn’t to lower the standards, but to raise the level of instruction, and hold accountable those teachers that fail to meet the standard.

I know. It’s never gonna happen, which is why we have made different education choices for our younger children as they approach school age.

Monday’s Musings

As always, I do hope your week is off to a good start!

Reason #3,896 that I stopped watching Christian television: I’m a little late getting to this one, but when the story broke I was livid on behalf of spouses who have been faithful partners and then find themselves stricken with Alzheimer’s disease. For those out of the loop, televangelist and talk show host Pat Robertson recently advised a man weary with the toll of his wife’s Alzheimer’s and eager to date that he could divorce her and it wouldn’t be wrong because Alzheimer’s is “a type of death”. Therefore he wouldn’t be betraying his marriage vows. I don’t think there is anything to add to that. And yes, I know that not all televangelists are like that. Duly noted.

It Ain’t Always About Race, Folks: Apparently acclaimed Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman has come out to say that the Tea Party is racist. That they want to defeat the President solely because they feel that they need to “get this black man outta here.” I think this is ridiculous on its face, to assume that anyone who opposes the President is doing so on the basis of race.

Now understand, I am no fan of the Tea Party movement mainly because I believe they’re a bunch of hypocrites on the very fiscal issues they claim to be crusading on. But being a cognitively dissonant hypocrite doesn’t make one a racist. Whatever happened to being able to argue something on the merits instead of using inflammatory language and accusations to shut the voice of the opposition?

Herman Cain wins Florida GOP Straw Poll: And make no mistake about it folk, this was an upset to the Perry campaign first, and the Romney campaign as well. Apparently the FL straw poll has predicted the GOP nominee in the past several presidential contests. I still don’t know that Cain, a business man and ordained minister can go the distance. If he does it certainly would take the race card off the able, wouldn’t it?

Homeschooling update: We’re settling into a nice rhythm now that I have resolved to focus on what I think is important and not on all the things I could be teaching Lil’ Princess and all the things we could be doing based on reading too many homeschool books, blogs, and websites. They have inspired me greatly but I also found myself overwhelmed. I have resolved that as Lil’ Princess is only 5 years old, this year will be centered largely around four things: reading, writing, mathematics, and Bible. That’s it. We learn science as the situation arises, conduct impromptu experiments as well, which is almost daily as it happens, and we touch the edges of all kinds of topics from geography to government in our day to day conversations. However, with 5 children and all the demands that come with a large family, I had to streamline this first year. We are making much more progress now that I have relaxed a bit. And having much more fun!

Homeschooling Specifics: For reading we are using The Ordinary Parents’ Guide to Teaching Reading. We were using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons but for some reason that wasn’t going over as well as the ordinary parent’s guide. Lil’ Princess likes the Jessie Wise book much better. Go figure. For math we are doing Saxon K. For writing, I put together sheets from this site to help Lil’ Princess learn to write legibly and properly. For Bible we are using BJU Press’ K-5 Bible Truths.

I’m unclear on how we can help Europe with its debt woes: But, our government is joining the rest of the Western world in trying to surmise how we can “contain” Europe’s debt crisis before they plunge the world into an even deeper depression recession. Well okay, then. The stockpilers and survivalists don’t sound as extreme to me as they did a few years ago.

What’s cooking:

Sunday: Baked chicken, mushroom risotto, broccoli

Monday: BBQ Chicken tacos, salad

Tuesday: Spaghetti

Wednesday: Potato soup

Thursday: Chicken Alfredo bow tie pasta, salad

Friday: Toasted roast beef subs, baked french fries

Getting Ready…

Can I be honest? I have a little over a month before we are “official” homeschoolers, and it terrifies me a bit. Even though we’ve been loosely “doing school” for the last year or so, I still despair that I’m not going to be able to do this successfully. What if I miss this? What if I forget that? Have we chosen the right approach (classical)? There is something about becoming official that piles on the pressure.

As we move into the grammar stage, I’ve decided to steal Joanna’s approach and pre-organize Lil’ Princess’s daily lessons into a binder so that every day we’re ready to go. Sweetie Pie will be doing Before Five In  A Row. Everything sounds great, right?

I think so, too, and still I wonder: What about art? What about music? We’ve got to spend more time outdoors! That last one is easy in the fall, winter, and spring. In the summer down here, we venture out either early in the morning or late in the evening- if the strong thunderstorms don’t squash our plans. Don’t even get me started on the mosquitoes!

I don’t know what the point of this post is, but a light just came on. I’ve been reading books on Charlotte Mason and I’m despairing that we haven’t spent enough time out of doors this summer, ergo, I’m not “doing it right.” even though my kids spend far more time outside than they would in a commercial or public institution of learning. And they know a lot, too. I’m feeling better already, though I’m still not sure what the point of this post is.

Writing is cathartic! Y’all have a blessed weekend now!

Children’s Books We Love

I’m always on the lookout for great children’s books for little one’s in the age range of Lil’ Princess and Sweetie Pie. Here are a few (a couple are even modern!) that both the kids and I like.

  • The Berenstain Bears Love Their Neighbors, by Jan Berenstain: This one is a retelling of the parable of The Good Samaritan, from a civilized bear family’s perspective, of course. Great lesson here, and I have always enjoyed the Berenstain Bears.
  • The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin: What’s not to love about this engaging tale from Beatrix Potter about the impertinent little squirrel named Nutkin?  It’s one of Lil’ Princess’ favorites.
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit: Another Beatrix Potter classic that my kids love to have read to them. Peter’s adventures in Mr. McGregor’s garden never gets old.
  • Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey: Even though we’ve read this one numerous times before, Sweetie Pie grabbed it during our trip to the library this week. I like it, too.
  • When I Grow Up, by Al Yankovic: Yes, that Al Yankovic. I stumbled upon this one recently and just thought it was really funny. I’ve always like Weird Al Yankovic’s humor, which might explain why I liked this book.
  • Brer Rabbit Tales: My girls really enjoy hearing the stories that tell of the escalating rivalry between Brer’ Rabbit and Brer’ Fox.
  • The Big, Green Pocketbook, by Candace Ransom. This story about a young girl’s trip into town with her mother is one my girls loved instantly.
  • Alphabet City,  Stephen T. Johnson, illustrator. Using NYC as inspiration, this author captured each letter of the alphabet as it occurs naturally in city surroundings.

Those are just a few of my little ones’ favorite books. But the whole point of this exercise is to pick your brain.

What great children’s books do you suggest for kids aged 3 to 5?

In case you’re curious about what I am currently reading, I’m reading End the Fed, by Ron Paul. I’m also reading Jane Austen’s  Mansfield Park.

Y’all have a great weekend!

Book Review: For the Children’s Sake

Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.

This was Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education and it’s the central theme of Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s book, For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School.

I enjoyed this book because it presents an educational philosophy built on the premise of educating the whole child. A philosophy which appreciates that there is more to education than the three R’s. Of course, most homeschoolers know this instinctively, which is why they have chosen to homeschool.

For someone like me, who has been steeped in 13 years of an educational model built largely on the ever-looming standardized test, a mental shift was required when considering the true meaning of education. This is particularly true since we decided to opt out the system for our younger children because of our dissatisfaction with the level of academic instruction. This, despite the fact that our children are all honors/AP students.

It wasn’t until I began doing my research that I began to get a greater understanding of the importance of creating an atmosphere conducive to learning rather than depending on an artificial learning environment. For The Children’s Sake does an excellent job of taking the ideas of Charlotte Mason and condensing them into a book that touches on all of the important aspects of educating the whole person.

Helping children to become lifelong lovers of learning, giving them the tools to teach themselves the things that interest them as they become old enough to do so, and not neglecting the importance of playtime and exposure to the classroom of nature were all themes that resonated with me. Most of all, the book frames its discussion of education from a Christian perspective:

“Education is a life. That life is sustained on ideas. Ideas are of spiritual origin, and God has made us so that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another, whether by word of mouth, written page, Scripture word, musical symphony; but we must sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food.”

I enjoyed this book a great deal and appreciated that it offers a picture of education that is radically different than the traditional model our society has come to accept as the only “right way” to educate. A “right way” which incidentally, is being exposed more and more as a dismal failure by people of all educational persuasions.

I give For The Children’s Sake a grade of A-. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a book that succinctly captures the spirit of a Charlotte Mason education.

One More Reason NOT To Borrow for College (as if we needed one)

SAM and I were both taken aback by this little diddy. The Dept.of Education sent a S.W.A.T. team into this guy’s house, put him in handcuffs, and stuck him in  a patrol car with his kids, because of his wife’s defaulted student loans. 

Department of Education Breaks Down Stockton Man’s Door

I bet we don’t sound so unreasonable now, do we? And yes, of course people should pay their bills and honor their commitments. But there are times of illness, financial catastrophe, involuntary joblessness, and other factors that sometimes make it impossible to do more than what is required to subsist. When that happens, one shouldn’t need to worry about a S.W.A.T. team breaking down the door.

Borrowing for college is an increasingly bad idea.

(h/t: Vox Day)

Edited to add: Apparently all the links to this story from American news outlets keeps disappearing. In the event that the link I have above becomes a problem, here’s a link to a British news organization that covered the story:

A little over the top? SWAT Team launch dawn raid on family home to collect unpaid student loans

I think it’s safe to say that this (foreign) link will remain available for public viewing.

Monday’s Musings

Happy Memorial Day. Don’t forget to thank a vet!

1.      Curriculum Delirium: That’s the syndrome I was suffering with by Saturday night, but I feel much better equipped moving forward on our homeschool journey than I did when the weekend began. I don’t envision myself attending this homeschool convention every year. It’s too much to take in and I gather the more years of homeschooling you have under your belt, the less you learn at these things. It does a seem an excellent place to go to remind yourself that there are lots of other “strange” families who have chosen to eschew the conventional education route for their children.

My favorite workshop was one on teaching literature to children. This guy was the best speaker I heard over the course of the weekend, bar none. I don’t know that I’ll ever read a children’s book quite the same way again. SAM, who prefers science and math to literature, even enjoyed it.

I mentioned on Friday that I only saw a few very large families. That changed on Saturday. I noticed many more the second day. Still, I saw a lot of families smaller than my own. Many of the mothers I spoke to while looking at different curriculum or standing in line to register were moms of two, three, or four. And a good number started out in public school and were switching course. Didn’t see many denim jumpers or long skirts either, which further illustrates my point. That homeschoolers rarely fit into a neat little box.

Hearing the woman who hosts this site was probably worth the cost of the convention. Lil’ Princess (4) is very bright, but highly distractible. In fact, her temperament has caused a couple of people to insinuate subtly and not so subtly that I need to put her in school to learn to sit-down-and-pay-attention already. Private school is not an option and public school would just bore her even more. She’s already beyond what the average kindergarten class teaches, and would promptly be labeled ADD, ADHD, hyperactive, or whatever else they’ve come up with that I haven’t heard of yet. No thank you. I’m not buying it, and I was thankful to run across someone who has gone where I am headed.

2.     Three Weeks, 12 pounds. No, not me. SAM. When he decided  few weeks ago to get into better shape, the testosterone kicked in and the extra weight fell off. In a snap. I’m still laboring to get off the last 13 pounds that I wanted to shed by the end of June.

To be honest, I haven’t been working all that hard. I’ve done enough not to regain any of the 22 pounds I’ve lost since January, but not enough to lose the rest. In truth, I need to lose 23 more, but I was resigned to be satisfied with simply losing the 35 pounds I gained from Sweetie Pie. He does in 3 weeks what I couldn’t do in 3 months. Who says men and women aren’t different?

3.     Elliptical, Schmiptical:  Piggybacking on the previous thought, my girls and I decided we would start doing this. Given my endurance on the elliptical machine, I thought it would be a piece of cake even for a 39-year-old whose 20 pounds overweight. Boy, was I wrong!

Running 200 yards on pavement is not the same as “running” a mile on a machine. Ditto free weights versus  a weight machine. It occurred to me that what I need is not more time working out, but workouts that are a bit more efficient. Machines that provide much of my momentum are slowing me down. So, a change of methodology is underway. I was doing the P90X program, but I need to get outside more to exercise. So I’m alternating between the weight training DVD’s and the running program every other day. Maybe the change of pace will give me my fitness momentum back, because I still have a way to go. We’ll see.

4.     I tuned in for the last Oprah show:  I’m a sheeple, I guess. I hadn’t watched an episode of her show in a very long time, but memories of when I was a regular viewer (as a teenager and very young wife) caused me to see how she was going to end this “dynasty” she’d built over the past 25 years. It was the most boring, sanctimonious thing I’d ever seen. The first 20 minutes at least, until I decided to shut off the set and try my hand at baking a gluten-free soda bread recipe to serve with dinner.

On second thought, she did say one thing I agreed with before I stopped watching: You are responsible for your life. I remember finding her assertion a bit ironic even though I wholeheartedly agreed. So I guess it wasn’t all bad.

Happy Monday, all! and Happy Memorial Day!