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Review: Living Forward by Hyatt and Harkavy

living forward

Sometimes we just drift through life, responding to daily urgencies without any clear sense of where we are going.  Of course, there are seasons when this is necessary.  When there is a new baby, when someone is seriously ill, when a loved one temporarily becomes over-busy, during a move, or during other demanding situations, our goal is simply survival.

But Hyatt and Harkavy point out that, in general, we should try to avoid drifting.  It is a dangerous way to live, for we may drift into in places and situations we would not have chosen if we had bothered to think about them.  In fact, in some sense mindless drifting is one of our major enemies—tomorrow I will read my Bible, pray, smile at my husband, talk to my kids, call that ill person, forgive that one who hurt me, find a way to serve—and suddenly it is too late.  Rather, Living Forward helps us be both thoughtful and practical about living our lives the way Jesus wants us to.

Here’s how Hyatt and Harkovy suggest we go about it:  Think about what you want said about you at your funeral.  Then think about how you can work towards that in small daily actions.

In terms of homeschooling we could also ask:  Think about what we want said at our children’s graduation, what we want them to value, to know, and to remember.  Then discern how to work towards that in small daily actions.

For teens and young adults who are facing the major decisions of their lives, it can be especially helpful to look ahead and consider where their decisions could lead them.

The authors suggest that this should be a serious and dedicated time of pondering. In fact, they encourage readers to take a whole day to work through these concepts.  First there is the dreaming, then the goal setting, and then the planning for concrete action in our daily lives. Practically, the most important step may well be remembering it all.  This requires writing our thoughts down, reviewing them regularly (daily at first, then weekly, with more intense reviews quarterly and annually), and acting on them moment by moment.

I read Living Forward months ago when, struggling with personal illness and overwhelmed with caring for loved ones, I was acutely aware of the importance of investing my time wisely.  I spent some careful time thinking about the roles and goals of my life, pondering what I was doing (or not doing) to meet those goals, and deciding what I could do to serve God better in my different roles.  It helped me be balanced and not forget too many important things during a time when the urgent seemed so overwhelming.  Now that life is settling down, it is helping me be thoughtful about how I invest my time.

Note that some Christians speak about ‘letting go and letting God’ and in some ways that is important and valuable; we do not want to idolize a goal or a process, and need to trust God rather than trying to manage our own lives.  In other ways, however, that attitude can lead us to apathetic laziness instead of actively loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.  Serving God requires all our energy as well as our trust and acceptance of what he sends.  It can be a tricky balance.

I encourage you to think carefully about your life, to consider how to “number our days so we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  (Psalm 90: 1,2)

I suggest reading this book and then also studying David Allen’s Getting Things Done for nitty gritty details on meeting goals.  Living Forward is beginning with the end in mind, Getting Things Done is beginning with the mess you’re in, and both are invaluable.  The combination is dynamite.

For the ultimate guide to living wisely, read your Bible. You can read applications of its advice for living on Michael Hyatt’s blog. Daniel Harkavy’s website, Building Champions, is helpful as well. 

For more encouragement see Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell it to Me Tuesday, Finishing Strong, and Trivium Tuesdays.

Disclosure: I received a review copy from Graf Martin and Baker Books and, as usual, am not compensated for this review.

Considering a Mother’s Priorities

We mothers are called by God to

  • love our husbands and children,
  • be self-controlled and pure,
  • be busy at home,
  • be kind, and
  • be subject to our husbands,

so that no one will malign the word of God because of us. (Titus 2:3-5)

That last line shows the incredible importance of our calling, for by not doing these things we could cause others to think and speak negatively about God’s word!  All that has implications for our lives and service, huge, practical implications.  It also puts us at odds with the world, even, often, with the Christian world.

I have a husband and five children, four of whom live at home, two of whom are still being homeschooled.  I have an extended family and a church family as well as health issues that eat into my time and energy.  And I have a blog.  In God’s priority system, that blog comes last, even though from a different point of view it may seem to be the only permanent, significant thing I’m doing.

It has been difficult to give up blogging for this past half year.  Perhaps I was too invested in it and had to let go of an idol.  Who knows?  I don’t but God does and, really, that is enough.  All I needed to know was that my family needed me and that I desperately needed the extra rest.

But now it seems I am able to write again.  I am so thankful for that!  When I think of you, dear friends, and the encouragement you have given me over the years and especially the last while, I am so grateful to start blogging regularly again, Lord willing!  My prayer is that I will be able to encourage you (and myself) in our daily calling and to point us to the Lord who loves us, saves us, and gives meaning to everything we do.

May God bless us all.  May he help us understand how to serve him and give us the ability to do so.  May he hold us by the hand (Psalm 73:23) and lead us in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (Psalm 23:2).

A Dieu, My Dear Friends, For at Least a Few Months

Dear Friends,

Because of health issues and increasing family responsibilities, I need to say goodbye to you for several months.  This makes me very sad, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that I currently have neither the time nor energy to write.

For the past decade I have experienced significant fatigue.  It built up slowly, then for a few years it was completely debilitating, then for the last 5 years it has been quite manageable, and since the beginning of this year it has been worsening to the point where I need to spend almost half of my time resting or sleeping.  As well, related health issues, including cardiac problems, have increased significantly and actually caused my family doctor to send me to the emergency department earlier this year.

What’s more, over the past few years my family responsibilities have increased dramatically.

Even so, I have tried to keep my blog going because of the encouraging and grateful messages you have sent me, sometimes in the comments, sometimes personally.  And, yes, I still have a list of articles that you have asked me to write, as well as a list of books to review. 

But I cannot do any of that now.  Instead I need to devote the small amount of time that I am not resting  to tend to my family and to work on my health.

I will miss you.  I will miss writing for you, sharing wonderful resources, encouraging and being encouraged.  I will miss your cheery messages and, because I will probably go largely off-line, I will also miss the blogs many of you write.  But after several months I hope to meet you in bloggy land again.

In the meantime, may God bless each one of you.  Remember to stay close to him, and read the Letter he wrote you.  Find your joy and your comfort in him, and if that’s not working for you, go to him and tell him about it.  He loves you and will care for you and will keep you close to himself.  And I know he will care for me and my family as well, because he loves us and is powerful enough to do whatever is best.

A dieu, my dear friends.

And now I will go off to cry a little cry. 

Review: Schoolproof by Mary Pride

school proof

This little gem, over a quarter century old, fell into my hands many years ago and shaped my idea of what homeschooling can and should be.  I have just read it again and have, once again, come to the same conclusion:  This is one of the few books that every Christian homeschooler should read.

Although there are many books on homeschooling philosophies and methods, Schoolproof is the only one that covers the everyday possibilities simply and from a completely practical viewpoint, in a comprehensive way, and with a solid Christian basis.

Mary Pride, a mom of many who was among the pioneers of the homeschooling movement, writes from the viewpoint that “knowledge is complex enough, students are complex enough, without making teaching complicated, too.”  Her goal is to help parents ensure that their kids get a great education and to remind them that it is not as difficult as it sounds.  As such Schoolproof is not only a breath of fresh air but also a comforting guide.

In this book, Pride gives us almost 200 pages of crisp, often humorous encouragement as she discusses

  • What education is,
  • Who kids are (Hint:  not animals to be conditioned, or cogs to fit into society, or little gods to worship),
  • What learning is—a game, built upon self-discipline and wonder,
  • Getting started,
  • Organizing homeschool supplies,
  • 20 ways to present a lesson (simple, concise, and very worthwhile),
  • 20 ways to have students show what they have learned (even more worthwhile),
  • How to teach many students at once,
  • What educational clutter is and how to get rid of it (splendid),
  • The importance of recognizing students’ individuality and learning styles.

It is always difficult to tell where one’s ideas originally come from, but in rereading Schoolproof after all these years, I recognized many of mine, from the goal of our homeschooling—to  equip our children to love the Lord their God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and their neighbors as themselves; to the recognition of educational clutter—activities and projects that provide very little learning (although perhaps a lot of enjoyment) for the time and effort spent.

Rereading Schoolproof has also reminded me of simple facts

  • it’s learning that counts, not the projects on your shelves;
  • narration is an excellent way of consolidating and evaluating learning, even though it may be difficult to assign a grade to;
  • computer learning is very valuable for some subjects and totally unsuitable for others;
  • there is so much interesting material to learn that no student need ever be bored;
  • successful learning is based on both self-discipline and wonder, and we can encourage both of those;
  • true achievement consists of progress at one’s own pace, not getting better grades than others;
  • hands-on learning is effective, but if used too much it can crowd out other learning and be detrimental;
  • we are to see children as God portrays them, sinful but created in God’s image,  and not follow human theories of manipulation, reward, or child goodness.

Since Schoolproof was first published, many people have written about education, but few have done it so incisively and with such clear views of both foundational ideas and practical applications.

For this reason, every homeschooling library should own Schoolproof, and every homeschooling mom should read it at least once, just to think clearly about the goals, meaning, methods, and purely practical aspects of education.  (Actually, Christian schools would benefit from it, too, as a refreshing antidote to so many of the ideas that they are confronted with.)

Unfortunately Schoolproof is out of print, but you can find second hand copies at used homeschool resource sales and at major book sellers.

Other foundational material for homeschoolers:  Cathy Duffy’s Top Pick books, reviewed here and here, and, of course, the Bible (reading tips suggested here).

Disclosure: I have owned this book for many, many years and am not compensated for this review.

For more homeschooling encouragement see Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell it to Me Tuesday, Finishing Strong, and Trivium Tuesdays.

God Works Through Who We Are and How We Live

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Each of the talks I attended at our homeschooling conference this year had the same message:  You can only pass on to your children what is already an integral part of you.  If you talk about something you don’t believe or do, they will not listen to what you say.

Or, as keynote speaker Steve Demme emphasized:

“You can teach what you know but you can only reproduce who you are.”

If we let God work deep in our own hearts, then we will become qualified to raise our kids.  The more we take in God’s love, the more we can give his love.  So, in order to be equipped to teach our children and to reach out to those around us, we need to spend time with God.  In other words, we need to read the Bible, ponder it, and pray.  Only then will we see our children as God sees them.  (From The Family that Stays Together Stays Together.)

This is also crucial in communication, because in communication our hearts are the fundamental issue.  For any dominant personality—and parents are by their very role in a dominant position—it is important to “create a safe place for others to hold opinions differing from mine while still feeling welcomed, embraced and loved”.  This involves living close to God; understanding the importance of love; watching our tone of voice, face, and body language; valuing understanding over convincing; and much more.  Then, from a point of trust and understanding, we can reach hearts.

In finances and stewardship, again, “your money story will be caught by your kids” and what you believe and do matters a whole lot more than what you say.

Similarly in sex education, “through our spiritual health, we impart health to our kids” and “we need to deal with our issues”.

Obviously, academic topics were presented at the conference as well, and academics are the meat of home education by definition.  There is no denying that.

On the other hand, as parents we need to heed the message that seemed to be the highlight of the conference:

In our families, God works through who we are and how we live more than by what we say, although that is important too.

And thus, for us homeschoolers, the take home message is summed up in a few simple, regular things:

Yes, academics are important.  Like you, I work very hard to provide my children with the best possible academic education, because that is what we have been called to do.  But for Christian parents, there’s something even more important, to teach our children to love and serve the Lord.

And that, according to Deuteronomy 6:4-9, is possible only if we live close to him ourselves.

May God bless us as we show our children what it means to love the Lord our God with our whole hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves—and may he patiently re-teach us parents the same thing, over and over and over, for we, like our children, forget so easily.

Did you ever learn something simple but profound at a homeschooling conference?

You can purchase the MP3 of this conference here

For more homeschooling encouragement see Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell it to Me Tuesday, Finishing Strong, and Trivium Tuesdays.

Disclosure: I am not compensated for this discussion or for mentioning the MP3 recording.

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