Sunday, September 28, 2008


Just wanted to say if you don't all ready, be sure to read the weekly updated Stick With It! cartoon. I've been getting a big kick out of Steve's cartoons - they kind of remind me of The Far Side. If you're having a bad week, this comic strip will make it that much worse...uh...better.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


"You're homeschooled? Oh...."

You immediately see the brand getting stamped on your forehead. You know suddenly know you get up at about 9:00 PM every day and walk around in PJs for the rest of the day. You know that you aren't as smart as before and that the random questions trying to prove how bad homeschooling is will start coming like bullets. You know you don't know how to be at all social, and you know you know absolutely nothing about pop culture. You know you wear the same thing just about every day - and you don't really care. You know that you do nothing all day and that you have lots of extra time to do whatever you want.

"Wow, it must be nice to be homeschooled," as they slowly back away.

Every homeschooler reading this will know exactly what I'm talking about. It's no secret how often homeschoolers get treated like this. In fact, there are a lot of inside jokes that homeschoolers pass around about such situations.

I'm so tired of it, though. Every time you're around someone who doesn't quite approve of homeschooling you constantly feel like you have to try to prove that you're not actually scum off the bottom of the bucket. While taking tours, tour guides ask what school you go to. As soon as they find out that you are homeschooled, they say, "Oh, that means you need to learn something." They then proceed to give your mom teaching material and start asking you a bunch of random questions that not even the "smart public schooled kids" would know. If you don't happen to know the same set of random facts as your tour guide, they attribute it to you being homeschooled.

The truth about homeschooling? We end up doing just as much school as those in a public school. On a regular school day, I start working at 6:45 AM, and if I don't have any distractions and only take a 1/2 hour for lunch, I get done at 5:30. These "regular" school days don't happen very often, however. I have plenty of stuff on top of it. I have a cello lesson on Monday, speech class and orchestra on Tuesday, I will soon have a class on Wednesday night, I have a class on Thursday night, and that only leaves Friday without anything extra. I'm not trying to prove what I do each day, but I'm just getting plain sick of the blank "wow-you-must-not-have-to-do-anything" stare.

And on top of that, they think that homeschoolers are anti-social. I think the only reason for this thought is that there happen to be more public schooled kids than homeschoolers. As soon as homeschoolers are around homeschoolers, they don't usually have much problem talking. Do notice that public schooled kids are good at talking to other public schooled kids, but they don't really have any idea what to say to homeschoolers.

I found this article someone had written who was against homeschooling. I just want to pick it apart a little bit.

News flash: Not everyone is qualified to be a teacher. A lot of parents can't balance a checkbook or find Iraq on a map -- let alone teach their young-uns Algebra & Geography. Just because you love little Johnny does not qualify you to be his teacher. It takes a good education as well as a love for children to be a competent teacher. The education and intellectual well- being of our progeny are too important to be left to rank amateurs. My mom and dad loved me but it was a 6th grade teacher that instilled in me a love of reading and writing.

True, but those who are willing to homeschool their kids are going to be the ones who will go to the trouble to learn their material. If they feel inadequate, they will get curriculum and other sources to use. Think of it another way, though. If a parent has eight kids to homeschool, think how many times the parent will have to teach a student the same material over and over from scratch. Homeschooling parents have got to be about the smartest people on earth. Think of it yet another way. If your parents are public schooled, they decide to homeschool you, and public education is against this, what are they saying about their own schooling system? That their students they're producing aren't smart enough to teach? Seems a little ironical to me...

Home schooling a small child stunts his emotional and psychological growth. It's at school that a child learns how to communicate with his peers, respect those different from himself and to work as a team to accomplish goals. No, matter how loving and nurturing a home, it can't replace a school as a crucible for social development.

Oh please... I have never yet come across a homeschooler who doesn't know how to communicate to their peers, let alone know how to respect others.

A dog that's been confined to a kennel for years will not make a good pet and a child who's been confined to his home during his formative years will find it extremely difficult to adjust to the real world. We don't need any more Jerry Dalhmers and Paul Hills let loose on our society.

Wow, it makes it sounds like we're chained to a tree or something. I think you would have to try pretty hard not to expose someone to the real world.

Most parents who home school their offspring are religious zealots. These impressionable youngsters who are captive to the rigid dogma of their parents are robbed of the wonderful diversity of ideas and cultures that thrive in our public schools. If the number of kids being home schooled continues to grow our democracy will soon resemble the theocracies of Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Isn't it our job to bring up our own kids to be Godly? Nothing about homeschooling robs a child of the diversity of ideas and cultures. You get that everywhere you go. Take WalMart as an example... Maybe even Colfax?

This is a rant. I have no great solution to the problem. I just wish the public could be educated a little about homeschooling.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Christianity, the East, and the West

My cello teacher and I have much the same interests. We both like history and philosophy, and we both like to discuss things. However, we both come from opposite ends of the spectrum. He is very "new-agey" and very much into the East. Every few years or so, he will head on off to India for several weeks and come back with the latest and greatest on Hinduism and Buddhism. Being very pluralistic, he doesn’t really have any problem with me believing God. To him, everything has their own way of getting to their goal, so he will willingly play along with whatever strange ideas I have. He will talk about God as a real, living being that has complete and sovereign power over everything, yet somehow, I know that he doesn’t happen to be talking about the same God that I am. We discuss things back and forth. I get pretty much one sentence to say everything that I want to say on the subject, and he will continue to take up the rest of the time. He may never realize it (and may not care to realize it) that he has been one of the most influencing people over my life. Not in a bad sense, but probably in exactly the opposite way he was trying to have an influence over me. He has been the one that has made me realize that I am old enough to know what I believe and why I believe it. He has been the one that has made me do a lot of study and thinking. He is very good with words and can pretty much put any idea of his into words. When I want to discuss something or try out my new idea on him to see if I can manage to say everything in one sentence, it becomes almost a competition with him to see who can say something more clearly. Being of a very logical mind (for how logical a natural mind can be), he doesn’t just like short little shallow answers to things. He truly wants to know what you personally believe and why. The little "Gospel Message" that so many Christians try to share with this generation just doesn’t quite seem to do it for him, and saying, "Jesus came and died on a cross to save you from your sins (even though you may think you’re a pretty good person) so that you could go to Heaven" just doesn’t quite make him jump up and down saying he wants to become a Christian. Not only has he heard it before, but it seems rather illogical. After all, just simply saying that Jesus died for sins (as if that’s the only reason he died for us) will make him just think, "Okay. I’ll just try to live a really, really good life, and if I goof up, oh well. Oh, and by the way, who is this guy named Jesus? I don’t think this is any different from any other religion. All they’re telling me to do is to conform my life to a way of living just like every other religion. Why should I choose Christianity over Buddhism?" And with his humanistic thinking, he would go on to continue with his Eastern religions. Because he thinks pretty logically, only logical answers that can be backed up will make any impression on him. In talking to him, I try really, really hard not to dig myself into holes (which he’s pretty good at getting you into) and to think logically, yet quickly. He’ll give you all the time in the world to think up an answer, but if you start to say anything (even one word) and then suddenly find yourself not really knowing what to say, he’ll tell you what he was going to say and quickly move on. End of opportunity to say anything. Through all of this, I have started studying quite a bit just to try to get my feet on the ground enough to say something that he won’t laugh at and find lots of problems with.

He really has gotten me to think about the East. Why is it that the East is scared of the West, and yet the West embraces the East? There are countless examples of eastern countries that refuse to admit Westerners (it seems particularly Americans) into their country. If you’re on this end of things, however, Eastern philosophy, religion, and its people are embraced. How could this be? In America, everywhere you go, you see books on its philosophies, religions, foods, cultures, and religious practices (such as yoga). I think that part of the problem goes back to America feeling as if they can’t get to any absolute that is indeed an absolute. This leaves an empty void and because nothing happens in a vacuum, they try to fill this void with something new and mystical. They move on to a religions where they are required to conform their life to a set of given standards in order that they might eventually find this truth that they they so earnestly are looking for. They want to do something. They want to conform to something that will make them feel as if they are accomplishing something and helping them feel their life is worth something. The East has found their way of spiritual accomplishment, and the West wants to find it too. Because of so much restriction in so many eastern countries, many of them have moved here. Many of these people after an amount of time will give up their Eastern clothing, food, and music (though in no way am I saying these things are bad), but religious ideas will be the very last thing to go. In a culture that is so open to Eastern ideas, they are not going to let it go. They know that they are feeding the fire, and they are not going to give up their religion. Why would the East want to keep away the Westerners though? Think about how our culture differs from theirs. The East is very big into tradition. America (and particularly America) doesn’t like tradition, especially after their heritage. They want to stand out, and they want to make advancements. In fact, America is a very proud country that doesn’t want any other country to out do their accomplishments. The East, however, is more laid back. Religion is their life and tradition. They have higher things to look for than earthly gain. However, tradition is the key. Since the ‘60s, America has broken away from Christianity being a tradition. In fact, the East and the West have taken two different paths. The West is science oriented and puts a big effort into advancement. Religion is looked upon as a weakness (though they fill it in with worshiping themselves and the universe). A person is measured by how much they have and what their income is. In order to have more of an influence, you must have more money and a higher position. The East on the other hand, has religion as its main priority of the day. They do a lot for their religion and gods. Family and tradition are a huge part of their lives, and whether they have a lot doesn’t really seem to matter. This is the reason so many people, tired of the daily rat race, will retire to the East where they can live without any worry of gaining more and can spend a lot of time feeling good because of what they are doing. As David Wells says in Above All Earthly Powers:

"Western preoccupation with the self and with what is therapeutic leads naturally into a disposition that is amenable to Eastern ideas, and Western moral disorder makes Islam (and Hinduism and Buddhism) look like a haven of moral sanity."

And is all of this going to stand up to some guy (in the eyes of a non Christian) named Jesus coming and dying for some "mistakes" that we could mend ourselves by following simple Eastern philosophy? No way. If you know the philosophies behind humanistic religions, it is quite easy to see the differences between humanistic religions and Christianity. Humanistic religions all have several things in common: they are built after our human nature (particularly the gods), they all require you to do something, and they all require you to conform your life to a given set of principles. This is quite opposite to Christianity which is about faith in a God who sent His son to restore the perfect relationship we had with Him before the fall. It is not about a set of rules, but it is about living in faith in light of who we are (the chosen sons of God). We don’t do anything. We be someone - the ones that His Spirit is daily conforming us to the character of Christ. Christianity can’t even be said to be a religion. Religion is conforming yourself to rules to reach a goal. Christianity is a restored relationship with God himself. If we understand this, we would (and could) talk about Christ to others in a way that would not make Christianity seem like any other religion floating around in this world. We must study to find answers to cultural questions and not ignore them. We must pray that God would help us to reach out to those in a way that would cause them to see Christianity for what it really is. As Luther says, if you can’t preach the true Gospel to those in your generation, you don’t know what it is about. They didn’t just all wake up one morning and decide to believe something that seems absurd to us. What they believe has been building up and leading up until now. Work and study hard to understand today’s generation and culture.