Category Archives: Homeschooling

5 Questions with a Classical Program Consultant

The number one searched post on this blog today is “My Community Is Closing – Now What?” In light of that, I wanted to share a resource with those who might be searching. Obviously there are many options for homeschooling, so many that it might be overwhelming. If you would like some help sorting out options, identifying your needs, and learning how to run a compliant program, check out the Classical Program Consulting Program with Jamie Buckland.

I met Jamie through social media and have appreciated her insight. So I asked her five questions – and now get to share her answers with you!

What are three things about which you are passionate?

#1 – Christ’s Completed Work

#2 – Education

#3 – Maternity Care in the US

Jamie, why do YOU homeschool?

I wanted to be with my kids, to be in charge of our schedule, and to avoid handing over the authority of my children to someone else.

What’s a Favorite Motivational Quote?

Confession. I had to Google motivational quotes. That just isn’t something I think I have an inventory of! I could not find one that I feel like I have ever used…so I searched my MacBook for “quote” thinking maybe I’ve stored something somewhere. This came up. It is fitting.

“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.” Wendell Berry

Why did you become a Classical Program Consultant?

When I decided to not return to CC in 2016, I worked incredibly hard researching options and finding out how we could ethically and legally conduct the activities of our group in the way we desired. After we got started, I shared some of what we were doing. I began answering questions on social media. Over the last few years, that snowballed into having a following of peers looking for answers. I started CPC in January (2019) so I could afford to take time away from my family to gather all my thoughts and experience into materialized documents and webinars in hopes of offering guidance to group leaders in the 3 areas of a program: business, administration, and curriculum. I now have over 100 clients and have realized there is a great need for what I am offering.

What is your motto?

“Do less, do it well.”

Classical educators are known for having higher standards. I think that’s great. I think there is a major difference between a private school with paid teachers and a homeschool program. I think acknowledging the difference and talking about the various realities of the difference are two things many in the renewal are failing to do. I am seeing the effects of it-stressed out, defeated, exhausted mothers who renounced modern education’s industrialized approach to learning to instead embrace the freedom of nurturing a whole child through home education. Now they do not know whose prescribed definition of classical education is the best one, the worthy one, or at least the one they can implement in between laundry, meals, newborns, music lessons, and a never-ending to-do list.

Like many others, the first voice in my ear calling me to do less and to do it well was Sarah Mackenzie’s with her book, Teaching from Rest A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace. On a beautiful fall day in November of 2014, as I drove to a CC training hours away, I listened to the audio companions included with the book and was introduced to concepts which turned my world completely upside down. We were having 8-hour school days, fighting from morning until night, constantly striving to fit everything in, doing all things poorly, and never catching our breath. I was fielding constant questions about how to get it all done and felt a heavy burden of admitting I was just as worn out as those looking to me for guidance.

Are those leading the renewal hearing these stories? I do love the message of rest being given to us by theSchole Muses, and I applaud their work.

But who else is hearing us? As the call to excellence continues to ring out, who is defining that excellence? Who is prescribing that excellence? Better yet, who is describing that excellence?

“Buy a box curriculum!”, that is what one leader of the renewal recently told me. But then the mother feels pressured to tackle everything in that box on the schedule recommended by the publishers and I’m concerned that is not always doable.

“Well, choose not to do some of it.” Sure, that sounds simple. But moms don’t feel confident choosing what things to let go of! It’s like we need permission from someone that it will be okay if we choose to do less in an attempt to forge ahead. After all, the expert curriculum developers think all of this is necessary, who am I to argue?

I recently attended the National Classical Education 2019 Symposium. At the last panel of the day, deans and admissions officers from various colleges answered a question I had.

“What do you have to say to the homeschooling mother?”

“Keep going. Start somewhere. You’re doing a great job and impressing the academic world.” (paraphrased)

Moms need to know that doing less and doing it well is enough. It is more than enough. I want homeschooling mothers seeking to educate their children in the classical Christian tradition to take back their joy and leave behind the daunting feeling of inadequacy.

But more than that, I want them to use caution and discernment in choosing who they deem as an authority on all areas of their child’s education. We, the homeschooling mothers, are in a unique position, in my opinion. The decision-makers for public education are the committees set in place by the government, and we can all acknowledge the influence on those committees from those who stand to profit from selling their ideas or curriculum.

The decision-makers for home education are the mothers and the fathers of the youth being educated. But when I take notice of the chatter between mothers, I am compelled to make mention that our chosen methods and materials are also influenced by those who stand to profit from selling their ideas or curriculum.

Can I add a disclaimer here? This is not a condemnation of having something to sell. I recently discoveredPamela Barnhill’s work and am truly thankful for her materials, as I see them meeting a great need. I want to set apart those who I find working, as am I, to get good things into the hands of homeschooling moms who could benefit from them. Sarah MackenzieBrandy VencelAngelina StanfordMystie WincklerKathy Weitz,Cheryl SwopeCindy RollinsCarol ToppColleen Kessler, these mothers are serving other mothers, and they are doing a fantastic job at it. There is something different to me about marketing something you’ve developed and developing something to market.

Continuing the disclaimer for fear my readers will assume I enjoy tossing babies with bath water, please do not hear accusations where none exist. It is not that I am asserting those seated at the head table of the renewal have no less than our best interests at heart, however, it is to be noted that those seated at the table have products and programs to sell. And like with any product or program, some are bad. Some given the title of leading the classical movement through home education are not worthy of the title and are doing more to damage classical education than to renew it. Some are worthy, their product worthy, their program worthy, but not an end-all, and what we are lacking is a philanthropic voice at the table without a method, a product, or a book to sell.

Please, please note my use of particular pronouns here. I am 100% behind many of these programs, authors, and materials, but I am also 100% convinced discernment is in order. There is as at least one popular organization working tirelessly to exploit homeschooling mothers, and unfortunately, only those exploited are the ones caring enough to speak up. Somehow classical educators believe in naming things, calling it as it is, seeking out the matter, calling men to a higher standard, until it involves businesses where you’ll be sued or threatened for pursuing Truth.

Man, did you ask for a novel?!

Who am I? Why does it even matter if I am calling moms to do less and do it well?

I am a consultant to homeschool group leaders who want to build programs, but I admit programs are not for every person and not for every season. My motivation for what I do is rooted in advocacy for the homeschooling mother. If she wants community, I want her to have it. I want her to have it ethically, legally, with sustainability, and I do not want her to sacrifice her own homeschool to get it. I want her to do less, do it well, and to be connected to veteran moms who want to give her permission to do just that.

Jamie Buckland lives in southern WV with her husband and 4 children. Jamie is Executive Director and Headmistress of Appalachian Classical Academy, a tutoring program for homeschoolers. She also works with homeschool group leaders as the Classical Program Consultant. With a heart for the homeschooling mother, she wants to see them able to enjoy communities without sacrificing their own homeschool. She will graduate her eldest this year, her youngest in 16 years, and a couple in between! You can find Jamie atwww.jamiebuckland.net

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

Liability

I’ve been doing research on liability. This is a term we throw around a lot, it has the ability to make my stomach queasy and my innards clench, but I needed more definition of what liability actually looks like in a real life situation.

Because, let’s face it. Life is risky. We’re walking around this world as a mostly liquid mass held together by a bundle of skin that isn’t exactly the strongest thing ever. I tell my kids to be careful with water balloons all the time – in many ways we’re just large water balloons zipping around in cars that go 80 mph regularly!

Life is fragile friends. We live with that knowledge every day.

So what about the phrase “liability” gives me heartburn? How do some situations make more of a difference than others?

Let’s define our terms and see if this really is a monster.

Personal Liability: “Being personally liable” means that a plaintiff who wins a court judgement against your business can satisfy it out of your personal assets, like your bank account, home, or automobile simply because of your status as an owner of the business.” (Personal Liability | Digital Media Law Project)

As a small business owner, you have choices of how you can establish yourself. I know a whole bunch of ladies who are operating as small business owners for their home education communities, as I did myself. I don’t personally know anyone who is classified as anything other than a sole proprietor but I understand that those friends, as of last week, might have an option to sign their licensing contracts as an LLC. There could be some major benefits to that!

Let me use other professional’s words to explain why your legal classification matters:

Sole Proprietorship: “A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common structure chosen to start a business. It is an unincorporated business owned and run by one individual with no distinction between the business and you, the owner. You are entitled to all profits and are responsible for all your business’s debts, losses and liabilities… ” (Sole Proprietorship | US Small Business Administration) Read: this is the riskiest way to have a business because there are no safety nets.

LLC. “One of the main purposes of an LLC is to provide liability protection for the members and managers. Unlike some other business structures, such as a sole proprietorship, an LLC structure protects the personal assets of the owners from business liability.” (What is the Purpose of an LLC? | Legal Zoom) Read: this is a safer way to hold a business because there is at least a little protection against liability.

“If you’re a sole proprietor, there is no legal divide separating your personal assets from those of your business. If you’re sued, that can spell trouble. That’s why many sole proprietors opt to incorporate as a limited liability company (LLC).” (Why LLCs Need Liability Insurance as Much as Sole Proprietors | Insureon)

So why isn’t everyone an LLC?

“LLCs require more paperwork upfront than a sole proprietorship and will add a degree of difficulty to your taxes. … {AND} your LLC can still be sued and be liable for huge sums of money, which is why it’s still smart to carry liability insurance policies such as General Liability Insurance and Errors and Omissions Insurance.” (Why LLCs Need Liability Insurance as Much as Sole Proprietors | Insureon)

Before we go into a discussion of insurances, it’s fair to see what liabilities might exist for a small business owner anyway.

What types of things have I done as an independent small business owner?

I’ve contracted tutors. (Potential areas for liability are whether those tutors are correctly classified as independent contractor or employees, whether they have ever been alone with a student in a classroom, etc.)

I’ve established relationships with churches for meeting space. (Potential areas for liability are whether the church is at risk of losing their property tax exemption for hosting a for-profit business, who is responsible if someone falls off the playground equipment, who is responsible if plaster of paris is poured down the pipes, etc.)

I’ve recruited students for a program and provided tutoring services to families. (Potential areas for liability are whether the tutors I’ve contracted are presenting the program with integrity and making parents feel like they are receiving what they paid for, whether I’ve background checked all tutors and nursery workers to ensure the safety of the students, etc.)

So I’ve established that in my own small home education business I had some distinct areas of liability.

What’s the worst case scenario? Let’s look at a few:

Misclassifying Workers. “‘Misclassifying employees as independent contractors and failing to provide W-2 forms can subject an employer to back taxes of as much as 41.5%* of the contractors’ wages, according to the IRS. And these penalties can go back for three years.’ If the IRS thinks you intentionally misclassified workers they may seek a criminal conviction with up to a year in jail and a fine as high as $500,000 for a corporation. Plus you get the label “tax evader.” The independent contractor themselves may be audited and may be forced to repay any business deductions they took during that time.” (Do you know the penalties for improperly classifying employees as Independent Contractors? | SHRM Blog)

Unintended Accidents. I live in fear that one of the kids I work with will do something ridiculous and kid-like and end up getting seriously injured. My thoughts always go to the McDonald’s “hot coffee” case. The case wasn’t actually a frivolous lawsuit – “The coffee was not just “hot,” but dangerously hot. McDonald’s corporate policy was to serve it at a temperature that could cause serious burns in seconds. Mrs. Liebeck’s injuries were far from frivolous. She was wearing sweatpants that absorbed the coffee and kept it against her skin. She suffered third-degree burns (the most serious kind) and required skin grafts on her inner thighs and elsewhere.” Only after her own medical insurance maxed out and refused to complete the treatment she needed to be able to walk, she went to McDonalds to ask them for help paying her treatment costs. How many of the families that I have served have medical insurance? I have never asked. But if something happens while at our meetings, as a sole proprietor, I could be liable for their costs.(The McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case | Consumer Attorneys of California)

This is far from an exhaustive list, but it is compelling that there’s enough here for me to consider looking into whether my family could sustain such a hit of “liability.” As I look at our own finances… a lawsuit could sink us, even if we’re found not responsible the costs and fees associated with a suit would be devastating to my family.

So… insurance would be something for me to consider.

Small Business Liability Insurance: “Every business, even if home based, need to have liability insurance. The policy provides both defense and damages if you, your employees or your products or services cause or are alleged to have caused Bodily Injury or Property Damage to a third party.” (13 Types of Insurance a Small Business Owner Should Have | Forbes)

This is separate from the policy I took out to cover the interests of the facility I was privileged to meet within. Small Business Liability Insurance would cover PERSONAL LIABILITY which is so important because I signed up as a SOLE PROPRIETOR.

I would also consider Professional Liability Insurance. “The policy provides defense and damages for failure to or improperly rendering professional services.  Your general liability policy does not provide this protection, so it is important to understand the difference. ” (13 Types of Insurance a Small Business Owner Should Have | Forbes)

So if I am running a tutoring service and something happens that prevents me from providing the service offered – maybe a freak snowstorm kept us from meeting multiple weeks, perhaps a tutor quit, who knows what might happen? – Errors & Omissions insurance would protect me from Professional Liability.

Hm… guess what? If I contract my tutors as independent contractors, they aren’t a part of my personal E&O policy. They have no professional relationship with me except to perform their contracted duties so my insurance policy wouldn’t cover them.

So I would say that the tutors I contracted as Independent Contractors should consider taking out an insurance policy to cover their actions in the classroom. I mean, who’s to blame if someone brings a peanut butter cracker into the class for snacks and the kiddo with the nut allergy smells it and goes into anaphylactic shock and has to be hospitalized for treatment? The student who was a minor? Or the adult who was overseeing the meeting time? I suppose a court would be able to decide although it will take awhile: “Civil court trials take longer and are typically set for trial a year or 18 months after being filed. Criminal trials are set sooner since the defendant has a right to a speedy trial. The process of a lawsuit takes time.” (Why Does A Lawsuit Take So Long? | Miller Law)

Finally, how can all of this affect my family? Well, business issues could affect your personal credit score. Credit scores are used as part of the evaluation process for all sorts of things from insurance rates to rental verifications.

Additionally, any claims filed against any insurance policy will follow you for years: “‘There’s a significant correlation between claims that are made and future additional likelihood of claims being made,’  says Chris Hackett, senior director of personal lines policy at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. You can request one free copy of your C.L.U.E. (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) Personal Properly report, which includes all the claims you’ve filed in the past seven years. The report includes date of the loss, type of loss and the amount paid out to cover the claim. McChristian says the amount of the claim may be less important than the reason for the claim. (16 factors that affect homeowners insurance rates | Insurance.com)

No one knows what the future holds, except that we do know that the Bible tells us to expect persecution for living in a Christian way. Being IN the world but not OF the world does not release us from a responsibility to understand how the world does business.

A careful review of my previous contracts revealed that I was carrying 100% liability for all of the actions I took for my small business, even though I was doing it under direction and authority of my licensing agreement.

There is legally no calvary riding to the rescue if something goes wrong according to the contract I signed.

Having explored liability with more thoroughness, I can now make wiser decisions than I have in the past. What a gift! I’d encourage every person who is exploring their options to do the same!

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

Critical Education

I’m really digging into Dorothy Sayers’ Lost Tools of Learning lecture right now. I really want to have someone read it out loud to me, so I can pretend I am at the lecture where she first presented it in 1947!

(I had a guest preacher deliver the whole Sermon on the Mount from memory for a sermon one day and I’m pretty sure it was the best sermon experience ever… I want that for Lost Tools now!)

As I consider the purpose, the aim, of our homeschool journey, I come back to the idea that we must use the subjects presented as tools, as the proving ground for the ultimate education skill to acquire – critical thinking.

I also question whether I’m using the right terminology in my thoughts right now regarding the classical model… Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric can be used for different layers of understanding.

For example, from a skills-based perspective I know that I am Rhetorical in some tasks and skills, but absolutely Grammatical in others. (For example, I know a lot more about raising rabbits than the average person… but practically nothing about engine mechanics.)

From an emotional/maturation perspective I know that I look at the world much differently now in my 40s than I did in my 20s. Was I even capable of a Rhetorical perspective in my 20s? I certainly thought that I was. But even as I look back at the blog posts on this website from years ago I realize that I have matured in my understanding and the things that occupied my thoughts. So am I Rhetorical now? Will I ever actually be?

Through the idea of continuous sanctification into this thought process and my mind has been spinning!

So, in sum, I currently believe there are at least two tracks of discussion regarding the education of a student with the classical model: both the functional task track and the developmental maturity track.

Here’s Dorothy Sayers’ argument for education in critical thought:

“For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armour was ever so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words.

They do not know what the words mean; they are prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects.

We, who were scandalized in 1940 when men were sent to fight armoured tanks with rifles, are not scandalized when young men and women are sent into the world fight massed propaganda with a smattering of “subjects”; and when whole classes and whole nations become hypnotized by the arts of the spellbinder, we have the impudence to be astonished.”

I can’t help but think that these words, although they were delivered 70 years ago, could have been written today. I’m trying to reconcile a desire for a classical, time tested and proven education, with an equally necessary need to help my students navigate technology and mass marketing.

It seems to me that Logic and Reasoning is an absolute MUST… both traditional and applied. I keep coming back to the idea that mathematics in a traditional sense (pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, etc.) is necessary, but there also needs to be some sort of applied mathematics like design/architecture, or robotics.

What are the texts or subjects you think could be used to help students develop the armor needed to function as strong critical thinkers in our current world.?

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

My Community is Closing – Now what?

Last week I heard of another community in our area closing.

With this particular community, the church is booting them from the building because renting space to a for-profit entity puts the church’s property tax exemption at risk in their county.

The whole adventure caused the Director to take a hard look at her own licensing agreement and she realized she was carrying complete liability as a sole proprietor for the community and, after prayer, she and her husband decided that the risk was too high for them to bear. No one else is willing to be the liable, sacrificial lamb for the community, and just like, a snap of the fingers, and a full community of folks is without a direction for the next year.

See, the tricky thing about relationships – many of us find our communities extremely valuable and just plain like them! Many are loyal to the leadership that exists and, after realizing that our financial involvement puts their family in a precarious position with liability… we just don’t want to wish that uncertainty upon the people we care about.

That’s a reason why relationships matter.

Some folks might think that the answer to a community closing is to just close up shop, run away to suck their thumb, and grieve for the good ‘ol days.

Hold that thought. There might be a better way…

Ya’ll, you realize that there are communities of homeschoolers meeting all over the country who don’t place an insane amount of liability on one individual?

Ya’ll realize that there are people who are able to locally govern themselves and have accountability, community, and academic rigor?

Friends! Groups of people meeting in community to educate together are not a proprietary issue!

If you’ve been in a community and love it, you don’t have to stop.

But it will take work. It will take thoughtfulness, and it will require your core group to jump through hoops.

So the questions you really need to ask yourself:

  • Is this what God is calling me to do?
  • Do I do hard things?
  • Does my life have the margin to move from consumer in this area to provider?
  • Who’s willing to journey with me?

(Realize, your previous Director(s) might be very quiet about the whole topic for awhile and they likely won’t take a leadership role. That’s because they are under a non-compete clause of their previous licensing agreement and even though those have been proven to be pretty much unenforceable in court, chances are good they’re trying to “do the right thing” by their previous position. That’s a reason you like them. Keep them informed of your activities.)

“For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves…”

Dorothy Sayers, “Lost Tools of Learning” (1947)

The lovely thing about the classical model that many folks in communities have been experiencing, and that the natural tendencies of home educators is to look beyond what is easily provided for them, is that no topic is unapproachable to you! You have all the skills needed to approach this lack of community problem, tackle it methodically, and find success!

Here are a few options to get you started in the right direction:

Lost Tools of Learning. Dorothy Sayers’ lecture on the Lost Tools of Learning is fabulous. Many people have heard of it but fewer have actually read it. Stop. Take a moment and read it. You won’t be sorry.

Homeschool CPA. Carol Topp has created a website, books, and workshops that are invaluable to a group wanting to figure out how to create a legally compliant organization that doesn’t place any member in a precarious position. She is available for consultations as well. I bought my first book from her three years ago and now I have three of them as well as a workshop… her blog posts over the years have helped me realize items where I can adjust and lead well.

Jamie Buckland – Classical Program Consultant. Jamie Buckland has opened her services to the public since the beginning of this year and what she has to offer is valuable and helpful for those trying to find their own way to a homeschool community. She offers workshops, consultations, and her desire is to help folks cut through the chase and focus on the main priorities of your home education endeavor.

Do any of you have other resources you would add to this list? Please leave it in the comments!

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

Gaslighting – What is it?

There’s a term that has emerged into my awareness in recent years called “gaslighting.” I have used it lately and had people look at me with questioning eyes, so it seems worth a discussion of the definition!

The definition of gaslighting is: to manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity. “‘Gaslighting’ is used to describe abusive behavior, specifically when an abuser manipulates information in such a way as to make a victim question his or her own sanity. Gaslighting intentionally makes someone doubt their memories or perception of reality.” (PRI)

Gaslighting is a tricky concept, and it absolutely takes advantage of the one who is trying to be a people pleaser. It can be a tool used to silence discussion, to rebuild a shared history into a more favorable final outcome, and to assert superiority of one person over another.

An example of gaslighting from my experience:

CC has never expected folks to travel more than 100 miles to practicums or community visits, etc. I know this because I’ve served in a huge geographical territory and this is a staple of what we talk about to leaders. However, when I pushed back on current leadership about requiring tutors to attend a practicum after the location was moved to 100+ miles away from their home, I was told that rule never existed.

It took me texting folks who have been serving in large territories and asking them, “This is a thing, right? I didn’t make it up?” and much research to discover that the 100 mile expectation is clearly stated in the Family Covenant that each family signs. Triumphant, I said – “This is a thing! I promise, I’m not crazy!” at which point the team leadership told me that the stricture only applied to families, whereas tutors were called to a higher standard. That I was still crazy for not recognizing this.

But… tutors who are independent contractors are held to a lesser standard by law in our state and should not be expected to attend any training whatsoever – they should be contracted because they already possess the skill set needed to fulfill the job!

That’s gaslighting.

I was led to believe that I was making up a common practice and a little insane – or contrary – or causing confusion – so the leadership could put all of the responsibility for all of the conflict onto my own shoulders. But I never initiated the conflict; I only got involved when the appropriate boundaries were overstepped and it threatened the lawful operation of my community… and yet I walked away from the conversations questioning if I was the problem.

That’s gaslighting.

When an organization changes its practices regularly, it lends itself to situations where gaslighting can occur easily. When an organization preaches humility to it’s leadership – which is a good thing – it lends itself to difficulty thinking a differing opinion is allowed to exist. When leaders speak down to you, or tell you that you just don’t understand from the correct perspective – without giving you the tools to see it from “the right perspective” – it sets up an unhealthy, abusive relationship.

Goodness gracious – I sat for years on situations that made me uncomfortable because I refused to say anything just in case it was a preference issue instead of a sin issue! There is so much gray in this world and I don’t want to be a destroyer – I want to build things up!

Repeatedly, almost as a mantra, I have spent this spring saying, “I have common sense. I use good judgement, I am a leader with integrity, I am not overreacting,” because the folks above me were telling me that by speaking up, by going to bat for my tutors and community, I was subversive, unsubmissive, acting like a spoiled child who wasn’t getting their way, and divisive. (And don’t let me get started on what my husband thinks about the manipulative assault he saw taking place on my character and self-perception over this!)

THIS IS GASLIGHTING.

“Gaslighting is an insidious act that makes the victim doubt and mistrust what they think, experience, or feel. In short, it’s a brilliantly brutal way of messing with someone’s mind.” (The Date Mix)

Here are some suggestions to help you if you’ve been gaslighted:

Don’t Waffle.

If you’ve made a decision, stand by it. Yes, you could be wrong – so what are the consequences if you’ve messed up? Can you live with them? Yes? Then stand by your decision. Test your decision with writing a list. Research your decision. Then, even if it’s a gray area, STAND.

Keep a Record.

May I just say that it might be wise to figure out how to record your conflict conversations? (Obviously, don’t break your state law here. But, in all but 11 states, federal law allows for one-party consent, enabling you to record a conversation in person or over the phone, if you are a participant in the conversation.)

Recording your calls allows you to go back later and actually know what was said. It has been a wonderful antidote to “I never said that,” when I can say, “Actually, you did say that – it’s a direct quote from this conversation right here.” Since gaslighting techniques prey on making you believe you’re misunderstanding, actually knowing what was said has a liberating affect on the whole resolution process.

(And yes, I do realize how messed up it is that I’m saying you should record conversations within a Christian organization in order to ensure truthful statements….)

Confide in a Trusted Support System.

You need to have someone who can help you see reason and logic. This is not gossip, this is survival. You don’t necessarily need a dozen people to help you see truth, but you do need one or maybe two folks who can help you walk through these issues. They don’t even have to be a part of the organization! Try a parent, a friend, a spouse, a sibling, or even a therapist. Have someone who is willing to listen to you sort stuff the tangled issues – isolation is a key technique to making sure you stay confused and doubtful of your own convictions.

Disengage.

The time might come for you to give up. I know the fighter in you recoils when you read that! But you can honor the call for unity within the body of Christ without being in constant, daily relationship with another. Sometimes the best choice is to make a clean break and walk.

How do you know when enough is enough? “If your partner genuinely wants to change, then they’ll acknowledge their part, apologize for any wrongdoing, and want to work on the relationship, which will be evident to you… [but] the sad truth is that your abuser may never realize or admit what they were doing – mostly because they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong.” (Brianne Hogan)

Your healthiest choice might very well be to walk away and let them just simmer in their wrongy-wrongness, especially if there is no acknowledgement that they can see anything from your perspective.

Don’t Blame Yourself.

“Logic and reasoning don’t work with a gaslighter. While things might never make sense to you, that doesn’t mean you should shoulder the blame.” (Brianne Hogan) For those who are genuinely wanting to come at conflict from a consensus based approach, who are trying to avoid pridefulness, it can be really hard to not look around and take the blame for things going wrong on your own shoulders.

Yes, there are likely things you could have done better – but that’s the human experience and it’s part of learning! If things go badly for the other party (or if the organization fails), there needs to be reckoning on their part for the role they played through subterfuge, tricky wording, and guilted expectations. Their failure is not your fault for saying, “No, I refuse to be used anymore.” Your stand for logic and reasoning is actually a sign of health, strength, and beauty.

Recognizing gaslighting is hard, but it’s also really hard to acknowledge that you’ve been the victim of the techniques. I’m so sorry if you have experienced this! I know that I’m continuing to work through my own experiences with gaslighting – calling a spade a spade is part of my healing process.

Do you have experiences you realize were ultimately gaslighting techniques? I’d love to hear in the comments, as well as how you’ve found healing!

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Weekly Top 5 (5.5.19)

The Top 5 Posts that Brought You Here this Week

The lovely thing about this blog is that it keeps fantastic statistics for me. And each week I’m able to identify the top five posts that have brought traffic to this blog.

It appears that this week has revolved around our family’s decision to leave Classical Conversations.

So here they are. In case you missed anything, the top five blog posts from the past week:

  1. Homeschool Idol. “‘All this time I’ve been saying I couldn’t homeschool without CC. What I should have been saying is I couldn’t homeschool without GOD.’ She stuck her fingers right into the middle of why this has been a gut-wrenching decision. We’ve been putting an organization in the center of what should be a holy endeavor. We know better.”
  2. You Want the Reasons We Have Left CC. “Our family has made the decision to leave Classical Conversations permanently. Illogical accusations and unlawful expectations from our state leadership are the straw that has broken the camels back, but, to be honest, the business practices and philosophy changes have caused me heartburn for quite awhile. We have been praying that God would be extremely clear if He wanted us to change anything and He’s been so faithful! It’s become quite obvious that He’s ready to move us in a new direction.”
  3. Leavin’ CC on a Jet Plane. “Even though we’ve been running a CC community as close to the DLG and book as I’ve ever known… we got crossways with our state leadership. This isn’t the time for great details, but suffice to say it was big and it was wrong and at the end, due (I think) to a really prideful heart and perspective, there was just no way to move forward.”
  4. Eager Anticipation. “Our life had so many burdens on it I knew without a doubt it was impossible for me to manage. So I stopped trying. I started telling God, ‘I eagerly anticipate the way You are about to show Yourself to be Big and Faithful and True and Loving’… and you know what? HE DID.”
  5. Can I Still Be in Leadership? “I have a sort of pro/con list that I wrote out of points of contention I have identified. There are 13 items on that list that are active, current issues that have crossed the line into sin (in my assessment) because of unlawfulness in their enactment or abusiveness from a relational perspective.”

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

You know what we did for most of the day yesterday? We made a fence.

We need to make our fence in order to give our livestock more room to roam. The current enclosure is getting a little tight and they need space in order to thrive.

But we want to keep the animals safe, and also keep them from getting into things they shouldn’t get in to.

Because we’ve thought about the consequences of no fencing and we see it leading to destruction.

I was thinking about the need for boundaries in our lives this morning and looked up where the phrase, “Good fences make good neighbors” originated. Turns out it is mentioned in a Robert Frost poem called Mending Wall (but it certainly existed prior to him writing it down).

I read Mending Wall and have been pondering the various applications to my thoughts:

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offence…”

I found out yesterday that another CC community in my area is closing. That makes six confirmed closures so far this spring. There is no official response from team leadership except that it “looks to be a pruning year” – even my own community members who have reached out to the team lead and asked for direction about what the next step in the plan looks like are getting no response.

The wall of communication is high and nothing is crossing. “Before I build a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offence…”

“He likes the thought of it so well he says it again, ‘Good fences make good neighbours.'”

Yesterday I saw a comment on Facebook that illustrated the freedom of stepping out of leadership in a corporate structure that had caused stress in her marriage as her attention was divided between the good of the organization and the good of her home.

There was a string of replies to that statement of people who have allowed their love of an organization to overtake their ability to love lavishly on their family. It sneaks up on you… this desire to serve and succeed and then suddenly you realize you aren’t loving lavishly on the ones who are closest to you.

The wall of protection around a family against the time commitments that creep in should be high. “Good fences make good neighbors.”

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, and spills the upper boulders in the sun; and makes gaps even two can pass abreast… The gaps, I mean, no one has seen them made or heard them made, but at spring mending-time we find them there.”

While I was working yesterday, putting slats in the chain link fencing, I had time to think. Think about what I will do differently because it’s “spring mending-time” in our life.

Because good fences make good neighbors and boundaries are healthy and good. There’s joy in knowing what belongs to you and what belongs to someone else.

Because I’m identifying what needs to be OUT and what needs to be IN. And those values are being defined by my own family, rather than someone else’s perspective and values.

Because I care about our family and am weary of the nonsense that results from people not telling the whole story truthfully. I don’t need to live a life of weariness and concern about what fresh, hellish surprise awaits me next due to someone else’s decisions.

I’m thinking about the folks who have stepped into leadership to serve others as best as they can and lost their identity in the process. I am analyzing how to lead better, how to lead with integrity, so that I can support myself and others in the quest to keep in their rightful places.

I realize this is a disjointed post today and I apologize for the lack of continuity. I find that I have all of these thoughts about walls and boundaries and they’re swirling around with my emotions that come when I think of these communities of people who are hurting because their reason d’etre for community has shifted, because they feel like the wind has been knocked out of them.

Thanks for sticking with me today and I’ll do my best to be more coherent and have a point in future posts.

Until then, my thought is to Mind the gaps, friends. It’s spring time. Look for the gaps and repair your fences.

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The Fuzzy Future Is Gaining Clarity

The best questions are not limited by what can be done; they ask what ought to be done.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been trying to figure out what our homeschool will look like this next year. I have discovered a lot of beauty in the Claritas Publishing Memory Work Guide so that’s the direction we will go with our 7, 9, and 11 year olds. The main reasons why?

  • There’s familiarity in the way it’s laid out,
  • I love the way they present the Latin strand,
  • There are songs for each piece of memory work,
  • The addition of hymns to the curriculum add for a more robust connection to church history and theology,
  • I already own all of the Story of the World cycles, so I’m excited to see a four year cycle that will allow me to more easily dovetail those to resources.

There was a temptation to keep doing what we’ve been doing, especially since the CC Foundations Guide has no restrictions on doing the Foundations program at home on your own. However, I think for us it is wise to have as much of a clear break between what was and what will be as possible – and after having gone through the major overhaul of songs and such this past year I know our kids are resilient and can adapt to the new curriculum well.

You might laugh at me over this, but the Claritas Publishing Fundamental Grammar Guide ended up attracting me because their font is friendly and it feels like it will be easier to “get into” than what we have been using. (I continue to shake my head that I, as someone who has a degree in Journalism from a University that does Journalism really well… is still buffaloed by English grammar! Just proof that education doesn’t really stop at the end of formal classes!)

I was tempted to go with the Language Lessons series from Well Trained Mind because we’ve used that before and liked it, but I’m thinking it’s wise to stick with the Fundamental Grammar Guide because it will have crossovers with the Memory Work Guide being from the same publisher.

Our kids have been doing three different math programs, all online: Math Seeds, Teaching Textbooks, CTC Math. This is working for them, so we will continue those programs until or unless it becomes evident we need to shift.

Our outside activities will continue to fill in the blanks: we have 4H which, through active projects or inspiration for those projects, covers sewing, animal husbandry, robotics, gardening, public speaking, and fiber arts.

We will be exploring the chemistry and dynamics of cooking this summer (and through regular practice – the kids each make at least two meals a week for the family) through the book, How to Cook Without a Book which we plan to do with friends.

Our religious study continues to be the responsibility of us as parents, and church attendance is a reinforcement to what we do at home.

So with the younger ones, I feel fairly confident we aren’t going to suddenly crash and burn next year in a flaming network of pyrotechnics. I also believe (and am backed up with scientific studies) that you kind of can’t screw up the younger years of education. Obviously, there are a LOT of things you can do to make things better and easier, but you can’t straight up ruin a kid’s love of acquiring information during the grammar years because it’s embedded in their DNA.

However, our 13 year old is giving me grief. She has been so well prepared for the Challenge program and this past year in Challenge A worked so well for her, that I’m seriously struggling over how to move forward confidently in her education. I believe that the stakes get higher and higher for her as she grow older.

I also believe now that she’s in her dialectic stage of development, she’s a partner in this endeavor, so we need to consider things that she can engage in and enjoy.

I’ve been reading Norms & Nobility. Admittedly, I started in chapter 9 A Curriculum Proposal (What Might Have Been) because I really just wanted to know the answer! I was looking for the easy way out and it didn’t work out so well.

In chapter 10, Hicks hit me over the head with this quote: “The best questions, it seems to me, are those least prejudiced by the availability of pat answers, as well as those originating not only in practice, but in imaginative theory. In other words, the best questions are not limited by what can be done; they ask what ought to be done, knowing that the former question – although scientifically correct – can only make a poor education worse by narrowing the range of inquiry and by limiting the possibilities for improvement.”

Consider yourself eye-rolled, Hicks-meister, for adeptly nipping my desire for easy and quick answers in the bud.

So… what would we do with an education, with the valuable handful of days we have left while she’s in our home and unable to drive away… what could we do if we had big dreams?

Hicks gives me these clues:

“Cardinal Newman’s (1969) description of liberal education remains, to this day, unimpeachable: that which teaches the student “to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disentangle the skein of though, to detect what is sophistical, and to discard what is irrelevant. It prepares him to fill any post with credit, and to master any subject with facility.”

(Sophistical means “clever and plausible, but unsound and tending to mislead.” I had to look that one up.)

It needs to be something that develops an appreciation of Truth.

Something that involves the ability to create and recognize logical thinking and arguments.

It needs to be something that practices sorting and clarifying tricky situations or history.

Something that allows her to practice passing a judgement on things that are irrelevant while always treating the human being as relevant.

This is going to require some more thought.

I think we’ll stick with Lost Tools of Writing. I hate it as a writing program, but I love it as a critical thinking program.

We’ll stick with Latin (although we might go away from Henle – I really like friendlier fonts….) and Logic (she loved the Fallacy Detective. I don’t know whether to move from that to formal logic or not. (There are at least two more books I want to explore because they interest me: The Amazing Dr. Ransom’s Bestiary of Adorable Fallacies: A field guide for clear thinkers by Douglas Wilson & ND Wilson, and An Illustrated book of Bad Arguments by Ali Almossawi. It’s possible that those can be things we work through as a family instead of her coursework.)

That’s about as far as I’ve gotten so far.

I’d love to hear feedback from you all about what you have seen and enjoyed, what worked or didn’t work! Do you have any suggestions?!

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

“Can I Still Be In Leadership?”

Updated 5/13/19: I’ve been doing a lot of research and am on a major learning curve about how business practices have been conducted within this organization. Situations have been brought to light that are not regional and cross the board into the various roles that place a significant amount of liability on individuals who, in general, I do not believe are prepared to accept that risk. Everyone should do their own research but I can no longer support with my original assessment that it depends on the area and individual situation. I cannot recommend stepping into leadership or staying in leadership unless there is a MAJOR overhaul of the current setup.

UPDATED 5/7/19: I was contacted by someone who read this post and was shocked that I would write anyone could still lead within the organization. “I’m not trying to argue,” she wrote, “I’m genuinely baffled by the whole situation. I don’t see any way for someone to direct, at least at a F/E community, in a way that is compliant with CC without violating some code somewhere… and SRs and ARs are given the task of recruiting those directors…” As we teased through her concerns it became clear that she, in a different area of the country, has experienced expectations and mandates that were different from my area. In her case, her assessment is spot on. So, as you read this, realize that what I assessed as “sketchy but doable” in my area is not possible to do with compliance to federal laws in a different geographical area with different leadership expectations.

I was contacted by someone this morning who is aware of our, ahem, recent homeschooling change of direction, and she asked a really simple question:

“Based on what you know, can I still be in leadership? Can anyone?”

My answer, unequivocally? YES. NO

You see, I categorize things into sin issues and preference issues. I can see preference issues all over the place but I don’t have to act on them. But if something turns into a sin issue, I believe that according to James 4:17, you simply cannot sit by and do or say nothing.

What has moved me from just fading away into silence has been that I see sin issues – but I also am realistic and rational enough to see that these sin issues might not affect everyone in the organization!

Can you still serve in leadership? Absolutely. Should you still serve in leadership? Only you can decide based on your personal situation. Only if you have thoroughly vetted the contract and feel comfortable with the enormous amount of liability you sign up for with the contracts.

I have a sort of pro/con list that I wrote out of points of contention I have identified. There are 13 items on that list that are active, current issues that have crossed the line into sin (in my assessment) because of unlawfulness in their enactment or abusiveness from a relational perspective.

Of those, six of them are items that land on the sin of abuse of power in my state that might not be transferable to other states or leadership structures.

Then, the corporate body has their fingers in 11 of the items (yes, there is some overlap) from a corporate philosophy, lack of transparency regarding liability, or lack of communication standpoint.

So, yes, I believe there are significant items. I believe there are things that need to be addressed by both every leader through self-scrutiny and by the organizational structure through change of policy.

The issues that drew the line in the sand for our family are transferable to other areas but not blanket for other locations. I do believe they could be resolved with integrity a major overhaul of the existing structure.

These are things that can be managed by someone who is willing to do the extra legwork and take on the mantle that their involvement is with a business, not a ministry! (Yes, ministry is often a byproduct, but that’s not the main goal.)

(But, let’s just take a moment to point out that a Matthew 18 conflict resolution philosophy and PERPL only work if people are willing to talk to you. I’ve only had success reaching out to two of the five people who were in my team line… over the course of 10 months.)

But see, friends, after going through all of this and the sorting through sin versus preference, following through with Matthew 18 conversations that don’t actually resolve the issues… I am weary. I don’t want to be the clingy girlfriend in a relationship that will never work out. I don’t want to be the dog that goes back to its own vomit.

The sin issues make me furious. The multitude of preference issues make me weary. In my weariness, I now trust that God has moved our family away from anything involving corporate oversight in our homeschool. Our goal initially in participating in this organization was for it to make it easier to home school – that’s not what it looked like for us at the end.

That doesn’t mean that leaving is the right decision for everybody.

One person who is precious to me is in the process of pursing a Director role in another state right now. I’m excited for her! She’s looking into this because of being introduced to it by my family and I wish her well!

But I told her that she cannot skip the step of talking to her accountant and seeing an attorney to be certain that her family is protected in a worst case scenario. (Bring the contract!)

(The corporate organization has been recommending this forever! It’s just that the team support has not pushed it, not emphasized how important it is in far too many cases. Community members largely have no idea how much liability is taken on by the Directors.)

My recommendation is that anyone look carefully at the legal aspects of what they have signed and the liability that comes with that signature. (In retrospect I would never, ever sign anything as a sole proprietor again, the risk to my family of the what if is far too great.)

If you’re in middle management, carefully tread the line of what expectations you can have of your folks that are actually permissible by law versus what is expected by the organization as “best practice” and clearly articulate those things to those you oversee. Be really cautious using the word “required” in almost every circumstance.

Contact the officials of your area to explore the tax implications of for-profit classified businesses being hosted by non-profit entities. There may be NO ISSUE in your area because this is decided locally, but you won’t know unless you ask.

And finally, but really primarily and throughout every single bit of this, pray, pray, pray. There is sometimes a large gap between what you could do and what you should do. Only God through the discernment provided by the Holy Spirit will be able to guide into what’s right and accurate for your family.

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

Mountain, MOVE!

You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.
“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to the mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

I was up at 2am. I’ve been doing this lately, up in the middle of the night, stomach churning, filled with thoughts about the future and analyzing past conversations. I’ve even broken out into stress hives across my forearms, which is a new condition I find totally lacking in charm.

It’s safe to say, “I’ve had a lot on my mind.”

In the wee hours of the morning, I ruminate on the future, filled with self-doubt about whether we can do this homeschooling thing now that our path forward isn’t as clear as it used to be.

It’s like when we go bowling with the kids and they have those nifty rails that make it so kids can’t throw a gutter ball… well, now the rails have been put down off of our homeschooling and I’m staring at a potential strike… or a terrifying gutter ball as we continue moving forward.

It eats at me. I pray it away, I throw logic at it, but it’s a persistent attack. It is a voice of shame (why didn’t I see this coming?), fear (my kids are going to end up in a box down by the river), and insecurity (what if I choose the wrong path?).

Eventually last night I sorted through the thoughts enough to find peace and headed back to bed. When I got up at my normal time this morning I saw a friend had posted a quote that hit me like an arrow through the heart:

“You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.”

Guys, this “educating our children” thing is a big, freakin’ mountain. It’s a calling, an effort of insanity, filled with twists and turns, highs and lows, moments that take your breath straight away, and experiences that leave you crying in the shower. It’s all the things.

(And that’s only with one child. Throw multiple children in there and you’ve got a stinkin’ mountain range!)

This is overwhelming heart and soul work and it leaves so many opportunities for us to be assaulted by voices of insecurity. But let’s pull back for a minute and remember the main life principles:

God has called us to train our children to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and their neighbor as themselves.

God calls us to homeschooling. He’s not in the business of calling us into an effort that is impossible or that He will not sustain us through. That would be sneaky and misleading – but deception is NOT an attribute of God. He’s called us to it and He will see us through it.

We’re on a winning path.

Take a look at this article (the statistics shocked me so much!): Educational Fraud Continues.

  • Only 37% of 12th graders tested proficient or better in reading. (17% of black students.)
  • Only 25% of 12th graders tested proficient or better in math. (7% of black students.)

“It’s grossly dishonest for the education establishment and politicians to boast about unprecedented graduation rates when the high school diplomas, for the most part, do not represent academic achievement. At best they certify attendance.”

Friends. Our alternative to homeschooling is not working right now. It’s dismal. Yes, we know that there are students getting well rounded educations in the public school system, but that is clearly NOT the majority. The odds are in ever favor of homeschooling being successful.

All you have to do is show up and try.

You know what? I can do that. So can you.

“Hey, Mountain! I’ve got this mustard seed and it’s labeled Show Up and Try!”

And I’ve got this God who promises, “I will sustain you, I will illuminate your path and make it straight” and when He talks, He’s trustworthy and things get done!

MOVE IT, MOUNTAIN.

One last thought that has literally brought me to tears this morning is a piece of advice from a super smart and encouraging friend:

“The Holy Spirit will convict you, but the tools of conviction are NEVER fear and shame.”

Get thee behind me insecurity, fear, and shame! I know your master and it’s not the same as mine. My Daddy can beat your Daddy up.

“You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.”

It’s going to be ok. Go do your work.

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved
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