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!

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

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.

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

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

Homeschool Idol

I have the smartest friends ever, ya’ll.

Last night I had a friend over for dinner. She and I have been in the thick of it together with everything – we have a photo of our babies together on a blanket before they could walk, and a photo of our babies together on the first day of Challenge A. I mean, we have been through all of it together, including the decision to leave CC.

You know, it’s actually all her fault that we’ve left.

(Not really, I’m just saying that because I like to be sassy. It’s actually the fault of poor team leadership, an expectation of blind loyalty and illogical decisions in the face of complete over reach of roles… to name a few things. But she was the one who realized before me that I could no longer choose the good of protecting and maintaining our community over the liability risk to my family.)

At that time I was wallowing back and forth in indecision she looked at me and said, “Could you lead an Information Meeting right now?”

Her question… it broke my heart, because the IM is the thing I have loved doing sooo very much over the years. Yet I realized that now, having actually read my contract and seeing the way things are playing out in our state and across the country, I couldn’t in good conscience recruit anyone else to travel on this vehicle through the homeschooling journey. So the decision was made. Road Closed, Detour Ahead.

Well, last night she did it again.

Right in the middle of chowing down a piece of pizza and the chaos of children swirling around, our husbands watching a video clip of Derek Zoolander’s School for Kids Who Don’t Read Good (and who wanna learn to do other stuff good too)(and they think that’s a prime name for our homeschool, by the way), she dropped a truth bomb:

“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.

It’s not like I haven’t already heard this “making CC an idol” idea:

  • Brandy from Half a Hundred Acre Wood identified it when she came out that their family was stepping away from Classical Conversations.  She writes, “[CC] had become an idol in our lives… we had poured so much of ourselves into the program that it was drawing us away from each other and away from God… we kept blindly following a system instead of listening to God’s leading…”
  • I’ve spoken to leaders and told them, “You should never sacrifice your family on the altar of CC.”
  • I’ve literally told parents at practicums, “CC is not a church, it’s not a religion, just a tool to help us frame our home education journey.”

And then, God forgive me, I’ve behaved differently in my own home. I’ve been an idol worshipper.

Thank goodness we have time for a course correction! Let’s make it count!

Recently another of my friends told me that this departure from CC has made her question everything she thought she knew about homeschooling. (They jumped into CC from the very beginning of their home education journey.)

“I met you at the Info Meeting and I fell in love with Classical Conversations. We committed that this is what we’d do through high school and didn’t have any doubts,” she said. “But now, I’m realizing that it’s like I moved to a new town named Homeschool and never got to know any of my neighbors. I need to know my neighbors to know what to do next.”

If you’re wanting to get to know your “neighbors,” the blog post is very detailed regarding the seven popular types of educational models: Homeschooling: Which Model Is Right For You?

Remember – you can choose something besides classical and the homeschooling police won’t come after you.

The last thing I want to say today is something I’ve forgotten in my time supporting and pursuing CC: God doesn’t actually tell us whether to homeschool or not, or what educational model to use… He tells us to teach our kids to:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.

Don’t let anything get in the way of the priority of God in your life. And if you have… make it right as quickly as you can.

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

Eager Anticipation

We can Eagerly Anticipate the way God is about to work through our fear of change.

This summer I was down in the dumps. I had a lot weighing on my mind and then one thing after another happened: our house required major work to be done, our CC community was having difficulty filling all of the Challenge level spots, after months of warning signs my health finally took a nosedive so dramatically I had to get professional help, and, of course, it was crunch time for 4H involvement and the upcoming county fair.

During this time I attended the birthday party of a childhood friend. While there I ran into another friend I rarely see and while we were catching up she related some heavy events from her life. Then said some words that I think will be with me forever:

“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.

We are in the midst of a major life change in our homeschool since we have made the decision to separate from Classical Conversations. I know that for some folks this probably sounds very melodramatic to be fretting and crying over whether to participate in a tuition program (I’ve never heard of anyone freaking out like this over leaving AWANA or their gymnastics gym!) but, man, it’s been a BIG deal for us. It’s all we’ve ever known for our homeschool. We’ve loved it tremendously… and now we know that God has moved us away.

I’m going back to things I know to be true from other seasons of life and thought I’d share them with you in case you’re spinning as much as yours truly. For any life altering, directionally changing decision you might be considering:

First, you can EAGERLY ANTICIPATE the way God is about to show up for you.

So many times God works before us in ways we would literally have never imagined. He’s got this. He’s also completely trustworthy! (He is literally the definition of trustworthy, so we should probably pay attention to that.) We know that He has our best interests at heart – not necessarily to help us know how to homeschool next year (I mean, maybe, but who knows?) but to set us up for situations that draw us closer to HIM and give us opportunities to praise Him for His faithfulness and greatness. Dude. That’s a big deal. Homeschooling will fall in line because the big rocks are already present.

Second, you will never change things until the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change.

Change is uncomfortable, painful, and messy. We like our habits; we like our predictability. Yes, a few of us have enthusiasm for change, but the vast majority of us are really comforted by stability and patterns. So what does that mean in a season of turmoil? We won’t change unless we must change. We shouldn’t take our grief over change as a sign that we shouldn’t move… instead we should accept that grief as natural, embrace it as proof we’re humans, and move forward in eager anticipation.

Third, expect the pain of loss of the relationship to take about half as long as the relationship endured.

I used this rule of thumb all the time when I worked with college students who were going through a breakup. When you break up with someone, it’s difficult! Expect that there will be moments of depression and railing against reality and just ickiness for about half as long as your relationship lasted. (For example, if you dated someone for six months, you’re probably on about a three month recovery process before you realize one day you haven’t thought about them or wailed while singing All by Myself.) In my particular situation of grieving right now, I was a part of this homeschool organization for eight years. Probably about four years from now I’ll be able to look back at our involvement and not feel like someone’s poking a bruise. Until then, it’s ok to be sad and wish I had more answers. But… in the fullness of time… it will work itself out.

The Plan

If you, like me, are in a season right now that has been proceeded by uncertainty and dread, stop and pray. Put your copy of the Well Trained Mind Aside and sit quietly with the Lord.

  1. Spend some time reminding yourself of how very much He loves you and how trustworthy He is (I love following along in Beth Moore’s Praying God’s Word books for this!).
  2. Petition Him with your concerns and worries because He’s waiting and willing to respond (Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7).
  3. Pull out a piece of paper, date it, and start writing down your stresses and hopes and dreams – dump it all out and then simply say, “I eagerly anticipate seeing the way this is going to work out.” THEN PUT YOUR LIST AWAY FOR AT LEAST A WEEK (more if you can stand it).
  4. When time has passed, bring out your list and spend time in amazement at the way He has worked in your life (The LORD will fight for you, you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14).

In the meantime, know that you’re not alone. God’s got this and His hands are much better than anyone else’s!

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

Conflict is Good

Conflict is Good. God uses Conflict for our Good.

I’ve been thinking about conflict.

Honestly, when I hear the word “conflict” something in my gut tenses up and I have a sense of dread. Depending on the actual context of the conflict I might feel a lump in my throat or my armpits get sweaty with a physiological reaction. I have sobbed ugly tears over conflict and struggled with feelings of rejection, insecurity, and righteous indignation.

Other times I hear “spirited disagreement” and I am transported to memories of times when I have pleasurably matched wits with worthy opponents over a topic and we have walked away at the end of the conversation with the ability to take humorous stabs at one another in the future. Since I often joke that “sarcasm is one of my love languages,” the ability to tease others is one that I value highly because it fills in the gaps of laughter in my relationships.

What’s the difference between these two types of conflicts?

It boils down to intent and the way that the different parties approach the conflict mediation table.

When I was getting my master’s degree in higher education administration, one of my educational opportunities was with the student judicial office. Working with that program, as well as the judicial systems in various universities, helped me to understand a few things about conflict resolution:

  1. You all have to be playing off of the same rule book. This might apply to the actual black and white “rules” of the organization, or it might be making sure that the players at the table have the same philosophical values. (It’s really hard to tell a student that they shouldn’t smoke pot when they’ve been watching their parents get high all throughout their life – even though the rules state you can’t smoke in the university residence hall!)
  2. You all have to be willing to compromise. Compromise is the key that takes a situation from stubborn standstill to consensus. If only one person does the compromising the situation moves into a doormat/steamroller adventure and neither of those are healthy for either individual. But if both people come to the table with a willingness to change perspective, you have hope.
  3. You have to actually listen well. Let me give you a hint – if someone is on a conflict mediation call and realizes that the other person has been sending out emails during the conversation… that’s not a sign they’re actually at the table to try to work things out. Listening is a skill, and it’s one we’re generally pretty poor as utilizing! Listening should be taxing on our physical resources as we hear without trying to formulate our next defense, as we lean in to the conversation and sit with stillness to open and understand. Leaving a conflict mediation call should feel like we’ve just completed a workout because our listening skill has been activated. Just saying, “I hear you,” is not enough.
  4. You have to be persistent. Very few conflicts actually finish after one encounter. Maintaining a relationship with someone after the conflict takes work and repeated intentional interactions.

Why bother with conflict resolution?

Sometimes conflict mediation won’t work out. So why do we even try when it would be easier to walk away? Why not just block everyone involved off of your Facebook friends list, avoid the grocery store where you used to run into each other, grimace a little when their name comes up…. ? Won’t that create peace?

Nope. Isolation doesn’t create peace, it just creates silence. Walking through conflict is good for us, too, because it allows us to give God an amazing amount of glory for bringing relationships into alignment. God’s in the business of His glory, so why not play into that??

There are certain pieces of our Americanized Human Experience that are extremely sanitized right now. I could spend a lot of time talking about the fear we have of death and how it stems from unfamiliarity as we send our elderly off to nursing homes and get our meat from styrofoam trays with plastic packaging… but that’s not the point of this post.

With our extremely mobile society we aren’t forced to deal with conflict on a regular basis. We can choose to isolate ourselves from run ins and never see people again. This wasn’t the case just a few generations ago when communities were small and everyone knew everyone else’s business.

The Matthew 18 principle of conflict resolution has been getting a lot of airtime in my circles lately because there are different ways people are interpreting this Biblical mandate for conflict resolution.

I have seen the Matthew 18 model work in a way that gives glory to God and restores relationships. I have also seen it work horribly. Matthew 18 should not be a threat to silence people or stifle reasonable exchange of ideas. It should be considered an opportunity to minister and create peace in a way that gives the glory to God and restores those in conflict into relationship.

This link outlines a fantastic resource of how to walk through Having Hard Conversations. It’s from Watermark Community Church in Texas and if you’re in the midst or still grieving a conflict I’d encourage you to check it out.How to Have Hard Conversations

One of my most significant takeaways from this “How to Have Hard Conversations” philosophy is trying to decide whether what you’re frustrated by is a sin or a preference. We are all unique and have life experiences that give us different trigger points. Leadership is hard and people develop as leaders over time – so there are situations in organizations that are messed up or a sign of immature leadership but are not true, actual sin.

It’s necessary to identify whether you’re seeing sin and or being irritated by a preference.

If your conflict is over a preference issue, my suggestion would be to keep your mouth still and be supportive of the current regime. You might even learn that there’s a method to the madness you’re witnessing and, given the fullness of time, you will see the benefit and it’s beautiful.

If, after quietly watching and waiting, you find that your preference is so strong that you simply can’t be a positive team player, then I believe you’re honor bound to remove yourself from the team. Say, “Thank you,” agree to disagree, then move to where you won’t harm someone else’s vision and find your happiness and joy in something else.

However, things are different when you’re dealing with SIN instead of PREFERENCE. If there is something that violates Biblical principles and can be clearly labeled sin, it’s your duty to address it. We are told as Christians that to see sin and ignore it is an action that is itself a sin.

If you’ve walked through the Matthew 18 process and done your best to seek peace privately without success, then my interpretation is that is is appropriate and honorable to address the sin more publicly with the larger community. The goal, however, is restoration of the sinner, not vindication of your personal agenda.

Remember that at the base of every Matthew 18 conflict over sin issues there should be a sincere desire to be BACK in relationship with that person, living in community.

Counter-intuitive, right? Absolutely opposite of our worldly experience, huh? “I’m mad at you so I want to be closer and in relationship with you!!!” (When I consider this I always visualize Ann Voskamp’s statement that when our children are the most unhuggable is when they need our hugs the most.)

The very idea of being BACK in relationship with the person who irritates us the most is probably not what you want to visualize – and I don’t blame you a bit! That’s a human reaction!

But that is also what gives God the most glory because He is in the business of restoration. We know that we don’t have the capacity in ourselves to love that unselfishly without God, so when we are able to find forgiveness and restoration, we are the living examples of the salvation story, that Christ came to us when we were most unlovable, sacrificed for us in an unimaginable way, and then restores us into righteous community.

Conflict is hard, so hard. It wrecks us emotionally and tears us apart. But it also provides a really beautiful space for us to grow in our relationship with God and trust Him to be the one who can direct our path.

Waiting can be the hardest part of the conflict as well. It’s rare for things to be solved quickly so it’s easy to lose heart. Just remember that phrase, “In the fullness of time.” Wondrous things can happen within the fullness of time while we just do the next best thing.

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved
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humor for homeschooling, relationships, family & life