Tag Archives: classical conversations

Ministry and Money

Have I ever told you that I really like Chick-fil-A?

We got a Chick-fil-A location about four years ago in our town and it is wonderful. I love supporting them with my money because I feel a kinship to their company values, they serve a darn good piece of chicken, and their play area never smells like fungus.

My husband and I joke that Chick-fil-A is “Jesus Chicken” and how it’s “God’s Fast Food” so often I think our kids could be a little confused about whether those phrases are actually a company tag line or if their salvation might be at risk if they eat at KFC. (Just kidding.)

You know what else I like about Chick-fil-A? They clearly state their business and convictions, treat their employees well, and don’t create confusion with their motivation.

Could I get chicken somewhere else for a better price? Absolutely. But sometimes I choose with my feet and my wallet to participate in a chicken eating experience at Chick-fil-A without any guilt.

You see, we live in a world that is full of marketing, of words, words, words, as Dorothy Sayers puts it, and those words are used persuasively and effectively to lure folks into alignment with different principles.

You want to be a 21st century man? Use Gillette, because our razors are made by people who care about women.

You want to be a reasonable, wise parent? Use Luvs because parents who know what they’re doing choose Luvs.

Everywhere we go there are messages, packaged up into different wrappings, asking us to buy, to sell, to commit, to lead in different areas. They each offer a version of truth.

But their truth is not Truth with a capital “T.”

We can see the logic here, there is a “truth” for some that is not Truth with a capitol “T.” Truth with a capital “T” comes from God and a huge part of the training we give our children is to be skeptical of marketing, the truth with a lower case “t,” because it can be used to manipulate.

With this discernment, when I see Chick-fil-A just doin’ Chick-fil-A, goin’ to court over healthcare, standing firmly on their convictions as a private, for-profit company, I admire them. They rise in my esteem. I want to give them more of my money to eat their chicken and maybe even add a cup of fresh lemonade to my order.

Based on observation, it seems that honesty is a marketing technique that’s working for them. By standing for their convictions as a for-profit company, despite being constantly attacked by different agendas, Chick-fil-A has posted their highest quarters of earnings ever.

You see, even when people don’t agree with what you say, if you say it openly and honestly, they will step forward and call you respectable.

People know what they’re supporting when they drive up to Chick-fil-A. Jesus chicken and a helping of Southern hospitality. When you hand that cashier your money, you know you’re supporting a company that will fight for unborn children, Sunday Sabbath, and community development.

How may I serve you today?

Please, take my money.

On the flip side, you know what doesn’t work as a marketing technique? Taking advantage of customers with half truths. Leading people to believe that a company is a ministry with a motto like “Knowing God and Making Him Known” and operating as a ministry, but in reality being a for-profit million-dollar company.

Ya’ll, I’m tired of people promoting that Classical Conversations is a ministry. Yes, ministry is a by-product of what happens in many communities at a local level and a major reason why most of the Directors and middle-managers sign up for leadership, but there is major money being made within this company and people need to stop gasping in shock when they realize this.

(To be honest, the last Classical Conversations Sales Orientation I attended did explicitly state that they were a for-profit company and that the Support Representatives should be Sales Representatives… I remember the speaker standing in front of the room, and almost yelling “You are in Sales!” But because of the narrative previously, for so many years, my own bias, and the fact that the perfect candidate for the position is one who wants to serve as a comrade instead of a Sales Manager, I think that no one has really heard them or taken them seriously.)

So let me lay it out clearly here.

Classical Conversations is a company that is enjoying the profitability of doing business in a capitalistic country.

The Bortins make money and intend to make more.

Ministry is a by-product of that. The company enjoys the benefits of capitalism with a privately owned company that sells a product to home educators unlike anything else to date. That product – Classical, Christian curriculum modeled within community – has generated a significant amount of money.

Money can promote ministry. Ministry can make money.

Let’s elaborate.

Classical Conversations is a for-profit company and it is doing a reasonably good job of its business. CC is “a K through 12 educational services company that supports homeschoolers. CC helps facilitate like-minded families coming together “To know God and to make Him known.” CC has developed a copyrighted curriculum and they stock and sell products that support that curriculum. In addition they provide extensive training for all of the licensees that lead a Classical Conversations program. They also provide supplemental content online that can be accessed by families for a nominal subscription fee as well as an annual parent equipping free of charge.” (From the “Response to Anonymous Letter Sent to Churches” that was removed from circulation with the statement it hadn’t been fully vetted before publishing. It was also circulated by team leaders and was quoted in an email as recently as yesterday.)

Guys – they’re telling us what they’re doing pretty explicitly. But we’re hearing their words through the lens of our experiences. Because CC on a local level is a ministry to soooo many parents it’s really, really hard to recognize they’re actually a for-profit company intending to make a money off of the dollars we sacrifice and shave off of the weekly grocery budget for books and tuition.

We can’t cry foul when we’ve been gullible and swallowed the marketing ploy hook, line, and sinker.

“The great enemy of the Truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.” ~ John F. Kennedy

Friends… stop believing the people who promote CC as an organization by moms and for moms. Just stop it. Take the rose-colored glasses off and look at things logically.

Firstly, let’s identify that this homeschooling market was so small for so many years that it wasn’t really worth marketing to so it became safe. We starting thinking we didn’t have to comparison shop and find the bargain. We were naive enough to think we had a safety net.

Twenty years ago there were approximately 850,000 homeschoolers across the US. But today, that number is closer to 1.8 MILLION children being homeschooled. Times are changing. Homeschooling is turning into BIG money. That means there is money to be made and there will be people coming along, eager to claim their piece of the prosperity pie.

‘Merica, baby.

Classical Conversations had about 120,000 students last year (2018), which is around 15% of the entire market share of homeschooling children in the US. The licensing fees they received per student ranged from $55-$345. Let’s be generous and on the cheaper side of the issue and say that each child is an average of $100.

That’s a $12 million dollar income from licensing fees. Easily.

Then look at the bookstore sales, which can range from $3,000-$20,000 PER PRACTICUM. There are approximately 600 practicums held each summer. Let’s, again, be on the low side and estimate an average of $5,000 in book sales per practicum, times 600, is about $3 million dollars. I’m guessing that practicums are the big money makers because of their timeliness and ability to purchase the books without shipping. So, OK, let’s guesstimate that bookstore sales the rest of the year are just another $3 million. So let’s say that we’re at (conservatively) $6 million in bookstore sales annually.

But wait, we aren’t done! There are practicum camp enrollments because this is a diverse company! In 2016 there were approximately 30,000 parents who attend practicums. So, let’s assume each parent enrolled at least one child in a camp at the going rate of $42/child (again, these are low numbers because there are often multiple children in camps from each family). We’ve got an additional $1.2 million.

Next, let’s think outside the box with how parents can support parents. Ah ha! CC Connected! The goal for 2016 was to have 10% of all families enrolled in CC Connected. At that time there were roughly 37,000 families in CC… so let’s stay with those numbers (assuming they’ve grown over the last three years and the goal was achieved), and say we’re looking at 3,700 families enrolled in CC Connected each month for at least $6/month. (My family personally has been enrolled in Foundations, Essentials, and Challenge for a grand total of $11/month.) So on the conservative side we’re seeing at least a $266K income on creative items developed by enrolled families using the resources (Guides, etc.) they have previously purchased, and uploaded for free to be helpful to the greater homeschooling community.

We’re up to a highly conservative estimate of $19.5 million in gross income each year.

I don’t know much of anything about Testing Services but I’m guessing they make money for the company or it wouldn’t be something CC pursues. Academic Transcripts and dual enrollments probably bring in a bit of money too.

Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t a massive amount of expenses, and this post isn’t speaking about those expenses because I have no idea what a website costs, what the employment and payroll looks like, etc. I’m just saying that families are delusional when they defend this company as shoe string. It used to be shoe string. It is not any longer.

All of these things add up, so can we please stop the narrative that CC is a ministry only?! It’s a business, run by a man who has a business priority and is actively seeking ways to squeeze the profit out of a brilliant idea that meets a huge need for homeschoolers… in order to fund a pretty awesome National Athletic Village and Rugby in the U.S.

That’s all allowable. Absolutely. This is America, we praise and enjoy the success stories and I send the Bortins family a figurative high five from across the country for being awesome a what they do.

BUT….

Can CC own that with the same enthusiasm as Chick-fil-A owns its Jesus Chicken? Can the people contracted by CC stop telling others that this is a ministry opportunity and own it as a business opportunity that, if done right, can benefit our children well?

Nope.

Because here’s where the rub comes in. The people with boots on the ground, the heart of the organization, they aren’t in it for the money. And, frankly, they aren’t seeing much – if any – of that money in their own bank accounts.

They are doing what they do because they love their kids. Because they want this curriculum and the community for their families. Because they’ve seen the value in the curriculum and believe that homeschooling is a sacrificial area that the IRS will not bless you to pursue but that God will give you crowns in eternity for completing.

For the average person in leadership… they are not here for the money. They’re here because they believe they are devoting hours and hours to the greater good and homeschooling as a cause.

And, because those folks aren’t making anywhere close to millions (most of the time not even close to thousands), it kind of blows their minds when they realize there are actually millions being made.

You know what? I’ve played into promoting that attitude. I can’t tell you the number of times I approached someone with the Support Representative position with the words, “This isn’t about the money because you’ll work far more than your hours will be compensated. But you’ll know you’re helping fight the good fight, that the fields are ready to be harvested and you’re a part of it. It will be worth it. You’ll be protecting the future for your children and homeschooling and know this is something that God may have called you to do!”

When you present the God card it’s very hard to argue.

Lord help me.

Honestly, I still believe that the work I’ve done as a representative of this organization has made a difference. I have encouraged the mama who didn’t believe she ever could homeschool to know she has a hope and a community and that her children will be tomorrow’s leaders. I know that because I’ve spoken, because I’ve sacrificed, children and parent are more confident in their intellectual abilities, ready to take on new challenges, and lead when it’s hard to stand strong.

I still believe that effort was not wasted. Because I always did it for the ministry and I know for a FACT God’s will was accomplished.

But I do not feel smart, or like a wise consumer. Because all of that goodness has been accomplished while I put my family, my children at risk with a liability we could not withstand if something went wrong, and within a company that enjoyed the profit of my labor without the loyalty of relationship.

God uses all things for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. I trust Him for that.

But I have removed my faith from a company that will profit on the vulnerability and hope of their people.

With homeschooling – or really anything we identify as a ministry – the savvy consumer isn’t looking quite so hard to find the deception in the spin. This is why it hurts so badly to learn that the motivations of others might be different than our own.

I fear that because of the desire from highest corporate authorities to turn a profit God has removed His hand of protection from this company. That the communities that have been the life blood of the organization will fall in a flood. The Directors who have been the hands of homeschooling in community will find their hands raised in surrender, like my own, because the liability is too great and the corporation will not help them with the necessary changes.

All because the vision that was originally cast is so very different from the vision of today.

I wish that the organization would just own what they’re doing and make sure that all who are working for them would acknowledge it as well. And yet, I know the Truth.

People don’t want to be a part of a company or a transaction. They want to be a part of a family.

And so we are at an impasse.

Edits: I have edited this post from original publication slightly. I corrected typos (darn fat fingers!) and I was incorrectly using the word “profit.” Sales and profit are not interchangeable. I’ve tried to correct this in every spot. I added clarity that all of these numbers don’t take into account any of the expenses. I also removed the statement “Ministry is by-product of that. If it weren’t, they would be organized as a non-profit, not a for-profit company.” Upon consideration I think that the founders probably just didn’t want a board of directors and that oversight… thus a non-profit wasn’t the way to go.

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

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

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

Leavin’ CC On a Jet Plane (well, not really. there’s not a plane involved.)

We're leaving Classical Conversations.
We’ve made it Facebook official… our homeschool is going in a different direction after eight years with Classical Conversations.

So I came clean and made it Facebook official tonight. After months of trying to resolve conflict – and really more than a year of being aware that there is a figurative warning signal blaring on the ship we’re on – I finally admitted to the world that our family is leaving Classical Conversations.

OK, I realize that to those of you who follow the blog because you just know and like our family… or you really want to know more about the random facts of our life… or you consider us a cautionary tale with way more livestock and poop stories than the average life… this type of an announcement might seem like WAY OVERKILL. And you’d be right, if you live in a normal world.

But, well, we aren’t normal and haven’t been for quite some time! Our CC community has been our core group of people who lock arms and live life together. In defense of those relationships, and because I loved them so much that I wanted to do everything in my power to promote community and make it achievable for others, I’ve served as an AR, SR, Director, Tutor, and parent in a revolving fashion for the last eight years.

I was one who proudly proclaimed, “I’ve drunk the CC Kool-aid.”

And here’s the thing – CC is pretty darn amazing! I don’t even care that this corporation that started in the basement of Leigh Bortins’ home has made literally millions off of their method. America is a capitalistic country and it’s a brilliant idea. Community meets a need (and it’s a huge need in the home schooling world because if we don’t get around other people we find ourselves going a little crazy while crocheting and wearing our denim jumpers).

(Disclosure. I really do crochet.)

(Secondary Disclosure. I haven’t worn a jumper since I was a child and I kind of miss them. Especially the ones that were one piece with an elastic waistband and had shoulder ties. I’m talking hot 70s action here.)

This is me. Late 70s. I’ll share a photo of my jumper days when I can but for the moment my gathered yoke neckline dress will have to do. And, yes, there IS a rabbit in my sueded, velcro-ed Nike shoe.

The CC curriculum is amazing. Like totally. And the community – if you’re in a community that’s healthy – it’s literally life changing. My local community has been the group of people that has remained constant for my kids, for my family, the ones we go to when we’re sick, when we need to borrow power tools, when we want to scream that our families are driving us crazy, and when we want to brag on our kids or the fact that we finally got all the clean laundry folded and off the sofa!

They’re my peeps.

But in our case, 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.

God had to make that really clear to us that the dream was dead because, well… as a family we tend to take stubbornness and loyalty to a fairly outrageous level. (Don’t even ask me to show you our tax returns for my CC work for the last eight years. You’ll decide we’re extremely stupid and I can tell you Dave Ramsey would not be proud.)

Enough of that.

Now I’ve come out of the closet and we have admitted we’re leaving CC, the next question people are asking is, “What are you doing instead?”

I don’t know.

I wish I knew, and I’m deep in research mode. But I don’t know how we’re going to handle the future for our rising Challenge B, Foundations/Essentials, and Foundations students. (And I have to train myself to be normal again and say things like 8th grade…) BUT I do know a few things… if I don’t start with the philosophical stuff we’ll be doomed to curriculum hopping and that’s not something I have time or energy to do.

Set me on a path and let me go already.

So, for those who are hopping over to this blog because I went public with our exit, let me tell you a few things that I’m researching and reading as we figure out our next direction.

Consider This by Karen Glass

Classical Christian Education Made Approachable by Classical Conversations, Inc.

The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer

Awakening Wonder: A Classical Guide to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty by Stephen R. Turley

Norms and Nobility by David Hicks.

ETA: For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

(Now’s the time I admit The Well-Trained Mind left me sucking my thumb in a corner and crying for my mama when I tried to read it several years ago. I used it as a booster seat for several years. And now I’m hoping I’m grown up enough to not run away and hide again.)

(I also am scared of Norms and Nobility. Like a lot. But page 107 is the start of this lovely sample curriculum plan and it doesn’t look so scary so far!)

We’re looking at curriculums: Claritas Academy, Ambleside Online, Ambrose, Classical Academic Press, etc.

We’re listening to podcasts from the Circe Institute, Classical Academic Press, Institute for Excellence in Education, Your Morning Basket, etc.

We’re researching like nobody’s business and talking to people who’ve graduated their kids out of high school already. We’re praying for discernment for what will fit our kids best. We’re living in freedom and refusing to be muzzled by disappointment in our decision.

It’s kind of a big deal in our world.

My goal is to work through these thoughts in a way that is relatively public because I’m realizing I’m not the only one who is struggling with these things… I’m not the only one who is so conscious that these children need an excellent education on learning to value that which is true and beautiful and good… or who wants community but also wants freedom!

So, in light of that last thought, here’s the Scripture that a sweet friend send to me today after we went public with our decision:

Freedom in Christ// “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

You’re not alone. Neither am I. And we’re going to taste some freedom.

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Jim Davis / Garfield Preschool Art Project

This coming year in Cycle 3 of Classical Conversations we will be studying influential American artists. One artist is Jim Davis, who created Garfield! We decided to experiment with an art project… Caught in the Cookie Jar. It’s actually a combination of a few different art projects, but so far it’s been approved by our 4, 7, 9, and 11 year olds.

 

First you start with the black and white of Garfield.

(Here’s a pdf file to print at home)

Davis_Garfield

Color

 

Fold carefully! In theory you should be able to fold in half and then line it up on the line marked on the side, but each printer is different so just make sure that the lines match up around the lips/nose area.

Viola! You have a sneak Garfield Caught in the Cookie Jar, inspired by Jim Davis!

 

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The Posts That Brought You Here Over the Last 8 Months

I don't know the who or why to this photo but it's going to give me nightmares for the rest of my life.
I don’t know the who or why to this photo but it’s going to give me nightmares for the rest of my life.

My dear friends. In my blogging break the past eight months I had completely forgotten the joy I receive when I take a look at the search terms that people put into The Google that bring them to StealingFaith.

 

It’s hard for me to believe that people will pull up their search engines and type these phrases. And then, they arrived at this website as a response to these search terms.

 

Oh, the sweet, humorous joy of it all is hard to contain! I had forgotten the great variety of topics I’ve blogged about in the past that would make these quirky phrases relevant!

 

Today I will continue in the tradition of The Posts That Brought You Here and share the 10 most intriguing search terms of the last quarter… and my best guess for the posts these terms discovered.

 

1. Samwise gamgee. So maybe this isn’t the funniest search term to start with, but it may be the most inspiring. I don’t know anyone who can’t love on the grand ideas presented in the Lord of the Rings, and the true friendship offered by Samwise Gamgee. The quote in this post helps us remember It’s Worth Fighting For.

 

2. Suppository stories. I’m not sure how I feel about this search term, but it came up in more than five variations on the search list. I’m guessing it has something to do with Dos and the Thunder Poop. This story just never gets old. I can’t wait to tell it to Dos’ future spouse. It will be memorable.

 

3. stealingfaith family planning. Though some might clai with four kids it’s unlikely that we did any family planning at all but that’s just not the case! We strategically opened the door to kiddos using Natural Family Planning and I share our reasons why in this post, Going Natural.

 

4. trapper keeper kittens. I’m certain this search term had something to do with my memory of a Trapper Keeper with kittens on the front I got for Christmas one year, because who doesn’t fondly remember presents from the Revco?! My memories, on display, in The Christmas of the Guinea Pig. But, just as a bonus to all who care, I’ll share this lovely video of kittens: CLICK HERE FOR KITTENS. Lucky you.

 

5. is classical conversations a cult. The quick answer? No. But the reality, I love Classical Conversation quite a bit. This organization makes homeschooling possible for our family and we’ve bought in hook line and sinker! Just in case you’d like to drink the CC Kool-Aid, too, here’s a link to their website, Classical Conversations. You can thank me later.

 

6. help stepped in dog vomit barefoot. My initial reaction is that there are more problems than dog vomit when you turn to Google before the Bounty quicker-picker-upper, but that might just be me being judgmental and all. Despite my faith in your emergency decision-making skills, I can comfort you by sharing I’ve been there, done that. Then I blogged about it. It’s not fresh like Teen Spirit.

 

7. thongs at the minnesota state fair. Oh dear heavens. I pray this is talking about the thong on your foot rather than the thong in your… ahem. I’m scared, though, knowing the crazy things that can happen at a state fair. In order to venture into safer anatomical territory, I’ll just redirect you to the three part series of the best fairs, festivals, and funny events in the United States.

 

8. how to tell roommate not to borrow my underwear. Dude. This is messed up and I’m just sorry you’ve had this experience. I’m guessing this term turned up a post where I interviewed Kikolani with Three Simple Questions, but can I just say… I’m sorry? Underwear is an intensely personal item and it’s a bummer you had to share. I suppose you might find some thongs at the state fair if you’re really in the market, however.

 

9. can tape get the hair from underarms. Well yes, duh! It can also make you scream like a little girl who just saw Elsa Let It Go in person. I believe it’s about as much fun to use duct tape to remove armpit hair as it is to compare yourself to the standards put forth in Family Fun magazine, but you be the judge.

 

10. identify dogs by tongue. So… I searched this term myself and all I got was “Apologies, but no results were found.” I don’t know how to identify a dog by it’s tongue but I do know some random facts about the tongue like the fact that the blue whale has a tongue the size of an elephant and the hardest tongue twister in the English language is, “The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.” Those won’t really help you in the real world but this post on 5 Worst Ways to Start a Conversation might get you a date. Or something like that.

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My “Why?”: Because It Is Yet Light

Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience
Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience

I’ve been at a few training sessions lately for Classical Conversations (the organization we collaborate with in our homeschooling journey) and it’s forced me to answer a very important question for our children’s education: Why?

 

Why bother educating at home when I’m impatient, easily frustrated, always behind on housework, not formally educated in elementary school techniques, etc.? Basically, in all the ways that seem to matter from the outside this whole home schooling path we’re on as a family seems… well, idiotic.

 

And yet… here we are. Even worse, the more I learn about CC the more committed I am to seeing the culmination of this method within our education process. We’re choosing a difficult path… and liking it.

 

But why?

 

In all the world, of all the many ways we could choose to educate our children, Why would we choose Classical Conversations? Why would we accept more leadership in an organization when my life is full as it is? Why bother when it would instead be so much easier to take off some hats and find space to relax? Classical Conversations is not a religion. It is not a replacement for church. It’s just a model, a method, in the sea of other options, right? And even more importantly, Why CC?

 

My Why is that CC makes home education possible for me. This organization clearly places an exceptional, achievable educational journey in front of my family that I can follow as the primary educator in our family without freaking out because I may be missing something in setting up their knowledge base. It’s comprehensive – and the company’s explicit aim is to reveal God through the knowledge of Him and His creation, to know God and to make Him known. And that mission – that ability to make a monumental task like education my child achievable – is a gift I find a blessing, one my husband and I are willing to sacrifice our time and energy  to promote!

 

I don’t want to keep this opportunity to myself, or to for those lucky few families who happen to live within driving distance. I am so aware of the mom who is dying inside, knowing they don’t want to turn their children over to public schools to be wards of the state for 30 hours each week – but don’t know where to start to even attempt to teach their children themselves. I want that dad who aches to mentor his children to find a way to walk alongside their child in all aspects of life into adulthood with the support of a Godly community. There are people desperate to make the life change necessary to bring their children home who don’t know where to start; CC can be the diving board… at least it was for me.

 

I know we are all busy – too busy, truth be told. We don’t really want to pull our children home with us because we are intimately acquainted with their tricky personalities, the way they can push all our buttons 16 times before 7:30 a.m. We are already so very tired just with the day-to-day living that must take place to survive. Even so, there’s something valuable about this homeschool craziness that somehow, some way makes the sacrifice worth it (for me).

 

Here’s one more snippet from my most recent training session that gives me goosebumps. It was a written response to a person expressing hesitation about whether being a leader in the CC is worth the pay off, but the sentiment applies across the board to those who embrace this counter-culture idea of being your child’s primary influencer:

 

“… as home schoolers, we have a responsibility to work while it is yet day. The night is coming, when no man may work.  We can’t be sure we will be able to home educate 20 years from now. What can we be doing now to make that a possibility for our grandchildren?  So yes, our main responsibility as wives and moms is to our husbands and children first… [but] it isn’t going to do any of us any good to protect our home time and our family time if we have no freedom to home educate. There may come a day when we are compelled to give our children to the state to be educated.  At that point, we will have much more time to devote to the cause.  But a very much harder task to accomplish.”

Before you take me to task on being all death, doom, and destruction regarding the urgency of working to make homeschooling a viable option today, please consider the families in Germany seeking political refuge in the US because the German government wants to jail them and place their children in the state foster care system for daring to educate at home. Take a moment to consider our current US Secretary of Education publicly announced he feels Americans should not consider the ability to education their own kiddos a basic right of citizenship.

 

The night is coming, friends… but I want to do my best to keep it light for a few (figurative) hours longer.

 

Just for fun, here are several links to infographics regarding the home education movement and effectiveness:

 

1. Homeschooling by the Numbers.

2. Homeschool Domination: Why These Kids Will Take You Down.

3. History of Homeschooling.

4. 2008 – 2009 SAT Scores.

5. How American Homeschoolers Measure Up.

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Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

Crazy Courageous

mitchlaw / stock.xchng

I spent the morning teaching facts about Byzantine Emperor Justinian, Confucius, and Eastern Asia to a classroom of wiggly preschoolers.

 

We set our facts to music and sang our hearts out. Right about the time I committed to some, “ooo, ooo, ooo’s,” waving my arms in the air, I caught sight of one of the parents giving me the look. 

 

That parent wasn’t trying to embarrass me or derail me in any way. It was just a look they had that said, “I’m so glad that’s her, not me!”
My commitment and courage wilted. My internalized criticism took flight! I felt dumb. I wanted to stop the class right then and there.

 

I needed to get over it.

 

It’s easy to feel foolish and stop moving toward your calling because peers think you’re strange.

 

Even middle-aged parents succumb to peer pressure! Yet even more powerful than peer pressure is the dialogue in our heads

 

Consider Henri Nouwen’s words:

“I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection… When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.”… Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”

 

We all know the mantra about “being yourself.” Today I’m asking you to embrace that idea and courageously stand up as a leader. I bet you’re pluckier than you think!

 

Question: Are you courageous? Are you willing to face the obstacles and move forward in spite of the fear that may try to well up within you? Be courageous and you will succeed!

 

This post was originally published October 26, 2012 and is being recycled as part of the “I’ve Been Around” summer! Hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

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