Saturday, March 14, 2015

Our Family's Journey- By Curtis & Holly

Over the years we have been asked many questions about our family, our faith, and our homeschooling. Many of them are the same questions and comments over and over from different and some times even from the same people.

 Some have been from curious minds who were desiring a better understanding of how we manage our family and home. Maybe for the purpose of comparing the techniques we are trying to what they're trying. Or maybe they're just curious about why we do things the way we do. We've also had many people interested in homeschooling their own children, living on one income, gardening, and all kinds of other topics. (We are by no means experts in any of these areas but people are still interested in hearing about our trails and errors. Live and learn, right?).

We've also heard lots of questions and comments from skeptics who are usually trying to put us in an awkward situation by attempting to prove to us that what we have is all wrong. They only have one intention and they don't really want to hear our answers.

Everyone has their own story. Here's ours.

I (Curtis) was born in 1976, I was raised in Hendersonville TN. I have one sister named Stephanie she is about three years older than me. I attended public schools and I enjoyed going to school and learning! I grew up in a Christian home, my Dad was a deacon at our church, we attended services pretty much every time the doors were open! We didn't have much money, but my parents were loving, kind and raised us to be good Christian people. I was really lucky to be blessed with such caring parents. I have zero complaints about my childhood!
When I was 16 years old I was baptized into Christ by my preacher Ray Frizzell. I was a faithful Christian until I lost my way around the time I graduated high school. I had a lot of great friends in school but I didn't realize at the time that most of them were heading down the wrong path and I was following close behind! And for the better part of my young adult life
I was in and out of Christ. This continues to be my main reason for homeschooling our girls, I remember how hard it was to try to stay true to the Lord and hang with my friends and combat all the temptations that were bombarding me daily! The Christian life is not an easy one and I am deeply concerned that my girls might get into the wrong crowd and be changed forever! I want to give them the best opportunity I can to follow Jesus.
Then in 2000 I meet Holly and her little baby Taylor through some mutual friends, it wasn't until a couple years later that we went on our first date! We dated for a while and I was not in a good place with the Lord at the time. I did not really realize what a truly great women the Lord had placed in front of me, I had been blinded by sin until one day I realized I needed to quit fooling around and get serious about our relationship! Looking back I was pretty stupid and selfish in those days. So in 2006 we got married! We were kind of unsure about how many children we wanted to have. Taylor was already 5 years old and that was quite a change having a sweet little girl living with me. I always wanted a little boy so we started trying to have a baby. We had little Mary Jo in 2007. That changed our lives considerably, I was still struggling with my Christian life and Holly really helped me keep my focus on the important things! I still wanted to try for a boy so in 2012 little Victoria Caroline was born! Yep another girl! So we decided that in a few years we would try one more time for that boy! But late in that same year we had a little surprise, Holly was pregnant again! Needless to say we were both very surprised and not really ready for another baby yet. Now this one had to be a boy right? WRONG! Paisley Elizabeth was born in 2013.
Through all these years of having babies we were always trying to improve our Christian lives as best we could, but it was never easy! If it wasn't for my wonderful wife I don't know how I would have made it! She has been the greatest encourager in my life. I am extremely thankful to God for blessing me with her! We knew that we would have to take on the Devil together or we would never succeed in being the parents God wanted us to be. We are still a work in Progress.
I (Holly) was born in southern California. Like Curtis, I also attended public school. But I hated school from the very first day of kindergarten. I was defiant, disobedient, disrespectful, super lazy, and spoiled. My parents loved me tremendously. They gave me everything I wanted (within reason) and always took very good care of me. We did not attend church regularly. At one time we did attend a Mormon church that I have no memory of. They always told me there was a God and taught me random things about the Bible here and there. My mom always discouraged watching mtv and listening to inappropriate music. She was good about explaining right and wrong to me. She quoted scripture and helped me recognize the evil in this world. My Dad told me I should never drink or smoke. He told me not to steal or litter. I remember great lessons about life from both of them.

My downfall was certainly not lack of love. It was lack of discipline, consistency, accountability, and a firm foundation.

When I hit 13, I went wild. Whatever you're imagining in your head, it was worse. I'll spare you the details. But during my teenage years, I was lost. Way lost. I liked fun, friends, and boys. I hated school. I hated rules. I had low self esteem and a major bad attitude. I don't know how or why my parents didn't kill me.

But thankfully I survived and I did it without a criminal record ;)

I moved to Tennessee in 1997 when I was 17. I attended different churches off and on after that. I've always known there is a God and that one day I would have to give Him an account of my life. I just hoped it wouldn't be any time soon. I was even baptized.

I settled down quite a bit after my first daughter but it wasn't until Mary (my second) was about 2 that I really started to feel the Lord guiding me to be obedient to Him. After attending church regularly for years.

It wasn't until I met a group of people that I didn't care for and kind of considered as losers and we were introduced to them as "This is Curtis and Holly, and they're cool, they're just like us". That moment is when I really thought about my life. At first I was offended, but with careful examination of my life, I realized, they were right. I was worldly with a desire for all of the pleasures of the world just like them. The only difference was that I was a fake. I hid it better.

I was baptized again. But this time it was for the remission of my sins. This time it was biblical. I did not add this to get into the topic of baptism with anyone. This is just my story.

It was not a complete turn around. I had so many areas of my life that required a change. Big change! I've prayed for strength, guidance, and forgiveness almost every day since then. Quitting drinking, smoking, and other things was a good start. But it was only the start. I was successfully "acting" like a Christian. I was going to church, trying to avoid sin, and praying and studying. But it quickly became clear to me that I had a long way to go before I could say that I was living my life in a way that was pleasing to God. I prayed for Him to open my eyes to the sin in my life and give me the strength to remove it. I began to see sin in my music, television, movies, language, friends, and most of all, in my heart.

The bible tell us that we are to hate sin in Romans 12:9 "Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good".

I never realized the evil I was filled with. But it was there. Jealousy, envy, immodesty, materialism, discontentment, and so much more. It was time to get right with God!

So basically our method for removing the sin from our lives and our children's lives was to REMOVE the sin. Notice I didn't say "to protect our children by sheltering them from everything bad" or "locking us all up in the house so we never go outside and have to be around sin".

I said "remove it from our lives". Is that not what God tells us to do? Isn't that the change that God requires from us?

"So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back. Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect." Hebrews 12

"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his." Romans 6

"Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." 1 Corinthians 5:7

"My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him" 1John 2

The Bible is clear that we should do our best to remove as much sin as  possible from our lives and hearts.

Our Homeschool Journey

Our homeschool journey did not start out as a lifestyle change. Taylor went to public school from kindergarten through fourth grade. We loved her school. We loved her teachers. We were blessed with a wonderful public school experience. But we were noticing some things going on that worried us. Things that the world calls normal in young girls but the Bible clearly condemns. Jealousy, pride, lust, cursing, lying, stealing, gossiping, envy, adultery were all present! And this was elementary school!! The world says these are all normal parts of life. Umm I don't think so! But anyways, Taylor was about to finish fourth grade and head to the middle school like all of the other kids. Yes the middle school starts at fifth grade. So that's fifth to eighth grade. We both agreed that she wasn't ready for middle school. She was academically ready (an A student) but not spiritually ready. After all, how could she be? Yes, she went to church but the firm foundation wasn't there yet. Our firm foundation wasn't even there. 

She didn't really have any friends at church. She always felt left out by the older girls and her choices in friends at school weren't always wise. We felt like she needed some serious guidance and character training from us to prepare her better. So with the help of friend who had six amazing children that she homeschooled, we decided to try it for one year. We thought that maybe after some one on one life training, we would feel better about sending her off into the world of middle school.

I (Holly) never imagined that this one decision would have such an astounding impact on all of our lives. Suddenly, I was accountable to Taylor for every phone conversation I had, every tv show or movie I watched, and every other thing I was involved in.

During some great character studies I realized that our characters needed more help than hers!! I was teaching and preaching about things that I still had not gotten around to dealing with in my own life. What a wake up call! As I was reading lessons to her, I would have to stop and say "Mom needs to work on this one too, lets do it together". We would share our lessons with Dad when he got home and our family was becoming more obedient to God. When it was time to talk about sixth grade Taylor said she didn't miss school and wanted to continue to learn from home. We were so happy, because we felt the same way :)

Ok, so here we are a few years and kids later. Taylor's spiritual growth is unbelievable! She has a true determination in her heart to please God. Academically she is right on track. Our umbrella school requires testing every year and keeps records of her test scores, grade, and attendance, which I turn in to them each semester. Classes, extracurricular activities, and all sports are open to homeschool students. This year she is in 9th grade.

Mary is in the 2nd grade this year. She is reading well and doing great with her studies. Her heart is pure and sweet and belongs to God. I couldn't ask for more from her.

We are always learning and growing together. Taylor loves teaching Mary things like the songs she learned in school about math facts. They are both always willing to jump in help with the babies. They have a special bond with each other and the time they spend together isn't just spent watching TV or fighting like many children we see. When I overhear Taylor giving Mary spiritual advice, my heart melts! Her big sister cares about her and is always there for her. I love that.

Now that the babies are almost two and three, we are focusing more on some of the things we originally focused on, like more character, bible, and service. We've been in survival mode and have really had to work hard with our academic studies, so it will be fun to add some others things back in, like field trips and projects.

Common Questions and Comments Answered:

What about college?
This is a popular question among friends and family. It comes in many forms. How will our kids go to college? Won't they miss out on scholarships? Will they be smart enough? I won't even get in to some of the ridiculous comments.
Our Answer: First of all, college isn't everything! Rather than putting a great deal of focus on going to a "college" we would much rather look for interests and talents in our girls first. That doesn't always mean college. We are not against college. If a child has a desire for a career that requires a degree, we will be sure that she has the opportunity to obtain that degree. Our girls will be given the same sports and academic opportunities as the kids who attend classes at the private Christian school that we umbrella through. College can be very beneficial but is not a necessity for every career. Neither one of us have a degree. Regardless of some people's opinions, money is not the most important thing. We have known more women than I can count who have spent many years paying on student loans after they went to college and then decided to be a stay at home mom. We have also seen too many young people become involved in numerous sins that have lead to other sins and ultimately, sadly ended with the loss of their salvation.
A college degree may look nice on a resume but an impressive resume does not guarantee that you will get a job or help you keep one. But character does help you keep a job! Diligence, hard work, respect, honesty, trust, and obedience, along with many others are qualities that make a person successful at their work.

"'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope" Jeremiah 29:11

Aren't you sheltering your kids from the real world?
Again, many forms of this question have been brought to our attention. People tell us that when they're on their own, they'll go wild. Or they won't know how to live in the real world.

Our Answer: We go to great measures to teach them about the "real" world. A world that is filled with many sins that have been carefully designed by the original liar to trick us and tempt us to disobey God. We talk every single day about the dangers that are out there in the "real" world.

We suppose sheltering them is a common term used to talk about people who guard the hearts of the children that God has loaned them. We have no problem with that term. It IS our job to shelter them when their roots are weak and they're susceptible to damage. Just like you would protect a young crop from the weather. We are protecting them from elements that the world produces. Satan doesn't wait for them to be mature and strong in faith before he tests and tempts them. We are extremely confident that when the time comes for them to make important choices, they will already know what their decisions will be and they will posses the convictions to follow through with them.

So while YES we are sheltering them, we're not hiding them. We think of it as protecting them from making damaging, life changing choices while they see others around them choosing to follow the world and the destruction that comes from it. They not only know what choices to make, they know why they should make them.

Won't your kids be weird if they're homeschooled?
Used in this type of question or remark, the word weird usually means uncool and refers to children who don't have the same interests or attitude as public school children.

Our Answer: We suppose that it is a possibility that our children may not have the same interests or attitudes as other children. We hope they will be more cautious about their selections for fun and entertainment. We hope they will be more concerned with dressing in a way that is respectful and pleasing to God rather than the latest fashions and what the other children are wearing which I'm sorry to say is very disappointing, even in the church.

The bible tells us to be different.

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2

So YES they may be different if they're homeschooled. That's wonderful! Hopefully it will be a difference that others will see and maybe light just one person's way in this dark world.

How can you teach your kids if you don't even have a college degree in teaching?
Our Answer: We just teach them. We read and study together. We look things up and learn. We watch videos. We hire tutors. 

Aren't you worried that your kids are going to rebel?
So apparently because their homeschooled it seems likely to the world that when they become a teenager they will want to rebel against us and God. The people who say this almost always have children who have rebelled.

Our Answer: The issue of rebelling is not a homeschool issue at all!! It is an issue of a child's heart. If a child decides to rebel and act out against their parents and God, it is because their heart is not pure. Our heart directs us and must be guarded. Children don't rebel because they didn't go to public school, or because they were sheltered. They rebel because they haven't truly given their hearts to God. Homeschooling actually gives us a better opportunity to instill Gods principles into their hearts while they are still young and moldable. Our responsibility as parents is to reach their heart. We know for a fact that when they're in school it's much more difficult to reach their hearts that when they're by our side learning and growing.

"My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways" Proverbs 23:26

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" Matthew 6:21

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” Proverbs 4:23

"Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart" Psalm 37:4

"A wise man's heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man's heart directs him toward the left" Ecclesiastes 10:2

 The Ambulance Down In The Valley

'Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
but over its terrible edge there had slipped
a duke and full many a peasant.

So the people said something would have to be done,
but their projects did not at all tally;
some said, 'Put a fence 'round the edge of the cliff, '
some, 'An ambulance down in the valley.'

But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
for it spread through the neighboring city;
a fence may be useful or not, it is true,
but each heart became full of pity
for those who slipped over the dangerous cliff;

And the dwellers in highway and alley
gave pounds and gave pence, not to put up a fence,
but an ambulance down in the valley.

'For the cliff is all right, if your careful, ' they said,
'and if folks even slip and are dropping,
it isn't the slipping that hurts them so much
as the shock down below when they're stopping.'

So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
quick forth would those rescuers sally
to pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
with their ambulance down in the valley.

Then an old sage remarked: 'It's a marvel to me
that people give far more attention
to repairing results than to stopping the cause,
when they'd much better aim at prevention.

Let us stop at its source all this mischief, ' cried he,
'come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;
if the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
with the ambulance down in the valley.'

As their parents we have the mindset that we can prevent troubles in our children by molded their hearts, guiding them in all things, and giving them good instruction. Gods word is the best prevention that exists. Seeking God, eyes on God and His ways, hearts given to God, minds focused on God. Seeking God will protect them and prevent rebellion. Going to church will bring you many blessings but it's what you do when you're not at church that will determine your salvation. 

 We are not afraid or worried about the concerns that everyone else seems to be worried about. We spend our days growing in knowledge. We teach and guide, mold and lead. We are practicing the things that God desires us to practice. We are studying the things that God desires. We are still growing in Christ, cutting out things from our lives that displease Him and adding in new things that do please Him. We are teaching hard work and keeping our children motivated to serve, lead the lost to God, spread God's word, and seek to please Him in ALL things that they do.

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" Matthew 6:33

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" Colossians 3:1

We have said it before and will always say it. No matter what great success we have in this life, no matter how much money we make, no matter what things we accomplish, they will all mean nothing if our own children don't make it to Heaven. This world is temporary but eternity is everlasting. A life on earth filled with comfort, pleasure, success, and fun should not be our goal for our children. We should seek for them a life of service to God. God will bless them with the opportunities and resources they need to carry out His work. If they are seeking His will, working hard learning and serving others, and building a close relationship Him through prayer, study, and worship, they will be forever comforted, pleased, successful, and enjoying every little blessing He has given them.

We will seek God and His kingdom first and He will work through us.

We know that many of you may disagree and that's ok. But we firmly believe that educating our children at home is the best option for our family.

We know that there are many other questions and concerns but we decided to just address the most common. And for the record, our school aged children can quietly sit still, they do know how to socialize with other children (better than school children in many cases), they can take a test, they are aware of the many different cultures in our country and around the world, and they don't lay around watching TV all day (yes we have TV's, cell phones, tablets, & computers and we love them).

 We pray that this post will help some of our friends and family to better understand our choices. We also pray that it will serve as an encouragement to other families who may be considering home educating.

Thank you to everyone who read to the end! Many blessings from our family to yours :)


Friday, March 13, 2015

"I Love You Because...." Valentines

I know there are millions of people out there that despise Valentine's Day but I am not one of them. I love it! What better than a whole day devoted entirely to love?! Nothing :)

So this year we did this very awesome activity with the girls. Each person decorated there own Valentine's Day box with their name on it. Then starting on February 1st, we each had to write one reason why we love each person in our family and put it in their box.

The first 3 or 4 days were easy, but after the obvious reasons were done, we had to do a little more thinking. Why did we love each person? What is so special about them?

Then after we gave the kids our gifts from us, we all dumped out our boxes and read aloud each little note we were given. We started by saying "I love you because....." and then finished with the note. I was AMAZED at some of the things we came up with. The girls thought of things about their sister that I would have never guessed. Some reasons were funny and some were emotional. But when it was over (and it took like an hour) everyone was happy. The kids begged to do it again next year. It was free and it was special. Isn't that what were all looking for?!

For dinner we enjoyed heart shaped pizza and a heart cake. Simple but exciting for the little ones.