Am I An Unschooler?

19 Feb 2003

 Am I an Unschooler?

Well, I really don't like 'labels', but.. I guess if I had to label us we are TATMs. Yep, I made that up! It stands for Taking Advantage of Teachable Moments. That's what life is all about.

What do I mean? Well, I'll share a few examples.

Several years ago Caleb and I were at Sonic. Caleb was about seven or eight years old. We had ordered slushes and as we were waiting for our order Caleb noticed the sign that said 'corn dogs, 2 for$.99' and he made the comment that if he had a dollar he could get two corndogs. I explained that he would have to have money for tax also (and explained a little about taxes) and commented that I only had a quarter so he'd have to pay for his $1.08 corndogs with $1.25 and asked how much change he would get back. He grabbed a napkin and a pen and figured it out. Then I asked if he only had quarters and no dollar, how many quarters would he need? Dimes?
Nickels? Before the discussion was over, we had discussed sales tax, many math skills, and how bad corndogs are for you anyway {grin}. Did we "do school"? I don't know, you tell me.

My children love to put on plays and on Presidents Day they decided to make a play of Abraham Lincoln. Molly fashioned a moustache and goatee for Abe (Caleb) but asked me if his beard was brown or black. I could have just given her the answer but instead I directed her to the history shelf and the photobiography we have of Abraham Lincoln and the other books about him. She was able to look through the books to get a better feel of what his facial hair looked like. They had so much fun with their play that Tony and I became the butler and cook for Abe, Mary, Eddie, Tad, Willie and Mary Vance (she was supposed to be Robert but she wanted to be "Mary
Mance", and .well, she's two, so.) Anyway, my point is that the children 'lived' the Lincoln family all day and learned so much. Did we 'do school'?

Math? Well, we do have math workbooks that we work in very occasionally. Math is just another language, we use it everyday. It's not hard to learn. Sam, our new seven year old, loves math and his mind just seems to speak that language very easily. He's always coming up with these 'math revelations' that surprise me. Once when he was six (keep in mind he has only had 'school' in addition) he was watching me make cookies and commented that since I had four cookies in each row (six rows) that I would have 24 cookies when I was all done. How did he know that? I then asked about different combinations and he got the answers right every time! Does he know his 'times tables'? No. Can he multiply? Most definitely! I bet we spent thirty minutes talking multiplication while making cookies. Did we 'do school'?

Luke is four years old and has had no 'formal school'. Only last week, I was making pancakes and asked him how many were on the griddle and he said 'two fours'. I realized he meant two rows of four each and asked him how many in all and he answered 'eight'. I then said 'what if Daddy eats two?' and he said 'six' and grinned, showing off those adorable dimples. He sat with me the entire pancake making session talking addition and subtraction! He had a blast and I had no idea he had such a firm grasp of math! Did we 'do school'?

A Conversation:

K: What is 'unschooling'? I mean, I understand the concept but how does it work in real life?

D: How long have you been home schooling?

K: Since my oldest was in kindergarten.

D: I beg to differ!

K: What?!

D: Who taught your oldest to walk? Talk? Recognize colors? Pray? Tie his shoes?

K: Well, *I* did.

D: Which workbooks or textbooks did you use?

K: None. You don't need books for stuff like that.

D: How did you know when to teach those skills? Like walking, for example?

K: Well, you just kinda know in your gut that your child is ready to learn to walk so you just encourage him and
provide opportunities for practice.

D: You mean you trusted yourself to know when he was ready to learn and then just went with it?

K: Well, yeah.

D: That's called 'living life'!

This conversation represents exactly how I feel about 'schooling' my children. I try to keep my eyes open to recognize when they are interested in something and then we just go with it. I believe that the Lord has a plan for each of my childrens lives and I trust that He will give them a desire and passion to learn whatever they need to fulfill that plan. Do I sit idly by and just passively watch them and hope they learn something? NO! I am very active in every aspect of their lives.

Right now, we are living in the frontier days. Caleb read a couple of Joseph Altsheler books (about the early Kentuckyfrontier) and that hooked him. He has since read about Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett and has shared his enthusiasm with his siblings. I made all the boys 'buckskins' and they wear them almost every day. Sam and Elijah (seven and one) had a shared birthday party this year and what was the theme--Frontier Days. They have constructed a fairly elaborate frontier town from pretzels and royal icing, adding little plastic IIndians and trees. It's very nice and they have enjoyed making it so much. They have learned a great deal about history. They have also learned that you must let the walls of your building dry before adding the roof or it will all come tumbling down---guess that's a valuable lesson for real life Ü. Is that 'school'?

I have always talked with my children.talked through everything. When they were infants I'd say "let's put your right shoe on your right foot.which is your right foot? Good!!" When brushing their teeth, I would talk about the importance of brushing their teeth, how teeth are made, what they are for, what they are called, when they will lose them, etc. We count everything we do. Mary Vance (age 2) will watch me cook and whenever I grab a measuring cup or spoon she says "I count" and will could however many of whatever it is I am adding. Those are examples of what I mean when I talk about 'living life' and 'TATM'.

Our home is filled with books, instructional videos, craft supplies galore, instructional and informative cds, music, etc. They are surrounded by the 'stuff of learning'. I try to always be available to answer their questions or to show them how to find the answers. We do a lot of 'going with the flow' Ü. Is our life perfect? No. Will our children have 'learning gaps'? Yes, don't we all? Do I honestly believe I will have a child come to me and ask to learn algebra? Yes, I do. Do I expect to have children who never have a clue about algebra? Yes, I do. Does it matter? Not to me. I believe the Lord will guide them as He guides me!

Trust the Lord, trust your instincts, trust your children!

19 Feb 2003 Dana Lewis
Dana Lewis

 My Philosphy of Education

20 Jul 2003

Someone asked me once what was my "Philosophy of Education".  Here's my answer to her.

I believe that the Lord has a plan for each of my children's lives.
I believe that He will give them the desire to learn what they need to fulfill that plan.
I believe that He calls us to trust Him in every area of life--and this is no different.
I think that we have to look down the road a little further than we tend to.  What I mean is this:  Several years ago Tony and I were talking about the kind of adults we wanted our children to be, specifically we were talking about Caleb.  What kind of adult
do we want Caleb to be?  We started listing different qualities and attributes we wanted to see in his life.  Then we talked about what we needed to do *now* to help form him into that kind of man.  It's kinda like baking.  What's the first thing you do
before you start baking?
~Decide what you want to make--chocolate cake!
~Pick out a recipe--a plan to accomplish what you want to make.
~Select good, quality ingredients--surround your child with the 'stuff of learning'...
~Follow the recipe--Follow the Lord's leading, follow your child's interests

You don't just start dumping stuff in a bowl--every workbook that comes down the line--and stir it up and *hope* it will become a chocolate cake!  You have a goal in mind--chocolate cake--and then follow the path, ie do what's necessary, to accomplish
that goal!

That 'goal' is different for each family, for each child--and the path for each child is different.  We spend much more time working on our children's character (controlling our temper/anger, having a spirit of forgiveness, kindness, putting others first, being diligent workers---it's different for each child) than we do on phonics or the times tables.  What really matters?

My children are living proof that children will learn without 4 hours a day of workbooks (Ü)!  Sam just finished 'first grade'.  When he was in K, I spent several months off and on going through 'Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons'.  We got to around
lesson 60 something.  Last year I didn't really sit down with him to 'teach him to read' at all.  Last night, he picked up Frog and Toad (2nd grade level) and read the whole thing!  He only missed a few words.  He's been reading through some Dr Seuss books at bedtime but I had no idea his reading was so advanced--he hardly stammered or had to stop and sound out words at all.  We laid the groundwork in K but he wasn't ready to read until the past month or so.  Now, he's reading like crazy!

I could give story after story like this.  The children are learning like crazy.  They all love to read and/or be read to.  *If you can read, you can learn/teach yourself anything!*  Yes, even math!!  Learning is the stuff of life!

20 July 2003 ~Dana Lewis

Thunder Puppies

8 Feb 2011

I'm sure many of us remember our younger days with both affection and chagrin. Surely I'm not
the only one who was bold and firm in my convictions of what is true and right. I can't be the only
one who spoke truth barely tempered with any love or affection for the recipient or mercy for
their humanness.

I will say, I was right. Truth is truth regardless of circumstance. There are many truths that I
spouted with absolute certainty and little tact.
1. Children do not have to be brats.
2. Children who are brats are that way because their parents have not trained them properly.
3. If we don't seem to have enough time in our day, it is because we are doing things we
4. Emotions try to rule us and we need to suck it up and deal with life.

I had a lot of other opinions. I was loaded with them. I carried them in my pistol and was able to
shoot them with remarkable accuracy. I still hold most of my opinions. Most were, and are,
rooted in truth.

For example. I once knew a young mother who had a thousand theories on how children should
be reared. I used to smile at those theories. I remembered my theoretical parenting days. It's
easy to be a know it all when you don't have to live it at all. A mutual friend and I spoke about
this woman and her very condemning comments about our parenting. My friend said... "She'll
get a rude awakening about things when her son can crawl or walk."

I remember thinking that what the woman said wasn't so wrong. Children should obey. They
should stay nearby so we can hear them. It was the attitude that because they should do these
things, if they didn't happen automatically, it was because the parents had already failed that
was the problem. No... if that is how children came, we wouldn't be instructed to TRAIN them.
And when a mother is already down for the count, had a horrible day fighting her flesh to make
sure she does what is right, the last thing she needs to hear is that she's a parenting failure. If
she has just been lounging on the couch eating romances and reading bon bons... that'd be
another story.

Judgmentalism isn't a word I like to use. It's often overused and ill used. It is prevalent amongst
thunder puppies.
However, they say we mellow with age? I don't think that's always true. I think with age we learn
discernment, grace, tact, mercy, and a host of other social skills that are usually in short supply
when we're young.
When we're young, bold, and daring, we feel free to lower the boom on anyone who doesn't
march to the appropriate drumbeat. Failure is not an option. Stumbling is not an option.
HICCOUGHS are not an option. Get it done, get it done right, and get it done right NOW.

Message boards are fun places to spot maturity. Thunder puppies often have a LOT of correct
information but little maturity. Because their information is correct, they often sound wiser than
their years. People often like them and respect them for their incredibly wise and accurate
posts. Then, inevitably, it happens. Someone has a bad day, their child has a bad day, their
mother does or says something wrong... they take something in a way that it was never
intended to be... something happens. The thunder puppy lowers his or her boom. What they say
is correct. The timing and method in what they say often is not. There is a time and a place for
strictness. This rarely is the time. The other board members scratch their heads before rallying
around the wounded member who now has a kick to their gut to deal with.

The sad thing is, it doesn't have to happen. It's not necessary at all. See, what thunder puppies
eventually learn (unless they grow into arrogant jerks!) is discretion, mercy, and timing. They
learn to wait... give people space... let them fix their own flubs without suffering the humiliation
of a public or even private dressing down.
I was fortunate. I learned of my thunder puppiness at a young age. Several of us were
congregated at our local park for a 'Park Day'. Official socialization of homeschoolers the world
over. Gotta get that socialization in... for mom! One lady and I began debating theology. We
were having an absolute blast. She was almost as animated as I was and was beyond her
thunder puppy years. However, I guess I appeared to be angry in my discussion. I wasn't. I was
excited, enjoying myself and eager. I was a thunder puppy and TRUTH MUST BE SPOKEN!

One woman left very upset. I learned from a third party that this woman thought I was angry and
that the park days were an inappropriate time to debate theology. I immediately called her. I
thought it was only right that I assure her I wasn't angry (don't want to give the appearance of sin
you know!... can you say PRIDE)... but also I wanted to apologize. I owed her an apology for
making her uncomfortable around me. Her response was disheartening and puzzling at first.
She said, "When I found out how old you were I just thought, 'oh she's young'."

What she meant was... "Oh, she's still a thunder puppy". She excused my blundering
eagerness because of my youth and inexperience. My pride was hurt. I was accustomed to
people considering me quite mature! After all, I was 21, married, and pregnant with my fourth
child. I usually impressed people... not amused them!

I walked away from that experience a wiser person. I'd love to say that I learned not to blunder
after that.... I didn't. Just like most thunder puppies, I was easily excited about new and
dogmatic sounding theories. Fortunately, I have enough logical thinking ability to see fallacies
in theories or suggestions before it totally holds me ensnared... as a general rule.

Yes. I confess. I was a thunder puppy. I hope I am now a wiser and more reliable hound dog.
Maybe a lovely collie? I'd take a smart and hard working German Shepherd... Just don't tell me
I'm a Yorkshire Terrier. BLECH.

NOTE:The blog entry is copied with permission.  You may view the original blog at
Paradoxology.   Thanks Chautona!

Chautona Havig
 Who Is Your God?

8 Feb 2011

The question has arisen regarding birth control and whether the use of birth control is sin or not.  When I
come up against this question  I  always direct the conversation to "Who is Your God?"  and I want to do
that again.

If we could go back to our foundational beliefs, we likely would all agree that the God we serve is the
Creator of heaven and earth.  He  was very powerful and mighty. We could likely agree that He miraculously
assisted the Israelites in crossing the Red Sea. And we  could continue with other great and might acts
that He has done in  the past, as recorded in the Bible.

But who is the God that YOU serve? Is He the mighty God of the Old Testament? (Jericho, Goliath,
speaking to Samuel, the miracle of  Isaac's birth.)  Does God have an active role in the running of the
nations today?  Is  God concerned about which house you should buy?   Is God concerned about the career
choice of your husband? Is God concerned about which church you attend? Is God concerned about how many
children you have? In other words, are you sure that God is actively interested in our daily lives or is He a
distant authority, watching the antics of people on earth, and at the end of the age when everything gets
chaotic and out of control, God is going to step into time again and bring down judgment. Has God been
active in the past directing the nation of Israel, but since the ascension of Jesus, He has backed off, He
doesn't get involved in our lives, He no longer does miracles; He has given us the Bible and we are left to
our own to figure out what  to do, clumsily flounder through life trying this, trying that, hoping to figure out
what pleases  Him.

When we hear the supporters of birth control talk, we sometimes hear quite loudly, in between their lines,
that God has stepped back  and is not intimately directing our lives at this time in history.   He has
withdrawn His active role, that we see so pronounced in the Old Testament, and He sits and watches us,
expecting us to use our brains to figure things out, such as how many children to have and when to allow
them to be conceived.

The Bible does not support such a distant God. The Bible declares Him active and alive, directing us day by
day and willing to be intimately involved in our lives.

           "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."  Psalm 46:1

                                         "I, the Lord do not change." Malachi 3:6

Another question about God: Is God right? Does God make mistakes?  When God calls children a blessing
and a reward, did He err in not being able to foresee the future and that difficulties we see in our own
age?   Was He not aware that children are expensive?   Are  we more fertile today than people in the Old
Testament times?  Does He not realize how close they sometimes come?

Another question-- Can God be trusted? Can you give Him control of your womb and believe that He will do
right with it? Or is your God too distant to care and will just let "a zillion" children come your way with no
care about the hard work and the expenses involved? Is God out of touch with the reproduction system of
man and woman?  Has He forgotten how they work? Or if He does know how they work, does He care about
how frequently you can get pregnant, if you DID NOTHING to prevent it?

This whole issue of birth control comes down to, Who Is Your God? And does He actively direct and lead
your life? If you did give Him control of your womb, would the children born to you be hand chosen by God
just for you, or would they simply be products of intimacy, bound to happen, simply consequences of the act?
Are you the product of a mistake or random  chance from intimacy between your parents, or are personally
selected by God, given a   name, a number to your days (Psalm 139) with a specific call on your life?

Psalm 127 says: "Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands
of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be
put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate."

Whenever you use birth control you must look this passage straight  in the face and explain: if children are
a reward, why am I refusing a reward or preventing God from giving me more rewards? If children are
arrows in the hands of a warrior, why do I want to go into battle without arrows or with few arrows? If a
man is blessed with a full quiver of children,  why would I choose to prevent the quiver from filling up? (And
don't say that you have special divine insight as to what a full quiver is. If God is the one who rewards with
children, He is the one who divvies out arrows, who fills the quiver and determines its number.) If we are
promised victory and honor, why do we prevent children and consider them burdens and liabilities?

To use birth control, you have to answer Psalm 127. And I guarantee you, you will not be able to refute.
All through Scripture,  God reinforces this Psalm. His dealings with nations  prosperity is often
defined as many offspring) , his dealing with the  enemies of Israel (punishment was often
miscarriage), Jesus with the little children. All of these Scriptures align perfectly with Psalm 127. So
the question again, is God right? Or has our circumstances changed and our age is so different now
that the Scripture simply cannot apply to our situation? Some may say, I agree with Psalm 127, but I
believe two (insert a predetermined humanly chosen number) children are a fulfillment of that passage
and we should prevent any more children. Only when GOD decides that two children are a full quiver, is
that enough. To say with one side of your mouth that your two children are a reward, a full quiver, and
out of the other side of your mouth to say, more children would be a burden, a liability and curse -- is
not living by this Scripture. Children are not a blessing when they are few in number and a burden when
they are great in number.  And yet, this Scripture has been twisted for generations to mean exactly

Now, I am fully aware of the many families who have NO children, ONE child or TWO children, who
have given their womb to the Lord and that is the state of their quiver. Not all families with none,  one
or two use birth control. But these testimonies speak to you of God's awesome power, that He truly is
the Door Keeper of the womb, and He very deliberately passes out the arrows according to His divine
and infinite wisdom. We must not question  Him and His dealing with man, but we must trust Him to do
what is right. I also write a lot of letters of encouragement to those hurting parents, to encourage
them to continue to trust God for His does what is good and He is trust worthy.

The original question was: is it sin to use birth control? Let's take a quick look at the definition of sin,
as found in the Bible:

Proverbs 21:4 "Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin!"

Proverbs 24:9 "The schemes of folly are sin."

Romans 14:23 "Everything that does not come from faith is sin."

James 4:17 "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."

I John 3:4 "Everyone who sins, breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness."

I John 5:17 "All wrongdoing is sin

(As far as I can see, that is a complete list of the definitions of sin found in the Bible.)

If using birth control arises from a proud heart, it is sin.

If using birth control is a scheme of folly, it is sin,

If using birth control arises from a lack of faith (a trust in God) it is sin.

If using birth control is going against something you know you should do, it is sin.

If using birth control is breaking the laws of God, it is sin.

If using birth control is doing wrong, it is sin.

You be the judge. Does birth control fit the definition of sin?

And let me challenge you again, Who is the God you serve?

The God I serve has been faithful, He has shown a personal interest in our lives, He has answered our
prayers about jobs, a house, a marriage partner, He has healed members of our family, He has shown
Himself might on behave of our weaker family members, He gives us wisdom as to what curriculum to
use in school, how to organize our home, and directs us into opportunities  for sharing His Gospel. The
God we serve is alive and well, active, caring, listening and intentionally directing our lives in the way
He has planned for us. The way He has led us has allowed us to experience the death of several
children, chronic illness, a handicapped child, and trust on Him completely to meet the needs of a large
growing family in a world hostile to these  values. As for me and my house, we have found God to be
completely trust worthy.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways
acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths."

Copyright Gracious Gardens 2001 – reprinted with permission

To read more wonderful, inspiring articles and meet the author of
"Who Is Your God?" visit  Gracious Gardens

Grace Flynn
 Why I Wear Dresses

14 Apr 2003

note:  If you've read much here, you've heard me mention The MOMYS Digest (lots of times! ).  This is a post I submitted to the digest to answer the question of why I wear dresses.  Someone asked me yesterday about this and so I thought it would be good to include it on this site. 

[Note:  Please notice that I am using lots of "I"s and "we"s....This is what we (our family) believe and how the Lord has convicted *us*.  I am only sharing in response to other posts regarding this subject as I don't recall anyone else sharing from this perspective.  There are probably as many versions of "dresses only" as their are MOMYS who only wear dresses .]

Through the ministries of the Patriarchs Wives email list and the Mom's Board the Lord began to touch my heart regarding my dress.  At the time (and for the proceeding 30+ years of my life ) I only wore jeans, sweats, tshirts, sweatshirts, knit top/pant sets, longish shorts.  I only wore dresses/skirts to church on Sunday mornings!  I am not a dressy/pretty/foofoo kinda gal.  If my hair is brushed and in a ponytail and I have clothes on, that's about it!  I've never enjoyed 'hair styles' that require curling irons, hairspray, mousse, gel, etc...  I've never enjoyed wearing make-up (a whole 'nother post, I know)  I'm just not a woman who enjoys getting 'all gussied up'.  That's just me.

So, coming from that background, changing to wearing only dresses/skirts was a *huge* change!!
  When the Lord first began touching my heart regarding dressing modestly and feminely (sp?) I talked to Tony about it and he said he honestly didn't see any scriptural mandate for wearing 'dresses only'.  So, I did what I was supposed to do and just 'shut up' about it.  I didn't really mention it again and was surprised when he told me we needed to discuss it again.  He decided it was his *preference* that his wife and daughters dress in a modest way.  After much thought, he felt it was *more* modest for us to wear dresses/skirts than shorts/pants.

Here's his thinking:
1.  Men are visually stimuated.  Period.
2.  As Christians, we are not supposed to be stumbling blocks (see Rom and 1 Cor).
3.  If we (women in our family) *knowingly/purposefully* dressed in a way that brought attention to our bodies then we were being stumbling blocks.
4.  True, some men can lust after a women wearing a potato sack!
5.  But, the Lord looks on the heart and it we are honestly dressing so as to not seek/draw attention to ourselves and a man still stumbles then we are 'clear' because we did the best we could to *not* be a stumbling block.  We had a pastor once who said "the first look is grace, the second look is disgrace".  It is our goal to avoid inviting that 'second look'.
6.  This thought hit Tony like a Mac truck...He said it dawned on him some of the thoughts that used to rush though his mind as an adolescent and it just enraged him to think of some 'hormone-happy' boy thinking nasty things about *his* precious daughters!

We are really striving to teach our children the importance of emotional purity and dressing modestly is a very important aspect of that.

I am *not, not, not* trying to convince any of you 'pants Momys' to change your dressing style.  I am only sharing how the Lord brought our family to this place.  I haven't really read of anyone who believes like we do for the reasons we do and wanted to show a different perspective.

Here's something else I read once that stuck with me.  If someone sees you across a parking lot, can they tell at a glace if you are a woman or a man?  If they can't tell at first glace, their second glace will be at your bosom.  It's the only identifying mark of your sex that's visible from a distance.  Do you really want strangers staring at your bosom?

Now, for the practical aspects....*I* can do anything in a skirt that I did in pants.  I don't ride bikes or horses in skirts--but I didn't ride them in pants either .  If I were going to ride a horse, I would wear coulottes.  [Tony said "if you can't do it in a skirt, then you probably shouldn't be doing it anyway!"--I think he was talking about me climbing up on the roof or something ]  I wear skirts and tshirts most all the time.  I'd love some jumpers but haven't had much luck finding or making any that fit that I can nurse in.  Everything I wear is very casual--as I said, I'm not a 'dressy' kinda gal!  I do have a couple of 'grubby' skirts that I wear for serious scrubbing and yardwork.  'Dresses only' doesn't have to mean a silk blouse, suit, hose and heels!

I am a wimp about being cold.  A real wimp!  I hate being cold.  Last winter I bought a pair of Cuddl Duds and wore them almost every day!  I was *never* cold!  Even being outside with the wind whipping they kept me warm!  Cuddl Duds are women's long underwear that are cotton on the side next to your skin and nylon on the outside.  Your skirts just glide along and don't stick to them like my skirts would stick to leggings.  They are very thin and I was really skeptical but the Mom's on the Mom's Board really recommended them and I can tell you they are *great*--worth every $.

Is wearing 'dresses only' a conviction for our family?  I guess it's all in how you define 'conviction'.  Someone said once that 'a conviction is something you are willing to die for' that light, I'd say it's a preference for us, not a conviction.

I hope I have made myself clear.  If AnyMomy would like to email about this, please feel free.  My intent is not to anger or upset anyone--I'm not trying to persuade anyone to change--I just wanted to share our perspective on this issue and I don't want to argue with anyone.  This is my "our" "us" "we" and "I" story!  Hugs to all!

God Bless all the MOMYS (skirts/pants, long hair/short hair, makeup/no makeup, Birks/Keds---He loves us all!)
Dana Lewis

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