Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Foundations by Melissa Keen

Miss Melissa Keen has graciously given me permission to publish her notes from a speech she gave at a homeschool group meeting I attended in Alabama.
My parents have often told us that they entered marriage and parenthood completely unprepared. Neither of them knew the ins and outs of running a household or being responsible for the lives of others, not to mention themselves.

No time was spent thinking towards the future and the impact that their present actions would have on generations to come. Their preparation years were wasted in being molded, discipled and influenced by the unbiblical thinking of the world and their peers. In raising us, they have constantly reaffirmed that they do not want us to waste our preparation years as they did.

When my parents married, they both disliked children and didn’t want any of their own, probably because they had never had any interaction with children. However, after 7 years of marriage, they realized something was lacking.

With the birth of their first child God did an amazing work in their hearts and brought them into an understanding of what had been missing. They were astonished to realize that, until they had children and a growing family, they had simply been selfish individuals living life to please themselves. They knew then that they wanted something better for their children.

My parents began homeschooling me in 1986, the year my sister was born. Twenty years ago, there were very few homeschoolers to be found. The parents who did homeschool didn’t have support groups or the encouragement of others in the church community. Equipped only with God’s Word and the conviction that He had given them, my parents set out to chart a different path for our life preparation.

Preparing for a different future means preparing today. It means making hard choices everyday that will affect the days, weeks, months and years ahead. This is how our parents trained us to think and act.

Our parents have taught us to think generationally. The choices I make today will impact future generations. When you have a mindset of preparing for your future family, you feel a weight of responsibility knowing that your decisions today will affect the lives of others for generations to come. Not a moment can be wasted. There is not time for foolishness. There is not time for making selfish choices. There is not time to take the easy route. As Christians, we must be about bigger things.

So how does this affect homeschooling?

Education is about discipleship. It is NOT just about learning reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. These subjects are simply tools. They are not the end of education.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 states "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

If these are the times parents are to disciple their children, then when are they not to disciple their children? What times are left?

Government schools, church schools, tutors and colleges cannot ever know your children better than you. They are absolutely incapable of ever seeing the future that you see for your children. That requires individual attention and effort.

Instead, these educational institutions focus on making all students alike – bringing them all to the same level and giving them all the same education; molding them into the same person. The end result is that they are who they have been programmed to be – creatures of their education. They have no vision. They have no individual goals or aspirations. You end up with a society of cookie-cutter citizens. There is no future in that.

Home-education has given our family the freedom to make a different choice. Each person is different. Each family is different. All situations are different. But for my family, we see that it is vital for us to tailor our activities and education to fit the vision God has given our family. Where do we desire to see our families generations down the road? It is our holy responsibility before the Lord to consider this question.

I’m 24 years old. I have a sister who is 20, another sister who is 14, and a brother who is nearly 12. We have all been home-educated our entire lives. For my next sister and I, that included the college years. Our parents have instilled in us the knowledge that we must focus on life preparation above all else.

Rather than attending a college where we would spend thousands of dollars for four years to maybe learn one year’s worth of what we wanted to learn and a lifetime of what we didn’t want to learn, we chose to stay home, under our parents’ direction, for further teaching. In making this choice, we’ve both been able to choose interest-directed studies, encouraged by our parents’ direction.

We haven’t had to study false philosophies. We haven’t had to study to meet bizarre government requirements. We haven’t had to waste our time being who a college thinks we should be rather than who God has called us to be or who our parents have raised us to be.

My sister, Lindsay, is a gifted photographer. Being homeschooled has allowed her to take time and focus her energies into perfecting this skill. She started out her education by asking questions of and tagging along with a friend who is an excellent photographer. Once she realized this was a sincere interest, she took an intense, week-long course in Dallas, Texas.

She is currently enrolled in the New York Institute of Photography as a correspondence student. Best of all, she has had the freedom to learn by practical experience. She has already done 3 weddings, several family portrait sittings, a historical tour in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas, a film festival in San Antonio, two father/daughter retreats at Callaway Gardens, and countless other events.

At only 20 years old, she is called on by ministries and organizations across the country. Her work can be seen on half a dozen websites, and this number is growing.

If she had chosen the route of college, she would still have 2 years of ‘education’ before she was stamped and approved as ‘qualified’. Why waste the time? and why waste the money? Worse yet, why waste all the years our parents have been laboring to mold her into their daughter rather than just another average 20-year-old girl puffed up by a diploma that qualifies her for nothing?

My interests are different from my sister’s. I enjoy photography, but it is more of a nominal interest for me. Instead, my interests have been interior decorating and design, fashion design - particularly historical costumes, floral arranging, cooking, hospitality and music. How many majors would that be if I had attended college? Too many! In attending college, I would have had to severely limit my interests and education.

Just this past weekend, I had the privilege of helping out during an event for Justice Parker’s campaign for Chief Justice of Alabama. About 55 college students had also come down from Liberty University of Lynchburg, Virginia, to help out for the weekend. In the course of my conversations with many of these students, I realized that I never heard a single student say they were happy about being at college.

The conservative students were complaining that life at school wasn’t all it was cracked up to be because they didn’t get to focus on what they came there to learn and were, at the same time, surrounded by a bunch of dissolute peers. The liberal students were complaining that at college they were so restricted that they didn’t get to live the lives of dissipation they had thought they would be free to live. Seeing the lives some of these students were capable of living under these ‘restrained’ circumstances and knowing this wasn’t enough for them was disturbing in the extreme.

When they asked where I attended college, I replied that I had chosen not to go to college for some of the same reasons they were unhappy with their college experience. Instead, I had used that time of my life to study according to my interest and skills.

Under the direction of my parents, I took the many things I was interested in and narrowed the list down to things that were actually practical for present and future use. What were some things that I needed to learn? What were some things that I wanted to learn? Together, my parents and I worked through this list to find the answers.

For instance, I took an intense week-long course on Interior Design that shocked the representative of a four-year Art School who recently contacted me about enrolling in her program. When she asked about my previous experience, I gave her a brief run-down of what I had been taught during this course in Dallas. She couldn’t believe what she heard. From what I understood from her, it would have taken about 3 years in her program to learn what I had learned in a week elsewhere.

I have also been able to take an accelerated course in English grammar and composition to polish my writing and communication skills, as well as a course in floral arranging, each through correspondence.

One other thing that my father desired to have me learn was sewing. This was a bit more of a challenge. I tried taking several classes to no avail. The information just wouldn’t stick. ☺

Finally, I stumbled across Jennie Chancey’s website shortly before she started offering online sewing classes. I immediately signed up and was hooked. One of my greatest joys is historical costuming, but sewing for everyday use is a wonderfully practical skill, too. With this skill, I have been able to custom-tailor clothing for myself and my family, meeting unique fitting needs. I’m now teaching my mother and sisters how to sew. We hope to soon start a home-based Internet business providing attractive, modest, feminine clothing for mothers and daughters.

Each of these skills that I have named are skills that I can use in all phases of life. They are not careers as that is not my calling as a woman. They are not time-fillers or ways of fulfilling myself that I’ll have to then turn around and give up when I marry. They are simply tools to best suit and care for my household. Today, that household is my father’s. Someday it will be my husband’s. In the mean time, I am using all opportunities and every focused minute to further the goal of preparing for the future.

My father’s family lives a life of hospitality which provides ample opportunity for me to practice what I’ve learned at home. Cooking, decorating, communicating, arranging flowers, sewing – all of these things can come into play with hospitality. Not only can these things be used now in my father’s home, but each of them will also be valuable gifts someday in my husband’s home.

The home is the kingdom of the man - whether that be father or husband, we as women are responsible to see that his kingdom is an immaculate representation of him as a man. In this do we bring glory to God’s created order for the home.

Such is my desire in preparing myself for the future. My parents have trained me to have a heart for home. They have instilled in me a desire for being a godly wife and mother someday. Practice makes perfect, we’ve all heard. What better time to practice than now? What better place to practice than home?

What better way to learn how to prepare for the real-life future than through home-education?

I am grateful for the difficult stands my parents have taken over the years. I am grateful for the sacrifices they have made for me and for my brother and sisters. But most of all, I am grateful that God gave my parents a long-term vision for victory and the courage to follow a different path for our family.

I want to close with a short quote from Patrick Henry. Addressing the Virginia Convention he stated, “The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave."

May we all strive to be vigilant, active, and brave. Vigilant in that we remain constantly alert to the dangers of mediocrity. Active in that we work against such in our own lives. And brave in that we dare to take a different path when necessary. Only by taking a different path can we bring glory to a God who has called us apart to be His own people.