To Homeschooling Moms Everywhere:

Today, I offer you the gift of encouragement. As a former homeschooling mom, I understand what it is like to have people question your plans, tell you you’re wrong, advise you that your children will turn out wrong, and even go behind your back to have your child tested for various problems that they assume your child has. So today, I offer you this little prize. You have my consent to share this with anyone who needs a “smackdown” or a “butt out!”

This week, my son, who was homeschooled from first grade through graduation, invited my husband and me to attend a Christmas party with some friends at the gym where he works out a few times a week. (Of course, he’s not home all the time since he is serving in the Army.) My husband and I normally go out on Saturday evening, but our son had told us that he had been nominated to receive an award at the gym for being the “Most Social” person. We agreed to go to the party since there would be food, we could dance, and we thought he might win.

The gym gave out several awards. They included the best female athlete, the best male athlete, the most improved person, the most likely to never show up, etc. We were excited that our son did earn the “Most Social” award due to his willingness to talk to people, welcome them to the gym, and generally help people to have a fun time. Of course, I knew he was going to win. He is one of the biggest social butterflies I’ve ever known.

Keep in mind that the people at this gym only really have one thing in common – they like to work out to stay healthy. Other than that, they are different in every way. While participating in conversations, I discovered that there were people there of all ages, religious beliefs, backgrounds, careers, philosophical beliefs, political leanings, gender identities, and more. It was really quite a diverse group. Yet they had overwhelmingly voted for my son to win the “Most Social” award.

Go back in time with me eighteen years ago. That’s when people were advising me that my son would not be normal because I had chosen to homeschool him. He would learn no social skills since he would not be around other children. He would not know how to behave properly in public. His poor education would be my fault since, even with my degree in education, I would not be able to teach him everything that his public school peers would learn. He would not learn to be respectful of authority since he would not have real teachers. He would be unable to ever get a real job since he would not have a real education.

Yes, every one of those things was said to me, and even worse things, at one time or another. I was warned that I was ruining my sons (I taught both of them at home). It was exacerbated when people saw that I wasn’t teaching them the same way that a public school was run. I didn’t make them sit in chairs all day. I let them go outside to play often. They came with me when I ran errands to the grocery, dry cleaners, and bank each week.

Little did people realize that I used those “recess” times outside to teach entomology, biology, meteorology, geology, astronomy, and physical education. Those errands around town taught my sons how to navigate the city, cartography, scheduling, time management, and led to many great conversations. Reading aloud in the living room, rather than quietly at a desk in a sanitary environment, formed deep memories and have given us things to share and talk about for years. For those who don’t know, both of my sons have great jobs. My “Most Social” son is in the Army, and his brother is a Marine. They are both qualified to do any number of other jobs when they leave the service.

Along the way, I managed to teach them those coveted social skills that everyone just knew they would never learn. Being around family, friends, and strangers, they learned how to speak to adults and children of all ages and were comfortable carrying on a conversation. Because I taught my sons how to eat properly at the table, they knew to chew with their mouth closed, how to use utensils appropriately, and what constitutes an appropriate dinner time conversation – and what does not. They knew to comport themselves appropriately and never once threw a fit in a grocery store, or anywhere else.

Most social, indeed. I think I win!

~Temerity Dowell

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One Hypothesis

This week, some of our nation’s Ivy League Universities placated their students in regards to their devastation over the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. Cornell held a “Cry-In” in which students were offered Play-doh, posters, markers, and hot cocoa. One professor at Yale University made the mid-term exam optional for students. Several universities cancelled classes altogether allowing students to take the day to grieve and mourn the loss.*

You’ve got to be kidding!

One wonders what these students will do when they actually grow up, get a job, have a family of their own, and an actual crisis hits? I’m certainly not wishing ill will on any one, but any reasonable adult realizes that crises do come along and we really have to handle them without asking the world around us to pause while we cry.

How did these students come to this way of thinking? Since my own sons are about this same age, I did some deductive reasoning (something we adults learned to do in elementary school) and came up with an interesting hypothesis. I believe it began when they were young children and played in the local community sports league.

When my children were young I always served as the Team Mother. It was my responsibility to plan the end-of-the-season team party. During the season it was obvious which children were more acclimated to the sport. My older son quickly advanced from the outfield and became a pitcher. Our younger son didn’t do so well and didn’t want to play after a couple of seasons. However, if you look on their respective dressers in their room, each of them has a trophy to represent each season they played.

I confess that I am like every other parent in the world. I want my children to be recognized for their accomplishments. Like most parents, I often think that my child is better than everyone else’s (Oh, come on, you do it, too!).

After a few years on the baseball field my sons decided they preferred competing in various 4-H activities, most often with beef cattle. There were many times that I thought their project was the best one. The judges and I rarely agreed on this, though. While my sons did receive a trophy for each baseball season, they rarely earned the awards they sought in 4-H. I’m incredibly thankful for this.

I always thought I was making each child on the team realize their worth by presenting them with a trophy. However, my sons show little regard for those trophies today (and some of them look really cool). Instead they are proud to show off the many ribbons, plaques, and pins they earned in 4-H. These prizes were not given, they were earned.

I can’t help but to compare that mindset of earning the reward to being given a prize. The “snowflakes” on college campuses who are crying and holding candlelight vigils over their loss in the presidential election have probably been given most everything they’ve ever had. I know there are exceptions to this, of course. But if my hypothesis is correct, the college parking lots are probably filled with cars purchased by daddy.

When I was growing up (go ahead and roll your eyes), I wasn’t given anything. I also wasn’t especially talented at anything. I worked very hard and earned every bit of what I got, including jobs, grades, degrees, and money. So did each of my family members.

Earlier this week on a social media outlet, I explained that when Barack Obama won in both 2008 and 2012, I was devastated. I could not believe that this nation would elect someone based on the color of his skin rather than the content of his character. On both occasions, though, I got up the next morning, made breakfast, and got my boys started on their school work. I was chastised for my comment and advised that my socioeconomic status was such that I was incapable of understanding what the problem is. Really?

Oh, believe me, I understand the problem.

When Obama was elected, I went through those days angry and disappointed at the outcome, as well as at some of the people who caused that outcome. I certainly prayed for our nation and our newly elected leaders. However, I never had to take a day off to mourn, cry, grieve, or make animal models with Play-doh.

The problem is that I’m willing to work harder than a snowflake. So I win the prize.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

*http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/11/10/canceled-classes-cry-in-and-more-college-campuses-reel-from-trump-win.html

Thank You for Your Service

“Thank you for your service,” the gentleman said to the young Marine.

“Thank you for your support,” the Marine replied as they shook hands. Yet, that was not what the Marine really wanted to say.

He’s heard the words spoken to him quite a few times in his very short tenure as a Marine. Of course, prior to joining the corps he’d said it to airmen, sailors, soldiers, and Marines at every opportunity he’d been given. Most of the time, the men and women did not know how to reply. So this young Marine figured out quickly what he was going say if those words were ever spoken to him – “Thank you for your support.”

And still, that was not what he meant.

What he wanted to say was, respectfully, “What are you doing in service to our country?” or “What have you done to make your neighborhood such a great place to live?” or maybe even “Is your town a better place to live because you live there? What are you doing to make it better, to make it worth me fighting to protect?”

This Marine understood that not everyone was cut out for military service. He knew that there are any number of reasons that could prevent someone from having a job that involved protecting their community or serving it in other ways, like teaching or being a policeman. He also knew, though, that there were a million little things that anyone could do for their town, community, or neighborhood.

Alexis de Tocqueville stated nearly 200 years ago that, “America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”* He had visited our nation and compared it to his native France. Here he saw people who were genuinely kind to one another, helping each other in times of distress or during an illness. He witnessed fiery sermons from pulpits across the nation that stirred people to repentance, to stand for what was right and good.

There are still young men and women who are willing to stand for what is right and good, to protect us from enemies, both foreign and domestic. But are there still people who are making America worth fight for?

It really happens through the smallest things. There’s the army veteran who lives across the street who mows the grass for the widow down the road. There’s a neighbor who sees when the farmer’s cows get out of the fence, so he stops to herd them back up, then he helps the owner to rebuild the fence. We see the goodness in the small business owner who agrees to teach some homeschooled students how to dance so that they can truly enjoy their high school prom. He and his wife go to a social dance held each year at a school for deaf children and dance with them. There’s the friend who comes to care for the woman who’s had serious surgery. She stays for days and cooks, cleans, and makes certain that the woman is on the road to recovery. It’s in the woman who writes letters to a friend who has been incarcerated to encourage him. These things are not as big as wearing a uniform, carrying a weapon, and defending freedom, but sometimes the small things really are quite great.

America is great because America is good.

This is such a difficult election cycle. This writer has been overwhelmed at the animosity and division in our nation. Depending on who is elected and how they choose to run the nation, we could end up better than we’ve ever been, or in an ash heap of ruins. While America may not be great, we can still make it good. I, for one, am going to work toward that goal.

~Temerity Dowell

 

*Yes, de Tocqueville said it long before Hillary Clinton and Dan Quayle even thought it.

Different Custom

In the midst of this election cycle, I’ve tried to remain patient, analytical, honest, and kind. I’ve not gotten in the middle of the controversy if I could avoid it. When I’ve seen provocative social media posts, I’ve chosen not to comment, especially when I saw no way for a positive outcome. I’ve tried to extend grace to those who have “baited” me with controversial comments.

That doesn’t mean that I’ve not been paying attention!

There was one matter that came up that I had to intentionally avoid. It infuriated me! When a football player in the NFL chose to kneel, rather than stand, during the National Anthem, I became livid. That was nothing, however, compared to how I felt when others began to blindly follow suit. Then the Millikin University football team decided to stay in the locker room, rather than to participate in the ceremony of the National Anthem, with only Connor Brewer showing the integrity to stand alone on the sidelines during the song.

I’ve been quiet long enough.

What on earth are you people thinking? America actually is the greatest country in the world. We have safer streets, schools, public venues, and are safer in our homes than anywhere else. Americans earn more income per capita than any other nation. Our public places are kept clean, our roads are paved, our food is safe (with few exceptions), we have access to medications and trained doctors, and our hospitals are the best in the world. I’m allowed to purchase anything I can afford, and some things I can’t. I can drive a big car, live in a huge home, and have a new set of clothing for every single day of the month. I sleep in a very warm bed every night.

We have freedoms that are not found in other countries. I can express whatever I choose to without fear of any retribution other than the natural consequences of my statements (i.e. getting trampled if I yell “Fire” in a crowded theater, or getting slapped if I say something rude). I cannot be arrested for expressing an opinion! I can carry a handgun, and I do. The police cannot kick down my door on a whim or enter my home without a warrant. If I’m ever charged with a crime, I have a right to a trial with a jury of my peers. And every two years, I get to participate in free, fair elections (all the current turmoil aside) to elect anyone I choose to govern me. Just try finding these privileges and freedoms anywhere else.

So, what are you protesting by taking a knee during our National Anthem?

No, things are not always fair in America, but I don’t waste my time protesting it by doing something rude and offensive. Instead, I show up at the county commission meeting and petition my government for a redress of grievances. I meet privately with my legislators to explain my position on issues and convince them that I’m right and they should vote how I ask them to vote on a variety of bills. I sign petitions, make phone calls, and send emails when I’m unable to meet with those in authority over me. I use the press to my advantage and call out those who have usurped authority in public letters to the editor and social media outlets. Things are not always fair, so I’m doing what I can to change that by participating in the process.

Earlier today, I saw a social media post that questioned why people had such a problem with football players taking a knee during the anthem while it is customary in some churches to kneel as they entered to show respect and reverence toward Christ. A gentleman from Tennessee, Richie Davila, gave the best response I’ve seen to this question. “Different custom. Submission to the Lord by kneeling is one thing. But I stand up for my country. A free man should never be on his knees to any nation.”

Amen, Richie. Amen.

~Temerity Dowell

Today was the last time to attend my church.

It really is just as sad as it sounds. My church has closed its doors. I’m completely devastated. I will most likely never get to hear my wonderful pastor teach another lesson. I will never get to share communion with my church family again. I cried during the service. I cried as we prepared to leave. I’m crying now as I write this.

Much of my life was spent, or rather, wasted in bad churches. When asked, I tell people I grew up in the Church of Guilt and Condemnation and have attended local chapters across the country. Poor teaching, non-existent training, a lack of grace, and so much more contributed to how bad these churches were and how ill-equipped I have been as an adult.

When my sons began school, I decided I’d had enough of bad churches and actively sought a good one. I found it! For three glorious years, people who were acting under the direction of the Holy Spirit in the area of their respective spiritual giftedness blessed me and my family beyond measure.

I learned more about scripture in those three years than I had in the first 30 years of my life! It was during that time that I had the most remarkable and most gifted teacher I’d ever experienced. He could exegete the Word of God in ways that leave most people baffled. It left me excited about coming back and learning more. I loved it when he said things like, “When you see the word ‘therefore,’ you need to go back and see what it’s there for.” “God doesn’t grow character in a petunia patch.” “The word ‘always’ can better be defined by the word ‘always.’” I LOVED how this man taught.

But more than a teacher in the church, he was a minister to the individual. During this part of my life, I was still suffering horribly from cyclical depression. At one point, I was on the downward spiral toward the pit once again. I called my pastor, and he gave me the assignment of reading the book of Philippians every day for one month. I did. While a reading assignment is not a substitute for sound medical care that is necessary, this time the Great Physician interceded in my life through my reading. If Paul could sit with the rats, dampness, bodily fluids and excrement, darkness, and loneliness of a prison and write Philippians, I literally had no excuse for wallowing in self-pity and self-destruction.

When he died of cancer and went to live in heaven, I was lost. The associate pastor stepped into that position, and the church moved on. After a few years, terrible circumstances would lead our family away. For several years we shopped around for churches. We tried everything, visited everywhere that held any sign of hope, and were disappointed at every turn. * Oh, how I missed my pastor of old.

Finally, after years in a dry and thirsty land, we found home. This pastor took each verse in order, one at a time, and dug in deep to show us the meaning of every word. Once again, we were at a church that moved past the matter of salvation and onto “what comes next.” He never skipped the difficult or controversial subjects. For three years, I spent each week in anticipation of the next time I would get to hear my pastor teach.

I don’t know what happened. The numbers in church membership declined soon after I started attending there. There were no activities for children, so families began leaving as their children grew. We didn’t have an awesome praise band. There was no bulletin that announced dozens of programs, activities, Bible studies, or social activities each week. What we did have was incredible Bible teaching. Maybe people just wanted to feel good, rather than hearing the truth.

Our church, like hundreds of others across the nation, is a victim to the numbers.

“The United States Census Bureau Records give some startling statistics, backed up by denominational reports and the Assemblies of God U.S. Missions:

  • Every year more than 4000 churches close their doors compared to just over 1000 new church starts!
  • There were about 4,500 new churches started between 1990 and 2000, with a twenty year average of nearly 1000 a year.
  • Every year, 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity. This translates into the realization that people are leaving the church. From our research, we have found that they are leaving as hurting and wounded victims of some kind of abuse, disillusionment, or just plain neglect!
  • From 1990 to 2000, the combined membership of all Protestant denominations in the USA declined by almost 5 million members (9.5 percent), while the US population increased by 24 million (11 percent).
  • At the turn of the last century (1900), there was a ratio of 27 churches per 10,000 people, as compared to the close of this century (2000) where we have 11 churches per 10,000 people in America! What has happened?
  • Given the declining numbers and closures of Churches as compared to new church starts, there should have been over 38,000 new churches commissioned to keep up with the population growth.”**

I’m certainly not an expert on numbers or evaluating the data, so I don’t understand why the numbers are so bad. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to become an expert on how to find a new church. Excuse me while I go cry some more.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

*Our favorite disastrous example was the church that, after we’d attended for a year, asked me to serve on a committee that would determine how they wanted people to “feel” as they left the service. Should they feel inspired? Humbled? Happy? I wondered what they would do if the Holy Spirit bothered to show up one Sunday as I pulled out of the parking lot for the last time.

**http://www.churchleadership.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=42346&columnid=4545

Certain Inalienable Rights

“…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…”

I’ve been thinking about the statement from our Declaration of Independence above for the last few weeks. A strange series of circumstances recently led me to serve on a committee of patriots working toward endorsing candidates for the upcoming primary elections. The first question these candidates were asked on a survey was, “From where do we derive our rights?” so I’ve thought about this quite a bit.

The level of stupidity knows no bounds when it comes to candidates. One moron answered, “From The Constitution and the blood of patriots who paid the ultimate price in protecting our freedoms.” I have middle school students who know why this is incorrect.

“I’ve taught the Constitution to more students than I remember, and I keep a pocket copy of it on me everywhere I go. I’ve had family members who have died serving our nation, and I have family members who are currently serving.” Yet, the candidate’s answer was still incorrect.

He who gives, can take away. Job said this, and he probably was the first to ever say it, millennia ago as is recorded in Job 1:21. “…the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” This is not vague or gray. Any good parent knows that when they give their child something and the child misuses it, we can take it back from them. God is the best parent of all.

Government, however, is the worst. How many times have we heard of an organization which lost their government funding and had to close because of it? How many times have we heard of a veteran who expected his VA benefits to pay for something it had in the past, but it did not? How many times have we heard of the government threatening to take away federal dollars if a state didn’t abide by a new law? He who gives, can take away.

Look back and read the statement from the Declaration again. Then answer the question “From where do we derive our rights?” I hope you correctly surmised that they are from our Creator. From Him, I have a right to defend myself from any form of evil, so I keep a gun in arm’s reach when I’m away from my home. From Him, I have a right to worship how I want to, or even not to worship if I so choose. From Him, I have a right to marry who I want, raise my family how I want, work where and for whom I want, eat, breathe, drink, and do a million other things how, when, and where, I want. No government, nor any man, can take those rights from me. They are “unalienable,” unable to be taken away.

This morning I read an article (linked below) concerning a new anti-terrorism law that has passed both legislative chambers in Russia and is awaiting a response from President Vladimir Putin. After the last few months we’ve had in America and around the world, another anti-terrorism law must surely be a good idea, right?

This law, however, reaches in to remove an unalienable right to worship. It removes the right for anyone in Russia to discuss anything regarding religion outside of a recognized religious building. No one can invite another person to church, no one can discuss their religious beliefs, and no one can even practice their religion in their home with others. This may sound acceptable if it means that, for example, the Radical Muslims or the Black Panther Party, can’t do these things, but it applies to EVERY religious group, including Christians.

If the Russian government can prosecute a person for holding a house church in their living room, government is assuming it has a right to control something that is unalienable. They are way over their boundary!

I wonder what the candidate referenced above would say about this law? Would he find it reasonable for the government to establish this? Using his own logic, he’d have to. But you, dear reader, now know better. America is not the only place in which our Creator has endowed people with unalienable rights. I sincerely hope that the people of Russia, who have been persecuted for centuries, do, too.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jun/29/proposed-law-russia-would-ban-proselytizing/

 

The Title Earned

“An Illinois high school has come under fire after officials refused to let a graduate, who is also a U.S. Marine, walk across the stage Thursday in her [dress blue uniform].

“Marine Corps Pvt. Megan Howerton technically finished up her studies at McHenry West High School early in order to start her career as a Marine, WLS-TV reported. But when she returned to the school to join her classmates at graduation, she wasn’t allowed to walk with her class.” (See a link to the full article below)

Readers who have read other blogs I’ve posted probably know how deep my respect is for our US servicemen and women. As the child of two veterans, and the wife of a veteran, I was not surprised when my sons both joined the military. Those who would choose to serve our nation in this capacity deserve our highest honor and respect. After all, how many other 18 year olds have to write their last will and testament?

When I read the story about Pvt. Megan Howerton, my respect for our military manifested itself in anger. Pvt. Howerton finished the requirements to graduate from high school earlier than most students do so that she could go to boot camp in Parris Island, SC, the first critical step toward becoming a US Marine.

For thirteen grueling weeks, drill sergeants train young men and women to become the best fighting force the world has ever known. These recruits, with very little sleep, do more calisthenics before 7 AM on Monday than the average American does in a month, and they do it every day. They must display a level of discipline that few other men or women will ever exhibit. They learn how to use a rifle, develop their marksmanship, are taught basic martial arts, and practice water survival skills. At each level, they must meet a high level of expectation and pass tests to prove they are qualified to be a US Marine.

So, not only did Pvt. Megan Howerton complete high school early, she also finished boot camp before her high school peers had graduated. Megan was most likely given a special leave from the Marine Corps in order to attend her high school graduation, to walk one more time with her fellow classmates. It was not to be.

I understand why high schools have dress code requirements. If they didn’t, it is highly probable that parents and grandparents attending the ceremony would be forced to witness saggy jeans and underwear crossing the stage.

I draw the line though when the stated purpose of the event is to lump all of the students in one big group. “Our graduates are celebrated as a whole and in similar attire,” stated a school official. Has it occurred to anyone else that this is the bigger problem?

While, traditionally, each student’s name is called as they receive their diploma, each of those students has had different accomplishments. They’ve taken their choice of classes (often based on future goals), they’ve completed their own assignments (in theory), they’ve passed their own tests, and they’ve developed their own skill set. Why would we desire to celebrate them as a whole?

Pvt. Howerton understood that in order to reach her goal of becoming a US Marine, she would first have to complete the requirements of her high school. So she did. Interestingly, she is not angry about not getting to cross the stage as a high school graduate. Marines are made of sterner stuff. She states in the article that she understood the dress code and still made the choice to wear her uniform, without the gown.

I understand that. My Marine would never dream of altering his uniform in any manner, even with a gown marking graduation. A Marine works way too hard to earn that uniform to hide it.

 

Dear Pvt. Howerton,

Congratulations on graduating as part of the Class of 2016. Completing the requirements of high school earlier than what was expected is a clear indicator of your willingness to do more than the typical student. Your achievements are commendable!

Congratulations on completing boot camp and becoming a US Marine! While a crossing a stage for high school graduation was taken away from you, your role as a US Marine can never be stripped away. You will always be a Marine. OOORAH!

While I will never know what it is like to be a Marine, I have some idea as to what an individual must accomplish in order to earn the title. In the eyes of this MoM*, you are aces! Thank you for your service to our country.

Sincerely,

~Temerity Dowell

 

 

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/05/22/illinois-high-school-refuses-to-let-marine-walk-for-graduation-over-dress-code.html?intcmp=hpbt3

*Mother of a Marine