Homeschool, Parenting

Be Thou My Vision

I will never forget that day. We were sitting at a very routine eye doctor appointment, not suspecting that anything was wrong. When my very bright and precocious 9-year-old says, “I know the top letter is an E because it’s always an E. But I can’t see it.” It was as if time stopped. Wait, what? He’s kidding, surely…. “No, mom. I really can’t see it.” 

Thoughts came flooding in. The boy who always had a book with him had recently stopped reading in the car. He said he just didn’t feel like it. And then there was the baseball game last week where he begged to play catcher, FOR BOTH TEAMS. He spent the whole game in mask and pads squatting behind the batter. I guess it feels better to be wearing all those protective measures when you can’t see the ball coming at you. 

I felt like a terrible parent. How did I not know my poor boy was struggling to see? 

That day began a long and confusing journey. At first, I thought we would just get him some glasses, and everything would be okay. But after a few different eye doctors and several scary guesses of what it could be, we had a diagnosis. Stargardt Disease. Retinal Degeneration in a child. It comes on quickly, and within 6-12 months he had lost all his central vision. It’s genetic. Nothing can be done. Glasses won’t help. 

It sounds strange, but if you have to be blind, Stargardt Disease is the way to do it. While your central vision is affected, you retain your peripheral vision. After the 12 months of sudden vision loss, you stabilize and stay at that point until your 40’s when everyone has a mild decrease in vision.

It didn’t take long for me to remember and reread the passage in John 9.

“As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”

John 9:1-2

This boy was my first baby. Did I do something wrong when I was pregnant with him? I was so very sick with morning sickness. There were a few weeks there that all I could keep down was McDonald’s chocolate milkshakes. Was that it? Or was it all my sin catching up to me?

In the passage, it’s clear that the blind man is close by when the disciples ask this question. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time he had wondered or been told that he or his parents brought this on themselves. My own sweet boy had the faith of a child and took his news with strength and positivity that left me humbled. But that day when his cousins beat him at ping pong, and when his younger brother got his driver’s license, I saw it. I know there have been times when his heart has cried out, “Why Lord?” 

Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

John 9:3

Jesus doesn’t address the cause of the blindness. He goes straight to the PURPOSE! In our scientific day and age, we know exactly where the tiny little code on his DNA had a hiccup. We know it’s because my husband and I carry a recessive gene, one that had not shown up in either of our families yet. But that’s not WHY! 

In Exodus chapter 4 God asks Moses, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” 

God knit my son together in my womb. He made him handsome and with a slightly too long second toe like his dad. He gave him a fierce determination and strength of character, and he gave him Stargardt Disease.  FOR A PURPOSE. 

Question one of the Westminster Catechism gets to the heart of this purpose and it’s true for EVERYONE.

Question 1: What is the chief end of man?
Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

The blind man in John was born blind for that MOMENT. Jesus walked up to him and HEALED him. God was glorified! And I suspect that man enjoyed him forever! If my son is healed someday (which I pray for often) God will be glorified. If my son is not healed, if he, in fact, gets worse, God will be glorified! When my son graduates next Spring with a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering, despite his challenges, God will be glorified! And if he had chosen to be a janitor, God would STILL BE GLORIFIED! 

God takes our obedience and hard work, our disobedience and inadequacies and uses them all to make us into His very image. So, when my son graduates and people praise him, he doesn’t take that glory and hold it for himself. He reflects it right back onto the One who made him. When he has to depend on others to drive him somewhere or read him a menu, and he responds with grateful humility, he is still reflecting the glory of God. 

Isn’t it the same for those of us who have perfect vision? Or Down Syndrome? Or Autism? Or superior athletic abilities? Oh, that we would see these things with His eyes and say with the famous Hymn…

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

Photos by Joshua Earle

Reading

June Reading Roundup

My June reads included non-fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, and a mystery. I didn’t love everything I read and I’m already changing up genres for July’s books. I hope this helps you pick up something new or save you time on books that aren’t right for you.

To Stop a Warlord: My Story of Justice, Grace, and the Fight for Peace

Author: Shannon Sedgwick Davis

Published: April 2nd 2019 by Spiegel & Grau

Pages: 352

Rating: 5 Stars
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Homeschool, Potpourri

The Parallel of a Project and Parenting: Ten Steps to Sending My Son to College

Last year on my birthday, my oldest two boys bought me a DIY Wooden Sign project at The Board and Brush studio. My oldest was out of state doing an internship, so my second oldest came with me to help me make the project. We were having a great time and the project was coming together when about halfway through, the thought hit me that this project was an almost perfect parallel to parenting. 

The feeling was so powerful it almost took my breath away. I stood for a moment and stared at this 18-year-old young man who I clearly remembered as a scrawny little infant and the tears welled up. He knows this look in my eyes well and came over to give me a hug. We were both anticipating the upcoming goodbye as he was heading out of state to college in a few weeks. I pulled it together and we finished a beautiful project that hangs proudly over my fireplace. The entire time I was making mental notes and taking it all in and silently praising God for this precious gift. 

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I'm Curious About...

I’m Curious About Internet Security

“I’m curious about…” is a series exploring subjects we want to learn more about. Curiosity can lead us to learn more about different kinds of cheeses, find a new favorite author, or seek to understand another culture from your own. We can begin to find answers to our questions even when we don’t feel qualified.


In this edition, I’m curious about Internet Security.

How did you become interested in this topic?

I am a part of the Oregon Trail Generation and I grew up with the internet. I’ve always been curious about computers and how they talk to each other. In the late 1990s, movies like Sandra Bullock’s The Net, Antitrust, and Enemy of the State made me wonder which storylines are plausible in real life. In high school, I gained a basic knowledge of computers in an AP Computer Science class and then I took a  college-level Information Systems class.

In the mid-2000s, armed with my very basic computer knowledge I started reading Bruce Schneier’s blog, Schneier on Security, and Slashdot to get the latest security news. I didn’t understand all the technical lingo, but I could understand why someone or a corporation would want private information.

Now I’m still interested, because data leaks are often in the news. Two years ago Target stores had 40 million credit card numbers stolen, because of a vulnerability in their air conditioning system! Last year the detailed private information of  50 million Facebook users were exposed because of a few software bugs. The crazy scenarios from the movies have become real and it is fascinating.

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Homeschool

Give Me a Break!

I’ve been homeschooling for 16 years and I have noticed a couple of funny things about homeschoolers.

1.   There are no true sick days. 

When I was a kid in public school, there were days that I was truly sick and others when I was just “sick of it.” My mom was kind and wise and she occasionally let me stay home from school. On those “sick of it” days, we would go to Swensen’s for a ginormous ice cream sundae and maybe cruise the mall. I’d be all better about halfway through the sundae. On the truly sick days, I would binge watch PBS, Gilligan’s Island, and Dick Van Dyke. Guess what? Those days off didn’t make me fall irrevocably behind, fail to graduate or become a lazy adult. I’m actually pretty okay, and I have great memories because of those days.

Let’s consider our homeschoolers. Raise your hand if you have ever said, “I know you’re not feeling great, but you can read two chapters of your book today, right?” Or “It’s just a mild sore throat, have a Tylenol and we’ll start math in 30 minutes.” We wring our hands and worry if we let them bounce between the tablet and TV all day. We think it somehow reflects poorly on us, like we are failing them in some way. We feel this because of all the articles we read about technology being bad for our kids. Spoiler alert! There’s a lot of good in the technology available today.

2.   Monday Holidays, Spring Break, and Summer give us anxiety.

How many times have you been asked, “Are you taking Labor Day/MLK Day/Spring/Summer break off?” Only other homeschoolers ask these questions. The rest of the world assumes we are taking those breaks. Why wouldn’t we? We tend to see taking breaks as weak, lazy or backsliding. We feel guilty for resting! Need I remind you that God Himself considered rest so important that he dedicated an entire day every week to it? 

Every homeschool family will have their own rhythm and routine and that’s great. Some of you want to school through the summer for all kinds of reasons, go for it!

If you do school through the summer or holidays then promise me two things:  

Don’t look down on those taking breaks. Encouraging your kids to always be curious, and in that way, value learning all year round is awesome. Requiring a certain amount of bookwork or something you see as “actual learning” before you allow the kids to have “free time” could be crushing their desire to learn and be curious. Think outside the box and try to see the value of learning in your child playing with Legos or even a video game.

Don’t fear “getting behind” so much that you push math on your sick kids. Let them have the occasional day where they build a “nest.” That’s what my kids do when they don’t feel well. They drag a big blanket, a few pillows and some stuffed animals in front of the TV and settle in for a day of watching TV, drinking water and napping on and off.

Planned Breaks

This year my family instituted scheduled weeklong breaks every 6 weeks (or less). Some of them corresponded to holidays or vacations, others were just a week off at home. Basically, we never did more than 6 – 8 weeks of school without taking a week off. We could use that week to do some make up work if we felt we needed it, or we would just take the whole week off.

I used those weeks to plan the next block of schooling, which gave me the freedom to expand what was working and remove what wasn’t. It was such a blessing! We were much less stressed, and we still finished more than 75% of the math book by the end of May! Did you know you don’t have to finish the whole book? 

A typical school year should last between 32-36 weeks, depending on the age of your students. What you do with the remaining 16-20 weeks per year can make or break your homeschool. Give those kids and yourself a break! 

How do you handle sick days? Do you take regularly scheduled breaks throughout the school year?

Photos by Daiga Ellaby 

Reading

Currently Reading Podcast: Sci-Fi & Fantasy Deep Dive

In episode 43 of The Currently Reading Podcast I had the privilege of leading a deep dive into Science Fiction and Fantasy novels. One of my goals was to help their listeners find new books for the Currently Reading 2019 Reading Challenge. I hope I convinced readers to pick up a novel they wouldn’t have previously considered reading because it is shelved in the Science-Fiction or Fantasy section.

If I had covered every book on my list then the episode would have been 4 hours long so I compiled them all here at Curiosity Lounge.

I’d love to hear in the comment section below which books I missed and if you have thoughts and opinions about the books listed here.

Science Fiction Set in Space

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Plot:

The Martian Chronicles tells the story of humanity’s repeated attempts to colonize Mars.

Why you should read it:

Ignore the weird cover. It’s a short classic first published in 1950. What makes this book fun is that it is told in short stories. Each of the stories are written in a different style, but they all contribute to one story. Some are in the style of Edgar Allen Poe and another one is a comedy.

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Homeschool

A Summer Homeschool Refresher: Teaching From Rest

“God doesn’t call us to this work and then turn away… He promises to stay with us, to lead us, to carry us.”

– Sarah MacKenzie, Teaching from Rest

Are you crumbling under the burden of providing the “perfect” homeschool experience for your children? Do you lie awake at night evaluating your performance each day and finding that you just don’t measure up to your own expectations?

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Potpourri

Welcome to Curiosity Lounge

In my very first Curiosity Lounge post, I dusted off the cobwebs from my keyboard and wrote about why I didn’t write online for years. Now I’m writing again, but I still don’t feel like I have a message I need to shout from the rooftops. Instead, I figured out that I enjoy making a website look pretty, editing posts, and learning all the behind the scenes work of a collaborative blog.

I want to build a nice place for my friends who feel like they have a message or an idea to broadcast. These friends will get to share their experiences, their seasoned advice, and the topics they are learning more about. I aspire to elevate and promote their stories because sometimes Instagram and Twitter are limited.  

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Homeschool, Potpourri

When You Choose Not to be an Internet Person

A few years ago I had given up on being an internet person who wanted to build a following to share a message. I still consumed blogs and social media, but I didn’t contribute anything to discussions online. My last major project has been deleted from the internet. There wasn’t any reason to keep the website alive. I have kept a personal blog up and flirted with becoming a Christian writer. Then I thought I would write and become a book blogger. I even received galleys and ARCs to review online. My last few personal blog posts talked about homeschool curriculum, because I could point people to my latest post when they asked which curriculum I use.

Making Homeschool my Full-Time Job

As my kids grew they needed more of my attention on their education. At some point I read a blog post by Pam Barnhill titled “Dear Self: Why you stink at homeschool consistency” and her advice struck a chord. Pam encouraged homeschool educators to think of their role as a full-time job. I realized that I couldn’t juggle homeschool, taking care of my family, and consistently publish anything online. I made a choice to focus on schooling my three kids as if it were a regular Monday through Friday job.

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