Trust The Children

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Love of A Blacksmith

Holland is my "motherland". That is probably not a real word, but shucks, we are imaginative home schoolers, right? We understand each other. Anyway, my mother's father imigrated from there. A few months ago, I was heading over to Germany for business and went a few days early so I could drive to the Netherlands or Holland. I arrived in Frankfurt and at the airport, went about the business of renting a car, to drive to Holland some hours away. The girl at the desk asked me what car I wanted. I told her what I was doing and where I was going and asked her, "If you were me, which car would you pick?" I ended up with a Nissan SUV, 6 speed, that had GPS in the dash. GPS (Global Positioning System) is a navigation system. I punched in the address of my destination in Holland, and the car began talking to me. Straight here, left here, this onramp, straight ahead for 40 kilometers and the next thing I knew, I was starring at a building that had the exact address I had entered into the GPS 3 1/2 hours before. Amazing. The only way to go in Europe.

As part of the trip, two distant relatives picked me up on Sunday, and showed me around the land of my fathers. It was wonderful and a most enjoyable experience seeing the sites and getting to know them. In the afternoon, we ended up in the countryside, the rural areas around Dordrecht. The name of this area is Dubbledam.. I fell in love with it immediately. Besides being really pretty and tranquil, the name itself represents just how I feel about life from time to time. While there we visited a great aunt who had known Grandpa Evert. It was this Grandpa Evert who was the hinge point between my distant relatives and myself. He had been a farmer. But in the middle 1800's the economics of farming made it so that unless he got more land to work, he couldn't make a living at it. So what to do? Grandpa Evert noticed that there were no blacksmiths in the area, so he decided to become one. As time went by, he became quite successful. His sons joined in, and eventually his grandsons. They built a very large shop on the back of the house, which is still standing today. Great grandsons joined in and the two I was with, though not part of that business today, trace their interest in engineering and making things, to Grandpa Everts choice so many years ago.

So it was a bit shocking actually, when this great aunt told us, that in all the years of his occupation as a blacksmith, he hated it. He persisted, but compared to farming, he hated being a blacksmith. (Hence Dubbledam fit pretty good I thought to myself) We said our good byes and continued the tour of family landmarks, but I sensed that we were all thinking the same thing as we drove away, if he hated it, why did he do it?

Did he persist because he loved his family? Yes. Did he persist because he wanted to provide for them as a father should? Yes of course. Did this change in occupation, impact generations? Yes it has. Generations of influence as a result of love and a sense of responsibility. The love of a blacksmith.

This is a story, that I have shared with our family more than once. There is a message here for parents and children who have chosen home schooling as their educational priority, don't you think? For kids, some of the education at home may be something you do, because you love yourself and want the best for yourself and sometimes the only reason the kids persist, is because they decide to. For parents, home schooling is the gift we give our children, that really only WE can give. it isn't always easy and it isn't always how we would use our time each day, but we do, because we love. We do because we want to preserve something in our children that will bless them for generations. In fact, if we are careful, we can preserve in them their natural curiosity, which is the gift of gifts, the gift of the ages. And so the gift of love ripples outward from this home.

I can't know how the future spouses of our children will feel about educating at home. I hope they can learn to feel positively disposed to the idea. Either way, we will love them just the same. But I have given this some thought. Even if, as our children marry, they choose together a path that doesn't include home schooling in their lives, we still have given something to that family that preserves the ripple effect. We have given that new family a father or a mother, our grown up child, who is different and capable in important ways. We gift that family a child who loves to learn, who feels freedom to confidently but intelligently shun following the crowd, who remembers their own personal trail of learning and will feel less disposed to impose some unnatural learning process on our grandchildren, and more disposed to let the plant grow without always pulling it up to check the roots.

The power and influence of the children we have educated in our home will continue to live and move outward in the lives of generations to come. In this way, our choice to home school, our choice to give the gift of educating at home which can be from time to time a hard gift to give, our choice to persist when persisting is uncomfortable, becomes a choice to develop our love and sense of vision and responsibility. It becomes very much like... the love of a blacksmith.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Rain. Thirty-five straight days. People think it always rains in the Northwest. Of course, that is something we tell people so they don't move here. But this winter, it has been different. And not drizzle or fog. Rain every day. And it gets to you. With this much rain, nearly everything is soggy. The grass, the gardens, and everything.

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, the boys and I have been building a workshop to construct piper cub airplane. Building in the rain is a true test of how bad they really want it. And I am pleased to say, they are passing the test. Even in the rain, they have built trusses, dug post holes, set uprights, installed trusses, cut truss ends to even them up and intalled facia boards. Yesterday, the first day it only rained part of the time, we put the roof panels in place as well as finished the eaves on either end.

Our feet are always muddy, the ground around the project is soggy and wet, and our hands get cold. Even so, it is pretty satisfying. I asked Sam what he has enjoyed about building the shop so far. He said, "I have learned so much. I had no idea there were so many small steps, so many details. But I have really come to appreciate the saying,'Measure twice, cut once.' If you don't to that, as time goes on , all kinds of things wouldn't fit." Ben said the same thing. So of all that we have done together, the one lesson that sticks out is "Measure Twice, Cut once."

Cyndy suggested this topic for a January entry. She says that in January it can be hard to get momentum, hard to get started. Hard to build momentum. Part of it is wintertime, Part of it is the darkness of it all. And even when the sky is blue, which it is right now, it is cold outside. Just not an inviting time to 'venture out'. More of an attitude thing than anything else. So "Meaure twice, cut once."

If you feel a bit depressed and are are a few ideas.

1) Cyndy has to be reminded WHY we did this in the first place. She has written down her feelings during the good times, the inspiring times, she has older children who have proven inspirational AND she has her husband who is kind of like the Vince Lomardi of home schooling. You know, Lombardi said, "Winning isn't everything, it is the ONLY thing." So Coach Mark says, "Cyndy, suck it up. Get tough, Homeschooling isn't everything, its......" you get the idea. In our family, Cyndy is such a superstar, that these rare moments of "dampened enthusiasm" are the only ones where I even think about shining.

2) If you don't already have a support group of other home schoolers, now is the time to reach out, join one, make one, or conventions or symposiums, and draw on their energy for a few weeks. It really helps when you have others in the group, experienced players, who have been through their share of soggy Januarys before. In fact, if the truth were known, them helping you through this is one, way they make it through themselves.

3) Which leads me to the next idea. No matter how damp you feel, someone else is drenched. Find someone you can help. Find someone you can lift up. Find someone you can do some empathy with. As the good book says, "Lose yourself in the service of others and you can find yourself."

4) Gut it out. The sun is going to rise sooner or later. When it does, walk outside and enjoy it and forget homeschooling for a few hours or days. Dry out. It isn't a pattern at this point, if you are needing your batteries charged for a bit. Just much needed maintenance, which everyone needs from time to time. Cut yourself some slack. In a little while you will feel better, see the world clearer, and feel energy levels on the rise again. "Fortunately the sun has a wonderfully glorious habit of rising every morning." (Jean George) Or as Anne of Green Gables said, "Every day begins with no mistakes in it."

If you are really in bind, send us an email. We don't charge much for online therapy. About as much as others have charged us over the years.

The most important thing is to stay in the game. Your kids are the big winners here in a couple of ways. You are still offering them the best educational opporunity public funds can't buy and while you are fretting, they are probably outside already, stomping in mud puddles, without galoshes, getting soaked, top to bottom and loving every minute of their home school freedom. Right???? Of course right.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ben and the Quad- A Lesson In Self Directed Learning

I am normally a busy guy. Demanding businesses, international travel, church duties, scouting, large family, gorgeous wife and personal time demands. About 4-5 months ago, my church duties came to an end and a new assignment hasn't been forthcoming. So the question was, would I use the spare time in meaningful self directed activities or just allow other things to expand into that slot? This blog is part of that answer. Working with the boys to build a shop to re-build a Piper Cub is another. Beginning writing little vignettes for my children, "Stories From My Life" is another. I haven't done too bad actually. In fact, I could get used to this. So I think I am passing the test. Given time, I can decide to fill it up with meaningful activities instead of waste it. In other words, I have a full catalog of things I would like to "do when I grow up" and know how to take advantage of the "seasons" of life to get them done. So what does this have to do with Ben?

About a year ago or longer, Ben noticed in our neighborhood a used, beat up, 4 wheel off road QUAD that was for sale. Finally his brother Sam suggested he stop and talk to them about it. They promised all kinds of parts for free, and if not for free, a place to get them cheap. Ben believed them, forked over the cash. Buying it was lesson 1. Believing them on the parts and wheels was lesson 2. Of course they never came through and Ben was back to work, earning the money himself to buy the parts he needed elsewhere. The entire Quad experience has had additional interesting twists and turns. A kind of "Adam/Garden of Eden" experience. You know, the "innocent losing innocence and coming to the truth" kind of experience. The rest of this "self-selected, born out of his own curiosity" home school class he experienced , was truly a magnificent example of self directed home school learning. After math lessons (most of the time after completing lessons anyway), Ben took the machine apart, all over our garage. This, of course, was a temporary thing. Getting the parts to make it run would only take a few days and the garage would be ours again. At this point Cyndy and I joined Ben in this special classroom. He was building in the garage and learning, we were getting used to the cold walk to the cars. Of course we said yes, and of course we still don't have the garage back. But that has been ok, and here is why.

Ben has researched on the internet, called and talked to any toll free number he could. He found local owners of similar 4 wheelers, visited machine shops, learned about 2 cycle carburetors, rebuilt the brakes, dismounted all 4 tires, sold them and purchased used/new ones by dismounting them from the rims and remounting the replacements, by hand. Well the list goes on. More reading, more phone calls to people who know. And all of this with but a few words of encouragement from me or Cyndy. Although at one point I weakened and purchased a few parts he needed on Ebay and gifted them to him for Christmas. The point is, he got the beast running. He got it all back together. He even put new jets into the cylinders, whatever jets are, because they bored out the cylinder for a larger piston. And it is running. Kick start it and it is running. They can ride it up and down our private drive. It's running! There has been no end to the reading, the questions asked of more knowledgable mentors, the putting together and taking apart, the conversations with adults, the trial and error. The frustated nights going to bed and not knowing where to go from here to get it going.

There has not been one single moment of prodding from Cyndy or I. Yes, a few trips to shops and other places to make purchases. But this has been the baby of our 14-15 year old from the beginning with help from his brother Sam. The learning was complete with so many elements that have been so positive, for learning, self confidence, patience, and the pure joy of overcoming and succeeding.

If you know Ben, he has never walked with a swagger. He has never been anything but the best friend you could ever want to have. But there is a new light in his eyes, a new sense of the "world being his oyster". And for both Sam and Ben, after this experience they are just the right kind confident, the right kind of happy and have the right kind of respect for all the people (ie. resources) he was able to acquire help from, to make his dream come true.

Another example of self-directed learning coming from this humble, but excited home. Home schooling is working, and the Quad is running! And by the way, they are both the right kind of partners to have around when you want to build a Piper Cub. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The New Year, Your Way

As Saturday evening approached, the family was prepared. Snacks, games, DVD movies, we were ready. From time to time during the evening, as the fateful hour approached, I logged on to for headlines. I found myself observing what seemed to be an unending, unfolding of the New Year. I think I saw Hong Kong, then Australia, and so on around the globe. Finally at 9 pm my time, the east coast celebrations hit. Times Square, Chicago, and finally the celebrated hour in our time zone. Even though there had been "count downs" all around the world, it was our turn for our own. We all joined in chorus:10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and 2006 had arrived.... for us in our part of the world.

It struck me that there was NO universal beginning of the New Year. Eveyone began 2006 when it was their turn. It is like we take liberties in a way, to begin our new year when it suits us best, and the rest of the world just has to live with it. Suddenly, but quietly, in my own mind, this new years reality became very important to us as a home schooling family. It said that we can begin the new year more or less at our discretion.

New beginnings for many are exciting times. A time to put away the past, take out a fresh sheet of paper and begin with no mistakes, no baggage and the hope and enthusiasm of new ideas and hopes for the future. All of this can be quite exciting and invigorating... for some. But there is another group who look at the new beginning with different eyes. And I can tell you we have spent a number of "new beginnings" at this place.

The holidays have been hectic for all, but especially for our wives. Guests, presents, cards, more guests, food, plays, church devotionals, holiday traditions. You all know the drill. All fun, all time consuming and all wonderfully therapeutic at taking our minds off the day to day home schooling patterns we trudge or frolic through, depending on the family. However, during the holidays, home schooling momentum is lost, and we need to begin again. And any start up from scratch, any beginning from a position of rest, requires energy. I have seen, in some years, Cyndy almost dread the "beginning" of the New Year. Not because she has lost the vision, but she is just plain worn out after all the holiday festivities.

If you are feeling this way this year, take a lesson from mother nature and feel free to set your own date to "begin" the new home schooling year. Take a few extra days and allow your self to do some planning, brainstorming, dreaming and pondering. This can be a very energizing experience. Taking a deep breath before beginning again, can also go a long way to helping you get started on the right foot. We have had many new years begin, where taking a few extra days has made all the difference.

This year, Cyndy is showing signs of being the seasoned veteran that she is. When I asked her about what she had in mind for the kids this week, she said, "Well this year, I actually set myself up for a good beginning by taking a bit of time before the actual holidays came, to plan for this "beginning" time. "Back to Greek and Latin Roots" she said. ""We put that off in the beginning of the year, so we are going to begin this week." It wasn't so much the topic she had selected, it couldn't have been, I mean Greek and Latin Roots? Yet what I heard and felt was the energy in her voice, the confidence. Cyndy was at peace this year. She was ready this year. I could tell she was looking forward to it, and I was happy for her AND for me AND for the kids. I asked her, how this "beginning" was different than others. After thinking, she said, "Baby Steps, small steps. When you get the feeling of being overwhelmed to the point that you are frozen in your steps, you just have to get started, and it is easier to start again, if you begin small."

So take a few more days and decide for yourself when the New Year will begin. Begin small to build momentum again, like shifting into first gear before letting out the clutch. Pick a topic you personally have fun with.

There are other ideas out there on making a good start. Don't be afraid and share them.