the public school apologist

Click around a few Christian parenting websites, and before long, someone will invariably suggest that private school or home-schooling are the only biblical learning options for Christian families.

That is ridiculous, of course.

I have much respect for home-school parents, and Jim taught at a fantastic Christian school in Pittsburgh. Both can be great options for families. However, not only are those choices out of reach for many because of income and access, plenty of Christians desire to send their kids to public school. No one education model is right for every child uniquely created in God's image.

Too often, we want churches, youth groups, and Christian education to play the role that God has given parents: to raise up children in faith. Churches and ministries like Christian schools and camps provide invaluable support to parents in teaching kids to live out their faith, but that instruction begins (and continues) at home:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

My mother modeled setting aside time everyday to scripture and always prayed with us and for us. She watched television with us, and taught us to think critically about the choices and assumptions presented. It was horribly annoying and embarrassing at the time ["Should Brenda sleep with Dylan?" "How should Mike have handled that situation on Growing Pains?"], but in retrospect, I'm grateful.

When we teach kids to identify and critique messages that may or may not not align with our values, public school playgrounds and classrooms are not the insidious faith-squelchers that the culture warriors make them out to be.

I went to public school from kindergarten through college and continue to grow in the faith journey I began as a small child. Of course, no schooling choice guarantees that kids will believe or behave the way we want, but public school did give me a context in which to live out my faith and opportunities to interact with people who were different from me.  

In his book Fearless Faith: Living Beyond the Walls of Safe Christianity, John Fischer questions the bubble we've created with (often sub-par) Christian alternatives to mainstream movies, music, coffee shops, and even gyms. How will we minister if Christians opt out of life alongside people who don't share our faith?

The central scripture of the book is Jesus' prayer for his disciples in the gospel of John: My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one (17:15). 

Public school is not best for every child, for myriad reasons. However, if we take seriously the call to shine God's light in the darkness, Christians cannot advocate a total retreat from the public schools, and we'd be foolish to imagine God is not already present and at work there as everywhere.

Christians need not fear exposing kids to ideas and people we don't agree with and can't control: Jesus has prayed God's protection over us in the midst of the world. I am not saying to let kids watch or listen to whatever their friends like. My point is simply that Christians need not be afraid. We all need to practice discernment and learn that delicate balance of living within the world and yet as people "set apart."

If anything, my faith is stronger for having received a public education. My university professors may not have been Christians (although some were), but they respected religion. Learning about Christianity and other religions within historical context helped root my own faith and grow it into something beyond what I inherited from my family.

I wonder if the Christians who vehemently oppose public education are less afraid of secular threats against faith than they are of progressive political influences. An informal Facebook survey of Christians I went to public school with reveals that our politics are split pretty evenly. My politics lean left. Did public school education influence me that way? It's impossible to say for sure; so many factors shape a person's values and beliefs. I do know that liberal politics are not synonymous with permissive morality or secularism.

Shaping a Christian worldview is crucial in helping kids make their faith their own so that they don't graduate from faith when they graduate high school, but we can emphasize that without sounding the alarm. Public school and the liberal arts are not the boogeyman they are sometimes painted to be, and thriving faith communities can be found on the most "secular" campuses.

Liberal arts education did not mold me into an atheist or a relativist. Seventeen years of public schooling made me a more critical thinker and a lover of learning, and equipped me to serve as a youth minister in my first job after graduation.

My parents didn't try to protect me from the world. Instead, they prayed over me and equipped me to live out my faith in every context, and I remain grateful to this day.

images:  daintee, rudenyarwich

What's your take on the relationship between faith and schooling? Would you do things differently for your kids than you experienced growing up?


are you watching glee?

you should be.  seriously, go to hulu right now and catch up.  or watch tuesdays (tonight!) on fox.

i tend to like the shows that get cancelled.  the ones everybody loves--dancing with the stars, american idol, serials about murdered people, lost---not so much.  it's fun to be on the bandwagon for once.

i just discovered the nbc show parenthood and have been enjoying that as well.  i like comedies like 30 rock or how i met you mother, but i don't get into them the same way.  i really like hour-long scripted shows where you get attached to the characters and storylines.  or the singing and foolishness;)

tell me, is there anything else worth watching on tv?

imageglee cast singing madonna's "like a virgin."  epic.

what about breastfix at tiffany's?

the race for the cure is coming up, and i wanted to say a big THANK YOU to all the people who have donated to the fight to end breast cancer.  i set out to raise $800, and with your help, i've actually raised $1230.  our team (breastfix at tiffany's) has raised over $9,120 to aid breast cancer research, education, advocacy, and finding a cure.

thanks to everyone for your kindness, love, prayer, support, and generosity.  tiffany is strong, beautiful, and halfway through chemo!  continued prayers are a tremendous blessing.

my all-star donors:
melissa and ed
laurie and bill
liz and tony
dann and nancy
kristin and mike
jonie and greg
mick and cindy
coco and brian
rex and georgia
dave and peggy
janet and jay
mary ann and glenn
rob and teri
steve and janice
skip and elisa
lisa and ray
wayne and lynda
dawn/mommy gear

if you'd like to give, you can still donate online at the pledge page.  it would be awesome if our team could reach $10,000!  if you live in the philadelphia area, it's not to late to join our team and walk.  you know you want an audrey hepburn breastfix at tiffany's tee;)

i can't wait for may 9th!



the whole nature vs. nurture debate fascinates me.  certainly, children are shaped by love, affection, and discipline (and are harmed by their lack), but there is so much that is just ingrainedly innately in little personalities.

thankfully, i figured this out early on, so when people would compliment dylan's good behavior at a restaurant or in the nursery, i could deflect it.  she never threw tantrums or cried, but i couldn't take credit for that:  she was just a sociable kid who was pretty easy going...except for the sleep battles.  her good behavior was God's grace--we couldn't have suvived those first 18 months otherwise.

now that she is two and prone to public outbursts and domestic drama, i try not to take it super-personally, either.  dylan is difficult strong-willed.  my friend says this means she has leadership potential.  nice frame, huh?  somehow, this doesn't provide a ton of encouragement when dylan is defiant at church.  or the library.  or the coffee shop.  or my kitchen when i'm trying to make dinner.

if anyone has discipline tips for toddlers that don't involve spanking, i'm all ears.  time-outs only do so much.

anyway, you know how people alway reference little boys' ability to turn anything into a gun as inherent in their gender make-up?

apparently interest in guns can be nurtured, too.  (awesome, right?) 

it is morning.  jim and suzannah are cuddled together on the couch.  dylan plays within arms reach.  she picks up a slinky and aims it at her parents.

dylan, with enthusiasm and a big grin:  shoot!

jim, firmly:  no.  we don't shoot people.  what do we shoot?

dylan, cheerfully:  deer!

jim:  what else do we shoot?

dylan:  groundhogs!

and scene.

photo:  samuraislice


six months

check out my big boy sitting in the high chair eating.  james has enjoyed bananas, avocado, squash, sweet potatoes, and apple sauce.  he's rolling over like a champ and putting everything in his mouth.  i imagine he'll have a few teeth before long.

james is such a happy kid, and he thinks everything dylan does is hysterical.  aren't baby laughs the best thing ever?  and siblings getting along?  priceless:)

this pic isn't the greatest, but i like it because that big open mouth smile is pretty representative of my little man. 

(anyone see that episode of the bachelor where the southern one who had a kid described him as "MAI lil' MAY-annn"?  no?  just me and jim?  well, we thought it was funny:)

what you can't see here are james' big, heart-melting baby blues.  and the child sleeps!  praise the Lord Jesus, he sleeps.

james is a little tank.  i don't know what he weighs, but he's a big boy and is wearing size 9 and 12 months (and the same diapers as dylan.)  we've received so many beautiful hand-me-downs that he is good to go for a while.

six months old.  i know it's cliche, but my goodness, it goes by fast.


the one where i actually have plans

raising two tiny people means my hands are always full and completing any sort of task is a feat, but i wouldn't really call myself busy.  i have few commitments that don't involve feeding or diapering others,  and my social calendar isn't exactly brimming.

but when it rains, it pours.  sometimes literally.

the crazy storm that knocked out our power also was the catalyst for three dinner invitations and a lunch with friends.  so lovely.

i drove down for DC (with james) for an engagement party and a whirlwind overnight visit with dear college roommates.

next came a MOPS girls' night, an elegant dinner out with a girl friend, a wonderful trip to the zoo with a friend and her son, plus le leche league, MOPS, and story hour at the library thrown in for good measure.

i like being a social butterfly.  i like have conversations with people over the age of two.

and i like nights in with jim (and free blockbuster express rentals:  promo code  G614A.)

happy weekend to you and a night in for me:)


goats, chickens, and cows

the power is back!  internet and cable are still out, but we once again have food in the fridge:)

this was the post i was working on last friday when the storm hit...

as we've learned more about the general unpleasantness surrounding conventional chickens and eggs, we've tossed around the idea of raising a few chickens.  jim got some books out of the library, did some online research, and drew up some plans for a coop.  he submitted a proposal to the camp board for permission (since we don't own our home), and they green-lighted it, so we may be raising laying chickens before long.  well, once we get the yard cleaned up of all the felled trees!

on sunday we visited the farm belonging to a family from our church.  they had sheep and a wonderful chicken coop, and they are actually going to sell us a few birds. 

the next day we visited on the pond farm, and dylan got to play with their baby goats and even gather fresh eggs.  later that afternoon, she and jim visited another family with chickens, (where she got to hold one!), and we rounded out our day at a local dairy with a gallon of delicious fresh milk.

jim has been hard at work on our garden, and what were four beds last year are now nine!  (our neighbors will cultivate two of them.)  the storm destroyed a number of seedings that were sunning on the deck, but some of the tomatoes held on.  i hope last year's tomato blight is history and we get a nice yield this summer.

on a completely different note, i've been on the look-out for a radio flyer tricycle and one of those outdoor playhouses for dylan.  if anyone local knows of someone looking to sell or giveaway of of those two things, we would love to scoop up something secondhand!


off the grid

so...we had the crazy thunderstorm on friday.  it knocked a bunch of huge evergreen trees down around our house and made the yard look like some kind of crazy jungle.

thankfully none fell on the house, but it was really close. it could have been so much scarier.

the live power lines that fell?  not my favorite.  a team was there today cutting up trees, and supposedly the power company is coming by, hopefully to reattach lines.

it may be spring, but it gets chilly indoors the shade! we put the little ones to bed in hats.  maybe it's a good thing we have less shade these days then, huh?


all that hath life and breath

we have enjoyed the most wonderful two days, and i want to post all about our garden, plans for a chicken coop, and what is emerging as the Great Farm Tour of 2010, but it is late, and pictures are not yet uploaded.

until i can write more, this sweet photo can tide you over:)  it was taken today by rose at on the pond farm, (and she has more at her site.)  aren't her goats lovely?

Praise to the Lord the Almighty, the King of creation
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation
All ye who hear, Now to His temple draw near,
Join me in glad adoration

Praise to the Lord! who o'er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea so gently sustaineth;
Hast thou not seen How thy desires have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord! who doth prosper thy work and defend thee,
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee;
Ponder anew What the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee

Praise to the Lord! Oh let all that is in me adore Him
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him
Let the Amen Sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him!


robeez baby shoes giveaway

i love baby shoes. L-O-V-E.  especially sweet little soft-soled baby moccasins.  jim hates them.  he doesn't understand why anyone would dress a baby in shoes.

um, because they're adorable.  does there really need to be another reason?

continue reading over at so much shouting, so much laughter reviews, where you can enter to win a pair of Robeez baby shoes from CSN, a collection of 200 online stores carrying everything from furniture to toys and speaker stands.


little victories

after a brief interest in potty learning last summer, dylan has been exceedingly content to continue wearing diapers.  i bought her colorful underwear to entice her, but she didn't really care.  once, i put her in them and she peed right on my lap.  just 'cuz.

another morning, i set the timer and put dylan on the potty every 15 minutes.  she managed to leave three puddles all around the house in the course of just over an hour.

i stopped trying.

instead i pleaded even more heartily to at the very least TELL US when she needs a new diaper.  dylan usually lies about it.

"no poopy mommy."

"does that mean you have poopy?"


"dylan, do you need a new diaper?"

"no.  i don't have poopy."

"are you lying?"



her sitting in filth and refusing to tell me drives me up a wall.  it makes a mess, causes rashes, and is completely avoidable.  the child can speak in complete sentences. 

every single day we go over that she is supposed to say, "i pooped.  new diaper please."  every.  single.  day.  every single day dylan parrots those phrases back to me as i change her dirty messes and then continues to be silent or flat out lie the very next time.  it may just make me crazy.

this week, FINALLY, it seems we are making progress.  twice, of her own initiative, dylan asked to use the potty and actually did.  (#2!)

in the potty!

(ok, and once on the floor.)

then, last night at dinner, dylan announced that she had a dirty diaper.  i think this might actually have been the first time she didn't lie about it.  (notice, this post is titled "little victories.")

jim jumped up, and took her upstairs to change.  "dylan," he told her, "thank you so much for telling us you needed a new diaper."

and, i kid you not, this is how she responded: 

"my pleasure."


hymns of praise then let us sing

we celebrated a lovely easter together.  the kids have been sick with a cold (dylan), croup and a fever (james), so it was nice to just relax a bit at home today, after a good worship service.
(the sweater dylan is wearing was made for me by my grandmother when i was a baby.  crazy, huh?  dylan wore that same size 18 month dress last spring.  by the time james is walking i think they'll be the same size!)

the weather was gorgeous and warm, perfect for hiding and finding easter eggs.  dylan delighted in filling her baskets with pastel eggs.  jim prepared a delicious venison roast, and the three of us shared the kind of elegant meal that is rarely seen these days:)  we missed extended family but enjoyed the quiet time together, especially after a busy week.

we're only just beginning to think about creating holiday traditions.  i like the idea of using resurrection eggs as a family devotional, and i'm intrigued by these advent spirals that can be used to remember lent as well.  what were/are some of the ways your family celebrates easter?

praising God for the empty tomb.  the Lord is risen indeed.  hallelujah!


my name is written on His hands

Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for every race,
His blood atoned for every race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

--Charles Wesley, 1742
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