Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Celebration Time!


Today is the last day of NaNoWriMo! We’ve all raced, sweated and slogged water, food and chocolate on the run - and now, now we are at the finish line with words in tow! Yeah! Don’t forget to validate your word count on the website so you can collect your special prizes. By the way, you can still add to your word count after validation in case you’re waiting to eek out that last little phrase.

Congratulations, NaNo’ers!

This is no small feat!

If you have won by passing 50,000 words, you must be elated! If you have not passed 50K don’t fret – as every writer knows, having some word count is far better than no word count. It’s just that those over 50K now have more work ahead of us in editing, lol!

Celebration Giveaway!

To celebrate my household skating over the finish line for NaNoWriMo (me and my teens have won!) and to celebrate MuseItUp Publishing’s December Launch, I’m offering a giveaway through the good folks at CSN stores!

One lucky winner will receive a $35.00 gift certificate. All you have to do is join my blog and leave a comment on this blog post. Also, optionally, if you’d like to be on my email list for my writing newsletter, please leave your email with your comment like so: avidreader-at-gmail-dot-com. That way spammers can’t grab your email off the internet and I can send you the newsletter when it comes out. You can join my blog through Facebook on Networked Blogs or through Blogger. Through Blogger you’ll need a gmail account which is fast, easy and free. If you have already joined this blog or my homeschool blog, just leave a comment on this post on this site or the other.

This will run from today through Thursday night at midnight and then Molly will pick a name out of a hat which I’ll announce on Friday in this blog post.

As some of you know, I carry my backpack with me everywhere, yes, even to fancy social events. I always have my notebook and pen handy and more often than not, my netbook as well. My teen authors-in-training are carrying notepads and pens with them everywhere in their own backpacks now – it’s becoming a family tradition...or quirk, lol! It’s never too early to encourage a budding writer and CSN has an amazing selection of children’s backpacks if you have a child who would like their very own writing kit - it would make a lovely Christmas and/or Chanukkah gift.

MuseItUp Publishing Launch!

 Hope to see you at the party tomorrow for MuseItUp Publishing and for Boston Wrimo’s, I’ll see you at the TGIO party in the Hub!

And at this turning point, MuseItUp Publishing is having our launch party all day tomorrow! Please join the readers group (this is mainstream) to be eligible for spectacular door prizes! It gets even better… we’re having a sale in the bookstore.

Holiday Special: Get 25% off any purchase from today until December 10th.
Use code: HC2010D at checkout in the discount code box before going to Paypal.

Write on!

photo credits: morguefile.com

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving & An Invitation!


Launch Party!

As many of you know, I work for MuseItUp Publishing as an editor and an author.  December 1st we're having our Grand Opening!  All the details are on my writing blog.  I hope you can join us! 

I have edited several of the YA books that are releasing and they are excellent.  If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email.

December 1st we'll have fun and games for everyone, and now the two houses have two reader's groups as well.  The mainstream line is family friendly and I daresay children can go online for the contests.  I'll check that out with my publisher but since there's no adult content, it should be fine!


Happy Thanksgiving!

It's our family tradition to stay home on Thanksgiving.  I love getting up early to put the bird in the oven and pad around in my slippers setting out breakfast for when my sleepy heads get up.  In the next few days, me and the girls will bake cranberry bread, apple and pumpkin pie and prepare vegetables ahead of time.  Our fat turkey is thawing now on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.

If this is a difficult time for you due to illness or the economy, or you know of a single person who is alone for the holidays, there are several local churches who are serving Thanksgiving dinner to families in their areas.  Pick a few in your town and give them a call.  Chances are that if that one isn't, they know which ones are. 

Kell's Restaurant in Allston is serving a free Thanksgiving meal (Christmas, too).

Here are some places on the North Shore.

A country club in Halifax, you need to call ahead of time.

I tried to get a Boston listing but couldn't find any online.  If you know of a church nearby, or other facility, be sure to leave it in the comments section for others.  And you know, if you burn the bird on Thursday, you can go have dinner there, too! 

Sneak preview, I'm hostessing another CNS gift certificate giveaway in honor of finishing NaNoWriMo on November 31st and the launch of MuseItUp Publishing.  Details to follow!

photo credits: morguefile.com & MuseItUp Publishing

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who are you sleeping with tonight?

How scandalous!  Especially for a devotional homeschool blog.

I can assure you, it's much worse than it sounds.

A number of years ago Paul and I decided to have no chat about other people or non family situations in our bedroom.  We were tired of having our room populated with other people and their stuff.  This has kept the sanctuary of our bedroom a place of peace and rest.  I really don't want to think about politicians or anyone else when I'm going to sleep, thank you so much.

Aren't we spiritual?!  We'd never have an adultery problem.  Or would we?

Many folks think adultery is cheating on your spouse.  They aren't wrong.  I think it goes deeper than that, however.  I think adultery is also cheating on God.  Recently I read this verse as I was thinking about keeping our sanctuary free from unwanted visitors and nearly fell on the floor.

Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.  Ephesians 4:26

Right before this verse God says to put away lying and right after he says to not give place to the devil.  The following verses refer to lying again, then evil communication, then to grieving the Holy Spirit.  A clear repeated pattern of ABC-ABC, which draws attention to the points in these verses. Lying with lying, wrath with evil communication, giving place to the devil with grieving the Holy Spirit.

I began to think about Wrath taking a seat in my room before going to sleep at night.  Hmm... Not pleasant, eh?  I didn't relish the thought of waking up to Wrath in the rocking chair either...or getting dressed in front of him.

While most preachers will tell you this verse means not to go to bed angry, there are a number of other ways to take this.  Sundown began the Jewish day in the First Century chuch, so another interpretation can be to not let wrath travel into the next day.  Don't welcome Wrath into your bedroom, whether between you and your spouse or anyone else. But also don't let the light go out on your wrath, don't bury wrath so it can't be lit up by truth, don't hide it in the dark, which reminds me of another scripture. 

Men don't come to the light because their deeds are evil.  Paraphrased from John 3:20.

Ever meet a thief who wants to hear you tell them how to stop stealing?  Umm, no.  They want to steal so they don't want to hear you say it's wrong.  They refuse to come to the light. 

Wrath stems from unforgiveness and if left unchecked by the light of the Word, it will morph - into murder.

Are you a murderer?  I don't know.  Have you ever spoken evil about someone?  God links that to murder because it steals the person's reputation and can shut them off from a community.  Some aptly describe it as murder with the tongue.  Have you ever cut someone out of your heart?  There are times when it's godly not to have contact with some people, and the scriptures are clear on when those times are.  But not having contact and cutting them out of your heart are two different things.  God doesn't look well on this, dear ones. Not because he wants to punish us, but because he looks after our well being and if we're not in his playground, we're playing in someone else's and become easy prey.

Maybe it's your brother who irritates you to no end. Maybe it's your spouse.  Maybe it's your pastor.  Maybe it's yourself.  Maybe it's your congregation or  your neighbor. 

Whomever it is, they are sleeping with you. 

The sun is going down on your wrath and it's sitting in the chair in the corner of your room when you wake up - pretty soon you will ignore it and be flabbergasted when someone points it out to you. 

God does know what he's talking about and his way will work.  Of course it seems counter intuitive, his ways are not our ways.  But when we try to protect ourselves, from anyone or anything, what we're really saying is that God isn't able to.  Forgiveness cures you from taking Jesus' place. 

Peter asked Jesus how many times he had to forgive someone suggesting seven times.  I read a commentary recently that said the Children of Israel had a rule that you forgive someone three times but not the fourth.  Doesn't that sound like "Screw me once shame on you, screw me twice shame on me."?  Apparently Peter thought seven times was right because obviously three times wasn't. 

He was in for the shock of the century.  Jesus told him seventy times seven which is 490 times.  I can just hear Peter stuttering "Wh-wh-what?!" 

That is an Orientalism meaning we are to forgive always.  Stiff consequences come to us when we don't.  Some of those consequences are tormentors who refuse to leave your bedroom, figuratively speaking.  Ever think something was one way and it turned out it was completely the opposite?  Unforgiveness blinds you to what's really going on. 

Unforgiveness left unchecked in your heart will come out of your mouth and lead to murder.  Murder with the tongue, murder in the heart and sometimes physical murder.  This is how that nice guy down the street can come home from work one day and kill his family, shocking the  neighborhood.  Unforgiveness took up residence in that house long before murder did. 

What's the way out?  Repent.  That amazing five letter word!  Repent for unforgiveness.  It will change your life.   

Proverbs 29:8 says scornful men bring a city into a snare: but wise men turn away wrath.

Want to bless your city?  Repent for scorn and turn away wrath with wisdom.  Your city will prosper and you'll be taking spiritual responsibility.  God will reward you for such things.  What we do in secret he rewards us for openly.

I wonder what it would be like if we all repented for unforgiveness.  I think mountains would shift across the universe.  I for one try to do it routinely.  In 2004 I had a revelation of repentance and forgiveness that irrevocably changed my life and I haven't stopped preaching it yet.  I have lived my life at the butt end of many men's sins.  I'm not alone, we all do in one way or another and all of us have suffered from Adam's sin.

Whose sin affects you?  Everyone's.  Forgiving them changes it all and opens up the miraculous to you from God Almighty.  Give it a whirl and be sure to share the miracle reports.  Jesus paid it all at the Cross for us.  What have we got to lose, except some unwanted visitors in our bedrooms?

So, who are you sleeping with tonight? 

Make it God and your spouse only and you will have a restful sanctuary and live a protected life. He's not slack concerning his promises.

photo credits: morguefile.com

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Do You Need A Writing Program?


As many of you know, I'm doing NaNoWriMo again this year, with my teens for homeschool.  I've seen a lot of the writing programs that are out there and each have their merits but NaNo offers something more valuable, I think.  It gives you experience.  NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.

The goal is to write a 50K word novel in thirty days.  Of course it won't be perfect, it will obviously be a first draft but it wll actually be a draft instead of a wish in the back of your mind.  That boils down to 1667 words per day of fiction.  And you do this for 30 days.  Editing is not allowed so once that word is on the paper, you may not erase it until December!

Last year Elizabeth and I stayed up until midnight on October 31st and had a NaNo party with hot chocolate and our trusty pens and keyboard.  Each of us, Molly, too, finished our novels by the end of November.  Molly's was done and only needed editing.  Her's was a horror romance.  Elizabeth is still working on that novel at 114.K words now.  It's a YA fantasy.  I added another 16K to the original 52K and spruced it up to submit and it will be published in the spring by MuseItUp Publishing.  So much good came out of that month long lesson on writing!

This year, we planned our midnight madness writing party and Molly joined us.  After almost 2000 words, I fell asleep on my keyboard as did Molly; but Elizabeth decided to stay up all night and clocked in at 13K words yesterday!  That's almost a week's worth of NaNo!

What's the draw?  I think it's the experience.  You can study anything forever, until you're actually applying it you can't really know it.  There's nothing like writing to teach you how to write better.  Every word is an improvement.  

The best part for homeschooling moms is the workbooks.  If you sign up at the Young Writer's Program site for NaNo, you can download worksbooks for all grade levels.  And these are free.  Each one is excellent in how to craft a novel.  For the YWP you can have your own virtual classroom, track everyone's progress together and post fun things and writing tips.  You can also change the word count necessary to win.  So if you have a first grader, you, as their teacher, can set their goal at 10K words.  You can also order a school packet (first packet is free) that has NaNo buttons, a poster, a chart where students can sign in their word counts and stickers. 

Whether you use the YWP site or the adult NaNo site, or both like we do, each participant can make their own author pages and share a bit about their book.  You can even upload cover art for your novels.

This is a wonderful thing for homeschoolers!  There's still time to sign up!  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Harvest Party or Halloween?

This is a hot topic these days in light of Halloween.  Are you worshipping Satan by going trick or treating?  Are you a good Christian if you hand out tracts instead of candy?  Many churches are doing alternative things for October 31st.  If you go trick or treating are you hurting someone who is weak in the faith and thinks doing anything like that is pagan?  What are you doing?

My understanding is that God looks on your heart.  God healed an Assyrian pagan who came to him with leprosy.  Then He sent Naaman right back into the pagan temple to walk the King of Assyria to his favored seat in the middle of that worship service and... Naaman was a baby Christian. 

God really is Lord of all.

What do you do on October 31st and why do you do it? 

You won't get any judgment here from me so please feel free to post.  And we all may find some new things to do.  You do have to be careful about hurting a brother or sister who thinks anything associated with Halloween is evil.  You are not evil but they may assume you are.  If you have such a brother in your midst, ask God how to speak to him, understanding he is weak in the faith as the scriptures say.  And ask Jesus to shore him up so he can walk free from fear.

Our tradition is to visit our neighborhood.  We don't do this to celebrate Halloween but to take advantage of the time when the community has their doors open to visit and our children know the difference. 

Many of the people we live with see us only at this time of year.  With all of our busyness, it's not always convenient or prudent to have coffee together.  Halloween is a time to chat for a minute.  The children get candy and we make a point of praying for each of our neighbors as we walk by their homes.  The girls dress up but not as anything scary.  I wouldn't get too upset by that if they did (as long as they weren't scaring someone else) because it can be a safe way of processing fear; it takes the power out of it.  We also teach them about the wiles of the Devil and how to avoid his religious and not so religious traps.

I've just finished publishing two horror stories for the Muse blog.  One is a tween story that is a helpful way of processing fear, as I mentioned earlier.  That really is the fascination with scary stories.  It takes fear that can paralyze us sometimes and makes it larger than life so we see how powerless it is.  The other story I wrote is a memoir story that is about a time a devilish entity tried to attack me and my friends and shows others how to deal with such a thing.  Reading the Bible is far more scary than most people realize because God educates His people about evil spirits and how to handle them.

Practicing Halloween as a pagan holiday, of course, is not appropriate for us as Christians, and we don't do that.  We also don't play Tarot cards, gaze into crystal balls or read tea leaves.  Our oracles come from God, not these other things.  But would I speak to someone who practices devination?  Yes, in order to bless them, not follow their craft. 

I'd love to hear what you do on October 31st.  Please post anonymously if you'd like to. 

Thanks everyone! 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Last week the good folks at CSN Stores in Boston gave me a shout and offered us a giveaway on this blog. Cool, eh?! I’ve been looking through their website and it’s full of treasures and lots of useful things like dining room chairs and binoculars.

The winner will receive a $35.00 gift certificate; a great way to get out of the “winter is coming” blues. Shopping therapy is under-rated. International shipping charges may apply for orders outside the US, fyi.

They even have baby furniture and shoes and weathervanes.  Have a look and see what you think.
Here's what you have to do to participate in the giveaway.

1. Join one of my blogs if you haven’t already and mention which blog you joined so I can find you. This is a homeschool and devotional blog. My writing blog is http://karenmcgrathauthor.blogspot.com/  

2. Comment on this post on this blog.

            Examples: Anything at all… or…
                           “I want to win!”

            And say: I joined the writing blog, or… 
                         I joined this blog.

3. Leave your email like so; thisisme(at)gmail(dot)com, so I can contact you when you win –or- private message me (Karen) on Facebook with your email. My Facebook profile link is in the sidebar here. The private message link is under my profile picture on Facebook.

4. Optional, sign up for my personal email list for a newsletter about homeschool or one about writing and the publishing industry. These will have occasional free short stories and writing tips, or recipes, homeschool management and teaching tips and the like.

             Example: homeschool newsletter – yes, or… 
                           writing newsletter – yes

5. That’s it!

Here’s what your comment will look like with whatever your choices are.

             I want to win!

             I joined the writing blog.

             My email is parent(at)gmail(dot)com

             I want the homeschool or writing newsletter.

We’ll put the commenters names in a hat and Molly will choose one. I’ll post who the winner is next week and CSN will send you a nifty gift certificate. Better than chocolate, well, maybe not as delicious as that, but fun, nonetheless!

Happy Wednesday!

 photo credits: CSNStores.com

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's Not About What That's About...


There’s been an educational brouhaha across the nation lately. I’ve held off blogging about it until I had more facts but I think it’s important to present you with what I have so far.

First, a little background. Online schools are just that, a school online. It’s like going to the local public or private school except your child sits at your computer desk. They sign in to homeroom and go to classes online. They have teachers for different subjects or maybe one overall to monitor their progress. Someone other than the parent teaches them, tests them and keeps records of their progress. Some of these online schools are accredited, meaning they “count” as bonafide schools in the state you live in.

Are they homeschools?

Technically no, because the parent isn’t teaching the child and keeping their records. They are, however, considered alternative homeschools because the child is at home. They’re handy if the primary homeschooling parent (PHP) is ill and can’t keep up with lessons, or if the PHP has to care for ill or aging parents. In some cases the PHP may feel unqualified to teach a certain grade or class (I can help with that, let me know if you have that situation). There are times when an online school is God’s answer, but it’s alternative homeschool.

Government (state) schools have become more than a little miffed by the homeschooling movement. There are always the snide comments that homeschool isn’t real school and other insults but as we’ve grown, government schools have had to concede our viability. One of the reasons they aren’t keen on us isn’t because they think we have inferior schools, it’s because they lose tax dollars for every seat that isn’t filled with a child. Approximately 10K per child - give or take a few thousand depending on which state it is. Add up the number of current homeschoolers, multiply by 10K and you’ll see how much potential Federal cash they’re losing - you’ll understand their whine better.

Some schools cover this by enrolling local homeschoolers in the public school anyway, either without the parent’s knowledge (which happened to us in Boston) or by telling the parents this is necessary which is a lie. Control has been the name of the game from day one. Who’s minding the children? Surely not the parents!

Is it any wonder someone’s gotten savvy lately in the public school system? The latest gig is a public state-funded, state-accredited online school that you can do in your home. Yeah, you’re a homeschooler now! Yeah, that’s the ticket!

This new program called K-12 is apparently available in every state but gets renamed as it’s adopted, sort of like the MCAS was. It’s public school online. And you don’t even need internet access or a computer, the state will give you that for free. Aren’t you interested yet? I hear bureaucrats sneezing into their hands at my breakfast table, “Get with the program, damn it.” It’s not intrusion if you let them in the door.

Here's the link to the news story about the Pennsylvania school that used their school issued computers to spy on families.


Is the free curriculum and computer deal attractive? To those of us who’ve given our life blood to fight for homeschool freedom for the last two decades, this is repulsive. The state will have control, not the parent, which is what homeschool circumvents. To those of us who have sacrificed that second income to protect and nurture our own, this sounds like the deal of the century. How many times have I thought if there was a decent public school around, I wouldn’t mind sending my children? (Usually in the heat of agonizing over a difficult math problem or yet another day of slogging through grammar when we all want to be at the park.)

But the truth is, if there was a decent public school around I still wouldn’t send my children because I am their teacher. I homeschool so I can teach them. They had the chance to go to an exclusive private school for free. We refused, because it’s not about what that’s about.

Recently a friend told me she read a letter sent home from a public school. It told parents they were homeschoolers because they helped their children with homework and took an active part in their child’s learning. It said they had every right to call themselves homeschoolers and enjoy the respect that homeschoolers receive. Besides being an outright fabrication, it would have been laughable if it wasn’t such a con. Public school parents are not homeschoolers, even if they help their children with homework. I'm not a politician if I give a speech.  And homeschoolers get very little respect even after decades of proven academic and life skill accomplishments.

So why are they blurring the lines?

For every child they get in public school at home, they'll get that Federal money and then again for the physical seat that is filled at the actual school. That’s a lotta dough, folks, and apparently enough to have some using emotional manipulation and telling lies.

I don’t know about you but I don’t spend 10K on one child’s curriculum per year and guess what? They don't either, nor will they. Never mind the student gets a free computer for the school year… those are less than $500. now and at bulk rate for a state order, probably less than $200. each, where's all the rest of the money going?

And what will the parent get? That's easy, the same public school control, I mean, headaches, minus the social interaction everyone’s been screaming about homeschoolers losing out on all these years. Funny how they aren’t worried about that anymore since they found a way to use homeschool to their advantage.

Here are three links you’ll find very interesting. The second one is a sad state of affairs for that family, but of course things would go that route, it’s the government school. Unsuspecting parents have no idea until they are ensnared by the system.  And sadder still, some of those implementing these things really think they are good ideas. 

For Massachusetts:  http://axiomqa.k12.com/mava/who-we-are

An Idaho family:  http://www.iche-idaho.org/issues/19/

HSLDA's info:  http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/issues/c/charterschools.asp

I seriously doubt online public schools will go far. Many public school parents want others watching their children for them so they can get that second income. Who will babysit the children while the parents are at work? Law enforcement officials will not be happy with public homeschool children playing on the streets after school, that is if they sit down at the computer while their parents are away. It’s a disaster waiting in the wings. And then what? The public school will send someone to the home to make sure they are sitting at the computer? The new slogan will be "A social worker for every home!"

It’s interesting to me that the two systems in most disrepair in the US are the school system and the church system. The minute you start institutionalizing family, you’ve got a problem. Jesus didn’t send his disciples to Temple to get an education. He taught them the kingdom himself. And he didn’t send them to church either, he fellowshipped with them on hillsides, in gardens, and homes, wherever he was. I guess we’ve all been blurring the lines for a very long time. Home schools and home churches were the norm in the First Century and they worked. How and why we’ve gotten so far off course is not as important as getting back on course. Parents hanging out with their children is really what it is about.

photo credits: morguefile.com

Friday, September 17, 2010

Another Good Reason to Homeschool

Last week we started our homeschool for 2010/2011. I love summer but it sure is fun to pull out the books and study again. I look forward to it almost as much as my teens. They have a great writing book they’re using this year, I’ll be doing the exercises with them. I dug through some boxes in the basement and found an old standby. Erica liked it so much, she stashed with her things rather than put it away in the school boxes when she went to college. The Writer’s Toolbox – you guessed it, another grammar book to feed my English addiction. We’ll be making good use of that this year.

As we got down to business, the girls asked me for their schedule. They’re old enough to know what they need to do so I had them make it themselves. They were thrilled and came up with great plans. Per usual, we have music and art. I don’t think we’d survive without those. Molly’s got a great watercolor book that I’ll be doing with her this year. Did I say we homeschool? Sometimes I think it’s Mom school or Mom’s re-school!

With our schedules in place and time for reading and good movies and field trips and homeschool group events, I remembered the reason I love to do school at home. We can design it the way we want to. Molly had a chorus retreat last weekend that she gets school credit for. She’s also singing with the highest choir this year in the Boston Children’s Chorus. Another good reason to homeschool; we have time to do the extras and still get some sleep!

Today we drove Erica to the airport; she’s on a photography trip out of state. We left the house at 6:30, dropped Paul off at work, and drove to Erica’s apartment where we all had breakfast. Then we leisurely drove to the airport. We got back around 10:00. The girls were concerned about finishing all of their subjects with less time to study, normally we start at 7:30, so I gave them the day off from math cutting out about an hour from their work for the day. Two little faces beamed at me. This is the beauty of homeschool, we can rearrange things to have more family time. When all is said and done, they may not remember the formula for an area of a circle or how to find the vanishing point in a painting, but they will remember having bagels at their sister’s house on a rainy Friday morning and dropping her off at the airport for her first traveling photography gig, and then coming home to have decaf coffee with Mom and not having to do math for one day out of the year.

These are the things that make my heart sing.

Every homeschool day and week isn’t as glorious as these have been. I have my off days and so do the girls. But all in all, we wouldn’t trade homeschool for anything. I’m a selfish mom. It’s just not enough for me to see my babies take their first steps and say their first words. I have to be there for all their moments as long as I can. Eighteen years is a very short time to hang out with my favorite people in the world.

Wishing you all another wonderful homeschool year!

photo credits: morguefile.com & http://www.ericascottmcgrath.com/ 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Herds of Cash Cows

I suppose it was inevitable. Homeschool is growing, but more importantly to business, homeschoolers are buying. And we are buying quite a bit. In the last few years, many companies have branched out of their fields to try to eat in our pastures.

Last year on Facebook there was a savvy ad about how to get your child to learn better with big letters “FOR HOMESCHOOLERS.” At first I laughed, that’s why we stay away from programs and schools - we want our children to learn better and we believe that happens at home with parents teaching their own children. 

I laughed until one of my friends, who was unsure about her ability to teach her children, thought this was a good idea. I pointed out to her that it was nothing more than clever marketing playing on her fears. This year her children are not in homeschool. Those fears ate them up.

It’s a jungle out there.

If you aren’t convinced that homeschool is the way to go, there are many programs that will try to come into your home and teach your children for you, for a price and one that isn’t always monetary.

Sometimes that’s ok. Online schools (also considered alternative homeschools) like the one I mentioned last week, work well if a parent feels they want someone with more knowledge to help out in a subject or if there is a crisis in the family. Personally, though, I’ve homeschooled through crisis, it’s not that hard, and there’s nothing wrong with learning alongside your child, in fact there might be a lot of right in it. We each have to walk with God on what is the best for our own families remembering that we ourselves are homeschooled by the Almighty.

In the last year I’ve had several companies contact me wanting the email list of my homeschool group families. As bizarre as this might sound, most of them are Christian. I’ve refused to give it out.  If they want to advertise, they’ll have to do it on their own time and pay for it. It was pretty nervy to ask me. First off, they simply expected me to hand it to them because they said they had a great product. I heard Jesus overturning the money changing tables in the temple, believe me!

The following has happened within the past year:

o A local company wanted to design classes saying they were doing a favor for us and charge us a lot of money. They are non-Christian and non-homeschooling.

o People offered to tutor our children and balked when I say no. Many tutors are not Christian nor do they necessarily agree with homeschooling, not to mention I do the tutoring here.

o Non-homeschooled and non-homeschooling speakers are trying to infiltrate homeschool conventions and are making mega bucks on us.

o I looked into a very expensive curriculum program for writing that is popular with homeschoolers. It’s written by a non-Christian non-homeschooler and designed to be a cash cow - the curriculum can’t be reused by siblings even. And the owner was less than courteous to me when I emailed about the program.

o I researched a program claiming to make my children smarter, designed especially for homeschoolers that is very expensive and taught by non-Christian non-homeschoolers.

o I was contacted several times by a business who asked me to give them my group email list and promised me freebies for doing so, supposedly Christian.

o A new business has cropped up called Homeschool Consulting. People are charging mucho dinero to help families design curriculum, lesson plans and to encourage them to grow. This is what I do for free as a fellow homeschooler. Many of these people are non-Christian and non-homeschoolers.

Why are all these people trying to get our money?  Homeschoolers have become a financial force. If one homeschooler likes something, we tell a friend and so on. There’s a lot of cash to be made on us and they want to lap it up.

They will come up with any gimmick to get our interest so they are busy researching us. I even read an online ad offering to train people to write articles for homeschool magazines. Writers don’t have to be homeschoolers or homeschooled, just act like it.

Maybe we should start designing some criteria for what we’ll buy and what we won’t buy. Here’s some of mine:

1. Do we really need it? If so, I move on to the next one…

2. Is their marketing wholesome, doesn’t prey on fears, etc.

3. Is it Christian? It doesn’t always have to be, but if it isn’t, is it worth it in another way to make up for the lack of spirituality? And if it isn’t Christian, will it be detrimental to our children because of that? Some things are ok, others aren’t.

4. If it’s a classroom, it’s anti-homeschool in my book unless it’s a homeschool co-op. Can I teach what they are teaching? If not, is it really a need? If I can teach it on my own, why bother with it? This is why we left public and private schools so we wouldn’t have strangers teaching our children.

5. What is the price? This includes the non-tangible cost. I can enroll my children in the local park program that is free for the summer but they won’t be with children of similar values.

6. Will it support and enhance our Christian homeschool values? If not, what are we doing it for? Is it really necessary to drive all over town, spend extra hard earned money and time away from home just to get that art class that maybe a book and a half hour a day with our children might be just as good if not better?

Just a side note on that: I met a retired art teacher this summer who gave me some great resources to use in my homeschool. She mentioned a book she thought was excellent. I’ve been using it for fifteen years now.

We don’t realize the gift we’ve been given. Don’t let the draw of the world suck you in.

I don’t give out our email list but I’ve had people tell me it’s ok to do that. Be wise, research the companies you do business with. You have choices. We have Christians who write textbooks now so we don’t have to buy from secular companies.

Check the fruit under the label.

A number of years ago a supposedly Christian man wrote a text book. Because there was a dearth in the homeschool field in that subject, it took off like wildfire. I contacted him because his book was so poorly written my daughter had a hard time understanding it and I suggested he hire an editor (I wasn’t one at the time!). He wrote back furious with me and said he didn’t have to fix anything because people were buying his book anyway. He lost a lot of customers that day. Now we use BJU Press for Science; they are thorough, easy to understand and well written.

You need to know who you’re dealing with, and numbers don’t help. The next time you think popularity can tell you if something is good or not, consider the pornography industry. Their numbers are through the roof and they aren’t godly by a long shot.

You can’t mass produce homeschool, because the heart of it is love. Satan knows love can’t be bought or sold so he wants to repackage his wares, slap a familiar name on it for you and get you to bite. Don’t feed his cash cows.

Love your spouses and your babies and guess what? If you don’t have the coolest lesson plans or the latest fad curriculum in the world, that’s a good thing because you do have the best Teacher and His Curriculum is priceless.

This concludes my two-part sharing on Christian Homeschool marketing. If you have any questions, please email me! And stay tuned, Paul is writing a post on the subject for you as well.

photo credit: morguefile.com

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Still Homeschooling the Old-Fashioned Way? You betcha...

In the last month or two, I’ve been receiving emails - at least one per week - from a well known and popular homeschool magazine. The emails are from the president of the magazine, advertising a new way to homeschool. The subject line of the email reads. “Are you still homeschooling the old-fashioned way?”

Wrong inbox to send to…

I’m Christian, I homeschool, and I so some marketing.

This one broke all my rules.

First of all, here’s a short marketing lesson: There are several kinds of marketing. One is clean, in my opinion, it doesn’t make the customer feel bad or pressured, it simply gives them a choice banking on their intelligence to choose correctly for their particular purposes. Another kind is dirty marketing, in my opinion. It plays on negative emotions and creates need in your life.

Here’s a few examples we're all familiar with:
One advertisement you’ll recognize easily is a commercial for dentists. Not all of them, but many say things like “Avoid cavities, see your dentist every three months!” This implies that you will get cavities if you don’t go to your dentist often. For some people with unusual dental issues, this is true; but for the majority of the population, this is a created need and the fear motivator is you will suffer if you don’t.

Another marketing ploy is to play on someone’s lust. They create a situation making you feel like you don’t have something and then supply the fix for a price. You see a mild version of this in commercials for bubble bath. They show a harried woman with children and laundry surrounding her. The created need is for more time to herself free from responsibility. The answer is the bubble bath to give her some time in that magic land of me, myself and I. It says you aren’t getting enough time alone and then it supplies the bubble bath to give it to you.

Another plays on self worth; you need this hair color because you are worth it. This plays on pride. So if you are worth it, you’ll use that product and the implication is everyone who doesn’t, isn’t feeding their self-worth.

Imagine my surprise when this sort of dirty marketing, arrived in my inbox from a respected Christian homeschool magazine? And about homeschool itself!

I expect Christian homeschool products to be free from worldly influence as much as possible without nitpicking. This was definitely glaring.

Before I even opened the first email so many alarms went off in my brain.

1. I must be homeschooling the old-fashioned way (whatever that is)
2. I must be tired of it
3. I’m somehow not caught up with the times or other homeschoolers because I’m “still” homeschooling the old fashioned way…whatever that is.

This created the fictional situation that I’m homeschooling badly, that I’m probably tired of it and why the heck don’t I catch up to everyone else, which plays on a person’s fear of comparison, not keeping up with the Jones’ and fear of inadequacy. Comparison is rooted in jealousy which is rooted in adultery according to scripture.

Then I opened this email to find out what the old-fashioned way actually is… not a happy moment for this 18 year homeschool advocate veteran.

And an even bigger surprise coming from a Christian homeschool magazine whose market branding supposedly is to support traditional Biblical values and Biblical homeschooling.

What the email said is old-fashioned, implying out-dated, is actually anti-biblical…big surprise there after the dirty marketing.

The advertisement is for an online homeschool designed by a Christian homeschooling family and for so many dollars a month I can homeschool the NEW way, keep up with the Jones’ and not be tired of homeschooling, oh and get results I never could get using the old way…

as if I was tired or inadequate or lacking good results in my old homeschool…

and hundreds of my fellow co-laboring parents are enjoying the NEW homeschool and having marvelous results.

I bet they are...

I wrote the president a polite note reminding her a homeschool is defined by the parents teaching their children, not some other parents teaching their children, according to the Bible. I’m not tired of homeschooling and I don’t need the new way of homeschooling which is just a thinly veiled disguise for a private school. It’s no different than the public or private schools I’m avoiding by teaching my children myself. The only thing different for this school is they don’t have to look at my children and perhaps deal with behavioral issues. The only thing different for me if I put them in this online school is I wouldn’t have to cart them around to any building except my own.

It’s a win-lose, they get my money and I get my children a private education and a much needed nap for myself which are things I gladly gave up long ago for the joy of teaching my children myself at home.

So many things that say they are Christian, aren’t. So many companies that say they are promoting traditional Christian homeschool values are being infiltrated by the desire to make more money and recently specifically geared to grabbing the homeschool dollar. Why else would a homeschooling magazine promoting homeschool buy into this false advertising and false homeschool?

It’s bizarre.

Now I’m sure there’s a place for an online school for some families. But let’s not call it homeschool or the new homeschool. Yes, it’s school at home but it’s not homeschool as defined by the Bible. Does that make it wrong, maybe not for some. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

I haven't received a return email.  Let's hope it's because repentance is taking place and the emails are getting pulled.  This same woman was quick to answer a friend's concerns about other questionable things a few years ago.  We'll see if she's maintaining her previous or rather old-fashioned standards.

Next week I'll give my opinion on the homeschool dollar, the companies who lust after it, and what they are doing to get you to feed their cravings.

photo credits: morguefile.com