Browsing Archives for October 2009

I drove to Newton on Saturday for my eldest son’s cross country meet. When his race was over, I left for a long winding drive through the Flint Hills to get home.  I took lots of pictures along the way including several photos of one room school houses. 

I don’t know the story behind this particular school, but from my understanding of American history, whenever a new piece of America got settled by a group of pioneers, one of the first things they did was to build and staff a school. Someone would donate a patch of land for the school and then everyone got together for a school raising. A teacher was found and the school bell was rung to announce that class was in session. I imagine it was a huge relief to the care-worn pioneer parents that their children would learn to read, write and do some figurin’ with perhaps a bit of history and geography thrown in. Schools survived based on the cooperation of a community of people coming together and agreeing that in spite of any personal differences they might have, the education of their youngsters was for the greater good. It was a noble and beautiful example of people – all different kinds of people - working together to improve the lives of their children.

Fast forward to the present. We still have community schools. It’s all a bit more complicated than the one room school house of the past, but local people still elect a board to represent them and many decisions are still made on the local level. Community public schools still ring bells to call class to order and schools continue to only be as good as the local community demands.

I live in a small town and our entire community rotates around our local schools. Everything from ball games to the science fair to carnival to homecoming to band concerts to the state cross country meet to debate tournaments to FFA to the Spring musical – just about everything that happens around here – happens at our local schools. Even people that don’t have any kids, volunteer to help or show up to watch these events because it is fun and because there’s just not much else to do.

I suppose that is the beauty of life in a small town, but all schools create community. The interesting thing about the community that springs up around a public school is that the members of the community are not all the same. This is where public school trumps homeschooling every single time.  Because any community that springs up around homeschoolers is going to be comprised of the same kind of people… the same religion, the same beliefs, the same paranoia and unfounded fears, the same martyrdom complexes, and the same deep seeded control issues – they are all the same. HOWEVER – the community around a public school and especially a public school in a small town where there is no nearby private school is going to be comprised of people that are vastly different from each other. Poor kids, rich kids, smart kids, kids that struggle academically, gifted athletes, punks, funny kids, goofy kids, wild kids, lost kids, kids with sunny home lives and kids whose parents are alcoholics, drug addicts, abusers, or not around at all. You have kids from all races, religions and socio-economic backgrounds. If ever there was a ticking time bomb for disaster – your typical public school would have to be it.

Except it’s not!  

Because a miracle happens.

Every single day!

Because there are teachers – the front line in this little cauldron of chaos – the people that have to bring order to all of these factors and create a positive environment where all the kids can learn, grow and excel.  So when the teachers and the administrators and the lunch ladies, librarians and janitors can make this happen – it is a miracle.  A true, true, truly true miracle.

There is a miracle happening in my small town every single day. All kinds of kids show up to go to school and dedicated, enthusiastic, energetic, passionate, smart, highly trained teachers teach them and help them to all get along with each other. If only the real world could operate as well as our local public schools.

Of course, the homeschoolers will never stop sending puffs of smoking disdain towards the local public school and it’s humble inhabitants. Along with the fruits of the Holy Spirit and all the Jesus parables, the homeschoolers love to preach the inadequacy and the failings of public education.  It seems like the main subjects of homeschooling curriculum must include math, English, and public school hate. Whenever the homeschooling mom passes the local elementary school in the middle of the day, it is her God given duty to point out to her children, how those wretched kids behind the fence on the playground are in a prison… a federally funded prison… a federally funded, atheistic prison.  A federally funded, atheistic, prison that mommy and daddy are forced to pay for because the evil government makes them!  

Even with these dire warnings, the occasional homeschooled child might find himself strangely stirred by the sight of all those kids bouncing around on the playground.  He might even screw up the courage to ask his mom if he could go to that school someday and play with all those kids.  At this point, it is the homeschooling mom’s duty to reminds her child of the influences… the evil influences from all those ‘public’ kids and how he would learn bad things and evil habits from those kids and that there are demons that live inside the teachers that would strangle him in his sleep and that he won’t be able to read his bible and pray for an hour before cracking open his History according to God lessons and your Jesus and the Twelve Disciples math book.  They don’t even have Jesus and the Twelve Disciples math books at that public school!  

Besides – those poor kids aren’t able to go grocery shopping with their moms in the middle of the day! They can’t take a week off of school when they get restless or when it is a nice day outside!  And those kids will never be able to finish all their lessons by noon so that they can play video games and watch endless re-runs of Little House on the Prairie while their mother bakes whole wheat bread and works on her log cabin quilt!

Every once in a while the public school mom might find herself hypnotized by the messages of absurd paranoia, and smug self righteousness that come roiling off the blogs of the homeschooling moms, but then… right before she pushes the send button to purchase her first order of ‘Sonlight’ curriculum with a free matching set of choreganizers… her own children burst through the door with a thousand permission slips to sign and math homework that has to be done, and a science project that requires her to keep rotting meat on her kitchen counter and a ball game to go to to see all of her child’s classmates work together as a team and there would be a band concert and a spelling bee and a robotics tournament and there would be a play and a parade and a square dance on the tennis courts and she would say to herself… where?  Where is the evil?  Where is the horror?  Where are the demon possessed teachers?  Where is the federally funded atheistic prison?  

And then she would remember the miracle…

The miracle that occurred without any theology, commandments, or showy public prayer and fasting on the street corner…

The miracle of all sorts of different people getting along and working towards a common goal for the sake of their children…

All their children.

Even the ones who believe in a different God or who come from a different country or whose parents are on disability or who are disabled themselves or who can’t pay attention in class or who are off the charts smart, or who can read six grade levels above their class, or who has a mom who just packed her bags and left.  

All their children

The very best of America happens every day at your local public school and the very best people in America work at your local public school.  If your school is not what it should be, then get involved and work to make it better. This is a far braver choice with a much greater impact on the world than homeschooling will ever have. 

While the homeschoolers are just taking care of their own kids, the public schools are taking care of everybody’s kids.


I wonder which scenario really gets you closer to God.


What is going on here?





Is… is… is that my eldest son helping his brother with his math homework?














I was under the impression that only home-schooled children ever helped their siblings to learn something.





And only home-schooled kids benefitted from the knowledge of their big brothers and sisters.







I guess I know where the homeschoolers can stick that.


I’m Ashamed to Admit This…

October 4th, 2009

I don’t want to show you the book I bought at Wal-Mart yesterday.

I don’t want to admit even to myself that I bought this book… and especially that I bought it at Wal-mart.

I like to support local bookstores with my book buying dollars and I could have bought this book at a local bookstore.  I passed it up several times over the past few weeks.   I was trying to be all strong… I was trying to be tough… I was trying to be better than I usually am.

I told myself that I would check this book out at the library.  I knew I would have to get on a waiting list, but I could do it.  I could dig down deep and find the necessary strength to wait.

But yesterday… while buying a few groceries I passed the book one more time and well… this time…

It ended up in my cart.

And I didn’t take it back out either.

It’s Dan Brown’s follow up to The Da Vinci Code.

The Lost Symbol.

I will send my copy to one lucky (or unlucky) commenter after I have finished it.

You can respond to one of the following statements if you would like…

When I read the Da Vinci Code, I found myself thinking that it was true… all of it was true, the secret societies,  the child of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, the horrifying albino monk and his spiky cilice… all of it.  I got weirdly in the grip of this book and it made me question the entire history of Christendom.


I found The Da Vinci Code to be utterly ludicrous and couldn’t even finish it.

Yes or no or something in between?

This giveaway will stay up until I finish The Lost Symbol.