In October our Word was Story and our creative expression was writing. My husband Michael interviewed FC Shaw–ME!
When people find out we’ve chosen to homeschool (we are doing a charter hybrid), they want to know why–especially since I was a former teacher and my husband is currently a public school teacher who has taught every age from preschool to college at one time or another, if not simultaneously.
Let me first be clear that this post is not a more-holier-than-thou-cuz-I-homeschool-type of post (just NOT true). Nor is it a shame-on-you-for-not-homeschooling-rant (my LAST intention). I’m just sharing about our lifestyle in hopes of inspiring others to live intentionally, whatever their family choices.
First, we’re not homeschooling out of fear. Just wanted to throw that out there.
Reason 1: Relationship–at the heart of our lifestyle choice of homeschooling is relationship. First and foremost, our relationship with God. I have only a few short years to teach my kids to love truth and abhor sin, to learn the Gospel, and to point them to God, and I want to make the most of that block of time. Secondly, I want to fortify my relationship with them, and build bonds between them, which comes more easily when we’re home learning and living life together.
Reason 2: Involvement–I want to be a part of my kids’ childhoods and education. These childhood years are so few and I don’t want to miss out on them. There are approximately 180 school days out of 365 days in a year, which is 49.31%. School days take up nearly half of a kid’s year. I’m not okay missing out on half of my kids’ year. I was there when they took their first step and I want to be there when they read their first word. I was there when they beamed after going on the potty for the first time, and I want to be there when they beam after counting by 2s.
Reason 3: Learning–I don’t want to compartmentalize learning, which is what school does. Kids go to a building for 6 hours where they “learn”, then they leave the building and are “done”. Rather I want my kids to be life-long learners who learn not only during ‘school work’ but throughout the day as we go about life together. I want a balanced mixture of book learning and real-life learning that happens in our home together.
Reason 4: Time–I want to lavish this precious gift on my kids. It only takes my kids a few hours to complete school work at home, which means they have time to be kids. They have time to play, bond with their siblings, explore interests, be curious, be bored, be alone with their thoughts, exercise creativity, have conversations, make memories, relish life.
Reason 5: Education–I can offer them tailor-made education that reflects my values, and provide them with a holistic education that is not a slave to test scores, state standards, and assessments. I want them to read, do math, write, memorize, speak. Also I want my kids to be deep thinkers, clear communicators, problem-solvers, passion chasers, truth defenders, wisdom seekers, creative expressers, team builders, beauty appreciators…to name a few. Education goes far beyond phonics and math facts; it is the very shaping of the heart and soul.
Is homeschooling hard? Yes, but then so is parenting. Is it a lot of work? Yes, so is raising kids. Do my kids and I sometimes strive over school work? Yes, but also over chores and bedtime and finishing meals. Homeschool is just another part of our lives together. It’s what we do, right along with keeping house, taking vacations, going to church, playing with friends, visiting family, grocery shopping, celebrating holidays, and growing up together.
It’s our lifestyle.
In September our Word was Lifestyle and our creative expression was Education. I interviewed homeschool mom, artist, and writer Jessica Pahl who at the time was living in an RV with her hubby and four kids while renovating their forever home.
Thank yous to Jessica and our Spotlights elementary teacher Tanya Lee, Biblical counselor Ellen Castillo, homeschooler Donna Burtnett, preschool teacher Melissa Smith, and curriculum pioneer and sailing adventurer Chris Scott.
In my conversation with theatre Director Mark Booher, Mark shares about his first experience with theatre when he was in high school. He immediately found acceptance and community there. He argues that we all have a need to be known, and that art is a key way to know ourselves, have others know us, and relate to each other. He argues that art is an antidote to despair.
So why are we not all partaking in this?
Sadly, “we create division where we’re meant for integration”, according to Mark. We see this in every aspect of humanity: race, gender, politics, class, demographics, and even the church. While it can be very difficult to overcome cultural differences, political viewpoints, and socio-economic inequalities, art should be a safe place where people can share, be known, relate, and appreciate each other.
This is not to say all art should be the same and all creative people should agree. On the contrary, there needs to be diversity in art. But there needs to be an acceptance and appreciation for that diversity. Interestingly, unity can be built in diversity.
We were built for community. We were designed for relationship. The family unit, friendship, the gathering church, government–these were set up to safe-guard against isolation. You’d think since we are wired for community it would be effortless to maintain, but instead our modern Western culture makes it difficult. There are lots of factors for this: geography, technology, media, etc.
When we forsake relationships and don’t partake in community living, we fast become a culture that lacks empathy, loses perspective thinking, breeds discontentment, has extreme behaviors, and regresses rather than progresses. We become internally frustrated, unable to process our emotions, work through our thoughts, and find fulfillment in anything. In short, despair.
Sound familiar in this current day of rampant narcissism?
I know full-well that there are many problems with many factors, and I’m not saying that our culture will be righted if we simply take up painting and pottery and join writing groups. But these things can bring healing for sure. Being able to express and process the internal by means of an exterior venue is so healthy.
I have been challenged to get over my own insecurities, take risks, and share my creativity. This blog has been one step in that. Getting my writing out there has been another. And every time I partake in creative community I am energized, challenged, and inspired in so many ways. I swallow an antidote to despair.
I try to attend a writer’s conference at least once a year. A few years ago I hosted a writing group. Last week I co-hosted an art night at my church. I’m in the works of starting a ‘creative expression club’ that will meet once a month and share projects. And on a day-to-day basis I have open conversations and brainstorming sessions with my husband and close friends.
Whatever your creative bent is don’t be afraid to partake in its community. We all need to be known. We all need to belong. We all need community. We all have a tribe out there. We just need to show up.
In August our Word was Imagination and our creative expression was Performing Arts. I interviewed Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts Director Mark Booher.
My interview with interior decorator Susie Fitler was deeply satisfying. I came away with lots of great things to ponder about the creative journey. But one point stuck out to me and has lead me to ask myself some provocative questions.
Susie talked about giving yourself permission to be in process, and by doing so, giving your kids permission to be process. In other words, allowing yourself to make mistakes and learn from them, and modeling that to others. In terms of interior decorating, Susie used the example of “putting that nail in the wall”. She is always surprised at how many people are afraid to put a nail in the wall for fear of making a mistake. As a result they have wall hangings, art pieces, and the such hidden away. She encourages her clients to be brave, take a risk, and just put that nail in the wall.
Why are we so afraid to make mistakes, especially with our creativity? Sure, there is a lot of pressure for perfection these days where our lives are on public display via social media. And there is an innate instinct to avoid vulnerability that kicked in when Adam and Eve hid their nakedness. But I think the root of all this is the Fear of Man. Hang with me as we dive into a bit of theology!
Mankind started out creating with freedom and courage (Adam’s first job was creating names for all the animals, for goodness’ sake!). Creativity was an expression of obedience to and communion with God. The only fear in the garden was the appropriate Fear of God, who deemed everything ‘good.’
Then the big shift happened. Lies told mankind that God wasn’t good and He didn’t have the final word on what was good. Pride made mankind shrink back from creative expression for fear of being exposed. The Fear of Man became the gatekeeper.
And that’s one thing we’re always fighting against in our creativity. What if no one likes it? What if it’s not good? What if I make a mistake?
Part of our ongoing redemption through Christ is reversing the shift that happened in Eden. We have to shift from the Fear of Man back to the Fear of God. If we have the proper perspective on our creativity–that it’s essential to life and is an offering to God–then we should no longer worry what others think of it, but rather we should find freedom in God’s opinion of it: it is good.
As parents we delight in our kids’ art. They give us their scribbles and paint splatters, and we hang them on the fridge. In the early stages of childhood they are so eager to create and show us; there’s no fear because they know we will gush over their work and deem it ‘good.’ So does our heavenly Father with our offering, if only we will let go of our fears. I suppose this could be one example of having ‘child-like faith.’
So now I have to ask myself the tough questions:
Am I willing to make mistakes in my creativity?
Do I let my kids see me making mistakes?
Do I create an atmosphere at home that gives us all permission to make mistakes?
The answer to this last question in particular can have many layers from spiritual to practical.
Spiritual: When my kids mess up, make the wrong choice, or disobey, how do I react? I’m guilty of yelling at them, getting frustrated, etc. Rather I need to model God’s parenting: chastising, leading them to repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Practical: Is our home set up in ways conducive to creating, exploring, and making messes? While I like our home to be aesthetically pleasing, I need to be practical. The table and chairs in our homeschool room is no looker, so the pencil marks, paint splatters, scissor-knicks, and Sharpie marker can only improve its look, right? I won’t fuss over the dirty feet smudges on the couch because it only cost me $20 from the thrift store. I buy a lot of craft supplies and Play-Doh from the Dollar Tree to save money and allow my kids to create with reckless abandon.
But most importantly, it’s my perspective that affects our creativity the most. If I’m to nurture an atmosphere at home that encourages creativity and gives permission for mistakes, I must first do the same.
I really enjoyed interviewing Benji, and he gave me a lot to think about, in particular his view on Christian culture toward creativity. In his interview, he makes a point that as Image-Bearers we were created to create and delight in it. We don’t need to label our creativity as “Christian” and we don’t need to “conquer” the world and make it all “Christian”.
I come from an evangelical upbringing where being a witness for Christ was reinforced. And anything we did, whether creatively or practically, should be used as a witness to the world. If you’re gonna write a book, it should mention God. If you’re gonna paint, add the cross. If you’re gonna sing and play guitar, lead worship at a Bible study. If you go to church, serve in a ministry.
I grew up thinking my creative endeavors needed to shout out “Jesus Saves!”, and if they didn’t then they had no value. (There are some people in my life who still don’t see my writing having much value or being a reflection of God’s creativity in me because there is no Christian label on it). And I would feel guilty for not writing stories where the protagonist repented and became a believer at the end of the story. I would also feel guilty if I wanted to try something new just for the sake of enjoying it and not trying to push people to Christ. I would try to find a way to “Christianize” my creation to justify it, as if by doing this would give it value and clout.
There are quite a few problems with this mindset:
Through the years, God has shifted my thinking as the holes in my theology have been filling in. My mindset is different:
I don’t need to “Christianize” my creativity to give it value. It’s worth something because I created it. I have only started to see this as my theology has been bolstered. I’m grateful to Benji who God is using to do this on Sundays and through this interview.
As Sinclair Ferguson says in his book Devoted to God: “Knowing whose you are, who you are, and what you are for settles basic issues about how you live.”
I belong to the Creator, and I was created to create. And that’s enough.
How did you get into photography?
I have always been drawn to color and light. As a child I would plaster my walls and notebooks with beautiful photos of people and landscapes, sunshine and bright colors. I enjoyed taking photos in high school and in the years following, when I’d borrow someone’s fancy camera or use my own cheap point and shoot, sometimes even disposable cameras when those were still a thing. But it wasn’t until friends from my church lent me their DSLR camera and several lenses that I really began to try and capture the beauty of God’s world in my own unique way.
Capturing joy, color, light, and a glimpse into my subject’s personality that makes them unique and beautiful.