The Heart of the Matter

I originally wrote this a couple of years ago about the Pearls and their method of discipline. There is a new story this week about parents who apparently used the Pearls’ book, To Train Up a Child, and who have been found guilty of murdering their child. Given the renewed attention that the Pearls’ method is receiving, I thought it worthwhile to repost the following article.

I read an article about the controversial discipline methods advocated by Michael and Debi Pearl in their book To Train Up A Child. As a mother of three, I have spent a reasonable amount of time considering the issue of discipline. There are so many opinions out there. In fact, has over 7000 hits on the topic. While the article, and most of the negative attention that the Pearls have received, focuses on the topic of spanking or the use of the “rod,” my concern with the Pearls’ approach goes beyond that.

My concern is with the attitude the Pearls seem to have towards children. While I certainly agree that children need to learn that the universe doesn’t revolve around them, the universe also doesn’t revolve around the parents. According to the Pearls, a three month old child who cries when you walk away is attempting to “emotionally manipulate” his parents. This behavior, therefore, should be “trained” out of the child. Imagine a parent swatting a 10 week old infant with a 1/4″ tubing because the baby dared to cry when she was placed in her crib. Her needs had been met, according to the parents, so therefore her cry was an attempt to manipulate.

Here is a short quote from an article by the Pearls “Infant Manifesto” written from the perspective of a small child:

I started lying from day one. I am ashamed of it now, but I made my sweet mother think that I was hurting or cold, when all I wanted was to be held close. I soon learned that I could make her believe that I was hungry when I was not.

Is it really a sin for a child to want to be held close? Is it wrong for a baby to have emotional needs? From what I’ve read from the Pearls, children are supposed to learn their place and not be an inconvenience. Maybe the Pearls have some good advice to give, but again and again the things I’ve read make the still, small voice inside me scream “THIS IS WRONG!!” The approach the Pearls use will lead to emotional (and likely physical) abuse. Children in many orphanage settings don’t cry, not because they don’t have needs or are especially well-behaved, but because they know no one will answer their cries.

Is that they way I want my children to be? For good or for ill, my children are going to associate their relationship with me with their relationship with God. Continue reading

Is it wrong to send our daughters to college?

Last month, a blog article on reasons NOT to send your daughters to college was making the rounds. One of my friends forwarded it to me after a discussion we had had on the Biblical Patriarchy movement‘s views of higher education for women. It may be surprising to some, but there is considerable debate within certain homeschooling and other Christian groups about whether or not to send young women to college.

The arguments against sending women to college generally include some combination of the following. Since good Christian women will be primarily wives and mothers, it’s a waste of money and time to send them to college. Young women will not be learning the most important skills they’ll need, instead they’ll be trained for a career. This will only lead to heartache because they’ll either be dissatisfied with life by not following their career path, or they’ll be neglectful of their families by working outside the home. The college environment is filled with temptations, and why would we want to put our daughters through that?

The most recent article, by a Catholic group, included a couple of reasons that I hadn’t heard elsewhere. One is that young women will meet the wrong kind of men at college:

She will attract the wrong types of men.  I share the common concern addressed to us, again mainly by angry women, that there are so many lazy men in our society.  But what mystifies me is why girls continue to marry them and then live to complain about them, along with their parents.  So what normally happens with this setup is that those lazy men who are looking for a mother-figure in a wife are very attracted to this responsible, organized, smart woman who has it all together along with a steady paying job with benefits.  So if he wants to go to work he can, but if not he can always fall back on her income.  Or if he “doesn’t want to have to answer to anyone” he can start his own business, and it doesn’t matter if it fails or succeeds or makes enough income because again she’s there to help. The bottom line, HE is only supplementing HER income, but he’s supposed to be the provider. These are very strong stresses on families that I have observed to consistently repeat themselves over and over.  What she did that was looked upon to be the “responsible thing ‘just in case’” ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy because of the type of man she married.

Along with this, the group explains that getting an education in order to be prepared for the future, i.e. something happens to your husband, is not a valid reason:

A woman needs to have something to provide income in case her husband dies, becomes disabled or leaves her. True. The first 2 issues can and should be resolved with insurance, which is very affordable for young couples who may be vulnerable to these VERY remote possibilities, which is why it is so affordable. A responsible family will have such coverage in place. As for the husband leaving her, the possibility of being left in such a state would make a woman MUCH more careful about the man she decides to marry. Think about it. If you know you’re throwing your COMPLETE trust and future on a man, you’ll want one you can certainly rely on.

I find the last part of their reasoning incredibly heartless. Basically if your husband leaves you, it’s your own fault for not choosing better. Nice.

Now, to be clear, I do not believe that everyone has to have a college education. There are many people who have no need of higher education. Apprenticeships can be an excellent option. However, I do believe that everyone should have the opportunity to go to college.

I believe that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of college at work here. College is not simply, or even primarily, preparation for a career. A college education should teach people to reason, to understand history and the world around them, to think logically, and to communicate effectively. College should be about becoming a well-rounded person and about learning to be an adult. (I do realize that these are ideals and that not all colleges and universities do this well.) For these reasons, among others, I think it can be very wise to send our daughters to college.

Here are some reasons I believe that young women should go to college, in no particular order:

1. A college education trains your mind to think and reason. Women, especially if they are going to be wives, mothers, and home educators, need a good education. This is not to say that women without college educations won’t be well-equipped, but that a college education can serve to prepare women for their future roles in the home.

2. College can be an excellent place to meet the right man. While not universally true, most men who are serious about providing for their families and preparing for future needs will be attending college. Also, men who are well-educated may very well be looking for wives who share their interests and who can discuss issues with intelligence. Again, one doesn’t have to have a college education to be well-read, but it can be a great help.

3. College is like the real world with training wheels. One of the goals as parents is to raise our children to be godly, independent, self-sufficient adults capable of making their own decisions. Having given our children a good foundation and trained them well in their faith, we can send them to college to learn how to make decisions on their own in a somewhat safe environment. Obviously, our children are not completely on their own at this point, but they are moving in that direction.

4. College can strengthen your faith. While it’s certainly true that there will be many challenges to your faith in college, it’s equally true that these challenges exist in the world regardless of whether you go to college or not. Learning how to respond when your beliefs are questioned is important in strengthening your faith. Many children are sent to college or out into the world without a strong foundation in the faith. As parents, we should be diligent in raising our children to understand and to be able to give a defense for what they believe. We have to trust that God will work in them whenever they face challenges.

5. College is good preparation for the future. Despite what the group quoted above thinks, there are many reasons that a woman might find herself needing to work outside the home. A husband may be injured, have significant illness, die, or abandon his family. Also, many godly women may never marry or may marry later in life. In all these cases a college education would provide greater opportunities for a women to provide for herself or her family.

I’m sure that there are other good reasons for sending our daughters to college. These are simply some of my thoughts on the matter. I realize that some may not agree with me, and that college isn’t for everyone, but I do think it’s important to consider the benefits of a college education.

One short thought on back to school

It’s back to school time, and I just wanted to encourage parents to think before we speak (in person or online). Our dear, sweet children are always listening to the words we say. Even when we think they aren’t.

I know that many of us are excited about school starting back. It’s the start of a new year of learning and friendships and adventure. It’s also a time to get back into a regular, predictable schedule. But please watch what we say in front of the kids.

When parents gleefully drop their kids off at school with plans to go out and celebrate their new found “freedom,” what message does that send our kids? That we can’t wait to get rid of them? That it’s a good thing they’re “someone else’s problem” now?

With all the messages that our society sends that children are a burden (and not a blessing), let’s not add to that by making our children think that we love our freedom more than we do them.

In case you think it’s no big deal to celebrate the return of “kids free time,” just imagine how you’d feel if your husband said something like this:

“Thank goodness vacation is over! I don’t think I could stand to spend another day with my wife. I mean, I love her, but that many days together was just more that I can take. I really need some time to myself.”

Just a thought.


Why I Homeschool

I get asked some why we homeschool our children. And I put up with a good bit of attitude from people who have very strong (and very wrong) preconceived notions about homeschoolers and homeschooling. So, here is my list of reason why we homeschool.

** Disclaimer** These are MY reasons. I do not believe that homeschooling is the only way to educate. I do not believe that it is wrong or immoral to put children in school (public or private). I do not believe that everyone should homeschool.

~ I homeschool my children because I want to do it. I really do enjoy teaching and learning with my children. It’s fun.

~ I homeschool my children because I can. Yep, it’s legal in Texas. I have the time and resources to do it.

~ I homeschool my children because I think I can give them a better education than any school out there. This is not to say that I am better at teaching, but rather that I can give my children one-on-one tailored education.

~ I homeschool because I don’t like having my life schedule dictated by someone else. My days are not set according to the school’s schedule. My vacations are planned when they are convenient to my family.

~ I homeschool because it’s what I would have wanted as a child. While I know that my children might or might not have similar experiences to mine, school was a place of torment on the bad days and an extreme waste of time on the good days for me. I bear scars that are very deep from my time in school.

~ I homeschool because I don’t like “forced socialization” of children. I get to decide who I want to hang out with and spend time with. Why shouldn’t my children? Yes, we all have to learn how to get along with people who are mean to us or who we disagree with, but generally speaking as adults we have a lot more control over who we associate with. My children are active in various groups with other children from a wide variety of backgrounds, races, colors, etc.

~ I homeschool so that my children get to experience the world in greater depth. I want my children to experience the richness of other cultures and locations, not just read about them.

~ I homeschool my children because I feel called to do it. There really is nothing I would rather do with my days.

Here are some misconceptions that I think are necessary to address.

~ I do not homeschool because I think public school is evil. There is plenty of evil in the world. I do not believe that public schools are the source of it. I do not believe that parents who send their kids to public school are abandoning them.

~ I do not homeschool because I want to shield my children from ideas different from my own. My children learn about other religions and beliefs that we do not adhere to. They read popular books and watch tv/movies that are age appropriate.

~ I do not homeschool because I want to protect my children from difficult or painful situations. I do want my children to have a firm foundation in their faith and a strong belief in their abilities. I am preparing my children to stand strong and provide a good defense for their beliefs.

~ I do not homeschool my children because I believe I am morally-superior to other non- homeschooling families. Every family has to make their own decision about what is right for them and what they believe God is calling them to do. My decisions are just that, MY decisions.

~ I do not homeschool my children because I want to “disengage” from the culture around me. My family interacts with many people from all walks of life. We are active in mercy ministries. We are participants in much of what the popular culture offers.

I hope this helps others understand why we do what we do.

It’s Not Morning Sickness: Hyperemesis Gravidarum

I know this is a departure from my usual posts, but this has been on my mind a lot this weekend. I pray that my story will be a source of hope and comfort to others out there suffering. You are not alone, and it’s not just all in your head. This is my story of survival.

7 weeks into my last pregnancy (I had had a stillbirth, and two healthy boys at that point.) I woke up feeling terrible. Something was just not right. Up to that point I had been having very typical pregnancy discomforts. But on the morning of February 21st, something was different.

I felt like my stomach had turned into concrete. At first I hoped it was just my first experience with true “morning” sickness. Usually with all my other pregnancies I would be ok in the morning and worse at night. I hoped that this was just what other women have in the morning and that then I would be better. This was what was going through my mind before I even got out of bed that morning.

I got up, and I threw up. And I didn’t feel any better. Knowing that I had survived morning sickness before, and that eating a little something should help, I let Matt sleep in and took the boys downstairs to get some breakfast. I don’t remember what I tried to eat, but it was something plain. It didn’t help. Almost immediately I was back in the bathroom on a porcelain cruise. After Matt got up, I went back to bed.

I slept a good deal, off and on. I could’t really get comfortable. The concrete that was my stomach was miserable. I tried a couple of times to eat a little something. I kept hoping that it would help or that at the very least the nausea would let up as the day went on. It didn’t.

By early afternoon, I remember thinking that I wasn’t keeping anything down. My pregnancy impaired brain latched hold of that phrase, “can’t keep anything down.” It was triggering something I had been told in previous pregnancies. If I hadn’t been so sick, it would have occurred to me earlier in the day. “If you can’t keep anything down all day, call your doctor.” So I did call my doctor. We went over what was happening to me. He asked if anyone in the house was sick. Hope sprung forth in my mind! Maybe I just had a stomach bug! Maybe I would be better in a few days! Maybe this was NOT a foretaste of the months to come! No one else was sick, but maybe I was patient zero for this bug. The doctor called out a prescription for phenegren. It helped. But I didn’t get better. It wasn’t a bug. It was Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

Rapid weight loss, dehydration, the inability to keep much, if any, food or liquid down, malnutrition, depression, the list goes on. By God’s grace, I wasn’t the first one in my family or friend circle to have HG. My Aunt had survived two HG pregnancies. My good friend, Jennie, had too. Thanks to them, I had a clue about what was going on. Thanks to them, I knew I wasn’t alone.

Eventually the oral medications stopped working for me. I ended up with a home health nurse, IV fluids, and a pump that gave me a constant drip of a wonder drug called, Zofran. For 18 weeks, I could hardly eat or drink. At 25 weeks it got a good deal better. I was able to get off all medications. But I still didn’t feel well. It wasn’t until Nathanael was born at 36 weeks that I FINALLY felt good again.

It was a really long year for me. Much of it feels like a nausea infused blur. I missed so many things. I missed Easter. I missed church for months. I missed my grandfather’s funeral (although I was able to say goodbye.) I couldn’t go to the grocery store. I couldn’t drive myself anywhere. I couldn’t sit at the table during meal times. I could barely take care of my children. But by God’s grace, Nathanael and I survived. How thankful I am that we made it safe and sound. I love my sweet little boy. Lord willing, I will never have to go through that again.

My story is not unusual for a woman with HG. They don’t know what causes it. Thankfully the medical community doesn’t treat it like a mental illness anymore. My experience was mild to moderate compared to many women. There are much more intensive treatments including PICC lines and TPN (meaning all your nutrition goes into your body through a tube, but not into your stomach.)

The hardest part, besides the unrelenting nausea, is the feeling of being alone. It’s easy to be isolated. The dehydration and malnutrition bring depression and anxiety. It’s a very, very dark place. Some women terminate the pregnancy out of desperation, only to regret it immediately.

If you have anyone in your life who is suffering from HG, please visit the Help Her website. There is so much good information for friends, family, and doctors. Consider helping with meals for her family, childcare for her kids, house cleaning, shopping for her, and just being a friend when she needs it.

I pray that they eventual figure out how to stop this terrible illness. Until that day, I pray for the women and their families for the grace and support they will need to get through it all.

Why Boys Don’t Read

While it’s not been my experience with my own boys, there has been much discussion over the fact that boys aren’t reading books. There are also many theories about how to help boys learn to love reading. One of my friends, a mom of three boys, sent me an article this week by a man with a very interesting theory.

Martin Cothran writes:

The entire educational establishment has tried for over 50 years to force boys into their effeminate mold, and in the process, they’ve succeeded in evacuating literature of all the things boys like in books: action, adventure, danger, bloodletting—and an iron moral code that is taught, not by smarmy sermonizing, but by immersing them in the moral universe of a story about a hero who not only believes in this code, but enforces it with a vengeance.

Because boys are longing for real heroes and real adventure, many are drawn to superheros and comic books:

The entire educational establishment has tried for over 50 years to force boys into their effeminate mold, and in the process, they’ve succeeded in evacuating literature of all the things boys like in books: action, adventure, danger, bloodletting—and an iron moral code that is taught, not by smarmy sermonizing, but by immersing them in the moral universe of a story about a hero who not only believes in this code, but enforces it with a vengeance.

He goes on to say:

Boys are not interested in getting in touch with themselves, and it is particularly off-putting when they are told that it is good for them. The minute the politically correct schoolmarms approach, they head for the woods, where they are free to pick up sticks and pretend they are swords and fight monsters and hunt frogs and swing from trees—anything but to be preached at by people whose sermons consist of high-minded meaninglessness.

Most boys are born cynics and are rightly suspicious of moralistic platitudes. They respect words only to the extent that they see them followed by actions. Tell them (in mere words) what the right thing to do is, and they will look at you suspiciously and walk away. Do the right thing—preferably at the risk of your own person or reputation, and they will follow you in zealous allegiance.

The older authors of books for boys knew this: they forsook the sermonizing for the story of men in action. G. A. Henty, Johnston McCulley, Anthony Hope, H. Rider Haggard, P. C. Wren, Howard Pyle, C. S. Forester, as well as Western authors like Louis L’Amour and Max Brand—these were authors boys not only didn’t avoid, but sought out. Even a few female authors were on to this secret about boys: Baronness Orczy, she of Scarlet Pimpernel fame, being the most notable, as well as Laura Ingalls Wilder. Their books were once illumined by flashlights under bed covers so that, late at night, when they were supposed to be asleep, the young male reader could find out what happened next. To do the same with most modern therapeutic fiction would be a waste of batteries.

This is not a romantic discourse on the nature of the boy and how we should leave him to develop on his own, but merely a defense of the idea that he has a nature, and that it should be taken into account in how we deal with him. A necessary part of this (given that this nature doesn’t always lend itself to doing what the dictates of civilization require) is a straightforward and honest discipline, something which too often these days has been replaced by psychotropic drugs.

Boys needs to be tamed, not treated.

I completely agree.

Mr. Cothran concludes with a list of books he recommends for boys. My boys have already read many of these, but I look forward to introducing them to the others. Here is his list:

  • Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (and anything else Wilder ever wrote)
  • The Jack Tales, by Jonathan Chase
  • Call it Courage, by Armstrong Sperry
  • Robin Hood, by Roger Lancelyn Green
  • King Arthur, by Roger Lancelyn Green
  • Adam of the Road, by Elizabeth Janet Gray
  • Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi
  • Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Lost in the Barrens, by Farley Mowat (and anything else Mowat ever wrote)
  • Goodbye Kate, by Billy C. Clark (and anything else Clark ever wrote)
  • The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare
  • The Mask of Zorro, by Johnston McCulley (and the rest of the Zorro books)
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel and El Dorado, by Baroness Orczy (and the rest of the Scarlet Pimpernel books)
  • Men of Iron, by Howard Pyle (and anything else Pyle ever wrote)
  • Shane, by Jack Shaeffer
  • The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
  • Old Squire’s Farm, by C. A. Stephens
  • Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
  • The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow, by Allan French
  • Little Britches, by Ralph Moody
  • Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
  • A Texas Ranger, by N. A. Jennings
  • Penrod, by Booth Tarkington
  • The Jungle Books, by Rudyard Kipling
  • Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  • The Worm Ouroboros, by E. R. Edison
  • The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien

Salt, Light, and Home Schooling

Most of us know when we decide to home school that we will face objections from friends and family who either don’t understand or don’t agree with our decision to teach our children at home. Recently, one of the objections many of us have heard is that by home schooling we aren’t allowing our children to be salt and light in the public schools. I ran across this article today by a home schooling dad who answered the objection really well. Here are a few excerpts from his article:

In short, if we send our children into the public schools we send them into an environment that is fundamentally unbiblical, though it may at times appear to parrot a traditional biblical ethic. Keep in mind, this is not an indictment of any particular school or teacher, rather it is the zeitgeist of the age―the water we swim in, the air we breathe.

As homeschooling parents we are not looking for a Christian gloss (or some moral equivalent) over an unbiblical foundation. Rather, we desire to live out an educational model with our children that begins with Christ and the biblical worldview. We will fail in many ways, but if we do not aim at that target, then at what are we aiming? It is our obligation before God and for the sake of our children to think this through. We have the privilege of homeschooling. We give up a lot to do it, but we still do it. Certainly there are many others, single parents for example, who find it much more difficult to homeschool. I do not discount public education as an option, but I am convinced that Christian parents must be particularly thoughtful about how their children are educated. We easily forget that we are much like sheep among wolves―how much more so are our children.

But what about the question of sending one’s children to school precisely because one is a Christian and feels the pressure to be missional? I believe Christians are called to be salt and light. And I believe the gospel is fundamentally both personal and social. We are to be personally transformed by the gospel, and we are called to take the good news to the world. However, I have concerns about feeling the missional pressure myself and then making my children take the brunt of responsibility for it. In other words, I do not want to assume it is the purview of my children to do something that is fundamentally an adult activity. And I do not want them to inappropriately get hurt doing it.


As Christians our first responsibilities lie with our covenantal relationships: with God, with our spouses, with our children, with our friends, and with our local churches. All these come before our responsibility to the world at large. We are to be salt and light to each other first, even to the least of us, and then to others. I applaud the goal of reaching out to one’s neighborhood, but I question whether putting one’s children into the hands of the state is the right way to do it. I realize that at the heart of the Christian life is the spirit of martyrdom (it has always been that way ever since the cross), but as parents we must be wary of thrusting our children into that role.

Finally, there may be more felt pressure on pastors to send their children to government schools as an example―to model “missional” for their congregations. I would argue that, perhaps, a better route is the one of modeling salt and light (to both congregation and the community) by not only extending oneself missionally into the world, but by extending oneself missionally to one’s children through a loving, Christ centered, biblical worldview-based homeschooling education.

As I said before, there are no easy answers. I believe that loving, Christian parents can, with a relatively clean conscience, send their children to public schools. But I doubt it can be done without at least some harm being done to the children. The questions are: what is the nature of the harm, for what purpose is this being done, and is the harm being offset by something of greater value? Just like a government should not mandate how one’s children are educated, neither should a church. Rather, one’s church should provide guidance, wisdom, and support in helping parents fulfill their God-given obligations of cultivating their own children in wisdom and virtue by nourishing their souls on truth, goodness, and beauty so that their children are better able to know and enjoy God. For us the choice is clear that homeschooling within a Christ-centered worldview and with a classical methodology best accomplishes this.

Modesty: A Heart Issue

As a home schooling mom, modesty is a topic that comes up on a regular basis. Because I have boys, I haven’t paid as much attention to the discussion as I probably should have. Much of the time, the discussion on modesty centers around what girls (or even grown women) should or should not wear. There are so many opinions on this. Everything from shoulders to knees covered! No tight clothing! Nothing low-cut or too short! No spaghetti straps!!!! And absolutely NO underwear should EVER be visible.

While I certainly see the benefits of discussing the practical application of modest dressing, There seems to me to be a significant element missing from these discussions. For all our concern about how our society is dressing, are we not equally concerned about the heart issues involved? If our daughters are clothed from nose to toes, but inside they are counting off the days until they are free from our rules and restrictions, what are we teaching them?

When it comes to obedience and my children, I want them to listen to me and obey me. But I don’t want simply outward obedience. I don’t want them to toe the line and hop to while inside their hearts and minds they are angry and resentful. When my children argue over toys, I want them to learn to share, not just because it’s wrong to grab things from others, but because if they love each other they will seek the best for each other. It’s a heart issue. And from my studies in Scripture I have learned that the heart is very important. This is not to say that outward obedience isn’t important, just that the heart matters too.

In reading the Scripture verses that deal with modesty and clothing, I noticed something. First, I noticed that Scripture gives very little by way of specifics as to what modest clothing looks like. Second, I noticed that Scripture speaks more about what might be termed “inner beauty.” (Again, I want to be clear that I am not disagreeing with those who see the need to address the practical issues related to dressing with modesty.) Here are three passages that address women specifically.

1 Timothy 2:8-10

8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

Continue reading