None of the Above is a Perfectly Legitimate Answer


So this morning a large chunk of our world history lesson was about the Spartan way of life. The kids were pretty much horrified at the way the Spartans ran the show: i.e. sending the boys at age 7 away from their mothers forever to learn how to be soldiers; making them endure beatings just so that they would learn to take pain without whimpering/crying; inflicting on them terrible living conditions, such as near-starvation, terrible food, and inadequate clothing for the weather. And all this was to groom the toughest, hardest kind of soldiers, according to the philosophy of one crackhead named Laconious. We also read in contrast about the Athenians on the other side of Greece, who likewise thought it was important to turn out physical brutes, of course, but also believed in the training of the mind and in cultivating an understanding of the arts and humanities. Our book (an absolutely fantastic and engaging one, called A Child’s History of the World), then prompted the children with a most important question: So what do you think? Which way of life is better, to build stronger, better people? The Spartan way, which was to master your body or the Athenian way, which was to master both your body, though not to the extreme that the Spartans did, AND your mind? (Kind of a giveaway answer, the way it’s worded, right?)

Claire looked at me, took a moment and then said, “Actually, I think it’s most important to master your mouth.”

“Huh?” I said.

“Yeah, it’s most important to learn to control your mouth. If you can control your mouth, you’re the best kind of person, I think.”

WHERE IN THE HECK DID THIS KID COME FROM? She sadly didn’t learn this from my example (Oh, how my own tongue is my greatest enemy!); or actually, maybe she DID learn it from my example. Egad. Praise you, Lord, that even in my greatest weaknesses, YOUR strength is made perfect.

Honestly, I was just blown away at her answer. Right then and there, we cracked open James chapter 3, and I showed her that she was exactly right. She giggled as she read it aloud, and said, “Wow, Mommy, does this mean that God is making ME WISE?” Yes, honey, it does. So much more important than her becoming book-smart or (eventually) street-smart, I believe God’s design for her (and for our boys) is that they be filled with wisdom, which we teach them is the kind of smarts that comes straight from God and from His Word.

I am reminded of a time just a few months ago when she was in public school, and I was sitting down for a conference with her lovely teacher. She was showing me how Claire did on the 2nd grade mid-year “assessments.” This perfectly capable teacher sat down with me and showed me the questions she answered wrong, some of which were legitimately “wrong” answers, of course. But there was one question, where the “real” answer to the question really could have been something that wasn’t offered as an option. So instead of circling one of the other answers, Claire wrote it in. (HA! I was so proud!) But her teacher marked it wrong, and started digging herself a bit of a hole trying to explain why she had done so. I gently challenged her. I read the literature passage it was relating to, and her teacher conceded that really the answer Claire had written in was “higher-level” critical thinking. But she still gave me some kind of horse poo about how at this point in her education, Claire just needs to be answering the same way to other kids are answering, choosing the “most acceptable” answer offered to her. And that was one of the shiny moments when homeschooling started sneaking into my sugarplum dreams, by the way.

Every night, I pray over that girl, that she will grow in wisdom and in stature, but when she says stuff like that, it just blows me away. She’s certainly growing in stature, into a beautiful, lengthy creature right before my eyes! That picture up there freaked both her daddy and I out, like some kind of preview of the beauty she will become someday (if those teeth ever come in!)

But God is also growing her in wisdom, and for that, I am most happy.

I have to say that I really think that homeschooling ROCKS. Seriously, I cannot even put into words how fulfilling it is to be inside my childrens’ education. not to be the clueless chauffeur I was becoming a few months ago, despite my earnest efforts to know what was going on at school. 

Right now, my kids are engrossed in Jason and the Argonauts, by the way, which we finished reading in our literature time today. Just in case you were wondering how in the world a homeschool mom would have time to write such a lengthy blog. 🙂

About cashclan

Lisa is a grateful, born-again follower of Jesus Christ who has spent her adult life on the Gospel in several global contexts. She is the wife of one wonderful, jungle-gym of a man, who is to her the single most ravishing piece of flesh on planet earth (stolen good-heartedly from Christine Caine). She is a dedicated home educator to their four beautiful children, ages 6 to 12, whom she would be happy to gush over any time. She is an avid reader and a storyteller, an aspiring writer, a missionary to the nations and a singer of His praises, a loyal friend, an obsessive-compulsive Googler, and comedienne extraordinaire on her best days. She would also like to think that she is a loyal and loving, truth-telling friend.
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12 Responses to None of the Above is a Perfectly Legitimate Answer

  1. Starr says:

    Wow, pretty sweeping generalization about the entire public school system.

    Agreed that pushing of the “only one acceptable answer” is a problem. Probably in most classrooms. But given the right principal and teachers it doesn’t have to be that way. Ryan has been lucky enough to have teachers who accept, even reward, outside the box thinking. I hope he continues to be so lucky. If not, I hope he’ll learn that a thoughtful answer is more valuable than making sure he selects the “correct” one.

  2. Yeah, you know me. I like to sweep.

    But I really do believe it’s true for the most part, thus the sweeping generalization. I mean, look at the way colleges select students/scholarship awardees now–basically from ACT/SAT scores. As a high school teacher, I was allowed in the “inner circle” to see how things REALLY work, and appalled to learn that neither extracurricular activities nor community service nor amazing admission essays nor any other jazz mean very much at all when you’ve got a kid who scored a 28 and a kid who scored a 32 on their ACTs. Are kids allowed to think outside the box on those tests?? And that’s what we’re steering them towards, year after year, with all the standardized tests (and with NCLB, teachers are not only encouraged but required by law, with their jobs threatened otherwise) to teach to the test. In all my years of public education, I had about 5 teachers who encouraged/rewarded that kind of thinking. How about you? (Ooooo! We’re sparring! We never do this! :-))

    • Starr says:

      No doubt it’s problematic. And honestly I can’t even name five teachers who encouraged that kind of thinking. Maybe one? Two?

      I just reject the notion that all kids in all public schools will turn out to be mindless bubble fillers who don’t ever give thoughtful answers; I mostly reject the notion that the ONLY way to overcome that is by homeschooling. You know personally that I value homeschooling and there’s a good chance it’s in our future. But if for whatever reason our kids stay in public school, I certainly don’t think that means higher level thinking is beyond their reach. It may mean we have to teach them that an answer marked “wrong” by a teacher can still indeed be “right”, and it may mean we have to teach them to stick by that answer even if there’s no one to celebrate it with them.

      I’m going to bed but we can resume sparring in the am. Love you.

  3. I agree with you 100%!!! I mean, look at you and me!!! 🙂 We turned out pretty good! 🙂 I just don’t want my kids to be “going against all odds” in their thinking outside the box; rather, I want to champion them when they have moments like these, not mark their answers wrong. I’m totally not saying that kids who go through public schooling can’t come out the other end of it as brilliant critical-thinkers. (Again, look at you and me! :-)) I’m just saying that public school is the hard road to get there, and that the system is getting WORSE, not better, at producing those kinds of kids (or even literate ones, actually). Love you too!! The most! You’re my FAVORITE! 🙂

    P.S. Can you tell how hard I’m trying to keep things light with all those smiley faces? Yuck.

    • starrcliff says:

      Yeah, I appreciate the smiley. I depend on that little guy too. 🙂 See how he just disarms you?

      Despite the emoticon explosion, you’ve scratched the surface of a perspective that has been shared with me by many other homeschooling moms. Namely, the perspective that in just a couple hours I’m willfully sending my 6 and 7 year old off to a place that purposely crushes critical thinking, where any real knowledge or insight gained will be against “all” odds, and where teaching children to be barely literate is the goal of the professional educators with whom my children spend their time. That’s not a perspective I share (obviously, or I would be a pretty crappy mom), and it hasn’t been our experience.

      Through this whole process choosing of where or if we would send our kids to school, I think God wanted to do something in me and my people pleasing tendencies. We started working at the church we’re at now about the same time as a new youth pastor, whose wife homeschooled their children. For some reason, people in church were constantly confusing myself and the youth pastors wife. As such, I often hear positive comments about my kids being so delightful and engaging and polite, followed up with “that’s because you’re homeschooling!” People also feel free to say ugly things about not understanding those “selfish” moms who load their children up on school buses and send them to those awful godless public school institutions, well within my hearing, if not directly to me. I know God must just smile as I learn I don’t have to quantify my answer every time someone asks “Where do you kids go to school?” Knowing we’ve made our decision with prayer and insight, I can just say “public school” and leave it at that despite what they may think of me. Tough for me though.

  4. Amanda Montonati says:

    Too bad there’s not more of a balance there. My thought is most public school teachers don’t get very many parents like you, Lisa, who challenge something outside the box. The problem therein lies…..too many parents have left schooling (and when I say schooling, I mean raising) up to the teachers, and then teachers get complacent because they just believe that parents go with the flow.

    Kudos to you guys for thinking about -and doing- homeschooling….I wouldn’t have the discipline -or the patience!

    • Wow, Amanda, thanks for chiming in! I had no idea you ever read my blog. (Or maybe this is your first time!) I totally agree with you that parents should/must be MUCH more involved in their childrens’ education, and even more especially so if they are in public schools. My problem was that at the end of the day, I’d ask, “So what did you learn today?” And I got the typical, “I don’t remember!” or “I don’t know!” As hard as I was trying and as much as I was volunteering in their classrooms (with a newborn, it wasn’t THAT much!), I felt like I was on the outside of the process, and it was time for a revolution for our family. And it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done as a mom, and as a teacher. I MISSED teaching so much, like mourned the loss of my teaching career, but it just never really occurred to be that I was capable of teaching my own small kids (after all, my degree is in Secondary English Education). Now it’s like I can combine these two great callings of my life, mothering and teaching, and I feel so completely fulfilled in this. I didn’t think I had the discipline and patience either, Amanda. Naturally, I don’t actually! I literally have to pray every single morning and ask God to impart that to me, day by day, even moment by moment sometimes!!!

  5. Kelly says:

    Oh that was too fun to read the “sparring” between Lisa and Starr. It is a sign of a great friendship that you both can be so honest and open with one another even in disagreements.

    My thoughts – Starr – your kids are going to turn out AMAZING no matter what you do. Seriously, it’s not about the schooling you choose, it’s about the parenting that goes along with it. You and Jonathan are just about the greatest parents I know. I’m not kidding when I say that. I would totally trust you to raise my own kids, you all are that amazing. I REALLY admire the fact that you put your kids in public school and you take such an active roll in their lives there. You are making an impact well beyond the walls of your home and that is to be praised. I have found myself recently thinking more and more about my kids attending public school sometime in the future because I want them out there while they are still in my home – if you understand what that means.

    Lisa – I don’t get to read all your blog posts (mostly just the ones that you link to from facebook), but I know what I have read shows that you also are an amazing parent. You love and pour your life into your kids and trust the Lord to help you. That is to be praised as well. I have no doubt your kids will turn out amazing as well simply because you parent the way that you do, not necessarily because you homeschool. Homeschooling is amazing and rewarding and you are doing an excellent job of it, but be careful not to let it become your idol or your major soapbox. My church is 90% homeschool families. About half of those have taken it to such an extreme that they no longer trust ANYONE. They don’t trust anyone to teach or influence their children. They no longer trust other believers. They no longer trust the church, the government or the “system.” They no longer trust medicine or health experts. I believe part of this is because they never learned to trust because they kept everything so tightly in their own hands that they think they are the only one with any answers. I’m not saying you will or have become this way AT ALL. I just want to warn you to be careful. Don’t allow yourself to become this way. Continue to purposefully expose your family to others and savor the good those people have to offer, discard the bad. Teach your kids to appreciate that good and sort out the bad. Trust others to have a positive impact on your kiddos. My parents were absolutely astounding, but the people that impacted me most in my spiritual walk were the other adults (and my believing friends who made a stand in public school) who spoke the same truths as my parents, but in a different voice. You know what I am saying. 🙂 Please take all of this in love. I think you are amazing. (And that picture of Claire at the top is the coolest picture!)

  6. Amanda Montonati says:

    Sometimes I like to read your blog…it reminds of the time I was far off in another land, also! My husband played basketball in France & Italy for 8 years so we have only truly been back stateside permanently for 2 years. Had we continued, I would’ve taken the homeschool route as well -and I have several friends still over there who homeschool.

    Now, my current job is doing school fundraisers so I get to see a LOT of different environments in a LOT of different schools. I think -like Starr said- sometimes you get very lucky and come across a school that really has it together, and obviously there are those that do not. And -as you both said- it just becomes part of your job as a parent to figure what works for your own kiddos.

    And congrats on the baby on the way….I saw your “surprise” post about it!

  7. Cheri says:

    Seriously, I can’t believe she said that at her age. That is some serious wisdom!

  8. Oh, I’m not pregnant again! That was an April Fool’s joke!

    The inequity of the public school system is another of my great issues with it. I taught at East Central High School in Tulsa, where I was horrified to learn that there wouldn’t be enough desks for my 43 students in 6th period one year, where the books were falling apart, where I had to fight tooth and nail to get enough copies of “To Kill a Mockingbird” for my freshman Pre-AP class of 20 students. For three years I taught there (and loved it), and the fact that those kids got so much less of an education than kids 2 miles down the road at Union disgusted me. That’s just great that those Union kids’ parents can afford a house in that district, but why is it that those kids in East Tulsa just barely have a chance to go to college even just because their parents can’t afford to live in that part of town. This inequity, where kids can only get as good of an education as their parents have socio-economic status, is a critical, fundamental, even blasphemous flaw in our public education system ; and by principle, I feel like that’s not a system I want to be any part of. Revolution, baby.

  9. Oh, and Starr, I know that you care more than any other mother I know, and have labored over every little decision of their upbringing. I wouldn’t second-guess you even for a second. You do what God has called you to do. I don’t think my way is better. I think it’s what’s better for my family, and what He’s called ME to do.

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