Thursday, February 23, 2012

What Every Child Wonders...Who Am I?

When I was attending public school back in the 70's and 80's, who I was at school pretty much defined who I felt I was everywhere else.
  • A girl, but not inclined to be feminine (I avoided skirts whenever possible). 
  • "Gifted," but not the smartest one in the bunch (several of my nerdy friends got perfect scores on the SATs). 
  • Nice, but not popular with the RIGHT people.
  • Kind of cute (though I didn't think so), but not into designer brands, so decidedly "uncool."
  • Good at many things, but an expert at none. 
  • Horse-lover...who didn't have the money to be in the horsey in-crowd.
  • Bookaholic...which sometimes was seen as anti-social and weird.
  • Quiet and shy (often seen by others as aloof). 
  • A good student, but no teacher's protegee. I always wanted a mentor.
  • Determined. Single-minded. Okay, stubborn.
  • A marginal nerd who just wanted to be liked for who she was, but mostly felt like she didn't quite measure up to anyone's expectations, least of all, hers.
What all that added up to is that in middle school (junior high back then), I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian and I spent all of my high school years focused on that goal (everything I did was for the purposes of building up an excellent transcript). Mostly I think I chose this goal because I loved horses (and all animals), I had a heart for helping others (especially hurt things), I liked science and was good at it, and, of course, I knew I was supposed to go to college and get a degree of some sort so I could get  a well-paying job (that I hopefully liked) after graduation. By focusing on the long-term goal of college, I could avoid noticing that my high school years felt rather empty and purposeless. I defined myself by a future goal instead of a present reality, and that made everything I did right and wrong that much more weighty...the pressure was on, with no signs of relief.

To top that off, there was the fact that my friends were going to Ivy League schools and I was very afraid they'd all get into Harvard and Yale with full scholarships, while I was unable to get into the state school (that was an unfounded fear, but I didn't know that). So what did I do? I decided to apply early admissions to a very good school with a solid vet program and got accepted, but that meant I had no opportunity to explore any other options. I just really didn't know there were other options, and I wanted the pressure to just be over with. I guess I am trying to say that I grew up feeling as if my options were pretty set on a path fairly much out of my control, and I wasn't very confident that I was going to be good at what was on that path. This isn't uncommon for kids that age, and I don't fault my folks since I know it seemed like I knew what I was doing, but the truth is that I was pretty lost at that time and I really had no idea who I ought to be or who I really was.

Horses should have been my goal as an avocation, not as a vocation...

The sad thing is that if you look at that list of what defined me in high school, you may notice that something is missing. The word Christian. It's not that I didn't know about God, Jesus, the Bible, and the Ten Commandments. I did. I had asked Jesus into my heart as a young lady and been confirmed in our Lutheran church, but it was a rather "dead" sort of church and while I was good at knowing the rules, I didn't feel as if the whole "God thing" was know what I mean...that all-important "relationship" part of being a true Christian was missing. 

I regularly prayed, and I worried about whether God was disappointed in me, but that didn't keep me from skirting rules from time to time. I asked for His forgiveness, and for His help when things were tough. But essentially I wrote off some of His rules as not applying to "this modern age..." After all, if we were to believe the "evidence" we were taught in science class for evolution, either only parts of the Bible were true, God wasn't real after all, or He was pulling a major trick on us just to keep us busy (concerning the billions of years and all that stuff). I finally decided it didn't really matter whether evolution was precisely correct or not (I guessed that God could use whatever means He chose to create instead of accepting the literal six day creation at that point), but I used that confusion and "greyness" to justify certain Christian ideals and Bible verses as being outdated and not applicable for present day. That misunderstanding hurt me a lot in later years. 

Grey areas? Outdated? Tricky?
I wondered about these questions and more...

I am happy to let you know that eventually I *think* I got it all sorted out correctly, but in the meantime, my definition of myself suffered with every mistake I made. I moved further from seeking God's help as I felt less and less worthy of help from anyone. I am not talking "she got thrown in jail for dealing drugs on a preschool campus" type stuff here...just fairly "normal" (in a societal sense) college stuff. Things I wish I could erase. But you know, eventually I did figure things out, with a little (yeah, not so little) help from God. I finally learned that knowing you are special in the eyes of God is important, and asking Him to direct your steps is the best way. Unfortunately, it took some years of mistakes and a long list of hurts to get me there. I'd rather my kids were spared those sort of learning experiences, wouldn't you?

That is one of the major reasons we have chosen to homeschool our children instead of sending them to public school. We desire to shelter our beloved children from the influences of the non-Christian school system that has made prayer taboo, says standing up for Godly principles is a bad thing, and that places more importance upon popularity than integrity. Situational ethics abound in the public schools, as do negative peer pressure, compromised values, and non-Christian teaching. As educational quality decreases (our students don't hold up very well to those in many other countries) and our society's movement away from its former Christian ideals increase, we identify more and more reasons to want to keep our children at home so that WE can teach them from the perspective of our conservative Christian worldview.

Anyway, that brings up another main reason we choose to homeschool: as parents who have been  tasked by God to disciple our children and impress upon them the Lord's ways when we are at home, when we travel, when we are resting, and when we get up (Deuteronomy 6: 4-9), we feel that the best way for us to do this is to keep them at home with us. By doing this we are able to feed into their lives knowledge of what the Lord wants for them...things of good, to give them a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11), and to help them develop the specific gifts he has given each of them as an individual to work for the good of the body of believers (Romans 12:3-11, 1 Peter 4: 10-11).

Some of MY gifts...What a blessing!!

I sometimes wonder what might have happened if I'd had a good guidance counselor or teacher who got to know me and realized that I liked helping people and reading/creative writing. Would she have known how to identify my true God-given gifts and direct me towards a career in teaching or social work or as a children's librarian? Would I then have been able to avoid some of those unhappy years struggling to make vet school work for me? (I had no chance of competing against born-on-the-farm boys and wound up getting a teaching degree since both of my parents are teachers). I am not saying I am unhappy with how my life has turned out, but I'd rather spare my children the circuitous route of trying out many unnecessary things before finding their true calling (I am not implying that exploring options is a negative thing, but that wasting time exploring in the wrong direction is). Since Hubby and I know them (and our family's worldview) best, I am hoping that we will be able to help them find delight in their strengths and become strong in the Lord.

As homeschoolers, we are blessed to be able to make sure that our kids realize that they are a child of the King of Kings, and as such are very important, a part of a larger body that is vital to the mission of the Lord of Hosts...instead of thinking they are just one more random frustrated body in the midst of a mass of confused, sometimes angry, other times depressed or rebellious students who are all trying to figure out who they are, often by doing things they should not even be thinking about. Many of these students have little chance of finding a special somebody who will help them find out the best answer to that burning question of "Who am I? Why am I important? What is my place in this world?" It makes me sad.

Isn't it a blessing and a privilege to know that we, as homeschoolers, are able to be present each day for our kids and provide them with the tools they can use to better equip themselves for service in the army of the Lord? We can make sure they know about their "specialness" and how they fit into the Lord's plan (or at least help them get on the right track to discovering their unique purpose on their own). We can help minimize those moments of questioning and agonizing over, "Who am I?" by teaching them the Truth from an early age.

It is with that in mind that I'd like to recommend to you a resource we recently had the privilege of reviewing: the Who Am I? Bible study from Apologia Ministries. Our family was sent a copy of the hardcover learner's handbook, the student notebooking journal, the mp3 audio cd, and the coloring book. It is wonderful!!

I have to tell you that it has been a huge blessing to all of my Amigos (Ladybug, Cowboy, and Firefly) already, and that I fully intend to keep using it with them after this review is finished. It is an incredible resource to help parents cement in their children's minds and hearts the importance of God's word, and of seeing yourself as God sees you...special, blessed, loved, and with a divine purpose. Can you imagine how different my experiences might have been if I was seeing myself through God's eyes of Love instead of the world's eyes of judgement? Or if I'd been seeking God's best for my life instead of pursuing what the world saw as best: money, prestige, popularity, and pleasure? 

I am very impressed with this curriculum. I will be honest and tell you that when I saw it at the state convention last year, I sort of passed it by because it is a bit on the high side costwise. The 264 page textbook alone is $39, the student notebook costs $24, the mp3 cd is $19, and the coloring book retails for $8. However, now that I have tried the whole shebang (thank you, Apologia), I have to say that I truly believe the investment for the entire package is well worth it. Would you spend $90 on the right math curriculum? I know I have. Which is more important from an eternal perspective: math or Bible? You know the answer to that one.

That said, I will tell you that if money is an issue for you, you could likely get away with not purchasing the textbook, if you have an auditory learner. It is nice to have, but since my oldest daughter is only 8, and the text is a bit above her level anyway, mostly we are just listening to the audio files together at the dining room table (during or just after breakfast), and she and the other Amigos work on either one of the pages in the journal or a coloring page while they listen. I can figure out what do do when and what questions to ask to dig deeper. She gets quite a lot out of it, even without us using the book too often.

Ladybug has blossomed during this trial of the Who Am I? study. She is very proud that the notebooking journal is HERS to work in alone (tactically, this was an effort to get her to push herself, and it worked!). Firefly and Cowboy don't mind just coloring one of the pictures in the coloring book while they listen, or I have them copy the verse and illustrate it on their own paper. They work together on some of the puzzles, and usually I just ask them the questions orally and write their answers down in the journal for them. 

If you have an older student doing the curriculum using either the textbook (making their own notebook, perhaps) or using the notebook and mp3 (Tex is 14 and he enjoyed the stories, too), you could let them do this entire curriculum on their own, but it really is set up so it can be appreciated by the entire family. It is marketed for the ages 6-14 group, but is certainly flexible. Firefly (age 4) listens well and is getting something out of it. Who knows, maybe Boo is, too. It certainly can't hurt! I have to say I LOVE the mp3 as it allows me to monitor their work and help instead of being tied to reading every story myself (and if I have a headache, I just sit back and enjoy). The only issues I had with the recording is that it doesn't play on our cd player since it is an mp3, and it is difficult to navigate to the proper place if you stop the lesson partway through. Hopefully, the on screen navigation rough edges will be smoothed out eventually. I still find the audio to be a HUGE blessing.

The study is complementing our own family Bible study of character nicely. 
Each chapter comes with a large variety of activities. 

They include (in the combination of the textbook and journal): 
  • A story spotlighting a character with a problem that is made better through Godly behavior  Many interesting facts are fit in about their country and cultural background.
  • Hide it in My Heart Bible verses to memorize with space for copywork. 
  • Games, such as word searches and crossword puzzles. 
  • Vocabulary words.
  • Articles about people from a different non-Christian group so children can learn how others with a non-Christian perspective view the world (to prepare them to defend their own worldview). 
  • Mini-books to help different types of learners process the information. 
  • Prayer Record pages for requests and praises.
  • Artist focus studies that link back to the topic.
  • References to historical events and people to help increase your child's cultural literacy and connect it to their worldview.
  • I Spy pages to tell instances where you have seen God at work
  • Chapter response pages to check your comprehension and understanding.
  • Live Out Loud pages to record how you are applying what you've learned.
  • Review pages.
  • Suggestions for supplemental activities and resources.
If you are intrigued by what you have seen and read here and would like to learn more about the "What We Believe" Biblical Worldview Curriculum series from Apologia, check out this sample chapter of the Who Am I? notebooking journal. You can also see the table of contentsa sample chapter from the book, and some of the lesson plans.

You can check out what others on the TOS Homeschool Review Crew thought of this product at the TOS Review Crew blog.

There are currently two other books in the Worldview series from Apologia that accompany the Who Am I? study. The first is Who is God? and the third volume is Who is My Neighbor? The fourth volume, What on Earth Can I Do? is due out later this year. To order any of these products, you can check out Apologia's online store.


I received copies of the textbook, the notebooking journal, the mp3 CD, and the coloring book so that I could review them on my blog. The opinions I am sharing here reflect my own honest impressions of and experiences with this excellent product. If you have questions about this review, please feel free to comment or contact me.

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