Tag: Corona Virus

Screen Time and Sound Waves: Utilizing Technology During Quarantine and ALL the Links You Could Ever Want

I’m almost embarrassed to say how little this “shelter-in-place” mandate has altered our lifestyle. Other than not going down the mountain every one or two weeks for church, music lessons, shopping and appointments, the only real change has been the increased screen time. Church, lessons and shopping are now all on-line. Plus we’ve been taking advantage of some of the great on-line learning resources that have now been made temporarily available for free.  We just started The Great American Story course through Hillsdale College. Next will be the World War II course taught by Victor Davis Hanson. How cool to have my own kids able to learn from one of the same instructors that I sat under while studying philosophy at Fresno State! Downside is that it’s more screen time.

Ditto for Ligonier Ministries who has just made all their on-line resources available for free through June, including their interactive group Bible studies! We’re talking about a monumental amount of sound Biblical teaching now just a click away. For example, you can take Elisabeth Elliot’s video course “Suffering Is Not for Nothing” with over 1000 other participants and invite a bunch of friends to be apart of your on-line study group. Downside is that its more screen time.

Not all of Ligonier’s resources require a screen. One of my favorite freebies is their internet radio app called RefNet.  We discovered this audio resource when Tom’s Mom was sick with cancer. We even added it to her Alexa so all she had to do was say “Alexa, play RefNet” and a 24/7 line up of her favorite teachers–Piper, MacArthur, Sproul, Nancy Guthrie, and dozens of others–would play at her command. The messages are interspersed with quality traditional Christian music, Bible readings, devotional readings, and even news breaks from a Christian perspective. At a time when our elderly are now even more isolated than ever, this could be a life changing gift for someone you know.  They even play the Lamplighter Theatre’s audio series in the evenings for the kiddos. My younger boys love these action packed stories and I love that they don’t need a screen to enjoy it. Last night we blasted “Escape From the Eagle’s Nest” from the front porch while they sledded and built a line of snowmen down the middle of the road (fewer than 10 and they were all at least 6 feet apart, of course).

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I’m a serious podcast junky and being home 24/7 has only fed that appetite. Growing up  in a house without TV meant the height of electronic entertainment was listening to Family Radio. The voices of J. Vernon McGee and Charles Swindoll were as familiar to me as the sound of the furnace clicking on in the morning or the crunch of the gravel as my Dad’s car pulled into the driveway every evening. I love it that my boys already know by name the voices of Steve Lawson, Doug Wilson, Paul Washer, James White, Alistair Begg, the Apologia guys, the Cultish guys, the G3 guys, the Just Thinking guys, and even the gals from Sheologians, What Have You, Relatable and my favorite Mama Bear apologist, Alisa Childers.

But even the voices of the best teachers can become a distraction and like Saul, we need some music to soothe the soul. I used to be a hymns and classical-only kind of gal so Bach was my go-to method of relaxation. The whole world of classical music is available for streaming on-line. Now I get the even greater privilege of hearing Joel practicing my favorite hymns on the piano, or Nathan doing the same on his violin or cello, or Titus rearranging some Bach for his mandolin. But Titus has also broadened my musical horizons with other genres and now I’m enjoying listening to him play things like “Take Me Home West Virginia” or “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” or even his original “A Blues 65” on his Youtube channel. If you all aren’t subscribed to it yet, you should be.

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The boys have also figured out other ways to utilize the airwaves during this time of social distancing. A while back I bought a cheapo 4-pack of walky-talkies which they managed to rig discarded radio antennae onto. From the top of our ridge they’ve been in communication with their good friends who live in another town about 30 miles away. These friends also own a weekend cabin up here so they’re sheltering in place less than 1/2 mile away but no one can get together. So out come the walky-talkies. They’ve even been playing games over them by drawing out each-others’ moves. Radio Jenga anyone?

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With all these sounds and lit-up screens around me, I’m left wondering what a pandemic would have looked like before the age of wifi.  For us that was just last summer.  Until then our only option up here was very costly satellite internet. We had to walk down the road to a friend’s house to catch a signal or to the camp office to plug in. Then Tom signed up to get his Mdiv through the distance learning program at Master’s Seminary. That’s when we realized just how much of a pain it was going to be to get all his work done at the office and just how impossibly expensive it would be to pay for satellite ourselves. So we prayed about it. We prayed that if seminary was really God’s will for Tom that He would provide the way to get it done. THE NEXT DAY Kingsburg Media Foundation was at the camp, scouting it out to see if we were a possible candidate for their reduced-cost internet services.  What a timely provision!  And even more so when I think of how difficult it would have been to shelter-in-place without being able to access our church service live-stream, shopping, classes, music lessons, and more on-line.

I guess there’s never really a good time for a pandemic but it amazes me how the advent internet has changed the face of this one.

 

 

 

 

There’s No Place But Home

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Praise God that after an uncertain weekend regarding our sole source of income Tom is now able to work again remotely.  We are hearing of more and more families that are being affected financially by these extreme measures to reduce illness in our country. Perhaps you’re not being affected financially but your world has been turned upside down in other ways. Maybe you have loved ones at home with pre-existing conditions that you are fighting to protect. Or maybe the fighting is on other fronts. Perhaps a difficult living situation is now being exasperated by the lock down. There are all kinds of issues at play right now that can easily create a stressful environment in the homes we’ve been sequestered to. Don’t let the perhaps new experience of homeschooling be one of them.

I want to be sensitive to those for whom home is not a happy sanctuary right now. But I also want to encourage you moms out there who have it in your power to make the place of your family’s confinement a little less prison-like. Take it from a recovering perfectionist.  Moms have the capacity to bring more misery into the home than any virus and sometimes homeschool can be the perfect vehicle for that misery.

A little background:  We’ve been homeschooling for over 10 years but my homeschool ambitions pre-date that by probably another 10, maybe 20. It’s the only thing I ever wanted to do. And after a miserable public school career myself, I wanted to do a very thorough job of it. I even got a degree in Philosophy just because it was the closest thing the university offered to a classical education, which I considered absolutely essential to intellectual formation. I was literally making scope-and-sequence spreadsheets and writing up science and Bible curriculum before our first child was ever born.

Then we had boys. 5 of them. It took me about 10 minutes to realize my well-wrought plans might need a little tweaking. It’s taken me about 10 years to finally come to terms with my strengths and weakness as a homeschool mom. While we were living in Hawaii I blogged through several years of that journey on these three sites: God Made Known, Of Skies and Seas, and Full Manger. Each of those links is to a post chronicling the trial and error process of trying to get this homeschooling thing right.

The evolution continued when we moved back to California and I adopted our 7-by-11, Delve-till-Twelve, Done-by-One schedule. This means that each boy has 7 tasks they needed to accomplish independently by 11AM. Those tasks included such basics as “brush your teeth” for the youngest, morning chores for all and subjects like math, spelling and music practice for the olders. I really like this feature because it’s super flexible allowing kids to choose the order in which they want to get things done, or getting it all done the night before if they want to spend their morning hours hunting, fishing, playing hockey on the frozen pond or just sleeping in. By 11 I’ve had a chance to do my tasks, down a few cups of coffee and spend some time with the youngest on reading before we all come together for Bible, science and history.  These are the subjects we really get into. I do a lot of just reading aloud but we also do a lot of discussion. In other words, we Delve-till-Twelve.  That’s when Dad comes home for lunch so we take a break and then clean everything up. Which means on a good day, we’re Done-by-One and they’re free for the rest of the day.  Now I have a sophomore and freshman in high school so they do have extra work later in the day, but in general this is the schedule that works best for us. At least for now.

My point in all this is that homeschooling can become really stressful, really fast if you’re not willing to be flexible with expectations, activities, resources and schedules.

  1. Having a houseful of active boys meant that I had to give up on my child-hood dreams of a one-room-school house like setting where my kids sat in old-fashioned desks and listened to me instruct them from the chalkboard in all the classics. Instead they sprawl on the floor and scoot back and forth on a skateboard or hang upside down from the sofa as I read to them about whatever we find interesting.
  2. As my boys grew their tolerance for crafts and busy-work disappeared which meant I had to let go of all things cute or clever.  I cannot think of a single thing we do now that would be deemed Pinterest worthy.  They want the information and if I can’t get it for them, they want to find it themselves. They want to talk about what they’re learning. They want to plot and plan and put what they’re learning into practice themselves.
  3. Not all curricula are created equal. Or egalitarian. Mostly they’re designed by girls, for girls. The agrarian themed Mennonite published materials that I was so enamored with early on were absolutely loathsome to my blood-thirsty boys. They don’t want to study farm animals, they want to study fierce and hostile predators. The most exciting thing about history for them is not the womens suffrage movement. It’s war. Thankfully, there’s plenty of material for them in that regard. And word problems in math should just never, ever involve Betty and her bake sale.
  4. Finally scheduling. Some kids thrive in a highly structured environment. They like the security of being told what to do and how and when to get it done. They need a well-regulated rhythm. I have about a half of one of those kids. He volunteers to make more rules (I hate rules) one minute but breaks the few that we have the next. He asks for a written schedule and then spends all his time ignoring it. He insists he needs a thorough explanation for an assignment and then argues his way out of doing it that way. In general I’ve learned that most boys really just want one thing more than anything else in the world and that’s FREEDOM. That’s why traditional school can be such torture for some of them.  And homeschool can become the same way if flexibility doesn’t reign supreme.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a proponent of chaos. I’m a recovering perfectionist, remember? I’m the type who can’t sit down to read a book in a messy room. I make my bed every morning and clean the kitchen overnight. Loud noises rattle my nerves to the core. Spreadsheets are my friend. So God gave me a fun-loving, impulsive husband and 5 adventuresome boys who would probably be leading a very tidy but bored existence if it weren’t for their Dad to balance me out. In other words, I’ve had to learn to be flexible. To laugh at myself and my failures. To trust a faithful and merciful Heavenly Father who has led our family every step of the way.

And I’ve had to learn to make home a sanctuary, not a prison. To know the difference and draw the line between order and obsession, between fun and frenzy, between comfort and chaos, between pretty and Pinterest-worthy, between structure and slavery-to-a-schedule, between teaching and tyranny. I’ve had to learn balance and moderation and flexibility and letting-go and economy and grace and—all the while it was my kids that were supposedly being home-schooled.

What might this new experience of being “stuck-at-home-all-day-with-your-kids” have to teach you? By God’s grace we will all come out of this historical event a little more conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ, and a little more peace in the places we call “home.”

And Just Like That Everyone Went Home

So we’ve all been sent home to “shelter in place,” to school our children at home, to eat food together as a family around our own table, to clear our schedule of meetings and practices and play-dates –in other words, to cease the madness of a frantic go-go-go lifestyle at once. Could be a good thing. After all, I could smugly assert that’s basically how our family’s been living for years. But forcing the entire country to do so is another story.  Our rights and freedoms are being stripped from us at a pace that would make even Stalin’s head spin. I’ve wondered the past few days if most people are even aware of the first or fourth or tenth amendments to our constitution. They’re kind of a big deal, folks. Take it from someone whose mother had her whole world stripped away from a war between totalitarian regimes and fled to the only place on earth where she trusted that could never happen again. In fact, if you have to choose between reading this blog and reading your Bill of Rights (assuming you’re a U.S. Citizen– sorry those are the only people it covers), I’d way rather have you pull out your Pocket Constitution (which every citizen should have in print and on hand, btw) or just click here. Of course, all of that means nothing when a national emergency is declared. I just think it’s good to be aware of what’s actually being taken from us in the name of public health and safety.  Benjamin Franklin once said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”  Of course he also said a lot of other things that were bunk, so take it or leave it.

But as much as I believe in the excellencies of the Constitutional Republic we inhabit, I believe in the sovereignty of God and His Kingdom more. And as much as I believe every U.S. Citizen should have a copy of the Constitution in print and on hand, I believe it’s even more important to have an actual copy of sacred Scripture in your hands. It too, has a few things to say about government and our response to it. God says He’s in control. He sets up those in authority over us and He removes them. He knits our bodies together and numbers our days. There are no maverick molecules in God’s universe. Not even Covid-19 shaped ones. He is working all things together for our good and for His glory.  And yes, if you have to choose between reading this blog, reading the Constitution or reading your Bible, please pick up your Bible!

Trying to make sense to my children of the bewildering changes upending our world in the last month, I have to keep in mind that as God sets up kingdoms (was Trump’s victorious State of the Union address only a month and a half ago?) and tears them down, it is all with His eternal kingdom purposes in mind. And the marvel is, He is doing that great kingdom building through OUR OWN HEARTS.  What are my boys learning about the Christian walk through all this? Are they learning as much about what it means to be a Citizen of Heaven as they are about what it means to be a Citizen of the United States of America? Can they see where my true allegiance lies?  How I respond to these inconveniences, injustices, and financial uncertainties speaks volumes to them about the Lord’s sanctifying work in my own heart.

I’m pretty sure I can already see some of the good being wrought.

  1. Most immediately, I’m looking at my husband right now who is also a full-time seminary student at TMS, studying hard for his Greek mid-term. Normally he’d be at work instead. He’d fallen a little behind due to all the back and forth travel surrounding my Dad’s death a couple weeks ago. Now he can finally get caught up on his Mdiv studies!
  2. My boys are finally hearing from sources other than their own nagging mother that our elderly people matter. That they should be honored and cared for. It’s a soap box issue of mine that I’ve written about here, here,  here and here and it has been such a blessing to hear it now proclaimed from places like the White House.
  3. My natural tendency toward social distancing has been overwhelmingly affirmed as not only healthy life-styling but the law of the land!
  4. The first two weeks of Feb. we were all sick in bed with the worst flu ever which was immediately followed by two weeks of taking care of my Dad. It was a crazy time of upheaval for our family during which I longed for days just such as the ones we are now getting to experience indefinitely.
  5. The time is ripe for compassion. Everyone in the world seems to be making it very clear that they are very much afraid of death. So many opportunities to share the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ. From a distance of course :).
  6. I’m relearning the sweetness of trust. Yes, “Tis, So Sweet to Trust in Jesus!” Don’t just click on the link and listen, dust off the old hymnal and sing along!

Finally, as disturbing as this government overreach might be, we haven’t been required yet to do anything sinful or dishonoring to God. We’re simply being told to “Go home.” And while that might ruffle some feathers in the feminist coop, in the end that might be right where God wants us during such a time as this.  Yes, the first and the fourth and the tenth amendments to our Constitution are pretty important, and yes, if we want to remain citizens who benefit from them, we better be willing to take up arms to preserve them. But let’s not forget the 10 Commandments are so much more important than that. And Jesus said they could be summed up this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”