Raising Homeschooled Daughters Series

the-princess

Raising Homeschooled Daughters, part one

If forced to name a movie title that best describes my adolescent years, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” would probably take top honors. Seriously, if Dante were depicting hell in 1966, the scene would be played out in the Farmington Junior High locker room with a gym teacher who stood sentinel over damp towels and kept track of our menstrual periods with a red ink pen and a dated journal.  Contrary to what junior high boys imagine, it is most definitely NOT a pretty sight.

One summer I went to church camp and spent the week struggling somewhere between the intense spiritual awakenings that were happening in my soul and the mental confusion of deciding who I was.  In my cabin were several other girls just like me, gawky young teens who had thunder thighs in shorts and swimming cap hair at the end of the day.

But then there was Jennifer.  Her suitcase was full of amazing things none of us had ever seen, let alone used….tanning lotion, a Lady Schick razor, tampons, a padded bra, a bottle of Chanel #5 cologne.  She wore matching Bobby Brooks short sets and got up early every morning to be sure her lip gloss of the day was color-coordinated.  She was graceful and charming and even witty.  But best of all, she had a boyfriend named Rob.

Every morning we all stood around Jennifer as she applied nail polish to her toes and brushed her shiny hair.  We giggled and cooed “Oh, that is sooooo cute” as she put on an ankle bracelet and “You smell yummy” as she dabbed perfume behind her ears.  We stared out the window when we saw Rob, with his dreamy smile and piercing eyes, coming to the cabin.  We sighed as we watched Jennifer go out to meet him, the cabin screen door slamming shut behind her.  It might as well have been slamming shut on our lives, we thought.

When I look back at those times, it is uncomfortable and even painful.  I survived, but barely, and still wear many of the emotional scars that came about simply by being a girl whose rites of passage were marked by many Jennifers, perfect girls whose skin and very lives had no pock marks.

It wasn’t until I grew up and became a mother and started thinking about my own childhood that I realized something….even Jennifer probably struggled with feelings of inadequacy and self-acceptance.  I am certain that Jennifer grew up and probably married someone who wasn’t Rob and now has children and grandchildren. And she probably still struggles some days with thoughts of who she really is.

As bad as it was for me and my friends, I believe girls growing up in the new millennium have new pressures and influences that we never imagined..  The perceived importance of movie stars and music icons grows as media access is at our fingertips.  The openness of perversion seeks to and accomplishes the goal of breaking down the God-given barriers that once protected our children.

As parents, we are in the precarious position of preparing children to live within such a culture while at the same time protecting and coaching them from making life choices based on what is popular within that same culture.  Unless we live in ivory towers, even as homeschoolers, our daughters are exposed to the same pressures and temptations, even when they sometimes come from other Christians.  It is a constant challenge for us.

Now, I contend that this assault on our daughters has a parallel within the culture of homeschooling and over the next few days I will be sharing some of my concerns about raising homeschooled daughters.  I look forward to your thoughts.

Raising Homeschooled Daughters, part two

When I first heard this song by Jon McLaughlin, I was moved to tears by the truths in the lyrics. I spent many years volunteering in a crisis pregnancy center and I know that so many young girls are confused, asking why they are here and what their purpose is in life. In this culture, there are many answers to those questions, some of them right and some of them wrong.

As Christians, we know that we all share one purpose before the Lord…to bring glory to God. If our daughters share that purpose with us then how do we convey that to them? How can we teach them what that means in practical terms?

I would like to encourage you to listen to this amazing song a couple of times and you might even want to watch the music video. Next I will be talking about the first thing that needs to be taught to our homeschooling daughters…..their incredible value to the Creator God.

Raising Homeschooled Daughters, part three

The Incredible Worth of a Daughter

Every June my town hosts what is absolutely one of my favorite annual events…Gabby Days. It begins with city-wide garage sales, dozens of them. As if that isn’t wonderful enough, for a junk junkie like me, a week or so later, the city sends around huge garbage trucks to collect anything from the corners of their homes and garages that people want to get rid of. And that is when the real fun begins.

Some of my very best treasures have come from the scrap piles that I have gone through. And always the question I ask is “why would anyone throw this away?” Vintage linens, handmade quilts, flower pots, antique jars, and furniture of all kinds have found new homes in my house. This year I pulled a solid oak desk from someone’s trash and it will be a wonderful addition to my son’s room when it is sanded down and repainted. Though it was hard for those who drove right past it to see, on its inside, my desk is a wonderful treasure.

Sometimes when I look at the young girls who work in our local fast food restaurants or who spend their Saturdays shopping in the mall, I wonder if those around them can see the amazing treasures that they really are. Underneath the silly t-shirts, stylish jeans, and flip-flops, they are women-in-the-making and many of them do not even realize it themselves. They are caught somewhere between being little girls with fairy princess dreams and grown women who must live in reality rather than an ivy covered castle.

To many of them, their value as young women is based on the standards established by the world around them. They are girls in the sense that society tells them they are. Their lives express what it means to be feminine by following the definition of the week for what that means.

The problem is that they are being sent a message that narrowly defines what it means to be a girl or a woman and all of those messages are based on their physical attributes. Feminine is described, both in the secular culture and within conservative Christian circles, in terms of gender specific expectations.

But godly womanhood begins with recognizing that we are to love one another, as Joni Eareckson has said, “simply for the preciousness of their souls.” And that, I believe, is one of the greatest challenges for homeschooling moms as they raise daughters. We must concentrate on those attributes of godliness in their lives that reflect that they are unique creations, image bearers of the living God, a part of His royal priesthood.

Here are two of the reasons that I believe this is important:

Not all daughters will naturally be drawn to what either secular culture or conservative Christian culture deems to be “feminine” nor should they have to be.  In fact, as we concentrate on the spiritual aspects of our daughters’ lives, we may begin to ask the very question that apologist Ravi Zacharius posed when he asked “If you strip off the flesh are our souls essentially different? Are we masculine and feminine on the soul level?” And that leads us to ask for definitions for the words “masculine” and “feminine” which is nearly impossible to do!

I remember reading the story of Betty Greene, the founder of Missionary Aviation Fellowship and one of the first women test pilots during World War II. As her high school years came to a close, her parents encouraged her to study nursing since the common belief at that time was that women are natural nurturers and, therefore, ought to pursue the fields of education and nursing.

So Betty reluctantly attended nursing school even though her heart was drawn to airplanes and flying. Eventually her parents agreed that she could follow her dreams and it led to the founding of a worldwide ministry that today enables the work of over 800 missions organizations! God’s calling on the life of Betty Greene is an incredible example of one of God’s image bearers reflecting Him through His calling on her life, though it didn’t resemble what many people might call “feminine.”

Another concern I have in this area is that inadvertently, many people can be setting their children up for homosexual temptation by defining what is for girls and what is for boys according to their own personal preferences.

Christians who have repented and come out of homosexual lifestyles will often tell you that, when growing up, they were more interested in the hobbies and activities of what the culture said belonged to the opposite sex. They often had parents or teachers who conveyed their disapproval about those interests, pushing them into areas they genuinely disliked. They heard phrases like “Boys don’t play with dolls.” or “Boys don’t arrange flowers.” Girls often heard “Those sports are for boys” or “Put on this dress so you can look like a girl.” *

Instead of turning away from their natural interests or preferences, they were left confused and became vulnerable during their teen and young adult years when someone suggested that their interests showed that they “might be gay,” leading them into a lifestyle they never wanted or were even attracted to in the first place.
Rather than wringing our hands over any gay marriage bill (which, of course, I do not support) we ought to be examining the teachings in our own homes that might send a message to our children that they can’t be girls because they like sports or boys because they like dolls. And rather than pushing our own strident and unbiblically supported views of gender, we should accept and encourage the differences each child has.

Secondly, a daughter’s value as a woman is based solely on what God has already done not on anything she will ever do or not do.

We hear much talk today within homeschooling circles about “militant fecundity,” ie a daughter beginning her child bearing early in life and pursuing the goal of having as many children as possible. While I would be the first to encourage families to see all their children as gifts from the Lord, exploiting the gift of motherhood by describing it in militant terms is, frankly, appalling to me.

How much worse could it be for a daughter who is taught that this is her “natural use” and that “she will be saved in childbearing” (1 Timothy 2:15) actually means that her eternal standing before Christ is literally based on whether or not she gives birth? We would do well to have each of our daughters memorize “Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5) and that bearing and raising children is a reflection of the work God has already done in our own lives when He brought us to Christ. (In Isaiah 42 God describes himself as laboring and delivering His children, breast-feeding us, and nurturing us on his knees!)

How important it is to confirm to our precious daughters that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139), that they are “chosen before the foundations of the world” (Ephesians 1), that they are “lively stones in a spiritual house” 1 Peter 2) and that “they were bought with a price so that they may glorify God in their bodies and in their spirits because they belong to Him.” (1 Corinthians 6)

God has a purpose, a plan, and a calling for our daughters. Let’s help them know that the beginning of their journey with the Lord starts with recognizing how valuable they are to Him!

Next, I will be looking at the choices our daughters have for role models and examining which ones are the best choices.

*I wanted to add an addendum to this post at this point by noting that the Vision Forum toys for children come in both a catalog for girls and a catalog for boys and, sadly, stressing the company’s personal preferences for what should be gender appropriate for children. Everyone knows the boys catalog is the most fun!

Raising Homeschooled Daughters, part four

The other day, one of my friends told me about running in his first marathon. He had trained for this event and hoped to at least finish the race. He said that he had run about 12 miles when he just knew he was never going to be able to go on, that each step required incredible exertion as he struggled to just put one foot in front of the other one.

At that point, he looked up and happened to see a tall man standing on the side of the road and as he got closer he could hear him screaming “You are awesome! What a tremendous job you are doing! Look how strong you are! You are almost finished!” My friend said that as he passed this stranger and heard him holler the same words of encouragement to him, he got a rush of adrenalin that propelled him forward, enabling him to finish the race.

I was thinking of that story as I considered the type of encouragement that young girls need to grow into strong, healthy, and vibrant women who reflect the glory of God in their lives. They need encouragers that assure them that the race isn’t so long that they won’t make it. They need voices that tell them that they are strong and that they are moving along at the right pace. They need to hear that they will finish and that there is no competition,  that they only need to be concerned about being where the Lord would have them be. In essence, they need role-models and mentors.

As I was growing up, I had mixed signals hitting my adolescent antenna that caused me to be conflicted about many things. I wanted to be able to sing like Aretha Franklin, have hair like Ali McGraw, which for me meant sleeping with my hair wrapped around orange juice cans to make it straight, and to dress like Peggy Lipton’s Mod Squad character. I wanted a boyfriend like Redford’s Butch Cassidy but a husband one day like Sheriff Andy Taylor, always kind, exceedingly wise, and a patient listener with children. And woven throughout all these images was the very strong influence of my grandmother who was to me, and still is, the picture of godly womanhood. I understand how confusing this age of life can be and the confusion only grows with the number of voices who tell you what to do.

Our secular culture provides a cornucopia of mixed messages for young women when it comes to positive role models. Top choices right now, according to the media elite, include Oprah Winfrey, Clare Danes, and Rachel McAdams, all women who, though they may be philanthropic, have led immoral lifestyles. We are told that they are better examples than Brittney Spears or Paris Hilton, the self-professed role models for young girls, but in reality are they? All present a godless worldview that produces the same kind of fruit….girls who believe they can never measure up, girls who long for happy ever after, girls who think that happy means being famous, beautiful, rich, or powerful. And current statistics show that by the time a little girl enters kindergarten, she will have seen 5,000 television shows and 80,000 ads, all telling her the same thing.

Just as troubling, on the other end of the spectrum, self-professed movement homeschoolers have their own teen celebrities who, while presenting themselves as better examples of godly womanhood, in reality, are teaching many of the same lessons to our daughters. As offensive as this might seem, let’s compare those messages:

1. The secular world has chosen young single women to teach our daughters what is important and to set the standards for femininity and beauty through certain clothing and hair styles, interests, and life choices. They have become the spokeswomen for an entire generation of daughters who want what they have.

Movement homeschoolers have established their own icons who are also beautiful young single women who have a certain look and who live lifestyles that cannot be attained by ordinary young women, lifestyles that require money and connections that most girls cannot have. This often leads to lack of contentment and frustration.
In contrast, the Bible clearly says that “the older women are to teach the younger women” (Titus 2) and to “keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

2. Contemporary secular role models wear clothing designed to sexually attract men.
Young men in our culture are trained to think of a certain body type or hair style or look as “sexy” and therefore appealing and current styles are always pushing the envelope, encouraging girls to become more brazen in their attire. Someone outside that air-brushed persona does not have the same sex appeal, she just isn’t “hott.” The physical is the most important.

At the other end of the spectrum we have an emphasis on feminine dress that covers women from head to toe, dressing in styles either from a by-gone era or in the lace and ruffles usually reserved for little girls. Clicking on “modest clothing” on certain blogs often takes you to Civil War reenactment or regency era costumes. They, too, have established a standard for women that has placed much emphasis on the physical and dressing is also done for men, whether to keep them from lusting or to fulfill a fantasy.

Homeschooling icons have been established that identify only certain personality types as being appealing to men and young men are taught that outwardly quiet and meek girls are the only godly standard, as, for example, Voddie Baucham’s teachings to sons. These views alienate girls who are vivacious and outgoing or natural leaders, causing them to pursue becoming something that they are not and even denying certain gifts that God has given to them.

In both circles, appealing to a man’s standard of womanhood is central. Scripture, on the other hand, tells us that women are to concentrate on their inner beauty rather than on their outward adornment. Women are also to be meek and quiet in spirit, coming to an acceptance of the unique personality and gifts that God has given to them and not fighting against God’s perfect creation of them. (1 Peter 3) (Listen here for a more detailed discussion of this topic.)

3. The role models in our secular culture love the media attention and are quick to flaunt their personal stories that nearly always involve love and romance.

Celebrity couples like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are featured every week in nearly one magazine or another. Young girls are trained at an early age to admire these famous people and magazines and television shows for young teens offer intimate details of even very young stars. The message is sent that life could not ever be worthwhile without a love interest and life-long commitment is rarely if ever mentioned outside of the obituaries of elderly movie stars.

In movement homeschooling circles, young girls are given the Elsie Dinsmore books and encouraged to think of themselves as junior helpmeets to their fathers, giving their dads their hearts, and attending purity balls with their fathers. As they grow older, they imitate Jane Austin characters, imagining themselves being prejudiced or prideful, whichever seems appropriate at the time in their quest for the perfect Mr. Darcy. And while Austen books are ok, the constant quest for marriage and the manipulation used to do it not causing any consternation, Janette Oake books are off limits because those heroines are strong and independent. In these groups, parents hand their daughters a Botkin book or take them to an online courtship website where they learn that in order to be normative they must marry. They go through their own courtship process and then tell their own stories to inspire even younger girls, a perfect cycle of multi-generational voyeurism and exhibitionism. The gift of marriage is made an idol, not unlike the secular counterpart’s idolatry of moonlight and roses.

Again the admonition of Scripture is quite different from either of these extremes. While marriage and family is revered, it is never central to the Gospel message. Jesus warned us in Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father” and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” Of course we know Jesus wasn’t telling us to hate our families, but rather to put Him and His will for our lives ahead of our own selfish desires, including those for relationships.

And the women who knew Jesus are never commended for their homemaking or raising babies. Once when Jesus was preaching, a woman called out to him and said “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But Jesus replied “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11) Jesus also failed to praise Martha for her homemaking skills, instead admonishing her that Mary had chosen the better way to spend her time, sitting at Jesus’ feet and learning His ways. (Luke 10)

I would like to suggest that mentors and role models for our homeschooled daughters be women who have given their lives in service to the Lord in a variety of ways, whether it is in their homes as wives and moms, as single or married women on the mission field, or wherever the Lord has called them. Our daughters ought to read the stories of both single and married women and also the biographies of great men of the faith. They need to meet, in real life, godly older men and women who have been blessed by their willingness to put Jesus Christ first.

I also think that good role models for our daughters should be older women who share some of the same gifts, abilities, and life situations that our daughters have. I think of Mary going to see Elizabeth during their times of confinement. What a blessing that Elizabeth must have been to this young frightened girl and what an encouragement they must have been to each other.

We also must inspire our daughters, both in word and deed, that as they admire and even emulate these servants, they must put their faith in Jesus and in Him alone, not in a paradigm, a program, a lifestyle, or another person. I often think of that dear woman we read about in Luke 8 who had suffered for 12 years with a discharge of blood. She was considered unclean in that culture and was destitute because she had spent all the money she had seeking help from various physicians. The Bible tells us that she could not be healed by any of these people but she had faith that Jesus could heal her. So she slipped through the crowd, touching only the hem of his garment and the bleeding stopped immediately. Jesus felt His power go out from him and asked who had done it. No one would own up to it so the woman, now humbled, desperate, and frightened, kneeled before him and declared in His presence that it was Jesus who had healed her. Jesus looked at this woman, and I imagine it was with such a face of compassion, and said “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” She was now His own daughter. She had been given the gift of faith in Christ alone and could now live in peace.

Only when our own precious daughters can place their faith in Christ alone, becoming His daughters, and will follow His ways rather than the way of man will they be able to live in peace as they become women made for His glory alone.

Raising Homeschooled Daughters, part five

I can still remember what I was wearing…a calico top and white wrap around skirt. I had sewed both of them during that long, hot, and humid July, waiting for the baby to arrive. And now I was waiting for Clay’s bus to pull into the station. I hadn’t seen him for 6 weeks and was anxious to have a glimpse of him in uniform, to hear him laugh in real life. Since we had said our goodbyes he had had a haircut, I had had a baby. Now we were a real family, heading to some as yet unnamed destination.

On our way home I listened to one story after another about his drill sergeant, the 20 mile hikes with full gear and backpacks, the new recruits who didn’t speak English. We held hands and dreamed about where home might be next. He was excited to meet his daughter and I was excited for that, too.

Neither of us had had any real experience with babies. As a teenager, I had only babysat for preschoolers and older children. In fact, before I came home from the hospital with Mollie, I had never even changed a diaper. Clay had never held a baby. So it was with a great sense of wonder that he reached his large hands down inside the bassinet and took this little one into his arms. Her head could lie in his hand while her feet barely touched the inside of his elbow. She opened her eyes wide, studying this new person who made funny faces at her and spoke in whispered tones. It was love at first sight.

No one told Clay that he was supposed to build a relationship with his daughter, he just did. As soon as she was old enough to go along, he took her every time he needed to run an errand. She toddled around after him in the yard, in the basement, wherever he was working when he was home. He sang to her, read to her, played with her, gave her bathes, and diapered and fed her. And she adored him. When she was big enough, she sat in his lap on the tire swing in our front yard and laughed and laughed as they went higher and higher. She wasn’t afraid because Dad was holding her.

Clay had introduced us all to wonderful classical music from the time the children were small and he would often tell us interesting things he remembered from the music history class he had taken in college. So when Mollie started playing little songs on Grandma’s piano, we knew it was time for lessons. Clay and I agreed that we would use his Christmas bonus check that year to buy our own piano. Though the older boys were also taking lessons, they didn’t love it like Mollie did. Not once did we have to tell her to practice and by the time she was in high school she was spending several hours every day listening to new music and playing ever more complicated pieces.

Clay could always tell when Mollie was in a musical slump and so he inspired her by bringing home interesting CD’s of artists he knew she had not heard of. His encouragement of her gifts and interests were the precious expressions of his commitment to helping her fulfill a calling the Lord had placed on her life. Years later while she was in college and when a horrible hand accident only days before her junior piano recital left all of us wondering if she might ever play the piano again, Clay immediately went to the music store to buy her CD’s to, once again, inspire her during the most devastating of times.

Clay and I have loved being parents and sharing the joy of having a daughter is a special blessing from the Lord that still amazes us. We have watched her grow from that tiny pink rosebud of a baby into the most lovely and creative of women who delights us every day in her love for the Lord and for her husband and children. God has gifted her in ways we never would have dreamed of that one July day when we held her and could only imagine what she might become. Later this month as she celebrates her birthday, we will be thanking God for this godly and most cherished of daughters.

Today as I look at the important relationship between a father and his daughter, I am more convinced than ever that a dad’s most significant roles in her life are to love and cherish her, to teach her what is important by example, and to do all that he can to see her gifts, talents, and callings flourish to be used for God’s glory. Anything less than that is squandering one of the loveliest and most amazing treasures God can ever bring into the life of a father.

Raising Homeschooled Daughters, part six

Do any of you remember the movie What’s Up Doc? with Barbara Streisand and Ryan O-Neal? The two lead characters arrive as strangers at the same San Francisco hotel, along with 3 other guests, all 5 of them sporting red plaid suit cases. As the story unfolds, the contents of each bag is revealed, along with a hilarious series of events where the cases are mistaken, stolen, and hidden, leading to the climax where Streisand is pedaling a bicycle down the famous Lombard Street with all 5 bags in the front basket and O’Neal trying to stay balanced on the back. They end up under a Chinese dragon in the middle of a parade, narrowly escaping a large plate glass window being moved across a busy intersection, only to end up in San Francisco Bay. And all because no one knows which bag is which.

There is a similar, though not so funny, confusion in homeschooling circles today when it comes to planning and executing the education of homeschooled daughters. Up until a few years ago, it was assumed that homeschooled girls would receive the same education as their brothers and that it would include the option of studying advanced math or science as well as the choice to go on to college. That belief is being challenged and an anti-college-for-girls ideal is being embraced, in part, because of a growing movement whose leaders teach that all women and daughters have been given the life-purpose to be wives and mothers and as such ought to spend their young adult years working toward that end. In fact, to do otherwise is often labeled as “non-normative.”

After spending a couple years reading the books and articles that are promoting this view, it became obvious to me that this agenda has been advanced by using the three words “purpose,” “calling,” and “role” interchangeably, bringing about what I believe is a planned confusion and thus leaving parents perplexed as to what direction to take as they approach the high school and college years. After all, if God’s eternal purpose is for girls to be wives and mothers, and anything outside of that is outside of God’s prescriptive will, as some teach, why shouldn’t a girl’s education focus on homemaking and childcare skills?

Though I have addressed the differences between these three words in more detail in the past,* I thought it might be helpful to briefly revisit them again in light of the topic of raising homeschooled daughters. Clearly defining words and concepts helps us to understand exactly what our own goals are and it also helps us identify and understand what these ideals mean as presented within the homeschooling movement today.

1. God has one purpose and one purpose alone for believers, including our homeschooled daughters, and that is to bring glory to Himself.

Our purpose in life has to be able to be applied to all people, at all times, in all cultures, to both men and women, young and old. Psalm 139 is a lovely picture of God’s intimate knowledge of us and the psalmist’s praise of God, giving Him glory for making each of us. Ephesians 1 tells us that we were created before the foundations of the world to be His children, to the praise of His glorious grace! I Peter 2 tells us that we were created and chosen to be living stones in the building of a spiritual temple, each of us part of His royal priesthood, offering up sacrifices to God. This is our purpose and is the purpose of our daughters. We must impress upon them their purpose in God’s Kingdom.

Our purpose is also an eternal one, a purpose that will never change nor will it be taken away and one that is sure to be accomplished. Psalm 57:2 tells us “I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills His purpose for me” and Psalm 138:* says “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever– do not abandon the works of your hands.” We must give our daughters the assurance that God is working in each of their lives to accomplish His purpose for them, which is to bring Him glory forever.

2. God’s callings in the lives of His daughters are unique and specific, though they can change during various times and seasons in their lives.

I love the story of the French tight-rope walker Philippe Petit. After spending several years planning his incredible performance, Philippe, along with a few friends, made his way to the top of one of the World Trade Center towers, carrying a 450 pound cable. Under cover of darkness, they placed the cable between the towers and as the sun came up the next day, Philippe walked on the wire, eventually making more than 40 passes. When he completed his exhibition and was arrested, a flood of reporters gathered around him, asking him “Why did you do it?’ His response was “Why? Why? Why? You ask me why? When I see three oranges, I juggle. When I see two towers, I walk between them. Because I cannot not do it!” I have to wonder how many of us have such a strong sense of the callings in our lives that our response is “I cannot not do it!”

We must help our daughters discover and discern the callings that the Lord places in their lives, encouraging them in developing the gifts, talents, and abilities that the Lord has given uniquely to them. They must also understand that they may be given more than one calling at once and that their callings can change during their lives. They need to know that all callings from the Lord are sacred, that there is no secular realm the is apart from the sacred. And they must understand that their callings are given to them in order to fulfill their one purpose of bringing glory to God.

3. God gives us many roles to play as daughters of the King and those roles are used to perform our callings as we fulfill our purpose.

When I was in high school, I played the part of the Irish landlady in the play Flowers for Algernon. I loved learning an accent, dressing in a funny costume, and making the audience laugh. A few years later while I was in college, I played the female lead, Hesione Hushabye, in George Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House, again enjoying the opportunity to slip into an unusual character and entertaining a crowd. And then, many years later, I had another role, that of mother-of-the-groom, complete with a lovely pink dress and matching shoes as my costume. Certainly none of these roles were my eternal purpose but each one helped me fulfill the various callings I had during those years and, ultimately and by His grace, to bring glory to God.

Our daughters will have many roles throughout their lives, though they will not all be the same. When they are younger, they are young ladies, daughters, and sisters within one family unit. If they marry, they take on the role of wife and as they have children, as mother, first as mothers of pre-schoolers and later as mothers of grown children. Eventually they may become widows. During that time they may also be Brownie leaders, choir directors, nurses, teachers, doctors, lawyers, the list is endless. Others will never marry or have children but they will still fulfill God’s purpose for their lives through various callings and roles. Some of those roles will last for a long time, other roles will last only for a day. And each of those roles will enable them to fulfill their callings from the Lord and, ultimately, to fulfill their purpose of bringing Glory to God.

What a blessing daughters are to the Kingdom of God. And what a privilege we have as moms of daughters helping them become the very best that God intends them to be, for His glory alone!

* These two podcasts cover the material on purpose, calling, and role in more detail and I would encourage you to listen to them.
Mom on a Mission, Part One
Mom on a Mission, Part Two

Raising Homeschooled Daughters, part seven ~ marriage and life skills

One of the most hair-raising and yet enjoyable aspects of my husband’s military service as part of a Special Forces unit was going through jump school. It began with 6 weeks of intense physical training that included hiking for miles in heavy equipment, verbal and mental abuse, and intense preparation for equipment malfunction, all of it leading up to the most dreaded “tower week.”

Made to simulate the actual doorway and parachute hook-ups of a transport plane, the tower is 35 feet tall, what I am told is the psychological height for coping with the fear of heights. Repeatedly they hooked up mock chutes and jumped out, practicing their landings, the final week of training culminating in making the 5 jumps required to receive the coveted airborne wings.

Clay tells me that as prepared as they were and as natural as the procedures had become after repeating them hundreds of times, standing with his toes over the edge of the aircraft doorway and peering down 2000 feet below at the drop zone was something he will never forget. The 35 foot tower was nothing compared to the real thing. While all the grueling preparations were necessary and beneficial, they didn’t really prepare him for the exhilaration and satisfaction of actually jumping out of the real airplane.

We both had a similar experience when we got married. We had gone through pre-marriage counseling that, in retrospect, was quite good and insightful. But all the theories and books to read in the world do not prepare you for the real thing, that jump into space known as marriage.

The most recent statistics tell us that more than 50% of marriages end in divorce and that includes those between Christians. A few weeks ago, as we visited with a friend from our college days and we began to ask him about different people we had known, it was stunning to me to hear how couple after couple had divorced, all of them Christians and many of them in full time ministry.

I couldn’t help but wonder what might have made a difference in the lives of these couples that could have led to long, happy marriages and what ways we, as parents, can help to prepare our daughters for marriage, if the Lord wills it in their lives. How can parents better prepare their daughters for “the jump?” I believe that there are three basic areas, life skills, relationship skills, and spiritual growth, where we, as parents, can do this, all the while realizing that the success of any marriage, as with anything else in life, is by God’s grace in our lives.

Life skills

The first things we can do to help our daughters prepare for marriage is to give them opportunities to learn a variety of life skills they will need. As I have looked at the Proverbs 31 woman from this practical standpoint, I see a woman who was able to work inside a household budget that included purchases of clothing and food. She was able to make money both from the work of her own hands and in making wise investments. She also gave of her time and resources to care for the poor and needy and in all things she was diligent and confident.

The application of these truths will vary from household to household but they can include having daughters work through a basic consumer math textbook to understand the financial areas that are necessary in running a home and in planning a wise investment strategy. It might include reading books that give important instruction on home keeping or basic household maintenance and appliance repair. It could also include taking a class on nutrition or pregnancy and childcare or a course in sewing or home decorating. Learning specific skills or securing a degree, either from home or on campus, that could produce the “fruit of her own hands” has endless possibilities and should be considered in light of a daughter’s talents and abilities. These could even involve apprenticing with a master teacher or craftsman or opening her own business. And volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center or in a city mission could also prepare her for ministry opportunities to the poor.

Each parent will need to decide the best way to help their daughters become accomplished in life skills and to pursue them purposefully. The important thing to remember is that we need to work with our daughters to have a plan that they are excited about and where they will blossom and grow into adulthood.

We also need to allow them to fail. Research shows that daughters who are overly protected grow up to be bland women who are hesitant to make their own decisions. On the other hand, girls who have been given space to be creative and to exercise their own ideas, sometimes even failing, become women who are confident and able to succeed in all areas of their lives.


Raising Homeschooled Daughters, part seven continued ~ marriage and relationship skills


Relationship skills

We want to build solid relationship skills in the lives of our daughters to give them the best opportunity for future success in their marriage and in their families.
One of the biggest factors in marriage that leads to divorce is the inability for husbands and wives to communicate with each other. Knowing someone intimately allows for us to know the hot buttons to push in each others’ lives as well as the strings to pull in order to get them to do what we want them to do. Healthy communication in a marriage rejects these destructive behaviors and begins with recognizing both the eternal worth of the other person and the desire to serve each other on a daily basis. Learning how to do this in the home among family members is the foundation for daughters to know how to communicate with their husbands.

I think there are two tools that can be quite effective to increase the quality of communication in the home. The first one is to learn to talk with others using analogies. One day I was trying to explain to my husband the frustration I was experiencing of the continual clutter in our house that came from the toddlers’ toys, homeschooling projects, and endless stacks of laundry. I told him that just the fact that it is never completed was a tremendous discouragement to me. He was really not relating to what I said to him until I remembered what his office had looked like the last time I had visited him at work. His desk and work tables held organized stacks of file folders, each holding the records of open jobs, all organized in a way that was helpful to him. So I suggested that he imagine having someone come into his office at various times during the day and running roughshod through his folders, reorganizing his filing system, and leaving only to return at any random moment. And then I told him how discouraging it was to think about getting up the next morning and doing it all over again! He was able to get my picture when I painted a word picture for him that conveyed the meaning while speaking his language.

The other tool I have found to be really helpful to me has been to be part of a Toastmasters Club. While most people think of this group as preparing people for public speaking, in fact, the most important part of their meetings involve listening in order to give the speakers helpful criticism that will improve everyone’s communication. Learning how to listen, really listen, is more than half of communicating and as we learn to listen to our spouses and our children, we will grow and build healthy relationships with them.

Remember, too, that the examples you set for your children will be one of the greatest factors in their ability to communicate with a future spouse. If all our children see is anger or indifference expressed through our communication, that is what they will learn and practice. If they see genuine caring and attentiveness to the thoughts and beliefs of others, that is what they will embrace.

The Bible has a lot to say about relationship skills and gives us very specific instructions in how to build them. They are found in the one another commands that apply to all of our relationships, both between husband and wife, and parent and child, since all of the above are also brothers and sisters in Christ. Ultimately, it will be through obeying these commands that any of us will enjoy the benefits and delights of a godly marriage.

Finally, one more point I think is important to consider as we help our daughters develop godly relationships is that we want to raise daughters who eschew either radical dependence and or independence. Instead, we want to see our daughters develop a healthy view of biblical interdependence with others.

Young women who tend toward a hyper independence often experienced a parenting example where the father was extremely controlling and the mother was passive. Others have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of fathers or others and thus protect themselves by building relationships with no men. Still others become overly independent because they have bought into some notion that to be successful, they have to compete with men. All of these myths result in failing to build good relationships with either men or women.

At the other end of the spectrum are women who become overly dependent and passive, behaving like children and not being able to take the initiative to behave as responsible adult women. Our goal is to raise daughters who will recognize the value of relationships with others within the body of Christ and specifically within their homes where they can minister to one another and depend on one another in God-honoring ways.

For a more expanded teaching on the one anothers, you might want to listen to these podcasts:

One Anothering Mothering, Part One
One Anothering Mothering, Part Two

Also, there are several articles on this blog regarding applying the one anothers in our homes in the April, 2007 archives.
Next I will discuss the importance of daughters preparing for marriage by being students of the Word.


Raising Homeschooled Daughters by Preparing Them Spiritually, part eight

In the past few weeks I have really been enjoying a series of sermons that my pastor has preached on the smaller epistles in the New Testament. So many of the things he has talked about has spurred me on to further study and reflection. I hurry into the pew each week, my notebook and Bible in hand, anxiously ready to absorb a new truth or to remember something I have learned in the past, eager to apply it to what is currently going on in my own life right now.

Unfortunately, I haven’t always been so excited about studying Scripture or learning new spiritual truths. Over the 45 years I have been a Christian, there have been times when I was indifferent to the Bible. Other times I have found the study to be dry and tedious and have only read from routine. But other times I have approached the study of God’s Word as though I was on a treasure hunt, looking for the rare and precious truths that I know are waiting for me to find.

In our earliest years of parenting I assumed that these sorts of truths were for older students and that most of it was supposed to come from Sunday school and Bible clubs. It wasn’t until we began to really think through our responsibilities as parents and the incredible privilege we had been given, that of making disciples of Jesus, that I could understand the importance of teaching Spiritual truth to our children ourselves and to begin early.

While most of what I want to share today ought to be applied to both sons and daughters, I believe it is especially valuable to consider the importance of teaching our daughters the importance of being Bible students as they prepare for marriage and for all of life. Often we tend to think that only the fathers in the household will be the ones teaching spiritual truth to our grandchildren. In fact, Scripture calls us to teach them about God in this way: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9

Since moms are the ones who are spending the majority of the time with children during the course of a day, fulfilling this command, it naturally makes sense to me that our daughters, the future mothers of our grandchildren, will be prepared for the task.

As we prepare them to do this, I would identify three areas where we must prepare them for this most important service: Bible knowledge, sound doctrine, and application of Biblical truth. Here are a few suggestions for teaching our daughters these things:

Bible knowledge ~ Frequent reading and memorizing Scripture is where you start gaining Bible knowledge. Choose a version you are comfortable with and it helps if the whole family uses the same one, especially if you memorize together. As each of our children were learning to read, family Bible reading time became another way to give them practice and to encourage them to read the Bible themselves. Awana clubs and Kids for Truth are also great places to enhance what you are teaching at home and Bible quizzing and other Scripture memory and Bible knowledge programs can also further their learning.

When my children were junior high age, I introduced them to a Strong’s Concordance and taught them how to use it, how to cross-reference, how to look at the verse in the context of the passage and how the exact words were used in other passages of Scripture. Keeping a dictionary handy, we all increased our vocabulary and began to recognize patterns of phrases and writers’ styles and we studied the Bible text.

Sound Doctrine
~ Each family will have their own beliefs regarding Bible doctrine and the non-essentials of the faith. When our children were in high school, one of the things we added to our curriculum was reading and discussing some of the writings of R. C. Sproul Sr. and Francis Schaeffer. Always central to whatever we presented was the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and what that means in the lives of our children. Here are a few of those tools which we found helpful:

Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine by H. Wayne House
Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament by John H. Walton
Chronological and Background Charts of the New Testament by H. Wayne House
Chronological and Background Charts of Church History by Robert C. Walton
Strong’s Concordance
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
Calvin’s Institutes
Berghof’s Systematic Theology
Sermons of Charles H. Spurgeon
Westminster Confession of Faith by G.I. Williamson
Westminster Confession of Faith in Cartoons by Vic Lockman
Catechism for Children
Heidelberg Catechism
Online Resource Bible Gateway and Bible Crosswalk

Also, having them keep a personal journal of their faith walk will be a source of strength and encouragement to them in the future when they face decisions and times of crisis. We did this by having them write down insights from daily Bible reading in a notebook and asking them to include how that passage applied to them at that particular time. Seeing how God has worked in the past will help them to face the future, even during those most difficult times when they are struggling to understand how God will make everything good in its time.

Application of Scripture
~ This is the most important aspect of training our daughters to prepare for marriage and family life. as well as for working or volunteering. Relationship skills are crucial to living a productive life, whether it be at work or at home and I think that, frankly, this is one of the most lacking skills our children have. Most homeschoolers stress character training and that is certainly a part of applying Scripture to life. But simply memorizing character traits isn’t enough. Godly character can only be developed as we practice applying God’s Word to daily life and as we observe it being applied by others. Reading biographies about men and women who were used by the Lord is one way to “observe.” Also, planning specific projects for your children will give them a training ground for applying Scripture and will purposefully give them an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to speak to them and through them in many ways.

Here are some of the books we have used and have found helpful for planning specific projects for each child:

The Practical Works of Richard Baxter
Encyclopedia of Bible Truths for School Subjects
A Homework Manual for Biblical Living by H. Wayne Mack, 1 and 2
Suffering: A Biblical Survey to use with the book Joni
Memory Verses for Daughters on the Path to Womanhood by Doorposts
Polished Cornerstones by Doorposts
When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James
Lost Women of the Bible by Carolyn Custis James
Spurgeon’s Sermons on Old Testament Women, 1 and 2
Spurgeon’s Sermons on New Testament Women, 1 and 2

As we prepare our daughters for life, building them up in the faith and giving them tools for understanding God and who He is, I pray that we moms will also be built up and encouraged, strengthened ourselves for the days ahead. I would love to hear from any of you and the resources you have found to be helpful either when you were a young homeschooled student or now that you are training daughters (and sons)!