Saturday, July 27, 2013

On Trial, Again

(Previously published at and The Leah Messenger 2010)

I thought I'd share an article from my homeschool days since this fall ends my years of homeschooling. An experience I will miss.

Some days I’d like to disappear. The conversation twists into one of those uncomfortable, tongue-tied moments—the perfect time to test time-warp travel. And I’m sure my tongue knots easier than most. Yesterday was one of those tongue-tied-get-me-outta-here days.

Sunlight skipped in and out of clouds; every few minutes, I’d throw on my sweater only to yank it off again. The unique scent of hot turf, sweaty boys, and garbage trucks, rose up from the soccer field—worse than rotten broccoli, the potpourri of sports. But my son’s soccer game was exciting and I could ignore the smells tickling my nose, at least until half time, when I’d join the other soccer moms in complaining.

“Ooh, that smell is unbearable,” I said to the moms next to me on the bench, covering my nose with the back of my hand.

“I know. You’d think they could park their dump trucks somewhere else, away from a soccer field full of kids.”

“I guess it doesn’t bother the kids. Andrew’s cleats smell like they were born in the dump.”

“Same with Dillon’s. There’s nothing worse than his sweaty soccer socks; although, our dog loves them.”

We chuckled while watching our boys charge at the goal. Then the conversation turned toward schoolwork.

“I don’t know how Dillon can run—last night he stayed up past midnight working on Ms. Glasstein’s history project.”

“She gives way too much homework,” Page scrunched her nose—was it the stench or the thought of homework? “Tommy never gets to sleep before eleven.”

I stared straight at the field so they wouldn’t ask—

But Mary did. “Who does Andrew have this year? Not Mr. Woods, I hope.”

“No, not him.”

“That’s good,” said Mary. “So he must have Mrs. Marino or Mrs. Thomas.”


They cocked their heads in confusion—two perplexed puppies trying to process my words.

“Does he go to private school?”

“No, he’s homeschooled.”

Now, the questions—the same questions I’ve heard since I started homeschooling ten years ago. . .

“Oh, hmm, really?” said Page.

“Wow, do you have the patience of Job?” asked Mary.

“Not really.”

Page’s eyes lit up as if she figured the answer to an ancient riddle. “Are you a certified teacher?”

“No, just a mom.” Okay, you can blink now—I’m not an alien, determined to rule my kids’ lives.

Mary’s forehead wrinkled. “How do you know he’s working at the right level?”

I’d have loved to say, “Andrew has the same IQ as Einstein,” but he’s no Einstein. A circus performer, maybe.

“I give him quizzes every week and he takes a standardized test at the end of each year.” But I knew that wouldn’t satisfy their curiosity.

Page asked right on cue: “Well, how does he do socially? I mean he’s not around his peers all day.”

So? “He does have three brothers and a sister. Does he look strange to you?”

“No, of course not,” they responded quickly.

But I was sure they’d be quick to notice any odd behavior and blame it on his lack of peer contact. Or me. This had been easy up until this point, but I knew the most challenging question was coming.

Page squinted in the sun. “Do you mind me asking. . . why did you decide to homeschool?”

They stared at me, the teacher on trial. I could almost hear their thoughts: Is she qualified to teach her children?

I debated—should I give them the real answer, testify to my relationship with God, say homeschooling was His plan or chicken out and beat around the invisible bush? I would have to endure the now-I-know-you’re-nuts look. They waited for my answer.

“Mmm . . . many reasons.” I could feel feathers sprouting. “They’re taught in the method that suits each individually.” Cluck, cluck. “We can finish quickly and take field trips.” Cock-a-doodle-doo. “And there’s no peer pressure at home.” Before the rooster crowed three times, I decided to tell the real reason…

“And because—”

Suddenly, Andrew bounded over and interrupted me. “Mom, could I please have my water? I’m sooo thirsty.” Sweat trickled down his cheeks.

“Sure, buddy.”


Half-time ended and so did my bumbling attempt to defend my choice to homeschool. The rooster may not have crowed, but I felt as guilty as Paul must have for missing the opportunity to share my faith.

A cool breeze tickled my neck, reminding me God was still there; I’d get another chance. I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d be on trial. Again.



Friday, July 19, 2013

What's Your Name?

Something I never talk about, but a slight annoyance I have to deal with every day: my name. Okay, I know there are a lot more important issues to deal with, but sometimes you got to vent about the insignificant matters in life like burnt toast and bad hair days.

I don’t hate my name…if it’s said right. That’s the problem: nine times out of ten, I get called what someone thinks is my name. Frances is the name on my birth certificate, which is fine. I can’t blame my parents. My mom is a wonderful person who deserves to have her child named after her. But I’ve always been called Francie. The nickname came from A Tree Goes in Brooklyn, a favorite novel of theirs that year. If they read the Bible back then, I could be Sarah or Rachel, nice easy names.

Unless I spell it out and even if I do, people say Francine. Do they think I forgot to write or pronounce the n? It’s not there. So I’m called Franny or Francine more often than not. I don’t even bother correcting their mistake. So I started spelling my name with a y, hoping it conjures up the rhyming name Nancy. No one would ever say Nancine. I hope. Hmmm…I guess I’m complaining about the letter N. Am I acting like the Grouch on Sesame Street?

When it came to naming our own kids, we were careful to pick Bible names that wouldn’t give them name problems in the future. Even still, our daughter, Jordan, complains that having the initials J. J. gets her called J.J. the jet plane. And Aaron used to have trouble with r’s and called himself Aawin. I understand their anguish.

Are there any other Francies out there with the same problem? Or does anyone else have a “name problem?” Please share. I will sympathize with you.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Joy Happens

I am older today, and hopefully wiser. I’ve always liked having a birthday two days before the Fourth of July. As a kid, I would pretend all the fireworks were for me. Yes, the entire country wanted to celebrate my birthday. I’m just soooooo famous. I imagined having a first kiss under the night sky as it exploded with color. Ahhh, and who doesn’t like the smell of burnt firecrackers and the sizzle of sparklers? All for me. 

But the truth is—and here is where the wiser part fits in—joy won’t happen if all I live for is serving me. I spent enough years trying to wiggle my way into the mouse size tunnel of perfectionism, where all the perfectly happy people hide. Even if I could reach such a place, it would be boring. A place where perfect people spend all their time staying perfect.  

Joy happens when we give our lives to God and seek His will. Even the smallest gesture of kindness to our fellow imperfect neighbors adds a notch to our joy line. The closer I follow Jesus, the wiser I’ll be. No matter what age. Let’s spread joy today, and I’ll share the fireworks.