Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Haiti in Pictures and Music

"Pray without ceasing" 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV)

Watch the video:

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40: 29-31 (NIV)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Breaking the Orphanage Stereotype

I was thrilled to see an essay in the Wall Street Journal yesterday praising the merits of and setting the record straight on orphanages. One of the first movies I saw in a theater was "Oliver." I'll never forget the emotional impact of watching Oliver stand, his grey bowl raised up in his hands, in front of the grim authoritarian figure and ask "Please sir, I want some more." From that day on the word "orphanage" brought nothing but a feeling of depression.

Then, about two years ago, a wonderful feature story ran in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel covering a reunion of adults now in their 50's on-up who had been raised by nuns in a Catholic orphanage. All of the reunion-goers shared the warmth, guidance and care they'd received in the orphanage. This place that was their home had recently closed, and if I remember correctly not one of the alumni was happy about it. In fact, they were quite sorry to see the orphanage shut down. That article was the beginning of basing my opinion of orphanages on fact instead of hollywood fiction.

As I got involved in various mentoring programs over the years, and served on the board of a group home, I became even more convinced that foster care and group homes and keeping families together cannot be the standard. Orphanages need to be added to the mix of options in caring for children. As wonderful as some foster care is, sadly it can be highly inconsistent and unprotected "care." Being shuffled from one living situation to the next, and changing schools a dozen times a year is not the ideal way to "care" for children. Nor is the herculean attempt by social service organizations to "keep families together" when those families are highly dysfunctional and downright sick.

I think the people most qualified to tell the truth about orphanages are those who grew up in one themselves. Richard B. McKenzie is one of those people, and he is the author of this Wall Street Journal article, "The Best Thing About Orphanages."

To hear a thoughtful and fact-filled take on orphanages, click on this link to hear an interview featuring McKenzie and others closely involved with orphanages, including a woman who runs a very contemporary orphanage in North Carolina. This residential living center, as they call it, is not the orphanage of "Oliver." Listen to the enlightening interview here:

"Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Many people are wondering how to help the people of Haiti following the earthquake there. Samaritan's Purse, a Christian relief organization headed up by Franklin Graham, was on the ground in Haiti within hours of the earthquake.

I participated in one disaster relief trip with this group, and I highly recommend them. Along with food, shelter, water and medical care, Samaritan's Purse offers the Good News of Jesus Christ that will endure forever. When the relief workers return home, it is the people of Haiti who must continue to re-build their lives. With Jesus Christ, they won't go it alone, and will know the hope and peace that comes from a saving faith in Him.

To donate online, go to

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:37-40

“This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome…” 1 John 5:3

Monday, January 4, 2010

Kudos to Homeschooling

At the beginning of the current school year, I began homeschooling my son, who is a sophomore in high school. He is still enrolled in math and science at the public high school, and we are grateful for that. My reasons for homeschooling him are numerous and personal, and I don’t see the need to go into them. The point is, I’m doing what I and my son feel is best for him. (I chuckle when people begin to ask me questions about homeschooling, and then, as if to really get me, they ask, ‘but what does he think of being homeschooled?') The fact is, he begged me to do it!

We’re both ecstatic with how things are going, and I wish I’d started sooner. That’s why I’m thrilled to see the following article in The Christian Post which reveals how home-schooled children excel as adults:

It gives the results of a survey taken by individuals aged 15-34 who have been homeschooled seven or more years of their K-12 education.

This article does much to redeem homeschooling from the rampant misinformation that exists, most of it promulgated by people who have never truly met a homeschooler and have never explored homeschooling for themselves. I’ve had educated adults who should know better "tsk tsk" the fact that they saw a homeschooled kid out “skateboarding” one day (so we must condemn all homeschoolers? Maybe he was taking his recess!)

The most common response I’ve gotten from people since beginning homeschooling is “what about his socialization?” As if being thrown into an institution which you cannot leave until 2 or 3:30 each day where kids bully, swear and do all sorts of rude and ill-mannered things to other children and their teachers is the ideal setting for socialization! My son, having attended Christian and public schools up until now, is quite socialized. He has a job and goes to youth group and a Monday night Bible study and many of his friends are those he’s made outside of high school. And if we’re honest, we have to admit that sometimes “socialization” with the peer group can be a detriment when reaching high school age, where peer pressure to date and drink can come on pretty strong.

For those who have been and will be homeschooled in entirety, the world is full of amazing home school social groups. A mom who is beginning the schooling of her fourth child comes to mind. She is completely plugged in to a terrific home school group at her church, numbering in the hundreds. They go on field trips, enroll in sports at the YMCA, celebrate birthdays and holidays together and on and on. They are just as active, if not more, than kids in regular schools.

The Christian Post article does not ignore the question of socialization. It found that “most (70 percent)” respondents “disagreed with the common criticism of home education that children have too few opportunities for socialization with other children and went as far as to claim that they had plenty of opportunities for socializing with other children. Only 10.7 percent claimed that the criticism was most certainly the case in their situation.”

Two who responded negatively to their home school socialization said, “[I was] so different from others my age and [felt] somewhat awkward” and “I feel I could have had more social interaction.” But the same can be said for those taught in a public school as well! Ask any student in any grade if they’ve ever felt awkward or that they didn’t fit in, and I bet most will answer "yes." Especially at the high school level, many students feel like they don't fit in and wish they were more “popular,” meaning they wish they had more friends. Hasn’t conformity been a recurring problem in the schools, primarily for those who don’t conform but also for those who lose their individuality or cave in to peer pressure when they do?

My point here is to praise the positives of homeschooling and lift it up as a truly viable, sophisticated and creative choice in today’s world of computers and community home school groups. It is mind-boggling to see just how many resources there are, from computer classroom programs, to charter programs that combine with home-schooling, and great curriculums (many with a Christian worldview, like the world history one I’m using).

I can also create my own curriculum: My son wanted to read “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair so we did. He wants to be a missionary so we added a Bible class. I have a degree in Journalism and experience in writing, so I’ve been able to customize an English/creative writing program. He’s participated in team sports in all of his previous phy ed classes, so now we can mix it up with bowling, power-walking with the pedometer and biking and golfing in the Spring. This Wednesday he’ll be downhill skiing.

Homeschooling is one of the coolest things I’ve ever had the privilege of experiencing. In this day and age, the options and approaches are limitless. It’s not for everyone or for every child. (My oldest is in college and was never homeschooled.) But homeschooling is the perfect choice for some and it’s time for the goofy mythology and wacky rumors surrounding it to go. Hopefully as more articles like this one in The Christian Post come to the fore homeschooling will gain the universal respect it deserves.

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6