Thursday, March 19, 2015

Living a Consecrated Life- Part 1


This past Sunday, I was asked to speak in church, and learned so much from the subject I was assigned! The title of my talk was to be "Living a Consecrated Life," and I had a wonderful time learning more about consecration and what it means to consecrate our lives to God. 

Because I want to remember the lessons I learned, I thought I would share my talk here on my personal blog as a way to keep a record for myself out in the internet cloud. Maybe it will also help someone else in the great "out there".

Love, Mama Rachel


What is “consecration”?

Elder D. Todd D. Christofferson said,
“To consecrate is to set apart or dedicate something as sacred, devoted to holy purposes. True success in this life comes in consecrating our lives—that is, our time and choices— to God’s purposes. ” 

For us, consecration means that we devote our means to do good, to give service, and to help the Lord's children. 

In order to do this, first and foremost, we must remember that everything we have comes from our Heavenly Father. In the early history of the Church, Martin Harris was told through revelation that he needed to mortgage his farm in order to fund the printing of the Book of Mormon. To us, this may seem like an overwhelming request, as I am sure it was for Brother Harris.

In Doctrine and Covenants section 19, verses 23, 24, 26 we can read exactly what it was that the Lord said to him:
“Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me. I am Jesus Christ; I came by the will of the Father, and I do his will. And again, I command thee that thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely.” 
This scripture really make me examine myself and how I use the blessings that the Lord has given me. If everything we have truly comes from God, then we DO need to use what we have been given in the way he wants us to use it. And anyone who is familiar with the Savior's teachings knows how much he emphasized caring for the poor.

Blessing Others

The Lord gives us a very specific way to keep the law of consecration that is used to bless the lives of those who need help.

In Doctrine and Covenants section 42, verses 30 and 31, the Lord tells us:
“And behold, thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support that which thou hast to impart unto them, with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken. And inasmuch as ye impart of your substance unto the poor, ye will do it unto me;”
If everything we have comes from the Lord, then we must not keep back anything that the Lord asks us to give. 

The latter-day prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, said: 
“It is incumbent upon us to put away selfishness in our families, our business and professional pursuits, and our Church affairs. These things should not be. Let us resolve today to overcome any such tendencies.
In our family, we have had some very personal experiences with others helping us with their means in the spirit of true consecration.

First of all, we can never forget some of our dear friends who lived in Provo at the same time as us. We both had young families, and both households were struggling to make ends meet.

Russell and I were specifically struggling with some debts and medical bills that we could never seem to catch up on. I had not told my friend everything, but she could tell that our finances were strained.

One day, the wife in this couple arrived at our home with an envelope in her hand. She expressed her love for us, and left us watching her drive away with the envelope unopened. As I carefully tore it open, I found a check for $500 with a note enclosed. All the note said was,
"Heavenly Father told us that this money is for you, not us. Love, C. & A."
We were humbled and in awe of how much the Lord loved us, and in how blessed we were to have such dear friends that listened to the Lord's promptings with such diligence.

On another occasion, a few years down the road, we now had six children and I was pregnant with our seventh. We had been driving a 1978 Chevy Suburban without air-conditioning, but we knew that we would no longer be able to safely transport all of us in the eight seat belts the Suburban had. But we just didn't have money for anything new!

One day, out of the blue, a family in our ward called us and proposed that they give us their fifteen passenger van. They apologized that it had a lot of miles on it, but that it had a new engine and should run well for some time.

I was astonished! This family had thirteen children of their, and yet they were offering us their van? The wife explained to me that they had several drivers in the family now, and that they usually used more than one vehicle when going places, so they didn't really need it any more.

Sheepishly, we offered to exchange our Suburban for their van, and they agreed. (They actually used the Suburban as a project, and drove it for several years afterwards.)

Both of our families were blessed because of the generosity and spirit of true consecration that this one family showed in helping us as fellow saints and members of the church. They lived a consecrated life.

We have been blessed by the generosity of other families several times over the years, each situation being one that was inspired by the spirit of consecration. And because of the excellent example of wonderful people in our lives, we also have been inspired to "pay it forward" and help others we come across in our lives.

And that means that ALL of us are blessed, thanks to living a "consecrated life."

Watch for Part 2 coming soon: "Building the Lord's Kingdom"

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Homeschooling Teens


This post was originally published at Latter-Day Homeschooling on January 19, 1012. It has been updated and edited since that original post.

Lately it seems that I've been inundated with the desperate question, "How do you keep homeschooling through high school?!" I have some pretty strong opinions on the subject, but hopefully I can effectively articulate why I encourage homeschooling moms to "stick it out" through the teen years.

Why do so many homeschooling parents send their teens to high school?

There comes a point in the lives of most homeschooled teens when they want to do something more than spend time with their parents and siblings at home. This is not an indication that homeschooling has failed you or your family, or that parents have done anything wrong in homeschooling their children.

It is a perfectly normal process for EVERY teen-- homeschooled or not-- to take a second look at the things they have been taught and believe to be true. This is the transition to adulthood, and it's a GOOD thing! Every person needs to come to their own conclusions about truth and right in order to establish and fortify the core beliefs that will be the foundation for their adult lives.

This time of spiritual examination is also a very tender, fragile thing. The strength of many people's testimonies are greatly effected by the decisions and circumstances surrounding this time of life. In a confused and lost society such as ours is it any wonder that so many mainstream youth fall away during the important teen years?

In the midst of all the teen confusion and unrest, many youth-- and their parents, I might add-- interpret their disorientation as an empty space that can only be filled with two words: High School. In their fear, these amazing youth and their concerned parents give up the idea of homeschooling through the teen years, and turn their education back over to the world.

And it's completely unnecessary. More on this in a moment.

Another reason so many homeschooling parents end up sending their kids off to high school is very easily explained, yet it also has the same root: fear. They are afraid that they can't teach algebra or chemistry, or calculus. Or they begin to fear that their child will be deprived of the high school events (like prom) or opportunities (like choir, orchestra, drama and sports) that their peers have.

As a side note, I know some people who were sent to high school after being homeschooled as children. And even though they may have been the ones who BEGGED to go back to school, they unequivocally all tell me that they wish their parents had stuck it out, and kept them at home.

Looking toward the Future (or "What about college?!")

Okay, so we all can understand WHY youth and parents give up homeschooling during the teen years, but why should we concern ourselves with this trend in homeschooling? I mean, at least they were homeschooled when they were younger. Right?

Well, yes.

And no.

Choosing to homeschool is a HUGE decision, and not one that anyonetakes lightly. I get that; I've been there. But homeschooling is not so much about where a child sits to be educated, as it is about embracing an entire lifestyle and family culture.

Even with the acceptance of the lifestyle and confirmation we get from small homeschool victories and domestic harmony, eventually most parents start to feel the fear and pressure of their children's futures looming ever closer. *Questions starting from "How can I prepare my child to take the ACT/SAT test?", "How do I create a transcript?" and"Should my child get a diploma or take the GED?" usually escalate to questions like "Will my/their favorite college accept homeschoolers?"and "What about scholarships?".

And if a parent then also forgets the reasons they homeschooled in the first place, and dismiss seeking out inspiration from the Lord, the fear and panic of the unknown can set in and take over quickly. But if we stay in tune to the Spirit and calmly look to other experienced homeschooling parents and to our Heavenly Father for the answers to our questions, the fear subsides and peace returns.

By the way, I want to quickly answer some of the *Questions above:

  • Look at www.khanacademy.com and other websites, as well as local community classes, to easily find help and support in preparing for the ACT or SAT tests. 
  • A simple search online can give you several options for creating your child's home school transcripts. (My personal favorite is www.thehomescholar.com.)
  • Neither a diploma NOR the GED is required to attend most colleges-- especially community college, several of which do not even require an ACT or SAT score. 
  • Most colleges today go out of their way to recruit homeschooled students, and many, MANY homeschoolers go to college on full scholarships. 
  • Just do your homework for the colleges you and your child find interesting, and make your plans from there.

Beyond College

I am going to be brutally honest here: I hope my children grow up and marry other homeschoolers so that my grandchildren will also be homeschooled.

Yes, I have dared to utter this desire aloud because it's the honest-to-goodness truth for me! Yes, I may be an idealist and a hopeless dreamer, but I believe in setting goals. And if I want my family's hopes and dreams to come true, I have to think through the possibilities my children's futures hold.

So I am asking these questions: If wave after wave of homeschooled families give up and send their teens back to High School, then WHO will marry the teens who continue to homeschool through the teen years? Who do they date when they come home from their missions? Do I really want to just send my children off to college (Yes, even Church run schools) and hope that they can find someone to marry who will desire, much less understand, homeschooling?

What Youth Really Need

Going back to that idea that youth around the age of twelve begin to want something "more," I wish to share some alternatives to sending high school age kids back into the publicly-funded school system.

It's a fact that most youth begin to feel the draw of having peers near their age and maturity level once they reach the teen years. They naturally want people besides their family members with whom they can discuss their thoughts and ideas. In fact, they feel a great desire to see what their peers are doing and measure themselves in academic and spiritual comparison. As I stated above, this is perfectly normal and right. But it is also true that this adult transition period is fraught with dangers our children may not come out of spiritually unscathed. Thus it is of greatest importance that homeschooled youth have other homeschooled friends and comrades to socialize with.

If you haven't witnessed a group of homeschooled teens getting together to learn, work OR play, you have missed out! It is delightful! They don't sit and text in the presence of one another, they don't talk about frivolous things like the physical attributes of members of the opposite sex, what fashions they or their friends are wearing, the latest pop artists, or of the stupidity of their parents and teachers. Instead, they discuss books they're reading or experiments they're trying (actually, they usually just start impromptu experiments right then) or start singing and jamming on instruments, or discuss philosophy and politics.

The most effective of teen gatherings I have seen involve regular, shared learning in small-ish groups with caring, inspiring adult mentors. These teens need to be with their peers, but they also need guidance from adults they can trust that are not their parents. And their parents need to know that these mentors can be trusted to strongly reinforce truth. These mentors can be powerful second witnesses for the parents and the values they have sought to instill in their children.

When I know my children's friends' parents, I enthusiastically encourage them to spend time with one another. I am more willing to facilitate and transport my children to various events and classes. These familial relationships are the glue that holds the teen relationships together!

And when I know the beliefs, the habits, and the environments of these other families, I begin to make mental notes and secret plans about the possibilities in my children's futures. Of course, these huge decisions for their lives will ultimately be up to them! (Yes, they really WILL be!) But again; a mom can dream, right???


You Can Do It!

So how do you find a group like this for your teens? Well, first of all, there is always the wonderful, helpful Internet. There are MANY e-mail lists and homeschool support groups out there, so find one in your area that works for your family, and dive in. If these groups don't offer teen events or classes, and especially if you cannot find an LDS homeschool group in your area, START SOME.

This may seem like a daunting prospect, but when we remind ourselves that we are doing this for our children, we begin to have strength and skills we never knew we had! There are many, MANY possibilities in this arena, so don't limit yourself. Simply consider your child and their needs and interests, do a bit of homework, add in a lot of prayer and involvement, and begin. These classes don't need to be complicated, but they should be something your child-- and you-- will enjoy doing.

Some great places to start for ideas, and even for ready-made classes can be found here and here. (And if you know of others online or elsewhere, please share the links and other information in the comments!)

Start a teen book club and let your child choose the first book to discuss. Be sure to help lead the discussion, but don't take it over, and don't be afraid of long, quiet pauses in the beginning weeks or months. (They're thinking-- so don't interrupt! wink)

Or take a good look at your skills and abilities, and go from there. I've created choirs, cooking groups, sword-fighting events, and taught Shakespeare classes and drama groups. Some have been successes, and some haven't been, but they HAVE been what my children needed at the time, so I press on.

If you do have moms in your area that are teaching youth classes or leading youth groups, be brave and join in. As a parent, be sure to become involved in the group, too, as much as you can. This will help you get to know the other parents, which will in turn help your child have the best experience possible. Just dropping your child off at a weekly or monthly class does nothing to build and solidify the homeschooling community, so get involved! The friendships and support you glean from these situations will be a valuable gift you can give to your family and yourself.

Above all, remember that Heavenly Father gave you these children to raise. He loves them even more than you do, so seek his counsel in everything. He will give you the strength and confidence you need to then turn and give your children the educational and life experiences they require for a successful future.

Even when it involves homeschooling teens.

You can do it!!!

Love, Mama Rachel