Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Seats Added to December Log Home Builders Class

For those who share my desire to build a log home one day, here's some updated information on the December classes:

Hi everyone,

We have added a few extra seats to the two December classes. The classes were full, but we managed to add some seats. Space is very limited, and we have no future classes scheduled at this point.

There are 2 class dates in December, and you can use the links below for to get additional information.

Choose which class you want to attend:
December 6th & 7th class
December 13th & 14th class

These classes are at the beautiful the Wallace Falls Lodge, a local log home bed and breakfast. There are currently two rooms still available for the class on 12/6, if you would like to spend the weekend at the bed and breakfast along with your instructor and fellow students. You can use the link below to get additional information about the B&B option (price, what's included, etc).

December 6th & 7th room

As always, please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.

Your friend,

Chuck Kerns, membership services (
Log Home Builders Association

If you have any questions about the class, what I learned, why I think you should go, or need my help building yours, just ask!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What about college?

[The following is an article I wrote in 2004 for the CHEACT newsletter. I have not modified it, so some of the references are specific to that time and place and it far from exhausts options on the topic, but someone recently asked me "What about college?" so I thought some might benefit from me posting this here.]

The most recent time I heard this question was from a couple in Tennessee. They called me because my phone number is on the front page of the CHEACT website. . . for the dad's breakfast I organized. They're both educators: she's in the public schools, he's a college admissions officer. Turns out, his sister was on her way back home to Texas and was planning to homeschool when she got here.

"What type of umbrella program do you have?" the sister-in-law asked.

"We don't."

"Why not?"

"In Texas, homeschools are private schools and are not regulated by the state with regards to schedule, curriculum or teach credentials."

"Well, what about college?" She was asking this about her 8-year-old nephew.

What ABOUT college?

First of all, I don't consider college to be a given for any of my children. It's not always necessary and the benefits are many time offset by many worldly negatives. I'm raising them for heaven, not Harvard.

But, that's not what she was asking, so I didn't even go there. Her question was: "When my nephew has `graduated' from homeschool, what university is going to accept him?"

The truth is: MANY colleges and universities, service academies and vocational schools around the country are actively seeking homeschoolers. But there are still some things you, as a parent, need to consider.

High School Diploma

Are you planning to issue one? The Texas Homeschool Coalition (THSC) sells a very nice one that you can personalize for your school. As their site says: "In Texas, as private school officials, parents decide the requirements for high school graduation. When met, the student may receive a diploma." See their website,, for more information.

Of course, THSC doesn't certify or recognize completion of a course of study simply by selling the diploma. That's up to you. You should keep records of course work, especially the last four years of your child's schooling so that you can create a transcript to show to a college. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) also has some great pointers for preparing for college at their website:

Accelerated Distance Learning

Brad Voeller, a homeschool graduate, is also a college graduate. Great achievement, to be sure. But what makes Brad unique is that he received his college degree in less than six months for less than $5000. And he wrote a book telling others how to do it: Accelerated Distance Learning: The New Way to Earn Your College Degree in the Twenty-First Century. Vision Forum and other great outlets carry it.

Dual Credit at a Community College

Did you know that most community colleges don't require a high school transcript in order to enroll? Did you know that most universities don't require a high school transcript if a student has 30 hours of college credit?

This has long been a popular option for homeschoolers. Simply enroll your child in classes at the local community college his or her sophomore year. It doesn't have to be a full load of classes: just 5 hours per semester. And you can count the coursework toward fulfillment of the high school diploma while your student is gaining college credit and experience.

By the time they graduate from high school, they'll have 30 hours of college credit and can transfer to the four-year college of their choice as a sophomore.

With just a little forethought and planning, your homeschooled student will be well on his or her way to a college degree, should the Lord take them in that direction.

[For a list of colleges that actively seek homeschoolers, see Homeschooling Today magazine's College Locator. —JBH]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

STOP Homeschooling!

As the Editor-in-Chief of Homeschooling Today magazine, I am often asked questions about getting started homeschooling.

I was recently asked this question by the father of a young lady who has been diagnosed with ADHD and is not doing well in the government education system.

After encouraging this loving dad to pray for wisdom and look up his state's homeschooling laws at HSLDA, I felt led to offer a paradigm shift in the way he might be looking at homeschooling. The rest of this post contains that recommendation.

Looking at it differently

Once you've done those two things [pray and contact HSLDA], take a step back and try (it's going to be hard, but it's worth it) to forget everything you know about institutional education models: classes, curriculums, schedules, credentials, grades, expectations, etc. The common term for what you're talking about doing is "homeschooling," but it's a misnomer: neither does your child learn only at home, nor is what you're doing schooling. Schooling is a completely different animal from learning, education, and discipleship. Those three things can happen in the midst of schooling, but they really aren't the same thing.

Like most parents, your goals for your daughter probably don't match up with the school system's goals for her. They want to her to be socialized, which means to be worked into her proper place in the social system. You want her to be a responsible caring adult who enjoys life, liberty, and happiness. Again, those two can go together, but not always.

Train up a child in the way he should go

Before mandatory high school after WWII, no one was diagnosed as ADHD. Not that no one should have been diagnosed, but today's classroom can exacerbate the symptoms, leading to more diagnoses. Ask yourself this question: "What is it that ADHD students are required to pay attention to that they show a deficiency in? And since hyper is a comparative prefix, "They're hyperactive compared to what?" Some of the activities your daughter is engaging may not be "normal," but the institutional environment she is in may be part of the problem. And if you think about it, no one is normal. Every single person is an individual and has inherent value for the way God created them.

The institutional setting—for all practical purposes—requires every person born within a one-year window to behave the same, learn the same subjects at the same rate, dress the same, enjoy the same things, etc. But the truth is that some children excel in math, some excel in language arts, others excel in art; some do well in athletics, some in chess, some in auto shop, and others in music; some excel in mercy, some in love, some in giving, others in administration, and still others in leadership and/or service. Each one has infinite worth as an individual, and yet each one also has his limitations. Above all else, your daughter needs your love, your exhortation, your discipline, and your caring. In addition to that, she needs to be able to balance a checkbook, understand chemical reactions in the kitchen, write a letter of complaint when a product or service is deficient, and take care of the things she has. Most of those things are useful and needful in our society. And only a few are taught through schooling.

Don't homeschool

Back to the homeschooling. A curriculum is only part of what you need, and it doesn't have to be purchased from anyone. Many that try to be "complete" and one-size-fits-all, are rather incomplete and one-size-fits-none. If you are in a state that enjoys freedom of schedule, my advice is to pull your daughter out of the institutional setting she is in and don't do any curriculum until you and your wife and your daughter have spent some time together just being a family. Define who you are as a family, but remove the stress of having to take "schooling" home.

The Founding Fathers of our nation are considered by most to be the most literate, well-read, and well-informed generation the world has ever known—before or since. (Thomas Jefferson conducted a survey which revealed a literacy percentage rate in the high 90s.) And most of them had very little formal schooling, if any. Those who did, didn't go to school until they were at around age nine or ten. If they went to "university," they did so at the age of fourteen-to-sixten. That's why you'll often hear that so-and-so had "no more than an eighth grade education." What they really had was only three or four years of schooling, and eighth grade was as high as it went. After that they were working, building a business, learning a trade, running the farm. They were not dunces who only completed the eighth grade and then dropped out.

So, all that to say, removing your daughter from that situation can be a major paradigm shift in the way you look at education. Their way may have (a) been the standard by which she was considered abnormal, and (b) exacerbated the manifestation of the problem. Don't pull her out of that just to keep her home to do it the same way. She may be acting out because she's bored with a subject she has already mastered. She may be acting out because she can't keep up with her classmates academically, so she tries to do it socially. It may be a combination of those two, or more.

But don't stress about her not getting enough schooling.

Baby steps toward a family culture of learning

If she has strong friendships, don't break those up right away (even if they're somewhat unhealthy) or she is likely to rebel against everything you are trying to do. The move to family discipleship needs to be the first step. When she knows that you care about her and love her and that is why you are doing what you are doing, then it will be easier to reason with her about further changes you want to make: whether that involves letting some friendships go, or accelerating some subjects she does well in, or stepping back a few steps to get back to her pace on other subjects, or spending less time on subjects and more on service or music or art or giving or a family business. Each step take together. You and your wife may have to adjust your strides a bit for all of you to stay together, but the rewards are worth it!

Don't do it alone

Back to my first suggestion. If you and your wife are not Christians, perhaps a lot of what I said is completely foreign to you or sounds impossible. I can tell you that in my home, were it not for Jesus Christ, all of what I mentioned above would be a shabby, weak façade that would not stand up against any kind of pressure. I would be glad to discuss that further, too, if you would like.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why we don't have health insurance…

It started when I changed jobs and went from being a W2 employee to a 1099 contractor without benefits. We learned fairly quickly that insurance costs everyone a lot more than it should. Let me explain:

Whenever we would have a doctor's visit and inform them that we were "self-pay," they would usually cut the bill in half. So, while we were paying more than a co-pay would have been, the doctor's office was not paying as much for claims processing and was able to return that savings to us. But insurance for our family of six would have cost us a minimum of $300/mo.—a great deal more than the extra we were paying at the doctor's office—and not covered co-pays, have a deductible of $5000, and give us only the tiniest discount on prescriptions. To get any real "benefit" from health insurance coverage, we would have had to pay $800 or more a month, which is more than our mortgage payment! We decided that we could put that $3600-9600/year to better use:

1. Because we know we are going to have to pay more out-of-pocket when we visit the doctor's office, as parents, we strive to improve our children's (and our) nutrition by eating foods as close to "whole" as we can. Because we ingest few preservatives and processed foods, we are not sick as often. (Not spending as much time in the doctor's office waiting room also cuts down on our exposure to colds and flu.)

2. Because we are not spending as much on insurance, we were able to increase our grocery budget, allowing us to afford the more healthful, closer to natural and whole foods, which keeps us healthier, and therefore needing less medical services/coverage.

3. Because we have chosen to take responsibility for our own health, my employer also doesn't incur the cost of paying for my health/lifestyle choices, and can use that money to invest in the business, including being able to pay me more for the work I do!

So, our reasons for making the "deliberate choice" were a matter of finances and adjusting the way we eat and buy groceries. A by-product of this choice is that we also don't contribute to medical coverage that we disagree with. Insurance, in many cases, has the practical effect of "wealth distribution" and "rewarding" those who don't take care of themselves by providing them with medical care to fix the problems they incur from unhealthy living.

As Christians, we believe that every person is imbued with value—whether they are healthy, productive adults or preborn children or aged and infirm. So, rather than planning to put our parents in a nursing home (another expensive option insurance-wise) to "run out the clock" when they can no longer take care of themselves, we are planning to provide housing and care for them. In fact, we have already brought my mother-in-law into our home to live with us, BEFORE she can't take care of herself.

Additionally—and not surprisingly—we are pro-life regarding preborn children. Our research (and that of friends in the industry) has shown that of all the insurance companies in the country, there are only a dozen insurance underwriters (the organizations that finance—and profit from—the insurance industry). While an individual company may not cover abortion, their underwriters most likely do. An industry professional was able to interview nine of the twelve underwriters: all nine they were able to contact pay for abortions. So, everyone who pays an insurance premium (unless one of the other three doesn't cover them) is paying into a fund that pays for abortions. That's not something we want to be a part of.

We do recognize, however, that there are real medical needs that others don't have the money to pay for and we should be willing to take on the burdens of others as we are able. That's part of the reason we are making plans to take care of our parents as they age. But, we also learn of needs through our church, through friends, and through people God brings into our lives. Rather than sending a check off to an unknown company that will then send a check to cover someone's expenses, we believe we are supposed to be more involved in people's lives than that. Someone who is suffering a painful and/or life-threatening ailment or injury needs more than money to cover their expenses: they need love and caring. I can't provide that to every person who receives a portion of my insurance premium. But, I can provide that to the specific people God brings into my life. My family can bring people into our home to share a meal; we can visit people in the hospital and pray for them; and we can take a meal to families who are celebrating a new life in their home and are resting after childbirth. The healing process is usually much more rapid when a personal touch is included with the care, rather than just relieving the monetary burden. It's a blessing when we're given the opportunity to provide both!

Fortunately, it's actually more cost-effective and healthful to eschew health insurance and take personal responsibility for our own family's health. And more loving and personal to take care of individual needs rather than handing off the responsibility to a claims process.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!

In light of today's elections in the United States, I want to draw your attention to God's work in the town of Nineveh in the days of Jonah. Many look at today's elections and are fearful that we are going to get a leader who will oppress us. Others see that whichever of the front-runners wins, it will be judgment on our country. What we need, they say, is a miracle.

No Guarantees

Talking vegetables notwithstanding, most folks know the story of Jonah. They know he was swallowed by a big fish for disobeying God. But most do not realize that Jonah was not sent to Ninevah with the message: "Stop sinning."

God's message for Nineveh was "Nineveh shall be overthrown." Jonah did not call them to repentance. In fact, chapter four of Jonah tells us that he did not want them to repent. He wanted the city to be destroyed for its crimes.

But, God turned the hearts of the people of Nineveh. They believed God, and fasted and prayed and grieved over their sin, "from the greatest to the least of them." After the people repented, the king of Nineveh heard and called for a fast.

"Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?" —Jonah 3:7b-9

The king had no word from God that there was any hope for mercy on Nineveh. But he chose to lead the people to spend their "final days" in prayer and fasting, denying themselves, and turning away from evil.

But God DID relent.

God Judges Nations

"He makes nations great, and destroys them;

      He enlarges nations, and guides them." —Job 12:23

Throughout the times of the Judges and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, godly and ungodly leaders reigned. Some were magnificent; some were cruel. But the judgment pronounced on the nation was that the people did what was right or wrong in God's eyes. If they followed the practices of an evil leader, judgment came as a result of the people's actions, not the leader. (The leader suffered the consequences of his own sin, to be sure. And causing others to stumble carries a hefty penalty.)

When judgment comes on a people, it comes because the people have forgotten God. They have done what is right in their own eyes. They have followed in the sins of their fathers.

Our fathers, a generation ago, made the murder of the most helpless of society a right. But, that stemmed from generations prior disbelieving God when He said that children are a blessing, and a reward from Him.

Around that same time, women began to throw off the safety and responsibility of hearth and home, choosing different chores instead. In the name of equality, they have devalued themselves, so that now they are no longer protected within the home, but are expected to place their lives on the line for their country.

And our country is under judgment. Consider the divorce rate; look at the crime rate; see how heavy is our tax burden; think of the laws that restrict our very lives. "Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. Blocking out the scenery and breaking my mind. Do this, don't do that. Can't you read the signs?"

Removing the Log

In Economics, the Law of the Commons tells us why whales are endangered and cows are not. It comes down to ownership. Cows are the private property of the rancher. He takes responsibility for his cattle, for their health, their survival and multiplication. Whales belong to no one. If one whaler doesn't kill all he can, another whaler will. There is no incentive (or protection) to save some to protect the species. They're succeptible to "just one more" until there are no more.

Judgment is the same way. As long as we point to other people's sins and THEIR responsibility to do this, don't do that, we sin "just one more" time. "It's just a little white lie." "My employer won't miss one box of staples, one pen, one marker, one minute of my time." "It won't hurt if I just take one peak at that internet site." "I'll place one vote for the lesser of two evils; next time I'll fight for more righteousness." Ad infinitum.

Yes, pray for miracle; pray for deliverance. But, first pray for a heart of repentance. I have no word from the Lord that our destruction is coming in forty days, but given our current course—as history shows us—bondage and captivity are coming.

Lord, teach us to loathe our sin. Remove our hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh that cry out, "Abba, Father." We are children caught with our hand in the cookie jar. We need your forgiveness; we need your righteousness. We dare not ask for your justice to be poured out on your enemies, for we know that we would perish in its wake, were it not for the blood of Christ alone. Rend our hearts over our own sin, and help us not to commit "just one more" sin against you. Thank you for your grace and mercy upon us. Amen.