The past couple of days have led to strong moments of self-evaluation and modeling for the kids. Funny how God seems to pull themes together if we look for them. I sometimes wonder if this is naturally occurring or something that just seems to spring up because of increased awareness of what is going on at any given moment.
But...I digress...we were talking about Socrates and questioning everything, bringing in idioms like "think outside the box" and explaining that, and the kids all made the connection that I did not help them see...that Thomas Jefferson was an original "outside the box" thinker with his experiment in new forms of government with America. We also talked about how much he lost in terms of time with his family in order to be instrumental in the formation our nation. But the key thing Josh picked up on and has mentioned several times, is that many of the world's great thinkers taught themselves, they pursued knowledge with a passion that one rarely sees anymore. He was really surprised to discover how much learning Lincoln, Jefferson and Franklin did all on their own...and he connected it with his own ability to teach himself whatever he would like to learn.
We have also talked a great deal this past week about the difference between wants and needs, and had to put it to the test on two occasions. Dominick and I have been considering getting "smart phones", which we do not currently have. His is not working well and needed to be replaced. Quite honestly, I don't use a cell phone much at all, but that is due in part to it not being a real "tool" for me beyond a phone. Being home much of the day means people can always reach me here if they need to. However, I am on the road a LOT alone with the kids, and definitely need access to a phone, and tools like GPS, on the fly email, and the ability to look up places on the 'net would be truly helpful. Dominick has no option and must have a phone as it is his only way to be contacted with a mobile business. He does not have an office phone, and operates solely with a cell.
But we weighed heavily whether a smart phone was a want or a need. We talked with the kids at length about this...is it a toy or a tool that will help us run our very busy lives more efficiently? Could we do without it? Obviously, we could as we have been all along. But would a standard phone make more sense? Were we falling prey to the world's values in feeling like we "gotta have it"? As I explained to our Pastor, who helped us graciously with the consideration of our purchase as she had just done a ton of research herself and is much like us in her use of technology, the additional $15 per phone for a data plan is, for some, not a big deal and many would never understand our reticence to commit to such a small monthly amount. For us, it is a carefully considered added expense, as we simply don't have the ability to pay for all the extras that some families can afford.
But there is another, more faith oriented consideration as well for us, which I realize might seem silly to some but is absolutely not to us. We have trusted God to provide for our family, when on paper it looks like this is ridiculous to be able to pull off. When we were in the process of deciding whether we really could handle two more children and all the costs associated with that, we recognized with complete certainty that WE could never handle it, but God could. It seemed clear that God wanted us to bring the girls home, and so we stepped out on faith and in partnership with God to do what appeared to be foolish...add two more mouths to feed and two more bodies to clothe. However, we were also quite aware that this meant we would have to be even more responsible with the gifts God gave us, that we could never, ever take it for granted that food was on the table and the mortgage was paid. We knew that if Dominick were to earn enough to house and feed us all, it would mean being the best stewards of the money God gave us.
Somehow, in this economy where car detailing is definitely a luxury and where travel is down, we are still able to make ends meet. However, it does mean making decisions about what to give up if you want something. So, in order to feel good about our decision, we are giving up our satellite TV and going with Netflix only, and that cost in turn can roll over to cover our data plan for our phones. In fact, we might come out $10 ahead on the deal. We discussed this with the kids, who all were unanimous in their approval of this "family financial plan", even though it means they will give up access to a few shows they occasionally watch. I must admit, this little tool is awesome and will absolutely be a blessing in a lot of ways. No more hauling around several devices which are all rolled up into one on this phone, no more forgetting events or appointments because I didn't have my laptop and Google calendar with me to plug in something immediately while away from home, no more getting lost without a GPS handy in a strange town...there are a million uses I am discovering for our new HTC phones, and I would love to hear from anyone who is a mom like me who uses a "must have" app you think I'd find handy. I want to really turn this into a mobile Mom Office, as it will make me feel even better about the purchase if I can discover ways to use it that make it even more indispensable. And if I discover over the course of the next several weeks that it is unused, or not used to it's fullest and is more a toy than a tool, then I will quickly and readily give it up.
It may be a little thing for some, but involving them in the thought process behind this helps them see that money doesn't grow on the proverbial money tree, and there is a set amount we have to work with, just as there will be for them some day. Hopefully, as we continue to bring them in further and further into the world of adult finances, they will gain some helpful budgeting skills as they see us having to do just that very concretely.
But then, there was another learning experience, and that was in putting what is right before what we want. As you all know, we had to put together quite a large package that would be presented to the school board with the hope that they would approve our request to use our remaining funds for entry fees, etc. for our trip to Washington, DC in May. This package has not yet been reviewed, and it is a larger than normal request because most families use it for one or two kids for a local trip to Denver or something.
It came to our attention that the school board is discussing ways to meet the budget shortfall this coming year, and our homeschool program may take a big hit. There is, as one could imagine, a ideological disagreement about the value of homeschooling with some on the Board, and they often feel that students like ours could be adequately served in the standard classroom. We learned that certain comments were made by the Superintendent, and our homeschool program asked if there were any families who would be willing to go to the meeting this week and present our side of the story to show support.
When I explained to the kids what was going on, Kenny piped up that he really wanted to speak at the meeting, and I planned on doing so myself. I thought it said a lot that Kenny saw himself as a valued member of the community whose ideas were just as important as any adult. He never gave it a thought that he was only 12, or that his voice wouldn't be an important one to be heard. So Kenny came home and wrote out a short speech explaining how he felt in the classroom, how he often was embarrassed about not being able to keep up with the other kids, and how he was teased a lot on the playground. He shared that he had improved a lot in his reading and writing since starting school at home, and how he hoped he would never have to go back to public school. He then donned his dress shoes and tie, and off we went. I'll tell you, it was hard not to tear up hearing him, as this was the kid who 8 months ago couldn't begin to read something as smoothly as he did up there that night, let alone get his thoughts together well enough to be confident enough to do it.
We all went and Kenny did a great job of expressing himself, and showed real courage to get up in front of 150 people to speak. The kids all got a lot out of the experience as they saw the Superintendent grow angry at what he felt was an attack based upon words he claimed were taken out of context (they were not, they were well thought out and needed calculations done prior to him making these comments), they saw parents passionate about fighting for their kids, and they saw a microcosm of how our political system works in a very real way that effects them and their daily life. They saw first hand what "spin" is, and are learning how to identify it for what it is :-) All wonderful learning experiences at a very young age.
And I was reminded once again that we are raising children to be adults, not children to remain children....no matter how much I think the years are passing too quickly. It is hard work, but in the end we just might find we have raised exactly that...adults we can be proud of, adults who are willing to do the right thing, adults who will see no end to their learning, adults who can easily see the difference between want and need. Time will tell, and the work continues.