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Are We There Yet?

April 15, 2004

Acquiring Tools for Life

Every time you receive a newsletter, you sit down and read it. You’ve followed Mike Pearl’s advice and trained your children to obey and work hard. They’re not perfect “yet,” but your family is happy, and you are satisfied...well, almost.
Your homeschooling method works great for your children, and they test higher than most children their ages. Your home is happy and peaceful. Then, why is it that sometimes you see a glint of discontentment in the eyes of your obedient 14-year-old? Why does your 12-year-old son seem bored when he has plenty to do? Why does your oldest sometimes seem emotionally depressed and wistful? Why does your 17-year-old daughter feel as though she needs to be doing something?
Perhaps they are wondering, “Are we there yet?” Is the goal merely to become perfect? Will we ever get there? Life! When does LIFE start? The anguish of a teenager has often born that feeling of futility: “What am I good for, anyway?”
Let’s check it out.
This morning my husband said to me, “Bek, I want you to write an article about tools. People need to know that life isn’t about tests; it’s about tools.” Gabe doesn’t write much (he’s an independent web designer for businesses), but my articles are full of his wisdom. He was sure right about tools!

Who Needs Tools?

“Let early education be a sort of amusement. You will then better be able to find out the natural bent of the child.” – Plato (427-347 BC)
The first step toward choosing the correct tools for education is to ask yourself: “Who is my child?” Or, if you are the student: “Who am I?” You may not really know yet. Not knowing (up until now) is all right. But, begin to look around you. Look beyond entertainment, advertisements, religion, and political systems that say who you are and what you should do, and think about what your interests and skills really are.
I can already look at my 2-year-old son and see that he will be a song-writer and story teller. I can tell by his very nature that he will not be a surgeon, or a mechanic; those things would bore him to tears. He loves to communicate and imagine. “I’m not a boy, Mom, IHHHMMM N ALLVOGATOR!!! RRROAARR!!!”
Some of you do have surgeons in the making, and maybe a physicist and lawyer or two. I’ve met your kids, and I hope I am still coherent when they are breaking new ground, inventing miraculous things, and writing dreamy stories about other lands. The task before you now is to equip your child (or yourself) with the tools that are natural in their hands—the tools they will need and value as they grow older. There are specific tools for specific students. You should not press piano lessons on your mechanically gifted son if he wants to be in the auto shop.
This is why I say, know your child. Find out who they are and what their interests are. You might begin by taking your children to visit vocational schools, museums, and libraries until they begin to reveal their interests. Then begin to explore one, two, or even three areas thoroughly, until you know what they find to be the most captivating. Each one will be different; and expect them to be different from your interests. It is not important that you know, or that they know what they want to be. It is important that they are not limited by your expectations, but are exposed to many possibilities.
When I was 8 years old, I knew I wanted to be a writer someday. When I was 14, I knew I wanted to be in ministry or mission work. When I was just a little girl, I knew I’d like to be a wife and mother someday. Those dreams were goals that my Mom began to outfit with practical tools as soon as they came to light. When I was 6, Mom taught me how to make biscuits, and for the next year it was my job to make biscuits in the morning. When I was 8, she encouraged me to write stories. Sometime during my 12th year, Mom decided to learn how to make bread (sort of), but rather than perfecting the art herself, she had me learn how with her, and every week for 8 years I made bread, tons of it! Sweeping the floor was a job anybody could do, so Mom did it. Washing dishes was a no-brainer; and so, more often than not, Mom did it. All the new and interesting tasks that came into our lives, milking a cow, shoeing a horse, sewing clothes, playing instruments, canning vegetables, making applesauce, learning sign-language, learning to type, cooking interesting meals, etc., Mom made sure that her children acquired every little tool she came across. We weren’t waiting for life to begin, we were catching up with it.

big book of homeschooling

What is a Tool?

A tool stands between the man and his job and makes his work possible. The tool is typing ability for the secretary, general nutrition and health care for the young mother, and computer skills for the man going into home business. A tool is the difference between knowing what the Bible is about, and knowing how to study it effectively. If you know how to study the Bible, there is no limit to what God can teach you from it. If you just know “about it,” you are already at a dead end.
Look for skills that will enable you (or your student) to go further, or do more than the skill itself teaches. For instance, if you are interested in computers and technology, maybe you’d like to build web pages someday. Instead of getting a packaged “how to build your own website course,” learn a basic programming language like Java or PHP. This will introduce you into the world of web design and open the door for much more than just one half-baked website.
If you are interested in becoming a secretary, one of the first skills you should acquire is the ability to type well. In fact, almost every job field out there, besides manual labor, would be benefited by typing skills, including accountants, writers, medical workers of all degrees, computer or technology people, business owners or managers, etc. If you look way up the road of life, you might consider adding typing as a skill to be taught in the elementary levels of schooling. Why? Because it will be a very useful tool for practically all the rest of your learning years.
For my brother, who is a carpenter, the first tool to acquire was a tape measure. He learned to read a tape measure and understand fractions when he was 6 years old, because the tape measure stood between him and anything he wanted to make. It was the tool that could allow him or keep him from becoming a creator with wood. Now, as a grown man, Gabriel builds houses and puts on roofs in the Tennessee area. A tool he acquired later was learning the Pythagorean Theorem for angles and planes. This tool made a huge difference in his success as a roofer. I am a writer. I have never used the Pythagorean Theorem. It is a tool that has not gotten between me and what I want to do.
There are some tools you may not know about in your field of interest; tools that you don’t even know exist. The best way to find out is to find an expert in that field and ask them what tools they use regularly. Many times it will be a book or a computer program they refer to continually.
When you step out into life, you will quickly discover that the tests you have taken no longer matter, but the tools you have acquired mean everything.

A Tool or a Test?

Every part of education should be useful. If it is not, it will soon be forgotten, and the time spent learning it will have been wasted. If you give your children no other reason to learn to multiply than “because you are supposed to,” then those multiplication tables cease to be a tool and become a lifeless, imposing test. Your approval (or your threat of discipline) is valuable enough motivation to cause a child to learn, but your approval does not show them how to apply the knowledge they are gaining. When you hand your child a new piece of information, try to hand it to them as a tool; “OK, enough on fractions this morning, now let’s eat some cookies. You all get 50 cents and I am selling cookies at 1 for a quarter, ½ for 15 cents, and 2 for 40 cents; how do you want to pay?” Or, explain that “This tape measure will allow you to make up your own pattern, cut it out accurately and sew something no one else has ever seen or worn before. Let’s try it.”
Once the students understand your intention to help them gather a useful collection of tools, (rather than to simply keep up with the Jones’s test scores), they will join you in enthusiasm and be equipped to pursue their personal dreams. The more your child’s “curriculum” is made viable in his everyday life—or preparation for life—the less rote schoolwork and memorization is necessary. Learning will become a way to succeed, rather than a struggle to keep from failing.
There will still be times when you must say: “I can’t explain the use of this to you until you know how to do it. Or, “Memorize this speech; we’ll talk about the reasons later.” There must always be a level of authority that is not open to questioning.
Dad has often taught that there are two sides to parenting: One is training, the other is fellowship. The ultimate goal of both sides is fellowship with your child. The same is true with education; there are two sides to the balanced whole. One side is: “You are constrained to do this; you have no choice.” The other is: “This is why you have learned this; it is a tool, and this is how you use it.” Ultimately, the goal is to make all education a practical, applicable experience. All knowledge should eventually become a tool.

The Tool of Experience

One of the best and most universal tools available is experience. Whether you can find any other tool or not, do your best to get out there and experience your field as a volunteer, apprentice, or unappreciated peon. Experience allows you to come in contact with other tools of the trade, make your inevitable learning-curve mistakes, and watch the pros at their work. By being involved at any level (even, just watching), you will pick up on the resources others are using. You will know what questions to ask and will remember the answers that make real working sense. Textbook knowledge can’t be compared to knowledge picked up with experience on the field.
Another benefit of experience is that you meet people in that field. If you are a hard worker and have a good attitude, many times experience is all that you will need to get invited into that specialty field by somebody who is already there. Many of the great men in our history did not have an adequate education for the positions they filled. As young men, they were the first to step into the breach and meet the needs of the people around them. Their willingness to get the job done was enough for the people they served, and honor was given.
I know someone who began a job (years ago) in the school systems of a major city as a maintenance man, swinging a mop in the halls. He was a hard worker and asked a lot of questions about electricity and cooling systems in the schools. Whenever an engineer needed a hand, he was there to volunteer. When the construction crew needed an extra driver, he jumped in the dump truck (never having driven one before) and drove all day. Over the years, this man worked his way from job to job within the system, finally arriving at the highest position he could hold without being an engineer. When an engineering position came open, he applied, regardless of his lack of education. Everybody knew him. He had pitched in here and there for years already. So they gave him a test to see how much he had learned. He passed with flying colors. This man became a lead engineer in the engineering department for one of the largest school systems. He had been gathering the tools of experience daily, beginning with the position of a lowly mop swinger. His faithfulness in little things made him ruler over much.

Why should I care?

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” -Eric Hoffer, philosopher (1902-1983)
This is a competitive and growing world. It is more important than ever to be specifically prepared for your cause—your mission. Half-qualified just doesn’t cut it anymore. Christians should be the best in every field of need. I believe some of the finest people on the planet are young men and women in the homeschool circles. They are yearning for a way to make a difference in this warped and rotting world. There is a way.
The sick and dying patient is very happy to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ from his brilliant and highly reputed surgeon. In fact, even a patient who is an atheist will be glad to discover that his surgeon is not! The foot-bound motorist is willing to hear about God from the mechanic who is working on his transmission; especially if the mechanic is unusually fast and thorough about his job. And, the little children in a third-world classroom love it when their pretty teacher tells them Bible stories. Those children will take the stories to heart and carry them home to retell them to their Hindu parents in the poorest Indian village. How can you not be the best? How can you offer anything less? There is a vital place for every single one of us. There is a place cut out and waiting for you to step into.
Find it.
Use it.
Begin today. It is called, LIFE!

Construction- Gabriel Pearl, construction boss.
First, I called my brother Gabriel. He was on the job site, handing roofing flashing up to his crew. It was hard to carry on a conversation over his cell phone, but his answers were good—if a little brief!
“Learn to read a tape measure.
Learn to use tools accurately: hammer, drill, saw, square, etc.
Study the Pythagorean Theorem for angles and planes in building.
Learn to do fractions quickly in your head.
Apprentice yourself to another carpenter.”

Law - Luke Macik, Lawyer, and homeschool daddy.
Next, I called one of the finest lawyers in our town. He is a very busy man, but graciously took the time to email me some of his thoughts. . .
“Before we teach children to be good carpenters, bankers, scientists or lawyers, they need an education that will teach them to be good men.
The best education for that is a classical, liberal arts education.
Such an education is the best preparation for the practice of law, because law ultimately must be about justice.
If someone wants to be a lawyer—and wants something to do—I’d tell them to study the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Begin by understanding the ideas on which our system of justice is founded.”
Note by the author: Mr. Macik had a classical, liberal arts education at one of the foremost Catholic universities in the nation, and many powerful lawyers and politicians have this same background. However, classical education is not for everyone. This too, is a tool. Know your child. Who is he/she? What do they need, what are they interested in, who will they be? Tailor the tools for the child; not the child for the tools.

– mystery man
This next interview was with a potter in his own style—in every area of life! He didn’t want his name printed...too humble...too proud? Possibly afraid of being responsible for some serious accidents.
“The most impacting event of my youth was when a friend of Dad’s took me to a vocational college. We walked through it, and I saw people making stuff. I remember the pottery class and the people making canoes. I loved it. It inspired me. I went home and started to experiment with everything. This is what I would say to a kid who is interested in pottery: ‘Get some clay and a wheel, and then experiment.’
Nothing beats hands-on exposure to all kinds of materials: plastics, cloth, metals, wood. (Pine will split differently from other woods; experiment with it wet, dry, frozen, etc.) Experiment with different substances under varying conditions: freezing, heating, soaking, drying, chopping it up in the backyard, etc.
Test stuff in a microwave, and see how it reacts to radiation. (Be careful! Check the manual, first.)
Make a colloidal silver generator—I have used that idea for electroplating, using silver in the glaze.
Study chemistry if you are predisposed to book-learning; I wasn’t.
Be careful!!! Learn the danger of the elements you experiment with. Unseen things you inhale can kill you. Study properties of substances.”
[Now you know why he didn’t want to give his name!]

Massage Therapist
– wife of the Potter, homeschool Mom.
Next, I called the mystery potter’s wife. She is a brilliant therapist—one of the best on the planet, in my opinion. She was down with a I left out the blurred accent, but included the good stuff.
“The most important thing to learn about massage is that it is a very personal thing, very hands-on. You must learn to give of yourself physically, serving and loving. In order to be good at it, your tool must be yourself. There are many “technically” good therapists; but the really successful ones are those who have learned to “feel” what the body needs and to be sensitive to the patient.
Gain sensitivity in your hands by feeling different textures with fingertips, using water and a variety of temperatures.
Learn about anatomy—muscles, bones, nerves.
Learn how nerves interact with the body, and how muscles move your body.
Read about skin. Feel your own skin. Feel how the muscles work below the skin on the arm. Find where the muscles are under the skin.
Practice working on somebody else.
Learn about essential oils and heat.”

– Rebekah Anast, wife, homeschool Mom, and writer.
When I was eight years old, Mom asked me why I hadn’t written a book yet. !!??!! I was stunned for a moment, but I went right to work. My first “book” was four lined pages long, and so badly misspelled it hardly made sense. Mom never even mentioned the misspelling. Instead, she told me how good it was and suggested I give it to the children’s librarian to read! Amazing. The children’s librarian read it very reverently and told me that it made her “tear up,” it was so good. She asked me to write another one. This time, Mom suggested I correct the spelling so we could copy it into a leather-bound journal to look more official. I was thrilled. It took me a week to get my second story written and corrected. The next three years I wrote dozens of stories and learned to spell. I had no idea I was doing “school.” Thank God for a Mom whose heart is bigger than her pride!
So to the students, I recommend:
Read what other people write. Read a lot of different styles: magazines, books, articles.
• Learn to type well.
• Learn to tell a story so that both a child and an adult will enjoy listening.
• Learn to take criticism and praise with a grain of salt.
• Find out what people need to hear from you by listening to them.
• Write. Write all the time. Write without a plan; just sit down and start writing about what you see and what you think. Make the most boring subject interesting by seeing it a new way, and by describing it in detail.

Software Development
– David Sterling, Chief Technical Officer, TruVote International, Inc, and homeschool Daddy.
And... I could never personally get into software development, but this guy is also a very good writer, and I enjoyed his email response to my questions. He and his wife are really interesting people, and their kids are bright-eyed. Read on...
“Software development requires you to be precise in your “talks” with the computer as the computer is unable to guess at your intentions. A good exercise that I have found for children (and adults) is to have a child write out directions for making a peanut butter sandwich and then have another child take those directions and make the sandwich, using ONLY those directions. You usually end up with a piece of bread with a whole jar of jelly on it, etc. Doing this exercise (and others like this) allows a child to see that in human communication, it is easy to leave out pertinent facts that our marvelously-created brains are able to fill in without missing a beat. A computer is fast, but it is dumb.
Software development is the process of taking something in real life and modeling it on a computer (and hopefully increasing the end-user’s productivity). I have found that building useful things (hammer/nails) or solving real-world problems (why isn’t this window shutting all the way?) both exercise the same faculties that software development does. In fact, I have found that a lot of software developers enjoy building houses, remodeling, furniture making, and in some odd cases, playing with Legos.
Next, would be communication skills. That seems to be really far-fetched, but many software developers have none. Chances are, you will find yourself up in front of a group of individuals, ranging from computer-illiterate investment/management types to “I know the deep dark secrets of the computer underworld” types. Being able to discuss a topic at a depth that is agreeable to your listeners is an extremely valuable (and sought after) skill.
As with many other disciplines, the best “preparation” for computer programming programming! Pick up a book and a free compiler off the Internet and start writing programs. Programming is truly learning another language. Immersion is definitely the best way to learn it. For starters, make a recipe management tool for your mother. Create a program that tracks how many 5/8” drywall screws your dad has used in the garage. Make anything and everything you can.”

Businness Management
– Doctor M. Kahn, Business and Technology, University of New Mexico.
Now, this next guy has the most incredible list of credentials I have ever seen, but it would take half a page to list them all. He is from Singapore, but lives in America now. Doctor M. Kahn has been-there-done-that in just about every field of business you can think of. This man is very wealthy, but has not slowed down his productivity. I got this phone interview between two of his college classes.
“In China we have a saying. . .how to make it polite? ‘Making babies is not parenthood; raising babies is parenthood.’ It is easy to talk and make messes. It is much harder to be wise and disciplined. A successful person is a disciplined person. This is what I would tell my son, if I had one:
1. Establish good learning habitsability to do homework and projects with discipline.
2. Learn the value of moneywhat can you do with money? How can you make more money with what you have? Try investing.
3. Learn to keep exact accounts of what you spend and where, and be disciplined in spending. A foolish spender will never own anything of value.
4. Learn habits of respect and social skills. Relationships with other people are very important in the business field. A child who does not learn respect and honor toward others will grow up to be an adult who does not deserve respect and honor.
5. Learn to communicate well.
6. Take interest in your personal hygiene. Always have a good appearance. Your appearance is the first thing you are judged by.
7. Go to business places and watch how business is done by others. Also, visit trade exhibitions. Go and see what other people do; look at their merchandise.
8. Try selling your own product. Learn about retail selling, profit, costs, overhead.
9. Talk to successful businessmen, and failing businessmen. Find out the differences between the two extremes. Why does one succeed and another fail?
10. Read local newspapers and business magazines; watch small businesses start up and grow.”

Photography and Graphic Design
– Charles Van Drunen, Black and White photograph artist and graphic designer.
Chuck is one of those people who loves life and God’s creation so passionately that he draws people like honey draws bees. No doubt this is why he takes some of the most amazing photographs of the Red Rock Mountains I’ve ever seen. He is gaining fame quickly, so remember his name. He gave me this info impromptu over the phone. Chuck has a heart for teens, and loves to see young people succeed.
“My main advice to a kid interested in photography would be the same as to a kid interested in basketball; get the stuff you need, and practice. The more you do it, the better you’ll be. Buy the equipment as soon as you can. Get a good camera while you are young.
I bought my first camera when I was 12 years old and it cost me $179.00. It was just a simple 35 mm, but it was pretty hot stuff back then. Having a good camera made all the difference in the world. I could take pictures that were really good. You’ll get discouraged if you use junk.
The same goes for graphic design. In 1992, I bought my first computer. I had a week of buyer’s remorse, because I couldn’t figure it out. But, if I hadn’t bought that computer, I wouldn’t be doing graphic design today. Knowing how to use a computer is vital. I started with Publisher 1.0, and then went on to other programs. Today, I am using Adobe Indesign.
• Experiment with everything.
• Try pictures in every setting, light conditions and angle.
• Don’t limit your creativity. There’s no limit to what you can do with the right
tools and a healthy appreciation for God’s creation.”

– Justin Brand, mechanic and auto dealer.
Justin is actually our brother-in-law, married to my sister, Shalom. He is a genius at his trade, and was in the shop covered with grease when he gave me this info over the phone.
“My dad got me familiar with tools by dumping out a disorganized tool box and having me organize the contents. That way I learned all the sizes of sockets, both standard and metric measurements.
I learned a lot just hanging out with other mechanics, and started by handing tools to others when I was 4. That helped me learn how the tools were used.
Then I started taking stuff apart. Anything that was broken, I took apart and tried to fix it or put it back together. I took bicycles apart when I was 6. I took a lawn mower apart when I was 12, fixed it, and sold it for money. When I was 14, I bought a car and took it apart, fixed it, and sold it.
Then, there was Dad’s old truck; it was always breaking down. I worked non-stop on that old thing, just to keep him in wheels.
• I would suggest to parents that they buy an old junker, and let their kid take it apart and work on it. It doesn’t matter if they can get it running again or not; it might be too far gone. But just taking it apart will teach them a lot. You can learn all the pieces and parts of a vehicle that way.
• Last of all, I would say, read magazines on cars, check out repair manuals from the library, pick them up at yard sales, or auto part stores. When I was a kid, I read manuals like they were books. Nowadays you can get them off eBay in lots of 30 for $15.00. Look for how-to books. Rebuild-an-engine books. How-to-do-brakes books, etc. And then, work with somebody, if you can, repairing a vehicle.”

– Joshua Steele, missions coordinator in the Ukraine.
I met Joshua when he was 12 years old, and I remember Dad commenting on him later, “that kid, Joshua, the hand of God is on him.” From then on, we kept track of him. Now Joshua, although still a young man, is changing the world for Christ. He is my choice of an example for any young person interested in missions.
“English Grammar. One of the big things that has helped me is a working knowledge of English grammar. Most missionaries are faced with the prospect of learning another language, and having a sound understanding of one’s own language (verb, noun, participle, case, etc.) makes that a LOT easier.
Publishing/printing. I purchased Adobe PageMaker and Adobe Illustrator. They were expensive and hard to learn, but I have not regretted doing so. Missionaries are constantly printing things.
Writing. Missionaries should know how to write. I write constantly. (Typing skills dovetail nicely with this.)
Music. It’s certainly not for everyone, but this opens doors. If a person can sing or play something fairly well, that can be very profitable. My guitar has gotten me through more doors than I can count. Plus, it’s useful for leading small groups, singing together, etc.
Cooking. This is an area that I wish I had training in. I’ve had some hungry moments on the field.
Time management skills. No one is there to tell you when to get up, when to be at the office, when to do this or that. You plan it all. If a person is not self-motivated or just doesn’t know how to wisely manage his time, he won’t get far.
Teaching English as a second language. The more I travel, the more I realize that English is THE language to know in the world. Everyone is trying to learn it, and if you can teach it, then you are in demand almost before you arrive. In some countries, a TESL certificate of some type could be a real asset for just getting in. I am taking a course next month to get my CELTA certification. TJ has this, and I think Braband was going to get it, as well. CELTA is recognized worldwide and is endorsed by Cambridge University in Britain.
Internet skills. For all the evil that Internet has caused, it really can be an effective tool in the right hands. If a person has their own website, they can potentially reach anyone who has web access. I know of people who are getting the Scriptures into closed countries this way. I’ll be setting up my own site as soon as I can and hope to use it evangelistically.
Public speaking. That one was sort of natural for me, but for some folks it can be a big problem. I learned a lot by taking young people to a park in Fort Worth every weekend to preach. Just as a side note, “magic” tricks are a fun and often very captivating tool to have when speaking to groups. A person who has three or four tricks in his repertoire will be able to keep crowds that might otherwise leave early.
History/Religion. This last one would only really apply to a person who already knows where he’s going. Knowing the basic history of a country can really help things make sense once you arrive there. I read a book on Ukrainian history which helped some things make sense. Plus, the locals respect you so much more when they see that you have taken the time to study their history. Also, it’s important to find out what the main religion is.
Know the Scriptures. It is important to be able to study the Bible for yourself and find your own answers. You are out there to give answers. Also, you will run into a lot of cults on the fieldJ.W.s, Mormons, etc.and will need to give an answer to the people you are ministering to about these false doctrines. Know the Bible well.”

Thank you to all these fine people who have given their best for your encouragement and betterment. There are many more out there among our readers. We love you.

Rebekah Joy Anast

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One comment on “Are We There Yet?”

  1. Excellent article ! Because of my own fear of not being 'able' enough to homeschool our children, God led us on the way of unschooling, which is basically what is written above: Tools, not tests. I'm ever so grateful for this, for now God's little children whom are placed in our care on earth, won't be crippled by humanistic ideas of what, when,and how they 'should' learn unnecessary stuff. Now I can pray to God to guide me in the process of preparing our children for their own lives, rather than expecting other people to hopefully bash enough 'knowledge' into our childrens' heads to hopefully make them earn more money when they start a 'prestige' job. The focus must be on their God given talents and not on human ideas of what 'should be'. They should become what God created them to love, in a way God created them to naturally learn.