Q: Can you help us decide on a strategy for giving our child the best possible education? Our daughter is ready to start school, and we want to get her moving in the right direction.
Jim: No one can tell you exactly how you should proceed, and I don't believe that any one option will provide the optimal environment for every child. It's possible your daughter may thrive in the public school system. On the other hand, she may do her best learning in a private school setting or a homeschool program. For some children, the best plan involves a mix-and-match approach with varying amounts of time in different educational settings. For these reasons, I'd suggest you carefully investigate and evaluate all types of schooling: public, private, charter and homeschooling.
In each case, there are positive and negative considerations to be weighed. For instance, although homeschooling has a great deal in its favor, including security, stability and flexibility, the load of responsibility usually falls to the mother. A warm and nurturing environment is often found in private schools, but one may not be close by or the cost may be an obstacle. Similarly, charter schools aren't available in every community, and when they are, their particular curricular emphases are not always suited to everyone's educational tastes or needs. Finally, although many public schools have maintained excellent standards, they vary considerably in the quality of education and environment they provide.
In the end, I'd encourage you to base your decision on several considerations, including the abilities and temperament of your child, the quality of the schools in your area and the degree to which they will respect and support your family's values and worldview, the stability of your home, your financial situation, and ultimately what works best for your child and your entire family.
Q: While searching for a movie review, your pluggedin.com website came up third on Google's list options. I checked it out and noticed that you also review music, TV & video games. These days there are a lot of websites that review entertainment. Why should I use yours?
Bob Waliszewski, director, Plugged In: You're quite right in your assessment of the entertainment-review landscape. The proliferation of the Internet has made it possible for just about anyone who's purchased a movie ticket, listened to a song, watched a TV program or played a video game to blog, tweet or post their thoughts and opinions on the Web.
Not to minimize the contributions of other film critics, but almost all of them review motion pictures from an entertainment point of view. Following a long established pattern introduced by a London newspaper 102 years ago, the opinions of these critics are focused almost solely on and limited to the acting, dialogue, plot and special effects of a particular film.
Plugged In, however, takes a very different approach. While not discounting the importance of a film's art value, we review entertainment from a "messaging" point of view. What concepts and values are being conveyed in the film? Does the film uplift, encourage or inspire? Does the movie glamorize behaviors and/or attitudes that run contrary to a Judeo-Christian worldview?
While there are a few other review sites that evaluate media with "family friendliness" in mind, I believe PluggedIn.com is the only one that reviews not just movies, but TV programs, video games and top-charting music. Plus, we're donor-supported, meaning there's no membership fee to access any of our reviews, articles or blogs. Our goal is simply to serve families by helping them navigate the often murky world of today's entertainment.
Q: We just learned my spouse has cancer, and we're reeling. We have the best possible medical care, but there's one area where doctors can't help us: What can we do to keep the disease from harming our marriage?
Jim: Your world's been turned on its head overnight, and my heart truly goes out to you.
As you've wisely anticipated, medical crises can present a challenge to any marriage. I'd encourage you to prepare yourselves for potential threats by keeping the following thoughts in mind.
Adjust your expectations. Life is changed for the moment. How you respond as a couple will depend upon your willingness to set aside your earlier hopes and dreams and roll with the punches of your present circumstances.
Become adaptable. A medical crisis requires compromise and sacrifice for the sake of the patient and other family members. You may have to learn different medical skills, exchange previous roles and responsibilities and find new ways of enjoying life together.
Count your blessings. Make a determined effort to look for and find things for which you're grateful. While this is admittedly tougher to do in the midst of deep water, you both will reap the emotional, physical and spiritual benefits that result from an attitude of gratitude.
Nurture your faith. Perhaps the biggest challenge you'll face is making sense of and finding meaning in all this. Feelings of doubt are normal during crisis, so don't sweep them under the rug or feel guilty for having them. You may discover a deeper and stronger sense of God's presence as you wrestle with them.
Ask for help. Practical assistance, prayer, medical or legal advice, and a meal shared with a listening ear are things you may need at different times. Don't be shy about making your needs known. Friends will want to support you, and the experience will be as good for them as it will be encouraging to you.
It's people like you I had in mind when I penned my book, "Stronger: Trading Brokenness for Unbreakable Strength." I know your deepest need is beyond any human act or offering. But if it's any encouragement, I'd like to invite you, and others who are facing difficult circumstances, to call 1-800-A-FAMILY (232-6459) and request a copy with my compliments as supplies are available, or to speak with one of our licensed counselors. We're here and ready to help.