homeschooling

How, then, are we to teach our children?

1046_14_55-statue-of-queen-victoria-name-by-thomas-brock-_web.jpgIt is rare that a post leaves me with absolutely nothing to say but, “Wow!” But this entry from Internetmonk.com has. And timely if you have been following any of the conversation we have been having about Christian education (with a follow up here). Anyway, Internetmonk has managed to intercept a letter, of the Screwtape variety, aimed at the heart of what we are attempting to do in our homes. A teaser, from The Vilesidious Letters: On Christian Schools:

The fetish of academic excellence is easy enough to promote in this school, but I find that to be of little use for seriously infernal purposes. What has impressed me is the way in which the overall culture of these institutions can produce, when pursued with the right guidance, a kind of evangelicalism that vaporizes in the presence of the actual secular culture it is meant to conquer much like a vampire in sunlight. All that talk of “excellence” and “leadership” really is quite a lot of fizz, as these institutions produce followers, conformists and prattling repeaters of propaganda at a rate so high that we hardly know what to do with them once we have them on board.

A”kind of evangelicalism” that is all airs and no substance. Neither sheltering nor the most diligent teaching is sufficient to protect our children because it is not in our power. I am always a little concerned when I run into people who seem to think homeschooling is a guarantor of salvation for their children, and judge those whose children have walked away too harshly. After all, think of all the time Adam and Eve had to walk with the Lord without the influence of secular culture. And look how they turned out.
I have never viewed homeschooling as a means of sheltering my children from the world, but as a means of preparing them for it. When I look at the example in scripture, I see several key elements that I think are relevant to all Christian parents, regardless of the educational approach they use or even if they send their children to a public or private school.

1. Spend time alone with God.

Jesus spent much time alone, in prayer.

And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. Mark 1:35

We, too, should first prepare our own hearts and minds, being sure we are”right” with God. We cannot forget that we are but students as well, learning daily from our teacher.

2. Spend time alone with our children.

We do right to seek respite from the world and its distractions to teach our children, answer their questions and help them to grow spiritually and intellectually. This is a time of preparation, modeling and practice.

And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them… –Matthew 20:17

I find it interesting as I read of Jesus’ attempts to step away from the public, seek out a desert place and disciple His twelve how many times He is interrupted. He did not grumble at this as I do, but “was moved with compassion,” choosing to answer the needs of the multitudes which frequently gathered.

3. Send our children out into the world.

The disciples spent time alone with their teacher, and had the advantage of walking with Him as He taught the people. They witnessed His life, His teaching and His healings. As disciples, it was also their task to emulate every characteristic of their rabbi. They were being prepared for a time when Jesus would no longer be with them in the flesh as He was just then. But in their preparation, Jesus was not always by their side, filtering what they saw or instructing them in what to do.

These twelve Jesus sent forth… –Matthew 10:5

They were given a measure of responsibility and contact with the world where they were able to use and see the effects of what Jesus had taught them. Their education did not isolate them, but rather brought them in close contact with the world and all its sins. Sometimes they wavered. Sometimes they doubted. But always they grew, so that when they were fully trained, they were more like Him.

As we teach our children, we need to remember it is not about us, else we are most prone to this attack:

Of course, do whatever you can to insure that success breeds pride, and then keep that love of pride for useful bouts of doubts and self-loathing. I find the best approach is cyclical, with the final abandonment of the whole thing the result of years of back and forth.

Does that not sound like an easy cycle to fall into?

[tags] homeschool, homeschooling, Christian[/tags]

Testing homeschool students has merit

Or so claims the Lincoln Journal Star, anyway. I was going to step through the argument one point at a time to see if I could address them, but I never really found an argument to address. In fact, of all the statements made, I found more against testing than I did for it. A summary of quotes taken directly from the entry:

Arguments Against Testing:

  • Approval of the bill would mean a huge change in home schooling laws in Nebraska.
  • It sets up a system of state intervention.
  • The dramatic change in the status quo seems unnecessarily onerous.
  • The bill would even require that parents pay for the state testing.

Arguments For Testing:

  • As Schimek says, there is little evidence on how well children are being educated in home schools.

Am I wrong in saying that once you take out the filler information and focus solely on the case being built, that there really is nothing persuasive about the need for testing? One statement supports testing. One made by the author of the bill, who also happens to be the wife of the Nebraska State Education Association’s government relations person. After twenty years serving in the Nebraska legislature, I do not think it is inconsequential that this bill comes up in her final year of office before term limits force her retirement.

After 315 words which serve only to provide a summary of the LB 1141, a brief history of Nebraska’s negative history regarding homeschool liberties and offering no convincing evidence of the need for testing, the LJS offers a compromise.

A more reasonable approach would be to establish a simple requirement of annual testing and leave it at that. The test results could provide some benefit to students and parents by identifying problems that need to be addressed. The tests could offer some assurance to the rest of society that no home school students are slipping through the cracks.

I’m sorry, but I remain unconvinced. No need for annual testing has been established. Schimek’s assertion is not much of an argument. And what evidence does exist points to homeschooling as an excellent educational alternative. The test results are not going to provide me with any information I do not already know. I assess my children regularly. Sometimes even formally. I do not need the state’s assistance to identify my children’s strengths and weakness.

And why do I need to assure “society” of anything if I have done nothing to arouse suspicion? Schimek has the “distinct impression” that there is “nothing about her bill that [we] are willing to accept.” At least she has that much right.

This bill represents a drastic overstepping of the state’s boundaries, with no promise of real benefit to anyone while it infringes upon the rights of families who have done nothing to even arouse suspicion. I feel no need to compromise on this one. Current law is satisfactory to serve the purposes intended.

Testing homeschool students does not have merit.

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For more information on LB 1141, you can click on the category LB 1141 and find everything I have written so far.

[tags]homeschool, home school, LB 1141, Schimek[/tags]

Christian education and unschooling

On my entry regarding Christian education, JJRoss of Cocking a Snook asks an interesting question.

As a radical unschooling mom but not a Christian educator, this thread got me wondering whether an “unschooled” Christian education would be desirable or even imaginable, in which children were lovingly, respectfully parented but not diligently disciplined, schooled and indoctrinated in anything — not behavior, beliefs, academics, the Bible and religion or general character and values. Do you think they still could possibly end up as strong, lovely, moral, accomplished and well-educated Christian individuals?

My short answer would have to be my favorite German word: “jain.” A compound word formed from “ja” and “nein,” “yes” and “no.” The more I contemplated an answer, the more I realized I was trying to answer an underlying assumption that Christian education = rigid schooling. Many Christian families do follow this sort of an educational plan, as do many secular families and many of our schools as well. It isn’t something inherently Christian, however.

I have my own biases against unschooling. It is actually the first philosophy I studied when I began looking seriously into homeschooling and was immediately attracted by a number of key principles. I joined an internet group, asked a couple of questions and received more than thirty responses pointing out my lack of intelligence and general ignorance. Personal experiences speak loudly to all of us, and I stopped looking into unschooling with any sort of seriousness. There is still something that draws me to it, however, and I think it goes back to something I wrote a long time ago about teaching perspectives. I might write this a little more differently now, after more experience, but it still serves as a basic framework to illustrate my thoughts on how our beliefs about government influence how we educate our children. I thus offer this chart as a point for discussion.

The first row represents the government schools fairly well. The degree to which the resulting methodology is extant in Christian homeschools, however, has more to do with the fact that most of us were raised in public schools and we educate based on what we know. Almost every homeschooler I know has drifted away from this strict model as they grew more comfortable with homeschooling.

The second reflects my impression of “radical unschooling,” as JJRoss describes it. I will let her be the judge of how well-represented the philosophy is.

The third row represents Christian education, or at least my view thereof. Comparing these last two, I think, may reveal some of the attraction I have for unschooling, as well as some of the apprehension.

  • For both the radical unschooler and the Christian, sovereignty rests internally rather than externally.
  • Neither seeks preparation for college or the workforce as a primary purpose of education.
  • Both respect the individuality of the child and see the importance of the “whole child.”
  • Both see a loving relationship as the foundation from which the parent-child relationship should develop.

The Christian, however, does have a goal in mind. Hence the teacher’s role as someone who wishes to inspire, or breathe life into, the child. That life, of course, is a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Because of this, the foundation of Christian education rests in the relationship between the teacher (parent) and Christ. This is the primary model and source of inspiration. Because of this, you will find many Christian unschoolers who are very relaxed in their approach to schooling, but are nonetheless Christian. I do not know how well this group is accepted among the “radical unschoolers,” but there are definite similarities. Others are more strict and some…well, I believe some miss the point, ie., that choosing Christ is just that. A choice. It cannot be forced or coerced, nor adopted simply because the child knows nothing else.

One thing I found interesting while researching for my article Declaring His Power was the reasons parents gave for their children walking away from the faith.

It is noteworthy that relationship issues dominate the answers, including parents living beliefs consistently, showing more love and talking about beliefs. When looking at discipline issues, parents were more likely to credit being too strict with their children walking away than not being strict enough. And then there are those friends. I believe, however, that these friends may have been more of a symptom from the beginning than a cause.

I don’t know that this really answers the initial question. I do not think that Christian education fits well with the idea of radical unschooling, however I do know several Christian unschoolers who undoubtedly focus heavily on this idea of centering education on the relationship between God and each family member. At the same time, Christian education does not need to mean heavy schooling and overly strict parenting. There is room for a wide diversity of parental approaches, each springing forth from an understanding of our relationship with Christ.

Good news for Nebraska homeschoolers

Governor Heinemann had positive words to say to Nebraska homeschoolers at NCHEA’s annual legislative day:

If this bill crosses my desk, I will veto it.

But he doesn’t think it will make it that far. I may write more later, but for now, you can read Lisa’s thoughts over at Me And My House.

For those who asked, my husband’s eye surgery went well yesterday, and he already sees better.

And now back to today’s regularly scheduled programming.

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For more information on LB 1141, you can click on the category LB 1141 and find everything I have written so far.

[tags]homeschooling, homeschool, Nebraska, LB 1141[/tags]

The measure of a Christian education

Pulpit Magazine has opened the proverbial can of worms in asking how a Christian family should educate children. “Home, Private, or Public School?” it asks. The conclusion is essentially whichever one best suits your family, which in a general sense I agree with. I am not opposed to Christians sending their children to public schools. If I were to have “my way” in the education of other people’s children, it would be that parents would become more intentional about how their children are educated. This may be a false perception on my part, but it seems that many make this incredibly important decision based on how they were educated, the decisions their peer group are making and the test scores of the local school district. I think Pulpit could have crafted their argument a little better, something I may come back to later.  All quotes are from the entry.

The greatest pitfalls of public education are the humanistic philosophies taught at the expense of biblical truth, ungodly teachers and classmates seeking to influence our children, and the absence of spiritual or moral considerations within the educational process.

Are they really? We talk about this aspect enough on our blogs, in forums and in person one might think that Christian homeschooling rests on a single foundation: the rejection of our culture and with it the public school system. While some rave about the godless system, other Christians with children in public schools might think some of us have become unhinged. Their apparent blindness to the “obvious” truths, however, may not be the fault of being “immersed in Pharoah’s culture” or however we want to criticize their disagreement. It may well be that some pressuring parents to choose homeschooling have overstated their case in this regard.

We have discussed this kind of rhetoric before as well as the problems it creates in explaining to others about homeschooling. Essentially, however, the argument seems to say to me that the public school system really is the preferable way to teach children, but since these “humanistic philosophies” have taken over, Christians have been forced to seek other options. To me, however, “Christian education” is not an alternative. It is something of its own, to be thought through and developed. It neither copies other systems, nor reacts against them. Instead, it forms its own theological and philosophical basis, with methodology to match. It isn’t a desire to control a child’s access to opposing views, but a fulfilling of the parental responsibility to raise his or her child. To what degree that may include public school may be debatable, but I would rather see more of a recognition that education deals with all aspects of child rearing, not merely a child’s performance on a certain subset of academic skills.

Also, some Christian schools lack the quality and depth of education that public schools can offer—and that can apply even to the basics…

I do not like vague, unsupported claims like this. Of course, not all Christian schools are created equal. What is meant by “quality and depth of education?” And how is this inherently more present in the public school system? The criteria for judging is interesting:

To make an accurate evaluation you’ll need to make inquiries about the curricula, programs, teacher training, and comparative test results of each school.

This seemed to me a logical fallacy in light of the entry’s main criticism of the public schools. If the problem with the public school is the humanistic philosophies present in the system, as this entry states, then why would we judge Christian schools by the same measures that system uses? When we are evaluating teacher training, are we looking at certification? To ensure that each teacher has been satisfactorily trained in an accredited program, which is going to emphasize the humanist foundations in education? Are we going to judge performance by test scores created by the state system we are supposedly rejecting? When we evaluate the programs offered, are we looking for a plethora of extra-curricula activities like “good” public schools provide? And just what are we looking for in a curriculum? Something that is truly Christian? Or something that promises test scores, with some scripture verses thrown in for good measure?

Remember that the ultimate responsibility for the proper education of your children rests upon you—the parents—not the school or the church (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Ephesians 6:4). Those two institutions are vital to a child’s overall development, but standards, convictions, and moral strength should be implemented at home.

This is perhaps the best statement of the entry, and I wonder how differently it would read if the author had started from this philosophical point and built up a case for educational choice rather than beginning with a criticism of the public system and trying to work backwards for a reason to allow parents to go ahead and make that choice anyway. In the concluding thoughts, I finally found a clear statement of the principle underlying the article that bothered me from the outset.

If high-quality Christian education is available and affordable, that’s usually preferable.

Christian education is usually preferable for a Christian family?  This statement only makes sense if one accepts that education refers primarily to academics.  Even then, what exactly are “Christian academics?”  Learning to read?  Learning to add?  But education is about the whole child and how he is to be brought up.  It is about “enlightening the understanding, correcting the temper, forming the manners and habits of youth and fitting him for usefulness in his future station.”

My conclusion may not be terribly far removed from that of the author, but I prefer to see a clearer delineation of terms and philosophies.  Meaning that I believe a Christian education is absolutely vital in Christian families.  The degree to which the parent wishes to “outsource” certain academic portions of that education to public or private entities is up to the parent based on need and the quality and accessibility of other options.  A Christian education, however, should never be subject to the quality and availability of local schools.

And if it is truly Christian, its effects will be beyond measure.