Tuesday, October 09, 2007

What About Free or Independent Schools?

I found another great article in the Home Educator's Family Times today. It's called, "The Difference Between Homeschool and School," and it's written by a woman who was unschooled from birth through college and is now raising her own son. It's rather deep and involves quite a bit of educational research; if you don't have time to read and think, you might prefer to skip this one.

The author considers the question of the "liberal" schools - free schools, holistic schools, Montessori or Waldorf schools. She discusses the benefits as well as the concerns of those schools. In the end, her conclusion is that while those schools are certainly much better at keeping kids motivated to learn, they suffer a couple of significant defects common to more traditional schools.

First, children in those schools still have to conform to the desires and schedules of the teacher or the other children. The need to manage a large number of kids means the students don't get the one-on-one time they would like, nor do they have the time to immerse themselves fully into the subject matter they are studying. As the author puts it,
What if a child wanted to take a nap? What if he wanted to be alone? What if he wanted to call his parents? What if he wanted his parents to hold him and read him a book? What if he wanted to feel the comfort of being at home? What if he just wanted to be left alone for a couple of hours to play a game or read some books of his choice? What if he didn’t want to be constantly watched and surveyed and monitored? Well, too bad. Sorry. In even the most holistic, free-school there is no special time or place for the individual child.

The other significant drawback to even an independent or democratic school is that the teacher does not have the deep, loving relationship with the child that a parent has. Educational research has shown that children learn best when they are deeply cared for. The author puts it this way:
I do believe that, aside from the unlimited learning possibilities, this is the very real and very important difference between the very best liberal school and home schooling: the loving, personal, and close relationships within the life learning family.

This article also brings up a really important issue in terms of socialization, and one that's not discussed much in homeschooling circles. The issue is this: how do we teach our children to live within the power structure of society? Here's how the author puts it:
In liberal circles the question of socialization is usually asked in this context: how will a child, who is not regularly in school, learn the values of the community and how will a child, who is not regularly in school, learn how to compromise and accept the status quo? This question is not so simple as to whether or not the child will learn how to talk to or relate to other people, but rather is based on the concern (or fear) that the home school child may not be willing to compromise her values when her values are counter-hegemonic. When we break down the reasons that make us feel like school might be better than home schooling, we find that the reasons for going to school are rather contradictory to a liberal and explorative education. That is, the reasons for going to school are actually the opposite of liberating. In fact, the reason for going to school is to learn to fit in and obey the very same power structure that mainstream society (and public schooling) operates under.

When we break down the ultimate purpose of schools to be the transmitters of culture, and when we explore how schools transmit this culture, it becomes clear that we are dealing with a very invisible, yet very powerful and active structure. Even the most liberal schools are perpetuating a system that takes power out of the hands of the individual and family and transfers the power into the hands of an entity - an institution - and the culture of power. By using this system as the sole means for learning and education, we are surrendering our inherent ability to be the leaders of our own learning, education, and future.

And here is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to schooling. If the "ultimate purpose of schools" is "to be the transmitters of culture," the first question that must be asked is what kind of culture we want to be transmitted to our children. If "the reason for going to school is to learn to fit into and obey" a given power structure, we must ask ourselves whether we in fact WANT our children to learn to fit into and obey the current power structure, or whether we have other goals for them. Perhaps our goal is that our children break free of the current power structure; perhaps it is that they create a new power structure; perhaps it is that they submit themselves to a different power altogether from the one our society is subject to. But if any of these is true, sending our children to any currently existing school is going to defeat our purpose. Teaching our children at home allows us to carefully build into them the culture and values we believe to be most significant.

And perhaps that's the core reason why the current system opposes homeschoolers so vehemently. Unlike even so-called "independent" schools, we homeschoolers represent a threat to the current culture and power structure. We are raising our children to be truly independent of the pervading culture, to think for themselves and to become all they can be. No wonder the system fears us!

The Difference School Makes

In the most recent edition of the Home Educator's Family Times, there's an excellent article entitled, "Leaf Jumpers." In the article, the mother describes what happened to her son, who seemed "made for school," when she actually put him in school. She tells how he went from enthusiastically playing the leaves one fall to, "I don't want to jump in the leaves," the next (at age 7). And she explains why she thinks the change took place.

Take a look:

Ben went from playing half of the day in the leaves with his sisters to playing half of an hour on a black top. He went from cuddling on the couch with his family doing math games, reading, and workbooks, to sitting in a classroom in a hard desk with thirty-one other kids, filling out worksheet after worksheet, raising his hand to talk, standing in line – a lot, and keeping his mouth shut. He went from lingering over lunch in his kitchen while talking about the latest topic of interest, to gulping down his food quickly in a loud lunchroom with concrete walls and little windows. It’s no wonder that in just a short two month period this boy no longer wanted to play in the leaves… his spirit had forgotten how. It just didn’t “fit” anymore. He went from actively experiencing God in his everyday life with his family, to mundanely learning about Him on paper…that was the difference.
If you've ever had a child child who seems "made for school," you understand her motivation in putting him there in the first place. My older daughter is like that - she loves other kids, she's a leader, she respects adults and seems to soak up knowledge like a sponge. I've seriously considered putting her in school more than once. But my fear is exactly what happened to little Ben - that she will lose her enthusiasm for life and learning when she meets with situations like those above. And she is turning out so beautifully that I'm very satisfied now keeping her at home.

Fortunately for the author of this article, she was able to pull her son out of school and he regained his joy in living. This year (age 8), he's again anxiously anticipating jumping in the leaves.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Homework Trap

There's an interesting article on the Wall Street Journal online site. Written by Jeff Opdyke, it's called "How Homework Is Hurting Our Family," and the life it describes is a fresh reminder of why I'm homeschooling. Here's part of his description:
The result is that my son's life -- and by extension our family life -- is a constant, stress-laden stream of homework and tests and projects. It overshadows everything we do, always hanging over our head. It affects our weekends, our meals, our vacations, our work time, our playtime, our pocketbooks.

And to what end? Maybe I'm missing something, but when did schools determine that the best place for kids to learn math, science and English is at their own kitchen table?

Funny - schools aren't usually the ones proposing this option! And when homeschoolers propose it, schools are generally against it.
It turns out he's stressed out. He told Amy that he wishes he could do better. But he already wakes up on school days between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., panicked that he doesn't know the material he has already studied. He wakes up Amy to help him go over his notes one more time. He studies in the car on the way to school. Some nights he's up past 10 p.m., writing, reading or memorizing. He spends parts of many weekends reading and doing projects.

Every time I've looked at putting my daughters in school, I've been disturbed by the way the school seems to assume control of their students' whole lives. Even the parents lives are largely directed by the school. Take them here, go there, be here at such-and-such a time, pick them up within 10 minutes or pay a fine, do a project this weekend, read 20 minutes every day this week - as if they didn't already have the kids 6 hours every day, somehow they assume they have the right to dictate what kids are going to do even in their free time.

I had a homeschooling friend a few years ago who told me she started homeschooling when her son was in first grade, because, in her words, "I realized I was doing all the teaching at home anyway - I might as well homeschool him and have him at home with me rather than sending him off to school."

The more I read and hear about the amount of homework schools are giving these days, the more thankful I am that we are escaping the rat race. My kids get to do their schoolwork during their best hours, and they get to have a childhood, too. (HT: Janice Campbell)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Marriage on the Mend

On the Townhall blog yesterday, I noted a great article by Michael Medved. I haven't seen Michael on that blog before, but I've always liked what he's written, and this article was no exception. Entitled, "Marriage Gloom-and-Doomers Are 'Divorced From Reality,'" his post highlights a recent New York Times article by Professors Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, on the state of marriage in America. And surprisingly, that state is improving!

Here are the quotes he gives from the New York Times article:

The great myth about divorce is that marital breakup is an increasing threat to American families, with each generation finding their marriages less stable than those of their parents,” they write. “The story of ever-increasing divorce is a powerful narrative. It is also wrong. In fact, the divorce rate has been falling continuously over the past quarter-century, and is now at its lowest level since 1970. While marriage rates are also declining, those marriages that do occur are increasingly more stable. For instance, marriages that began in the 1990s were more likely to celebrate a 10th anniversary than those that started in the 1980s, which, in turn, were also more likely to last than marriages that began in the 1970s.”

Near the conclusion of their column, Stevenson and Wolfers cite specific numbers: “The narrative or rising divorce is also completely at odds with counts of divorce certificates, which show the divorce rate as having peaked at 22.8 divorces per 1,000 married couples in 1979 and to have fallen by 2005 to 16.7…. The facts are that divorce is down, and today’s marriages are more stable than they have been in decades.”

The New York Times article also points out why the figures became so incredibly skewed that we began to believe that half of all marriages end in divorce:

The Census Bureau reported that slightly more than half of all marriages occurring between 1975 and 1979 had not made it to their 25th anniversary. This breakup rate is not only alarmingly high, but also represents a rise of about 8 percent when compared with those marriages occurring in the preceding five-year period.

But here’s the rub: The census data come from a survey conducted in mid-2004, and at that time, it had not yet been 25 years since the wedding day of around 1 in 10 of those whose marriages they surveyed. And if your wedding was in late 1979, it was simply impossible to have celebrated a 25th anniversary when asked about your marriage in mid-2004.

If the census survey had been conducted six months later, it would have found that a majority of those married in the second half of 1979 were happily moving into their 26th year of marriage. Once these marriages are added to the mix, it turns out that a majority of couples who tied the knot from 1975 to 1979 — about 53 percent — reached their silver anniversary.

In fact, Medved says, census figures show that "over 70% of first marriages manage to last until one of the partners dies." So, he asks, why do we keep hearing about how bad the situation is?

The left promotes the lie in order to indicate that timeless family institutions no longer apply in the 21st Century, and we need new, experimental, exciting and “liberating” arrangements--- like living together without commitment, or single mother households, open multiple partner relationships, or gay marriage, or whatever. The right goes along with the claims about moral collapse because the bad news conforms to the gloomy, “we’ve-lost-America” temperament of too many conservatives, as well as confirming the (often ill-informed) nostalgia for the recent past.
I'm afraid he may be right. Nevertheless, it's very encouraging to hear that the divorce rate is declining, and that Americans are staying together more and more. As one of those committed "till death do us part," it's nice to know that we aren't the only ones who have been married over 20 years! And as we consider the state of marriage in America, those of us who stand for "forever" marriages need to take heart, and not give up. A divorce rate of 16.7 per 1000 marriages means less than 2% of marriages break up every year. That's not ideal, but it's an improvement, and it speaks well for the future of marriages and families.

Do Teachers Need Credentials?

I'm almost afraid to bring this up, because it's so controversial. But after homeschooling for 8 1/2 years and teaching in the public school system, I think this question has to be asked.

It's generally assumed that credentialing for teachers is very valuable. Liberals and conservatives, up to and including President Bush, advocate for teacher licensing. Every new president's education program seems to require more in terms of licensing for teachers. When a teacher has a teaching credential and specialization in their major, they are considered "highly qualified," and if they don't have the credential, they aren't. In Colorado, someone with a teaching credential is fairly easily able to add a new area of specialization - just take a test, or a few classes, or prove you've had some experience, and voila - you can teach it! But if you don't have a teaching credential, you may as well forget it - you must have that little piece of paper.

So what exactly do teachers have to study in order to get that piece of paper? I was planning to be a teacher for a while; I took the majority of the classes, in an excellent private university. We studied child development - material most of America learns by watching their children grow. We studied classroom management - how to get 30 kids to sit down, shut up, and listen. We studied motivation - how to get 30 kids interested enough that they actually learn something. We studied choosing curriculum - something most teachers don't get to do, because they are told which curriculum the school uses, and that's it. We studied lesson planning - something else teachers generally don't do a lot of since the textbook tells them what to do every day and they really don't have time to do anyway. And we learned a lot of technical jargon and contemporary learning theories, all of which are completely out-of-date and have been replaced by a lot of new technical jargon and new learning theories (and I graduated only 20 years ago).

Much of what teachers study is a waste of time. Most teachers learn to teach by experience and imitation. If they are fortunate, they have a positive experience and draw a good teacher to imitate; if not, they have to make the best of what they have. Many good teachers are already teachers at heart before they take a single class. Hours spent sitting in a classroom listening to lectures do not make a teacher; there is no substitute for actually teaching, a few kids at a time and eventually up to a whole class. And any kind of teaching or other leadership can make that happen - Sunday School, afterschool clubs, piano lessons, homeschool co-op groups, anything that requires the adult to lead groups of kids.

I'm not against teacher training; I'm against the bureaucracies that entrench requirements for classes like "Psychology Applied to Teaching." I'm against requiring a piece of paper rather than actual experience. I'm against a system that allows mediocre and even poor teachers into the classroom and eliminates excellent ones, simply because they haven't taken classes they don't need. I'm against judging the quality of teaching experience based on whether it happened in a school or in another context, and eliminating anything that didn't happen in a school. I'm against principals who don't help beginning teachers with potential, and experienced teachers who seem to think they are better simply because they've taken some classes. I'm against an education establishment who thinks they "paid their dues" so you should have to, too, and who judges the quality of a teacher and the value of their work based on how much technical jargon they can parrot back and whether they understand "contemporary learning theory" - whatever that happened to be when a particular teacher graduated from school.

Instead, I'm in favor of teachers being given guided experience. I'm in favor of teachers' knowledge being given as it's needed, rather than dumped on them before they can use it. I'm in favor of all teaching experience being taken into account. I'm in favor of principals providing support and training for their teachers, and more experienced teachers receiving bonuses for spending off-duty hours helping less experienced ones improve. I'm in favor of good teachers being paid based on their quality, not the number of years they've been there; and poor teachers being eliminated even if they've been teaching for years. I'm in favor of testing that is carefully designed to test the most important things - and then I'm in favor of teaching to that kind of test, and of judging teachers' performance based on that testing. I'm in favor of our kids being exposed to "the best of the best," that lets John Elway teach football and Paganini teach violin even if they haven't taken years of teacher training classes and student teaching.

The current teacher training system is just not working. I see no reason why we should be graduating high schoolers who can't read; why businesses should be complaining about not being able to find workers who meet basic minimum standards. Obviously the classes teachers are taking are not providing what they really need in the classroom. In the meantime, we are eliminating teachers who have years of experience teaching, who have great reputations and turn out excited and motivated students, and who are outstanding in their fields, simply because they don't have a piece of paper that says they've been trained to teach. We are requiring those teachers - who can make more money in the private sector - to take dozens of classes they don't need, and to be apprenticed under a "master teacher," who may not be as a good teacher as they are and for whom they will most likely end up grading papers for a semester, just so they can get that credential.

And what does the testing show about the need for those credentials? It shows that they provide no benefit whatsoever when it comes to results. Homeschooling students whose parents have credentials don't score any higher than those whose parents have a high school diploma. Students in public schools, whose teachers are required to have credentials, score lower than students in private schools, though their teachers often have no credentials at all, and lower than homeschooled students as well. Michael Smith has an interesting article on this subject, and on why high academic achievement among homeschoolers is so threatening to the education establishment. Essentially, his argument is that when homeschoolers do well, it destroys the fundamental assertion of so many education experts - that credentialling is not necessary to produce good teachers. And I think he's right.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More Encouragement for Homeschoolers

Still looking for encouragement about the results of homeschooling? (I know I can always use it!) Check out this blog post on ProgressiveU.org entitled, "I Was Homeschooled, So What?" It's written by a rather articulate homeschooled young lady who will be graduating from her homeschool this year. She makes a great case for the benefits of homeschooling.

Take a look at her concluding paragraphs:
Basically, I know that homeschooling can’t work for everyone. Some kids hate their parents too much or vice versa. The truth of the matter is, homeschooling is an amazing option for everyone. It’s not just for kidswho flunk out or social outcasts. There’s a huge network of support andthe ability to reach out to public and private schooled kids. In all my ramblings above, I didn’t even mention my friends at dance, or on the many advisory councils I assist. Nor did I mention my activism on the political front and all the people and things I’ve done there. Homeschooling has allowed me much more freedom in choosing my activities then public schooling would have allowed. I don’t want to seem arrogant, but being homeschooled has been a great opportunity for me and I’ve seen more kids succeed in a homeschooling atmosphere then not.

I was homeschooled. So what? I'm still a normal teenage girl.

"I've seen more kids succeed in a homeschooling atmosphere than not." That's an encouragement to me. And reading the rest of her post, you'll find all kinds of reasons why homeschooling can be extremely positive for many kids. It's definitely a "read the whole thing" post.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Natural Benefit of Homeschooling

A regular reader of this blog, Shawna, has a great entry today on her own blog, The Homeschooling Experiment, entitled, "Oh, How I Remember Now!" Shawna is just beginning her "homeschooling experiment" - she's been teaching her son at home for a whole three weeks, and already she's learned a really important lesson many homeschooling parents never learn.

Shawna was a teacher some years ago, and she remembers the way the school fragments a child's day. She describes it this way:
10 minutes for roll call, collecting homework, going over that nights homework, get out the Scarlett Letter, lets begin reading, alright 10 minutes is up, books away and take out your grammar text and turn to page 236, alright 10 more minutes up let's move on to our spelling work--Latin roots for 10 minutes. . and wow a whole 8 minutes for any questions, problems or disciplinary issues that came up. BELL RINGS off they go!

I wasn't teaching. They weren't learning or enjoying themselves or even having their interest piqued.

Shawna was smart enough to see how this kind of approach was making it difficult for her son to focus or even really to enjoy his Language Arts. Here's what she did:
I pulled all of the spelling sheets and let him work on them until he was done--finished or uninterested. I pulled all of the reading comprehension and did the same thing. I am not going to bounce back and forth between subject within the same subject, not pull him from the subject that he is submerged in, not give him time slots to complete work.

It frustrated me as a teacher: I can only imagine it frustrates children as students.

I find Shawna's observations very perceptive, especially for a brand-new homeschooler. While classroom teaching may require artificial time breakdowns, one of the advantages of homeschooling is precisely the fact that we don't HAVE to break subjects down that way. In fact, that kind of breakdown goes totally against the way kids learn. If you've watched kids play for any significant amount of time, you've seen the way kids learn - totally focused on one topic, sometimes for hours; then switching to something else, often related to that, in a natural flow. How frustrating bells and deadlines are to the natural learning process!

In our homeschool, not only do we pursue a topic for as long as the interest dictates (or maybe a very slightly shorter time period, so the interest is still there the next time the topic is introduced!), but we often co-ordinate many of our "school subjects" so that we study in a more unified form. For example, for the last three weeks we've been studying ancient Egypt, with both my sixth-grade and my second-grade daughter. We've studied ancient Egyptian history, ancient Egyptian art and architecture, ancient Egyptian science(from the book "Science in Ancient Egypt"), ancient Egypt in the Bible (religion), and ancient Egyptian mythology (literature). We've done art and craft projects related to ancient Egypt. Even our writing has been about the ancient Egyptians. The only unrelated topics have been math and grammar (we can even pull spelling and vocabulary from the books we're reading).

By running our homeschool this way, we follow the kids' natural interest cycle. For three weeks, everything revolves around ancient Egypt; now we will move on to another topic, and follow it in similar depth. The more I do this, the more strongly I believe THIS is the way children are meant to learn. It's one of the greatest advantages of homeschooling I know.

Homeschooling High School?

Ahh - the quandary of the homeschooling parent: How long do I homeschool?

When we first started homeschooling, my older daughter was 3 1/2. I knew then she was advanced - the primary reason we decided to homeschool instead of sending her to preschool was that she already knew everything the preschool was teaching their kindergarteners. We took homeschooling one year at a time, figuring it would be clear, year by year, what was best for our daughter. But I didn't realize then what is quickly being brought home to me now: that a child who's ready for first grade at 3 1/2 will likely be ready for middle school work by about 10, and for high school work by 7th grade.

Now that said daughter would be in sixth grade (yikes! high school work next year?!), we're beginning to face the question of what we should do about high school. And it's a tough one. I don't so much struggle with the academics of high school - I figure I'm smart enough to learn any high-school-level subject if I want to put the work in, and if I don't, I can find a self-teaching curriculum and/or someone to tutor her, or she can take a class at the local school. But she's amazingly talented musically; she's been playing the flute for a year (no lessons, just homeschool band), and is easily playing second/third year music. Does she need a "real" high school music program if she's going to be ready for college music? And are there other things about high school that would benefit her? And would they benefit her even if she's on the young side for high school - next year, for example, or the year after?

An article in today's Fort Wayne Journal Gazette online is helping me think about this. It's called "Colleges Embrace Home-School Students," and the first anecdote is about a young lady who was accepted at Indiana University-Purdue University as a piano performance major. There's much more, of course, including some fascinating information about how colleges in Indiana are actively seeking out homeschooled high schoolers. The most helpful paragraph, for most homeschoolers, is this one:
"We love having home-schooled students because we find that they are prepared for college,” says Allison Carnahan, Indiana Tech’s vice president of enrollment management. “They are used to being independent and are very eager for the campus experience. Often, they have done career exploration more than a private- or public-schooled student. They tend to know their majors pretty quickly.”

So - "real school" high school, or homeschool high school for our daughter? That remains to be seen. It's nice to know at least that colleges these days don't think homeschooling is a disadvantage.

Iran: Are We Already At War?

Robert Tracinski has a disturbing article today on RealClearPolitics, entitled, "The Buildup to a U.S.-Iran War."

Here is his first paragraph:
For more than a year now, I have been arguing that war with Iran is inevitable, that our only choice is how long we wait to fight it, and that the only question is what cost we will suffer for putting off the necessary confrontation with the Islamic Republic.

Despite the title, the content of the article makes it clear that the author thinks Iran is already at war with us, whether we choose to believe it and respond to it or not. This sounds frighteningly like what happened to America with al-Qaeda during the 90's; they were at war with us, but we were blissfully unaware of it. The author points out several indications of Iran's war with us:

1) Their threat to bomb Israel if either the U.S. or Israel attacked Iran.

2) The speculation that Israel's recent bombing raid in Syria targeted a facility where Iran and Syria, with the help of North Korea, were building a nuclear weapon.

3) The AP report that a recent explosion in Syria was a factory being used to build chemical weapons, including VX and Sarin nerve agents and mustard gas.

4) American arrests of Iranian Republican Guards Corps' Qods Force members in Iraq, where they are, according to General Petraeus' testimony, "training, arming, funding, and in some cases directing" Iraqi insurgents.

I would add to Mr. Tracinski's list a couple of other evidences, including Ahmahdinejad's clearly war-oriented rhetoric, which sounds suspiciously like that of Osama bin Laden, and the display of Iran's military might which took place immediately before Ahmahdinejad's visit to the U.S. to speak at Columbia University. I've seen displays like this before - most often on TV in old World War II films, when Hitler held them to build support for the Axis powers, but also in Iraq throughout the reign of Saddam Hussein, when he was at war with Iran and with the United States, and in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. They appear to be a mechanism used by brutal dictatorships when at war with democracies, to intimidate both their own people and those they are fighting against. That Iran's president feels this display appropriate immediately before his visit here suggests he and his government believe they are at war with us.

Robert Tracinski concludes:
The coming of the war with Iran has very little to do with our intentions and has everything to do with the enemy's intentions. Our only choice is how we will respond. Will we continue to evade the need to confront this threat--or will we finally begin to fight back?
I think the thing that disturbs me most about this is that, unlike the Iraq war, fighting a war with Iran is likely to be ugly. Iran is much bigger than Iraq, and much more difficult to fight. And we are already a divided people, with far too many of us willing to surrender easily for the sake of our own comfort and convenience. If we are going to fight Iran, we will have to do it together, recognizing that failure to do so may mean we will be overtaken by the Islamic jihad. And with the elections looming, I find it hard to believe that the American people will be willing to set aside our creature comforts and do the difficult work of fighting an enemy who is determined to be at war with us.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Quick Update

Hey everybody,

Sorry I haven't had much to say for a couple days. Some unpleasant little virus has decided to make its home at our house and I've been on autopilot. I hope to be back in a day or two.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Homeschooling Comes of Age

That's the title of a great post from Isabel Lyman at the Ludwig van Mises Institute's website today. It's an unlikely place for a highly positive post on homeschooling, a website that claims to be "the research and educational center of classical liberalism, libertarian political theory, and the Austrian School of economics." But highly positive it is, in the vein of John Taylor Gatto's writing, if you're familiar with that.

Here are some of the highlights:
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the modern home education movement was in its infancy. At that time, most Americans viewed home-styled education as a quaint tourist attraction or the lifestyle choice of those willing to endure more hardship than necessary.

What a difference a few decades makes.

Homeschooling has undergone an extreme makeover. From maverick to mainstream, the movement has acquired a glamorous, populist sheen.

Isn't that the truth? Though I must admit, it sort of annoys me to think that I'm involved in anything with "a glamorous, populist sheen"! I started homeschooling because it was best for my children, not because it was mainstream, glamorous, or populist. In fact, when my daughter was 3 and we decided to homeschool, it was barely coming out of the shadows, and only just beginning to be accepted as a legitimate schooling option.

The article goes on to discuss star athletes, winners of national competitions, presidential candidates, and high achievers such as Micah Stanley, who recently passed the California state bar exam at age 19. Fortunately, the author does not pretend all homeschool students achieve these unusual levels of success and notoriety.

Although it's commendable when the young achieve Herculean goals, homeschooling has always been more about freedom and personal responsibility than winning an Ivy League scholarship or playing at Wimbledon. In general, it has attracted working-class families of all ethnicities and faiths, who have been eager to provide a nurturing, stimulating learning experience.

She then points out one of the real problems with public school education:
In a legal sense, homeschools serve as a glaring reminder of a complex issue
that has become the stuff of landmark Supreme Court cases: does the state have
the authority to coerce a youngster to attend school and sit at a desk for 12
years? Whether said child has the aptitude and maturity for such a long-term
contract (or is it involuntary servitude?) remains an uncomfortable topic
because, in the acceptable mantra of the day, "education is a right."

Oooh - involuntary servitude? Ouch! But isn't that the truth? It has become accepted practice in this nation - and in most "civilized" nations around the world - for us to lock our children up most of the day in classrooms, from the time they are five or six until they are adults. By the way, have you ever noticed how many of our schools look and behave more like prisons? Small windows, locked doors, children only allowed in certain places at certain times, herded around like sheep - Ugh! What a way to take the spontaneity out of childhood! And by calling it "education," we also remove all the joy from learning.

Ms. Lyman's concluding paragraph sums it up beautifully:
Above all, the merit of homeschooling is that it allows for experimentation, flexibility, and trial and error. Here is the great contrast with state-provided education. As with all systems hammered out by bureaucracies, public schools get stuck in a rut, perpetuate failures, respond slowly to changing times, and resist all reforms. Errors are not localized and contained, but all consuming and system wide. It's bad enough when such a system is used to govern labor contracts or postal service; it is a tragic loss when it is used to manage kids' minds.

Nicely put! I hope some of the apparently liberal readers of that website read this article and take it to heart. Meantime, it provides a great endorsement of homeschooling, and an encouragement for those of us who may find it challenging at times to deal with our own kids day in and day out.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What Happens After Homeschooling?

This morning I was reading a blog post by someone who didn't know a lot about homeschooling, someone who had recently discovered that homeschooling is becoming increasingly popular among the African-American community. This person was beginning to ask some serious questions about homeschooling, questions met by their more liberal readers with scorn and critical comments.

Among the poster's questions were these:
How well does homeschooling work? Does the “product” - an educated person -
perform well afterwards, once they’ve rejoined educational settings with the
more traditional social environments (colleges and universities). Does the
reduced level of social interaction during those homeschooling years have an
adverse effect, or is it compensated for by social interaction that presumably
takes place after school? Perhaps there are arguments that the reduction in
social interaction even helps in some ways?

Given the powerful influences of peer pressure, stereotyping and the like which
skew a child’s perception of what sort of careers they can aspire to pursue (I’m
- of course - thinking of black kids and science, girls and science, but also a
broader spectrum as well), might homeschooling reduce some of that? (I say
“reduce” but not eliminate, given the same stereotype problems that exist in the
images in entertainment and the media at large) Do the numbers bear that out?
Are there numbers on that at all?

As might be expected, I had something to say about some of these things! :) Here are my answers to these questions.

The research shows conclusively that most homeschooled students do exceptionally well, both academically and socially, after they leave homeschooling. Take a look at www.nheri.org, especially the link there entitled "NHERI Research." The National Home Education Research Institute has found, for example, that "The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem. "

Not only that, but research is being done on adults who were homeschooled, and they have found that they: "1) participate in local community service more frequently than does the general population, 2) vote and attend public meetings more frequently than the general population, and 3) go to and succeed at college at an equal or higher rate than the general population."

OK, enough statistics - now for some personal anecdotal evidence. I was homeschooled myself for grades 1, 6, and 9-12. My years homeschooling provided me with some of my best memories and my strongest relationships. I slipped easily into college, which I greatly enjoyed, and graduated magna cum laude from one of the more challenging private colleges in the country. I actually made the transition into college much more successfully than my public-schooled husband, who made few real friends there and was thrilled when he got a C on his first test, because he had never learned to study.

I have homeschooled my daughters for their whole lives. My older daughter is 11, and is doing beautifully both academically and socially. My younger daughter is 7, and is still ironing out some rough edges and learning what friendship is all about (as are most 7-year-olds). I do make it a priority to ensure my girls gets significant social experiences, including some that are consistent enough to make real friends. Both girls are enrolled in a one-day-a-week enrichment program, where they take band, drama, art, Spanish, and other subjects that are hard to teach one-on-one.

I find most homeschooled kids are actually better socialized than most public-schooled kids. I think this is because social skills and cultural values are more effectively taught by adults than by large groups of children. When my daughters encounter difficult social situations, I am usually immediately or quickly available to help them process their feelings and their responses, and to provide a mature perspective on the situation. They don't have to wait all day, stewing on their feelings and maybe making the situation far worse. Not only that, I'm there with them to model mature, adult social behavior (which I hopefully exhibit most of the time!). They see how I deal with difficult social issues, and they learn to respond in a healthy way, rather than watching a bunch of other 7-year-olds (or junior-highers), and modeling their behavior after them.

I think you're right, too, that homeschooling can reduce the effects of peer pressure and stereotyping. My daughters don't learn that "girls can't do math," for example; in fact, my younger daughter is exceptionally good at math, and I would not be at all surprised to find she ends up in some math-oriented career. Because I'm with my daughters most of the time, I see their strengths; because I provide their primary input, I can encourage them in the directions in which their gifts lie. My older daughter is a great leader, and school interactions with peers and teachers don't squash that tendency.

I remember in college interacting with a professor about what I wanted to do with my life. That professor belittled me, saying, "Do you really think, in this day and age, you can actually do that?" I struggled with that question, because it was a person of some authority and someone I respected who had told me that. But my previous experiences, especially being homeschooled, gave me the courage. I decided I WOULD do that, no matter what this professor or anyone else thought; and I have done just that. I believe the foundation I'm giving my girls will help them, too, to accomplish whatever they set their minds to do.

It seems to me that homeschooling, when done thoughtfully and correctly, can provide extremely positive answers to the questions the original post asked. When done carelessly, of course, it can make adjusting to post-graduation life more difficult, socially and academically; it can extend stereotypes and limit a child's options. But the format of homeschooling, and the fact that most homeschooling parents are doing it because they want what's best for their child, mean that the average homeschooler is likely to do better in life after homeschooling than the average public-schooled student.

Just my 2 cents' worth, of course! :)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Turning the Tables on the NEA's Homeschooling Statement

On the Home Education Magazine's News and Commentary page today, Valerie Bonham Moon has a great rewrite of the NEA's statement about homeschooling. It's so great, I'm not just linking to it, but I'm also reproducing it here in full.

2007 - 2008 NEA Resolutions
PDF-page 45

B-75. Home Schooling The National Education Association believes that home schooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience. When home schooling occurs, students enrolled must meet all state curricular requirements, including the taking and passing of assessments to ensure adequate academic progress. Home schooling should be limited to the children of the immediate family, with all expenses being borne by the parents/guardians. Instruction should be by persons who are
licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency, and a curriculum approved by the state department of education should be used.

The Association also believes that home-schooled students should not
participate in any extracurricular activities in the public schools.

The Association further believes that local public school systems should have the authority to determine grade placement and/or credits earned toward graduation for students entering or re-entering the public school setting from a home school setting. (1988, 2006)

And, since the NEA has had their shot at us, I thought I’d try one in return:

B-75. Public Schooling The (fictitious) National Homeschool Parent
Association believes that public schooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide children with a nurturing childhood. When public schooling occurs, all small children attending must all have a lap to sit on, and a stuffed animal to hug. Older children should have comfy armchairs. The children must be able to go to the bathroom when they need to, and have cups of cocoa, animal crackers, and a good book
nearby. When public schooling occurs, children must not be subjected to boring textbooks, tests that have confusing answers, or have their square corners sanded off to fit into someone else’s round holes. Instruction should be by persons who care about the children, and know their middle names without peeking at a list to find out. An interesting curriculum should be used.

The Association also believes that publicly schooled children should not have their free time monopolized by extracurricular activities in the public schools that restrict full student-body participation because of grade point averages or talent tryouts. French Club doesn’t have a French test for members, why should the football team?

The Association further believes that parents should have the authority to take their children out of class or gorgeous sunny days to go for walks, on rainy days to splash in puddles, and on snowy days to ride on sleds.

What great points she makes here! And honestly, aren't the things she describes also a significant part of a child's education? When the NEA talks about "a comprehensive education experience," they are missing this very important aspect. I may make a stab at rewriting this myself; don't you want to try one too? :)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"God's Harvard"?

There's a very interesting review on SFGate this morning about the new book by Hanna Rosin entitled God's Harvard:A Christian College on a Mission to Save America. The book is a report on the year and a half Ms. Rosin spent embedded at Patrick Henry College, the well-known "homeschooler's college." It's an interesting term, "embedded" - it wasn't widely used until the Iraq war, but now it appears to mean anyone who spends significant amounts of time living with and studying, and then reporting on what they see.

Ms. Rosin is Jewish, which gives her a different perspective on Patrick Henry College from either the prevailing secular or the homeschooling point of view. But unlike so many reporters, she actually spent the time really studying PHC and getting to know it from the inside. It sounds like she quite fairly assesses the reality of life at PHC. Look at these paragraphs from the review of her book, for example:
Patrick Henry College, or PHC, which opened its doors in the fall of 2000, was founded on the principle of enlisting "the purest of born-again Christians in a war to 'transform America' by training them to occupy the 'highest offices in the land.' " Not a modest goal. But ever since Patrick Henry's first students unpacked their Bibles and Palm Pilots, class after class has shown an almost single-minded determination to meet it. Over the past five years, at least one of the school's 300 students has won a place in each set of the coveted three-month internships offered by the White House. After graduating, some have gone on to attend elite law schools, including Harvard. One graduate is making connections in Los Angeles with the aim of writing major Christian-themed screenplays.

We might not have suspected the homeschooling movement to cultivate such outgoing personalities. But those are precisely the students Patrick Henry works to attract.
And this one:
At the heart of this book, though, are portraits of PHC students, from the "ultraconservatives" who follow the rigid Student Handbook to the letter, to the overachievers shooting (without irony) for the White House, to members of the "den of sin ... [a] group of boys [who] had worked the roommate selection process to commandeer one wing of a dorm," into which they smuggled cigarettes and beer and where they hung a "Pulp Fiction" poster.

The students she portrays are not the brainwashed automatons usually found in the descriptions of homeschoolers - especially the PHC variety - given by the secular press. I found the review of this book fascinating, and I'm really looking forward to reading this book. I'm not sure where I stand on Patrick Henry College myself - I have some significant concerns about it. And I know I will disagree with some of Ms. Rosin's conclusions. But it seems to me this book will be a worthwhile read for those of us in the homeschooling world who may be considering what our children will be doing for college.

Friday, August 31, 2007

About "Homeschooling Information You Don't Hear About"

A recent entry posted on "Flixya" was called "Homeschooling Information You Don't Hear About." As might be expected, the author assumed that the only information people hear about homeschooling is positive - quite a strange assumption considering how much criticism is levelled at homeschooling. Nevertheless, I did find the "information" mentioned interesting and, compared to many negative articles about homeschooling, relatively fair. Here are some of the most significant points, along with my thoughts about each.
The previous information about home schooling is what is so often published to try to sway you to home school your children, but are they being up front and honest, telling you everything that you need to know? Of course, many of you already know that the answer to that question is no. You need to be aware of the bad things that come along with home schooling, so that you can make the best decision for both you and your child.

While I can't argue that it's best to make an informed decision, considering both positives and negatives, I'm not convinced that those who support homeschooling are failing to be "up front and honest" or are not "telling you everything that you need to know." In most cases, parents considering homeschooling seem to be well aware of the downside of homeschooling, particularly the issues mentioned by the author. Still, let's give this person the benefit of the doubt.
You need to remember that your child’s academic success or failure will weigh solely on your shoulders, so if you slip, if you don’t assign homework, or if you don’t make him do his homework, or settle down long enough to learn, then you are to blame. You have to be certain that your child stays on the same academic level as his peers, and if he isn’t do whatever it takes to get and keep him there.

This is a very significant point. However, the assumption here is that it's difficult to "be certain that your child stays on the same academic level as his peers." In truth, there are few homeschoolers who don't accomplish at least that much. In many cases simply turning off the TV and video games and allowing the child to explore his or her world will allow that child to stay at the public school's academic level. Adding an hour or so of reading aloud to the child and some time interacting over grocery shopping or baking can provide what most children need in terms of math, science, and history during the first 4 to 6 years of their education. CAN you do more? Of course! Do you NEED to do more to keep your child up with their peers? Probably not.

On the other hand, homeschooling does require that parents make deliberate choices about whether kids need to "keep up with" their peers or not. It also does require that parents do whatever it takes to get the child to the parents' own minimum expectations. For us, that means I insist on reading and math, no matter how my children protest. Other families may establish other minimum goals, but the accomplishment of those goals obviously lies entirely on the determination of the parent and the student.
One of the good and possibly bad parts of home schooling is that you get to spend almost all of your time together with your children. This is good in that you develop a closer relationship, and you know what is going on, without having to rely on someone else to nurture and teach your child. The bad part of this is that when your child is having a bad day, or you are having a bad day, you can’t take him to school, go somewhere and relax, and then pick him up later. You have to deal with the tantrums and bad behavior all on your own, so you need to make sure that you have enough patience to do so.

This is one of the biggest things that keeps parents from choosing to homeschool. "Oh, I don't have the patience for that," is what I hear from so many, as if I, the homeschooling mother, had some sort of supernatural patience. In truth, it takes no more patience to homeschool than it does to live with a preschooler. Sure, there are many difficult moments; there are also many highly rewarding moments that help make it worth the cost. See my post on "Homeschooling Secrets" for more on the incredible rewards and benefits of homeschooling.

You also need to remember that teaching your child will become your full time job. Your husband will become the sole source of your family’s income, and you will have to learn how to cut corners to stretch your budget as far as possible. If you can’t live on that budget, or if it will cause undue stress and strain on your marriage, then home schooling may not be the best route to take at this time.

This is not entirely true. Homeschooling does not take up every spare minute of a parent's time. Yes, you may have to give up a full-time job in order to homeschool. But there are many hidden sources of savings in homeschooling, including the lower cost of clothing (both for Mom and for kids), significantly lower meal costs (since you eat out less and use fewer convenience foods), and generally lower transportation costs. Often parents are surprised to discover how much less it costs to live when one parent is home much of the time. In addition, there are many homeschooling parents who work at least part time. I work two part-time jobs (a total of about 15 hours/week) and bring in about $700/month to our home, almost entirely tax-free. And many of my friends work when Dad is home; some even work full-time and arrange homeschooling around that. The budget issue need not be a "deal-breaker" for homeschooling.
You can’t be a pushover for your child; you have to make him do his lessons and his homework, no matter how much he tries to convince you otherwise. No one loves your child like his parents, but you have to be strong enough to make him do the things that are best for him, even if he doesn’t realize it at the time.

Here I can't argue. Unless you're going to "unschool" and let your child run his or her own day, there are going to be times you will have to make your child do what is best for him or her. To me, that is well rewarded by the incredible joy of seeing my children learning, growing, and prospering, and knowing I've been a part of that.

Never underestimate the pride and the thrill you will experience when your child turns to you and says, "I did it! I read the whole book!," or when you hear someone else compliment you on how gentle your pre-teen is with younger children. Those rewards make all the difficulties worth it. And I think THAT'S the homeschooling information you don't hear about!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Turning the World Upside Down"

That's the title of yesterday's Breakpoint radio program (transcript here), given by Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley. And it's a great one!

We don't hear much about Christians in China these days. Their government continues to be hostile toward them, and news is often hard to come by. But the church in China is still growing, by leaps and bounds. According to Earley, 10,000 Chinese become believers every DAY - that adds up to 70,000 per week. There are now 111 million Christians in China, and "more Chinese worshipping in 'house churches' than belong to the Communist Party"!

And these believers are not content to hide out in China; they are turning their sights on winning the world for Jesus Christ. Take a look at this excerpt from the Breakpoint transcript:
The Asia Times columnist “Spengler” recently wrote that China may soon occupy the role that the United States has occupied for the past 200 years: “the natural ground for mass evangelization.” He adds that “if this occurs, the world will change beyond our capacity to recognize it.”

He foresees Chinese Christians, like their Korean counterparts, “[turning] their attention outward.” Only, with a Christian population fifteen times the size of Korea’s, and a Chinese Diaspora all over the world, the impact will be far greater. “Spengler” uses the word “earthquake” to describe it.

According to John Allen of the National Catholic Report, the most “audacious” Chinese Christians dream of taking the Gospel along the historic “Silk Road” into Muslim lands. As David Aikman has written, they believe it is their task to complete the mission of preaching the Gospel in every land. To that end, Chinese Christians are already secretly “training missionaries for deployment in Muslim countries.”

This is what “Spengler” means by an “earthquake.” As he puts it, “the greatest danger to Islam” comes from Chinese Christians looking westward toward Jerusalem.

I don't know if this news excites you, but it does me! Once again churches in countries where we once sent missionaries are sending missionaries themselves. The fruit of effort put in by people like Hudson Taylor, Gladys Aylward, and Eric Liddell, is finally being reaped.

The challenge is for those of us in American and European churches. Will we continue to lead the way in winning people to Christ? Or will we instead sit back and slowly become irrelevant, while the people in less developed and more restricted nations use what little they have to transform the world.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Time Management for Homeschooling Moms

Marianne over at TheHomeschoolMom.com recently posted an excellent article entitled, "Homeschooling - Making Priorities." Her post seriously challenged me. She starts off using the illustration of filling a bucket with rocks, pebbles, sand, and water. You've probably heard the illustration before - if you start with the little stuff, you'll never get the big stuff in. But if you start with the big rocks, then add the pebbles, then the sand, and finally the water, you can fit far more into the same bucket. (I use this principle almost every day in putting my second-grader's toys away!)

Marianne goes on to point out that our time is the same way. We can schedule everything in tiny, 15-minute blocks, and maybe we'll remember to get everything in. But if we really want to get in what's important (the "big stuff"), we have to put it into our schedules first, and fit the other things in around it.

Then comes the really convicting part.
So, what are the gemstones in your life? What is important to you? Here we are once again grappling with the goals you have - where are you headed and what is significant to you?

At a recent conference, I was challenged to prioritize my life according to roles. I had never thought of that before. The roles I have as a Christian, wife, mother, teacher, friend and so on, should determine my priorities in my life and these should play an important part in how I prioritize my life and days. I have considered three of my roles below.

Firstly, I am a child of God and therefore one of my large gemstones should be time set aside in communion with my Father, Creator, Saviour and Lord. We all know, and I am acutely aware of the shameful truth that if this time is not scheduled in my day and given priority, the sandy cares of life will smother my day and the most important rock of my life will not fit in the bucket anymore.

Secondly, I see my role as a wife. Is it not true as homeschoolers that our husbands can often feel short-changed in the whole process of homeschooling? Here, too I am guilty of spending an enormous amount of my time being devoted to programs, schedules, book orders and so on, working hard on what we see to be important, but at the same time - leaving out our spouse and forgetting what God has called us to do and be in that regard. How do we make our husbands a priority? By giving them quality time. Schedule in some special time together - it may be an outing, a walk around the block, or dinner together after the children are in bed. Whatever it may look like, or however fancy or commonplace it may seem, there needs to be intentional time set aside for relationship building and time-out with your husbands. Your children will be blessed by seeing their mum and dad enjoying a strong, vibrant, fun-loving relationship together. So, set aside time to make it happen!

Thirdly, I have the role to be a mother to my children. Even though I spend all day with my children, it does not necessarily mean that I am connecting with each of my children in their time of need. For some children that may mean a gentle, warm smile. Others may need time together - going for a walk, flying a kite, baking a cake.... spending special time. For other children, kind words of recognition or a thoughtful card would touch their hearts. Each of our children have different needs and one of our roles as mother is to communicate our love and acceptance. Also, as a mother, I want to teach and instruct my children. We want to encourage them to persevere in their difficulties and develop their areas of strength. We want them to grow more and more into the image of Jesus Christ and be the unique person which He has created them to be. What a wonderful blessing it is to walk beside our child, encouraging them and watching the work of God in them.

As we contemplate the enormous task of homeschooling and the limitations of a 24 hour day, we need to differentiate the "significant" from the "ordinary." If we do not deliberately make time for the "significant", our days and weeks and years will be filled up with the "ordinary." I'm not against schedules or day planners - not at all! What is important - is what you put in them! It isn't difficult to work out that our relationships - eternal and personal, are the gemstones in our bucket, so therefore the schedules and plans we make should reflect our priorities.

Homeschooling should be synonymous with relationship-building, since we share our lives so closely with our family members. But, the danger can overtake us so easily and we can fill our days with the sand and grit of the ordinary. Our challenge is not to forget the real gems in our lives and prize them close to our hearts.

Ouch! She has hit on something here that's been bothering me, at the edges of my mind, for quite a while - the feeling that my time is getting "filled up with the 'ordinary.'" If you're feeling that way, maybe you'll want to join me in looking again at what's really important in our lives, and making sure we get the gemstones in.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Time to End the Stem Cell Controversy

The time has come to put an end, once and for all, to the stem cell controversy. There is no doubt that adult stem cells actually work - in contrast to embryonic stem cells, which have so far produced no - that's right, NO - effective treatments. If we wanted proof of the efficacy of adult stem cells, the results are becoming more and more common. Chuck Colson, on today's Breakpoint radio program (transcript here), makes that clear in a broadcast entitled, "Your Own Stem Cells Work!"

Colson describes the case of Carron Morrow, who suffered from severe heart disease. Here's an excerpt from the transcript:
Carron, a 58-year-old Alabama mother, was in bad shape last year after suffering four heart attacks. The right side of her heart was functioning at less than 50 percent. Carron needed a new heart—but 100,000 people were ahead of her on the transplant list.

By fall, she told CitizenLink, “I couldn’t walk 20 feet without being on somebody’s arm.” Her church rallied round her in prayer.

Meanwhile, Carron’s nurse was researching adult stem-cell therapies and discovered a groundbreaking study at the Texas Heart Institute. Researchers agreed to include Carron in the study, which included surgery not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

In October, surgeons removed 500ccs of bone marrow from Carron’s left hip. The cells were cultivated, and four hours later, 30 million stem cells were injected into the right side of Carron’s heart.

Within two months, Carron relates, “I could sing a whole song at church,” and was back at work. Four months later, she had another CT scan to see how her heart was functioning. The news could not have been more—well, heart-stopping.

As Carron put it: “The doctor calls and says, ‘Ma’am, the right side of your heart is normal.’ I was in la-la land for several days.” The procedure cost just $600. Not a bad price for what amounts to a brand-new heart.

Wow - $600! That's absolutely amazing! So why are the politicians so busy debating the funding of stem cell research? Embryonic stem cells have produced no effective treatments; adult stem cells provide more promising results every day. Businesses are investing in adult stem cell research, because it works! It's time to tell our legislators to quit trying to destroy embryos and to fully fund adult stem cell research.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Homeschooling Ups and Downs

Why is that homeschooling is so full of ups and downs?

Our school year is fully five days old now, and already it's had more than its share of ups and downs. Yesterday Sweet Pea, age 11, was almost in tears because the ancient Egypt projects she was going to do turned out to involve a shoe box and construction paper. "I thought it was going to be something that would look GOOD!" she whined. Doodlebug, age 7, at almost the same time, was happy because she was making a salt map showing different landforms: mountains, island, plateau, and so on.

Then there were the maps. When I first mentioned labeling maps, Sweet Pea complained and made faces and stomped around; Doodlebug was thrilled. By the time the maps were done, though, Sweet Pea was having fun, and decided to keep going to finish the project, though she really didn't have to for another day or two.

Today we had royal riots over writing the answers to questions (Sweet Pea) and math (Doodlebug). But an hour later, Sweet Pea was excitedly doing an extra vocabulary lesson and more Latin, and Doodlebug was begging for more read-alouds.

What is the deal here? Why do we face complaining and whining one minute, excitement and enthusiasm the next? (And how do public school teachers do it with 30 kids at a time?!)

I think I have an answer: because homeschooling involves people, and people are inconsistent. We have ups and downs, we hate some things and love others, we get hormonal or just don't understand things. And when you throw three of us (or more) together in a house all day, every day, there are bound to be some peaks and valleys.

So what do we do? We learn to grow, each of us individually, through our challenges and struggles. We expect to have some rough moments - actually, lots of rough moments - and we try to be patient with each other. We listen to each other, we adjust where we can, and we try to become more mature through the ups and downs.

Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." In the New Homeschoolers Translation, it reads like this: "As iron sharpens iron, so a mom and her kids sharpen each other." :) If you're homeschooling, won't you join me for this adventure, as we all get "sharpened" together? And if you're not, won't you pray for us? Sharpening can be painful and wearing on both the sharpener and the "sharpenee."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

And You Thought Public Schools Were Free . . .

As we start a new school year, one of the big things that makes me wonder whether homeschooling is a good idea or not is the cost. I think I spent about $1200 on school for my two girls this year, between curriculum and school supplies. When I compare that to the free public schools, it seems like a lot.

Then I ran across this article, from Chicago's Daily Herald, by Burt Constable, who sends his kids to a public school in one of our major metropolitan areas. Take a look at how much this "free" public school is costing him.
My wife and I could buy a 42-inch plasma HDTV with the money we spend on fees required to send our three kids to public schools.

There’s the “instructional materials” fee of $205 for each of our middle-schoolers, the $76 grade-school version of that fee, the “lunch supervisor” fee of $84 and myriad charges for gym uniforms, musical instrument rentals, field trips and general whathaveyou.

Topping it all off, we are required to send our kids to school with treasure troves of school supplies that include glue, Scotch tape, soft soap, a 54-function scientific calculator, a 512 MB flash drive and more Crayons, markers, colored pencils, pens, binders, folders, notebooks, scissors, erasers, highlighters, correction fluid, paper and sharpened No. 2 pencils than our kids can carry in their humongo backpacks, which are of a weight usually associated with sherpas.

When I was a grade-schooler, I included a pencil and maybe even a back-up pencil in the Swisher Sweets cigar box that carried all my supplies to school. Now, in this age of computers and printers, our sixth-grade twins are required to cart a mind-numbing total of 18 dozen pencils, pens and markers to school.
Mr. Constable is trying to keep this cost in perspective by comparing it to a homeschooler near him. But the homeschooler he's comparing himself to spends $7000 to school six kids. That sounds like a lot to me! I have a book on my bookshelf entitled, How to Homeschool Your Child for Free. I'll grant you, I don't use that method much, and I do spend significant money homeschooling. But I use excellent quality materials, and every year's curriculum I buy contributes a significant number of great titles to our home library. I don't buy many textbooks or workbooks, and I certainly don't spend money on "instructional materials" or "lunch supervisors," nor on supplies to restock the teacher's closet! The majority of the money I spend on curriculum and supplies provides our family with long-lasting value - not just this year, but for many years to come.

And for those who have less to spend, there are many resources they can use to homeschool for much less than I spend. Libraries are full of excellent, interesting books that can be borrowed free. People with more than one child can combine some resources, especially in areas like literature, history, and science. Some of the best curricula out there expects you to combine your kids for everything except math and language arts, or to re-use materials for younger children, substantially reducing the cost.

Statistics say the average homeschooler spends $600 to $1000 per child. That includes those individuals like Mr. Constable's acquaintance who spend $1200 each for six kids, which means many families homeschool for much less. Mr. Constable is already spending somewhere around $1000 for his three kids; it wouldn't cost him much more to homeschool.

As for me, it's a real encouragement to know that homeschooling isn't all that expensive compared to public school.

Monday, August 20, 2007

I am so honored . . .

Dana over at Principled Discovery has nominated my blog for the Thinking Blogger award! I am surprised and thrilled. (You can see the award displayed on my sidebar.)

Now, the trick is figuring out five great blogs to pass it on to. Here are the ones I've come up with that make me think; I hope you enjoy them.

Thought-Provoking Homeschooling Blogs:

The Common Room - The Dear Head Mistress always has lots of valuable insights, on homeschooling but also on lots of other topics, and is a prolific writer. She writes generally from a Charlotte Mason/classical perspective, which fits our learning style well. I like reading the posts by her kids, too.

Dominion Family - Another great blog with a classical viewpoint. Her current post points out that teaching doesn't actually happen until students learn.

Buried Treasure Books - I never look at this blog that I don't end up thinking about something in a new way. (She doesn't just write about books, either!)

Thought-Provoking Christian Blogs:

Dave Burchett - Every time I read Dave's blog, I find myself motivated and convicted. He doesn't post about homeschooling, just about life; but he always has something I need to read. If you follow this link, be sure to scroll down to his post called "Don't Miss This Phony Baloney Holiday," from Thursday, August 16.

Mark D. Roberts - Sometimes on the deep side for this busy mom, I generally find it worth my time and effort to read what Mark writes. He is a senior pastor, teaches at Fuller Seminary, has written 5 books and numerous articles, and in between finds time to post thoughtful blogs pretty much every day.

So, to these great bloggers, I present the "Thinking Blogger Award," giving them the honor of posting the award on their website and of nominating 5 other bloggers for the same award.
Thanks, Dana, for thinking of me for this award, and congratulations to the new Thinking Bloggers!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Do Homeschooled Kids Have Wings?

In an editorial in today's USA Today, founder Al Neuharth wrote that "Parents should give school-age kids wings." (HT: Alasandra) Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Most of us are familiar with the old quote, ""There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings," and most of us agree with it.

But Neuharth takes the idea further. When he talks about "giving kids wings," he apparently believes homeschooling parents refuse to do that. Look at this quote from his editorial:
My concern about our educational system is for those who aren't part of it — these home-schooled:
* An estimated 1.7 million to 2.5 million will be taught at home by a parent this year.
* They are tied to their mother's apron strings or father's bootstraps.
Not letting kids try out their own wings after we've provided the right roots will disadvantage them later in life.

Wow! Does Mr. Neuharth really think the several million homeschooled kids throughout the country are ALL still "tied to their mother's apron strings or father's bootstraps"? Does he really believe we should send our 5- and 6-year-olds to spend 8 1/2 hours - 1/3 of their days - in an environment we rarely even witness, let alone are able to impact in any significant way? And can he actually think that if we don't think that's such a great idea, we will therefore keep them tied to our apron strings for the rest of their lives?

There are some of us who believe that the process of releasing our children ought to be gradual, to be done only when they have a solid foundation - "the right roots." There are some of us who believe the first five years of a child's life are a bit short to sink their roots deeply. Even for a tree, the process of building solid roots takes many years; it can't be accomplished overnight. How much more true is that for a child? There's a reason our country keeps parents accountable for their kids' actions until they are at least 18 - because we recognize children aren't adults until then. They need time to sink deep roots. Homeschooling facilitates that.

Once the roots are firmly established, THEN we encourage our children to fly. We give them opportunities, first with plenty of parental involvement, and then gradually weaning them to their own direction. Just like a gardener, we gradually release the stakes that support them, one at a time, not all at once. So when they do leave home (for swim team, for camp, or for college), we don't worry as much, because we know their roots have gone deep. These are not shallow-rooted trees that will tip over in the first big windstorm; they are solid, mature oak trees that will stand against the worst weather.

My older daughter is 11. I am even now giving her more and more control. She decides what she will wear and what she will have for lunch - and she has made her own lunches most of the time since she was about 8. (She can do that, you see, because she's at home all day. She's not limited to what I pack in her lunch or what the school serves that day.). She does her own laundry (at her request). She chooses most of her own clothes (with some guidance from me). She chooses her own friends (though I still exercise considerable guidance because this is a more difficult decision than what to have for lunch or what clothes to wear - as she gets older, she will have more control). She chooses her extracurricular activities, whether gymnastics or swimming or band or whatever, and has since she was 5 or 6. This school year, while I give her the assignments, she decides what her day will look like, as long as she gets her assignments done. (What school child has that kind of freedom?) She could go to school if she wanted to - she recognizes that homeschooling gives her far more freedom and more control over her day. In the meantime, I am confident in the decisions she's making, as I watch her continue to make wise choices. I believe by the time she's ready to leave home, she will not only have solid roots, but strong, fully developed wings as well. While I will miss her, I'm looking forward to that day, to watching her soar on her own.

I hate to disagree with you, Mr. Neuharth, but I'm convinced you are badly mistaken in this assessment of homeschoolers (how many homeschooling families do you know, anyway?). I very much want my children to fly. I just don't believe that pushing them out of the nest before they have their flight feathers is going to do anything but land them on the sidewalk for the neighbor's cat to feast on.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Art Through the Years

If you are a homeschooling parent, you're probably planning to try to teach both history and art at some point this year. Clearly the two topics are interrelated, since all art was created at some point in history, and almost all periods in history are characterized by art in one form or another. (There may be time frames from which we no longer have any preserved art, but as people created in the image of our Creator, it seems pretty much all of us value some kind of artistic/creative expression.)

Until today, though, I hadn't thought much about how art reflects the philosophies and mindset of the artist, and particularly how artistic styles reflect the philosophies and mindsets of the historical times in which the artists lived. But on his Breakpoint radio program today (click here for transcript), Chuck Colson points out the relationships, and he does so in a simple, easy-to-understand way. At the same time, he explains something I've been wondering about recently: Why do many people today think animals create art, and why does that idea seem so strange to me? Take a look:

Imagine we’re touring an imaginary art museum. Beginning in the medieval section, we see figures that are stiff and formal, set against gold backgrounds. This is art expressing an otherworldly philosophy of life.

Next comes the Reformation. Figures begin to look like real individuals instead of symbols. Reformation artists believed God could be represented not just by icons but by paintings of real human beings, who are made in His image.

Next we come to the Enlightenment. Paintings show respectable figures in fashionable dress. Landscapes consist of neat, orderly fields—nature under the dominion of reason.

But in the next room, the plowed fields give way to craggy mountains. Romanticism in art celebrates wild, untamed nature, the Noble Savage, ancient legends.

Finally we approach the room housing modern art, beginning with Impressionism, when art was taken over by subjectivist philosophies. Definitions of art shifted from the subject matter being portrayed to the way light strikes the artist's eye; from great themes of human drama to daubs of paint on canvas; from objective standards of beauty to the artist's psyche.

Expressionism and Surrealism probed deeper into subjective experience. Eventually art lost sight of any objective standards of form and beauty. Art became defined as whatever an artist does.

But without objective standards of form and beauty, even unformed, random marks on canvas—not unlike the dabblings of a dog—can be regarded as art.

Art used to be regarded as the expression of a civilization’s highest ideals. Great painters shared a communal vision of the good and beautiful. But today art has become so subjective that many people cannot tell the difference between works that have artistic merit and works that don’t. A museum might exhibit a paper plate next to a Rembrandt—who is to say which is art?

Christians ought to care about art because God calls us to lead the way in renewing our culture. Artistic talent is a gift of God, to be cultivated for the service of God and our neighbor.

So while we may regard the “work” of canine Picassos as amusing, we should spend our money supporting those humans who are called to create, as the Scripture puts it, “for the glory of God and for beauty.”

If nothing else, Colson's program here helps me understand how the philosophy of a given historical time period influenced the art of that period. I find it fascinating, for example, that as the concepts of right and wrong, good and bad, became more and more blurred in society, art became more and more subjective. "If I think it's good, what right do you have to say it's bad?" became as accepted in art as in morality and religion. As I teach my children history and philosophy, I can now show them how the culture of the time influenced its art.

But Colson also explains why I don't think a dog's creation (or an elephant's, or any other animal's) can be called art. True art can only be created by people, as an expression of the gift God has given them (whether they recognize it as being from Him or not). True art gives us a glimpse of "the good and the beautiful," to use Colson's words. And the best of true art is produced to glorify God and make the world a more beautiful place.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Difference Redemption Makes

I'm not really a sports fan. Oh, I like to know the score, and I cheer for the Rockies, the Broncos, the Nuggets, and the Avalanche; but truth be told, I don't really care all that much. My life is not significantly affected by what happens in professional sports. Until today, when I casually clicked on a link at Crosswalk.com called, "A Tale of Two Superstars."

In that post, Dave Burchett talks about two major sports figures: Barry Bonds, and Michael Irvin (former Dallas Cowboys player). He compares them, pointing out how Barry Bonds' attitude has made him difficult for many people to like, and reminding us how Michael Irvin was once just like him. Then he talks about the acceptance speech Irvin made as he was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame last weekend. (I didn't hear that speech, of course - I've already told you I pay little attention to sports - but I'm very glad Burchett commented on it.) Here's what he had to say.
Michael Irvin seems to be a changed man. On a day when he was being recognized as one of the best football players to ever take the field you would expect that Irvin would display more than a little pride in his athletic giftedness. He chose to humbly confess his sinfulness. I believe it took more courage to utter some of the words Irvin spoke Saturday than it took to catch a pass knowing that a linebacker was drawing a bead on his chest.

Irvin started with a prayer. He alluded to the success on the football field. But the comments that won my respect were his up front and honest confessions at a event that rarely sees such moments. This excerpt from The Dallas Morning News is a sample of Irwin's amazing speech.

Then came some very personal and emotional apologies for his failures off the field during the 1990s – the parties, the women, the drug arrests.

He spoke directly to his wife, Sand, bringing a tear to her eye.

"For better or worse – those are the vows we take before God in marriage," Irvin said. "It's easy to live with the 'for better,' but rarely can you find someone who sticks around and endures the 'for worse.'

"Sand, my wife, I have worked tirelessly to give you the 'for better.' But I also gave you the 'for worse' – and you didn't deserve it. You didn't deserve it."

Irvin broke down in tears about 21 minutes into his speech when he addressed his sons, Michael and Elijah.

"That's where my heart is," Irvin said of his sons. "I say to God, 'I have my struggles, and I made some bad decisions, but whatever you do, don't let me mess this up.' I say, 'Please help me raise them for some young lady so that they can be a better husband than I.' "

And suddenly a night dedicated to football had nothing to do with football at all.

I did not used to be a fan of Number 88. He is winning me over. Partly because he could play at the highest level of professional sports. But mainly because he was man enough to recognize his mistakes, humble himself before his Savior, realize what really matters, and confess all of that when he really did not need to.

Dave Burchett goes on to discuss the value of redemption, the impact it can make on a person's life, and the power of God to redeem anyone (even Barry Bonds). He concludes with this:
I never would have believed that Michael Irvin would move me so much while he was living his former life. That is what redemption is all about. A Savior who stands always ready to meet us at the moment we turn to Him. Michael Irvin did it. I did it. Barry Bonds is not a bigger sinner than me or Michael Irvin. We are all the same in the eyes of a Holy God . All of us, whether rich or poor, famous or anonymous, face the same question about how we can be reconciled to God. Paul summarizes it nicely in Romans.

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Paul goes on to say that we can not take credit for any of this.

Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith.

Redemption is available for all of us. Even super stars.
How badly I need this reminder! It's so easy for me to look critically at others, especially those "superstars," and blame them for the way they behave. But God is able to take those people, just as He took me, and redeem them. He can take lives that are worthless today, and give them eternal value. His redemption can change people forever.

And that's a good lesson to remember, whether we're interested in sports or not.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Too Much Excitement?

Dennis Prager has a must-read article over on Townhall.com entitled "Excitement Deprives Children of Happiness." If you've never heard of Dennis Prager, he is a conservative Jew who hosts a radio program on the Salem Radio Network. Every Friday he has what he calls "The Happiness Hour," when he focuses specifically on how people can be happy - and it's not what you think. He means REAL happiness, not the artificial kind caused by indulging our selfishness, so he spends this hour talking about how giving and sharing and focusing on others rather than yourself will make you happy.

In this article, Dennis talks to parents about how to help their children be happy people. His basic premise is found in the first two paragraphs:
If you want your children to be happy adults and even happy children -- and what parent does not? -- minimize the excitement in their lives. The more excitement, the less happy they are likely to be.

In both adults and children, one can either pursue excitement or pursue happiness, but one cannot do both. If you pursue excitement, you will not attain happiness. If you pursue happiness, you will still experience some moments of excitement, but you will attain happiness only if happiness, not excitement, is your goal.

He goes on to discuss how our children become so surrounded by excitement that they become jaded, so when something exciting isn't happening, they are bored. Then he offers this prescription:
The solutions are as simple to offer as they may be difficult to enforce. Limit the amount of excitement in your children's lives: the amount of video games, the amount of non-serious television, the amount of music whose only aim is to excite. If they are bored, they will have to remedy that boredom by playing with friends, finding a hobby, talking to a family member, walking the dog, doing chores, reading a book or magazine, learning a musical instrument or foreign language, memorizing state capitals, writing a story or just their thoughts, exercising or playing a sport, or just thinking.

The younger the age from which children are deprived of superficial excitement, the longer they will remain innocent -- i.e., not jaded -- and capable of real happiness. For as long as they live under your roof, and therefore (hopefully) under your control, you can implement excitement detox. If you do, they may hate you now, but they will thank you later, which is far superior to liking you now and hating you later. And in parenting, that is often the choice we must make.

As a homeschooling parent, I think this is tremendously valuable advice. I love the suggestions he makes about ways to help kids remedy their boredom. And I find my homeschooled kids, having more free time than the average child, end up doing many of these kinds of things. My older daughter (now 11), for example, spent a significant part of last year copying the Declaration of Independence onto parchment-type paper with a calligraphy pen; she has also taught herself to play the piano reasonably well, and has learned to amuse younger children easily. My younger, only 7, is still working on what she can do, but she likes to be alone and creates elaborate story lines for her Polly Pockets and Littlest Pet Shop animals.

This has been an interesting summer for us. I have rarely heard the complaint, "I'm bored," though we watch a movie less than once a day (and no TV). This afternoon we have a gymnastics class going on out on the back lawn for my two girls and two friends from the neighborhood (led, of course, by my natural-leader 11-year-old!). My girls are busy, and you know what? In spite of the lack of excitement sitting at home, they are happy. They create their own excitement by exercising their imaginations and their creativity - and that's a far better excitement than the cheap thrills they'd get from artificial excitement.

I appreciate Dennis' article. Even as a homeschooler, it's so easy to fall for the current idea that kids need excitement all the time - the TV, the video games, the zoo, the amusement park, the beach, the mall - and miss what will lead them to really be happy. Take a few minutes to read his whole article; it may well change the way you are parenting your children, and will certainly encourage you to consider the impact of excitement on their ultimate happiness.

Oh, and one more thing - maybe we ought to consider the impact of excitement on our own ultimate happiness. Can it be possible that too much excitement limits adult happiness as well?

Carnival of Homeschool #84 Is Up!

The most recent Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted this week by NerdFamily, is up tonight, and my post "What Are Homeschoolers Really Like?" is in it.

I especially liked the sections on organizing (be sure to read the post from All Info About Homeschooling entitled "Ideal Schedule vs. Real Schedule") and on the politics of homeschooling vs. the public school system. One of the best posts was from Why Homeschool? and is inconspicuously titled, "Response to a Comment," but all the posts highlighted in that paragraph are excellent.

There are many other good ones, including one called, "Adult Workers and Clones," by The Thinking Mother, and a funny comic strip entitled simply "Home Spun Comic Strip #119." (I'll have to check out these comic strips - they look good!)

This Carnival of Homeschooling is HUGE and there are lots of great articles, so be sure to click over and take a look.

Educating Christians - What It's All About

On Prison Fellowship's website today, from Breakpoint's "Worldview Magazine," T. M. Moore has an excellent article entitled "Educating for Christian Rulers." I found the article thought-provoking, especially on a couple of significant points.
American education is doing an excellent job at its stated objectives: creating economical and political men and women who will find their niche in the materialist economy and bow their knees to the system of political power, believing that every ill can be amended and every need addressed by economic and political means. The economy is growing. So is government. Politics has become a year-round sport. And the evening news reminds us, day after day, that, at the end of the day, the only things that matter are the bottom line and the opinions of those in power (including themselves). I disagree with the naysayers: American education is doing just fine.

However, I do agree with the opinion stated by Charles Silberman back in 1978, just before all this educational hand-wringing and faucet-fixing began to heat up in earnest. In his book, Crisis in the Classroom, Silberman wrote, “Almost everybody who wrote about education [in the past] took it for granted that it is the community and the culture—what the Greeks called paideia—that educates. The contemporary American is educated by his paideia no less than the Athenian was by his. The weakness of American education is not that the paideia does not educate, but that it educates to the wrong ends” (emphasis added).

Those of us who've been homeschooling for a while, especially those who are familiar with John Taylor Gatto's writings, have to agree with this. American education is creating exactly what our community and culture have asked it to create. But it's NOT creating what most of us want for our kids. More and more Americans (religious and nonreligious alike) are realizing that what the community and culture have asked education to create - slaves to the economic and political system - is not what we want for our kids.
The present paideia is likely to continue unfazed and unchanged by critics, at least in the short term. But if that paideia is ever to change, it will require the infusion of new thinking and courageous new leadership—political, educational, and familial—at every level of society. Those new leaders must be developed by a different paideia, with a perspective and worldview more like that of the founders and less like that which obtains today.

Mr. Moore goes on to prescribe what kind of education we need in order to create the kind of leaders we want.
Certainly education that seeks the kingdom of God must be rooted in Scripture and the grand tradition of the faith (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Thessalonians 2:15). It must be committed to wide learning, for the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it (Psalm 24:1; Ecclesiastes 1:12-13), and He is putting all things under His feet to advance His rule on earth as it is in heaven (Ephesians 1:22-23). The new paideia must focus, in all its expressions, on the formation of godly character—minds captive to Jesus Christ, hearts enthralled with God and His Law, consciences trained to wisdom, and lives progressing in godliness (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Psalm 119:97; 1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Corinthians 7:1). Such an educational program can be accomplished only through a curriculum established in loving discipline, in which all willingly submit to those spiritual exercises and regimens that train the soul and life for godliness. It must be a community undertaking, a conscious collaboration of home, church, and educational specialists at all levels.

Finally, education for the rule of Christ—education designed to nurture Christian rulers—must concentrate for the long term on the realization of a new spiritual order: the kingdom of God. Four general objectives must guide all our instruction and assessment: the achievement of divinely ordered lives, divinely ordered relationships, divinely ordered communities, and divinely ordered culture. If we keep these objectives in mind, and order all our instruction to achieve them, we will certainly come closer than at present to nurturing a generation who rules their own lives, and every sphere of their lives, according to the kingdom agenda of our Lord.

Is such an education possible? Past generations of the followers of Christ have realized more of it than we in our own generation have even dared to dream, often against the most impossible of odds, and in the least likely of settings. The martyrs of the first three centuries; the Celtic Christians; the generations nurtured by Alcuin and Rabanus during the Carolingian revival; sixteenth-century Lutherans in Germany and Calvinists in Geneva; Hollanders at every level of society under Abraham Kuyper; and many, many other examples from Church history stand ready to encourage and enlighten us . . . .

I find it interesting that Mr. Moore's terms for what a solid education would involve are met to a large extent in homeschooling. Consider the benefits of homeschooling when it comes to:

1) "Rooted in Scripture and the grand tradition of the faith." For Christian homeschoolers, this is an important part of our education, and perhaps for many of us one of the reasons our kids are not in the public schools.

2) "Committed to wide learning." Whether Christian or not, most homeschoolers recognize that homeschooling allows our kids far wider learning than a traditional school system. While we are deeply committed to being solidly grounded in Scripture, we are equally committed to exposing our kids to as much as possible of what life has to offer.

3) "Focus . . . on the formation of godly character." Again, for most Christian homeschoolers, godly character is a high priority. We don't just want our kids to excel academically; we are far more interested in their becoming people of great character and integrity, people who imitate Jesus.

4) "A curriculum established in loving discipline." I don't know about other homeschoolers, but without discipline my homeschool falls apart. Whether it's comfortable for me in the short run or not, I am forced to maintain discipline - both my own and my children's. I train my children to live godly, disciplined lives and to submit themselves to the Lord's direction.

5) "(Concentration) . . . on the realization of a new spiritual order." Secular education simply can't do this at all; but homeschooling provides a natural lead-in to it. When I look at Christian leaders, people like Jim Elliott, Mary Slessor, Eric Liddell, Amy Carmichael, George Mueller, and Gladys Aylward, I see people I want my children to model themselves after, people who made the Kingdom of God their #1 priority. Fortunately, in our homeschool, we are able to focus on that, too.

If you're up for some deep but thought-provoking reading, take a look at the full article. Mr. Moore never mentions homeschooling, but if you're thinking in that direction, you can't help seeing how well it meets exactly the criteria he's established.

In the meantime, let's keep our focus on just what it is we are trying to accomplish. It's not about the academics. We are here to build Christian leaders for the future, and to hopefully influence our culture toward godliness. That's what it's all about!