Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

School crisis in Québec

More than 50 congregations of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite in seven Canadian provinces are operating their own schools. These schools provide the foundational tools to enable their graduates to go on and continue learning whatever they need to make a living and be useful members of society. The schools are recognized as legal by their respective provincial governments, even though they do not follow the official curriculum or employ government certified teachers. Congregations of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite in 37 states of the USA are doing the same.

It has been in the news this week that this will not fly in the province of Québec. The school operated by the congregation at Roxton Falls, Québec is considered an illegal school and will be forced to close. Many attempts have been made to find an accommodation with the government; at times it has seemed that a way had been found, but the news this week appears to be final.

This leaves our brethren in Québec with three options: send their children to public school, home school their children, or leave the province. The families who live there would not consider public school to be an option, so in reality there are only two choices. I’m afraid that some will choose to leave.

Personally, I believe home schooling is the most attractive choice. After all, the education of children is the responsibility of parents, why would we think it essential to bring them all together into one building and have someone else teach them?

The forces behind the public education system have done their work well. When we look at the origins of public schools in North America, we read that the proponents openly stated their intention to remove children from their parents’ influence and to counter the religious influence of the home. They planted the thought that children needed to be together with children their own age in order to learn how to behave. That thought is still believed by many who want their children to be educated in a Christian setting. Why don’t we stop and think a bit? If there was any truth to the statement, then the children in the largest schools should be the best behaved children in our society. Has it worked out that way?

I hear people saying that home-schooled children aren’t learning much. That may be true in a few instances, there are variations in every educational setting. Yet extensive studies have been done of home-schooled children in both Canada and the USA and the results show that on average at every age level home-schooled children are far ahead of their peers in public schools.

Most parents who home school give two reasons for their choice: they want their children to learn more than what the public schools are achieving; and they don’t want their children to learn the attitudes and behaviour problems that are rampant in the public schools.

My observation of home-schooled children is that they will play in an uninhibited way with other children their own age, and are able to visit with children and adults of any age level. They are far more articulate than most children who learn in a classroom setting. Again there are differences from home to home, and child to child, this is normal, but on balance home schooled children learn more social skills than children learning in a classroom.

Many parents fear to even try home schooling, imagining that the work load would be too much. While home schooling families need to have a schedule and maintain order, they do not have to duplicate a classroom setting. And the children need to take up a good share of the household chores. This is a bonus.

We had supper in the home of a home schooling family who have five boys and two girls, the girls being the youngest. After supper the boys started playing around. After a few minutes, the father said, “Boys, what is it that you do every day when we don’t have company?” That was all he needed to say, the boys came and cleared off the table, put things away, washed the dishes, and did it cheerfully.

Consider all the time and money that can be saved by home schooling: no need for school buses or vans, no time wasted travelling to and from school, no school lunches to prepare ahead of time (the children should help prepare meals at home), no special clothes just for school, no need to try and pry out of your children just what happened at school today.

The studies of home schooled children also show that the education level of the parents doesn’t matter. Parents got better results than the public schools, whether they had a Grade VIII education or a Bachelor of Education degree. And yes, there are parents with a B. Ed. degree who do not trust their children to the public education system.

Parents don’t need to be experts in the subjects their children study. There are excellent textbooks available for home schooling families that will guide the children into learning on their own with some parental supervision. Universities now are competing for children who have been home-schooled through to a high school level. They have found that these students have learned how to learn and do far better in university.

My perspective on all this is that our independent congregational schools do serve a useful purpose. Not every family dynamic is compatible with home schooling; for instance there are single parent households and households where the parents are not united in the faith. However, we should not be looking for direction to the public school system. They have nothing useful to offer as far as textbooks and teaching methods are concerned. We will find more helpful examples in the textbooks and teaching methods used by home schoolers.

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