Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: homeschooling

The hoary head

Continuing with the events of the day I was writing about in my last post, after finishing my supper at Tim Horton’s I went over to Dollarama. Two young ladies were just coming out of the store, loaded down with their purchases. I stepped aside to let them through and then one of them held the door open for me. I thanked her and was rewarded with a happy smile. I walked into the store filled with respect for a young lady who wanted to show respect for me as a Mooshum.

My white hair mark me as a Mooshum (grandfather in the Cree language). You see, both this lady and the two I mentioned in my last post were First Nations, or Indians. I respected the two young mothers who stuck to what they knew was right. Their boys are evidently getting different ideas from somewhere else. “Warrior,” “bow to no one,” indeed! Such an attitude, if maintained into adulthood, is a guarantee of a troubled life.

Earlier, on this same day, I had coffee with a friend who is pastor of an evangelical church. He told me that he and his wife are now home schooling their children and spoke of the change that has made. Their children, who would hardly look at them when they spoke to them, now look up and respond appropriately. What kind of stern discipline did it take to achieve such results? None. It was enough to simply remove them from a setting where their peers were the only people who really mattered in their lives.

Over 100 years ago, the founders of the public school system were quite open about their intention to remove children from the influence of the home to shape them on more “progressive” lines. They proceeded to implant in parents the belief that they were incompetent to raise their own children by incessantly repeating that children had to go to school and be with children their own age to learn social skills. We see now what kind of social skills children are learning in that setting.

The apostle Paul described our day well in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: ” This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”

Perhaps I am starting to sound like the story of the two old Quaker men sitting on the front porch in their rocking chairs on a fine summer evening. One of them says, “All the world has gone mad, except for me and thee.” Then his rocker stops, he peers over at his neighbour and adds, “And sometimes I wonder about thee.”

Is it only the younger generation that has gone mad? What about those of us who are Mooshums and Kookums (grandmothers)? Can we really expect the respect that the Bible says is due to the hoary head if we don’t want to admit that we are old? Are we part of the problem?

Lowering the basket

A cartoon appeared in the Québec City daily le Soleil a couple of weeks ago depicting a gangly young student on the basketball court attempting to make a basket. The basket was placed at waist level and the coach was saying, “We have an excellent success rate.”

There would be cries of outrage from students and parents alike if such a thing ever happened in high school sports. However, the title of the cartoon was “Department of Education Exams,” implying that it does happen in the classrooms.

One hundred years ago, the academic basket was placed at the standard height of three metres. It has been surreptitiously lowered at the rate of two centimetres per year so that it now sits only one metre from the ground. Educational bureaucrats and teachers unions point to the excellent success rate as evidence that public schools are still doing their job.

The change has been so gradual that it has escaped the notice of most parents. Yet students are now graduating from university with limited literacy skills and unable to do basic math without a calculator. Occasionally a copy of an old exam is circulated and we realize that one hundred years ago students who had completed Grade Eight had more genuinely useful academic skills than many university graduates today.

Some parents are supplementing the shortfall in the public education system themselves or by hiring private tutors or sending their children to commercial learning centres such as Kumon, Oxford or Sylvan. Others have withdrawn from the public system altogether, opting for home schooling or private schools. These children are the fortunate ones, employers will readily discern their abilities and advancement opportunities will open up before them.

What about those who succeed in hitting the one metre high basket of the public school system? They are the ones complaining that employers are unfair.

Why parents need to be involved in their child’s education

Governor Jeb Bush of Florida was in Toronto at the end of October to speak on the educational reforms that have moved Florida schools from the bottom tier of educational achievement to near the top.  He spoke to the Economic Club of Canada at the Royal York Hotel, the talk was well-publicized and co-sponsored by the Society for Quality Education, yet the audience appears to have been remarkably free of any representatives of the Ontario educational system.

Perhaps they should have been paying more attention.  The OECD International Student Assessment statistics show that Canada is slipping one place per year in Math proficiency.  We are now down to 13th place, from 7th in 2006.  Even this ranking is higher than it would be if it only included the English-speaking provinces.  In Québec they still teach math by traditional methods and obtain the highest scores in the country.

In my humble opinion, the declining test scores are collateral damage from the all-out efforts of the educational bureaucracy to convince the public that education is a highly sophisticated process that is beyond the ability of mere parents.  It’s not that they don’t want to teach children to read and write, and to add and subtract, multiply and divide, but they want to do it in such a way that parents have no idea how they did it.

This does not appear to be an attainable objective.  At the same time that the public education system shows constantly declining results, studies in Canada and the USA show that home-schooling parents are obtaining results that are far superior.  Not only do those studies show that children do far better when taught by their parents, the results are the same for parents who never finished high school and those with a university degree or two.

The gurus of educational mystification react to those results either by ignoring them, or by suggesting that some kind of sinister brainwashing is taking place in these unsupervised home school settings.  Many of the rest of us believe the brainwashing is taking place in the public system and is the fundamental reason for trying to keep parents from understanding what is going on in school.  Blessed indeed is the mother whose daughter comes home from school and says, “Mom, the teacher said we shouldn’t talk to our parents about this because you probably won’t understand, but I really want to know what you think.”

For those of us who have opted out of the public system in favour of independent Christian schools, I fear that some of the attitudes of the public system still linger with us.  It is not the school’s responsibility to teach social skills to our children.  If my child is being a disruptive influence in school, it is my responsibility to apply corrective measures.  We should take an interest in what our children are learning and how they are learning it.  We should not be a disruptive influence on the school, either, but we really can help our children with concepts that they just don’t seem able to catch in class.  We should take an interest in the curriculum, too.  Our independent schools are apt to get the same mediocre results as the public system if they use the same curriculum materials.  There is a wealth of curriculum materials used by home schooling parents that are much more effective.

Back to Governor Bush.  Education reform was the main plank of his platform when he first ran for governor and once elected he began to implement his program.  All the schools in Florida were ranked by results as A, B, C, D or F.  The schools ranked A were given an extra $100 per student to spend as they wished.  Most schools used it for teacher bonuses.  Students in schools ranked F were given vouchers to switch to another school, either public or private.  Social promotion was banned after Grade 3.  Bush believes the first three years are spent learning to read and the following years in reading to learn.  It makes no senses at all to pass an illiterate child into Grade 4 and condemn him or her to a lifetime of ignorance.  The emphasis of his program was on providing measures of accountability and rewarding schools and teachers that were achieving excellence.

Other school systems in the USA are taking notice and emulating Florida’s measures, New York City, for example.  I’ve not heard of any Canadian public school authorities showing any inclination to follow suit.  Good education is not mysterious or expensive.  Our grandparents knew how to do it 100 years ago and those methods have not become outmoded, despite the pretensions of the educational bureaucracy.

As a final note, the Society for Quality Education offers free remedial programs for reading and math.  If your child is not doing well in these basic subjects, try these programs.  You will find them at: www.teachyourchildtoread.ca
www.teachyourchildmath.ca

Brighten the Corner Where You Are

A few days ago I was reading brief profiles of recent homeschool graduates and one in particular caught my eye.  This young lady expressed a desire to stay home and serve her family and church.  She expects to find her greatest fulfilment in one day having her own family and homeschooling her own children.  She is not just an indoor girl, she is in her fifth year as a member of a 4-H Beef Club.

Before I get too far, I should mention that one of her grandfathers is a Goodnough (my cousin) and she is the only one in the group that I actually know.  Nothing I say here should be construed as a criticism of any of the other graduates.

I just find Krysten’s attitude refreshing.  It is much better to be grounded and content in doing one’s best close to home, than to dream of doing great things for the Lord.  Greater responsibilities and opportunities may come, but the one who thinks only of far horizons is apt to miss the best part of life.

Recently, a friend of my wife was thinking of the song, Brighten the Corner Where You Are.  We couldn’t find it in any of our song books so we looked it up on line.  It was written exactly 100 years ago by Ina D. Ogdon and set to music by Charles H. Gabriel.  The message has been settling in my mind since then and this seems to be the opportune time to share the words with you.

Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar,
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Just above are clouded skies that you may help to clear,
Let not narrow self your way debar;
Though into one heart alone may fall your song of cheer,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Here for all your talent you may surely find a need,
Here reflect the bright and Morning Star;
Even from your humble hand the Bread of Life may feed,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Refrain
Brighten the corner where you are!
Brighten the corner where you are!
Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar;
Brighten the corner where you are!

%d bloggers like this: