Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: parents

Matthew Effects in Learning

“For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath” (Matthew 25:29).

In 1986, Keith Stanovich published a study entitled Matthew Effects in Reading: Some Consequences of Individual Differences in the Acquisition of Literacy. The “Matthew Effects” in the title came from Jesus’ parable of the talents in Matthew 25.

The study showed that students who, at an early stage, gained a good understanding of how words are composed of sounds represented by the letters of the alphabet progressed rapidly in learning. Those who do not rapidly develop an awareness of the spelling to sound correlation will fall farther and farther behind in subsequent years.

This concept of how words are composed of sounds (phonemic awareness) is easily taught to young children, but our public school systems are not doing it. Instead, for at least 70 years now they have been experimenting with other methods of teaching reading. The result is that about 1/3 of children quickly make the letter-sound connection on their own, another 1/3 will struggle at first but eventually get it and the other 1/3 will be labelled learning disabled. I believe a large percentage of learning disabilities are created by inadequate teaching.

Since reading skills are the essential tool for learning everything else that a child will encounter in school, those with poor reading skills fall farther and farther behind as they progress through the school system.

This is a perfect example of the quote in my last post: “You know that the bureaucratic state has been reached in an organisation when the procedure is more important than the result.”

What we need is a more flexible system that is focussed on results. In both learning to read and in learning basic math skills, a child needs to master one set of skills before being pushed on to the next level. This concept of teaching for mastery in the basic skills has long been absent from the public school system

If this sounds like an argument for home schooling, or the old-fashioned one-room school, well, yes, I believe that they are more successful models for results-oriented learning. In any case, parents need to overcome their sense of intimidation by the big school machine and be much more involved in their child’s learning, especially in the beginning stages.

Am I a soldier of the cross?

 

Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan; only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof” (Judges 3:1-2).

After crossing the Jordan river into the Promised Land, Joshua led the Israelites in a few quick battles that left them in control of the whole land. The land was then divided among the tribes and it was up to each tribe to deal with any lingering opposition from the former occupants of the land. The above verses show that God knew that the Israelites would need to face opposition in order to remain vigilant.

Like the Israelites, we are prone to complacency. When things go well for a time, with no evident threats to our faith or our Christian way of life, we begin to believe that it is God’s plan for us to live at our ease.

This has been the case for Christians in North America over the past several generations. We have blessed the Lord for our freedom and prosperity, never dreaming that the Enemy was at work right under our noses. Today we are aware that there has been a major shift in public attitudes towards morality, the family and Christian faith. We didn’t see this coming, don’t understand what has happened, but surely it must be the fault of the politicians. If we could just get right-thinking people elected all would return to be as it should be.

Politicians did not create the situation we find ourselves in today – and they cannot fix it. They are being swept along just like the rest of us. The roots are much deeper and go much further back.

The humanist intellectuals who inspired the founding of our public school systems saw the schools as a means of removing children from the influence of their parents and forming their minds in the way that suited the purpose of the humanists. Their intention was to create a utopian society, a society where families and faith ceased to exist.

The first step was to convince parents that they were incompetent to train their own children. “Children need to be with other children their own age in order to learn how to get along with others.” The idea is ridiculous and should have been laughed to scorn, but it has been repeated so often, for so long a time, that most parents today accept it without question.

Evolution was introduced, in the name of science. The real reason was to convince children that there was no basis for any belief in right or wrong and no consequences to fear in choosing to live a life that did not accord with the teaching of their parents.

The old way of teaching reading by phonics was abandoned in favour of sight reading. Parents were told that they should not try to teach their children to read at home, leave it to the experts. The old way actually worked, nowadays we accept the 40% of the population has learning difficulties that leave them functionally illiterate. Much supposed research has taken place, many new methods tried, always with the same dismal results.

The same thing has happened in the teaching of mathematics. Parents are bewildered, so are the children. It seems that this was most likely the intention. The humanists are quite content to leave most of the population without the tools to figure out what is really going on.

So now we have children being trained that gender roles are not fixed, whatever they want to do is the right thing for them to do, and that it will be their responsibility to fix all the things that past generations have done to mess up our world.

Humanism has become the prevailing state religion and the schools are the shrines where it is worshipped. Our enemies are spiritual and must be fought with spiritual weapons. Have we forgotten what Isaac Watts knew almost 300 years ago?

Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To draw me on to God?

Sure I must fight, if I would reign;
Increase my courage Lord,
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.

The devaluation of women

Here in Canada the media has paid considerable attention to a sordid case where a well-known media personality was charged with sexual assault. The charges outlined incidents of kinky and violent sex involving several women. Unfortunately things unravelled at the trial. Emails and other evidence indicated that the women were willing participants and that their initial statements to police were not fully truthful and had omitted many details. The accused could not be found guilty on such untrustworthy evidence, even though most of what was described undoubtedly did happen.

Why would seemingly successful young women willingly subject themselves to such degrading experiences? A story from California helps to explain where this begins. It tells about young teen girls who post nude photos of themselves on Facebook. Many of them admit they find it degrading, but the social pressures are so enormous that they dare not refuse to participate. Such refusal would cause them to be rejected and ostracized by their friends.

It seems to me that this is how the devaluing of women begins in our society. Surely a girl, and a woman, is more than the sum of her body parts. She is a person worthy of respect, she has a brain, and is a soul of such value in the eyes of God that she is worthy of the death of His Son to redeem her.

But who is telling girls and women about this? The schools take no such responsibility. Many churches have veered off on causes that seemed more important, and thus these churches became irrelevant to the real needs of people.

Eventually though, the devaluation of women in our society points to a catastrophic failure of the home. Not all homes, thankfully, but so many that the behaviour I have described seems to many young girls to be the norm. (Boys and men are being devalued too, but I want to focus on the girls in this post.)

The well-being of our society depends on having parents who believe they have the ability, the freedom and the duty to provide a safe haven for their children.  A place where girls are respected as persons of value, where they can talk freely of their fears, their struggles and the pressures they face outside the home. Parents that do not push their children to get out there and compete for attention, but help them think through what is really important in life. Parents who encourage their children to be kind and caring toward others and to develop the abilities and qualities that will make them useful citizens.

I’m afraid that being a Christian does not automatically make us superior parents. It is good and right to teach our children to love God and to understand the way of salvation so that they may respond when the Spirit calls. It is good to teach honesty and sound moral principles. But all that is not enough. We need to be examples of all that we teach and above all we need to listen to our children with patience and sympathy and let them know that we love them no matter what happens to them.

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?

No fault parenting versus no excuse parenting

This is a story of two young boys. The first came from a stable, two parent family; the second from a home where the father had left for parts unknown. Boy Number 1 has an advantage, don’t you think? Well, let’s see.

Boy Number 1 takes a jackknife to school one day, the teacher sees him playing with it and confiscates it. The next day, Dad, who happens to be a police officer, comes storming into school and threatens criminal charges if the knife isn’t returned. The teacher meekly returns the knife.

Boy Number 2, who tends to be hyperactive, acts up a little too much on the school bus and the driver makes it known that he cannot ride the bus until he promises to stop being so disruptive. Mom could have cried discrimination because of her son’s ADHD, or she could have simply decided to drive him to school herself. She did neither; she told her son: “I guess this means you’re walking to school from now on.”

The next day she got him ready early enough to walk the two miles and get to school on time. She walked with him and walked home with him at the end of the school day. The next morning they walked to school again. Then she asked, “Do you want to walk home again this afternoon?” “No,” he replied, “I think I’ve learned my lesson.”

Some years have passed. At last report, Boy Number 1 is in prison. Boy Number 2 has learned a trade and is doing just fine..

Why parents still matter

Here is one paragraph from an article that appeared in the Autumn 2014 issue of City Journal. The writer is Kay S. Hymowitz and the subtitle states : Families shape their children’s prospects more profoundly than anything government can do.

Universal preschool is by far the most popular idea for easing poor children’s early disadvantages. The theory behind it is similar to the argument for parenting programs: if we give low-income children a middle-class, school-relevant experience when they’re young and impressionable, they will be as prepared for school as middle-class kids are. Yet since the 1960s, when Head Start got under way, preschool’s effect on children’s academic futures has ranged from nil to modest. A notable paper by Brian Jacob and Jens Ludwig concludes that even when cost-effective, preschool programs don’t significantly reduce the achievement gap. The biggest problem is what researchers call “fade out.” In some of the best programs, children appear to be as “school ready” as middle-class kids. By third grade, however, they revert to the same academic levels as their non-preschooled, low-income peers. Experts have struggled to account for fade out, but one likely explanation is that whatever educational habits these preschools impart are not reinforced in the homes of low-income children and in the elementary schools that they go on to attend.

Learning the wrong lesson

Nelson was born with the umbilical cord around his neck, causing oxygen starvation to his brain. He was slower in learning during the early years of childhood and his parents were encouraged to place him in a school for children with special needs.

The parents were disappointed with the results, or rather the lack of results, in this school. They believed Nelson was capable of doing better. They approached the school board of their congregation and they agreed to accept Nelson in the school. They placed him in a classroom with three children in another grade to give the teacher more time to work with Nelson.

The teacher of that class got a marriage proposal during the Christmas holidays and promptly resigned. That was when our daughter got a call. She had taken a break from teaching because of voice problems, but felt she was able to teach again. So off she went to a congregation a thousand miles away.

She noticed that Nelson would often let his eyes roll up, his head hang down, his mouth hang open and begin to drool on his desk. I don’t know just what she saw that told her it was an act, but she realized that Nelson was just acting stupid to get out of doing his schoolwork. She decided that if he was smart enough to put on an act like that, he was smart enough to learn.

She didn’t let him get away with acting stupid any more and he began to learn. He was a little slower than others his age, but he did go on to finish school. I heard later that he got converted and was baptized.

Nelson learned this little act in the special needs school and found that it got him out of having to do much work in school. I’m not intending to bash the teachers in that school, or to heap praise on my daughter. (Though I’ve often wondered how it came to be that I raised a daughter who was so much sharper than her Dad.)

I’m just telling this as a cautionary tale. Our children, whether it be at home or at school, learn a lot of other things than the things we are trying to teach them. Most of their learning is from example and observation, and that is completely normal. But we need to be alert enough to see when they are learning something that is the direct opposite of what we think we are teaching.

If that happens, it usually means that there is something that we haven’t learned as well as we thought we had. Raising children is quite a learning experience for the parents.

Don’t tell your Mom

The teacher told her class: “Your parents probably won’t understand what we’ve been talking about, so it would be better if you didn’t tell them about it.” One of the students in that class was the teenaged daughter of a co-worker. I could tell that her Mom was not impressed when she talked about it at work the next day. But what could she do? She was already doing one of the best things she could in such circumstances: the mother-daughter relationship was so strong that the daughter couldn’t imagine not talking to her Mom about things that troubled her at school.

That was more than 20 years ago. Nowadays we talk about “helicopter mothers” who hover around their children to protect them from bad things that might happen on the way to and from school, or on the playground. Others are convinced that the greatest danger is what goes on inside the classroom and have opted for other methods of teaching their children.

One alternative that is growing in popularity is for parents to teach their children at home. Many other parents are concerned about what their children are learning, and not learning, in school, but they can’t imagine that home-schooling would provide the education their children need. In addition, the time and effort that would be needed appear to be impossible for ordinary humans.

Would it be too strong to say that such parents have been brainwashed? From the beginning of the public schools, it has been the explicit goal of the educational establishment to convince parents that they are incompetent to teach their children. It took more than 100 years, but they have largely succeeded. And children are learning less and less all the time.

This quote from a study by the Fraser Institute blows the cover off the supposed superiority of public schools:

“Surprisingly, several studies have found that home education may help eliminate the potential negative effects of certain sociol-economic factors. Though children whose parents have university degrees score higher on tests of academic achievement than other home schooled children, home education appears to mitigate the harmful effects of low parental education levels. That is, public schools seem to educate children of poorly educated parents worse than do the poorly educated parents themselves. One study found that students taught at home by mothers who had never finished high school scored a full 55 percentile points higher than public school students from parents with comparable education levels.”1

Some exceptional teachers have inspired children from disadvantaged homes to accomplish great things. Such teachers do exist, but they are not the norm. The primary responsibility for instilling a desire to learn in children rests with their parents. They are also in the best position to teach proper conduct and respect for others.

Congregations of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, of which I am a member, have chosen to operate private schools for their children. The key to the successful functioning of these schools is for parents to be parents — to be actively involved in their children’s lives and be the primary teachers of moral, social and spiritual values.

The long and short of it is that, despite the noise from the public system, parents are more qualified to teach their children than any professional teacher. Whatever form of education parents choose for their children, if certain foundational principles have not been taught in the home, the teacher has little to build upon.

1 Home Schooling: From the Extreme to the Mainstream, published 2007 by the Fraser Institute,Vancouver, BC, Canada. The Fraser Institute is an independent research and educational organization founded in 1974. The Fraser Institute does not accept grants from government or contracts for research.

Why a child should not be king of the home

There are widely divergent views on child training in North America – ranging all the way from a laissez faire attitude (let the child alone and she will figure things out on her own), to the harsh disciplinarian (if you want a child to learn how to behave you need to spank him once a day, and twice on Sundays). Actually, neither extreme can be called child training, both imply that the parents have abdicated from their role as parents to become either neutral observers or the administrators of a punitive law.

Child training means teaching and the teaching needs to begin in the first weeks and months. There is no harm in getting used to explaining to a baby what we expect of her when she is very small. This is a habit that we need to develop early, so that when a child is older we don’t leave our explaining until after she has done something wrong.

Parents in France start by teaching their babies to sleep through the night. They do this simply by learning to discern the sounds a baby makes when he wakes up in the night. We all go through many cycles each night of deep sleep and light sleep where we are awake or almost awake. A newborn does not know how to connect these cycles and if a mother jumps up at every whimper to comfort her child, she is actually hindering the child from learning. If the child’s cry is a cry of distress, then the mother knows the child needs help, but a few little whimpers between sleep cycles are normal. By not running for every whimper, the mother is also teaching the child that parents need sleep, too, they are not just servants who are at their child’s beck and call.

This is part of the essential task of teaching a child that she is not the one in charge, the parents are.  As soon as possible, a child should be expected to greet adults when they come to visit and to greet the adults in a home where the family visits. This is good manners, and makes the child more aware that other people matter.

Most of us in North America grew up being ordered to eat everything on our plate and threatened with no dessert if we didn’t. Sometimes we were told about the poor starving children in China who would love to eat what we were leaving on our plate. Today there is an epidemic of obesity in both North America and China, and North American children are still very picky eaters. A better plan is to teach children that they don’t have to clean their plates, but they must eat at least a little of every food on the table.  Treats should be limited to once a day, perhaps an after school snack. If this plan is explained and adhered to without exception the child will learn that begging for a treat is useless. (This plan needs to be explained to the grandparents, too.)

A newborn baby understands only his own needs, but small steps such as these make him aware that other people have needs, too. This is child training and much of it can be accomplished without much fuss or stress. The goal is to teach the child that he is not in charge, the parents are. This does not mean that there might not be a need for stronger measures on occasion, but I am convinced that a lot of corporal punishment is simply an attempt to compensate for a lack of child training.

The child who grows up in a home where parents constantly yield to his wishes and whines is going to have a hard time adjusting to real life as an adult. It seems that some people today never really reach adulthood. We are doing our children a favour if we teach them in such a way that they are spared from a life of perpetual spoiled childhood.

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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