A Christian Education

I’ve always had an interest in education. Back in middle school I wrote an essay in English arguing in favor of year round school. I still support this in all cases because it’s not about of having more days school–with year round school it’s the same number of days that we currently have, just spread out more so that instead of a single long 3 month break, there are more frequent week and 2 week long breaks. The downside is that there’s no chunk of time for remedial summer school classes, but the benefit is that less time is spent reviewing the stuff that is forgotten over the long break. If more effort is spent catching students before they fall behind, there’s no need for remedial classes.

But I’m not here to re-hash a middle school paper. Or even discuss public school education. Over the past few years I’ve been interested in Christian homeschooling and it’s pros and cons. The biggest con being the disregard for a secular education, but again, that’s a discussion for another time. Nah, what this post is about is some information I sought to get straight from the horses mouths. Or in this case, a homeschooling mom who likes to give her opinion and a Christian University that caters to formerly homeschooled students.

Let’s start with the homeschooling mom. Her blog post was all about how “You can do this!” when it comes to homeschooling your kid. That is debatable, since there’s no real consensus when it comes to what kind of qualifications parents should have when they undertake the task of teaching their children.Some states require a college degree. Other states don’t even require that the student be considered being educated (Virginia had like 6000 children legally classified as “not enrolled in school” a few years ago). So, even a single state test to ensure that the student is receiving an education are at times non-existent.

I take a moderate view of this form of education. That is, an ambitious parent with a moderate amount of education can teach their young child the basics of elementary school–reading, writing, arithmetic. Basics of science and history. Simple stuff that doesn’t involve too much outside knowledge; just read the textbook and help the kid learn the information. But at some point in middle school, a turning point occurs. This is when student should start learning how to write a decent essay (and there are many different forms). History should start to get complicated. Mathematics start entering the realm where people either “get it” or they don’t. Science starts entering the realm of theories and research. At this point, I think parents need to seriously consider where their child should go to school.

When a student’s only teacher is their parent, they are limited by their parents limits. I think I wrote a post earlier describing  how my entire education was influenced by something like 150 different teachers. Knowing that this particular homeschooling mom is very Christian I was curious as to how she’d encourage her older children to explore higher education. Turns out, she doesn’t.

My question, specifically was how she’d teach her oldest children Chemistry and Calculus, since I took honors high school Chemistry in 11th grade and Dual Enrollment Chem and Calculus (meaning I was earning college credit at the same time I earned high school credit) my senior year. Her reply was this:

“My oldest actually is there. He is doing chemistry this year, and completed pre-calculus last year but has no interest in going on to calculus because it does not tie in with the field of work he is wanting to go into. Calculus is actually college level math. High School curriculum only runs through pre-calc, and few students even get that far unless they are very advanced in math.

It depends on the student, as well as the teacher. By the time children are doing such advanced High School courses, they ideally should have learned how to teach themselves from their textbooks, all of which explain new concepts step-by-step, give examples, etc.

Many of the higher level courses also come with instructional videos (DVDs or online lessons). Solomon used the DVDs taught by Art Reed for all his higher level math. There are often also local resources available through homeschool co-ops that teach classes on advanced coursework for those who are still struggling with learning on their own from a book.

Unless the parent is a whiz in any particular advanced subject and enjoys teaching it, and also has the time to teach the student who could get the same information by reading the textbook rather than it being conferred to him by the parent, most parents will pass the torch of learning to their child sometime during the earlier High School years. In fact, that is one of the main goals of High School – to transition to life after school, where you have to learn on your own, motivate yourself, and take responsibility.”

First, notice how she justifies her son not going into calculus because a) he’s not interested in it and b) it’s not required for high school because it’s a college level class. So, in other words, that kind of education is pointless and therefore not worth spending time on. Later she goes on to explain that by this point, her son should be teaching himself and that it’s not her responsibility to ensure that he gets a well rounded education. I’m not sure at what point she quits playing an active role in what her children learn, but I’ve read enough stories on Homeschoolers Anonymous about how little some parents pay attention to their homeschooled children’s education. Not all, but one is enough for me to be pissed.

I didn’t choose to go into calculus, I was placed there by my guidance counselor because of my desire to be in orchestra. Half my classmates in our “college bound” clique went into AP Statistics instead. Was it a waste of time? It’s debatable. Because I got the college credit in high school, I didn’t need to take it when I went to college, thus freeing up that time for classes that I actually enjoyed. I did well in the dual enrollment class in high school; I probably would have failed the same calculus class in university. Will I ever use calculus? Well…literally, no. But considering that I call myself a historian, insanely interested in the way life has changed over time (which is the definition of a derivative–one of the key parts of calculus), I can appreciate what calculus is. I have a broader view of the world because I took calculus–I know that the mathematics work, even if I don’t really understand how and why; it’s not magical speech meant to confuse the uninitiated.

I agree that students should be interested in what they study, but at the same time, anyone who only learns what they’re interested in will never have the chance to be inspired by something new. Disregarding classes as not important, for whatever reason, is harmful. And few people, even those who are very intelligent, can teach themselves with a textbook. I got straight As in calculus and thought I grasped the subject well, but I missed a couple of classes because of illness and tried to teach myself the content I’d missed. It was incredibly difficult and it turned out I didn’t do the best job. I was correct in my algebra, but my notations weren’t correct. So, it was like I was doing the problems in Spanish instead of English, though no one but me would understand it.

The problem with homeschooling is that, for the most part, parents only require the bare minimum. Since so much extra effort is needed to access tougher classes, they’re rarely sought after. Now schools, public or private, charter or co-op, are offering any number of electives and honors courses in order to give students the best chance to connect with something bigger than themselves, since they’re expected to spend 4 years there anyway. Meanwhile, homeschool students usually finish their classes early, graduating at 16 or 17, and have to take the GED test to be considered educated by their future employers.

Anyway, my second source is Verity University, a Christian university. I was surprised when looking through their course information that their Biology study guide included a table of ages consistent with standard science “old Earth” dating. So I shot them a question asking about their belief system since this seemed to contradict their “young Earth” mentality on everything else. The response I got was that the “Biology study guide’s introduction provides a Biblical worldview with which to equip our students as they study the CLEP exam materials. CLEP has secular worldviews, but it is necessary to understand the world’s perspectives in order to pass the exams.” In case you don’t know (I didn’t), CLEP is 33 tests that the College Board (organization that manages the SAT tests, AP tests, and other things I consider “college prep” rather than actual college) offers at $80 each as classes you’d take during your first 2 years of college. In other words, the College Board offers these exams as a stand-in for when you want to opt out of taking an intro-to class in college. These are similar to the AP test or dual enrollment in that they can be accepted or not by a university.

Does anyone else find it questionable that’d you’d pay any amount of money to go to a “university” that claims to teach one thing (Biblical Worldview), but has so little accreditation that they can’t teach what they want, but have to teach the secular test that can be transferred. By the way, I haven’t seen a study guide like this since like 6th grade. After that, my classes were required to make our own. In any case, if I’m going to go to a university, it’s going to be one where a) they teach their own stuff and write their own tests and b) when they do that their credits are more or less transferable at the discretion of the receiving university.

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