Archives For Home Education

One of the more vicious stigmas attached to homeschooling, particularly by The Greens, is that homeschooling is the equivalent of child abuse. While this misconception and prejudice, isn’t shared by mainstream Australia, the view is reflected in the assumption that homeschooling is the equivalent of over parenting.

Over parenting, however, is not the same as homeschooling. Over parenting involves doing everything for the child. Over parenting is the parent smothering the child in too much kindness. An old term for this is ‘’babying or pampering’’. This is a term more properly applied to the parents who refuse to let their child grow up, or the parents who raise their child in a secular or religious bubble.

Every bump, bruise or brawl is accompanied by an excessive amount of sympathy and concern. Even if their child started the fight, or caused an incident, their child is innocent and everyone else is to blame.

In some instances, over parenting is about making the parent shine. Everything done for the child is only done for the sake of the parent’s need for affirmation in the eyes of the public.

What usually drives this is quest for affirmation is insecurity and anxiety. For instance: mum or dad projects their fears and insecurities onto their child. Acting on an unhealthy fear and connection with their child, mum or dad wraps their child in cotton wool.

Being seen to be a good parent, always saying “yes” to our children in order to keep them feeling happy, is given high importance. In these cases, maintaining appearances in public or on social media takes priority over the actual nurturing a child’s character. An appeal to keeping up the right appearances, mixed with an appeal to the vanity metrics of social media, and the world looks on and applauds.

Ironically, this constant “yes” and the subsequent banning of ever saying “no” to their child, results in the parent having done next to nothing for the adult that their child will one day become.

As 19th Century pastor Charles Spurgeon wrote,

‘Happy is he who is happy in his children, and happy are the children who are happy in their father. All fathers are not wise. Some are like Eli, and spoil their children. Not to cross our children is the way to make a cross of them. Those who never discipline [say “Yes” as well as “no” to] their children, shouldn’t complain when their undisciplined children become a burden to them.’ (2007 pp.80-81) [i]

In addition, Psychologist, Lisa Firestone notes:

‘When we assume our children need more than they do, we are undermining their abilities and hurting their confidence… as parents, we often fail to recognise how capable our children are.’ (2012) [ii]

There’s no disputing that most parents want the best for their kids. For some parents, though, the only way they think this can be achieved is by doing everything for their child. Everything they might never have had done for them. This is admirable, but it ultimately goes from one extreme to another.

The problem is that,

‘doing too much for our kids teaches them to be dependent.’ (Firestone, 2012)

It’s important children be given guidance and a reasonable amount of room for independence as they are growing up because

‘growing up, by its very nature, is a series of weaning experiences for children. From the moment a child is born, they are weaned from the comfort and safety of their mother’s womb. Learning the lessons of how to get their needs met then transitioning to meeting their own needs is not only essential to a person’s survival but to their psychological well-being.’ (Firestone, 2012)

While over parenting can be a real trap for some homeschooling parents, it’s wrong to equate over parenting solely with homeschooling.

The basic goal of homeschooling is raising children up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). This involves being raised up outside the academic industrial complex. There is no conveyor belt conformity. Homeschooled kids do not become clones of a system, nor are they forced to conform to the social order established by their peers, under limited supervision of adults in the school yard.

Homeschooling is about equipping the child with the shared responsibility for their own education.  Ideally, the homeschooled child will not only have acquired academic skills from a holistic and rigorous learning environment, but the child would also have acquired a decent amount of life skills.

For instance, they learn to love learning. They deal with people of different ages and backgrounds on a consistent basis. They may learn life skills like, how to change a car tire, maintain a bike, cook, clean, and craft. Most also learn how to think critically, when to show compassion and hopefully, how to live out a loving relationship with God and neighbour. In short, they learn to become independent adults in a nurturing, as opposed to an over parenting environment.

Most homeschoolers won’t be entering the adult world with unrealistic expectations about how society works. They won’t have had these expectations drilled into them by the social order set by the trends, likes, dislikes and moods of those who dominate the playground or schoolroom.

Over parenting is not homeschooling because the aim is to

‘help our children get a real feeling for themselves by offering them real love and affection, while equipping them with skills that help them feel competent.’ (Firestone, 2012)

Homeschooling isn’t about training up experts. That’s an untenable goal. Independent of the academic industrial complex, both mum and dad, provide guidance and enough resources to empower their child to succeed in life.

Homeschooling is about not just doing school together. It’s about doing life together.

This process involves parents working alongside their children, helping them to identify and then develop their child’s gifts and talents; pointing them towards a trade and career.

Where over parenting dis-empowers, homeschooling channels freedom for empowerment. As Firestone puts it:

‘The most honest proof of good parenting is seeing our child doing well, showing interest, learning skills, finding contentment, and finding him/herself. What we can offer as parents is love, safety, support, and guidance, a strong security from which our children can confidently venture out and independently experience the world.’ (Firestone, 2012)

This isn’t over parenting. It’s homeschooling.

Homeschooling is best summed up by Hannah Arendt:

‘Education is the point at which we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, not to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new – but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world’

(Hannah Arendt, 1961:193 parenthesis mine) [ii]

Homeschooling still remains a viable option in most states within Australia. It’s not an easy alternative because of the social stigma attached to Homeschooling. Plus the cost of homeschooling requires making some financial sacrifices.  For example, the best curriculum can only currently be sourced from the United States. In addition, unlike the massive education industrial complex, there is no dedicated Government funding for homeschoolers. In fact, it’s the opposite. Based on figures from 2016, the homeschooling parent saves the tax payer a significant amount of money every year they homeschool their child.

As for accountability, in New South Wales, there are many small homeschool co-op groups who do activities together. In addition, NESA has a homeschooling department and representatives who visit either annually of biannually, depending on the need. They look at progress reports and curriculum. They measure the ground and distance traveled. My dealings with NESA have always been better than expected. For a government agency, NESA do a good job. Their involvement in homeschooling is small. They also don’t provide support, or actively encourage homeschooling. NESA only provide guidance on Australian Curriculum standards from which the homeschool family can build their own syllabus. As far as limited government goes, NESA’s homeschool department is a brilliant example.

As for the question of socialization, the majority of homeschooled children fare better in social situations, than some of the peers within the industrial education complex.

Homeshooling is about funding and facilitating our children’s potential. It’s about doing life together, not coexisting as strangers would in a workplace. Choosing to homeschool in Australia is a challenging, but rewarding endeavor. It’s another way of selling all that we have and giving to the poor. (Matthew 19). With transparency, just accountability, limited government involvement and family support, homeschooling done right, cannot, in any way, be justifiably equated with child abuse or over parenting.

Homeschool where you can, when you can, if you can.


References:

[i] Spurgeon, C.H. 2007 The Complete John Ploughman: Combined Edition Christian Focus Publications

[ii] Firestone, Ph.D, L. 2012 The Abuse of Over Parenting Sourced 20th November, 2017 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201204/the-abuse-overparenting

[iii] Arendt, H1961 Between Past & Future, Penguin Classics p.193

Also published at the Caldron Pool under the heading ‘Is Homeschooling Over Parenting?’ on 9th December 2018

 

Teaching that Guarentees LearningTeaching is not teaching without a sure grasp of what it means to learn. Or, at least, that’s what I’m learning.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and anxious about the torrential downpour of, “how to’’, “when to”, “10 things you must do”, “five things you should do.” […and the lists go on and on]

Whilst some of these lists are good, there is a limit to them. This includes the fact that they’re largely compiled by Westerners. Most contain a predominantly Western perspective built on tried and true concrete concepts about education.

These, however, are also haunted by a variety of legislating, and the enforcement of ever-changing approaches to education. (Some of which is thrown about by the ‘’revolutionary’’ whims and fads of a minority among the tenured academia, and which are, sometimes, to quickly approved by the approval ratings hungry, bureaucratic class.)

For those parenthesized reasons, it’s important to hear beyond the Westernized realm from time to time.

In his 2012 book ‘Teaching That Guarantees Learning’, Nigerian teacher, Dr. Obed Onwuegbu, writes:

‘Teachers are employed for three reasons. To set the goal, select and arrange factors and guide the learner to learn. The student can learn without the teacher if proper arrangement is in place.’[i]

For Onwuegbu, teaching is about the setting up of a learning environment. The teacher takes into account the form and content of the material, and then facilitates the way forward. This involves identifying primary “factors.” Then by enabling these primary factors, such as the learning environment and learning tools, an interest in learning is stimulated. Each factor or “method of delivery” plays a key role in empowering the student’s education.

Here Onwuegbu attempts an explanation:

‘Let me illustrate. Onwuegbu is my last name. Invariably Americans ask me to teach them how to pronounce it. Left on their own they say On-wu-eg-bu. Then they struggle but almost never succeed to say Onwu- egbu, because there are six instead of eight letters and two syllables instead of four in the name. That “struggle” from pronouncing four syllables On-wu-eg-bu to two syllables Onwu-egbu is what I refer to as process and only the learner can experience it.[ii]

By focusing on facilitating the primary factors that empower learning and moving to a facilitators position in the learning process, the teacher removes any chance of becoming an obstacle to the student’s learning experience. The responsibility to learn what is taught is then placed in the right order, first, on the learner and secondly, on the teacher.

Onwuegbu’s approach has weight.

‘The teacher arranges the factors before the learners walk into the classroom. Imbedded in the arrangement is the objective of the lesson. The teacher introduces the learner to the goal and the arrangement, i.e. how to achieve the goal before the learner interacts with the factors. At this stage, the student is present. He has been introduced to both the goal and the means of achieving it. The facilitator waits and watches to help. He reinforces or corrects. That is teaching. The result is learning.’[iii]

Instead of rushing towards progress at the expense of process, Onwuegbu places progress and process on the same line. Process is then placed before progress, whilst progress still rightly maintains a position of importance. In short, Onwu-egbu, if I’m reading him correctly, aims to bring teachers back to a place where “the means” are put back before “the end.”

This is akin to merchandising. The seller sets up a display. In retail jargon it’s what’s called a “silent” salesman. From there the customer learns about the product both with and without the sales staff. This invokes a learning experience whereby the customer gets an hands-on, up close and personal encounter with the product in the context ascribed to it by its producer. The display is designed to create interest and interaction.

According to Onwu-egbu,

‘Identifying the factor per se is not enough. For example, it is not merely choosing a film or going to the library, but it is choosing the right film and books, and knowing what, how and when to use them. It is not going to the library alone, but knowing what section, books, topics, pages, questions and answers or even other materials the learners may need to facilitate learning.[iv]

In a similar way to a merchandiser, the teacher functions as a manager of the process and progress of a students learning. By dressing up the educational environment with exciting and interesting material the teacher has effectively merchandised the learning environment. Thus creating “silent educators” by which the student can meaningfully interact.

‘Whatever arrangement the teachers make must be finished before the students enter to interact with the factors. One arrangement takes about eighty to eighty-five percent of the teacher’s teaching time. The remaining fifteen to twenty percent of teaching time is used to reinforce and guide the students while they interact with the factors‘ [v]

What Onwuegbu isn’t advocating is the abdication of teacher responsibility or abolition of teachers.

What he is advocating is liberation from a sort of curriculum purgatory; a gulag. Where constrained creativity incites boredom; where meaning and purpose is easily lost. A place where  zero incentive is given and indifference is propagated en masse. “Silent educators” still require preparation; ground work, creativity, clear communication and reviews.  I.e.: direction, vision and management. The teacher is freed to teach. Not robotically, but dynamically. Exercising freedom in limitation, unchained from an empty and static routine.

Onwuegbu writes,

 ‘‘I know that teachers use films when they teach in the U.S.A. That is a luxury I did not have throughout my years as a student or teacher in Nigeria. I was lucky if I had a picture. My granddaughter in fifth grade complained about a film her class watched. It seemed the film babysat the class for the teacher […] For this arrangement to succeed, the lesson should last for more than the usual fifty minutes.[Then] the teacher introduces the lesson and plans for the students’ interaction […] A different arrangement should be made for every lesson. This is one of the reasons the current number of lessons per day must give way to a new time arrangement. There must be less number of lessons, and more time for every lesson. Time and tests will no longer control classroom activities.’ [vi]

I’m in agreement with Onwuegbu’s main theme about process and progress. I’m on board with his idea of teaching being about ‘facilitating the factors’. As for the other points he makes, I need a little longer to really think about them. For example what are the consequences of not having tests? Of restructuring grade tiers, and how do we avoid real-time restrictions if we’re to extend lesson times?

Overall, his research and experience gives wider credibility to the concept that the world is our classroom:

Since: ‘teaching did not start in schools.’

His conclusions are reassuring. Facilitating eliminates the temptation to see teachers and learning tools as baby sitters. The teacher still has to teach. As a facilitator the teacher or parent/s cannot escape his or her own leadership role in the learning process or the progress of the learner.

Teachers are an essential part of the interwoven fabric of factors. Onwuegbu’s idea that the function of a teacher, is that of a facilitator, has the potential to reform Western societies notion of what a teacher is and what a teacher does.

 ‘If there is one word, which describes learning, it is process. Hence, to teach is to enhance and facilitate that process. The teacher is the facilitator. The function of education is to do everything to promote the process.’[vii]

 

Source:

[i] Onwuegbu, O.I. 2012, Teaching that Guarantees Learning (Loc. 48-49) Kindle Ed.Loc. 825-827

[ii] Ibid, Loc. 775-782

[iii] Ibid, Loc.823-824

[iv] Ibid, Loc. 114-117

[v] Ibid, Loc. 201-204

[vi] Ibid, Loc. 251-252

[vii] Ibid, Loc. 48-49

Homeschool SculptureCreativity reduces textbook fog and increases concentration. Encouraging creativity seems to unglue the routine just enough to re-energize the more mundane tasks that follow.

Yesterday, I was shown the importance of this. Of setting aside time for creativity in the midst of the academic timetable.

It was a simple idea, but seems to have been a winner. During craft and music appreciation sessions we crafted a wall sculpture for Lent using recycled cardboard that was moulded into the shape of tissue boxes.The work took us longer than expected, however, given the learning outcomes involved, any concern about time became a non-issue.

The picture to the left is the end result of that session. Each box was individually covered in a mosaic and then joined together with a glue-gun. The top box was designed by our eldest, depicting Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection.

I know I’ve quoted it before a few times, but I’m in need of the reminder:

‘to be a teacher is to really be a learner’ (Kierkegaard [i]).

[i] Kiekegaard, S On my work as an author, the point of view in Hong, H. & Hong,E. 1978 The Essential Kierkegaard  Princeton University Press pp.460-461

RL2015

The culturally engrained, number one bad habit in the West is to measure most things or people by their inherent economic value.

Now, I’m all for compassionate commerce and moving forward financially, but it seems to me that measuring the worth of someone through their economic efficiency or portfolio only encourages the deterioration of the work force through the loss of respect for a person’s true worth.

My point is that depths of my pockets are not indicators of my value, success, spirituality or holiness.

They may reflect the brokenness I come out of, or good/bad decisions I may have made, but in the end they do not demonstrate who I am or illustrate what I am worth.

Money, property, friends and status can all be lost; whereas knowledge, good character, faith, wisdom and understanding cannot be, at least not unless it is first surrendered or compromised.

The more we teach our homeschoolers the more I see that we are passing them an inheritance like no other.(In fact, this applies to any parent engaged in the responsible education of their children)

We are equipping them with an investment that no man, woman or ideology cannot easily take from them.

There is something of a true freedom expressed in this journey, freedom that is handed down at a cost, but one with returns that will far outlive (and outweigh) the initial investment.

Here are some of our more recent reflections taken during our morning discussions about ‘scripture, life and the world around us’.

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones’ (Proverbs 3:5-8, ESV)

Collage scripture_lifeCollage scripture_life 3

Collage scripture_life 2

collage scripture_life lessons

‘And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God us with humanity. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes…’ (Rev.21:3-4, ESV)

{Images reprinted here with permission from the artists.}