Archives For homeschooling parents

Five Links: January Edition

January 18, 2016 — 1 Comment

Five Links Jan Edition 2

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these lists. I don’t do enough of them. Starting here, I’m hoping to change that.

1. In what is the simplest explanation on how to pray that I’ve heard in a while, this week, Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis wrote a piece on prayer for the Orthodox Christian Network. Entitled, ‘How Often Should I Pray? Akrotirianakis writes:

“Prayer is not about following “rules” or “heaping up phrases” (even beautiful phrases) but speaking to God from our hearts.
When someone asks me “how often do you talk to your wife?” or “how often do you talk to your son?” the answer is “as often as I can. At a minimum, I talk to them in the morning before I leave and at night when I get home. And sometimes I call them during the day, not for long periods, a quick call or a text. I make special time to spend with each of them and for us to spend as a family—this is extended time, more than the good morning or good night words. Prayer works in the same way.”

2. Christina Grau, writer and homeschool mum extraordinaire, shared some general thoughts on God, popularity and motivation. In the context of Homeschooling, parents can at times feel overlooked, overworked, under-appreciated and underpaid. It’s worse in an environment where encouragement is so distant that homeschoolers are tempted to find encouragement solely in “likes, shares and comments.”

In response to When Your Audience Doesn’t Applaud, Christina notes:

”God isn’t looking for someone who has wonderful audiences and receives thunderous applause. He’s looking for someone willing to serve, even when no one appreciates them.”
“Sometimes doing the littlest thing IS doing a big thing. Are we willing to do the ‘big’ thing, when it means we may never get noticed?’’

3.  From August, 2015. Still, a good read:

Joe Hildebrand, ‘The Rise of Mob Rule In Australia’

‘This is the new mob: One that derives its power not by its size but by the volume and frequency with which it shouts.Unlike genuine people power, this is just pain-in-the-arse power. Instead of a matter of who’s got the most numbers it’s a matter of who’s got the most time on their hands. Once, if a government policy was considered abhorrent enough, it would be met by a cohesive organised campaign, such as the shearers’ strikes that established the ALP or the Vietnam moratoriums to the anti-WorkChoices campaign.
Now the most common method of protest is ferocious spontaneous uprisings which, instead of targeting a policy, tend to target individuals.’

4. Ronald Reagan, New Years Greeting to the Soviet People, 1st Jan. 1986:

‘Our democratic system is founded on the belief in the sanctity of human life and the rights of the individual — rights such as freedom of speech, of assembly of movement, and of worship. It is a sacred truth to us that every individual is a unique creation of God, with his or her own special talents, abilities, hopes, and dreams. Respect for all people is essential to peace, and as we agreed in Geneva, progress in resolving humanitarian issues in a spirit of cooperation would go a long way to making 1986 a better year for all of us.’

5. A copy of Martin Luther King Jnr’s, typed and archived sermon, ‘Tough Mind & Tender Heart; Matthew 10:16, 30th August 1959. Stand out quote:

‘Nothing pains some people more than having to think. This prevalent tendency toward softmindedness is found in the unbelievable gullibility of men and women. Take an attitude toward advertisements. We are so easily led to purchase a product because a television or radio ad pronounces it better than any other […] One of the great needs of humanity is to be lifted above the morass of false propaganda.’

Soli Deo Gloria.


 

Paula Bonhoeffer and Her KidsTwo chapters in and I’m seeing the importance of Eberhard Bethge’s epic, ‘Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography’.

Bethge begins by covering Dietrich’s family-history, education and home life. Each forms the background for his discussion on Bonhoeffer’s life as a student and his decision to study theology.

In these chapters, two things shine:

First:

‘Bonhoeffer saw theology as branch of knowledge. His path to theology began – despite the Christian foundation of his parent’s home – in a secular atmosphere. Only later did the church enter his field of vision. Unlike theologians who came from families that were active in the church & theology. (p.44) [i]

Second: The Bonhoeffer children, including Dietrich, were, for a time, schooled at home.

Bethge explains,

Before moving to Berlin, Dietrich’s mother, Paula ‘gave the children their first schooling […]
She gave lessons at home to the older and younger children together, along with the children of some of her husband’s professor friends, and at the year’s end she was always able to register her pupils successfully for the state examination, where they did very well.
Thanks to the excellent start she gave them, they were able to skip entire grades and eventually take the school graduation examinations at a remarkably early age, as Dietrich did.
This home teaching, of course, implied some criticisms of traditional schooling. The Bonhoeffer’s did not want to hand their children over to others at an early, impressionable age. One of the family sayings was that Germans had their backs broken twice in the course of their lives: first at school, and then in their military service […]
Without the aid of textbooks, she taught them a large repertoire of poems, songs and games […]
Dishonesty and lies were severely punished; in comparison, broken windows and torn clothes hardly counted. Talents were encouraged at an early age. The Children knew it was not impossible for any of their real wished to be granted, and when others’ wishes came true they were expected to share in the pleasure. What their parents told them to do, had to be done without hesitation or argument, and complaining about work or unfair treatment was not tolerated. The Children’s day followed a disciplined pattern; they always knew where they were, and the routine never struck them as restrictive, for they also knew that their parents arranged happy surprises and outings every now and then.’ (pp.16-19)[ii]

Sabine, Dietrich’s twin sister, also wrote about their early home education. Sabine’s account described Paula as having had a ‘strong personality. Of being intelligent, warm-hearted and unaffected, a good organiser and socially very gifted.’

Paula had homeschooled Sabine and Dietrich’s older siblings for one or two years. Due to Paula’s schedule, Sabine and Dietrich were then taught by a governess, with Paula teaching them Bible, and religious instruction.

Sabine recounts that their large house even had a schoolroom with desks in it. Their mother ‘had a strong interest in and talent for teaching. Girls had a dolls room, to play as they liked, and the house also had a workshop for woodworking.’ Sabine then writes that ‘nobody took it amiss when they tore they clothes at play or work, or broke things.’ [iii]

On the difference between Bethge’s version and the more recent Eric Metaxas version, I still think Metaxas’ strength is that it meets a wider audience. It’s accessible at an affordable level.

For example: at the time of purchase the Bethge version cost $75.00au as compared to $39.95au for the unabridged Metaxas version.It’s also worth noting that the Bethge version took three months to arrive.

Although my thoughts here could change the further I read, I still think, that the Metaxas biography holds its own; Metaxas makes the Bonhoeffer story more accessible. It’s easy to purchase, has a reasonable price-point and the retelling seems to flow better.

As I stated in a recent review of ‘No Ordinary Men,’ Metaxas may not augment the work of Eberhard Bethge, but he certainly doesn’t diminish it. Instead, what could be said, is Metaxas steers a larger audience in Bethge’s direction.

 


References:

[i] Bethge, E. 2000 Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography Revised Edition, Fortress Press

[ii] ibid

[iii] Leibholz, S. 1964. I knew Dietrich Bonhoeffer, English version, 1966. (pp. 19-21)

*Updated 16th December, 2019.

Photo: Paula Bonhoeffer with her children, date unknown. Source: Paula Bonhoeffer

Evaluating ExpectationsWith time restraints and the high amount of information available, it’s unreasonable to expect a teacher or a parent to teach a child everything.

Attempting to learn all there is to know about a subject is unrealistic. Any pressure to do so only squeezes the joy out of the learning process.

For example, no one that I’m aware of expects 5th or 6th graders to write a one hundred thousand word, doctoral thesis, on Newton’s Laws of physics. What’s expected is that children might understand the three basic principles, and be able to name them.

Learning takes time and we need time to learn.  This is why most pre-tertiary and some undergraduate programs only teach an overview of a particular topic, sometimes, in repetition. The overview takes the form of an in-depth introduction to the content of the subject.

Once taught, the student is free to explore the subject further. Taking the opportunity to advance then becomes the responsibility of the student, not the teacher – “wax on, wax off.”

The same applies to homeschoolers. The overall goal is infused with the intention to create, inspire, spark interest in and give kids a love of learning.

For Homeschoolers both the world and the home are seen as being educational platforms that provide ample opportunities to empower the learning process. Effectively taking personal responsibility for their child’s early education, homeschooling parents actively involve themselves in the learning process.  They direct and engage with their child. Matching their child’s education with natural abilities in consultation, not servitude, to contemporary standards.

This overall goal begins and ends with what Christian theologians call right relationship, exampled by God, intended to be lived out in both world and home environments. This theological vantage point allows for certain benefits to be more clearly seen.

For instance:

Relationship development: Generally speaking, mum and dad work together. Both are equally responsible, contributing on multifaceted levels. Within a responsible and loving framework, there are few limits on what can be determined as an educational experience.

Community development: Helping a child understand that they are part of a community and seeking to establish what that means for them. Transparency and accountability fall into the sphere of communal participation in the educational process, often including friends, family, professionals, and/or travel.

Embracing technology and media: When it comes to technology and the media, there are parental boundaries in place that teachers don’t inherently own. A child’s learning is directed towards understanding technology, how to adapt to its many changes and use it responsibly. In addition, children are taught the concept of gratitude for access to the technological advancements and privileges on offer in Western Society.

Life affirming experiences: Applied knowledge is the aim of education. A deliberative knowing only empowers embedded knowledge when what we know is applied. Think theology and ministry or perhaps theory and practice. One challenges the other. Theology empowers ministry; ministry informs theology and both move towards becoming an integrated whole.

Humility: No homeschooler or teacher is perfect. Through our constructive response to limitations and setbacks, students learn the importance and being teachable.

Society and politicians will either reasonably support homeschool, or disempower it by coercing parents into a subtle abdication of their parental responsibilities. Whereby, a teacher, fraternity or ideology, ordained by the state, is placed, wrongfully, right at the heart of where a parent or trusted guardian should be. Something for which a blueprint and tragic history already exists[i].

Our task as homeschoolers is not to force our kids to learn, or indoctrinate them with state aligned agendas which change as easily as approval ratings.

Our task is to help our homeschoolers learn, directing them towards freedom and responsibility; towards the Creator, who in Jesus Christ freely chooses to direct us towards Himself[ii].

Following God’s example,  we choose to stand with our kids in order to show them that they can reach beyond themselves; beyond what they and others think they cannot do, inspiring them to see the possibilities of what they can do.

Whether education is based on homeschooling or on parent-teacher consultations, a realistic, achievable and holistic education, hits the ground running when parents are responsibly involved.

The objective for homeschoolers is universal:  loving parents doing their best to set their kids up for success.

‘The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.’[iii]
C.S Lewis, The Abolition of Man, [pp. 13-14]

Sources:

[i] Germany between 1933 & 1945

[ii] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/I

[iii] Lewis, C. S. The Abolition of Man HarperCollins. Kindle Ed.