by Rey Pozon
Our family’s reputation, it seems, precedes us. Thus, it came as no surprise when, at a friend’s birthday celebration, the questions came without invitation. All was undone, it seems, and we had been found out: "Yes, we are homeschooling our children!", I confessed. What happened next is something all homeschoolers are familiar with, and the barrage of doubts and questioning was on. In fact, it was incessant to the point of abuse. The inquisitor, a math teacher employed at the local high school, wanted to know how we could take upon ourselves the education of all five of our daughters.
Doubtless she meant nothing insidious on our part but, rather, that we had not been certified to teach by the State of California. Such audacity, apparently, warrants recognition! A man and his wife believing they could do such a thing? Anyway, the offensive had begun. "Are you complying with State requirements?" she asked and continued with, "do you know the subjects well enough to teach them?" Forget the polite banter one expects at such momentous gatherings.
Those within earshot gathered closer; it was open season and they all wanted to participate in the crucifixion. My wife and I were surrounded. This continued for ten minutes, and from various quarters (really, it seemed an eternity in the midst of an inquisition) until, at last, the lull in eye of the storm, when I thought it prudent to put up some sort of resistance. So, I did what anyone in such a situation would have done. I asked my own question. "Please, would you tell me the details of those requirements?" Suffice it to say, she had no idea. Rarely does anyone take the time to memorize the State of California’s requirements for education.
My wife, having experienced similar altercations, knew what was coming and judiciously bowed out of the small gathering; she went to get some punch. Now I should like to point out that in the fifteen years as the children’s primary teacher, my wife has had her share of putting up with a bewildering cacophony of inquiries lobbied by various "experts" in the field of education. Not surprisingly, she has learned to take it all in stride. Our family has fondly given her the title of "estate director," and, in the midst of those whose complexes will not permit any lower title than "supervisor of this and that," I think it a fitting designation. Besides, the current atmosphere being what it is, it does seem somewhat contrived to call her "housewife" since I cannot even find the word in my King James Bible.
I continued with my line of attack: "What prompts any private or public school teacher to say they have succeeded in their duties when three out of twenty-seven students are deemed exemplary, and the rest are floundering? Moreover, when parents contract for their children’s education, should not the contractor (State of California) and subcontractor (schools) be held liable for shoddy work? Can anyone really suggest that the reason for the patio’s collapse came as a result of little Johnny sitting on the bench and not, rather, that the workmen were inept?"
I could see the white flag being hauled up. "Is anyone suggesting that if they had five children, it is well enough to say that two are ‘A students’ and the rest are, well, dullards? What parent could live with that?" The instigator was exhausted and shell-shocked. She seemed desperate to resume with the festivities. I, on the other hand, had never felt more festive.
Most, if not all, parents of homeschoolers have probably memorized the requirements for education of their particular states. And, remembering the concerns I once had regarding it , I dare say that, given a moment’s notice, many homeschooling parents could recite verbatim the sections and sub-sections thereto. This event, however, does serve to bring up a very common misconception: That homeschooling parents are incontrovertibly inept when it comes to the education of their children and should leave such things to those with qualifications. Both sides need a good dollop of common sense.
However, a greater dilemma was the knowledge that other homeschooling parents were present at this party and had offered no assistance. Instead, they seemed put off that anyone would be stirring up such a commotion. As it was, I spent the better part of the afternoon "enlightening" some truly inquisitive parents who were surprised that our children had never attended "school." One homeschooling dad expressed delight at what had just occurred albeit in unmistakably hushed tones. I wanted to say, "scream it out man! Don’t be ashamed of a good thing! Let’s have a ‘Million-Man’ march in Washington, D.C., or something!" Oh well, another time and another place. In this day and age when everyone seems to be coming out of some "closet," surely there is cause!
The realization has since dawned on me, and with it the reason for the self-imposed defensive mode many homeschool parents (seemingly up the creek without a paddle) have undertaken. It comes from the firm belief that "one is venturing into territories best left to the ‘experts’". It comes as no surprise, then, that such a belief serves only one purpose: To firmly entrench in the mind of the believer the idea of the other’s superiority, and one’s own inferiority. Nothing could be further from the truth.
First, let us not forget that the years K-12 are a time when generalities, not expertise, prevail in the life of the student. Here neither private, public, nor homeschool teacher has the upper hand. In other words, it would not matter whether Sir Isaac Newton were the Algebra, Geometry or Calculus teacher; his ratio of success would be no different from what currently passes for the norm in modern scholastic endeavors. The problem lies elsewhere, and I do not say with the student but with the teacher (or the professor). The student comes to learn and therefore one must assume ignorance on their part, whereas the teacher is the mentor and hence must naturally presume the part of the intellectual.
So too, and secondly, if we understand that an expert in one field need not necessarily be an expert in another, we can easily grasp the situation. An example would be my English teacher friend who once confided that her choice of vocation was primarily due to her "dislike" for math. However, when pressed further she admitted that she would have liked to know the subject better but was always afraid of not measuring up. Her wit and intelligence are at once apparent. On the other hand, her seeming disdain for mathematics causes one to wonder whether she would not have been a better teacher of mathematics, but for the lack of a good math teacher to instruct her. Plainly, she needed a good tutor.
When I say tutor, I mean it in the strictest sense. The word "epitropos" is derived from two other Greek words: Epi – put upon or superimpose, and Tropos – style or character. Obviously, and by default, parents must undertake the part of "natural teachers," though they comprise much of all that is inherent in "spiritual teachers" as well. They are poised at the vanguard. Even so, Socrates proposed that only education, which is specific knowledge tailored to procure a helpful and functional citizen, could be considered beneficial to society. Indeed, he concedes that all enter this world senile (though some still are when leaving it). The implication is that of knowledge built upon the foundation of character; such character as parents are naturally predisposed to teach.
It takes no great leap, then, to believe that the parents must strike while the iron is hot, so to speak. Children will learn, as they must; their disposition is such that they will learn from whatever source society places at their disposal, good or bad. The question is not whether or from whom they will learn but, rather, how and what they will learn. In the main, the issue must be "the what." In any case, it is virtue – those qualities of goodness, honesty, and righteous integrity embodied in persons of high merit and caliber. In essence, a character bereft of vice. As one Christian educator observed, "To educate a child in the absence of virtue is to make of him a clever devil, not an enlightened citizen." And, though some psychologists believe the most crucial times of a child’s life to be the developmental stages from one to six years of age, I should hope they would revise that estimate from one to twelve years of age (Luke 2:42-51).
Anyone who is half awake can see that the present educational system suffers from a severe case of denial. Moreover, its blind insistence on educating the man without first dealing with his fallen state can only bring about what one commentator has called the "… dumbing down of America." Recent events further make us realize that the bane of any society is not the "dumb crook" who serves as fodder for the media but, rather, the educated executives (the "smart crooks") who steal millions of dollars from trust funds and shareholder equities. Will and Ariel Durant, narrating on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, have conveyed as much. They give what is tantamount to an overt accusation that, to a considerable degree, the ruin of that society came about because of disingenuous "citizens" from within, most from the upper echelons. We do well to heed an excerpt from the cartoon character Pogo, who seemed to put the nail squarely on the problem: "We have found the enemy, and he is us."
My wife and I had a hope and a dream... the hope that we would see God’s rule in our lives and the dream that, if nothing else (and had we no other inheritance to give our children), we would have given them ourselves and our faith in God. The results speak for themselves and warrant no defense. Our eldest daughter is now in New York, a freshman in college. Our second eldest, now in her senior year, has also applied and been admitted to the college of her choice. The third daughter will be graduating next year at the age of sixteen. The fourth (10 years old) and the fifth (2 years old) are in preparation and they show no signs of slowing down. Neither do we. God has provided in abundance where we have stepped in obedience.
Finally, all parents know the day must eventually come to let
them go; when it does, we have the Word of One infinitely wise to give us
assurance. To be sure, we may be the wiser also if we understand what every
falconer already knows when he lets the hawks fly away. He knows that he has
trained them well only if, and when, they return. Always present is the risk
that they will not. The same risk God must take with us, and we with our
children. However, let us take solace in the Scripture found in Proverbs 22:6:
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not
depart from it." In the meantime, cover their journey with prayer and bid
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