The teacher is a very important part of education. He or she imparts their worldview and knowledge of a topic by expanding on a textbook or sharing any personal experience they have. No matter the specific teacher or the topic at hand, the teacher is an integral part of how a child learns a subject, for better or worse. More importantly, a teacher shares their heart. They may share their passion about math or literature or government, and their views may not align with yours, but you can be sure that their heart is engaged. And through that, they engage your child’s heart, too.
Now, this may seem inapplicable to a home education setting, but I’d like for you to consider: how do you teach your children at home? Do you have the primary influence? Do you choose the materials? Do you know what is in them? Do you review the text and take part in discussing the subject?
I hope you do, and if not, I hope you’ll take a minute to consider a change.
Before I go on, I want to say that I’m not spouting a strict, legalistic form of homeschooling. I know some parents in very difficult circumstances who seek help for their homeschool in the form of outside classes, online curriculum, and tutors. I get it. Hey, I’ve been in those shoes. My point with this post is that as much as possible, it is very important for parents to be intimately familiar with their child’s educational materials and the worldview they teach. And as much as possible, parents should be involved with the instruction.
The Power of Parental Involvement
It is well-known that children in public schools spend anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 hours of their childhood in the classroom. They are taught by a multitude of teachers, websites, and textbooks on every subject under the sun. In a public school setting, parents have little to no involvement or choice in the materials used. They might help with homework, but even that is difficult when they don’t always understand or even see the source material used. Parents are often left shaking their heads trying to figure out the new way of teaching math, or even angry at the revisionist history lessons.
As a homeschool parent, you don’t have to deal with those issues. Pretty much everything is under your control. So why am I directing this at homeschool parents? Answer: because we have such an amazing array of options in curriculum and instruction websites that it’s easy to “farm out” much of our children’s education, even in a homeschool setting.
Moms and Dads, I’ve watched the homeschool community grow and change since 1984. And one of the aspects of modern homeschooling that grieves me is that parents are not confident in their ability to teach their kids, or they are afraid of missing something, leaving gaps in the education, or something else. And so they remedy these fears with classes here and there every day of the week, or hours of sitting in front of a computer for online instruction. The family relationship that used to happen in homeschooling is conspicuously absent. We still trust everyone else to do a better job than us.
If you are used to letting something or someone else teach your children, you may be missing out on one of the most incredible parts of home education: conversation. You could find yourself discussing the scientific method or the introduction of evolution theory or the evils of slavery or how postmodernism has affected society.
If you aren’t having these conversations with your kids, you are missing a golden opportunity, day in and day out, to impact your children’s hearts and minds in immeasurable ways.
The Power of Conversation
Have you put aside the history book and talked about chivalry, slavery, war, socialism, colonialism, economics, or inventions? Have you discussed capitalism with your teen? Have your kids been given the chance to discuss current issues with you? Have you talked about your worldview?
Face-to-face conversation is necessary between parents and kids. And I’m not just talking about, “How was your day?” Real conversations build relationships, thinking skills, confidence, and intelligence. They fill the heart and stretch the mind.
There are many methods of education: reading a textbook with quiz questions, video presentations, online courses, classroom lectures, reading living books, observing real-life situations, hands-on experiences, and conversation. Only one of these builds thinking skills and relationships at the same time: conversation.
Adding conversation to any of the other methods of education turns a mostly passive form of instruction into a two-way street; students ask questions, debate, and share thoughts back and forth. This is a valuable method in any educational setting, but when the teacher is a parent, the benefits are multiplied infinitely.
I won’t argue that this isn’t a sacrifice. It’s a lot more hands-on than we’ve been conditioned to believe is necessary in parenting. But parenting is a full-time job, and it involves a lot of personal sacrifice.
If your circumstances require you to rely on many outside methods of instruction, use the time you have wisely. Put your phone down. Turn off the TV. Talk in the car. If your kids are resistant, don’t get upset or give up. It takes time. But start NOW.
And this is where your educational methods come in.
Knowing the Content
For a Christian parent, knowing the content of our child’s education materials is vital. We often choose a program because it’s free, or online, or both. Maybe we choose it because it’s what everyone else is using. But I believe each parent should take the time and assess the company that produces the materials, read their mission, their community involvement, and understand their worldview.
It’s also a good idea to wade through some of the lessons yourself. See if they make sense to you. Is the instruction clear? Is the text BOR-ING or does it make you want to know more? Would YOU want to sit through these lessons day after day? This is important.
This past summer I was asked to review Study.com math materials on my blog in exchange for free access to their services. I agreed. I like to explore the whole website of a company as part of my research. I tested the math portion of their website based on the math level of two of my own kids. We have used Math-U-See for over ten years, and are happy with it, but I always welcome new ways to practice or drill math concepts. For me, the Study.com site seemed very disjointed and did not offer the kind of instruction I have found to be so helpful.
While reading the fine print on Study.com, I found that they donate a portion of their proceeds to the Pride Foundation.
I wrote back, explaining that I could not support or recommend their company:
“Finally, I cannot recommend an organization that donates money to the Pride Foundation. As a Christian, this goes against everything the Bible teaches about sexual purity and the biblical model of marriage. It is certainly the right of Study.com to donate money as they see fit, but it is also the right of parents to support companies as they see fit, and in this case, I cannot.”
Parents, we need to be wise, discerning, and bold for our children. We need to rethink our priorities. Our children need to see that we will not compromise—- for any reason. We can educate our children with excellent materials while upholding and strengthening the Christian faith.
Study.com also includes lessons like:
-What is Christian Privilege?
-What is Male Privilege?
-Gender Identity as a Social Construct
It’s a secular company teaching many varied worldview, and none of them are biblical.
The curriculum matters. Don’t get sucked into a curriculum or website because it’s easy or cheap or “accredited.” Compare the principles to scripture. Ask yourself if you can follow the admonition in Deuteronomy 6: 6-9 with that curriculum.
Take a test drive with any curriculum before you hand it over to your kids, especially as they become more independent learners. What you give them to study from, you are endorsing. Be sure you endorse what its right and true.
It’s not wrong to sign your kids up for outside classes or online courses, but it does take the most important person out of the equation: YOU.
I’ve said this many times: Childhood is short. Spend it with your kids. Take these few short years and pour into them. Sharing your knowledge, your views, your passions, and your beliefs is the foundation to a very rich and full home education; the books and materials you use should be supplements.
Read their government textbook before or with them, and discuss the questions together. Become familiar with the science topics they learn and share what you know. Be willing to look up answers to their questions. Talk about your favorite aspects of math, how it’s applicable to you today. If your child is reading a book you love, get involved! Read it with them (or to them—at any age) and bond over the story and the characters.
If this is a new and terrifying concept to you (you’re not alone!), here are some easy ways to start:
- Start by asking them what they liked best about the material. Share what you know (even if it’s very little). Connect it to current issues where applicable. Connect it to biblical principles whenever possible.
- Apply their learning to real life, especially your family’s life. Math, economics, government, grammar, history…all of these can have a personal connection if you think about it. What math does Dad use in his work, or the family in cooking and crafts? How do current economic practices affect your family? Is voting and political activism something you practice? Can your kids read Grandma’s recipes written in cursive? It’s easy to see how personal and applicable all of these subjects become.
- Add some extra time to your school day to review one of their textbooks and have a conversation about the material. Start with something you’re most familiar with and make it personal. If your kids take online courses, sit with them more often and listen to what they hear, and watch how they think and answer questions.
- Create your own activities, like field trips, experiments, etc. Don’t just wait for another homechool parent to lead the way. It’s okay to take just your family on a little trip to the museum. It’s okay to have a day at the park just because.
The conversations I have with my kids, especially in their teen years, are amazing, entertaining, and enlightening. I love to hear their opinions, how they think, and to share back and forth on every subject under the sun. Most importantly, I love the chance to teach them more, to point them to God, and to be the number-one influence in their life.
Parents, don’t be afraid to take control of your child’s education. You will not wreck your kid! It’s okay to step away from the textbook, or skip a chapter, or spend an hour debating the subject. It’s okay if they don’t complete every workbook page. True education is not a passive, one-way street. Not only will your children benefit, you will, too.