Thursday, December 01, 2005

Why Educate Our Children: Goldie Opens a Can of Worms

(Huge post, but interesting links at the end – please keep reading, or at least scroll down or something.)

I found this post on this week’s Carnival of Education.

“Why do parents choose to teach their children at home?”, EdWonks commented on it. “The reasons are as varied as are the individuals who accept the challenge. At Life in a Shoe, A mother of 7 shares with us her reasons why”.

So, when I clicked over, I more or less expected to see a “Why I Homeschool” post. Personally, I would definitely do it if I had the skillset, and felt the need to. Like, if we lived in a “bad neighborhood” (K10’s best friend was homeschooled for several years for that exact reason – he is one of the brightest, most socially adjusted, best-rounded kids I’ve ever met – great job, Mom and Dad!) Or if my child didn’t fit into the school system (believe me, thoughts about homeschooling I12 have visited me more than once – but the kid is so stubborn, I do believe he will benefit from a structured learning environment).

However, Kim’s post is on a somewhat different subject: why do we teach our children at all?

“Next question: how does this affect our daily practice?
Should we just read the Bible to them, and call it a day?”

I could, of course, dismiss the post and the entire site as something representative of a completely different lifestyle, except, in my own experience, I was asked this question at least once (“Why do you teach your kids (blah) when it’s all in the Bible?”) Back then, I was so stunned I couldn’t even think of an answer, so with interest, I read the rest of Kim’s post to see what she would say. Here are a few examples:

“Why do we teach them to read?
So that they can read God's Word, enabling them to know Him and His will, learn the way to salvation, etc.


A necessity for good stewardship, and for a husband to provide for his family. … A wife needs a working knowledge of math to shop effectively for groceries. She needs to be able to teach her sons and daughters math, to prepare them for their respective roles.”

Kim then continues to provide her opinion on the role of education in our lives, as ordained by God:

“The point is, academics ought to be thought of as a side effect, a benefit, but never an end in itself. Education must not become our God or our Savior. We do not homeschool so that our children can get a better education and hence a better job. We homeschool because God has given them into our care, with the command to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This is how we can best do it.”

I understand that this is the POV prevalent in the fundamentalist community. I further understand that, in this community, such approach is viewed as God’s will for all people, and not following it is looked upon as a sin.

That said, I happen to have a different opinion on the subject.

I believe that God had a purpose when He created us the way we are. He gave us legs so we could walk; He gave us hands so we could work with them. Likewise, He gave us brains, talents, and skills, so we could use them. How? By exploring and studying the world around us to the best of our abilities; by determining our own unique talents; and by using them to raise our families, help others, and make a difference in the world.

Yes, most of the time it involves an education and a job. I cannot see anything wrong with it. And if you, my reader, are in disagreement with me here, then next time your child is in the hospital or in the ER, feel free to tell the doctor that he’s only there for the money. And while you’re at it, do not forget to inform the nurse that her place is at home with her family.

Or take a less drastic example. A blogger sits down at his or her computer and posts something to the point of: “Education is not important to God” or “All jobs are just a corporate rat race”, or “It is a sin for a woman to work”, or some such. But think about it – this person is using a computer. Someone has put this computer together. Someone has developed and installed the software. Someone is out there 24 hours a day, making sure the server is up and running so these statements can be posted on the Web. If we were to eliminate all these jobs, why, I would have never found out what an enormous sin I am committing by learning constantly, having a fulfilling job outside of home, and teaching my children to do the same.

You see, I believe education to be extremely important. Of course, part of it is cultural. My home country may have lacked in material goods or political and personal freedoms, but we did have quality education, there’s no doubt about that. (I learned all of my English in school in grades 2 through 10 – not so shabby, especially compared to the Foreign Languages education my kids are getting. And, in case you’re wondering if my knowledge of English was useful to me later in life… well, let me just tell you it was and is.) As an aside, I also believe that, if we trash education and employment as something outside God’s will, then we automatically lose the right to moan and complain that all the good jobs are going overseas. Do you agree? Think about it. You think your kids don’t need education – fine. Their Chinese peers will be more than happy to take over for them. I mean, the work is still there and it has to be done by somebody; if you don’t want it, they will have it.

I only have two children. And even with my small family, I couldn’t help noticing how curious our babies and toddlers are when they first come into this world. Our children are born with a passion for learning. There has to be a reason for that. I believe our God-given responsibility, as parents, is to assist them in this learning, and to help them find a way to apply their learning and their talents with best results for everyone involved.

By the same token, I firmly believe that a parent does not have to justify educating his or her children to anyone, just as we don’t have to justify feeding them or putting clothes on their backs.

For me, “why teach them when it’s all in the Bible” means an automatic end of conversation. Sorry, but I cannot reason with bigotry and ignorance. I’d rather do something more productive, like go beat my head against a brick wall.

I have to admit that Kim’s post, although wonderfully written, made me feel rather sad, as well as her readers’ comments on her other post, titled: “Honestly, Why Do You Homeschool?” Here are a few comments if you’re interested:

“The activity that takes place in "public classrooms" is hardly education; it is social and vocational training with an end towards supplying workers for the corporate and governmental elite.” (again, a good line to use when talking to that doctor in the ER, don’tcha think?)

“We want to raise a generation who knows and glofies God. We believe it would be a sin to subject them to the humanistic teachings of the public school system.”

“A better education, learning the right values, protecting my children from whatever is roaming the government school hallways (and I could go on here for a long time) is simply a wonderful side benefit to being obedient to God.”
(My personal favorite. “Whatever is roaming the government school hallways?” – hey, that would be K10 and I12! Feel free to protect your children from them, but I warn you, they’re missing out on a lot.)

Argh, argh, arrrrgh!

Luckily, not all homeschooling community thinks this way.

Allow me to close with my personal Homeschooling Hall of Fame. I’ve been meaning to post these links for a long time. Well, not only will I post them, but I am also going to submit these sites to the Homeschooling Blogger Awards, over at Spunky Homeschooler.

(drum roll, please…)

1. Kim (a different Kim)

See her two posts here and here

2. Bonnie (UPDATE: Bonnie's site is no longer active, but, she's still the best! I have removed the link because it doesn't work anymore.)

3. Another Kim - I love her blog. Not sure whether to submit her under “Best Canadian” or “Best Inspirational”, or “Best Humor”!

And, last but not least...

4. Our very own product of quality homeschooling, Arethusa!!
See her homeschooling series: part I, part II, part III, part IV

I’m off to make my submissions… c-ya!

The Goldie has spoken at 1:52 PM

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