September 23, 2014

Are Parents Qualified

How can parents armed with only love for their child and good intentions provide an education anywhere near as good as a professional with a teaching degree?

Ok, ok, I can already hear all you veteran home educators out there choking and gagging at this one. But let’s break it down and examine it.The stated issue is that trained and certified teachers are obviously superior teachers to untrained parents. The assumptions behind this are many: that certified teachers are far more knowledgeable than parents about what constitutes education; that the money and resources behind certified teachers in registered schools are clearly superior to what all but the more financially endowed parents can provide; that the entire school environment, from dedicated Ministry personnel and curriculum developers to textbook providers to overworked school administrators and board of trustee members to the enthusiastic teachers at the coalface and the brilliant variety of peers within the typical classroom, that all these things combine to provide a palpably well-rounded and comprehensive educational experience the like of which an isolated mum at home with only some out-dated School Certificate passes could never hope to match.These assumptions, however, are all false for they are based on the false foundational idea that politically conceived, taxpayer-funded, secular and compulsory mass schooling is equivalent to even a basic education. Leaving aside completely the argument as to whether Christians should allow their children to attend secular schooling institutions, let us examine the simple logistical advantages of one mum teaching a small number of her own beloved children at home compared to the conventional classroom situation.

Most of us are aware of cases where teacher certification has not meant the same as teacher competency. In addition, there is the almost unrecognised fact that classroom logistics can make even the best teacher’s efforts an exercise in futility: over-crowded classrooms, lack of discipline, unsupportive administration, inability to give needed individual attention, time restraints which force them to move on to new material before the previous material is comprehended. Teacher certification does not ensure a quality education. In fact, many students who do not catch on at school must go home and get their parents to help out. There are already many parents out there who do the real teaching at night after school while the certified teacher gets the credit.

Home education is a tutoring or mentoring situation. One mum can give her full attention to one or two or three children at a time for whatever period of time is practical and comfortable for them all. Or she can focus on just one child for a piece of time and move to the next and then to the other. Overall she will have far, far more significant one-to-one time than what occurs in the typical classroom where the teacher can often expect no more than one minute of significant one-to-one time per pupil per day. Because of this the home school mum can cover a vastly increased measure of subject matter in the same length of time even though she may be dealing with a range of ages, possibly including a toddler and a newborn. She can assess more exactly whether each child has grasped the concepts or mastered the skills for she is observing the child for most of the waking day, is far more concerned for the child’s welfare and future prospects and is more intimately in tune with the child, being her own flesh and blood, than even the most highly trained and skilled professional teacher could ever possibly be. The enthusiasm, commitment, love, vision, intimate knowledge, and one-to-one tutoring situation of the home school mum, combined with the God-given heart-desire of the child for its mother, ensures that the average home education teacher/parent is starting with vast logistical and relational advantages the classroom teacher can only dream about.

So what does a true and useful education consist of? For the school teacher it is in a politically determined mix of subjects pitched a certain way for a classroom full of children from all sorts of backgrounds and filtered through legal and other socio-political parameters with the aim a producing an outcome in students’ lives which matches a stated objective in a Ministerial document. If the powers that be decide a change is necessary, it will be a good seven years before the drafts are formulated, trialled, assessed, redrafted, approved, adopted and actually introduced and implemented. By then of course the initial problem has mutated beyond recognition and the target children have passed through the system and a new set are being served a special mix designed for a situation and a time which no longer exist.

For the home educating mum it consists of those basic skills plus general and specific knowledge she knows are required to get on in the world: she and her husband and extended family talk about what it’s like out there to be a worker, an employer, a homemaker, a spouse, a parent. They know the character qualities employers want, that they have always wanted throughout history, and that neither School Certificate exams nor university degrees impart those qualities. Christian parents in particular are individually crafting unique children to serve the God of the Universe according to the syllabus He has provided in the Scriptures. They are not that impressed with the state’s attempts through the schools to improve children, which the politicians constantly tell us are this country’s most valuable natural resource (right up there with wool bales and chilled lamb carcasses), or with the socialists’ attempt to inculcate the simplistic non-judgmental vision of tolerating every perversion under the sun, somehow making our “global village” a “better place in which to live”.

The home educating mum knows that rooms, desks and books are dead things. It is imparting life from her heart to her child that makes an education. The most important lessons in her life she did not learn in the classroom but in the school of hard knocks. This is what she imparts. The children are not left interminably to interact with books or CD ROMs, but are encouraged to interact with mum and dad and other siblings and people in the real world of the home, the marketplace, the workplace and the community. They don’t only do word problems from a text book, but do real-life problems like working out the week’s menu from the available budget, balancing the cheque book or helping plan and implement a strategy for improving the safety of the neighbourhood.

Christian parents in particular can hardly justify leaving their children in the care of those who discount, deny and even despise their Christian faith. Even Christian teachers in state schools have their hands tied, for the NZ Education Act Section 77 declares that “the teaching shall be entirely of a secular character”. Every Minister of Education with whom this writer has communicated from David Lange onwards has concurred that the working definition of “secular” as it is used in the Act is “with no religious instruction or observance”. This clearly is not a neutral stance toward Christianity, but one that seeks to eliminate it from the classroom.

The Scriptures tell Christian parents what teaching qualifications are necessary. Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might.” Not much left to love anything else. Do you love the LORD this way? Well, one thing is for sure, that teacher in the state school is not legally allowed to demonstrate such a love even if he or she should actually have it. And how many of them that you know actually do? Then Deuteronomy 6:6 says, “And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart.” Of course, that which is on your heart will be constantly running through your mind and coming out of your mouth. The Christian teacher in a state school cannot allow that to happen, for it would mean her job. Yet these are the Bible’s credentials for teaching, as the next verse, Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “and you shall teach them diligently to your children.” Note that the word “them” is referring to the words of God. What the Bible commands teachers to teach, teachers in state schools are forbidden by law to teach. Mum at home has no such restriction.
If you are inclined to argue that the verses in Deuteronomy are addressed to parents and not teachers in the classroom, think again. Some say that teachers are still considered in loco parentis, in the place of parents, and therefore theoretically required to conform to whatever parents demand (impossible in our pluralistic society), and Christian parents would need to demand teaching according to these verses. Otherwise the Christian has to justify allowing his child to be filled with nonChristian presuppositions and philosophies, which of course he cannot do and still remain consistent with Scripture. The fact is, Christian parent, you will be held responsible for what you allow your children to be exposed to and influenced by day after day after day.
Deuteronomy 6:7 further says, “and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise.” There is the context and frequency parents are to employ when teaching: all the time in every situation; that is, in the context of everyday life. Classroom instruction is in an artificial environment, segregated by age groupings and separated from the real everyday life experiences in the workplace, the home, the marketplace and the wider community. Classroom instruction cannot do as the Bible here bids. Mum at home can do this as she goes about her everyday business.

In short, marriage, parenthood and homemaking are probably the best teaching credentials one could have.

“Loving and genuinely concerned parents are the best qualified of all to teach their own children. Who else is more motivated to invest the time, the money, the blood, sweat, toil and tears required for the child’s best interests than the parents? Who knows and understands the child better than the parents?
“Parents only need a shot of confidence to realise that they are qualified to teach, and in most cases will actually do a superior job. Whatever they may lack in the area of formal educational qualifications they will usually more than compensate for in motivation and the advantages of one-to-one teaching.”
- Craig Smith