By mid-September students everywhere have returned to classrooms and if it were marketed simply as “reading, writing, and arithmetic”, most would scoff. They would wonder where the STEM programs were and what computer programs were being utilized. It tends to be easy in our modern era to deride anything that is more than a few years old as antiquated and by implication, “less than”. I get that! I spent 15 years of my life teaching in a public educational setting in the 1980’s and early 1990’s and was blessed to have one of Apple’s first computers in my special education classroom. That is nearly 30 years ago and behind the times in many ways by 2017 standards.
My education did not start that way as a child. I had the rare privilege of spending grades one and two in rural Ohio in a one-room school where eight grade levels managed to be taught by one teacher with fairly amazing results. (For many homeschool mothers today that would not be surprising.) I confess that I learned a great deal by overhearing the lessons of students in older grades.
The school I attended was the same one my father had attended years before me, but the curriculum had changed by the time I entered first grade at age five. My father’s class used the famed McGuffey readers and other texts authored by McGuffey as well as Ray’s arithmetic books, texts that educated and trained thousands of students in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I cherish a few copies of those very books that I have on my bookshelves that belonged to my dad and his sisters.
Few except homeschoolers would consider using these texts today since they went beyond basic academic subject matter. Stories in reading texts were meant not only to teach reading, but also a set of moral principles and values, love of country, and respect for parents.
When I review the contents of these books on my shelves, I see words and concepts that might cause some contemporary students to stumble not only due to vocabulary words that are no longer common but also due to the level of thinking and maturity evidenced.
That old fashioned generation without smartphones, high tech computers and scientific calculators managed to build the economic engine of the United States. They did so by grounding it on moral, biblical, ethical values and principles as a sure foundation along with academic standards we all now benefit from and take for granted or even shun.
Perhaps we have gone too far, however, in this modernization and started to see something was lost in the process. Homeschooling seems to be one response to an educational system that set aside the very values we all once cherished. Many ridiculed this movement when it started but despite the critics, students who are homeschooled are standing tall in their accomplishments equaling and often exceeding the academic performance of their public school peers. The subjects taught them are quite inclusive and include things like rhetoric and dialectic skills as well as numerous languages, math, sciences, history, geography, music, and arts. Many are taught in various co-op formats where students have spirited interaction around subject matter taught by highly educated mothers (and sometimes dads).
As I reflect on the return to studies by millions of children around the world, I am especially grateful for mothers (and sometimes dads) who are investing time, skills, and numerous resources to homeschool their children. These parents are unsung heroes who sacrifice a great deal in an effort to hold a high standard of academic performance as well as skills such as thinking, evaluating, organizing, time management and more. In the mix they base everything on moral principles that respect God, country, family values, and authority. They are not wimpy followers who are socially inept, but leaders who have been challenged to consider consequences and take responsibility for not only learning material, but also their own behavior and choices.
How do I know this? Our daughter and daughter-in-law have homeschooled all six of our grandchildren in Maryland and Tennessee. Our oldest granddaughter earned a scholarship and graduated with honors from an excellent university with a BSN this spring. Our oldest grandson earned a trustee scholarship to a highly ranked private college in a pre-medical program and is studying abroad in Chile this semester as a college junior. Another grandson is hard at work in his freshman year of college looking at how he can use his creativity and marketing to help make the world a better place. The remaining three grandchildren are able to hold their own in discussing nearly any subject that comes up as seventh, ninth, and eleventh graders. The oldest of these takes AP courses and writes a column in an online student newspaper.
These six have played on basketball, soccer, and swim teams. The one who played high school basketball was on a top nationally ranked team. Among them we have singers, thespians, pianists, a drummer, a violinist, and a cellist. None of them are socially inept or backward. All have held various jobs and completed internships with more to come.
Today I salute my daughter and daughter-in-law for equipping the next generation with the academic skills and moral fiber to make a difference in the world and for eternity. I am so proud of both of you.
Perhaps the admonition in Proverbs 4:7 ESV says it best:
“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.”