The awe-inspiring mountains and the crisp temperatures of fall in Colorado Springs provided the setting for the 1992 National Christian Home Education Leadership Conference, held October 15–18 at the Navigators’ Glen Eyrie Castle. Canadian and Australian leaders turned the meeting into an international celebration of God’s goodness in protecting home-schooling families. Significant opportunities for instruction, enrichment, encouragement, challenge, and just plain fun completed the recipe for a jam-packed three days.
Hosted by the National Center for Home Education, this year’s conference featured several keynote speakers, workshop sessions, and open forums for intensive discussion on issues affecting home schooling in the nineties.
Michelle Easton delivered greetings from the U.S. Department of Education with a special letter from Secretary Lamar Alexander and a wonderful commendation of the “craftsmanship” home schoolers produce in the daily education of their children.
“…I am confident that home schooling will remain strong and free and innovative—not only because it is one viable solution to grave problems parents and children now face, but because it is a solution that is consistent with the history of our Nation. One of the things that E Pluribus Unum surely means is home schooling….”
“If we can tolerate a variety of histories and cultures, we can also accept the presence in our society of those who are committed to the preservation of old-fashioned intellectual habits and codes of conduct. If we must endure a new level of incivility in our social and political institutions, then we should also be able to live with a traditional respect for authority, whether familial or civil or religious. If we allow our schools to experiment with laxity, then we should also allow our families to try discipline and love.”
“After all, one of the prime social responsibilities of the family has always been to nurture the beliefs and values of a society and to pass them on to younger members. That is why the Greeks and Romans, as well as the ancient Jews, built great civilizations on the institution of the family. Now, in a time of social unrest, it is doubly important that families be allowed to teach their own values to their own children without significant interference from centralized authority.”
Michael Farris delivered a challenging “State of the Union” address in which he cited seven continuing battlefields home educators face. He followed this description by encouraging his listeners to focus, not on the battles, but on these overriding principles: God is our protector; HSLDA is simply a tool God uses to accomplish His work in given situations. We must continue working together in a coalition spirit to bring about good laws for it is indeed better to “hang together” than take the pressure individually. There is strength in solidarity.
That “our children are worth it” is beyond doubt!
Mike concluded with a new definition of the term, “children of privilege.” He posited that in the 1990s the “children of privilege” are those whose parents give them TIME. Home-schooling families clearly have made the commitment to give their children the most precious commodity of the twenty-first century.
Rob Gregory, host of the “Family News in Focus” broadcasts, explained the media’s mindset and challenged the leaders to learn how to speak the language of the culture we are trying to reach. Journalists have redefined the concept of truth. This philosophical rationalization has led to the absence of any absolute values and ethics, leaving tolerance as the only absolute a journalist will defend.
Journalists have also redefined their mission. No longer content to serve as the “eyes and ears” for the sake of the public, today they insist on being participants in the event. As participants, they feel their perspective matters as much as the event itself; thus, no apologies are extended for blatantly promoting their agenda.
Michael Jameson, Public Policy Director for Focus on the Family, offered detailed procedures on the mechanics of coalition building to influence the legislative process
“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” means we cannot allow our society to rot around us.
Mr. Jameson defined “Caesar” as being our democratic republic, in which we have the obligation to participate. We must have an interest in the welfare of all families and diligently avoid presenting ourselves as a special interest group. It is important that we learn to represent our viewpoint to the public in the light of what will be good for all families.
Dr. David Noebel, president of Summit Ministries, continued this theme with his challenge that “when the culture goes, the civilization goes right behind it.” Charging that liberals have changed their color from red to green, Dr. Noebel explained that the cultural commissars in the university dormitories across the United States are actually the resident assistants. The quest for “political correctness” on American college campuses will take us beyond tolerance straight into the humanist agenda.
The hope of America is those parents, churches, and ministries that work together to inculcate a Biblical worldview into the minds of our young people.
Dr. Richard Sorenson, independent research anthropologist with many years experience at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., provoked spirited discussion with his description of societies without schools. Dr. Sorenson has devoted his career to studying rapidly vanishing crucial cultures. His primary observation in such societies is that the “intuitive rapport” of the people is enhanced in environments where there is little or no formal instruction.
He has witnessed a “trickle-down” teaching effect in which older teach younger, and parents and community leaders have direct interaction with the society’s children. In these environments adult behaviors and the life skills necessary for survival and growth are learned by emulation and subtle repetition.
When schools were first introduced to Micronesia, Dr. Sorenson noted that in the first classrooms children who had never been to “school” before learned very quickly. There were only two teachers and three hundred children! Every student taught another child in a very efficient tutorial model.
Five years later, however, the Peace Corps brought in an “army” of teachers, who “wouldn’t dream of allowing students to teach one another.” (After all, teaching must be left to the professionals, right?) At this point, the learning curve dropped dramatically, and discipline problems began cropping up in abundance.
Dr. Sorenson then described multiple situations in varying cultures that illustrate the first result of a society choosing to send children to formal schools: unity within the families broke down. Students began to learn their values form their teachers, and a quasi-asocialism developed. This anti-socialism was the direct fruit of competition in the school experience to get the grades which would, in turn, bring status in the society.
Schools actually deprive children of the opportunity to be social beings in the cooperative sense of working productively for the good of all individuals in the community.
Dr. Sorenson concluded with the observation that the kind of education that comes from experience seems to open up the ears, mind, and heart. He sees in home education the alternative that is necessary in our country. His statement, “You may be the point of change for our society,” was a sobering and compelling thought.
Joe Adams and Jessica Hulcy debate one of the finer points of Biblical leadership.
Charles E. “Tremendous” Jones, motivational and intensely practical, brought leaders to tears with his incredible sense of humor and his incisive ability to “stab you” with the truth while you are laughing at the punch line. Solid Biblical principles of leadership and responsibility punctuated his thoughts with insights like “The real work is learning to get excited about your work. The first law of leadership is work; the second law is that whatever can go wrong will. So when it goes wrong, that’s my new plan!”
Mr. Jones shared intimate details of his own failures and God’s renewing forgiveness as he illustrated the importance of honesty and commitment in obeying God and ministering to people around us. His love of books provided a recurring challenge throughout the conference as he told of authors who made a difference in his life.
Two things will make all the difference in your life—the people you meet and the books you read. Books will introduce you to the world’s greatest people and allow you to know them intimately.
Inge Cannon, associate director of the National Center for Home Education, provided an extensive overview of the trend toward outcome-based education in public school reform throughout the United States. This frightening curriculum emphasis measures student achievement in terms of attitudes and behaviors demonstrated in critical areas. The program requires competencies that reflect “politically correct” behavior, subjecting students to “remediation” if they don’t fulfill requirements.
Thirty-one states have school districts that are piloting various expressions of the outcome-based education model; however, several districts around the country have rejected the plan because of declining academic scores and massive increases in costs where the programs are implemented.
The trend in shaping students’ attitudes according to global values is linked to vast computer technology capable of creating an electronic record of the child’s responses that can be tracked throughout life.
So what can home schoolers do? Three thoughts demand consideration:
- Education should indeed train the “whole child” in all domains of learning. The problem is not the goal of outcome-based education, but the assignment of the responsibility to the state (through the vehicle of the schools) rather than the individual’s parents. Success should be measured by the stated goal rather than what the system says our educational program ought to be.
- Standardized achievement testing is limited in reporting individual educational progress. Its use should be governed by its stated purpose. Parents should select that form of evaluation which best demonstrates that the stated goal has been accomplished. All forms of testing which assign value to incorrect answers or do not provide the option of a correct response must be rejected. It will become more and more crucial that we recognize the problems inherent in “worldview orientation” as we evaluate tests we want to use.
- Responsible research and reporting of results is a necessary component of any educational system. Research must, however, ensure privacy, promote responsible data collection and interpretation of information, and present the results clearly without bias. Only then we will be able to spread the good news about home education with valuable documentation. We cannot allow fear to paralyze our ability to communicate what we are and why we have chosen the educational options that are our commitment.
A panel of attorneys offered detailed instruction about legal issues in support groups and state organizations: liability, insurance, tax regulations, lobbying opportunities and constraints, and an orientation to incorporation concerns in both “for profit” and “not for profit” contexts.
Forums for discussion included encouraging and equipping struggling families, involving the local church in home schooling, developing leadership, providing activities for home-schooling teens, developing apprenticeship programs, and passing positive home-schooling legislation. Workshop presentations offered new insights in education software (presented by Mary Pride of Missouri), building coalitions to achieve an excellent home school law (presented by Zan Tyler of South Carolina), and understanding “the support group of the future” (presented by Jim Werner of Florida).
A rousing entertainment treat was the “Untelevised Presidential Debates,” which cast HSLDA’s J. Michael Smith in the role of President Bush, Michael Farris as Bill Clinton, and Joe Tyler of South Carolina as “Hoss” Perot, identical twin of Ross. Hoss declared that everything should be done at home: birth ‘em, teach ‘em, marry ‘em, and bury ‘em!
Now that’s a home schooler!