College Advice from a Ph.D.

In Thriving in the 21st Century, I described how to assess whether or not your teen is “college material.” In this video, a man who holds a Ph.D. and has taught at several universities explains just how crucial it is that parents ask the right questions before sending their sons or daughters to college. This is well worth watching:
 

 

A Homeschool Tempest in a Teapot

So the press has found some dissatisfied homeschooled adults. This must make them so happy. Nothing like a little controversy to boost your website traffic.

It makes sense that there will be some homeschooled adults who are dissatisfied with how they were raised. Just looking at the populace at large, what percentage are unhappy with the way they were raised? Probably a good portion, judging from the number of self-help titles published over the years for readers trying to get past their problematic childhoods. Why should homeschoolers be any different?

In this particular case the focus is on a certain type of homeschooling family, known collectively as Quiverfull, according to the article. (That name stems from a book very popular among Christian homeschoolers in the 1990s.) This has been a trainwreck in the making for some time. I knew several families like those described in the article; given their strict beliefs, particularly as they applied them to their daughters, rebellion was inevitable. After all, once your girls get out into the world and discover that there are options in addition to marriage and motherhood, some of them are going to want more choices.

When my first book (Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers) was published, I had trouble getting a booth at a certain homeschool conference to sell it. I couldn’t even get a response from those running the conference. I was later told by someone in the know that the problem with my book is that it encourages girls as well as boys to become independent adults. The families running the conference didn’t want their girls to get any ideas, I guess.

Now, I don’t agree with their mindset and my husband doesn’t either. We homeschooled all our children, daughters and sons, with the intent of helping them be all that they could be. Personally I think we can trust God to lead each child to the right career; those that think all girls should be trained only to be wives and mothers ought to give some thought to how God used Corrie ten Boom and Amy Carmichael.

But just because I disagree with families who raise their daughters to be only wives and mothers doesn’t mean I think they shouldn’t be able to do what they’re doing. There is no agenda-free schooling anywhere. There’s an agenda in public school and private school just as there is in any homeschool. Parents are free to choose how to educate their children, and children are free to embrace or reject their upbringing when they become adults. The article I cited at the start of this post is merely an attempt to foment controversy, so don’t let it bother you too much.

The irony in all this is that many of the young women quoted in the article will someday change their minds. They’ll end up being stricter than their folks. I’ve seen it happen before. Some of the biggest rebels eventually turn into the strictest parents. People are funny, aren’t they?

Check out Thriving in the 21st Century….

to get the latest on preparing your kids for the “new normal.” Find out about:

  1. the surprising link between homeschooling and Tumblr
  2. yet another student loan-related tragedy
  3. and what happened to the high school student who refused to wear a tracking device/student ID

plus oodles of great links for all parents, right here.

Nervous About Another Year of Homeschooling?

In a few months I’m going to meet my first grandchild, a little boy. (I can hardly wait!) I enjoyed my children’s baby years so much, and friends tell me being a grandma is even more fun. How can that be possible? I’ll find out soon.

One of the things I enjoyed most about my babies was their bright little minds. Almost from the time they were born, it seemed, they were scoping out their world, eyes wide and curious. As they grew, I was amazed at how ready they were to explore with their eyes, their hands, their mouths, and before long, by crawling and walking. I didn’t have to coax them to do this; I just had to make their world safe for exploration.

Take my eldest son, for instance, the father of my upcoming grandchild. When he was a baby, he was easy to care for, a mellow guy (as long as his tummy was full and his diaper was dry). Before I started making supper each night, I’d put him in his baby seat on the kitchen counter and hang a little squeaky stuffed bluebird right in front of him. At first he’d just stare at it. Before long he was cooing at it. And then one night he took a swat at it! This became a fun game for him. For weeks I cooked supper to the sounds of him cooing and the bluebird squeaking as he whacked it and chortled.

I’m sure this activity was good for his eye-hand coordination (and may even have led to his love of baseball!) But it was also a good lesson for me: he learned to do this without my coaxing, prodding, or insistence. I gave him a learning environment, and his God-given intelligence took care of the rest.

Of course I’d forgotten times like this when I first started homeschooling my kids. I often parked them in front of textbooks and “taught” them and expected them to learn. And they did, but before long it became a chore. There was no intense interest, no chortling.

Over time I discovered that true learning requires the interest and desire of the student. I had read this in books by John Holt, but what really cemented it was seeing my children pursue their interests and excel in them. By the time they were teens, my participation primarily involved driving them to a limited number of activities of their choice and paying for the books and/or supplies needed in their pursuits. The rest was up to them, and that God-given intelligence I first saw when they were tiny.

So if you’re a bit nervous about whether you’re buying the right curriculum this year, or whether you’re going to be up for another year of homeschooling, consider that much of the task of educating your children is up to them; if you create a vibrant learning environment, answer their questions and facilitate learning by obtaining what they need, you can count on them to do the rest.

As for me, my kids are grown and I’m not homeschooling anymore, which leaves me a lot more time to make things for the baby  :)

 

“Waiting for Superman

I just finished watching “Waiting for Superman,” the recent documentary about American education, and I find myself frustrated as I think about what I saw.

Not that it wasn’t a good film: it was. It vividly depicted how adults look out for themselves instead of the children they teach, suggesting they are a major stumbling block for educational change. I don’t disagree with that; watching the film made me very glad I homeschooled my kids.

My frustration lies in two areas: first off, the families depicted in the film have put all their faith in public schools. They try to get their children into better schools; those that fail think their children’s futures are doomed. Those that succeed think all their worries are over and their children will be just fine. That faith in schools is misguided, and the fact that they are so sure of this is just plain frustrating to me because I know from experience that you can work with your own child and help them, whether after school or instead of school. So you do have options.

I think of the inner-city single mom I once met who worked as a police officer on the third shift, came home and slept a few hours and then taught her son during the day. She wouldn’t let him out of their apartment without her because their neighborhood was so dangerous. But she was determined to give him an education and keep him out of gangs. She didn’t look to schools to save her son. She took it upon herself. I wish the parents in “Waiting for Superman” would figure this out instead of relying on the school system to save their children.

My other frustration is with the common attitude displayed in the film (and most everywhere else these days) that the only way out of poverty is a college education. How well I know from my research for my latest book that only about 20% of the job openings predicted by the federal government for the next ten years will require a college degree. Telling every child that a college education is their ticket to success is just plain cruel. That myth is perpetuated in this film, and I hate to see that happening. It’s just not fair to children. Yes, some should go to college because they have an aptitude for higher learning and a desire to excel in a career area that requires a college diploma (doctor, lawyer, etc.) But to tell all children they must go? It’s outdated advice that will lead many of them to become overburdened with college debt and unable to find a decent-paying job to help them pay back what they owe.

So if you want to see a movie that will make it clear why you shouldn’t send your child to school, you’ll like this film. Otherwise, it will probably just make you sad….or frustrated like I am right now.

One more thing: while the makers of this film were more than willing to criticize lousy teachers, they also put good teachers on a pedestal. I get so tired of that attitude. Yes, good teachers are important. But so are good cops, and good doctors, and good cooks. A child’s success in life is aided by the influence of many people, not just teachers, and primarily their parents and others who love them. And even children whose parents are not exactly Parents of the Year can be positively influenced by others who are not their schoolteachers. Besides, it’s not that hard to teach kids to read, write and do math if you haven’t put them somewhere (like school) where their inborn desire to learn has been snuffed out.