Choice in Education? Alberta Programs of Study Series (Part 2)

One thing I do appreciate about the Alberta education system is the emphasis on the importance of choice in education. If you are familiar with the politics and the history of education in this province, you’ll know that it wasn’t always that way and that recent events show a continuing lack of true commitment to real choice.

When we take a closer look at the choices that we currently have, there is a pattern that we should be able to see:

If you go to public school, you’ll be following the Alberta Programs of Study.

If you go to separate school, you’ll be following the Alberta Programs of Study.

If you go to charter schools, you’ll be following the Alberta Programs of Study.

If you go to the accredited private schools, mostly likely you’ll be following the Alberta Programs of Study or in the least, some facsimile.

Blended programs have always been required to follow the Alberta Programs of Study.

ADLC online distance learning programs follow the Alberta Programs of Study.

Post-secondary admissions are largely based on the Alberta Programs of Study; and

Home education is often, if not usually, compared to or measured using the Alberta Programs of Study.

With all the options or “choices” that we have for education, all follow or reference the Alberta Programs of Study.

Think about this in terms of “ice cream”. Real options for dessert would be between ice cream, cake, pie, cookies, pudding, etc. If all I’ve given as options for dessert are different flavours of ice cream, I have told you that you will be eating ice cream. This is choice without control, which is really no choice at all.

There is another way we can look at this choice. If I threaten you with a beating, but give you the option of taking that beating in the hallway, bathroom or outdoors, have I given you any choice other than where you will take your beating?

Similarly, if we have an education system offering a “choice” of where a single option of programming will be taken, we are not offering real choice in education. It is more like giving you an option of where you would like to take your beating!

If all the choices that we have in education involve the Alberta Programs of Study and you determine to do something different in your home education program, you’re probably going to be challenged on it because we are not really free to choose. We are expected to abide by the status quo.

Remember that both the School Act and proposed new Education Act are committed to a single publicly funded education system. Obviously, that is what we have when a single option for programming is offered as choice. We may have a choice of venues, but not of programming.

What could be the objective of advancing a singular, secular program under the guise of choice? Back to the common values and beliefs mentioned in the preambles of the School and Education Acts.

Through its commitment to one public education system, the secular government limits our options such that most students will be exposed to the “common values and beliefs” determined not by the people or parents or students, but by the government.

The only place where real choice still exists is in traditional home education, where you are free to do something other than the government program. But, keep in mind that you are only free to do so, if you are informed of this option.

Considering that it is far easier for home education providers to normalize government programming than to educate parents, who are likely more familiar with doing things the school’s way, there exists the perfect opportunity to perpetuate the government’s version of what an education should be.

However, we must always keep in mind that if the government is committed to a single public education system with a single option for programming, how long will it be before it reaches into home education as well? What will you do, if or when that day comes?

Why Home Educate? Alberta Programs of Study Series (Part 3)

So why are we home educating? When we ask people “Why are you home educating?” and we do ask them all, there are generally two answers.

The most common one is disappointment with the school system. Disappointment for one of three reasons:

They’re not teaching what we believe;
They’re not meeting the child’s needs, and,
The last one, of course, is bullying. You know, the old socialization issue that we are so often challenged on!

If you take a closer look at the answers, the three reasons that we get for people being disappointed with the school system actually reflect our human composition of spirit (they’re not teaching what we believe), soul (they’re not meeting the child’s needs), and body (children are being bullied). Using this perspective and reasoning, we can say that the regular school system is a complete failure!

The reason for home educating that I appreciate and approve of the most, is when people say that they were called to educate their children; that they’re doing so in obedience to God; that they’re really, truly convicted in their hearts that this is what God is asking them to do with their children. I believe this has to be the main reason.

I’ll tell you what motivated me. A long time ago, I was gazing upon the most remarkable miracle, the birth of my little baby girl, who is now home educating four children of her own, and realized the enormity of my responsibility for properly raising this child.

I suddenly started getting panicky because, if I was going to lead my children, I should really know where I was leading them. I realized that I would have one chance to do a good job and that in order to do so, I needed to be able to clearly distinguish between right and wrong.

I wasn’t a Christian at the time, but I certainly believed that there was going to be a day of reckoning. I believed that someday I’d stand before God and render an account for what I had done with that child or that I would be staring right back into what I had done. That was my big motivator and it sent me on a journey that continues today.

Fast forwarding, having discovered faith, we ended up home educating because when we sought God, as to what we should do respecting the education of our children, we were convicted that we should teach them, ourselves, at home, all the time.

You have to understand that this was a very big stretch for a public school teacher, but my commitment to God was greater than my commitment to the school way of doing things. Besides, I was inside that system and I did not like what I was seeing.

When I looked further into this by studying Scripture, I got the same message. Parents are directed to teach their children. There is no place in scripture that instructs us to send our children to professionals and certainly no opportunity for parents, dads in particular, to foist that responsibility onto others.

Raising, training and teaching children has always ultimately been the parent’s responsibility. Parents will answer for what they have done. No excuses or negotiation will be permitted when we stand before Him who has given us this responsibility.

Why Are We Using the Alberta Programs of Study? Alberta Programs of Study Series (Part 4)

So, why are Christians still using the Alberta Programs of Study based in unspoken, yet common values and beliefs designed to be delivered in a singular secular public education system that instinctively rejects private school and home education options?

First of all, we have much more faith in man’s institution of education than we do in the Bible. Because the school has been around a long time, we don’t even question it. However, do consider that the Bible has been around much longer than the school. Agreed?

People just send their children off to school. The children are crying. Mom is crying. The whole house has to adapt from freedom to school mode, but we believe we have got to do this.

Ask the question: “Who says we have to? Who’s making you do this?” We just do it, without even questioning why.

The main reason is because we really aren’t familiar with the education system. Most of you have been there as students. Some of you actually did okay, it actually worked for you.

But usually when I ask people how many of them look back at school with genuine fondness, how many hands go up? Very few, if any.

The next question is, “If you didn’t like it, do you think it’s any better for your children?”

Remember watching TV when you were little? Are the programs as good today as they were back then? Of course not. The content is increasingly less likely to be wholesome.

Do you think the schools are still the same as they were during the “Father Knows Best” era? Or do you think that they’ve probably changed and evolved the same way as TV has, which is now more likely to portray “father” as a bumbling idiot who most certainly does not know what is best, and so should enlist the help of professionals?

We have to understand that for the most part schools today are secular and Godless. Yes, even some, maybe most Christian schools. The programming, based on or following the Alberta Program of Studies, most certainly is.

In my experience, I got to teach at public schools, separate schools, and private schools, and they were all using the same curriculum.

Way back during my internship, when I was teaching in a Catholic separate school, I found it strange that we would start every day with prayer, and then turn around and teach biology with evolution presented as fact. Even as an unbeliever, I clearly saw the hypocrisy of a system that may have gone through the motions of being “Christian” but was advancing a man-centred and Godless agenda.

We’ve been created with an innate need to serve a god. If we’re not going to serve the one true God, we will end up serving a facsimile or false god, largely in the form of ourselves. Men naturally love to play that role.

Educational Freedom? Alberta Programs of Study Series (Part 5)

If freedom is defined as having choice and control, there is no educational freedom in school.

When you send your children to school, do you have any choice as to what will take place there? Do you have any control?

In my twenty-five years in the system, the only choice I could see that the parents had was whether or not they were going to sell hot dogs on the field day. That was about it.

Many Christian parents are not familiar with God’s promises and purposes. There’s a lot of doubt and unbelief because there is a lot of biblical illiteracy. And we know that where there is doubt and unbelief, God cannot work. Even Jesus Himself could not perform miracles in certain places because of the unbelief of the local residents.

The parents are not being stupid or unintelligent. They’re just ignorant in the sense of “not knowing”. They just do not know the difference, and that’s the reason why they use the Alberta Programs of Study at home, if they don’t just send their children to a school that uses it.

They are unknowingly seeking the approval of man because that is all that is being offered. And there’s a lot of pressure to do so. That’s why you will get the questions when it is discovered you favour home education and even more grilling when you determine to avoid using government curriculum.

You know, questions like: “What about socialization?” / “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” / “Are you certified?” / “Is this legal?” / “How will the children get into college?”. All kinds of questions to test you and your resolve.

People cannot understand why one would want to home educate when the government is so ready and willing to do it for them. Nearly everyone thinks that only the government’s way will work.

Maybe, people ask these questions in an attempt to disqualify your decision to home educate because this decision challenges their world view and that makes them uncomfortable. Perhaps in their hearts they know that what you are saying about government schools and programming is true and the thoughts of doing something other than follow as sheep is frightening.

People are usually threatened when seeing others doing something different from themselves, especially something as important and established as education.

As we learned from our study of world views, we naturally believe we are right and so expect others to believe as we do, even when we don’t question what we believe and why we believe it. Christians are just as subject to this characteristic of world views as anyone else. Even when in error or advancing heresy, it is done with the internal conviction of being right.

The population has been trained to be committed to a singular public education system that advances “common values and beliefs” that effectively replace God’s absolute truth and singular faith with relative values rooted in hedonistic beliefs.

These “common values and beliefs” accept, advance and celebrate everything… but the truth. Christian values and beliefs need not apply to what is “common” to all Albertans! Really? Common values and beliefs? I don’t think so! What a shame.

Paul says in Galatians 1:10, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”

There it is, black and white again: Who are you going to serve? Who are you going to please? What then will you allow your children to be subject to? Will it be what pleases God or what pleases man?

That is the real choice we are given. A simple choice that truly bears eternal consequences, one which is far better than the other, but most certainly not the easiest choice to live with.

Thank you for taking the time to examine this series. I pray that it has blessed you as much as I hope it has helped you understand what a public curriculum is and what it is intended to do.

May God bless and keep you.

The Order of Learning for Students: Learning Order Series (Part 1)

We have been programmed by society to see education in terms of school grades or levels including: pre-preschool, preschool, kindergarten, elementary, junior high, high school, and then post-secondary. No one seems to question these levels or terms.

Many years ago, I started thinking about the term “post-secondary.” If there is a post-secondary, shouldn’t there be a secondary to “post”? And if there’s a secondary level, shouldn’t that require a primary level, first? The more thought I gave this, the more I realized that there may be levels to learning, but not as we have been trained to believe.

Levels work if we are to grade people in a structured learning environment, as in grade 1, 2, 3. A child completes one level and then moves on to the next. However, life outside of school is not like that. We are constantly learning what has been presented and move on.

Since learning is continuous, progressive levels may work when there is a focus to what is being learned as we see in school. But learning as we grow is best described as going through stages rather than levels. Describing learning as occurring in stages is more in keeping with where we are in life, while levels describe where we are in our “education.”

Now, let’s look at the four stages of learning.

The first stage is the pre-structured (pre-school, pre-kindergarten level). This initial stage includes learning to communicate using language. Little children, full of questions, ready to learn, casually growing while being exposed to an enormous amount of information. It begins before birth and is determined largely by the environment in which the learning occurs.

Some folks think this is a good way to leave things and essentially encourage students to “go with the flow” or learn as you go as they get older. Without getting into too much detail at this time, this can be described as the un-schooling approach to home education. I just need to point out that this does work with some families.

Now, the second stage is a bit more formal and begins when the child is ready. At the primary (elementary) stage, you learn the fundamental skills. You learn the basics of reading, you learn the basics of math, you learn a lot of what works and what doesn’t. This stage is largely pre-puberty. It can begin at any age, not necessarily at age six as prescribed by the school.

In fact, research has shown that it takes approximately one hundred hours to acquire the fundamental skills of reading and basic computation. So, if your child is six, seven, ten and not reading yet, don’t worry about it. If it takes about two and a half weeks to learn the fundamentals once you get going, there is no need to start when the child is not ready and risk academic child abuse!

That may be the research, but has anybody proved it? I’ve actually seen it many times in my career. For instance, I’ve seen a nine year old learn to read in two and a half weeks. In less than three months he was reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Many times I have heard a mom voice her concern about her daughter or son not reading during one visit, only to hear her admonish the child to “put down that book” at the next visit. I find it amusing, but moms usually fail to see it, as the child seems to learn to read, “overnight.” They literally transitioned from being illiterate to book worms without capturing mom’s attention.

Remember, we’re brainwashed with “school” thinking. School seems to take forever to accomplish what can be done in a short time, perhaps because school is first a daycare and then an institution for learning! Seriously, you could take everything they learn in six years of school and likely do it in one at home. We don’t have to worry. So much for that fear or concern!

The secondary stage of learning generally begins after puberty. Now the child expands in knowledge by applying the skills learned during the primary stage. Again, “school” starts this level roughly at age 12 (junior high) and makes it last until the child is roughly 18 (high school). However, I have witnessed this stage take less than a year with the student then advancing to the next stage of learning.

Simply put, the post-secondary stage is what happens after the secondary level. That can be anything. It can be part-time or full-time employment, entrepreneurship, college or whatever awaits the student as they transition into the adult world.

Two things are for certain. Everybody is headed for post-secondary and learning never stops. And another thing, children never stop one level and start another while being educated. They slowly transition from one level to another when they are ready, doing so as they grow through each stage.

If we consider the post-secondary stage to be a level of formal training, we need to consider one more stage of learning. Indeed, this stage is essentially “adulthood after formal training.” If we give this stage the title of “life,” it becomes obvious that it actually starts at birth, transitions from one method or process or level or opportunity or stage to another, and considering that learning transcends the temporal into the eternal, it never ends.

To wrap it up, the primary stage is when learning the fundamental skills, the secondary stage is applying those skills, and post-secondary is the specialization of skills. Life continues both before and after these “levels” of formal learning, occurring in stages as we mature and grow older and wiser.

The Order of Learning for Parents: Learning Order Series (Part 2)

As far as parents go, there are also a series of stages they go through when raising their children. This is also the case when deciding to teach their children at home.

The first stage is to naturally assume school is the answer to their children’s educational needs. Parents will usually, initially go this route and most will stay there.

Those who either learn through experience or otherwise determine that the home is the place to be raising, training and teaching children, will usually bring a lot of the school’s thinking home with them, at first. This is the home schooling stage, a place full of confusion and associated fears as it is often a hybrid between what God has ordained and what government directs.

The home schooling stage eventually gives way to home education as parents realize their God-given authority, get comfortable with having the children at home and take greater control over what will be done respecting the education of their children.

Most parents are comfortable within the home education stage and stay there throughout their children’s formal education. At this stage, the program usually fits the child, even if employing at least some notions of school. There is nothing wrong with this, but some of the more “daring,” or should I say “faithful,” will eventually come to be free of all school ‘thinking” and become “un-schoolers.”

The best way to define this stage or process is that it simply is not doing or playing school in any way. Those who make this stage generally have a greater trust in God and less confidence in man. You may want to see what Psalm 118:8 has to say about that. (I will be discussing this approach to home education in more detail a bit later.)

As parents transition from one stage to another there is a greater sense of freedom as they make the program fit the child rather than having the child fit the program. As you, no doubt, know, working with children has always been better than fighting with them, so finding what works for them is definitely a better idea.

As the children grow, they become more and more independent. In the end, they do as you had planned from the start and what you knew would eventually happen. They leave home to start a life of their own. In a home education, parents have the privilege of growing with the children as they grow together as a family.

Without diminishing the importance of having a good education, one must understand that relationships are of far greater value. Keeping and teaching all the children at home is the best way to develop the most important relationships, which are our relationships with God and with each other as a family. Friends may come and go, but family should stay and stick together, forever.

Now, while home education may go through a few stages or phases, it actually follows the transitions in parenting, which also has to change as the children grow older.

When babies, children need to be nurtured and protected. Training starts soon after birth (potting training for example) and is essentially completed by puberty. In fact, a very experienced older neighbour lady told us that if the children are not properly trained by age five, it is too late and there will be lots of issues to deal with as they grow older. That was wise counsel.

Once a child reaches puberty, more teaching and less training takes place. However, once the student begins taking responsibility for his or her education, parents will find their role changing from that of being teachers to being mentors and guides.

This new role is long lasting, continuing until the children reach their thirties or forties, at which time the parents are old enough to be appreciated as sages and the children are old enough to finally appreciate what the parents were saying all along!

Whether students or parents, everybody grows older and, supposedly, wiser. While each generation is responsible for helping the next, each new generation seems to be faced with problems the former generation has not experienced.

Although there can be what appear to be stages in growth and learning, the fact is most things are simply continually changing and we transition from one level or stage or phase to another as we learn and apply our new found knowledge.

And, I don’t believe this process ever ends.

What is Unschooling? Learning Order Series (Part 3)

We have had the privilege of ministering to a great many families over the years and I must admit that some have caused me to seriously rethink some of my original beliefs about education.

On occasion, we have served families that were in two parts. Not that they were separated, but that their children were in two different age groups. These parents had the first family and years later, for whatever reason, started a second family. Same parents, different batch of children with ten or more years between the first set and the second set of children.

One of these families, that remain as personal friends to this day, is a case in point. They sent their first child to school, found that it was not as good a place as expected, and brought their children home. As usual, they also brought the school home. Trying to do school at home proved to be more trouble than it was worth, so changes were made to the program to better fit the family and student.

Eventually, this family became more home educators than home schoolers as they took on more and more responsibility and independent, family centred, individual programming.

Several years later, the family was blessed with another child and a couple of years after that, another one, creating a family of two sets of children, the older bunch and the younger bunch.

We have all heard how experience is a good teacher and this situation is a good example of this. By the time the family was completing the education of the first family, the second family was ready to begin. However, by now the parents were experienced. They had already transitioned through home schooling to home education and by now were comfortable with allowing the children to simply learn as the opportunities were presented.

As a consequence of the parents being more experienced, older and wiser, the second family was raised in a more relaxed environment, not that the first family was under undue stress, but the second set of children were given the freedom to learn as they grew. The family had become un-schoolers.

I was relatively new to this way of educating at the time, but I soon saw the wisdom to this novel approach. As I became more familiar with the family, I was amazed at how the children were progressing in their learning and soon became not only a supporter, but a fan of the un-schooling method.

Now, remember that I was a public school teacher, not only teaching students at the high school level, but mentoring young teachers as well. With the parents’ permission, I brought a few of these student teachers with me when performing my duties as their facilitator.

Without exception, these students who were indoctrinated to think in the school way, were completely flabbergasted with what they saw and every one of them vowed to incorporate un-schooling within the school once they had the ability. Sadly, I had to inform them that you cannot un-school at school. It is only when not in school that you can un-school. They could plainly see the advantages to the un-schooling method.

As mentioned, I continue to be very much involved with this family. The oldest of the second family, without having used any curriculum, courses, training or programs; without any accreditation or post-secondary courses; and without any type of paper certification, is the genius behind our unique world class web sites and all the technology behind it.

Un-schooling works! It is simply working with a child’s natural learning ability without having to resort to the school’s way of doing things.

It is not un-parenting. It is not un-structured. It is not un-disciplined. It is not un-learning, nor is it un-acceptable. Un-schooling is simply not doing school and it is as diverse in its application as the uniqueness of each child.

Learning naturally as we grow is …natural. I believe that is what was meant to be. No doubt, school will provide you with a lot of information and most students can succeed in school, demonstrating their intelligence and willingness to do as they are told. However, very little of this information is ever used in the average person’s life.

Un-schooling simply cuts out what will ultimately be useless to a particular child. It allows them to play when young, learn as they go and study what interests them in preparation for what could only be, their lives.

What is Bible-based Education?

What is a Bible-based education?

Well, to start, it is Bible-based! It is focused on what God expects of parents. It should come as no surprise that it takes a man and a woman to produce children. It is also not hard to imagine that the God who created the ability to procreate would expect the procreators to complete the job by raising the children while teaching them to know and love Him.

This, incidentally, is a full time job. There is actually no time for school. There is also no mention in the Bible of shoving the job into someone else’s hands. So it remains the parents’ job. Not their right or preeminence in education, but their God ordained responsibility.

Therefore Bible-based education is simply not following the world, but obeying God and raising, training and teaching the children, yourself, at home. It is obeying God’s directives as outlined in the Bible. It is God centred, family-based and it happens at home. If the parents are truly following God, home is the best environment for the raising of Godly children.

Bible-based education is often called traditional home education, implying, maybe, that once upon a time, most parents taught their own children or hired others to help them with that responsibility. While it may be “old-fashioned” it is still the best alternative.

Bible-based education is natural learning because we’re working with what God has created, in keeping with the children’s abilities, gifts, talents, readiness and so on, as well as their shortcomings within the family environment.

It is a matter of developing what God has created in God’s timing and in God’s way. It is not making something of the children. The children are already made, created as is! No need to program them. Nope, just provide opportunities to develop what is there.

Bible-based education is understanding that only God knows the future and that the children’s place as adults will be determined and directed by God, not parents, although it is important to understand that the more we put into those children, the better their options become.

The biggest issue with parenting is that parents often think they have to prepare children for a future they know nothing about. We need to acknowledge that the children’s futures are in the hands of the only one who knows the future and that is God.

This is very important to understand. Parents have the task of preparing the children so God can direct them in their futures. It still requires responsibility, but without control. We ultimately do not have control over the future, nor our children’s place in it.

There you have it! No fears or concerns because God has it all in control! Well, maybe reduced fears and concerns since we cannot fully understand everything. However, it is safe to say that a biblical home education should be a relaxed learning atmosphere. Doesn’t that sound like the way you want it?

There should be no stress and there most certainly should never be burnouts. God did not create us to burn out. If we’re burning out, we’re likely doing something wrong. Relax, seek God, do your best and trust in Him. He will not disappoint those who have faith.

That is a “biblical home education”.