Sixteen Years Old (The Coming of Age): Fears and Concerns Series (Part 9)

Realizing that I am likely going to date myself as a “senior”, I recall that when I had finished grade nine, during my unhappy tenure in school, my formal education was over. In fact, I still have my Junior High School Diploma, issued by the Government of Alberta!

Why is it that fifty years ago, a person was deemed to be fully educated by age 16, unless intent on continuing with academic studies, for which high school was available, but today obtaining a high school diploma at age 18 or 19 is the standard expectation?

Related to this question is an observation I made when I quit teaching high school biology over a dozen years ago. Having started my teaching career in Saskatchewan, I eventually came to Alberta where I continued to teach Biology and French.

I had kept all my teaching notes from the beginning of my career and comparing them to what I was teaching twenty-five years later, I was more than surprised by what I saw.

Perhaps it had something to do with comparing notes from two provinces, but I clearly remembered that each time a new curriculum was presented, less information was required to be learned and expectations were always lowered even when we were told they had risen.

Like anything else that changes slowly over time, we usually do not recognize what is happening unless we stop and really take a good hard look at what is going on. That is what I did when I compared what was required of biology students in the mid-seventies to those of the early 2000s.

Without exaggeration, students at the end of my career had to learn less than half of those at the start of my career to receive the same grade twelve biology credits. Actually, I think it was closer to a third. Therefore, I believe that it is safe to say that my Junior High Diploma, received upon completion of my grade nine, likely involved more learning than a modern day high school diploma now earned three years later.

Today, schools expect less academic accomplishment in a longer period of time than not that long ago. Why? First, we need to understand that schools have become primarily a baby sitting service that allows parents to carry on with their own lives while expecting the schools to do the educating of the children, and in some cases, the parenting as well.

Second, schools are no longer about learning facts and figures, but about learning what will make them good, unquestioning citizens in a secular socialist global environment of totalitarian government control. It is no longer as important to understand math concepts or communication skills, just as long as the students can repeat the politically correct beliefs of the ruling few.

Now there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between what the government schools and other government agencies have to say about the official coming of age for students. In my day, either grade 8 or sixteen was good enough. That is why they issued the Junior High School Diploma. At sixteen, we could drive, so we were considered adults and ready for the adult world.

Today, we still believe 16 year olds are mature enough to drive a lethal bomb down the road, yet we do not consider them ready for the world without an additional two to three years of “schooling”. Why would that be? To make sure they acquire more academic information or to make sure they can repeat more indoctrination?

As you must surely know, what goes on in school is very different from a traditional home education. Pay close attention to the word traditional. As discussed already, traditionally, students were deemed to have been ready to transition to the adult world around the time they could acquire a driver’s license.

Traditionally, students who desired to advance academically continued on to senior high school. The rest went to work or started businesses, neither of which usually required more education and if they did, it was easily acquired.

Home education actually provides the perfect opportunity to continue on with this expected transition to the adult world, but rather than at a given age, it occurs when the student is ready. This is why many home educated students are taking post-secondary level courses, starting businesses, or going to work by the time they have reached the age of 16.

Modern technology makes advancing to post-secondary studies easier for the academic home educated students to continue. Part time work is available earlier and entrepreneurs can get an early start. Apprenticeships can begin at age sixteen.

I have seen students become fully accredited with degrees or certificates before their school peers have been officially dumped into a world they have not had time to understand.

If a student has been home educated from the start, it is rare to see them do much secondary work beyond the age of sixteen. That is, they are done with their formal secondary learning by the time they are old enough to get their driver’s license, as was the case traditionally.

Every student goes on to post-secondary activities, whatever that may be, because all activities beyond the secondary level are obviously post-secondary, whether it involves more formal education or not. Home educated students simply get an earlier start than those poor students forced to tolerate an additional three years of school in preparation for what, exactly?

We need not fear or be concerned about home educated students maturing earlier than their peers. It actually gives them an edge. AND, to send them to high school to be “completed” or to get their credits or diploma at or about 16 years of age is to direct them to go backwards to advance. This is pure foolishness and clearly not in keeping with the advantages of being educated at home.

How Can I Teach High School? Fears and Concerns Series (Part 7)

I must admit that whenever we see our secondary students sent to public programming, whether physically to school or online to “get their diploma” or to “get their credits” or to “prepare them for post-secondary,” I am deeply disappointed.

I wonder where we went wrong, and how we could have prevented this calamity. I also question how parents can so quickly give up their faith and trust in God to put their confidence in man, especially when most people know what little personal benefit they actually got out of school.

We do everything we can to help, support and encourage parents and students to continue with the superior option of home education, but we are but one voice in a crowd of people driven by fear. Stories of the failure of unaccredited home education are abundant, but hardly accurate, yet they have great influence on people who do not know any better.

Bad news travels fast. The enemy specializes in bad news and if he can get students away from parents, he has a far greater potential to negatively influence them. Parents should be keeping their children home where they can protect them, not only physically, but ideologically as well.

Please pay close attention to the following statement: Students do not need high school accreditation or diplomas to be successful in life or to gain admission to post-secondary institutions.

All they need is a personalized education that will uniquely serve them in their lives. And this is only possible when completing their secondary level education at home within the family.

Admittedly, when children go through puberty and start the secondary stage of learning, determining to continue the education at home may lead you to our next concern. When reaching higher levels of learning, parents often express their fear of not being able to teach their children at this more complex level.

If this is one of your fears or concerns, I have good news for you. You don’t have to. In fact, you’re fired! Just kidding, but not really. Think about it this way.

When children reach young adulthood and take ownership of their education, they can continue learning in ways and means that you may never have experienced or imagined. This is where home education really starts to show its superiority.

Home education is not playing school but providing opportunity for learning, and when the children start finding their own opportunities, your job is done. Maybe not entirely done, but your job description will certainly change. Your role transitions from being the teacher to being a mentor. You will now need to slowly get out of the way and encourage them to teach themselves.

After all, you are not the one that needs to learn the algebra, or the biology, or the economics, or whatever it is they are studying. They do. You may be required to assist your children on occasion, but you should not have to teach them. Let them do it. Let them discover it. Leave them to learn it, in their way, at their own pace. Students given this freedom usually accomplish much more in far less time than their school peers.

Of course, there’s always that couch potato or sloth, but he’s not common and the condition is usually not permanent. Usually this comes as a phase of puberty when all the energy seems to be going into growing a body. Indeed, they may seem to be losing more than they are gaining for a while, especially boys, whose favourite subjects may become sleeping and eating during this time, but this phase eventually passes.

Breaking free from the school method and giving the students the control over their education empowers them to take responsibility and to develop what God has created. It actually gets easier for the parents as the students take on more complicated concepts.

I have seen home education fail at this secondary stage. However, this is usually when the student either goes to school, brings school home, or when the parents attempt to mimic a school approach to programming.

When considering that school specializes in one-size-fits-all programming, having anything to do with school at this phase essentially eliminates the very advantages to home education.

Students do not need to learn all the subjects nor all the levels or concepts within each subject. It should make sense that to tailor the program to the student’s ability and interests will save a lot of valuable time and allow for early maturation and specialization.

There is no need to fear not being able to teach secondary level students. They can teach themselves. In fact, that was the secret to my success as a high school teacher. I directed my students. I encouraged them to take responsibility for their education and I helped them get it.

I consistently got better results than my colleagues and received innumerable “thank you’s” from students for having taught them how to learn, but actually all I had done was to expect them to learn and master the concepts. Even as a high school teacher, I got to the point where I rarely taught! And the results were obvious!