The Uniqueness of Each Child: Meet Education Unlimited (Part 6)

Another thing that must be realized when comparing home schooling with home educating is the fact that when a program is prescribed, children have to be ready when the program says they should be. This makes no sense when considering the uniqueness of each child.

When home educating, the teaching of skills happens when the child is ready. In fact, if you provide constant opportunity and encouragement, when they are ready you will be where you should be, at the right time.

To make children do what they are not ready to do is a form of academic child abuse! Let me tell you an interesting story about child readiness.

Years ago there was a little fellow whose mother had adopted two children later in her life. She didn’t know us at all, just basically ended up with Education Unlimited because she had heard of us through a friend.

During my initial facilitation meeting, as I was sitting there talking to the mom, this little fellow ran by. Realizing that this youngster was the student I was facilitating, I asked the mother if she thought the child was ready.

She replied with, “Oh, no, but he’s 6 years old, so he has to start… doesn’t he?” To which I responded, “Says who?”

“Says the school board!” she replied. So I told her, “I’ve got news for you. I represent the school board, and I’m telling you not to do anything formal, for now. You can seriously damage this child if you start him now, when he is obviously not ready.”

Keep in mind that if a person has only ever experienced school, and school begins formal training at six years of age, then that is what she naturally expects and the example she follows.

So I told her to “Trust me!” and she decided not to start formal teaching at that time. Returning in the spring, I asked what she had done, and when she replied with “nothing,” I was pleased!

I came back the next fall and it was obvious that he was still not ready. By then mom had a bit more confidence with waiting.

Returning the following spring, no formal work had been done. This is not to say that the child had not learned anything in the past two years, but that no formal teaching had occurred.

The next fall also found that the child was not yet ready for anything formal.

When I visited the following spring, I noticed something completely unexpected with this nearly 10 year old boy. There he was, lying on the sofa, reading a book. Not just any book, but J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

In light of the fact that mom had warned me beforehand that he hadn’t done any school work of any kind that year, I asked for an explanation.

The mother said, “It was the most amazing thing. He came up to me and said, ‘Mom, what’s that word?’ and when I asked if he wanted to learn how to read, he replied ‘Yeah.’” The mother said that in a very short time he was reading novels.

A few years later we had him do a skills assessment test (which we no longer do because they are useless) and he scored in the 99th percentile. Basically, that meant there was hardly a child his age in Canada smarter than he. Quite a thing considering that he only started to read when he was ten.

The rest of the story is just as interesting. By the time he was approaching 14, it looked like he would be ready for college. The family then moved out of country and we lost touch, but I would venture to guess that this student did just fine in life.

Does this story teach us anything? Yes, it does. In this particular case, the boy was a late blooming academic learner. Sometimes children are just more mechanical or artistic or just not ready for some things that others are. We should avoid doing things that do not fit the child.

Ever notice that God gave children to parents and not to institutions? Perhaps this is why children can do so much more outside the institution and in much less time.

Not only do schools not take individual readiness into account, but they make a very long journey of a short path.

Does it really take 12 years to complete a formal education? In school maybe, but considering that the 3 years of junior high school is a waste of time, and if we exaggerate by assuming that the students are actually productive and learning within the classroom for 50% of the time, it is not hard to comprehend how a child could start at 10 and be ready for the post-secondary stage by age 16.

Start the children at 10 and graduate them at 16? We’ve seen it done time and time again, as long as we stay away from playing school.

Seriously, we discourage parents from starting before the children are ready because nothing is accomplished other than tears and frustration, not to mention the potential development of bad attitudes. Furthermore, boring them with busy work does not accomplish anything positive either.

At Education Unlimited we encourage the development of the individual child in keeping with his or her gifting, strengths, interests, failings, short-comings and, of course, readiness and abilities.

The unique characteristics of each child demand that we do not push or hold back or compare, for there is no other child like “that” child. We enable, equip and encourage parents to have faith in God and to work with Him, at the right time and in the right way, to develop what is, rather than what isn’t “that” child.

The Perspective of Education Unlimited: Meet Education Unlimited (Part 5)

Many years ago, I explained the difference between home schooling and home education to a Department of Education official who was re-writing the Home Education Regulations at the time. He had never heard anybody make a distinction between the two before.

Once enlightened on the difference, he asked me how many different programs were being used in home education. I responded by asking him how many students were being home educated in Alberta.

Using my criteria for what constitutes a true home education, he figured there were approximately 8500, to which I replied that there were approximately 8500 different home education programs.

Compare this to the fact that the vast majority of students in the province are following a single program and you should be able to see why I promote home education over home schooling.

Home education is fitting the program to the student. It’s “individualized.” As a 40-year career teacher, I have seen some form of the word “individualized” often used, especially on school marquis, but it is pure and simple lip-service.

You can’t individualize a program in a one-teacher, 25-student setting. You can only have one program and everyone has to fit it; ready, willing, interested, capable, or not.

However, when choosing to home educate, one must understand that there will be no provincial credits, transcript, or diploma, which does present a new set of challenges.

Since the majority of students attend regular school, it should not come as a surprise when post-secondary institutions initially seek school-based prerequisite courses.

Education Unlimited’s graduates simply inform institutions of having been home- not school-educated, ask to be evaluated based on their level of proficiency, and provide proof of accomplishments by providing an Education Unlimited Student Transcript. It works! No need for provincial accreditation.

So, why does anybody need to “home school”? If there is no need for government accreditation, it is a waste of time, not to mention a major source of frustration.

The reason people pull their children out of school is usually because school wasn’t working for them. If we bring it home, how is it going to improve? My being a public school teacher who home educated his own children has to say something about what I knew about the school system!

We do not encourage home schooling because home educating is the best option for training and teaching children.

Developing what God has already created is very different from creating something of the children by forcing them through a program developed by people who have no idea who your children are. How can complete strangers have their best interest in mind?

No one knows a child better than a loving parent, and our job as parents is to develop what God has already created within the child, so let’s develop what is there and not waste time with what is not!

Learning is as natural as breathing, coughing or sneezing. We do not need to make a process or a job of it. Enjoy growing and learning with your children.

And remember, the only difference between the pre and post puberty child, besides the level of maturity, is the increased capacity for learning. No need to return to the school from which you escaped. God is still in control!

When it comes to programming, we simply say everything works as long as it fits the child and works for the teacher.

Also, don’t oversubscribe. Don’t try to do too much. Just do one year at a time, or one day at a time.

In fact, if you follow these three “cardinal rules” for home education, you will be successful. They are: don’t push, don’t hold back, and don’t compare!

When educating our own, we need to encourage children to fly with their strengths while teaching them how to manage their weaknesses.

Schools can’t do that. Schools have to bring strengths down to the lowest common denominator while demanding that every child be proficient at everything. Schools actually don’t teach students, they only provide opportunities to learn. Parents can easily do the same.

Because public schools reject God, they look at children as chance accidents that need to be programmed and prepared for usefulness in society. Christian home educators, on the other hand, have a more eternal objective in teaching their children.

Freedom is a gift from God. When we place children into a school system, we place them in one of the most dysfunctional institutions ever created by man.

Most every child will tell you that school is best described as jail. Jail is not the place one would equate with freedom. Freedom is not the foundation of home schooling, but it is for home education.

We chose to call our agency Education Unlimited precisely because we believed in education, not schooling. Also, freedom is not limiting like bondage is, hence the “unlimited.” Learning is not limited by needless restrictions imposed by people with a different agenda than that of the parents. Sounds like Education Unlimited to me!

Who Do We Serve? Meet Education Unlimited (Part 4)

Who is served by Education Unlimited? Everyone connected to home education, not only in Alberta, but across Canada and around the world.

Because our focus and intent is the protection, advancement and defence of home education, and equipping parents with the best possible understanding of everything that is involved, there are no real restrictions on who can use at least some of our services.

Now, since we are resident in Alberta, we minister on behalf of Alberta schools, by managing registration, administration and facilitation of their home education programs. In this capacity, we are open to serving anyone sincerely interested in the best option for training and teaching their children in Alberta.

However, we do need to screen applicants to make sure that we are the best fit for them. This is important as I do not believe it is possible to be all things to all men.

Furthermore, I am simply not interested in encouraging parents to engage or continue in error. I want to equip them for the job. I believe that misleading parents to do as everyone else does should never be confused with leadership! Best to make sure everybody understands what is expected.

Also, since we come from a Christian worldview, we make it abundantly clear that this is the position from which we will be serving.

This does not mean that we exclude those who may not agree with this worldview. In fact, folks who do not subscribe to our faith appreciate knowing our worldview position and the fact that although we make no apologies for our faith, we “respect” rather than “tolerate” alternative and opposing views.

Once we have clearly established our faith perspective, we then make it very clear that we do not believe in, have never supported nor offered, anything other than purely traditional home education programs.

We have never offered nor supported government aligned or blended programming, credits, nor high school diplomas. Our long time advocacy concerning these types of offerings has clearly explained how these benefit schools more than students.

We believe that if parents desire a school based program, there is an abundance of schools willing to help them in that capacity. What the motivation may be for a school to do so is left up to the parents to discover.

However, keep in mind that, generally speaking, the more school programming a provider can foist upon the parents, the more money is made available to them. This is why most providers push aligned, blended or ADLC programs.

To clarify why we advance and support traditional home education only, I want to explain the difference between home educating and home schooling. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, home education and home schooling are very different approaches to education.

“Home schooling” involves using provincial programming and standards at home. This is what most people assume is taking place at home, starting with many post-secondary institutions.

It is also the best “paying” option for providers, either because it involves public programming that is funded at a higher rate, or because it is easier to take advantage of misinformed parents when desiring to perpetuate re-registrations and continuing cash flow.

Essentially, home schooling is best described as using a prescribed program where everything that must be learned at every level is pre-determined by a third party who knows nothing of the child. Hence the term home school is really schooling at home, where a one-size-fits-all program actually fits very few.

Although Education Unlimited does not support home schooling programs involving government curriculum, we do work with families that use prescribed programs such as ACE, Alpha Omega, A Beka and a host of other programs designed to be delivered by teachers in Christian schools.

Following these programs as prescribed is also home schooling, but parents have more latitude to make the changes leading to individualization.

Perhaps the best way to differentiate between home schooling and home education is to ask, “Who is in control?” If the parents are deciding what will be learned at what time and in what way, they are home educating. If the curriculum is directing the learning, then it is home schooling. Simple as that!

Education Unlimited ministers by working with those who are most familiar with the children, their parents, without interference and without guilt or condemnation. We trust parents willing to make this level of commitment to have the best interests of the children in mind.

Our “un-schooling” approach equips parents to avoid copying the school’s ways in their home education.

Our approach is not burdensome at all. We want to increase parents’ confidence, reduce their stress, paperwork and reporting, in order to create a relaxed learning atmosphere.

Not only that, but we have alternate approaches to documenting achievements and meeting admissions requirements for college.

Education Unlimited does not play school. We have always been the provincial leader in innovative and resourceful ways of helping parents come to the knowledge of the truth about school, home schooling, and the positive alternatives available.

We don’t just assume parents are informed about what they want but we do know that most want what is best for their families.

Education Unlimited wants to help make that happen.

When Do I Start? / What Should I Use? Fears and Concerns Series (Part 2)

*For children who have never gone to school, one of the first questions asked after deciding to home educate is, when do I start the primary level? Is there an official starting point?

Well, there is an easy answer to this question also: start when they are ready. Only schools have fixed start and stop ages for formal learning. Neglecting the unique nature of individual students, this assumption of readiness is based on averages. If your child is ready at that time, great, but if not, then he or she can be either bored or frustrated to tears.

You are in the only real position of leadership. You are leading your children by taking your cues from them. They’re going to let you know when it’s time and then you will be able to proceed without “incidents” related to bad timing.

People often share their troubles with me as a facilitator, or perhaps as one who has been around a few corners in the world of education. Usually while they’re telling me their problem, they’re also giving me the solution to that problem.

For example, “My daughter just the other day came over and told me she wanted to read.”

That’s your cue. Go for it. It’s going to work now because it’s her idea.

They know when they’re ready. We have to trust them a little bit. At the same time we have to offer opportunities for learning, without making them do things they are not ready to do and be just as ready to start them in their formal education at a younger age as at an older age if, indeed, they are ready.

*Another often expressed concern about home education is regarding which resources should be used?

Well, here’s another easy answer: it really doesn’t matter.

Everything works, from nothing at all to regimented programs to everything in between. Anything, whether books, workbooks, apps, games or whatever, can be instrumental in providing opportunity for learning.

Really, all resources are just tools. Find the tool that works, that inspires, that allows the child to grow with the least amount of pain! You simply want to use the right tool for the job.

If something doesn’t work or inspire, find something else or try another method. You are the boss!

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.