What exactly makes someone an expert? Are the criteria objective or subjective? By what standard does someone earn this designation?
This past weekend while participating in a gathering of homeschooling families, I was deemed an expert because of my "25 years of service." Another woman who had been homeschooling for almost two decades told me, "You're one of the sage women like me." We both agreed that we had earned every one of the gray hairs on our heads! To these homeschooling families, my longevity at this particular endeavor meant that they should give attention to what I had to say.
Today, while at the athletic club, I overheard two women discussing another woman who was a gifted musician and worship leader at their church. They each couldn't say enough good things about her, with one exception. They were dismayed because she hadn't finished her degree. One added, "If she would just go back and get her degree she could be a wonderful music therapist." The other agreed that this would complete the package for this gal. Forget the fact that each of them had first-hand experience of her capabilities both with music and with children. For them, she needed to get credentials.
Too many parents who wish to provide a Christian education and establish homeschools are "put off" by similar considerations. They are sure that they don't have the ability to educate their children. This would be understandable if they weren't educated people -- but many of them are. They have a strong commitment to the Bible and its application in their lives. But, they have been duped into thinking that it takes an "expert" to teach a child to read and compute.
I maintain that anyone who can read or compute, with a bit of encouragement and orientation to correct methods (phonics for reading and memorized and practiced drills for arithmetic), can produce students with high levels of achievement. How do I know this? Because, I've done it with my own children and have witnessed it with countless others. Surely, there are those who choose to delegate this responsibility to others, but it is a ridiculous statement to assert that it takes twelve years of high school, four years of college, and another year or two for a masters degree in order to teach one's own language to a young person. Anyone interested in purchasing some swamp land, too?
Make no mistake about it; homeschooling isn't a mindless activity that anyone can undertake. In fact, if it is not pursued in a godly, systematic fashion, homeschooling can end up being just another way to be irresponsible. Homeschooling parents need to be pursuing a study of the Word of God with an eye to its authority over and application to all disciplines: academics, the arts, and even choices of athletics and recreation. The good news is that it doesn't take years and years of training before one can begin. On-the-job training is a very workable system, especially with all the mentoring and guidance help of curriculum publishers and other veteran "experts" like me.
I submit that homeschooling moms are among the most educated (in the truest meaning of the word) of teachers. How many other "professionals" take students from beginning to end and are versed in all the subjects in between? So, rather than deferring to so-called experts, I challenge any who are being led by the Holy Spirit to provide a home education for their children, to become an expert in the eyes of the Lord.
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].