BTWN: The Home School Vs. Public School Episode

homeschoolersI had the privilege once again to join the BTWN fellas to kick around a few topics. First, we discussed what church growth should look like for a congregation. Then we turned to Christian potheads, man. And then we spent the remainder of our time in a spirited discussion about whether or not Christian parents can send their kids to public school. Tim and I took the affirmative, Len the negative.

BTWN: Episode 174

Just to summarize my position regarding the great homeschooling/public school debate if I were not clear enough on the podcast:

– My wife and I currently home school all five of our children. In fact I have written about our views HERE and HERE.

– I do not believe God forbids Christian parents from sending their kids to secular, public schools. There is not a Bible verse anywhere in Scripture that says a parent has to home school.

– The exhortations to train your kids in godliness and so forth, found in Deuteronomy and other similar passages that homeschooling advocates often appeal to for their anti-PS convictions, are not addressing a general education a child would receive in either a public school or at home.

– Instead, passages in Scripture exhorting the teaching of God’s Word to children and raising them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord are speaking specifically to the parents role in raising their children to fear God and to obey His law. Parents can do that while still sending their kids to public school.

– That said, I do share many of the concerns of anti-PS homeschooling advocates. I understand that secular educators and education can have an agenda. Christians must not be naive regarding that fact.

– However, public schools differ from community to community. Some will be more liberal than others, while some extremely conservative than others. My family happens to live in a conservative oriented school district in LA county. Parents need to use discernment and discretion when choosing how they will educate their kids.

– It is grossly inaccurate and a ridiculous exaggeration on the part of anti-PS homeschooling onlyists to automatically charge all public schools and their teachers/administrators everywhere across America as attempting to steal the heart of children from Jesus and to turn them against God.

– Parents who do send their children to public school need to be extra vigilant in what it is their children are learning, who their friends are, who their teachers are, what are the influences, etc.

– The more the parents are involved with their kids education with such things as helping with homework, reviewing assignments and lessons, and even giving of their time at their local school, the more they will be equipped to address issues that may confront their kids and interact with educators and administration.

– Homeschooling is absolutely no guarantee that your children will be safe from worldliness and anti-theistic philosophies, or even that they will be saved. I know a number of loving, God-fearing parents who home schooled their children who never once darkened a PS door, who are now hellions and/or hostile toward their parents and the Christian faith. Anti-homeschooling blogs exist for a reason.

A Plea for Christian Parents to not be Idiots

frescojesusRecently on Facebook, I read this screaming head line,

Mom’s Angry Note to Teacher About Islam Assignment Goes Viral

It links to a story about a hysterical mother in Bakersfield, CA, (about a 90 min. drive north from where I live) who believes creeping sharia is overtaking the schools.

Troubled that her son had to do an assignment that appeared to be gratuitously too friendly toward the religion of Islam, she wrote a nasty missive across the homework page explaining in no uncertain terms – some of it in all CAPS – that her son was no longer going to continue with the assignment. She even included a smattering of Bible verses like Ephesians 6:10 and 1 Corinthians 12:9-10.

Oh boy.

Lookit. I sympathize with the mother. I understand completely her thinking that believes Christianity is being marginalized in America. It is also frustrating to witness the popular culture succumb to the Zeitgeist of dhimminitude that wants us all to pretend that the mass slaughter, butchery, rape, and destruction that has spread across the Middle East and into Europe has nothing to do with Islam. So that when the local school begins sending home assignments that favor Islam over all the other world religions and especially to the exclusion of Christianity, I know this mother’s rage.

But let’s take a step back, breathe in a deep breath, and think about this for a moment.

Lady, while I feel the heat of your passion regarding this matter, is the most productive, wiser course of action to stigmatize your son by writing an angry note across his homework page and posting it on Facebook so it can become viral and the Onion can write up a parody article mocking all Christians for reacting that way?  You seriously want to toss your son headlong through a gauntlet of ridicule and mockery by the hands of the media, his peers, and bloggers like me?

As of the writing of this post, my kids have spent the last couple of weeks or so preparing written assignments on Islam. We homeschool; so our kids aren’t just another brick in the wall for the postmodern leftist in charge of the American educational system to brainwash. You read that right: At least a couple of weeks.

In fact, the past weekend before my post here, I was helping one of them write a paragraph on the person of Mohammed and his flight to Mecca; because you know, he was a real, historical figure who founded a religion. Yet I honestly have no worries about any of them becoming ISIS soldiers, because you know what? I’M ACTUALLY INVOLVED WITH THEIR EDUCATION REGARDING ISLAM! Go figure.

Rather than scrawling an angry note across their homework assignment denouncing the teacher and thus subjecting my kids to embarrassment and the possibility of life crippling scorn, we discussed Islam. We discussed it’s founder, Mohammed, what Islam teaches, and the actions of Muslims in today’s world, framing it altogether in a biblical, Christian worldview.

Additionally, if I perceived a gross imbalance in the way my kids were being taught about Islam as compared to the other world religions, why I would take the initiative to contact the teacher, express my concerns, and address the need for them to modify the curriculum to have the kids read from the London Baptist Confession, or recite the Lord’s Prayer, or whatever.

The last thing you want to become is one of those Red State Evangelical activist types who take their marching orders from Todd Starnes’s imbalanced, handwringing opinion pieces supposedly reporting how Christians are suffering persecution in America. You are doing Christianity a disfavor if that’s the case.

A number of years ago, when my wife still taught elementary school, the kids in her grade where given an assignment to read a biography on a famous, historical person, build a doll of the individual, and prepare a brief presentation to give in class.  So for example, a kid might do a report on Benjamin Franklin and he builds a little figure out of popsicle sticks with a head that had cotton balls for hair and a tiny kite. Another one may dress up a Ken doll like FDR and have him sitting in a doll-sized wheel chair. You get the picture.

One kid, a girl if I recall, wanted to read the Bible as her biography and talk on Jesus. Her teacher, not knowing how to respond, (because honestly, the Bible is not technically a biography in the sense that these kids were learning), goes to my wife and asks if the Bible could be considered a biography. My wife is like, well, not in the way the assignment is asking the kids to read a biography. So the girl’s proposal was turned down. It was suggested she do one on a famous preacher or missionary.

Guess what? How do you think the parents reacted? Do you think they were like, maybe we can follow the teacher’s advice and do a biography on a famous preacher? Because what you are doing is beyond the parameters of the assignment and she is giving you an opportunity to write on a famous Christian.

Well of course not! They take this as godless persecution from the liberal communists at the state ran school. The parents demanded that she be allowed to exercise her first amendment rights, so the teacher relented and let her do her report.

When the kid submits the project, what she brought in was a hideous homemade doll nailed through the hands and feet to two boards fashioned into a cross. She had used her own hair to make the hair and beard of Jesus. It was like some freakish, Fundamentalist voodoo doll. If camera phones had been available at the time, I would have taken a picture and would post it in this article, but alas.

Come on now. That is the kind of crazy stuff the apostate anti-homeschoolers recount on their Patheos blog accounts. The worst thing about the whole ordeal is that a couple of teachers who were unbelievers could not believe Christians were such wackos. In the end, the Christian’s rights were “upheld” and “persecution” protected by free-speech, but the unintended consequences had a negative effect for the Gospel. Hopefully you will think of your reaction and future reactions with that in mind, because you aren’t helping Jesus out, but making His followers look like idiots.

The Butler Family’s Favorite Children Books

Vintage Hip and Thigh

When I compiled all of my reviews in a single post I put up a couple of weeks ago, I came across this old one I did highlighting the children’s books I read to my kids. At the time we only had three. Now there are five. Both boys mentioned in the article are now 9 and 8 respectively.

I wanted to repost this article primarily because I was amused by the recounting of my pitiful experience with reading in second grade. This was originally published back in 2007, so I figured newer readers would appreciate it.

——-

My oldest boy turned 4 last November and my middle boy just turned 3 this February. Early in their lives my wife and I have attempted to provide them both with a love for books. One of our more special times as a family is reading two or three books before bed time. Both of our boys know their letters and the oldest is beginning to recognize words.

As a parent, I am excited about this because I believe reading is a vitally important discipline that must be taught early to children. However, reading to my kids has caused me to exhume some long ago buried bones from my early elementary school education.

I was a slow reader. I also lacked the confidence to read out loud in class. I think I may have received a “U” for “unsatisfactory” on my report card up until 4th grade. It wasn’t that I didn’t comprehend reading, I just read slow because I liked to savor what I was reading and the thought of people listening to me read out loud was to me like kryptonite to Superman.

Moreover, if the reading was accompanied by pictures, I would linger even longer over my reading and completely zone out from what was happening immediately around me in the class room. This was especially true if those pictures were snakes, lizards, dinosaurs, and Bigfoot.

I remember once in second grade, our teacher had the class pass around a picture encyclopedia to show us an elephant. This particular book also contained “D” words so when it came to me, I accidentally flipped to the “D” section and found the “dinosaurs.” I sat transfixed at the pictures of the tyrannosaurus rex fighting a triceratops. After several minutes of me gazing at what I believed to be one of the most glorious spectacles I had ever seen, our teacher asks, “What happened to the book?” Shelia, who sat next to me, shot up her hand and proclaimed in a loud voice, “Freddy has it and he’s looking at the dinosaurs, not the elephants!”

Shelia was one those prissy girls who lived for being a teacher’s pet, and from my vantage point, a large responsibility of her self-appointed position was to inform our teachers (and our class) when I lagged behind in my academic skills, especially my reading.

For example, again in 2nd grade, our teacher would break the class up into reading tables and number the tables 1-8 with #1 and #2 being next to her and #8 toward the back of the room. They represented the students’ ability at reading out loud in front of the entire class room. The kids back at tables 7# and 8# needed the most help, and would read “special” books. Kids got the glorious opportunity to move up in number or the humiliating shame of moving down in number

The goal for us kids was to move up to the #1 and #2 tables because that was where all the really cool kids sat. So, if a kid was sitting at the #4 table and he or she read the assigned sentence well, the kid moved up to the #3 table and continued until he or she moved up to the honored #1 table.

The kids already sitting at the #1 and #2 tables had to essentially defend their spot and if any of them messed up, that kid was sent back to the tables at the lower end of the reading spectrum and started the process over.

readingThe popular kids always sat at the #1 table, where as all the class misfits sat at the #8 table. For some reason, on this particular day, our teacher started me out at the #1 table and I couldn’t had been more excited and nervous all at the same time. It mainly had to do with the company I was keeping. There were a couple of the playground sports star boys along with a number of the school supermodels girls, and then me, and Shelia.

The class read through one story and some of the kids at the #2-#7 tables moved up or stayed where they were. Then we came to the second story called “Little Dog Lost” about a Scottish terrier who gets lost in a park. The teacher says, “Freddy, please read the name of the story.” I sat up straight in my seat and with all the firm confidence of an 7 year old, said loud and clear,

Little Dog Loost”

Silence filled the room. All that I could hear was Shelia’s heavy, audible sigh. I will never forget the soul crushing words that came from my teacher, “Oh, I’m sorry Freddy, that’s wrong” and then the final blow still echoes in my ears to this day:

Go to the back table… back table… back table

As I got up from my seat, Shelia leans over to another girl and whispers, “Freddy can’t read.” I hung my head and shuffled toward the back table, the “zip-zup, zip-zup” of my brown garanimals corduroy pants cruelly laughing at me as I went.

As I sat down, across from me sat Michael, who was drawing crude tattoos on his arm with a green, ball point pen. Next to him was Ronald carving up a pink eraser with a pocket knife. To my left was Davina, who was always giggling at the most inappropriate times, giggling at me, and Gilbert sat to my right. Gilbert was the only 8 year old I knew who smoked. He turned to me and says in a raspy, Larry King like voice, “How yah doin’.”

Sorry about that. I was having a flashback.

At any rate, we have exposed our children to many fine books and for the sake of the cathartic story I told above, I thought I would share with you all our top ten most requested books.

So here are the Butler family’s favorite books in no particular order.

Owl Moon – Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr

The story of a dad taking his young daughter on her first owling hike on a full moon night in the woods of Connecticut. The water color illustrations are exceptional and really bring this sweet story alive.

 

 

 

Good Night Moon – Margret Wise Brown, illustrations by Clement Hurd

My boys absolutely adored this book when they were first able to sit on our laps and have us read it. They particularly loved finding the mouse in each frame. I am thankful they are too young now to be effected by the New York Times scandal concerning the illustrator, Clement Hurd, surrounding old photographs of him smoking and the anti-smoking, hand-wringing busy-bodies photoshopping out the cigarettes in his hand Soviet propaganda style.

Anthony Gets Ready for Church – Mary M. Landis

This is a Mennonite book written and drawn for Mennonite kids. The mother in the book, for example, has the standard Mennonite “nursing” outfit on. When we ordered books from the Staff and Rod ministries, the fine folks included a set of free tracts promoting pacifism with our purchase. I laughed. Regardless, my boys love the simple story of young Anthony cleaning himself up and getting himself dressed for a Church service.

 

The Waterhole – Graeme Base

Graeme Base’s books are pretty awesome. Not only is he a superb illustrator, but his pictures contain hidden pictures within them. So, for example with The Waterhole, you learn to count to ten with the animals from around the world, but also camouflaged with in the picture, in a Bev Doolittle style, are ten other animals native to whatever area of the world is being considered.

The Big Hungry Bear – Don and Audrey Wood

Cleverly drawn and well illustrated book explaining why you cannot hide strawberries from bears.

 

 

 

 

 

The Doorbell Rang – Pat Hutchins

With each ring of the door bell, a new group of kids arrive for a visit, thus diminishing the number of cookies each child can have to eat. I just wouldn’t answer the door.

 

 

 

That’s Good, That’s Bad – Margery Cuyler, illustrations by Davit Catrow

A series of serendipitous events that appear good on the one hand, yet bad on the other, brings a boy lost at the animal park back to his parents.

 

Smokey – Bill Peet

Peet was one of the original storyboarders and animators for Disney back when they did cell-cartoons. He eventually took his talent to writing and illustrating children’s books. Old Smokey is a train engine who escapes his junk yard demise. The fact that it is about trains is enough to entertain my boys. I happen to like the political incorrect section about a group of whooping Indians who “misread” his smoke “signals” and give chase after him.

Chrysanthemum – Kevin Henkes

A little girl grows up loving her first name, Chrysanthemum, until her first day of school when all of her classmates inform her that she is named after a flower which lives in dirt and it contains 13 letters, half the letters of the alphabet.

 

 

 

Old Bear – Jane Hissey

The friends of old bear devise a scheme to release him from his attic confines.