28 January 2010

Homeschooling History In Virginia Plus More

My wife and I started homeschooling in 1992. Our youngest graduated in 2006. Some of our children are now homeschooling their children. One of my daughters teaches in a private school, another has a degree in history and elementary education and is state certified to teach, but has chosen to homeschool her 4 daughters. And I have other grandchildren that are being homeschooled as well. My youngest son just completed a term on the board of a local Christian school. In addition to homeschooling, my wife and I were both Sunday school teachers for over 20 years, founded and led a 4H group for children in our community and took the group on field trips. We made trips to Richmond where we lobbied our state senators and delegates in support of homeschooling "friendly" laws. My wife has also tutored disadvantaged kids (and adults) in our community and I've coached youth in a YMCA basketball league. We've also assisted and advised other families who wanted to homeschool their children and I've had articles published in homeschooling focused periodicals. So our family is most definitely an "education family" and both my wife and I consider ourselves educators and teachers. The title of "educator" or "teacher" does not belong solely to academics or those who are paid to teach.

Of course, as I've noted before, there are those who are still in the dark ages in regards to homeschooling and are wed (for political and power/control reasons) to a very backward, statist, and narrow-minded--"one size fits all"--view of education. Homeschooling is both a return to tradition and education fundamentals, as well as the wave of the future in educational trends.

And speaking of educational trends, a recent letter to the editor in the Dallas Morning News offered some suggestions with which I agree:

"We have to rid ourselves of this elitist notion that college graduates are somehow superior to skilled tradesmen and recognize that we have different God-given talents." (Emphasis mine.) More here.

Case in point: My youngest son was heavily recruited by several prestigious colleges and universities in Virginia. He's very bright. He chose, however, to start his own business in lieu of attending college. When that business didn't go as well as he had planned, he decided, due to his love of the outdoors and of horses, to become a farrier. He attended one of the best farrier schools (some say THE best) in the United States and then apprenticed under a master farrier for a while. He's been in the trade now for about 4 years and his reputation as an expert farrier is growing rapidly in the Shenandoah Valley. He now makes more money than most 4 year degree college graduates and will likely hit 6 figures in the not too distant future. And though farrier work is extremely hard, potentially dangerous, and physically demanding work, it affords my son the benefit of doing something he loves and, within reason, allows him to schedule his work when he wants to.

In regards to skilled trades, Booker T. Washington's model at Tuskegee presents us with some practical lessons in regards to higher education. He not only offered and emphasized the traditional academic courses, but industry and trade skills were also required. Students learned bricklaying, forestry, and timber skills, sewing, cooking, and practical agriculture, and every student was obligated to master at least two trades so he or she would always be able to contribute to the industry and betterment of society and be self-supporting after graduation. Louis Harlan explains that “Washington’s efforts as Tuskegee Institute were to train students to become independent small businessmen, farmers, and teachers rather than wage-earners or servants of white employers.” (Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee [New York: Oxford, 1983], 142). 

But there was more to Booker T. Washington than learning and industry. His spiritual side was well known and he expressed a sincere faith in Christ. Devotional exercises were held every morning at Tuskegee as well as evening prayers. He wrote of the support that Christians had given to his efforts to lift African-Americans out of poverty after the Civil War: “If no other consideration had convinced me of the value of the Christian life, the Christ-like work which the Church of all denominations in America has done during the last thirty-five years for the elevation of the black man would have made me a Christian.” 

Whenever we attempt to advance, we should always be careful to take a good long look back first - and learn from our history - not repeat its mistakes or think we're always smarter and wiser than all those who have gone before us.


MSimons said...

Well said Sir. I work in education and the College push these past 30 years had hurt more students than it helped. A full 50% of HS studnets are not college material and we are failing them by not teaching them any trade skills that would allow them to start making a living with out getting a 4 year degree.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

You're right. Also, I think its important to remember that in many cases, a 4 year degree today is equivalent to what a high school diploma was 50-70 years ago.

MSimons said...

That is true Mr. Williams my Grandmother with her 8th grade 1 room school house education was my best Math Teacher I had in 12 years of Public School Education.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

My grandfather left home when he was 14, but somehow got admitted into VPI (VA Tech) where he played football, but he never completed his degree. He joined the Army and fought in WWII. Primarily a self-educated man, he was a master machinist but widely read and could discuss just about any subject with you. My father in law never went any further than 4th grade, lied about his age and joined the Army at 16, then ran a successful business for 45 years, invested in real estate and raised 13 children. Education comes in many ways. Formal is just one of them.

Mike simons said...

My Father learned Home building from his older Cousin and started Simons Builders that will come to a close this year as he retires at 65 and goes part time.
45 years and counting.

Anonymous said...

A good farrier is worth about three dozen lawyers.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Anon - how true.

Msimons said...

We as Americans must all work to insure that every parent is free to choose the Educational system that is right for their child. This long pushed idea of cookie cutter uniformity is wrong headed and has been proven to be a monumental failure in America since 1970.

Not all students are college material and we are doing them the greatest disservice by not offering them Vocational Education options.

One example is the lack of Barbers any more. A man barber is getting to be as scarce as hens teeth here in Texas.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

MS - you are so right, especially about barbers. My barber is the same fellow that has been cutting my hair for the last 20 years.


Lawrence Underwood said...

I agree with the above comments. Part of what is happened is a cultural arrogance as well. Most people today look down on tradesmen: carpenters, plumbers, barbers, you name it. If a young man expresses a desire to enter such a field he is almost always told, 'Oh, you can do better than that.'

A man actually skilled in a trade is really quite rare these days. I am a pastor, but I am also a carpenter / joiner. It is almost impossible to find real carpenters or joiners anymore.

My father was a college English / Linguistics professor before retirement. You should have seen some of the work turned in in his classes. . . by high school honour students. I've seen better grammar in letters written from 'uneducated' Southern Mountainers during the WBTS.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hey Lawrence. I really believe Washington's model should be duplicated. I was always rather "bookish" in school, but loved my woodshop classes. From what I learned in those classes, I can do basic carpentry, i.e. building decks, etc - and I really enjoy woodworking.

Yes, I sometimes get that reaction when I tell folks what my son does for a living - until I let them know what kind of money he's making.


Thanks for the input.