Sonja. I would like to introduce Dr Jay Wile, for those of you that don’t know who Dr Wile is, and I don’t think there could be many, probably just a few, Dr Jay Wile is the author of Science in the Beginning and the Apologia series Exploring Creation through Science and he is here, in South Africa with us, here at Oikos base, in our little studio and we are very excited to have you here with us.
Dr Jay. Well it’s great to be here
Sonja. What I’d I love to ask you to speak to us about today, and share with the South Africans. You have been in the environment of home education in the States for very many years. So please would you tell us what the current environment is, the history of home education in the States, with a view to sharing with us, where you believe we should be considering some warnings, some cautions, the good and the bad. Most specifically to help the South Africans to know what to avoid and what to look out for. The things that would be preferable for us to know about that we are currently ignorant of.
Dr Jay. Sure, in the US, homeschooling has become so common that virtually everyone in the US knows someone who homeschools, so it is not considered all that odd anymore. Back in the early 90’s when I got started with homeschooling many people didn’t know how it could be legal, when I first heard about homeschooling I was a University Professor. I wondered how on earth a mother could teach her children at home. Provide them with a good education?
But nowadays everyone knows about homeschooling, there still are myths and so forth, but everybody knows about homeschooling, it is fairly common. That has some blessings and some curses as well. So one of the blessings is since home education is very common, it’s not a problem in almost all situations for homeschooler get a job, to go to universities, to do anything like that, because everyone understands homeschooling, or most people do. Some of the things that were worrisome to the home educators when they first got started back in the early 80s early 90s aren’t much of a problem anymore.
Sonja. Can I just interject and ask you what those problems were?
Dr Jay. Well, the top of almost everyone’s list is… How does the student home schooled, go on to University?
Sonja. And how is that now today? You say that was the greatest concern then and is not so much anymore what is the reason?
Dr Jay. Well, most universities recruit homeschoolers, they prefer to have home school graduates compared to the privately or publicly schooled students. Especially the top-tier universities, the universities considered the best of the nation, they routinely accept a higher percentage of home school applicants than the rest of their applicant pool.
So Stanford University for example, routinely accepts twice the percentage of the homeschool applicant pool, as compared to the rest of their applicant pool, because they understand home schooling and they understand how well it prepares students for University.
Sonja. So I understand that the students that are going to those universities, don’t need to arrive with formal certification, of some form.
Dr Jay. No, and it hasn’t been true for a long time, for a long time most universities have had some other way allowing homeschoolers to get in, rather than having some transcript from a public school or private school or something like that. That hasn’t been a problem for quite some time, but what we have seen over the last, especially 10 to 15 years, is that the these universities are actually so happy with homeschoolers that they prefer to have the home schoolers compared to everyone else.
Sonja. So that’s one of the things that has changed?
Dr Jay. Say, for example, one wanted to go into the US military for a career, for a job for 10 years or so, there were sort of three levels that you could apply to the military. When homeschooling wasn’t well understood, homeschooling graduates could only apply to the lowest level, which didn’t allow you to have any of the high-technology jobs or the jobs that would also have some educational benefit and so forth. But over the years as homeschooling became more popular and more understood, and as the legal folks who try and represent homeschoolers have worked with the military, now all school graduates can apply to the top tier.
Sonja. So that is an indication of how it was, to how is now and if you looking at how it was and how it is now, what (I don’t want to speak about the negatives) but what would they be for us South Africans to be looking out for ?
Dr Jay Well, I think one of the biggest negatives is that as homeschooling has become more popular, lots of companies have decided…. well, they can invest in and make a profit out of selling homeschool curriculum. Some of that’s good because it’s great for homeschoolers to have curriculum, but the sort of typical way most companies approach homeschooling is they try and make curriculum that is essentially school at home.
So they try and mimic school textbooks, but somehow make them useful for home educators, or have online classes, where there’s a teacher and you go and stare at the screen and have a class, just as if you were in school and so forth. I think that gets away from the bottle, of the real bottle of homeschooling.
Homeschooling is not just a place, you know it’s a lifestyle, and the problem is that these kinds of solutions, these kinds of curriculum solutions are often very convenient and so they tend to be attractive to many homeschoolers. In fact there are a few of these online programs that are actually certified by the schooling groups, you could actually get a certified diploma by going on this online thing. Of course, you know, a lot of people like that, even though they don’t need it anymore, they still like the idea of having a certificate. Of course if you’re going to be certified by these organisation, you have to use their curriculum and it certainly has no spiritual component or anything like that.
Sonja Another thing that I’ve noticed in South Africa slowly creeping in and I realise its quite big already in the States and that is the need to (what’s is I understand common in the States) Co-oping. From what I understand it is where the social need of the child is met now by the home educators, to go out there and attend to them, however I see that as moving away from the essence of home education. People are concerned that they need to be doing something about that. What is your view on that?
Dr Jay Yes homeschool cooperatives where you go somewhere for one day a week or two days a week and you meet with a bunch of other homeschooled children — you’re taking some series of classes, or something with the teacher, or somebody who’s a teacher, that’s very popular, and as you said a lot of people think it meets the social needs of the kids, as well as her academic needs.
So I think there are some good aspects of those situations but unfortunately in the US for a lot of families, they become the main direction of homeschool. I think it’s good from time to time for children to get together in an academic setting and share some academics. But I don’t think it should be the focus of education at all, the focus of home education is the parents and the children learning together. Whenever we start sending our kids away all the time to go to a co-op, or set them in front of the screen, and say listen to the internet teacher, we are giving them the idea that we can’t learn on our own, we can’t work together. Somehow, you know…. you can’t teach trigonometry, so now you have to sit them in front of the screen so some other person can teach them. The fact is you and your child can learn trigonometry together, that’s not a problem. So I do think that’s a distraction from what homeschooling really is.
Sonja Okay and other distractions that you would think of.
Dr Jay I would say another big distraction that we have US with homeschooling, is this idea that we have to do competitions, and these kinds of things.
Once again for some students competitions can be very good things. But for example in science what everybody thinks is that they have to do science fair. Where all the kids do some little experiment together, report on the experiment, then they go to some centralised place and someone judges their experiments. Someone comes out the winner and someone comes out not the winner, and for some students that can be good because they are built that way, but I think this is just another model where we are taking something from school (the science fair) and bringing it home. I don’t think it’s really necessary it can be fun for some students, but is not something that we should get all that worried about.
Sonja Well I think the thing that has concerned me, is beginning to concern me more and more in the South African environment of home education, is all the things you just addressed becoming distraction. I would call all of those a distraction, and we are hoping in Oikos to keep bringing the parent and the children back to what is right for that individual family. And coming to the thing that is absolutely, supremely, important above all these things we discussed and that is keeping a Biblical Foundation. So is that strong and being kept in place in the States?
Dr Jay Within certain pockets of homeschooling that is, there are certain homeschoolers and certain groups of homeschoolers who are most focused on that. I would say those are the ones who are truest to the original vision of home education. When home education started in the US it was about two things : building a biblical worldview and building family relationships.
That is staying home with your kids, you can all enjoy each other, lift up each other spiritually and educationally, that was the original purpose. There’s still a group of homeschoolers, a segment of homeschoolers, doing that but I think a lot of home schoolers have sort of drifted towards making it all about academics, or making it all about social things, or making it all about contests or something like that.
Sonja OK, so now to not be critical of what we are calling distractions, what do you feel? Is it a criticism, is it a negative to look at it like that, like you have pointed at some positives. Is it perhaps good or a weakness to keep pulling families hopefully back to the original core values of education? Now your experience of students, of families that are going one route or the other or a bit of both, what is the feedback on that?
Dr Jay It’s a little hard for me to say, because I tend to associate more with the homeschoolers who are sticking with the original vision. But I do have interaction with a lot of homeschoolers through all these conferences that take place and so forth, so I can say that in a general sense, the parents and the children who tend more towards the world’s way of education, so the ones that are tending more to go online and that sort of thing, their children, do not have the confidence in their faith, than the children whose parents stick with the original vision of homeschooling.
I don’t think they are as qualified or as able to withstand the attacks of the world, as much. In some ways that makes sense, because if the parents are leaning more towards the world’s way of educating it’s not surprising that the kids will have a more worldly view of life. Where as the parents who say “ Look we are going to home school the way we think the Lord wants us to homeschool,” that’s a direct example of following the Lord.
Sonja To summarize, I’m picking up from you a strong encouragement to South Africans today, to keep that biblical foundation focus in place.
Dr Jay Absolutely! That is what started homeschooling in the US and hopefully in the US today is, as you know common and well-known and so forth, because it started with the biblical foundation and parents raise their children up in a Biblical Way. God blesses that way, no question about that, and as we start worry more about what the world expects of our education, I think in the end the less the children are blessed by God