Recently, I’ve read alot of blog entries about an article/interview of unschoolers. There seems to be some concern within the Christian blogging community regarding unschooling and Christianity. I decided that this subject would be a good followup to last week’s Saturday Evening Post. Next week I’ll post a third article which I wrote a number of years ago. Perhaps after the 3 posts, we’ll be in a position to discuss the applicability of unschooling within Christianity.

The workshop that I gave a few weeks ago was titled the Master Plan of Education. Originally, I had thought of doing a workshop on independent learning. But between when we initially contacted the conference coordinators by email and when I spoke to them on the phone, the idea for this workshop came to mind. About 4 years ago, I acquired a book called The Master Plan of Evangelism: 30th Anniversary Edition (MPOE) by Robert E. Coleman. The first 4-6 pages of it are endorsements from more than 30 Christian leaders including a foreword by Billy Graham.

Andrea had promised that we would put together some notes on it. In addition to the things that have been showing up in the blog, I’ve actually been working on something else as well. I think one of the reasons I’ve been putting this off is that I really don’t want to try to reproduce a transcript of the workshop. If they had the facilities and the time, I could easily have expanded on a great deal of the things I talked about and turned into a whole morning/afternoon or perhaps a whole day.

Where I decided to start was produce a summary of the points that I set out to make. And for your benefit, one point that I didn’t make in the workshop is that this was not intended to be a “Christian Education” workshop. I do hope, though, that the things I talk about are compelling to Christian educators.

Last fall I read a book which reduced another book to a few verbs. And in trying to summarize what I thought was the main points being made in MPOE, I decided to give something like that a try. What I ended up doing was reducing the content of the book to 12 sentences. The 12 sentences for the most part are not quotes. I’m not going to try to reproduce exactly the things I said along with those 12 points. Since this is a different medium and a different audience, I’ll use different explanations.

In the foreword by Billy Graham, he states that the author has pointed us to the unchanging, simple and yet profound biblical principles which must undergird any work. One of the things that I feel even Christians often forget is the degree of success that Jesus had in just 3 years including the lengths to which the people he trained were prepared to go to adhere to his teaching long after he had been executed. The reason I have read this book more than once is that it sets aside religion and talks about the person.

In the Preface there were 2 sentences. First, ‘Objective and relevance are the crucial issues in any work and focus on the need for a well thought through strategy aimed toward a long range goal.’ You may have started homeschooling to deal with an immediate issue and you may have started out relying on someone with more experience in it or education than you. But once you get on feet with it, it is important that you establish what your goals are in homeschooling. And from the goals you can arrive at some objectives that will get you there. It is only through that, that you are going to arrive at strategies that are going to accomplish those goals. What we discovered over the years is that many of the things that we were doing weren’t relevant to what we were trying to accomplish. Finally, don’t feel that once decided any of it needs to be cast in stone.

Second, ‘The purpose of this book is to look at the plan of a perfect teacher.’ I’ll just refer you back to what I said a couple paragraphs back. Essentially, for the most part the book does not discuss Christian doctrine.

The first chapter is called ‘Selection’. Its statement was, ‘His concern was not with programs, but with men.’ This will be my only mention of schools. However, for this one I have to say that school’s concern is programs, not children. One state’s homeschooling requirements are attendance (and where else are the children going to be), either commitment to hours of instruction (4 hours/day throughout the 180 day PS year, K-12) or using an Approved Curriculum and submitting marks, and Standardized testing. Can I be so blunt as to say that I don’t recommend that you try to reproduce the school environment at home? All of the things I listed were designed a system to deal with education on a mass scale. You can do things one on one and do not have to do things that way.

The second chapter is called ‘Association’. Its statement was, ‘The essence of his training program was being with them.’ If you dated before marriage, can you recall the degree to which the person you were dating was a consuming thing in your life. What spending time with someone and paying attention to them communicates to them is that they are important to you. In the ministry of Jesus, there were 3 rings of disciples; there were the inner 3 (who received the most training), the remainder of the 12, and finally a group of 70 who he had not specifically called into discipleship. The remainder of the book essentially explains the reasons this is important.

The third chapter is called ‘Consecration’. It is the only chapter to have 2 statements. The first was, ‘Jesus expected obedience.’ That doesn’t mean he insisted on or demanded it. Expectations make or break relationships. If I were to ask you, do you expect your child to be honest, I’m not asking if you want them to be honest or have instructed or taught them to be honest, but do you believe they (barring unusual exceptions) will be honest. So, the sentence as a whole says that he expected his disciples would do what he asked of them without requiring further ‘motivation’. Having come from a big family, remembering my own childhood and had 4 children of my own, I’m certain that children go to great lengths to meet our expectations.

The second statement is, ‘In time, obedient followers take on the character of their leader.’ It doesn’t say they take on the instructed behavoiur of their leader. If you watch a child through ages 2-6 you’ll see that children are obedient to actions before they are obedient to words. If the character and instructions are in opposition then it will cause repercussions in the child’s behaviour. It is of no less consequence that the leader-parent, student-child relationship hinges on the character of the parent.

The fourth chapter is called ‘Impartation’. Its statement was, ‘His demands were accepted without argument because His disciples knew they were responding to One who loved them.’ This relates back to the statements regarding the character of the leader. It’s really the explanation of what will motivate a child to see you as a person who ought to be listened to. There are other ways, of course, but I don’t recommend those and will not give them the space here.

The fifth chapter is called ‘Demonstration’. Its statement was, ‘Those who are seeking to train people must be prepared to have them follow.’ Has anyone ever told you they couldn’t homeschool because their children won’t listen to them? Even though I really had no idea what impact it would have on my children, I can remember back in the days when the older three were going to turn 6, 3, 1. Every day, when I got home from work, there they would be just inside the door, all talking to me at once (including the noises of someone who crawled there), and telling me what was important to them in their day. At 17, 14, 12 and 4 they still ‘check in’.

In the world I grew up in, there was a great deal of effort by adults to instill in the children that the adults were ‘the authority’. In watching my own children grow, I discovered that ‘teaching’ this lesson is not necessary. To children, their parents are the authority. Think of the typical 4 year old who asks what seems like an endless stream of questions. In asking, they are appealing to an authority (someone who knows what they want to know). Every authority has one or more of the following three qualities: knowledge and/or understanding (dictionary- authority on word definitions); standard or measure (ISO 9001-International Standards Organization specification & measuring cup-recipe calling for 2 cups of flour); and issues instructions (a military General). The statement for this chapter directs our attention to the fact that, to those under an authority, the character of the person in authority is seen as a standard. If the standard and the instructions are inconsistent it is going to have ill effect on the children.

The sixth chapter is called ‘Delegation’. Its statement was, ‘He used his disciples to help along his work.’ When you delegate something, you are giving someone work that is your responsibility. It is not assigning them work of their own. This distinction is important because what is considered traditional school work is not delegation. If something is truly a delegation it always has three characteristics: the delegate is a representative of the source of the delegation; the delegation cannot be carried out unless it is given the authority to do so; and the delegate must be given responsibility for seeing the delegated task(s) through. It is essential to children’s education that they be actively involved in the work (not in the job sense) of the parents.

The seventh chapter is called ‘Supervision’. Its statement was, ‘The disciples were sent out to work and share their experiences with the group.’ Essentially, what this means is that children should be given independent work which they can carry out on their own. As it relates to school, this work should involve neither marking nor tests. An example of something I’ve done which served here is give a writing assignment explaining composting. Since we do compost, it the main purpose was for it to be a research project. Marking the paper, as one would an essay, only distracts from the main point of learning.

The last chapter is called ‘Reproduction’. Its statement was, ‘His strategy depended on the faithfulness of those he had chosen.’ Chapters 2 through 7 summarize his strategy. In reviewing the statements from those chapters, I realized this is a logical conclusion that could be arrived at without the eighth chapter. However, it identifies two critical things in the education of children. First, the character of the educator and the manner in which they conduct the authority in that regard will impact if and how the educated adheres to what was taught. Second, to ‘educate’ without employing those things identified in both delegation and supervision when does the educated develop the ability to be faithful to their education?

Finally, my first response to seeing this strategy laid out was, ‘Wow’. For me, it explained both why I’ve gotten the results I have and why many things did not work. Perhaps what has pushed me to examine it thoroughly is the degree to which it both makes sense and is logical. The conflict that it is likely to present us with is that it represents a significantly different education from the one we received.

Author: Ron

Homeschooling dad of 4 (ages 27 - 14), grampy to 3, WordPress core contributor, former farmboy & software developer by profession.