Vision Beyond the Workbook

Vision Beyond the Workbook

The home schooling movement is usually powered by vision, a vision of training our children to a higher standard than is otherwise available. Parents often enter into the new challenge of schooling their own children with intentions of training godly young men and women who will rise above the culture and impact that culture for Christ.

Some years into the adventure, however, slippage sometimes becomes evident. As 16-year home schooling veterans and now home school co-op teachers, my wife and I have observed one trend in particular that appears to derail the high-standard vision. That trend is an over-reliance upon workbooks in our educational plan.

The reliance upon workbooks is not surprising. Once parents decide to plunge into home education, a host of anxieties and uncertainties assails them. Now that we have had the audacity to remove our children from professional educators, there is pressure to see them legitimately graduate. First our children and then our family reputation depends upon completing the course that we’ve begun. It is comforting to find workbooks that will carry our students right through the course material with a sense of order and completeness.

Workbooks can deceive the home schooling parent into thinking that the course has been taught simply because the pages have been filled in. That simply is not so. Unfortunately, workbooks are very poor instructors. At best they offer practice and drill of concepts that have already been effectively taught. Quality instruction is still required up front, before the workbook can reinforce the material. Such quality instruction calls for involved and committed parents, and often co-operative instruction from other qualified home schooling parents. It also often calls for a determined independence that cuts a new course altogether, and teaches to the particular gift or bent of the student, or to the prayerfully selected goal of the parent, instead of to the goal of a programmed and mass-produced curriculum.

Ultimately, Christian home schoolers will want to come back to their original intent—that of training young people who are able to challenge and impact a post-Christian culture. As language arts teachers, my wife and I see the need for excellent communication skills in home schooled students. We desire world-class writers, speakers, and journalists who could shape the ideas of the next generation. Students won’t learn those skills just by circling prepositions or underlining verbs in a workbook. They will need instruction in the structure and craft of writing.

Completing workbooks won’t necessarily create good writers.

The goal has become short-sighted. We need to lift up our eyes once again from blue caps and gowns to fields that are white unto harvest.

© Copyright 2005 by John Menken