An Open Letter to the Parents
A colleague with a number of graduate degrees recently addressed visiting college students at his place of work. As he later recounted, he was both stunned and mortified during their Q&A times at how truly uneducated these young people really were--in spite of the fact that they had been accepted into and were attending “good”--even prestigious--schools. While they deemed themselves to be knowledgeable and sophisticated, they lacked the moral framework that is necessary for analyzing the world. Consequently, that deficiency fundamentally impaired their ability to think critically. As a result, they were good at parroting popular leftist rhetoric, but beyond that, were unable to intelligibly discuss basic truths and easily verifiable facts about critical topics in the news. Knowing that I was finalizing this curriculum, my blunt friend directed me to get this in print ASAP--apparently to help save the world.
Having long been involved in educational issues, I was not surprised. Though publicly schooled myself, I had long ago concluded that Christian or home education, or a combination thereof, was America’s best hope—followed by a carefully selected college or work experience. This conviction was further solidified as I have since traveled the country working with organizations and legislators from all 50 states on issues critical to the family. Not surprisingly, a number of these have concerned the education of our nation’s students.
When I made the decision to educate my own children at home, which I did throughout their middle and high school years, there were numerous contributing factors. They included concerns regarding their physical safety, legitimate education and respect for democratic principles and basic Biblical morality. I knew that these were non-negotiables if the girls were going to be truly educated. But I was also dismayed at nonsense masquerading as educational “innovation”--mandated curricula that had quantifiably “dumbed down” my daughters and their classmates, lessons that promoted risk-laden behavior and directives that deliberately undercut our parental authority. I finally recognized that public school, at that time and in that setting, at least for us, was inappropriate.
As our home education efforts unfolded, I saw the girls thrive in exciting ways. They were clearly acquiring quantifiable knowledge, indicating that our homeschooling was indeed working. And, as far as “socialization” was concerned, it was precisely because they were homeschooling that it actually increased. This was due primarily to two factors: one, they could move through their subjects at a much more rapid pace than in their old public school classrooms, though accelerated; and two, they were recapturing a staggering amount of hours that formerly had been spent riding up and down the highways on the bus--for one daughter, the equivalent of nine 40-hour work weeks during the school year! Sports, cheerleading, community volunteer work and 4-H activities were a whole lot more fun than that, and these soon became incentives to get each day’s schoolwork completed in short order.
As the girls began to interact with all manner of people in ever-widening circles, I worked with them to incorporate their learning into these real-life contexts. Soon they were able to transition into adult settings with confidence and poise, despite their young ages. My elder daughter applied her love for government and politics, for example, by volunteering during a state senatorial race. Her younger sister, who for a short while longed to become a secretary, volunteered at the local 4-H office, contributing valuable man hours to their filing system and mass mailings. Not long thereafter, she longed for a dozen children of her own, but also changed her mind about that while staffing potty breaks at the YMCA daily day care. Later as more mature teenagers, both girls volunteered weekly at a faith-based food pantry. There, they learned lessons in compassion that could never have been gleaned from even the most eloquent of sermons.
By then, we were well into our résumé-building initiative. The girls had quickly discovered that recording their activities in such a format was a highly gratifying way to chart where and how they were investing their time and effort, and with whom. In fact, they were so thrilled every time they accomplished anything that qualified as a “worthy résumé entry” that they were soon helping design their own curriculum accordingly. This resulted in an unexpected win-win for both them and me, as they proactively assumed increasing responsibility for their own learning.
Nevertheless, we were stunned when my elder daughter was awarded a four-year full ride scholarship by her university of choice. The school’s Interview Committee appreciated her high SAT scores, but flatly stated that it was her résumé that garnered such positive attention--before they even met her in person. As a result, she was selected as their first-ever homeschooled recipient from among thousands of applicants.
Friends soon wanted to know our “secret.” Our methodology was not rocket science, but I recognized that what had worked for us might benefit other busy parents, as well. Therefore, the material--condensed into this single user-friendly workbook--is presented in such a way that almost any middle or high schooler can dive in and run with it solo, if necessary. However, it can also be used in a classroom setting or function as an extracurricular or club activity with friends--or any combination thereof.
The course duration is also adaptable. Seniors can work through the course in four weeks or less, if necessary. For younger students, however, this course is ideal. They can practice and incorporate important life skills and good habits while still within the safety net of their own home. As such, this workbook functions as a companion resource to refer to time and again throughout their school years.
Open Doors emphasizes five specific areas of learning, creating a defined pathway for personal development and character-building. It emphasizes respect for God’s Word, a can-do spirit, innovation and follow-through. Critical thinking, interpersonal skills and goal setting exercises are incorporated throughout. It also encourages leadership and entrepreneurial development in real-world settings. Given our current economic climate, compounded by exorbitant college tuition rates and bleak employment prospects for young people--likely for years to come--this instruction is especially timely.
Not only do the lessons help hone and clarify what they do like but, like my daughter Whitney, your child will discover what he or she doesn’t care to invest in. That is equally valuable. By trying and sifting through options and choices, they can discover their natural inclinations and preferences. Identifying and prioritizing interests in this manner is much better to learn at home than mid-stream during an expensive college major!
I do, however, have a concern for today’s parent regarding college preparation and selection. It is that we parents, who invest so much in our children’s faith, later trustingly place them under the tutelage of people we do not know and whose ideals may be in total conflict with our own. We know that there are many professors who openly disdain our American way of life and any moral authority whatsoever--including God Himself. As my friend in the first paragraph remarked, his student guests were mouthing rhetoric that was, by and large, socialist--apparently ignorant of that very fact. He wondered where in the world that had come from. In their late teens/early twenties, we concluded that their views had either been acquired in the classroom--or each had learned it independently around their kitchen tables “back home”. My money was on the classroom. Likewise, one of my girls was alarmed to witness almost every Christian of the dozens she knew either largely abandon or severely compromise their faith--all within the first six weeks of arriving on campus. As a parent, I find that reprehensible.
I therefore urge your family to examine prospective colleges with care. My personal experience, including working with interns at Family Research Council, has given me a window into current quality education. Interns associated with Hillsdale, Grove City and Patrick Henry Colleges or Liberty and Regent Universities, for example, were true (and faith-filled) assets to my office. Undoubtedly, there are many other good schools, but these are the ones I have had contact with, with great results.
In closing, this is a life-building curriculum designed to help incorporate the disciplines of the Christian faith into the lives and vocations of those who use it. Our children well know the difference between achievement won by honest effort and hard work and the fake kind awarded on the questionable merits of anything less. As such, this tool can help them set and accomplish goals that make them proud of who they are and what they become. May they experience many exciting “open doors” along the way!
Cynthia L. Hill
September 5, 2013