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Monday, November 24, 2014

Homeschooling in South Africa

Posted by jlwile on October 21, 2014

This incredible animal is a greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros).  It is one of the many amazing things we have already seen in South Africa.  (copyright Kathleen J. Wile, click for larger image.)

This incredible animal is a greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros). It is one of the many amazing things we have already seen in South Africa. (copyright Kathleen J. Wile, click for larger image.)

We arrived in South Africa a week ago, but we have been busy adjusting to the new time, reacquainting ourselves with friends, exploring our surroundings, and traveling to the KwaZulu-Natal Homeschool Curriculum Expo, which took place three days ago (Saturday). In some ways, the conference was just like a homeschooling conference in the U.S. There were vendors selling curriculum, speakers giving talks, refreshments being sold, etc. In some ways, however, it was quite different. Much of the curriculum and some of the conversations were in two different languages: English and Afrikaans. It seemed everyone at the conference spoke English, but many chose to talk among themselves in Afrikaans, and some wanted to have at least a portion of their curriculum in that language as well. The refreshments, not surprisingly, were quite different. Hot tea was the main beverage consumed (although coffee and soda were available), and the food available for purchase included meat pies and “pancakes,” which were unlike pancakes found in the U.S. They were thin, covered in cinnamon sugar, and rolled into a tube.

I spoke three times at the conference, discussing Homeschooling: The Environment for Genius, “Teaching” Science at Home, and What I Learned by Homechooling. The technology available to the speakers was excellent. There was a great sound system, three screens that showed my PowerPoint presentation to all parts of the auditorium, and a video crew filming me as I spoke. The talks were well-received, but not surprisingly, the best part was the questions that were asked once each talk was over.

Homeschooling has not been going on in South Africa as long as it has been going on in the U.S., so many of the questions reminded me of the questions I got when I first started speaking to homeschoolers in the U.S. back in the 1990s.

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Headed Back to South Africa

Posted by jlwile on October 12, 2014

My daughter took this picture the last time we were in South Africa.  This little girl is 2 days old!

My daughter took this picture the last time we were in South Africa. This little girl is 2 days old!

Ten years ago, my daughter and I went to South Africa so that she and I could give several presentations to homeschoolers throughout the country. Yes, there is a strong homeschooling movement in South Africa, and many of the people there use the books I wrote for their junior high and high school science courses. Since then, I have started an elementary science series, and it is starting to be used in South Africa as well. While my daughter and I were there, we saw some amazing things, including the two-day-old zebra pictured above. We both fell in love with the country and the people there.

It has been far too long, but I am on my way back! My daughter has a full-time job now, so she cannot come. That means I get to introduce my wife to the wonders of this beautiful country. I will be speaking to homeschoolers again, and my wife will be taking as many pictures as her SanDisk can hold. I also get to dive while I am there, so I hope to get some good underwater shots. We will be there for just over two weeks, and I hope to blog a couple of times about what’s going on.

Exploring Creation with Chemistry, 3rd Edition: My Initial Thoughts

Posted by jlwile on August 28, 2014

An Erlenmeyer flask is a typical piece of glassware used in chemistry experiments.  (click for credit)

An Erlenmeyer flask is a typical piece of glassware used in chemistry experiments. (click for credit)

I write this blog post with a somewhat heavy heart. Apologia is in the process of producing Exploring Creation with Chemistry, Third Edition, which is an update of the high school chemistry course I wrote. Updating science books is a good thing, and when Apologia updated the Human Anatomy and Physiology course that I co-authored, I was very happy with the result. The new edition of that course is better than the old edition, no question about it. I wish I could say the same thing about the new edition of this chemistry course. So far, however, I cannot.

Now please understand that I haven’t seen the entire updated course yet. Although Apologia’s catalog indicated the new course would be available in July, they have delayed the release of the book. To help families who plan to use the new edition for this academic year, they have posted the first three modules of the course online. That’s what I have reviewed. There were 16 modules in the original course, and assuming this holds true for the new edition, that means I have reviewed only about 3/16 of the course.

In addition, please understand that since I wrote the original course, I am probably not as objective as I would like to be when evaluating the new edition. After all, I wrote what I thought was the best explanation of general chemistry that I could possibly give. Perhaps I can’t be satisfied with any update. However, I was very satisfied with the update of the Human Anatomy and Physiology course that I co-wrote, so I really hope I am being as objective as possible. I am certainly willing to believe that there’s a better way to teach chemistry than what I developed. I just don’t think this is it.

Finally, I have to say that I know one of the authors of the new edition personally (Rusty Hughes), and I consider him to be an excellent teacher. I also really like him as a person. I don’t want him (or the other author, who I do not know) to take offense. It’s just that many people have asked for my thoughts on this new edition, and I feel compelled to write them.

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Yet Another Study Confirms The Effectiveness of Home Education

Posted by jlwile on August 14, 2014

College graduates during their graduation ceremony  (click for credit)

College graduates during their graduation ceremony (click for credit)

As far as I know, I first encountered homeschool graduates when I was on the faculty at Ball State University. The ones I met stood out, even in a crowded chemistry or physics classroom. The more I researched homeschooling, the more I came to learn that this was the norm. On average, homeschool graduates are better prepared for college than their peers (see here, here, here, and here, for example). As a result, I started working with homeschoolers, and I began to understand why my homeschool graduates at Ball State University stood out: Homeschooling is a superior form of education for most students.

The data continue to support this fact. Consider, for example, a study that was published in the March 2013 edition of Catholic Education. The author examined the academic records of 408 students at Ave Maria University, a Roman Catholic university in South Florida. It is a fairly young university, founded in 2003 by the same man who founded Domino’s Pizza. In my mind, it makes perfect sense that a pizza man would open a university. The two seem to go together! Specifically, the university was founded as a conservative alternative to some of the more liberal Roman Catholic universities that exist in the U.S. As a result, it attracts a lot of homeschoolers, most of whom are Roman Catholic.

In the sample the author studied, there were 137 public school graduates, 142 students who graduated from catholic schools, and 129 homeschool graduates. The author compared four things among the three groups of students: SAT or ACT score, college grade point average (GPA), GPA by major, and GPA in the university’s “core” curriculum. The results are very interesting, and they demonstrate yet again that homeschooled students are simply better prepared for college than their publicly- and privately-schooled counterparts.1

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The 2014 Valley Home Educators Convention

Posted by jlwile on July 28, 2014

This is me at my publisher's booth talking with two homeschoolers.

This is me at my publisher’s booth talking with two homeschoolers.

This past weekend, I spoke at the Valley Home Educators Convention in Modesto, California. It’s a mid-sized convention that is always well-run and a delight to attend. I gave a total of six talks: Why I believe in a Young Earth, Creation vs Evolution: Religion vs Science or Religion vs Religion, Homeschooling: The Solution to Our Education Problem, Why Homeschool through High School, What about K-6 Science?, and ‘Teaching’ the Jr High & High School Sciences at Home. They were all well attended, and I got several good questions. However, I did have one talk (I forget which one) after which no one asked a single question. I don’t recall that ever happening before.

I was a bit concerned about giving the first talk, because it tends to ruffle some feathers. In the talk, I make the (rather obvious to me) point that the young-earth interpretation of Scripture is not the only orthodox interpretation that submits to Scriptural authority. I demonstrate this several different ways, including by pointing out that some of the early church fathers (like Origen) interpreted the days in the creation account to be figurative and not literal. By the 1100′s a figurative interpretation of Genesis was widespread in the church. Other church fathers (like Clement of Alexandria, Athanasius of Alexandria, Augustine, and Hilary of Poitiers) believed that the days had nothing to do with the passage of time but instead were used as a means by which the things that were created could be ordered in terms of priority.

This, of course, goes against what some of my fellow young-earth creationists teach, so sometimes, the content of the talk is greeted with quite a bit of anger. At this convention, however, no one seemed to get angry. In fact, I didn’t get a single hostile question after the talk, which surprised me. Everyone who spoke to me about that talk later said they appreciated how I handled such a hot-button issue. I did get an interesting question related to the talk from someone who came to my publisher’s booth, and it’s the question I want to address in this post.

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A Great Story I Heard During a Radio Interview

Posted by jlwile on July 18, 2014

This is Vivienne McNeny, the Sociable Homeschooler. (click for her radio show website)

This is Vivienne McNeny, the Sociable Homeschooler. (click for her radio show website)

I just finished an interview with Vivienne McNeny, host of an internet radio show called The Sociable Homeschooler. It was a delightful interview for many reasons, not the least of which is that Mrs. McNeny has a wonderful personality and is great at interviewing people. At the beginning of our time together, she told a story that was very encouraging to me, and at least a part of that story should be encouraging to many homeschoolers as well.

She and her husband homeschooled their children, and although they are both focused on the arts, their youngest son, Simon, was focused on science. They used my high school curriculum for science, but they also read my book, Reasonable Faith: The Scientific Case for Christianity together. She says that her son enjoyed the book, and when he went to college, he referenced it in a paper he wrote for one of his science professors, Dr. Collin Thomas. Dr. Thomas requested a copy of the book, and Simon gave him one. He said that he really enjoyed the book, even though he is not a Christian.

Now, of course, that part of the story was encouraging to me, but the rest of the story should be encouraging to many other homeschooling parents. She said that this professor used to feel sorry for homeschooled students…until he started getting them in his college classes. Now he thinks they are better college students than his publicly-schooled students. She interviewed him on her radio show approximately two years ago, and the interview is fascinating. If you have time, I encourage you to listen to it in its entirety. It starts at 15:20 on the recording that is posted on the website.

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The California Homeschool Convention

Posted by jlwile on June 16, 2014

This is the Ontario Convention Center, where the California Homeschool Conference was held. (click for credit)

This is the Ontario Convention Center, where the California Homeschool Conference was held.
(click for credit)

This past weekend, I spoke at the California Homeschool convention in Ontario, California. It is a part of the Great Homeschool Conventions series, and as such, it offered a wide range of speakers as well as a big exhibit hall in which homeschoolers could examine the many great resources that are available to them. It was the first year for this particular convention, and that usually means a fairly small crowd. It generally takes a while for a homeschooling convention to get established, so you don’t expect large crowds in the first few years of a conference. This first-year conference defied that trend. It attracted a big crowd, and I was pleasantly surprised.

I gave five talks at the convention, two of them with Diana Waring. My “solo” talks were Recent News in Creation Science, The Bible: A Great Source of Modern Science, and Teaching Elementary Science Using History as a Guide. The talks I did with Diana Waring were I Didn’t See That Coming and Arguing to Learn. The talks were well attended, and the audience members were actively engaged.

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The Homeschoolers of Wyoming Convention

Posted by jlwile on June 9, 2014

This is one of the signs that welcomes people to Wyoming.  (click for credit)

This is one of the signs that welcomes people to Wyoming. (click for credit)

This past weekend, I spoke at the Homeschoolers of Wyoming convention in Sheridan, Wyoming. I had never been to that part of the state before, so not only did I have a great time at the convention, I enjoyed visiting a new location. I gave four talks at the convention: Why Homeschool Through High School, Homeschooling: The Solution to our Education Problem, “Teaching” High School At Home, and Teaching Critical Thinking. In addition, I got to speak with several homeschoolers while I was hanging out at my publisher’s booth in the exhibit hall.

During one of those times, I experienced something that probably doesn’t happen very often outside of homeschooling circles. I was speaking with a mother about her teenage daughter’s options when it comes to science. The daughter was there as well. She wanted to be a forensic anthropologist, and the mother wanted to know what sciences her daughter should be taking in high school. I told her that the three subjects she should definitely take are biology, chemistry, and human anatomy, because they would all have a direct bearing on forensic anthropology. As a result, they would give her a good idea of the kind of science she would be doing if she chose that field. She should also strive to take physics, but it would not have as much direct bearing on her field as the other three.

Since the daughter had not taken any of those subjects yet, I suggested that she should start with biology. She began looking at my biology text and mentioned a few things she liked about it. She then asked me some questions regarding specific aspects of the course. Then she asked me the following question:

My main concern is, will this book challenge me enough?

I have to tell you, that’s a question you rarely hear from a teenager when it comes to a textbook! Nevertheless, it isn’t the first time I have been asked that question by a high school student at a homeschool convention. That’s one of the many reasons I love working with homeschooled students! They understand that education is important, and many of them actually want to be challenged by it!

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Homeschooling in Ontario, Canada

Posted by jlwile on April 30, 2014

This photo shows the  Rideau river, which runs through the Rideau Valley, and the Rideau canal,  which connects Ottawa to Kingston.  (click for credit)

This photo shows the Rideau river, which runs through the Rideau Valley, and the Rideau canal, which connects Ottawa to Kingston. (click for credit)

As I discussed in my previous post, I spoke at two homeschooling conventions last weekend. The first was in Cincinnati, Ohio and was covered in that post. In this post, I want to discuss the Rideau Valley Home Educators’ Association conference, which took place in the province of Ontario near the capital of Canada, Ottawa. The name of the organization comes from the Rideau Valley, which is a watershed in eastern Ontario. The picture above shows the Rideau river (on the right), which drains the valley and feeds the Rideau canal (on the left) that connects Ottawa to Kingston.

Even though it made for a very hectic weekend, I was glad that I had the opportunity to speak at this Canadian conference. I knew it was going to be a great experience when I first arrived in Canada. I was walking from the airplane to the customs area of Toronto (my first stop in Canada) when I got on an escalator. I stood there, riding the escalator, when it suddenly came to a dead stop. This is something my little girl (who is now 35) always wanted to have happen to her, because she had a plan. Knowing that it might never happen to her, I decided to take up the charge and follow her plan. I stood there on the unmoving escalator and yelled, “HELP! HELP! I’M STUCK. HOW DO I GET OUT OF THIS THING?” I thought it was hilarious, but my fellow travelers were barely amused!

This put me in an amazingly good mood, so even though I didn’t arrive at my hotel until after midnight, I was happy to get up bright and early on Saturday morning and come to the conference. It’s wasn’t a big conference like the one in Cincinnati, but the venue was completely full. In addition, the crowd was incredibly responsive. I gave four talks: Homeschooling the Solution to our Education Problem, ‘Teaching’ Science at Home, Why Homeschool Through High School, and Be Open-Minded, but Don’t Let Your Brain Fall Out. Four talks make for a tiring day, but it was well worth it.

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The 2014 Midwest Homeschool Convention

Posted by jlwile on April 28, 2014

The Cincinnati skyline at dusk (click for credit)

The Cincinnati skyline at dusk (click for credit)

This past weekend was a busy one! I spoke at the Midwest Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio on Thursday and Friday, and then I spoke at the Rideau Valley Home Educators’ Association Conference in Ontario, Canada. This meant giving several talks on Thursday and Friday, flying out of Cincinnati on Friday night, arriving in Ottawa (the capital of Canada) very late, and then speaking at the convention bright and early on Saturday. It was obviously tiring, but it was well worth it! I met a lot of interesting people, had a great lunch with the teens in Canada, and got several very interesting questions. Since I really did the equivalent of two conventions this weekend, I will split my report into two articles. This one will be on the Midwest Homeschool Convention, and the next one will be about the Rideau Valley Home Educators’ Association Conference.

In Cincinnati, I did three solo talks (Recent News in Creation Science, Teaching Elementary Science Using History as a Guide, The Bible: A Great Source of Modern Science) and two talks with Diana Waring (Arguing to Learn, I Didn’t See That Coming). I enjoyed them all, but I have to admit that I enjoyed the ones with Diana Waring the most. I really like the “back and forth” that happens with a co-speaker, and it is awesome for the audience to get two perspectives on both the topic at hand and their questions.

The convention itself is one of the largest in the nation, so not only were my talks well-attended, but I spent a lot of time speaking with individuals at the Berean Builders booth. Not surprisingly, many people thought that I own Berean Builders, but I do not. I sold the publishing company I used to own specifically because I am not a businessman and do not enjoy running a business. I am a scientist, teacher, and writer, and I wanted to spend the majority of time concentrating on those activities. Thus, when I started writing my new elementary science series, I did not want to publish it. I shopped it around to a few publishers and settled on Berean Builders. I think it is a wonderful publisher with the right goals for Christian Education, but I do not own it. I am simply an author it publishes.

I got a lot of great questions both at my publisher’s booth and at the end of my talks. Let me discuss one of each.

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