As I have mentioned previously, I get lots of E-MAIL (and a few letters) from students who have used my courses and are now at university. They generally report that they are significantly better prepared for university-level science than their peers, and they often say that my courses are what inspired them to continue to study the sciences at the university level. This is not surprising, as a young-earth-creationist education is not only the best science education you can have, but it also tends to inspire a true love for science.
I got another one of those wonderful E-MAILs yesterday, and I want to post some excerpts from it because they illustrate an important point about the nature of home education.
I am a freshman at Ohio University Eastern (OUE). I was home-schooled kindergarten through 12th grade, and in high school I used [your] Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics…My mom has no formal training in the sciences; so I relied solely on the books and help line to instruct me…Tonight at the campus’s commencement ceremony, I was awarded the “Outstanding Chemistry Student of the Year” award. One student receives this award if the chemistry professor, Dr. Zachariah, thinks that there is an eligible student. Last year, Dr. Zachariah did not give out the award. (emphasis mine)
First, let me congratulate this student publicly. It is one thing to win an award that is given out every year, but that simply means you are the best student that year. While it is an accomplishment, it might not mean much, depending on the other students taking chemistry that year. To win an award that is given out only if the professor thinks someone deserves it shows that you are truly an outstanding student. Well done!
What I really want to focus on, however, is the part that I put in boldface type. He says that his mom has no formal training in the sciences, so he relied solely on the books and their help line for his high school science education. I contend that despite the fact his mom didn’t directly help him in his high school science education, she was nevertheless instrumental in his success.
How can I say such a thing? Think about it. Sure this student had excellent science texts, but by themselves, that’s not enough. The student had to have the skills necessary to be able to learn from those texts. In addition, the student had to have the work ethic to be able to actually put his nose to the grindstone and do it. Finally, the student had to be in an environment where excellence was expected. All of those things were developed in him by his mother, during his earlier years as a homeschooler.
It was his mother who taught him how to read. It was his mother who taught him the basic math that he had to understand before he could learn the higher-level math that he used in high school. It was his mother who taught him education is so important that you have to work hard at it. It was his mother who taught him that even though some of his peers might do “just enough to get by,” that would not be good enough for him. These lessons are significantly more important than chemistry, and more importantly, if you teach them to a student well, the student will have the ability to learn chemistry (and anything else) on his or her own.
Many university professors with whom I speak ask me how an “untrained” mother can teach her child chemistry and physics. They know it happens, because they have homeschool graduates in their classes, and those students are typically at or near the top of the class. They are mystified, however, at how the students can be so well-prepared for university-level science, given that their parents probably don’t have scientific (or educational) training. This student provides the answer.
Untrained mothers can “teach” their children anything, as long as they give their children the ability to learn on their own. This successful student’s mother didn’t teach him chemistry. Instead, she taught him what he needed in order to learn chemistry, and she gave him the materials he needed to get the job done. Furthermore, she made it clear that he was expected to learn chemistry and learn it well. As a result, this student learned chemistry far better than most of his peers.
This is the power of home education. The parents impart the necessary basic skills at a young age, they produce high expectations, and they provide their students with the materials they need to learn on their own. When that is done properly, a child’s vistas are truly unlimited.