The APACHE Conference

Last Friday and Saturday, I spoke at the Association of Peoria Area Christian Home Educators (APACHE) conference. It was held in the Peoria Civic Center, which is a very nice facility. Interestingly enough, the home education convention was sharing the facility with a pool and darts convention, which led to some interesting overlap. For example, I wasn’t sure exactly where to go at first, and I ended up walking into an exhibit hall to see what was going on there. I figured I was in the wrong place when a saw a booth with a beer tap!

Once I found where I was supposed to be, I had a great time. Since I am not selling anything these days, I really don’t need a booth. However, the APACHE conference was kind enough to give me one, and it was nice. I put a small card table in the middle of the booth and just sat there, waiting for people who wanted to talk with me. I guess it seemed inviting, because a lot of people sat down and talked with me at length. I got to know several homeschooling parents as well as their children/students.

I ended up talking with two students who had graduated homeschool and are now in college. One was pursuing mechanical engineering, and the other was pursuing crop science, probably with an emphasis in genetics. It was great to hear how well they are doing in their coursework and how much they are enjoying science. Those kinds of conversations really lift the heart of this science educator.

I got two interesting questions that are worth discussing, both related to science.

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The Midwest Homeschool Convention

Last weekend I spoke six times at the Midwest Homeschool Convention. It was an incredible conference. It definitely had the highest attendance of any conference at which I have spoken in the past couple of years. While there were a lot of people who were upset over the fact that Ken Ham had been disinvited from the conference, that didn’t seem to affect the attendance in any significant way. There were a few people who were wearing white buttons that said “I stand with Ken Ham,” but that was really the only visible effect of the controversy. For those who were upset at Mr. Ham’s disinvitation, I thought the buttons were an appropriate way to demonstrate their displeasure. They did not demean anyone else, and they did not disrupt the convention, but they showed displeasure. My hat goes off to whoever came up with that idea!

As is typical, I spoke on two broad subjects – homeschooling and Christian apologetics. One of my homeschooling talks was on how to homeschool at the high school level, and another was on the data that show how homeschooled students compare to non-homeschooled students academically and socially. I also gave one of my favorite talks there – “Be Open Minded, but Don’t Let Your Brain Fall Out.” It stresses the need for people to investigate multiple positions and learn to think critically while doing that. My Christian apologetics talks focused on fulfilled prophecy, design in nature, and the historical reliability of the Bible.

Not surprisingly, I was asked a number of excellent questions during my talks, and I want to focus on two of them. One deals with the studies that have been done on homeschooled students, and the other deals with probability arguments in the creation/evolution debate.

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The Southeast Homeschool Convention

The Southeast Homeschool Convention is now over, and I am back home. It was an excellent convention, as I have come to expect from the organization that arranged it. There were well over 2,000 families in attendance, and the talks I gave were incredibly well attended. I signed lots of students’ books (something I truly love to do) and met all sorts of impressive homeschooled students and homeschooling parents. I also posed for lots of pictures with students, which is something else I love to do.

I wanted to address two questions I got at this conference: one dealing with homeschooling at the high school level, and one dealing with theology.

During my talk ‘Teaching’ High School at Home, a parent asked about AP and/or CLEP tests – the tests that are often used by students to get college credits without actually taking college courses. The parent wanted to know if it is a good idea to take such tests, and if so, does it matter whether one uses AP or CLEP? The first thing I told the parent is that AP or CLEP exams are always a good idea, if you can afford the fee ($87 for the AP and $122 for the CLEP). If the student does poorly, which is rare among homeschooled students, you can simply not report the results to anyone. However, if the student does well, it strengthens your high school transcript. If you can list “Chemistry” on the student’s transcript and note that the student got a “4” on the AP (the second highest grade possible), it will go a long way towards convincing the evaluator that the student had an excellent chemistry course.

Now you need to realize that AP and CLEP tests are college-level tests, so your high school course in the subject needs to be very rigorous if the student is to have any hope of passing. I wouldn’t waste my money on an AP or CLEP test unless the student had a serious course in the subject. This brings me to the difference between the AP and the CLEP: Both test whether or not you know a subject at the college level, but the CLEP is an easier test. Thus, it is easier to get a good grade on the CLEP than it is to get a good grade on the AP. Why not just take the CLEP, then? Because since the CLEP is easier, it is not highly regarded by some colleges. There are many colleges that will give a student credit for a good score on the AP, but they won’t give the student credit for a good score on the CLEP. Thus, if you want to use the CLEP to get some college credit without taking the college classes, you need to make sure the college you are interested in accepts the CLEP.

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The Midsouth Homeschool Convention

I have added a new category to this blog: Notes From The Road. Since I do a lot of traveling (both for work and for fun), I thought it might be interesting to share some of my thoughts and experiences regarding my travels. I want to open up this new category with my recent trip to Memphis, Tennessee, where I spoke at the Midsouth Homeschool Convention.

I spoke a total of six times at the convention, but only one talk was focused on home education itself. That talk, entitled “How to ‘Teach’ High School at Home,” dealt with the nuts and bolts of providing your home-educated child with a solid, college-preparatory high school experience. Now when I talk about a “college-preparatory high school experience,” I always hasten to add that I am not saying a child should necessarily go to college. Personally, I think that there are too many students in college right now, and as a result, colleges are dumbing-down their courses. I talk about a “college-preparatory high school experience” because that’s the most academically rigorous path you can follow, and whether or not your student attends college, you should always set the bar high. You can adjust the height of the bar later, depending on how your student actually deals with what you are covering in high school.

So how do you know whether or not your child should go to college? In my view, there are two reasons to go to college:

1. If you love to learn, you will love a serious, academically-rigorous college.

2. If you have a career in mind that requires a college degree, you should definitely go to college to get that degree.

In my opinion, if you do not meet one of those two criteria, you are wasting your time and your parents’ money by going to college.

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Discriminating Homeschoolers Lead to Excellent Curriculum

This news segment discusses the errors in some school textbooks.
A Facebook friend of mine (I honestly thought I would never use that term) recently posted the video on the left. It discusses several errors that are found in U.S. school textbooks. With the post, she noted, “I am so thankful and blessed we are able to homeschool!” As I reflect on her comment, I realize that there is a profound truth expressed there.

Several of my posts related to home education discuss the fact that homeschool graduates are, on average, head and shoulders above their peers. That was my experience when I taught at the university level, and it is the conclusion of many academic studies. There are several reasons that a home education tends to produce superior students, and I have explored some of them in the posts linked above and in articles I have written for homeschool magazines. However, I think my Facebook friend’s post provides yet another: Homeschooling materials are, on average, superior to what you find in most schools.

Like many true statements, this one is a bit counter-intuitive. After all, teachers choose the materials that are used in schools. While teachers are generally not experts in their field, they are at least more knowledgeable in their field than most parents. As a result, you would expect teachers to choose better educational materials than parents. Nevertheless, as someone who has examined the science texts used in schools and the science texts used in homeschools, it is my opinion that the ones used in homeschools are, on average, superior.

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Homeschool Graduates Are Amazingly Well-Rounded

I got an E-MAIL from a parent asking if I could recommend any physics books to her. It seems that her son, who is currently majoring in physics and piano performance at a state university, asked for physics books for Christmas. In the E-MAIL she noted:

[My son] has said that your [books] have more than prepared him for his science courses at college, and he has done extremely well in the chemistry and physics classes. He has said many times how thankful he was to have used your programs.

While I am always happy to know how well my books have prepared students for studying science at the university level, what struck me about the E-MAIL was how I wasn’t at all surprised by the fact that her son was majoring in physics and piano performance. I would think most people would do a double-take at that duo of majors. However, it didn’t surprise me at all, since homeschool graduates are amazingly well-rounded.

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Homeschool Graduates and College: Real Success

Image licensed from www.clipart.com
When people ask me why I am such a staunch advocate of homeschooling, I tell them it’s because I have seen the products of home education, and they are very impressive. While I was on the faculty at Ball State University, for example, I had students who graduated from public schools, students who graduated from private schools, and students who graduated from homeschools. In my experience, the homeschool graduates were truly head and shoulders above the others. This led me to look at academic studies that evaluated the efficacy of home education, and those studies echoed my experiences – When it comes to academics, homeschooled students are simply a cut above the rest. That’s why I am such an advocate of homeschooling.

Of course, a lot of universities recognize this fact. IUPUI in Indianapolis, Indiana makes it very clear on their website. They say:

Over 150 students have enrolled at IUPUI with home school backgrounds and as a group these students have academically excelled and out-performed the general student population.

Stanford University (like most serious universities) actively recruits homeschoolers, and they accept a higher percentage of their homeschooled applicants than the rest of their applicant pool. Jonathan Reider, an admissions officer at Stanford university explains why:

The distinguishing factor is intellectual vitality. [Homeschooled] kids have it, and everything they do is responding to it.”

Boston University agrees. They followed their homeschool graduates for several years and found their average GPA was 3.3 out of 4.1 That’s a sold “B.”

It’s not surprising, then, that when other universities examine their homeschooled population, they find real success.

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Free Webinar

Webinars are seminars given on the internet, and they are wonderful things. You can attend them right in your own home, you don’t have to get dressed up (or even dressed) to attend, and you can ask questions of the speaker in relative anonymity. I will be doing a free webinar through the The Home Scholar on Tuesday, September 21 at 7:00 PM Eastern. The title is:

Homeschooling – Discovering How and Why it Works

In the webinar, I will be discussing studies (new and old) that show how incredibly effective homeschooling is, and I will also speculate on why it produces such excellent students.

Many homeschoolers find this talk encouraging, and others find it very educational. If you have the time, you might want to consider attending. You can sign up here.

Quivering Daughters

The book cover for Quivering Daughters
This book is nothing short of amazing. It was written by a woman who grew up in the “patriarchy movement,” which is gaining popularity in the homeschooling community. In essence, the patriarchy movement suggests that if you follow a basic formula that includes parental authority, emphasis on family, homeschooling, and adherence to the “divinely-ordained” roles of the man as the head-of-the-house/breadwinner and the woman as the keeper-of-the-house/helpmeet, you will be rewarded with a legacy of godly children. Those in this movement say that children are a blessing, and God should determine how many children you have. Thus, many in this movement have very large families. Since Psalm 127:3-5 says, “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD…Like arrows in the hand of a warrior…How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them,” people will often refer to such families as “quiverfull” families, and that’s where the title of this book comes from.

Why is this book nothing short of amazing? Actually, there are several reasons. First, it is really intended for a very limited audience: women who grew up in the patriarchy movement and were harmed by it. Please note the “and” in that sentence. While the author was clearly harmed by the patriarchy movement, she does not contend that all women are harmed through it. This is actually one of the amazing aspects of the book. The author has every right to feel angry towards the patriarchy movement and those who promote it, but she doesn’t express any anger at all. To be sure, she discusses in several places why the patriarchy movement is unBiblical, but she never once condemns the people leading it or participating in it. I find that quite laudable.

The book is also amazing because even though it is intended for a very limited audience, it actually affected me in a profound way. Being neither a woman nor someone who grew up in the patriarchy movement, I still learned a great deal from it. In fact, I strongly recommend it to all fathers who have daughters. I truly wish this book had been around a long time ago. If I had been able to read it before I adopted my little girl, I would have been a better father to her.

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The Old Schoolhouse Expo

On October 4-8, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine will be hosting its second online convention, and I will be one of the speakers. It’s not the first time I’ve done an online convention, but I am very excited about it. In order to promote the convention, they are having a couple of “preview” events, and I am speaking at the one on August 24th. The topic is one that I have not spoken on before, but it is very near and dear to my heart:

Be Open-Minded, but Don’t Let Your Brain Fall Out!

This topic is very important to me because if I had not been open-minded, I would not be a Christian today. I was an atheist at one time, but as a result of being taken to an “Atheism versus Christianity” debate, I ended up realizing that I had been incredibly closed-minded regarding my atheism. Thus, I opened my mind and read some books by Christian thinkers, and it changed me forever! I am truly a new creation, but only because I decided to open my mind and read what people I disagreed with said about serious issues.

Over the years, I have tried to apply that same kind of open-mindedness in all I investigate. I honestly believe that’s why I am a young-earth creationist. I could easily have been a theistic evolutionist if I had simply accepted uncritically what my teachers and my textbooks told me. However, because I was willing to consider views that were not necessarily in line with “mainstream” science, I ended up coming to the conclusion that young-earth creationism is the most reasonable scientific position to hold.

So open-mindedness is quite important to me, but at the same time, it brings along a tension. To exercise my open-mindedness, for example, I read a variety of works, including those by atheists. While most atheists (like Richard Dawkins, for example) are rather easy to dismiss because of their irrationality, every now and again, I read atheists like Bradley Monton who make me uncomfortable, as they bring up some excellent rational points.

My goal, then, is to be open-minded, but not so much that my brain actually falls out, and I end up believing everything I read. How do I accomplish that? Come find out!