I am now at the fourth annual South Korean Homeschooling Convention. It is at an excellent conference facility that is roughly an hour and a half outside of Seoul. The conference is organized by a company that has taken a lot of interest in homeschooling, DCTY. Although its main focus is children’s clothing, the company has been at the forefront of translating books from English to Korean to help the homeschooling community here. The picture above shows you the Korean editions of two of my books, Exploring Creation with General Science and Exploring Creation with Physical Science. I must admit that it is a bit surreal looking at a book that I wrote but cannot read!
My first talk at the conference was at 10:00 AM, and I was actually nervous about it. I haven’t gotten nervous about a talk for a long time, so it was quite an interesting feeling! Why was I nervous? Because I had to speak through a translator. Most South Koreans know at least some English. They certainly know English better than I know Korean! Some of them even use the English editions of my books. Nevertheless, for them to get the most out of a talk, it should be in their own language. So I worked with an excellent translator, whose name is June. She was so good that it took no time at all for us to develop a rhythm to our interaction. Once we developed that rhythm, it almost seemed natural to speak a thought, pause, and wait for June to translate it.
Over the past nine days, I have been speaking at homeschooling conferences in New Zealand. The previous post discussed what went on in Palmerston North, but since then, I have had the privilege of speaking to homeschooling groups in Auckland, Nelson, and Christchurch. In between, I have been seeing more of this lovely country, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it! While in Nelson, for example, I got to visit Abel Tasman National Park. Although it is New Zealand’s smallest national park, it is a real treasure. The spotted shag pictured on the left was there, along with New Zealand fur seals, spectacular beaches, and lots of beautiful scenery.
The three conferences were as different as the cities in which they were held. The conference in Auckland was the largest, and it began with a variety show put on by the homeschooled students there. It was a lot of fun, and there were some seriously talented performers. For example, one of the students did a ballet number, and while she was performing, all I could think was, “This young lady could be a professional.” Well, after her performance, the audience was informed that she has won scholarships to study ballet in France and the U.S. I wasn’t surprised at all. That wasn’t the only excellent act, however. There was a very young girl who gave precious readings of two poems, there was a talented clarinetist who played a great number that I later learned was completely improvised, the daughter of the conference organizer sang a song that showed she has a stellar voice, and so on. The show ended with a rousing rendition of The Gumboot Song. Then I had to get up and speak. Talk about a letdown for the audience!
I am currently in New Zealand on a homeschooling tour arranged by the Firelight Foundation. This is not my first visit to this lovely country, and it most certainly won’t be my last. In 2006, my wife (Kathleen) and I traveled here to do our first “Kiwi” homeschooling tour, and in 2009, we came back here to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Each time I am here, I am struck by two things. First, this has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. The plant life is lush, the air smells amazing, and the landscape is truly breathtaking. Second, the people are incredible. Everyone is particularly friendly and helpful. They really give you the impression that they want to help you enjoy your stay here. Of course, working with homeschoolers in New Zealand is a double blessing, because I get to see how home education produces such stellar students regardless of the country in which it is taking place.
My first stop on this New Zealand homeschooling tour was the lovely town of Palmerston North. Situated in the Southern part of the North Island, it is New Zealand’s seventh largest city, and the venue at which I spoke was packed. I gave a total of six talks (two in one evening and four during the next day), and as you would expect from an audience of homeschoolers, there were some excellent questions. I want to discuss two of them.
Last weekend, I spoke at the MassHOPE convention. I have spoken there many times over the course of the past 15 years, and it is one of my favorite conventions. It is held in a great facility, and it is very well-organized. Also, while I was young, I used to spend a lot of time in Massachusetts because my father grew up there. It is always fun to go back and listen to people who talk like my dad.
I gave five talks while I was there. Two of them were on homeschooling. I dealt with elementary science in one of the talks and junior-high/high-school science in the other talk. In my elementary science talk, I stress how important mathematics is for science, and I tell the parents that while science is important, during the K-6 years, mathematics is even more important. Thus, if you want to stress anything during the K-6 years, stress the math. That will pay off huge dividends in science later on. As a result, while you should do some science in the K-6 years, you should do it only from time-to-time. You should be stressing mathematics, reading, and writing during that time in your child’s life.
What I find interesting is that most parents seem to instinctively know this already. I can’t tell you how many people come up to me after I give that talk and tell me that they have been doing just that for quite some time. However, they have always felt vaguely uneasy about only doing science from time-to-time and are glad that someone like me has validated what they are doing. I think this is an example of how parents really do know what’s best for their child’s education, even when they don’t have the benefit of advice from an “expert.”
My other three talks were on science. I talked about the scientific evidence for Christianity, about the prophecies in the Old Testament that have been fulfilled in both history and in the life of Christ, and about the amazing science that you find in the Bible. I got two questions from that last talk which are worth covering in this post.
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.
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.
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.
Now that the Southeast Homeschool Convention is over, I am headed back home. Before I start my trip, however, I want to briefly share a new Biblical insight I received from Dr. Peter Enns. I went to his talk entitled, “What Is the Bible, Anyway (and what do we do with it)?” Dr. Enns started his talk with several different ways that Christians tend to read the Bible. For example, he said that many Christians read the Bible as an “owner’s manual” for life. They look for specific “rules” in the Bible that apply to specific situations in their lives. While there is validity to that view, it tends to concentrate on the details you find in the Bible, missing the Bible’s big picture. He went through several other ways that Christians tend to read the Bible, and while they all have validity, they all suffer from the same weakness – they miss the big picture of the Bible.
I have to admit that I have always concentrated on the details of the Bible. I think it has to do with my scientific training. I tend to focus on the details, as that is where I tend to find the data I need as a scientist. As a result, I never had the big picture of the Bible in mind. Dr. Enns provided it for me.
He said that if you really think about the Bible from beginning to end, it is split into four basic sections, listed in the diagram above. The Bible starts with creation and the curse. God created a magnificent world that was “very good.” It was not perfect, but it was very good. Then the Fall happened, which brought on the curse. The rest of the Old Testament contains the details of the nation of Israel, whose entire purpose was to bring us Jesus, Who would be able to bring us back to God. Most of the New Testament deals with Jesus, His work, and how we are to follow Him. The last two chapters of the New Testament (Revelation 21-22) tell us about the new heaven and new earth, which include a new Eden. In other words, by the end of the story, we are back where we started – we are back in Eden. He said if you think about the Bible this way, you find:
The Bible is God’s grand story, and the main point of that story is to tell us the lengths to which He will go in order to bring us back to him.
What a wonderful way to think about the Bible’s big picture. Thank you, Dr. Enns!
I am currently at the Southeast Homeschool convention in Greenville, South Carolina. It is a wonderful experience. The conference is very well attended, and I have spoken to many, many homeschoolers over the past day and a half. The most amazing thing for me is speaking to the homeschooled students who have come to the convention. It is incredible to see what God is doing in their lives. Some of the most impressive people I have met in my entire life are homeschooled students!
As I noted in my previous post, I was excited to see that Dr. Peter Enns is a speaker at this convention. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend his first talk, as it conflicted with a talk that I was giving. However, I was able to attend his second talk, and I was very glad that I did. While I had read some of his work (most notably Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament), I had never seen him in person. It will probably come to a surprise to some of the commenters on my previous post that he did not have horns growing out of his head or any sign of a red tail (as far as I could see). Instead, he came across as an incredibly humble man of God who has a genuine love for the Word.
The title of his talk was “The Dark Side of the Old Testament and What We Must Learn from it.” He said that an alternative title was, “Struggling with your faith (and what God is teaching you through it).” It was a down-to-earth, encouraging talk about those times in your Christian life when your faith is tested.
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.