Thursday, June 09, 2005

Home schooling

Over the Memorial Day holiday my wife and I visited my oldest friend who pastors a church in Medford, Oregon. I met Steve when I was 13, traveling through his home town of Ashland, Oregon with my evangelist father. Steve and I spent a lot of time together as we were growing up, but lost contact for many years after we each got married and started our families. My sons are grown and live on their own now, but Steve's and Kim's 4 children still live at home with them. Along with the joy of spending time with my dear old friend, it was enlightening to meet his children, all of whom were, or still are home schooled by Steve's wife, Kim.

At 20 Jake is Steve's oldest. He's the music minister and worship leader at the church, plays keyboards and writes all the music for the church's worship services, as well for his own Christian rock band in which he is joined on guitar by his 17 year old sister, Natalie. Steve told me the story of how Jake was recruited by Southern Oregon University just as he turned 15, having just finished high school at 14. He now has his bachelor of arts degree, and is seriously contemplating soon returning to school to study for a master's. Natalie, a fine rock guitarist, is in her second year at the Bible college Steve runs at his church. Geno and John, Steve's younger sons, still study with their mother.

As I was driving back to Portland my wife told me how impressed she was with Steve's children, and how it made her regret not having home schooled our own sons. I couldn't be more proud of my sons, but thinking back on their school experiences--especially that of my oldest son who shares the moodier aspects of my personality--I couldn't help but agree.
My sons' first bad experience began all the way back in first grade and kindergarten. The music teacher at their school, Bryant Elementary in Lake Oswego, was so incompetent and made their music classes so unpleasant, I'm convinced she put off my sons from the study of music at that formative stage in their lives--a particularly bitter pill for me as music is such a meaningful part of my life. They both did exceptionally well with their grades, and never dabbled in self-destructive behavor, but I can't help wondering if we could have spared them from much of the spirit-crushing institutionalized tedium, mediocrity, and politically-correct, witless indoctrination that has become the American public school system.

One of the most striking impressions that both my wife and myself received from Steve's children was that they were completely devoid of the attitude of sullen hostility that seems the default attitude of so many youth. I've read of the impressive statistics about the academic achievements of home schooled children, and Dennis Prager often extolls their virtues on his radio talk show, but the superlative example of Jake, Natalie, Geno, and John are the finest endorsement I've ever encountered.