Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Some Thoughts on Home-Schooling...

I am often asked why my wife and I chose to home-school our sons.  The follow up question is usually, "But are you an expert in everything?"

These two questions are fine to ask so I would like to share some ideas with you in case you have an implicit desire to avoid ruining your child's life.

First, the evidence.  When you look at the data on home-schooled kids it is quite impressive.  These kids have among the highest average GPA's in America's colleges and universities; among the highest graduation rates and scholarship offers from the best universities in the U.S. that are pouring in at an increasing rate.  Many articles in the Wall Street Journal and other sources (see the Heartland Institute for more) chronicle the deepening sense of appreciation college administrators have for the eclectic nature of home-schooling in America that has produced very well-rounded, mature critical thinkers. 

Anecdotal to the macro evidence is my experience with home-schoolers for the last 20 years.  Two decades ago, about 7 in 10 of these kids were very good in my classes with the other three falling into the secular stereotype of the kid who knew the New Testament like their middle name but not much else.

Today, with more than two million home-schoolers of all walks of life, I would say that 19 out of every 20 I get are not only very good but are also the stars of their class.  I am talking about kids making 97's and 99's and even 100's on my exams while most other students, including private-schooled ones earn lower (much lower in many cases) grades.

Moreover, home-schooled students are very good speakers.  I have learned why.  It is because they are encouraged to think out loud and then talk about their thoughts.  Some of my best verbal defenders of various ideas have been from students who never attended government schools.

Home-schoolers are also naturally skeptical of government's good intentions.  They are much more likely to believe in free markets and understand the case for liberty because - hold on to your seats - their parents did not trust the government with their education. 

With respect to the question about my expertise and that of my wife, it is pretty simple.  We both have a few areas where we can more than cover what our boys need to know.  The free market provides the rest.  At the Florida Parent Educators Association annual meeting in Orlando there are hundreds of vendors selling thousands of curricula to home-school parents like us.  I am no expert in French or Physics or electricity.  However, there are profit-seeking experts in these areas that are all to willing to sell us materials we can functionally use to help our sons learn these subjects at a high level.

I would say to anyone considering home-schooling that all you need is a child, love for that child, a willingness to live within your means so one parent can stay home, a decent brain and a complete understanding of how government does nothing well and you are all set.

One more thing.....trust yourself.  Your kids will thank you for it someday - and so will I if they take my class.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Reflections on a 'Miracle'

32 years ago today I was out in the cattle pasture behind my home in Hugo, Oklahoma with several of my friends 'skating' around on a low-lying area that had frozen over the night before.  We were skating in boots or tennis shoes but no one had ice skates.  We had a Tinker-toy wheel for a hockey puck and tree branches for hockey sticks. 

For hours in about 15-degree weather we played the only hockey game any of us rural Oklahoma kids would ever play.  It was one of the greatest days of my young life.

The night before I was in my best friend's room watching a small black and white television set that was showing the tape-delayed broadcast of the United States vs. Soviet Union Olympic hockey game.  As a 13-year old sports nut who also followed the politics of the day, I was riveted by the unfolding story surrounding our hockey team as they won game after game against inumerable odds.

As I sat - near breathless - on the floor watching the impossible unfold before my eyes I could sense that something transformational was happening in Lake Placid, New York. 

My first recollection of anything political in America was the Watergate Scandal.  For the rest of the 1970's I was aware of the problems of Vietnam, stagflation, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the ineptitude of the Carter Administration and more.  I knew that times were very bad politically and economically in our country and had heard many people claim that it was a matter of time before the Soviet Union completed its expansionist doctrine and took us over too.

With all of that as a back drop, the moment Mike Eruzione scored the game-winning goal against the Soviets, I erupted with very vocal tears of pure joy.  I could barely keep a thought in my head that night as I tried to fall asleep.  The next day I worked the phone until I had enough kids willing to come over and play our own version of Olympic hockey.

The next day Americas greatest sports heroes beat Finland to win the gold medal.  When I saw goalie Jim Craig with the American flag draped over his heroic shoulders I felt a pride associated with being an American that I had never felt before.  For the first time in my young life I experienced what it meant to believe that America was the greatest country in the world.

In the years since then I have come to know and keep in touch with Jack O'Callahan, one of the mainstays of that great team.  He was gracious enough to conduct a long interview (see http://www.jackchambless.com/ and click on MY BOOKS) for my books and has sent my sons autographs.  Both of my sons now play ice hockey and every year on February 22nd my family watches the move "Miracle" - one of the greatest sports movies ever made.  I even start off every February 22nd by saying to my wife and kids, "Happy miracle day..."

I know that the probability of anything like the 1980 Hockey team happening again is near zero.  I also know that many things have happened since 1980 - accelerating in recent years - that have caused me to not feel the same sense of pride and patriotism I felt on that freezing weekend in 1980.  Yet I also know that I am truly blessed to have ever lived in a country that could produce 20 young men who would give us all hope that America can achieve anything as long as people are free.

That is worth more than gold.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Smile! And be Relatively Happy...

Last night while sitting around a home-made fire pit in my backyard, one of my friends told me that my blogs have become increasingly "cranky" with a "We are all going to hell in a handbasket" theme.  I respect his opinion and don't have many friends so I decided to ponder over his words as I sat by the fire  - alone - for awhile.

You know, I think he is on to something.  I am too young to be a curmudgeon.  I enjoy my life too much to be so negative.  So, at least for today, I shall reform and point out some things we should all be happy about.

1.  Our tax burden is nothing compared to our recent past.  In 1980 the highest tax rate was 70%.  That is 32 years ago, folks that Americans who worked really hard were really blowtorched by the IRS.  Today the top rate is 35%.  Not as low as Russia or Hong Kong, but low for our past.

2.  We rank 10th in economic freedom.  Yes, we used to rank 1st, but guess what?  There are about 173 nations ranked lower than us, and some - like North Korea and Venezuela - are not only ranked lower than us, but face far worse futures than we do.  So, let's hear it - "We're Number 10!  We're Number 10!"

3.  We are fat.  By that I mean we are not skinny.  By that I mean we have enough to eat and then some.  We also have then some and then some more followed by dessert.  So, I shall rejoice that my body-mass index means that I could get lost in the mountains of Montana for about 9 days without food and the only thing that would happen is that I would have to go to Goodwill for smaller pants.

4.  We have great toys.  Come on, think about this for a moment.  We spend more on sporting goods and entertainment than the entire GDP's of most nations!  Our televisions are so big that I could actually see acne on pretty-boy Tom Brady's face during the Super Bowl.  At least I think  - or want to think - it was acne.  We also have a billion television channels, new music, movies and books, new websistes, apps and other junk to fill our time in between desserts.  What a life this is.

5.  We have the freedom to complain about the President without overwhelming fear that he will burn our house down.  We get to go to the spiritual house of our choosing, read about God in our own way, talk about God to whomever will listen and talk about pretty much anything else without getting arrested.  See the Sedition Act signed by President John Adams for how things used to be.  Go see the Japanese-American who lost their homes in WWII.  Talk to women about how often their voices were heard back in the 1950s if you want more on how much more freedom of expression we have today.

6.  We have a President who does not look like any of the preceding 43 presidents.  This is a great thing.  Only in America can a minority with the middle name Hussein get elected in a nation that is 70% non-minority.  Do you think anyone during the 1860s or 1940s or 1960s would have ever believed this could happen?  Only in free America could this happen - and be expected to continue to happen.

7.  Poverty.  To live in poverty, which is not fun, you have to be below $22,000 per year for a family of four.  Take that $22,000, along with your car, cable t.v. and air conditioning that you have if you are poor in America and travel to Asia or Africa with it.  When you get there, tell people you are poor, what you have and what you eat every day.  They will hide in your suitcase to get here so that they can be poor in America too.
More later.  I am on my way to watch a baseball game.  What a country...