Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lenten Project: Day Twelve

My sisters and I were all homeschooled from Kindergarten though high school.  At first, the reasoning was because, in Grenada, the schools were all terrible.  But when we moved to Singapore, we were too dumb to make it in the academically strong schools there, so Mom just kept homeschooling us.

We primarily used A Beka books.  We had a few BJPress textbooks, too, and dabbled in Saxon Math.  Once, we used Alpha & Omega curriculum for a year.

I hated it.  In 1998, we were on furlough in the States, getting ready to transition to Singapore, and I was allowed to sit in on afternoon classes for a couple weeks at the school attached to our home church in Miami.  The thrill of daily being around other kids my age almost eclipsed the excitement of having a different teacher for each subject.  I loved it!

One other MK sat in classes that week with me, and we had an amazing time.

Some of my MK friends got to stay in the states and attend their senior years of high school in their home church's schools, and I was so jealous.  My parents wouldn't go for it when I begged to be allowed to stay behind while they went on to Singapore. Later I was glad, because I loved living in Singapore.

It wasn't till I did go on to college that I realised what a terrible education I'd received.  I barely knew how to write a research paper, and I certainly did NOT know how to cite sources, as I discovered to my dismay my freshman year.  It took me almost two semesters to figure it out and save my grades.  I certainly didn't know how to do any math at all--and barely scraped by in remedial math in college, only passing with the help of my teacher's private tutoring and padding of my grade.  (I still can't add or subtract anything past ten without the help of a calculator. I wish I were joking, but I'm not.)

The one thing I could do was read, and read very well and very fast I did all throughout my childhood, though I wasn't exposed to much beyond the classics and really badly written Christian fiction.

Part of the problem was that my mom had a degree in Elementary Education, and no training or skills in teaching high school.  So we just muddled along as best we could.  The videos we got for some of the upper grade subjects were from A Beka Books, which are poor school textbooks, and filmed at Pensacola Christian Academy, which had classrooms filled with sheltered Fundamentalist kids (which means that no one ever asked any deep or profound questions).

I only had a few video classes towards the end of my schooling.  Mostly I just had textbooks and workbooks. The curriculum itself was atrocious. A Beka books teaches everything through repetition and memorization, so there is little to no critical thinking required of the student.  I could get all my schoolwork done daily without engaging my intellect.  Besides, everything begins and ends with the premise of "God did it," so there's little reason to dig deeper or explore further. 

The Trail of Tears seems like a sad, terrible story about genocide? Well, God used it "to bring many Indians to Christ," my A Beka American history textbook said.

One of my history books from A Beka insisted that only ten percent of Africans can read and write, and that this illiteracy is the fault of Communists who have prevented missionaries from opening and maintaining educational institutions.

The Health textbook urged me not to like science for science's sake, or even to use science just to help people, because loving God should always come first.

The same textbook also taught me that sexually transmitted diseases are almost impossible to contract in a monogamous relationship such as marriage, since “people who live according to God’s standards of waiting until marriage to have sexual relations are very unlikely to acquire venereal diseases.”  With a sexual education limited only to that and LaHaye's Act of Marriagewhich my mom gave me just after getting engaged, it's no wonder I was clueless about sex when I got married at the age of 22.

My favourite bit of scientific wisdom which came from one of my science textbooks was an explanation of electricity.  There's no way I can adequately describe the nonsense this schoolbook stated as fact, so I went and found a shot of this particular page.  I do remember that I was more interested in the girl in the picture than the words below.  I wondered what she was like, if she had siblings, and if she had lots of friends at school.  I also wondered just what in the world she was doing with that hairdryer.  So maybe I escaped anti-intellectual brainwashing in this particular case due to being distracted.

While homeschooling may be the best choice for some families, especially if they use a solid curriculum and expose their kids socially, for me, it wasn't so great.  I needed the challenge of other students competing for top spot.  I needed the social development that would have come from being around other kids my age who were not immature, socially-stunted Fundamentalists.  I needed the academic integrity which my textbooks simply could not offer.

A Beka was probably the worst, and that's what we mostly used.  But there were the times when we ditched the textbooks and created our own unit studies.  Those were great!  We did a big study on the American Civil War while we were on furlough once, and visited tons of battlefields and cemeteries all over the States.  We also did special history studies of the countries we lived in, going around to all the historical spots. I really enjoyed it, and I feel I learned more (and learned accurate information) during those times.  But those were few and far between.

Please tell me, because I really want to know, are regular schools as bad as this?  I was only homeschooled, and the sole "regular school" exposure I had was to Fundamentalist institutions.  Were your school textbooks like mine?