The following content is Part IV (my divisions!) from Kevin Swanson's second speech at the 2009 CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit" ("MLS")--"Homeschooling - Capturing the Vision"--delivered on Friday, March 6, 2009 and available in full, audio form from ResoundingVoice.com.
The Educational Principle of Relationships
Swanson's father sent him a news clipping a few years ago.
My dadETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: I'm not sure what we are supposed to take away from this.
. . .[is the chief researcher] for my radio show which airs . . .at kevinswanson.com. . . .
[T]his one [great little] story came in
. . .about [a] family who was living in the inner city somewhere, and at some point, four years earlier, the dad--it was just the dad and a daughter--the dad just says, “I’ve got to get out of here; got to get out of these schools. It’s gonna ruin my daughter academically, character- wise. . . .”
So he just
. . .goes and lives in the woods somewhere.
They live in the woods for four years, and the police just found them. They come in, and they test this 12-year-old girl. They give her the standardized test, and she tests out as a 12th-grade high school graduate. But here’s the clincher--here is the amazing thing. The curriculum--all the curriculum they had--was a Bible and a set of encyclopedias.
- Does he really mean that this girl had the true equivalent of a quality, 12th-grade education? She knew and understood high school algebra? Trigonometry? Biology? Chemistry? Physics? History? Music?
. . .She had an appreciation for a full range of cultural heroes? She could comment intelligently on current events? . . .
Was she really and truly a well-rounded person with the equivalent of an excellent (or, even, medium-quality) high school education?
Or did the tests reveal, rather, that she was able, perhaps, to read on a 12th grade level? (I have no difficulty believing that.)
- Supposing this young woman actually did exhibit the knowledge of an average 12th-grade high school graduate: Is that level of achievement--average--all that the average homeschool parents desire for their children? (I doubt it. Though it sounds as if that is the aspirational level of Kevin Swanson for his children.)
- I am reminded of my comment, earlier today, about what we discussed last night with our daughter and son-in-law: about how Ralph Moody's mother had recognized the handicap under which her husband had labored due to his lack of book-learning. He was smart. He was skilled. He was a man of tremendous character. But his lack of academic training severely limited his ability in a number of areas.
If our aspirations for our children are solely to become business-owning entrepreneurs (as it sounds as if Mr. Swanson wants for his son--and Mr. Swanson's son desires for himself), that is wonderful.
But should the rest of us who have other aspirations for our children (or whose children have different aspirations for themselves): Should we simply lay these aside so we can fulfill Mr. Swanson's dreams?
It was around this time that we were at the CHEC conference. In fact, I had just gotten the story. We were at the CHEC conference, and my wife comes out of the vendor hall--which is like a lot of these huge conference vendor halls, where you have 150 vendors, and they’re all saying, "Buy my stuff. Buy my stuff. If you don’t buy my stuff, you’re giving your kids a sub-standard education."Swanson overstates the case. I know of at least one vendor that has deliberately and studiously sought to avoid ever saying such a thing. Its name is Sonlight Curriculum.
Indeed, in order to reduce the pressure on potential buyers to "buy right now!", Sonlight doesn't even bring products to conventions that potential customers could walk away with.
Sorry to point out this overstatment on Swanson's part, but he pushed my button, and I figured I should protest.
My wife comes out and says, “Honey, shall I buy it all?”ETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: No. And I know of no woman who would ever say such a thing.
Has that ever happened to any of you, where your wife goes, “Oh, what do I do? I've got to buy it all?”
I get the sense Swanson is speaking in a highly derogatory manner, here. Is he expressing disdain for his own wife?
I had just read the story [about the man and his daughter], and I said, “Honey, here’s what you need to do: blindfold me, and I will walk randomly into the hall, and I’ll find six things, and we’ll give them [recording is unclear, but I think he says "we'll give them back our math"--JAH].”ETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: The heart of it?
Why is that? See, we’ve been sold a bill of goods that it’s gonna take thousands of dollars--and this is, by the way, the way that you get the government foot in education, anyway. They come in and they say it takes a professional. No wait. It takes $10,000. "You’ve got to get this really, really nice
curriculum. . . .Look at the cover. Come on, look at it, huh? You’ve got to get the satellite feed. You’ve got to get this. You’ve got to get some professional teachers coming over by satellites. It’ll work really good."
But there’s something else
. . .that is so much more effective in the education of a child.
Why is it that you have moms and dads--just ordinary moms and dads--that take that lousy 50 percentile and jack it up 36 percentile points, to 86?1 How does that happen?
Does that happen because you’ve got experts out there who’ve been trained in four-year teaching colleges, by the millions, coming in and teaching your kids? No, they’re not experts.
Is it because they have the best curriculum? No, it’s not because they have the best curriculum.
What really clinched this for me was in the story, they interview the sheriff who investigated this case. He said what was incredible about the story was the unacceptable, impoverished conditions in which [the father and daughter] lived. They lived in this lean-to he had built next to a little creek, and it was really, really, really beat up. Sort of a rustic living. [The sheriff] said what was incredibly obvious was how unacceptable the living conditions were, but how close and loving a relationship they had.
You see, brothers, it’s the relationship that matters. That’s the core of it. That’s the heart of it.
Important? Yes! No question.
Will it make a difference? Absolutely. No doubt.
But that relationship, by itself, is the heart of education? I don't know!
Forget the curriculum. Forget the trivium, classical unit study--whatever it is. It doesn’t really matter. Just go randomly grab something, please. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you have a four-year teaching certificate.ETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: Again, I'm astonished that Swanson, the executive director and biggest public spokesperson for Christian Home Educators of Colorado can say such disdainful and unguarded comments about all the vendors who have ever gone into business to serve homeschooling parents.
What matters is the relationship. What matters is focusing on what God considers to be the most important thing.
But perhaps he reveals less about the majority of the vendors who come to his convention and more about people like himself, his buddy Doug Phillips, and their good friend Greg Harris, who all seem to delight in their ability to sell their wares as "non-profit ministries" to the homeschool audiences they gather.
I find myself unable to hold back from making another comment.
Swanson heaps contempt on the trivium, classical education, and so forth. None of these things matter, he says. "All you need," he seems to say, "is the Bible (and my four-book curriculum
But ignore his apparent exceptions reserved for the things he himself has produced (and for the other educational materials being sold directly by Christian Home Educators of Colorado?). [Interesting that this non-profit organization is going into direct competition with the companies that pay money to attend its conventions!]
I am struck--as I have noted before--that Swanson and Phillips and their pals are all very highly educated men. They have followed more than a haphazard, "pick anything" approach to "education." Swanson and Phillips and Baucham know their history. Yet they--and, here, Swanson in particular--pour contempt on everyone who would studiously attempt to follow such a path in order to prepare themselves for equal or even more effective service for the Kingdom. [Are these men, perhaps, concerned that others better than themselves might arise to take their places? --I find Swanson's and Phillips's negative comments about disciplined content-rich education particularly disturbing.]
But back to your regularly scheduled programming.
Swanson continues . . .
Now, when my wife came to me and said, “Honey, you’ve got to take this boy.” I really wasn’t sure what to doETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: Interesting that Swanson could even aspire to run for governor of Colorado. What the-Bible-and-an-encyclopedia-only-and-no-college-educated person could possibly hope, seriously, to run for governor?
. . .because I work for a living. I’m a busy guy. Besides, for years I’ve been working to change the world. You guys have got to know the kind of guy I am.
Chris Klicka talked about the next generation being prepared to change the world. I was that next generation. I was ready to change the world. I ran for student body president at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I was active in pro-life and stuff. I was active in Republican politics. I ran for governor of Colorado in 1994, and I had a little, screaming little boy who kept trying to get in my way.
As I was writing my book, The Second Mayflower, on how to change the world, there were these little fingers coming under the door, trying to get at me. He was screaming and yelling, and I couldn’t concentrate on changing the world,ETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: ????
. . .until I realized that changing the world had everything to do with two things: one, changing the life of one little boy, and changing the life of this little boy.
You know, that’s what it’s about, brothers. You’ve heard it already from Chris, and you’re gonna hear it again from me.
I was that guy. I was too busy for my boy. But God says, “Tag. You’re it, man.” Because I’m sitting here--I’m not trying to impose my particular regimen on all you guys, here. I’m not trying to do that. I’m just saying, here was a boy surrounded by five women all day long, and he needed a man in his life. He’s 11-years-old and--I see this among a lot of homeschooled boys--[he needs] a man in his life. I could see my wife trying to fix these issues, and maybe this metaphor will help. It came to me a while back. She was out there trying to frame a house with a little, tiny, 6-ounce hammer, going dink-dink-dink, dink-dink-dink-dink, trying to get that first nail in: dink-dink-dink. And I’m sitting here with an 80-psi nail gun, watching her, going, “Too bad for you. I’m sorry about you. Keep working, honey. Keep working. Oh, I feel bad for you.”
Guys, I have an 85-psi nail gun, where I could get into that little boy’s life, and I could do something. I just knew that I could.
What's this about his wife's little hammer and Swanson's supposed 80- or 85-psi nail gun? Why is he Mr. Big Bruiser and she has so little to offer?
Or does Swanson exhibit such swagger because he had been saddling her with the education of five children--by herself--and now, suddenly, he takes on the education of one?
Is he, suddenly, an expert on how to train boys because he has been doing some things with his one son?
His heart was crying out for me, and he had sins in his life that I had in my life.ETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: I am so happy to hear he decided to fulfill some of his responsibility as a father.
I thought, “One and one makes two.” I put it together, and I knew that there was nobody--nobody on Planet Earth--not a pastor, not a youth group leader, not a Sunday school teacher, not a PE teacher--nobody on Planet Earth that could wade into this little boy’s life and do something for him like one man on Planet Earth. And that was me.
Based on what I hear of many men, Swanson is by no means alone in his former neglect of his son. Each one of us fathers needs to consider how we should interact with our kids most effectively. I am sincerely grateful for Swanson to challenge us with this need to be involved in our kids'--and especially, if possible, our sons' lives.
So God called me to this and for the last five or six years, that’s what we’re doing. We travel together. We don’t really homeschool. We car school and we office school and conference-room school. And we come out here and we school. We’re just schooling all over the place. It’s kind of all mixed up. Everything’s sort of integrated together.ETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: And this is supposed to somehow show us how involved Swanson is in his son's life? That he "grabs a moment" from his otherwise busy life and almost kills the two of them while he works a problem with his son?
I’m not really sure how it’s gonna work out. It’s really crazy. We just try to catch a little math in the car from time to time.
A couple years ago, we were traveling down Road 98 near our house. It’s all dirt, where we live. So we’re down this dirt road. I’m doing typical 65 miles per hour. My son turns to me and says, “Dad, I’m having a hard time with this trinomial over here. Can you help me, here, with this trinomial?”
So I start working the problem on the gearshift. I forgot that I’m driving the car. So I look up, and suddenly, we’re coming right to 1721. I hit the brakes, going, “Aggghhh.” We stopped right there by the ditch, and we didn’t fall in the ditch, so everything’s fine. "Okay, so let’s finish this problem, now. Let’s work it." That’s pretty much the way our homeschooling works.
I don't want to be too hard on Swanson, but I think it is worth asking: How is this model that he holds out for "the rest of us" supposed to work for the dad who has a different vocation than does Swanson?
Besides being the executive director of CHEC, Swanson is an entrepreneur and a pastor. I can see how having one of your children tag along might work in many situations for such a person. But what if a dad works in aerospace, or in a manufacturing job, at a meatpacking plant, or elsewhere where there is no way a child will be permitted to tag along? Is Swanson going to tell such a man he has to give up his job because anything else is to disobey Deuteronomy 6:6-8?
He seems to imply No. He says, "I’m not trying to impose my particular regimen on all you guys, here. I’m not trying to do that."
And yet. And yet. He seems strongly to imply we really are in sin if we don't do it in the same way he does.
So what is such a man to do? Give up his job? Feel like he's a failure as a dad if he doesn't give up his job?
Or, forget the problems associated with a dad who won't give up a job for which he is suited and that pays the family's bills. What if a father has two or three or four son? Would the kind of on-the-go lifestyle Swanson seems to advocate work for such a father?
I don't think so. Even if he had a job that would allow so many sons to stay by their father's side.
Imagine a man in very much the same circumstances as Swanson himself. Suppose his son were not as
Please don't misunderstand my purpose, here.
I think it is wonderful that Swanson has found a "solution" that meets his and his family's needs at this time. But while it is wonderful that he has found a "solution" that works for him and his son, I think it is not workable for many--perhaps most--others. And I believe Swanson should recognize that and perhaps tone down or shade the way he seems to speak of his unique situation as a model for everyone.
It’s kind of a mess, but my son’s in my life, and that’s what matters. He is sitting right there, on the front row of my life, and I need his heart.ETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: Good stuff.
In Proverbs Chapter 23, it says, “My Son, give me your heart. Come close and observe my ways.” See, he’s inviting his son into his life. He says, “Son, come on. Sit right here in my office. I want you sitting right across from me, so you can listen to me when I raise my voice in impatience, and then I’ve got to ask forgiveness, and then I’ve got to deal with this issue, and deal with that issue.”
You know what, guys? It’s difficult. There’s accountability between him and I, and the sins that I see in his life are the same sins in my life. I’m all ready to correct him, saying, “Son, you’re speaking to your sisters in an impatient tone of voice. That sarcasm has got to stop.”
And I think, “He’s using the same sarcasm that I used with him yesterday.”
See, it’s a very difficult thing when you invite relationships into your life, guys. We have protected ourselves from relationships, to a great extent. I think one of the reasons is because it does bring sin to the surface. When you walk into somebody’s life--you start working with somebody--you begin to take a vital interest in their life. You want to see their success. You want to see them grow in Christ. Then, you realize that you’ve got the same issues. Now, you’ve got to deal with yourself. God is working in you, as He is working in him. He sometimes uses the work in you to effect the work that goes on in him.
Sometimes I look at [my son] and I think to myself, “He’s really irritating me, right now. Do I really like him? 'Kevin, do you love this person, here? Do you love him? After just what he did--after the way he blew that--after his disobedience--do you love this boy?'”
Then, I hear another voice, “Hey, wait, wait, wait. Here’s another question: do you love Me? Do you love Me?” Then, I put it together and I understand that I do love You because You first loved me. Then He says, “Well then, love him. Love him with all his warts and foibles and his sins and all the stuff that I see in your life. I want you to love him the way that I loved you, and feel.”
Brothers, relationships is the real core of the education of a child. As I plead for his heart, I recognize there are a lot of competing forces that go for a son’s heart. This happens all the time. This is not an automatic thing, to have your son’s heart. Sometimes it’s there; sometimes it’s not. You have to pray for it. You have to ask for it, and you have to spend the time.
I think it’s a matter of quantity time, not quality time. Shepherding boys--somebody once said--a friend of mine had six or seven boys. He said it’s like duck hunting. You spend about three hours behind the blind for about 30 seconds of action. That’s kind of the way it is. You just hang out together, and you hang out together for hours upon hours upon hours, and then you get 30 seconds of action. You get a real good conversation, and you’ve got his heart.ETA on 5/22/09 at 9:45 PM: Maybe.
--I liked this illustration, though, enough to blog it on Strategic Inheritance. I think there is a lot of truth there. Guys are not as prone to open, deep, soul-baring conversations as are girls and women (one of the reasons, in general, that I seem to prefer talking with women).
The world is after him. In fact, the Proverbs talk about binding the commandments of God around your neck and your wrist--taking the commandments of your father and tying them around your wrist. When it refers to the commandments of God, we know what that refers to. When it refers to the commandments of a father, brothers, it ultimately is the applications of a father. It’s the way the father incarnates and applies the Word of God to his family.Once more--though I, personally, would probably speak to my kids using language that's a bit more direct than Swanson's metaphorical references to the Bible as the sword of the Spirit with which we need to "stab" sins--I sense Swanson is "right on" in his analysis, here. And he has a message, I'm afraid, too many fathers (including this one!) really need to take to heart.
So what we learn, from our fathers, is a biblical application or enculturation of the commandments of God.
Let’s say there’s a son who says, “Dad, you talk about respect; you talk about honor. I’m with you there, Dad, but I don’t agree when you say I’ve got to say Yes, Sir or No, Sir. I’m not gonna tuck in my shirt at the table. I’m not gonna wear clothes that are clean and are presentable and respectful to my parents or to others. I’m just not gonna do that, because I don’t see anything in the Word of God about tucking in your shirt. Jesus never tucked in His shirt. They don’t have a Yes, Sir or No, Sir in the Bible, here. Dad, come on, you’re being legalistic with me.”
Okay. Your son gets all lawyer-like with you like that.
It’s because he doesn’t understand what the Proverbs are saying. When the Proverb says, Take the approaches, the dress, the attitudes, the perspectives, the language that your parents have incorporated, in order to apply the Word of God--in order to, as best as they can, express honor for others and for the parents--you just incorporate those into your own life. You tie those commandments around your neck and you walk in your parents’ ways, to the extent that they have, to the best of their ability, tried to bring about the commandments of God in their lives.
Now, as our sons honor us, and honor these applications--honor our culture--they will stand upon our shoulders. Now, if they dishonor, they will cut us off at the knees, and they will destroy the culture. So this is what we’re trying to do as we teach our children, as we are discipling our sons in the ways of God, and trying to apply the ways of God in our children’s lives.
Now, the last thing I have learned about these relationships is that I’m teaching my son how to live. My son is on the front-row of my life. He’s understanding the issues that I’m dealing with. He’s right there, and it’s hard, sometimes, to be transparent because if you’re transparent, and you’ve got a guy sitting at the front-row of your life, you’re gonna have to start stripping off layers of hypocrisy. You’re gonna have to start confessing your sins, in a humble sense, to your own son.
As we get older--as our sons get older, and they start walking beside us--we have to increase that transparency with our own sons. That’s difficult, and that’s a tug at my heart. That’s calling for humbling myself before my own son. But see, I don’t want to deal with his sins anymore, either. I want him to deal with his own sins.
When he was very young, he was behind me. I was fighting his battles for him. Now, he’s right beside me. I’ve invited him right beside me, and I see him battle. I can look at him across the entire room, and look in my son’s eyes, and tell when he’s battling with a sin; I know him that well. When he’s got pride in his life--I’ve been discipling him for six years; I can smell pride at 40 feet. I can tell when he’s got some selfish issues. I can tell when he’s starting to get this sin or that sin creeping up on him. I say, “Son, I want you fighting in this war. I want you engaged in the battle.” I hand him the sword, and he takes it, and I say, “Son, you stab it. Come on; bring the Word of God to bear. I want to see some blood on that sword. You’ve seen blood on my sword. You’ve seen me confess my sins. I want you to humble yourself, and I want you to start cutting out flesh, right there, right here. Let’s get on our knees, and let’s pray to God, that He would help us in this battle."
"Oh, God, help us” -- my son will pray in tears. “Oh, God, help me to overcome these things.”
Brothers, when you are in this kind of discipling relationship, you know that the stakes are higher.
I think somebody once said if you’re gonna teach somebody else’s children, you hardly ever raise your voice; you’re not getting angry. But somehow, you invite your own children into your life, and before you know it, you’re raising your voice. You’re getting upset. Sometimes, that’s anger, and sometimes, that’s just passion because you are impassioned that this child learn how not to be a scoffer as she studies her Algebra. You are intense. You want to see victory over these sins. You know what’s at stake.
Your heart is wrapped around that child because you’ve been walking with that child for the last 6 or 7 years, or 12 or 13 years.
So, brothers, there are times when you hit the wall; when you just hit the wall. We have corrected this sin for 478 times, and here we are, right together again; we’re correcting this child, on this sin, again. After all of these years that we’ve been working on it, here we are again, and that child turns to me and says, “Daddy, I can’t be good. I can’t be good.”
At that point, what do we say? "Yes! You got it! You can’t be good. Speak into the microphone. You can’t be good. Everybody, she can’t be good. But I know Somebody who can help you, there, and that is Jesus."
But what do you say, when they come to you and say, “Daddy, I don’t want to be good”? What do you say then? "O, God--O, God, help us now. There’s nothing I can do."
Brothers, we’ve got to come to the end of ourselves in the education of our children.
I started with the question: are you qualified for educating your children? Are you qualified? Well, what do the experts say? The experts said, “Unqualified persons should not perform brain surgery, and they shouldn’t try to teach children.”
But we’re not performing brain surgery. We’re performing heart surgery, and nobody’s qualified for that. Amen?
This, my friends, is why what you’re doing is impossible.
1 Swanson says the 50th percentile is "lousy." It is not. It is simply what it is: it is the mathematical average of all samples in the (large) group of American students. Period. Exactly the mid-point. 50% of all participants score lower and 50% score higher.
Now. Any smaller group may enjoy a mid-point/average that is lower, higher, or the same as the larger/national average. In the case of homeschoolers, it seems, the average trends high, indeed, significantly high--as Swanson says, by an average of about 36%--so that homeschoolers' 50th percentile is the equivalent of the 86th percentile for all students who take these exams in the United States as a whole