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After a mother attended one of AHEA’s marketing meetings this fall, she asked me what AHEA actually is, what they are doing and whether they truly represent and defend home education. Tough questions! Let me try to answer them as best as I can, but before I do, let me make it clear that from a biblical perspective, things tend to fall into two categories such as: right or wrong, true or false, heaven or hell, or for Him or against Him.
In order to understand the issues at hand, it is important to know that the home education movement is mostly divided into two main camps. While we tend to use the terms home schooling and home education interchangeably, the two terms differ because they conflict over whether parents or government have authority and control in the training and teaching of children.
Before I begin, I must make you aware that within most families there is usually a progression to greater educational freedom and parental authority that goes from school at school, to school at home, to home schooling, followed by home education and eventually ending up with unschooling. This process can take time, even though we have witnessed some fairly quick transitions from school to unschooling. Please note that unschooling is not a verb used to describe “leaving school”, but rather an adjective describing an educational program free from school ideologies.
There are two worldview perspectives at play, made up of those who believe in God and those who don’t. Where there is no faith in God, government naturally comes to have undisputed control and authority in education. Consequently, most atheists are home schoolers, but they may also subscribe to home education or unschooling methods.
Theistic home schoolers see God as having the ultimate control and authority in education, but they believe He empowers the government to deliver and/or direct it. When one considers that nearly everyone has been solely exposed to a school model and experience, it is easy to understand why most parents teaching their own children will initially subscribe to this perspective. One could say this is the initial default understanding of education whether at school or at home. It should be noted that there is an inherent conflict in this approach, usually due to never having had an alternative viewpoint presented or explained.
Christian home educators also see God as having ultimate control and authority. However these folks believe that God, who gave parents the ability to procreate, also expects them to teach and train their children. They therefore do not acknowledge the government’s claim to having authority in education and see no need to seek its permission and/or approval to do what God has directed parents to do. One can say this should be the default position of Bible truth seekers.
It is important to understand that just as parents fall somewhere between school and unschool, they also find themselves somewhere on a gradient between government and God having all rule, power and authority. However, if my statement of things being “either/or” is true, it can only be government OR God that directs education, hence the two camps in home-based learning.
Although I would not make this statement regarding home-based learning in general, I believe the majority of AHEA members are coming from a Christian faith perspective. If this is the environment in which AHEA finds itself, it must distinguish itself as either supporting the belief that God is in authority or government is. This will determine whether AHEA seeks government permission and/or approval, or makes demands of government toward the goal of parental autonomy and freedom.
Now to finally get around to answering the mother’s query.
It is hard to describe something that has lost its identity and purpose. Since AHEA’s actions display a tendency to return home educators to school-based ideologies, it has become like the school in being increasingly antiquated, irrelevant and obsolete, especially from a Christian, unschooling perspective.
Furthermore, to continually engage in permission seeking from the government clearly establishes its position as believing that government directs education, in direct conflict with its stated claim to Christian faith. I personally think that if it must insist that it is Christian, its actions are not very convincing.
Was the advancement of Notification Only truly freeing for parents wanting to answer to God rather than man? Was the advancement of questionable bookkeeping and accounting practices truly in keeping with being good stewards? Is the normalizing of a school-based funding system that monetizes student infirmities something expected from theists? You decide. Personally, I don’t think so.
Blitzing the province with meetings to persuade members of these “accomplishments” is likely to invoke more confusion than support when what AHEA is doing seems disconnected from its supposed Christian base. Asking for support, must mean it has largely lost it. Asking for money means it is likely broke. Asking where home education would be without AHEA is a legitimate question best answered with another question. Where has it been? What has been done to help and encourage Christian educators to understand why unschooling under the direct guidance of God with parents in full authority is not only what we are all striving for, but something truly worth defending?
Everything must come to an end. Everything has a shelf-life. Could it be that AHEA’s has expired? Has it become more of a menace to Christian home education than its protector? Take a look at where it is going for permission and give serious thought to the things it has done, both in the past and most recently.
Despite the concerns I have expressed about AHEA’s recent actions and the fact that I am questioning its reason for being, I want to end by applauding the sincere efforts of those who have served this agency in the past. As previously mentioned, none had evil intent. Many were ill-equipped and some may have been unduly influenced, but none intended harm to the home education community of Alberta, at least not as far as I know. Still, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Good intentions can only be of value when rooted in truth; otherwise, all we get is variations of error. Home educating parents want and need to publicly declare their autonomy from government, not further validate its false claim to having authority over parents in education. Do you agree?