To get a grip on this article, you really need to read the letter to the editor in the September, 2015, of Calvary Messenger. An anonymous mom, a precious soul who deserves having us listen with our hearts, is addressing us men—dads in particular. She is representative of other moms, perhaps not a few.
The family landscape has changed quite dramatically in the last 60 years, two full generations. Economic forces have been one of the forces propelling change. Church life has changed, bringing on new programs that require much time and energy—and some money. Vocations have gradually changed from farming to business and manufacturing. Some moms have businesses of their own that has brought its share of tensions and problems.
Education has changed. The expectations for life improvement are supposed to call for change. The agenda for change has been minutely incremental. It is another one of those situations where we can control the sowing, but we cannot control the reaping.
Part of the harvest is what many parents seem to prefer. This past generation has relinquished the home as number one in favor of surrender to the interests of our school’s overall program. These changes have come slowly and have produced a current network of the school’s demands for the student’s energy, time and aspiration. But it puts the school ahead of the home and the church. I fear that this is where most of our homes now find themselves.
Some readers will experience big-time resistance at this point. We do not seem to be in position to discuss how we got to where we are. No one is eager to hear of failure. We may be too set in our ways to do anything about possible corrections and needed changes. The past is seen as old-fashioned.
Church life, as we have known it, has been good. We like to think that in the present circumstances everyone is doing his best and surely our best needs little or no improvement.
There are sons who do not have a strong relationship with Dad. There are disappointed people who leave our churches. The relationship lack in some of our homes cannot be adequately addressed much beyond what we are doing now.
The sister suggests more information. I doubt that more information will achieve the results desired: that we have our sons and daughters walking in the footsteps of Dad and Mom, and church leaders. Books and seminars and DVD’s and computer programs have brought an information explosion, and in some cases, a mind-boggling overload. Information is certainly helpful when it is needed. Change is helpful when it is deepens practical piety.
At times the mind appears to be overdeveloped and the heart under-achieved. For nine months of the year, the child has an unseen master. It is there when he goes to sleep and too often on his mind when he wakes up.
Here is my proposition to our readership in response to the unnamed sister whose letter was printed in the September, 2015, issue of Calvary Messenger.
My dear brothers and sisters, our schools give students too much homework.
This is not an untested idea, or one freshly produced this year. It filters down from educational institutions who prepare our principals and teachers, who hand out nearly daily homework. It is how we have always done it, they say. Hold it right there. It is not how we have always done it. Our seven children were born in a span of 21 years. They were in school from 1965 to 2000. Homework was ramped up unbelievably in those 35 years.
Parent-teacher meetings are a time to share interest and concerns. Speaking about our growing concern about the increase of homework was not well received. In exchange, we were lightly ridiculed and asked to accept that this is the way it is now done.
If we wished to have some family activity as parents and adolescents, it was “homework due tomorrow morning” that came first. If it was a visit to Grandpas, or some family excursion, it needed to be fitted around homework. Bible study, revival meetings, church’s instruction class, youth ball games, some family member’s birthday party, Sunday School class activity or an evening at the teacher’s house, or whatever, “If you can’t do the homework after school, you can always do some before going to bed and some in the morning before going to school.”
Homework—the Silent Master in the home!
Homework is work, to be sure. Therefore, in our past, student’s school homework was not allowed to be done on Sunday. But since the end justifies the means, if homework needs to be done on Sunday, so be it. It must be done, however it can be worked in. School work is the Lord’s work so get with it. Unfinished homework has consequences. In one school, Dad must come in at the day’s close of school to be with his child until it is done. Imagine what that would do to our work day.
Dad can’t understand why the teacher doesn’t teach this in school. The teacher doesn’t understand why Dad doesn’t just make his son do it at home. The son grows up feeling some disconnect to Christian authority. The teacher unloads homework on the student. If the student would just apply himself like I did in school, the teacher thinks, he surely would find homework a breeze. Maybe that’s why several teachers I know stopped teaching and went into full-time work with computers.
Teachers are typically high in academics. We tend to relate our expectations of others to our own achievements. I plead guilty here. My tests at Calvary Bible School were hard. I graded on the curve to give students respectable scores. Our Bible school teachers were encouraged to increase homework with this, “Too much free time is not good.” A student needs a healthy percentage of free time.
Going back to the authority issue—the very critical years of childhood and adolescence are spoiled beyond repair at times. Instead of Dad and son being courageous and bonded partners, they become adversaries. Sons and daughters may assume there is no need to walk in Dad’s footsteps, which were to be in stride with the school and the church, in that order.
We have had a front seat in this transition in the last 35 years of the 1900’s. I served for many years on the boards of our elementary school, our high school, and Calvary Bible School. I have been and continue to be a strong proponent of education and acquiring practical knowledge. I was one of the founders of our high school 40 years ago, and we had all seven of our children attending. I have seen the bent toward more professionalism, forwarded in part by higher up institutions that prepare teachers and administrators to lead and to teach. There is also the peer pressure coming from other Christian schools.
The schools do not necessarily intend to be number one in the life of the child and adolescent, but it still seems to come out that way. We still say, the home was intended by God to be number one. We propose that school work may at times spill over into Saturday and even Sunday, to be sure that schoolwork is ready for Monday morning. We are not proposing that we drop all homework. There is a lot of space between none and too much. We cannot whet a person’s appetite for him.
No human institution is perfect. Having options seemed to be just what we were looking for when the Christian school movement was begun. When the home schooling movement began, I was grieved over it as being second best. Now, I am more and more favorable to it when parents choose it. Having a Christian school where all the congregation’s children attend, however, is still this writer’s ideal.
A recent article in a Lancaster newspaper indicates that public schools are finding that their homework demands are excessive and not bringing desired results. One parent requested complete freedom from homework. “I felt that my daughter was doing quite fine in school and that 10 to 20 minutes of homework was not accomplishing anything.” The teacher approved and she believes it “represents one small step for a movement slowly gaining momentum in schools across the country: questioning, scaling back, or in a handful of schools, even eliminating the nightly homework ritual once thought of as all-American....”
The Bottom Line is that the sister who wrote to Calvary Messenger has asked for pertinent input. Our freedom in journalism is limited to share problems, but more limited in discussing possible remedies. This writing is but one aspect of today’s father-son disconnect. Information is helpful only if it helps in taking steps to needed change. Academic overloads can sour personal inquiry. There is also a place to pursue a general learning experience wherein more of our students could apply themselves to learning after graduation.