by Richard E. Wager
There are many advantages to home education that many missionaries overlook.
The quote from my pulpit came from an outstanding missionary leader, the head of the missions department in a prominent Bible school and theological seminary, and it startled me. He told of reviewing a paper to be presented at a missionary forum by a prominent evangelical leader. The subject was, "Missions Ten Years From Today", and he said, "If present economic trends continue, it will then cost $75,000 per year to maintain a missionary family on the field."
I’m not about to push the panic button, because I know that God will work through dedicated, submissive believers until Jesus returns. It may be, however, that the whole approach to missions will be forced to change because of economic pressures. Therefore, now is the time to address ourselves to some of the problems, in full expectation that the Holy Spirit will lead us into workable, fruitful results.
One of the problems is the high cost of living everywhere.
Missions administrators and missionaries are responsible to took into every possibility of efficiency stretching every dollar to the maximum. The purpose of this article is to point out at least one way to save money these days. It deals with the problem of the high cost of educating missionary children. The general trend is to send off the children to the nearest mission school, at which the children are housed, fed, educated and raised for a great portion of the year. The mission school is a wonderful institution. Writing as an educator who has helped many mission schools, I really believe they are effective in accomplishing their educational purpose. They do much more than educate; they teach Bible, Christian principles, and provide proper, wholesome Christian social contacts and influence.
However, they are expensive. Housing, classrooms and facilities must be secured and then maintained. Personnel are needed for teaching, maintaining and supplying, as well as houseparents and administrators. A great deal of equipment is also required. I have seen some mission pilots exhausted with the heavy schedule brought upon them during school vacation times in the transportation of students.
Immediately the question arises, "Are you suggesting the abolition of mission schools?" By no means, if we can afford them. The next question is, "Is there a viable option?" Yes, there is a very acceptable option that does not subject a missionary child to an inferior education. The alternative is the education of a child by a home teacher, either mother, father or another qualified person. There are many advantages to home education that many missionaries overlook.
A field chairman of a large board said to me, "We are going all the way into home study courses on our field." Here are some of the advantages he listed, and which many other missionaries have experienced.
1. The family works in the field as a unit, without constant interruptions of holidays, farewells, readjustments, meeting planes, packing, etc., and children actually mature and help in ministry of reaching others. The percentage of home educated M.K.’s returning to the field after becoming adults is very high.
2. Mother’s (or teacher’s) time is compensated for with close family affiliation, high calibre education for the children, and children’s maturing because of assuming chores and responsibilities. Even while children are away at school, the missionary wife is still busy with household chores, in addition to being a missionary, so that the time supposedly saved for ministry is not as abundant as anticipated. The home teacher becomes more efficient as the school year progresses and uses student study hours and quiet times to great advantage around the home and in his/her specific ministry. The teaching day is from three to four and one-half hours per day, five days a week, depending on grade level and student competence. It is not as long as most suppose. Many find that the course can be accelerated and the school year shortened for faster students.
3. The student is benefitted because of the greatest teaching tool, namely, tutoring, whereby he or she accelerates or decelerates according to ability and receives extra attention in weaker subjects and encouragement to move ahead in stronger subjects. U.S. educators help the home -teacher over rough spots and assist by giving periodic tests (with Stanford and other tests) to evaluate student progress.
4. Great privileges and personal satisfaction are enjoyed from working so closely with a loved one, a privilege few stateside parents experience.
5. The surprise and satisfaction that come from finding out how efficient a home teacher can be in teaching effectively with the help of a good course and, consequently, broadening the teacher’s life, abilities and understanding.
6. Surprisingly, we are finding an answer to the great "peer" argument, which says a student becomes socially maladjusted if not allowed to attend school and socialize with children of his/her own age. We are finding that the trauma of family separation seems to overshadow the benefits of living with peers. We also note that the social development of many youngsters does not get hindered as much as once thought, simply because of the high caliber of missionary family life and frequent contacts with other M.K.’s in normal mission business and functions. Conferences, vacations, radio contacts, and home responsibilities, as well as tribal and national contacts, all add to maturity. A Christian grade school principal said, "The best students that I have had through the years have been M.K.’s home on furlough, many of whom were taught in their own homes." Often, they were far above American students in maturity, judgment and ability to socialize and cope with their peers.
7. Elderly teachers are released from schools to help teach smaller groups in tribes. Younger educators and houseparents and maintenance people can be released for other necessary mission work, or some may even come home, thus saving money.
8. A new ministry opens up in some tribes. We have heard that some home teachers include national children in their classrooms.
9. A top education by home tutoring can be secured for less than $175 per year for the first two students, and much less for additional children from the same family. There are also substantial discounts for missionaries with larger families available from some of the home study courses.
The questions that the first-time, often insecure home teacher, asks are, "Am I able to give my children an education equal to what they would receive from a professional teacher? Will I be professional enough, and exert necessary personal and teaching discipline, to give my children the best possible education?" After working with thousands of students and teachers, our experience shows that the average home teacher does very well. There are exceptions, of course. We estimate less than 10 percent are not qualified, but these are picked up quickly and are so advised by counselors. Why such a great percentage of success? A number of factors are involved:
1. The high caliber of missionaries. People are finally beginning to see that mission boards generally are sifting and training more effectively than ever before.
2. The high moral character of the missionary family that finally makes it to the field after years of training, waiting, and deputation. The tough moral fiber of those willing to leave family, material opportunities and affluence of America makes the discipline of home teaching come more easily.
3. The natural tendency of missionaries to be teachers. Their job really is to teach others of salvation through Christ, so the training or teaching of one’s own child is natural and only adds to the missionary’s effectiveness. Many missionaries even expand their teaching to nationals and other missionary children by establishing classes of three or four at one level. Devotion to the Lord and choice of vocation make the missionary teacher most conscientious and very able to cope.
Again we emphasize that we are not, in any way, downgrading mission boarding schools. But we believe that the alternative of home study courses should be considered in some instances. After serving thousands of students, we have found that the average home study M.K. student averages one to one and one-half grades higher than the average U.S. student. We know that home study with a proper course works and recommend it as an option for missionaries to consider.
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