We were recently in Biblical Government class when the discussion about taking care of the poor and taking the appropriate rolls of personal, family, church, business, and state government turned to the questions of what about education. Education is the most vital resource in this modern industrialized computerized space-age national which America has become. This being accepted as true, we must ask the question, how can an individual, family, church, or business help the poor in a Biblical manner with education?
We are so accustomed to state sponsored public schools, state provided college grants and all kinds of other state education initiatives that it is hard to image education without involving the state (or federal) government, especially as it pertains to helping the poor. You are already taking strides to remove your family from this system by homeschooling them, so why, you might ask, are we even talking about this? We are talking about this because there are a number of families out there, even in your own church, who are poor and don’t feel that they have any other choice than to put their kids into public schools and let the state take care of their education.
God Calls Every Able Individual to Help the Poor
If you were to search through your Bible you will find many Scriptures that talk about “the poor” and the “the needy.” Individuals are commanded to be kind to them and make ways for them to help themselves, in other words to help them. Other Bible verses praise God for looking out for the poor and needy. There is only one principle mentioned which includes the government. The government is to ensure that the poor gets justice. The courts must not judge unfairly for or against a person because they are poor. That’s it. The rest is directed at individuals, families, and businesses. Each of the Scriptures which laid out specific ways to help the needy and poor always described an action which will allow the poor to work for their food and sustenance, just like the wealthy man did. These methods provided resources to the poor which they would not otherwise possess.
Now that we know why we must talk about helping others with their education, let’s talk about how. I believe my church has unintentionally set forth an excellent model of this. We didn’t set out to create a method; we just set out to build one another up in the Lord.
The Beginning of a Co-op
The pastor’s wife fell in love homeschooling before she had children and has worked hard at it for over 20 years. I started homeschooling my children, at a different church in a different state, 16 years ago. We joined their church in 1999 and our families began having History Days in 2000. We read about history, studied art and music of the period we studied, and did crafts based on the events studied. We had so much fun that we continued it year after year. The year we did World Geography we decided to add a location based theme dinner. This brought the dads into our homeschool like never before. We all loved it.
Our church at the time was very small and we were the only two families with children of an age to do classes like these. After a few years some other families joined the church and started homeschooling their children and still other families just grew older and their children were now old enough to join in a group. At that point we turned our History Days into a History Co-op. Meredith, my pastor’s wife and best friend, loves history and puts together a wonderful curriculum for the group which includes reading assignments and map activities and all kinds of wonderful activities. She used the Mystery of History series and every member of the co-op had a job.
If you have ever bought or thought about buying the Mystery of History you know that it is not a cheap book. No good world history book is cheap. Each family needed to read these books at home each week before coming to co-op, so in theory, each family needed to own copies of the books. There were families in our group who could not afford to purchase a copy. So that they were not excluded because of finances families in the group who did own the books shared them. They made a schedule and either got together to do their reading homework, or they loaned the book for a day each week to the needy family.
The idea of theme lunches to match the geography and history being studied is a feature that every mom seems to love about our co-op. The surprising thing we have found is that these meals which were so commonplace among the poor of ancient history or other current cultures are actually very expensive to prepare in Central Florida in the 21st century. It has been amazing the way that the families who are more able to provide ingredients for these meals have always volunteered to bring the most expensive parts of the meals. When this has been impossible we have worked together to come up with an inexpensive substitute which anybody can afford.
Let me make something very clear to you. Every member of our little co-op is a member of our church. We are all submitted to the same authority and spiritual covering. We all have a heart to build one another up and to raise all of our children in the ways of the Lord. We pray together, worship together, teach together, eat together, fellowship together, even celebrate and mourn together. We love the Lord, and each other. We find that we don’t need a “policy about financial aid”, or “protocol for requesting assistance” because we are part of one another’s lives and we work together to educate all the children.
Individuals and Families Help Individuals and Families
Not all of our schooling is done at the co-op. Our co-op only includes history, art, music, and minimal writing. The other days of the week other subjects like writing, literature, science, and math all still need to be thoroughly covered. Let’s not forget that we would like to teach our children a little something about computers, after all this is the computer age. This is where things can get a little scary for people with very limited finances. How do you purchase a good math curriculum when you have $10 at most available for such a purchase? Usually you don’t. Unless somebody is selling used books that happen to be what you need next year you are out of luck.
We have had families in just such a situation in our church. Because we are close and we are praying together and planning together each mom knows immediately when another mom is in need. Some years the books have been loaned to the needy family. Other years when one family has extra money for homeschooling, they have bought books for the needy instead of buying that new exciting … (fill in the blank with any great educational extra you would like to own.)
One year I could not afford to buy spelling books for my children. I typed up the lists for an older child’s previous spelling book and made my own very simple activities. I added some pictures and had a passable spelling book for my children. Later another family found themselves in the same position with the same age children. I printed by book for her and now they have it too.
When children have needed a little extra help in a subject and their parents could not afford extra educational tools like flash cards we have helped them make them. We have used index cards to make flash cards. We have used construction paper to make math manipulative. We’ve also used copy paper to make multiplication table memorization aids. There are so many inexpensive projects to make educational aid products that we don’t ever NEED to buy the beautiful polished products we find so frequently at homeschool curriculum fairs.
To many reading this, the thought of that kind of openness is unbearable. Many people are embarrassed to share their financial troubles with anybody. The truth is that we need our brothers and sisters to be crying out to God for us when we are desperately in need. The truth is that if you are following the examples set in the New Testament about how to “do church” you are close to your fellow church members. They care what’s going on with you and your family. They can usually see more than you have mentioned.
Tutoring is a Priceless Gift to the Poor
Never underestimate the power of tutoring. When you can sit down one to one with someone and help them learn a subject you are tutoring. The tutor is not the regular teacher. If you are homeschooling, mom or dad is the teacher. The tutor is the friend, neighbor, or relative who comes in and helps when mom or dad has reached their limit. I have benefitted a great deal by my family and friends helping me in this way. My dad taught my son woodworking for a few years. We had no woodworking equipment so this was such a blessing to us all. My mom taught my daughter how to sew. I know how to sew but teaching this to my daughter was beyond my patience and my availability with three sons who also needed my attention. One of my friends helped my child with a learning challenge. She knew how to deal with students with special needs and I was becoming overwhelmed with his propensity to get distracted. She taught me how to teach him, while she taught him how to focus better.
In each of my situations a tutor was used for a different reason. Whether they filled in a gap in my economic situation, (providing equipment I couldn’t afford) my time management situation, (teaching what I didn’t have time for) or my own education situation (teaching what I didn’t know how to teach), they were such a blessing. While woodworking and sewing are not core subjects, they were very good for my children’s education. The best blessing was that they came to me. They each had time and ability and came to me to offer help.
Now I do the same. I am particularly good at math. I was a math major in college and I remember pretty well how to do high school math (and everything before high school). I am also good with science. I may not remember in detail how to do everything in these subjects, but I can refresh myself when needed and tutor others. Knowing this about myself I have offered myself to the homeschool moms in my church. Because I love these women and their children, I want to see them succeed at homeschooling, so more than once I have made a commitment to stand beside a mom and get her child through the math classes.
Because I am helping them, not replacing them, I expect the moms to try to teach their children before they come to me. I learned a long time ago that each person learns differently. What I have also noticed is that most people teach differently as well. Problems usually arise when the teacher cannot teach in a method that the learner will learn. That is when I step in. I try teaching the student in ways other than what their parent had tried and we usually succeed. My friends seem to appreciate that I reinforce the work habits that they have tried to instill in their students and we all grow a little closer as friends for having worked together.
I’ve briefly described different types of tutoring. Sometimes the tutor takes over completely. Other times the tutor trains the parent/teacher as well as teaching the student. The last way was to help students through difficult section of the material while still allowing the parent/teacher to do most of the teaching. The last type of tutoring actually involves adult students.
We had a young lady join our church years ago who had a nominal public school education. She turned her life over to the Lord and made drastic changes to her life. She was amazing to watch. She realized that the trade she had learned was insufficient to carry her through all that God had called her to. She decided to go to college. While she could have enrolled at the local community college and struggled through the remedial classes they offered she was offered a better option. My dear friend Meredith offered to tutor her in subjects which would better prepare her for college than what she had previously taken.
My young friend worked hard under Meredith’s tutelage and became a good writer and excellent student. She went on to earn an AA at the community college where she won the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. This prestigious scholarship is awarded annually to approximately 50 superior community college students throughout the nation. She worked very hard to pay for her tuition and to achieve high grades in all of her classes. The tutoring she received after she had already graduated from high school started a chain of events which enabled her to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree from Stetson University, a fine school she would have never been able to afford without the scholarship.
There’s More That Can Be Done
Another noteworthy service which a member of our church has blessed needy friends is the ability to find scholarships. Julianna is amazing. She was homeschooled from beginning to end. She loves the Lord and is always using her great talents to bless Him and His people. When Julianna was a senior in high school (maybe even sooner) she searched high and low for scholarships. She wanted to go to an expense private college, Stetson University, and wasn’t willing to take out loans to do so. She had done well in high school and earned high scores on her SATs but needed more money to pay the high tuition fees. She was a great success!
She was such a success at this that people were coming to her for advice on how to go to school debt free. Julianna takes time to help people. She shows them how to do the same research she had done. I’ve noticed that she usually doesn’t do the research for the people. I have never asked her if that is by design or necessity. She is such an active and busy young lady that I suspect the latter. There are many scholarships available to college students. It is possible to achieve a college education without taking one cent from the federal government, even if you do want to go to a private school.
To top off all of these efforts which our church regularly practices to aid the poor in becoming educated, Powerline Community Church has partnered with Powerline Productions, Inc. to offer the Finish Well Homeschooling High School Conference. Please visit www.finishwellcon.com to find out all the details.