Issue 60 | September 20, 2013 | Investments of a Father 2


"Action expresses priorities."
~ Mahatma Gandhi

In this issue is the story of a home schooling father whose lifestyle leaves little doubt about his priorities.

Inside NARHS: Setting Goals

When writing self-designed course descriptions, do you have problems writing objectives for the student to shoot for? While watching a video of Dave Ramsey the other night, I heard him express a simplified version of goal-setting that fits well with the task of writing objectives. "Express the goal in terms of what can be observed, and put on it a time limit." Here are some examples:

"Increase the distance run each day so that the student can run a mile within a month"

"Be able to write the basic Latin verb declensions by the end of the quarter."

As Dave Ramsey pointed out, once the goal is expressed with a time limit, then the steps can be determined day-by-day how to reach that goal within the time frame. Once the objectives are set, then grading the course becomes a matter of determining how closely the student came to meeting the goals within the time frame. If you need a simplified form to help you write a course description with objectives, click on this "Goals Based Grading Tool."

Featured Father: Jon Vandegriff

Jon Vandegriff has always been involved in our children's development and learning, but his homeschooling involvement began somewhat like exercise at the neighborhood pool when he only has time to get in a few laps: "It's more than zero." His involvement increased rapidly after the first few years to officially doing a major role in their education for the rest of the twelve years of homeschooling. Not only does he go to work early so he can come home early to teach his four children science, he does this five days a week. This year he's teaching high school Honors Physics and middle/elementary school Biology. Last year it was Honors Chemistry and Earth Science. He does not plan his classes halfheartedly: many weeks of study include a lab or field trip. When he taught Astronomy, we watched the transit of Venus across the sun and the live news feed of a satellite to Mercury extending its original mission. For Biology, we raised crickets, looked at louse nits in the microscope, and visited a lab that grew specialized, caterpillar-fed bacteria that produced rare proteins. The year we did Medieval history, he found a Medieval-themed Chemistry course, though they still used protective goggles, dangerous chemicals, and a blow torch. For Physics/Anatomy they built an arm of wood and balloons, and when a balloon was inflated, the arm contracted. He has also taught a few children from other homeschooling families, most recently in a Java programming class. For extra curriculars, he is starting a 4-H club through which he will be coaching FIRST Tech Challenge for the first time. The last four years he coached a FIRST LEGO League team, challenging the team enough that it made it to the Maryland state competition every year, which climaxed in a second place position one year and an invitational to California! This past summer, he assisted our oldest son's Boy Scout troop in preparation hikes and the actual 63-mile hike at the high adventure camp, Philmont, in New Mexico. Jon uses extensive trips like this one, as well as day-to-day opportunities like reading bedtime stories and talking with the children through problems of friends and faith, to know each child better. And he has the children at the library right now finding science, literature, and leisure reading books. Not all homeschooling dads can be this involved, but this dad takes great pleasure in watching his children develop character and understanding of our world by plunging into their schooling and their lives.

This is pretty remarkable for a busy, employed man. So I asked him and his wife what was the driving force behind such sacrificial involvement and this is what was received from a truly remarkable couple:

Jon said his reason for doing so much is "genetic selfishness," but I can see that he has a higher purpose. He is always looking for ways to develop character, and he loves to share his enthusiasm about science. He also wants our children to see that belief in God and evolution are possible at the same time.

Our reasons are our driving forces. What would you say if I asked you why you sacrifice to home school?