By Todd Kangas, MPE president
Here is one of those interesting Kansas City homeschooling facts: last year the first MPE (formerly JCPE) homeschool graduate class began turning 40 years old.
We have seen 21 graduating classes to date. Some of our readers may be homeschool graduates themselves. My wife is in her 30th year of teaching. I’d like to reminisce and share some of the history of where we’ve come from as a group.
The initial homeschoolers were laboring under concerns about whether this endeavor was going to lead to jail time. In 1987 a homeschool family in Johnson County was found guilty of the state’s mandatory education law. We moved here in October 1988 and were well aware of our choice to live on the Kansas side of the border.
As the movers were unloading our truck, our new neighbors came over to greet us. When one of them asked Corrie what grade she was in, she said third grade. Our neighbor was quite excited as she told us that she’d probably be Corrie’s teacher as we lived in her school district.
My wife went in and called HSLDA to make sure our membership was current. The fear of what might happen was real. Families didn’t go shopping with their school-aged children during the school day. Families worked hard to develop an excellent reputation in Christian faith, academics and character. We knew we were the pioneers and that to gain favor with the government and public, we had to shine.
During this time, homeschooling was almost exclusively done within the framework of the home. A coop class might have been a few families hiring a biology teacher to do lab experiments every other week, or a group of 8-10 students meeting in someone’s living room for 6 weeks to learn writing from a homeschool mom who was a published author. Cost of the class? $5 per student for the entire 6 weeks. There were field trips arranged for the 40 or so like-minded families.
Despite the woeful lack of resources or professional teachers, these homeschoolers did well. Homeschooling was producing fruit that other families noticed. They began to choose this as an educational/family discipleship model.
Homeschooling has grown steadily. JCPE had 44 family members in 1988. MPE has had over 1,200 members recently. We’ve grown from 7 high school graduates to 72 last year. The homeschool conference in 1991 had about 200 families in attendance, and last year we had 1,200.
Over time we’ve seen homeschooling grow and add programs and activities. As families saw a need for their children they may have started activities, like basketball, debate or choir. As a result, today local homeschool families have extracurricular activity opportunities that mirror most high schools.
There has also been a rise in complementary methods of homeschooling. My experience is that very few are exclusively homeschooling today. An abundance of coops are available to assist the homeschool family in offering faith-based education.
Some families have chosen to supplement their education with online tools. Today a few local public school districts have invited homeschoolers to pick and choose various coursework.
Our success might become our downfall, however. If you look at early adopters in church history, you will see that over the years the message and product have been watered down.
Would Martin Luther or John Wesley recognize the denominations named after them today? Will our desire to adapt to cultural change cause us to lose sight of the primary purpose of home education?
The academic accolades are great. The extracurricular activities have many benefits. But I believe the primary purpose of home education is passing on the faith from one generation to the next.
Remember that it is not diplomas, trophies, or bank accounts that will endure. Mark 8:36 says, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” … or lose his children.
Please hold on to the vision that your efforts in your home are primarily God’s tools for preparing your children to be mighty in spirit today and for eternity.