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The Washington Times
October 6, 1998

Let older students help younger ones—all gain.

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
October 6, 1998

At the Farris home this year we have six of our ten children who are now of school age—a record for us. Three others have graduated from high school. The youngest, Peter, is only 18 months old. That leaves us with children in kindergarten, first, third, fifth, sixth, and ninth grades.

How does my wife, Vickie, teach six grades simultaneously? Good organization is part of the answer. Long days are another part of the answer. But our 20-year-old daughter, Jayme, is also part of the answer.

Jayme graduated from high school as a National Merit Commended Scholar when she was 15. She was apprenticed as a graphic artist and editor for four years. She then spent 1997 in Romania working for a Christian college and in an orphanage organized by a remarkable young woman associated with the college.

Jayme has two tasks on her immediate agenda. First, she has established her own non-profit organization, Regeneration Ministries, to assist indigenous leaders of Christian organizations that help children in developing nations. Her initial major project is to raise the money to build a new building for the Hope House Orphanage in Oradea, Romania. It’s a worthwhile project that all segments of society can appreciate.

However, her second major agenda item is something that some elements of our politically-correct society would question. Every morning Jayme is home-schooling her 5- and 6-year-old brothers. Her assistance to our family in this way is invaluable—especially in my wife’s estimation. But it is also good for Jayme’s future.

Jayme wants to accomplish many things in life that are far above average expectations for 20-year-olds. But ultimately she wants to be a home schooling mom raising her own family. Her season of instructing her younger brothers is ideal preparation for that task.

Not every home-schooling child will have the same focus as Jayme. But every home-schooling student can benefit from a season of preparation that comes from helping teach a younger child. And a student need not be 17 or 18 years old before he or she is able to help.

When I was in the 5th grade in public school (just after the ice age) three or four of us who were the best readers in our class were assigned to assist some of our classmates who were struggling with their reading. I hope it helped our classmates. I know it helped me develop patience and understanding of others. Character qualities and reading were being taught simultaneously.

Older home-school students can give their younger siblings a spelling test, drill math facts with flash cards, organize art projects, or teach a particular skill such as calligraphy. One of our older daughters, Katie, is especially adept at sports, and in the past she has organized games and activities for her younger siblings.

At least three positive results are achieved when older home-school kids help younger ones. Younger students get needed academic assistance. Overworked home-schooling moms get reinforcements. And the creativity and character of older student is stimulated in ways that pay long term dividends.

It probably won’t surprise anyone that Jayme was a great help to her younger brothers and sisters when she was in her early teens. The kind of character that has the vision and persistence to try to build an orphanage half a world away does not suddenly appear. It is the result of years of training and service.

When kids are isolated in age-segregated herds in institutional schools where the operating assumption is that students will be served and entertained, parents must struggle to develop a servant’s heart in their children. But when a child grows up in a large home schooling family, learning to serve others is inherent in the process.

While others may certainly brag on the academic success of home education, I believe that seeing the kind of character that comes from learning to serve the needs of others is probably the greatest advantage of all.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

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