The opinions, remembrances, reflections, and wisdom of the mother of five homeschooled children as the last one leaves the nest and the ranks of the grandchildren begin to grow.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
THE VISITING PROFESSOR
Last Thursday I had the privilege of listening to my son David present his thesis for a Master's Degree in Physics. David graduated with a degree in physics from Monmouth College and then attended Northern Illinois University for the Master's program. The last two years have been spent working part time while doing the research necessary for his thesis (he might have had this all done sooner if he had not been compelled by circumstances to pay his bills simultaneously). I did not understand one word of the research he presented in the conference room at NIU before an assembly of PHDs, but I could tell that the composure I had prayed for was present as he spoke confidently about his work.
When his presentation was done, the observers were given an opportunity to ask questions and then we were all ushered out of the room so that the committee of professors could ask David questions related to his research, make comments about his observations, and pass final judgment on his paper. While this took place, my family and I joined a visiting physics professor and researcher from Sweden in an adjoining room. This gentleman, originally from Germany, had already visited a national lab out west, was at NIU for a few days, and finishing his U.S. visit at the Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee. I am not sure what the nature of his visit was because we talked chiefly about his various travels and work experiences in Europe. He was, as most Europeans are, very interesting due to their exposure to different countries bordering their own. This man, Klaus, had traveled extensively aside from his having worked in Switzerland and now Sweden, and he spoke five languages. He had not however been to Ireland, so he until makes that trip he won't know what fun really is.
After I shared my pitiful little travel experiences overseas, I asked him how he liked Sweden. He began to describe Swedish culture by sharing that the women in Sweden are emancipated because they all work. I began biting my tongue. He went on to explain that the government of Sweden provides day care, preschool, and public schools free of charge. He did admit however that the 50% tax burden on every worker made it impossible for a woman to do anything other than work since no one can survive on one salary. This is where I released my tongue and gently explained that from my perspective being forced into the workplace by excessive taxes was not my idea of emancipation. I told Klaus that I had stayed home to care for my children and my two daughters were staying home to raise their children. And then I dropped the bomb. I explained that I had homeschooled that grad student in the other room and that he had not attended school until he was 16. This very interesting and kind gentleman was stunned and then asked, "You can do that here?" I said we could. Klaus then asked if there was some test we had to take to prove that we were capable, to which I replied, "No. Not in the state of Illinois." He was still in disbelief, but very polite. Perfectly, at this point, one of the committee members, who had been questioning David, came into the room to announce that they were done. He turned to John and I and said that they were very impressed with David, that they thought he was very intelligent and believe he should be in their PHD program. The good Dr. thought David could pull off a PHD in one more year. So much for state schools and tests determining parental capabilities.
We really liked talking with Klaus. I could not stop thinking about his astonished reaction to the concept of homeschooling. I really hadn't expected it, but the moment was very instructive for me as well as Klaus. Europeans have long ago given up their rights as parents. They truly believe that children belong to the state and parents are merely the nighttime babysitters. Klaus was surprised by my disclosure because he cannot fathom this kind of control and influence by parents over the state's children. That is how far Europe has come from the Biblical model of the family.